The “Unofficial” Start of Spring (Training)

The temperature in Clearwater was a little warmer Friday morning.  There was very little breeze as a handful of spectators, four to be exact, took up their positions to watch 31 ball players take to Robin Roberts Field at the Paul Owens Training Facility, a place I often refer to simply as the Complex.

The healthiest of the group began their scheduled work out by performing stretching exercises in a circle in left field line under the watchful eyes of their trainers.  The “walking wounded” milled about before making their way to the right field foul line for their own supervised drills.  My friend, Steve Potter, and I stood along the fence and tried to guess who was who among the new coaches watching the players.  The Phillies have added a lot of new faces other than players this off season.  Steve’s wife and her friend made up the rest of the spectators and sat on the bleachers waiting for some action.

In earlier articles buried at the end of the Readers’ Poll posts, I have reported that up to 30 players have been seen at the Complex, today Jerad Eickhoff reported –

  1. Mario Sanchez,
  2. Sutter McLoughlin,
  3. Vince Velasquez,
  4. Tom Eshelman,
  5. Adam Morgan,
  6. Mark Leiter,
  7. Pedro Beato,
  8. Ben Lively,
  9. J.D. Hammer,
  10. Drew Anderson,
  11. Jake Thompson,
  12. Zach Eflin,
  13. Nick Pivetta,
  14. Ben Brown,
  15. McKenzie Mills,
  16. Kyle Young,
  17. Garrett Cleavinger,
  18. Seth McGarry,
  19. Ryan Etsell,
  20. Zach Warren,
  21. Jeff Singer,
  22. Kevin Gowdy,
  23. Grant Dyer,
  24. Roman Quinn,
  25. Dylan Cozens,
  26. Edgar Cabral,
  27. Carlos De La Cruz,
  28. Pedro Florimon,
  29. Logan Moore,
  30. Mitch Walding, and
  31. Jerad Eickhoff.

Several other 25-man roster players were rumored to be coming in this week.  I wonder if the recent players’ anger over the lack of movement with free agency has caused them to delay their arrival.  More on that some other time.

In Clearwater, we have a series of important dates on our timeline between the end of live baseball and the date pitchers and catchers report.

  • First we have the Instructional League to give us a baseball fix for 4 weeks, cut to 3 this year due to Hurricane Irma.  This gets us half way through October.
  • Next we focus on two weeks of men’s tournaments at the Complex and several other venues during two weeks in November.
  • Our next milestone is the winter meetings in early December.
  • Nothing after that until Phantasy Week.  In January, even amateur baseball looks good.
  • During and after Phantasy Week players begin arriving and working out at the Complex.
  • This week, two certain spring identifiers occurred – the arrival of the merchandise truck that sits next to Steve Carlton Field during the first days of spring training, and the arrival of a fourth catcher.

The arrival of a fourth catcher is an important event because it changes where the pitchers throw.  They move from the easily observed three mounds between Schmidt and Ashburn Fields to the well hidden Seven Mounds behind the clubhouse.

For me, this signals the “unofficial” start of spring training, since all workouts from this point on will resemble normal spring training workouts.  Our two-week window of watching the pitchers throw up close has closed until next year.  And there are still 11 days until pitchers and catchers report.

The players in Clearwater fall into three types –

  • Players who are still rehabbing and who report monthly for check ups.  Most are probably here for good now.
  • Players who are working co-op jobs for the City of Clearwater.  This is a very successful program that gives young players (usually pitchers) the opportunity to earn some money and access to workouts at the Complex.
  • Players who come down on their dime.

Today, Jerad Eickhoff brought the census up to 31 players.  After stretching, some running, and long toss, the pitchers went behind the club house to throw.  Walding took ground balls at third.  Quinn, Florimon, Cozens, and De La Cruz took a variety of batted balls in the outfield.  These five took their batting practice swings and then turned the cage over to the catchers after they were finished with the pitchers – Moore and Cabral.

Pitchers long-tossing in the outfield

While the guys were doing their exercises, Grant Dyer, Mario Sanchez, and Kevin Gowdy were throwing over in right field.  I had known that they were throwing off flat ground, but this was the first time I saw them, albeit at a distance.  I would estimate that Gowdy was throwing 50-55 feet.  He was about as far from the foul line as the pitching rubber, so he would be throwing less than 60’6″.  He wasn’t throwing for velocity, but seemed to be trying to simulate a certain release arc.  Same for Sanchez.  But he seemed to be a little further from the line and looked to have a little more velo.  Dyer was throwing as much as 90′ with reasonably good velocity.  He looks like he’s trying to show he’s ready to get back on a mound.

Among the new faces was Phillies’ bench coach and long time Yankees coach, Rob Thomson.  During Walding’s fielding drills, Thomson asked to hit a few.  He hit a soft line drive over Walding’s head on his first swing.  I felt an uncontrollable urge, and booed him. He hesitated and turned, like he couldn’t believe that somebody would boo during fielding practice.  I called out, “Welcome to Philly!”.  Fortunately, he got the joke and smiled in good-natured acknowledgement.

