By Rob Kaminsky / Special to MiLB.com
Indians Minor Leaguer Rob Kaminsky recently wrapped up his third season in professional baseball, one that saw the 2013 first-round Draft pick traded at the deadline from St. Louis to Cleveland. The 21-year-old left-hander joins MiLB.com’s PROSPECTive Blog to share his memories, insights and thoughts on life in the Minors. Read more of his posts on RobKaminsky.com.
It’s officially month six of six of the offseason for us Minor Leaguers.
On Feb. 28, I head out to Goodyear, Arizona, to embark on my first Spring Training with the Cleveland Indians. I am extremely excited; I can’t wait to put on spikes and throw on some clay mounds. Throwing indoors or outside in 35 degrees is getting old.
February is always the hardest/most confusing month of the offseason for me. You don’t want to overdo it or under-do it. You don’t want to stop lifting, but you also want to be loose. You don’t want to come out in spring throwing 95 and top out in March, but you don’t want to look ill-prepared throwing only mid- to high- 80’s. So what do you do?
Here is what I did.
I asked. I peppered older guys with questions about their respective offseason programs regarding throwing and strength and conditioning. I talked to the people I trust regarding the month of February’s plan for me. Despite the fact that I am more experienced this year than I was the last few years, know my body better than I ever have, and know what to expect in spring, I still don’t have a definite answer on what to do.
However, through my constant inquiry and request for advice, I have acquired a pretty good idea of how to handle this month, and I couldn’t thank all who have helped me enough. I apologize for more than likely being annoying and asking so many questions… but I was doing my due diligence.
At the end of the day, you must put yourself in the best position to stay healthy for the entire course of the season — not just be “ready” for spring. Being ready for spring is one thing; topping out in March and being hurt come May is another. You must find a happy medium.
Asking questions and listening to your body are the best ways to accomplish that. Even then, as we all know, there are no guarantees.
February can be tricky. But you have to try and stay the course and make the necessary adjustments. At age 21 and upon entering into my third full season, I am still learning and am sure I will be for the entirety of my career.
“Success is sequential, not simultaneous.” — Gary Keller, The One Thing. In other words, focus on the one most important thing, perfect it, and then move on to the next most important thing. That is what I have been trying to do and will continue to try to do during the month of February. Stay focused, prioritize, and be ready for a six-month season.
Minoring in Twitter: Players rejoice in Chipotle’s good news; Trevor Gretzky on the road and a Minor Leaguer’s monkey
By Danny Wild / MiLB.com
Good news if you’re a Minor Leaguer — the E. coli outbreak that has plagued America and Danny Ainge’s favorite Mexican restaurant is over, according to the CDC:
Yankees prospect Gosuke Katoh was completely undeterred by the E. coli fears, claiming he stopped by for dozens of burritos:
If my math is correct, Gosuke was averaging about three Chipotle trips per week.
Cubs left-hander Rob Zastryzny (go ahead, pronounce that in your head) said he would pay someone to follow his Twitter account with Chipotle:
There’s no better feeling than sleeping on clean sheets, says Blue Jays prospect Jeremy Gabryszwski. What about going to sleep — even on dirty sheets — and knowing you don’t have to set an alarm and can sleep in? What about that feeling you get when you first bite into a slice of crispy, cheesy pizza? What about waking up on those dirty sheets, thinking you have to get up for work/school and then realizing nope, it’s Saturday?
What about that feeling when you dig into a nice cold chocolate frosty?
The Binghamton Mets would like to warm up the night for fans on April 12 with this promotion (to which they provided zero details):
Valentine’s Day is approaching (no need to remind me, honestly) and our own Ben Hill is sharing his love for the Carolina League:
What’s more annoying than getting an egg shell in your scrambled eggs? Maybe hearing Sarah Palin’s voice?
