Thursday, March 12, 2009

Spring Training Trip: Day Four (3/12)

Today's version of the event drew as much action as Day One, if not more. I traveled out to the Major and Minor League practice fields for a 30-minute photo roundup before retreating to my hotel room, and then picking up my uncle, cousin, and father at the Phoenix airport. A little off-topic related note: I missed the hotel breakfast so I had to travel to the grocery store to pick up a muffin or fruit, or something of that nature - something that fit the profile of a prototypical breakfast. I didn't have much time to spare, but I - shockingly - find that the grocery store is rather crowded at 10 a.m. on a Thursday morning. Why, you ask? Well, Surprise, Arizona is home to prolific retirement communities, and the official retirement community - Sun City - is not too far north from the area. So, you do the math. It was frustrating, because I stood in line for about 3 minutes behind 5 elderly people - to find no progress - and then finally retreated to Starbucks for an instant purchase-and-go-. Keep in mind that I love the elderly folks! I just hate the aggravating slowness that accompanies standing in a line behind 5 or more of them.

(Sometimes, I feel that I'm uncovering Narnia with these anecdotes. It's as if I'm discovering hidden gems in the bottom of an ocean that no man has yet discovered). Nonetheless, here are some general notes from Minor and Major League practice camp.

- The major leaguers rotated the baseball around a circle on the diamond consisting of 9 to 10 players, each. They rotated in two groups. One drill was to toss to any random player, and the other drill was to toss to a random player, and then state the name of another player. Minutes later, the team worked on outfield drills, where they relayed cutoff throws down two lines in the outfield, located in left-center and right-center. There were roughly a dozen onlookers like myself, some of which were taking pictures.
- I then retreated to Minor League camp and watched several pitchers throw from the mound and do drills, either throwing to second base, fielding bunted baseballs, or simply going through the motions fulfilling simulated situations. I captured many pictures of these events, which were taking place simultaneously on all four diamonds.
- Pitchers Tim Melville, Paul Raglione, and Pernell Halliman towered over other pitchers in camp. There was also a pitcher whose last name was 'Villa' who appeared astonishingly short. Who was this guy?
- I watched several batting drills, as well. Marc Maddox and Jose Duarte, among others, stepped in. I only devoted 25-30 minutes, overall, so I didn't have time to analyze them.
- Size is his advantage, but Brian Buchanan looked a bit awkward in the batting cage.
- The big-leaguers looked incredibly quick with the timing, handwork, and release of their throws, when witnessing them in person.
And now several notes from the game. The Royals, quite obviously, won 9-3, thanks to several stellar individual offensive performances and a lights-out performance from Hiram Kyle Davies. Davies seeks to crack the #3 slot in the rotation, and at this point, at least #4 is all but a certainty.
- As I mentioned, Davies turned out quite dominant today. He struck out several White Sox batters, and dropped his curveball in the strike zone quite well. Also, he was spotting his fastball extremely well.
- Horacio Ramirez was by no means dominating. I convinced my father and uncle that he did not possess any particular 'out' pitch, and that the quality (or lack thereof) would hinder him from striking out many batters this season, which is why his upside as a starting rotation is severely limited. He relies on defense.
- Mark Teahen will *not* be playing second base this season. It was a curious experiment worth devoting time to, in my opinion. However, it is one that has and will not work. Teahen jabs at the ball like an outfielder or third baseman and does not lower his backside when fielding the ball. In the first inning, a ball was hit about 10 feet to his left, and he could not make the play. Simply inexcusable. His two-run home run was promising, though. He possesses the potential - can he ever convert that potential into consistent results.
- Alex Gordon worked the count generally well but didn't display the power I would have liked to see. He covered quite a spell of ground at third base, though.
- Billy Butler made a nice leaping catch at first base, that was rather unexpected. We were obviously pleased. I would like to see Butler play primarily first base throughout the season, because although he doesn't possess the agility, he has the soft hands necessary to field the position. (He was drafted, originally, as a third baseman).
- Chris Lubanski hit a towering three-run home run to right field that was, in essence, a no-doubter.
- Corey Smith looked quite competent at the plate. I'm looking forward to seeing him fulfill Chad Spann's vital role to the success of the O-Royals.
- Crisp worked the count quite well, drawing two walks.
- Mike Jacobs hit the ball hard when he was at the plate, but unfortunately did not work the count well, at all. Over or under on a .310 OBP this season? I hope he hits 30+ homers.

For more photographs, you'll have to access Facebook.

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