Day 5: Robbie Erlin is the next Randy Wolf
— A reminder that I try to update the blog by 2 p.m. PT each day with a recap of the day in camp. Thanks, Corey.
PEORIA, Ariz. –Hey friends, welcome back. We’ve just completed Day 5 of Spring Training here in Peoria and the fourth workout for pitchers and catchers. The pitchers have all thrown off the bullpen mound twice now — starters and relievers. They’ve now added their secondary pitches to the mix in addition to throwing fastballs. They’re stretching themselves out, throwing beyond 10, 12 minutes.
While it might appear a little mundane watching these guys, there’s some real value in it — beyond the front office. There’s value here for reporters and even fans who get to press their noses up against the fence during workouts. Here’s why:
On more than one occasion this week, I’ve witnessed a pitcher get worked up and frustrated over not being able to hit a particular spot or throw a particular pitch with the command they want. Example: Not being able to get over top in your delivery to throw a tight curveball or having trouble getting comfortable throwing from the stretch.
I saw new relief pitcher Huston Street get mildly upset the other day about not being able to hit his spots. No matter how early in camp it is, these pitchers always want to be able to execute their pitches — always! This is what they do. Telling them on Feb. 23 that they shouldn’t worry about missing their spots might get you a dirty look.
So while this might all just look like guys throwing off the mound, it’s more than that.
Before I forget, here’s some video I shot of Joe Wieland throwing today.
Anyway, let’s look at a few things that happened on Thursday:
— I’ve spent most of my time in camp watching the new pitchers work. I’m already familiar with guys like Tim Stauffer, Clayton Richard and Cory Luebke. I want to see what the new guys have. I’ve watched Robbie Erlin twice now and have been very impressed with his streamlined his delivery is and how throwing looks to effortless. It got me thinking about what his Major League (past or present) comp might be. What I’ve heard before and what I’ve seen with my own two eyes? Randy Wolf. Here’s what I have to go on:
Both are left handed. Both throw a lot of strikes. Both don’t rely on plus velocity. Both aren’t tall (Erlin is listed at 5-foot-11, Wolf at 6-foot, though I’m pretty sure he’s not 6-foot). Both have an uncomplicated delivery. It appears Erlin is a guy who could be an innings-eater like Wolf has always been. Since we don’t have a big body of work on Erlin yet, this is where my comps end. But tuck this stat away on Erlin: Last season, 147 1/3 innings, 16 walks. That’s crazy-good strike-throwing. Do you like the Wolf comp? FYI, Wolf has made over $59 million in his career.
— Manager Bud Black was asked about two newcomers from the Reds, catcher Yasmani Grandal and first baseman Yonder Alonso. We have a good idea that Alonso will make the team out of Spring Training. Grandal still needs some Minor League seasoning. Black had this to say about Alonso: “We’ve heard he thrives on the RBI.” That’s a pretty powerful statement, one that could bode well for the Padres if it turns out that way. The Padres aren’t necessarily leaning on him to drive in, say, 70 runs, but he’s going to get some chances to knock in runs for this team no matter where he hits in the order.
— As for Grandal, Black thinks he’s still got some work to do on the defensive end. That’s not uncommon for young catchers. The one thing that Grandal will benefit from out here, Black said, is some of the instructors he has to work with — Brad Ausmus, Terry Kennedy and John Gibbons. That’s a pretty good group to learn from here. There are also catchers in camp Grandal can learn from, like Nick Hundley and John Baker. I’ll be curious to see what kind of year he has defensively. There’s good reports on his bat (switch-hitter) but let’s see how he can handle a staff, call a game and, essentially captain a team like a good catcher does.
–Let’s talk prospects! Yay for prospects! The Padres love their prospects like they love their draft picks. Can’t get enough of them. Can’t talk about them enough. We’ve talked on his blog about the many prospects lists that are out there. Anyway, starting Saturday, the Padres will have their third minicamp, which is an accelerated development program for players entering their first or second full season or players who might be jumping a level in the organization. Some good names on the list and you can read my story later at Padres.com.
–Had a nice talk with pitcher Jorge Reyes, who is in his first big league camp. Reyes was part of that San Antonio team that claimed the Texas League title a year ago with 100 wins (postseason included). He’s a Washingtonian like myself. He spent the winter coaching basketball for his former high school. That story will be up on Padres.com soon as well.
That’s it for now. Friday comes early and we’ll have all the position players here in advance of Saturday’s first workout. There’s a buzz in the clubhouse as more and more guys show up. Should make for an interesting day.
Corey Brock, MLB.com