Spring training begins in February. Thirty seconds after spring training begins, pitchers start doing those fielding drills in which they cover first base. They do those fairly damn continuously until, oh, five minutes before the first pitch on Opening Day. Pitchers moan about it, but there’s a reason they do this. Just ask the Rockies, who lost last night’s game in large part to a pitcher’s failure to cover the bag.
The Padres had runners on first and second with one out Edgmer Escalona was pitching for Colorado, when Chase Headley grounded to Todd Helton at first base. Helton checked the runner heading to second, realized he had no shot at him, and turned to flip it to the covering Escalona.
Except Escalona wasn’t covering and Headley managed to beat Helton in the foot race to the bag. That loaded the bases, and the Padres’ seventh run came one batter later when Nick Hundley hit a sac fly that would have been out number three if Escalona had remembered his training. The Padres ended up winning 7-6. Jim Tracy after the game:
“You’re taught from Day 1 that a ball hit to the right side on the ground, you move to that direction. It’s that simple.”
Or at least it should be. What won’t be simple is next spring training if the Rockies miss the playoffs by one game, because Tracy will likely run pitcher fielding practice from dawn to dusk and tell his hurlers to get their arms in shape on their own time.