Jair Jurrjens doesn't want to get too far ahead of himself.
03/28/2008 1:19 PM ET
Jurrjens keeps celebration on hold
Hurler waits until Braves make decision official
The young starter said earlier in camp that he wouldn't believe he made the Braves until someone told him in person. And even when the club's game notes listed him as the starting pitcher in the third game of the season, Jurrjens still refused to celebrate.
"I suppose that means I made the team," Jurrjens told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I'm still not going to believe it 'til I fly to Washington [for the season opener Sunday]. I'm not telling anyone. I'm still waiting."
Jurrjens reasoned that no one gave him official word and that plenty can still happen between now and the opener.
"That [plan] could change. You always have to be prepared," Jurrjens said.
For Fontenot, it's time to find a home: Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella found a clever way to tell infielder Mike Fontenot that he'd made the team. Instead of calling him into his office or approaching him in the clubhouse, Piniella used his own sly way of letting him know.
"He said, 'Hey, have you got a place in Chicago?'" Fontenot told The Chicago Tribune. "I was like, 'No.' And he said, 'Well, you can get one.' I was like, 'OK.' I was pretty happy, and pretty pumped."
After getting 30 at-bats last September, Fontenot wasn't sure if he had a place on the 2008 Cubs or not, but after a strong spring, he earned his way north.
"I didn't know exactly what to expect coming in," he said. "I knew they probably would have an open spot on the infield though, so I took that approach to move around, keep working on things and make it through spring."
Soccer skills come in handy for Hernandez: On most ground balls towards the pitcher's mound, a pitcher either fields and throws, fields and runs to first or fields and eats the ball -- but not Minnesota Twins pitcher Livan Hernandez.
When Tampa Bay's Elliot Johnson bunted towards Hernandez earlier this week, the Twins' veteran simply kicked the ball to first baseman Justin Morneau to record the out.
"That's the way I play," Hernandez told The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, "and nobody is going to take that from me. People think I'm on the mound, relaxed. But when I'm on the mound, I'm thinking, 'What is the best way to make three outs?'"
The ball landed directly in Morneau's glove as Tampa Bay first base coach George Hendrick started to clap and the Twins in the dugout tried their best to process what they'd just seen.
"Everybody in our dugout was taking their hat off and just bowing to [Hernandez]," said Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett. "To kick it and to hit it in the air right at Morneau's glove -- it's impossible, but he did it."
For Morneau, a former hockey player, catching the ball was no problem at all -- even if it was kicked at him.
"Any other first baseman it probably would have hit off their knee or something," said Bartlett, "but Morneau had that hockey instinct."
Rivera learns he's made the Brewers' roster: When Mike Rivera got off the bus Wednesday after the drive from Phoenix to Tucson, he was summoned into the office of manager Ned Yost.
At that point, Rivera probably thought he was going to be told he would be starting the season at Triple-A Nashville. Instead, he received the news that he was going to be backup catcher for the Milwaukee Brewers this season.
"He said it's 98.2 percent," a relieved Rivera told The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "He said he didn't want to give me 100 percent."
The last time Rivera, 31, was on an Opening Day roster was in 2002 with Detroit. Playing the last three years at Nashville, Rivera is very familiar with current Milwaukee pitchers Yovani Gallardo, Manny Parra and Carlos Villanueva. That familiarity worked in Rivera's favor.
"Mike has past history with Villanueva, Manny Parra, Gallardo, all those guys in the organization," said Yost. "He's a nice defensive complement with Kendall. I like the way he sets up behind the plate. He blocks balls well, his throwing has improved. He understands the importance of team defense and can swing the bat enough to be dangerous."
Alou will return ready to bust out: Moises Alou is sure of one thing as he recovers from hernia surgery -- when he starts playing again, he will be hitting the ball and hitting it often.
"I know I always come back from things like this, and I come back strong," Alou, 41, told Newsday. "I don't just come back. I come back and I perform well, and I perform when it counts."
While Alou has experienced his fair share of injuries during his career, this latest setback is frustrating.
