At the Very Least, ABQ Should Have Some Pitching Talent

Yesterday, I shared several pitching news and notes, both good (Monasterios) and bad (Kuo, McDonald). The constant flux in the pitching staff seems to be the news du jour right now, since not only did we see Chad Billingsley toss three scoreless innings yesterday while working on adding a changeup, we get to read about Eric Gagne’s struggles and we may have gained some insight into who’s really in competition for the last few spots on the staff. Ramona Shelburne tweets:

Torre said he’s very interested in how Josh Towers, Josh Lindblom and Jon Link throw today. All are candidates to make the team this year.

Towers was signed as a non-roster invite in December, Lindblom nearly made the team last year, and Link was part of the return for Juan Pierre from the White Sox. All three pitched well in yesterday’s finale in Tawain (Towers: 3 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, Lindblom: 3 IP, 3 K, 0 ER, Link: 1 IP, 2 H, 2K, 0 ER), though if you can’t do well against that level of competition you shouldn’t even be in camp.

With the uncertainty at the back of the staff, one should expect that the leaders of the competition will still change about 20 times in the next 3 weeks, but don’t sleep on Jon Link in this race. He’s the only one of the three on the 40-man roster (though of course this is hardly limited to just these three), so he’s got that in his favor, and even though he’s a newcomer to the organization who most people know nothing about, he’s not without his merits. Here’s the quick scouting report we linked to from SoxProspects.com when he was acquired:

Accolades

  • 2009 White Sox Best Slider (Baseball America)

Scouting report
Link has struck out a lot of batters in the minors because he has a very good slider, but his fastball and change are solid offerings as well. His fastball usually sits 93-94 m.p.h. and has some sink on it. His changeup has gotten better, helping him get lefties out, but he walked almost a batter an inning against lefties in 2009 for Charlotte. He has the stuff to pitch in the bigs, but he needs to make strides with his control. Link should contend for a spot in the 2010 bullpen if he proves he can throw more strikes.

Major League Outlook: Average middle reliever

As I noted at the time, he’s struck out 10.5/9 in each of his last two minor league seasons, so clearly the ‘stuff’ is there. It’s obviously early, but he’s yet to walk a batter in camp – and he’s just turned 26, so he’s not a young kid who needs protecting. If someone unexpected is going to sneak onto the roster, why not someone like Link rather than the 33-year-old Towers, who has 5.1 MLB innings in the last two years and hasn’t even been league-average since 2005?

Elsewhere: Garret Anderson’s going to make his Dodgers debut today, but only at DH, so the chances that he blows out a hamstring today probably drop to just 75% or so. Baseball Prospectus has a nice interview with farm director DeJon Watson, mostly focusing on Ivan DeJesus Jr. and Dee Gordon. UniWatch has a story full of pictures from the very first Dodger spring training in Vero Beach from 1948, including the one below. They also note that despite all of the hand-wringing over the club leaving Vero last year, they’d trained in more than their share of locales prior to 1948:

For the first half of the 20th Century, the Brooklyn Dodgers were a somewhat nomadic bunch when it came to their spring training home. In fact, prior to 1947, they trained in the following locations: Charlotte, N.C. (1901); Columbia, S.C. (1902-1906); Jacksonville (1907-1909); Hot Springs, Ark. (1910-1912); Augusta, Ga. (1913-1914); Daytona Beach (1915-1916); Hot Springs, Ark. (1917-1918); Jacksonville (1919-1920); New Orleans (1921); Jacksonville (1922); Clearwater (1923-1932); Miami (1933); Orlando (1934-1935); Clearwater (1936-1940); Havana (1941-1942); Bear Mountain, N.Y. (1943-1945); Daytona Beach (1946); and while they remained in Florida in 1947, they would also hold spring training in Havana (1947); and Ciudad Trujillo, Dominican Republic (1948), due to the racist atmosphere pervasive in the American South at the time, since 1947 would be the year Jack Roosevelt Robinson would break baseball’s color barrier.

Something Big Will Happen This Weekend

Everyone seems to be enjoying the Dodgers’ new spring home at Camelback Ranch, in particular Tony Jackson, who now lives within walking distance of the park, and the various fans writing in to Dodger Thoughts to provide details of their trips. And why not? It’s a brand new facility, it’s much closer to LA, the weather is better in Arizona, and the teams are much closer together than in Florida, leading to plenty of bus-ride hours saved. There’s no downside, right?

Well, except for two.

