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 SPRING TRAINING NEWS 2009

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PostSubject: SPRING TRAINING NEWS 2009   Fri Feb 13, 2009 8:47 am

02/12/09 5:45 PM EST
Spring Training is here at last
Players begin to report to camps in Florida, Arizona

By Mark Newman / MLB.com


Now you can dare to dream.

Spring Training is under way.

It officially began on Thursday in Fort Myers, Fla., where Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, newcomer John Smoltz and other Boston pitchers and catchers began reporting and working out -- just the same way the Red Sox got it all started five years ago in a year that changed everything.

"I think what it means for the fans is that it's that time of year where everybody is starting to think about trying to warm up," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "When it's 20 degrees up in New England, it gives them something to look forward to. For us in the baseball community, it's exciting. It doesn't matter how many times you do it. Every year, it's just as exciting. This year is no different for us."

It officially began Thursday in Goodyear, Ariz., where new closer Kerry Wood, reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee and the rest of the Indians' pitchers and catchers checked in at their club's new Cactus League facility far from home. In fact, most Cleveland players are already there, including new position player Mark DeRosa.

"I've always been a guy who likes to come in with the pitchers and catchers and get out on the field," said DeRosa, who comes from Cubs, just like Wood. "You get that cabin fever hitting in a cage during the winter. I want to take some ground balls and get my feet under me and get that initial soreness out of the way. That way, when the actual workouts start, you're able to just play the game and not worry about your soreness."

All the others soon follow in the annual rite of passage for the national pastime, the first step toward the presentation of the Commissioner's Trophy in a champagne-soaked clubhouse like the one last October in Philadelphia.

This is the moment we all have been waiting for through another inanimate and barren winter. It feels so good when Major League Baseball returns that it actually is worth the pain of having it wrested from our tight grips in late autumn. Were it a 12-month season, there would be no chance to miss it the way we have lately.

Baseball is back, player by player, pitch by pitch. It is now time for a Spring Training that will go hand-in-hand with another World Baseball Classic while coloring nature with blues of Kansas City, reds of Cincinnati and purples of Colorado. It is the natural companion to cherry blossoms and maple buds, all harbingers of new life.

Dormant lawns soon become lush green. Dormant ballparks soon become civic meccas. The countdown clock on MLB.com now is about to reset toward the first exhibitions, a clear signal that Spring Training is upon us at last. Then comes the Opening Day countdown.

On Friday, pitchers and catchers report to camps for the Cubs, Tigers, Royals, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers, Mets, Yankees, Pirates and Mariners. On Saturday, they do so for the Braves, Diamondbacks, Orioles, Reds, Rockies, Marlins, Astros, Athletics, Phillies, Padres, Giants, Cardinals, Rays, Rangers and Nationals.

Saturday also will mark the first day teams can work out, and 16 camps do so that day: Red Sox, Cubs, Reds, Indians, Tigers, Marlins, Astros, Royals, Angels, Dodgers, Yankees, A's, Phillies, Pirates, Cardinals and Mariners.

On Sunday, pitchers and catchers report for the White Sox and Twins -- those same clubs that met in that thrilling one-game playoff that finally decided an American League Central champion two days after the 2008 regular season ended. Yes, you remember that finish. Ken Griffey Jr. made that incredible throw from center to nail Michael Cuddyer trying to score after tagging up from third base. Jim Thome hit the home run that won it. John Danks had the big pitching performance, and he will be reporting on this day.

Also on Sunday, 10 teams will work out for the first time: D-backs, Braves, Orioles, Rockies, White Sox, Brewers, Mets, Giants, Rays and Rangers. Then on Monday, the Blue Jays are the last pitchers and catchers to report, and they also have their first workouts that day, along with the Twins, Padres and Nationals.

Every single one of those 30 clubs will report and begin working out with a valid hope of going to the World Series. That is what raises the anticipation level of this particular Spring Training even more. Just think about one year ago today. Did you have the Rays going on to the Fall Classic?

It will feel ever so different on Friday, when those first Rays players officially start reporting to their camp in Florida. They will begin to gather and know that they know what it takes to win in this sport. Young pitcher David Price will show up knowing without a doubt that he belongs at this level. Left-hander Scott Kazmir will report on a mission, and the first sightings of manager Joe Maddon and those glasses will be a true signal of rebirth in the Grapefruit League.

Tommy Lasorda is taking a tour bus today from Dodger Stadium to the Dodgers' new Spring Training home of Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz. It's a symbolic gesture to show Angelenos how easy it is to get from Southern California to the club's new camp, following all those decades spent at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Fla. Lasorda's bus departed at 10 a.m. PT, stopped at a nearby 76 station for gas and then at a Carl's Junior for lunch in Palm Desert, Calif.

Now that we know Lasorda will be there, the question is whether Manny Ramirez will show up at Spring Training. He still is an unsigned free agent. The Dodgers' big question entering camp is whether the kids can step up, as the club is committed to building from within and prepared for life without its negotiating superstar.

Most everyone is ready now. Are you?

MLB.TV Premium? Check. Ready to watch live Spring Training exhibition games and then an entire regular season of out-of-market action. It is time for fans to report for Spring Training as well, and that is one item on everyone's list.

Tickets for Spring Training and the regular season? Check. Where there is a will, there is a way -- now more than ever. Clubs have added value in ticket pricing and packaging across the board in the face of hard economic times, and even where there are sellouts, there is StubHub for secondary ticketing needs.

New Spring Training gear? Check. The MLB.com Shop just introduced the latest line of authentic spring apparel, so now is the time to order that Mark Teixeira No. 25 Yankees batting practice jersey just like the Cool Base model about to be worn by the Yanks' new first baseman. Or you can get that Dodgers Authentic Game Performance 59FIFTY On-Field Cap.

By far the biggest-selling items in the Shop since last October were Phillies World Series championship gear, and now the focus shifts from happily dwelling on the past to taking on the brave new future. It is time to see the reigning champs.

We remember this rotation well: Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, Jamie Moyer and power-hitter extraordinaire Joe Blanton. Now they report on Saturday, in the first official act of a possible repeat champ. Major League Baseball has not seen one of those since the Yankees repeated in 2000. The biggest question right now for the Phils is the return of the game's best second baseman and its most risqué speaker: Chase Utley. He had hip surgery on Nov. 24 and is projected to be ready between March 24 and May 24 -- take your pick. The Phillies and Utley think it will be sooner than later.

Seeing pitchers and catchers report puts our mind-set back on baseball stats. It is a cause to glance back at a player's previous year and say: That was an incredible year. Witness Clifton Phifer Lee: 22-3 record, 2.54 ERA, 174 strikeouts, 34 walks. Wow. How do you even begin to match that as you report to camp? Indians fans will take anything close.

This also is the time when you start typing mere letters such as "K" and "BB" -- a clear sign that you are eager and ready to keep score.

When pitchers and catchers report, everyone is talking about it. Sure, next week the attention will shift back to Alex Rodriguez as he appears at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla. But this is a day that belongs to the baseball fan, because it is about baseball.

