Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Spring Training

Morrow and Drabek at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium

This year, I made the pilgrimage to Dunedin for some spring training baseball. I went to four games, caught a ball and took 1400 pictures. I went with my Mom, which became slightly problematic as the trip went on.

I love baseball. My love of baseball seems to be slightly contagious. My ex-boyfriend now moderately likes baseball, my Mom enjoys baseball, my brother sometimes passes along Blue Jays tidbits that were discussed on CBC radio. I love all these people, but none of them quite share my obsession.

Which resulted in a number of snarky comments from my Mom regarding when exactly we should get to the games and what we should do once we got there.

My favorite quote was "What's the rush? It's a baseball game not a fire. It's only 11 o'clock."

What I saw and liked:
  • Kyle Drabek: I watched Kyle Drabek throw five scoreless innings against a Yankee line up that had most of its regular players. Twice he got into trouble: multiple men on base with one out. Last year, in these situations he got frustrated on the mound, turned red, started talking to himself. This time, he threw his pitchers and extricated himself from the situation. He got the job done. That gives me great hope for the future and for Drabek as a SP for the Blue Jays in 2012.
Drabek, 27 March 2012.
  •  Jose Bautista interacting with non-Spanish speaking teammates: Jose Bautista is lauded as the leader of this team, and I do like me some Jose Bautista. Yet, last year everytime I went to the Roger's Centre to watch batting practice or the pre-game work out, I saw the same thing. Jose Bautista sitting/standing/stretching/talking with his other Latin teammates. This spring, I saw him (numerous times) with all sorts of teammates. I think the arrival of Jeff Mathis, whom Bautista knows from his days at Chippola college, greatly influenced this new trend.
Bautista speaks with teammates John Tolisano and Jeff Mathis at 31 March game against the Phillies.
  • Eric Thames: This may not be the popular sentiment, but I wanted Thames to win the left field job. I wasn't surprised when he did. He has proved that he can be consistent at the big league level. He has a great bat for power, and I saw some great defensive work from him. His throws from the outfield are on line and quick. Also compared to last year's 88 strikeouts, compared to 23 walks. I noticed he was seeing the ball more effectively and wasn't swinging through pitches that were outside of the zone. We'll see if this continues in the regular season.

  • Extra-base hits: Need I say more? Whether it was Kelly Johnson and Brett Lawrie's triples against the Yankees, or Arencibia, Mathis, Davis, Thames and Bautista doubles. I saw great at bats. Lots of power and smart base running. (there were also home runs, but it feels like that is kind of a given with this squad).
  • J.P Arencibia stepping up: My Mom has always seen tremendous leadership potential in Arencibia. I'll admit it. I never did. I worried about the loss of Molina, who was a great veteran and mentor, and whether Arencebia would really be able to step up and be a great catcher and communicator with the pitchers. Molina often caught for Drabek and Morrow and I wondered if JP would be able to communicate with them effectively. On the 27th, I watched Arencibia work out with Drabek for over an hour. Everyone seemed relaxed and loose. And Drabek pitched well. On the two occasions that he got in trouble, JP came out and talked to him, and he was able to get out of it both times. I know a lot of people don't give catchers much credit, but I do. And I liked what I saw from Arencibia.
    Arencibia works out with Drabek.
  • Yan Gomes: I mentioned on twitter that my spring training confession was that I had a crush on Yan Gomes. While he is certainly a good looking man, I think I was more impressed with his baseball skills. Gomes, who is playing at AAA this year, can play catcher, 1b and 3b. In two out four games I saw he was the DH, and I also saw him at 1b and catcher. He had an amazing spring at the plate. .333 average with 7 doubles and a HR over 39 plate appearances. This is different from what his stats from last year look like, so we`ll see if he can maintain this momentum in the hitter friendly PCL. I also wondered if the Blue Jays were putting him in the line up, to show him off for a possible trade. He`s pretty blocked at AAA with D`Arnaud and Arencibia ahead of him at catcher, and Cooper at 1b. 
More than just a pretty face?
  • Anthony Gose: Full disclosure. I didn't actually see Gose as a certain someone in my traveling party did not want to drive to Fort Meyers. However, I heard all about it. The man has got speed and head's up baserunning. 70 stolen bases last year, and he stole second, third and home, which singlehandedly won the ST game against the Red Sox.
What I saw and didn't like:

  • Yunel Escobar hitting way too many ground balls to short stop: Pretty much says it all. He hit .290 last year, and I would love to see him with similar numbers or even better this year. But I noticed before I went down there, and while I was there that a concerning number of hits were weak bouncing balls to short. But it was spring training, what happens in the regular season is what really counts.
  • What ultimately turned into a bouncing ball to short
  • Adam Lind NOT playing because his back was tight: I didn't see Adam Lind, because he got pulled after complaining of lower back tightness during batting practice of Tuesday's game against the Yankees. Since he made a big deal about strengthening his core in the off season, the fact that this happened so early is concerning.
  • High throws from Lawrie to 1st: My Grandfather, whom I adore, shares my combined excitement and concern regarding Brett Lawrie. His experience at the big league level is limited, but what I see from him I like. Excellent power bat, he loves the game, he's energetic, cocky and not afraid to make a dive at third base. However, unlike Buck Martinez, I don't think he's the baseball Messiah. I went to Spring Training with an open mind, and I saw some excellent at bats by Lawrie. And in two games, I also saw him make the exact same error. Fairly routine ball to third base, which he charged to get and then overthrew the ball allowing the base runner to reach. I'm hoping it was just riled up spring training energy and not an example of other such occurrences that will happen during the regular season. My Grandpa suspects that Lawrie's over the top energy will get him hurt and he will land on the DL for a prolonged period sometime this season.

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