Day 9: Trying to smile at 7 a.m.
– I try to update the blog by 2 p.m. PT each day with a recap. Thanks, Corey.
PEORIA, Ariz. –Morning comes early in Peoria, as players typically arrive at the complex between 7-8 a.m. There’s a meeting at 9 a.m. so they need to be dressed and ready to go by then. Some arrive far earlier than 7 a.m. so they can get some extra work in, some time in the training room or have a relaxing breakfast (remember, there’s Fruit Loops here).
The reporters? Well, I usually get here no later than 7:15 a.m. It allows me time to plug in, get a game plan for the day and enjoy some coffee before attacking the clubhouse for interviews. The rest of these guys roll in much later and in their pajamas. I only kid (about the pajamas).
Monday was a little different here as it was photo day, meaning the players and coaches were in their home white uniforms for posed shots, mug shots and everything between. Funny, I saw Yonder Alonso walking around with his coffee cup … setting it down only when it was time to have his picture taken. It was early, so I didn’t give him my typical Starbucks-Howard-Schultz-Let-The-Sonics-Leave-Seattle speech. Lucky him.
For obvious reasons, the Padres staggered the times when players/coaches would have their pictures taken. No sense in having everyone show up all at once. How they determined who showed up when is a little funny — service time. That’s right, the longer you’ve been in the big leagues, the later you showed up. For example:
The 7 a.m. photo group: Brad Boxberger, Matt Clark, Cory Burns, Jaff Decker and Robbie Erlin. These guys have exactly as much service time as I do. And that would be zero.
The last group at 8:30? Carlos Quentin, Jason Bartlett, Huston Street, Orlando Hudson, Jeff Suppan and Mark Kotsay. Makes perfect sense.
Anyway, not the greatest story I’ve ever told here (or elsewhere), but it goes to show that there’s a real pecking order to the way things are run.
Moving ahead, here’s what happened Monday:
— On a serious note, I’m sad to report that Frank Mattox, the Mariners former director of player development who later became a scout, passed away on Sunday. Mattox was a great guy and someone who I talked with a lot during his early years with the Mariners and then also here during Spring Training. Mattox lived here in Peoria and I would see him in the mornings getting coffee and then several times each spring at games when he was scouting. Frank always had time to talk to me or to listen to me give my two-cents on a player. I never heard anyone say anything bad about him. He was only 49.
–I talked with Kyle Blanks for a while today. The story will be live on Padres.com later. I’ve also Tweeted a pretty cool photo of his scar from the elbow surgery he had in 2010. Blanks had red stitches tattooed around the scar. It’s hard to believe Blanks has been around since 2009 (when he joined the team when Cliff Floyd went on the DL. Cliff Floyd!). He’s had big moments and big struggles but at this point he just wants to complete Spring Training healthy and not worry about where he starts the season. Pretty refreshing attitude.
“You look at it and it seems every place there’s a logjam,” Blanks said of the Padres glut of first basemen and outfielders in camp. “But it doesn’t really change anything for me. I can only do the things that I am capable of and do them well.”
— Today was the dreaded day (for hitters, at least) who got to step in and face live pitching for the first time. As Bud Black promised, we saw guys do more than just track pitches. Andrew Cashner showed off his live arm, but was impressive with the use of his change-up and slider. I think he will do just fine in that eighth inning role. He even also sounded a little empathetic about throwing to hitters who, to this point, have done nearly all of their work in the batting cage. Mark Loretta, a special assistant, said he never liked the first day of facing live pitching. Makes sense.
“The guys here were really aggressive and wanted to swing the bat,” Cashner said.
— Catcher Nick Hundley was proudly displaying a football-shaped trophy above his locker on Monday. He and pitching coach Darren Balsley were the winners of the Padres fantasy football league this year. Previous winners included Tony Gwynn Jr/Chris Denorfia in 2010 and Mike Adams in 2009. In fact, it was Adams who bought the trophy himself and had it engraved. Anyway, the nickname for the Hundley/Balsley team was ‘Moneybals’ … as Balsley’s nickname is, Balls. Ah, my proud moments in journalism.
— We saw players working on first-and-third drills on Monday. I wish I could come up with a great anecdote here, like there was a 76-throw rundown or something, but the truth is, this is a pretty boring drill. If you really want more, I guess I can shoot video, live Tweet it and send you a personal fax with more details. Just let me know, OK?
— I talked to Mark Kotsay a little about his role and if he thought about walking away from the game after last season. Sounded like he was really energized by the Brewers season and that he knew right away that he wanted to come back in 2012. Check out the notes at Padres.com later for details. It’s been fun watching him so far in camp, the stories he has to tell, the way he interacts with teammates and coaches. I think he’ll be a good fit for the team — not just with his on-field contributions, either.
“It’s not about the words you speak … it’s about your actions. The way you go about handling yourself as a professional day in and day out, both on and off the field,” Kotsay said. “Hopefully I can come across in a positive manner. Hopefully that flows over and the guys learn that you’ve got to put in the work and effort to get the result in the field.”
Anyway, that’s it for today. Catch you Tuesday.
Corey Brock, MLB,com