Same start as on previous days – meeting at the mound, stretching routines, exercises, then running drills. Today’s drill had the runners take a turn at first. When all were in line again, they went from first to third. You could see the coach watching the runner approach second then looking down to watch the foot placement as each player touched the base. Kelly Dugan was MIA today.
During long toss, I noticed that Clete Thomas was about 60 feet deeper than the other pairs. His partner couldn’t reach him. I guess he was trying to showcase his arm. It was a strong arm.
Today’s PFPs were infield pop ups and shallow fly balls. The pitchers simulated a pitching motion and the coaches used a machine to launch balls. The first team (on Ashburn) had Rollins and Galvis platoon at short, and Asche and Frandsen platoon at third. Utley played second, and Howard first. The second team (on Schmidt) had Blanco and Cedeno platoon at short, and Franco and Brignac platoon at third. Hernandez played second and Ruf played first. Players called others off to avoid collisions. (Last year, during this drill, I heard Utley yell, “I got it, I got, it, I f*ckin’ got it“ on a foul ball down the right field line. No repeat of that this year.)
Let me make this observation about Darin Ruf. I don’t think he has even a slim chance of making the 25-man roster once the team cuts down to 5 bench players. They use him predominantly at first during PFPs and infield drills. I don’t think they are doing that to better prepare him for a platoon at first. If he were going to make the team as the 5th outfielder, I tihnk they would be more concerned with improving his outfield defense. So I would expect him to practice more with the outfielders. I don’t think he’s been with the outfielders once since the full squad reported. I’ve seen Hollins cover first during drills for Howard, but haven’t seen Mayberry or Frandsen at first yet. I think this is an indication of the organization’s indifference toward Ruf. By the way, he is a very good first baseman.
Live BP followed. It was less crowded, so I checked each field before deciding where to watch. The first 4 pitchers were Bastardo, Manship, O’Sullivan, and Hernandez. I chose to watch Hernandez and Ruiz with Revere, Rollins, and Abreu. Hernandez displayed inconsistent control. He would throw three or four good pitches, then a couple wild ones, then a knee buckler.
The next group included Aumont, Horst, Munson, and Stutes. I chose to watch Aumont and Joseph with Brown, Byrd, Gwynn, and Franco. Aumont threw a pretty straight fastball. It was fast and the batters had trouble getting around on it. He displayed some wildness with it. He hit the glove more consistently with his off speed stuff. And mixed it up enough that nobody could touch it.
As the BP with Aumont was winding down, I saw Ken Giles walk through to Ashburn. I followed him over. He pitched to Nieves against Gillies, Castro, Blanco, and Marson. He had two pitches working – his fastball and slider(?). He looked real good. Andersen was behind Giles, and looked like he was enjoying what he was seeing. In fact, Sandberg and Wade were there for the show, too. BP against the coaches was next, I’m sure these batters were glad to see Giles leave the mound.
A friend told me that Munson had a good session throwing against a group that included Utley and Asche. On a couple pitches, he induced a swing and miss with a good fastball and a good slider.
During “soft” BP against the Larry Bowa, we noticed that the ramp he was throwing from was closer than on previous days. He was releasing the ball halfway between the rubber and the plate. That’s about 30 feet. We’ve never seen BP thrown from that close. We surmised that either his arm was sore or he wanted to get the ball to the plate with a little more on it. In either case, it was back to about 40 feet when Rende took over.
They finished up with infield drills. Hernandez played second with the second team. Ruf played first. They fielded routine ground balls. Later while the shortstops and second basemen were practicing the double play turn, a coach hitting line drives on one bounce from the outfield to Franco and Brignac at third. The coaches do this to simulate a throw from the outfield. Later they did the same for Ruf at first. Later, Franco and Brignac were positioned in the cut out and fielded sharply hit balls to their left and from a distance of about 50-60 feet. These balls were hit very hard and varied in distance from 1 to 5 feet to their left or right. It was the most intense fielding drill I’ve seen yet. Franco did well. I think the coach was Doug Mansolino. At one point, I heard him say, “Okay catch 5 in a row and you’re done”. Five swings later, after Maikel stoned him, Mansolino said “Just kidding, let’s keep going”. Or words to that effect.