A Brand New Fred Lewis (and other notes)

 

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I attended Wednesday night’s “Chalk Talk” for season-ticket holders in the Giants clubhouse, where the featured guests were Fred Lewis, Kevin Frandsen and Bruce Bochy with their genial host Jon Miller. I’ll get to the odds and ends in a second, but this was the headline for me:

Fred Lewis has blossomed. I have never seen this kind of dramatic transformation in such a short time.

Those of you followed Lewis last season know he was just about the quietest guy on the team. He rarely made eye contact with reporters or staff, though he had begun to loosen up with his teammates by season’s end. He spoke in a low monotone and kept his answer short.

Wednesday night, he walked into the pressroom like a movie star — in a cream-colored suede sport coat, a Burberry scarf, jeans and Gucci athletic shoes. He talked with three beat writers before the Chalk Talk, and instead of appearing as if enduring an inquisition, he joked and laughed and spoke with a confidence and ease that had me exchanging glances with Kevin Frandsen as we both listened with surprise bordering on astonishment.

In answering a question about the possibility of Ramirez coming to the Giants (and taking his LF position), Lewis said, “I just have to worry about Fred.” Chron writer Henry Schulman teased him about sounding like Rickey Henderson, famous for talking about himself in the third person.

Lewis lowered his head and laughed, saying he had hoped nobody noticed, that he knew as soon as the words left his mouth, that he sounded like Rickey. (“Can you even imagine that Hall of Fame speech?” Frandsen said. Surely Vegas odds-makers will post an over-under on the number of times Rickey says Rickey.)

When a season-ticket holder asked him the same question during the Q&A, Lewis said, “Whatever it takes to help the team, I’m down for it,” prompting a round of applause.

Pretty polished. Could be a future for him in politics back home in Mississippi.

I chatted with Lewis in a small office after he spoke with the beat writers.

“Do you mind me telling you that you’re like a different guy?” I said. “What happened?”

Lewis said this version of himself is the real Fred Lewis. This is who he has always been around his family – easy to laugh, engaging, confident — and now, he said, the Giants are family.

Great answer.

He said he spoke recently with both Jonathan Sanchez and Alex Hinshaw in Arizona, where they were working out together, saying that he and the team needed them to have big years, that he expected them to have big years because the team couldn’t win if they didn’t. I have no idea how Sanchez and Hinshaw reacted to the comments – was Lewis overstepping his bounds? – but I can tell you that the Giants’ leftfielder is feeling a sense of ownership and responsibility for the team’s success. It will be interesting to see how his newfound confidence and leadership play out this season.

As for his rehab from foot surgery, he’s back almost to full speed. You can get the relevant details from Henry at sfgate.com, Chris Haft at mlb.com or Laurence Miedema at the Merc.

Kevin Frandsen, as you know, had a great few weeks in the Arizona League and is ready to challenge Velez and Burriss for the second-base job after missing last season with an Achilles injury. Asked if he felt extra pressure this spring to prove himself, Frandsen said he felt pressure every season to prove himself. Athletes in any sport at the professional level know that what matters is today, today, today, what can you do for us today?

“I spent all last season watching major-league players,” Frandsen said. “I took that into the fall league. It was like a master’s program and I was working on my thesis. I had gathered all the information I could and I was finally able to put it into practice (in the fall league).”

Other notes from Wednesday night:

Bochy said the order of his starting rotation right now is Lincecum, Johnson, Cain, Zito and either Sanchez or Lowry.

Bochy recently returned from a cruise that included stops in Mexico and Belize. “The plan was to go into the ship’s casino and pay for it all,” he said of the trip. “It didn’t work out so well.”

Jon Miller just got back from a 16-day cruise that started in England and ended in Dubai, with stops in Nice, Gibraltar, Rome, Malta and a trip through the Suez Canal.

Bochy said he expects the “break-out” minor-leaguers to be Baumgartner, Alderson, Noonan and Posey. “They’re all on the fast track,” he said. “Brian (Sabean) isn’t afraid to bring young guys up quickly.”

