Spring Training Baseball: Day 5 in the Cactus League

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3/14/08

My Peoria series comes to an end today, with a Rockies and Mariners showdown. I haven’t seen the Rockies in person since god knows when, and it’s cool to see them after the World Series. While I believe they might be in for a letdown in the mega tough NL West, they are still one of the most talented teams in the NL.

Today’s pitching match up was Franklin Morales and Miguel Batista.

Before getting to the juicy details, I would like to share my autographs for the day: Sean Barker, a young Colorado Rockie and Charlton Jimerson, my main man…..and BIG SEXY. Richie is one of the few regular day players that made an effort to give autographs before the game. Also: he’s a huge man. Also: Just because I have his autograph, I believe he will hit 30 plus homeruns.

Leading off the game was our favorite ex-Mariner, Scott Podsednik. Now an afterthought, he’s trying to hang on somewhere. Since they practically have a 2004 Scott Podsednik in Willy Taveras, why bother with Podsy now? Who knows. Podsy went 1 for 4 with a steal in today’s game. If he still has his speed after all the injuries, he’ll stick around someplace. I hope he does, even though I never liked him for fantasy purposes.

Miguel Batista gave up a run in the first inning, when the Rockies manufactured a run with small ball, where Jeff Baker hit a sacrifice fly to center, driving in Podsednik to take a 1-0 lead. It would be their last lead of the game, since Morales was anything but good in today’s game, and Batista was on his game. He went 5 innings, gave up only 3 hits and walked one, and surprisingly struck out 5 batters, and left the game with the win, his first of the spring. His strong start continues a really good run by the Mariners starters this spring. While Bedard was fairly bad in his start, Felix went 5 shutout innings Tuesday and Washburn and Batista both looked sharp. I hope this is a good omen for the M’s, and that their starting pitching can be a strength, for once.

Morales was fairly awful, although his defense didn’t help him. The Mariners, down 1-0, quickly responded in their half of the inning. After Ichiro popped up, six of the next seven men reached base, leading to 4 runs. Adrian Beltre drove in one, and DH Greg Norton drove in two with a two out single. It could’ve been even worse than it eventually got, because in the 2nd, both Ichiro and Yuniesky Betancourt reached base, only to get picked off by Morales tricky move. In the third, the Mariners scored 5 more runs, when Beltre led off the inning with a homerun and Ichiro hit a two run shot of his own later in the inning. Morales would leave before finishing the 3rd, giving up 9 runs (5 earned) on 10 hits and 2 walks. He struck out two. Hopefully Morales can take a step forward this season, because the Rockies are going to need depth in their rotation to beat the Padres and the Diamondbacks and Dodgers. Micah Bowie, a tall lanky lefty came in relief for Morales, and settled the Mariners bats down. He went 2 1/3 IP and only gave up 1 hit and struck out 2. He looked very good, and stopped a romp, but maybe the Mariners were just tired from racing around the bases. After Bowie, Ramon Ramirez came in. He had a 3.46 ERA in 2006, but had many injuries and suffered to an ERA over 8 in 2007. Today he went two perfect innings, striking out one. Then, Matt Herges made an appearance, and it didn’t look good. He didn’t give up a run, but walked 1 and gave up two hits and barely escaped a bases loaded jam, as Ian Stewart made a diving barehanded grab at second base (the second base experiment looks like it’s working, and fantasy owners hope Stewart ends up at 2B for the Rockies at some point this year, because he can rake; Stewart went 0 for 1 with a strikeout).

Now let’s talk about the double play combination for the Mariners, Yuniesky Betancourt and Jose Lopez. Lopez went 2 for 4 with an RBI and looked the best he’s looked since I’ve seen him. Lopez came into the league highly touted and looked to be a potential All-Star. Maybe the Mariners rushed him, but it’s been a few years now and we haven’t seen that potential for a whole season, only in spurts. He’s a tease, he starts off the year strong, but as his 2007 numbers attest, ends poorly (to a .252 average). I think one day he can settle in as a .270-.280 hitter with 20 homeruns and 5 to 10 steals which would have value, but who knows when that happens.

As for Betancourt, he went 2 for 4 and played great defense at SS today. While he’s consistently hit for a decent average, up to around .280-.290, his on base percentage is terrible because he never walks. If he could improve his plate discipline and steal a few bases, he could be a top 15-20 SS in this league, and I think it could happen eventually. Keep watch.

Beltre went 2 for 4 with a homerun and 2 RBI. Each year since signing his monster contract since his bust of a first year, he’s solidly improved. Last year he hit over .270 and hit 26 homeruns and had 99 RBI’s and provided some steals. I think he continues his improvement this year, and hits over .280 and hits 25-30 homeruns and goes over the 100 RBI plateau. He usually comes at a good value in drafts, and is a good pick once all the hyped players at 3B are drafted, because he could outperform them.

Greg Norton took a step forward in trying to win a roster spot, going 2 for 4 with 3 RBI’s in his start at DH. He could be a useful pinch hitter, nothing more.

Troy Tulowitzki went 0 for 3, but showed brilliant SS play with a diving stop up the middle. I really love this kid (who doesn’t?), and he should end as a top 3-5 SS in the game. I’m not sure he’ll hit much more than 24 homeruns, but he’ll at least repeat his great rookie numbers.

To the Mariners relievers: After Batista, Feierabend went 2 IP and gave up 2 ER, but looked good. Jake Woods pitched a scoreless inning, and Cesar Jimenez closed things down with an easy 9th inning against the Rockies. The Mariners win 9-4, and it wasn’t close. None of these pitchers will make the team out of spring, but we will probably see all three at some point, especially Feierabend if an injury strikes the rotation.

Since I don’t have a lot of time, I’ll cut this one short with one more player evaluation: Marcus Giles. While it looks like Jayson Nix is the frontrunner at 2B, Giles is making his case. Despite an error at 2B, he went 2 for 4 with two doubles off the wall, including one to straightaway center that was probably the deepest hit ball I’ve seen in spring. I think Giles definitely has potential if he ever gets to play in Coors field (anyone does), and despite a guy definitely coming off of steroids, he’s still got a jolt or two left in him. Keep an eye on him, because he’s a deep sleeper right now.

Anyways, that’s all for now. My last game is the Diamondbacks vs the Angels in Tempe, Arizona. And guess who’s pitching? The Big Unit, that’s who.

See ya tomorrow!

     

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