This weekend marks the official reporting of Francisco Rodriguez to Mets camp in Port St. Lucie, Fla. -- and don't forget J.J. Putz, signed as his theoretical setup man. How different will it be today seeing Wood report to a club other than Cubs? Randy Johnson reports Saturday for the first time as a Giants pitcher, beginning a process that could result in a 300th career victory this season. He is 295-160.

We love milestones in baseball. It is time to get some, and it all starts with Spring Training. Gary Sheffield will get back to work for a 22nd Major League season when the Detroit full squad cranks up the first workouts on Saturday. And after another Spring Training, he should reach the 500 Home Run Club in no time. He has 499.

For all of the individual storylines surrounding this Spring Training, though, it is one major event that figures to be the overarching theme throughout the long camps. The World Baseball Classic is coming in March for its second go-round. As with the 2006 event, that means clubs will be losing some key players for a while during exhibitions -- and then having to get everyone back on the same page in time for Opening Day.

Pitchers and catchers report to World Baseball Classic camps on Saturday for all four pool groups, and in the case of Pool A (Tokyo), all Asian World Baseball Classic players report that day. For the Pool B (Mexico City), C (Toronto) and D (San Juan) groups, position players report on Tuesday.

What does that mean for, let's say, A-Rod followers? He is due to report to Yankees camp on Friday, and then he will be due to report to the Dominican Republic team's camp on Tuesday in Jupiter, Fla., where the Marlins are the "host club."

Let's say you are heading to Florida to watch Spring Training and want to see the USA team while you are there. Chipper Jones, Derek Jeter and other USA players are due to report Tuesday to Clearwater, where the Phillies are the host club.

Feb. 24 will mark the announcement of all final World Baseball Classic rosters, and most of the national team workouts start on March 2 in Florida and Arizona. The first World Baseball Classic game will be a Pool A match in Tokyo between defending tournament champion Japan and China at 4:30 a.m. ET on March 5 (ESPN2). The championship game will be on March 23 at Dodger Stadium.

Yes, the same place where Lasorda's bus will departed from today. Spring Training will have come full circle at that point. Somewhere along the way, we might even know if and where Ramirez will be playing in 2009.

It is time to start dreaming again. Your baseball team is getting back to work, and it could result in a trip to the World Series. That is why they report now. That is why we watch. The great game of baseball is back at last.

"I'm excited -- it means baseball season is starting," said knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who reported to camp for his 15th season with the Red Sox. "I'm sure everybody here did their offseason work and now it's time to get back to work. Being here in Fort Myers again and being in some nice weather, I'm looking forward to it."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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PostSubject: Re: SPRING TRAINING NEWS 2009   Fri Feb 13, 2009 9:20 am

Friday, February 13, 2009
Leyland keen for this Tigers camp
Lynn Henning / The Detroit News

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Jim Leyland hopped out of a minivan and was greeted at the clubhouse gate by his boss, Dave Dombrowski. Two men who hold such a heavy stake in a Tigers comeback in 2009 shook hands Thursday afternoon and strolled together into the manager's office at Marchant Stadium for an inaugural conversation as the Tigers prepare to greet pitchers and catchers for Saturday's first spring-training workout.

For Leyland, 2009's camp will be personally unique.

"I can't think of any one I've looked more forward to than this -- ever," Leyland said after he and Dombrowski had finished their discussion.

"I think, No. 1, we're all human, and it goes back to the embarrassment of last year," Leyland said, referring to the 2008 Tigers that were a popular pick to reach the playoffs and instead finished in last place in the American League Central Division.

"I like little motivational things like that. I'm really looking forward to it (camp)."

During a half-hour meeting with reporters in his Tigers clubhouse office, Leyland cited a list of projects and goals for a team he implied could be the best he has managed in his four seasons in Detroit.

"I'm not sitting here predicting anything, but I'm telling you we have a very good team and I think we'll play well.

"We've got some stars and some good pieces to go along with it, and I think that's pretty good."

Leyland said two keys to 2009 would be third baseman Brandon Inge, who returns to his previous starting position after spending 2008 in flux, as well as right-handed reliever Joel Zumaya, who is returning from two seasons of injuries to his throwing hand and shoulder.

"If Inge gives us more offense, and Zumaya's solid in the bullpen," he said, focusing on Zumaya, "this guy's a force when he's right. He's something special."

Leyland said he was slightly concerned that his batting order would be tilted heavily toward right-handed hitters, but he believes some of that overload could be offset by the development of a young left-handed batter such as Jeff Larish or Clete Thomas.

Other plans and wish-list items the Tigers manager covered Thursday included:

• Leyland said he would prefer to add a backup center fielder when he sets his 25-man roster. He's not sure if that player is on the roster, but Clete Thomas, who is coming off ligament-replacement surgery last spring, is healthy and could loom as a contender there.

• Leyland will set the tone for 2009 "(I've been working on it quite a while," he said) when he meets separately with the team's pitchers and position players.

"I think it's a fine line," he said. "I don't want to look back. I want to go forward, because I think we have a really good club.

"But this is not gonna be easy. You can't do it (compete at a high level) two or three or four days a week. There's no cutting corners. We've got to work toward a championship ballclub."

• Leyland said Zumaya will be conditioned as aggressively as doctors and trainers allow during spring camp. He's not counting on Zumaya making a serious bid for the vacant closer's job, but he wants him sturdy enough to pitch an entire season.

"He needs to pitch two or three innings at a time," Leyland said of Zumaya's spring preparation. "You can't live under a rock. You've got to find out.

"I want to get him out there almost as a starter, but not as a starter. We'll make sure we don't abuse anybody, but if the trainers give me the 'go' sign, you can't baby him along."

Leyland said he would have no problem going with an all right-handed rotation if five right-handers establish themselves as his best five starters during spring camp. But he's pleased with the early reports on left-handers Nate Robertson and Dontrelle Willis, who are working on comeback seasons.

"I think the writing's on the wall," Leyland said of the seven pitchers, including Zach Miner, who are hoping to crack the rotation.

"Let it play out and let the best man earn the job."

You can reach Lynn Henning at (313) 222-2472 lynn.henning@detnews.com


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola
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PostSubject: Re: SPRING TRAINING NEWS 2009   Fri Feb 13, 2009 10:12 am

JOHN LOWE | SPRING TRAINING '09 | WITH VIDEO
That ’06 feeling
Leyland says Inge and Zumaya are keys for successful season

By JOHN LOWE • FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER • February 12, 2009

LAKELAND, Fla. — Jim Leyland started the Tigers’ 2009 adventure on Thursday by making clear he remembers what Brandon Inge and Joel Zumaya did in 2006.

“I want to emphasize that I think Brandon Inge and Joel Zumaya are two of the biggest keys to this club,” Leyland said.


Imagine how good Leyland would feel if Inge and Zumaya could contribute as they did in the ’06 World Series year. They haven’t come close to doing it since.

Then again, it’s hard to imagine Leyland feeling significantly better than he did Thursday in the first hour after he arrived in spring training.

