Jose Ruins Careers at the Fort
I hope everyone in Massachusetts enjoyed the foot of snow last week. If it makes you feel better it was a bit windy today when I stepped out of the pool and I caught a bit of a chill. Brrrrr.
I have been able to brave the elements and get to a few Spring Training games so far and as always it is a ton of fun. The week started on a bit of a maudlin note as I walked through the retired numbers section in front of JetBlue Park and passed Johnny Pesky’s number 6. John hasn’t been an active part of Spring Training for a few years but it was still a sobering reminder that the beloved Pesky was no longer with us. I can’t imagine a better ambassador for the game of baseball.
Watching the big boys has been fun. Just in general it seems like things are going well. Jackie Bradley Jr. has clearly become a huge fan favorite generating the biggest cheer when lineups were introduced on Saturday night. He’s great fun to watch playing with a certain joie de vive without being over the top about it. A great example of this was Wednesday’s game that he ended with a fine running catch near the wall, stopped, then took two running steps and jumped spread eagled against the wall. It was a funny and fun moment.
I’ve seen Felix Doubront twice. The first time he looked awful. His delivery was all over the place and he couldn’t hit his spots at all. His second start against the Orioles was up and down. He got a bunch of swing and misses(6 on 53 pitches) but when he got hit he got hit hard. He had no command of either his curveball or his change up (which seemed to be sitting around 85/86 MPH, too fast for his 90 MPH fastball) but his fastball was effective.
I don’t know if it was just usual conditioning stuff or not but on Wednesday Doubront was in a solo part of the complex doing some running drills (think suicides on a basketball court). I never saw other pitchers doing this and it was just Felix and a coach/trainer. It looked like “hey fat ass, get in shape” type drills to me.
A few other guys of note;
Joel Hanrahan - I saw him against Baltimore and he looked sharp. His slider was really snapping, not at all the pitcher we had seen in his first few outings.
Jose Iglesias - Iggy looks like he’s added some speed. He’s not Jacoby Ellsbury or anything but he seems to be considerably quicker than he was last year and he still hits the ball hard when he makes contact. He’s not a Punch and Judy hitter, he just needs to hit his pitch, not the pitcher’s pitch.
Will Middlebrooks - It’s a small thing but Middlebrooks had a few chances to start double plays on Saturday night and was tentative on all the throws. I’m sure it was nothing but the throws were a bit Knoblauch-esque frankly in the way he shot-putted them over.
Jon Lester - Lester seemed like he was focusing on mixing his pitches a LOT more than he did the last couple of seasons. A scout sitting near me mentioned his arm slot seemed a bit lower.
Mike Napoli - It’s possible that it was just a function of the heavily right-handed lineup Baltimore employed against Doubront Saturday night but Napoli was playing way off the bag at first in a very Overbay-like manner. His footwork over there was underwhelming. Considering that he has played a fair amount of first the last couple of years he looked surprisingly uncertain. I wonder if the Sox are trying a break him down/build him back up approach to his defense.
Rubby De La Rosa - Fine, he’s not freakin’ lanky. He looked a bit like a taller Tom Gordon. Watching him pitch it is hard to see him as a starter. He has a real maximum effort delivery and while his stuff is good he just looks like a reliever out there. It’s hard to see his approach working for 6-7 innings. Appier is the one guy who comes to mind that was able to succeed as a starter in such a way.
Brian Butterfield - I like watching Butterfield as a third base coach. Unlike the last couple of 3B coaches we’ve had he gets way down the line when sending/holding runners which should allow him to make later decisions.
Defense - Other than Napoli being off the bag I haven’t seen anything in the three games I have attended that speaks to a plan to play radical defensive shifts. It’s early in the Spring through so that is hardly proof of anything.
Walking among the minor leaguers was its usual great fun. Deven Marrero seems to be a really coaches favorite. He was singled out (“that’s how you do it boys, look at Marrero running that drill the right way!”) for the way he did drills and every time he did something he would seek out a coach for a quiet word afterwards and seemed to be lapping up instruction.
Dwight Evans was actively working with the outfielders one of the days I was there on their throwing techniques. Not a bad guy to get some input from.
The minor leaguers as a group seemed to be really focusing on stretching and conditioning more than I recall in years past. It almost had a high school football team vibe with everyone in a circle diligently doing their stretching drills. The other big focus on days I was there was base running. The general sense I got was that fundamentals are a big part of John Farrell’s first Red Sox camp.
In general the coaches seem heavily empowered at all levels. Unlike last year when you couldn’t get away from Bobby Valentine Farrell is a much less obvious presence but the coaches on all fields are much more vocal and engaged than I recall under either Valentine or Francona.
Thoughts on a few kids;
Bryce Brentz/Drake Britton - Both guys were working with the minor leaguers, Britton two days after the arrest. Brentz seemed to be moving fine, I didn’t see a limp.
Pat Light - Light is a big solid guy who takes the Will Middlebrooks mantle of “that’s how you’re supposed to look in a baseball uniform.”
In Shape - A couple of guys who I thought looked like they were in better shape than when I saw them last were Anthony Ranaudo and Travis Shaw. Shaw particularly looks a bit more athletic than he did when I saw him in Portland in August.
Henry Owens - If Owens has anything at all on the baseball LOOGY should be the floor for him. Haircut aside he physically resembles Andrew Miller and I can’t imagine standing in the batter’s box against him if I’m a lefty.
Manuel Margot - My first thought upon seeing Margot was a young Ron Gant. That level of power probably isn’t going to be there for Margot but he has a sturdy, explosive look about him for a young kid.
I’m going to games Tuesday and Friday this week. If you’ve got something or someone you want me to see, let me know (and if someone could go shovel my driveway that would be great).