The number of people attending spring training is much lower this year than in any of the three previous years that I’ve been here. In the past, the bleachers were full, people were two, three deep around the fences, and the pathways around the complex were crowded. This year, I can walk unimpeded from one field to another, get a prime spot along the fences surrounding the fields, and rarely have to worry about blocking the view of fans seated on the bleachers.
The day started the same as earlier days – meeting on the mound, stretching in the outfield, base running drills, long toss, and finally live batting practice. The pitchers threw in two groups of four. Rather than try to watch parts of 4 pitchers’ outings, I opted to stick with who I thought was the most interesting pitcher in the first group – Miguel Gonzalez.
Gonzalez pitched to a group of 3 left-handed batters that included Domonic Brown. He threw a mix of pitches in addition to his fastball. Without a gun, it’s hard to judge the velocity, but I would guess low 90s with downward movement. The batters struggled to make contact with his fastball, and most were in the strike zone. MAG is rumored to have a lot of pitches in his arsenal. He seemed to have reasonable control of those he attempted today. When he missed, he missed high and wide. He did manage to throw a couple of knee buckling pitches that had the batters swinging at air.
The second group was comprised of middle reliever types, I watched Ethan Martin. I got to his field after he had started and was intrigued that he did not have the protective screen in front of him that pitchers throw from behind in camp. His group of batters included Aaron Altherr. Martin induced a lot of swings-and-misses. So many, in fact, I wondered if his stuff was that good or if the batters were just swinging at anything. He got a lot of bad, awkward swings on pitches other than his fastball. Even when they became more selective, the batters didn’t make much contact. The only batter who did make consistent contact was Altherr. He managed to get his bat on most pitches and hit the ball hard somewhere.
I missed Mario Hollands pitching to Ryan Howard’s group. I was told by a friend that Howard looked disgusted with himself. He wasn’t able to make contact on any of his swings against Hollands. Live BP turned into BP off the coaches.
When batting practice ended, the players broke into their positional groups for fielding practice. I stayed at Ashburn Field and watched an infield comprised of Asche, Blanco, Hernandez, and Howard/Ruf. Utley and Galvis were paired with Franco and Canzler over on Schmidt Field.
The pitching machines were wheeled out and another round of batting practice took place. Ryne Sandberg stood behind the cage and gave the batters specific situations, like runner on second, no outs, etc. Howard hit much better against the machine. Spraying the ball around and hitting 2 balls over the right centerfield fence.
Odubel Herrera looked good again in all batting drills. I think he has to go into a coma to not go north with the team. They have had him in left field during outfield fielding practices with Juan Samuel as his shadow.
Spring training will start to wind down tomorrow. It will be the last full day. Sunday they play a game against the University of Tampa, the official start of the Grapefruit Season games according to MLB. I haven’t decided yet if I want to spend $15 dollars to watch them play against college players. I wish I knew who they were going to play and pitch. Monday is a shortened practice before they break for their yearly golf tournament. And Tuesday they begin games against real teams.
Minor League pitchers are scheduled to report Thursday, March 5th.