February 2014

Venezuelan Tigers send message of support back home

On Tuesday, the message of support out of Tigers camp for the Venezuelan people came from AL MVP Miguel Cabrera and future Hall of Famer Omar Vizquel. On Friday, it came from about a dozen.

“All that we want to do is just pray for the safety of the citizens. That’s all that we want,” Vizquel said. “We want peace to kind of come to town. There is no necessity to use force to tell the people to move around. But it hasn’t been that case.

“We feel pretty bad and we just want to get together, the players here, because we have concern about our family members that are there. And obviously we don’t want the situation to escalate. So maybe if they can see that we’re all together here, it’s just a good message to send to our citizenship.”

The message began Friday morning with a Venezuelan flag hung by Victor Martinez over his locker. Over the top, he had written three letters: S.O.S.

Miguel Cabrera took the flag and went to his locker. The Venezuelans gathered at his end of the clubhouse and posed with the aforementioned flag and a larger one. They also included banners with hashtagged messages, some in Spanish, others in English.

Vizquel held up a sign that said #prayforvenezuela. Perez’s sign, “#Lejosperonoausentes,” meant, “We are far away, but not absent.”

Victor Martinez held up a sign that read, “#SemosTuVozVenezuela,” meaning “We are your voice, Venezuela.”

Bruce Rondon held up a sign that simply read, “#Estudiantes.” Venezuelan students have been demonstrating in support of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who eventually surrendered to police and was placed in jail.

Several players tweeted the photo over the course of the day.

Vizquel was born in Caracas, where much of the protests have been centered, and he still has several family members near there, but the unrest has spread to other major cities. Perez said his parents live in Maracay, which is Cabrera’s hometown, and he’s worried for their safety.

“A lot of my family is over there,” Perez said. “It’s bad.”

However, he said, a lack of information has left his parents asking him what’s going on. What began as a series of student protests has now widened to other concerns, from inflation to safety to a scarcity of resources to military authority and now media censorship.

“You can see how the tension has been building up through the days,” Vizquel said. “They’re trying to scare people. They’re taking these F-16 airplanes and flying them around the city and doing everything else. We’ve been a country that has been very friendly, very happy, but in the last four days, we’ve never seen a situation that has been this bad.”

Said Perez: “They have the arms, they have the guns, they have everything. The other side, they are students. They can’t do anything.”

The picture, Vizquel said, was a message of support for the people in Venezuela and a call for calm.

“I hope they can come to their senses,” Vizquel said. “I mean, just saying something relating to what’s going on has nothing to do with us being on one side or the other side. We just want to make sure [people know] that we care and that we don’t want any more death happening in our country. We’re all supposed to be brothers, and we cannot kill brothers against brothers. Everybody’s the same and we just don’t want that to happen anymore.

“We’re supporting the freedom for everyone, the freedom for people going out on the streets and not being invaded or being pushed — that we can be free, basically, and we won’t be afraid to be out on the street buying food and having a good time.”

Cabrera did not comment Friday, but he voiced a message of support for the Venezuelan people earlier in the week.

“When we play here, they give us a lot of support. Right now, a lot of players give a lot of support to the people of Venezuela,” Cabrera told MLB.com on Tuesday. “It’s kind of hard right now. It’s tough. It’s a lot of people. You have to be careful with what you say.”

The caution comes in part from players’ visibility and from the vulnerability their families face. By sending a message together, the Venezuelan Tigers hope their visibility is a strength.

“We need to support them,” Perez said. “Baseball players, we are on the TV everywhere. They always support us, so we have to support them, because baseball is so important in Venezuela. It’s our country.”

Vizquel hopes that message can spread to Venezuelans on other Major League teams.

“I hope so,” Vizquel said. “I hope when they see the picture of us, maybe some other teams will start following and start sending messages about peace, just let them know that we’re together. Just like a baseball team is together, all the Venezuelans should be together on this and see if we can do something about it.”

Tigers Spring Training TV schedule is set

MLB Network announced its slate of Spring Training broadcasts Thursday, both live games and re-airs. The lineup includes one live Tigers game March 12 against the Yankees at Legends Field. That game that was not originally scheduled for broadcast in Detroit, either on TV or radio.

With that, the Tigers Spring Training schedule is set. Fox Sports Detroit will have four telecasts, all of them live. ESPN has back-to-back Tigers broadcasts in its abbreviated Spring Training schedule in the final week of games, March 24-25. All of the Fox Sports Detroit telecasts will be available out of market on MLB.TV, as will a handful of other broadcasts.

