BRADENTON - As reporting day nears for the start of spring training, ABC 7's caught up with two former Suncoast high school stars who are preparing for the upcoming season together. But they are doing so with different short-term goals.
In the shadows of accomplished Major Leaguers like Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez of the Pirates getting ready for spring training, two Suncoast minor leaguers toil in their midst.
"That push for me as a minor league level guy to get to their level is great, and that is why I like being here. Everybody is here doing the same things," says Wendell Soto.
“I'm just trying to do everything I can to make the full season club out of spring training. So I am just here getting bigger, faster, stronger to get the competitive edge over my peers," says Granden Goetzman.
Soto is a 2010 Riverview grad who hit just under .300 in 2 stops in the L.A. Angels minor league system last season. The shortstop is training at IMG to give himself a leg up on his competition.
"Oh, he's getting much more intelligent about how to train and how to prepare for the upcoming spring training season. Each time we see him he prepares much more effectively, and that is a pretty cool thing," says IMG baseball director Ken Bolleck.
Soto was a Pioneer League all-star who can hit for a little power, drive in runs, steal a base or two, and he is also a switch-hitter. But maybe his most important asset is his off-season workout regimen. "We've got vision here. Today I am doing yoga, we have auxiliary workouts, forearms, and today I am doing shoulders. I have a pool workout…anything you can think of, they've got it here."
Granden Goetzman, a workout partner of Soto's, is a Palmetto grad who gets to play for the hometown team. He is in the Tampa Bay Rays system, but he is working out to bounce back from an injury that severely limited his 2012 season. "Each week he has progressed to that next level. He's exactly on schedule. He physically feels great. He is never going to fail from lack of work," says Bolleck.
Goetzman was drafted in 2011 by the Rays, and although a climb to the major league level is an obvious goal, being healthy as he enters the 2013 season is his primary reason for using IMG's training program to rehab. “Basically trying to get my core strong to improve my back. That is the biggest rehab I have been doing. They include all that into the program. It is also individualized for me so I can stay healthy and stay on the field."
Spring training is just days away. The Pirates pitchers and catchers report February 11th, while the Rays and Orioles follow suit the next day.