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A few days ago in Jonny German's Spring Training '05 report called "Pitcher This," Batter's Box regular jsoh wrote, "I'm desperately hoping for Spike Lundberg to make the team ... he's got a name to die for. Come on. Spike. Lundberg. Can't you just hear Murray Eldon announcing him? Tickets for the Spike Lundberg bandwagon are on sale at the door."

Sounds like it's time for the another edition of "Ask Spike," as the new Jay hurler stopped by Batter's Box for an interview and to take questions back in mid-November, and he returns now to do so again.

What don't Bauxites know about Lundberg yet? His favourite play in baseball is "Deion Sanders hitting a triple, Vlad [Guerrero] throwing a guy out, a Tony Gwynn single, a Rickey Henderson leadoff home run," he said. One of his unshakeable baseball beliefs is that "There isn't a better feeling than standing on the mound watching your shortstop and second baseman turn a double play to get you out of [trouble]." Roberto Alomar is his favourite all time Blue Jay. And his personal anagram is "REBEL DIGS PUNK."

Want more? He's played both RBI ("better for one game") and Bases Loaded ("probably the better series") baseball, but believes "Nothing beats the Strat-O-Matic board game." Playing on his iPod, you're likely to hear Jay-Z, Coldplay, Jack Johnson, Norah Jones and N*E*R*D; his favourite TV shows include Seinfeld, Las Vegas and Pardon the Interruption. Favoured movies aren't all sports-related, but you'll see a theme: Shawshank Redemption, Old School, Remember the Titans, Rudy, Caddyshack, Bull Durham.

"Mr. Lumbergh told me to talk to payroll"
Of course, the movie he hears quoted most often is the 1999 cult classic Office Space featuring Gary Cole as snarky office manager Bill Lumbergh. "Lately I've been getting yelled at more for my last name thanks to [that movie]," he said. "For those of you who've seen it, you can imagine what the younger fans are yelling at me." For those of you who haven't seen it, play along and buy Spike a nice shiny red stapler.

Back in the real world, of course, professional athletics unions are a hot topic of discussion this Hot Stove League, thanks in large part to the ongoing National Hockey League strike and the fact that the MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement is due for review any minute now. Lundberg, as a minor leaguer, is not yet part of the MLBPA; he said, "The union consists of the 40-man roster guys, as far as I know. One thing I do know for sure," he added, "is that it's the strongest union in the world. I believe the union has done a great job and every player should appreciate what it has meant to their major league careers."

And while "the obvious reason to be thankful would be the salaries," Lundberg admits, "there are many more things behind the scenes at those labour disputes that don't get the attention that salaries attract."

Still, despite all those "behind the scenes" items, it must be a real eye-opener for a young pitcher like Lundberg when Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, and even guys like Matt Clement, Jaret Wright or Eric Milton blow the roof off a contract and get such enormous dollars, that a casual fan can't even relate to the amount?

"It's kind of supply and demand"
True, said Lundberg, who can see both sides of the issue. "As a player, you love to see that. [But] as a fan, it is hard to understand why some guys get the amount they do. It's kind of supply and demand. [For example], Clemens played last season at a discount and he made it clear he wouldn't do that again."

But it's not just the Hall of Famers like Clemens who draw Lundberg's appreciation; "I'm a big Matt Clement fan," he said, "and I think he still could turn the corner and become one of the elite pitchers in the league." The hard-throwing ex-Cub Clement went to Boston, which lost both Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe in the off-season. So it's easy to understand the signing; "If a team feels they have to sign a certain position and there are only a few good players at that position, they might be willing to overpay to get him," observed Lundberg.

All this affects how minor league free agen like Lundberg, not just the marquee guys like Carl Pavano, think about the future "Although minor league salaries aren't as great as the bigs, there can be a large range of offers from each organization," said Lundberg. "The hard part, especially for minor leaguers, is not to get blinded by the money side and stick to your guns as far as finding the best opportunity to pitch in the big leagues. You might lose money on the minor league salary, but if you're in the big leagues, you usually come out ahead," he said.

