Pitchers & Catchers - Forced to interact!

Pitchers & Catchers - Forced to interact!
The other 11 months out of the year, this building hosts amateur belly dancing lessons taught by Shiela, Wednesday nights 6-8pm // Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE

[Edit: It has come to my attention that White Sox pitchers and catchers don't actually report until tomorrow, February 23rd.  By "come to my attention", I mean that every other Sox blogger I read was operating under the correct date, and I inexplicably opted to go with the information from some website dedicated to Spring Training info that I had otherwise never seen before.  In principle, this is not one of my better moments as far as discerning the quality of sources, but as the article below goes into much detail describing, nothing much that happens in Spring Training matters. 

So pretend that it is tomorrow when you read this, or actually save reading this until tomorrow, even though there will inevitably be another post up alongside it.  Whichever you think is best.  I trust your judgment way more than I trust my own at this point.]

[2nd Edit: Or maybe they are there.  I don't know.  They're not running around or anything.]

Per contractual obligation, White Sox pitchers and catchers report today to Spring Training at Camelback Ranch.  Hot diggity damn, it's time for professional baseball-ish activities.

It struck me that unlike other sports, "pitchers and catchers report" exists as this landmark for all baseball fans for when the cycle of enjoyment begins anew.  While the NFL and NBA, and other sports leagues have their own season-opening rituals, "pitchers and catchers report" is somewhat unique in its decisiveness, and clear implication that the baseball year has begun.

Then I checked the schedule and realized that pitchers and catchers report on different days for different teams, a fair amount of teams are having their position players show up already, the Mariners have been working out for weeks, and the White Sox are tied with the Rangers and Marlins for the latest start in baseball. 

White Sox Baseball: Forced Into Compliance!

White Sox Baseball: Appreciate the Game By Practicing Rigid Self-Denial!

Pitchers need to report in earlier than other players, because throwing a ball as hard as possible over and over again is an insane thing to do, and extra time is needed to prepare the body for this onerous endeavor.  If anyone needs to have a Tommy John surgery, they should just raise their hand right now so we can get it over with, and they can be ready to complete this exact same process next season.  Anyone?  Anyone at all?  That better not be your hand I see raised, Chris Sale.

Actually, as has been noted, the White Sox enter Spring Training without a major injury that they have to nurse along or avoid aggravating.  That'll change soon enough.  Someone will get tendinitis, or roll an ankle, or sprain their wrist while forging autographs for Herm Schenider, and we'll just have to hope it's not a player that is generally considered to have "a future".

Fundamentally, this is the only real goal of Spring Training; to stay healthy and avoid conflict.  If I had to try to come up with huge developments from Spring Training off the top of my head, the Jared Mitchell ankle tendon tear in 2010 pops up immediately, but just from last year there was Adam Wainwright's Tommy John surgery and Carlos Silva's aneurysm.  Rosters are pretty much set now, so all that can really happen is their deterioration.

There will be some position battles, but the guys who compete for spots in Spring Training are more or less interchangeable, which is why they're being picked apart from one another using an unreasonably small sample of horribly compromised competition in the first place.  The seminal White Sox Spring Training battle of recent memory was the 2009 2nd basemen fight between Jayson Nix, Brent Lillibridge, and Chris Getz.  And it was a true dilemma, not the trumped-up trip to the glue factory that Mark Teahen was set upon while going against Brent Morel.  Nix had the power, Lillibridge was the slappy speedster, and Chris Getz was supposed to be some sort of happy middle ground.

Getz won, Nix settled for a bench job, and Lillibridge struggled mightily and started the year in AAA.  Naturally, Getz and Nix are now long gone, and Lillibridge remains.  All these players were pretty much replacement level or worse, and it's not really the same Lillibridge that's still here anyway.

A similar expectation should be applied to the last three reliever spots.  Besides Zach Stewart, and maybe Dylan Axelrod, 'staying power' doesn't figure to be an attribute of any of the collection of live arms who will be scrapping for a major league paycheck.

The Bobby Jenks and Sergio Santos, and even Phil Humber stories will provide hope that some unknown could be the next big thing, and over 6 weeks of Spring Training, I'll probably succumb to it.  I know I will.

Last season, I dedicated a paragraph to Stefan Gartrell, for goodness sake.  I will turn 25 in a few months, a milestone which carries with it the knowledge that my brain will soon begin a period of gradual decay.  But last year was still a period of growth and wealth, and I frittered away surplus brain cells on Stefan Gartrell.

He's with the Braves now, doing the AAA Adam Dunn-thing in Gwinnet, so there's little chance of a relapse.  But just to be sure, here's some things that might be worth looking for.

  • Dunn posting a strikeout rate under 30%.  This isn't specific, it's more of a call for "something resembling a good sign".  Not getting blown away by 90 mph fastballs down the pipe, and generally being capable of putting more stuff in play would hint at some sort of adjustment or return to a previously, more successful form.  Of course, I'd take a 45% K-rate if it came with lotsa dingers.
  • Alex Rios flipping a pitch on the outer half into right field for a single.  This is specific.  I want to see this thing happen.
  • Beckham too.  He has a higher standard, though.  He has to hit a double to right field, or five.  Of course, he did that last Spring.
  • Velo!  Spring Training velocity is prone to wild variation that springs undue panic...so let's look at it!  Peavy's velocity dropping to around a 90.5 mph average after massive amounts of shoulder surgery seems too logical to not be somewhat permanent.  Still, what if it comes roaring back?  Wouldn't it be crazy if he started touching 95?  Nah, it would probably just means he's pushing himself too hard.  If he tops out at 85 mph, well, that would take some rationalizing.  It's all panic with Jake.
  • It'd be interesting to see what stretched-out Chris Sale settles into as well, both in terms of operating velocity and pitch selection.

Anything more than that is probably too much.  It'd be nice to see Brent Morel whack a bunch of home runs, but Jake Fox hit 7 HRs last Spring.  Brent Morel could hit 7 HR and then have his career end.  Even this is probably thinking too much about Spring Training.

But overall, baseball is here!  It's creeping into your life slowly, making muted and underwhelming first impressions, and before long it will become a constant companion and a source of intense withdrawal upon its sudden departure.

It's here, it's here.  It's sort of here.

 

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