Familiar faces around me
Aside from today's shift in scenery from the complex to the ballpark, the highlight of the day was undoubtedly the arrival of Rapid Robert Feller. It's an annual rite of spring.
As was the case in Winter Haven, Feller will be throwing out a ceremonial first pitch and signing autographs at each and every home game at the Goodyear Ballpark.
You might be surprised to hear Mr. Feller has an opinion on some things. Shocker, right? He came into the media workroom and said, "Are you guys going to write about steroids this season, or baseball?" Hopefully baseball, we responded. "I'm sure Bud and A-Rod hope that, too," he replied.
When told Jeremy Sowers is starting tomorrow's Cactus League opener, Feller said, "If he got some upper body strength, he could do it. He reminds me a lot of Scotty Bailes."
Feller also told us scribes, "The last thing I want to hear is that we have great players in the Minor Leagues. I don't care. How about some great ones, right now, winning a ballgame?"
I guess he's not all that interested in my Nick Weglarz feature.
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY...
If you're in the Cleveland area, SportsTime Ohio will be broadcasting tomorrow's opener against the Giants, which begins at 3 p.m. ET. If you're not, fear not. MLB Network will be picking up and airing the STO live feed.
Feller was far from the only special guest at the complex today. This place has become a tourist trap. This morning, former closer Joe Borowski rolled in to take a tour and catch up with some old friends. Not only was Borowski, who lives in nearby Scottsdale, wearing the standard-issue Affliction T-shirt, he was also carrying his trademark cup of Starbucks. "I can drink as much as I want now," he joked. If you remember, Borowski's major complaint about Winter Haven was the lack of Starbucks availability.
Cubs GM Jim Hendry and Padres GM Kevin Towers also toured the complex this morning. And on Monday, Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd (a former Indians assistant GM) rolled through. The Rockies have to be considering a move from Tucson. Only two teams (the Rockies and Diamondbacks) remain there, so their travel schedule is brutal.
Not a great deal to report off the five-inning intrasquad, because, well, it's a five-inning intrasquad. But Josh Barfield started a double play on the only ball hit to him at third, and he also cranked out a three-run homer. So a nice day for him.
Bad day for Masa Kobayashi, who had a rough third inning in which he faced eight batters and gave up three runs on four hits with a walk and a strikeout. Trevor Crowe took him deep for a solo shot, and Beau Mills added an RBI triple to the left-field corner. Eric Wedge said Kobayashi was flying open on his delivery. After Carl Willis talked with him on the mound, he tightened it up and got better action on his breaking ball -- and got out of the inning, to boot.
Carlos Santana put on a display in batting practice during the morning workout, and he showed off his strong arm behind the plate in the intrasquad. Santana is catching (no pun intended) attention down here.
The real star of the intrasquad was the ballpark itself. The plaza beyond foul territory near right field contains a Wiffle Ball field for the kids. The 8-year-old inside me is just dying to try it out.
The park has an incredible sound system. Some of the players are already talking about starting a petition to have the system installed at Progressive Field (they hate the sound there).
Then again, the people operating the system here could stand to make some tweaks. You've no doubt heard a small sampling of Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" played after strikeouts in many a ballpark, and Goodyear Ballpark is no exception. It's a tired act. And the lone time it was broken up, the replacement, bizarrely, was a short dose of Blessid Union of Souls' "I Believe" when Wes Hodges went down swinging in the fourth. I'm struggling to make the connection there.