Camp lightens up with unique drill
Tribe finds interesting way to work on situational hitting
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Grady Sizemore stepped into the batter's box, and teammate Mark DeRosa gave him the situation."Bases loaded," DeRosa said, "bottom of the ninth, two out, two strikes, down one."
In came a batting practice fastball, which Sizemore lofted into left field. If a fielder was out there, he probably would have caught it."Pay your clubhouse dues!" DeRosa yelled. "Game over! Indians lose!" This was the scene -- both comical and practical -- that unfolded on Field No. 1 of the Indians' Player Development Complex on Monday morning. The position players ended their workout with a situational hitting drill in which teammates were pitted against teammates and the goal was to think as much as it was to act. Simulating situational hitting is no easy task, but hitting coach Derek Shelton tried this new game out. He divided the position players into two teams -- one headed up by Sizemore, the other by DeRosa. When a hitter came into the cage, members of the opposing team shouted out a situation that the hitter must adhere to. If the hitter responded appropriately -- say, grounding out to second with runners on second and third and none out -- his team received a point. If not -- say, grounding to second with the bases loaded, the infield in and none out -- his team lost a point. The losing team had to pick up all the balls sprayed around the field at the end of the drill. "Situational hitting is a huge part of the game," said DeRosa, whose team, for the record, went on to win. "You've got to be unselfish and do your job to put your team in the best position to score." So, yes, this drill had a practical application. But it was a lot of fun, too. Players used the drill as a way to break up some of the monotony of these morning workouts by teasing their teammates. For example, when Jamey Carroll, the possessor of 10 career home runs in 1,856 Major League at-bats, stepped up, Kelly Shoppach tried to give him a rather difficult assignment. "Bases loaded, down three, nobody on deck," Shoppach said. "You've got to go deep!" Shin-Soo Choo, who has been crushing the ball in these early days of camp, was given the opposite direction. He was challenged to do anything but hit a homer, and he responded with a towering shot off the center-field wall -- about a foot and a half short of going out. That drew a roar of laughter from his teammates. "He took a little off that one," pitching coach Carl Willis joked. There was, of course, a serious side to the drill. Choo choked up on the bat and lifted a soft base hit over what would have been a drawn-in infield in one situation, and Ryan Garko put down a perfect bunt when told he had a runner on second with none out in another. But even the perfectly executed plays led to some jokes, such as when Josh Barfield ripped a grounder up the middle on a hit and run. Shelton used it as an opportunity to make fun of the slow-footed Victor Martinez. "That works," Shelton said, "because Vic wasn't running."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.