A week in camp, and here's what happened:
* John Russell's option for 2010 was picked up. Seems only fair; he did a good enough job when he had a team, and the post-deal Bucco results can be credited much more to on-field talent, or lack thereof, than coaching.
According to Cot's Contracts, his 2008 deal was worth $1.6M. Chuck Finder of the Post Gazette says he has an option for 2011, too, which wasn't listed by Cot's. The financial details weren't available.
We like his quiet demeanor, which probably wears on a team much more easily than a fireball whose act gets old in a hurry. That said, he could stroll out on the field a little more often, if for no reason than to assure the players that he has their backs and to introduce himself to the umping crew.
The only other question we have is how he'll handle a staff when he gets one. Russell kept guys in the game when it was obvious they didn't have anything left in the tank, but his bullpen was worked to a frazzle, too. Danged if you do, danged if you don't.
Russell is the fifth manager since Gene Lamont took over from Jim Leyland in 1997, and the 38th in Bucco history.
Oh yah, they signed that Nate McLouth guy, too.
* Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports that Xavier Nady has had his money frozen as part of the newest financial scandal involving Allan Stanford. The account is handled by a Scott Boras' business arm, the Personal Management Consultants. He joins Johnny Damon and Mike Pelfrey as New York rich guys that can't get to their cash, at least for the time being.
* The report from a so far quiet camp: weather's a little chilly, by Sunshine State standards, everyone is present and in shape, Brandon Moss, Phil Dumatrait, and Jeff Karstens are all recovered or on track; only a couple of minor aches, pains and sniffles reported so far; Pedro Alvarez can hit a baseball; and Manny Sanguillen, Billy Mazeroski, Kent Tekulve, and Bill Virdon are in Florida again, passing on the wisdom of the ages.
There are 57 players in camp, and that seems like a very manageable number to work with. No one should be passed over, especially with the extra week of work thanks to the WBC.
The first spring game is Wednesday against the Phillies, and Joe Kerrigan plans to throw nine relievers, an inning at a time. Thursday brings in the Red Sox, and Ian Snell will work the first two innings of that match. Snell will leave on the 28th to join the Puerto Rican squad for the World Baseball Classic.
* How powerful a tool is arbitration for young players? Ron Blum of the Associated Press reports that the guys that filed saw their paycheck jump from an average of $1.13M to $3.07, a 172% increase. Fourteen also signed long-term deals, including McLouth, Ryan Doumit, and Paul Maholm.
The tables surely do turn after the teams get to low-ball their youngsters for the first three years of their career. And the raises were by and large negotiated; only three guys actually had hearings.
* And finally, before GW shovels off his walk and heads to church, RHP Kris Benson, the first pick in the 1996 draft of the Pirates, signed a minor league contract Saturday with the Texas Rangers. Hope springs eternal in the spring...