July 14th, 2013

Sunday’s Futures Game in quotes

I wrote today about the Futures Game experience of Jordan Lennerton, the oldest player in the game at age 27. Clearly for somebody who didn’t e was relishing the whole experience.

“It’s very humbling,” Lennerton said. “You walk out into Citi Field. You see it on TV and of course it looks like a big-league ballpark, but you step out there and the place is massive. It puts you in your place. It’s very humbling. It’s exciting, because this is where we all want to be. It’s definitely a fun time for all of us.”

As for the age tag, he said, “I’ve been an old guy, but I’m happy to be that old guy, because I get to stand here with these young guys. I’m proud to be in the position that I’m in. It’s a great motivator for me to know that the people that oversee everything with the Tigers, they see me as that guy that they can put in events like this. They see me as a guy who will move forward.”

More from Lennerton:

  • On being overlooked in system: “My ceiling was Double-A as of three years ago. I wasn’t going to make it out of Double-A. That shows you what the writers know, no offense to you guys. It takes more than watching it from the outside to understand what a baseball player is. Baseball is an intelligent game. It’s a thinking man’s game. It takes a lot more than how far you can hit a baseball. You can’t measure the drive and determination of a baseball player by watching them take batting practice.”
  • On being labeled an organizational guy: “When I was labeled an organizational guy and they said my ceiling was Double-A, I took it for what it was. I took it with a grain of salt. One more guy counting me out. Obviously, I’ve been in Triple-A all year, Futures Game, Triple-A All-Star Game, and now I feel those guys who labeled me as an organizational guy have to go back and erase that and write something new, because they saw me from the outside.”
  • On change this year: “It was a change of mindset. My swing hasn’t changed in 10 years. My setup might be a little bit different, my stance. But it was the mental approach that I took to it, not worrying about numbers and not worrying about producing, doing this and this. It was more about being comfortable and enjoying it, not trying to beat the point to death that I need to hit 30 home runs and drive in 100. When you start thinking about that and you’re not at a particular point that you want to be at, that’s when you start pressing. For me, it’s just staying confident, staying humble and enjoying the process.”
  • On setting goals: “Last year my goal was to play in the Eastern League All-Star Game and then I wanted to play on Team Canada. I set goals this year. To be honest with you, this wasn’t one of them that I set, because I didn’t expect it. It was something that I wanted. In my brain, that would be awesome to do. Reno was a goal, and obviously getting a call to the big leagues. I try to stay away from numbers. If I can reach a goal like getting to Reno, then I’m doing something good.”
  • On reaction to making Futures Game: “It was shocking. Being an older guy, I wasn’t expecting it at all. It was something that I wanted to do, wanted to experience. I found out on Twitter in the clubhouse in Pawtucket, and then I went straight to Phil Nevin’s office and he said, ‘Yeah, I was looking for you.'”
  • On being blocked at big-league level: “Prince is an outstanding ballplayer, so are Miguel and Victor, the guys who are technically ahead of me. But if I start worrying about that, then I’m going to put more pressure on myself. I’m going to go out and play my game and just do what I’ve been doing, just play and have fun.”

For James McCann, the breakout year began in part with a stint in big-league camp, where he took extra hitting work with Lloyd McClendon, Toby Harrah and Leon Durham.

“The big thing is they told me don’t be afraid to look silly,” McCann said. “They said Prince swings at pitches out of the zone, Miguel swings at pitches out of the zone. Don’t be afraid to look stupid. Don’t be afraid to look silly. It happens to everyone. Go up there with confidence and know that you’re going to get the bat head out.”

The other key he pointed out as the work he put in on knowing what to expect from different pitchers and different teams.

“I keep a journal,” McCann said, “and after every at-bat, I write it down. After every game I sit down with our pitchers, with other hitters, and we talk about what they saw. It’s definitely something that helps you get it all out there. Because sure, you can remember 24 hours, maybe 36 hours. But after you start seeing different guys, you forget about that stuff. But when you write it down, you can go back and refresh your memory.”

More from McCann:

  • On biggest difference this year: “I’d say the biggest thing for me has been the confidence. I had the approach last year, but this year it’s been the approach and understanding that I can’t let one bad at-bat or two bad at-bats snowball into a series of games and realize that each at-bat’s its own at-bat. It’s the conviction, the confidence.”
  • On learning from players in spring training: “I’d always be in there when Miguel was in there, so it was — not necessarily working with him every day but watching how he went about his business and having those hitting guys talk to me.”
  • On following former University of Arkansas teammate Drew Smyly: “It’s definitely been a big year for both of us. I’m real proud of him. Pitching out of the bullpen, he’s never done that before, and he’s one of the most consistent guys out of the bullpen.”

Bonderman returns on minor-league deal

Jeremy Bonderman had a standing offer from the Tigers for a minor-league contract last offseason, but signed with the Mariners to stay close to home and get what he rightly felt was a better chance to win a rotation spot. As the season heads into his ceremonial midpoint, Bonderman is coming back to the Tigers organization.

“Hard to go that far,” Bonderman said in a text message, “but it’s where I wanted to play.”

Bonderman signed a minor-league contract that includes an opt-out clause that allows him to ask for his release if he’s not called up to Detroit by a certain date. He’ll report to Triple-A Toledo coming out of the All-Star break Thursday in Buffalo and take the rotation spot previously held by Derek Hankins, who is headed to Korea to pitch.

Whenever Bonderman makes his first start, it’ll be his first appearance in the Tigers organization since Oct. 1, 2010, when he started the lost the first game of a doubleheader in Baltimore on the final weekend of that season. He hasn’t pitched in Toledo since 2009, when he was struggling to come back from surgery to correct his thoracic outlet syndrome.

Bonderman made seven starts for Seattle, going 1-2 with a 4.93 ERA, before the M’s designated him for assignment last week. He gave up 21 earned runs on 40 hits over 38 1/3 innings, but 10 of those runs came in his last two starts.

His fastball velocity this year has actually been better than it was in 2010, his final season as a Tiger, and it had been building with each start. Signing now allows him to try to continue that path, even if it means accepting a trip to the minors.

Bonderman said he had a few offers, but the Tigers offered him both familiarity and what he sees as an opportunity. I don’t know if that means the potential of him joining the bullpen at some point this summer. As a starter, he seems to be an insurance option in case anybody else got hurt or suspended. Yes, the Tigers have Jose Alvarez for that, but not much after him. That fact had to be scaring some people in the organization when Rick Porcello was suspended a couple weeks ago, because once they sent down Alvarez to make room for Anibal Sanchez, they wouldn’t have been able to call up Alvarez to take Porcello’s place before the break.