Couldn’t find a single player who tweeted about the Iowa Caucus on Monday, but there was this:
For those who watched the Iowa coverage — where people wrote candidate names on scrap paper and dropped them into popcorn buckets — you may have noticed an MiLB angle. At least one district was using Iowa Cubs buckets to collect votes:
The D-backs released 2014 27th-round pick Nate Robertson in October, and you’re probably wondering a couple things: will he latch on with a new team for Spring Training, and what’s the status of his stuffed peppers recipe?
Apparently when a gigantic tornado rolls through Texas, no one really stops playing baseball/runs from the ballpark:
A Minor Leaguer cradling a monkey in the clubhouse? Sure, why not?
Memphis right-hander Deck McGuire says this mobile gaming station was “best $350 I’ve ever spent”:
Rays righty Kyle McKenzie says what you’re all thinking: putting on ChapStick just doesn’t feel macho:
Is there a manly way to bake a cake, though?
McKenzie also has some thoughts on the right and wrong way to apply milk to your bowl of cereal — careful, or he’ll call the authorities:
That will be the next great Netflix docudrama — society’s efforts to free an imprisoned man convicted of filling his bowl with milk before his Frosted Flakes.
Of course I’m a Trevor Gretzky fan, but he’s been a little inactive on Twitter lately. In that case, we turn to Instagram, where he’s posing next to his family’s jet:
Taking in a Kings game. “What are you saying dude?”
And a family tennis outing:
Gretzky is entering his fifth Minor League season and third with the Angels:
Here’s Jason Bay before he became a Mets Hall of Famer:
My lower back hurts just watching Pirates righty Trevor Williams:
People here at MiLB.com make fun of me for putting CNN on the TV. But I need my daily Donald Trump entertainmen:
Pirates prospect Jameson Taillon can taste Spring Training. Mmmmm.
Twins prospect Jose Berrios is back with more family snapshots:
Ben Verlander shows his struggles with bubble gum:
Finally, are you ready for the long road to Spring Training?
Also, Michael Kopech … what?
Our Q&A with Lewis Brinson, MLB.com’s No. 16 overall prospect, dropped on MiLB.com today. As it happens, some of our conversation didn’t quite make the cut. Here are those answers, in which we discussed tough Texas League pitchers, the four elements and their ability to interrupt ballgames, and a hypothetical world in which Brinson doesn’t play baseball.
Q: Do you start to get bored this late in the offseason to where you really want to get going again?
Brinson: I wouldn’t say bored. I’d say, yeah, I’m ready to get going, but it’s always good to be home around friends, family, my girlfriend and everybody that’s around here. So I wouldn’t say it’s boring, but I do get that itch. I got that itch maybe the beginning of January to get going again, and then once I went out to minicamp for the Rangers and received their [Defensive Player of the Year] award and was around everybody, all the big league guys again, it was about that time I told myself, “I’m ready to get back.”
Q: What was your experience with High Desert like? That place has a reputation as a hitter’s paradise.
Brinson: Yeah, the wind blows out a little bit — center, left and right. All around the [California] League pretty much. But it’s still baseball, so you still got to go out and face tough pitchers and pitchers that are on their game every day and tough defenses and tough elements. We got [games] canceled by, I think, three of the four elements, all except an earthquake. We got canceled out by fire, we got canceled out by wind and rain. So it’s definitely a tough place element-wise to play, but the wind does help you out.
Q: I understand you’ve taken to writing notes in a journal after each at-bat. What kind of stuff do you note in there?
Brinson: [Laughs] You’re giving away all my secrets here, man. But no, it’s just for kind of a personal reference. The Rangers introduced that idea to us last year and some guys took it to heart and some guys kind of fell off a little bit. I think it was brilliant. I think that really was the key to my success last year. Really staying engaged in the game and not really sitting on one at-bat. If I had a good at-bat or a bad at-bat, I wasn’t really sitting on it. I would write down in the book what I saw that at-bat, whether I felt if it was a good at-bat or a bad at-bat, and I’d just learn from that. Whenever I’d face that particular pitcher again, I’d have notes on it. So next time I have a better idea and a better plan and approach at the plate. That’s all the book is for. I’m going to continue to do that and, hopefully, it continues to pay its dividends.
