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Back in the swing of things02/22/2008 3:49 PM ET
By Kevin Millar
Kevin Millar, one of the most affable players in the league, returns for his third tour of duty with the Orioles and his third season running a regular Spring Training diary for MLB.com. Millar took a year off in between diaries and returns with a vengeance, as he takes on the Mitchell Report, the concept of a rebuilding team and everything in between.
I've got to say I missed doing the diary last year, and I'd like to get on the record that MLB.com big leagued me. I think they wanted to do the Esteban Yan diary or something. But now I'm back and we're giving it a second chance.
The first few days of camp are always really tough to hang out with everybody. There's a lot of new faces and a lot of guys on different schedules. Spring Training in general is pretty weird, because the pitchers are on a different schedule and a different field. They're out there a little earlier than we are, and we're usually going through drills and fundamentals.
You spend the first few days putting names to faces, because you want to include everybody. I remember when I was a young kid in camp. They're nervous and I think they're always watching the older guys for cues. Once the games start, it will get a little easier. Once you're in that foxhole, trying to win that game that day, it's pretty easy to bond with everyone.
As much as we hated losing two phenomenal players like Miguel Tejada and Erik Bedard, we had to do something. This organization hasn't won and has been in fourth place in the American League East with Bedard and Tejada, and they were our aces in the hole who could bring us back 10 players in return. There could be a Scott Kazmir, a Francisco Liriano or a Joe Nathan in that mix.
There's going to be someone who turns out to be a steal. Everybody's talking about rebuilding and how I feel about it as an older guy. In my opinion, we've gotten better, and that's the truth. Look around here, look at all the huge kids walking through this clubhouse. They may not have the experience yet, but this isn't a long-term rebuilding process.
Aubrey Huff. Melvin Mora. Brian Roberts. Kevin Millar. Jay Payton and Ramon Hernandez. Nick Markakis and Adam Loewen are going into their third year. Jeremy Guthrie's going into his second. There are guys in here with big league time, and part of my job is to get everybody on the same page. We're here to compete.
We can't beat everyone on every given day, but we have a chance to win the game that day every day. We don't have any 40-homer boppers, so we'll have to do the little things. We'll have to run the bases well and we'll have to get guys over. We have to throw strikes, but I look around here and I see a pretty darned good club.
As much as we'd love to see Bedard on the mound on Opening Day, we understand that now there's a couple more guys in the bullpen that can help us.
Personally, I'm focused on trying to have better at-bats in Spring Training. I know the numbers don't really count and that we're talking about practice here. But I struggled immensely in spring last year and I don't want to do that again. I want to focus immediately. I've conditioned a lot more, I've worked out and I want to prove the doubters wrong again.
And that's really the story every year. Here we are again, but there's a much better feeling in this clubhouse. We've got a fresh manager, a fresh team and a fresh attitude -- but no more Chris "Fresh Hands" Gomez. Go-Go signed in Pittsburgh.
I mean, let's talk about Dave Trembley for a minute. You love to see what this guy's doing. You're excited for him. Last year, he was our bullpen coach. How do you not respect this guy? He brings tears to his eyes in every meeting. That's got to make you feel good as a player, because his job is even tougher than ours. Everyone wants to do well for Trembley.
Last year, I didn't run out of gas physically. I ran out of gas mentally. We got beat up a lot towards the end of last season and the time of possession was two-to-one. There was pitching change after pitching change, and sometimes you lose your focus. That was the battle I wanted to eliminate this year, and that starts right now. I don't mean to channel Allen Iverson, but practice is practice. The numbers don't mean anything, but mentally and approach-wise, this is where it starts.
The game is kind of weird now, what with the Mitchell Report and the hearings up on Capitol Hill the same week that pitchers and catchers reported. I think [Yankees shortstop] Derek Jeter made a good point when he said it was bad timing. Everybody was focused on going to Spring Training, but you had that going on in the background.
Still, the game's getting cleaned up. I think the testing policy is working and I think everyone's in favor of that. I think we are seeing results, and I wish we could all move forward. Let's not worry about 1998 or 1999 or 2002 or 2004. Let's move forward. The Mitchell Report did its job, but now it's 2008 and it's time for another great season.
Having said that, I've got one question about the Jay Gibbons situation. He can't say much, so I think it's our job as teammates to say it for him. Why is he one of the only guys suspended? There are plenty of guys that admitted their mistakes -- and you have to respect them all for admitting it and for what they've gone through -- but I don't understand why our teammate gets a two-week suspension when there are plenty of players who haven't been disciplined.
A bunch of us were talking, and we don't know why they're making an example of him. He's one of 80-something players that got mentioned in the Mitchell Report, and he's one of a handful that have to serve a 15-day suspension. We don't have an answer for that, and we don't know if there is one.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.