"The toughest division in baseball"
The Red Sox aren't the only AL East team to have improved this off-season, said Lundberg, who as you might expect, keeps a close eye on such matters. "I think this division improved across the board," he said. "Boston let their rented players leave along with Pedro, but they picked up an elite shortstop in Renteria and a gifted arm in Clement. They should be tough again. The Yankees made some huge moves as usual, but health will be key for them."

Disagreeing with some of the analysis here on Batter's Box previously, Lundberg believes, "The Orioles stole Sammy Sosa, so their lineup will keep them in most games. Overall, I think it's going to be the toughest division in baseball."

Around the major leagues, Lundberg noted that the Cardinals getting Mark Mulder "was a pretty big deal, and reiterated the impression made by Sosa joining Baltimore, the Yankees acquiring Randy Johnson and the Red Sox picking up Edgar Renteria. And over in the senior circuit, in addition to Mulder-to-the-Cardinals, Lundberg said, "The Mets getting Pedro and Beltran should put them in the mix for the NL East."

To compete for a spot on a team in the toughest division in baseball, Lundberg faced a key winter conditioning program. "I spent most of the offseason between San Diego and Surprise, Arizona," he said. "In October, I thought I was going to play in Venezuela, so I threw off the mound and prepared for that. But I eventually stayed home and took a break from baseball. I began working out in at the end of November and started throwing again in December."

And though pitchers and catchers weren't scheduled to report until mid-February, Lundberg said, "I came down to Florida around January 18th and [was] working out at the Dunedin complex. We basically got there in the morning, played catch, ran, and lifted." Before the official start of Spring Training, he was throwing off a mound twice a week with plans to "bump that up to three times as we got closer to our report date."

Lundberg has some familiar faces accompanying him to the "new to the Toronto organization" club this year. "It's been good to see Ryan Glynn throw the ball well," noted Lundberg. Glynn compiled an ERA+ of 120 with Toronto in six appearances last season, after not being in the majors since 2001 with Texas, when Lundberg was also with that organization. "[Glynn] was always a guy I looked up to. He's one of those guys that the coaches tell the younger kids to watch how he goes about his business," recalled Lundberg.

"I have a legitimate shot this season"
But why report so early? "There weren't any specific instructions," to do so from the club, said Lundberg, "but I was encouraged to come to Dunedin as early as I wanted to take advantage of the facilities."

In fact, "This year is different for me," he said, "Because I'm going into Spring Training with a feeling that I have a legitimate shot to help this club at some point this season. That's one of the reasons I wanted to get away from home and get in the routine of going to the yard every day."

And what makes this year so different? Lundberg doesn't have an easy answer for that. "I'm not sure why I haven't gotten the opportunity to pitch at the big league level yet," he said. "With Texas, I stumbled in AAA for two years. My pitch selection wasn't too good then." But he recognizes that luck plays a role, adding, "I do know I was the 'next' guy in 2003 a couple of times, but they received some quality pitching the next few games each time."

This time aroiund, he said, "I just have to stay consistent. The time will come. It's one of those things that you can't control. You just have to put yourself close to the top of that list and stay there until they need you.

For that reason, he said, "It wasn't hard making my decision to sign with the Blue Jays organization, [because] I feel I have been given a legitimate shot at helping the big league club." As you might imagine, Lundberg added, "I'm very excited about that. Amd I've heard nothing but great things from former Blue Jays players."

Coming off his first off-season with his new organization, Lundberg knows that "Staying healthy is important for a pitcher." He doesn't have any bizarre superstitions, such as a Jerry Koosman-like unwillingness to even draw a blind with his pitching arm during the winter. "I don't have any rituals or superstitions in the offseason. I save all of that stuff for during the year," he added mysteriously.

"You have to be smart and take it slow"
"The hardest part for me is not pushing myself too early with my throwing program," said Lundberg. "I always feel great when I pick up the ball after a long break, but that's when you have to be smart and take it slow."

The San Diego native can't be terribly disappointed with the recent Ford Frick Awward announcement, either. Though Batter's Box, with a nudge from Mike Wilner, undertook a successful effort to help get Tom Cheek on the ballot for the Hall of Fame award this offseason, the announcement came yesterday that the recognition this year wwnt a different direction.

