Tagged: Spring Training

Notes, again

Notes:

First Impression of Kei Igawa: good stuff, below average location. He needs to locate his heater lower in the strike zone. Not to disparage the quality of his previous league, but Kei simply won’t be able to establish high eighties “gas” out over the upper portion of the plate, as he did in Japan. That’s a recipe for disaster here in the states, especially against right-handed hitters. But, all in and all, Kei definitely has potential, for his arsenal, if nothing else. Pitching is upsetting timing, and Igawa’s impressive change-up does the job just fine.

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In the brief glimpse I caught of his performance following my escape from Media Literacy class, overlooked Yankees pitching prospect Tyler Clippard appeared precise and polished, displaying a flat out nasty curve ball on his final delivery of the day. Go get ‘em T-Clip.

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If Scott Proctor can harness what he had today against the Tigers all season, he will surely gain entry within the upper echelon of established middle relievers. Spotting his fastball, dropping in nasty curve ball for strikes, Scott was in midseason form out there.

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Another knock for my boy, the defensively challenged, offensively inclined Josh Phelps.

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And hey, nothing like a walk off home run to remind us, even with snowflakes aimlessly swirling outside, that spring is right around the corner.

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Last night, I caught David Fincher’s latest, “Zodiac.” A quintessential Fincher flick, the movie imparts unease that lingers within long after the credits roll. Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr. were fantastic, as usual, Downey’s interpretation of loose cannon reporter Paul Avery especially memorable. Mark Ruffalo also chipped in, with an understated, realistic portrayal of Inspector David Toschi.

Bottom line, “Zodiac” further solidifies Fincher’s status as a top-flight director, who utilized a transitional, omniscient overhead shot over a fog shrouded Golden Gate Bridge that could be described as nothing short of sublime.

This isn’t a popcorn movie, not exactly light entertainment, but I definitely recommend it to those interested in a thorough police procedural.

Just be prepared to be creeped out.

Big time.

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Back Again

It’s been awhile, hasn’t it?

What can I say? I’ve been swamped. 15 credits are a drag.

But, I’m back. The Yankees Digest will ride again.

And, just to get back in the proverbial swing of things, here’s a notes column on the AL East. You know, something along the lines of Peter King’s “ Five Things I Think”, without the sonnets to Brett Favre. [I’m a fan of King, but man…]

So, let’s get to it.

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New York Yankees:

Finding at-bats for Melky Cabrera is a top priority for Joe Torre and the Yankee coaching staff. It will be an extremely interesting proposition, watching a precocious player with the skill of Melky cope with a backup role. It will be a true test of his maturity and discipline, and if he rises from the experience unscathed, his future will remain blindingly bright.

This is a tough task. Melky will need to maintain sharpness despite inconsistent playing time. He’ll need to avoid a glacial start, his minor league options still in play. If the Yankees’ feel the limited playing time is hampering his development, shunting him to Scranton will become a very real possibility.

The Yankees need to monitor this situation carefully, and make doubly sure Cabrera’s confidence remains at a high level.

Baltimore Orioles:

It’s time. The O’s have stunk for nearly a decade now, a laughable misallocation of their plentiful resources. If Daniel Cabrera can flourish, under the continued guidance of Leo Mazzone, Baltimore’s pitching staff can really surprise. Erik Bedard is a legit number one. Adam Loewen appears promising.

Ok, so Jaret Wright and Steve Trachsel are in the mix, but hey, the bullpen has been bolstered. Stealing Chad Bradford from the snoozing Mets was a solid move. Jamie Walker will be a plus, at least this year. At this stage of their careers, Danny Baez and Scott Williamson aren’t exactly the nasty boys incarnate, but they shouldn’t be any worse than league average.

Most importantly, Baltimore’s offense is going to tear it up. Consider this:

         Miguel Tejada showed up to camp in better spirits and shape.

         Brian Roberts is fully recovered from his nightmarish arm injury in 2005.

         Corey Patterson finally has the opportunity to settle into his surroundings. The suffocating expectations burdening him in Chicago ****** the life out of his game. After reestablishing himself last season, Corey’s fully liberated from the external forces holding back his supreme talent. Advice: Take a freaking pitch once in awhile.

         Hey, it’s Aubrey Huff! Remember him? Pure hitter without a position? Tore it up back in 2003?  Huff’s stock has undeniably fallen off. His performance has stagnated. But, in this lineup, protected at all sides, Aubrey could really do some damage.

