First Two Days of Minor League Spring Training 2012

After attempting to get my bearings Monday and taking the day off Tuesday, I was eager to get back to the complex on Wednesday for the first minor league spring training games. I planned my week out perfectly because I decided to visit one of my best friend’s at her school Wednesday night so I wouldn’t have to take another day off.

I left my house with what I thought was impeccable timing. I was making such good time that I thought it justified a pit stop at Panera for second breakfast. I arrived at the complex right around 9:20, but the players were already out on the field. They don’t get out until 11:30 on Monday, and today they’re out before 9:30? I was a bit frustrated only because I like getting there before they get out so I can establish tentative interviews as early as possible. It wasn’t a problem though.

Before the Single-A guys got on their bus, I had about seven tentative interviews scheduled. I began to fear that I might be spreading myself a bit thin, and admittedly, I was right. At this point, I have conducted five of said interviews, and four were on Wednesday. I was deliriously tired by the last one, but I think it still went well.

The first guy I talked to was Noe Ramirez, the Red Sox’ fourth round pick in 2011. We talked for a solid ten minutes, so I have a ton of content on him. We talked about how his experiences at Cal-State Fullerton have helped him become a professional ball player, his arsenal, and the adjustments he has made since joining the organization. I’ll let you all know when my story on him is on SoxProspects.

I briefly caught up with Chris Hernandez, who spent the 2011 season with Salem posting a 3.18 ERA, giving up 112 hits over 127.3 innings, and walking 51. He said he felt burnt out at the end of the season, and said that the competition level in Salem was actually less than at the University of Miami. He anticipates starting the 2012 season with Portland.

This was the lineup for the Portland Sea Dogs: Hissey 8, Meneses 4, Vitek 5, Brentz 9, Rodriguez 3, Vazquez, 6 Gibson, 7 Pichardo.

Anthony Ranaudo started and threw two innings. He threw hard, but missed low and inside a few times against lefties. He kept the ball pretty low. I caught up with him briefly after the game. He said that he felt great, and that he had good down angle on his fastball on both sides of the plate. He also felt good about his secondary pitches, and he threw three changeups. He felt fatigued in the second. Brandon Workman informed me that Ranaudo was topping out around 94 mph, which is a bit high for this early in the spring, so that probably explains the fatigue.

Bryce Brentz had a fantastic game for Portland. He hit an RBI double, and made a strong, spot-on throw to third base to get the runner out. He also made an incredible diving catch.

Bobby Valentine, who was down at the complex, seemed impressed with him. Somehow, I ended up informally talking to Valentine for two innings about Red Sox prospects. I was lingering by him just watching the game, and he asked me which prospects I thought were good. Naturally, I blanked. Of course I’m just standing there thinking, “What is baseball?!” “What are prospects?!” but I just discussed whomever came to mind. In fact, he even asked me a couple of situational questions. Like whether or not I thought it was appropriate if a runner gets picked off when he’s trying to steal, and whether or not I give the batter the green light at 3-0. Maybe Bobby will heed my advice.

I have to say, though, it was absolutely surreal to talk to him, and that he was asking my opinion about Red Sox prospects.

Jim, the head security guard at the complex, is particularly impressed with Valentine’s attention to detail. He was telling me how Valentine is very particular about when exactly coaches hit the ball to the pitchers with the fungo bat during pitching-fielding-plays–the pitchers still have to be off-balance in order for the drill to be effective.

Jim was also saying how Valentine has had Ortiz practice bunting down the third base line. This would be the perfect combative move to the infamous shift that nearly every team employs against Ortiz. There is no doubt that the shift works, so it’s obviously necessary to adapt to it. If you see Ortiz get on first base by bunting down the third base line, you heard it from Jim first.

Justin Erasmus was prematurely taken out of the Portland game when he was hit in the shoulder. I talked to him about it the next day and he said that there’s only swelling, and that it’s just a minor injury. He doesn’t anticipate being out for any extended period of time, and insisted that he was a “soulja.”

I spoke a bit with George Lombard, the manager of the Gulf Coast League, about what he has seen in Jordan Weems, as well as other players as of late. We also discussed what kinds of tools he looks for in a player because the talent is so raw at the level he coaches.

