I had the chance to jump over to Sarasota this evening to catch a night game. For all of those who have not had the chance, it's a must.
Here are a few of my observations from tonight's game.
The way the game started set the tone for tonight's "Titanic struggle".
Jason Tyner led off with a routine grounder to first that ended up a triple. Dunn either slipped or stumbled but could not get over to make the play. Several of us thought he slipped since the infield had just been watered.
Williams threw good for 3 innings before his stuff went bye, bye. Both runs in the first and second were not his fault. LaRue had a really poor passed ball which led to a run in the second. I thought he really pitched inside well and was able to get his breaking ball over early. His fastball lost some zip and he hung at least 4 curves in the 4th. Even the Non-Roster guys can rip hangers.
All of the other scouts and baseball execs I sat with noticed the 9 (our count) coaches on the bench. They all were sitting together just before game time and we were playfully trying to figure out where the players might sit. Good to see 44 Davis and 15 Foster in uniform. I peaked in the dugout from time to time and did notice that most were engaged in instruction/discussion with players between innings. Good sign. Browny was even charting pitches.
Womack's stick is ready but his glove.... well he must have left that in the clubhouse. I was shocked at the two miscues he had. Only one will show up in the books but he missed a grounder that went through for a single that I know a heck of a lot of other players would have gobbled up. He also missed a very routine start to a double play. I guess it's better to do it in ST than on Opening Day.
Freel is WAAAAYY late. WAY WAY late. He will have that fixed in 15-20 AB's.
Aurilia looks to be in pretty good shape. He made a difficult play at SS look easy early in the game. His range to his right is limited but he's not really going to play SS anyway. Might be a concern at 2B going up the middle.
Denorfia is a WHOLE LOT faster than I remember. He has tremendous closing speed. He's a FULL two steps faster than Griff. Griff gets great jumps but hey the guy is 36. Denorfia had a very sharp single early and was robbed by Hirschbeck later on a pitch that was clearly inside.
Encarnacion. Stroke is there but the contact is not. Maybe he closes his eyes?? Just kidding.
Dunn. Looked to be much improved at 1st Base. (Slip aside). Great job of setting up for the throw. Big, confident target. Reminiscent of McGwire.
If he goes to the plate all year like he did tonight it's possible you could see one of the most productive seasons EVER by a hitter. It looked to me like things were starting to click for him. He's swinging through the ball. He's one of the handful of guys that have that "sound" when bat meets ball. The loud, thunderous crack that let's you know that pitch just got RIPPED. Junior has it. Delgado has it. Ortiz and Manny have it.
Kearns. Opposite of Dunn. Kearns uppercut has become alarmingly worse. To the point where the Twins just pounded him with fastballs under the hands. Nothing Austin could do. The Giants scout that was sitting next to me was questioning why was he even out there? Tonight's AB's really were not helping. Something has gone awry. It's rare to see guys get progressively worse like that. Then again, sometimes all it takes is one swing and your back on track. I hope he comes around. His arm looked good from the OF. He threw two balls pretty well. He looks pretty healthy and you could see how happy he was as compared to previous ST camps. A week of one on one with Chambliss or Foster will get him raking again.
Rick White looked pretty good too. Hard cheese.
Mercker looked good also. These guys know exactly where they need to be and they are already there.
Weathers two seamer was working. Just not in the strike zone. He'll be ok after another 10-15 innings. It did not look like he had a real feel for it tonight.
Bailey was lighting up the radar gun. He had trouble putting guys away. Mourneau had a tremendous AB against Bailey and ripped the hardest ball of the night off of him. The Reds defense didn't do anything to help Bailey out. In any case you can see that he is probably 150 innings away. A little better command of the fastball to set up his off speed and he will be set.
I hear that Vern Ruhle may be a little sicker than originally thought. Please pray for Vern. Tremendous person and a great baseball guy. Everyone is pulling for him.