Getting bored as much a part of spring as getting ready

Updated: March 3, 2009

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

It doesn't take long for the relaxed atmosphere of spring training to get old.

DOG DAYS … OF SPRING

I'll let you in on a little secret … for most veteran ballplayers, spring training takes way too long. Most veterans want spring training to last no more than four weeks because that's plenty of time for hitters to get their swings down and for pitchers to get their arms ready for the season.

For veterans, it really doesn't make a lot of sense for pitchers and catchers to report on Feb. 13 when the season starts on April 5. Not even in a World Baseball Classic year. Most teams already have the majority of their roster spots filled and have a strong idea of who is going to fill the remaining spots. Sure, there are times when a young guy comes in, really shines and earns a major league spot, but that doesn't happen very often.

So, instead, most vets spend the time just trying to get their work in and get game-ready without getting overly tired in the hot sun of Florida or Arizona. It's as though teams forget that the season is a marathon and not a sprint and that the older guys have to have enough energy to keep it going through the dog days of July and August.

Now, when a player is first coming up, it's a totally different mindset because he's trying to fit in with the team and learn his way around the game. He might not have the work ethic or understand what he needs to do to get ready for such an arduous season. For him, spring training is a necessity.

When I was coming up for the Colorado Rockies, not only was I trying to figure everything out as a rookie but my franchise was a rookie, too. So there was a lot of excitement as we were all trying to figure out what to do and where to go. Heck, my first three years I was trying to get established and each and every season I was trying to keep my job.

But after I established myself and knew what I needed to do to prepare for the season and was confident that management trusted me, spring training became a situation where I just tried to prep myself for the season without wasting too much energy.

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: March 2 | March 1

BEST OF THE BLOGS

Each day, ESPN.com's contributors offer a wide array of thoughts and analysis in their blogs. Today, Buster explains that the Twins' Francisco Liriano is a more complete pitcher this year than ever before:

Francisco Liriano's delivery always will have mechanical potholes, the kind of flaws that can wreck the undercarriage of a long, prosperous career. The Minnesota left-hander already has had reconstructive elbow surgery, and because of the way he relies on his slider and the way he sometimes fails to finish his delivery, he probably will always be at greater risk than most pitchers.

But Rick Anderson, the Twins' pitching coach, feels that Liriano's delivery has improved and that the young pitcher has gained an understanding of his own mechanics and how he can use his slider. "Instead of throwing that slider 45 times in a game, he'll throw it 20 times in a game," Anderson said Monday morning before going to oversee a Liriano bullpen session.

It used to be that when Liriano got backed into a corner, Anderson said, he immediately leaned on the slider, his crutch, and threw it three times. But more and more, Liriano has used his changeup, and Anderson feels that because of the lefty's effort to diversify his repertoire, he has developed a pretty good change, a pitch he can use in a tough spot instead of the slider.

"He's more of a complete pitcher now than he was," Anderson said. "He's got more of an understanding of his own mechanics.

"Look, he's always going to have a violent delivery. … Every once in a while, he'll go back in his mechanics and it's still going to be violent. We're still trying to get him to finish off his pitches consistently, rather than cutting his delivery off. But he's better."

For the rest of this entry from Buster Olney's blog, click here.


Rob Neyer drops some knowledge on some of the baseball blogosphere's young bloggers:

Was Evan Longoria's rookie season the best ever by a third baseman? Over at DRaysBay, R.J. Anderson says yes, it was. …

    Did you know, Evan Longoria's season was the third best by a rookie third baseman who played at least 100 games in history? Well, it's true. The filtering statistic of choice is OPS+ since raw numbers would leave us with the offensive eras rather than the players who truly stood out from their peers.

    The Milwaukee Brewers' Ryan Braun is the leader with an OPS+ of 153(!) and Cincinnati Red Grady Hatton (128 OPS) from 1946 are the top two. Braun is a contemporary, but now plays the outfield. Easily one of the better offensive players in the game, Braun saw quite the improvement moving to left field this season. Pretty close to average.

    --snip--

    Now I certainly was not around to see Hatton play -- and I doubt many -- if any -- of you were, and while I don't want to take away from the highlight of his career, well…we all know Braun was quite poor defensively. We all also know that Evan was pretty damn fine with the leather. FanGraphs' UZR has Braun worth -25 runs(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! in exclamation marks) and Longoria worth 15 runs. Even if those numbers are not exact, Braun only had about an 18-run advantage in offensive production. Was Evan at least 18 runs better defensively? The numbers certainly suggest it.

    That means there's a realistic chance that Evan Longoria is the owner of the best rookie season by a third baseman in league history.

Well, it's not true: Longoria's rookie season was quite probably not the best ever. One problem that no one has solved yet: How do you write a computer program that identifies rookies?

For the rest of this entry from Rob Neyer's blog, click here.


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SIMON SAYS

Simon Says ESPN researcher Mark Simon digs deep, looking for the night's best baseball numbers.

Tonight, his focus goes to on-base percentage:

Highest OBP in First Inning (2008, min. 125 PA)
Albert Pujols .469
Dustin Pedroia .444
Matt Holliday .432
David Wright .415
Randy Winn .413

--Source: Elias Sports Bureau

TUESDAY'S BEST AND WORST

BEST
Chris Duncan• You like long home runs? Check out the video below (or click here) to watch Chris Duncan's 475-foot blast against the Mets on Tuesday. St. Louis pounded out 15 hits in the 15-4 win over the Mets, but really, the one that will stand out will be Duncan's.
WORST
Brad Penny• The Red Sox have taken some chances on players with histories of injury. Two of them were hurting Tuesday. Right-hander Brad Penny and J.D. Drew both made injury news. Penny was scratched from his first spring training start because of shoulder weakness, and Drew headed back to snowy Boston for an injection in his lower back.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT: DUNCAN'S 475-FOOT HR

NUMBERS TO KNOW

On Tuesday, Randy Johnson made his second start of the spring with the San Francisco Giants, striking out seven over three innings. What can the Giants expect out of the five-time Cy Young Award winner? Here's how things went in 2008:

Randy Johnson (2008)
2008 Stats Randy Johnson NL avg.
K pct. of batters faced 22.2 18.0
Fastball swing-miss pct. 16.3 14.4
BB pct. of batters faced 5.7 8.9

Johnson doesn't miss bats at the prodigious rate he once did, but he still generates misses and strikeouts at an above-average rate. He also does a great job of not giving free passes to batters, as he surrendered walks at a rate well below the league average last season. If he continues to generate numbers like this in 2009, he should make a solid addition to the Giants' rotation, behind Matt Cain and reigning Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum.

-- ESPN Stats and Information

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