Even us pond scum bloggers need a little spring training, I guess. The Marlins hosted what’s left of the Yankees ( I think they’re from New York, somewhere) in a midday matchup at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, FL. In a 6-1 game, the Marlins, led by Nathan Eovaldi, shut down a no-name squad at the long end of a bus ride from Tampa.
With $60m of payroll on the DL, the Yanks are looking to get as much of their farm system up for a look as they can. It showed, as Eovaldi put up a good outing, going four innings with one earned run and giving up three walks. He struggled a bit with the edges of the strike zone early on, but settled into a nice groove as the first third of the game eased by.
The real story of the game was the Marlins’ hitting. Led by Juan Pierre, the Marlins pounded the right side of the field. The hit-and-run was the order of the day, and it paid off with six runs on eleven hits. If the rule of thumb in spring training is that hitters always have to play catch-up to the pitchers, then I’m going to revise my 70-win prediction to 75 wins. I saw good plate discipline, and excellent opposite-field hitting.
The only give-up on the defense came from a long one-run RBI fly ball that Juan Pierre couldn’t quite run down to the warning track in the left-center gap. As fast as he is, and as good as he reads the hits, it still took two cutoff men to trek out to the limits of his throw in from the track. Still, the benefits of having JP on the roster (and in the clubhouse) far outweigh the odd double that eludes his still-fleet feet.
Stantonless, our ESPN-slammed lineup kept putting men on and batting them around with efficiency and aplomb. The Yanks’ second basemen got a good workout (albeit unsuccessful) forehand and backhand, and right fielders got plenty of practice coming in on singles. Matt Downs, Gork, Hech, and Yelich put up RBIs, and there is a laundry list o
f regulars and invitees that notched hits, with Rob Brantly’s ground-rule double as the centerpiece of an offense that I only wish we had last year. The large acreage of the Marlins Park outfield cries for a lineup of consistent line drive singles and doubles hitters. What we don’t need (and, thankfully, don’t have anymore) is a roster full of off-year/down stat home run hitters. What I saw today was a display of disciplined opposite-field hitting that showed that our boys are really and truly putting the team first.
Looking forward to the regular season, we have Giancarlo Stanton as our long-ball anchor, but with what the spring has looked like so far, I really think we are going to see LOB and RISP numbers that look nothing like what they did last year.
Unofficial and frankly confidential sources confirm what the press has written off as pure prevarication from the front office. A couple of beers with a second-hand connection with the pitching staff says that the true focus of the club is building a strong, capable core of young stud players that will be putting butts in seats and pennants on the flagpoles in two to three years’ time. The buzz I’m hearing is yes, this was a fire sale, but it was a fire sale with purpose, direction, and plan.
Footnote: As I write this, Stanton just flied out in the WBC game versus Mexico. I have a feeling his season is going to feature lots of pitches a long ways away from the middle of the strike zone. Just sayin’.
Footnote 2: I’m done bitching about the offseason moves. The season is upon us, and for good or for bad, these are our boys. Let’s put aside our frustration with Loria and focus on cheering for the best 25 we can offer.
Give ‘em hell, boys. Hit ‘em where they ain’t!