The Best Thread of Your Life

Every spring, there is one constant, a telltale sign of the beginning of baseball, when people are starved for news but there just isn’t any – the “Player X is in the best shape of his life” story. Every year, without fail, certain players report to spring training having done one of the following:

1. Lost 30 pounds
2. Had laser eye surgery
3. Rehabilitated their knee/back
4. Rededicated themselves to the game
5. Found a new passion for baseball

Because these things are more interesting than a player reporting to camp in exactly the same form he was last year, the guy and his new attribute get written up in the paper. He gives some quotes about why this is his year, how it is all going to be different, and why fans should prepare for a whole new version they’ve never seen before.

Most of the the time, it turns out to be nothing. The player is what he is, and he plays just like he always has, with his new form never mentioned again as he’s struggling in July. But, I’m sure some players have made legitimate strides in their work ethic this winter, and for some, it might even pay off.

So, to the end of actually documenting the success and failure of these players, let’s crowdsource the Best Shape Of Their Lives guys. If you see a story where a player is reported to have done one of the above things, please mention it in the
comments, along with a link to support the citation. Hopefully, we can get all of the Good Shapers in one list, and then look at how they perform once the season begins.

Here’s the list, to be updated as the information from the comments is confirmed:

Ken Griffey Jr – Seattle
Jonathan Sanchez – San Francisco
Carlos Zambrano – Chicago
Geovany Soto – Chicago
Daisuke Matsuzaka – Boston
Mike Pelfrey – New York
Chipper Jones – Atlanta
Brian McCann – Atlanta
Tim Hudson – Atlanta (clearly, it’s the Braves year)
Bobby Jenks – Chicago
Delmon Young – Minnesota
David Price – Tampa Bay

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

138 Responses to “The Best Thread of Your Life”

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  1. Johnny Chicago says:

    “Geovany Soto showed up at the Cubs Convention in January 40 pounds lighter…some whispered out loud on Chicago talk radio, Soto was on steroids.”

    “I wasn’t strong,” he said. “I was just fat.”

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    • Robert says:

      That’s interesting. I remember back in 2003 Javy Lopez showed up to camp having lost around 20 pounds. Then he hit 43 HR, and while no evidence has emerged, seems like a very good candidate to have received some “extra” help that season. I guess the point is that steriods don’t always result in added weight. Heck, the first player busted was a pure speed guy, not a power hitter (can’t remember the name though).

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      • Robert says:

        It was Alex Sanchez. He must have bulked up for his 2004 and 2005 seasons, when he hit career bests of 2 HR each.

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  2. Jim says:

    Don’t know if you consider Jarrod Washburn. He said he regained passion for the game in the first half of last season.

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    • Robert says:

      Chipper doesn’t really say he’s “in the best shape of his life.” I’m paraphrasing, but to me it sounds like he’s saying, “There’s no way I’ll suck as much as I did last year.” Still a positive outlook, but I wouldn’t take it in quite the same context.

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  3. Steven Ellingson says:

    Delmon Young – lost 30 pounds. We are all expecting him to become a stud defender here in Minnesota.

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  4. Bryz says:

    Delmon Young lost some of his puppy poundage this offseason…nearly 30 lbs. in fact.

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  5. says:

    J. Sanchez of the Giants added 12 lbs to bring him up to 200. They’re hoping this will improve his already quite impressive velocity.

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  6. ChuckO says:

    The scariest story for me as a Braves fan is that Brian McCann had laser surgery on his eyes during the off-season. The reason it’s scary is that they screwed it up last time, and he ended up wearing glasses for most of the season. I would be wary of having it again if I were him. How many times can you have the procedure before it has a permanent, negative effect on your vision?

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    • Jon says:

      lol me and my brother jokingly called Brian McCann bat day Brain McCann blind as a bat day.

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    • DKulich44 says:

      At his age, a LASIK “touch up” (which is probably what he had) is extremely common, and 2nd time around it has great effects. Doctors generally will do an original LASIK, and one touch up, as after that there is usually not much corneal stroma left to work with.

