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March 5, 2007

Spring Training Notes (3/5/07)
by Fabian

-Phil Hughes struggled in his first appearance of the Spring, but that’s not much of a worry. When a guy has the physical ability as well as performance track record of a Hughes, you don’t get worried because he does poorly his first time out in the Spring. He was obviously a bit nervous and that hurt him, as he wasn’t finishing on most of his pitches, leading to spotty control and poor break on his curveball.

-Jose Tabata seems to be in good shape. The difference between when I saw him last year and seeing him this year seems to be that last season he was built like a big kid and now he looks like an NFL running back. He solidified this opinion my going 1st to 3rd very quickly on A-Rod’s botched double in the first game of the Spring. This has eased some of my worry about his weight/development as I feel he might just be one of those stocky fast guys with a broad base of skills, a la Bobby Abreu. I was afraid he might have to be downgraded to a one-dimensional slugger, one of the primary reasons I didn’t grade him as a straight A on my Top 25.

-Marcos Vechionacci looks like he’s beginning to grow into his body. He’s already gotten pretty big and he has plenty of room to get bigger. I was impressed by the way he pulled the ball on his first hit as that was something that he has struggled with in the past and I don’t think the less meaty Vechionacci that we saw last year would have been able to do the same thing. I think strength and leveraging that stretch as he gets bat to ball will be the most critical aspect of Marcos’ development this year. He has the plate discipline to succeed in Tampa; it is just a matter of improving the quality of his contact.

-Ross Ohlendorf was very impressive in his first outing of the Spring. The Princeton product looked a lot like Wang and you have to assume that’s the projection the Yankees were making in acquiring him. He worked off of his 92-94 MPH sinker and had a very nice outing. Reports in the offseason made it seem as though his velocity on the pitch would be a tick lower than that, but I think this is about what should be expected. I think he’s going to have to refine his secondary pitches some more though because I’m not sure his sinker is of the quality of Wang’s, which is what allows Wang to get by with such a limited repertoire.

-Steven Jackson got some work in today, but didn’t look very good at all. He was mainly 89-90 and it looked incredibly straight for a guy who is supposed to be a sinkerballer. He didn’t show much in the way of other pitches and got knocked around a bit as well. I’ve speculated on Jackson as a poor man’s Ohlendorf and Ohlendorf as a poor man’s Wang. The problem with this is that Wang, despite great performance thus far, does not have the greatest room for error. The more you downgrade the quality of Wang…the less enticing the pitching prospect. Hopefully that makes as much sense to you as it did in my head.

-I love Tyler Clippard. I’m not going to pretend I’m without bias because the fact of the matter is that I’ve had a huge man crush on him since 2003 and every time Baseball America or someone else has questioned his ability, it has made my man crush larger. That said, I don’t think I’m out of line in saying that Clippard was terrific today. His much-maligned fastball was 89-92 and looked like it had solid movement on it. His changeup gave him the most trouble as there were a couple of times he didn’t finish on the pitch and it flew on him, most noticeably on the HBP. His curveball wasn’t thrown much, but he got his lone strikeout on it and would have had another strikeout in an earlier AB had the umpire not blown the call, so that pitch was working well. He also displayed what seemed to be a quick move to 1st. Overall, I would say Clippard did a good job of showing what he’s all about and why his future may not be as dull as some seem to anticipate.

-As a result of injuries, Humberto Sanchez has not pitched any Spring innings. Is anyone surprised? I didn’t want to rate Sanchez ahead of Clippard during the offseason, but gave into everyone’s raving about his stuff. I’m beginning to regret that decision, but you know, small sample size and all.

-The Run Fairy™ is alive and well.

-Bronson Sardinha is Melky Cabrera with less discipline and, as a result, less ability to hit for average, but more power. He might be John Vander Wal.