“I think we’re a very good team, I really do,” the manager said. He feels that way, he said, in part because of the way newcomers Adam Everett (shortstop) and Gerald Laird (catcher) fill holes.

Leyland, in the last year of his contract, said he’s never looked more forward to a baseball season than this one.

“It goes back to the embarrassment of last year,” he said. “I like motivational things like that. Stuff like that gets my blood going.”

Leyland was sitting at his office desk in the Tigers’ clubhouse. He had arrived about a half-hour before, greeted in the parking lot by club president/general manager Dave Dombrowski. The two chatted in Leyland’s office for a bit, and then Leyland asked the reporters to come in. As he addressed them, he made clear that he’s gotten over last year, when the Tigers went from World Series expectations in spring training to last place at season’s end.

Leyland regularly spices his interviews by volunteering insights. He did that Thursday with his comment about the importance of Inge and Zumaya.

“If Inge gives us more offense, and Zumaya solidifies the bullpen no matter what role he’s in, that’s a huge difference,” he said. “(Zumaya) is a force when he’s right. If (he is) totally healthy, and you’ve got Inge producing runs, that makes us real good.”

In ’06, Inge hit 27 homers. He has hit 25 in the two years since. Now, after a one-year absence that took him all over the field, he’s back at his favorite spot: third base.

Zumaya had a sub-2.00 ERA as a rookie in ’06. His ERA since then is nearly 4.00 in limited duty amid injuries, including the shoulder fracture that ended last season for him in August.

So, as with any pitcher who ends the season on the disabled list, Zumaya has to use spring training of the following year to show he’s healthy.

“I’m going to have to find out if he can withstand it and bounce back and throw some innings,” Leyland said. “We’ll make sure. We’re not going to abuse anybody. You can’t just baby them along forever. …

“Zumaya needs … to pitch two or three innings at a time instead of one inning at a time. If it backfires, it backfires. I want to get him out there three innings at a time (so) he builds up to do that. He doesn’t have any innings the last two years.”

Zumaya must show he’s healthy and durable to make the club, Leyland said.

“If we can’t push him along, I’d say there’s a chance he wouldn’t break (camp) with the team,” Leyland said. “Now, I don’t want to see headlines saying that Zumaya won’t make the team, because I’m praying to God that he will. But my point is if he can only pitch six innings (in spring training), he’s not going to be ready to pitch at the big-league level. I’m hoping that’s not true, and I don’t think it will be.”

Zumaya likely isn’t a candidate for the ninth-inning closer’s job, Leyland said. Newcomer Brandon Lyon and Fernando Rodney are the visible contenders to succeed Todd Jones in that role. Leyland said it would be a “nice bonus” to name a full-time closer by the start of the regular season.

“It would be a feather in our cap and would probably relax the team a little bit,” he said. “But it’s not mandatory.”

What would be nice is if the Tigers have a ninth-inning lead sometime before the eighth game of the regular season — something they never had in last year’s 0-7 start.

Contact JOHN LOWE at 313-223-4053 or jlowe@freepress.com. Check out his Tigers blog at www.freep.com/sports


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PostSubject: Re: SPRING TRAINING NEWS 2009   Fri Feb 13, 2009 5:27 pm

I rather have a 2009 feeling


After all


The Tigers lost the WS in 06
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PostSubject: Re: SPRING TRAINING NEWS 2009   Fri Feb 13, 2009 5:35 pm

How about a 1968 feeling then!


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
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PostSubject: Re: SPRING TRAINING NEWS 2009   Fri Feb 13, 2009 8:15 pm

02/13/09 12:20 PM EST
Camp officially opens for Tigers
Early reportees greet arrival of pitchers and catchers

By Jason Beck / MLB.com

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Fu-Te Ni made the 20-hour flight for just his second trip to the United States. His first introduction was to new pitching coach Rick Knapp, who tried to gauge how much English the left-hander speaks.

They didn't get far, but they were able to say hello. On a day like Friday, it was a pretty good start.

The Tigers don't begin formal workouts until Saturday, though many players have been working out informally for much of the week. Officially, Friday was the day for pitchers and catchers to report. For manager Jim Leyland, it was a day for hellos before getting to work.

"It feels great," Leyland said. "I've been a little antsy lately, ready to get going. I'm really ready to go."

So, obviously, have many of his players.


By Thursday, the vast majority of Tigers pitchers had filed into the clubhouse, as had more than a handful of position players, including Marcus Thames, Curtis Granderson, Ryan Raburn, Michael Hollimon, Clete Thomas and Donnie Kelly. So, too, had Leyland and many of his coaches.

Miguel Cabrera arrived Friday morning with a big smile, gave his manager a big hug and said hello to many of his teammates. It wasn't long before hitting coach Lloyd McClendon was standing at his locker, ready to get in some batting work.

Hitters won't begin their formal workouts until Tuesday. Until then, it'll be pitchers on the back fields, starting a steady diet of fielding and fundamental drills in the morning, such as pickoff throws, holding baserunners, coming off the mound to take a ground ball and firing to first for the out.

"You work on these drills," Leyland said, "and it's different when 50,000 people get in the seats."

It'll be the Tigers' first fielding sessions in four years without Gold Glove winner Kenny Rogers, who remains unsigned and appears ready to retire.

"If you watch close, you can watch our pitchers take ground balls around the infield, and you can pretty much tell who's a pretty good fielder. It's repetition."

With no games scheduled for nearly two weeks, they'll have plenty of repetitions.

For catchers Gerald Laird and Matt Treanor, the early days of Spring Training will be a learning process to get accustomed to Tigers pitchers. Both came from other organizations in December -- Laird in a trade from Texas, Treanor as a free-agent signing from Florida -- and both arrived early to start catching mound sessions from some of the Tigers starters.

With so many pitchers in camp, however, they've only gotten started.

The start of camp also sets up Leyland's annual speech to his players, broken up into smaller groups. Saturday will be for pitchers and catchers after physicals for those who weren't in Detroit with the team for the winter caravan and TigerFest. Leyland already knows what he plans to emphasize when he addresses the club and how he wants his players thinking as the weeks wind down toward Opening Day on April 6 at Toronto.

The Tigers struggled out of the gate last season, losing their first seven games on their way to a last-place finish. Part of the reasons given was the transition to cold weather and its effect on several Tigers hitters. Leyland doesn't want his players caught by surprise this year.

"I'm going to talk about a lot of things," Leyland said. "I want to be ahead of the curve this year. We've got to start preparing ourselves from Day 1. You might as well get it in your mind right now. Don't wait until we get off the bus in Toronto. It's going to be cold for a while. Let's not go through that like we did last year, where everybody said to wait until it gets warm. If you get a strong will for that, I believe you can guard some of it off."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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PostSubject: Re: SPRING TRAINING NEWS 2009   Sat Feb 14, 2009 2:01 pm

GoGetEmTigers wrote:
How about a 1968 feeling then!


high 5


Or 1984!

Yay2
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PostSubject: Re: SPRING TRAINING NEWS 2009   Sat Feb 14, 2009 3:27 pm

Let's go Tigers!!