After the Double-A and Triple-A games ended, I decided to sit in the grass and work on some stories while I waited for the Single-A guys to get back from the Twins complex since it’s only a short ride away.

When the bus pulled up, Garin Cecchini was the first one off the bus. He was ranting about the fire hydrant that had just been knocked over by the bus driver. “That’s blind bill for ya!” he said.

First, I spoke with Cody Kukuk, the Red Sox’ seventh round pick in 2011. We his arsenal, as well as the challenges he has faced since joining the organization. We also discussed his first appearance of the spring.

He said he was a little jittery in the first inning because it was his first start of the spring in his first spring training. He slowed things down a bit in the second inning, and felt more comfortable with his fastball, and also said that he felt really good about his off speed pitches, and that they were working.

Then I talked to Sean Coyle about the struggles he experienced in Greenville last season, and how he plans to remedy them. He has adjusted his mechanics a little bit. This will be explained in detail in tomorrow’s Fort Report on SoxProspects. I’ll have a more extensive story on him within the week. I really appreciated how much detail he went into when explaining things to me.

Finally, I spoke to Jackie Bradley Jr., who was drafted in the supplemental first round. The interview went really well until the sprinklers decided to go off, but it didn’t cripple the interview by any means.


Day 2 

The complex was a bit more crowded today because there was also a Major League game. In fact, all of the guys participating in Major League Spring Training worked out on some of the fields at one point or another. I got to say hello to Will Middlebrooks, Lars Anderson, and Michael Bowden. They all remembered me, and it was really nice to catch up with them a bit.

I spoke with Madison Younginer about his outing with Greenville the day before. He said that his off speed stuff felt good in the bullpen, but he left a couple up in the zone in his outing. He got five ground ball outs, but he doesn’t anticipate necessarily being primarily a contact pitcher. He thinks he’ll get more contact this year, but he also thinks he’ll get more strikeouts. He said his velocity is back up, and that he changed his mechanics before Instrux–particularly with his glove arm.

Swen Huijer said his fastball and change up felt good, and that it was important to him that his fastball feel good since he’s going from pitching indoors in the Netherlands, to outdoors here. He said his curveball wasn’t feeling too great, though.

This was the Greenville Drive lineup: Greenville lineup: vinicio 6, de la Cruz 8, cecchini 5, Vazquez 2, Weems dh, Perkins 7, Chester 3, Thompson 4, Turcoy 9. Mark Melancon started.

This was the Salem lineup: Salem lineup: Coyle 4, Bradley DH, Bogaerts 6, Jacobs 8, Shaw 5, Almanzar 3, LeBlanc 9, Spring 2, Sanchez 7. Matt Albers and Brandon Duckworth piggy-backed each other.

Miguel Peña pitched for Greenville, and I was impressed with his first two innings before he lost command in the third. In his first inning, he threw roughy nine of 11 pitches for strikes, and they were all first pitch strikes. In his second inning, he gave up a hit, but threw seven of 12 pitches for strikes. In his third inning of work, he got hit around a lot and missed his spots. He works quickly and paints the corners well. He adjusts to the strike zone if he has to. He has a nice curveball.

Brandon Workman seemed like he was having trouble establishing the outside corner in his first inning, which might have made him struggle with his command. In his first inning, 11 of 21 pitches for strikes, and couldn’t really stay ahead in the count. He fared much better in his second inning, throwing six of 10 pitches for strikes, eliciting two ground ball outs and a strikeout.

Sean Coyle, Xander Bogaerts, and Garin Cecchini all impressed me with their defense–particularly Cecchini because his complete health allows for more mobility. Look for him to be exceptional both defensively and offensively this year.

Coyle was aggressive on the base paths. He has good instincts.

Jason Garcia had at least two strikeouts in his first inning of work. Seemed like he was throwing the ball harder, too.

Keith Couch had a nice first inning, striking out two batters swinging. He retired the side in order in his second inning.

I spoke with Brandon Jacobs after the game about his season last year, and how losing the football weight has allowed him to be more successful as a player, among other things.

I’ll be covering Friday and Saturday’s minor league spring training games as well.

For live updates, you can follow me on Twitter @Eli_Dreesox


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