Day 2: New guys impress early
There was a lot to see in little time at Papago Park on Sunday morning, with a trio of newcomers throwing bullpens on the second day of camp. Scott Kazmir, Jim Johnson and Luke Gregerson all threw in front of their newest employers, each one making a good impression. Now, you can’t put much stock, if any, into a mid-February bullpen session, since there will be plenty more even before spring games again, but this is the time to begin assessing where each pitcher is with his repertoire and mechanics. It’s also important in the sense it allows the catchers to either introduce or reacquaint themselves with the pitching staff.
I spoke to Derek Norris about this after workouts and, to no surprise, he takes it very seriously. Regarded as having great relationships with his pitchers, Norris knows these sprout in camp — but not on their own. Great effort goes into learning dozens of pitchers, and this process is paramount to in-game results.
Norris was surprised to find out Kazmir has a cutter — a pitch Kazmir added to the mix just last year in the second half when he lost grip on his traditional slider. The cutter basically takes the place of that pitch, and the lefty said he began using it often against righties to open up the plate and induce ground balls. On Sunday, his breaking stuff wasn’t up to par, but that’s normal for pitchers this time of year. However, Kazmir impressed everyone with his fastball location.
“It’s still early, and of course everything’s going to look faster than it probably is, but it’s coming out good,” said Norris. “Everything was popping the mitt. It was the first day, but the way he was dotting up with his fastball was really impressive, especially this early. So my first impression of him is very strong.”
Melvin said just as much, too, and relayed a fun little side note: He was managing the Mariners when Kazmir made his Major League debut with the Rays in Seattle back in 2004. Kazmir pitched five shutout innings for the win.
“I didn’t like him at all. Now I do,” Melvin joked. “But man you could see what he was all about at that time. He’s had some bumps in the road, but it’s not like he’s 40 years old. He’s at the prime in his career.”
You can read more about Kazmir’s day, as well as Norris’ plans to take the pitcher golfing, in today’s Notebook.
Also in there, plans for Sean Doolittle. Hint: the lefty is on the mend from his left calf strain and expected to throw a bullpen come Monday. Drew Pomeranz, meanwhile, will likely stay away from the mound for a few days while recovering from an infection in his leg stemming from an ingrown hair that had to be lanced — not the most common of setbacks you hear about, or one I’ve ever written about before now.
Johnson, meanwhile, doesn’t exactly boast quite the fiery spirit that Grant Balfour brought to the mound, but he doesn’t hide his emotions either.
“You can tell Johnson’s a bit of a perfectionist,” Melvin said. “If he doesn’t throw the ball exactly where he wants to, he gets upset with himself.”
So don’t expect Johnson to be patting himself on the back after these bullpen days. That job’s for Melvin, who praised the tall righty. He did the same for Gregerson, coming away from the day floored by his deception, joking, “I don’t know if you put a million dollars on the table and tell him to throw the ball straight, that he could do it.”
One more leftover quote from Melvin on the veteran Johnson: “He seems to be an all-business guy. He knows his routine, knows what works for him. I’ve found he’s very routine-oriented in the morning. We’ve seen him probably pitch against him too much the last couple years, it’ll be nice to finally see him on the mound in the right colors.”
Also on the site today, this story on Jarrod Parker, who has put on a bit of weight as part of an ongoing effort to build up his stamina, which was missing at season’s end last year. This wasn’t a homework assignment from the A’s; Parker did this on his own, which says a lot about him, particularly his self-awareness.
Tomorrow is Day 3 of workouts for pitchers and catchers, and position players are finally set to join them Thursday. Coco Crisp and Nate Freiman were among the new arrivals in camp today.
– Jane Lee