Sunday, March 13, 2011


Lynn Henning writes that Brad Thomas has had a good spring. He attributes the stellar play in part to adjusting to the smoother surface on baseballs in MLB, as opposed to those used in Korea, where he played before returning to American ball last season. The smoother baseballs led to Thomas' breaking ball having reduced spin last season, which made it more hittable. With some grip modifications, Thomas' breaking pitch's effectiveness has been restored.

It's always reassuring to find out that there was a concrete reason for a player's struggles. It's much preferred to the mysterious disappearance of skill, because something can be done about it. I'm glad to see that Thomas did identify the issue, and was able to make corresponding adjustments.

Speaking of the mysterious erosion of baseball ability, Dontrelle Willis is a non-roster invitee for the Cincinnati Reds this Spring. He is fighting for a bullpen spot, and not a place in the starting rotation. He had a bit of a setback in his last outing, walking two, and giving up two hits and two runs in only 1/3 of an inning, before rolling his ankle trying to back up home plate (possibly stepping on a bat). Previously, however, he had two very solid outings of two scoreless innings each. For more on Willis' Spring, click here. He's feeling confident and comfortable, and Cincinnati may have a spot for him as an innings-eater in the 'pen.

If you watched the Tigers game that was televised on ESPN on March 3, you may remember Bobby Valentine saying that Brennan Boesch is battling Ryan Raburn for the starting left-field job. Uh, did he pull that out of his baseball cap, because Jim Leyland has asserted all along that the starting job is Raburn's. Now, maybe Valentine hallucinated the whole thing, and maybe he misspoke and meant that Boesch is battling for a roster spot. That he is, and playing pretty well (in the small sample size thus far). In fact, that outfield reserve position has quite a few contestants. Casper Wells and Clete Thomas are also hopefuls. I'm not including Don Kelly, because he is pretty much assured a spot as utility guy and emergency catcher. Let's take a look at how Boesch, Wells, and Thomas are playing so far.

Boesch .333/.459/.467/.926 over 10 games and 30 AB
Thomas .321/.355/.357/.712 over 12 games and 28 AB
Wells .391/.533/.783/1.316 over 11 games and 23 AB

To begin, we have way too little data to go on thus far. It's just a little snapshot, and doesn't mean much. Wells is probably out of luck, because Boesch and Thomas are both lefties, of which this lineup is short. He would have to sustain his current raking over the remainder of Spring Training and play out of his mind on defense as well to beat out the pair of left-handers. I think that if Boesch and Thomas end with similar lines, Boesch will probably get the spot, since the club may want to see if he can play like he did the first half of next year. Thomas can play all three outfield spots, but so can Don Kelly (sort of), who is already pretty much a lock. Who do you want to see snagging the outfield reserve roster spot?

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