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Grapefruiting 2009: Field Battles

You know what else I’d advise? Not to take too much stock into Spring Training. Seriously.

If things that happened in Spring Training last year were important, then:

  • Brad Lidge would’ve been hurt all season.
  • Ryan Howard would’ve hit .400.
  • Jayson Werth would’ve hit .170.
  • Travis Blackley, Francisco Rosario and Carlos Carrasco would’ve started the year in the bullpen.
  • The Phillies probably wouldn’t have won the World Series.

See? Even position battles are overblown; most times managers know who they want going in, but they want to make sure the player is ready to compete at a high-enough level. We all thought Blackley was a lock for the fifth-starter spot during the Spring. What happened? Adam Eaton still won. Then we thought Blackley could make the bullpen. Nope. Clay Condrey got the pencil.

Information that won’t matter anyway

This year there are two intriguing “battles.” They are:

Fifth starter: JA Happ, Kyle Kendrick, Chan Ho Park, Carlos Carrasco, Adam Eaton
Second base: Marcus Giles, Jason Donald

The first battle is Happ’s to lose. That means he has to perform terribly. Even if he performs marginally, it’s a good chance he wins the job. Park will likely be your 2009 Chad Durbin, used heavily in middle relief early in the season. Kendrick? He could see the trading block. Carrasco will get his chance later in 2009. And Eaton? Well who cares.

The second battle is maybe not even a battle at all. Chase Utley is taking ground balls, as evidenced by a photo. He wants to be back by opening night. If he is, there might be a battle for 25th man. That could come down to Giles and Donald, but it’s more possible the front office adds a veteran player (Nomar Garciaparra) around March 25.

So with that information, my advice for the best battles? The minors.

The minors

Watch a practice one morning, when all the minor leaguers are running it out on the Rushmore fields. The coaching staff normally splits the players up into four groups, usually indicative of their expected levels. Your mission, then, is to watch one field for 15 minutes, then watch the next for 15 minutes, and so on. Watch John Mayberry Jr. swing a bat, then watch prospect Michael Taylor swing a baseball bat, then watch Dominic Brown swing a baseball bat. Whose swing is best suited for the majors? Who has pop?

Personal aside

The day I arrived in Clearwater I jetted right to practice and watched some Reading-bound players take some hacks. In the cage where Jeremy Slayden, Brad Harman and Jason Donald. Each had considerable power, but Donald was straight swatting the ball into deep left field. Good power for an infielder, I thought.

Two days later I watch the Phillies play the Blue Jays in Dunedin, and Jason Donald gets some time in the game. He promptly swats two big home runs into left field, receiving huge ovations from the crowd. That’s when I knew Donald would be special. You can have those moments, too.

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