Workouts have begun for pitchers and catchers and now the rest of the folks are starting to trickle into Glendale to prepare for the 2012 season. It’s essential for us, as fans, to remove beer goggles, take our heads out of the clouds, and prepare grains of salt for nearly every statement that comes out of the mouths of players. Nobody shows up and says, “I’m going to be really crappy this year, minimal effort will be given,” or anything similar to that. It’s unlikely you or I would show up to work with such a mindset either, so the players can’t be blamed. They are just entering a situation with a positive outlook, and trying to improve. We all want the same thing. A couple of noteworthy arrivals today were Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham, who both know that if they want to continue playing, their respective games are going to have to step up.
Rios actually seemed willing to admit that he didn’t enjoy playing last year, which is something that seemed obvious in watching him and annoyed the mess out of me. He also acknowledges that he may have to slide out of CF this year to make room for De Aza and expressed a preference to move to RF. I like that he sees it coming and won’t play the high and mighty role that players with clear underachieving or past their prime seasons tend to do. Another thing that bothered me about Rios last year was his hand placement. Hands low has always been his batting stance, and for a while in Toronto that worked for him. I’m sure it was that stance that got him to the major leagues. However a few hot streaks for Rios over the past season have come when he raised his hands up at the plate. Inexplicably, after the first stretch following the All-Star break he decided to lower them back down once his confidence got up, just to see his productivity drop as well. He’s now acknowledging that he seems to hit the ball better with better hand placement, per Mark Gonzalez.
Gordo has shown up a little bit lighter this year, claiming he was a bit too “puffy” last season. The absolute weakest encouragement chip is the weight adjustment. Every year players are heavier because they were too light last year, lighter because they were too heavy, and the players are prone to being on both sides of that statement. It’s nice to think that a weight tweak will make the difference but it’s not very likely. It’s also probably not going to hurt him considering how last season turned out.
Also of note is Brent Lillibridge who has arrived with a bag full of gloves ready to play wherever he is needed. He’s stated that if he could choose, he’d play SS, which is a safe statement as he and Alexei both know that he is not in danger of taking over the spot full time. He is, of course, a threat to move Gordo off of the 2B spot but it’s clearly Beckham’s spot to lose. Brent will likely see time at most all positions, providing rest days for various players. Nothing wrong with a super utility guy.