Day one in the books. Glad I remembered the sunblock.
Random news, tidbits and thoughts after my first day of Spring Training…
Roy Oswalt’s arm in better shape than it usually is this time of year, because of the World Baseball Classic. Oswalt, the likely ace of Team U.S.A., will leave Astros camp on March 2 to train in Clearwater, which means he’ll probably make only one start with the Astros before he takes off. Oswalt has been throwing to the baseball team at his old school, Holmes Community College, and reached 60 pitches the last time out. He should be fine, both for Team U.S.A. and for the Astros.
J.R. Towles didn’t have such a great experience at Winter Ball this year. Not only did he receive only 17 at-bats in five weeks with the Aguilas club in the Dominican League, he was the victim of theft after his hotel room was broken into while he took some time off to go home for Christmas. The manager at his hotel in Santiago, according to Towles, told him his belongings would be safe in his room while he was gone, but apparently, that wasn’t that case. Luggage and his wife’s clothes were among the many items missing when he returned. The experience left Towles with a bitter taste in his mouth, but he did walk away with a new appreciation for the Latin players who come to the United States to play. “I don’t know Spanish, and even ordering food took me sometimes 30 minutes,” Towles said. “I didn’t know how to tell them what I wanted and they didn’t know how to tell me what it was. I definitely gained an appreciation for what players have to go through here.”
What is it with the Astros and unsubstantiated rumors? First, it was Andy Pettitte “considering a lesser offer from the Astros” [not true]. Then it was the Astros making a move for Adam Dunn [also not true]. Now, the Astros have supposedly made an offer of around $2.5 million for Pudge Rodriguez, which, according to Ed Wade, has no validity whatsoever.
You wouldn’t believe how much information you can get from Wade in a three-minute conversation. You’d think more people would at least try it.
That said, after hearing Wade talk about the “11th hour” offers he made to Braden Looper and Randy Wolf, you have to wonder if the GM would at least be interested if Pudge’s asking price came down to, say, $1 million. Still, Wade really sounded like he wasn’t going to sign anyone else, and with the last two really quality free agent pitchers now off the table, I would have to believe that to be true.
Performance-enhancing drugs (let’s call them PED’s for short) are undoubtedly a hot topic in some Spring Training camps, but I can assure you the media covering the Astros would be more than happy if the subject was avoided all together. One local reporter brought it up in Cecil Cooper’s office this morning and you could practically hear the collective whisper — “here we go again.” Of course, there’s no chance we’re going to be able to put it off much longer, seeing Miguel Tejada is expected to be here on Tuesday. Should be interesting. He was smart not to take any questions the day of his court appearance last week (remember this is a legal issue) but eventually he’s going to have to talk. His sentencing is March 26, and afterward he might not be able to avoid the lingering questions that will follow him until he just stands up and gives some answers.
Brandon Backe will someday have a lot to say about his altercation with the Galveston Police last fall. He just can’t do it yet. But rest assured, he will.
On a completely unrelated note, this is what I love about Spring Training — all of the cynicism from the previous year is gone. Backe could not have had a worse ending to his season in ’08, yet after talking to him Saturday, I’m convinced he’s going to do what it takes this spring to make the rotation. He’s in great shape, feels strong and has a tremendous attitude. We’ll see how that translates.
Speaking of new beginnings, Cooper was completely at ease today — relaxed, comfortable, friendly.
Since my last trip to Kissimmee, a Pei Wei has opened in a shopping area I pass on my way to and from work. Things are definitely looking up.