What do these games mean? How can you judge a player during spring training. For the regulars I know they’re just trying to get going. They start trying to get their legs under them and try to gain some command of the strike zone. For some of the younger players are trying to show they can hit big league talent or get big leaguers out.
By now you’ve heard that the Yankees ace CC Sabathia was quoted as saying, “Anythings possible” when asked about the possibility of opting out of his current 7 year contract after the 3rd year. Everyone knows the facts by now and I wanted to talk about a different angle on this story. Focusing on the opt out clause itself.
Unless you’re a Green Bay Packers fan your football season ended sadly, without a championship. Some of our teams were never in it (Cowboys fans), and some of us had our hearts ripped out (ME!) as Matt Dodge punted to Desean Jackson and helped the Eagles end the Giants chances at a division title. Of course the next week the Giants didn’t show up in Green Bay and got blown out and our chances at the playoffs were over when the Packers were able to beat the Bears at home in week 17. But, that doesn’t matter to me anymore, after weeks of playoff football and lots of b*tching that “It could’ve been us” hoisting up the Lombardi Trophy, ITS FINALLY TIME FOR PITCHERS AND CATCHERS TO REPORT!!
I can only imagine how Orioles fans felt last night. It was the long awaited debut of the catching phenom Matt Wieters, the 5th overall pick of the 2007 draft out of Georgia Tech. He is 6’5″ 230 pounds and a switch hitter. Wieters dominated every level of the minor leagues. His body build is identical to Joe Mauer’s (Mauer is also 6’5″ and weighs 225 pounds). Is Baltimore putting too much pressure on this young kid? The Orioles raised a rainbow flag outside of their stadium as a way of saying this is the start of a new era. That’s a lot of weight on the shoulders of a 23 year old who has only 4 major league at bats. Matt Wieters is only a piece of the rebuilding in Baltimore and the franchise is not resting on his shoulders. Wieters is clearly a great player who will be a force in the middle of their lineup, however this team also depends on the many young pitchers in their farm system that we should see by next year. Adam Jones and Nick Markakis are big parts of the solution. Matt Wieters is going to be an outstanding player but this team needs more then Matt Wieters to make them contenders again.
Now on to his debut. The first pitch tested Wieters defensively. A dribbler right in front of home plate, Matt fielded and threw to first to get the first out. In his first AB he looked extremely comfortable and showed good 2 strike hitting, taking a two strike pitch to right field but lined it right at the rightfielder for an out. He took a great slider that dove low and away for a ball. He showed great patitence as a young hitter. In his 2nd AB Wieters got ahead by watching a slider end up outside, then he swung and missed at a fastball. On the 1-1 pitch Wieters bounced a fastball right back to the pitcher. In his third AB Wieters got ahead in the count laying off a first pitch curveball and a second pitch slider. Both pitches were good breaking balls that ended just under the knees to start with a 2-0 count. 2-0 Dontrelle Willis threw a low 91 MPH fastball that Wieters dribbled to third base. In his 4th and final AB Wieters again got ahead in the count by taking a low slider from Nate Robertson. The pitch was close but Wieters showed a great eye. He ended up striking out looking on a high inside fastball. If you look at his line you may be disappointed, however Wieters got ahead of the count often and took close pitches, showing a great eye.
Wieters also called this game from the start, something he did not do in college. There were many times Wieters called a great pitch to get the hitter out. Against Miguel Cabrera there was a 2-1 count and Wieters called for the inside fastball. Cabrera called timeout and took a glance back to see where Wieters was setting up. Wieters noticed this and went with a fastball away. Cabrera fouled it off but you could tell he was looking inside by the way he swung. The next pitch Wieters came back inside and jammed Cabrera getting him to hit a soft pop up to the shortstop.
Wieters went 0-4 with a strikeout but he showed promise both on defense and offense in his major league debut. I’m very excited to watch this young player mature and grow up.
My favorite major league player that doesn’t play for the Yankees is a young righty that many of you have probably never heard of, at least not yet. He is currently the youngest player on a major league roster. His name is Rick Porcello, starting pitcher for the Detroit Tigers. Rick went to Seton Hall Prep and was drafted in the first round 27th overall in the 2007 draft. He had been projected to go higher in the draft but his agent, Scott Boras, scared many small market teams away from him. I started following Rick during his senior season at Seton Hall Prep. I happened to go to high school 20 minutes away from him and had the pleasure of watching him pitch a perfect game, which was by far the most impressive game I’ve ever seen pitched. Sporting News ran an article during Rick’s senior year about how reaching 300 wins as a pitcher is even harder than it used to be. In the article it said that Tom Glavine and Randy Johnson may be the last 2 pitchers to reach the milestone. In a side box they had several pitchers they believe have a chance to reach 300 wins, Rick was one of them. He is a promising young pitcher who has a great career ahead of him. He is currently 5-3 with a 3.55 ERA and in 8 starts has only walked 15 batters. He is a very exciting pitcher who you should get used to hearing about because Rick is going to be a star.
This morning I was on my way home from my summer class listening to 1050 ESPN radio when this question came up. I believe that there is no question as to what the Yankees should do about Joba Chamberlain. I called ESPN radio hoping to get my opinions on the air. Believe it or not I got through and I raised my points. After talking about how I believe that if Chien-Ming Wang is able to prove he can be an effective starting pitcher again, that it is a no brainer to move Joba to the bullpen ESPN still disagreed with me. I want to see how other fans react to this debate.
1. Joba doesn’t eat up innings forcing the bullpen to get through too many innings and leaving the bullpen depleted the next day. Joba has thrown only 45 1/3 innings through 9 starts, an average of 5 innings a start. Joba throws too many pitches an inning to be an effective starter.
2. Last year Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge were a huge reason the Phillies won the World Series. Both pitchers were very dependable and did their job (Madson getting the ball to Lidge and Lidge ending the game). With Brian Bruney injured who is the Yankees second dependable pitcher, Jonathon Albaladejo, Alfredo Aceves, Phil Coke? Although all three are pitching well, none is a realiable set-up man who can dominate hitters like Ryan Madson. Joba, as we have seen, is great out of the bullpen. He could even pitch several innings of relief when needed. Even if Bruney comes back he is better fit to pitch the 6th or 7th than the 8th.
3. If Wang comes back to the rotation and is an effective starter, what pitcher is best fit for the bullpen? Joba has proved to be a dominant reliever and would have the easiest adjustment to the bullpen. With the way Phil Hughes has been pitching I don’t see how you could put him in the bullpen and none of the other starters would makes sense in the bullpen.
I would love to get other fans opinions on this. Don’t get me wrong I love Joba Chamberlain and I think he will make an outstanding starting pitcher some day, however for the Yankees right now I think he is most valueable in the bullpen.