Wednesday, February 10, 2010

5 Things To Watch - Spring Training 2010

It's that time again! 8 days until the first Spring Training workouts commence. Unlike previous years, many of the roster spots will be spoken for going into Sarasota but there will still be some things to look for, many of them holdover topics from previous years

1.  Chris Tillman - The rotation is pretty much set but comments from Dave Trembley and Tillman's struggles during his debut last season have left the door open. He's only 22 and if he doesn't look more like the Norfolk version of Tillman in Spring Training, he could find himself back in AAA to start the season. There's also an outside chance that David Hernandez figures out how to strike guys out in Sarasota and edges Tillman out. We know that Trembley likes to go with the hot hand in spring. See Alfredo Simon last season.

2.  The Bench - It's hard to believe that Ty Wigginton breaks camp with the team given his salary and his skill set. This opens the door for Michael Aubrey, Rhyne Hughes or Scott Moore (I have not given up on Moore yet...). And while Robert Andino showed a good glove last season, his bat makes Cesar Izturis look like Brian Roberts. Justin Turner in particular could earn a utility infield spot with a strong showing in Sarasota.

3.  Health - For all the happy talk about everyone being ready for Spring Training, there still has to be some concern with how Brad Bergesen, Nolan Reimold and, now, Will Ohman looks as they shake off the rust this March. For one, I will be shocked if Reimold plays any left field before March 15th. Koji Uehara needs to show he is back and can handle bullpen duty. Bergesen will have to show he feels good enough about his leg to pitch free and easy.

4.  The Battle for the Backup Backstop - This is my own pet subject and this year should be no less fascinating (at least for me). Trembley has already said he sees a good competition between Chad Moeller, Craig Tatum and Michael Hernandez. Sure, it's not earthshaking but it gives you something to watch during the late innings of those early Spring Training games.

5.  Shaking Out The Pen - Mike Gonazalez, Mark Hendrickson and Jim Johnson are near locks for three bullpen spots. The rest? Wide open. It's an interesting mix of veterans and kids. Matt Albers and Cla Meredith will try to retain their spots. Dennis Sarfate will try to force his way back in after being DFA'd this offseason. Kam Mickolio and Alberto Castillo will try to build on brief successes in 2009. Would-be rookie Josh Perrault is my dark horse candidate to make the bullpen in 2010. Can Uehara and Ohman stay healthy? Can Alfredo Simon relieve better than he started?

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