Well, as I had mentioned before, I was heading down to Florida to cover Spring Training for a bunch of different sites (this one included). Thanks to the folks at the Canadian Baseball Network (where you can also read my work) for helping get a credential down here. As you’ll see in the coming days/weeks/months, the photos I’ve been able to get are far beyond what I’ve been able to get before, especially of the players on the major league team.
With brutal winter weather closing in on Toronto (and Buffalo, where I was flying out of) I decided to come down early, getting the last Southwest flight out of Buffalo to Tampa on Tuesday night. It involved getting a ride to Buffalo, getting on a flight that stopped in Baltimore (but at least I didn’t have to change planes) and then getting in to Tampa at 11:30 pm. Then I had to get my rental car early and find a hotel to stay at, since the arrangements I had already made didn’t kick in until today.
Anyways, to make a long story short, I made it into Tampa and Dunedin a day early and thus, the Bonus Day. What did I do with my bonus day? Watch baseball of course!
The rains were making the game a little bit doubtful but the sun did come out and a baseball game was played! I spent most of my time down at field level taking some photos but I did make some notes on the game.
Marcus Stroman started and worked 4 innings. Pitching against a lineup of mostly major league regulars like Ben Zobrist, Matt Joyce, Sean Rodriguez and Desmond Jennings, he looked good at times and very hittable at others. Mostly, it had to do with being able to keep the ball down. Because of his short stature, he doesn’t get the downward plane on the ball that a taller pitcher does, which makes it easier to get the ball in the air. Stroman likely hasn’t ever faced the same calibre of hitters who will make him pay when he makes mistakes. I think this is a great learning experience for Stroman and he seems to be the kind of guy who will start to learn from his mistakes.
I really enjoyed watching Erik Kratz catch. His movements behind the plate (particularly his receiving) are really quite and smooth.
Edwin hit a big home run. That was nice to see. He’s a good hitter, that one.
Ricky Romero threw four innings and in the first and fourth, he looked very good. In the second and third, he struggled to throw strikes, which, of course, has been his Achilles Heel. That said, he was throwing a 2-seamer at 91-92 mph and got a 4-seamer up to 94 (on the Florida Auto Exchange Stadium radar gun). He also threw a good changeup that he usually kept down very well and a good curveball (which he seemed to not throw when he was called up in September). While it wasn’t a perfect outing, it was still really encouraging.
Jonathan Diaz was really impressive with the glove. He’s not much of a hitter, nor does he have a great arm but his glovework was fantastic to watch.
Brett Lawrie made a Brett Lawrie play. While he’s always tremendous in the field, I’m not encouraged at all with his bat so far this spring. He seems to be turning himself into a spray hitter, going the other way a lot. I haven’t seen him really turn on a ball and hit it with authority either live or on TV.
I fell like Jose Bautista is becoming an all-or-nothing hitter. We’ll have to see what his numbers are like once the sample sizes are big enough, but I have a feeling, that he’ll ground out a lot, strike out a lot, walk a lot and hit a lot of home runs. Come on, Jose. Be more like Edwin.
Dan Johnson looks good at the plate. But he got thrown out in a 9-3 put out. Yes. He was thrown out by a shallow-playing right fielder on what would normally be a base hit. It wasn’t pretty.
That about sums up Bonus Day! I did get to talk to Kevin Pillar very briefly after the game but the batteries in my recorder died (rookie mistake). I’ll definitely try to do a podcast every couple of days from the minor league camp, where I’ll be tomorrow.
Don’t forget about The 2014 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook, available March 31 as an ebook at Smashwords.com, Amazon, Apple iBooks, Kobo and other fine retailers for $7.99. Pre-order information coming soon!