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  7. APW says:

    As amusing as I find these “best shape of his life” stories (hardballtalk is all over it, as well), I’m not sure if laser eye surgery belongs in the bogus column.

    Take a look at Denard Span before surgery and after (between 2007 and 2008). While going from AAA to the majors he saw his OPS increase over 100 points and his walk rate nearly double. Generally you don’t get BETTER as you increase levels.

    Obviously, he’s only the one guy. But that’s the only laser eye surgery story baseball story I know.

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  8. Bryz says:

    You can throw Francisco Liriano into the category of “lost weight” as well. However, I can’t confirm how much weight he supposedly lost:

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  9. JH says:

    Andruw Jones, according to the PR wing of the Scott Boras corporation, otherwise known as Jon Heyman.

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    • Eric says:

      Was about to post this too. Supposedly he is supposed to be in the best shape of his career.

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      • Eric says:

        Here is the line from that article in case you miss it:

        • Andruw Jones is said to be in the best shape he’s been in for a decade. This could wind up being the best $500,000 the White Sox ever spent.

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      • If Kenny Williams wants an even better way to invest $500,000, I’m more than happy to discuss the digits of my bank account with him.

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    • Tim K. says:

      I assume this = best shape of his life. But it’s funny how this time of year both weight gain and weight loss are being reported with equal enthusiasm.

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    • People talk about Lincecum being ridiculously skinny for a professonal athelete for weighing 170 pounds. But he is only 5 11.

      Clay weighted 185 last season and he is 6 3.

      Thats one skinny mo fo.

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      • Murray Chass, Jon Heyman, & Joe Morgan says:

        For Timmy, I think I’ll take the under on both, unless he has a midget on his shoulders.

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  10. JR says:

    Trifecta: Russell Martin, Eric Gagne, Shawn Estes. Bonus points: Wendy Selig-Prieb, Bud Selig’s daughter:

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    • Bob Loblaw says:

      This is take-two for Russell Martin, who was on this list last offseason as well.

      From rotoauthority on 2/16/09: “took up yoga, ‘credits his new girlfriend, a model and fellow native of Quebec, with teaching him an organized, grounded way to run his life.'”

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    • B N says:

      That is easily the most amusing link I have seen all week. Shawn Estes is going to hit that tire with that sledgehammer and be darn surprised when it bounces back and brains him in the head, comprising the funniest preseason injury since Hunter Pence went pidgeon on a glass door.

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  11. radiohix says:

    David Ortiz is “easily” 15 pounds lighter and reportedly “he’s been hitting the weights pretty hard”

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  12. JoeIQ says:

    Zito would have made this list last year, and he was quite a bit better, and had his fastball velocity back.

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  13. Kincaid says:

    Matt Stairs:

    “Stairs, who spends each offseason as the assistant hockey coach for Bangor High School in Maine, has dropped 31 pounds this winter playing senior hockey and dieting with the Nutrisystem program. He began the offseason at 230 pounds and currently weighs 199. That’s the lightest he’s been in 15 years.”

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    • don says:

      The “playing senior hockey” makes me chuckle. Hitting a baseball hard really is a specialized skill.

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  14. Adam says:

    Royals’ prospect Eric Hosmer, according to Keith Law “astigmatism, resolved by late-summer laser surgery that he says made a huge difference in his vision.”

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  15. Jay says:

    Oliver Perez and Jose Reyes.

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  16. Bob Loblaw says:

    Tim Dierkes has done this for the last couple years over at (the now mostly defunct) Rotoauthority. Calls it “Spring Training Cliches.”

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  17. Adam says:

    I can’t believe Miguel Cabrera quitting his binge-drinking didn’t make the original post or the first 25 comments. I don’t know of a link, but I feel like every time a writer has mentioned Miggy this offseason, they have also brought up how he has given up the sauce.

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    • kardon says:

      probably bc Miggy was actually a drunk and actually quit drinking. Dave’s point is that most of these stories are a joke, Miggy’s is not quite that.

