Baseball in November

A couple days ago one of our catchers, Matt McBride, walked into the clubhouse with a Starbucks coffee.  This isn’t that unusual considering we have early games most of the time, but what made it unique this time was that the cup Matt had in his hand was the “Starbucks Christmas cup.”  My only thought was, how is there Christmas stuff already going up and we are still playing baseball?  After a season that started for most of us in late February, it has definately been a long year.  A lot of games have been played, plenty of movies have been watched on the bus trips or plane flights, and way too much BP has been shagged,  But, each day out here you experience something different here in Arizona.  It may have something to do with the wonderful weather or ballparks we are playing in,  but I really think it is watching so many good players that are in this league.  Its been really fun to see some of the guys you have heard or read about compete on a daily basis, and after playing with them for a while, I’m pretty convinced that Chris Heisey and Matt McBride are the two greatest hitters I’ve ever seen.  Both of those guys have been on fire since they’ve gotten here.   Also what makes playing out here different is that we are playing with different organizations and guys that you have never played with before.  You get a chance to talk to guys about what other organizations are like or how they throw a certain pitch or how to pitch to a guy they may have faced during the season.  We have a pretty entertaining group of pitchers down in the bullpen that helps the game go by much faster.  We talk about pitching and study hitters for the most part, but that’s tough to do for three hours straight every game. So Lee Hyde might bust out his Harry Carry impression, or Mike DeMark may break off into some random story, or Conor Graham will go off talking about thenew Call of Duty video game.  Speaking of that, I have never seen more players show up tired to a clubhouse than what I saw today.  Call of Duty came out at 12:01 last night and I’m pretty sure I was the only guy on the team who didn’t wait in line for it. Everyone spent the day talking about the levels and exchanging names so they can play online.  I have never been a big video game guy, but I may have to get it to see what all the hype is about. 

 Less  than 10 days of baseball left here.  It’s been a great experience both on and off the field.  I’ve made some great new friends and have definitely become a better pitcher over the past  6 weeks in this league.  Thanks to all of you who read my blog and followed our team here in AZ.  I’ m looking forward to going home for a few months before I pack it up again and head to Spring Training in Orlando!

Playing Some Good Ball

After a very sluggish start over the first couple of weeks, our team has really started to play some good ball.  We won 6 in a row last week and 7 of our last 8.  A lot of the victories have been close games and I think two of them were walk-off base hits.  Earlier in the season, when our offense would put up plenty of runs, our pitching would let it slip. Then, when our pitching was on that day,  our offense would struggle.  Now everything is starting to click.  Our offense has continued to put up runs and come up with that big hit late in the game and our pitching staff was lights out last week.  We had thrown 3 shutouts in 4 games which is pretty impressive considering this is a hitter dominated league.  

   It could have had something to do with the weather.  It was relatively cold here last week with the temperature dropping into the high 50’s.  For some reason its always easier to pitch when its colder out.  It was back up into the high 80’s today, so we will see if the bats heat back up along with the weather.
  Mike Minor  threw only one inning in his last start in order to get the rotation set for the Rising Stars All-Star game.  He also pitched 3 innings today and has really looked good since arriving here.  Craig Kimbrel will also be joining him in the All-Star game on Saturday.  He continues to impress everyone in AZ and there really arent many pitchers in baseball who have stuff like his.  Lee Hyde has probably been the most impressive of anyone so far – touching 94 mph from the left side and dominating.  In the first few weeks of the AZFL, Freddie Freeman hit more balls hard right at defenders than I had seen in a while.  Over the last week and a half, those hard hit balls have been finding the gaps for hits and he also hit an impressive opposite field homerun.Jason Heyward is back home in Atlanta nursing a strained muscle.  It’s a minor injury and he just needs to rest it and get ready for next year.  
  I made my second start on Saturday to fill in for the Indian’s Zack Putnam who was battling a sore elbow. But, Zach will be fine and will probably start on Friday.  I came out of the bullpen in addition to starting some games this past year for Mississippi and Gwinnett,  so Im accustomed to filling both roles.  I really don’t have a preference between being a starter or reliever, but I think that coming out of the bullpen has helped me as a starter.  It taught me to be more aggressive and go right after hitters.  I threw the ball well and have been feeling great on the mound over the last few outings. 
   There was a pretty cool situation that happened in the last game while I was pitching.  Jason Castro and I grew up playing NorCal summer ball together.  He caught me on saturday for the first time since our junior year in high school, at the same time Giants infielder Brandon Crawford  was batting and he was also on our team for several years.  This is the first time that I had seen either of them play since high school so it was pretty fun to face Brandon while Jason caught.  I had faced Brandon earlier in the Fall League and had gotten him out but he hit a curveball back up the middle this time.  I guess he will have bragging rights until next time.  Another former high school teammate of ours is out here too and thats Toronto’s David Cooper.  Its been great seeing these guys and catching up.
PS… Kimbrel won the best halloween costume contest with a pretty convincing oompa-loompa.

