I read an old quote from left-hander Dontrelle Willis on last night's Hot Stove show on WHFS (105.7 FM) and MASN that first appeared in Baseball America regarding his former pitching coach, Rick Kranitz, and I'll pass it along here:
"I think we were the most prepared team in all of baseball. If I didn't make this pitch and they hit a home run, I understood why. I wasn't in the dark about anything. We knew exactly what we needed to do and when we did it, it was absolutely because we were prepared. There were no surprises."
My early take on Kranitz: His pleasant demeanor and enthusiasm will make him a more popular figure with the pitchers and coaches than his predecessor. And I don't mean that remark as a slam at Leo Mazzone. But Mazzone's gruff exterior didn't play well with certain people.
I gradually developed a solid relationship with Mazzone the longer we were around each other and I gained his trust. I looked forward to our pre-game chats outside the clubhouse or on the bench. He had a wild sense of humor and an endless supply of jokes -- most of which can't be repeated here. And nobody laughed harder at them than Mazzone. It was infectious. But I don't pitch for him, and I know that some guys never got comfortable with him.
Maybe they'll be more receptive to Kranitz, who is big on scouting the opposition and knowing which hitters present the more favorable matchups. I don't believe he'll obsess over mechanics beyond correcting the little glitches that crop up. He won't try to overhaul a guy in mid-season if he believes it will be counterproductive.
Kranitz likes the current rotation, saying it's better than the 2006 Marlins, but he also noted how the bullpen needs work. I know the Orioles haven't expressed any interest in Armando Benitez at this point, and I wouldn't look for any reunions involving Jose Mesa, either.
I'm told Benitez is throwing in the mid-90s in the Dominican and is healthy for the first time in quite a while. Somebody will give him a look in spring training.
He'd gladly return to Baltimore, but I wonder how fans would receive him – at least the ones with memories that stretch back to the 1997 playoffs.
Two hanging sliders. I can still see them. And that's a shame, because Benitez had his moments here, especially as a dominant set-up man for Randy Myers. And like Daniel Cabrera, he was forced to grow up in the majors, which isn't easy. But that chapter appears to have closed.
Check out some of the former Orioles, or their farmhands, who have signed minor league deals:
Tim Raines Jr. (Arizona)
Chris Fussell, Brian Folkenborg, Terry Tiffee (Dodgers)
Rob Bell, Luis Jimenez, Jason Dubois (Nationals)
Jim Brower (Reds)
Francis Beltran (Tigers)
Raul Casanova, Gustavo Molina (Mets)
Vic Darensbourg, Mike Cervenak, Andy Tracy (Phillies)
Bernie Castro (Yankees)
John Wasdin (Cardinals)
Eli Whiteside, Jon Knott (Twins)
While checking various lists, I found that pitcher Chris Farley signed with the Athletics.
Rather than stay at the team hotel in spring training, he'll live in a van down by the river.
And finally, I'm taking the Redskins and Jaguars today. What about you?