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Monday, March 16, 2009

Spring Training, Day 2: Angels 8, Giants 5

The wonderful thing about spring training is that the games don't count. This thought occurred to me as I scribbled Nick Adenhart's name into the pitcher slot for today's contest, and sure enough, it was a damn good thing it was just a spring scrimmage. Adenhart, supposed to be one of the few bright spots in an Angels farm system badly depleted by both promotions and general fizzling noises, has done his share of both: last year, he came up and eventually got shelled in each of three appearances, enough to send him down to AAA Salt Lake. Thereupon, the stinkum continued, and he finished with a 5.76 ERA.

Today's game wasn't much different for Nick, as he gave up four runs in three and a third, against a mostly popgun Giants offense; if Benjie Molina is your cleanup hitter, something is dreadfully wrong. Nick's clearly got some more lessons to learn in AAA, and while he looked effective in the second and third, even Rich "It's Hard To Swing With This Fork In My Back" Aurilia clocked him for a double. In the first, he gave up a leadoff single to Eugenio Velez and compounded his problems by sailing a pickoff throw to second into center field.

Fortunately for the Angels, the Giants were even more inept; while starter Jeremy Affeldt gave up three runs, the problem, as last year, turned out to be the bullpen, which coughed up the winning (for the Angels) runs on reliever Merkin Valdez. The substitutions started in the fifth for both teams, and thanks to the Giants home park announcer, the absence of batting order along with defensive position changes made "now playing for" changes a matter of some cursing.

Reggie Willits looked pretty awful in his two at-bats, despite the fact that he actually pulled out a bunt hit. From being a chanted name a couple years back, he's become a barely-in-the-majors kind of guy; the tenuousness of his situation pulls at the heartstrings not quite as much as the desire to win does, and you pretty soon begin to envision him in a Pirates uniform or some such. This thought got doubled when I saw him badly botch Rich Aurilia's routine liner that should have been an out in the third. You get the impression he knows how short a leash he's on, and he's chafing.

The same, more or less, is true of Adam Pavkovich and Terry Evans, both of whom were late-innings subs. Ben Johnson, who came into the game in that wave of changes, along with Pavkovich took advantage of a series of errors and wild pitches by an unfortunately named Luis Perdomo. Perdomo was basically perdido on the mound and only managed a single out, a strikout of Robb Quinlan; he amplified Valdez' problems, allowing both inherited runners to score and giving up one of his own on Ben Johnson's RBI double.

Jose Arredondo pitched a strong 1-2-3 eighth, though he didn't strike anyone out. Outside of Jason Bulger's routine ninth, it was the only 1-2-3 outing in the game for the Angels.

I have taken virtually no photos in spring so far, and the main reason is the clumsiness of my big 100-400mm lens; it's heavy and long, making it difficult to navigate in crowded situations, which, increasingly, spring training games are. I got a newer, stubbier lens (100-300mm) which should alleviate that. We'll see how this works tomorrow at Camelback Ranch.

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That's a pretty harsh assessment of Willits, given that he went 1 for 2 in the game you watched, and is sporting a .464 OBP this spring. I've watched a few games too, and he didn't seem as awful as you're making out. He was largely frozen out of regular play last season due to injury and lack of opportunity. It feels opportunistic to journalistically lay down the hammer on the guy because the Angels have overstocked their OF with aging vets.

In Reggie's short career, he has 101 BBs, 107 runs and 33 SBs against 583 ABs. That still looks like premium leadoff material to me.
But yet -- where do his bat and glove play? He doesn't have the defensive chops for center -- I believe we can agree upon that -- and he doesn't have the bat to stick in the corners. If he could play the infield he might have a shot, but he doesn't, and oops. I don't disagree on his bat, but from the limited sample I've seen so far, he's been kinda clumsy at the plate. Maybe that was just yesterday, I don't know, but ugh.
I really don't have enough data on Reggie in center to judge. Most of my bad memories of him there are in impossible parks like Fenway, where centerfield is a relative concept.

The truth is that he's effectively priced out of the outfield this season, but after Abreu's contract is up, and Figgins is on the market in the offseason, Willits could still be a cheap and reasonable leadoff alternative for 2010, playing in LF. At that point, Wood will either have panned out or he won't, and some other slugger will be at 3B.

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