First, the remnants of Vero Beach. Think this isn’t a big deal? This actually made the front page of CNN.com today

But along with their history, the Dodgers took with them a fair amount of economic revenue that Indian River County and the city of Vero Beach sorely miss.

It’s an area synonymous with Dodgertown.

“We need everything we can to bring business back to our community,” Vero Beach City Manager Jim Gabbard said.

“With baseball, you have an identity,” he said. Not to mention the $35 million or so that the Dodgers brought in to the beachside retirement community, which is already taking a hit from the economic downturn.

Granted, the Dodgers aren’t in the business of supporting the economies of towns 3,000 miles away, and the move to Arizona was clearly a good business decision. Still, that doesn’t make what seems to be happening in Vero any less sad.

Second, and clearly far more important, me. I was lucky enough to make it to Vero three times in the last four years, usually catching one home game and then one road game in Jupiter or Port St. Lucie, which were right up the road. I’d actually managed to turn it into a nice family vacation to escape the winter for a weekend. With the Dodgers gone, there’s no longer any reason to go to Vero, but we all still want to go to Florida, so instead we’re going to Orlando. Sure, I’ll catch a Braves game, and I love baseball no matter who’s involved, but that’s not really the Dodgers is it? 

Anyway, all of this is a long way of saying, we’re taking a break until Monday. Play nice. And I wasn’t kidding when I said that something interesting would happen this weekend, because what’s happened the two other times I stepped away from the blog for a few days?

Well, last June, the Dodgers go no-hit – and won, plus “lost” Juan Pierre to injury. Then in July, I left to go on tour, and what did we have when I returned? A left fielder you may have heard of. So what’s going to happen this weekend? Pedro’s the easy guess, isn’t it? Maybe we’ll just sign Hideo Nomo to be the 5th starter. Hey: anything’s possible.

Edited to add… well, I couldn’t not post this picture.

mannycricketpic.jpg

Official Guide To Vero Beach 2008

So, while my partner in crime jumps out of his chair and yells either: “Holy shit, someone hacked the blog!,” or “He’s… ALLLIVVEE!!,” I’ve been getting a few e-mails lately for advice regarding Vero Beach. So, I thought of giving them tips on the places to see there and recall my stories of hanging out with Maury Wills, or the time Sandy Koufax was down there and gave me pitching advice, or perhaps the time I went out to dinner with Tommy Lasorda and he stuck me with the bill.

But then I woke up and realized that I am 2,700 miles away, have never been there and never will. But, instead, I came up with a handy alternative. I have asked SamAdams from the BBWC to create a guide for all of you going this final year. Sam has practically lived there and knows everything there is to know about Vero Beach and Dodger Town, so enjoy!

A Guide to Dodgers’ Final Spring Training in Vero Beach

 

If you are going to Vero Beach for the Dodgers’ final spring fling, here are some tips to help you navigate the area and catch some of the truncated spring schedule.

 

Getting There

Vero Beach is primarily served by the Orlando airport (MCO). Non-stop flights are available on major carriers such as American, Delta, and United. The airport is also served by Continental, Southwest, and most major airlines. MCO is a 100-mile drive to Vero. Go east on the Beachline Expressway (toll of $1.25) for about 30 miles, then I-95 south about 60 miles to exit 147.

 

West Palm Beach (PBI) is closer. It’s about 75 miles south on I-95, but does not have as many flight options from the west coast. Melbourne airport (MLB…how appropriate) is only 35 miles from Vero, but is served primarily by Delta and has no direct flights from the west, but if you don’t mind changing planes in Atlanta, it’s a nice 45 minute drive along the coast down US-1 to Dodgertown.

 

Geography

Vero Beach is divided into two sections, the mainland and the island, or the beach as the island residents like to call it. Dodgertown is located centrally on the mainland. The eastern boundary of Vero Beach proper is the Indian River Lagoon/Atlantic Ocean and the western boundary is the I-95 area.

 

Navigating around the area is very simple, once you understand the Manhattan style grid arrangement. State highway 60 is the primary east-west corridor and is named 20th Street . All east-west routes are called “streets” and north-south routes “avenues”. The street numbers decrease to the south and increase to the north. Thus, 26th St. is north of 20th St. , and 16th St. is south of 20th St . In the same manner, Avenues, the north-south routes increase from east to west. 1st Ave. is at the water’s edge and 100th Ave. is near I-95. In addition to I-95 on the western edge of town, US-1 is a major north-south artery on the east side of the mainland.