Q: Which pitcher consistently gave you a hard time?
Brinson: There was a couple in Double-A, a couple pitchers for San Antonio. We faced them a good amount of times and there was a couple relievers. I’m not really sure of their names. They were tall guys, straight over-the-top splitter, sinker. They really got to me there right before I headed off to Round Rock. The Padres organization really has some good arms in their farm system.
Q: You’ve always been praised for being an athletic guy. Hypothetically, if you weren’t playing baseball, what sport would you be?
Brinson: I’m not too sure. I never played organized football. I always played with my friends, little pickup games. I’d probably be playing basketball, to be honest. I played basketball in middle school when I was growing up. I called it just staying in shape for baseball season, but I had literally no idea what I was talking about back then. So I think I’d be playing basketball, definitely. That was one of my loves coming up as a kid and I still love watching the Heat and playing. Every once in a while after I work out, I’ll go shoot around with my trainer.
By Josh Jackson / MiLB.com
Everybody has bad days, but not everybody responds to having a bad day in the same way. For pitchers, as a new story on MiLB.com discusses, the response can make the difference between a string of nightmare starts or a couple rocky innings.
For a starter, though, shrugging off an ugly outing can be extra tricky. After all, mess up big and you have to wait for the opportunity to redeem yourself.
“Even as a reliever, if you have a bad outing, probably the next day or the day after you get the chance to go make up for it. But as a starter, you’ve got to wait five days,” Dodgers prospect Jose De Leon said. “Then, let’s say you have a bad outing and wait five days and then you have another bad outing. You have to wait five more days! That’s just the nature of it.”
The waiting, as Tom Petty reminds us, can be the hardest part.
Pirates right-hander Tyler Glasnow remembers how miserable he was for long stretches of his first pro campaign, in 2012, because he responded to bad outings by pressuring himself to make the next one great.
“That’s what pro ball really helps people with. There are skills you only get better at by doing. People say you really only learn from your failures and that’s completely true,” he said. “In the [Gulf Coast League], I would have a bad start and it would haunt me four or five days until the next one. Then if I had two bad starts? It was like I was a terrible person.”
De Leon also has learned, through a prolonged rough stretch in the Rookie-level Pioneer League in 2013, that adding pressure to be great doesn’t help.
“Why would you be so hard on yourself? You’ve got to be able to sleep at night,” he said. “If you worry or you pressure yourself that you have to perform a certain way, it’s not going to go how you want it to. You have to relax and trust yourself.”
Even for incredibly successful Minor League pitchers like De Leon and Glasnow, it can be hard to remember to trust in their abilities.
“One of the things that’s great about this game is that you can be really good sometimes and then absolutely Little League for one game. It’s humbling,” Glasnow said. “It’s honestly why I like the game so much. You’re going to go out a lot of times and feel really bad and still pitch well, but you’re also going to have one absolutely terrible game a season, probably more than one. It helps knowing that it happens to everyone.”
Glasnow’s worst professional outing was his next-to-last regular-season start last summer. Although he’s learned to forget bad outings as soon as he walks off the mound, he’s glad he didn’t have to go into the offseason with such a bitter taste in his mouth. His next time on the bump, he yielded one run on six hits and struck out eight without issuing a walk over 7 1/3 innings.
“Finishing off the season, you want to go out on a high note,” he admitted. “You can’t put the whole season into trying to end well, but definitely coming off that one, it was a lot sweeter to finish with that rather than the awful one. That wasn’t the one to end on.”
By Danny Wild / MiLB.com
Twins prospect Jose Berrios shows selfies on a plane and at the dentist:
Yankees prospect Kane Sweeney got engaged this week on the court at Morehead State, from which he was drafted this past summer:
Want to play a Minor Leaguer in Call of Duty?
Looking good. I guess.
Aren’t they all?
