The Brewers and Giants tried to keep the score to 9-5, but it ended up 10-6, today in the wrong direction. A horrible outing for Doug Davis and a pretty rough one for Dan Kolb, but Matt Wise, Kane Davis, and Jose Capellan all look ready for the season to start tomorrow. No clues in the backup catcher sweepstakes, as Damian Miller started and Mark Johnson went 0-2 as a late replacement.
The development that interests me is Gabe Gross's start today, leading off and playing centerfield. I wouldn't put any stock in the leadoff spot--that's where Brady'll bat during the season, so if Gabe is taking over for him on a day off, that's where Gabe bats. But did anybody know this guy could play center? I certainly didn't, and I don't think the Blue Jays did, either. I was only able to listen to the last couple innings of the webcast so I don't know how he looked, but the fact Ned left him out there for nine innings suggests that they're giving him a look.
We've talked quite a bit about the depth of this team, but if Gross and Hart are both credible (not just emergency) CFs, that goes to a whole new level. Next thing you know, Mike Rivera will reveal that he's a flashy shortstop. Come to think of it, if Vinny Rottino makes the team in '07 and Hart, Gross, and Hall are still around, we could go three or four deep at every position with only four or five bench guys. And if we assume Carlos Lee will play for somebody else in '07, we could have an outfield of Jenkins (who would probably be a decent CF), Clark, and Hart or Cruz, with one of those guys and Gross on the bench. Eat our dust, 2005 Seattle Mariners.
Speaking of Nelson Cruz, he hit a monster homer to dead center off Tim Worrell. He continues to have a strong spring (though largely against minor league pitching), possibly giving the brain trust a difficult decision to make as soon as the All-Star break.
I'm not trying to be comically optimistic like the beat writers are during Spring Training, but it seems like every game--even the ones the Brewers lose, in which a stalwart like Davis gets shelled--brings a few notes of unexpected good news. Rivera a quality hitter? Gross a centerfielder? Fernandez pitching like an all-star? There are a lot of reasons to be excited about this team right now, and not the reasons anybody would've expected.
And for something completely different: remember the news that the Brewers now have a dance team? The guys from Brew Crew Review posted about a week ago on that old thread, and have video of the Diamond Dancers. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
World Baseball Classic: Cuba and Puerto Rico are just underway. This game determines who'll advance to play the Dominicans in the semifinal. Cuba got their [vital equipment] handed to them last time they played PR, but I can't imagine it'll be another blowout tonight. At 9PM CT, Japan plays Korea, a game that has a lot to do with whether Team USA has a shot at advancing to the semifinals at all.
Update [2006-3-15 20:24:40 by Jeff]: Doug Davis and Ned Yost talks about his outing today, the good and the bad:
"It was a hanging breaking ball right down the middle for him," said Davis. "I knew it was out. I didn't look." ...
Manager Ned Yost said that Davis' command problems were illustrated when he tried to bounce a breaking ball to Bonds but instead left it in a spot where Bonds could drive the ball. The first six San Francisco batters had hits.
"Doug struggled with command from the first pitch on," said Yost. "He just couldn't get it where he wanted. He had trouble getting over his front side today. He was up all day long."
But I didn't pick this up from the boxscore: Doug Davis wasn't an embarrasment at the plate!
Davis thinks that Yost's decision to get the starting pitchers as many plate appearances as possible this spring will pay dividends during the regular season.
While it seems silly at times, Yost has certainly communicated to everyone concerned that he cares about how his pitchers perform at the plate, whether that's about making good contact or laying down sacrifice bunts that don't turn into foul pops. Let's hope that turns into fewer wasted ABs--at least make the opposing pitcher work a bit to get our starters out.