"Oooh, three-under-par. That's what the professionals shoot, isn't it?"
By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com
I had the pleasure of checking out the Waste Management Phoenix Open in Scottsdale on Thursday afternoon.
Normally, I wouldn’t necessarily note the sponsor name, but… Waste Management? That sticks with you. Wasn’t that Tony Soprano’s “business”? All I know is that the next time I have my choice of port-o-potty provider (perhaps at my next summer BBQ), I will definitely be using Waste Management and not its competitors, whose names I am not familiar with in the first place.
Anyway, what makes the Phoenix Open so special is the raucous atmosphere that is not prevalent at other PGA events. The 16th hole, which is completely enclosed by stadium seating, has to be the most unique hole on the tour. When local favorite Phil Mickelson landed his tee shot on the green, the crowd erupted at a rock concert level. Then he missed his birdie putt, and everybody booed him. Phoenicians are fickle that way.
Well, this morning it was back to baseball — a sport where “raking” takes on more positive connotations than it does in golf. When you’re raking in golf, you’re in the bunker.
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIAE OF THE DAY…
- There wasn’t any “raking” going on at the Goodyear facility this morning. I mentioned yesterday that the hitters would be standing in for live batting practice against the pitchers, but that turned out to be a bit of a head fake. Because all they did was stand in. No swings were taken. The Indians called this “tracking.” This being the first full-squad workout of camp, the hitters aren’t exactly eager to take swings off guys who have a couple bullpen sessions under their belts. And the pitchers themselves don’t like pitching from behind a screen, anyway, as it can mess with their mechanics. So today and tomorrow, the hitters will be tracking pitches. On Sunday, they’ll begin taking swings. First you track ‘em, then you smack ‘em.
- Before this morning’s workout began, Manny Acta gave his first rah-rah speech as Tribe skipper. By all accounts, it went well, and that’s no surprise, as Acta, much like his predecessor, is clearly an effective public speaker.
- But let’s talk about the little ways in which Acta differs from Eric Wedge. They’ve been apparent in these early days of camp. Wedge was more of a delegator. His camps were run with military-like precision and discipline. (I’m not saying this was a bad thing; it’s just the truth). It’s a looser atmosphere here with Acta at the helm.
- What’s interesting to note in the Acta vs. Wedge comparison is just how active Acta is. Before the workouts began, he was a regular in the indoor cages. And in the last couple days, he’s been seen shagging balls in the outfield and hitting grounders to the infielders. How much does this activity affect the bottom line? Hard to say. But it’s clear Acta approaches his camp from a more participatory perspective than Wedge did. Heck, he even helped pick up balls at the end of the morning drills. Acta said he’ll be throwing BP once his shoulder recovers from labrum surgery he had last September.
- Some heavy hitters from the Tribe’s front office arrived here today, including executive vice president of business operations Dennis Lehman, senior vice president of finance Ken Stefanov and senior vice president of sales and marketing Vic Gregovits. They were set to have a high-level financial meeting with general manager and team president-to-be Mark Shapiro this afternoon. I’d imagine that’s one of the many steps toward Shapiro taking over new responsibilities this fall.
- Is Matt LaPorta an outfielder or a first baseman? “I haven’t known my whole life,” he said with a laugh. “Even in college, people would ask me, and I’d just say, ‘I’m a hitter.'” LaPorta will take the majority of his reps at first base this spring, because the outfield is his more natural position. But with Russell Branyan here, he’s expected to be the left fielder on Opening Day. More on LaPorta on Indians.com in a little bit.
- Acta said the second base job is Luis Valbuena’s to lose.
- The fan access here is wonderful and, in some ways, better than it was in Winter Haven, Fla., which I didn’t think was possible. This year, the Indians opened up a fan access area by the back fields that allows fans up-close-and-personal access to three of the fields. And the access area near the main field – Field 1, directly north of the Player Development Complex – is also improved and should be a great place for autograph-hunting once the position players begin taking batting practice there regularly next week.
- Carlos Baerga made an appearance at this morning’s workout. He’s still living in Puerto Rico and doing some work for ESPN Deportes. He seemed happy to see former teammates Charles Nagy and Sandy Alomar Jr., and he asked about the whereabouts of the likes of Kenny Lofton and Albert Belle. Baerga said he wouldn’t mind getting into coaching next year, though it was hard to tell how serious he was about that.
- Barring breaking news or a pileup of minutiae, I’m going to give the blog a rest this weekend. We’ll pick back up on Monday.