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MLB Report: March 20, 2008

<p>Jose Canseco's second book will be out in fewer than two weeks and, this time, there will be mentions of steroid use by at least one former member of the Toronto Blue Jays, and maybe more.</p>




Jose Canseco's second book will be out in fewer than two weeks and, this time, there will be mentions of steroid use by at least one former member of the Toronto Blue Jays, and maybe more.





That's the word down here in Florida, where baseball types are bracing themselves at spring training for what Canseco will reveal.





Canseco never discussed his time in Toronto in his first book, Juiced, which rocked baseball by divulging names of players he identified as steroid users. The book was scoffed at initially, with baseball types dismissing it as sour grapes.





Eventually, however, Canseco's allegations turned out to have merit, which explains the title of his soon-to-be-released book, Vindicated.





For a long while, Canseco couldn't find a publisher for Vindicated. Not long ago, however, he struck a deal with a widely respected publisher, Simon and Schuster. The book tour will start with an appearance on Howard Stern's show at the end of March.






•The Tampa Bay Rays -- yes, they are no longer the Devil Rays -- are raving about the new left side of their infield.





You can read more on their future third baseman, Evan Longoria, in my Friday York Report, but let me tell you now about the Rays' new shortstop.





His name is Jason Bartlett. He was acquired in the off-season by the Rays in a six-player swap with the Minnesota Twins. Delmon Young was the key acquisition for the Twins.





Bartlett is raising eyebrows at spring training in Florida because of his defensive skills.





"He does things I haven't seen before," said Joe Maddon, the Rays' manager. "He puts his knee on the bag to block base stealers with incredible efficiency. Never seen anything like this guy. He's an incredible player."






•If Maddon is concerned about the big boys in the American League East, he certainly isn't demonstrating that at spring training.





The Rays went into Friday with a Grapefruit League-leading record of 14-4-1, and Maddon is convinced that his charges can keep it up in the regular season.





"Bring on Boston," Maddon told me. "Bring on the Yankees. Bring on Toronto, too. We can play with these ballclubs now. It's no longer a case of us on the rise. We're here now. We can be competitive."






•One of the reasons for the Rays' confidence this season is the departure of their former talented-but-troublemaking outfielder, Elijah Dukes, who was dispatched to the Washington Nationals.





The Nationals aren't taking chances with Dukes, by the way. In an effort to keep the temperamental player in line, the Nationals hired a counsellor they're calling a "special assistant for player concerns."





His name is James Williams, and he's serving as a 24-hour-a-day chaperone for Dukes. And, yes, that means he sleeps every night in the same room as Dukes, and will be doing the same all season.






•Here's another crazy story:





Recently, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Scott Mathieson was travelling when he noticed Pee Wee Herman in the seat next to him.





Yep, that Pee Wee Herman. The two began chatting, and they wound up becoming friends.





At the Phils' spring-training site in Clearwater, Fla., Mathieson has been leaving tickets for games for Herman.





"I grew up watching the man on television," Mathieson said. "I'm honoured that he's now my friend."






•Get this: Los Angeles Angels outfielder Vladimir Guerrero took only 139 pitches for a strike and swung at 616 pitches outside the strike zone last season.





The guy's swing-happy. When he was a minor-leaguer in the Montreal Expos' organization, Guerrero once swung at a ball that bounced to the plate -- and he drove it over the centre-field fence for a home run.






Frank Catalanotto and Michael Young not only bat back-to-back in the Texas Rangers' lineup. The two ex-Jays also are back-to-back on the top-10 list of active major-leaguers with at least 1,000 games played and no trips to the postseason.





Catalanotto ranks eighth with 1,075. Young is ninth.






•And check out the York Report and my MLB Report next week as I continue to cover spring training.





I'm celebrating my 20th anniversary of covering spring training in Florida.




marty.york@metronews.ca

 
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