by Eric Garfield

Discussion here!

Good morning from Sarasota.  The mood here at the O’s complex is a little different.  Maybe it’s the 60 degree temps that have all of us in jackets and pants for today or maybe it’s the stadium personnel getting ready for their first home game on Sunday.

8:15 Update-Chandler Shepherd just talked for a minute so I’ll have his quotes soon.  Also I just talked with Rio Ruiz and I’ll have that soon too.  
Shepherd is prepped to get things started and he said ‘I’m super excited to kick off Spring Training…..getting the ball’. When asked about the last start of 2019 and making the initial one this season, he remembered his success, ‘I finished up pretty strong with that start, and I took that into the off-season.  I’m excited to get out there tomorrow….get into a game and apply those things’. His off-season regiment included strengthening but he wants to have a full arsenal working for him, he knows that’s when he’s at his best.  ‘For me it’s kind of working on those pitches and developing them-it’s the consistency‘. ‘Having that 3rd or 4th pitch for me… something that’s really helping’. We’ll see how many types of pitches he throws tomorrow and monitor his consistency.

9:30 Update-In the locker room, one of my priorities was to talk defense with Rio Ruiz, I’ve been impressed with his glove work all over the field.  Today, he was moving in and out plus they have an early meeting.  In addition the reps from baseball card companies are here paying the players. I got my opportunity and he was as outgoing as could be. This is a guy who I’ve seen everywhere and I wanted to know if defense is his focus. ‘It’s beneficial to be versatile and I definitely take tremendous pride in my defense’. And on a young, developing team, I see that as a real asset. He said he thinks his versatility is ‘huge….if guys can play multiple positions, something like that can only help us throughout the season’. Looking up some info in Rio last night I was a bit surprised to see how long his minor league education was, 2800 ABs approximately. I asked him about that too.  ‘The experience and the constant continuation of getting better and the development, it comes with all those at-bats’.   Finally he said he’s ready to compete and the team has an underdog mentality heading into 2020. ‘We did a pretty good job of competing last year, whether or not the won/loss record was not in our favor….I’d expect us to consider that trend’.  He’s an easy player to root for and a great teammate who is a plus defender, so I’m glad to talk defensive versatility and minor leagues with him.

11:50 Update-Today I saw plenty, there was action on all fields and some decent video too.  Saw Hays swing and and also Mountcastle (oh boy!!!!) I’m going to review it and my notes and put some stuff together for you.

Notes first:

-Watching Pat Valaika doing bunting drills he was outstanding.  He catches the ball with the barrel perfectly and it hits the bucket they’re aiming at every time in the same place on the MLB logo.  I watched ten, he hit the spot every time.  Not exciting but I love to see the random things these guys can demonstrate.  Pinch bunter?
-During a bullpen session for Miguel Castro, Austin Wynns was giving good feedback telling Castro that several of his breaking pitches followed a ‘big circle.’  Castro can make the ball move with ease.       
-Saw some more Dillon Tate, whose work has been regular, do a bullpen session before throwing to batters.  He worked away from righty Martin Cervenka and didn’t hit his spot away.  Cervenka got him for a scorcher down the 3rd base line before smacking a hit over the SS hole.  Martin has a big strike zone too. Next stepped in lefty Rio Ruiz and he was on Tate’s stuff in a second.  Dillon had way too much of the plate and Rio punished him smacking a gapper over the 2B hole.  Finally, Tate worked purposefully down and in to Ruiz and the ball darted down and in.  
-Austin Hays showed a very short stroke and not any wasted motion in getting to contact.  He didn’t drive it that well, but it’s cold.  

Ryan Mountcastle has a great deal of on-display offensive ability.  Hand skill and speed and a very rhythmic build up to swing and follow through.  His hands inside the bat take hold of the ball softly and his forward motion after contact is so powerful.  Even violent. I’d have a great deal of confidence in my ability if no pitcher could bother me by getting in my kitchen.  There’s a distinct possibility that he’ll be the team’s best in the box performer and it’s just a matter of when.  I sense big things. The video isn’t the best because of my distance from him and the weather.  But the motion is visible and I wanted to demonstrate at least that.  I’ll be near the cage when he takes his swings in the future to get a better perspective.  

  -Got a chance to see Cobb do a very short pen session and it’s hard to label him as ‘healthy’. He’s been doing light work overall, bullpen was brief and I see a fair amount of grimace through the entire process.  Here you can see for yourself: 

Also got a chance to see some Tanner Scott throwing.  He was doing an excellent job of keeping the ball where he wanted to in his hand and staying behind/over it to force downward action.  My video is of his hand so it’s not too clear.  It looks like his leg drive is so powerful that it doesn’t affect his balance (strong core) but it dies not leave him in a spot where he’s ready to field.  I guess go for the K.

1:15 Update-I wanted time share this too, Geoff Arnold the young MASN broadcaster was in the house and we talked some minors among other baseball topics.  O’s fans are going to embrace him, he’s a passionate dude and has good pipes too for describing the sport.  He knows every guy(understatement) but I wanted to know if there was anyone from Frederick last year who he’d bet on to excel.  He felt strongly about Tim Naughton and based it not only on Naughton’s stuff mix which includes a newer nastier slider he started last year, but also his relatively low workload as a pro and at NC State.  One short convo and I know that fans like us will love his perspective.  We talked about quite a few guys in the system and around baseball and he’s got takes!  He’s high on CHISox prospect Luis Robert and said he’s the most talented guy he’s seen in the minors in a few years if not ever.  I don’t know that many people that are down to talk minors but he lit up when I asked him.  We talk about broadcasters and reasons to like them or not like them and I’ll always know that he’s into player development and watching the process.  Pretty cool if you ask me.