March 2008

Burnett Nails It

DUNEDIN, Fla. – After his first outing of the spring, A.J. Burnett said "it’ll be a long time" before he starts working in his curveball. Turns out there’s a little more to that than the usual "we’re building him up first" company line.

Pitching coach Brad Arnsberg said that Burnett, shortly before spring began, smashed his right hand in his car door and broke the nail on his index finger. Always something, huh. Anyway, Burnett digs that nail into the seam of the baseball when throwing his curve.

Arnsberg said it’ll be at least 10-14 days before Burnett can start throwing the breaking ball. He even said Burnett’s visited a nail specialist — a manicurist, actually, not a doctor — to see if there was anything he could do. Sans fake nail or real nail, Burnett is limited to throwing fastballs and changeups for now.

On Sunday, Burnett was a tad frustrated after his two-inning outing, in which he gave up two runs on three hits with no strikeouts and one walk. Burnett threw 35 pitches (21 for strikes), and needed 24 tosses to get out of the second inning.

Taken down

DUNEDIN, Fla. — For those who have been following the mysterious baseball card story over the past couple days, there’s a new development. Late to the party? Recap: On Friday, four cards — one for A.J. Burnett, Dustin McGowan, Shaun Marcum and Jesse Litsch — showed up above Roy Halladay’s locker, stuck in the nameplate.

Prior to Sunday’s game, the card for Litsch had disappeared. Maybe it’s Casey Janssen’s way of saying that the race for the fifth spot isn’t over just yet. You know it’s slow goings around Jays camp when those cards are occupying much of the pregame banter.

B.J. Ryan did throw another live BP session and subsequently met with Dr. Tim Kremchek. Everything went well and Ryan will probably throw again on Wednesday, either in a sim game or in another live BP session. He won’t be pitching in a Jays spring game until mid March.

Today’s lineups:

CINCINNATI (2-2) at TORONTO (0-3)
at Knology Park at 12:30 p.m. ET

REDS
Jay Bruce, CF
Norris Hopper, LF
Jeff Keppinger, SS
Brandon Phillips, 2B
Edwin Encarncion, 3B
Scott Hatteberg, 1B
Ryan Freel, DH
Chris Dickerson, RF
Paul Bako, C

PITCHING: RHP Bronson Arroyo

BLUE JAYS
David Eckstein, SS
Reed Johnson, LF
Vernon Wells, CF
Frank Thomas, DH
Scott Rolen, 3B
Matt Stairs, RF
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Aaron Hill, 2B
Gregg Zaun, C

PITCHING: RHP A.J. Burnett

Today’s game, and the season-ticket holder BBQ that follows, will be broadcast on CityTV today. At the least, it should be an interesting broadcast. More after the game…

When Clifford was here!

Image310ST. PETERSBURG – Part of me felt extremely lame for doing this, but the man was practically myth at my high school, Thornwood. Prior to Saturday’s game, I went into the Rays’ clubhouse and introduced myself to Cliff Floyd.

He’s one of a few pro ballplayers that my high school has churned out — Steve Trout, Mark Mudler, and in basketball, Eddy Curry — and when I played there, my coach used to always begin his motivational speeches with, "When Clifford was here!…"

Beyond the fact that he’s a legend in the halls of T-Wood, where my favorite framed picture along the Wall of Fame is of his state title-winning team (all short dudes like me with Cliff towering over everyone from the second row), I wanted to say Hey to Floyd because my sister had a locker next to him in school.

She graduated the same year as he did and used to carry all her books around school with her because she could never get to her locker — Cliff was a popular dude. Turns out he did remember her, much to her delight when I called her today, and us fellow South Siders enjoyed a nice brief chat.

The Globe’s Jeff Blair knows Floyd from their days in Montreal and Blair said he was the first reporter to call Floyd after the Expos picked him up with the 14th overall pick in 1991. Legend has it that Floyd launched a homer for Thornwood that traveled over the right-field fence, over the tall football bleachers and on to the 50-yeard line. If he did, that was about 500 feet.

