Sixteen final thoughts (lots more than I thought I'd come up with) after my first day covering Indians spring training since at least 1999. (I have been to Goodyear to write a feature story or two.)
1. It seems as if every time Carlos Santana fields a ball at third base, manager Terry Francona fields a question about his effort as the experiment with the catcher continues. Against the Cubs, a line drive popped out of Santana’s glove. “The hard thing about games is unless they hit seven or eight balls, you kind of go off his work during the day and that part has been great,” Francona said afterward.
2. When Jerry Crasnick of ESPN and Baseball America asked Francona about Santana’s attempted conversion for what he speculated was the “28th time” before the game, Francona responded, “You’re right about the 28,” but he carefully detailed the background of the idea for Crasnick. Francona has to realize it is one of the biggest storylines surrounding the team.
3. Francona said the look on Trevor Bauer’s face on his final pitch of the day seemed to indicate he didn’t like it, but there was much to like about the rest of his two innings. Bauer allowed three hits, walked one and struck out four. He and Aaron Harang did the yeoman’s share of the work to preserve the shutout. Harang followed starter Justin Masterson and struck out two.
4. Francona didn’t make too much of the fact that Bauer has been clocked at 98 mph on the radar gun this spring, but inside Francona may be extremely encouraged by what he’s seeing. “I think the hitters will let you know,” Francona said in reference to how much that velocity means. “It’s nice to know what they’re throwing, but it’s not the end all-be all, either. But yeah, we look.”
5. Ongoing contract talks are surprisingly not stressing out Masterson. Even though he discussed his position Wednesday, he willing talked about it again Thursday. “I guess you have to control yourself in case you say too much. But it’s fun to throw out a little bit. Let the people get excited,” he said.
6. Asked about his calm demeanor while his financial and baseball future is being bandied about, Masterson said, “I guess it could be (stressful). But then again, somehow, someway something’s going to happen. If we happen to not do it, we’ll still be playing baseball. If we don’t play baseball, we’ll dominate somewhere else in life. The Lord has blessed us. We’re going to slice and dice whatever business we can.” Then Masterson addressed a veteran beat writer and added, “Use that one, I may read your article this time around.”
7. Francona dismissed a rocky first inning by Masterson, when he gave up two hits, including a double down the third base line by Donnie Murphy. “You’ll see around March 27, 28 he’ll be feeling good,” Francona said of Masterson.
8. Strangest sight of the day was Peter Gammons of MLB.com wearing a media credential nearly as big as a reporter’s notebook on a lanyard. If anyone should be able to get into a ballpark on facial recognition alone it should be Gammons, who spent nearly 22 years at ESPN.
9. Thursday was my first time interviewing minor league shortstop Francisco Lindor. I was blown away by Lindor’s attitude as he waits to take over for Asdrubal Cabrera. Lindor smiled continually throughout, genuinely happy and enjoying his journey, not nearly as antsy as I would have expected for a 20-year-old dying for his major league call-up.
10. Lindor was also impressive in his attitude about Cabrera becoming a free agent after this season. “I’m trying to learn as much as I can from him. That’s all I’m thinking,” Lindor said. “If he signs, that’s great, he’s taking care of his family. That gives him a chance to play in the big leagues even longer. All I’m thinking is trying to learn from one of the best. Every day I try to pick something up.”
11. Nick Hagadone may not have ingratiated himself to his manager and coaches with his effort Wednesday, when he was summoned to pitch in the first inning, much earlier than he had been told he’d go. Hagadone entered with two out and the bases loaded and the San Diego Padres leading 1-0. He walked the first batter, gave up a two-run single, then walked the third man he faced before escaping. He rallied with a 1-2-3 second. Hagadone wasn’t prepared to pitch and said Thursday it would never happen again. Judging by what Francona said, either he, pitching coach Mickey Callaway or bullpen coach Kevin Cash had a talk with Hagadone.
“We try to pick our spots. We don’t always grab a guy and bring him into the office, though,” Francona said. “At the same time, we have an obligation to help. You want your guys to be prepared all the time.”
12. The most telling part: Asked if he thought Hagadone learned a lesson, Francona said, “That’s the hope. We’d already hoped he was there. It’s not perfect. If he learns from that on March 5, we can live with that. I’d rather it be March 5 than April 5.”
13. In the line of questioning from Crasnick, Francona said Santana had abandoned his efforts to teach his manager Spanish. “I think he got tired of it,” Francona said. “He was making very little progress.”
14. A group of reporters came away from an interview with Double-A Akron RubberDucks manager Dave Wallace remarking they’d felt like they’d just interviewed the Tribe’s next manager. Not that anyone is rushing Francona out the door, but Wallace, 34, has a sense of charisma about him. His presence, not to mention his good advice and ability to listen and relate, has drawn praise from many Tribe minor leaguers who have played for him at Mahoning Valley, Lake County or Carolina. Wallace was a catcher in the minors for seven seasons from 2002-08, mainly in the Indians system.
15. Wallace doesn’t know why players are drawn to him. “I’ve been very fortunate from the moment I signed with the Indians (in August, 2001) and the managers I’ve had,” he said. “Torey Lovullo, Tim Bogar, Luis Rivera. Been able to learn from two great years in the big leagues, one year with Eric Wedge, one with Manny Acta. Sandy (Alomar), Mike Sarbaugh, Chris Tremie have been instrumental in my career. Now to watch Tito and Millsie (bench coach Brad Mills), I try to take a little bit from all of them and run a clubhouse the way I’d want it run as a player.”
16. To break the ice as the Beacon Journal passed the baton from Stephanie Storm to me, I remembered a recent comment from Francona about how he likes free T-shirts. So when I was packing I tucked a bright green “Come Home LeBron” T-shirt into my bag, which I handed to him after he finished talking Thursday morning. “Are you trying to get me killed?” Francona said, although he did walk away with it. I suspect it may soon be a dust rag at his Tucson home.