         That Kevin Millar sure is a wacky character. Consequently, in the first half of last season, career looking pretty comatose, that’s all Millar really had going for him. But, the misbegotten idiot showed definite signs of life during the dog days, and, barring a sudden erosion of his skills, should put up better numbers in 2007.

         Nick Markakis is a line drive machine with excellent plate disciple. His work ethic and motivation are unquestioned. He reminds me, at the dish, of a more athletic Nick Johnson.

Indeed, there will be a ton of runs scored at Camden Yards this season. The only question, a constant in Baltimore, is whether the Orioles can limit the output of opposition.

The Boston Red Sox:

Back in 2004, my brother and I shared a laugh about the Yankees’ clubhouse dynamic. We wagered that Kevin Brown and Mike Mussina probably didn’t share the Times’ Sunday crossword puzzle, that Kenny Lofton and Bernie Williams weren’t exactly sharing centerfield tips.

Despite the toxic mix of personalities, the talent of the team always rose to the surface, and the Yankees romped to another American League East title before their date with infamy that October.

The 2007 Red Sox hope for similar regular season results. They too, boast a strange brew of talent.

In one corner, there’s the effectively indifferent J.D. Drew, replacing beloved dirt dog Trot Nixon. In another, there’s Manny Ramirez… being Manny Ramirez. It doesn’t stop there. You’ve still got clubhouse politician Curt Schilling, imported ace Daisuke Matsuzaka, and the seemingly adrift Coco Crisp, whose morale looked positively shot last season.

However, the most important piece of this jumbled puzzle is Josh Beckett, the last bastion of old school in this forlorn generation.  Beckett plays the game the right way. Just ask him.

Pumping your fist maniacally after decent first inning? That’s playing the game the right way.

Reprimanding other players for similar actions, while doing the exact same thing with obnoxious gusto? That’s playing the game the right way. The Beckett way, baby.

Yet, in terms of performance, Josh Beckett definitely didn’t play the game the right way in 2006. Just ask Red Sox fans.

Beckett could never really find his curveball, the key pitch in his arsenal. Without the curve, Josh was left throwing the fastball, and not much else. And, while Beckett’s fastball is scintillating, his simplistic strategy could be solved easily.

The statistics paint an ugly picture. Beckett gave up enough home runs, mostly on fastballs right down the middle, to be derisively dubbed the “Great Bombino” by Boston writer Dan Shaughnessy. [You may know him as CHB] His earned run average was over five.

But, hope still engulfs Beckett. It should. His fastball, when located correctly, is devastating. His curveball, if properly attuned, is untouchable.

In terms of talent, Beckett is peerless. If he could correct his deficiencies, diversify his pitch selection, and make the adjustments required for reliability, he could be the difference in the American League east.

And yes, he could pump his fist as much as he wants.

Toronto Blue Jays:

The Jays’ lack of depth could sink their season. Behind Roy Halladay and A.J. Burnett [ready for a huge season], the pitching staff is razor thin. Gustavo Chacin was hit hard in his second trip around the American League, the deceptiveness of his trick delivery waning. I’ve always been a fan of Tomo Ohka, but his contact oriented style may not thrive in the American League East. John Thompson made waves in New York by taking an unprovoked shot at Clifford Floyd while explaining his motivation for signing with Toronto. Judging from his numbers with the Braves last season, it might be the only news Thompson makes all year.

If the ragged back-end of their rotation wasn’t enough of a weak spot, the Blue Jays’ have serious issues in middle relief, after the defection of underrated setup man Justin Spier to the Angels. They are leaning heavily on Brandon League, a flamethrower who needs to take the next step, but just recently shut him down in Spring Training with an apparent arm injury.

Despite their terrific lineup, further solidified by Frank Thomas, the Jays’ could endure some serious pitching induced woes in 2007.

They better pray Burnett and Halladay stay healthy.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays:

This team will be awful. Horrendous. Brutal.

What, exactly, is the Devil Ray bullpen?

Edwin Jackson deserves a spot in the rotation, but may be thrown into the wasteland of Tampa’s middle relief, as a bare necessity.

Thankfully, the youth crowding the Devil Rays’ outfield does offer a shred of daylight for this inept organization.

Delmon Young and Elijah Dukes offer depth if the front office, under new leadership but still exhibiting familiar passivity, ever pulls the trigger to improve the pitching staff.

Carl Crawford is an anonymous star.

And hey, that Kazmir-Zambrano trade is still a classic.

Otherwise… enjoy Tropicana’s ambience.

Ugh.

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‘Till next time,

– Matt Waters.