Results tagged ‘ Fred Lewis ’

Emptying the notebook

Miscellaneous notes collected during the home stand:

?    From the PlayBall Luncheon April 3 at the Hilton: During the autograph signing period before lunch, reliever Jeremy Affeldt was stationed at a table next to Tim Lincecum. The line for Tim snaked through the ballroom. Affeldt attracted the occasional straggler. “See? I’m able to drink my entire Diet Coke,” Affeldt joked. “He hasn’t even taken a sip of his Sprite. No one even knows I’m a player.”
?    Lincecum, notoriously introverted in public, has blossomed this season. At the Hilton, one man thrust his three-year-old son onto Lincecum’s lap for a picture. Then the man’s wife stepped up and handed Lincecum their four-month-old. With the deft of a politician, Lincecum shifted the three-year-old to his right arm and held the baby with his left. Cracked Affeldt, laughing at the spectacle, “He is sweating profusely right now.” Before the mother retrieved her baby, she had Lincecum sign the baby’s tiny T-shirt. “OK,” Lincecum said, “that’s a first.”
?    I spent some time with Fred Lewis recently for a Giants Magazine story (for Issue No. 3). He’s still working on advice he received from Willie Mays during spring training. Mays told him that to get most of his arm he needed to grip the ball across the seams. Mays showed him how in the blink of an eye he could grab the ball from his glove and manipulate it in his hand so his fingers were across the seam by the time he cocked his hand back to throw. “His hands are like twice the size of mine,” Lewis said, suggesting that perhaps this is the reason he can’t master the move yet. “It’s hard!” he said. He keeps practicing, though, because Mays told him, “If you grip the ball right, you don’t have to worry about how strong your arm is.”
?    Lewis also related the story of his first encounter with Mays last season. “Lewis? That you?” Mays asked when he came across him in the clubhouse. “What’re you doing diving for the ball?” Mays apparently had gone apoplectic when he saw Lewis make a diving catch. Lewis respectfully reminded Mays that he had, after all, made the catch and wasn’t that all that mattered? “You’re gonna get hurt! ” Mays said. “When I was playing I ain’t never had to dive! You’re fast – get to the ball. Stay on your feet. You never need to dive – you’re gonna miss games.”
?    Great news about Joey Martinez. Small hairline fractures and a concussion. Head injuries have a way of sneaking up on you, though. He’ll have to take it really easy, I would think, to make sure there’s no swelling.
?    Interesting story in the New York Times science section on Tuesday. It looked at a computer program that can simulate baseball games using different criteria. It simulates not just one season’s worth of games, but 100 seasons’ worth to eliminate random fluctuations. One finding: Aggressiveness on the base paths is generally counterproductive. A researcher looked at a recent team that stole a lot of bases, the 2008 Rays, and another, the 2005 A’s, that barely stole at all. He switched their strategies to see what happened. The A’s scored 20 fewer runs per season by running more. And the Rays, by running less, scored 47 more runs per season.
?    On my schedule are several trips down to San Jose to watch the Single A Giants. I’m hoping to get down there this Sunday. They play at Municipal Stadium at 2 p.m. against Stockton.

A Little Friendly Chin Music

Pretty good
succession of pitchers for today’s first round of batters:

Johnson, Lincecum
and Zito.

            Johnson
didn’t participate in live batting practice Friday, so this was the first time
his new teammates have faced him this spring. Among the batters Johnson faced:
Fred Lewis. As a rookie last season, Lewis became the first left-handed batter
ever to go four-for-four against the five-time Cy Young Award winner.

            Johnson’s
first pitch to Lewis today had Lewis jerking back from the plate. A little
inside.

            “He
let me know he ain’t forgotten,” Lewis said later, laughing about it.

                        When
Lincecum trotted in from the outfield to replace Johnson, Shawon Dunston – a
roving instructor for the Giants’ minor leagues now – was taking throws at
first. Rich Aurilia, Dunston’s former teammate, was about step to the plate.

            “Richie!”
Dunston yelled. “Who’s the new guy? Looks like a little guy. You should tear
‘em up!”

            “You
come try!” Aurilia shouted.

“I had my time.
I’ll take the next one!”

Bengie Molina, who
caught both Johnson and Lincecum today, said both pitchers accomplished what
they wanted. Johnson is building up stamina, not throwing all out yet, not
trying to get too cute. Lincecum, a generation younger, is already working on
hitting corners – and succeeding, Molina said.

“It’s very
difficult, though, for pitchers to throw against their own guys because you
don’t want to risk hurting anyone,” Molina said. “But you’ve got to get
ready.”

