Monday, March 20, 2006

Spring 7 thru 14 March

Well better late than never. I finally got computer access from my folks house in Arkansas so here are my observations and thoughts from my first week.

First week impressions:

My first week here has been wonderful despite the rotten weather. I got right down to the practice fields and saw Tag Bozied right away. He sure looks great and showing no ill effects from the knee injury that sidelined him all last season. I talked to him and he said that he was fully recovered and eager to be back on the field. I was also gratified to see him taking reps at 3b. With all the new blood that we have acquired at 1b he seemed to have moved down the depth chart over there. He appeared to me to be a little rusty over there but by the end of the week he was looking more comfortable. Corey Smith was looking better defensively than I had been led to believe. It will be interesting to see how the rosters shake out between Mobile and Portland. I certainly can see Tag as a viable candidate for starting 3b at Portland. There appears to be a dearth of ss candidates for the Portland job. I think that Towers is searching for a journeyman to start the year there.

Josh Barfield appeared much better defensively than I had seen him before. He was athletic and fluid around the bag. Khalil and Josh would be such a sweet combination. Josh is really swinging a hot bat and showing some power and clutch hitting ability. Bellhorn is making a little noise with his power but, at least in my eyes, Josh has nailed down the job already.

We certainly need to get a 3rd baseman in camp. Castilla is with the Mexican team and there is no one here that I would want to start the season with. That doesn't bode well for this season as Castilla is sure to spend at least some of the season nursing a variety of injuries. Again, here's hoping that Tag can regain some of his skills at 3b just in case. Geoff Blum is having another good camp and looks to be a slimmed down version of himself. He has been swing the bat well from both sides and playing good defense. He will probably nail down one of the utility jobs.

Roberts has been a disappointment for me in this camp. He has been lax in his effort in the field letting quite a few balls get into the gaps that, in my opinion, should have been cut off. It could be that its quite an adjustment to reading balls from left field as opposed to center. He has been unable to get the bunt down on a couple of occasions where I saw him try. That included failing to get down a sac bunt. He does however, seem to be swinging the bat well. In addition to hitting well, he has been running the bases agressively. Not that he has been stealing bases but just taking the extra base whenever humanly possible.

It is a joy to see Mike Cameron in center. He is such a well conditioned athlete and yet he is continually working to get better jumps. After leaving the game he continues to work on the sidelines and in the outfield. Dang I am happier now than ever that we were able to acquire him. I really liked Nady but Cameron seems to be a special guy. His acquisition really improves the outfield defense and he seems to be swinging the bat quite well also. He doesnt seem to be such a free swinger as I thought. He seems quite patient and intelligent in his approach at the plate. Just watching him in the spring it seems hard to believe that he strikes out as much as he has shown in the past. He runs the bases agressively and smartly. Ben Johnson is having a good camp and showing more of the athletic ability that gives him such a high ceiling. On the other hand, Paul McAnulty is not swinging the bat well and seems really sliggish in the field. He reported to camp a lot slimmer but it doesnt seem to be translating into increased performance. I was unable to get good views of Termel Sledge due to him nursing an injury. I sure hope that I get a better look next week. Valent and Cust would appear destined for minors or waivers.

Ryan Klesko is disappointing both in the field and at the plate. He does seem to be working on some things very hard though. I would say that he is working harder than I have seen in past camps. Ryan has been staying in late in games even when all the other veterans are taking their leave in the 6/7th inning, he stays seeming intent in getting all the reps he can.

Woody Williams appears finished. He seems to lack stuff and command. I havent really seen him enough this time for form any concrete judgments but I dont like what I see. Andy Ashby, although valiant, should probably retire. Clay Hensley appears to have lost velocity over the offseason. Hopefully this is just a temporary thing and he will be getting up to speed soon. Dewon Brazelton is extremely impressive. He is agressively going after hitters with a very good set of pitches. Watching him pitch this spring it calls to mind Dwight Gooden. Its been a while since I saw Gooden pitch so I dont know why it gives me this impression. I feel quite certain that he will be winning a spot in the rotation and that Hensley will be returning to the pen. Linebrink and Hoffman seem far from ready, however, Hoffy is known to take the spring to work on things and is seldom sharp in the spring so maybe this is rubbing off on Scott. How good our bullpen will be is certainly a point of concern.

Mike Piazza returned from the WBC and appeared to be game ready. His bat did not appear to be slowing down as has been reported. Instead, Mike was ripping the ball with authority and even homered to erase a Giant lead. Mirabelli appeared to be swinging the bat well but I was disappointed with his defensive prowess. In my opinion, it was far below the reported quality. Again, I am speaking from less than a week's worth of viewing so things could look a lot different by April.
Ross is certainly an interesting proposition. On one hand he has very good defensive skills and is even hitting the ball well but his past records indicate that this is just a spike in spring training that will probably pass in the regular season. Still it really could cause the Padres to carry 3 catchers and use Piazza to back up Klesko. That would certainly limit the possibility of Adrian Gonzalez making the opening day roster.

Watching Big Walter Young move around the bag one is immediately surprised by his nimbleness. I expected him to be clumsy and inept where this is certainly not the case. He can certainly give the ball a ride. Among the current Padres only Piazza has displayed that type of power.

During Monday's practice just prior to leaving to catch the Padres/Brewers in Maryvale, I stayed a few extra minutes to watch Jon Knott take batting. I was rewarded with a variety of power drives including 2 blasts that cleared 385 rather easily. He certainly looks like winter ball agreed with him. I wish that he was being given a better shot to make the big club. I sure dont understand what it is that he isnt doing right.

Overall, I was pleased to see the Padres coaches working diligently to stress fundamentals and basic techniques in the minor league camp and in the major league camp. Much more so than in previous camps. Overall there appeared to be much more energy in camp than in my previous ones. I am excited about this club. I am not sure where the pitching is going, especially with the Chan Ho situation(WBC illegal substance use) and Woody Williams decline. I will be back in Peoria on the 21st for my final week of spring training. Hopefully there will be answers to at least some of my burning questions.

Aloha, Hank


Blogger Geoff said...

Good to "see" you again, Hank! Thanks for the ST report. Interesting that Bozied is getting some reps in at 3B.

9:56 PM  
Blogger LynchMob said...

Hank - I was down at the Padres camp on Thursday, March 9th ... spoke briefly with Chase Headley ... saw Blanks up close (he's another HUGE guy) ... saw Smith & Bozied takin' BP ... watch'd some pitchers & catchers doing drills ... good stuff! There was only a handful of folks there that morning ... wonder if we cross'd paths and didn't know it ...

It's still not too late to post an update about your "final week of spring training" ...

THANKS for writing!

10:23 PM  

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