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  18. Brandon f says:

    kyle blanks is at his college weight… should help him man left field this season…

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  19. Malcontent says:

    Scott Kazmir has a new “Core Strengthening Workout” that he thinks will help him pitch deeper into games and maintain his velocity

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  20. Jason461 says:

    I would just like to say that, though I will turn 30 this summer and haven’t played organized baseball of any kind in something like ten years, that I am absolutely in the best shape of my life (except for the bum shoulder and slight paunch) and totally ready to help the team. I think they’ll really benefit from having me on the roster. I mean, I’m not perfect or anything. I’m not a superstar and I know that. Basically, I’m Willy Taveras without the speed, but I think there’s room for someone like me. I really think I can contribute. I just can’t wait to get back on the field. I think all the coaches are going to be really surprised by what they see.

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  21. brendan says:

    pablo sandoval reportedly lost a bunch of weight during the offseason. ‘camp panda’ it was called in the papers.

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  22. terry24 says:

    I don’t know that Carl Crawford is in any better shape, but he’s “fixed the hitch” in his step that made it take him so long to get to top speed, he was so slow before

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  23. Lucid Judas says:

    Brandon Inge Rehabbed his knees…

    Of course his knees are in better shape! Unless he spent the off season rapping a ball peen hammer off of his knee caps all winter they are going to feel better than they did at the end of last season.

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  24. descender says:

    Can’t you just put A-Rod on the list? I’m sure this is the best something of his life, we’ll just find out what that is when they get some reporters in his face.

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  25. rickieweeks says:

    Corey Hart

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  26. Oscar says:

    Orioles 2009 first rounder Matt Hobgood has lost weight!

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  27. AK707 says:

    Aaron Rowand “came to camp about 10 pounds lighter than he did last spring. He said he cut out junk food and soda and took up bicycling. In fact, he figured he rode 2,000 to 2,200 miles around the Las Vegas area this winter.
    Rowand did not slim down because he was asked to be the leadoff hitter. In fact, he said he already had dropped the weight when Bochy called to discuss the idea. Rowand said he told Bochy, ‘You’re in luck, skip.”

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    • Brian Cartwright says:

      I biked over 2000 miles around the hills of western PA when I was 18-19. I had damn strong legs, could do 20 reps of 500 lb leg press, but it ruined my running speed and outfield range. Then I bought a car and got fat.

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  28. Results of spring training cliches, 2008 season:

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  29. Blaise says:,215570

    Charlie Manuel, expecting a 1.24 MPH to pitcher’s mound this year.
    Matt Stairs lost 31 pounds. Expecting a .100 avg with 82 home runs.
    Pablo Sandoval

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  30. Deej says:

    You forgot “found the Lord”

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  31. Jon S. says:

    David Freese of the Cardinals is apparrently in the best shape of his life. This is apparently an attempt to be something more than ludicrously average at third base.

    We all like to doubt this sort of talk, but King Felix came into camp last year minus something like 20 pounds. And he was the Cy Young runner-up.

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  32. Jon S. says:

    Apparently I use the word “apparently” too much. Apparently, it can detract from the apparent quality of comments.

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  33. Mrgfeeny says:

    Who’s in shape and who’s not always seems to be an early spring training question, and the only player I saw who was a noticeably different size was Jonathan Albaladejo, who said he lost 30 pounds this winter. “A lot of running,” he said.

    For the first time since he turned pro, Albaladejo did not play winter ball in Puerto Rico. He instead focused on getting into shape. “I definitely feel more fresh,” he said. “My arm feels more life.”

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  34. TWA says:

    Jim Edmonds is supposedly in the best shape he has been in over a decade. Good news for Brewers fans, another 8+ WAR season is all but guaranteed.

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  35. Sean says:

    Every Pirate interviewed in this podcast.

    part 1 and part 2 of the “Pirates Caravan broadcast” from 1/24/10

    It’s somewhat tongue in cheek, but every player asked the question “are you in the best shape of your life” responds in the affirmative.

