Yes, it’s been ages since my last post. But the roster dust has cleared, the boys are in Peoria and they’re playing actual games.
Cactus League games are so different from regular season games. Every team is looking at a lot of guys, usually to fill the last few roster spots. I would suggest the game itself in spring changes drastically as those handful still fighting to win a place on the big league team trying to make the impression on Scott Servais and his boys that they deserve their shot.
This is what I’m looking for this spring:
I always hope this is going to be a big zero, but it plays such an important role in determining how the season will start. So far the M’s haven’t had anything terrible happen: no arms blown out like Carter Capps (tell me we didn’t see this coming.) But still they’ve had some significant glitches in their bullpen plans. Ryan Cook, signed as a free agent after a year of ineffectiveness in 2014, and a 2015 laden with shoulder miseries is suffering from a lat injury. Because lat injuries seem to be contagious, Evan Scribner is suffering from a similar injury. Manager Scott Servais described their condition as putting them behind schedule.
For a team that is counting on players having “bounce back” seasons, with Cook and Scribner being chief among them in the bullpen, this can only be described as bad news. Unfortunately they’ve been joined by Danny Hultzen on the go slow list. Hultzen has long fought injury, having a shoulder reconstruction a couple years ago, and been converted to relief entering spring training. Though not as damaging to the team as Cook and Scribner, it is one more stumble in Hultzen’s career and a personal tragedy.
Key Individual Performances
We can follow team performance all we want, but really it doesn’t mean a lot. Honestly, because of the desert air than makes breaking balls stay flat, it’s hard to make much sense of pitching blowups. It’s pretty hard to listen to a game or follow a box score and know what I’m looking at. By tomorrow, each of the five starting pitchers will have had two starts. So far, the first four starters-Paxton, Karns, Walker and Miley-have each had one good outing and one fairly stinky start. What do I make of that–no idea, but I bet Servais does. I’m sure he’s looking for something specific that I can’t follow in the odd times I can access Gamecast at the same time I’m sharing the wonders of John Steinbeck with my students.
Still, there are some performances that look pretty interesting. First, the battle for the right-handed platoon position isn’t looking any easier to resolve. Jesus Montero is getting his hits, but not walking much. Dae-ho Lee only has eight at bats, but he has three hits including a home run, has walked twice and made a couple of very nice defensive plays around first base. But I’m more impressed with the hitting of Stefen Romero. He’s hit lots in key situations and has the defensive versatility to fill in lots of spots. It’s unclear how well he plays first base, and he got drilled by a batted ball on a day when he did get a chance at first. I’m quietly rooting for Romero, but there is a long way to go this spring.
There’s also a spirited battle for the utility infield spot. Every time I look 22 year old Luis Sardinas has couple more hits. But Sean O’Malley, Chris Taylor and even veteran Ed Lucas are hitting well too. It will be interesting to see who can grab this job and hang on to it.
Lots of the regulars aren’t getting many ab’s, but there are still things to keep an eye on. Lots of spring still to go.