The regular season can't get here soon enough!
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PostSubject: Re: SPRING TRAINING NEWS 2009   Sat Feb 14, 2009 11:28 pm

Saturday, February 14, 2009
Leyland: Knapp's ready for major-league gig
Tom Gage / The Detroit News

LAKELAND, Fla. -- On the morning of his first day as a major-leaguer, Rick Knapp woke up at 2:30 a.m..

Then again at 3:30.

And again at 4:30.

Finally, he just stayed up. The excitement and anticipation had gotten the better of him. After 26 years of toiling as a player and coach in the minors for Texas and Minnesota, he took the field on Saturday as a major-league pitching coach for the Tigers.

He had, at long last, arrived.

"This is the Super Bowl to me," he said. "This is everything."


Knapp already is getting rave reviews. Joel Zumaya, for instance, said the Tigers' new coach "sent me a perfect throwing program."

Juan Rincon, a non-roster invitee this spring who had three years of great success in the Twins' bullpen, said Knapp never got the credit he deserved.

"He had a lot to do with much of the success the young pitchers had in Minnesota," said Rincon. "Those pitchers were pretty good at keeping the team in the game.

"One of the reasons I signed here was because of him. If you want to work, he's definitely there for you -- and from what I see here, these guys want to work. They have a lot of talent on this team. It won't hurt for them to listen to this guy.

"He works with what each pitcher has. He doesn't try to make everyone the same."

Possibly because he walked the same arduous path , manager Jim Leyland acknowledged that Saturday had to be a special day for one who's waited so long.

"This is huge for him," Leyland said of Knapp. "All those years in the minors, and now this is his first day in the big leagues. It's one of the most exciting parts of our first day of camp, to be honest with you.

"He's handling it very well, but obviously he's pretty excited. I know what it was like for me (in 1982). I was a little nervous, but not scared. You don't try to tell everybody what you know. You just do your work."

Knapp thought more about his late grandfather than he did about himself on Saturday, however.

"The week before I heard that the Tigers wanted to speak with me, my grandfather passed away," he said. "He was always a pushing force for me, always telling me to stay with it: 'You're going to be in the major leagues, you're going to be a major-leaguer.'

"Then the Tigers called, which surprised me because I didn't even know anyone on the Tigers. But Jim told me he was going to interview me, another guy and two guys inside the organization.

"After that, he called me a second time, asking me to drive up to Lakeland and have dinner with him and Bruce Tanner (one of the Tigers' major-league scouts). Now my grandfather saw me pitch one game in college (at Virginia Tech). He never saw me pitch in professional baseball.

"But the guy I pitched against in that game at Florida State was Bruce Tanner.


"That's really weird. Kind of a strange coincidence. I got the job on a Thursday and my Dad eulogized my grandfather the following Monday. In that eulogy, he mentioned this coincidence, saying that you can't help but think that Pop had something to do with it."

Leyland came away impressed with Knapp's role in the pitchers' first workout of the spring.

"He's going to fit right in, but when you know what you're doing, you do fit right in. I can tell you this, he's going to be a good one. He didn't stay in the game, working in the minors as long as he did, for the money.

"He did it because he loves the game and I like people who like the game. He's been a major-league coach all this time. He's just been in a minor-league uniform.

"It doesn't sound good, but he's a dirtball baseball guy. I mean that as a compliment."

You can reach Tom Gage at tom.gage@detnews.com


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PostSubject: Re: SPRING TRAINING NEWS 2009   Mon Feb 16, 2009 9:24 pm

Monday, February 16, 2009
Bob Wojnowski: Tigers' Spring Training
Pitching matters more than ever for Tigers

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Pitching, pitching, pitching.

It's not all that matters in baseball, but boy, it's pretty darn close.


The rest of the Tigers' position players are trickling in for the first full-squad workout Tuesday, so all the attention from team officials is focused on pitching, for good reason. The Tigers made the World Series in 2006 because of great pitching. They finished last in the A.L. Central in 2008 because of terrible pitching.
So there they are, lined up on the mounds, side by side, as many as eight pitchers at a time, while Jim Leyland, GM Dave Dombrowski, assistant GM Al Avila, new pitching coach Rick Knapp and others watch intently. It might be boring for the fans, who can't even get close to the practice mounds to watch, but this is where teams and seasons are made (or destroyed.)

You'll have to excuse Leyland if he gets a little exuberant at times, but he likes most of what he sees so far. He likes it a lot. And guys like Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya are excited about how they're throwing.

I know, I know. Everything sounds and looks bright in the spring, especially when it's 75 degrees and sunny. Pardon me, but I need to turn away just a bit as I write this while sitting in my rental car, with the sun beating on my face.

Ah, that's better. Oh, here comes that classic Florida breeze, rustling the palm trees ever so lightly. And there are the ospreys, circling in the distance, majestic birds shimmering against the perfect blue sky. And there's the hot dog stand, um, never mind.

Back to the pitching.

"If our pitching stays healthy, I think it has a chance to be very good," Leyland said. "Certainly, we have enough bodies, and more important, we have enough talent."

Leyland loves newcomer Edwin Jackson's "overpowering stuff." He thinks Verlander will bounce back big from his 11-17 season. And he thinks Jeremy Bonderman's surgery to remove a rib will improve his circulation issues and bring him back to form.

The key question is which of three guys -- Dontrelle Willis, Nate Robertson or Zach Miner -- wins the No. 5 starting job. Willis and Robertson will get first cracks because they're lefties and they have long-term contracts. But if anyone thinks anything is guaranteed, haha, good one.

Leyland says he doesn't baby pitchers, even if some fans think he watches pitch counts too closely and keeps their innings down. Naturally, Leyland is a tad defensive about it.

"I take pride in keeping people healthy," Leyland said Monday. "It's easy to say, 'Well, that guy can go another 20 pitches, he's young.' It's easy when you're sitting over there, not when you're managing. I don't want that (wrecking a young pitcher) on my resume."

For all their woes last season, none of the Tigers' young pitchers were permanently wrecked. Plenty looks good so far, but most things look good in the Florida sunshine. As always with pitching, it's such a precious commodity, no one ever stops talking about it, or worrying about it. A true rite of spring.


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PostSubject: Re: SPRING TRAINING NEWS 2009   Mon Feb 16, 2009 9:32 pm

Monday, February 16, 2009
Bonderman still not fond of change-ups
Tom Gage / The Detroit News

LAKELAND, Fla. -- News and notes from Monday's afternoon practice session in Lakeland:

Jeremy Bonderman threw off the mound for the fourth time this spring, but for the first time as a part of a group session. He felt fine --and talked later about possibly adding a pitch. He's still not fond of change-ups, by the way.

... Did you see the story Associated Press writer Larry Lage did with Pudge Rodriguez? Lage drove to Miami from Tampa after flying in from Detroit and interviewed Pudge at his luxurious abode. When asked if his name is on the list of 104 steroid users, Rodriguez replied, "God only knows." That's not saying no, isn't it?

