Prospect Pulse: Spring Training Updates

As Spring Training 2012 enters it’s final weeks, we can’t help but feel anxious. With all the injuries and uncertainty, all any self-respecting Mets fan wants at this point is for their team to navigate the rest of the way through spring training, staying healthy and intact, and with everyone ready to start the season. The players too, aren’t immune to this anxiety. Despite their cool, professional demeanors, many of these guys are fighting for jobs, and for their professional lives. This is the time when push comes to shove and all the chips will fall into their respective places.

The big league roster is nearly set at this point. Other than centerfield, and a few bench/bullpen spots, there isn’t much drama there. But what about minor league spring training? We talked to thirty-something players here on MMO over the winter. I thought it might be fun to check in with a few of the guys and see how things are going in spring camp. Things are at a competitive high in minor league camp right now, as players vie for roster spots on the long-season teams.

Nowhere is the competition for jobs more intense, than the two A-level team’s starting rotations. At Savannah, as many as a dozen pitchers are battling for five spots. One of them is talented right-hander Bret Mitchell. I spoke with Bret the other night via instant message, and asked him a few questions:

Petey:  Hi Bret, how are things? How’s spring training going?

Bret:  It’s going good. Feels great being out on the field again.

Petey:  I’ll bet it does, I can’t wait for the season to start, have they indicated where you will begin the season?

Bret:  Not yet should be breaking off into teams soon though, we got a lot of good arms down here and competition is really good.

Petey:  I know it must be really fierce competition with you guys that’s real cool! How are your pitches working for you? Any pleasant surprises? What are you working on most right now?

Bret:  Well I’ve been working hard on my mechanics shortened my stride to protect my groin I have been having problems with. But everything has been working good so I’m happy, plus I’m in great shape and feel healthy.

Petey:  That’s awesome Bret, I’m glad to hear everything is good. Keep working, and good luck getting the rotation spot you are hoping for, thanks for taking a few minutes too!

Next I caught up with corner-infielder Joe Bonfe, who also played some corner outfield for the Savannah Sand Gnats of the South Atlantic League last year, and we had this exchange:

Petey:  Hi Joe, how’s spring training going? Have they told you where you might be starting the season?

Joe:  Well I’ve been working in the AA group this spring thus far but I have no idea where I’ll be ending up.

Petey:  What positions have you been working at?

Joe:  I have been working mostly at 1st, and some at 3rd base.

Petey:  How you been hittin’ em?

Joe:  I’ve been hitting really well, a home run and some extra base hits, couple stolen bases.

Petey:  That sounds good Joe. Ready for the regular season?

Joe:  Feeling great all around and I’m looking forward to the season starting up.

Petey:  That’s terrific Joe! Keep on squaring ’em up, and you’ll do fine.

Alonzo Harris was the starting left-fielder for Savannah in 2011, where he hit .270 in 355 AB’s, with 11 2B’s, 4 3B’s, 4 HR’s, 28 RBI’s and 15 SB’s. He had a very positive post-season as well, chipping in a double, a triple, a home run, and six RBI’s in the playoffs. He was nice enough to chat with us about spring training for a few minutes:

Petey:  Hi Alonzo, how are things going for you at spring training?

Alonzo:  Things are going well.

Petey:  How have you been hittin’ em, and what are some of the things you’ve been working on this spring?

Alonzo:  I’ve been hitting well. Working on some bunting a lot, and my steal jumps.

Petey:  What positions are you working at this year?

Alonzo:  I really been focusing on my outfield and infield work.

Petey:  Have they indicated where you might begin the season?

Alonzo:  No they haven’t but I’m just working hard to be able to make a full-season club.

Petey:  Has anybody been really off-the-hook this spring with their performances so far?

Alonzo:  Everyone been on an equal play so far, but everybody is putting in work.

Petey:  Okay cool, have a great rest of ST and a terrific season! Thanks ‘Zo!

Then I spoke to one of Harris’ teammates last season, Hamilton Bennett, who closed games for Savannah in 2011. The left-hander had a marvelous season going 2-0 with a 1.83 ERA, 14 Saves, struck out over a batter-per-inning, league opponents hit a paltry .166 against him, and his WHIP stood at a miniscule 0.83.

Petey:  Hey Ham, how are things going for you at spring training?

Hamilton:  Things are going good. My arm is healthy and body feels great.

Petey:  Have they indicated where you might begin the season?

Hamilton:  To be honest I have no clue where I will end up this year, I don’t know if anybody truly does. We are all just sitting around waiting to find out.

Petey:  Has anybody been really off-the-hook this spring with their performances so far?

Hamilton:  Everybody has shown tremendous improvement from last year which is making everything extremely competitive. (Josh) Edgin of course, who for majority of spring training has been up with the big guys.

Petey:  Have any of your pitches shown significant improvement this year?

Hamilton:  With me all my pitches have improved. My fastball is showing good command down in the zone, my curveball is getting sharper, but my change up I would say has improved the most. I’m really working on it tremendously to make it a big pitch for me this year.

Petey:  Wow that’s awesome Ham, it sounds like you are primed for a very good season. Keep up the good work!

Hamilton:  Everything is going well down here, my friend, just a few more days till we get to start playing where it counts.

Petey:  Go get ’em Ham! I’ll talk to you soon.

Hamilton:  Looking forward to talking to you in the future.

You can tell these guys are really excited, as well as a little anxious, wondering where they are going to start the season. Baseball is in the air. The season-openers are drawing close. The competition is at it’s peak. Everything is at stake. Oh, how wonderful it all is at this time of year, when we all anxiously await the rebirth of a freshly minted baseball season!  And for the Mets farmhands who are cutting their teeth in the minor leagues, this is the time of ultimate promise. A time when the world is out there for the taking, if one plays his cards right. A time to test one’s limits and see how far he can fly. Oh, the glory of it all, to be young, and a Met!