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gotta circle back
one: Getting There
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To get on out of here
It is so easy to fall back into the rhythm of the season.
It was my first day at the Maryvale complex today, but it took me all of
ten minutes to feel like baseball season. This
was before I heard the first crack of the bat or pop of the glove.
Of course, when Scooter is the first player from the 2010 team that you meet it
is easy to feel like baseball season is here.
In short order, Kyle Dhanani, Cutter Dykstra, Del Howell, and Maverick
Lasker stopped to say hello. Then,
Jeff Isom walked up to get to work. That
was when I realized I was standing on the wrong field.
New Rattlers manager Matt Erickson saw me talking to Ice and I could hear him
call out "Stay over there! Stay
over there!" Yes, it's going to
be a long season.
Once I made my way to the right field, the snow question came up from just about
everyone I met. That included new
hitting coach Dusty Rhodes, Ned Yost IV - who was helping out on the field
today, Reid Nichols, Charlie Green, Darnell Coles, just about every rover that
has been through Wisconsin in the last few seasons.
I told them all not to worry. The
snow will be gone by Opening Day. Did
you hear me, snow?
In talking with Matt - if the roster shakes out the way he thinks that it will -
he really likes the speed of the team and says that they will steal a lot of
bases. There may be some pop, not a
lot, some. Pitching? I'll leave
that for later on in this trip because it is still a little tough to figure out
who is going to be with the Rattlers.
Daunting is the word that comes to mind when you see how many players there are
working out with the team right now. There
are about 20 position players and over 20 pitchers during the morning practice
sessions. Only 25 players will make
the Timber Rattlers active roster when the season starts on April 7.
Some of these guys are going to stay behind in Arizona.
Some are going home.
Chad Robinson was doing some side work on a mound in the bullpen and I talked
with him a bit. He started the
season with the Rattlers in 2010 and got a ring with Helena last year, but he
mentioned that he was out for the final three weeks of the Pioneer League
season. Chad said that he is fine
now and hoping to head north to Appleton with the team.
That captures what everyone of these players want to do. Yes, it is great
to be in Arizona and playing baseball in warm weather. But each player
wearing a jersey down here wants to be playing somewhere that is NOT
Arizona once the minor league season starts.
Later, the pitchers were working on bunt defense on one field and the infielders
and outfielders went to another field to work on footwork and tracking popups.
I got over there late and it was disconcerting to see Joey Paciorek
taking grounders at shortstop.
Not that Joey couldn't play shortstop. At
a later point in the morning practice session, the coaches asked for a few first
basemen to help with another drill. Joey
sprinted to his equipment bag and pulled out a first baseman's mitt.
It reminded me of a line that Omar Bradley said in Patton:
George, I think if you were named
Admiral of the Turkish navy, your aides could dip into their haversacks and come
up with the appropriate badges of rank. Just
saying that versatility is the key.
Practice wrapped up with four rounds of batting practice.
I tweeted the groups as it happened.
But here they are in an easily readable form:
Group 1: Greg Hopkins, TJ Mittelstaedt, Carlos George, and Demetrius
Group 2: Jason Rogers, Yadiel Rivera, Mike Walker, Nick Shaw, and
Group 3: John Dishon, Robbie Garvey, Max Walla, and Kenny Allison
Group 4: Reggie Keen, Brent Dean, Tyler Roberts, and Tony Pechek
The team had about 75 minutes to grab lunch and get loose for the afternoon game
against. It was supposed to be
Dayton, but there were a lot of Dragons from last season on the team taking on
the Rattlers on Friday. Turns out
this was Bakersfield, Cincinnati's California League affiliate.
They played like they were a level up on the Rattlers.
The final score was 11-4.
There will be a fuller boxscore on Rattler
Radio in the morning, so consider this part a whetting of the appetite.
Here is the starting lineup:
Jimmy Nelson was the starting pitcher and he got off to a
rough start. He did not record three
outs in the first inning. (Remember,
in minor league games during spring training teams can end an inning without the
third out being recorded. This saves
Nelson retired the first batter, but just missed on a 3-2 pitch to the next.
