Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Spring Training: part 7

While I'm taking today off of the baseball action (the Jays are out of town in Bradenton and the minor leaguers are just working out today -- no games), I did stumble into some Jays action yesterday.

Yesterday was my day to check out Bright House Field in Clearwater, spring home of the Philadelphia Phillies.  It was a grey day, but I felt like I lucked out with the chance to see Roy Halladay pitch!  I was pretty pumped as I got into the park.  While aesthetically beautiful, I have definitely enjoyed my ballpark experiences more elsewhere.
view from my seat

Doc on the mound

The Tiki Bar

View from the Tiki Bar

Philly Phanatic

More Doc

The concourse of Bright House field is open, meaning that you can stroll around, buying your ballpark snacks and/or merchandise all the while still watching the game.  What ended up happening was there was so much noise coming from the concourse as well as the conversations in the stands that the game seemed almost secondary, whereas at other ballparks I've been to, it's been the primary attraction.  Additionally, Bright House Field seemed to be like a senior's centre more than a ballpark.  People were constantly greeting their old friends and the occasion was more of a social gathering than a baseball game.

Unfortunately, the game was a dog.  Doc threw 2 2/3 innings, giving up 6 hits, 7 runs and walking 4.  It was ugly.  Detroit RF Andy Dirks continued to impress me though, by making consistent, solid contact every time he was up to bat.

I ended up leaving the game early and, on a last-minute inspiration, wandered to the adjoining minor league complex where the Blue Jays AAA and AA teams were playing the Phillies squads.*  I was kicking myself at this point.  I was told that I had missed seeing Brandon Morrow throw in the minor league game, as well as Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez in the other game.

As a result, I only saw a few players further down on the depth charts.  I did have a nice chat with Alvin Rittman, a pro scout for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Rittman played a couple of years of minor league ball as an infielder in 1989 and 1990 after being selected by the Mariners in the 48th round of the 1989 draft.  He gave me some pointers on looking at players as well as shared some info about being an amateur scout when the Pirates signed Jose Bautista.  He told me that they always loved his makeup and intangibles, thought that he wouldn't end up playing the infield, but never thought that he'd explode for as much power as he did.

I watched reliever Shawn Griffith throw a couple of innings against the Phillies minor leaguers.  I situated myself near Aaron Sanchez who was working the radar gun and noted that he was throwing mostly fastballs (around 90mph) and cutters (sitting 84-86) and throwing in an occasional curveball in the high 70s.  Griffith split the year between Lansing and Dunedin last year and will probably end up in Dunedin again this year.  He seemed to struggle with his control last year.  He got hit hard and his cutter didn't appear to move an awful lot.  I don't think there's enough movement on the cutter or fastball to be successful without throwing the curveball.  And if he can't throw strikes with the curveball, he'll have a very difficult time this year.

I watched Chorye Spoone and Joel Carreno with Alvin.  Alvin commented that Carreno had put on some weight and that his windup was "methodical," meaning "slow."  Spoone didn't throw a lot of strikes and while Carreno did at first, he was leaving a lot of things up in the zone.  After he got hit a bit with his stuff up in the zone, he started bringing it down, but missing in the dirt.  You could tell that Carreno has a very good offspeed pitch, with two-plane break (meaning that it broke both horizontally and vertically), but the problem yesterday was location.  Carreno has posted very good numbers everywhere except for his stint in Las Vegas last year (including around 15 innings in the majors in 2011), so let's hope that Buffalo treats him better than the desert did.

Of the hitters I saw, Leo Hernandez had a nice hit (Hernandez has been in the Jays system since signing as an international free agent from Venezuela in 2007, but hasn't progressed beyond Short-Season A ball), and Chris Hawkins really impressed me with his speed.  Hawkins is a big guy (he's got to be more than the 195 that he's listed at on, but runs really well.  He seems to hit the ball a long way in BP but that hasn't translated to big power in game action, however, yesterday, Hawkins beat out an infield hit that seemed like a routine grounder to short.

That was my day yesterday.  I'll leave you with a photo of a Jays batter at the plate.  I think it's Kevin Pillar.
Jays batter with the ball in flight


* I use AAA and AA somewhat loosely.  Many AAA players are still with the major league clubs and the rosters are filled out with whoever the team wanted to send over.

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