The local radio schedule features 22 games on AM 1270 and 97.1 FM, down slightly from last spring. Most of the radio broadcasts are scheduled on weekends and early-week games.

Date

Opponent

Time

TV

Radio

Wed., Feb. 26

@ Braves

1:05

 

1270

Thur., Feb. 27

Braves

1:05

   

Fri. Feb. 28

Yankees (SS)

1:05

 

1270

 

@ Phillies

1:05

MLB.TV,

MLBN (delay)

 

Sat., March 1

Astros

1:05

 

97.1

Sun. March 2

@ Braves

1:05

 

97.1

Mon., March 3

Cardinals

1:05

 

1270

Tues., March 4

Pirates

1:05

 

1270

Wed., March 5

@ Astros

1:05

MLBN (delay)

1270

Thur., March 6

Phillies

1:05

   

Fri., March 7

@ Yankees

7:05

   

Sat., March 8

Mets

1:05

 

97.1

Sun., March 9

@ Marlins

1:05

 

97.1

Mon., March 10

@ Cardinals

1:05

FS Detroit,

MLBN (delay)

1270

Tues., March 11

Blue Jays

1:05

 

1270

Wed., March 12

@ Yankees

1:05

MLB.TV,

MLBN

 

Thur., March 13

Marlins

1:05

FS Detroit,

MLBN (delay)

 

Fri., March 14

Nationals

1:05

 

1270

Sat., March 15

Astros

1:05

 

97.1

Sun., March 16

@ Nationals

1:05

MLB.TV,

MLBN (delay)

97.1

Mon., March 17

Nationals

   

1270

Tues., March 18

Blue Jays (SS)

1:05

 

1270

 

@ Mets

1:10

MLB.TV,

MLBN (delay)

 

Thur., March 20

@ Nationals

1:05

   

Fri., March 21

@ Braves

1:05

MLB.TV

 

Sat., March 22

@ Blue Jays

1:05

MLB.TV,

MLBN (delay)

 

Sun., March 23

Marlins

1:05

FS Detroit

97.1

Mon., March 24

@ Pirates

1:05

ESPN

1270

Tues., March 25

Braves

1:05

ESPN

 

Wed., March 26

@ Phillies

1:05

MLB.TV,

MLBN (delay)

1270

Thur., March 27

Braves

1:05

FS Detroit,

MLBN (delay)

1270

Fri., March 28

Rays

1:05

 

1270

Sat., March 29

@ Wash.

2:05

MLB.TV,

MLBN (delay)

97.1

Early spring training Tigers rotation is set

While Tigers manager Brad Ausmus doesn’t have a season-opening rotation order yet, his rotation for the first few games of Spring Training is set. It’ll begin with prospect Drew VerHagen, who will start the team’s traditional opening exhibition with Florida Southern College next Tuesday at Joker Marchant Stadium.

Before you start speculating about VerHagen’s chances to knock on Detroit’s door as a potential sixth starter in case of injury, remember that Tigers top pitching prospect Andy Oliver started against the Mocs two years ago, the last time the exhibition led off the Spring Training game.

From there, the projected Major League rotation begins to slot in. Drew Smyly, back in a starting role, will lead off the Tigers’ Grapefruit League slate against the Braves next Wednesday at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex, followed by Rick Porcello in the back half the home-and-home set against the Braves Thursday at Lakeland.

The Tigers’ first split-squad day Friday will feature the reigning Cy Young winner and an insurance starter. Max Scherzer will face the Yankees in Lakeland, while Jose Alvarez makes the trip to Clearwater to face the Phillies.

Ausmus had already ruled out Justin Verlander from the first turn through the Spring Training rotation as he builds up his workload following core muscle surgery. The goal is to get Verlander five starts this spring, which should be enough to stretch him out for the start of the season.

Alvarez, who filled in for Anibal Sanchez while he was on the disabled list last summer, could provide an insurance plan if Verlander suffers a setback and isn’t ready for the start of the season.

In many springs under Leyland, the early rotation would provide a clue on the Opening Day starter if you counted out five game days from each start. Sure enough, Scherzer’s start Feb. 28 would put his spot on turn for March 31 if everybody stays in order (and if you consider the Tigers’ off-day March 19 as a day for someone to start a minor-league game, as has been the case in recent years). Because neither Verlander nor Sanchez have been slotted in yet, it’s a little fuzzier, but for now, it looks like a much easier path to Opening Day for Scherzer than anyone else.

