Spring Training Notes

After the first week of spring training games, a few random notes …

Andres Torres had some big hits, including a triple, and is running the bases aggressively. On the one hand, great to see. On the other hand, save some of that for the real season, huh? I know it’s dumb but there’s a theory that a player can spend himself in the spring. If Torres can come out like gangbusters during the first week of the season the way he’s doing it down in Port St. Lucie, it will go a long way toward entering the hearts of Mets fans.

Jordany Valdespin, for the third straight spring, looks like he has MLB talent. But he still has a cocky swagger that doesn’t quite match his talent level.

R.A. Dickey looks great. I didn’t expect anything less.

Johan Santana threw 29 pitches, 17 for strikes, in his first outing since 2010. It didn’t seem like that many pitches as he got some quick outs. But when he wasn’t getting quick outs, he was struggling to keep his fastball below the batter’s chest level. That’s partially due to rust but also a result of all the long tossing he’s doing as well as a symptom of the mechanical flaw that caused his shoulder injury in the first place. It was hard to see on TV with the naked eye but it looks like he still has the same hesitation and arm action that puts tremendous stress on his elbow, and indirectly the shoulder. His velocity was better than I expected – consistently 87-88 MPH while touching 90. But was the gun dialed up?

Interesting to see Maikel Cleto make an appearance. Remember when he was one of the 17 men traded for Jeremy Reed (and J.J. Putz)? Seems the Mets didn’t miss him much, though that 96 MPH heat is intriguing. While we’re on the subject of that trade, Jason Vargas spun four scoreless frames for Seattle.

Adam Loewen is a big man with a big swing and big power. However he also has multiple holes in that long swing. My guess is he’ll be a viable power-hitting pinch hitter, and will hit more than a few mistakes over the fence, but will likely only hit around .210 with a ton of strikeouts. That might not be so awful if his main role is as a pinch-hitter and he can deliver a few late-inning bombs. Think: the last two years of Matt Stairs‘ career.

Vinny Rottino could be this year’s Chris Carter, in terms of a “nobody” who makes the team and becomes a fan favorite off the bench.

Mike Baxter may be the corner-outfield version of Cory Sullivan / Jeremy Reed.

Lucas May can play the infield? Do we care? I’m not seeing any reason to put him in the lineup ahead of Ike Davis or David Wright, even on a getaway day 12 noon stArt Ballgame.

Matt Den Dekker is hard not to like, right?

Jose Ceda can throw really hard, and he’s really large. He’s like a tall version of Rich Garces.

The Marlins hats are awful.

I want someone to explain to me the logic of using a DH in spring training games between two NL teams. Why can’t pitchers hit? Why can’t they bunt? Maybe because hitting by pitchers is viewed and treated as non-essential. Yet, everyone will be screaming when a pitcher can’t lay down a bunt in the regular season, or when his swing resembles a reality TV housewife swinging at a pinata with a blindfold on. In the non-adulterated version of baseball, pitchers hit; therefore, put them in the batter’s box in spring training games to get the live, game-action reps they need to prepare for the season. Bunting against a 58-year-old coach tossing BP is much different from bunting against a MLB pitcher throwing 90+ MPH and mixing in breaking pitches. After the disgraceful bunting we saw from Mets pitchers in 2011, shame on Terry Collins for not putting his hurlers in there this March.

What have you seen thus far? Post your notes in the comments.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Izzy March 9, 2012 at 7:13 am
    The pitchers don’t stay in game long enough to bat. Having DH early in spring gives an extra guy a chance to get in several ABs and lets more players share the field since you don’t need to save 4 or 5 guys to PH. So I think DH in early games makes sense.
  2. Paul March 9, 2012 at 8:34 am
    I agree with Izzy – there’s no point in having pitchers hit during the first week when nobody (except Mike Pelfrey) stays in the game for more than two innings. Better to give one guy a chance at four ABs than use four minor leaguers to pinch hit.
    • HobieLandrith March 9, 2012 at 9:47 am
      Bat the pitcher higher in the lineup.

      duh !

      • Joe Janish March 10, 2012 at 11:09 pm
        Have to agree with Hobie on this one, mainly because I remember NL teams doing it in the past — bat the pitcher somewhere in the first 6 spots in the order. Spring training games mean nothing, so it doesn’t matter anyway. I’d much rather see Mike Pelfrey and Dillon Gee getting at-bats than Omar Quintanilla or Val Pascucci.
  3. Walnutz15 March 9, 2012 at 8:48 am

    Frank Francisco apparently can’t hold a runner or throw to bases. Sounds like a wise $6MM/per investment to me.


  4. Joe March 9, 2012 at 10:33 am
    I know it’s the first week of Spring Training, but who among us thinks Pelfrey struggling, Mets hurting or not being able to score with less than two outs and a man on third will not continue in April and onward?

    I think there is someone among that bunch, perhaps two, who can play the OF sometimes and be bench players. As suggested, one has a possibility of being a fan fav.

    I don’t know what Santana has yet myself though Joe Janish might be right on everything there. I continue to be mildly hopeful though it wouldn’t shock me if the guy wasn’t ready on Opening Day.

    I continue to like Batista as a spot starter/long man. I’m interested in seeing some other possibles pitch.

