March 12th, 2008

Crazy talk from Pudge

PudgeThe talk of the game today was Ivan Rodriguez and his home-run total so far this spring, but the talk from Pudge was about patience at the plate. Yes, that Pudge.

Here’s a sampling of quotes from the man who drew just nine walks last season and averaged 3.51 pitches per plate appearance, 142nd out of 162 Major League hitters who had enough plate appearances to qualify for a batting title:

"I’m feeling good. I’m just feeling great at the plate. That’s the stroke that I want to keep all year, just have a good balance at the plate, just see the ball and don’t try to do too much."

"No, I don’t think I’ve had a Spring Training like that as far as home runs. But I don’t look for that. It’s good, yes. I have six home runs in Spring Training. The main thing about it is I’m just doing what I want to do and just be more selective at the plate, try to hit some strikes and take the balls. I’m just trying to see 4-5 pitches per at-bat. That’s what I’m trying to do. And so far, that’s what I’m doing. I’m feeling pretty good about that."

"Everybody knows that I’m not going to be in the middle of the lineup. I’m going to be in the bottom of the lineup, so it’s going to help me a lot to be more selective at the plate and get a good pitch to hit."

"The more years that you play, the better hitter you are. I’m still aggressive, but in the same way that I’m aggressive, I just want to wait for a good pitch to hit. It’s just sometimes you have to trust your ability in the game and sometimes you don’t think about it."

Much like Jeremy Bonderman and his changeup, we’ll see if this spring training project will carry into the regular season. Still, even hearing talk like this out of Pudge is something very different. This is somebody who had very little regard for walks in the not-too-distant past. Now he sounds like a hitter who is maturing, and I have to admit, I never thought that would happen.

Remember that game against the Twins at the Metrodome last September, when Rodriguez drew a bases-loaded walk to tie the game and he raised his arms and yelled in triumph? Maybe Matt Garza created a monster.

Injury updates

Clay Rapada threw a full bullpen session today with fastballs, changeups and breaking balls and felt good enough that he was in a noticeably good mood about it. Tomorrow will be the big day for him. If his shoulder feels good, he’ll be on track on throw a session of live batting practice later this week.

As for the Fernando Rodney saga, he is indeed scheduled to throw a bullpen session Thursday. This time we mean it.

Talking with Jordan Tata today, it sounds like his rehab will be pretty close to the six-week timetable. He’ll be checked out again in about 10 days, and hopes to be cleared for light throwing in three weeks. It’ll be at least five weeks before he’s OK to throw off of a mound.

The hitless spring is over

Gary Sheffield just turned on the first pitch he saw from Woody Williams today and pulled it down the left-field line for a double.

There's always someone worse off

At first glance through the stats sheet, Gary Sheffield and Boston’s Bobby Kielty had the longest hitless drought going in the Grapefruit League. But then in the Cactus League, there’s Ichiro, whose hitless start (0-for-21 entering Wednesday) is attracting some attention because, well, he’s Ichiro. What’s more, he seems to like it. From the story:

Facing the Rockies on Tuesday, Ichiro gave Mariners fans little to cheer about, grounding to the pitcher to lead off the game, lofting a couple of fly balls to left in the third and sixth innings, and coming closest to breaking his Cactus rut with a hard grounder to third to lead off the ninth, snared by Rockies prospect Ian Stewart.

"Part of me said, ‘Go through, so it can be a hit,’ " Ichiro said through an interpreter. "But the other part of me said, ‘Make this an out so the streak can continue.’ "

Oddly, Ichiro is convincing those around him that it is an altogether enjoyable experience for him.

"To tell you the truth, some of this is kind of fun," Ichiro said. "To be in a situation this early in Spring Training and have this kind of a bit of intense environment is something that I couldn’t experience before. Basically, it’s a situation where I need to battle within myself, mentally.

"That’s something that I haven’t experienced at this time of year, and I get to experience that right now, and that is great for me. Once I get a hit it might actually make me sad that this experience isn’t going to be here any more. But at the same time, I understand I need results."

Sheffield isn’t getting nearly the same attention. In fact, Miguel Cabrera probably got more publicity out of his 3-for-21 start than Sheff has from 0-for-14.

First round of cuts

Armando Galarraga and Macay McBride were optioned to Toledo.

Rick Porcello was optioned to Lakeland.

Non-roster invitees Jeff Gerbe, Rob Bowen, Dusty Ryan, James Skelton, Jeff Larish, Danny Worth, Matt Joyce, Wilkin Ramirez and Clete Thomas were all assigned to minor-league camp.

There was some suspense building when Francisco Cruceta’s locker was cleaned out this morning. It appears, however, that they’re just moving him to a different locker in the clubhouse so they can clear out a bank of lockers and give guys more room to move around in there.

It’s a very regular-looking lineup today against the Astros. Here it is:

  1. Granderson, CF
  2. Polanco, 2B
  3. Sheffield, DH
  4. Ordonez, RF
  5. Cabrera, 3B
  6. Guillen, 1B
  7. Renteria, SS
  8. Rodriguez, C
  9. Jones, LF