Ausmus: Three under consideration for Opening Day start

Brad Ausmus was surprised it took this long into Spring Training for him to be asked about an Opening Day starter. It was less surprising that there’s no answer yet.

“It could be a tough decision,” Ausmus said. “You really have three legitimate Opening Day starter type pitchers on the roster. You have a Cy Young/MVP winner who’s coming off surgery but as of right now looks to be on track. You have the reigning Cy Young winner. And you have an ERA champ. So you could make an argument for any of the three, really.

“To say I hadn’t thought about it would be a lie. To say I hadn’t discussed it with coaches would be a lie. I have, but we haven’t made a final decision yet.”

It should not be assumed, he warned, that Max Scherzer’s season makes him the automatic choice to start the March 31 opener.

“It’s possible it could be Max. We just don’t know at this point,” he said.

The one safe assumption Ausmus provided is that all three candidates — Scherer, Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez — would pitch in the opening series against Kansas City if everyone’s healthy. That at least means that Verlander won’t be held back until later to give him extra prep time.

Besides the pomp and circumstance of Opening Day, the one tangible difference for that day’s starter is that he’ll be the one pitcher to make two starts in that opening homestand. He’ll still get an extra day’s rest thanks to the April 1 off-day, though a rainout (or, heaven forbid, a snowout) on Opening Day would erase that rest day.

After that opening week, the Tigers are off for three of the next eight days amidst a five-game West Coast trip to face the Dodgers and Padres. That could lead to Drew Smyly or Rick Porcello being pushed back, Ausmus said.

Spring Training Day 4: Scherzer takes his role

Spring Training 012

Max Scherzer can’t compete against himself. If he tries to top his 2013 season, he’s going to be fighting a losing battle. So instead, he’s already competing against his teammates, at least in his mind.

Tigers hitters won’t step into the batters box against pitchers until full-squad workouts begin Tuesday, but Scherzer needed some competition in his second bullpen session of the spring. So as Scherzer prepared to throw to Bryan Holaday, while Victor Martinez and Alex Avila watched from the sidelines, Scherzer pretended as if he was facing them — first Martinez, then Avila.

“Start him off with a fastball,” Scherzer said, predicting Martinez would take the first pitch. “We’ll set him up.”

In came the fastball.

“Gone,” Avila said, pretending to track a ball sail out to right field.

Not in Scherzer’s mind. And since this was Scherzer’s session, the imaginary at-bat went on, Scherzer approaching the switch-hitting Martinez like a left-handed hitter. Scherzer dropped in a curveball, then another one, setting up a high fastball. Then Scherzer delivered his knockout pitch.

“AH!!! Got him! No way he’s hitting that,” Scherzer exclaimed, pumping his fist.

On to the next hitter.

“Alex, first and second, two outs,” Scherzer said as he stood on the back of the bullpen mound.

Scherzer proceeded with another game plan, mixing in breaking stuff with fastballs. At one point, he lost a heater up and inside.

“I’m out for the next three games after that one,” Avila said.

“Don’t kid yourself. You’re jumping out of the way,” Scherzer said.

That put the count to 3-1. After another pitch off the plate, Scherzer — still with plenty of pitches before his limit — hit the reset button.

“Let’s do Alex all over again,” Scherzer told Holaday.

“He’s intimidated,” Avila told his backup.

Another fastball, another disagreement.

“Game over,” Avila said, hinting at a walkoff homer.

“Foul tip,” Scherzer contended, arguing he’d be late on the swing.

By this point, the other pitchers had finished their sessions. Over on the next mound, Anibal Sanchez was long since done, but standing around watching this unfold, suggesting pitches. Brad Ausmus let them have their fun. Martinez had gone back in.

As far as Scherzer’s concerned, he finished his session by striking out Avila, and celebrated as such. Avila let him have his fun.

Much as Tigers fans don’t want to consider the possibility, this could be a real showdown next season, depending on Scherzer’s contract situation. For today, though, it was a reminder that even Major Leaguers sometimes motivate themselves by imagining scenarios.

It’s also a nice reminder that while Justin Verlander works his way back from surgery, there’s still somebody atop the Tigers rotation with a disdain for hitters, no matter what uniform they wear.

