Of course, it’s just Spring Training. It’s just the first week of Spring Training at that. Players losing the rust, getting in shape, just finding their groove, a bunch of big leaguers playing against minor leaguers, a bunch of minor leaguers playing against minor leaguers. To the casual fan it’s a waste of time. But to the true devotee of baseball there’s drama all about.
For many young prospects out there it is their first chance to display their talents on a big league level. For them that one inning pitched, that first Spring at bat, is the culmination of a young life dedicated to that moment, that first chance. For those Spring Training newbies that first appearance in front of the Big League manager can feel like a heart attack.
There’s drama for more seasoned players as well, especially those on the cusp; cusp of the forty man, cusp of the opening day roster, cusp of the starting rotation. Every now and then somebody performs so surprisingly well that, given little chance to make the team before Spring Training, he makes it so that cutting him is simply an intolerable injustice.
As one of our radio announcers says, “The games don’t count but they are meaningful.”
So here are my random first impressions of the early Spring Training.
- The competition for the fourth outfield position is ON. In his first chance Tony Kemp went 2-2 with a double and a triple and two RBI. Jake Marisnick hit the first pitch of Spring Training from Max Scherzer 420 feet, and added an RBI single in his second game. Josh Reddick is hitting .600, Myles Straw .500 and playing outfield like superman on steroids. Ted is starting where he left off last Spring Training, also hitting .600 in early action. And Derek Fisher says, “don’t forget me,” with a single and double in two games.
2. It’s only four Spring Training games, but isn’t better to see the bats get off to a hot start than a slow start? The team batting average is .318. Very early returns suggest the new batting coaches have the hitters ready to go.
3. Early returns say the pitching looks good too. Old man Verlander’s arm is still attached to his body. He threw two perfect innings today, as did J. B. Bukauskas yesterday. But special kudos to THE FUTURE, Forrest Whitley, who was also perfect in his first ever Spring Training appearance, and struck out three in two innings. The only Astros pitchers to surrender more than one run are two guys way down the depth charts who just happened to be in town for the weekend.
4. Valdez is still Frambering. He opened the Mets game with a walk, then allowed a single, got a ground out, and then this double play. “Alejandro Salazar grounds into a double play, first baseman Yuli Gurriel to catcher Robinson Chirinos to third baseman Abraham Toro to catcher Robinson Chirinos to shortstop Carlos Correa to third baseman Abraham Toro to first baseman Yuli Gurriel. Ronald Acuna out at home. Alejandro Salazar out at 1st, 3 out.” In the second inning he opened with a hit batsman, but again got out with a double play. Two innings pitched, a hit, a walk, a hit by pitch, two double plays and no runs. That’s Frambering.
5. Abraham Toro is hitting .500 and looks goooood.
6. Who’s Nick Tanielu? Why does he have 6 RBI in six at bats? All he needs is a double to hit for the cycle this early Spring.
It’s just the first four games of Spring Training, and it will be completely forgotten very soon. But for rookies like Brandon Bailey, Brandon Bielak, Kit Scheetz, Peter Solomon and others, starting their careers with two scoreless innings in Spring Training could be most auspicious.