Dark Star, Fla. – When pigs are running through the clubhouse and Chipper’s out with an ingrown toenail, it might be a good time to break camp and take ‘er north.
Fortunately for the Braves, they’ll do that Thursday. There is nothing more to be gained from work here.
And health — not to mention animals — could be at risk if spring training lasts any longer.
Before we relate the pig episode, the update on Jason Heyward: He’s back in lineup after missing three games with shin splints. And on Chipper Jones: The 3B was scratched from the lineup late this morning with an ingrown toenail.
But I can tell you it was red. He pulled his foot out of a shower sandal to display the wound, as it were.
I asked if he dug too deep, meaning did he do it like we’ve all probably done at least once, when you pull a jagged piece of nail from the corner thinking it’s gonna come off neatly and it ends up tearing down into the cuticle and starts to bleed a little and … well, you know what I mean, right? Right?
But Chipper must’ve thought I was asking if he picked at it after it was already ingrown, because he answered: “I dug in there this morning after it got infected, trying to relieve some of the pressure.”
OK, I just realized I wrote five damn inches about an ingrown toenail that we probably wouldn’t have even known about it if this were the regular season. I mean, honestly it was a little red, but not <em> that </em> red.
“I get ‘em every once in a while,” Chipper said. “During the season I wouldn’t miss any time. I’d play through it.”
But not against Houston on the last day of March in the 27th game of spring training, and with lefty Wandy Rodriguez toeing the slab for the ‘Stros.
“We’ve faced so many lefties, to be honest with you I feel pretty good about taking a day off anyway,” Jones said. “Try and get it better overnight so I can play tomorrow.”
The Braves complete the Florida portion of this exhibition season the Tigers tomorrow in Lakeland, mercifully. And be warned: At about 5 p.m. there’s going to be a rented Pontiac G5 with New York plates barreling east down I4 in and out of traffic, in the direction of the Orlando airport.
♣ March of the pigs: Bullpen coach Eddie Perez is usually the merry prankster, the chief instigator, the guy on the other end of these stunts.
But roles were reversed Tuesday when several Braves — and perhaps a manager? – helped organize a prank that ended up sort of backfiring, but was hilarious nonetheless, according to those who witnessed it.
The abbreviated version: Three small, live pigs were brought into the clubhouse while Perez was in the shower.
He’s long been known for being terrified of snakes, and more than once a rubber snake was left in Perez’s locker or bag during his playing days with the Braves.
But not pigs. He’s not afraid of pigs. But plenty of other Braves are.
Perez came out of the show to see the little pigs oinking and running around, and he laughed. Meanwhile, as Perez tells it, several Braves were jumping around trying to get out of the pigs’ way. First-base coach Glenn Hubbard, in a bathroom stall at the time, quickly raised his feet and legs, and pitching coach Roger McDowell tried to climb a wall — “like Spiderman,” Perez said — to get out of the way of the piggies.
Perez said he just smiled and told them, “I’m not scared of pigs. I grew up with them in Venezuela.”
Despite the prank backfiring, those who know Perez don’t for a moment believe he won’t have payback at some point this season for those who organized Monday’s stunt.
♣ Kawakami says “no problem”: And he said it without an interpreter.
His man was there to translate, but when we asked Kenshin Kawakami this morning about the blister on his right index finger and whether he’d be able to make his scheduled April 4 start in a minor league game, he understood the question and answered in English: “No problem.”
And when I asked if the small blister, which cropped up during his five-inning stint Monday against the Yankees, might have resulted from throwing more sinkers this spring, he also answered in English: “Probably.”
The rest of the interview was done with Daichi Takasue translating, but it was pretty cool to know that Kawakami does understand more and more of what we’re saying.
Now I’m starting to think I wasted my time learning Japanese this winter. (Kidding. Didn’t learn Japanese.)
Anyway, the plan for Kawakami is to throw in an intrasquad minor-league game Sunday here at Dark Star, then get a full week of rest before his regular-season debut April 11 at San Francisco, when he starts the Braves’ sixth game.
Because of an off day in the schedule Tuesday, opening-day starter Derek Lowe will pitch on regular rest in Game 5, getting two starts before Kawakami makes his first. The plan will also allow the Braves to give an extra day of rest to Tim Hudson before each of his first two starts this season.
It’s the same schedule the Braves announced four weeks ago, when Cox explained that Hudson would get extra rest early on so that he’d hopefully be strong through the second half. The Braves want to to give extra rest, if needed, to young guns Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson in the second half of the season.
♣ More national buzz for Heyward: In an article at SI.com about the top 10 story lines for the 2010 season. Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci names Heyward as the one story that he is looking forward to most this season.
Verducci writes, “The Braves’ right fielder created the most spring training buzz since Albert Pujols tore up Cardinals camp in 2001. Which would you rather have when it comes to the NL Rookie of the Year Award: Heyward or the field? I’m not taking the field, not even a field that includes Strasburg and Chapman. Heyward seems like a lock for 20 home runs. Not so impressed by that number? The dude is 20 years old. Only 13 players have ever hit 20 homers at or before their age 20 season, and that includes only two 20/20 Club members in the past 31 years: a couple of guys named Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez.Forget the Fred McGriff comparisons; Heyward is far more athletic. Forget the Willie McCovey comparisons; McCovey was only a .270 career hitter. Forget the Willie Stargell comparisons; Stargell never walked even 90 times. Just let Heyward be who he will be, and enjoy a very unique player.”
Here’s a link to the story: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/tom_verducci/03/30/verducci.forward/index.html
Wandy Rodriguez pitching
♣ OK, game starting. Let’s close with a cut from alt-rock supergroup the Baseball Project — Steve Wynne, Scott McCaughey, Peter Buck and Linda Pitmon –from their great 20008 album of baseball-themed tunes, Volume One: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails,. And if you never heard it, here’s a link where you can listen and read a story behind each song:
“GRATITUDE (FOR CURT FLOOD)” by Steve Wynn/The Baseball Project
Now everyone’s walking like they’re rolling in dough
Throwing all their money around just for show
Acting like everything is coming to them
And knowing that more is just around the bend
But I’m the one who paved the way
And laid my body in the road so you can walk on it today
I stood right up when they tried to put me down
You’re so high up, you forget to look down?
You call that gratitude!
I’m the well-paid slave and the roads that I paved
Took my career, that’s just what I gave.
Five years later they were rolling in clover
But nothing for me, my career was over
If I’d been born just a generation later
I could have settled up with an arbitrator
I’d be wearing fur coats if I were rich
With a bum-bum-bitty-bitty-bum
You call that gratitude!
On the day that I died and they laid me in the ground
Where was everybody? They couldn’t be found
I’m gone and they don’t know my name
No plaque, no speech, no hall of fame
A-Rod, Zito, Posada, Tejada
Johan, Maddux, Manny, Mussina
Who’s the one who paved the way with blood
Go say my name! It’s (Flood!) Curt Flood
You call that gratitude!