    Come on, play Reyes vs the Mets already. Get that over with.

    Meanwhile, Bobby Valentine is the manager of the Red Sox. Really?

  5. MikeT March 9, 2012 at 11:45 am
    Hey Joe, I guess you did not read this piece by Verducci http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2012/writers/tom_verducci/03/06/designated.hitter.national.league/index.html

    It is all speculation, but I agree with him: the writing is on the wall and the realignment is the final catalyst to make it happen. Baseball is going to add the DH to the NL within the next 10 years. Personally? I’d prefer baseball not have a DH at all, anywhere, and pitchers are competent enough to handle a bat. However, given the current state of baseball, I’d prefer not to watch the Al Leiters of the world try to swing a bat or the Dillon Gees try to lay down a bunt. It is ugly, boring, and continue to injure pitchers (see Wang, Chien-Ming and Burnett, AJ).

    • Joe March 9, 2012 at 12:58 pm
      This “Joe” wouldn’t mind watching a pitcher lay down a bunt, especially if they are taught how. Even Leiter managed some “butcher boys” that got the job done, better often than “hitters” on the Mets who repeatedly fail to bring in people from third base with less than two outs.

      When pitchers (even on the Yanks) manage to get hurt carrying things or cutting stuff in the kitchen, injuries from bunting (they can get hurt any number of ways) is not really a reason to end the practice.

      The pitcher hitting adds to the complexity of the game. Baseball is not all about hitting including at bats. If you prefer not to have a DH, you will have some pitchers out there who can’t do much at the plate.

      • DaveSchneck March 9, 2012 at 3:39 pm
        Sorry to digress on this blog, but I despise the DH. If the NL goes that route so guys that can only play half the game can continue to pull big pay checks, the I say go for broka snd just let the best 9 hitters hit and best 9 fielders field.
      • DaveSchneck March 9, 2012 at 3:40 pm
        Joe J,
        What, no mention of the two highlights so far – the orange tee shirts and the helicopter fieldtrip for owneeship with a wads of 5s in their pockets?
    • Joe Janish March 10, 2012 at 11:13 pm
      Mike T., toward your thinking I’d add in not allowing pitchers to go up and down stairs (Robertson).

      I didn’t read Verducci’s story until now but came to the same conclusion about 30 seconds after I heard about the Astros moving to the AL and the subsequent interleague nonsense. Too bad, because I thoroughly enjoy watching baseball and it will be sad to see the sport leave the planet. Maybe some rogue barnstormers somewhere will keep the game alive.

  6. argonbunnies March 9, 2012 at 5:52 pm
    Pelfrey hasn’t stopped sucking since he lost his “A” splitter mid-2010. The facts that (a) he’s decided to bring back a pitch he’d earlier abandoned cuz it sucked (circle change), and (b) he spent all offseason working on his sinker and then couldn’t throw a good one in his first spring appearance, and (c) he’s not throwing 95 like his frame says he could — these all make me expect that the sucking will continue.

    As for bunting, I can see spending all the ABs you can on guys on the 25-man bubble. But there’s certainly no need to spend them on guys you know won’t make it. I agree that’d be better spent on pitchers bunting.

  7. Matt March 10, 2012 at 11:58 am
    Anyone else think Jordany Valdespin looks ML ready?
    • Joe Janish March 10, 2012 at 11:28 pm
      Depends what you define as “ML ready.” Omar Quintanilla is “ML ready,” but who cares?

      Right now, I see Valdespin as someone who, if given the chance to play 125-140 MLB games, would hit about .250 with around a .300 OBP and .650-.700 OPS, make 20+ errors, and drive fans, coaches, and manager crazy with his bravado, mental lapses, and occasional bouts of non-hustle. In other words, close to but slightly behind where Julio Franco was at a similar age. Does that mean he’ll become Julio Franco? Who knows? He could either be the next Julio Franco or the next Juan Bonilla.

  8. Graham March 10, 2012 at 2:06 pm
    Joe Janish,
    You have Rottino completely mixed up with Lucas May. Thole has a popcorn fart bat and no defense, and Nickeas can’t hit over the Mendoza line. We have Lutz, we have Kirk, Lowen looks good, Turner can play third. point being Rottino is redundant completely mediocre. This team desperately needs catchers from the Gulf cost league up, but Queens is in real trouble at backstop. I fail to see why you find May so irrelivant.
    • Joe Janish March 10, 2012 at 11:21 pm
      I do not have Rottino mixed up with May. Rottino is that rare utilityman who can play all four corners adequately as well as catch — and has been doing just that for many years. May is a catcher who last played shortstop in in the Sally League as a 20-year-old in 2005 and who otherwise has played 6 games total in his pro career at 1B and 3B. Despite this relative inexperience, it was brought up during the Mets telecast that “Lucas May can play some infield and may be seen there this spring.”
  9. Joe March 10, 2012 at 5:24 pm
    I heard Josh Lewin doing play by play today. Yawn.

    A local thought him leaving the Rangers broadcast booth was a good decision in part:

    “2. He could be quite ham-handed with his attempts to be funny.

    3. His conversations often sounded like he was reading from a script.”

    I agree. He seems ham-handed. He seems stiff. He seems generic. It would be tiresome to listen to him.