By Danny Wild / MiLB.com
Let’s talk about great snack combos. Buffalo wings and bleu cheese. Chocolate and peanut butter. Bananas and peanut butter. Ketchup and french fries. Bacon and cheese. Tostitos Hint of Lime and guacamole (you’re welcome). But what about broccoli? No?
Red Sox catcher and paint tycoon Benjamin Moore is finally catching up on watching Netflix’s addicting docudrama Making a Murderer:
Others continue to weigh in:
Some interesting wood grain going on with these bats:
Can these sneakers make you run faster?
Braves top prospect Dansby Swanson — the No. 1 overall pick in last year’s Draft — got a makeover from the Vanderbilt women’s basketball team:
Thursday was “National Hug Day” (in additional to Squirrel Appreciation Day, for the record) and Yankees prospect Greg Bird sent a hug over Twitter to rival Mets prospect Brandon Nimmo:
What we all would consider a nightmare, Mariners prospect Conner Hale terms a “miracle”
Jeremy Barfield shared this old, magnificent bat flip:
Milwaukee third baseman Garin Cecchini (he was traded by Boston on Dec. 10) goes deep:
Kansas City’s Cody Decker shows off his former career as a comic book guy:
And now he’s hitting up Ian Kennedy for cash (maybe to buy a comic book?)
The East coast us bracing for snow this weekend and everyone is panicking:
Heyyyyyyy, give me some free stuff pls?
Get yourself together, Florida:
Matt Pare and his dog:
Chipotle Tweets of the Week
If you like Chipotle (or even if you don’t and just want to kind of be stunned), read ESPN’s story today on Celtics GM Danny Ainge’s addiction to Chipotle.
ESPN did not disclose Ainge’s usual order, but mentioned that he typically gets double chicken and withholds the sour cream and guac in his burrito bowls. It says he goes every day, sometimes twice, and up to 10 times per week. He’s reminiscent of Andrew Hawryluk, who ate Chipotle every day for 186 straight days.
Minoring in Twitter: Verlander unearths old beach photo, players get caught up in Powerball excitement
By Danny Wild / MiLB.com
Tweet of the Week goes to Tigers prospect Ben Verlander with this throwback:
Ben also joined the rest of the country in buying Powerball tickets this past week:
It’s no surprise, in a PB&J Minor League world, that players were crossing their fingers on winning $900 million in this past Saturday night’s Powerball drawing (the first huge one):
Anthony Giansanti got 622 retweets on this one but, of course, no one won this draw:
Tigers second baseman Joey Pankake tried to get in on the action too:
Some got caught up in the odds:
Others offered support:
Rays prospect Brent Honeywell says it’s worth spending $2 now:
Cardinals lefty Jordan DeLorenzo got one number:
And the hype was reborn as Wednesday’s jackpot climbed to $1.5 billion:
Probably a better investment — Popeyes cajun fries are SO good:
“You just won a billion dollars! What are you going to buy?”
He’s right. Look:
By Tyler Maun / MiLB.com
The offseason brings a flurry of activity throughout Minor League organizations. From players who substitute teach to staff members who prep promo schedules and much more from coast to coast, work never stops.
Albuquerque Isotopes radio voice Josh Suchon has taken a different approach to the 2015-16 break from the traditional few months of sales and media guide work in a broadcasting department, releasing a true crime book centered around the 1984 murder of high school student Tina Faelz in his hometown of Pleasanton, California.
I spoke with Josh before the holidays about the early reaction to his first true crime book, which was released on Sept. 21, shortly after the end of the Isotopes’ season, and is available now.
On how the book came about
“I always remembered this story because it happened in my hometown. The victim lived five blocks down the street from me. One of my best friends lived on the same court as her, so even many years after the murder, I’d still look down to the end of the court, and I would see her house. It would be this constant reminder that this terrible thing happened to this girl, and they still had not caught the killer.
