A few quick notes based on observation of today’s televised spring training game between the Mets and Braves …
First off, Brad Emaus collected another hit, blasting an RBI double to deep center field. He also walked and scored, and made a sparkling, diving play in the top of the second inning to initiate a double play and help Mike Pelfrey get out of major trouble. The release of Luis Castillo and demotion of Justin Turner seems to have sparked Emaus’ outburst — he looks more relaxed at the plate and in the field. We old schoolers can assume that the stress of playing to make the team was causing tension and preventing him from playing his best baseball, and with that weight lifted, he’s now relaxed enough to show what excited J.P. Ricciardi. Meanwhile, the statheads can state with conviction that Emaus’ recent hot streak is in line with his historical minor-league numbers, and it was only a matter of time before his performance met the projections. Instead of fighting about it, let’s pretend we’re both right … because either way, Emaus is looking pretty good and that’s good news with Opening Day just around the corner.
Speaking of Pelfrey, Emaus really did save him; Big Pelf ran into major issues in the second. First, he allowed three straight hits to open the inning. Then, he threw six straight balls to the #8 and #9 hitters. His command was off during the entire inning, and at times it looked like he was aiming the ball. What’s the problem? My eyes see the same issue he struggled with in the second half of last year — the hunching over at knee lift. It appears to me that he’s trying to compensate for the imbalance by using his glove arm to pull himself back into balance and toward the plate. The result is an inconsistent release point. Should we be worried? Hard to say, since Pelfrey had a terrible spring last year but was arguably one of the top 3 pitchers in baseball from April to June.
Willie Harris did not hit a homerun in this game; he was held to only a double. With all the power he’s shown this spring one must wonder if he’ll be put in the cleanup spot come Opening Day.
The Braves’ Wilkin Ramirez remains an enigma. He is obviously a tremendous athlete with great potential, particularly at the plate, but his fundamentals leave a lot to be desired. He made two critical errors in the first inning that led to three Met runs — one on a throw to third base and the other on a routine ground ball that went past him. On both plays, he took a poor angle toward the ball and looked a bit lackadaisical.
The Braves defense in general was surprisingly awful throughout the game — they made 5 errors on the day and were making bad decisions on throws to bases. I hope they continue to struggle defensively when the real games begin, and if they do, I wonder if the troubles would have anything to do with the installation of manager Fredi Gonzalez, whose Marlins teams were perennially ill-prepared, lacking in fundamentals, and poor on defense? Of course, it could’ve just been a bad day.
During the telecast, there were occasional cuts from the action to the minor league field where Carlos Beltran was playing. From those brief spots of Beltran’s at-bats, he looked OK. With Opening Day less than a week away, I can’t see how he can possibly go north with the club. But, we’ll see.