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Later starts, fresher players
Giants, other teams push back spring start times
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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Buster Posey gets going at Scottsdale Stadium around 7 a.m. most days of spring training, a couple of hours before he’s due to be there.

It gives him time for a quick bite to eat, to lift weights or do some extra baseball work then have a real breakfast ahead of the Giants’ formal workout.

Years ago, manager Bruce Bochy can’t quite recall when but at least three or four seasons back, San Francisco began starting spring training practices later in the morning. The Giants have consulted a sleep specialist at various times for guidance on issues such as when to travel — sometimes staying overnight and leaving the next morning rather than flying immediately after late games — or how to best turn off the mind or electronic device at bedtime.

Around baseball, many teams are now following suit — from the Cactus League in Arizona to Florida’s Grapefruit League.

“I will say for me what’s nice is I can get in at a little after 7 and if I want to get some work in taking care of myself as far as in the weight room, training room, food, it gives me time to do that before we’re on the field,” Posey said. “Whereas if you’re getting on the field at 9, it’s harder to do that, unless you’re going to get up and get here at 6. Just little maintenance stuff to take care of, I stay busy.”

Bochy believes there is a real difference in his players’ energy with a better night of sleep. They are fresher, more lively in drills, ready to go when it’s time.

“We just think we’re going to get better quality work, it’s going to be drier, they’ll stay fresher. I think they get a better night sleep,” Bochy said. “They don’t have to get here too early. A lot of things came into play on this. There was a day when guys were hitting in the cage at 7, 7:30 in the morning. Plus, it’s pretty chilly then. We just moved it later.”

Mariners manager Scott Servais made his point in Seattle’s opening meeting: “You’re not going to make the team by being here at quarter-to-six in the morning.”

Yet a tricky aspect to navigate in the early part of spring is the schedule. Most position players began reporting Sunday or Monday for the start of full-squad workouts, with games beginning by the end of the week. It’s largely rush mode to get everyone ready — hitters facing live pitching, pitchers throwing to live hitters.

In Florida, the Phillies are among the teams beginning their days later, while the Mets typically start hitting on the field at 10 a.m. and the Astros around 9:30 a.m. some days.

The Mariners play 12 night games this spring and begin their days at 10:30 a.m.

“Players have a really good ability to adapt. They may not like it right away but I think over time, they’ll see the benefit of it. I don’t think it’s a good thing to have players sitting in the clubhouse at 5:30 or 6 in the morning, and they’re not going to be,” Servais said. “Once the games start we’ll go back into little more of a normal ... I still don’t want the guys here really early in the morning. It defeats the purpose of what we’re trying to do, and that’s recover, get your rest, be ready to go on March 29.”

Oakland starts later on Sundays only, and manager Bob Melvin has discussed the idea of also doing so the other mornings but not this year.

“I find if you tell guys to come in later, at 10 or 11, they’re still here at 6:30, 7:30 in the morning,” Melvin said.

He appreciates that the Athletics face San Francisco for three preseason Bay Bridge Series games before opening day because “that really allows us to acclimate, and there will be big crowds so we have it pretty easy as far as transitioning into the season.”

The Giants used a sleep specialist in each of their World Series-winning runs this decade — 2010, ‘12 and ‘14 — to better deal with the schedule. It became a successful formula.

“We have used some help in that area as far as having a sleep therapist to help these players, not just with the sleep part of it but the importance of it to get a good, restful night,” Bochy said. “It started a few years ago in the postseason and we have kept that up. I think it’s as important as any part of their off the field stuff including nutrition.”

The Reds remain early birds. Almost all Cincinnati players are at their Goodyear, Arizona, spring headquarters by 7 a.m. with meetings beginning about an hour later and everybody on the field by 10 a.m. for a couple of hours.

So, when teams break camp and prepare for opening day, there’s another adjustment — getting back to a normal baseball schedule of night games and afternoon ballpark arrivals.

“I think the challenge is always spring training’s early mornings and then you’re in the season and it’s 7:15 start times,” Posey said. “You’ve got to be able to make that switch.”


AP Baseball Writers Mike Fitzpatrick and Noah Trister, AP Sports Writer Stephen Hawkins and AP Freelance Writers Mark Didtler and Jose M. Romero contributed to this report.


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