“Then to be honest, after high school I didn’t give it a thought for 20-something years until they finally arrested the guy. When they arrested him in 2011, I was fascinated by the case because of what I remembered, and I couldn’t stop reading articles and comments of articles and all of the postings on Facebook from people. Then I had a conversation with my older sister and asked her if she knew the accused, and she said, ‘Yeah, he used to walk me home from school.’ That kind of blew my mind wondering if I had ever met him, if he had ever been inside our house. Then she told me that he confessed the murder to her one night at a party, and then I got really, really interested in the story.
“I’d say the main thing is that I’d always wanted to do some type of project in my life that did not involve sports. The more that I researched this, the more people that I spoke to, the more that I realized that this was the type of story that I’d wanted to do that did not involve sports.”
On the difficulty of reporting on painful chapter for hometown
“It was a constant flashback to my childhood, the good and the bad. It was constantly going through not only my high school reunion, but my older sister’s high school reunion.
“The more that I interviewed people, the more that I realized that it was important that I do this and that somebody from Pleasanton does this because of how much it still meant to the city. When the book did come out, there were so many people who thanked me for closing the chapter on exactly what happened and giving the story the proper justice that it deserved. I mean 27 years after somebody gets killed, they finally arrest somebody. Three years later, he gets convicted, 26 years to life. So many of the students at that time who are now in their 40s always thought that it was him, and many of them were haunted by this belief that it was him. Now they heard the justice for the victim at the trial, and then they have a complete and thorough story that explains what happened all in one book.” (more…)
By Danny Wild / MiLB.com
Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza easily were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday, prompting praise from every corner of the baseball community. Minor Leaguers, many of whom grew up watching the pair, took to Twitter to talk about Griffey’s induction and, more passionately, the three voters who didn’t select him.
Oddly, we couldn’t find a single tweet from a Minor Leaguer about Mike Piazza.
Some weren’t happy that Griffey wasn’t unanimously elected — three voters did not select him on their ballot:
By Josh Jackson / MiLB.com
On MiLB.com, we have a story about the ins and outs of Minor League free agency, and what that process can be like for some of the players who go through it.
Jeremy Barfield is unique among those who shared his experiences for that article in that he has experience as both a pitcher and a position player. The A’s had him try his hand on the mound during 2014, his final season in the organization, but he’s not exactly shopping himself as a hurler. In fact, if a club reached out with a deal for him to come aboard as a pitcher, well…
“Hell, no. That’s not going to happen,” he said. “I pitched as an emergency [in 2015], but that’s not going to happen. I should have fought it more the first time.
“[Playing the outfield and being in the lineup every day] is what I enjoy doing, and the opportunity you’re working for is to do something you enjoy doing,” he added. “Plus, I’m not trying to blow out my arm and have Tommy John surgery. Players who’ve spent their whole lives working on being pitchers are blowing out their arms. To convert, that pretty much guarantees it.”
After the year Barfield had in 2015, injury-related instability is the last thing he needs. He remained without a contract until the week after the Super Bowl, when he agreed to a Minor League deal with the Rockies and was placed on the roster of Triple-A Albuquerque. Barfield reported to Minor League camp and gave it his all, but by the end of March, he was right back where he’d started — a Minor League free agent.
“I was playing to the best of my ability. I played better than I had in any other Spring Training, and [the Rockies] even told me I outperformed the kind of player they thought I was,” he said. “But even though you make that impression, it doesn’t mean you’re going to stick around.
“The farm director [Zach Wilson] said, ‘We’re not releasing you because we don’t like you. We do. We tried to make room for you, but we just don’t have any. If an opportunity to bring you back arises, we’ll do it.’ Now, I’ve been released multiple times, but that was the first time, so I thought they must just say that to everybody.”
Being an unemployed baseball player at the beginning of April, when every organization has just spent six or eight weeks trimming its various rosters down to precise numbers for the start of the season, is not ideal. Barfield was fortunate to find a role in the outfield with the Camden (New Jersey) Riversharks of the independent Atlantic League.
That arrangement, however, proved untenable for the long term.