Spring Training Day 3: On ragball and pre-workout meetings

Detroit Tigers Workout Detroit Tigers Workout

Special thanks to Tigers team photographer Mark Cunningham, who sent over a couple of photos from the Tigers’ rag ball drill this morning that give a glimpse of the reaction workout. If there’s any difference in the Tigers’ workouts, it’s this. It’s more intense than the usual PFP (pitchers fielding practice), but it’s meant more to test the quick reactions that pitchers need on comebackers. So far, pitchers seem to be raving about it.

“I’m very happy we’re doing this,” Max Scherzer said. “We don’t get much of a reaction drill.”

It’s not that Jim Leyland didn’t try to get his pitchers into PFP. Justin Verlander always used to challenge Leyland to try to get a ground ball by him in PFP, to the point that Leyland would be smacking grounders at a pretty good rate. That was from a longer distance, though.

“It’s coming at you so fast, you have to be 100 percent on your toes,” Scherzer said.

Pitchers got such a kick out of it that Ausmus made it into a team competition, separating the roster into groups and keeping track of how many comebackers they field from infield coach Omar Vizquel and defensive coordinator Matt Martin.

“There is a prize at the end,” Ausmus said.

We’ll see how much of a difference it makes in the season, but it makes things interesting. So, too, will Kenny Rogers’ annual visit to Tigertown this week to work with pitchers on their fielding technique and holding baserunners. Rogers would have loved a drill like this, as he was a maniac fielding his position, whether in Spring Training or during the season.

“He really preaches the footwork aspect,” Scherzer said.

The other tangible difference Ausmus has brought to this camp happens before the workouts begin. Leyland made one speech to his players every spring — first before the initial pitchers/catchers workout, then before the full squad worked out for the first time. He would then have a brief meeting on the field before the workout. Ausmus has the same speech schedule, but he has met with players in the clubhouse before they head outside. They bring chairs around to one end of the clubhouse in a seminar type of layout and gather.

“It’s just a mixture of baseball discussion and some team fun,” Ausmus said.

Team fun?

“It’s really just, a lot of times, getting to know young players,” Ausmus explained. “In some sense, it’s a little bit of team building type stuff. It’s fun. We laugh at each other. We laugh at things that are happening in the world. Nothing earth-shattering. It’s a way to get to know each other. There is baseball discussion.”

This wasn’t something Ausmus picked up as a player, he said. He got it from Padres manager Bud Black, having seen it over the past few Spring Training as a special assistant. The Padres, of course, have had much younger squads than the Tigers, with fewer veteran players.

Ausmus, you may remember, was in the running for the Cubs opening. Had he taken that job, it would’ve been a much different clubhouse he inherited. He can’t say how his camp approach would’ve been different with a younger team, since he has only put his planning into this one.

“But I would say, absolutely, yeah, it would be probably a different approach if you had a young team that was developing, a few years away from winning,” he said. “You would certainly cover things differently than you would with a veteran group, especially as you go deeper into camp and you’re kind of paring down the roster.”

That said, Ausmus added, “Even with veteran guys, I know that as a veteran, I learned things about the game, or someone pointed something out that I never noticed. I make a habit of trying not to assume that somebody knows something, even if I sound like moron telling them. If you assume they know it and they don’t, then I think it’s my mistake. But if I tell them and they think I’m an idiot for telling them because it sounds elementary, I’d rather that they think I’m an idiot and have it covered.”

More notes from Sunday:

  • The unofficial reporting date for position players is Monday, so one would’ve assumed that many guys would’ve taken Sunday to enjoy the rest of their weekend before getting to work. Instead, several hitters filed into camp, including Ian Kinsler, Jose Iglesias, Austin Jackson, Torii Hunter and Danny Worth. They joined several who had already been in camp, such as Rajai Davis, Don Kelly and Daniel Fields. Together, they had enough of a group to begin unofficial workouts and take batting practice on the back fields. Even Ausmus was surprised and impressed by how many players were already around. It’s different from team to team, but the Tigers have had this culture of early reporting for a while. Reporting day has been a mythological date around these parts for at least the last five years.
  • Ausmus sounded a bit like Leyland when asked today about Bruce Rondon and how he compares to the hardest throwers he caught. “He’s certainly up there, probably 10 people I caught who throw as hard as him,” Ausmus said. “But just because you throw hard doesn’t mean you’re an instant success. Everyone loves velocity. They want to see triple digits. Doesn’t mean you’re going to be an excellent pitcher. … Matt Anderson was here at about 102. He got injured. So there’s nothing guaranteeing success because you throw hard. Velocity doesn’t guarantee anything. It just gives you a little bit more margin of error.”
  • Good news for anyone making the trip to Tigertown to watch workouts this coming week: The Cirque Italia wrapped up on Sunday, meaning there should be many more parking spots available. No offense to the circus, but it caused its share of confusion, including to Kinsler, who wasn’t sure if he was at the right place when he pulled in. Drew VerHagen planned on heading over and asking them about the show (not to be confused with The Show).

