On The Road

FRIDAY, MARCH 21, 2008
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Well, okay, besides Christmas. I am talking about March Madness! Our brackets are filled out and the games have begun! I missed way too many games in my bracket on the first day because I picked upsets, and just like last year, there really hasn’t been any! If you’re wondering who I picked to win it I guess I’ll go ahead and tell you……UNC. Yes, I said I picked upsets, but as for the National Champ I picked the team that everyone else picked. Anyways, it is a lot of fun to fill out brackets and watch game after game to see how each round unfolds. I love the unpredictability of each tournament and can’t wait to see the upsets, usually there are at least a few. We almost got a big one today with Duke…that would have killed Brooke’s bracket! She picks them to win or make it to the finals every year…she hasn’t won yet though!

My parents headed back to Florida on Tuesday. We had a good time while they were here but most importantly Brooke and I got a couple of nights to have some time out together, some good date nights. We tried to take my parents to Sedona, about 2 hours from here, but ran into some road blocks…. literally. The interstate that we need to take was shut down at one exit and backed up traffic for miles. Needless to say, we turned back and drove around Phoenix for sight-seeing. It wasn’t quite the same views as Sedona, but it was still fun.

As of now I have pitched in two games and my third outing is scheduled for Saturday. In my first two appearances I was definitely a little rusty but in between outings I have thrown a couple of times off the mound to work on my mechanics. Being a finesse/control pitcher I must have good mechanics consistently for me to be at top of my game. I continue to work on my landing which is moving in the right direction. We are coming to the end of Spring Training and my plan is to iron out my mechanics and get more innings so that when the camp breaks I am ready to compete.

I picked up my family from the airport last Thursday night after going a little over three weeks without seeing them. It had been too long. In fact, this might of been the longest I’ve gone without seeing them in many years. So you can imagine the excitement of watching them walk up to me in the airport. It really makes a difference having them with me.

Tonight I will go back to the airport to pick up my parents who are coming in for a week. My mom has always wanted to visit Arizona and no better time than Spring Training. We plan on going up to Sedona one day while they are here. I’ve never been there and have heard a lot about it.

And finally, I will pitch in a Spring Training game Thursday. They have really been cautious bringing me back since the day I felt tenderness in my shoulder. There hasn’t been any problems since that day and I have continued to work my way back. I pitched in a B game (it is a scrimmage game played in the morning) vs. the Rangers on Sunday, and everything went very well. I threw 27 pitches in 1 1/3 innings. Although I didn’t have my best control, it felt great to finally get into a game situation.

Today was supposed to be my first outing of the spring. But, due to some minor tenderness in my shoulder I did not pitch. Thankfully, it is just a precaution. The best thing for it was to rest and not push it to get in a game today. I will pitch on my next outing which will be on Thursday. This past Wednesday I threw a bullpen and everything was good. My mechanics were right where I want them to be and I was able to bump up the intensity. I think by doing that it caused my shoulder to be “tender” on Thursday. I really wanted to pitch today, but I have to be smart. I don’t want to over do it and risk causing problems in the long term of my career. I am very confident that after a couple of days of taking it easy I will be good to go.

It has been just over a week of full squad workouts and the rust and kinks are starting to come off. For the first several weeks of spring training the body fights soreness and tightness. It is never a fun process. No matter how much working out and conditioning I do in the off-season, the aches are always around early in the spring. A typical day for us starts around 9:30 in the morning when we stretch and do agility work. We then will break up into groups, loosen up our arms and be ready for drills. For a half hour or so we do some type of fundamental drill or training. I can’t stress the important of these enough. They can literally make or break a game. I have seen games won and lost by these fundamental drills that can seem tedious at times. For pitchers it is some sort of PFP (pitchers fielding practice). Then we spend some time doing a team fundamental – this includes bunt plays, run downs, relays, etc. Once those are done its time for batting practice. The first part of the BP is where pitchers that need to throw off the mound throw to hitters on the field. After all the pitchers that are throwing that day are done, the hitters have normal batting practice on the field. Of course there is shagging to do some days, a very un-glorifying job but part of the game! Conditioning and working out are done at the end of the day.

Personally, I am still working on my follow through. I video taped the last time I threw (Sunday) and I was able to see a difference. It will take some time to correct it completely. I think one of the most important parts of being an athlete is being open to criticism. I have to be able to identify weaknesses and let others help me identify them and make adjustments where they are required. As far as I know there hasn’t ever been a pitcher to have a perfect season so there is always room for improvement. I have thrown off the mound several times already including a number of BP’s. It’s hard to believe that games are getting ready to start. After doing day after day of drills, it will be refreshing to get the games going. I will throw in my first game on Saturday and I am looking forward to it.

