2014 Spring Notes: Pitcher Notables

A number of prospects have gotten extensive mention over the past several days in TigsTown's coverage. But with so many players in camp, only so many can be covered in-depth. Despite that, there are plenty of other notable factoids worth mentioning. We explore those notables on the pitching staff inside.

Blaine Hardy continues to get plenty of run in big league camp. The left-hander keeps getting opportunities, and excelling, despite his relative status as a non-prospect by most observers. His 2013 performance made people take note, warranted a trip to the Arizona Fall League, a big league camp invitation, and now being one of the final pitchers still in camp. He probably won't make the team out of camp, but he's continuing to perform when he gets his chance.

Buck Farmer got the start on Sunday in the Low-A game, and was quietly effective. Most of the attention was directed at Jake Thompson, who was starting at the same time on the next field, but Farmer made a nice showing.

Despite the desire to start that he voiced to TigsTown earlier this spring, all indications are that Cal Drummond will be working out of the bullpen in 2014. Drummond has two quality pitches in his low-90's fastball and a solid slider that can miss bats. He also has a curveball and worked hard on his changeup this off-season, but could move up quickly with a two-pitch mix that would lend itself well to middle relief.

Joba Chamberlain got another inning of work on the back fields, and this second chance against minor leaguers didn't go much smoother than the first. He was again vocal, and while he didn't allow any runs did allow another single.

Warwick Saupold was the starting pitcher in the Triple-A game, sitting 88-90 in his few innings of work. He was frequently pitching to contact though, unable to pull back and fire it past anyone like some of his teammates do.

Kyle Ryan got the start in the Double-A game Tuesday, and was around 89-90 on the radar gun, usually on the lower side when working out of the stretch. He ended up getting chased rather early in the game, but that had more to do with a lot of ground balls finding holes. At one point, Ryan induced five ground balls. Three of them found holes for base hits, and two of them despite being tailor-made double plays, only recorded one out.

Will Startup has a HUGE leg kick. As in, his knee looks like it comes awful closing to knocking his head. It makes for an unusual delivery that could likely confuse hitters at first, but he was only hitting 85 MPH on the radar gun. Nevertheless, the deception distracted at least a couple scouts, in addition to the hitters.

Michael Morrison got some time in relief in the Double-A game Tuesday, doing a very good job of mixing his pitches to set up hitters, multiple times changing eye levels between his fastball and looping curve to get hitters off-balance, and on one, finishing a Nationals hitter off on a 90 MPH fastball that hit the outside black.

Kenny Faulk tossed a scoreless inning relief, using his high 80's fastball and slider to get one weak flyout and a strikeout via chasing a pitch in the dirt. In the final at-bat, Faulk tried to use his changeup against a right-hander, which got hit hard, but converted for an out. He continues to portray the type of guy that could make a very serviceable second lefty in the bullpen. Also, fun fact. Teammates call Faulk "Powers" for Kenny Powers, the star character on the HBO show Eastbound and Down - they share a first name, both are relievers, and both maintain a beard with a fiery personality.

Melvin Mercedes drew a crowd in his one inning of work on Tuesday. His command was spotty, but based on comments from Erie manager Lance Parrish after the game, it sounds like it was a big improvement from his first performance of the year. Mercedes did issue a full-count walk, but then settled to retire the next three. It's possible Mercedes dialed back his fastball a bit to improve his control, as he was only sitting 93 MPH on the gun. Mercedes, while still very large, was also noticeably thinner than he was toward the end of the 2013 season.

Finally, Jose Valdez got an inning for the Double-A group, and seemed to suffer from much the same fate that it sounds like Mercedes did in his first outing. His control was all over the place, frequently putting himself behind in counts. That meant hitters were sitting fastball, and even at 95 MPH, Double-A caliber hitters can catch up to that, resulting in Valdez getting hit around a bit.


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