Minor League Spring Training Report: 3/13/07

Minor League Spring Training camp finally broke down into some interesting inter-squad scrimmages. In addition, two highly touted arms threw bullpen sessions that drew lots of interest from their teammates.

From the Sarasota airport, here are my notes on today's minor league spring training camp:

-- Garrett Olson and Radhames Liz both threw a bullpen session today, providing an interesting contrast of styles. Olson's breaking ball looked as sharp as ever, while it was evident that Liz was purposely throwing at less than 100%. You know you're a relative celebrity in camp when your organization mates stop their own drills to watch you play catch off a mound. Minor League Pitching Coordinator Doc Watson was on hand to observe, but he did little coaching, as neither threw for very long. They'll both start getting some live work in the coming days.

-- Watching Radhames Liz stretch made me a bit uncomfortable. He locks his fully extended arms behind his back while leaning forward and it looks like his shoulders pop while he moves them in a circular motion. He's either extremely flexible, double-jointed, or I am easily perturbed. With the newly documented information that the clicking sound when he pitches actually emanates from his scapula, I'm leaning towards a combination of doors two and three.

Camp eventually broke down into two different inter-squad scrimmages. I was sitting with Bryan Lee (2005, 42nd round) and Zach Clark (2006 UFA) when Billy Rowell came by and started chatting them up. Among the things discussed were Zach Clark's interest in scouting reports and how every one on Billy Rowell mentions his big ego. Rowell seemed to get a kick out of it and laughed it off, before bringing up how many scouting reports on him also mention that he is a Barry Bonds aficionado. When the conversation turned into a debate about how to pronounce aficionado, I tuned out, at least until Billy Rowell started discussing his defense. Unafraid of who might be listening, Rowell candidly discussed how sometimes he feels like he has no idea what he is doing at third base. His teammates tried to reassure him by telling him how it always seems like he gets bad hops, but Rowell insisted that the fault was his own because he always seems to be out of position. It struck me that Rowell taking ownership of his difficulties afield is the opposite of what you would expect out of a teenager with a big ego who models his game after Barry Bonds. In any case, recognizing his deficiencies is certainly the first step towards correcting them.

In no particular order, here are my other observations from the two inter-squad scrimmages:

-- Tyler (aka Bobby) Henson played third base in deference to the much more polished Jedidiah Stephen. In all likelihood, this was just to get the two on the field at the same time and not an indication of where Henson will play this year. As I've noted earlier, Henson's raw tools have looked impressive during infield drills. At bat, Henson has a tendency to load up on his back leg and cock his hands back rather dramatically. For a kid that had trouble making contact last year, I wonder if the organization is going to take steps to shorten his approach.

-- Fredy Deza looked good on the mound. He threw mostly fastballs, but they popped out of his hand and bore in on right-handers.

-- Andrew Schindling also looked good in his brief time on the mound. He has a history of command troubles, to put it lightly, but his arm strength will keep getting him chances.

-- Brandon Snyder did not look good at bat in today's scrimmage. Against 2001 23rd round pick Josh Potter, Snyder looked like he was behind on almost every pitch. When he finally made contact, it was a weak groundout to Paul Chmiel at first base. He had only two at bats but, despite looking good in batting practice the past few days, this may be an indication that he has some rust to shake off after an off-season of no baseball.

-- Miguel Abreu failed to turn what would have been a fairly standard double-play. This led to a discussion between Director of Scouting Joe Jordan and Minor League Fielding/Baserunning Instructor Tom Lawless about how turning the double play has always been Abreu's problem. That helps explain why they experimented with him at third base last season.

-- Dominican catcher Luis Bernardo doesn't look like a typical backstop. Nevertheless, the very thin Bernardo may fill out as his body starts to mature. He did look fairly agile behind the plate, though his arm is better noted for its strength than its accuracy.

-- Mark Fleisher is already 23 years old, bats right-handed and is pretty much limted to first base defensively. Still, he has been one of the best hitters thus far in camp, complete with a shot to centerfield off of Tim Kester at a time when Kester was cruising through the rest of the lineup. He'll have to move fast to remain a prospect, but getting out of the pitching haven known as Delmarva should help his raw stats. With his age concerns, plus the crowdng at first base in the lower levels of the system (Paul Chmiel, Brandon Snyder, Chris Vinyard), I wouldn't be surprised if he was tested at double-A Bowie before too long.

Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via email at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com

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