Good stuff today. It started as I was walking toward the backfields' entry gate and a Surprise Recreation Campus employee was telling 6 Japanese women that the team was in Tempe today. Their broken english and his insistence on speaking louder and louder the less they understood, was something out of a Monty Python movie. Eventually they understood the team wasn't there, but the minor leaguers were. They seemed cool with that and in short order I heard them walking behind me along the path to the fields. Then it happened. I saw him first. Actually, I saw Matt Harrison first, jogging off in the distance, then I noticed the big fella in the requisite Rangers pullover and gray pants carrying a black glove in his right hand. He had a trainer and what looked like an equipment guy on either side of him. He was about 20 feet away from me with the familiar crick-crack of spikes on concrete when I knew what was about to happen. I kept walking, pausing only to let him walk in front of me and nod, but I knew their day, perhaps even their trip was about to be made. As I closed in on the minor league fields, I turned around to see Yu chatting with a Japanese media member on the bright green football-size field they use for conditioning work. The ladies were lined up side by side along the string that tells the fans where they can and can't go. They were being respectful and trying to keep their shit together, but they were literally the only people out there...with one of the most famous athletes in their nation's history merely steps away. I imagine they spoke with him a little, maybe got a pic, and an autograph, but the story won't be believed by some back home. But I'll back 'em up. And so will anyone who has ever been to Spring Training. That stuff happens out here.
Very interesting day on the backfields today. As I said, the big leaguers were in Tempe, so the players and coaches far far outnumbered fans and guys like me. I'd say there was probably only 10-15 folks not related to or under the employ of the Texas Rangers. The low-A thundersticks took some BP then skeedaddled to the busses for games in Peoria, leaving the "AA" and "AAA" teams. Don't misread the players assignments for the day. It was basically a mix of Round Rock & Frisco-bound kids on one field and Myrtle-bound kids on another. So the "AAA" squad featured familiar faces Olt, Beltre, and Tepesch. But they also had the Doobie Herrera/Hanser Alberto middle infield. The "AA" squad had Sardi, Odor, Bollinger, Beck, Skole, Roman Mendez and Drew Robinson. So yeah, that's prolly Myrtle Beach. Anyway, let's talk bullet points:
-One of the players walking in at the same time as me was 2012 Frisco catcher Zach Zaneski. As we approached the AAA field, he broke off the path and jogged through the left field gate to where his former Frisco battery mate, Nick Tepesch was warming up. Tepesch smiled (rare) as Zach jogged toward him and they shared a one-armed handshake/hug thing. I couldn't hear them, but I knew what they were saying.
-Tepesch was Tepesch. After giving up a leadoff HR to the Padres' Jaff Decker, he settled in and ended up going 6in and giving up only one more run, which was unearned. He pounded the zone, mixed his pitches and was mechanically consistent. His last pitch induced a swinging K and was 92mph. He didn't smile or make obscene gestures toward the other team. Here's a few seconds of his mechanics from the stretch. Easy, repeatable:
Nick Tepesch March 27, 2013 (via Tepid Participation)
-I spoke with Keone Kela and he said the plan is for him to remain a starter and the biggest pitch he's working on this season is his changeup. Reports of the velocity being in the high-90s this spring, but the command lagging behind, which is entirely normal. Heat is good. Velocity is good. High-90s are good.
-CJ Edwards said he feels great and is ready to get going. He walks around with a towel and occasionally whips it forward with his pitching motion giving off a slight bullwhip sound. If you got the towel wet, it might weigh as much as CJ. He really doesn't seem to like sitting still.
-Had a great, long talk with Luke Jackson. Some of which I recorded, the rest- we were just shootin' the shit. He's a good dude and a fun prospect to follow. I'll be writing up a profile in the next week or so, but here's a teaser: that game in Myrtle when he struck out 12 guys in the first 5 innings, said it wasn't close to the best he's felt, in terms of stuff.
-Doobie Herrera didn't have a good game at 2nd base. I expect(ed) better defense from him, but I may need to pull those expectations back a bit. If you can't play 2B, you can't play SS, and you can't play 3B...hmmm. His MIF partner Hanser Alberto looked very smooth from what I saw. He's a kinda stocky kid, but looks to be able to handle the position. I also think he has the arm to slide over to 3rd. He played 3rd for Gigantes this winter, so it's an option. Both of those dudes can hit though. Here's a clip of them warming up:
Doobie Herrera and Hanser Alberto March 27, 2013 (via Tepid Participation)
-Roman Mendez looked good in the "AA" game. Low-90s, touching higher, had the slider going and threw some changeups. I couldn't recall ever having seen him go from the wind-up since I'd only seen him in relief, but he looked comfortable. Seems to be a hard working, focused kid. I expect his mid-90s velo will return as the season gets goin' a bit and if they move him back to the pen, it will return as soon as he wants it to.
-Engel Beltre absolutely laced a ball that was never more than two feet off the ground, right at the second baseman. It was hit so hard the second baseman had it go in and out of his glove and land on the ground a few feet away from him. He picked it up and threw to first. Engel dropped his head and didn't run out of the box after the ball was hit, presumably because it was hit right at a fielder. Had he hustled out of the box, he likely would have beaten the throw. Engel Beltre.
-Remember how I told you to make a note of the name Royce Bolinger, and how I had to think there were more home runs coming this season given the swing I'd seen in BP? Well, Royce did me a solid and annihilated a ball over the fence while I was videoin'. Here, watch this easy swing with his hands inside the ball and his hips firing:
Royce Bolinger HR March 27,2013 (via Tepid Participation)
-Not to be outdone, Kellin Deglan continues to show some pop, and he too did me the honors of hitting one out of the yard while I looked on, iPhone in action. This one makes me really happy because he waits on a hanger and stays balanced enough to get the good part of the bat on it. He's strong enough to hit the ball over the fence anytime, but pitch recognition and staying balanced have not always been included in the early reports on his stick. Good sign, good stuff. He's working hard. Here's the Canadian:
Kellin Deglan HR March 27, 2013 (via Tepid Participation)
-This is just a clip I thought you'd want to see. Drew Robinson, Roogie Odor, Jake Skole, and Luis Sardinas taking batting practice. (with an audio assist from some of America's finest, up above) This is a pack of Pelicans you'll wanna watch:
Drew Robinson, Roogie Odor, Jake Skole, & Luis Sardinas March 27,2013 (via Tepid Participation)
And finally, I have a special gift for AJM. I know of your affection for Drew Robinson. I know DROB's your prospect, so I wanted to grab some footage of him hitting, just for you. I had no idea it would be the most DROB at-bat ever. Clocking in at a whopping 5 minutes and 47 seconds, I present to you, my friend, Adam Morris, "Drew Robinson Draws A Walk":
Drew Robinson March 27, 2013 (via Tepid Participation)
- I watched the Cubs play the Royals tonight. Major League Game summary: Scott Feldman was not good, James Shields was. The Cubs lineup was not good, the Royals lineup was. The stadiums is nice, my ticket was $27, and I did not have a Bomber. The end.
I'm headed out to the fields for one last day tomorrow before catching a flight home in the evening. I'll pull together some final thoughts soon and finish this series up. I'm excited knowing the speculation is ending. Can this kid handle double-A, can this kid handle full-season ball, can this kid improve this part of his game??? We's 'bout to find out. Lets go.
The minor league seasons begin April 4th.
Be well and enjoy baseball! Love Ya!