 

The island, while part of Vero Beach , is its own little world. It is a narrow (less than one mile wide) barrier island that runs along much of the Atlantic Coast of Florida. It is bisected by highway A1A. This is an area of upscale homes, shopping, and restaurants, and its main streets in Vero are Ocean Drive and Cardinal Dr . There are two bridges that take you to the island. The Barber Bridge is an extension of Highway 60 (just follow the signs) and the other is an extension of 17th St .

 

To get to Dodgertown from 20th St. (Highway 60), from the west (I-95) take 43rd Ave. north and turn left (east) on 26th St . From the east, take 27th Ave north and turn left on 26th St. / Aviation Blvd.

 

Things to Do

Get to Dodgertown EARLY. Enter through the Holman Stadium main entrance. Immediately, glance to your right and you will see the major league clubhouse plaza and the large Dodgers logo on the front of the building. The second floor of this building is the administrative offices. Ned Colletti, Kim Ng, and other Dodgers executives and staff work out of these offices during spring training. Many of these offices offer a great view over the right field fence into Holman Stadium. Long home runs land on the balcony of the executive offices. The entire lower floor is devoted to the major league clubhouse, players’ fitness center, trainer’s room, and manager’s/coaches’ office.

 

Just outside the clubhouse building is Maury’s Pit, where Maury Wills can be seen teaching bunting, baserunning techniques, and sliding. Adjacent to that are the pitchers’ mounds where bullpen sessions can be observed throughout the morning. The major league batting cages are next to the pitchers’ area, although visibility is limited. You will clearly see the players entering and exiting the cages.

 

As you exit the plaza, walk to the right. Drop a few bucks at the gift shop on some cool Dodgertown souvenirs, then continue walking and cross the bridge on your left onto Vin Scully Way . To your left is Practice Field #2. To your right is a workout area and beyond that is Practice Field #1. Just beyond field 2 are more batting cages and next to field 1 is the famous “strings” area, where many famous Dodger pitchers learned command of the strike zone.

 

What makes Dodgertown unique is that throughout this ambling tour, you have probably walked past several Dodger players moving from one area to the next. If they have finished their workouts, they may be amenable to signing autographs. You’ll probably see Tommy Lasorda riding about on his golf cart, Manny Mota on his bicycle, and Joe Torre watching live hitting on one of the fields. Take your time. Soak it all in. The game doesn’t start until 1 p.m. You got here at 8 a.m. , didn’t you?

 

Restaurants

Vero is served by many of the major “chain” restaurants, (Outback, Carraba’s, Appleby’s TGI Friday’s, Ruby Tuesday, Chili’s, etc., and we won’t mention them further. They are easy to find, if that’s what you’re looking for. The same can be said for fast food franchises. Rather, we’ll try to list some of the local/area restaurants and give a critic’s opinion of them by type of food. This isn’t Zagat’s, just some personal observations.

 

Barbecue

If you’re from Texas , you might want to skip this category. Same for the Mexican food.

 

“Rip’s, the Place for Ribs” is one beach based restaurant with affordable prices, especially if you get there in time for the Early Bird specials. (You knew the state bird of Florida is the early bird, didn’t you?) Rip’s is easy to get to. Take the 17th St. Bridge to the island, cross A1A, turn right on Ocean Drive and it’s a few blocks on your right, 1555 Ocean Dr . The ribs are pretty good, the chicken is very good, and the service is prompt and friendly, and the atmosphere is very pleasant. They have happy hour specials and Yuengling on tap.

 

Bono’s is good for Florida barbecue. It’s located at 1500 US-1. (from highway 60 go south five blocks on US-1, and it’s on your left.) The barbecued chicken can range from delicious to dry. During spring, when the snowbirds have flocked in, it will probably be fresh and moist. Their ribs are good and the ambiance is nice and service is attentive. On Monday they have draft beer for 75 cents, limit 3.

Believe it or not, in addition to Bono’s there is another barbecue restaurant on Highway 60 called Sonny’s. Get it? Sonny Bono’s. I’ve never eaten there and have heard missed reviews. There are no restaurants in town named Cher ’s.

 

Woody’s is located north of Vero in Sebastian on US-1. It’s more of a family style barbecue place, and not worth the drive, but if you happen to be there, the food is acceptable.

