Chris Dennis appeared in his first Spring Training game of the year on Tuesday, tossing two…
Minor League Journal with Chris Dennis (3/4)
It is now Wednesday night and I have had my first two workouts of the spring. I showed up in Surprise late Saturday and since then we have had two off-days in between the two workouts. There is no doubt that I will look back on this stretch at some point during a long span of games during the year and smile. Anyways, like I said, we have only had two workouts since I've been here and I already sustained my first little bump or bruise. I think I felt like the season truly wasn't here until my body was aching a bit, so I fixed that one. We'll get to that one later though.
Day one at Spring is always a fun day. Even though Spring Training does not officially start until the 8th, there are a ton of guys here early working out in the gorgeous Arizona weather. I started my day off by saying hey to everyone that was in the locker room and catching up with everyone. I would say that 90% of these exchanges start off with a handshake or even the dreaded man hug (fully clothed), followed by a race to see who can ask "How was the off-season?" I can honestly say that I did this with so many guys that I cannot really tell you about more than one or two of the fellas' offseasons without getting them mixed up, and I felt like I might need to take the day off from throwing from an hour of aggressive hand pumping.
During the whole meet and re-greet, I somehow stumbled onto my locker (there are over 200 in the clubhouse) and managed to get all of my new workout gear. Pitcher's Workout gear: shirt, shorts, socks, pants. The clubbies already have the jerseys hanging in your locker when you arrive. I was lucky enough to draw number 61 this year. I was 76 last year. I figure I might eventually creep down into some real baseball numbers after a couple more years, or I might just keep the number, pack on another 100 lbs, and try out for the Cowboys. Maybe I should try the Raiders, though, Al Davis might sign anyone, he's dangerous like that.
Sorry I got off topic, let's get back to ball. After getting dressed, I headed down to the fields around 10:30. (We have workouts at 11 this week, while they will be around 9 once camp officially starts.) On the way there, I ran into Tommy Hunter, and he was making fun of anyone and everyone in his path, which is usually a good sign that Tommy is alive. He's a great guy and and loves to joke around with everyone. If only he hadn't gone to Alabama. We started stretching at 11, and after that Danny Clark took all of the pitchers to the side and we had our daily meeting. DC (Clark's nickname) was my pitching coach last year in Clinton and is now our pitching coordinator. He's a great guy and a really good pitching coach so I'm glad he got the job. After this meeting we all long tossed and then broke up into two groups. Every day this week is going to be run in this same format. The pitchers will throw, followed by splitting off into two groups. One group is the day's bullpens, the other is PFP's (Pitcher Fielding Practice). I was in the bullpen group Monday. Bullpens in the Spring are a little different because there are so many pitchers. We have a set up of about eight mounds side by side and we fill them up to match up however many catchers are there. There are balls flying everywhere. It's a controlled circus.
I threw pretty well in my side, and then headed over to the conditioning field. (Cue forewarning scary music... Dun Dun Dun!) Last year when Nolan Ryan became team president, he and the rest of the coaches decided that we were going to start running more. It actually helped me last year, and I felt like I stayed in great shape throughout the year, but it does make the conditioning field one of my least favorite places in Surprise. So, we got to the conditioning field and the strength coaches got my Spring started off right by running us until my insides hurt. The guys took it well though, and no one ever complains about the running. (Might be because we can't breathe for most of it.) After the running, I headed back up to the clubhouse, got a leg workout in, and headed home with day one under my belt.
Day two was the same as day one except I was in the PFP group. We went through about 40 minutes worth of ground balls, covering first, making throws, and covering home. The last rep I had for the day, while everything was going smoothly, was where I sustained my aforementioned first bruise of the year. We were covering home and Kommie (Keith Comstock), our rehab pitching coach who was running the drill, was tossing everone nice easy throws to handle and make the play. Somewhere, either right before I went, or right as I went, this changed. There are times during these drills when they will throw us poor throws to get us used to it. Apparently this was one of those times. I threw my pretend wild pitch, raced toward home, and prepared for the throw. Kommie then wound up and spiked a 4-seamer off my right big toe. An instant pain shot through my foot. I think he felt bad though, because right after it happened, he said, "How's that toe feeling? Haha." It was ok though, I got to go run off the pain at the conditioning field after that (YES!!) and limp my way up to the clubhouse to get an upperbody workout in.
The good part about coming out early and about being a pitcher during spring training is that there is a great deal of downtime to be used however you like. I spent Monday afternoon relaxing by the pool with Karmen, my wife, and then we went in and ate dinner and watched the Bachelor finale. (Dont make fun, you watched it too.) Jason totally pulled a James Willis on that poor Mellisa. (For those not from Auburn, James Willis was the linebacker coach at Auburn, and he recently left to go coach at Alabama. Needless to say he isn't very popular. I think the city was trying to petition to Congress to get treason charges brought up against him. If not then they should.) The off day Tuesday was spent in Scottsdale looking at a bunch of stuff that we are too poor to buy, and today has been spent golfing, and I think I might ice my toe and see if I can clip back the nail to get some of the blood out from under it.
Thank you for reading and living the dream with me. Until next time,
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