Yes, I’ve arrived at spring training. Excuse my zeal, but the first day in Arizona is always quite a euphoric experience — the sound of the BP bats, stretching, 80 degree temps, girls in shorts, all that good stuff. If you can’t get stoked for spring training, you aren’t human, even if you are an embittered A’s fan right now. C’mon, cheer up. Baseball. It’s baseball. Snap out of it. Doesn’t matter who’s playing it. It’s the greatest game, and as they say, hope springs eternal — even in Oakland.
I took my tour of the A’s clubhouse this morning, linking faces with names and pretending not to be too clueless about who everybody is. As it’s going to be for fans, it’s going to take awhile, and I only have four days to get to know everybody as I fill in for Joe Stiglich, who’s taking a little R&R. Weird vibe with no Japanese media around. Weirder still to see Manny Ramirez huddling with young Yoenis Cespedes in the clubhouse so intensively.
As I predicted a week or so ago in a column, Ramirez is really the only player who can counsel this guy on what he’s in for. Yes, Ariel Prieto is here as a pseudo personal coach/translator/cultural assimilator, but Ariel never hit. He never played the outfield. Ramirez has to be a legend to Cespedes, and the way Manny has been comporting himself so far, that may not be such a bad thing. Almost like having an older brother or maybe an uncle to provide guidance. Better than nobody as far as getting this guy’s mind right about finally being in America to play baseball.
Cespedes is still probably 5-6 days away from playing in a spring training game with the A’s, but that could be accelerated depending how he fares against live pitching in the next couple of days. As casual as the A’s are pretending to be about getting him in a game, you can bet Billy Beane, Bob Melvin and Co. are just as anxious as the rest of us to see this guy in action. He’s been all-world in batting practice, but it’s batting practice. We’ll see how he looks against live pitching in the next day or so, and then go from there.
Melvin said Cespedes is in great physical shape, but added, “He’s not in baseball shape, in my opinion.” Cespedes hasn’t played in a live game since December, when he logged eight games in the Dominican Republic.
Cespedes was scheduled for another day of routine batting practice and conditioning, and may face some live pitching in the next day or two. Depending on how he looks, he could be in a game by the weekend.