Results tagged ‘ Spring training ’
When it comes to reports out of Spring Training, I normally don’t invest a whole lot of time or energy into them. As far as I’m concerned, the numbers are often easily skewed based on things like sample size and players working on something specific (like a pitcher trying a new curveball, or a batter working on hitting to the opposite field). However, there is an interesting development in Lakeland this year. Is Bruce Rondon ready to be the closer for the Detroit Tigers?
For those who don’t follow baseball as passionately or religiously as I do, let me preface by saying this. Rondon is one of baseball’s best prospects. As if his 6’3″ 255 pound frame wasn’t intimidating enough, he features a fastball that is regularly clocked near 100 MPH, and has reportedly hit 103 on the radar gun.
When the Tigers decided to not resign Jose Valverde after a shaky postseason performance (not that a good one would have necessarily gotten him a contract with Detroit), fans immediately began to speculate what the Tigers should do. Rafael Soriano was a free agent, but signing him would cost us not only a first-round draft pick, but also a lot of money.
Early in the offseason, the Tigers seemed confident in their internal options, especially with having a pitcher like Rondon waiting in the wings. Across three different levels of the minor leagues, Rondon went 2-1 with an ERA 1.53. Although he did walk 28 batters (two being intentional) in just 53 innings, he still managed to have an impressive WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) of just 1.094. So what does that mean? Basically that when the ball is over the plate, he’s not giving up a lot of hits.
Although walks are a big concern for closers, I don’t think that’s the biggest concern the Tigers will have with a guy like Rondon. He might have an electric fastball, but he will need to compliment that with a secondary pitch that he can throw for a strike (or at least good enough to entice hitters). Reports are that Rondon does have a changeup and slider, but has struggled with his command of both during Spring Training.
It’s important to remember that it’s early for players, so it’s pretty uncommon for players to not have a great feel for their pitches at this point. If it’s something we’re still talking about in May or June, then it would be something that should be addressed accordingly. In the meantime, I’m confident that Rondon will not only be fine during his rookie year, but I think he’s going to quickly become one of the most talked about players in baseball.
Although the calendar might say that today is March 1st, I would argue that it already is starting to feel like spring. Perhaps that has something to do with the fact I spent part of last week in Florida, or even the fact that baseball if officially back.
Shortly after my birthday, I decided to book a last-minute flight down to Florida. I’ve never been a fan of cold weather, so it sounded like the perfect time to leave for a mini vacation. So I packed my bags and headed south without any real plans.
After landing, my parents picked me up and we headed to visit with a cousin who lived near Tampa. She decided to show us around town, which included driving by Tropicana Field. I was hoping to be able to get at least a tour, but they weren’t doing any while I was in town. We were taken to one of her favorite spots, the St. Pete Pier. The shops weren’t of much interest to me, but the view from the top was pretty breathtaking.
Once we were done with our tour, we headed back to the condo and relaxed by the pool. After all of the running around for the day, that was good enough for me.
The next day included a pit stop at one of my mother’s favorite locations in Florida. If you’re a fan of ridiculously good (not to mention reasonably priced) desserts, look no further than Parksdale Farms. Located in Plant City, it’s a fruit market and dessert stand. Known primarily for their strawberries, they have an entire dessert menu built around just strawberries. I opted for the sundae.
From there, we headed to Lakeland, where I got my first ever opportunity to watch the Tigers play a game in Spring Training. If I’m not mistaken, I’ve been to Lakeland about five times (my favorite memory coming from when I had to chase David Wells to his car to get his autograph), but I’ve only been able to watch them practice.
Of course I didn’t bring any luck to the Tigers, but I did get to watch top prospect Bruce Rondon pitch, and see both Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder hit a home run.
But that wasn’t all of the baseball I got to watch while I was down there. I met up with a few friends that I met through the MLB Fan Cave, and we headed to Bradenton to watch the Pirates host the Atlanta Braves. Although I wasn’t too familiar with most of the prospects, it was fun to watch Justin Upton, B.J. Upton and Jason Heyward playing the outfield. Not only that, but I was able to root for ex-Tigers Brandon Inge and Gerald Laird.
On the final night, I met back up with my friends for some bowling. I once again proved that I’m a terrible bowler, but at least I can take pride in the fact my score improved after every game. If they would’ve let me bowl til five in the morning, I might’ve been able to break 200 (I doubt it, but you can’t prove otherwise)!
Tuesday morning meant it was time for me to leave, so I was dropped off at the airport at noon for my 2:05 PM flight. Unfortunately, mechanical issues delayed my departure to 4:05. That later changed to 4:30, which changed to 5:00 and eventually switched to 5:19. Knowing that there was a snowstorm back home, I wasn’t exactly thrilled.
