03/27/2007 10:28 AM ET
Zito's a clubhouse Giant already
New Giants ace Barry Zito has quickly won over his new teammates with his demeanor both in the locker room and on the field.
Within the Giants clubhouse, Barry Zito is earning a reputation as a hard-working, approachable guy. (Tony Gutierrez/AP)
"He is very approachable," infielder Rich Aurilia told the San Francisco Chronicle. "It's nice to see he treats everybody the same. He doesn't treat one guy any different than anybody else, which is nice.
"As a professional, I've noticed that he's really focused on winning. He's focused on giving this ballclub some success. I think he realizes the magnitude of them signing him here for what they did, as far as pitching but also what it means off the field and what his role will be for this organization. He's embraced that, which is kind of nice. He seems like a great guy."
Zito has a locker nearby Barry Bonds. The two have quickly become friends.
"As a pitcher he's great," Bonds said. "As a person he's even better. We're boys. We're buddies, his parents, him, me, can't do anything wrong. We're down for each other no matter what."
On the other side of Zito in the locker room is pitcher Noah Lowry.
"Sometimes when you get new guys into the locker room, you get guys with egos or guys who are standoffish because they don't know other people," Lowry said. "He's a guy who's easy to talk to, and if you didn't know him you'd think he was just another one of the guys, and that's something I like about him.
"He's busy. He's got a routine he follows. He might stop by here to get dressed, but then he's gone and doing his thing, which is perfect. The guy's pitched how many years in the big leagues? Seven? And he's never missed a start. I have a locker next to him and I never see him that much because he's always busy doing something."
Zito loves the new atmosphere he finds himself in.
"This team? A bunch of great guys. Very inviting. Being more of a veteran guy with a contract, I come in, and instead of being muted and waiting to let my personality out, it's been a situation where I can come in and be myself, talking to the guys, trash-talking with them, leading the young guys and just getting to know them. I'm pretty quiet in (the clubhouse). The talk, that's more out there on the field. When I'm in here, I'm just concentrating on getting my work done."
Scott's mindset is set: When Luke Scott joined the Houston Astros in June of last season, he sparked the offense by hitting .336 with 10 home runs and 37 RBIs in 63 games, helping the Astros nearly overtake the St. Louis Cardinals for the National League Central Division title.
But as the 2007 regular season approaches, Scott, a left-handed hitter, is in a battle for the starting right fielder's job.
Scott, however, is not letting the battle for a starting job interfere with his preparation for the regular season.
"My mindset has never been different," Scott told the Houston Chronicle. "I've always had the attitude that no matter what I'm not going to let circumstances, good or bad, positive or negative, affect how I go about my business. I need to do what I need to do to get ready and do the best job I can. Whatever it is they decide, my job is to respect their decision and do the best I can."
Scott also knows success can be fleeting. After a torrid spring in 2005, Scott was the starting left fielder for the Astros on Opening Day. A month later, he was back at Triple-A due to his struggles at the plate.
"If I can get better, I want to get better," he said. "And why not? We as human beings put limitations on ourselves and we'll settle for just good enough. I don't want to be the guy that shortchanges myself.
"I want to live up to my full potential. I want to get better. Do I have control of the numbers? No. We'll just see how it plays out."
Sheets greets arrival of an old friend: One of the last pitches to come around for Milwaukee pitcher Ben Sheets is his curveball. On Friday, Sheets was able to welcome back a pitch that he relies on heavily during the regular season.
"Today was a big step definitely. I got my curveball going," Sheets told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Friday afternoon after working 6 2/3 innings in a Minor League game.
Sheets features just his fastball and changeup during the start of Spring Training before eventually adding the curveball. But with Opening Day just one week away, Sheets knew it was time to get his curveball out of storage.
"I went over there to work on my breaking ball," said Sheets. "I threw a lot of them. I thought it needed to be better. Eventually, it has to pick up. Today was the day, I guess.
"The best part (of the outing) was having a good curveball. The last game, it just wasn't that good. It normally comes. I was just trying to speed it up a little bit."
Sheets has not been told that he will pitch the season opener for the Brewers, but it is assumed by most people that he will be on the mound. He started four consecutive openers for the Brewers before missing the opener last year due to starting the season on the disabled list.
"It's definitely nice (to pitch the opener)," he said. "But I'm happy just to be pitching and feeling good. My turn will come."
Mulder adjusts to new focus: St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Mark Mulder is enjoying Spring Training with the rest of his teammates, but for him it's something quite different. While the rest of the team is preparing to head north to St. Louis for Opening Day on April 1, Mulder will -- except for a one-night engagement for the second game of the season where he will receive his World Series Championship ring -- remain in Florida to continue to rehabilitate his shoulder.
Mulder hopes to return in July, but even he admits nobody can be certain quite yet. "Hopefully, not too much of July," Mulder told the St. Louis Post Dispatch. "It's weird. Obviously, I came into spring with a different mindset because I knew I wasn't going to be ready.
"I kind of took spring training as my time to get focused on what I have to do and how this process is going to be and how long it's going to take and prepare myself for that. Usually you come into the spring and you're ready to go. This year, I didn't come in like that because I couldn't.
