Scenes from Spring Training: Random Notes from Tempe Diablo

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Doing my standard wander-and-observe thing this morning.  Among the highlights so far:

Mike Scioscia opened up his office for the media at 10AM.  When we came in he noticed a video camera from a member of the Japanese media and said “if I knew there was gonna be cameras here I would’ve fixed my hair.”  One of the other writers — one who, unlike Scioscia, has a full head of hair — sarcastically asked him what, exactly, fixing his hair entailed.  I interjected that I didn’t much care for his arrogantly hirsute tone. Scioscia chuckled. I’d like to think we bonded over that.

When things got serious Scioscia, in response to a question about the readiness of Jordan Walden, the Angels’ potential future closer, said “just because a player is experienced doesn’t mean he’s better. And just because a guy is inexperienced doesn’t mean he isn’t ready.”  That has to make Angels fans happy about the prospects, no?

Something else fun from his press conference: Trevor Bell is starting today, but Scioscia was asked who would start the next two days. Scioscia wouldn’t say. In fact he said “I’ll let you guys know that when I feel … you guys need to know that.”  On the walk out of the office an Angels media person said that Scioscia knows, of course, but he just doesn’t want his upcoming starters advertised.  I walked immediately back to the press box and within two minutes of Scioscia’s deflection I looked at MLB.com’s Game Notes page and saw that Scott Kazmir is pitching tomorrow and Joel Piniero is pitching on Monday.  Scioscia needs to get better at the cloak-and-dagger bit.

After that the Angels took the field. Scioscia and some of the veterans started in on some kind of signs drill, in which third base coach Dino Ebel flashed signs and the hitters and base runners carried the play out with a live batting practice pitcher.  Once, when Kendry Morales was up, he laid down a bunt. Scioscia, standing nearby, said “was that the squeeze?”  Morales said yes, it was. Scioscia, unconvinced, yelled down to Ebel “was that the squeeze?”  Ebel confirmed. Scioscia said “I’ll be damned. He caught it.”

Before the drill, coach Ebel made a signal up to the press box for the staff to cut off the music playing over the PA system.  It went off for the duration of the drill. As soon as it was over Vernon Wells — who wasn’t there when Ebel cut if off — realized that no music was playing, turned to the box and yelled “MUSIC!”  Within three seconds “When the Levee Breaks” came blasting out of the sound system.  Vernon Wells would be useful to have around for that sort of thing. He’s like Fonzie.

The pic to the right is a bucket full of balls, ready to be smacked around during BP.  I’m sad to see that the good people at David’s Sunflower Seeds actually encourage all that shell spitting.  Shameful, David’s. Shameful.

About a half hour until game time.  I’m going to get some grub.

Phillies walk off winners thanks to a poor decision by Marcell Ozuna

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The Phillies’ bullpen, which has not been good as of late, gift-wrapped Monday’s game for the Cardinals. Starter Nick Pivetta was brilliant, fanning 13 while allowing two runs in 7 1/3 innings. But things unraveled after he left the game. Victor Arano took over for Edubray Ramos to start the ninth inning with the Phillies leading 4-2, but he allowed a one-out single and a double. After striking out Harrison Bader, Arano appeared to strike out Yairo Munoz for the final out of the game, but the ball trickled through the legs of catcher Andrew Knapp, allowing a run to score and the tying run to move to third base. Lefty Adam Morgan came in to face pinch-hitter Kolten Wong. Wong tied the game up, sneaking a single into center field.

In the 10th inning, Jake Thompson gave up the go-ahead run on a leadoff home run to Tommy Pham. It seemed like it was just going to be another one of those losses that have become increasingly common for the Phillies lately. But the Phillies’ offense didn’t go down quietly, even though it hadn’t put a runner on second base since the start of the second inning when J.P. Crawford doubled. In the bottom half of the 10th, Hoskins blooped a single into shallow left-center to start the inning. Hoskins moved to second base on a ground out from Odubel Herrera. Matt Bowman intentionally walked Carlos Santana, then struck out Jesmuel Valentin. That brought up Aaron Altherr, who replaced Nick Williams after Williams took a baseball to the face off of the right field fence. Bowman fell behind 2-1, then threw a 90 MPH fastball that Altherr lined into left field. Rather than keep the ball in front of him, Marcell Ozuna decided to dive for the ball to make the final out, but he missed. The ball trickled past him, allowing the tying and the game-winning runs to score, giving the Phillies a come-from-behind win.

On the list of people happy to see Ozuna miss that ball are Altherr (of course), Arano, Morgan, and Thompson. But perhaps no one was happier than manager Gape Kapler. The win might help take the heat off of him somewhat after another poor performance from the bullpen. When a team struggles, everyone wants a scapegoat and Kapler is an easy target. He has been all year, undeservingly.

Phillies radio broadcaster and former major league reliever Larry Anderson said after the bullpen meltown, “Not everybody can pitch in the ninth inning. And I know Gabe Kapler thinks they can, but they can’t.” Aside from Ramos and Seranthony Dominguez (who was unavailable after throwing 52 pitches between Saturday and Sunday in Milwaukee), no one in that bullpen has been reliable. The closer, Hector Neris, just got optioned to Triple-A. You work with what you have, and right now, Kapler doesn’t have a whole lot. Thankfully for him, he wasn’t punished with another loss thanks to Ozuna.