Day 7: The feel-good story of camp.
PEORIA, Ariz. — Hey, position players on the field today! That means no more bullpen sessions for me. Ha! Kidding of course, though for as much as I do like watching bullpen sessions, I prefer watching the hitters do their thing. We got to see a little bit of that today and we’ll see a whole lot more in the coming days.
A lot of happy faces in camp today. The first day of full squad workouts has a way of (seemingly) putting everyone in a good mood. Maybe it’s having everyone back and under one roof. I can’t say.
I know one one guy how had a great Saturday — Minor League infielder Drew Cumberland, who was back on the field for the first time in almost a year. I’ll have a story later Saturday at Padres.com.
I wrote about Cumberland a fair amount last year — first here in August about his rare neurological condition and then in December when, after seeing another specialist in Los Angeles, it appears he could play again.
Well, Cumberland has been cleared to play and is part of the 36-play minicamp for top Minor League players that started on Saturday. I wrote about the minicamp on Thursday.
Anyway, this is about as good of a feel-good story as we’ve had so far in camp. As a reporter, of course, you don’t play favorites and you don’t get attached to players. It’s part of the business. But I think we can all agree that a Cumberland comeback is a pretty damn good story.
Anyway, let’s head to some of the highlights Saturday:
— Here’s some video I shot today of Padres coach Dave Roberts working with players on leads at first base. As we know, the running game is an important component for the team.
— Nice start to the weekend for Padres reliever Joe Thatcher. First of all, Thatcher, as we’ve written before, hasn’t made it through a full spring with good health thanks for a balky shoulder. He’s been fine in the first week and then capped it off on Friday with a hole-in-one while playing a round of golf with three others, including pitcher Luke Gregerson. If you’re wondering, Thatcher was playing the north course at the Boulders Golf Club in Scottsdale. He used a 4-iron on the No. 17 hole, covering 176 yards in what he said were “three hops.”
— A couple of quick notes on the Minor Leagues. I know a lot of you want to come out to watch Minor League games, which take place on the back field here in Peoria and elsewhere throughout the valley. The games start on March 15 and run through March 31. I’ll try to post a schedule of them the closer we get. Also, I discovered an old rule Saturday: Posted in the Minor League clubhouse was a pants policy. Players will be fined $105 if they cut, stretch or alter their pants. Also, players must show some sock and some blue must be visible.
— Saturday afternoon is the annual Padres vs. Mariners softball game. This game includes members of the front office staff from each team as well as any other ringers they can pull in. Last year, the Padres had a handful of several former Major League players who work in the front office, like Brad Ausmus and Mark Loretta, play and still lost. We’ll have the results tomorrow. I hope my Padres media relations friends don’t break any bones. Yes, I’m looking at you Josh Ishoo. My prediction: Mariners 11, Padres 7.
–The first question we ask manager Bud Black each morning — we call it ‘nuts and bolts’ — is how healthy everyone is and if there are any injuries, minor or otherwise. It’s a good journalistic rule to follow. He doesn’t have to offer that information up unsolicited. It’s incumbent upon us to ask. Anyway, Black said everyone is healthy and you don’t usually see soreness/minor injuries until the team is “two or three weeks” into camp. At any rate, we’ll keep asking and pass along anything that pops up. But, as Black said, so far so good.
— Position players took part in their first workout on Saturday and, needless to say, they’ll be behind the pitchers for a little bit. Now, it doesn’t take a hitter nearly as long to get up to speed because these guys have been hitting for a few months. Pitchers? Well, they usually need most of if not all of the entire six weeks here to build endurance, etc. On Monday, hitters will face live pitching on the back field here for batting practice. Usually it consists of hitters actually watching pitches more than swinging at them. This helps them get a look at a pitcher, how the ball comes out of his hand and with timing at least for the first day or two. A new wrinkle this spring? Black wants to see more swings, less looking. “We’re encouraging them to swing,” he said.
— We’ll get into this more later in camp, but Black was asked about having two hitting coaches today. Phil Plantier is the primary coach and Alonzo Powell will be the assistant. Powell can’t be in uniform or in the dugout during games. He’ll stay inside the clubhouse with the video machine, available to hitters during the game. Anyway, Black has something interesting to say about the hitting coach job: “The hitting coach job on any staff is the most physically demanding of any job on the staff.” What he means is that as hitters show up early for games (in-season), the want to hit early in the cage or off the tee or sit down and go over video. Having a second set of eyes will help divide the workload, so to speak. But, make no mistake, these guys will be on the (insert cliche) same page.
“They’ll act as one as far as philosophy,” Black said. “It’s not unlike Darren [Balsley] and [Darrel Akerfelds] on the pitching side.”
OK, that’s it for today. Hope everyone has a good weekend. We’ll be back at it again on Sunday.
Corey Brock, MLB.com