Hopefully, the photo above imparts some sense of why hardcore baseball fans love spring training. Manny Sanguillen, Nate McLouth, Mike McKenry and Anderson Hernandez. A star from the 1970s, on hand to coach the young catchers. A star of the more recent past, trying to get his mojo back in the place where he got his start. And two recent additions trying to latch onto jobs and avoid a return to AAA. The past matters, and it doesn’t.
Not a great deal of consequence is happening at this stage. The pitch counts are very limited and there’s nary a radar gun in sight. Even A.J. Burnett’s and Gerrit Cole’s stints didn’t attract quite the attention you’d expect. Still, just a few observations:
–Judging from the infield assignments, I’d say the backup middle infield job will be a battle between Hernandez, Yamaico Navarro and Josh Harrison. Chase d’Arnaud and Jordy Mercer were working out at second and short, respectively, but they’ll both head back to Indianapolis. Navarro has been at short for drills. That’s a position that all the scouting reports say is a stretch for him, so his performance there is probably going to be very important.
–Starling Marte left me with the same impression Robbie Grossman did a year ago: He’s grown up. He doesn’t look skinny any more. He looks more like an NFL defensive back. Between that and his 12 HRs last year despite playing in a cavernous ballpark in Altoona, it’s hard to think any doubts will persist about his ability to hit for power. The sole remaining issue should be his willingness to take pitches out of the strike zone.
–Clint Barmes couldn’t make contact in two at-bats against Logan Kensing. Of course, it’s very, very early . . . .
–Nick Evans showed some impressive power in batting practice. He’s a guy I’ve been hoping will win a spot.
–I ran into Tom Smith from RumBunter. He said he watched some of the minor leaguers take batting practice yesterday. They’re hard to identify at this stage because their jerseys don’t have names and there’s no numerical roster for them yet. Tom did, however, see one tall switch-hitter, who can only have been Josh Bell, park quite a few over the fence. Wish I’d been there.