JAYS LOSE, 5-2: Oh yeah, there was a game of Rounders that occured on the grassy lot here at Al Lang Field today, too. Toronto remains winless, but impressive showings for both Dustin McGowan and Casey Janssen.

Play of the game came in the sixth, though, when John Rodriguez singled to right field for the Rays. Ben Zobrist tried to score on the play, but Marco Scutato — playing right — gloved the ball and fired a bullet to catching prospect Robinzon Diaz.

Diaz kept his left leg blocking the plate while stretching for the ball, and then swept around to collide and tag Zobrist for the inning’s final out. My description does it no justice. It was downright sick. The Jays coaches all jogged over to give Diaz his props as he entered the dugout.

With that, I’m heading out. Game tomorrow is on CityTV at 12:30. Tune in for Kathryn Humphrey’s in-depth interviews. "If you woke up and saw that your wife had the beginnings of a moustache, how would you react?" Man, I can’t wait to hear Scott Rolen’s answer…

HEY GLOBE AND STAR: I know I haven’t been around in this world as long as you guys have, but if you ever can’t locate the ballpark (or the freakin’ Gulf of Mexico, for that matter) feel free to give me a ring. Lords knows we can’t have Kelly and MacLeod wandering aimlessly around Florida.

St. Petersburg Calling

Londoncalling_1ST. PETERSBURG – Well, that turned out to be the most expensive haircut of my life. There was a 45-minute wait to take some off the top, so I headed over to the local Borders book establishment.

I wound up with three CDs and one book. I was pleasantly surprised with Borders’ music selection — could’ve easily walked out with more. But I limited myself to three albums I’ve wanted for years, but never got around to buying:

The Clash’s London Calling
Depeche Mode’s Violator
Death Cab for Cutie’s Plans

Plus, since I was such a huge fan of There Will Be Blood, I picked up Oil! by Upton Sinclair. I figured if PT Anderson read it and felt compelled to make TWBB, then I wanted to finally sit down and read it, too. Problem is, I’m always reading four or five books at once. So it’s waiting its turn on the pile of novels back at my condo.

I listened Death Cab’s smooth stylings on the way to Al Lang Field, which is by far one of my faves for taking in a spring game. Nothing like working in an outdoor pressbox in Florida with a sweet view of the Bay. This ballpark will be missed, but the designs I’ve seen for the new Rays park look fantastic. Blow up the Trop already.

The Jays aren’t here yet, so I’m planning on listening to some Clash to drown out the obligatory pregame rap that’s blaring through the speakers here. Other CDs sitting in my rental car include Pearl Jam’s Vitalogy (my favorite album of all time), PJ’s latest release, all three albums from The Killers, Interpol’s Turn on the Bright Lights, Sparta’s Threes, With Teeth by Nine Inch Nails, the best of Johnny Cash, The Beatles’ Revolver, and two albums by the late, great Elliott Smith (may he rest in peace).

Lineups Calling:

TORONTO (0-2) at TAMPA BAY (1-0)
Progress Energy Park at Al Lang Field at 1:05 p.m. ET

BLUE JAYS
Reed Johnson, CF
Shannon Stewart, LF
Alex Rios, RF
Aaron Hill, 2B
Marco Scutaro, 3B
Rod Barajas, C
Russ Adams, 2B
John McDonald, SS
Curtis Thigpen, 1B

PITCHING: RHP Dustin McGowan, RHP Casey Janssen, among others

RAYS
Akinori Iwamura, 2B
Carl Crawford, LF
Carlos Pena, 1B
Cliff Floyd, RF (Thornwood High School, baby!)
Rocco Baldelli, DH
Willy Aybar, 3B
Hector Gimenez, C
Jason Bartlett, SS
Fernando Perez, CF

PITCHING: RHP James Shields

I was hoping to see Rays third baseman Even Longoria today — ah, well. He could very well be this year’s Rookie of the Year in the American League. Jays third baseman Scott Rolen was originally down to be the DH, but Hill traveled to St. Pete instead.

More later…Jays just arrived at the ballpark.

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