Notes From Mesa and Peoria
I didn’t sleep much last night and its 1 am my time, even if I’m temporarily back on the west coast, so no fluffy intro – let’s get right into the interesting things I saw and heard today, in no particular order.
1. Brandon Morrow looked tremendous in Mesa against the Cubs. Perhaps some of it was coming in to relieve Cha Baek, who looked as bad as I expected, but he showed the power arsenal that got him selected #5 overall last summer. In his first inning of work, against the bottom of the line-up, the breaking ball was pretty slurvy and didn’t have much bite, but his fastball was overpowering. He pitched almost exclusively on the outside corner to both sides, Tom Glavine style, but it worked to perfection because the bottom of the Cubs order sucks.
During his second inning, against the meat of the Cubs line-up, he showed a real understanding of setting up hitters. He suckered Soriano with a fastball out of the zone early, then just busted off breaking balls out of the zone to induce a weak chopper. He then continued throwing harder, biting breaking balls to Jacque Jones, Derek Lee, and Aramis Ramirez. The slurviness of the last inning was gone, and his second inning breaking ball (honestly, I don’t know if it was a curve or a slider) was very tight and dove hard, making it a great out pitch to go with his mid-90s fastball.
This is the kind of outing that gets guys noticed in spring training. I had a brief conversation with a scout afterwards and asked him what he thought of Morrow’s appearance, and his answer was essentially “why are you guys sending him to Double-A again?” He could use the work, but I guarantee you he opened some eyes today, and with the M’s bullpen suddenly a huge question mark, Morrow has to be considered a legitimate option to join the pen at some point later this year.
2. Bryan LaHair’s home run binge last year was either the greatest fluke of all time or he just has several different swings and approaches at the plate. The swing he had today couldn’t hit a home run off a tee – his entire focus was making contact and hitting a flare over the outfielder. I’m still a skeptic that he’s ever going to be more than the new Randall Simon.
3. Adam Jones took several good routes going back on the ball. He’s a lot better now than he was a year ago with the glove.
4. If there’s not a job opening for PA announcer at the Peoria Sports Complex, there really should be – the current guy, yea, he isn’t good. He had no idea how to pronounce basic names like Beltre (he says Bell-tree) or Feliz (Fee-lez), screwed up ad announcements, said “uh” about 30 times, and when announcing NCAA tournament scores decided that Weber State knocked off UCLA, generating a huge “ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh” from the crowd before correcting himself. He needs to be reassigned to minor league camp.
5. If you drew up a list of Mariner pitchers I wasn’t interested in seeing, it would probably go something like this: Aaron Small, Jake Woods, Cha Baek, Jarrod Washburn, Jeff Weaver. I got four of the five today. Thanks guys! At least they threw me a bone with Morrow.
6. Betancourt’s bomb got out in a hurry. His home runs last year were all cheapos, sneaking over the wall by a foot or two – not this one. He crushed it.
7. The Cubs got 12,700 fans at HoHoKam park on a Thursday afternoon when the opponent sent one regular – the Mariners couldn’t pull 10,000 for a night game when essentially the regular team was taking the field and playing most of the game. The difference in atmosphere between the two parks was striking.
Back to Peoria tomorrow afternoon, and I’m hoping to spend several hours at the minor league fields, so look for another post like this tomorrow night.