A Spring Training Post (For Once) | The Process Report

A Spring Training Post (For Once)

Whatever mechanical adjustments Andy Sonnanstine is in the process of adding aren’t transparent in his delivery. For the most part, everything looked the same. The only possible alteration is an increase in leg kick height. Even then, I’m not sure it wasn’t an optical trick with the white pants and dark background.

His pitching style remains the same too. The telecast did not feature velocity readings, but he wasn’t throwing bullets out there. He showed the willingness to work inside on lefties and work up in the zone too. He did work quickly, which is a blessing whenever the opposition is Daisuke Matsuzaka and the game’s outcome is irrelevant. Overall, mostly weak contact off Sonnanstine today with quite a few pop ups. The deepest hit ball was by Kevin Youkilis to center field, and even then, it failed to reach the warning track.

Reid Brignac provided the highlight of the first inning on a ball hit by Mike Cameron. Brignac had to move towards third base before diving, stabbing it, then recovering and firing a ball to first base. He did so seamlessly and a Dan Johnson stretch allowed the Rays to record the out. You’ve probably heard, “has the arm to make tough plays”, well, it applies to Brignac. He showed it off a few times today. Speaking of Johnson, he made a nice play in the second inning by ranging to his left and fielding a glove side grounder before tossing it to Sonnanstine for the out.

Matsuzaka is a good matchup for the Rays, as his wildness plays into their approach. Ben Zobrist and Johnny Damon each walked and Evan Longoria found himself up 2-1 before singling to center. Although Longoria only got one base out of it, both of the runners advanced two, putting the Rays up two and setting up a sac fly opportunity for a Matt Joyce flyball to right

The side-arm throwing R.J. Swindle made a cameo in the fifth inning, pitching to a pair of lefties. He showed off his slow curve (which was hit to first base, but misplayed by Johnson). With Johnson holding the runner on, another grounder snuck underneath him, prompting Swindle to exit the game in favor of Mike Ekstrom.

The switch from Swindle to Ekstrom probably says more about Maddon’s reluctance to have Swindle face a righty than his exuberance to have Ekstrom face anyone, but Ekstrom seems capable of retiring right-handed batters. He struck out the first man that he saw thanks to a whiff on a 2-2 curve. He kept the ball on the infield (with Brignac flipping one slow grounder to first and Longoria just missing out on a bare-handed grab and throw to first) before getting a weak pop out to left. The only blemish on Ekstrom’s day is that he seemed to work a little deep in counts. I didn’t keep track, but I think three of the four batters he faced reached a two-ball count.

Another lefty, Alex Torres, entered in the sixth. He got Carl Crawford to whiff o a fastball low before inducing a weak grounder that wound up as a hit. Jason Collette noted his arm action, long stride (which should help the little guy’s perceived velocity), and hiding of the ball. He allowed a few hard hit balls, but tossed his curve a often. He can throw the thing for strikes –at least, when he has an umpire willing to call breaking pitches on the edges of the zone. He also threw it in a variety of counts; two strikes, first pitch of the sequence, whenever.

He placed it up in the zone, in, out, or down. The high curves in particular rekindle memories of Tommy Hunter’s complete game against the Rays last summer. So many high curves. So many. Torres pitched a clean second inning, with three fly outs. At this point, I’m curious if Torres’ walk rates have something to do with his reliance upon his curve –at least, if he pitches like this routinely in the minors.

Matt Bush pitched the eighth and threw a bunch of fastballs and a few curves. He got two groundballs that resulted in three outs, but as just a relief pitcher he didn’t do anything stunning. That he’s a pitcher with, what –10 professional innings under his belt– makes his outing a little more impressive. He looked like a regular reliever.

Brandon Gomes then pitched the ninth. The first thing noticeable about Gomes is his arm action. It’s long and while I don’t know of his minor league splits, you’d think lefties might have an advantage when facing him. He struck a batter out with back-to-back breaking pitches –one spotted low and away, and the other a little more inside which was swung through. The rest of the play-by-play of the ninth inning can be found elsewhere, but a switch-hitter (Drew Sutton) did take Gomes deep.

For most of the day, Tim Beckham was spotted in the dugout, sitting next to B.J. Upton or Desmond Jennings. He pinch ran after a Casey Kotchman double in the ninth. The reports about his thick lower half seem overstated. He (technically) scored the winning run, although Robinson Chirinos (who racked up two plate appearances) scored the eighth and final run of the day on a two-run blast. He hit off Alfredo Aceves a few pitches into the at-bat.

One other note: Sam Fuld appears to be the size of a hobbit at the plate. The back wall is almost taller.

All said, Boston and Tampa Bay continue to put on good games, regardless of whether it counts or who played.



One Comment

  1. upnm42 wrote:

    Maddon is apparently intent on Sonne and Russell on opening day roster .Sonne at least has some past success.Russell had poor #’s at AAA Portland and this spring 8 hits in 4 innings leave me wondering?

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