I got to the Carpenter Compex just before 10:00AM. Once again, they had started early and were just completing their long toss on Carlton Field, the coaches were beginning to run PFPs, on Roberts and Schmidt, the major league team was running drills in Ashburn’s left field, and Chad Billingsley was throwing pitches off the mound on Ashburn Field.
I watched what I thought were the last 6 pitches of his outing. He walked behind the mound, did a deep-knee bend, talked to coach McClure, and grabbed the rosin bag. Then he went back to the mound and pitched live batting practice to Chris McGuiness and Darin Mastroianni. He probably started out a little tentative, since he appeared to gain velocity on his fastball during his session. Some of his off-speed pitches had nice, sharp break on them. He did struggle with control on a couple pitches and nailed Mastroianni on the upper arm with one fastball.
After 25-30 pitches, he talked grips with coach next to the mound. I stuck around until he headed back to the clubhouse. I could see no obvious indications that he was experiencing any discomfort.
After Billingsley left the field, the Phillies came over from Bright House to take BP before their game against Detroit. I went looking for more interesting players to watch.
Coach Truby was pitching to Brown, Perkins, Pointer, and Quinn on Roberts Field. I focused on Brown since I had noticed a lot of pre-load movement yesterday. In spite of the high hand start and movement when he takes his stance, he does get his hands down from his ear to his shoulder and stops his extraneous movement just prior to his swing. He Pointer, and Perkins each have nice looking swings. Perkins laced line drive after line drive until he jacked one off the left center field fence. Truby and the players around the cage started razzing him when it failed to clear the fence. His next swing cleared the fence by about 20 feet. When Quinn started lifting fly balls into the outfield, Truby reminded him, “Line drives, Quinny”.
On the adjacent field, Coach Legg pitched to Martinez, Green, Valentin, and Crawford. When Green completes his load, his hands are a little above his shoulder. Crawford continued to impress with a nice mix of line drives and power.
FWIW, Mitch Walding does have nice mechanics. His pre-load isn’t as loose as others and he tightens it up before he swings. Physically, he looks a little leaner than some of the other corner guys like Cozens and Green.
Some of the catchers were pulled into center field on Roberts and with the fence at their back took a position at the rim of the warning track. They practiced blocking balls in the dirt and retrieving wild pitches. This was reinforced in later drills.
The next round of PFPs had pitchers, catchers, and fielders fielding bunts with runners on various bases. On one play, Jan Hernandez bobbled a ball when the catcher yelled “3, 3, 3!” and still threw to third. The coach used it as a teaching moment, reminding him to go to first if he dropped the ball. He stressed that “We all drop balls, it’s important to make the correct play when it happens”. Coach Sweeney caught several pitchers making a balk move when looking back to second. Another teaching moment.
I went to the outside cages to watch some of the young guys – Carlos Duran, Venn Biter, L. Rodriguez, Rivero, Palacios, W. Garcia, and Posso. I was struck by their lack of perceptible weight shift. None of the group took a step into the pitch. They took no step, lifted the heel and replaced it, or lifted the toe and landed in the same spot. I thought it odd that none of the group took the step that most older hitters take.
As I returned to Carlton Field, I heard Coach Wathan tell his group to go at “Game speed”. Then they went into right field for their next drill. It was the darnedest thing I ever saw. Sliding drills. On outfield grass. A couple coaches dragged two sliding tarps onto the field. They looked like black slip-n-slides. Then the players pulled a pair of sliding pants over their uniform pants. In pairs, they approached the sliding areas “at game speed”, slid feet first, extending their hands over their heads like they were signalling a touchdown. The coaches constantly had to adjust the slip-n-slide.
Next the players were directed to slide into a pair of bases on the grass in the outfield. Then they returned to the infield and removed the sliding pants and continued to perform sliding drills into second base – feet first, hands up, pop up slide. Finally, the runners took a lead off first on a pitch by a coach to one of the catchers. Here is where the earlier catchers’ drill in the outfield came into play. The pitches were all short and had to be blocked. The idea was to control the pitch and be in a position to make a throw to second as quickly and cleanly as possible. The catcher was expected to be in a throwing stance as soon as he stood up with the ball. No step, just a body pivot. This group of catchers and base runners included the guys from the second group, the one that looks like the Clearwater group.
During this drill, Kelly Dugan exited the clubhouse and headed for the parking lot – in his walking boot.
I’m going to the game tomorrow. Gotta get there early to grab a seat in the Terrace. Hamels is supposed to start. I hope to see some of the prospects pitching and in the line up.