Spring Training


Saturday, April 2
Cleveland 1 at Texas 3
Surprise Stadium, Surprise
Temp: 85 at 6:07 first pitch

Garcia Bomb Beats Bieber

Cleveland starter Shane Bieber, he of lofty, top ten fantasy baseball pitcher status, ranking somewhere between Shohei Ohtani and Julio Urias, fairly cruised through the first three innings of Ranger batsmen, notching six strikeouts along the way. In the second, he gave up a loud two-out double to left by Kole Calhoun and walked Andy Ibanez before fanning Nick Solak to end the inning. Bieber wasn’t so lucky in the fourth. Mitch Garver singled to third and Ernie Clement’s throw in the dirt enabled Garver to gallop to second. Nathaniel Lowe cashed him in with a base hit to left. Up came Adolis Garcia, who teed up a Bieber offering, golfing a towering drive to left over the Boulevard Beer sign for a 3-0 Texas lead. Bieber stayed in for one more batter, striking out Calhoun before being replaced by Bryan Shaw.

The Guardians got a run back in the fifth when diminutive number 67 Steven Kwan, who a fan in front of me assured me had “made the team,” drew a one-out walk. After Oscar Mercado popped out to shallow center, Clement doubled to right, putting runners at second and third. A wild ball four pitch from Zak Kent saw Kwan scamper home to make the final score, 3-1.

Ballpark Buzz … Attendance of 5,005 seemed a generous number. … The JUGS Gun radar rap sheet: Bush–97, White–95, Kent–96, Richards–94, Bieber–91, Morgan–93 … Both clubs played the shift ad nauseum, perhaps 75% of the time. When lefty Calhoun came up in the sixth, Cleveland played him as a dead pull hitter. No fielder could be found on the left side of the infield. Kole might want to work on his bunting. … After Garcia’s two-run poke, Kwan had the most impressive at bat in the sixth. The lefty — who crowds the plate like a slugger — inside-outed a Joe Barlow pitch, mashing an opposite field clothesline rope that careened into the left field corner for a double. … Looking for a deep fantasy dark horse reliever? Say no more. The Guardians’ Eli Morgan dazzled with his deceptive, sneaky-fast 93-mph heater that seems to come out of his armpit. He struck out Corey Seager, Lowe, Solak and Cameron Cauley in three innings of work. Morgan only allowed a Marcus Semien single in the seventh, Semien’s only hit in a 1-for-4 night. In two spring appearances totaling five innings, Morgan has struck out six, walked none and allowed three hits to land in the Guardians bullpen. Stash ‘im if ya need ‘im. … It’s been a great, abbreviated-but-welcomed spring in the Cactus League. Opening Day draws near with everybody chomping at the first place bit. See you next year. Same bat time. Same bat website.

Spring Training


Sunday, March 27
Arizona 0 at Texas 13
Surprise Stadium, Surprise
Temp: 86 at 1:06 first pitch

Baker’s Dozen Does In D’backs

Reality bites. Like a diamondback. Only it was Arizona who bit themselves in the foot Sunday. The ball club went with split squads, keeping big boys Carson Kelly, Ketel Marte, Josh Rojas, Nick Ahmed and David Peralta home at Salt River Field at Talking Stick to dispose of their facility-mates, the Colorado Rockies, 5-2. That left Jack McCarthy, Cooper Hummel, Pavin Smith & Co. on this side of Phoenix to ward off the Rangers Half-Billion-Dollar Duo, Marcus Semien and Corey Seager, with Adolis Garcia on deck to drive them in. It didn’t go well. Texas’ “A” team led Arizona’s “B” team, 6-0, after six innings. Cue the wholesale changes resulting in Texas’ “B” team going against Arizona’s “C” team and, well … the Rangers racked up seven runs in the eighth inning, aided largely by Julio Frias walking four straight batters to force in two runs.

A.J. Alexy looked sharp in the win, setting down all nine batters he faced, striking out two in three innings of work. Indeed the D’Backs didn’t collect a hit until Braden Bishop led off the sixth with a single to right. After Jake Hager flied out to right, Jose Herrera singled to left but McCarthy struck out and Hummel flied out to deep left center. Arizona only managed two more hits — a Smith single in the seventh and a triple off the big bat of Matt Davidson in the ninth. The hulking first baseman hit a towering drive that gravity eventually convinced to return to Earth. The ball hit the top of the center field wall with so much force it rebounded halfway to the infield, I swear on a stack of World Series scorecards. It was by far the loudest hit of the four the D’Backs managed against the Rangers’ 13.

