Thursday, March 09, 2006

Be Careful What You Wish For

whoa, sorry...posted this yesterday, but blogger seems to have eaten it. Now you can read a very similar report at LL.

A while ago, I said I was hoping for a real position battle this spring. That sentiment's been echoed in comments here and elsewhere. Well M's fans, we've got one: #5 starter. It's not exactly news to mention that Gil Meche doesn't have an iron grip on the rotation spot, but after Jesse Foppert's strong spring debut, it got fans hoping we'd see a dogfight between Foppert, Nageotte and Meche.
Then Meche went down with his oblique injury (although he's apparently throwing again), Nageotte wasn't great, last year's heartwarming story Jeff Harris was giving up HRs to Giants non-prospects, and darkhorse candidate Yorman Bazardo got lit up like Thomas Kinkade on a bender in Vegas. Today, Jesse Foppert lost control of the strike zone with four walks in two innings, and capped it off with a wild pitch. Yes, he didn't give up a hit, and yes, Scott Atchison was worse. But Hargrove still has to pick someone here, and I really don't envy this decision. I suppose that if Meche is back, it's basically his. But let's say Meche isn't ready to start the season or his oblique problems crop again (as oblique problems are wont to do). Then what? I'm aware that no team has a lot of great options for the last rotation spot, but this is a real worry. There's no King Felix this year - someone who can dominate the minors for a while until we need him. I think Foppert's looking like the most likely candidate at this point; anyone can have a bad game, right? But it's about time to see a couple of really good performances from someone - anyone - who has a realistic shot to push for the fifth starter.
On offense today, Raul Ibanez hit a home run, Johjima, Lopez and Betancourt all had hits, and...that's about it. With all the talk about the slump Johjima's in, Carl Everett's horrendous spring has gone unnoticed (he's now at .133 with no XBH). So does Carl typically take a while to heat up? Well, no: he's averaged a 1000+ OPS in the spring over the past three years. Yes, it's a small sample size, but who knows - maybe the poor starts by Everett and Lawton make the M's realize they'll need more bench help than they thought and keep Roberto Petagine around.

Positive signs? Well, the teams with the best spring training records include the Florida Marlins and Arizona Diamondbacks, two teams who are projected to lose a lot of games this year (with good reason; Florida's roster looks like a really good Arizona Fall League team or a jumble of random pages from John Sickel's prospect books from the past three years). Among the worst are the Oakland A's and the White Sox.


At 3/09/2006 8:41 PM, Blogger PositivePaul said...

While I'm not 100% convinced that Meche's injury is nothing to be concerned about, I do believe he will start the season in the rotation. The mere fact that the M's are counting on him being in the rotation -- even before this oblique issue appeared -- just makes me all the more frustrated.

Harris has shown his truer colors, and in spite of being a semi-servicable pitcher, he's not someone you would like to have to rely on a whole lot. Emergency starter, mopup reliever, clubhouse nice guy -- seems like a good role for him. Maybe the 11th pitcher on the staff. Foppert is probably a little closer, as he's had a little bit more MLB experience than Nageotte, but both he AND Nageotte appear to be a ways away. Other than that, there's no one -- repeat no one that's even close to being a reliable MLB starting pitcher in our system.

That's probably the reason why they brought both Burba and Ape in. While neither of them are likely to make the club, it's not entirely out of the realm of possibility that one of them does. I'd probably give the nod to Burba over Appier, merely because Burba's pitched in the bigs more recently. Yet, if they DO make the club, then the M's have even worse problems than they did last year. Sure, we have a soon-to-be-ace at the top of the rotation (even if he's slated as the #5 starter to carefully dole out his innings), which we really haven't had since RJ left.

What frustrates me the most, though, is that the M's had several opportunities to spend some money to bring in a guy like Weaver, Loaiza, Byrd -- or even Elarton or Jason Johnson (both of which would be helped by Safeco) -- but they didn't. Howard closed his pocketbook, and Bavasi wasn't able to buy another one. While I'm glad he wasn't traded, part of me still would've liked to have seen Jeremy Reed traded to Boston for one of their starters (but only if Arroyo was part of the package, and we got another pitching prospect along with him).

But, alas, Bavasi and company merely brought us Jarrod Washburn, who's OK in his own right (and will definitely help, I believe). They needed two starting pitchers at the minimum in order to really pad the team when (not if) an injury to a starter happens.

Perhaps Foppert or Naggs will pull it together yet, and blow through their next outings, leaving a bit of a craving for Hargrove to leave camp with one of 'em. But, really, spring stats are useless, and while spring performances have more merit, even if one of them blew folks away during Spring Training, it doesn't mean it's best for the team for them to go north. I would've liked the M's to have added one more decent, reliable pitcher, if only to give them a little bit of depth in the rotation. It didn't happen, so so be it...

Really, the only competition is for a spot on the bench. Petagine is sure making a good case for himself, and I'm rooting hard for him. As I said over at DOV, I'm halfway tempted to take Grant up on his challenge and append an "aka Petagine for DH!" to this blog's subtitle...


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