“They aren’t even a team anymore, and it’s funny, neither is New Britain, where [I also played in 2015],” the 27-year-old said. “It’s like six degrees of Jeremy Barfield or something.”
The biggest issue with Camden, from Barfield’s perspective, was simple economics.
“I was spending more money than I was making. Not really, but just about,” he said. “They didn’t have housing for players. The housing market in South Jersey and Philly is so expensive — it was $2,500 for an unfurnished two-bedroom. Nobody’s paying that on an indy ball salary.
“I stayed everywhere I could just trying to save money. I stayed on an inflatable mattress at a hotel with two teammates, two Latin guys. I was grateful that they let me do that, but my back was toast for that whole series. At one point, I told a guy who lived [in South Jersey], ‘I’m crashing at your house.’ He thought I was joking. I was like, ‘No, I’m crashing at your house.’ I stayed at his house for a series, but I didn’t want to wear out my welcome.”
An offer to go to Mexico and play for the Tigres de Quintana Roo gave him the opportunity to make the balance book look a little prettier than it could in Camden, and also to compete in a circuit comparable to the Triple-A level. Before he agreed to it, he checked in with the Colorado front office.
“When I got the offer from Mexico in May, I emailed [Wilson] directly and said, ‘Do you need any outfielders?'” Barfield remembered. “He wrote back, ‘Honestly, no, so go make some money in Mexico.'”
Although things started out well with Quintana Roo — Barfield walked twice in his first game, homered in his second, and drove in two runs in each of the next two — the Tigres released him following an 0-for-22 skid over six games just 11 days after he’d first suited up for them. Now what? Back to Camden?
“After Mexico, I said [to Camden], ‘Look, if you guys can find housing for me, I’ll come back, but if not, I need to go somewhere else,” he said.
The Riversharks signed him with the apparent intent to work something out, and they ended up trading him to another team in the same independent league, the Sugar Land Skeeters, who play near where Barfield’s parents live in the Houston area. (Barfield is the son of former Major Leaguer Jesse Barfield.)
It wasn’t long after that the Rockies reached out. But even when he finally had the opportunity to once more be a part of a Major League organization, the logistics of joining his new team proved ridiculously complicated. He received an email from Wilson, the Rockies’ senior director of player development, late at night after the final game of a Skeeters homestand, but the email only asked whether Barfield was back in the States. He replied that he was and waited for more. Sugar Land was scheduled to take an early flight to Long Island the next morning, but an impending hurricane caused an indefinite delay. Barfield eventually went back to his parents’ house for a snooze.
“I woke up and I had an email: ‘Do you still want to be a Rockie?’ I wrote back, ‘Yes,’ right away, and he said, ‘OK, [Rockies coordinator of Minor League operations] Jesse Stender is going to call you.’ He calls and he says, ‘Hey, don’t get on that flight. We’ve got a flight for you tonight. It leaves in an hour and 45 minutes to Hartford.”
That’s how long Barfield had to track down Skeeters manager Gary Gaetti and inform him the Riversharks would be an outfielder shy on the coming road trip, plus clean out his locker in the Sugar Land clubhouse, put together everything he needed for a stint in the Double-A Eastern League and get onto an airplane. He arrived in Connecticut at 1 a.m. and was suited up for the New Britain Rock Cats in the second game of a doubleheader that very day, going 1-for-2 with a walk. He remained in the Colorado organization for the rest of the summer, getting promoted to Triple-A Albuquerque exactly a month later.
When the offseason began in earnest, he retained some hope the Rockies would offer him another contract (“I thought,” he said, “‘I signed with them twice in one year, so what’s three times?'”) but if Barfield’s wild season shows anything, it’s that another opportunity — somehow, somewhere, some way, will likely arise for him. And aside from refusing to convert to a pitcher again, he’s not feeling picky.
“First off, [I just want] a contract!” he said. “And even that isn’t a guarantee I’m going to make a decent living. I understand that’s the sacrifice I’m making to pursue a dream.”