Wednesday, March 28, 2007

From College to the 'Pen?

It looks more and more like a certain pitcher who pitched last year in college is going to be added to the 40-man roster, and brought north to Seattle. Evidently, there's a need for an extra arm in the bullpen -- one that will be effective, since the other 'pen arms had pretty shaky Springs. Even with the talk that they weren't going to rush players like they did last year, it seems that was merely double-speak.

I've been pretty clear that I side with those who would prefer to have Morrow in the minors getting a little more seasoning, and trying to find a fungible reliever for the 'pen on the scrap heap. But today's game reminded me that, just like in Return of the Jedi when Vader realizes Luke has a sibling, there is an alternative within the M's system that could make sense to plug the perceived hole in the bullpen. No, I'm not talking about Morrow's sister -- I have no clue whether or not he even has a sister, but I'm confident that if he does, she's not pitching in the M's minor leagues.

In some ways, I'm a little ashamed for not having thought of this sooner. But, hey, it hadn't really crossed my mind that the M's might seriously consider bringing one of their 2006 draftees up to Seattle to start 2007. That in & of itself threw me for enough of a loop, that
I'd completely forgotten another option that, like Morrow, was drafted in 2006 out of college. In his pro time, too, he's breezed thorough his innings. Unlike Morrow, however, he truly was drafted to develop as a relief pitcher.

I thought I might be able to wait just a little bit longer to say this, but in the USSM discussion on today's roster news and informal game thread, I had to say it when he came in to clean up Mumba Rivera's mess -- which had become officially a save situation:

Free Austin Bibens-Dirkx.

I know there's no chance in heck that it happens. I doubt that Austin has caught Hargrove's eye like Brandon has. I’m not necessarily saying that Austin is ready for the bigs, nor that he's as ready or more ready than Brandon, but I would say that there’s a lot more evidence that suggests Bibens-Dirkx is at least as ready than Morrow is. Churchill said today on Softy’s show that Austin was hitting 90-94 (11:15-11:20 into the Real Audio clip), which, from a sidearmer is even more rare than 96-98 from a ‘normal’ pitcher. Then there's the fact that he has 3x the pro innings/appearances that Morrow does. While he didn’t come out of the Pac-10, he still pitched in college, and pretty much blew through A ball last year. He's also shown quite a decent amount of control, and in his 2-inning stint in AAA (where I saw him pitch in person), he struck out 5 Portland Beavers. What, two weeks after being drafted? Yeeesh.

The difference is in the fact that Morrow is a flamethrower, and Bibens-Dirkx is a 'mere' sidearmer, drafted 450 or so dudes later, and therefore hasn’t received the royal treatment or caught the eye of Hargrove. But, while I can probably lay claim to being the first Austin Bibens-Dirkx fan in the blogosphere, I'm certainly not alone. I know Churchill's a fan -- as evidenced by the clip from Monday's KJR show and other reasons -- I just would like to see a lot more of the M's decision makers think outside the box a little and see that Austin might not be a bad option to take north with them.

It's probably a little late in Spring Training, and I'd say it's definitely not happening. Still, I'd much rather risk rushing Bibens-Dirkx, whose MLB career is destined towards the bullpen, than risk delaying Morrow's development as an MLB starter -- or risk him being pigeonholed into the bullpen. Bringing Austin up would be a medium-to-high-risk, medium-reward move, while bringing Morrow up would be a high-risk, medium-to-high-reward move -- at best. I'd say that both guys would likely help fill some perceived holes in the bullpen. I'd just go a little more conservative, perhaps, and take Austin over Brandon.

But, then, I also wouldn't've traded Soriano for Ramirez to create this 'mess' in the first place...

Final note -- it's also pretty apparent that George Sherrill has made the club, in spite of yet another shaky spring. I'm planning on making a side trip over to the 'pen to congratulate him on Monday.

Friday, March 23, 2007

My Take on "Sherrill's Peril"

Lots of talk today about George Sherrill's struggles in Spring Training, and how Hargrove has basically given him the ultimatum to step up or step down. Since DMZ at USSM has dubbed this talk "Sherrill's Peril" I figured it would be prudent for me to step in and jot down some notes on my thoughts on all this talk.

So, here's what Hargrove has said about George's situation (as quoted in the P-I link above):

"George needs to show us something," Hargrove said. "There is a certain amount of grace (allowed a veteran), but he needs to step up."

