by Eric Garfield

I don’t do road Oriole games so I’m familiarizing myself with the minor league operations.  Today is moving fast, lots of pitchers getting work in, cage sessions and BP about to start.  I have great video of defense drills and other things to post, but for now…

3:30 Update-I apologize for not having something up earlier but I’m still learning the day to day and today was lots of viewing, some decent video and now what do I do with all of it….

The day started with drills.  I got there during calisthenics and pitchers stretch.  I like to walk out in the fields before them so next day I’ll be earlier.  Agility runs, explosion runs and starts and then angled runs before throwing while backing up into long toss.  I’m standing on the fence when they go by for the morning’s first drink and apparently some of them follow Twitter because they said good morning Eric.  A cool surprise so I say hey.  They then divide up into groups/drills and I’m going infield defense and grounders every time.  So many different variations of grounders and short hops from juggs machines, straight, backhand….everything!  I watched a VERY competive fielding contest where JC Escarra and Jesmuel Valentin went juggs machine grounder vs grounder as the distance decreased.  Valentin won and has a great glove.  This was great to see and I watched Adam Hall, Yahn, Encarnacion, Gunnar, Welk and Grenier do their thing.

If this is going to be my job, watching these guys improve their already good defense and sharing it with you, then this is going to be a beautiful thing.  The other side that sent Escarra was corner guys and he made it look so easy, creeping towards the juggs machine and spitting out fielded balls like seeds.  There are some smooth glove guys out there, and at this point I’m excited.  It’s early but getting a grounder past Valentin looks the toughest.  Defense is stressed here and then later at a BP with fielders.  I love seeing this and the idea of squeezing in fielding fundamentals everywhere possible is something I support.  You want more Mason McCoy diving stop throw outs like yesterday-this is where they’ll start.  Seeing this process is such a privilege.

Then I walk toward the mound where I hear a popping and the noise I heard was Grayson up on the hill.  He looks similar to what I’ve seen before but the stuff shows in person significantly.  

There’s so much for me to see that I haven’t yet, but the pickup late and spins when he’s trying are things that make you say wow.  Grayson has a couple battles, a couple very (Very)well placed high fastballs  Well got him oppo and then next pitcher is Rom.  He warmed up better than he pitched today but his delivery looked even smoother and with less effort than I remember it.  His stuff looked damn good against lefty Ryan Ripken and it appeared that there was an effort for Rom to throw breaking balls.  First impression-when Rom gets warm this season watch out.  The break was ‘exaggerated’ but the motion was much less so and that’s a freaky thing to add to his arsenal.  Let’s see the mph and we can get this guy ranked up!  Exciting how much he’ll have to set guys up for that high fastball swinging strike 3.  
Gray Fenter followed Rom in the rotation of pitchers and also looked solid to start the spring.  But my attention had already moved to another mound to watch a righty who I believe to be Blaine Knight (it’s still hard to tell and I’m going by haircut and weight) and it was snapping in and up to a righty stand in. Then I heard the familiar sound of balls struck in cages so I went in and it was a lot of the hitters.  

This is it!  I can’t believe the access and the skills on display!  I saw Joey Ortiz, Darell Hernaiz, Jordan Cannon (throw him a front facing breaker and you’re doomed), Brezeale, Ripken, Gunnar, Stowers, Yahn, Welk and lots of the names we know turning and working on surviving movements in the cage, then they took the lessons out to the field.  Dacshbach hit one out that took less than one second first disappear into the atmosphere.  Encarnacion showed that the pieces to his swing are questionable but the process overall is pretty good.  He’s someone the staff is trying to get the most out of and they encourage him every rep. It’s great to see, and hear.  I went outside again to see the cages set up on two fields.  One was just hitting and the other was hitting with fielders.  Best fly shagger isn’t even close.  It’s Zach Watson and he is showing signs of being able to use his unique athleticism.  I’ve never seen him in person.  Him under sinking fly balls looks kind of natural.  He has some quickness to tap into.  
I found out before dipping into the gum balls that they were out earlier than normal this am because BRob was helping them with base running drills.  I remember that a)his dad was a coach and b)that he had a great stealing career especially percentage-wise.  Hopefully he’ll get in the heads of Mason Janvrin and Watson.  Who wouldn’t love to see a few SBs while we’re demolishing teams 10-2 every night starting in 2022…..
I’ll check my clips of BP and see if there’s anything worth adding but I have some stuff to do this evening.  In the meantime, check out Twitter @Eric_Birdland and see the videos I’ve posted.  Pretty exciting stuff and that’s an understatement.

I’m building my profiles of these guys that I’m going to see often in the next few weeks so I’m still learning but as always if you want me to know something, look for something or investigate something that’s a huge reason why I’m here so don’t be hesitant to ask at all.  

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