* LHP John Anderson, a 28th-round selection by the Blue Jays in 2008, is still at it, getting reading for his seventh season in the organization. A year ago he was 3-3 with a 4.59 ERA in 27 games at double-A New Hampshire. Photos: Jay Blue.
Spring Training Notes: Bullpens and “Buffalo”
By Jay Blue
Blue Jays From Away
Continuing my series of observations from Spring Training, in this post I’m going to write up some notes that I made on Thursday’s “Buffalo” game as well as notes I made while watching bullpen sessions.
There were five pitchers throwing bullpen sessions at the same time on Thursday morning: Ben White, Luis Perez, Taylor Cole, Juan Oramas, Jayson Aquino. I’ve already talked about Perez in this previous post and I have to say that I was watching some of the other pitchers a little more than Cole who I’ve seen pitch on several different occasions over the past couple of seasons.
I focused my attention on White and was fascinated as Jack Murphy caught his bullpen session. I’ve seen White many times but he was working on a new pitch, a cutter, and Murphy was trying to help him understand where he could throw it to get the best results against different hitters. It was a truly amazing experience to watch a veteran catcher work with his pitcher on the really subtle details about throwing one particular pitch and helped me understand what Jack Murphy brings to a pitching staff. This guy’s is going to be a big league manager one of these days.
I watched Aquino, a Dominican pitcher who was acquired from the Rockies for Tyler Ybarra. I spoke to him a little bit one day during workouts and he seems to be a friendly guy who is happy to be with the Blue Jays. I’m very interested to see how he’s going to do and he was throwing a fastball with a little tail to it with a nice-looking slurvy-type offspeed pitch.
I also saw another new acquisition for the first time in the bullpen: Oramas, claimed on waivers by the Blue Jays from the Padres and the 24-year-old has had mostly very good results in the minor leagues (including being the Rookie of the Year in the Mexican League at the age of 19 in 2009). Oramas does not have premium (or possibly even average) velocity and I only saw him throwing a few fastballs and a lot of curveballs, some of which were pretty good. I will have to see a lot more of Oramas in game situations to see how his stuff is going to play.
Once again, there were two minor league games going on simultaneously against farmhands from the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. Because these were some of the more veteran guys in the organization, there were a lot of players that I’ve seen a lot in the “Buffalo” game. I ended up taking many more notes on the pitchers in this game than the hitters. This game was also noteworthy because Michael Saunders was playing. Generally, I’d watch Saunders’s at bat and then quickly head over to the other diamond to see what was going on there before coming back in the top half of the inning to catch some of the pitcher. It’s not a perfect system, granted, but it allowed me to see the biggest number of new players.
The starting pitcher for “Buffalo” was none other than John Anderson. If you’ve been following the Blue Jays’ minor league system for the past few years you’ll know that Anderson has overcome some pretty horrendous injuries in the past several years and has become one of the best home grown lefties that the Blue Jays have in the upper levels of the minors. Despite only throwing 19 1/3 innings from 2010 to 2012, Anderson put up some very respectable numbers in 2014 in New Hampshire, making 21 relief appearances and six starts and looks like he’s being stretched out to start in 2015. While that decision is obviously not going to be made for another couple of weeks, Anderson certainly showed that he has the pitches to be a starter in the high minors, if not the majors.
In Anderson’s two innings of work, he was working with a 92-94 mph fastball with arm-side run and throwing a changeup in the 84-88 mph range. Talking to the pitchers sitting behind the plate and charting, they said that the 88 mph change could be a solid pitch (and not too hard) when he contrasts it with the 94 mph heater. Anderson was also featuring a sharp slider that got at least two swings and misses (including one for a third strike) in the 82-83 mph range.
It wasn’t all rosy for Anderson as he gave up a massive home run to Josh Bell (one of MLB’s top prospects) despite the fact that the pitch was inside to the righty. The pitchers behind the plate were marveling at how Bell hit that ball due to the location. Anderson gave up another extra-base hit, a triple, that was also on a well-located fastball down in the zone. Talking to Anderson after his outing, he mentioned that it was his first time out against another team this season and, that being the case, has to be one that he should be pretty happy with. It was the first time that I had seen Anderson actually throwing (my timing was just off when I visited New Hampshire last year) and he looked like his stuff was really working for him. Typically pitchers aren’t at top velocity this early in the season and, if that’s the case with Anderson, we can anticipate him throwing in the 93-95 mph range as a starter during the season with a very good slider and changeup that can be used effectively against righties.
The next pitcher that I watched a lot was Matt West. West was another waiver claim this offseason (from the Rangers) and is still trying to find himself as a pitcher despite a having a power arm. The 6-foot-1 righty was sitting with his fastball in the 93-94 mph range, hitting 95 in his first inning of work but fading a little bit in his second. West mixed in a true curveball at 79 mph and a slider at around 84 mph while throwing an 86 mph changeup. West was able to get a strikeout with his fastball in on a batter’s hands while also giving up a double on a 95 mph heater that was up in the zone.
I was a little distracted when I was watching Rob Rasmussen throwing and I didn’t get any radar readings for him. He looked like he was locating with all three of his pitches (fastball, changeup and curveball). In the following half inning, I saw Jorge Flores (a.k.a., “Mighty Mouse”) step up to the plate and get a single through the 3-4 hole on the right side of the infield. I was chatting with Taylor Cole at the time and I don’t think he’d mind if I tell you that he thinks that Flores will be a big league utility infielder some day.
When Greg Infante came to the mound, there were so many players gathered around the radar gun, hoping to see triple digits, that I couldn’t actually get close enough to see myself. Infante threw a couple of sliders that I really liked (I had seen his slider last year as well) and if he can throw more strikes than he has over the course of his career, he has a real shot to get back to the big leagues this season. The last player who I took note of on the Buffalo side was righty Ryan Tepera. Last year when I saw Tepera pitch, I could only watch him from the side, watching in Tampa at the Yankees’ facility. This time, I noticed that he was mixing up his two-seam fastball (around 89 mph) and his four-seam fastball (around 93 mph). The two-seamer really dives out of the strike zone while the four-seamer has completely different movement to it. I didn’t notice an offspeed pitch coming from Tepera in his inning.
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