Spring Training Update

Monday, March 16, 2009

Three Up

Highly touted and bearing huge expectations, Cameron Maybin has had a solid spring and erased any doubts that he would be the opening day centerfielder and perhaps the leadoff hitter. He is 12 for 33 with one homer and looks every bit the rookie of the year candidate many believe he will be. He needs to be the new table setter of the lineup with Hanley Ramirez moving to the three-hole. Expect a lot of singles and methodically advancing along the base paths.

The aptly described, "tall, dark and Mormon," Josh Johnson has gone a total of eleven innings in his three appearances and has yielded just one run while striking out seven. He is certainly in the battle for the title of opening day starter ace. He had a solid early return from the Tommy John surgery last summer and was remarkably consistent. Consistency is usually something lacking in young pitchers and a young staff. Hopefully he can provide that and be the stopper at the top of the rotation.

Catcher John Baker has had a stellar 9-20 start at the plate with three walks giving him a .522 OBP. Nice for a guy who was our number two hitter in the lineup towards the end of last year and might find himself there again this year. He fits right in line with the front office's new philosophy at the plate (fewer K's and HR's, better BA and OBP). While he obviously doesn't have the prototypical speed for the two spot, he may be our best option to sandwich between Cameron Maybin and Hanley Ramirez.

Honarable Mention: Burke Badenhop has not allowed a run in seven innings spread across four appearances.

Three Down

Andrew Miller has had a couple rough outings. In his opener he allowed six runs in one and a third inning. He has improved each outing and says he feels he is getting more command but the season is just weeks away and we need him as the lefty in our staff. The team will probably go with a four man rotation the first couple weeks of the season, so Miller might need to be the guy who gets a couple more rehab starts in the minors.

Another player bearing some expectations this spring is Gaby Sanchez. Unfortunately, a first base job that looked like his to win is now the one he is losing. He is just 4 for 25 with six strikeouts at the plate and has made three errors in the field. I think this will be an intriguing decision to see if he makes the club. He proved he was too good for AA, and the Pacific Coast League (AAA) won't provide a tougher test (PCL is a hitting league, not pitching) if he goes there. He could start out as a bench player, but it would be a tough adjustment to getting just a several at-bats per week.

Taylor Tankersley has been given a large amount of opportunities to settle in as a lefty in the bullpen. This spring he isn't doing much to help his cause. He recently had an outing with six earned runs conceded and has only kept the scoreboard clean in two of his six appearances, all of which were an inning or less. He will always have an advantage making the club because he is a left-handed pitcher, but he may be out of options.


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