Friday, March 09, 2007

A Week of Grapefruit League

Sorry for the delays. I've been flagged for neglect of blog, but there's been a lot of peripheral stuff going on that merits its own post.

In the meanwhile, we've had baseball. What passes for it, anyway, in Spring Training. I'm happy that baseball's back, but Spring Training has a limited appeal. Wins and losses don't matter; the pace is, to put it bluntly, lazy; the play is often sloppy. I have never been to Spring Training in person, and I've often wondered if being in the ballpark would make a difference here. Still, what Spring Training action really allows you to do is get an introduction to all the new guys on your ballclub--be they prospects, people acquired in trade, whatever. I've gotten to watch parts of a number of the Yanks' Grapefruit games, and here are a few first impressions of pitchers:

Phil Hughes -- Not to rip off Larry Mahnken, but from time to time I've caught myself calling Hughes "the Precious." Hughes' debut last Thursday was hardly the stuff that dreams are made of--his control was off, and the curve wasn't as sharp as we've been told--but it was enough to make you daydream him into pinstripes, rather than the blue pullovers they use in Spring Training. On Tuesday--a game I didn't get to see--he pitched two clean innings. Hughes was just named Baseball America's #4 prospect in baseball (behind Daisuke Matsuzaka, Alex Gordon, and Delmon Young); John Sickels did one his "crystal ball" projections on Hughes, which put Hughes at roughly the same career numbers as David Cone.

I think we'd take that :)

Kei Igawa -- Erratic first start, striking out three and walking three in an inning-plus on Monday. Stuff was pretty much the same as in his exhibition start against the major league All-Stars; lots of working up in the zone with the fastball, nice breaking pitch. In the broadcast, they repeated the meme that he's a thinner David Wells, and I don't see it. Wells works very differently--off-hand, I'd say he establishes the big overhand curve more than Igawa does his own three-quarters breaking pitch--and Boomer has a lot more precision with his pitches than we've seen from Igawa, yet.

Jeff Kennard -- Not too excited about him, on Monday he came in in relief of Igawa and showed a fairly straight fastball and poor command. It'd be nice to see him under better circumstances, rather than coming in with a man on--but those are the kind of circumstances he'd likely face if he makes it to the Show this season.

Steven Jackson -- Also not impressive. Kept the ball on the ground, but looked fairly generic overall. He'll have to do a lot to stand out in the large corps of young righthanded pitchers the Yanks have on the verge of the majors.

Chris Britton -- Looks like a young Bob Wickman--y'know, before the Wick started hitting those all-you-can eat buffets. Nice movement on his fastball, good slider, thought I saw a changeup in there.

Luis Vizcaino -- I know I've seen this guy pitch elsewhere, but honest, I can't remember him. Interesting arm angle, definitely knows how to pitch, but the stuff didn't look too amazing. People keep talking about the backup catcher battle (a yawner in which I favor Todd Pratt over Wil Nieves and Raul Chaves) and the backup/platoon 1st base...I don't know if you can even call this a fight, given that Andy Phillips now lags Josh Phelps by a week. The real interesting fight of this camp is that the Yanks have about ten relievers in camp who could break camp, and can take eight, max (man, are 13-man bullpens depressing...) A biggish trade is going to have to happen (or a convenient DL stay) because not all these guys can go north with the big team. Again, this topic probably deserves a post of its own down the line.

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