In the Palm of his hands
Third baseman's health will affect the Tigers in several areasPosted: Monday March 04, 2002 3:19 PM
Throughout spring training, CNNSI.com will feature regular dispatches from Sports Illustrated staffers assigned to scout camps in the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues.
By Mark Bechtel, Sports Illustrated
Team: Detroit Tigers
Site: Kissimmee, Fla.
Weather: 75 and sunny
Player I Saw Whom I Really Liked: All right, he's not a player, but how can I not say Ernie Harwell? This season is his swan song, and the other day he spent all his time between innings autographing items fans passed to him in the radio booth. It was odd seeing just how excited they were to be chatting with an announcer. One guy, wearing a jacket emblazoned with the logo of a company in Dearborn, Mich., even shouted up that his mom named him Ernie in Harwell's honor. One of my most memorable hours since I've been with Sports Illustrated was last spring at a Tigers game when Harwell, who was not calling the middle three innings, came into the press box and took the seat next to mine. It was like having my own personal play-by-play from a Hall of Famer.
Around the Horn: Craig Wilson, a non-roster invitee, almost made the best play I've ever seen by a third baseman. For the life of me I don't remember who the hitter was (it's spring -- I'm still a bit rusty), but he hit a shot to Wilson's backhand side. Wilson dove and snared it, but as he tried to get up to make the throw, he couldn't quite regain his balance. He ended up launching the ball while almost completely horizontal to the ground (and about three feet off it), facing the third base dugout. He kind of flipped the ball back across his body toward first and missed getting the runner by about a step. It was nearly phenomenal. ... Dean Palmer, recovering from rotator cuff surgery, says his arm strength is at about 80 percent. Palmer hasn't made the throw from third to first yet, but expects to be able to do so by Opening Day. He says the injury doesn't affect his swing at all. Having Palmer healthy is important, because if he can play the hot corner, it will open the DH role for Mitch Meluskey. Palmer is also the only real home run threat the Tigers have. If he bats fifth, and if new acquisition Dmitri Young puts up his normal .300 average in the cleanup spot, opposing hurlers won't be able to pitch around Bobby Higginson in the three hole like they did last year. ... The Tigers unloaded some dead weight in the offseason. They waived Tony Clark (oft-injured), let go free agents Deivi Cruz (defense faltering) and Roger Cedeno (bad in clubhouse) and traded Juan Encarnacion (bad in clubhouse). All they got in return, though, was Young, so we'll see if there's anything to this notion of addition by subtraction.
Sports Illustrated staff writer Mark Bechtel will check in periodically with reports from his tour of spring camps.