Getting the feel back right on time
I’m getting there. I’ve broken some scar tissue in the area where I had my sports hernia surgery this winter. It happened when I was sliding on a double in our second Spring Training game. I was concerned at first, but Dr. Lewis Yocum told me it was the normal process. He also told me to be ready, because another time it’s going to pop, a loud one, and I’m going to feel it. But that’s part of the process of breaking that scar tissue.
I’ve been running first to third, no problem. You learn yourself in the spring, what you can do. Veterans like Hideki Matsui, Bobby Abreu, myself, we know how to bring our bodies along. In my 18 years in the game, this is the slowest it’s gone for me this spring, coming back from the surgery. Being a competitor, I want to be out there. But I’m playing a games, taking one off. Pretty soon, with the season coming, I’ll be playing four, five games in a row.
Friday in Maryvale against the Brewers and Sunday at home against the Mariners I had some great at-bats, and that was encouraging. I was getting back to 3-2 counts and coming through with two-strike hits. That’s when I know I’m seeing the ball well, getting my timing down, when I start working counts and get to 3-2.
It’s not about hitting home runs and all that stuff in the spring, especially for veteran guys. It’s more about timing. Bobby, Hideki, guys who have been around, they know what they’re doing. They’ll be ready. The last four or five spring games is when you want to see the ball, get some back spin, hit balls hard. It doesn’t matter if they’re caught as long as you hit them hard.
It’s better in Spring Training to hit a line-drive out than bloop one in for a hit. If I’m hitting .300 and don’t feel like myself, it doesn’t accomplish anything. If I’m hitting .250 but driving the ball and feeling comfortable, seeing the ball well, I’m good with that. Numbers and records don’t count in the spring. It’s all about how you feel, not what you do.
In April, of course, all that changes. You want every hit you can get, any way you get it. That’s when the real Angels will show up, ready to defend our AL West title.
It’s different when you’re a guy trying to make an impression, trying to make the ballclub. Then results count. It’s like Mike Ryan. He’s having a great spring, with the bat and in the field, but it doesn’t surprise me.
I’ve known him for a long time, going back to our days in Minnesota with the Twins. Mike’s been that guy his whole career who has come to Spring Training ready to go. He hits .300 in the spring with a couple home runs. He’s always pumped and ready to go.
Mike can play the infield or the outfield. He’s familiar with all those positions. He can flat-out hit. He’s always got a plan what to do up there, and he executes it. I don’t know how it’ll turn out, but if he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, he’ll keep working in the Minors and be ready if he gets the call. He’s that kind of guy.