Kinsler arrives at Tigers camp

It took a little longer than planned, because the circus tents in the parking lot can prove a little confusing, but Ian Kinsler rolled into Spring Training this morning, making his physical presence with the Tigers for the first time since the early offseason trade that sent him from Texas to Detroit. He also talked at length with reporters for the first time since his November conference call following the trade.

Among the highlights:

  • Kinsler long suspected a trade was coming, based on the Rangers’ glut of middle infielders, last year’s contract extension to Elvis Andrus, the team’s recent history, the front-office history and the never-ending rumors.
  • Kinsler’s 10-team no-trade list that he had in Texas centered around non-contending teams. “The teams that were left off were teams I thought had a great chance to win,” Kinsler said, “and Detroit was at the top of the [contender] list among AL teams.”
  • Kinsler dropped about 10 pounds from his frame because he no longer has to worry about losing weight during the summer in the Texas heat, and because his running game could be more of a premium skill in the big dimensions of Comerica Park. “I want to go back to where I’m a line-drive hitter,” he said. “It’s spacious [at CoPa].”
  • After the trade, Kinsler talked with Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia about playing alongside Jose Iglesias. Pedroia told him to keep his glove up or else he could get his teeth knocked out by a strong, quick throw. “He said, ‘Iggy’s special, you’re going to have a lot of fun,'” Kinsler said.

Adam Berry has the full story here.

Tigers take a look at Ryan Madson, but deal appears unlikely

When Dave Dombrowski talked with reporters at TigerFest last month and again at a Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association luncheon last week, he left the door open for the Tigers to add a reliever for depth if the fit was right. That didn’t happen, in part because the Tigers don’t have many bullpen spots open for competition, let alone a late-inning role.

If the Tigers were still to consider adding depth, a guy on the comeback trail would probably make more sense. So it shouldn’t be a surprise if the Tigers are spotted scouting workouts for pitchers recovering from surgery and trying to find a club. Ryan Madson fits the profile, having lost back-to-back seasons to injuries, and he threw for teams a week ago.

MLB.com’s Milwaukee reporter, Adam McCalvy, wrote about the level of Brewers interest yesterday. He also talked to one of the more than 50 scouts reportedly in attendance, who noted the Tigers among the scouts that appeared to be showing the most interest.

The Tigers did have a scout watching Madson. At this point, though, their interest appears to be limited to due diligence. They have a big enough Major League scouting staff that they can take a look when players hold workouts this time of year, but they don’t necessarily have the kind of role or offer Madson is seeking. MLB.com’s Phillies reporter, Todd Zolecki, cited sources saying Madson is seeking a Major League contract. The Tigers have always preferred a minor-league deal with a camp invite if they add anyone, which is as much about the pitchers they have on their 40-man roster as it is about who they would add.

“The market has been very slow for guys to sign,” Dombrowski said last week when asked if they were still open to adding bullpen depth. “We’re still open to it, but we’re also not somebody’s primary destination, because they look at us and think they have better opportunities in other places.”

The 33-year-old Madson was an outstanding closer in his last Major League season, saving 32 games for the Phillies in 2011 after several seasons as a workhorse reliever in their bullpen. He hasn’t pitched since, but by all accounts, he impressed in his workout, reportedly hitting 91-93 mph on his fastball.

Ausmus: V-Mart could catch in NL parks

Remember when Victor Martinez was trying on catching gear Thursday and said he was ready to do whatever the Tigers needed or asked? Well, turns out they had asked him about catching.

“I actually called Victor — this must have been January, right after New Year’s — and asked him about catching,” Brad Ausmus said. “He was thrilled about it. He was excited. I asked him if he wanted to come down with pitchers and catchers.