"It's different. It's tough. I'm kind of ready for these guys to get out of here so that I can start not having to watch them every day. You want to be around them, but I don't want to have to watch games every day because I'm jealous they're doing it and I'm not."
Chris Carpenter has been down the same road Mulder now travels, having missed all of the 2003 season after having shoulder surgery. "You're used to leading up that excitement and that first game and ... it's not there," Carpenter said. "But it's easier once (the rest of the players) are gone. You can start doing your own stuff.
"But he'll be good. He looks good."
Theriot's got his eyes all over the field: Chicago Cubs infielder Ryan Theriot knows he has a lot of gloves in his locker, but off the top of his head...
"Well, I've got one, two, three, four, five -- yeah, five," he told the Chicago Sun-Times. "That's for third base. This would be an outfield glove. Then I have another one I use at short. And then that one over there I use at second. ..."
With the ability to play so many different positions, it's not out of the question to think that Theriot could get more than 400 at-bats this season despite not having an everyday spot.
"It's exciting," said Theriot. "It means more time on the field and getting out there and being able to contribute more times than not. It's a cool perspective."
A cool perspective, perhaps, but one that also requires a lot of mental preparation.
"You've got to approach every day in my role like you're going to be in there for sure," he said. "And you've got to be prepared to play every position."
That preparation, it turns out, can wear on you more than actually playing.
"Sometimes I'm more tired sitting on the bench watching the game than when I play," he said. "Because in the role I'm in, you have to be in every play at every position. You have to be watching exactly how hitters are hitting, what their tendencies are, because you might not be going to short or second. Hell, you might be going out to center or left."
Focus, focus, focus.
"You have to focus on every position in the game," he said. "Honestly, I'll be more tired sitting at my locker after a game I didn't play because of everything that's going through your head."
Bunt makes Patterson more dangerous: Baltimore Orioles outfielder Corey Patterson has improved many parts of his game over the years, including the ability to lay down a good bunt. Patterson led the American League with 17 bunt base hits last year, and says that part of his game helped him tremendously.
"I've done it before, but [last year] I did it on a more consistent basis," Patterson told the Washington Post. "It helped me out. It's all about knowing yourself. Speed is my biggest asset. So I said, 'OK, why not bunt a little here or there more often than last year?'
"This year, teams are going to pay closer attention. Even in Spring Training, I can notice they are playing me closer in, which is better for me, because that opens up room for some base hits. I have to use all those elements of bunting and base stealing. It's something I'll continue to do, but I'll have to concentrate on it a little harder since I know teams are going to bear down on it as well."
The improvements he made in 2006, he says, were crucial to turning around his career.
"I guess this is going into my sixth year and honestly, I thought last year was the most important year for me, especially coming off the year I had in '05," Patterson said.
"Coming over to Baltimore, a new team, and not really playing early on, I didn't complain or anything, I just continued to work hard. Things turned out okay personally for me. I want to still improve and get better.
"Now for me really is about coming to the park every day and having fun. All this talk about free agency and whatever happens, that will all take care of itself. I treat it as I'm a kid, just go out there and have fun. That's what you have to do. That's what I'm focused on. All the free agency stuff, that will come up at the right time. My agent will deal with that."
Danks earns spot in Sox rotation: John Danks, acquired by the Chicago White Sox in an off-season deal with the Texas Rangers that sent Brandon McCarthy to Arlington, has been named Chicago's fifth starter.
"I think the way he threw the ball in Spring Training, he earned that spot," manager Ozzie Guillen told the Chicago Tribune. "We all like the way he went about his business and was pretty tough."
After tossing four innings of one-hit ball against Colorado on Friday, Denks was called in for a meeting with Guillen. "[Guillen] said, 'Welcome to the team and keep doing what you've been doing,'" said Danks. "I've been attacking the strike zone and he said I've shown him I'm fearless. That's the type of pitcher I am."
Danks said despite the exciting news that he knows he has to remain focused.
"I'm sure I'll just call home (Round Rock, Texas) and get ready to throw Wednesday (against the Diamondbacks)," Danks said. "It's exciting for sure, but there's a task at hand. I have to go out there, do my job and keep my spot."
Price is right for Crosby: Players have many different ways to break the monotony of Spring Training. But Bobby Crosby is probably the first player to attend a taping of the game show "The Price is Right." Crosby was in the first row but he did not get picked to come up on stage and bid for prizes.
"I was pumped," Crosby told the San Francisco Chronicle. "Every time I saw myself (on the broadcast) I was smiling. I'm not ashamed -- I had a blast."
While Crosby did not get on the stage, he did get to meet host Bob Barker. The two were at a charity event and Barker ended up buying an autographed bat of Crosby's for $700.
"Coolest thing ever," a delighted Crosby said. "I thought, 'I could die right now.'"
Crosby says that he and coach Rene Lacheman play the game and bid on stuff when the show is on before games. He feels this experience would have paid off had he gotten on stage.
"I hold my own," Crosby said. "I'd battle anybody."
-- Red Line Editorial