Monday, January 26, 2009

High Stakes Spring Training For Morrow and Gomes

Rohert Park's Brandon Morrow no doubt sighed a breath of relief today when the Mariners traded Aaron Heilman to the Cubs.  Until he learned they picked up the impressive LHP Garrett Olson in return. Competition for Seattle's rotation is a bit crowed with 7 hurlers competing for 5 spots.  Felix Hernandez, Erik Bedard, Ryan Rowland-Smith, Carlos Sliva and Jarrod Washburn join Morrow and Olson in seeking a starting role.  Four are lefties. RHP Heilman, recently acquired when the Mariners dealt JJ Putz to the Mets, made it clear he also wanted a shot at the rotation but many thought he'd end up the team's new closer.  Morrow earned his shot at a starting spot, but will need a stellar spring given that he's also proven himself as an effective closer. 

There's been a lot of chatter out of Cincinnati since Jonny Gomes was offered a minor league contract by the Reds.  I would sum up the press and blogs this way.  Reds fans seem frustrated that the team has proclaimed its shopping done without picking up a proven right handed bat to patrol left field for the 2009 season.  They seem resigned to a platoon situation, view Gomes as a steal with the minor league contract, and hope that one of the players vying for the spot will have a break out or come back season. Said one commenter in a Reds internet forum, "Nix, Gomes and Dickerson. What's the MLB strikeout record for an outfield?  And we thought Dunn didn't make a lot of contact. What happened to the new 'more contact, fewer strikeouts' Reds?"  Gotta make some believers out of those pessimistic fans.

GM Walt Jocketty and Manager Dusty Baker have each given Jonny props during the last week and  sound positive about his chance of making the team.   The Skipper is trying to motivate Hairston, Gomes' likely competition, as well.  Jonny's certainly been here before.  The Powers That Be in Tampa Bay never would quite commit to Jonny being their Opening Day right fielder the last few years.  Spring Training and the first few months of the season became a glorifed try-out.  Reds fans might or might not know that he takes a while to get going in Spring Training most years.  Dusty's not known as the patient type so let's hope he reads the whole scouting report.  The starting job and/or preferred platooners could come down to the player that is the lesser of the evils defensively.  One thing that will be different for Jonny this year is that the fans' expecations really couldn't be much lower.  He could emerge a hero if things go well.

Check out BigLeagueStew's create-a-caption contest today.  Hilarious.

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