Scouts from 21 teams watched Brandon Webb pitch in an instructional league game yesterday

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Brandon Webb had a rough outing in an instructional league game yesterday, allowing two runs in two innings, and John Tomase of the Boston Herald reports that scouts from 21 teams were on hand to watch the rehabbing right-hander.
As an impending free agent it may have been Webb’s final outing in a Diamondbacks uniform and because the former Cy Young winner hasn’t started a major-league game since Opening Day of 2009 it makes sense that so many teams want to get some looks in before he hits the open market.
What they saw wasn’t very impressive, as Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports that Webb’s “fastball sat in the low-80s and topped in the mid-80s” after similarly underwhelming velocity reports in outings last week. Of course, that’s to be expected after missing essentially two full seasons with shoulder problems that required surgery and Webb didn’t seem particularly worried about eventually regaining his old stuff:

I’m not real worried about that. I think my movement and the change-up and curveball is enough to keep the hitters off, and I think with time off the velocity will come back.

There’s a good chance he’s right and Webb’s dominance was never based on overpowering velocity in the first place, as his pre-surgery fastball clocked in at an average of 88 miles per hour. Webb has said that he’d prefer to re-sign with the Diamondbacks, but new general Kevin Towers seemingly hedged his bets a bit about the likelihood of that happening:

I think we have to look at the pool of players that are out there. As we approach the free-agency season, we’ll have to weigh him against the people that will be available in the next month or so. We know what type of pitcher he is when he’s healthy and feeling good. We’ll evaluate our position as we approach the off-season.

Webb earned $15 million during the past two seasons while throwing a grand total of four innings, but his next contract will likely be very heavy on incentives and very light on guaranteed money.

Yoenis Cespedes should be ready for Tuesday’s game

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The Mets are off today, and that day off may be just enough to get outfielder Yoenis Cespedes ready to start their next game, on Tuesday, against the Braves. At least that’s what he’s telling Mets manager Terry Collins.

Cespedes did not play in the weekend series against the Nationals, but was available as a pinch hitter yesterday. He was even on the on-deck circle at the end of last night’s game.

Cespedes, who tweaked his hammy running to second base on Thursday, is hitting .255/.364/.636 with six homers and 10 RBI in 15 games on the young season.

Marcus Stroman was called for an illegal quick pitch for some reason

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A “quick pitch” is an illegal action in which the pitcher pitches the ball before the batter is prepared. What makes a quick pitch a quick pitch? According to Rule 6.02(a)(5), it’s this:

 . . . Umpires will judge a quick pitch as one delivered before the batter is reasonably set in the batter’s box. With runners on base the penalty is a balk; with no runners on base, it is a ball. The quick pitch is dangerous and should not be permitted.

There are a couple of reasons why you don’t want quick pitches in baseball. In one respect, it’s about safety, as mentioned specifically in the rule. You don’t want a pitcher throwing a 90 m.p.h. fastball in the batter’s general direction if he’s not ready for it, because if it goes off course the batter will have no ability to defend himself and bail. But there’s also a spirit-of-the-game reason for it. The essence of baseball is the face-off between batter and pitcher. While everyone wants the game to move along promptly, the game isn’t really the game if the batter isn’t ready.

There is more art than science to all of this, of course, as all batters and pitchers have different pre-pitch routines, but when you watch a game, there’s a rhythm to all of that. You know the batter is gonna take a couple of practice swings and settle in. The pitcher tends to respect that. The quick pitch rule is rarely invoked for this reason.

It was used in yesterday’s Angels-Blue Jays game, however. And used badly in my view. Watch Marcus Stroman pitch to Kole Calhoun. The ump is Ramon DeJesus. The count was 3-1, so the automatic ball resulted in Calhoun being awarded first base:

Calhoun was obviously upset about something, calling time after Stroman is into his motion (which is not allowed) throwing his hands up and stuff after the pitch. But tell me, in what way was he not “reasonably ready” for that pitch, to use the language of the rule? He’s facing Stroman, looking at him. He’s done with his warmup swings, his bat is up and cocked and he’s standing in hitting position. I understand that it’s a judgment call by the umpire, but it seems to me like the umpire just called time too late because Calhoun didn’t feel ideally comfortable or something.

Either way, it set off Stroman and manager John Gibbons. Gibbons was ejected arguing the call. Stroman, who was otherwise excellent yesterday, was rattled for a bit, giving up a couple of hits and a run afterward. It was Calhoun who scored, natch.

It didn’t affect the outcome, but it certainly seemed like a bad call. And possibly a bad precedent, as batters may now try to lobby harder for quick pitch calls, given its success yesterday. Or, if umpires tend to think that was a bad call too, maybe they’ll overcompensate for it and be less likely to call quick pitches? You never know how this stuff will play out.

Whatever happens, I’ve been against Major League Baseball’s habit of increasingly taking judgment calls away from umpires, trying to make the subjective objective and making a flawed instant replay system the Supreme Court of Baseball Calls. But jeez, it’s hard to argue for allowing umps to hold on to judgment calls when they blow ’em like this.