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AFL Scouting Report: November 6

R.D. Spiehs has a good idea of where he might be in the near future, but he also knows that there is a guy named Trevor Hoffman in his way. Still, it doesn't faze Spiehs, who is just looking to get hitters out and do what he can do to push himself to the majors. Plus, an update on the "speedy" Ryan Howard and all the <i>buzz</i> on Hannahan's big day in the AFL.

Most of the players in the Arizona Fall League know exactly what their role will be. Sure, some will develop more power, some will learn to make more contact, a select few might even change positions. But in general, by the time you get to the AFL, you've got a pretty good idea what is coming next.

What is coming next for RD Spiehs? "I want the call, and I'll take the ball in any situation, but right now the Padres have a pretty good closer."

What's coming next for Spiehs is Trevor Hoffman.

Spiehs had a very good year with the AA Mobile Bay Bears of the South Atlantic League. In 65+ innings he posted a 2.88 ERA and struck out 60 hitters while walking only 19. He finished 21 of those games for the Bears, yet only posted 3 saves. Something doesn't add up. That's because you haven't factored Brad Baker into the equation. Baker appeared in 55 games for the Bears and posted a 1.57 ERA and 30 saves.

So who was Spiehs talking about when he said the Padres have a pretty good closer? Spiehs laughs, "I was talking about Hoffman, but it applies to Brad too," Spiehs said recently as he warmed up before an AFL game.

So I guess its not so clear what's next for Spiehs.

"I've got a fastball, slider, and I'm working on a change. I just mix it in every now and again right now. I'm working on it, it will be an effective pitch eventually, but I don't want to get beat by my third best pitch." And he rarely does. Spiehs changeup is an extra added bonus, a cherry on top of a cake made from a low 90s fastball and decorated with one of the best sliders Peoria Javelinas, and Mobile Bay Bears, pitching coach Gary Lance, has seen this season.

"It's just a killer pitch," Lance says, "he has the ability to make really good hitters look really bad."

"My junior year in college I started throwing a cutter, and it was really effective for me. I worked on it and it became my best pitch." Spiehs says. After the discovery it must have come as quite a shock to Spiehs that not only was he not throwing a great cutter, he wasn't throwing a cutter at all. "Yeah, when I got to the Padres they told me that what I was actually throwing was a Major League slider."

Doesn't really matter to Lance what Spiehs calls it as long it keeps working. "RD and Brad were one of the best 1-2 punches in baseball, it really made it a seven inning game for us."

The biggest questions came after Baker was promoted, leaving the closing duties to Spiehs. He struggled a bit, but Lance thinks that's the wrong word, "I wouldn't call it a struggle. I think it was something he had to adjust to, but I don't think it's any different than moving a shortstop to first base. He's got the talent and the skill, it's just going to take a little time to settle in."

Spiehs agrees, "I am comfortable as a set up guy, but I'm getting more comfortable as a closer too. What happened was I changed my mindset a little, and I can't do that. I started trying to nibble a little more with hitters in the 9th, and then would fall behind, and hitters get better when they are ahead in the count."

So down here he's changing his mindset and changing his changeup? "Yeah, but that sounds pretty lame."

The reporter feels as if he's given up a late inning homer, he was proud of that little piece of wordplay.

"I know what I'm going to be doing. I can close, I am ready and willing to close, but Trevor and Brad are both dominant closers. I'm happy setting up, I'm happy getting them the ball. I look at it like they're so good that if I get them the ball, it's like I already finished the game, because nobody's scoring on them."

Now that sounds like a player who knows what's coming next.

Phillies in the desert: Ryan Howard won't be known for his speed. The big man put on his running shoes Friday though and stretched a base hit into a double in an AFL game. Howard has shown a knack for taking advantage of any miscue by a fielder and that's what he did Friday when he barreled for second on an opposite field hit. Howard finished the day with three hits – two of which were doubles - pushing his league leading total to 37. Howard now has 14 doubles in the AFL… Buzz Hannahan had a big day in Phoenix' 7-2 win over Scottsdale Friday. Hannahan picked up three hits and scored a run. Hannahan is now hitting .269 this fall… Chris Roberson also singled in the game and dropped a near perfect bunt to advance a runner.

Editor's Note: James Renwick is the managing editor of FutureBacks.com and is covering the Arizona Fall League for Scout.com.

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