Ballpark Buzz … Rangers catcher Jose Trevino had a 3-for-3 day that warrants explicit second guessing. In his first at bat in the third, Trevino hit a rocket to third baseman Drew Ellis. Bent low in his crouch, Ellis pivoted 23 degrees counterclockwise and dropped his glove four inches, all in two nanoseconds. He froze, waiting for the smack of ball hitting leather. Didn’t happen. The ball sped past underneath his glove. A tough scorekeeper might have given Ellis an error because the ball almost hit him. He does after all have a glove, besides being paid $570,000 per year to make said play or at least knock it down where he then — a perk of the hot corner — has three full seconds to pick it up and throw to first. There was an error on the play but it went to the left fielder Jake Hager for failing to corral the ball, then falling down minus the banana peel, allowing Trevino to reach second. It was pretty much a “wait for the ball to stop rolling” kind of play. In the fifth, Trevino got almost all of a Caleb Baragar offering, sending the ball to deep center where Jake McCarthy had enough time to pitch a tent, gather firewood and adjust the Coleman stove … before dropping the ball. Trevino’s third at bat was a legitimate line drive double down the left field line. After watching the Brewers’ Pedro Severino mash last week, I’m convinced line-drive doubles are in the DNA of barrel-chested catchers. … Stowers’ home run was a blast down the left field line that topped the pole by 3-to-4 feet and went about 385. It’s 350 down the line. … Adolis Garcia didn’t disappoint. He went 2-for-3 including a first-inning double hit on a rope to the gap in left. In the fourth, he hit a sharp one-hopper up the middle for a single. … Texas Leaguers R Us. Chalk up two for the Rangers today. In the fifth, Nick Solak dunked one to right that scored two and an inning later, Matt Carpenter turned the trick again, dropping one into center for a ribbie. … In the eighth inning, I thought the D’Backs’ batboy was fooling around with a bat next to the on-deck circle. Ryan BlissHe started swinging it and I did a double take as he approached the plate. The public address announcer said, “Number 6, David Peralta.” The scoreboard immediately went to the Oops!-Default Arizona Logo. The batter wore number 6 but it wasn’t Peralta. Nope, meet Ryan Bliss. MLB lists him at 5-foot-9, 165 pounds. Please. Knock off three inches and 20 pounds. But the 22-year-old can indeed play. He worked a walk and made a snappy throw from short for an out in the bottom of the frame. As I write this, the D’Backs just inked Marte to a 5-year, $76M extension. Perhaps watching Bliss today was a wake-up call for Arizona brass to get Marte’s name on the dotted line? Sign him. Now.

Spring Training


Saturday, March 26
Los Angeles 10 at Kansas City 5
Surprise Stadium, Surprise
Temp: 91 at 6:05 first pitch

Four Dodger Dingers Rock Royals

In the bottom of the eighth inning, the Royals had twice as many hits as the Dodgers — 10 to 5 — but trailed by twice as many runs, 9-4. Such is the succinct shock and awe of watching three-run home runs disappear into the night. Justin Turner turned the trick after Brady Singer walked Chris Taylor and Max Muncy in the first. Tomas Telis did the deed in the eighth after Brad Peacock hit Zach McKinstry and walked Andy Burns. Telis’ clothes-line blast to right left the yard faster than a Telus text. Toss in Kevin Pillar’s two-run bomb in the sixth and Jake Lamb’s solo shot in the ninth and it was bombs away for the Dodgers after the Royals had regrouped from Turner’s opening salvo to tie the game 3-3 after three. They got there with Carlos Santana smashing a two-out double to left to cash in Bobby Witt Jr. and Andrew Benitendi. Witt had singled and stole second before Benitendi drew a walk. Whit Merrifield opened the scoring in the first with a triple to the right corner. Fantasy baseballers take note, Merrifield was cool and dried at third before the throw reached the infield. Another 40-SB year seems like a cinch. He came home on a wild pitch.

Ballpark Buzz … The white elephant in the winning L.A clubhouse was, “What is wrong with Cody?” He sported the golden sombrero tonight with four strikeouts. Since his third-inning single March 24 against Colorado, Bellinger has struck out. Eight. Consecutive. At. Bats. Dodger hitting coaches Brant Brown and Robert Van Scoyoc won’t sleep a wink tonight. … Evidently Banner Medical Center didn’t get the memo, a.k.a. last week’s column. Tonight their non-baseball trivia question asked how many mammograms they’ve performed the past year. 9000-plus, if you’re keeping score at home. I’m sure the mothers in attendance just loved responding to their children asking, “Mommy, what’s a mammogram?” …

My Fantasy Baseball strategy … If ya need it, as spring training is already winding down. From the six spot, I’ve been pretty consistent — after 50+ mock drafts from multiple spots — of drafting the following 22 starters when (sigh) Ohtani doesn’t fall into my lap. Round-by-Round: 1–Bichette (SS) / 2–Scherzer (SP) / 3–Urias (SP) / 4–O’Neil (OF) / 5–Peralta (SP) / 6–Bryant (1B) / 7–Chisholm (2B) / 8–Manoah (SP) / 9–Jansen (RP) / 10–Romano (RP) / 11–Av. Garcia (OF) / 12–Ad. Garcia (OF) / 13–Donaldson (3B) / 14–McGee (RP) / 15–Voit (CI) / 16–Baddoo (OF) / 17–Desclafani (SP) / 18–Bader (OF) / 19–O. Cruz (MI) / 20–Kiner-Falefa (UT)