... Pitching coach Rick Knapp has ordered a special 4-foot by 8-foot mirror to put in the bullpen as an additional tool to use with his pitchers. "No smoke yet," Knapp laughed, "just the mirror."

... Jim Leyland said he had a brief but good conversation with newcomer Edwin Jackson. He told Jackson, who improved from five to 14 victories last year with Tampa Bay, "Don't try to go from the earth to the moon. Don't put pressure on yourself, just keep going forward. Good pitchers fit in anywhere."

... Of the competition for a starting job between Dontrelle Willis and Nate Robertson, Leyland said, "I want the competition for them to be the best they can be."

... The Chinese team that will compete in the upcoming World Baseball Classic is working out at TigerTown. John Nelson, the Tigers' visiting clubhouse manager, is serving as the Chinese team's clubhouse manager while it's here. "They're great to work with," said Nelson. "Very low maintenance."

... Midland's Terry Collins, former manager of the Houston Astros, the Los Angeles Angels and the Orix Blue Wave in Japan, is managing the Chinese team. "I was up in Midland to visit my dad," Collins said. "I know the kind of winter Michigan's been through."

... Bonderman has been trying to convince Kenny Rogers to come back, but hasn't been successful and knows he probably won't be. "We miss him," said Bonderman, "and I know he'd like to be here. But he also wants to be with his family."

... Curtis Granderson did a photo shoot on Monday for Playboy's baseball preview. No interview, no anything else, just a photo shoot.

... The Tigers' 2009 information guide checks in at 504 pages -- with a huge Miguel Cabrera super-imposed over Comerica Park on the cover. Makes senses -- he was the American League's home run champion, after all.


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PostSubject: Re: SPRING TRAINING NEWS 2009   Mon Feb 16, 2009 10:30 pm

Monday, February 16, 2009
Tom Gage: Tigers Spring Training
Kaline expects smooth switch for Guillen

LAKELAND, Fla. -- A few quick hits from Monday's morning workout at Tigertown:

Al Kaline thinks Carlos Guillen will have a smooth transition from shortstop to left field. Kaline goes way back with such moves, you know -- all the way back to Harvey Kuenn switching from short to center.

... This won't be a crash course for Guillen, by the way, in terms of extra work. Manager Jim Leyland said Guillen will be worked extra "some" by coach Andy Van Slyke, but not a lot because it's Leyland's opinion that Guillen played hurt a lot last year and he wants to make sure he stays healthy this year.

... Guillen will be one of several Tigers playing for Venezuela during the World Baseball Classic. Leyland has already kidded Miguel Cabrera that he's going to walk him intentionally in an exhibition game against Venezuela this spring. Responding, Cabrera said, "No, fastball."

... Jeff Larish "has to see action at first, third and the outfield" this spring, according to Leyland. In other words, he must be versatile.

... Will Fu-Te Ni use the bright blue glove Monday or the bright red one? Either way, they do stand out.

... Magglio's going to be happy. He campaigned for Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, in Chavez's successful bid to have term limits overturned.

... It's 9:28 a.m. and Jeremy Bonderman already is walking in from a bullpen. Done already? "Just some early work," said pitching coach Rick Knapp. It bears repeating -- Bonderman is working hard.

... Leyland still isn't sure if Zach Miner is more of a starter than relief pitcher. Either way, he'd have to do something bad -- real bad -- to pitch his way off the team this spring.

... Quick quote from Leyland: "Justin (Verlander) threw too many pitches last year that were not tempting to swing at." In other words, not enough borderline strikes.

... Rookie outfielder Casper Wells is lockering next to Gary Sheffield, and in the same bank of lockers as Cabrera, Ordonez and Guillen. "I'd expect him to be respectful of that, but not in awe," said Leyland, "I imagine he's called home to tell someone about it, though."


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PostSubject: Re: SPRING TRAINING NEWS 2009   Mon Feb 16, 2009 10:31 pm

Quote :
... Magglio's going to be
happy. He campaigned for Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, in Chavez's
successful bid to have term limits overturned.

Boo Maggs!


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PostSubject: Re: SPRING TRAINING NEWS 2009   Tue Feb 17, 2009 6:16 am

02/16/09 11:00 PM EST
Lefties will figure strongly in bullpen
Detroit could keep as many as three southpaws in relief roles

By Jason Beck / MLB.com

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers had three left-handed starters a year ago. This season, they could conceivably have none, though they'll likely have one.

The American League Central, meanwhile, still has its share of feared left-handed hitters, from Justin Morneau to Joe Mauer, Jim Thome to Grady Sizemore, all of whom hit around Tigers pitching last year.

It doesn't take a stretch of logic to figure where left-handed relievers fit in on this squad, in this division, even if the Tigers didn't sign any free-agent left-handers over the winter.

Manager Jim Leyland said he wants the 12 best pitchers on the staff, whether they're left-handed or right-handed. But he also acknowledges the lefty-righty balance they face.

"We already have four right-handed starters," Leyland said.

Leyland had three lefty relievers at times on his Pirates squads. He doesn't altogether eliminate the possibility of doing the same this year. It isn't likely, but it appears more likely than the possibility of the Tigers having none.

"It's a longshot," he said, "but it's not a total longshot."

The numbers from the division's great left-handed hitters against Detroit became glaring last year, yet many of them had success against Detroit's left-handers. Morneau and Mauer went 13-for-30 (.433) and 11-for-24 (.458), respectively, against Tigers southpaws, including 5-for-8 (.625) against Bobby Seay. Thome went 9-for-20 (.450) with four doubles and two homers against them, with eight of those hits off lefty starters. By comparison, he went just 5-for-41 (.122) off Tigers right-handed pitchers. Grady Sizemore hit Tigers lefties to a 6-for-20 (.300) clip, with five hits off starters.

To the Tigers' credit, their lefties had their share of success against other left-handed hitters in the division. But they couldn't contain the stars.

Seay keeps video of his meetings with prominent left-handed hitters in the Central. Over the winter, he watched those meetings over the last two seasons, looking for tendencies and techniques that he can use in his favor.

"Obviously, you want to pitch to weaknesses," Seay said, "but sometimes you have to pitch to strengths."

At the same time, Seay said, he feels like he can get any hitter out when he's on his game.

His return for a third year as Detroit's primary lefty is seemingly certain. He doesn't expect the makeup of the rotation to change his role, but thinks the health of Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya could have an effect on the left side of the bullpen. Zumaya's power and Rodney's changeup generally cause problems for righties and lefties alike when they're on.

After that, the in-house possibilities are varied.

Clay Rapada has been an intriguing reliever with his sidearm motion, but his struggles with command left him at Triple-A Toledo for most of the season. He now admits that he never really put behind him the shoulder problems that hampered him last spring, and that it never felt completely healthy.

As for this spring, Rapada said, "I think it's a chance to show what I can do."

Macay McBride had elbow problems in his first appearance last season at Toledo, and had to have Tommy John surgery that cost him the rest of the year. He's now seemingly back at full strength, and is back vying for a relief role after the Tigers tried to convert him to a starter last year.

