It's just about time to smash a champagne bottle on the hull of Tyler Flowers, Starting Catcher. God bless him and all who sail in him.
Mark Parent, a fan and staunch defender of Flowers, is tasked with overseeing the launch. Dan Hayes has a good story on their relationship, leading with an example of Parent's demanding nature. It seems excessive to ride a guy for dropping a pitch in a bullpen session, but there's a reason for it:
"You have to just stay focused on what’s in front of you right now and who’s on deck, that’s about as far as you’re going ahead," Parent said. "Let the manager and the pitching coach and the other coaches think about that other stuff. You just take care of what you’ve got to."
"I just want them to make sure you’ve got to be accountable back there. … We can’t let little things slip up because one little thing can turn into a big thing and that’s what we don’t want."
Parent told Scott Merkin a couple days ago that Flowers responds well to the microscope treatment. I don't think he could object even if he wanted to, because it's pretty clear by now that Parent has his best interests in mind after that SoxFest statement.
Joe McEwing doesn't get a lot of credit for working with individual players. He's seen as the guy who runs infield practice and keeps the Sox aggressive on the basepaths, but as far as players go, I don't know if anybody's progress has been tied to him enough to reach "acolyte" status.
Enter Alexei Ramirez. Daryl Van Schouwen says McEwing has been giving Ramirez plenty of attention this spring, and not just regarding his offense:
‘‘He’s one of the premier shortstops in the league,’’ Sox third-base coach and former infielder Joe McEwing said. ‘‘He’s so talented, and it’s a shame he doesn’t get talked about with the elite shortstops in the game because he is. Tremendous range, strong arm. He’s a special talent.’’
That said, the Sox subtly are asking Ramirez to give them more, nudging him to step up his offense and leadership presence on the field. McEwing, who wants to see Ramirez locked in on every pitch when he’s playing short, often would sit for chats at Ramirez’s locker during spring training. They would talk about taking charge and paying attention to detail in the field. There has been progress.
‘‘We all continue to learn and grow every day,’’ McEwing said. ‘‘Just being consistent from day to day, being locked in on every pitch. He made strides with that last year, and he made even bigger strides with that in spring training.’’
Beyond the classic spring training-fueled optimism, Ramirez said his wrist bothered him well after he injured it colliding with Alejandro De Aza. If it did, it didn't slow him down -- July and August were the only two months he cleared an .800 OPS.
With Jake Peavy's lat problems in the rear-view mirror, the Sox are back focusing on the ankle he injured in 2009. As we know with pitchers, legs are the key to their power, and director of conditioning Allen Thomas says the Sox are keeping that particular ligament in mind when putting Peavy through his paces:
Peavy's ankle at least has allowed him to resume the heavy leg work he performed during his days with the Padres.
"A lot of it is bike work, but he can do elliptical (training)," Allen Thomas, the Sox's director of conditioning, said of Peavy's cardio work. "He can still run on days. He has to run. He's on the mound, he's going to do some pounding. ... It's just the days his ankle is bad, we stay off it. It's really how he feels, but this year he hasn't complained of it.
"We're back to heavy leg (work). Really, him complaining about it, compared to other springs, it's been very minor."
Brooksbaseball.net has Peavy's fastball in the 92-93 mph range, for what it's worth. In 2012, he sat a little bit under 91.
*Bruce Rondon, the Tigers' preseason favorite for the closer role, did not break camp with the club. That leaves Jim Leyland feeling around for a ninth-inning solution, which might not matter that much, but the Sox need the Tigers to show some cracks early, and that is the weakest spot.
"I’m not a doctor nor am I a medical historian," Alderson said in the conference call, "but these injuries are very difficult to recover from after one surgery, and I don’t know the history of recovering from a second."