The fact that Hargrove considers George a 'veteran' now (and, yes, I know that the parenthetical clause is likely an inserted clarification by the article's author -- but that's been verified by others, too) is somewhat encouraging. But, let's face it, George has been given an opportunity to step up, with the Soriano trade, and with the Putz injury, and at least during spring training, he hasn't exactly grabbed the reins and ran with them. Then again, George never has done well in spring training (9.31 ERA through 2006, with a WHIP well over 2 and a K:BB barely over 1), and his 18.00 ERA this spring is only slightly worse than his 16.50 ERA last spring. And, yes, I know that ST stats are horrible measures, and ERA is a horrible measure, too.

The thing is, George has never had it easy. Never. He's had to fight for everything in his baseball career. He's had to decide to try the Independent Leagues when no MLB team took him in 50 rounds of drafting. He's had to fight patiently to be seen by scouts in the Independent Leagues for four and a half years. When he showed that AA was a breeze for him, and that he could handle AAA players pretty easily, too, he's had to fight to stay focused on getting to the big leagues, when other lesser-effective pitchers kept blowing their performances. He's put up with the pranks pulled on the rookies. Twice. He's understood his role on the team and has done everything his coaches have asked him to do.

George is a fighter. He'll push right on through this battle just like he has every other challenge he's stared in the face at in the past. He may be frustrated, sure, and not quite happy with not being able to get the feel for his stuff. But he's going to come out of this situation just fine.

And he'll have as much fun as he can in the process.

Don't worry, George, we're behind ya 'round here still!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Morrow Dilemma

I've been giving this situation a lot more thought lately, and I've come to be less concerned about what the M's do with 2006 first-round draft pick Brandon Morrow. If he's anything like the type of pitcher I think he is, he'll handle whatever situation the M's throw at him just fine.

The concern seems to be that the M's are very strongly considering breaking camp with Morrow in the bullpen. A lot of this decision seems to hinge on J. J. Putz' health. Those who disagree with this decision have several concerns:

1) The M's are not going to contend in 2007. Morrow's 2007 innings are far less important to the team than his 2013 (or -14, -15, -16, since he has three years before he has to be protected from the Rule 5 draft) innings would be. You don't want to get his arbitration clock started too soon.

2) Having Morrow's young pro career start out in the 'pen would stunt his development as a starter. He needs to get his career established and get stretched out as a starter.

3) Putting him in the 'pen furthers the common discussion that the M's drafted Morrow all along with thoughts of moving him into the 'pen. You don't waste your first round, 5th-overall, draft pick on a relief pitcher. Especially since two potential front-line starters like Miller and Lincecum were available. If Morrow shows to be very effective in the 'pen, would it be easy for the M's to move him back into the rotation? Looking at what the M's did with Soriano, I'm not so sure...

There are other reasons, like the feeling that Morrow needs the time to develop a third pitch to round out his arsenal as a starter, but you get the main picture there.

Those are all legitimate gripes, as far as I'm concerned. Every once in awhile, though, a player seems to not quite fit into the mold that we like to try and fit him into. I honestly believe that Morrow could be one of these types of players. Yes, his innings this spring have been, as Churchill puts it, against guys who wear #88. But since he's coming out of college, and a bit older than a lot of other draft picks, he's further along and his mechanics are more well-developed than other guys. If his stuff is good enough to get the #88-level guys out consistently, then it should be worthy of at least a look out of the 'pen. It seems to be pretty much consensus that Morrow's a lot closer to the majors, and that he could probably pitch out of the Seattle bullpen right now.

With the trade of Soriano, and with Putz having some setbacks, the M's have a very strong need for a dominant reliever. Now, too, Hargrove appears to be losing patience with my guy George. I'm sure George will bounce back, and I'm sure he's doing all he can to stay on track. But it doesn't take away from the concern that the M's bullpen probably has as many, if not more, question marks than the rotation. I'm not sure how many leads the 'pen will have to protect, especially with Richie Sexson flailing away in the cleanup spot, but it's still something that you'd like to see a little more settled with a week and a half of spring training left. It seems that they're somewhat serious in giving Morrow some consideration for a spot in the 'pen. If they give Sean White back to Atlanta, that would free up a 40-man spot.

While I wouldn't be disappointed if Morrow were in the bullpen (I do think that even with his limited pro experience, he'd do well out of the Seattle 'pen), I'd like to see Morrow take the Jered Weaver route. Get a decent amount of starts in AAA (or, AA) and then see where he's at in a few months. Let him complete one season in the minors, and bring him to Seattle in September. If the M's are in contention, and they need some pitching help to push them over the top, then give Morrow the call.

I've changed my mind on Morrow a lot since draft day. I've been one to be extra concerned that the M's drafted him as a reliever. I've also been concerned about drafting a guy who had significant shoulder issues during his college days. After talking with some folks, I'm way less concerned with those things.

