Slow News Days

For all the build up about Spring Training “reporting day”, once that day comes and goes, things kind of grind to a halt in terms of interesting stuff going on. In fact, just about the only things that pass for “news” coming out of Fort Myers is bad news… sore arms, shoulders, knees, etc. That’s what happens, I guess, when there are no games to report about.

That’s not meant to downplay the importance of the information being reported out of the Twins’ camp about Scott Baker’s elbow and Francisco Liriano’s shoudler. In fact, I think people now understand why having six experienced starting pitchers does not mean you have an “extra” starting pitcher. It may be a cliché that, “these tends to work themselves out,” but it’s a cliché because it’s true.

Francisco Liriano

Speaking of Liriano’s sore shoulder, I just have to say right now that this thing smells funny to me. A year ago, he was coming off a very successful winter ball season and everyone was wondering whether that meant we were going to finally see “the Franchise” again. Liriano didn’t play winter ball this year (a bit of rest was certainly in order), so he essentially disappeared somewhere in to Latin America and none of us (including the Twins, apparently) knows what he’s been doing.

Now he shows up to Spring Training with a sore shoulder and gets an MRI done by some doctor in Miami that nobody in the organization knows which supposedly is “clean”. What’s with that?

The Twins caught a lot of grief around Twinsville for not locking Liriano up for 3-4 years this off-season, but is it possible they had reason to be a bit suspicious about his health? Maybe, maybe not. But from what we read of GM Bill Smith’s comments that clearly indicated the Twins were not interested in doing anything but going year-to-year with Frankie, there’s obviously some reason they don’t trust their young pitching star.

I remember when Johan Santana was a Twin, there were several articles in the media written every season about Santana’s work ethic… his Spring Training routine… his offday workout routine during the season… from all reports, this was a guy who took care of his body and worked very hard to be the best pitcher he could be.

I have never read anything from any reporter that gives even a hint that anyone thinks Liriano is a hard worker. If he does anything beyond just the required bullpen sessions, I don’t recall anyone ever mentioning it.

I hope Liriano has another fantastic year, but his spring has not gotten off to a start that makes me feel optimistic.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka Arrives

Of course, there is one non-injury item that’s generating “news” this spring and that’s the arrival of Tsuyoshi Nishioka. I’m not sure what the Twins or anyone else expected to see when Nishioka arrived at camp, but if they expected him to show up, don the same Twins workout gear that everyone else wears and join his team mates on the field for their informal pre-reporting workouts, then the Twins folks have to be disappointed.

In a post immediately after the Twins signed Nishioka, I wrote, “I’m not sure any of us really are prepared for what comes next.” I think we’re starting to see a bit of what I was referring to.

The Twins agreed to provide am interpreter, but Nishioka showed up with what can only be called a posse. Media reports have him being followed around the field not only by his interpreter, but his personal trainer and a third person who’s role is somewhat of a mystery (some have suggested perhaps it’s his massage therapist). While he’s spent a bit of time taking some ground balls with team mates, most of his workouts have been alone, off on a distant field and in the bowels of the minor league batting cage area.

Once you find out where he’s working out, he’s not hard to identify, however. In a black sleeveless Addidas shirt and pants that have been described as “capris” with neon piping, rather than the navy blue Twins gear, he obviously stands out. Oh… and no Twins cap (or any cap, for that matter), either.

As Lou Brown, the fictional manager of the Indians in the “Major League” movie said, “We wear caps and sleeves at this level, son.”

Let’s just say, Nishioka’s first priority obviously is not to just blend in with his new team.

A lot has been written about the “risk” the Twins are taking by jettisoning experienced middle infielders Orlando Hudson and JJ Hardy, in favor of Nishioka and Alexi Casilla. Generally, the risks referred to are related to what can reasonably be expected in terms of performance levels from the lesser known entities.

But what I’m going to pay closer attention to will be the effects of introducing an unproven potential prima donna with his own posse and a sizable media contingent whose questions will focus exclusively on that player, with little or no concern for the team’s results on the field.

A part of me thinks this organization could use a shot of personality… something to generate a bit of an edge in the clubhouse and on the field. But make no mistake, Nishioka and all that comes with him will be a distraction, the Twins have invited this distraction in to their midst, and in doing so, they’re taking a sizable risk that goes well beyond the risk of turning over their middle infield to a couple of younger ballplayers.

Other News from Florida

Finally, the lack of anything terribly compelling in terms of news about baseball has resulted in me watching a lot of racing from Daytona this weekend. Now, I’m NOT a racing fan… at all. But I was with family at a sports bar Friday night and sat with my brother-in-law, who IS a big race fan and we watched most of the truck series race that kicked off Daytona weekend.

Surprisingly, I enjoyed it. It was different watching with someone who knew what the hell was going on. I also found myself watching the Nationwide Series race on Saturday, which ended with one car beating another car by about a foot. I admit I was kind of in to it.

Today, the “real” Daytona 500 is about ready to start. I’m not sure how much of it I’ll be able to watch because I’ve got a family dinner to go to. But I find myself hoping I’ll get home in time to see a fair amount of the race.

I’m not yet sure what to make of this new-found interest, but I’m pretty sure I’ll find myself exceeding the speed limit at some point on my drive across town to dinner.

– JC