Gabe Kapler came out in civvies to watch BP.  I assume he watched the pitchers before coming over.  He made a point of introducing himself to every player and had a brief conversation with each.  He had an extended conversation with Roman Quinn.  One which I could overhear, but decided to walk away and not listen in.  This reminded me of the talks that Larry Bowa and Matt Stairs had with Nick Williams last spring.  Anyway, Roman has looked sullen at the Complex so far.  After their conversation, he looked to be in much better spirits.

Kapler watching Florimon
Kapler talking to Moore and Cabral

By the end of practice, a few more fans and a couple autograph guys had arrived.  Gabe Kapler came over to sign a few autographs.  I positioned myself to introduce myself to him after the last autograph and had a nice conversation with him.  Among other things, I gave him the name and location of the healthiest restaurant in the Clearwater area.


27 thoughts on “The “Unofficial” Start of Spring (Training)

  1. I would have to think Gabe told Roman one or two things – “we’re going to keep you on the field this year” and/or “I want you on the going north.” Quinn is the candidate to be the X factor in 2018.

    1. unless a trade is made, id expect to see Quinn as starting cf in AAA. not much playing time available as number 5 of in philly behind Hoskins, Herrera, Williams and alther

      1. I actually expect to see a healthy Quinn on the 25 as the pinch runner and defensive replacement in LF. Williams and Altherr will platoon, while giving Hoskins, Santana, and Herrera the occasional game off as well.

    2. Disclaimer: Roman Quinn is one of my favorite (probably my favorite) player in the Phillies organization.
      I’ve posted this a couple of times already, but here (again) goes my wild prediction for 2018: Roman Quinn starts 80 games for the Phillies this season.

        1. Wawa Mike…..go easy on that Wawa coffee.
          For Nick P to win 18 games in a max of 33 starts for the season….it could be a real task at hand. Has to remain both healthy and effective.
          I can see him winning somewhere in the area of 12/13 in a good year for him.
          But first he needs to get to 5 and 2/3 innings pitched to qualify for a win.

            1. Those games when everything is working for him…his stuff does play as a solid rotation pitcher. Comes down to consistency.

            1. Kingery comes up in late May and still competes for ROY award (although he doesn’t win it) – Kapler falls in love with the player and almost instantly he becomes the de facto leader of the team. Hoskins hits around .270 with a .365 OBP, 34 homers and 112 RBI. Pivetta has a good not great year, but has occasional flashes of brilliance including a 13 and 15 K performance, foreshadowing a huge emergence in 2019. Nola takes another step forward and the team teases with a near WC run in mid-September before finishing 79-83. Altherr has a huge year and combines with Hoskins and Santana to produce an effective presence in the middle of the order. Teams scores lots of runs as JP and others get on base before a solid middle of the order. Andy Knapp takes another step forward and with Alfaro the team has a dilemma for 2019 about who plays and how much. Rupp is traded before the start of the season. Cesar is traded mid-season to a good team that has a hole at second. Phillies get highly rated low minors prospects in return and an MLB situational reliever.

  2. just was given as a gift a 2018 spring training. can’t wait to join you there on 3/4 for our 16th year at spring training. your reports make it feel like we are there already

  3. O.K. I’ll bite – what is the healthiest restaurant in Clearwater? And how many visits does it take to neutralize one visit to Lenny’s?

    1. Sorry – I was just frustrated over spending some time drafting an extended post and then not seeing it show up – again.

    2. I am not blocking ANY comments. After a long respite, some of your comments are showing up in the spam folder again. Did you follow up with Akismet, the default spam application builder? I can’t do anything more than “un-spam” your comments when I see them.

  4. Honestly, I think Roman Quinn makes the team as the 5th outfielder. I can easily see the game tied in the bottom of the 8th and Hoskins draws a walk…. Quinn goes in to pinch run and be a defensive replacement.

    I cannot see him going to triple-A. He’s done there. He’s going to have to learn and take his lumps at the big league level. However long he lasts before he breaks is a bonus. I’m rooting for the guy, and now is his time.

    1. I think he makes it there too. But he’s going to get a lot more ABs than your traditional 5th outfielder because, while he hasn’t earned a better spot, the ceiling is still impressive. When I see him, I see a guy who has a little less speed (and definitely less base stealing ability) than Billy Hamilton, but potentially just as good of a glove, just as good of a hit tool, but a much better arm and much more power. They should keep him around – he may turn into a very pleasant surprise over time.

    2. Due to the amount of missed time, regular ABs will serve Quinn well. The 40-man has 24 pitchers so Klentak needs to unclog at least a couple of pitchers (Curtis, Leiter) to acquire a veteran SP and a bench UTIL player that (preferably) can play both the INF and OF (i.e. Florimon).

      With Tocci gone, there’s an opening at CF in LHV. Quinn can play regular ABs for 2 months while giving Klantak more time to assess the current and future OF situation.

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