Edit 3/23 -- I like Dave Cameron's thoughts better. Sounds like we're on the same page here, too.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

More than a LOOGY to Me...

Wow, after talking about how little I have to want to write about 'round here, I suddenly have a whole lot to say. Not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Of course, I started this entry several hours ago, thinking that with no one here at work, I'd be able to sneak in a post -- then a couple of phone calls and e-mails later, I'm suddenly swamped. It must be opposite day...

First off -- with the news of Putz undergoing a precautionary MRI, the "Free George Sherrill" campaign pulls back into action. Since Chris Reitsma is a veteran 'proven' closer, George's rank in the depth chart is probably a little lower in Hargrove's mind than it is in mine. So, get out your blog logins and start makin' some noise...

I didn't comment on my reaction to the commercials. Of course George's is awesome! JJ's slow head turn towards George was a little fakey, and reminded me of a bad acting job I did for a video I co-produced in high school. But, having a rough idea of how many takes it took to make that commercial, it's probably the best of 'em. They're all pretty good, and I can't think of a bad one. One that's slipping under the radar quite a bit, though, is the McLaren commercial. I happen to love jabs at Canada, so I get that one. But what it triggered in me was how much I really, really like McLaren, and would love to see him get a manager's job. Preferably with the M's. There's a longer post in my brain queue, but very soon, this blog will have the addition of "Free John McLaren..." in the subtitle...

A couple of things I'm hoping to write about are Brandon Morrow and the Ichiro dilemma. I've done a lot of thinking of the situations surrounding both of these players. I hope to jot 'em down soon.

Finally, I cropped and uploaded a picture of Felix and Beltre to the Seattle P-I's "My Seattle Pix" section. Since it's all but certain that Felix will be the Opening Day starter, and I just got my tickets in the mail yesterday, I'm hoping to get some better shots of Felix. I'm sure there'll be a lot more people there, as my tickets are further down the third baseline than what I had for that 2-3rds empty Felix Day game last year. We'll see, though, if they let me in with my camera and lens. They almost didn't last year...

Monday, March 12, 2007

Almost Here!

Well, it was an interesting game for Mr. GS52 today. Finally got to listen to the game -- they decided to broadcast the game on XM for a change. Tomorrow, too. George surrendered his first HR since last spring training, and followed that one up with another in the same inning. No big deal, though, really, since, as far as I can remember, George always starts out slow. I guess, too, that it was his way of reminding the world that you can't judge a pitcher by his win/loss record. I hope Felix doesn't retaliate for George's thievery. It's good to get the kinks out when the games like this don't matter. Once he gets his work in, he'll be fine...

One thing I'm really looking forward to, though, is George's debut in the almost-as-famous-as-the-Super-Bowl Mariners commercials. I don't know much of the details, but I did laugh when I heard how many takes they had to do. I'm sure it'll be a good one. According to the M's web site, the commercials will debut on the Internet on Wednesday, and will be scattered into the first M's broadcast on Thursday. With as awful, and unspectacular as the Super Bowl commercials have been lately, and still owing us fans for the debacle that was the 2005 commercials, I'm again awaiting in anticipation that this year's will be good.

We'll find out in a couple of days.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Not Dead Yet!

Well, while I've pretty much made up my mind about cancelling the web hosting for All of the files have been stored on my computer, and I'm ready to mothball it for now. I apologize in advance for any images that might've been stored on that site and linked on older blog threads. I'm attempting to use my free hosting services to see if I can upload everything there. I assume I should be able to, but since it's free, it'll involve ads. Fortunately, I'd registered the domain for three years, so even if I temporarily lose the hosting, I still have the domain. I'm going to hang on to the original Blogger for the immediate time being, until they force me to assimilate, or until I decide to move it elsewhere.

Anyway, although my focus has been more on photography than baseball lately, I plan on discussing a few things around here. There may be a surprise or two on the horizon as well. I've got a few things brewing that I've been wanting to throw out some thoughts on.

Arthur Rhodes made his Cactus League debut today (I believe, anyway -- I haven't but listened to one or two games, really). He pitched pretty well. While I am a little nervous for George, I'm not to the point where I'm concerned. George should hold his own. Having a second, reliable lefty in the 'pen should help George pitch better by not forcing Hargrove to have to warm him up darn near every game.

I promise I'll have more baseball content on here soon. A few things to wrap up and finalize. A special thanks to Montana Grizzly for supporting my photography by purchasing one of my prints. Not sure if you come around here, but, in case you do, hey, thanks again!