Around 10 o’clock this morning, over ninety Philadelphia Phillies’ coaches, instructors, and players exited the clubhouse for the start of spring training. There were about 200-300 fans on hand to witness the beginning of the Klentak era.
This season also marks the first spring training under no-longer-interim manager Pete Mackinon. While a lot of today’s drills were familiar, there were a couple stark differences. Pitchers threw from the mound to live hitters earlier than last year. And, they did this with the protective screens removed.
Here are a few observations. The beginning of full squad workouts eliminates the necessity of deciding between the Complex with pitchers and catchers and Bright House with position player BP. But first, some photos from the last BP in Bright House on Monday.
One of the easiest observations is the effect of the absence of Chase Utley. I guess the base running drills are not a activity where you want a player to pull a muscle. But, only Odubel Herrera matched Utley’s lost intensity.
The infield drills were slightly different with all infielders rotating from second base to shortstop as they practiced fielding batted balls, flipping to the bag, and relaying to Ryan Howard at first. Cesar Hernandez, Freddiy Galvis, and J.P. Crawford all looked good at both positions as you would expect. Maikel Franco and Darin Ruf were respectable but clearly over-shadowed by Brock Stassi. The left-hander not only fielded well moving to either side, but also made his awkward pivot throws look natural. Note that Cody Asche was with the outfielders and Andres Blanco was running sprints with a trainer in left field.
On Monday, the catchers practiced popping out of their crouch and throwing to second base. I noted that the order they followed was Carlos Ruiz, Cameron Rupp, J.P. Arencibia, Andrew Knapp, Jorge Alfaro, Gabriel Lino, and Logan Moore. After that they switched to throws to third with the next man standing in the batter’s box to obstruct the throw. Coach Morandini played the role of infielder at both bases. Alfaro has every bit of the cannon arm we’ve read about. His throws to second had the least arc on them. His second to last throw to third elicited a word of dismay (?) from Morandini as he slammed the ball into the bucket and shook his glove hand. Alfaro threw the next ball even harder, on a line, no arc.
Back to Tuesday. The fielders and catchers separated into groups for PFPs. The group distinctions seemed clear. The group on Ashburn Field included Ruiz, Rupp, Arencibia, Knapp, Howard, Franco, Hernandez, Galvis, and Crawford. The other guys went to Schmidt Field.
The PFPs included simulated bunts for the pitchers and catchers to field and throw to the designated base. The pitching group on Ashburn Jerad Eickhoff. Unlike the other pitchers, Eickhoff pretended to throw a ball to the plate and pretended to throw to the correct base. Evidence that he is doing the drills but not throwing yet with his injured thumb.
The day’s drills came to a conclusion with live BP against real pitchers, then BP Lite against their coaches. Later, while the early reporting minor leaguers were stretching, Roman Quinn came over to lay down 20-30 bunts from each side of the plate against a pitching machine.
Roman Quinn was part of the group with Crawford. Quinn got a couple of line drives off Nola while I was watching.
I watched the Howard, Herrera, Franco group bat against Edubray Ramos and Larry Bowa. Ramos was throwing some heat and spun Herrera out of the box with a pitch up and in. All three hitters looked good today. Howard stroked most of his contact to left and left center. Franco muscled a lot of pitches that were beat down at the fence by a strong wind. Herrera just keeps hitting line drives. He put a few balls over the right field fence. I’m glad I don’t park there anymore.
More numerology. Numbers 89 thru 92 were issued to spring instructors and a quartet of catchers who reported early and were helping out over the weekend. They were taking live BP over the weekend and drove us to distraction as we tried to figure out who was who. Monday, I figured out the four catchers were Austin Bossart, Greg Brodzinski, Edgar Cabral, and Joel Fisher. I’m like 90% certain. Maybe just 80%.
And some photos of the minor league early reports.
As I was leaving the Complex, I noticed Cody Forsythe was throwing on Ashburn Field. You can’t tell from this photo, but it appeared to me that Forsythe has altered his delivery a little. Looks like a different arm slot. Last season, his delivery reminded me a little of Jake Diekman’s delivery. Today, it appeared to me that his delivery was more three-quarters to over the top than I remember. No gun available, but his velocity seemed greater, too.
As I headed south on Old Coachman Road, I passed “C” Randolph. He was walking on the sidewalk, carrying his Phillies’ duffle bag, headed to the Complex. I have no idea why he wasn’t walking within the fences of the Complex between the parking lot and the club house. I almost drove off the road rubber necking. That’s another young prospect in camp early.