The big news, of course, is that Khalil Greene has won the shortstop job. Rey Ordonez abruptly and unexpectedly left camp, essentially giving Greene the nod. It should be said that Greene was making a strong claim on the position even before Ordonez left (which may also have been a contributing factor to Ordonez’ departure). I think I speak for most Padre fans when I say that this is a terrific development. Greene had to come out and take the job this spring, and that’s just what he did. The future at shortstop begins right now.
And now, as the players stretch themselves out in preparation for Opening Day, so do I. If you read Ducksnorts: Best of 2003, I mentioned that one of my goals was to do more in-game analysis this year. Well, thanks to a slick new laptop, I no longer have an excuse not to do just that. So here is my first stab of the year. I was able to go six innings in my first outing. We’ll see how I respond, and hopefully I’ll be good for the full nine once the season starts.
- Sean Burroughs draws a leadoff walk against Juan Cruz on five pitches. Cruz’ fastball is running 91-96 mph according to WGN. Burroughs caught stealing to end inning on a Brian Giles strikeout.
- Brian Lawrence is hitting 80-84 mph with his fastball. It appears to be moving well. He is leaving pitches up in the zone and getting hit hard.
- Nice play by Khalil Greene moving to his left, throwing on the run to retire Mark Grudzielanek leading off the first.
- Ryan Klesko in left misplays a wind-blown fly ball hit by Corey Patterson.
- Eugene Kingsale makes a spectacular leaping catch in left-center to rob Aramis Ramirez of a homer to end the first. Lawrence surrenders two runs, but it easily could have been four.
- This is my first look at Ramon Hernandez. He battles at the plate. Nice opposite field stroke.
- Jeff Cirillo knocks an RBI single. Second hit of spring, first RBI. Pulls fastball down and in just inside the third base line.
- Two quick strikes against Greene, then weak popup to first.
- Lawrence shows a good opposite-field stroke, slaps an RBI single to right.
- Burroughs knocks an RBI single on a 1-0 slider pretty well down and in. Sharp grounder between first and second.
- Lawrence gets away with a fastball out over the plate to Gonzalez, who takes Giles to the warning track in right. Wind knocked the ball down. Probably gone if hit to left.
- Cruz makes Klesko look terrible on a changeup for first out.
- Kingsale sure has a long swing for a guy with no power.
- Lawrence fans Patterson on a nice 77-MPH slider down and in. He then fans Sosa on 79-MPH slider down and away before retiring Moises Alou on a first-pitch weak grounder to Burroughs. Very strong inning.
- Seven-pitch at-bat to Cirillo results in a weak fly to center to lead off inning.
- Again 0-2 to Greene. Infield hit to 5.5 hole.
- Burroughs takes first pitch after Lawrence sacrifices Greene to second. Ball one. Strikes out on an 87-MPH slider down and away.
- Lawrence gets Ramirez looking on a 77-mph slider. Horrible throw by Hernandez trying to nab Lee stealing second. A few feet to the third base side of the bag on a hop and into center field. Lee takes third.
- Lawrence fans Alex Gonzalez on a 72-mph backdoor slider on the inside corner. Five strikeouts.
- Paul Bako hits a weak cue shot down the third base line, lots of english. Burroughs can’t handle it, game tied. Burroughs is wrongly charged with an error.
- Bako steals second. Hernandez is unable to make the transfer to his throwing hand.
- Steve Stone mentions the Pads’ lack of starting pitching. I think the Friars’ young arms are going to surprise some folks this year.
- Now Stone and Caray are attributing Lawrence’s success on the inner half to the inability of Cub hitters to capitalize on his "mistakes." They’ve been dwelling all day on the fact that he isn’t overpowering. But just because a guy doesn’t throw mid-90s doesn’t mean he shouldn’t work inside to keep hitters honest.
- That said, Lawrence’s command could be better.
- Lawrence hits 85 and 86 with the fastball on consecutive pitches to Alou, who grounds to short to end the inning.
- Cirillo, starting at first base, laces a sharp single to center. Two hits today in three at-bats. Raises his spring batting average to .100 (3 for 30).
- Ramon Vazquez takes over for Greene at short. Strikes out swinging at changeup down from Bryan Corey to end inning.
And that’s where I stop. Probably could’ve gone a little further, but I’m on a strict pitch count at this stage. If it’s the regular season, I stay in and finish. But no sense in pushing things in a meaningless game.
- Ashby finds elbow room in second stint as Padre (NC Times). “It would have been too easy to shut it down,” he said. “And I’d be kicking myself in the head wondering what if I had tried to come back, wondering what would have happened.” Kicking himself in the head? Maybe the improved flexibility will help him when he returns.
- Vazquez willing to go where the action is (U-T). Former starting shortstop has seen time at all four infield spots this spring and has been shagging fly balls in the outfield as well, just in case.
- Otsuka quick to fit in . . . in any language (U-T). “American hitters have very big strike zone…. Good for me.” Useless bit of trivia: Otsuka has one hit as a pro in Japan, a homer in 1997.
That’s all for now. More as it happens…