The week before spring training games begin is fairly uneventful, but the beat writers do their best to keep things somewhat interesting. While very little is worth a full blown post, here's a look at some interesting anecdotes and quotes from camp:
Its not tough getting a read from the tea leaves on upcoming free agents Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena. Crawford, to no surprise sounds like a goner, as the two sides needed less than a day to declare that no more talks would occur until after the season so Crawford could concentrate on baseball. Crawford has earned his shot at free agency so there should be no hard feelings toward the player nor bitterness to the team for not spending way more than they should for a left-fielder. On the contrary, Pena has hinted at a willingness to find a balance between true market value and the joy of playing in what he calls "the best place on Earth to play baseball." He's far from being penciled in as a 2011 Ray, but the possibility remains. Per Marc Topkin:
"I understand markets. I understand what I could be worth, I'm not blind to that," Peña said. "But I think it would be silly for me to ignore what this team means to me. It would be just absolutely silly. I would be lying to myself and everyone else if I just said I don't care. It's not true. Even though I consider myself an intelligent person, very well-educated about the business of baseball, I think it's going to be a balance."
Maddon on Rafael Soriano
From the Dear God, What Have We Done Department courtesy of the Tampa Tribune regarding the $7 million closer Rafael Soriano:
"Just think of him as Troy Percival," Manager Joe Maddon said, referring to the Rays' former veteran closer. "He resembles Percy in his game planning and how he wants to get ready for the season. "He talks light bullpens ... conditioning ... probably five to seven appearances. And he feels good about that. He wants to save his bullets for the season."
Apparently, Jeremy Hellickson in a word is "easy." Per Topkin:
"He just spots it so well," said OF Matt Joyce, who played with Hellickson at Triple A for part of last season. "And it's so easy. It's effortless. And that's why he's one of the organization's best pitchers."
"Easy," said Dan Johnson, a big-league veteran. "I couldn't believe how easy he was. Good life on his fastball. His changeup was good. His location was good."
Hellickson is working on shortening the break on his curve and experimenting with a ...wait for it.... cutter
For those still questioning the Rays Scott Kazmir trade, perhaps Elliot Johnson could change your mind. After facing Alex Torres in batting practice, Topkin reports that the out-of-option utility-man gave the nod of approval directly to Andrew Friedman:
"'I' played with Sean (Rodriguez), And now seeing Torres, I told Andrew, "Good trade.""
Maddon on Tim Beckham (Topkin):
"Watch him take his ground balls. It's a different cat than I saw last year; totally different."
Sonny is in the best shape of his life and was the most dedicated local player in terms of off-season workouts. Sonny credits this new discipline to his new puppy.
Benoit threw to live hitters for the second time since his shoulder surgery that forced him to miss the 2009 season. B.J. Upton commented that he looked like the old Benoit with a firm fastball and good changeup, while Gabe Kapler added that his command lacked precision.
Sean Rodriguez's Best Attribute
Perhaps most indicative of the gray matter between Rodriguez's ears is the well-thought answer to being asked what is his major strength.
"Major strength, huh?" Rodriguez smiled. "Heart, the way I play the game. There's one way to play and one way only."