It has been a busy week. This time last week, we had just agreed to a contract with the Royals. Then on Monday evening, I was on a plane headed to Surprise, AZ for the start of Spring Training. I had a lot to do in three days to get prepared to leave home for 7 months. We were able to squeeze in one more trip to Disney with the boys and I headed out to fish with my buddies, Tim and Mike. This is a whole new experience for me in Spring. It is the first Spring Training in Arizona for me. I had been very blessed over the past 8 years living at home in Orlando and commuting to Lakeland everyday (about 50 minutes) where the Tigers train. Brooke and the boys will be joining me soon but right now I have the chance to spend some extra time at the park getting to know people and working things out on the mound.

On Tuesday, I threw my first side and it didn’t take long for me and Mac (pitching coach Bob McClure) to get acquainted. He stopped me after three pitches and addressed the way I was following through. I was landing on my heel which was causing me to have a stiff front leg. What is wrong with this? Most importantly it is an easy way for me to hurt my arm because of the extra stress it applies to both the shoulder and elbow. Also, it prevents me from getting the extension needed to get to a good release point which allows me to finish my pitches. I immediately felt the difference once I made the adjustment. I could see a difference in the plane of my pitches- before the adjustment my pitches were flat and after they had some depth to them. It was very encouraging to see the difference and I will to continue to work on this everyday whether I am just playing catch or throwing off the mound.

Thursday was the first day of pitchers and catchers workouts. It was time to get working on PFPs (pitchers fielding practice). They are not the best part of being a pitcher, but are very important to do. I take pride in doing them the right way. It could be the difference in winning a game or losing. I also threw another side, and focused on my follow through. I was pleased with the results but I know that I am still off from being ready for games. But, you get closer with every workout.

Even after only being in camp a few days I can see there are a lot of good things happening here and I’m excited to see where it will take us.

If you have any questions about Spring Training, let me know! Cya…

It was a long off-season for me and my family. I was released from the Cards in October and we started into free agency for the first time. We were excited about the possibilities and looked forward to a new beginning. We never expected it to take until the final week before the report date to sign though. During the weeks and months of waiting Brooke and I spent a lot of time praying for patience, direction, and total trust in God through all the uncertainty. Our prayer was that we would continue to be obedient to where God would lead us and not try to take control of the situation out of fear or anxiety. We tried very hard to consistently keep our focus on Him and the plan He had for us.

During this time, God revealed a few things in His word to me. The first was in John 11 when Lazarus was sick, and Mary and Martha begged Jesus to visit him. Lazarus was one of Jesus’ best friends. It took 2 more days before Jesus went to see Lazarus, and by that time Jesus saw him he was dead for 4 days. Jesus questioned Martha’s faith in Him and after she demonstrated her faith, Jesus raised Lazarus from the grave. I learned that no matter how bad I might need God to answer me and rescue me from my circumstances, it is in His timing. And during the silent period when God doesn’t respond, he wants me to show Him my faith in action.

The second was in Matthew 12. Jesus had gone out to pray alone and sent the disciples on their boat. From a distance, Jesus saw a storm on the water and that his disciples were right int he middle of it. Jesus walked out onto the water and called to them. Peter got out of the boat and walked on water towards Jesus. But, once he took his eyes off Jesus’ face, he started to sink. He cried out to Christ and Jesus saved him and returned him to the boat. This was so encouraging to me because it strengthened me to keep my eyes on Christ during the storms of my life. When I take my eyes off of Him I am swallowed by my circumstances and I will start to sink. But, when I choose to focus on faith He is able to use me for His purpose and glory. The promise of the storm is that God will bring a calm from it. One of my hobbies is the weather. And one of my favorite times to watch the weather is after a tropical storm or a hurricane. There is a calm and a peace that reassures us that the storm has passed and we are safe. It is the same with the storms in life.

God has revealed a little piece of the next step in our lives by leading to an opportunity with the Kansas City Royals. Even though the waiting is over and I am a Royal, life will continue to bring us many uncertainties. He has revealed little pieces off His plan to us, and our part is to continue trying to focus on Him and trust in Him. Thank you for all who have been praying for me and my family. I am very excited to see what God will do next and where he will take us through baseball. I love this game and I am looking forward to a new season!

Check back in to see what we are up to in camp, I will be trying to keep you updated on what we are doing!