One more clerihew, on the occasion of what was hopefully the only 17-11 game we'll see this year—
When Francisco Samuel
schedules his annual
trip to the strike zone
the ball's home alone.
Things we can safely remove from the docket of possible spring surprises: my boy Charlie Zink blossoming into a useful reliever; other peoples' boy Adam Ottavino turning a corner before he makes his second trip to Memphis; and Francisco Samuel, whose walk rate sits, today, at 36 per nine innings, leveraging his high velocity and small sample size to jump ahead of the other claimants on Kyle McClellan's possibly empty relief slot. If you're keeping score, Samuel and Zink make two danup-approved narrative suggestions to be shot down in one game; the life of a prospect I'm following is a difficult one.
Watching these guys, especially Ottavino and Samuel, is kind of a dissonant experience after all our combined years of watching Major League players. There are exceptions—Rick Ankiel, briefly, Daniel Cabrera—but most of the time when a pitcher has great stuff he at least sometimes reaches the strike zone with it. The guys like Samuel and Ottavino disappear in the minor leagues. So to watch someone like Samuel outline the strike zone with fastballs is a rare and frustrating experience. Chris Perez, he had bad control; Samuel clearly does not have any.
But there was good news, certainly. Joe Mather isn't all better now that he's smashed one double off a guy who may or may not end up as the Mets' WonderBrad equivalent; he hit six of those (in 136 at-bats) last year in Memphis. But it was great to see him look like he could hit, and if his first base play wasn't exactly stirring I don't ever want to see it again, anyway. Ryan Ludwick looked like Thudwick, too; I'm not about to try to claim his swing looks different, because I can't tell, but that particular swing looked good. And Eduardo Sanchez! He wasn't perfect, but since the pitchers around him walked nine batters I was in awe—relative awe, if that's a thing—of his command.
I was glad to watch baseball, but that was not the kind of game made for paeans to the only sport Without a Clock; nobody would have minded Charlie Zink getting nailed with a three-seconds violation. It was the kind of game that is made more interesting by the removal of all its recognizable players; in the regular season it would have been one of those games where Yadier Molina moves to first base.
Today's action, according to the mothership, will involve Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, and Yadier Molina, but thanks to the endlessly spiteful machinations of the gods of baseball scheduling we won't get to see it. As a discussion topic to leaven the talk of our terrible TV luck—which player do you most regret not getting the chance to watch yesterday?
For me, it's Fernando Salas. I know Eduardo Sanchez has scouts drooling; I know Francisco Samuel couldn't hit Craig Biggio with a baseball; and I even know that Casey Mulligan gets 0.5 decidangerfields of respect from anyone who has watched him pitch. But Salas, with his great numbers, his varying reports, and his easily-confused-with-Samuel name, is a mystery to me.