Now that things have quieted a little since the Harper signing, I can devote my attention fully to spring training. I’ll use this article to catch up on what has been happening down here in the major and minor league camps. By the way, today, Harper faced live pitching and the minor leagues had their first full squad work outs.
Major League Spring Training
If you haven’t been to spring training since Charlie and Pete were managers, you would hardly recognize it. Beginning last year, fans were told that workouts would begin at 11:00 AM. I recall that additional sleep time for the players was the reason. Well, players arrive as early as 6:00 AM. Pitching, infield drills (group and individual), catching drills, and PFPs are held on the half field (in front of the Spectrum Field offices) as early as 7:30 AM. They are completed by 9:30 AM and the involved players move inside.
At 11:00 AM, players do come out and perform their stretching routines in left field on Ashburn Field. They spread onto right field on Schmidt Field for their full squad work outs. They did some base running, infield’outfield/catching drills, PFPs, and batting but not as much as we were used to seeing. There seemed to be a lot more attention to several catching drills down the lines and out of sight on Roberts and Schmidt Fields.
The Phillies brought umpires in to call balls and strikes during mound sessions. One of my favorite work outs to watch is live batting practice between a starting pitcher and batters with an umpire. The batting cages are moved back for these sessions. Since the coaches stand behind the cages during batting practice, this brings guys like Gabe Kapler and Charlie Manuel within a couple feet of us fans.
Today, live BP was held in the stadium. Jake Eickhoff faced Bryce Harper and Gift Ngoepe. It was the first time that Harper faced a live pitcher this spring. Eickhoff looked good. He pitched two innings and missed their bats for the most part. Harper did make solid contact on one pitch, sending it over the back wall.
Split squad tomorrow. Rumor circulated that Harper will take BP with the minor leaguers.
Minor League Spring Training
Over 180 kids took to the fields today. As I’ve reported before, many reported early and have been here for weeks. Alec Bohm was here the earliest, arriving in early January. Pitchers and catchers began last week. They’ve been focusing strongly on fundamentals. They run their drills relentlessly. They must see them in their sleep.
- One new one requires 5 pitchers. Four stand in a box and one rolls a ball to the pitcher in the middle of the box. He flips the ball to the pitcher on the corner to his left and switches places with the pitcher who rolled the ball to him. The drill continues in a counter clockwise direction … for ever, it seems.
- A drill for the catchers has a catcher standing on each base and one at the plate. A coach tosses a pitch and the catcher makes a throw. The catcher throws twice to each base then everybody rotates. This is sometimes done with a fifth catcher providing each with a short break before taking his turn again in a drill that seems to run … for ever.
- Position players were not exempt from new drills. Those who reported early, performed a drill where they were required to catch balls flipped into the air with their bare glove hand. As the drill progressed, they were required to collect three balls – one retreating from the coach, one coming in, and one either left or right.
Pitchers and catchers also performed other drills – their normal PFPs, blocking balls in the dirt from the mound, and simulated relays from a pitching machine set up at the second base position.
Coaches took advantage of the large number of early reporting position players to practice relay throws to bases and home plate. From behind second base, a coach would hit a ball into a gap or corner and the middle infielders would relay a throw to third base or home plate.
They worked on a lot of different skills, and ran them over and over again.
Today, I noticed another new drill for the outfielders. Two outfielders would stand with their backs to a coach (either a CF and RF or CF and LF). On contact they would turn and pick up the ball in the air. One would call for the catch with the other backing him up.
During all drills, there were a lot of repetitions, much instruction, and a lot of “mulligans” until a drill was done correctly. Mistakes were corrected when they happened.
With the arrival of Bryce Harper in Clearwater, the total number of players in major league camp is 62. There are 181 players in the minor league camp. That leaves over 100 at the Dominican Academy.
This morning, all the pitchers walked over to DiMaggio Field, leaving the four Complex fields for the first day of position players. The walk to DiMaggio is usually reserved for the lowest of the groups, group five later in the spring, group four when the Phillies need Ashburn. I’ve heard that some rookie level pitchers refer to it as the “Walk of Shame” and were looking forward to having advanced to a level where they wouldn’t have to make the walk. Big surprise I guess when ALL the pitchers were sent to DiMaggio. The position players performed their drills and took BP. Each field was manned by one of the affiliates’ coaching staffs – Reading and Shawn Williams on Schmidt, Clearwater and Malloy on Roberts, Lakewood and Micucci on Carlton, and Williamsport and Borders on Ashburn.
So, if we assume that these would be groups one through four, here’s how the position players were divided today. Keep in mind that this in no way indicates where a player will be assigned. And these aren’t official until the Phillies distribute them.
Group 1 – Bossart, Cabral, Lartigue, Randolph, Markham, J. Hernandez, Alastre, K. Martin (red shirt), Marrero, Hall, L. Williams, Cumana, Gomez, and 3 guys in red hoodies
Group 2 – G. Rivero, Conley, N. Martinez, Duran, Henriquez, Mims, Muzziotti, Lancaster, Stokes, Bohm, Nieporte, Guthrie, Brito, Aklinski, Ortiz, Maton, Scheiner, Vierling, Pelletier
Group 3 – Matera, L. Rodriguez, Marchan, Gutierrez, Mayer, J. Francisco, J. Smith, Stobbe, B. Gonzalez, Guzman, Kroon, L. Miller, Stephen, L. Rojas, O’Brien, L. Garcia, M. Matos, Holmes
Group 4 – O’Hoppe, Wang, Edwards, Aparicio, Mendez, Bowles, E. Rodriguez, Bocio, C. Williams, Wingrove, Tortolero, Stewart, Mead, Azuaje, and 2 guys in red hoodies
Guys I didn’t see today – Fitch, De La Cruz, and Stankiewicz went with the Phillies, Wilkening, Oropeza, Tomscha, Torres, Rivas, Pujols, Antequera, A. Castillo, Alfonso, De La Rosa, J. Herrera, Weeks, Dipre, E. Made, Mercado, Simmomns, JC Smith, J. Rivera, De Freitas, Litton, Valerio, L. Matos
It was cold enough that some of the kids took BP wearing hoodies. As it warms up, I’ll be able to tweak this list as changes are made.