I'm a couple of days behind with this post, but it's because I was out of town attending the game. And what a game it was!
Before I get into the nitty gritty about the game, let me digress. First, for those who have never been to Spring Training, you are definitely missing out on one of the best experiences you can have as a fan. I was lucky enough to be able to attend numerous Spring Training games the last two springs while I attended law school at UF. I've been to maybe half of the Grapefruit League stadiums and I have to say, Osceola County Stadium, the home of the Astros, is my favorite.
So, Saturday's game was quite the treat because it was an unexpected, last-minute trip that just happened to be in my favorite Spring Training stadium. Add to that the fact that I got to see Glavine's first Spring Training game back in a Braves uniform (which was surreal, by the way) and a Braves come-from-behind win, and you'd think my weekend couldn't have gotten much better. But there was icing on the cake - I got to meet my idol, the man whose job I've always wanted and whose book I've read and reread, John Schuerholz. (I had a picture of Glavine ready to put into this column, but decided instead to share perhaps my favorite photo of all time: me and John Schuerholz!)
I'm sure you're not as excited as I am about the Schuerholz encounter, so I'll get back to the game. Thanks to the magnificence that is Osceola County Stadium, I stood about 5 feet from Tom Glavine as he warmed up before the game. I was reminded just how effortless his motion is and just how good he looks in a Braves uniform! What's more, I learned that this man has definitely still got it. He started out the first inning with a bang, striking out Michael Bourn on three pitches, only the last of which was clumsily swung at. The inning ended on a strikeout as well, a beautiful 3-2 changeup past Miguel Tejada. Save the homerun he gave up in the second, Glavine threw a terrific game his first time out.
As for the other pitchers I saw, here are some quick thoughts, keeping in mind that I only saw each one for about an inning:
- Ryan Drese: this 31-year-old, non-roster invitee hasn't seen playing time at the Big Show since 2006. In two innings Saturday he gave up two hits for two runs. Didn't see anything to write home about.
- Jeff Ridgway: in 2007 he appeared in three games for 1/3rd of an inning (that's total!) and gave up 7 runs on 7 hits and a walk, giving him a career 189 ERA. He gave up a couple of hits and did nothing to impress me in Saturday's outing.
- Royce Ring: he appeared in 26 games in 2007 and posted a 2.70 ERA. Gave up one hit during his inning in Saturday's game but looked like he had some good stuff. Definitely one to keep your eye on in 2008.
- Francisley Bueno: my least favorite of the pitchers I saw. In the eighth, he gave up two hits for two runs and had some noticeable control problems.
- Colter Bean: a 31-year-old who saw a few games in a Yankees uniform last year. This guy is huge - listed at 6'6", 255 lbs. He threw sidearm and helped the Braves pull out the win. The Astros hit him pretty hard, but fortunate for us it was always right at someone. I think he's one to watch in 2008.
Here's some quick thoughts on the rest of the squad:
- Francouer: I definitely agree with the reports that he looks a little beefier this season. It looked like the off-season weight lifting paid off when he hit one over the left field fence.
- Escobar: looked good a the plate Saturday. I think he'll emerge as the leadoff hitter by the end of camp.
- Lillibridge: looked pretty good as well, although I have to say he's a much smaller guy than I thought he'd be.
- Schafer: looked good at the plate and in the field. I'm excited to see what he can do with a little more time in the minors.
- Anderson: this guy really surprised me. He's far better than what I expected. I think he'll beat out Brandon Jones for a spot on the roster as a back-up outfielder. He looked great in the field and had a clutch hit that helped the Braves pull out the win Saturday. So far this spring, he's four for seven with a double. I really liked what I saw and think we may have gotten a great deal here!
- Blanco: he also surprised me a bit. He started in CF the whole game and looked pretty good. I was really impressed with a strike he threw to third after McCann overthrew second on an Astros steal in the first. Blanco didn't have enough time to make the out, but he had a much stronger arm than I'd given him credit for.
- Prado: racked up two RBIs on a hard hit ball up the left side of the field that gave the Braves the lead in the ninth. Liked what I saw.
Overall, I think we looked great for this point in the season and I'm optimistic about the coming season. Although I wasn't there, I'm hugely encouraged by what I heard about Hampton's outing on Sunday. I know I say it every year...but this could be the year!