Playing Closer to Home

 Playing games in Arizona have been great so far.  The weather is perfect, it’s always sunny, plus it’s not too hot this time of year. Best of all, there’s NO HUMIDITY!  Being from Northern California, that was one of the biggest adjustments I had to make in playing in the Southeast.  It’s nice to go outside and not be dripping sweat after 10 minutes of shagging BP.  Another advantage of playing closer to home is that it makes it easier for family and friends to come visit and see us play.  My Dad was able to come out a couple weeks ago and my Mom is out here now.  Since we play mostly day games, it gives us the rest of the day to spend with family and we are able to go out to a good dinner and catch up.  

 We have most of the evenings and every Sunday off, so we have a lot more time to go see movies and play golf.  I played a round today and was brutal.  As I had mentioned before, Lee Hyde had been borrowing my clubs for the last few weeks and was blaming my clubs for his bad rounds.  I didnt believe him, but after the way I played today he may be right.  Last week I saw Law Abiding Citizen with Jamie Foxx and it was awesome.  One of the better movies I have seen in a while.  One of my favorite books growing up was Where the Wild Things Are, so of course we had to go see that one too.
   As for baseball, things are going much better for our team.  After a slow start, we have won a couple of games this week and are starting to come up with some big hits and more consistent pitching.  Some of the line drives that Freddie Freeman was hitting right at people are starting to fall for hits.  Brandon Hicks continues to swing the bat well and is really having success out here.  Mike Minor has been throwing the ball great and pitched 3 solid innings in his last start.  Lee Hyde continues to look awesome.  Our pitching coach Jim Czajkowski and I made a few mechanical adjustments this week and it has really helped with my command and I’m starting to feel more comfortable on the mound.  
 Feel free to keep sending me your questions and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Greetings from AZ

Hi, my name is Jeff Lyman and I am a minor leaguer in the Atlanta Braves system.  I’m out here in Peoria Arizona playing for the Peoria Saguaros in the AZ fall league.  Games started this past week and we are currently 0-5, but we’ve played some good games and are starting to shake off some of the rust after taking a month off.
   All the players came into town about two weeks ago for a couple days of workouts to try and get prepared for the league and set up housing for the two months that we will be here.  I’m living in Phoenix with another player from the A’s, Sam Demel.   Since we play mostly day games, we have had a lot of opportunities to go out to dinner and there are plenty of cool places to eat.  Two of my teammates, Lee Hyde and Craig Kimbrel, went to In-N-Out Burger the other day for the first time and they both liked it, but all the CA guys (mostly me) may have hyped it up a bit too much.  I guess they are going to stick to Chick-fil-A.  
    We have a very talented team, but most of all it is a bunch of cool guys who get along really well.  That always makes going to the ball park more enjoyable. Jason Heyward is continuing to rake out here for the first week.  Brandon Hicks was really swinging the bat well at the end of the season in Mississippi and has carried it over to the AZFL.  Freddie Freeman has also swung the bat great, but has lined out hard several times.   This is definitely a hitter’s league and the pitchers are trying to make some adjustments early this fall season.  Mike Minor started the first game and looked good.  The starters are only going 2 or 3 innings at this point to build their arm strength back.  It’s tough to take a month off and then jump right back in.  We had thrown bullpens and live BP’s in Florida, but it’s difficult to simulate the adrenaline of a game.  I had to spot start our second game of the season last week because Zack Putnam had a stiff neck and couldn’t throw.  I threw fine and gave up one run in two innings.  I also threw last night and really struggled.  I just had no command of anything and was missing up in the zone, not a good combination.  But that’s why we are out here – to work on things and make adjustments.  Lee Hyde has looked lights out and is really gaining some confidence back in his arm after some setbacks from Tommy John surgery. Craig Kimbrel is still throwing a million miles per hour and is looking really good.
    For all the luck on the field that the Braves players have been having, it has been equally unlucky off the field.  Kimbrel, Minor and Hyde have had some minor housing issues and had to stay in a hotel for a couple extra nights.  Fortunately, they finally got it all figured out yesterday.  On top of that, Kimbrel got his car side swiped at an intersection while they were out looking for places to stay.  Everyone is fine, but now they are driving around in a rental.  If that’s not enough, Freddie was rear-ended yesterday at a stoplight (he is fine), but has to now go get his car fixed.  The drivers out here are crazy!
    All the guys have been playing a lot of golf and there are some awesome courses in the area.  Lee Hyde has been using my clubs and blames me for why he isn’t scoring like he usually does, but I don’t think the clubs are the problem.   
    Overall, things have been going great for everyone and we are all looking forward to the next month of baseball in Arizona.   I will try and do these about once a week so if anyone has any questions I will do my best to answer them