“There is a reason behind it. We play 10 games in National League parks and the first road trip of the season is L.A. and San Diego. We can’t not have Victor play for five straight games. This gives us another option. I wouldn’t want to just ask Victor the first week of the season, ‘Hey, get some catching gear. You might catch on the next road trip.’ So I told him, ‘Listen, I was hoping you would be open to the idea of catching a little bit.’ So when we get to LA and San Diego and we face a tough left-handed pitcher or maybe Alex Avila needs a day or something, whatever the case may be, we can stick Victor behind the plate possibly. Now, I don’t know if it will happen or won’t happen, but it gives us an option.”

Thus, Martinez was behind the plate Friday morning for the first round of bullpen sessions in Tigers camp. He caught Rick Porcello’s session with relative ease.

As mentioned Thursday, Martinez started three games at catcher last season, two of them against the Mets at Citi Field during Interleague Play in August. He was on a hitting tear, and with Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder at the corners, the Tigers had nowhere else to put him. He didn’t catch at all that spring, not while he was working back into game shape with surgically repaired knees, but Jim Leyland acknowledged he could end up catching later in the year.

This year, Interleague Play comes much earlier. That plus Martinez’s health over the past year make a start or two in Spring Training a much more sensible option.

The Tigers face five more games in NL parks after that — three in Arizona July 21-23, then two in Pittsburgh Aug. 11-12.

Another option Ausmus confirmed is to play Miguel Cabrera at third for some of those games and move Martinez to first.

“It’s been talked about,” Ausmus said. “Again, there will be some things, we have to see how they play out, but it’s been discussed. I actually even mentioned it to Miggy. You know, Miggy is a team guy and he told me, ‘Listen, I still have two gloves. Whatever you need.’ So at the end of March, if you see Miggy play third for a game, you don’t have to immediately say that [Nick] Castellanos is in trouble or [Steve] Lombardozzi’s in trouble. It might be that we’re setting up to have options for these National League games where we want to keep our big bats in the lineup.”

Cabrera mentioned Wednesday that he brought his third-base glove with him.

Scherzer mum on contract front, open-minded on new manager

If you were expecting some sort of new revelation from Max Scherzer on his contract situation or his situation in general when he reported to camp on Friday, it wasn’t happening. Scherzer reiterated his previous remarks from TigerFest: He wants to remain a Tiger, the Tigers are interested in keeping him, and he doesn’t want to negotiate once the season begins. However, he didn’t want to get into questions about contract talks, to the point that he didn’t answer whether contract talks were taking place.

“I’m not discussing negotiations with the media,” Scherzer said. ‘Those are private.”

Asked if he feels like he’ll be a Tiger a year from now, Scherzer said, “I just can’t answer that. I can’t even speculate like that. I hope it does, but in reality, you can never dictate whether these things happen or don’t. If it does, great. If not, we’ll hopefully resolve it in November. For me, now that I’m here in Spring Training, my focus right now is all about getting on the field and trying to win.”

Come Opening Day, that focus will have no room for contract issues.

“If it’s not done by Opening Day, then I’m not going to negotiate during the season,” he said. “This can be a major distraction. I understand I have a chance to secure my future here with the team. I want that to happen. But at the same time, I’m not going to drag negotiations out into the season. That’s unfair to the team, unfair to me and my teammates. They don’t need to have that type of thought process going on. For me, I’m all about [being] here to win.”

More from Scherzer:

  • On expectations coming off last year’s Cy Young season: “My mindset is that you never stay the same, as a pitcher, as an athlete. You either get better or you get worse. Those are the only two options that go on. And so my mindset going into Spring Training this year is I’m going to get better. I’m going to find ways to be better than I was last year. I might not have the record or some of the numbers I was able to accomplish last year, but I can be a better pitcher than I was last year. And that’s my goal.”
  • On opening message from new manager Brad Ausmus: “Same stuff: We’re here to work. Nothing out of the ordinary. It’s exactly what every manager says at this time of year. Obviously we believe we have a chance to win. It’s going to take hard work to get there, and there are no shortcuts.”
  • On whether there’s a culture change: “When you have a team that’s made it three times to the ALCS, you don’t need a culture change. Skip was great. We appreciate everything that he did. He gave everything he could, all the way to the end. Obviously his time has come. I think Brad is going to pick up where he left off and add new stuff and make us even better.”
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