The flight was fine, but the drive home was without a doubt the craziest thing I’ve ever experienced in a car. On the commute home, I witnessed three accidents, a semi truck crash through a guard rail, and a car going the wrong way on the expressway. Even though traffic was going no more than 40 MPH, there was still plenty of crazy stuff going on.
Although the drive lasted more than twice as long as it usually does, I was thankful to finally make it home in one piece. Even though it’s currently 25 degrees here in Michigan, knowing that opening day isn’t too far away, it doesn’t seem so bad.
It was announced today that the Tigers have optioned starting pitcher Andy Oliver to Toledo, meaning that only Drew Smyly and Duane Below remain as candidates for the 5th spot in the Tigers starting rotation.
For what it’s worth (which I’ll admit isn’t much), I sincerely think that the nod has to go to Smyly. My biggest concern with Below is his lack of having any plus-level pitches, and that’s why I think he’s better suited to either be a long reliever for the Tigers, or he needs to work on further developing his pitches in Toledo.
The biggest advantage that I think Below has at this point, is the mere fact that he’s already pitched in the Major Leagues. Below started two games for the Tigers in 2011, pitching in 12 other games out of the bullpen. In 29 innings of work, his numbers weren’t lights out, but they weren’t terrible either. Even though I think Smyly has better stuff, it wouldn’t shock me if Below gets the rotation spot. Keep in mind that both pitchers make still break camp, with Smyly in the rotation, and Below in the bullpen.
One of the most interesting parts of this whole competition for the 5th starter, is the fact that no one predicted that Smyly or Below would be the front runners before Spring Training began. For those who say that performances in Spring Training are overrated or don’t matter, please take note.
So today I flew to Florida, and departed straight from the airport to Lakeland, the home the Detroit Tigers spring training. Being a finalist of the MLB Fan Cave, I wasn’t exactly sure what kind of reception I’d get from players, fans and other personnel there, but I figured I didn’t have much to lose.
First I was sent on a wild goose hunt, where I was sent looking for a person, who told me to find a person, who told me to find a different person. Needless to say, it wasn’t exactly a great start for me or my Spring Training experience. At around noon, several Tigers, such as Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello departed from the practice field, stopping to sign autographs for many of their adoring fans. I was hoping to get the attention of Verlander, since he has committed to visiting the Fan Cave in 2012, but I had no such luck. Undeterred, I decided to wait by the clubhouse, in hopes that perhaps someone from Media Relations might be able to help me out.
About an hour went by, and I was given the unfortunate news that there was really little I could do, in terms of getting players participation. I remained understanding, knowing fully well that was most likely to be the case. But then, wouldn’t you know, Buster Olney comes walking out of the clubhouse towards the parking lot and me.
I stopped him for a minute, and the next thing you know, we talked about baseball for about fifteen minutes. I tried to get it on camera, but due to it being a sort of last minute effort, I was only able to get a few pictures taken while I was talking with him.
It was definitely a neat experience getting to talk to someone who you respect on a professional level, and it was a similar feeling when I got the chance to talk to Ernie Harwell in Lakeland about 13 years ago. We chatted about the MLB Fan Cave, the Tigers and Tony LaRussa, and he even provided me a few words of encouragement before he wished me luck and headed on his way.
So no, I didn’t get an interview with Justin Verlander, or get to make a video of learning how to defend myself on the mound with Rick Porcello, but I did get a memory that I will never forget.
Now that Spring Training is officially under way for Major League Baseball, the 2012 season has finally arrived. Forget the 2011 season, the slates have been wiped clean for every team.
My favorite part about Spring Training is the conversations that always seem to stem from it. Every player is ‘in the best shape I’ve ever been in’, and every fan thinks that ‘This is our year to win the World Series!’ As nice of a thought as that is, it’s not usually the case for every team. Every team is rebounding from past issues, and dealing with recent departures, both via free agency and trades.
Reports through all major sports media outlets are eager to cover all the exciting stories, such as Buster Posey coming back from his injury, Prince Fielder coming to Detroit, and some guy who now plays for the Angels…I think he’s wearing number 5. It’s an exciting time for baseball fans, because for the next month or so, we all start off on an even playing field.
I’ll actually be flying down to Florida tomorrow, and plan on going to Lakeland to watch the Tigers practice for a few days. As fun as it will be for fans to watch Fielder hitting 400 foot home runs to right field and chasing Justin Verlander for autographs, I still think the coolest part of Spring Training will always be the amount of time that fans get to actually interact with players and other members of the Detroit Tigers. It was in Spring Training many years ago that I got the opportunity to talk to Ernie Harwell for about 15 minutes. It’s moments like those that make being a baseball fan completely worthwhile.
It’s fun to think, that at this time tomorrow, I’ll be walking around Joker Marchant Stadium remembering why I love baseball so much.