 

Mexican

Not a lot of options and the only one that I would recommend is:

Ay Jalisco! The salsa is very good, the chips are warm and fresh, and some of the menu options are pretty good. I like the Pechuga Pollo, especially if they don’t over cook the chicken. Dos Equis Amber is on draft and frequently a happy hour item. They have three locations, but I recommend the one at 1909 20th St. across from Miracle Mile.

 

There is a Mexican restaurant very close to Dodgertown on 26th Ave /Aviation called La Fonda. We ate there soon after they moved from their 14th Ave. location, and, well, let’s just say we were not “fond” of the food. Maybe it’s improved, but try it at your own risk.

 

Cuban

Felix’s is located south of Dodgertown in the 400 block 43rd Avenue . They serve authentic Cuban cuisine in a casual, relaxed atmosphere.

 

Sunny Days Deli serves breakfast and lunch and is located at 2263 14th Ave. Great sandwiches and authentic Cuban cuisine. The owners moved to Vero Beach from Key West within the last year or two.

 

Chinese

Linn’s Garden has a good buffet, and is conveniently located on US1 just south of 20th St. on the left.

Szechuan Palace is convenient to Dodgertown. It’s located at 1965 43rd Ave. just south of D’town. It features pretty standard fare with a buffet.

 

Plum Tree is south about four-five miles south from Dodgertown at 43 Ave. and Oslo Rd. in the Publix Shopping Center behind Walgreens. Great take-out place with limited seating (about six tables). Try their steamed dumplings. No atmosphere.

 

Italian

For a simple Italian meal with no frills, but great prices, try Italian Delight, 600 6th Ave. South on US-1 to 6th St. on the left, tucked into a hard to get to shopping center. Nothing fancy, no wine list, just good food in copious quantities. Cash only! They have a couple of baseball pictures hanging in there, but they recently remodeled (who would guess?) and I didn’t see the Mike Piazza pictures last time, but they still had Vero resident and local icon, Bruce Froemming’s mug shot.

 

Italian Grill (not a lot of imagination in these names, folks) is very convenient to Dodgertown at 2180 58th Ave. The food is good, the service acceptable, and the atmosphere is okay. How is that for a glowing endorsement? You can’t beat the convenience, though.

 

Vincent’s Restaurant & Pizzeria, 510 21st St. at Miracle Mile has good pizza and Italian dishes in a pleasant, low key atmosphere. Sandy Koufax shops at the Publix super market just across the street.

 

Villa Nova 1327 21st St. features quality food and the worst service imaginable. It’s almost as if the owner, Stella, tries to offend every customer with her rude and caustic manner. Plan on a long evening if you dine there.

 

Bella Napoli, 1340 US-1. Very good food, excellent service, nice atmosphere, convenient location, and a little on the pricey side.

 

Ti Amo Sempre 3001 Ocean Dr. Excellent food, great ambiance, and very good service. The owners moved to Vero Beach from Colorado and have been in business here for about five years. (They owned a restaurant by the same name near Frisco , CO .) Expect to pay a premium price for this prime location and fine food.

 

Seafood

Ocean Grill, 1050 Sexton Plaza is THE place in Vero Beach if you don’t mind spending the money. This award winning establishment overlooks the Atlantic , the menu is excellent, service superb, and the atmosphere is wonderful. Extensive wine list and great steaks, too.

 

Mr. Manatee’s, 1 Royal Palm Point is a casual seafood grill. They feature daily specials and this is a good, informal place to gather after a Dodger game.

 

Lobster Shanty, Royal Palm Point (just down from Manatee’s and under the same ownership) is a slightly more formal, though still casual seafood restaurant. The restaurant overlooks the Indian River and the food is good.

 

Riverside Café, 3301 Bridge Plaza Drive …located just to the south side and practically under the Barber Street Bridge on the river side of the island. Good happy hour place and very good food. Nice sunset views. Go for drinks in the evening, check out the menu, and go from there. The scenery is usually good, inside and out.

 

South Beach Grill, 1410 Highway A1A. Take the 17th St. Bridge to the island, turn right on A1A, and it’s about a half mile down on your left. This is a good choice for an upscale restaurant without breaking the bank.

 

Steak

Hardwood Grill is located several miles north of Vero on US1 at the small town of Winter Beach . It’s on your left and the location is rural. Excellent steaks, attentive service, good wine list, and nice ambiance are features of this out of the way spot. I know it’s a favorite of former MLB commissioner, Fay Vincent, because I’ve seen him there two or three times. Fairly pricey, but well worth it.

