March 9th, 2014

Observations from the Sunshine State

So I’m almost winding up my trip to Florida’s Spring Training parks. Let me share a couple of observations. And then I’ll talk about some players, of course.

So I’m driving into Jupiter from Tampa and on the highway there’s a sign to Roger Dean Stadium. Beneath the sign is another sign in small letters that says
“Game Today-1:05PM.” I get off the ramp and there it is again. Way cool. So I think to myself, “who comes out here everyday and changes that sign?” Then it dawned on me. The park is shared by the Cardinals and the Marlins. There’s a game every day. No need to change the sign for a month. Duh! But wait, what about night games? And then it dawned on me. There are no night games in Jupiter. Duh again!

Last year at Lakeland I was surprised when there wasn’t any hot water in the press box bathroom. It’s a great place, well maintained. So I thought there was a problem with the hot water line. Old, etc. So this year I came back, went to the bathroom and …no hot water. So I asked the attendant. The City of Lakeland has shut off all the hot water at the park for the past two seasons. Ok. But I’ll say this. The cold water is really cold.

My favorite park in Florida? I have to say Ed Smith Stadium-home of the Orioles. I’m told the same person that helped with renovations at Fenway did the renovations and remodel of Ed Smith Stadium. It’s really classy. Very well done and very practical. I like practical, not fancy.

For charm, McKechnie Field, home of the Pirates beats them all. Going there and to Dunedin to watch the Blue Jays is like walking into a time machine. But I love it. It’s been renovated, it’s wonderful and it’s intimate. They have no food service for the media, so that’s taken care of by walking a short bit down the street to a fabulous sub-shop. Every sandwich is named according to something having to do with baseball.

I’m so glad I’m high tech because my room in Tampa is in a new hotel. Everything is high tech. Fits me to a tee. Touch the door with your key card and the door opens. No locks, etc. It only took me 15 minutes to get the lights in the room turned on. Not bad. I stubbed my toe and walked into the wall, but that’s not bad. Two showers heads. However, the desk told me they get calls every day about how to turn off the shower. Push it in. Don’t turn the handle. I got that right away after I spent a few turns of the handle and the water got hotter and then colder. No-it isn’t obvious. Not at all. But I didn’t have to call the desk.

OK-now on to some players.

Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard exposed two issues that I hadn’t seen before. He is slow to the plate with a runner on first. Opposing teams will run on him. And he doesn’t repeat his delivery consistently. He has to finish his pitches to keep in the strike zone. I still think he’s a star in the making. He isn’t on the 40-man roster yet. If he makes the club, someone will have to be removed from the 40-man.

Tigers pitcher Bruce Rondon looks so much better to me this spring than last. Why? He is using off-speed and secondary pitches more and not living with the fastball only.

Steve Lombardozzi is a very good shortstop. Better than I thought. I would not be surprised if he makes the Tigers roster and plays a great deal.

Torri Hunter is still a great outfielder. I saw him make one of his circus catches.

Phil Coke is a puzzle. Do the Tigers keep him as a lefty out of the pen? Is he reliable? I’m just askin’. I have my answer but I’m not sayin’.

I can’t tell you how good Ubaldo Jimenez looked when I saw him in his first start for the Orioles. He was mixing his pitches, throwing strikes and missing bats. Can he do it over and over. I’m beginning to believe he can.

I think the Orioles are one very good club. They have hitting, pitching and good enough defense to win. I still think they need another outfielder. But Nelson Cruz and Jimenez could make major contributions. I also have concerns about their closer.

The Marlins complained that the Red Sox didn’t send any regular players to their sold out game in Jupiter. The game was tagged with a “premium” price. I see that every day. It’s a crime that clubs don’t follow the rule of sending at least 4 regular players to each game on the road. It just doesn’t happen. Especially in Florida. Fans expect to see the guys they know and have heard of. I hope something gets done about it.

Ervin Santana can help the Blue Jays. As I write this, it isn’t final. But I think that’s where he’s going.

Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp caught my eye with a big home run. He’s big and strong at 6-foot-2, 250-pounds. I really like his stroke at the plate. He’s on the 40-man. Remember the name. I’m just sayin’.

They’ve given out a free newspaper at every Tigers home game that I’ve ever attended. It’s really a nice tradition. And fans like the player poster insert.

I hate to say it, but I see some of the old Dom Brown habits creeping back. My bell is ringing. The bell that says, “stay away in fantasy, Bernie.” I will. But that’s just me.

I’ll see the Pirates today.

Oscar Taveras has returned to the playing field for the Cardinals after recovering from his injured ankle-foot. I didn’t get to see him on this trip.

Washington manager Matt Williams has deployed some weird shifts so far. He had two first basemen in one arrangement. The umpire pointed out that the player closest to first base is the only player allowed to wear a first baseman’s glove. I had never heard of that before. Apparently the real first baseman was closer to second than the other player. Confused? Read it again, you’ll get it.

Bryce Harper. I’m looking for a huge year.

Thank you for reading my work on MLBPipeline.com and MLB.com and for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff. And I hope you’ll listen to Short Hops-available on iTunes free each week. Very much appreciated. Always.

That’s it. I’m done.