Note the emphasis on team power and speed with an unabashed prayer for batting average. There’s little or no speed with corner infielders so I targeted Bryant because he can swipe a few and now has HR-friendly Coors Field. Others I have targeted are Albies, O’Neil and Chisholm. The rest will arrive on your doorstep. How? Pick 4 starting pitchers and 4 hitters in the first 8 Rounds, targeting the above. Use the dead space between hitter to drop down and grab The Starting Pitcher You Really, Truly Love. Forget the waiver wire, this is a six-month commitment. Use the 9th and 10th Round to take two relievers. Your 11th, 12th and 13th Rounds go to collecting Av. Garcia, Ad. Garcia and Donaldson respectively. Rounds 11-thru-13 run like clockwork. McGee is listed as the Giants’ closer but for some reason he’s ranked 300+ at Fantrax. Dig him up. If he’s scooped, Rogers or Bednar should be available. Rounds 15-to-19 can be a bit of a white knuckler, because some joker may take a flyer on Oneil Cruz out of the blue. I’m drafting him 30 or 40 spots higher because when at the 200+ ADP, be safe, not sorry. Also, I drafted catcher Luis Torrens in the 30th round (last) to clear up space for other picks. Catchers don’t run but he did poke 15 over the fence last year. The above road map has the necessary built-in deviations so you can breathe easy during the 45-seconds between picks. Good luck, managers!

Spring Training


San Francisco at Oakland … Hohokam Stadium, Mesa … Temp: 60, Mostly sunny

Brantly Brings Home Winner

An 8th-inning single by Rob Brantly snapped a 3-3 tie, bringing home Brice Johnson with the winning run as the Giants topped the Athletics 5-3. Jacob Gonzalez would score an insurance run for the Giants in the top of the 9th when he scored on a Parker Dunshee wild pitch. Dunshee would take the loss (0-1) while Sam Wolff recorded the win (1-0). The Giants improve to 1-1 while the A’s remain winless at 0-3. They lost their other split squad game Sunday 7-3 to the DBacks.

The Giants got on the board first in the 3rd when Abiatal Avelino touched them all with his first cactus dinger, a solo shot laced down the left field line inside the 340-ft foul pole. The next batter Jamie Westbrook walked and came around to score when A’s third baseman Matt Chapman missed second base with a missile throw, trying to nab Westbrook at second after Chapman fielded a Jacob Gonzalez ground ball.

The A’s tied it up in their half of the 3rd when DH Mark Canha hit a sharp, clutch, two-out single up the middle to score Austin Allen and Chapman. 

Giants CF Joey Rickard, who went 2-for-3 on the day with a double, singled home Westbrook who’d doubled earlier to go up 3-2 in the top of the 5th. But the A’s answered right back in the bottom half when, after Tony Kemp fouled off 5 pitches, he launched a long bomb to right-center into the bullpen. Unfortunately Nate Orf was caught stealing a couple of pitches before Kemp’s blow, negating an A’s lead. 

Bunts, Bits & Bites … Mike Fiers started for the A’s. He of course exposed the Houston Astro sign-stealing scandal. The fans were receptive to him as he retired all six Giants he faced, striking out Wilmer Flores. … The Giants fans didn’t travel that well. San Fran is typically a tough cactus ticket to get your hands on but there were a lot of empty seats down either line. … A’s RF Luis Barrera got a long look today, the only player in the game not to be replaced. He didn’t disappoint, banging out 3 singles in 4 at bats. Kemp added a single with his homer to go 2-for-3 on the day. … Airline flights overhead averaged 5-6 per inning. Drink of choice: Blue Gatorade. My better half and I sat in Section 200 — great seats behind home plate. Nice views of, from left-to-right, McDowell, Red and Usery Mountains. On the menu: one huge jumbo dog, a beyond-the-bun deal at $7.50.

Book News

August 6 Launch for “Forever We Play” …

Bat meets ball and heaven meets earth Saturday, August 6 when my novella Forever We Play will be available on Amazon.

It’s a story where baseball is gospel, Jesus is a slick-fielding shortstop from the Dominican Republic and Fielding Schmelling is a rookie soul taker for the Houston Astros. When an attractive realtor falls out of a Florida upper deck, he shepherds her soul aboard the Evans / Murgatroid bus in preparation for Opening Day. She must choose a team, who then must win the World Series if she wants to get to heaven.

Things are “looking up” this summer … pre-order your copy today.