Day 6: Fort Myers
What happened to Day 5, you ask? That was spent in my hotel room in Sarasota, catching up on work (Check out the fruits of that labor, my Dodgers organization preview). Sorry I didn’t get to the draft post I had mentioned, but you can read this week’s draft report. In fact, I insist. I’ll wait.
OK, today’s trip took me to Fort Myers and the Boston Red Sox. I had the pleasure of driving down with long-time Pirates beat writer John Perrotto. Not only did he do the driving, but the pleasant conversation made the time go by quickly. I was on Pirates coverage again today and watched an ugly 11-4 loss. Tomorrow, I become Reds beat writer until the end of Spring Training.
So, the Prospect Impression… there wasn’t much to choose from, really. So I’ll pick out two players, one of whom is not really a prospect. We’ll call it The Good and The Bad (no ugly today).
The Good: Clay Buchholz. Yes, I know. Technically, he’s not a prospect because he’s no longer a rookie. But he’s trying to re-establish himself after a rocky 2008 season. And let me tell you, he was sharp. he went five innings, allowing four hits, one unearned run while walking one and striking out three. That’s on par with what he’s done most of the spring. This was his fourth start and his ERA now stands at 0.66. That’s one earned run over 13 2/3 IP. In that time, he’s given up nine hits and three walks while striking out 12. I don’t know about his other outings, but it looked like his changeup was particularly sharp today and he kept Pirates hitters off-balance throughout his outing. Maybe if Brad Penny isn’t ready to go, Buchholz will get another shot in the bigs early.
The Bad: As you all know, I’m a fan of the Rule 5 Draft. I like it for a number of reasons, but the biggest is probably because it’s a great underdog story, watching guys get a chance to compete for a big-league job they didn’t think was possible before getting taken. So when Donnie Veal started out like gangbusters, I got excited for the lefty. It wasn’t just that he didn’t allow a run through his first five outings. It was that he had walked just one. You see, one of the biggest things that held his progression through the Cubs system was his command as a starter. Perhaps pitching shorter stints in relief was the answer. He certainly has the stuff, with a mid-90s heater from the left side. I didn’t worry too much when he walked four and gave up two runs in outing number six, because reports were that even though his command was shaky, he gathered himself and did well to get out of further trouble. Two more scoreless — and walkless — outings followed. Outing No. 9 (officially No. 8 because one of the earlier outings was an exhibition against the Netherlands) saw no runs score, but there were two walks.
Then came today. He did only give up one run in 1 2/3 innings (maybe that was the problem — it was the first time he’d pitched a second frame), but he gave up that run without yielding a hit. He walked four, hit a batter — J.D. Drew had to be taken for x-rays, which turned out to be negative — and nearly hit former Pirate Jason Bay. He also hit the Bull… whoops, sorry, couldn’t resist the Bull Durham reference. Listen, all in all, he’s still having a pretty solid spring, with a 2.79 ERA in nine official Grapefruit Leauge games spanning 9 2/3 innings. He’s only given up three hits. But he’s now walked 11 and struck out five in that span. For a guy that has had command issues, that’s a little troubling. I still think the Pirates need to stick it out and continue to work with him. Lefties with that kind of stuff don’t come around all the time and even if it means riding a roller coaster for a while, the payoff could be worth it.
Oh, and I know I completely forgot to tell that “small world Minor League story” I promised the other day. That’ll have to wait ’til tomorrow…