A bloop and another walk loaded the bases.
A grounder and a 2-run single put Wisconsin down 3-0.
For the day, Nelson threw 57 pitches over 3.1 innings with five hits, four runs,
three walks, and a strikeout.
There were four other pitchers to see action Friday.
All were in trouble at one point or another.
Kevin Shackelford walked the first two batters he faced after relieving Nelson
in the fourth. Then, he gave up a
triple to start the fifth, but got out of that.
Thomas Keeling allowed a single and two walks to load the bases in the sixth,
but allowed just one run.
Jose Sanchez allowed hits to the first five batters he faced in the seventh and
gave up four runs. It was stressed
to him that he needs to get the ball down between innings.
In the eighth Sanchez allowed back-to-back doubles.
Fortunately a 7-6-5 (Allison to Rivera to Walker) putout at third retired
the first batter of the inning.
Alex Jones pitched the ninth. The
defense committed two errors behind him. Jones
walked two batters. He also hit a
batter with the bases loaded to force in run.
Offensively, Keen doubled in the first but was left stranded.
George and Roberts had RBI. The
other two runs for Wisconsin scored on errors.
There were a lot of strikeouts. Eleven
Rattlers went down on strikes in the game.
As promised, there was running. I
counted three stolen bases, a couple of hit-and-run attempts, and when there was
a chance, players tried to take the extra base.
The team scrapped and scratched their way to within one run after being
down 4-0 early in the game.
But, there is still work to do. I
counted up seven hits for the Rattlers. No
one had more than one hit. Only
three walks were drawn.
During the game, someone tapped me on the shoulder and said, "I'm going to
have to ask you to leave, sir." Before I could turn with the Mehring
Death Stare, Erik Miller introduced himself. Erik was a Rattlers
player in 2009 and 2010, but was released at the end of last season. He is
taking classes at Scottsdale Community College, working in real estate, looking
at going to Arizona State once he gets his final seven credits at SCC, and
enjoying married life. It was interesting to see a former player who is no
longer playing. Erik is adjusting well to 'civilian life'. He has
even turned down a few invitations to play in local baseball leagues.
I am not going make a prediction for the 2011 Timber Rattlers season based on
the results I saw today. That would
be a serious case of using the JUMP
TO CONCLUSIONS mat. Not ready to
do that yet. I need to see what the whole roster. But, most people around
here are stressing that both the Pioneer League affiliate and the Arizona League
affiliate of the Brewers won championships last season. The majority of
those players are going to be with the Rattlers this year.
Pictures that were taken on Friday have been uploaded
to the Timber Rattlers facebook page. Look
through them here and see if you recognize any names or faces.
There are a few pictures of three former Rattlers in Cleveland jerseys.
The Brewers were playing the Indians at the major league stadium and I
took some pictures of Shin-soo Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Luis Valbuena.
Unfortunately, I did not get down on the field to get them.
I wound up standing by the rail with a bunch of Cleveland fans.
I did not call out for any of those former Rattlers.
I am pretty sure that my press pass would have been taken away for
that...or branded me as a fan of Cleveland.
Nobody wants either of those things.
Last story of the day. I was heading
out to eat and rounded the corner to get to the elevator in the hotel.
If I had taken two or three more steps, I would have run right into
The former Timber Rattlers first baseman was pumped for the Rising Stars game.
I talked to him a little about his games up with the big league club
during Cactus League play. He
mentioned that he was pretty happy to start 2-for-2 with a triple and a single.
Then, he got to face Aroldis Chapman.
He mentioned that it was the eighth inning and he knew he was going to lead off
the ninth. He saw Chapman warming up
in the bullpen and went, "Oh, boy."
Morris assured me it wasn't that bad. Chapman
was only throwing 97-98 that day.
More tomorrow. Follow me on twitter
(@CMehring) for as close to 'as it
happens' as you can get...Everything should kick off around 11am CDT.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.