April 25th, 2012
Seems like a good time to write about double plays.
There are few things in baseball more fun than being part of a great double play. Manny and I had one the other day in New York that’s gotten a lot of attention. Manny did the hard part – going far to his right and flipping the ball perfectly straight from his glove back to me at the bag. I caught it barehanded and threw to first.
I know those kinds of plays look completely improvised, and they are to a certain extent. No two situations are exactly the same. But we practice it. Not often. But every now and then during BP, when there’s a ground ball up the middle, we’ll do a glove-flip kind of play just so we know we have it.
Manny and I are good friends off the field, so we have a lot of fun out there. He’s been kind of a mentor to me since I met him in Arizona right after I was drafted. I was in the instructional league and he was getting ready for the fall league. Then when I went to my first spring training the following year, he was there and told me what I should do, what the coaches are looking for, that sort of thing.
The first time we were actually on the same team was last year. We were both assigned to Triple A Fresno coming out of spring training. But then I got hurt and missed five to six weeks and went to Single A San Jose to do my rehab. Then I was called up to San Francisco, and we were in the big leagues together but of course not playing much.
Then we were sent to Fresno and spent the month of August playing together almost every day. The double plays became almost like dance steps. We know what the other’s going to do and where he’s going to be. Manny told reporters after the game in New York that he didn’t think twice about flipping the ball because he knew I’d be there.
We know each other well enough, too, to say what need’s saying. “Hey, forget about the at-bat,’’ he or I might say. “Let’s go play defense.’’
It’s also been great getting to know Ryan Theriot, who’s a really funny guy. We got to know each other in spring training and worked on our communication and timing. There was a play early in the season in Arizona with a ball hit over second base. Ryan started for it and was almost to the ball when I called him off. He immediately hit the dirt so the ball bounced over him. I fielded it cleanly behind second base and got the runner at first. I knew it was an easier play for me going toward first. And as soon as I called it, Ryan didn’t hesitate to get out of the way and let it go. But that doesn’t happen if you have worked on plays like that and come to trust each other.
Heading to the ballpark now. Feel free to leave questions and I’ll try to answer them next time.
See you Friday in San Francisco.