Lewis said he doesn’t believe in slumps. “I believe in bad games,” he said. When Miller asked Bochy if he ever had slump as a player, the manager smiled. “Oh, yeah. Ever see my baseball card?”

Bochy said he and batting coach Carney Lansford would be focusing on improving the team’s abysmal on-base percentage. “It’s an area we’re going to stress this spring, to be a little more patient at the plate. If you have a good on-base percentage, you’re going to create more opportunities.” But he also cautioned one questioner about criticizing strikeouts too harshly. “Strikeouts are not as bad as you think,” Bochy said. “It gets the pitcher’s pitch count up. You’re working the pitcher.”

Lewis said that among his 2009 season goals, which he writes down and keeps with him, are a .315 average, 20 homers and 20 triples.

I end this post with a happy reminder: One month until pitchers and catchers report!

8 Comments

It must be a pleasure for you to watch these young men blossom and grow. Thanks for sharing their stories.

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

Thanks for sharing about the Chalk Talk and Fred Lewis! These stories are great. I was wondering, though… who got invited to these Chalk Talks? This is the second one I’ve heard of, but I only heard of them in blogs after they had already happened. My dad is a season ticket holder, but he never heard anything about it. Was it something only for new season ticket holders, or was it something they won?

I just found out about this blog. I is GREAT reading. Keep up the good work and you will have a good following of true Giant fans.

Paul

I was one of the lucky season ticket holders chosen to attend this “Chalk Talk”, and it was a lot of fun! It was really cool to be inside the Giants clubhouse, and afterwards, Frandsen, Lewis, Bochy and Miller all stayed to sign autographs and get their pictures taken. Both Fred and Kevin said that they’re all healed and ready to go, and even showed us by walking around. And yes, Fred did indeed carry himself with the poise and confidence of a movie star.

Thanks for delivering on your promise for this blog, I loved your segment on Fred Lewis!

And that is very encouraging about his “transformation” (as he would probably term it). He clearly feels he belongs and now has some lofty goals he wants to meet, that’s good that he put it out there, it’ll put pressure on him to achieve and succeed. If he took this long to show his personality, that suggests a cautiousness that would imply that he wouldn’t speak to Sanchez and Hinshaw unless he felt comfortable enough to do that. Which is a bit bold, as Sanchez has been in the majors longer than Lewis, if memory serves.

About Bochy on break-outs, all I can say is, Wow! I felt that Bumgarner (is it with a “t” or not, I’ve seen his name spelled a number of different ways and been using this one) and perhaps Alderson could make the majors this season with a great start in AA and need at the majors for relief (or god forbid, starts), but it is good to see that the Giants think they can make it up quickly as well.

I suspected as much with Bumgarner because Sanchez dominated at Class A and soon rose to the majors to join relief. Earl Weaver liked to bring pitchers up as relievers to let them acclimate to major league life, and ease them in, even the starters, so I’ve always wondered if the late Pat Dobson had influenced Sabean’s or the Giant’s thinking in this regard.

In particular, Noonan didn’t really do that well in A-ball, so he was a surprise. I mean, he did well there for an 18 year old, but he struck out a lot and walked very little, suggesting he will take a while longer to move up, and certainly not that he would move up fast. I guess this means that the Giants like his bat enough that his lack of plate discipline performance is related more to him battling pitchers 3-4 years old than him than him not being a good hitter without a plan at the plate.

About Posey, any news yet on whether the Giants have decided which level he will start 2009 at? Or is it dependent on what he does in spring? I was a bit surprised to see his name listed too, as that would imply that the Giants is viewing as a possible scenario a trade of Molina, as it would make no sense to bring Posey up except to bring him up as the starting pitcher.

Got a question that came up: how much of an influence has Dave Roberts been in the clubhouse in terms of basestealing? Do players regularly go to him for advice? Does he give advice freely? Any chance he’ll coach basestealing for our organization afterward, like Kline recently coming back?

Relatedly, to what does Winn credit his suddenly great basestealing in 2008? He was horrible before.

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