Rule 5 Draft pick Kyle Bloom had encouraging results at Double-A Altoona last year, but it's the highest level in which he has pitched.

Then there's the possibility that Willis or Robertson could be converted to relief, depending on who wins the competition for fifth starter. Robertson has worked in relief before, including last year as a long man. Willis relieved for the Florida Marlins in the 2003 World Series, but has done it only once since then, that being a mop-up appearance for Detroit last May.

How that lefty mix plays out could be big to the Tigers' fortunes in their division, coming off a 27-45 record against the rest of the AL Central last year. When the Tigers coaching staff watches video of the prominent hitters in the division this spring to help formulate a game plan, they'll see a fair number of left-handed hitters, and an unfair total of hits.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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PostSubject: Re: SPRING TRAINING NEWS 2009   Tue Feb 17, 2009 10:29 am

GoGetEmTigers wrote:
Quote :
... Magglio's going to be
happy. He campaigned for Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, in Chavez's
successful bid to have term limits overturned.

Boo Maggs!

but why is that the only political statement made in the ENTIRE article? I'm with Trinita! He is the only player that gets singled out for his political views!
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PostSubject: Re: SPRING TRAINING NEWS 2009   Tue Feb 17, 2009 10:38 am

laprimamirala wrote:
GoGetEmTigers wrote:
Quote :
... Magglio's going to be
happy. He campaigned for Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, in Chavez's
successful bid to have term limits overturned.

Boo Maggs!

but why is that the only political statement made in the ENTIRE article? I'm with Trinita! He is the only player that gets singled out for his political views!

I agree, he does get singled out, but maybe he is also the only high profile player who is highly into politics in his country...


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PostSubject: Re: SPRING TRAINING NEWS 2009   Tue Feb 17, 2009 10:40 am

I'm still emailing Tom Gage. That was written nearly like a smirk. He needs to lay off anything players do that isn't baseball related!
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PostSubject: Re: SPRING TRAINING NEWS 2009   Tue Feb 17, 2009 8:27 pm

GoGetEmTigers wrote:
Quote :
... Magglio's going to be
happy. He campaigned for Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, in Chavez's
successful bid to have term limits overturned.

Boo Maggs!


Which passed! rant

Taking Venezuela one step closer to dictatorship
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PostSubject: Re: SPRING TRAINING NEWS 2009   Tue Feb 17, 2009 8:38 pm

gs78 wrote:
GoGetEmTigers wrote:
Quote :
... Magglio's going to be
happy. He campaigned for Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, in Chavez's
successful bid to have term limits overturned.

Boo Maggs!


Which passed! rant

Taking Venezuela one step closer to dictatorship

It has been pretty much for quite a few years now. He ain't gonna sneeze at the $$ MLB brings into his country, though, so I think he looks the other way.
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PostSubject: Re: SPRING TRAINING NEWS 2009   Tue Feb 17, 2009 8:40 pm

laprimamirala wrote:
gs78 wrote:
GoGetEmTigers wrote:
Quote :
... Magglio's going to be
happy. He campaigned for Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, in Chavez's
successful bid to have term limits overturned.

Boo Maggs!


Which passed! rant

Taking Venezuela one step closer to dictatorship

It has been pretty much for quite a few years now. He ain't gonna sneeze at the $$ MLB brings into his country, though, so I think he looks the other way.



And I think GAS is like 25 cents a gallon there


Thanks to Citgo
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PostSubject: Re: SPRING TRAINING NEWS 2009   Tue Feb 17, 2009 10:20 pm

Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Sheffield fit, ready to DH exclusively
Tom Gage / The Detroit News

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Gary Sheffield checked in at 225 pounds at spring training but expects to be at 218 with the regular season begins.

"My goal every year is to fit in my pants," he said during the Tigers' first official full-squad workout on Tuesday.

His one culinary weakness -- lasagna. "But only on weekends," Sheffield said.

"It looks like he's in great playing shape," observed manager Jim Leyland. "You can see it in his face that he feels better."

Sheffield, by the way, won't push to play the outfield this year.

"I'm a DH," he said.

More developments:

... Leyland about the first full workout: "Everything went like clockwork."

The only player not on hand was outfielder Timo Perez (visa problems), who's expected in Wednesday.

... Don't know if this is the difference a year makes -- or the difference the economy makes. Probably the economy. But on the first day of full spring training, only one Detroit TV reporter was on hand.

... Had a good conversation with agent Alan Hendricks on Tuesday. He represents several Tigers, including Joel Zumaya. Arbitration became part of the discussion and how it's changed over the years -- from a lot of hearings to just a few.

Hendricks and his brother Randy beat the Tigers in one of the all-time classic cases. They represented pitcher Mark Thurmond, who went winless for the Tigers in 1987, yet won his arbitration case. Soon after that, the Tigers traded him to Baltimore for Ray Knight.

... Always a Tiger? Apparently so, when you see Lou Whitaker and Tom Brookens next to each other, hitting grounders to infielders. Brookens is headed into his second year of managing at Double-A Erie and Whitaker, a bit slimmer, is back as a spring training instructor.

... A lot of fans turned out for the first full day -- a cool, sunny day -- but actually this year's turnout was "less than half" last year's, according to one who's been in the crowd both years.

... Brent Clevlen made a good first impression in batting practice. "His bat was making loud sounds," said Leyland.

... Scott Williamson talked about the one hit he has in his career (1-for-23): "It was a lucky single to right off Florida's Chuck Smith. The problem is I gave up a single to him (that led to two runs) in his next at-bat."


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PostSubject: Re: SPRING TRAINING NEWS 2009   Wed Feb 18, 2009 5:42 pm

Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Polanco hopes to stay with Tigers
Tom Gage / The Detroit News

LAKELAND, Fla. -- News and notes from the Tigers' Wednesday morning spring training session:

Second baseman Placido Polanco has a new, more compact way of running to first.

"I worked on it this winter," he said.

Polanco looks like Pudge Rodriguez as he speeds down the line now.

"Funny you should say that," said Polanco. "Pudge has worked with the same people I worked with."

By the way, Polanco won't play for the Dominican Republic in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.

"I'm a middle infielder," he said. "That roster is packed with middle infielders."

Polanco also doesn't want to risk injury by playing in the WBC: "This is the last year of my contract and anything could happen."

As soon as he mentioned the last year of his contract, he quickly added, "But I hope not my last year here."

He wants to stay with the Tigers -- that's already obvious.

Don't mind the cold


Zach Simons is a right-hander in camp who was acquired from Colorado last year for Jason Grilli. A couple of things about him: He went 5-2 with two saves and a 2.36 ERA in 39 games for Lakeland last year, holding opponents to a .166 batting average. So he already has some minor-league stats on his side.

But he must be good, because it's not easy to get noticed as a high school player in Idaho, which is where Simons is from. Fine state, but not exactly a baseball hotbed.

"When I realized senior year that a scout was in the crowd looking at me," said Simons, "it kind of overwhelmed me. Usually there are 15-20 people at the game, and suddenly some scouts start showing up for the first time. That was pretty cool."

