Results tagged ‘ Albert Pujols ’

Pujols like Mays; Wilson simplifies; fly-catchers excel

Monday, Sept. 20

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Some people will do anything to squeeze a workout into their schedule.

Baseball’s best player apparently is one of these healthy fanatics.

Monday night at a local health club, a trainer shifted my focus from the free weights to a weighty presence performing
cardiovascular exercise in the corner of the room. “That’s Albert Pujols,” the trainer said.

Maybe the Angels, who train in neighboring Tempe, don’t have the fitness machines Pujols likes at their facility.  Maybe he simply felt compelled to hit the gym. Regardless, the man obviously is dedicated.

Seeing Pujols work out among common folks reminded me of something I was told by one of his predecessors as baseball’s best.

A few years ago I asked Willie Mays, “How did you stay in such great shape?” Mays straightened up in his chair, puffed
out his chest ever so slightly and proudly replied, “I never got out of shape.” It was a sphinx-like answer. And it made perfect sense.

*****

Brian Wilson was all business as he spoke with reporters. No dry humor. No clever one-liners. Simply straight talk
about his arm, elbow and pitching.

“I’m just going to put the analogies in the back pocket for today,” Wilson said.

*****

The Arizona sky late Monday morning was dotted with clouds and relatively windless — luckily for the Giants catchers.

Bullpen catcher Bill Hayes, who drills the catchers in big league camp on various skills necessary to master their
position, conducted pop-up practice. It’s an ever-entertaining sight. Hayes feeds balls into a pitching machine aimed
skyward; Buster Posey and his counterparts track the towering pop-ups. What’s remarkable is how rarely these guys drop or misjudge a ball.

The task was mildly simplified by the clouds, eliminating the “high sky” that can blind players at any position to
pop-ups; the still air, which straightened each fly’s path; and the decision to stage the drill in the outfield on one
of the auxiliary diamonds, rather than at Scottsdale Stadium. There, Hayes explained, players might risk tripping down
the dugout stairs. Exposing any player to this danger, particularly Posey, would have been unwise.

The best part of this drill is the grand finale, when Hayes produces a second pop-up while a player is in the middle of settling under the first. Again, you’d marvel at how often the catchers make both grabs.

Chris Haft

Defense helps Lincecum; Wilson lauds Mariano; Rowand hurt

ST. LOUIS – For the first 4 2/3 innings Monday night, while it seemed as if Tim Lincecum might pitch a no-hitter, a handful of close calls and sparkling plays stood out.

Albert Pujols ended the fourth inning by scorching a line drive directly at third baseman Pablo Sandoval. Had it traveled a few feet in any other direction, it would have been a double.

Second baseman Juan Uribe preserved Lincecum’s perfect game in the fifth inning by darting up the middle to snare Chris Duncan’s smash on one hop and make an off-balance but strong throw to first base for the out.

Then Rick Ankiel swung at Lincecum’s very next pitch and broke his bat but managed to bloop the ball into right-center field for a single.

Still, I remain convinced that Lincecum or Matt Cain will throw a no-hitter someday.

Even Bruce Bochy admitted that thoughts of Lincecum pitching a no-hitter crossed his mind, though that’s not the kind of thing a manager often admits.

“To be honest, yeah,” Bochy said. “That’s a good-hitting ballclub over there. But with Timmy, sure.”

But Bochy added, with Ankiel’s hit squarely in mind, “It takes a lot of luck to throw a no-hitter.”

*****

Giants closer Brian Wilson, who has listened ad nauseum to coaches and managers telling him that he must mix up his pitches more, seized upon Mariano Rivera’s milestone 500th save as an example of a pitcher who excels without variety.

“The guy’s gone after hitters with one pitch his whole career,” Wilson said, referring to Rivera’s cut fastball. “Pitching coaches always harp on getting a third pitch, a fourth pitch, and he has always been the case where I’d say, ‘Well, Mariano’s got one pitch, so” — and then dot, dot, dot.

“It’s such a good pitch that it’s really four different types of pitches. He can throw it front door to a righty, back door to a lefty, he can throw it to the other side of the plate and he can throw it down. Maybe that’s all you need. His plate zone because of that pitch is expanded.”

*****

Center fielder Aaron Rowand left Monday’s game in the seventh inning after he was hit above the left knee by a pitch from St. Louis’ Clayton Mortensen, who was making his Major League debut. Rowand hopes to play Tuesday, though he sported an ugly bruise on his leg that’s likely to swell.

– Chris Haft 

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