Monday, March 26, 2012

My Spring Training Voyage Part Two

If you missed Part One of my journey south to check out Florida's MLB Spring Training, you can catch it here. Below is part two:

March 17
Houston Astros at New York Yankees
George M. Steinbrenner Field, Tampa, Florida

Five games in four days quickly dissolved into four games or perhaps three games. The original Sunday double-header underwent a schedule change since the last we checked as the Yankees-Orioles game went from being Tampa-hosted into being held in Sarasota, an Orioles home game. It also came to light that the Blue Jays game, in very tiny Dunedin Stadium, was sold out on Sunday afternoon. My dad and I scrambled for tickets, trying to salvage at least one Sunday match but in the mean time, we had our second Yankees game to attend: a sunny, Saturday tilt against the Houston Astros.

The Astros are actually quite an ideal Spring Training team to see play. It is hardly impossible to be disappointed with the lineup they trot out as their normal, Major League, April starting lineup is pretty Triple-A-ish to begin with. The highlights existed in the forms of Jason Bourgeois (because of the spelling of his name and because he was traded within a week of this game being played), Brett Wallace (because of the massive post-hype sleeper potential of this once prized prospect), and Chris Johnson (because he might actually just be plain good at baseball). The Yankees again rose to the occasion, giving us a semi-normal squad featuring Gardner, Granderson, Cano, Rodriguez and some bench guys. The pitching matchup was also fortunate.

Bud Norris, probably Houston’s very best starting pitcher, would be facing new Yankee Hiroki Koroda. This was my first chance to see Kiroda and he did not disappoint, breezing through the first few innings before making way for the bullpen. Norris, on the other hand, struggled mightily, walking four men in just the first two innings. But the bullpens were the story anyhow. Houston brought in former starter, former closer, former starter, new closer Brett Myers to pitch the middle innings and he was pretty good. The reason for Houston, a team going nowhere this season, to transition one of their top starters back into being a closer is suspect but Myers can certainly close out games at the Major League level.

On the home team’s side of things, the middle innings were host to another closer sighting as Mariano Rivera entered to Enter Sandman to pitch the fifth. Not that it mattered how he fared but Mo was just fine in his one inning of work. To close out the game, the Yankees, having already used their regular season closer, turned instead to a prospect hoping for big league glory this season: Dellin Betances. Standing at 6’8”, saying Betances is an imposing figure on the mound does not quite do him justice. Pardoning the pun, big things are expected of this man by 2013 if he does indeed spend this season in the minors.

To wrap up the Astros match, and the Yankees half of our Spring Training pilgrimage, we had two great Brett Gardner sliding catches, a Dewayne Wise sighting, a Bill Hall home run and Chris Johnson cementing himself as perhaps the only Astros hitter worth drafting in fantasy baseball this season by tallying two doubles. The Yankees won, if that sort of thing matters to you, but we would be saying goodbye to Steinbrenner Field and making our way west for some new pastures.

Part three on the way...

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