Spring Training: One is in the Book
Thursday, February 23, 2012
On The Field
Nothing is quite like the first day of spring training, even if it is “just” pitchers and catchers. After a morning full of poking and prodding (“I can’t eat Mexican food tonight,” one Sox coach said after a round of golf last night, “I have my physical in the morning …”), the 2012 White Sox took the field for a workout filled with unique baseball drills … running, stretching, throwing, pitcher fielding practice (PFP), and then bullpen mound sessions for half of the pitching staff followed by cardio/weight work. Among today’s throwers were Jake Peavy, Gavin Floyd, John Danks, Jesse Crain, and Jacob Petricka, who for some reason took the mound without a number on the back of his jersey.
As usual, AJ Pierzynski dropped one of the best lines of the day. “They told us (all of the catchers) to catch someone we don’t usually catch, so I chose Peavy,” he joked.
New White Sox manager Robin Ventura took to the mound and threw batting practice to the camp’s catchers. You can view video of that, here.
“When was the last time you threw BP,” a reporter asked afterward?
“A week ago,” Ventura countered. “This I can do.”
Ventura’s “team” meeting before the workout was admittedly a first for him. “I’ve never been in one of those meetings before.”
Observers were stunned at the speed of his “meeting,” which clocked in at about 45 seconds.
“I am not going to use all of my ammo today,” he laughed.
More Ventura And the Media
Is that the same size jersey you wore as a player?
“Actually it is, I took the same size. Hopefully it doesn’t go up at any point. I’ll work hard to keep it as it is or even a little less.”
Does it feel different?
“It’s been awhile, so it does feel different. Last year, I just wore it around the Minor Leagues, but it’s obviously different to come out here dressed and do everything that we did with the team today. It’s nice to finally get started.”
When was the last time you threw BP?
“About a week ago. It was actually a pretty short stint, I could throw longer than that. “
Will that be part of your regular routine?
“Yeah, I feel that’s part of being involved and seeing certain things. At the end of my playing career I even threw bp. That’s when I knew I was done – when they ask you to throw bp while you’re a player you know that you’re done. It’s a different perspective and you get to see things when you throw bp to guys.”
Talk about your advantage in starting pitching.
“Especially walking around today you see the arms that are out there, seeing what we have as a staff and the young guys that have a chance in the bullpen. Coop does a great job, and I feel that one of our strengths is our pitching. We got guys in here ready to go and eager to prove a lot of things – and that’s what you want. You want guys that are hungry and come in here, they have talent and we’ll see how it goes.”
Who’s your Opening Day starter?
“I’m not going there yet. We’re going to plan for that and in the next few weeks here should have a better idea about that. “
Who’s your Game 2 starter?
“[Laughs] He’s going to be after one, that’s who he’s going to be.”
And the guy closing the games?
“[Laughs] That would be the guy that finishes the game. But we’re not getting into that right now. I’m going to talk with the guys, see what we have and go from there.”
How important is Jake Peavy to the team?
“He is important. He looked great today, getting out there able to throw – it looked pretty free and easy. For him, and us, it’s important for him to get through spring feeling good. As far as his talent and trust in him, I have that, he just needs to be healthy and feel like he’s healthy.”
What’s your greatest challenge with the job?
“There’s plenty, but it’s not anything I haven’t seen before. The only thing that’s new is I’ve never done a pitchers/catchers meeting. But there’s a lot of stuff that you see, and obviously going through the pitchers and how we’re going to work that as far as innings and everything, that’s new to me but I have Coop here. He’s done all that. I’m not worried about that part of it. There are all kinds of new stuff as a manager, but not new stuff in baseball, so I just deal with it when it happens.”
Comments From Camp
Matt Thornton: “The whole offseason eats at you a little bit. If it doesn’t, you don’t take a whole lot of pride in what you do. We were sub .500 last year, that’s embarrassing.”
A.J. Pierzynski: “Chris Sale looks good, looks like he put on a pound or two.”
Jake Peavy: “I just checked out all clean. I’m excited and as good as I can possibly be. First time I’ve been like this in quite a few springs.”
Catchers always take the most abuse during spring training. As I walked off the fields today at 2:30 p.m., I held the door for Tyler Flowers, who was coming back to the clubhouse with his catching bag over his shoulder.
“One is in the book,” I said to him.
“Not yet,” he replied, preparing to head into the weight room for another workout.
White Sox GM Ken Williams spent time fielding questions from the media as the White Sox players stretched and played catch today.
Here’s a partial transcript:
On if he’s glad to be back in spring training:
“Yeah it’s nice to be back out here and see some of the guys that…I’ve missed their company, especially the coaches.”
On his expectations:
“I think your expectation is always to compete for a championship, and it’s not different now. I know what people are saying out there, and it’s because we underachieved last year, but to a large degree we still have a lot of the talent that people had so much faith in last year. It’s just a matter of getting out there on the field and crossing those white lines to see what happens. If we can play some good, steady baseball from the beginning to the end of the season then we’ve got a chance at this just as much as we did last year.”
On the team’s sentiment this year after last year’s disappointment:
“Well good. If it’s bitterness then I’m all for that. Bitterness with positivity moving forward, not bitterness in looking back and lamenting on what happened last year to the degree that it holds you down from accomplishing what you want to do this year. Good, if there’s a little bit on an edge that you sense, I haven’t been around the guys as much to sense that just yet, but I’m okay with an edge here.”
