Scenes from Spring Training: Random observations from Salt River Fields

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Earlier updates from today’s doings can be found here and here.  And now here are some other random observations from my day at Salt River Fields:

I watched the Dbacks’ catching drills.  I caught a little when I was a teenager and I found it to be very difficult. These guys get their butts beat simply training.  But they also seem to be enjoying it.  I’ve never watched a defensive drill that was louder and more lively than this one. Each ball in the dirt was met with whoops and cheers and taunting by the other guys.  If it wasn’t for all the bruises they were getting, I’d guess that they didn’t do anything more fun in their lives.

Miguel Montero, Henry Blanco, Kirk Gibson, Kevin Towers and a bunch of other guys were hanging around the batting cage. Montero was complaining that he never “gets the green light” to swing away when it’s 3-0.  Towers said “don’t complain to me about it.”  Montero went on, naming other guys who got the green light, acting as though he was disrespected.  When he was done, Gibson said “Hank gets it too. I even give the green light to Hank,” referring to Blanco.  I get the impression that picking on Miguel Montero is a major pastime in the Dbacks’ clubhouse.

Speaking of Blanco: he was doing a drill in which he got out of his crouch and ran down to first base.  He’s probably one of the slowest guys in baseball, but when you’re right next to him you realize that even the slowest guys in baseball are way faster than you are. Remind me of that next time I make jokes about the Molinas and Blanco and others who are not so swift-of-foot.

The big white buckets full of baseballs during BP and fielding drills had “Dbacks” written on them with a marker.  I got a mental image of someone having to do that after the Rockies stole their baseballs.  Really, this place is wonderfully designed and I’m sure they’ve thought of everything, but I wonder if there are any territorial issues that crop up between teams who share facilities.  I asked one of the ballpark workers about it. These guys know absolutely everything about this place and made it a point all day to tell me about its features, even when I wasn’t asking — did you know that at all times, at least 85% of the seats are in the shade? It’s true! — but this guy claimed to not know anything about problems arising over equipment and stuff.  Not sure if I believe him. My skeptical side is skeptical.

Matt Williams was hitting grounders during infield practice.  This is not newsworthy, but I like to point out that bald guys are awesome.

It was kind of hard to find the Colorado Rockies out here today.  The Dbacks had access to the main stadium field today — their first workout in the stadium itself — so it’s understandable that they were easier to find.  Sorry if I gave your team short shrift here, Rockies fans, but one thing I’m finding about these shared spring training facilities is that it still takes a full day to capture any one team’s zeitgeist.

As I write this the Diamondbacks have left to go to a team-wide golf tournament. The Rockies are slowly leaving as well, off to enjoy one of the last few afternoons on which they won’t have a ballgame in a while.  Tomorrow I go to the Giants’ joint in Scottsdale to hang around the World Champions and then to enjoy a real live game between these Dbacks and those World Champs.  In the meantime, I’m going to do a lot of this:

Stay thirsty, my friends.

Matthew Stafford audibles with “Kershaw! Kershaw!”

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Last night the Detroit Lions played the New York Giants. During the game Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford called an audible. The call itself referenced Stafford’s childhood friend and high school baseball teammate, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. From the Freep:

Matthew Stafford stepped to the line of scrimmage late in the third quarter and surveyed the Giants defense.

With five pass rushers across the front and three Giants cornerbacks showing a press-man look, Stafford looked at his two receivers to the left and invoked the name of his childhood friend, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw.

“Give me Kershaw here, Kershaw,” Stafford said, repeating his friend’s name two more times as he spun around at the line of scrimmage.

The audible did not result in a pick-4 to Aaron Altherr. It called for a run up the middle. And it worked nicely, gaining eight yards.

You may suggest the results of other starting pitcher-themed audibles in the comments. I’ll start: “Harvey! Harvey!” is where the QB fakes a handoff, drops back, looks deep and then his arm falls completely off. Damndest thing.

Matt Harvey has a 13.19 ERA since coming back from the disabled list

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Matt Harvey‘s season was mostly a loss due to extended time on the disabled list. He’s been given a chance, however, to end the season strong and make a case for himself in the Mets’ future plans. Unfortunately, he has been unable to make that case. He was shelled again last night, and his late season opportunity has been a disaster.

Last night Harvey gave up seven runs on 12 hits and struck out only two batters in four innings against a Marlins team that, until facing him anyway, had been reeling. It was his fourth start since going on the shelf in mid-June and in those four starts he’s allowed 21 runs, all earned, on 32 hits in 14.2 innings, for an ERA of 13.19. In that time he’s struck out only eight batters while walking seven. His average fastball velocity, while ticking up slightly in each of his past four starts, is still below 95. Back when he was an ace he was consistently above that. His command has been terrible.

Injury is clearly the culprit. He had Tommy John surgery just as he was reaching his maximum level of dominance in 2013. While he came back strong in 2015, he was used pretty heavily for a guy with a brand new ligament. Last year he was felled by thoracic outlet syndrome and this year a stress injury to his shoulder. Any one of those ailments have ended pitchers’ careers and even among those who bounce back from them, many are diminished. To go through all three and remain dominant is practically unheard of.

Yet this is where Matt Harvey is. He’s 28. He’s still arbitration eligible, for a team that is, to put it politely, sensitive to large financial outlays. While his 4-5 start opportunity to end the year may very well have been seen as a chance to shop Harvey to another team, his trade value is at an all-time low. It would not be shocking if, on the basis of his recent ineffectiveness, the Mets considered non-tendering him this offseason, making him a free agent.

Someone would probably take a chance on him because famous names who once showed tremendous promise are often given multiple chances in the big leagues (See, Willis, Dontrelle). But at the moment, there is nothing in Harvey’s game to suggest that he is capable of taking advantage of such a chance. All one can hope is that an offseason of rest and conditioning will allow Harvey to reclaim at least a portion of his old form.