Simons is from Glenns Ferry, Idaho -- a town of 1,600 about 60 miles south of Boise. And, by the way, he loves his state -- loves the winters there -- and hopes to spend all his winters "in cold weather" because of the snow sports he'll return to someday.

Quick Hits

Breezy day here, and the outfield instructors are loving it. "Good day to teach them that if they can catch the ball here, they can catch it anywhere," said Al Kaline.

... So you think Jim Leyland gives his players too much time off? He believes the opposite.

"I'm not so sure I've done the best job of giving them enough time off," said Leyland. "I'm going to talk to them about it, but they want to play. It's tough to give your stud players a day when they tell you they don't want time off."

... Don't be surprised if Joel Zumaya gets multiple innings in some of his spring appearances. No, it won't be a sign he's being groomed as a starter. It'll be a sign that "at some point, we have to stretch him out," said Leyland. "He hasn't pitched in almost two years really. So if he's fine, we're going to stretch him out to two or three innings a couple of times."

... Tigers rookie pitcher Ryan Perry already has become a businessman. With a partner, he's about to bring out a line of designer T-shirts.

... Zach Miner was driving away from the clubhouse when others were arriving. Not a good sign. "What's up," he was asked (before it was learned he felt nauseous). "Not feeling well," he said.


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PostSubject: Re: SPRING TRAINING NEWS 2009   Thu Feb 19, 2009 12:18 am

Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Tigers will take their hacks Thursday
Tom Gage / The Detroit News

LAKELAND, Fla. -- More important than anything that went on at the Tigers' spring training camp Wednesday is what will take place Thursday. Pitchers will throw live batting practice for the first time -- something not all hitters like.

"It's just a matter of hitters taking the right approach," said manager Jim Leyland.

"It's more for the eyes than the swing," said Placido Polanco. "I just work on timing."

Leyland described what he meant by a "right approach" for hitters this way: "I understand they don't want to get all banged up this early. But most of the time, if you take an aggressive approach to it, you have less of a chance at something going wrong.

"If you're defensive about it, there's a better chance of something happening."

In other words, guys, take your hacks.

'Electric fastball'

Gerald Laird caught Ryan Perry's bullpen session Wednesday. His opinion? "Easy cheese," said Laird. "He's very impressive. Electric fastball, as everyone knows, but he has a really good slider and changeup, too.

"Stuff-wise, it's all good. The ball just jumps out of his hand."

Looking good

Lou Whitaker has lost weight -- 20 pounds in the last two years. He looks good.

"Almost down to your playing weight," he was told.

"But not down to my playing age," Whitaker replied.

Fast hand?

Pitching coach Rick Knapp used a term that Leyland had not heard.

"He said Fernando Rodney has a fast hand," said Leyland. "I've heard of quick arm, but not fast hand. They're probably the same thing."

Said Knapp, "They aren't. A fast hand is exactly that. When Rodney throws his change-up, his hand snaps so quickly, it's a blur. That's a fast hand."

No gimmick

By the way, the special mirror Knapp has ordered as a pitching tool is expected in soon. Leyland said he's never been a "gimmick guy," but with the way Knapp has described how he'll use the mirror -- for pitchers to view technique faster than on video -- he's not labeling this a gimmick.

"When you hear Rick's explanation for its purpose, it makes a lot of sense," said the manager.

Name game


Pitchers went through a "knee to knee" drill -- catchers shortening the distance between them and the mound, then positioning the glove on one knee for several pitches, then the other knee.

"It's a concentration tool at getting the ball down," said Leyland.

One of the best at throwing knee-to-knee Wednesday was Ni (pronunciation: knee). No joke, Fu-Te Ni, the Taiwanese lefty with Technicolor gloves consistently hit the glove during the drill.

"I just told him to throw to his name," said Leyland.

Clutch stat


Matt Treanor stat, for what it's worth: career batting average .237. But a career average with runners in scoring position of .284.

Maroth invited

Former Tiger Mike Maroth is in camp as an invitee with Toronto after surgery to repair a frayed area in his left shoulder last May.

On Maroth's Web site, he's quoted as saying, "My range of motion was pretty limited. It was causing some irritation in my shoulder. Last year, the arm just couldn't take it."


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola
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PostSubject: Re: SPRING TRAINING NEWS 2009   Thu Feb 19, 2009 10:00 am

02/18/09 7:08 PM EST
Knapp inserts wrinkle into workouts
Tigers' new pitching coach trying to improve hurlers' command

By Jason Beck / MLB.com

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers haven't changed a ton in their early pitching work under new coach Rick Knapp. They aren't going to reinvent the wheel. One addition Knapp did make, however, is a spot way to work on command.

Wednesday's workout had pitchers doing the same side sessions as usual, firing off the back mounds as they build up their arms toward game speed. After those sessions were done, another group stepped up and had a lighter session. Many had thrown a day earlier, but this wasn't a bullpen session as much as it was location work.

The Tigers call them "knee-to-knee" drills. The point is to have the catcher spot his glove on either knee and have the pitcher try to hit the spot.

"It's a concentration tool, really," manager Jim Leyland said Wednesday afternoon. "You're not really airing it out or anything, but you're concentrating on getting the ball down. You use your mind and your arm the same -- in other words, to tell you where [the ball's] going. If your mind's telling you to throw it there, you see if your arm gets it to that point. It's pretty good."

Leyland had seen or heard of individual players practicing similar drills, including Tom Seaver during Hall of Fame career. Other teams have used it as well. For the Tigers, this is new. Given Knapp's reputation and emphasis on getting pitchers to throw consistent, quality strikes, it's a meaningful tool.

"I think a lot of the stuff that he uses is stuff for awareness," Leyland said. "In other words, if I've got to get the ball there, my mind tells me and my arm how to get it there. It's a matter of showing somebody, let them do it themselves."

Another Knapp addition is coming later this week. He specially ordered a giant mirror from a store in Lakeland that will allow him to let pitchers practice their delivery and instantly see what it looks like, albeit reversed. It's different than video work because it allows the pitcher to watch his delivery right in front of himself as opposed to waiting to watch from an angle on a television or computer monitor.

Thursday will bring the first set of meetings between pitchers and hitters in a batting-practice session. Even though the two groups reported to camp merely a few days apart, the fact that many Tigers pitchers started throwing well before formal workouts began means they should be ahead of hitters as usual.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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PostSubject: Re: SPRING TRAINING NEWS 2009   Thu Feb 19, 2009 10:42 am

Go the Knappster! I think he was what the Tigs sorely needed!
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PostSubject: Re: SPRING TRAINING NEWS 2009   Thu Feb 19, 2009 11:03 am

At least Knapp is working on control.... unlike a prior coach we had!


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PostSubject: Re: SPRING TRAINING NEWS 2009   Tue Feb 24, 2009 10:28 am

02/23/09 9:10 PM EST
Zumaya, Porcello blowing Tigers away
Hurlers impress staff in throwing sessions on Monday

By Jason Beck / MLB.com

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Give Joel Zumaya credit for this: He knows where he wants to be with each outing.