"I grew up watching the Padres and Dodgers, so Jerry Coleman and Vin Scully are the voices I connect to memorable moments." Lundberg recalled. Coleman grabbed the Frick Award this week, while the legendary Scully earned that same honour in 1982. "I'm also a fan of Jon Miller," he said of the Giants announceer, who like Cheek will undoubtedly earn the award one day.

When not reminiscing about the game or playing it as part of his livelihood, Lundberg admitted, "I'm always thinking about baseball, even when I'm not trying to. My friends are all diehard fans so that's what we talk about. There's always some debate about who's the best at each position in baseball or something else."

Sound familiar? Got a question or comment for Spike? Ask away ... with Spring Training up and running, there's no guarantee that he'll be able to give the many detailed answers he did last time around, so for now -- at least until we hear Murray Eldon intoning "Spike. Lundberg." as the lanky right-hander trots in from the bullpen -- the Box is open.

Ask Spike II: Jumping on the Lundberg Bandwagon | 7 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
jsoh - Wednesday, February 23 2005 @ 12:49 AM EST (#103366) #
Woohoo! I'm a regular! :)

First of all, as the official chairperson of the Free Spike Bandwagon, I'd like to say how great it was to see Spike take another kick at the can here at Da Box. Its always gratifying to see players take the time for these kind of interviews.

Kudos also to Mick for bringing us yet another excellent interview.

Welcome back Spike! Hope to see you down at the Dome^H^H^H^HRogers Centre some time this season!
Mike Green - Wednesday, February 23 2005 @ 10:42 AM EST (#103377) #
Thanks for returning, Spike. I've got a question about the union to start.

We now think of ballplayers as multi-millionaires, but not all are. Some struggle to make their way to the majors, and might only play a season or three there. As I understand it, a player must have 5 years service to qualify for the pension fund. Is that right? And what about benefits? I'm assuming that medical/dental/prescription drug coverage is excellent while the player is in the majors, but what happens afterwards?

Back to pitching. Some pitchers (Curt Schilling famously) spend a lot of time studying video of hitters. Do you, and if so, what do you look for?
VBF - Wednesday, February 23 2005 @ 04:43 PM EST (#103410) #
Hello Spike!

You mention that you are familiar with Ryan Glynn and that he was someone you looked up to. Are there any current members of the Jays bullpen that you've looked up to in the past and would like to get to know better?

Mick Doherty - Wednesday, February 23 2005 @ 05:28 PM EST (#103413) #
"I don't have any rituals or superstitions in the offseason. I save all of that stuff for during the year," he added mysteriously.

Okay, since nobody else is taking the bait and i wasn't smart enough to follow up during the initial interview, I'll bite ... Hey Spike -- WHAT rituals and superstitions do you save for during the year?

Four Seamer - Wednesday, February 23 2005 @ 05:56 PM EST (#103415) #
Spike, what would you say is your favourite stadium in the minor leagues? Or put another way, what ballpark are you going to miss the most when you're up pitching in the bigs this year?
Justin (T-Birds) - Wednesday, February 23 2005 @ 10:23 PM EST (#103434) #
Hi Spike,
A couple of things that I'm curious about:

- Your opportunities are largely dependent on the performance/health of your teammates and the back-end of the major league bullpen. What factors do you view within your control that you'd like to improve on?
- How explicit are the Jays with you in terms of your role within the organization?
- What do you find to be the most rewarding, and frustrating, aspects of upper-level minor league ball?

All the best for the upcoming year, and I hope that you get the chance you've been dreaming of.
Mick Doherty - Friday, September 01 2006 @ 10:50 AM EDT (#154403) #

FWIW, former Friend of Da Box Spike Lundberg has been named the Southern League's "Most Outstanding Pitcher" for 2006.  Lundberg, who won his only big league decision (so far) for Toronto in 2005, went 14-2, 2.36 in 23 starts for the Dodgers' AA affiliate, the Jacksonville Suns.  In addition to the one big league "W," Spike now has a career minor league mark of 89-59.

Congrats, Spike!


Ask Spike II: Jumping on the Lundberg Bandwagon | 7 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.