Larry Andersen is a special pitching instructor this year. I had a conversation with Larry during Phantasy week in January. Larry presides as the commissioner during Phantasy week and spends a lot of time visiting with the people watching the games. During one of these visits, I asked him about his upcoming stint as instructor and his future in the broadcasting booth. Larry said that he was supposed to be a special instructor each of the past two seasons but that something came up each year that cancelled his appearance. He said that he would love to be a pitching coach again and that he would gladly leave the booth to resume coaching. His interest would be in the low levels of the system so he could help young pitchers begin following the basics before they progressed too far through the system and developed bad habits. He specifically stated that it was a shame that the young guys coming up from Lehigh Valley were allowed to commit fundamental mistakes. For example, he noticed that they were beginning their wind ups with their hands in the wrong starting position.
Day nine started as the other days, a meeting at the mound with Sandberg. This routine must be boring for some of the newly signed veterans as they are beginning to amuse themselves on the perimeter rather than giving their undivided attention. Afterwards, exercises and stretching before the coaches led the players through a new running drill. The drill started with a coach hitting a ball to a coach standing in shallow right. The first runner rounded first and held up at second. A second runner delayed then ran to and rounded first. The coach hit another ball and the runner on second ran home, and the runner on first went to third. Another two runners ran to second and first. Now and for the rest of the drill the bases were loaded. On every hit, base runners advanced two bases and two new runners occupied second and first. It took a while before we realized that coaches were positioned at the bases and were watching how the bases were touched (e.g., inside portion of third with outside foot), and how the turn was executed. They’re really focusing on basics.
Today’s first PFP was a situational drill. Runners on first and third, the pitcher goes into his stretch and throws home. The catcher throws to a base or fakes a throw depending on what play the coach has called. On two throws, Nieves failed to reach second. The second PFP had the runner break early from first. The pitcher was required to look at the runner on third before making a play to second. Bastardo “Lonnie Smith-ed” one into the grass behind the mound on an attempted throw to second. Hernandez failed to look the runner back at third. Munson threw one into centerfield. All were required to repeat until correct.
They had “Live” BP today. I got Biddle and Valle pitching to Frandsen, Howard, and Mayberry. My vantage point wasn’t as good on Ashburn Field, but I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to see Biddle. Since I didn’t have a good position, I watched Valle’s glove. Based on how often and how far Valle had to move his glove to catch Biddle’s pitches, I would say Biddle didn’t have good control today. He threw a few good fastballs and more than a few good curves, but all in all he struggled with control. Only Mayberry got good wood on a pitch, driving a fly ball to the track in left.
By contrast, Lee and Joseph pitched to Rollins, Abreu, and Revere on another field. Lee kept everything down and the guys couldn’t get their bats on his pitches.
Luis Garcia followed Biddle. He threw a little harder but had no movement on his fast ball. He had better control than Biddle, and kept more pitches down. The batters made more contact, but none would have been good for a hit.
Mario Hollands followed Garcia. He pitched to Castro, Blanco, and Gillies. He had more consistent control than Garcia. He was down in the strike zone more consistently than the other two. The batters weren’t able to make solid contact during his stint on the mound.
BP off the coaches came next, and of course, everyone could hit now.
The position players separated for their fielding drills. One of the drills I watched the outfielders perform required that they to field a softly hit ball. They had to charge the ball and make sure they got their glove down to retrieve the ball as it lost momentum and rolled along the ground. They had to come up throwing and hit the cut off man. I think the idea was to make sure the fielder is getting the glove down to the ball rather than waiting for an expected bounce into the glove.
Meanwhile, the coaches hit ground balls to the infielders who were separated onto two different fields. Balls were hit simultaneously to all positions. Galvis was splitting time at shortstop with Rollins rather than at second with Utley.
Franco was splitting time with Hernandez at third on the other field. Cedeno, Brignac, and Blanco rotated at short.
They finished with Bowa calling out number of outs and the position of base runners for the major league infielders. On the other field they finished turning various double plays with Franco at third and Cedeno and Hernandez at short. Today was the first time I can remember seeing Hernandez anywhere other than second base.
That is all.