At third base,
Pablo Sandoval looked like he belonged at his new position. It’s not really a
new position. Third base was his home for most of his life before he became a
catcher in the pros. Today, among several highlights, he made a diving stop on
an Aurilia bullet to third – a play spectacular enough to earn the rare
“Ohhhhh!” from his teammates. When Sandoval leapt for a high line drive and
missed, however, Molina howled and held his fingers an inch a apart.

            “That’s
how much you air you got!” he hollered out to Sandoval. “You didn’t even get
one inch!”

            Sandoval
held his fingers two inches apart.

            “I
think two.”

            “Well,
don’t be getting any of mine,” Molina teased as he waited his turn at the
plate. “Let me be happy with my hits while I can.”

            Molina
is crazy about Sandoval. He credits the rookie with lifting everyone’s spirits
when he joined the team late last summer.

            “When
he came in, he changed the club big time,” Molina says. “He is so happy every
day. So excited to be here. He has this fearlessness, too. That’s what you need
on a team, guys like that.”

      The Crud was still making its way
through the clubhouse. Six guys were out sick today, plus J.T. Snow. Now it has
attacked the press corps. Andy Baggarly from the Mercury News was stricken,
though he managed to stay upright long enough this afternoon to file his
stories. (I figure if players get credit for playing hurt, so should the press.
I’m biased, of course.)

 

Best Seat in the House – the Dugout Rail

Here’s the scene. 

Gorgeous day.  Blue sky. High sixties, low seventies maybe. Sunny, but just enough leftover winter to need a jacket in the shade. 

Scottsdale Stadium at 10 a.m. 

The field is scattered with players and ball machines and screens. 

Brian Sabean and Felipe Alou are on the top step of the dugout, leaning on the railing, silent, their eyes taking in the smallest details about this player or that one, bits and pieces of information to be filed away in their baseball brains for later analysis. Bobby Evans joins them. Then Larry Baer. A couple of equipment guys. A few reporters. 

We look like railbirds at the racetrack.

On the field, coach Fred Stanley is hitting grounders to third base. Sandoval, Guzman, Gillaspie, Rohlinger, Uribe, Aurilia – they take turns scooping and throwing to first. Scoop and throw. Scoop and throw.

Each throw seems barely to miss coach Ron Wotus, who is standing a few feet behind the pitcher’s mound, tossing soft grounders to three players taking turns at shortstop. They field the ball and throw to second. Another group of players, lined up at second, take turns catching the throw, pivoting and firing to first.

 Except it’s not really first base. That has already been claimed by the guys participating in the third-base drill. The second basemen throw to coach Roberto Kelly, who stands in the baseline between first and second. There is a screen behind him to keep errant throws from beaning the coach playing first.

In the outfield, a ball machine shoots fly balls from the right-field line to players spread out in center field. They practice calling for the ball. 

“Gottit! Gottit! Gottit!” each one yells as he settles under the ball. 

Scoop, throw, pivot, fire, gottit, gottit.

Over and over at all three stations. 

They’re the same drills you see in Little League. The same drills, probably, players have done for a hundred years, minus the ball machines.

“Doesn’t even look like he’s moving,” one of the equipment guys says of Fred Lewis, chasing down a ball by the far fence. “He just glides across the field.”

I ask Bobby Evans what he looks for this early in the spring.

“You look at the crispness,” he says. “This early on, that stands out. If you can make the play over and over. If you have the range and footwork.”

He’s not paying much attention to hitting yet. The players just started with live pitching yesterday. But he watches the pitchers, who have been in camp almost a week. “You look to see how well they’re able to repeat their delivery. Finding that arm slot.”

Only a smattering of people watch from the stands. I’m not sure why more people don’t come down to this portion of spring training, before the games. You get to see all the players on the field simultaneously. No one’s in the dugout. You see non-stop action. And it’s free. And you can spread out across three seats, like the old days. 

Larry Baer recognizes the pleasure of just watching the players practice. So this year, the Giants plan to open the doors to spring training games  about 30 minutes earlier than usual so fans can watch more batting practice and fielding drills. 

I was laid up yesterday with a bad cold and couldn’t make it to the ballpark. Something’s going around because today the team sent seven players home from practice for the same reason. Happens every spring. 

Fred Lewis is still waiting for his special spikes from Nike. After his bunion problems last season, he flew up to Nike in Oregon in December and his feet were measured by some special computerized system. He needs his spikes to be a little wider than usual to reduce the risk of further bunions. Until the new custom shoes arrive, Lewis wears his old spikes to take fielding, then switches to tennis shoes for hitting and conditioning. 

More tomorrow.

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!

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