Notes: Yost eager for return to NL rules
Manager ready to practice strategy, wants pitchers to get hits in
PHOENIX -- Manager Ned Yost can't wait to put the American League rules behind him. He's used those rules in ballgames at Marvvale Baseball Park, which means the designated hitter found its way onto Yost's lineup card.
But the game here on Sunday against the Mariners was the last time Yost planned to use the designated hitter in home games.
"We'll play regular rules now for me," Yost said.
Under those "regular rules," his pitchers will be taking their cuts. Yost figured it's about time they did, too. No use putting off any longer strategy that will be central to how he manages in the National League.
Also, no reason to put off letting his pitchers swing any longer, Yost said. They have to become as comfortable at the plate and as they are on the mound. Comfort begins with practice, which he drills into his pitchers as routine part of Spring Training.
They spend plenty of time trying to put bat to baseball, and Yost has made bunting a major part of their drills with hitting.
"In the National League, if your pitchers can't bunt, you're in trouble," he said.
He called a good hitting staff of pitchers a bonus for a manager, because he's not forced to dip into this bench as frequently -- particularly if a pitcher is throwing the ball well. They also help a team win games.
Yost isn't expecting Jeff Suppan, Ben Sheets or Dave Bush to be the reincarnation of Babe Ruth. What manager is, though? But Yost does want his pitchers to have some offensive value, he said.
"At the least, they've got to do the situational stuff well -- move the runners," he said. "If you can't hit, you'd better be able to bunt."
Almost perfect: Right-hander Claudio Vargas made his audition for a starting spot in the rotation difficult to overlook Sunday as he no-hit Ichiro Suzuki and the Mariners on a walk through five innings.
"I [threw] everything," Vargas said. "And everything [worked]."
Vargas, whose only baserunner was erased on a double play, said he used his changeup the final two innings, a pitch that kept the Mariners off-balance. He pitched like a man who was bent on having his name added to Yost's list of starters.
His performance didn't go unnoticed.
"Today is exactly the way I'd like to see Claudio pitch," Yost said. "And I'm not talking about no hits through five innings. I'm just talking about attacking the strike zone with his fastball, getting ahead and using all your pitches.
A-OK: Matt LaPorta, one of the team's top prospects, said he's a bit sore from banging a baseball off his left shin on Friday, but the soreness isn't keeping him on the sideline. He was penciled in to play in Sunday's split-squad game against the Athletics, and expected to wear a shin guard when he stepped up to the plate.
"The trainers got me working hard and getting back out there," he said Sunday. "They've taken a lot of time with me and helped me out in getting better."
LaPorta went 0-for-3 against the A's, but the Brewers won, 5-2.
Nice to meet ya: After the game on Saturday, closer Eric Gagne was driving to a golf event he'd been asked to take part in, but realized he didn't know how to get there.
So Gagne signaled to a stranger in a nearby car to roll down his window. And who does that stranger happen to be?
The manager's son -- Ned IV. He's a Minor League prospect here, and Gagne had never met him.
Here's now his father described the rest of their brief encounter:
"I'm lost and can't find it," Gagne said.
"Ned goes, 'Well, I'm sorry; I'm not really from here.'"
But Yost said his son wanted to tell Gagne this:
"'No, sir, Mr. Gagne, I have no idea where the golf course is.' But he didn't say it," said Yost.
"I said, 'That would have blown his mind.'"
Did you know? Since his debut in 1996, Jason Kendall has caught more games than any other catcher in baseball. His total of 1,592 is more than 134 more than Ivan Rodriquez, No. 2 on the current list.
He said it: "Ever see Groundhog Day, the movie? Every day's the same. It's Groundhog Day every day. I sit here, and the next thing I know it's 4 o'clock in the morning and I'm wide awake. The same stuff every day. Then the day's over, and I'm talking to you guys. I close my eyes and it's 4 o'clock in the morning -- Groundhog Day." -- Yost, on the sameness that starts to mark Spring Training about this time of year
Up next: Right-hander Dave Bush will start for the Brewers on Monday when they take on the Chicago Cubs. Bush will face left-hander Rich Hill in a game set to start at 3:05 p.m. CT.
Justice B. Hill is a senior writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.