At one point during his live batting practice session Monday morning, he was muttering to himself in frustration after throwing a split changeup that didn't do what he wanted. Never mind that his breaking ball was giving hitters fits at times. He wants to improve both of his secondary pitches.

"Last year at this time, I was only at 90 feet, throwing off flat ground," Zumaya said. "I'm trying to be 100 percent for Opening Day and just trying to work down in the zone and throw strikes. If I throw and establish those two pitches I'm working on, the curveball and change, like this guy said, I'm pretty unhittable. That's pretty good to hear."

The guy Zumaya referred to is Brandon Inge, one of those hitters who was buckled by a Zumaya breaking ball.

"Pretty dominating," was another description Inge used.

Inge paid an additional complement to Zumaya by the way he celebrated simply making contact.

Through two live BP sessions against hitters, Zumaya is giving Tigers coaches reason to believe that the troubles of last fall's stress fracture in his throwing shoulder are behind him. With manager Jim Leyland out of town for a family funeral, it was third-base coach Gene Lamont keeping a close eye on their potentially prized setup man.

"He's got a real good look in his eye," Lamont said. "I think he knows it's an important spring for him, just like we know it's important."

Zumaya's look showed a focus on improvement as he went back out to the mound. While he was happy with his breaking ball, he didn't have as much command on his offspeed pitch at times as he would've liked. He admitted to getting charged up to the point of overthrowing on some of his fastballs, adding an audible grunt on a couple of them.

"When I grunt, it's either that I'm ticked off a little bit or I just tried to do a little bit more," Zumaya said. "Usually, the ones where I don't grunt are my fastest ones. When I grunt, it usually comes out a little differently, because I'm trying to do too much.

"There won't be that much grunting this year."

Young Rick Porcello, meanwhile, continued his work to quietly take apart Tigers hitters. His second BP outing yielded few swings, let alone contact, as Mike Hessman and others tried to pick up his sinker.

"He's a good-looking young pitcher," said Lamont, who then paused as he thought about his statement. "Maybe a little better than a good-looking young pitcher. I'm glad he's in our camp."

Monday was the final live BP session for both Porcello and Zumaya. Porcello is scheduled to throw an inning of relief Thursday on the road against the Nationals, then throw a side session over the weekend before he pitches again in next Monday's annual exhibition against Florida Southern College.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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PostSubject: Re: SPRING TRAINING NEWS 2009   Tue Feb 24, 2009 10:37 am

Still say it's the beard! Big Smile
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PostSubject: Re: SPRING TRAINING NEWS 2009   Tue Feb 24, 2009 10:42 am

laprimamirala wrote:
Still say it's the beard! Big Smile

Could be!



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PostSubject: Re: SPRING TRAINING NEWS 2009   Tue Feb 24, 2009 8:41 pm

02/24/09 6:08 PM EST
Upgraded 'D' ready for action
Everett has Leyland excited to watch Tigers play in field

By Jason Beck / MLB.com

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Adam Everett's first game as a Tiger won't be anticipated for a mammoth home run like Miguel Cabrera delivered in his first game last spring. Everett doesn't have a trademark motion like Dontrelle Wilis' big leg kick in his windup. Nobody's really talking about his potential offense like Edgar Renteria a year ago.

Yet the impact Everett can bring to this team is already creating anticipation in the clubhouse. It starts Wednesday, when Detroit's revamped infield defense takes the field together for the first time, with Everett as its heart.

"I've been thinking about it: I don't know if there's such a thing as an exciting defense," manager Jim Leyland said. "You talk about that more when you talk about offense, but I would think our defense over that way has a chance to be pretty exciting. That's kind of rare to talk about, to use that word when you talk about defense."

Everett has been thinking about it, too. He's just trying not to say too much about it.

"I'll tell you, I don't want to," he admitted, "because I want people to kind of keep us under the radar. But we've got a really good chance with this team."

Given the Tigers' travails with fielding last season, it might actually be hard for Detroiters not to notice the difference Everett can make.

It isn't simply the error totals the Tigers racked up, ranking them near the bottom of the American League. It's the ground balls that somehow got through, turning would-be outs into base hits and potentially stranded runners into runs. Part of that was a surprising drop in range at short from Renteria, which nullified what he added offensively down the stretch.

It was with that in mind that the Tigers went about their end-of-season moves with an eye toward defense. They reinstalled Brandon Inge as the everyday third baseman -- shifting Carlos Guillen to left field -- and they traded for Gerald Laird to provide some stability behind the plate. But Everett was arguably their biggest move on the defensive side, signed with an incentive-laden, one-year contract.

It's an upgrade that isn't easy to quantify, but it's one that's easy to notice.

"It's always been difficult for me to put a number on that, because you don't know," Leyland said of what a better defensive player brings at a given position. "You can go through a year and really not have a bunch of tough plays where you really see it literally save runs. What I want him to do is just make the routine play on a consistent basis. But there's no question they do save you some runs."

What the Tigers could put into numbers was the quality of Everett's defense compared with his peers. When they looked into Everett as a potential signing, one piece of reference material they consulted was John Dewan's Fielding Bible, which tries to measure a player's ability to field ground ball that he should get to. In 2006, Everett's last fully healthy season, not only did his rating lead all National League shortstops, but it wasn't particularly close.

There is quieter way Leyland was able to measure Everett's fielding skill. As Leyland watched Everett take ground balls during morning workouts, he recalled Tuesday morning, he realized there was something missing. The usual sound of the ball hitting the glove wasn't there. That's how soft Everett's hands are at short.

"Most other guys, you can hear the ball hit the glove, and it makes a sound," Leyland said. "It's unbelievable. He's just so smooth that you don't hear anything."

It's the product of years of work Everett has put into his craft. It's also the product of a glove that Everett has used for years, keeping it soft and light.

Everett clearly puts pride into his defense, and the work continues this spring. He has already talked with Inge about where he likes to position himself against certain hitters. The bulk of that work will take place once games begin.

"I think that's going to take a little bit," Everett said. "It's not going to happen overnight. But hopefully the more we play together, by the end of spring, we should be really good. Knowing what we're all capable of doing, knowing what our limitations are, it'll be good."

He will also start working on double plays with second baseman Placido Polanco. That, too, will be a process. The fact that none of them will be missing time for the World Baseball Classic will give them plenty of time.

"In practice, you can make a lot of your feeds right there," Everett said, "but when you get in a game, sometimes you have a tendency of going back to where you're comfortable, where you're going to miss. Knowing each other's patterns and sequences and stuff like that. If I go back in the hole, where am I going to throw this ball? And he knows where I'm going to throw it. But if I'm going to go up the middle, where am I going to throw this ball? It's just a matter of getting some reps during games to figure out where we're exactly at."

The end result should be an infield defense that leaves pitchers confident that they'll get rewarded for ground balls. That feeling can already be seen in the way some Tigers pitchers approached hitters in live batting practice. Dontrelle Willis, for one, said he attacked the strike zone with the idea of forcing hitters to put the ball in play.

The move was quiet, but with Everett, the potential impact is big.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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