    Includes: Andrew McCutchen, Ross Ohlendorf, Garrett Jones, etc.

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  36. durs836 says:

    Aaron Rowand is reporting to camp much leaner, 10 lbs lighter than he was when he reported last year.

    Also, Zito went to Eurpoe in the off season to do some soul searching…. apparently he didnt find anything. (not kidding watch the videos)

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  37. BaconSlayer09 says:

    Andruw Jones is in “the best shape of his life”, according to Jon Heyman. Notice that this isn’t White Sox propaganda.


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  38. BaconSlayer09 says:

    Oops, shoulda looked that it had already been posted. >_>

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    • Joe R says:

      I’m pretty sure Ortiz lost weight last season, too.

      To be fair he did hit well for 4 months, he was just so bad for 2 months that he was replacement level anyway.

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  39. didycel says:

    Jack Wilson

    “I am 100 percent healthy and really, really excited to be back in Seattle,” Wilson said. “It’s such a great chance to win and compete. I want to show [the fans] who I really am and what I can do.”

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  40. Jon S. says:

    Yes. Guti is the passion.

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  41. Adam says:

    This thread/study is filled with so much win.

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  42. Mark says:

    Denver Post Reporting Aaron Cook lost 16 lbs.

    and I’m not sure if this one counts for Todd Helton

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  43. Jamal G. says:

    Jonathan Albaladejo lost exactly 30 pounds, per Chad Jennings of the LoHud Yankees blog:

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  44. MA says:

    Brett Myers is a perennial candidate.

    Initial photos from Clearwater suggest that Joe Blanton has made himself a better man.

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  45. BX says:

    Dice-K has already ended up on the DL, IIRC.

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  46. Dan says:

    Linked from Buster Olney’s article, Aaron Rowand came to camp in great shape:

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  47. Nate says:

    Tyler Colvin added 25 lbs of muscle.

    Alfonso Soriano has rehabbed his knee from surgery, and Aramis Ramirez has rehabbed his shoulder from last year’s dislocation.

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  48. Jason says:

    Does a baseball player’s weight loss or muscle gain add up to a breakout?
    “We looked at two seasons worth of data on batters, looking at their Marcel projected Runs Created heading into the season and their actual performance. Doing so allowed us to see the players who were outperforming or underperforming their projections…”

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  49. gnomez says:

    I’d love to see Da Meat Hook make this list.

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  50. MikeS says:

    They didn’t use the words “best shape of his career” when talking about Jake Peavy but they clearly wanted to.,0,4276571.story

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  51. Steve says:

    I’ve seen several of the above criteria mentioned in reference to Lastings Milledge at the PBC Blog of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

    His wrist is healthy, so he’ll show the power he was projected to have as a prospect… He took things for granted because baseball always came easy to him and now he realizes the error of his ways… he looks to be in great shape and “noticeably slimmer”… etc, etc, blah, blah, blah…

    I believe it was also reported Evan Meek turned fat into muscle in hopes of regaining velocity on his fastball…

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  52. thomas says:

    joba chamberlain spent the offseason getting serious about baseball and showed up in great shape “ready to compete”

    Johnathan Albadejo lost 30 pounds.

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  53. john says:

    “Saw Cole Hamels today and was extremely impressed with how he has bounced back from 2009, mentally and physically. Agree with Charlie Manuel’s take on him:He is poised for a big year.He is tinkering with a cut fastball, and has spoken with Steve Carlton repeatedly about it.”

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  54. Heather says:

    Chase Utley has been working out with Derek Jeter’s trainer, and is in the best shape of his life.

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  55. M.S. says:

    Ty Wigginton looks to have lost some weight.