"I came here in the best shape of my life," he said. "I was in great shape since November. I never lost my playing shape. I never got a beer belly, never got fat. Whether it was to come back to play here or it was to look good on the beach at my beach house, I was looking good, feeling good and then all of sudden it just happened -- a non-baseball-related injury."
Alou started to experience pain in early March, a pain that did not go away.
"Everybody keeps asking, how did you do it? Did you lift something heavy?" Alou said. "I've been doing the same things I've been doing my whole life. I've been doing my leg [exercises] every other day since 1999 when I hurt my knee. I don't know what happened. Some people say this could have happened a long time ago and then all of a sudden it can show up, but I don't remember doing anything like that."
Redman gets nod for Rockies' home opener: The Colorado Rockies announced that veteran Mark Redman will be the team's fourth starter, meaning he will be on the mound for the team's home opener on April 4 against Arizona.
"We have familiarity with Mark, and he pitched well in important games for us," general manager Dan O'Dowd told The Denver Post.
A finesse pitcher, Redman was 2-0 with a 3.20 ERA for the Rockies last season.
"He's the perfect example of a guy who's very smart and knows how to get outs," shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said.
Manager Clint Hurdle also slotted Redman in the fourth spot in the rotation because he wants Redman sandwiched between the hard throwing Ubaldo Jimenez and rookie Franklin Morales.
"To do that with a guy like [Redman], who has a large volume of innings, is important," Hurdle said. "It could be less taxing on the bullpen. And [with their styles], we can be on the gas, off the gas and then back on."
Duke's feeling ready for regular season: Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Zach Duke worked five innings and allowed just one run earlier this week in his next-to-last start of the spring.
While striking out five and walking none, Duke was also a star at the plate by getting two hits off of Tigers pitcher Dontrelle Willis.
"I'll be honest with you: I got lucky twice," Duke told The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "Dontrelle's not easy to hit. Luckily, the ball was thrown where I swung."
Pittsburgh manager John Russell liked what he saw out of Duke. "Zach was very good," said Russell. "The command he was showing in and out was nice to see."
With good velocity and a solid sinker, Duke was also pleased with his effort. "It felt real good, exactly how I wanted it to," he said. "I've been building up to be the caliber that I showed today. I'm ready to go win some games."
Duke, who is scheduled to make his first start of the season on April 5 against the Florida Marlins, says he is coming into the 2008 season feeling like he's made some mental adjustments.
"I would say I'm definitely smarter," he said. "I've always been a tough guy; I don't let much get to me and I know what I'm capable of. The big thing for me is just feeling like I can go out there and give the team a chance to win. There were times last year when I didn't feel like that. Now, I definitely feel as good as I have in a long time."
Bannister works the thinking game: Kansas City pitcher Brian Bannister uses all he has to retire hitters, be it a fastball, a curve, or his brain. Bannister, who keeps charts and video of hitters, does all he can to have an edge when he's pitching.
"Can you just out-think a hitter?" Bannister asked in an interview with The Kansas City Star, pondering the question. "Yes, I think you can, once you get enough knowledge of that hitter."
Sometimes, out-thinking a hitter can include using an old trick often employed by former Royals closer Jeff Montgomery -- tossing one softly right down the middle of the plate and trying to catch the hitter of guard.
"Oh, yeah, I do that," Bannister confessed. "I'll throw them a big lollipop. You know, if you throw them your best pitch, they'll hit it. That's what they do. That's why they're such great hitters.
"But you throw them a lollipop -- that's the last thing they expect."
And then there are those that are trying to out-think Bannister as he tries to out-think them.
"Take a guy like Manny Ramirez," said Bannister. "He'll purposely take outs early in the game just so he disrupts any pattern pitchers might have of him. That way it's really hard to pitch to him when the game is on the line. That's why he's so good in the clutch."
Then there are hitters with no pattern, or hitters that Bannister simply doesn't get out no matter what he does.
"That's the random part of baseball," he said. "It doesn't make sense. The rest of the league gets them out no problem. But I can't. I don't know if it's because the plane of my pitches sets up well with the plane of their swing, or what...
"Logically, you pitch around them. Don't let them hit at all."
-- Red Line Editorial