Saturday, February 24, 2007

Notes and quotes

FORT TRAFFICJAMBURG, Fla. -- Emptying the notebook from Saturday:
  • Wrote a feature on Cuddyer for tomorrow's print editions. One of the nicest guys I've covered in almost 10 years of sportswriting. He's a geniune guy. Truly cares about his teammates and the fans. Coupla interesting Cuddy quotes I couldn't fit in the story:

-- On why he doesn't take his job for granted: “The struggles you go through in the minor leagues, baseball players tend to understand what it’s like not to have much. That’s why you find real genuine people in this sport more so than any other sport."

-- On the lineup: “The way this lineup is set up, it’s not like the Red Sox where Manny and David is all they have. We revolve around one through nine. And I feel like being in the cleanup role is just another spot where somebody needs to pull their weight.”

  • Gardy continues to be a quote machine. He loves to entertain you guys. Here are two beauties from today:

-- On Mike Redmond, who has hit one homer in two seasons with the Twins: “Red Dog’s going to get one this year, no doubt in my mind. And then he’s going to wake up.”

-- On what Joe Mauer can do to build off a batting-title season: “Miss World.”

  • There was a fun buzz around the complex today, with the first full-squad workout going. Fun watching Torii, Rondell, Castillo, Mauer, MVP, Cuddy, Bartlett, et. al. take batting practice. Also, it was fun just wondering what was going through Molitor's mind as he watched guys hit from behind the batting cage. Later in the day, they held national-anthem auditions inside Hammond Stadium. I heard great, good, average, bad and horrible singing. But you know what? There was passion in everyone's voices.

  • Some people used to call Ramon Ortiz "Little Pedro," when Ortiz was coming up with the Angels seven, eight years ago. Francisco Liriano is the young Dominican phenom now, and Ortiz said he still was hearing a buzz about the all-star lefty in the D.R. this winter despite the fact Liriano is sidelined until 2008. “A lot of people are still talking about this kid,” Ortiz said. “It’s unbelievable. I’m very happy for him, being from my country.”

  • Sad news out of camp today: minor league pitcher Jose Mijares' brother, Jackson, was fatally shot in Venezuela. Jose left camp to return to Venezuela and will be absent indefinitely. Most of you have never heard of Jose Mijares, who is 22 years old. I've never talked to him. So it's easy to emotionally detach. But ask yourself: What if it were my brother? Puts things into perspective, doesn't it? I have two younger brothers, Nick and A.J., both proud Marines. A.J.'s in Iraq; Nick already did his time in that war. They are the best, great men, and I couldn't be more proud of them. So, I implore you to pause a moment and give thanks for your brothers and sisters.

Gopherball central

FORT TRAFFICJAMBURG/MISERY, Fla. -- Ramon Ortiz says he wants to pitch 200 innings this season and missing the first five days of camp because of visa issues in the D.R. hasn't set him back in that quest.

“I told the pitching coach and manager: ‘Don’t worry about me. I’m ready,’ ” Ortiz said.

No one doubts that the lean right-hander is in shape or that he can log around 200 innings. The doubts are whether he can effectively pitch anymore. He hasn't been any good since 2002 with the Angels.

Twins fans should be alarmed about this: Last season, Ortiz ranked second in the NL in homers allowed (31), and Carlos Silva led the majors in that category with 38. Things could be really ugly this year, especially since it appears Ortiz doesn't seem bothered by all the gopherballs.

“Somebody told me last year, ‘You throw a lot of strikes, so why don’t you try throwing more balls.’ I said, ‘So, you want me to walk a guy and the next guy hit a home run? That’s two runs,’ ” Ortiz said. “I don’t worry about home runs. I worry about throwing seven innings every time.”

Warning: Don't make post-game plans on days he pitches.