In my Twins preview I wondered how Target Field will play this season. We get a chance to see it in action on Monday. But based on Henry Schulman’s excellent walk down AT&T Park memory lane in today’s San Francisco Chronicle, we shouldn’t necessarily take what we see in the early going at face value:
For three months, everyone thought it would be great for hitters and
death for pitchers.In January, even before there was grass on the field, the Giants took
batting practice at what was then Pacific Bell Park on a foggy but
windless day. Bonds kept hammering balls over the right-field wall and
ended his session a happy man.
On April 1, 2000, the Giants played a night exhibition against the
Yankees, also on a windless night. Bonds christened McCovey Cove with
one of six homers hit that night.
In the regular-season home opener 10 days later, a 6-5 Dodgers
victory, 35-year-old Los Angeles shortstop Kevin Elster hit three home
runs, two off Rueter and one off Felix Rodriguez. Only four times in 12
previous seasons had Elster hit two in a game.
I remember Elster hitting those three homers, as it was nationally-televised. My first thought: total bandbox. While AT&T doesn’t depress runs quite as much as it did a few years ago, it’s certainly not a hitter’s paradise.
Most people who know things about park effects know that you can’t get a good read on how a park plays for at least a couple of years. So, even though it’s the small-sample size season (Will Big Papi ever hit the ball again?!) we shouldn’t draw any conclusions from Target Field’s first few days. Or months. Or really even the year.
Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.
Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).
Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.
David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.
Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:
[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.
The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.