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  56. Simon says:

    Kyle Blanks loses 15 lbs. Good thing since he’s a pretty big boy already and suffered from Plantar Fascitis(sp?) last season

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  57. Lee D says:

    dunno if this counts, but randy winn has done alot of work this off season and vows to have a better year. per
    After batting just .158 against left-handers in 2009, outfielder Randy Winn is confident that he will perform better this season.
    “I was horrible,” Winn said of last season. “The numbers showed it. I was terrible and there’s no two ways about it. It was a bad year. I don’t think it had anything to do with my age or loss of bat speed or anything like that. I was personally terrible. My career numbers have been much better than that and I’ve done a lot of work this off-season and hopefully I’m back to where I’ve been the majority of my career.” Winn has actually fared quite well against lefties during his career — posting a 758 OPS compared to a 764 OPS against righties — so chances are this was an anomaly. He’s expected to be “anything from a fourth outfielder to a starting outfielder,” according to manager Joe Girardi.

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  58. Hitterish says:

    Clint Barmes is in fantastic shape. Gave up deer meat and tripping upstairs.

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  59. Jeff says:

    “Hungry: Bill Hall has been spiraling downward since hitting 35 homers in 2006 … For the first time in his career, he is working out at API, taking this opportunity very seriously.”

    A serious Brewers fan I know told me there was a lot of talk in the MIL papers of Bill Hall getting out of shape, a bad attitude in the club house, etc during his last few disappointing years …

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  60. greymstreet says:

    Felix! I don’t know if passing reference counts
    And Chad Cordero is as good as he was in college. So I don’t know if that counts either

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  61. Trebor says:

    Rangers’ Matt Harrison reportedly 30 pounds lighter than last spring.

    “I came in here as good as shape as I could be in and with the mindset of making the team,” Harrison said.

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  62. Mitchell says:

    Obvious one – “(Miguel) Cabrera is in the best shape of his career…”

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  63. Matt says:

    I will say, last year Derek Jeter “rededicated himself to playing defense” and put together a fine year in the field.

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  64. Phylan says:

    Kyle Kendrick.

    Although I don’t know if it counts since it was Manuel that said it and not him:

    “–Manuel took notice of Phillippe Aumont’s sinker and said Kendrick, competing against Jamie Moyer for the No. 5 starter job, “is in the best shape I’ve seen him.” Kendrick should be. He has been working out with Halladay for the past five weeks.”

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  65. Greg says:

    “Wakefield said he is ahead of schedule and that his doctors are thrilled with his progress. ‘This is the best I’ve felt in years,’ he said.”

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  66. Lee D says:

    Nick Swisher lost 12 pounds this offseason with boxing-heavy workouts.
    Swisher is hoping the light sparring will help his durability and power numbers this season. The 28-year-old outfielder batted .249 last year with 29 homers, 89 RBI and a career-high .869 OPS. Some regression should be expected, but he definitely fits the bill of “fantasy sleeper.”
    Source: Pete Caldera on Twitter

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  67. Lee D says:

    oops, someone beat me t oswish

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  68. Aj says:

    I heard that prince fielder is doing p90x and is basically cut up like Rambo now

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  69. Dallas says:

    Nate McLouth’s late season slump is being attributed to poor vision, new contacts this season

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  70. Bill Baer says:

    David Wright:

    “Wright is 206 pounds, the most solid 206 pounds of his baseball life.”

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  71. Lee D says:

    Ian Stewart “tweaked” his swing during the offseason, reports Jim Armstrong of the Denver Post.
    “I want to work on being able to stay through the ball,” says Stewart, who struck out 138 times in 491 plate appearances last season. “Sometimes you hit a few home runs and you get greedy up there. I’ve got to remember to stay within myself and work the ball to all fields. It’s nothing major. I guess the right word would be tweaking.” He won’t be drafted for his batting average, but with the third base gig all to himself, Stewart will be an intriguing power source in fantasy leagues this season. rotoworld

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  72. GLB says:

    Martin Prado – from DOB’s comments section

    David O’Brien

    February 23rd, 2010
    1:15 pm
    Also in great shape: Martin Prado, who lost 14 pounds through PX90 program. His arms and chest just as big and he’s stronger, he says. Lost all the weight in his midsection.

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  73. Jeff Zimmerman says:

    Jose Guillen is in great shape and ready to play OF:

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    Vote -1 Vote +1

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