 

14th Avenue Steakhouse, 2023 14th Avenue . Good steaks, excellent service, nice atmosphere in a convenient location.

 

Bobby’s, 3450 Ocean Drive . You are greeted by a large, autographed photo of Tommy Lasorda, and this is said to be one of Tommy’s favorite haunts. (That means he eats free.) Great location, good food and service in a very pleasant environment. Not inexpensive, but try it for lunch if you want to save your money. It is reported that after decades at this location, Bobby’s may be moving to Palm Point. This is unconfirmed, but comes from a reliable source. I have seen former Dodgers Ralph Branca and Ron Perranoski there on separate occasions. Plan on a long wait for dinner.

 

Breakfast and Lunch

Tomkat’s is my favorite place for breakfast and lunch in town. Don’t let the name scare you away Dodger fans, there is no connection between Tomkat’s and Brett Tomko! Tomkat’s features a small, but eclectic menu, and you won’t be disappointed.

 

Old Towne Café is a quarter mile from Dodgertown near the corner of 26th St. / Aviation Blvd. and 27th Ave. It’s a traditional home cooking restaurant with good breakfast and an all you can eat Friday fish fry.

 

C. J. Cannon’s 3114 Cherokee is located at the Vero Beach airport terminal across 26th Ave. from Dodgertown. It is a local favorite spot.

 

Mrs. Macs Filling Station, 951 Old Dixie Highway , is another local favorite. Its automotive theme is carried all the way to red rags for napkins.

 

Hotel/Motels

Sea Spray Gardens Motel is located at 936 Causeway Blvd. To get there, take the 17th St. Bridge across A1A, continue two blocks, and the Sea Spray is on your left. It is basically a 60’s style motel. Each room has a kitchenette, so despite being almost on the beach, you can really make it a budget stay if you want to do your own cooking. It has a pool and laundry facilities, and while it’s nothing fancy, the location is excellent.

 

The Driftwood Resort, 3150 Ocean Drive is near the heart of the beach side. It offers ocean villas. In-season rates will run you about $150 and up.

 

The Holiday Inn is a few blocks north of the Driftwood and is adjacent to the original Bobby’s restaurant location.

 

Just north of the Holiday Inn is the Vero Beach Hotel and Club. They offer suites along with 1-3 bedroom accommodations with accompanying sticker shock that one would expect from a top quality resort.

 

Among the newer motels in Vero is the Hampton Inn. It is located west of I-95, but is still only a 15 minute drive to Dodgertown.

 

Nearby is the Country Inn and Suites. Both it and the Hampton are within walking distance of the Outlet Mall and a Cracker Barrel Restaurant.

 

The Comfort Inn is located on US1 south of Highway 60. It is within walking distance of several restaurants.

 

The Vero Beach Resort, 8800 20th St. (Highway 60) is one of the few establishments which accepts pets. (No La Quinta in Vero.) Don’t let the name “resort” fool you. It’s basically a converted Days Inn and has an IHOP on the premises. If you’re bringing a pet, it may be the last resort.

The Best Western is located across Highway 80 from the VB Resort. One of the Dodger players mother stayed there last year and said it was horrible. However, they have advertised a complete remodeling, so it might be acceptable.

 

Golf

Sandridge Golf Course boasts two public 18-hole, par 72 courses. It is located at 5300 73rd St . Go north on 58th St , and it is about 50 blocks north of Highway 60, on the right. One of the courses is called the Lakes and the other the Sands. Both have plenty of both and it’s hard to tell which course you’re actually playing. Bring your sand wedge and ball retriever to both.

 

The Club at Pointe West is located south of Highway 60 ( 20th St. ) near 75th Ave. It is an 18 hole semi-private course.

 

Vista Plantation Condominium Golf Course is located at Highway 60 near 62nd Ave. This is a short, par 60-ish, 18 hole course, so you won’t need your driver. It’s open to the public and convenient to Dodgertown.

 

Shopping

Major shopping areas include the Indian River Mall on Highway 60 between 58th and 62nd Ave. and the Outlet Mall just west of I-95 on Highway 60.

 

Upscale shops abound along Ocean Drive and Cardinal on the island.

 

Night Life

The options here are somewhat limited, beyond the restaurants previously noted. Maybe that’s why Walter O’Malley chose Vero Beach for his spring training base over 60 years ago. It’s pretty hard to get into trouble in this great little town.

 

Thanks, Sam!

- Vin vinscully-face.jpg