Saturday, March 14, 2009

Spring Training Trip: Final Day (3/14)

Today marked our final full day in the blissful comfort of the 70+ degree weather in the Arizona desert. It featured an early rising from yours truly, as I (once again) traveled to the practice fields to witness the players up close and take pictures. I was sent on assignment to deliver photos for three Royals' Minor Leaguers, but I could only find two. At first, I was puzzled why pitchers were mysteriously missing from camp, but they stood in the outfield virtually the entire time to shag fly balls and gap hits from the hitters' batting practice. That doesn't make for many Kodak moments, especially considering how far away I stood and how the sun beamed down upon the hitters virtually all morning.

Anyway, as far as pitchers went, I snapped several photos of Carlos Rosa, whom I assumed had been reassigned permanently to MiLB camp. He threw several fastballs, and appeared to be popping the ball quite well into the catchers' mitt. The Royals' officially announced the transaction today, and this has sent the blogosphere abuzz, somewhat. The forecasts don't appear too friendly on Rosa, as CHONE, Marcel, and ZiPs project FIP's of 4.72, 4.20, and 4.13 respectively. These projections don't exactly mirror that of a bullpen ace, but I think Rosa's "1, 2 punch" - his fastball and slider - are Major League bullpen ace-caliber. Obviously, the K/9 rate forecasts are modest considering they essentially rate him as a starter (two of the projections peg him as tossing more than 100 innings). The Royals have announced that Rosa will pitch exclusively out of the 'pen in '09. I would personally rather them implement Rosa as a starter in the Pacific Coast League, and then act accordingly from there. However, I'm not sweating, as he does not possess a plus tertiary pitch and has an abundant history of injuries.

In the Minor League camp, I caught several groups of players conducting batting practice. Prospects Shawn Griffin, Carlo Testa, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Jeff Bianchi, Jamar Walton, Devery Van De Keere, among many others took B.P. in the cages. I was quite impressed with Moustakas and Hosmer, who were shooting the gaps extremely well. Shawn Griffin also impressed, notably. Patrick Norris appeared to have a more ground-ball oriented swing, which is okay, in my book....I have heard rants and raves about his speed, for what it's worth.

Here are some general notes for the day. It was an otherwise bleak Royals game - virtually no hitting to speak of.

- Brian Bannister looked, once again, like the Brian Bannister of 2008. Just simply falling behind too many hitters and surrendering big hits. His lack of an "out pitch" helped induce many batted balls.

- With the above said, it did seem that the Diamondbacks were incredibly lucky with their batted balls this year. They found the holes and hit many dunkers that scored as hits.

- Brandon Duckworth looked gritty, once again. Unfortunately, he demonstrated why he'll likely spend the vast majority of '09 in Omaha. 3 earned in 2 IP.

- Yasuhiko Yabuta's circle change cost him in terms of a three-run home run. Yowza!

- Ryan Shealy made a nice diving/sliding play at first base. He also went 2-for-2, overall.

This could be characterized as blasphemy around these parts, but I started feeling excessively tired around 3:30, to the point of where the Sandman froze me for roughly an hour and a half until we felt an urgency for Asian food. The Chinese restaurants out in Arizona do not hold a candle to the 'straunts (new word) in Springfield, MO. Oddity of location be damned, those places are incredible.

By the way, as I was writing this blog post, I chatted online extensively with a Royals Minor Leaguer. This is completely unrelated, but Minor League cuts will likely occur soon. I realize cuts are inevitable - this week must be one of the single most difficult ones for Minor League players in every organization. One day, you're a professional ballplayer, with obvious job security. The next hour, you are unemployed. Needless to say, I hope to see this person playing again this year.

Anyway, today marked a rather short synopsis, but what can I say? It was a bleak Royals game that featured little hitting and suspect pitching. The Minor League practices consisted mostly of B.P. rounds, shagging in the outfield, and the intermittent infield drills.

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