On if this is a bounce-back year and if the guys can get over last season:
“I think it has to be. You can’t, no matter what you’re doing, what your occupation is, or even your personal life, if you allow things to hold you down and you do not make an effort to just push them away, anything negative in your life, and move forward then you’re stagnant. You cannot afford to be that in professional sports. These guys are trained. This is a sport, this is a business where on a day-to-day basis you are competing and a .300 hitter is one of the best in the business but he’s failed seven times. It’s a game, to a large degree, based on failure and you have to deal with that and move beyond it, and that’s where a lot of our guys are. We’ve got a lot of up-and-coming guys that have a lot to prove so I think there will definitely be a good mix.”
On if there’s a difference this year with Robin Ventura as manager:
“Obviously there is, and to a large degree I’m a little uncomfortable with the cameras and the attention you are giving me right now because I’d rather it be about Robin, his coaching staff and the players. I’m not going to get into the differences because if I do that, then that comes off as if there’s some sort of … I’m throwing darts at what the past guys did and they don’t deserve it. They accomplished a heck of a lot in the number of years that they were her so I would like to stay away from it if possible.”
On if he’s been pleased and surprised by Robin:
“Yes, but for the most part he is who I thought he was. Keep in mind, this was not a short interview process, this was years in the making of trying to get a gauge of who exactly he is and he hasn’t disappointed. The people that he’s wanted on his coaching staff have not disappointed as well. There’s a lot to be positive about, a lot to be optimistic about. Some of the things that they have planned in their program are going to make us a fundamental ball club and a ball club that plays the game the right way.”
On Jake Peavy being healthy:
“I talked to Jake a couple of times this offseason just checking in on some other things, and he expressed the excitement to me. I’m anxious for the people of Chicago to see the Jake Peavy that we traded for because he’s a special guy, a guy that can be a No. 1 in anybody’s rotation when he’s healthy. I look forward to seeing him out there, not so much in March but in April.”
On Adam Dunn and if he’ll return to form:
“I’m absolutely hopeful he’ll return to form. He’s got to be more confident than I have to be. I’ve never lost confidence in him. Sure, when you’re watching day after day a guy struggle like him, it is what it is and the reality slaps you in the face, but he’s got a long history of success and if anybody can push aside some of the things that have happened and really see the aberration for what it is, it’s him because he’s got such a long history. I just hope that he gets off to a good, solid start here in spring and carries that over into the season so the Chicago fans can get what they expected when we signed him.”
On if 2005 seems like it was a long time ago:
“Well, it’s not as long as 100-plus years … (then responding to laughter from the media, made the point that that wasn’t what he meant) … I was thinking more when we last won one, prior to 2005, what was it 85 years ago? Listen, I said it the day that I was assigned to this position. I want to win a couple of World Series titles during the time that I have, however long that is, and that hasn’t happened. So, at this point, it is a disappointing run for me personally. The good thing about it, though, is that we look at the players on the field and a lot of teams can’t say, ‘if this happens, this happens and this happens we can be right there and we’ve got the pitching that can carry us through the playoffs and we might get another run at a World Series title.’ As long as you can look out there, and you can dream and you can imagine the positive things happening, that’s a good place to be. There are a lot of general managers that I talk to that don’t have that luxury to at least be able to dream like that.”
On A.J. Pierzynski’s age and veteran status:
“We should be the ones applauded for having A.J. around that long, not him. The one thing that people don’t see about some of these guys out here is the work that they put in, and A.J. Pierzynski, I don’t know that there’s anybody that works harder than him. There may be some guys in the weight room and the peripheral things that you see, but when you get a guy that catches for as many years as he has and you see him sometimes after games, a lot of times after games, on that treadmill after he’s caught nine innings in the middle of July, where it’s hot and stuff, you can’t say enough about he prepares. Mark Parent has some things for him that I think are going to challenge him a little bit more and make him even better than he has been. I can’t say enough about the guys that have been here for extended runs, but we want to reward them and give them another opportunity to get to the postseason and see what we can do.”
On his appreciation that he’s back as GM of the Sox:
“For me personally, I have always been fortunate, felt fortunate to be a part of this whole equation. If there comes a time where Jerry (Reinsdorf) believes that there is somebody that can do this job in a better way and provide him with a better chance to win, build an organization and do the things that it takes to build an organization, then I will be the first one to step up and say, ‘Listen, you need to make this move.’ I’d be nothing but grateful and thankful and be on my way or move into a different position if he were to suggest that. It is sports, it’s professional sports, and if you do not win – it’s been now three years since we went to the playoffs – changes are made. I’ve gone into this situation knowing that and I can accept that if ultimately that’s the call, and we can go out the next day and go out for a steak and a cigar and it will be all good.”
On changes that will affect the team’s play this season:
“There’s a different kind of dialogue. When you make changes, you’re not going to have the same conversations, you’re not going to do things in the same manner that you’ve always done them. It’s up to me to see what players offer and make the adjustment and staff alike – what are their strengths, what are their weaknesses – and try to put the entire package together so that it can come together in a way that you can get these guys to produce out on the field. That’s what it’s all about. It’s not about me. We’ve had talented teams, talented players, but if it doesn’t come together, if they don’t stick together and take care of the guy on the left and the guy on the right and chart a course both, on the field and off the field, towards giving themselves the best opportunity to win then there’s nothing anybody else can do. This game is about the players first, everybody else is secondary.”