by Eric Garfield
I get to the complex at 8:15 and somehow it’s chilly and warm at the same time. Today is check-in day for the position players so I wanted to feel if there’s a slightly different vibe with a closer to full building and locker room. I’ll find out soon. Checking around the facility there was one player making his way to the cage, catcher Austin Wynns who I’ve been seeing quite a bit of these first few days.
This early in the day, the majority of the on-field action is with the groundskeepers-spraying, spreading and watering to make sure the grass stays firm. And the clubhouse managers, they’re cleaning the cleats and gloves getting ready for a baseball Sunday.
Chris Davis was not seen in the open locker room session this morning and that’s the player I was looking for but there was just about everyone else in and out and the vibe is slightly relaxed. Guys are genuinely happy to be there with their team. Terps fan Evan Phillips had a white Rodney Elliot jersey hanging up in his locker and was proud of Saturday’s win over Michigan State.
There were a few interviews, Tanner Scott, Hanser Alberto, Renato Nunez and Brandon Kline talked about their off seasons and plans for 2020. I’ll listen again for details but here are some takeaways; Tanner Scott is focused on one thing: walks. He knows it, we know it and the team knows it. Scott didn’t alter anything mechanical but thinks avoiding putting guys on is a matter of mindset and focus. Kline discussed the timeline and communication with team execs as far as waivers and coming back after that process. His stuff feels good but he knows that getting in 1-0 or 2-0 counts is not a route to success for him so he’s focused on throwing strikes early and often. Hanser Alberto feels both hungry and relaxed and certainly more comfortable in his role with the team after 2019. He’s more comfortable at second base obviously but position is not a priority for him. Hanser had the morning’s biggest smile when he talked about waking up everyday at 6:30 in the off-season to help his kid get ready for school. Renato Nunez talked about improving as a team but also on his own at the plate. Having a plan and better pitch selection could help him improve on some already very solid counting stats and he thinks that can help the team get leads and extend innings.
Yusniel Diaz checked in too and looked noticeably larger in his back, chest and shoulders. Not bulky at all. Watching him develop since the Machado trade, I’d always been impressed by the thickness of his upper legs and waist but now it seems like his upper body has caught up and his swinging/driving the ball muscles look larger and more defined. Let’s see if it helps in the power department….
Once outside there was not the bullpen side sessions like the first few days, rather the pitchers did long toss, catchers did BP then drills then did neat NFL-style passing routes. Martin Cervenka is long and lean and can extend for the catch pretty well for a guy who wears catcher’s gear professionally. Adley Rutschman however showed good athleticism and run after the catch ability. The best overall catcher football player was Wynns who strides smooth and tracked the ball in the air into his waiting hands. It’s been fun to watch him do his thing.
1:00 pm update The day wrapped up with Brandon Hyde addressing the media and he discussed his optimism about the entire squad being together and moving forward together. It is his expectation that everybody will be present and ready to roll Monday am. He said that hard work on the field and improvement will coincide with the developing clubhouse culture and help the camp be similar to year one of his tenure, but hopefully a little better. Hyde said that he’s glad to have veteran leaders doing veteran things like taking ground balls at a different position and helping younger players get comfortable. Specifically Hanser Alberto being flexible with positions and utility guys being tried all over the field are things the skipper noted as far as defensive priorities for workouts.