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Things are progressing much the same as previous years. Calisthenics, stretching, long toss then PFPs for the pitchers and BP for the early reporting position players. However there are some minor changes. Seems like less BP before some of the infielders slip away for infield drills. Outfield drills seem to run longer. The PFPs look the same, but the pitchers are throwing to live batters much sooner than they were last year.
The nastiest drill has been a pop up drill for the catchers. Saturday poor Carlos Ruiz, Cameron Rupp, Jorge Alfaro, J.P. Arencibia, Andrew Knapp, Logan Moore, and Gabriel Lino had to look directly up into an overhead sun against a cloudless blue sky to catch balls shot into the air by the pitching machine.
The drill requires the catcher to come out of his crouch and dart to the dirt and grass seam in front of home plate before looking up to pick up the flight of the ball. When he determines the path of the ball, he has to toss his mask away from the target zone, drift to the ball, and in most early attempts pick the ball up from the ground and get back in line. The first time through the drill only Chooch caught a ball. No surprise that he looked the best during this defensive drill.
Coach McLaren was in charge of the drill and offered instruction. One catcher was told to jettison his mask sooner, it would affect his balance otherwise. (He had just stumbled and had a ball go off his mitt. He had held onto his mask too long.) Others were told to get square to the plate before moving toward the ball. By the end of this portion of the drill, most were making catches.
Then Coach McLaren became the Marquis de Sade. After the first catch was completed (or not), a second ball was launched into the air. The catcher was forced to locate and catch the second ball from whatever location he made the first catch. An off balance first catch made a second successful catch impossible. Hopefully, no retinas were burned during this drill.
None of the catchers had that black stuff under their eyes that might have cut down on the glare. Those who had sunglasses wore them after their first time through the drill. No matter where the ball was going, Logan Moore always tossed his mask in a spot that was near where he would return to the line for his next turn. Pretty clever.
There are a lot of minor league players here. It’s not unusual for extra catchers to be brought to camp. We think we’ve identified Cabral, Brodzinski, and Bossart so far. Most of the pitchers are here. The extra catchers and position players like Tim Zier and Carlos Alonso are among those acting as batters during live pitching for guys like Nola , Thompson, and Eflin.
Over in Bright House Field, Odubel Herrera impressed with his hustle going back for fly balls during BP. Saturday, he was the only guy trying to shag flies. He looked good retreating back to the warning track from a shallow position. I’m becoming a believer.
There was a new intern approaching the coaches behind the batting cage on Carlton Field. I thought he was delivering a message to one of the coaches. Turns out it was Matt Klentak. Yeah, he looks that young.
Here are some photos courtesy of Joe Kuhn.