Performance issues in Spring Training are easy to write-off as no big deal*. Joba didn’t record an out against Team Canada? No sweat. It was only March fifth. That’s something for Future Joe to get worked up over. But what if Joba struggled against the Reds last night? Given my track record — I said not to get worked up over Hughes’s poor spring last year — I’d have continued not sweating, but there definitely would have been cause for concern. That’s not the case thankfully, as Joba tossed an efficient three innings.
He was so efficient, in fact, that in three innings he couldn’t get to his target pitch count. He needed just 29 to down the Reds, striking out three in the process. Stuff-wise Joba looked fine. He eased into his fastball, hitting low 90s in the first inning before ratcheting it up a few mph in the next two. His slider didn’t seem to have a ton of bite, but he got a couple of strikeouts with it, including a knee-buckling called strike three. It wasn’t Joba vs. Beckett good, but Joba’s performance quelled the murmur of concern surround him.
Phil Coke looked solid in his two innings of work, striking out three allowing three hits, and picking Brandon Phillips off first. He was hitting low 90s, a couple 93s on the gun, which is impressive to say the least. Igawa followed that up with two scoreless, two-strikeout frames. Chris Garcia struck out two and walked one in an inning, and Anthony Claggett finished things off with two strikeouts in a scoreless ninth.
On the offensive side of the ball, sure-to-be-optioned Juan Miranda crushed a homer to right center in the fourth, and Shelley Duncan hit his second of the spring in the seventh. Brett Gardner helped his case with two hits, though he did get caught trying to take second and he misplayed a liner right at him (tough sledding). Hideki scored from second on a single, Ramiro Pena picked up a double, and Jesus Montero went 1 for 1. It was a good day for both the offense and the pitching.
Plenty of folks watched Team Netherlands upset Team Dominican Republic last night, which means Robinson Cano should be back in camp in the next couple of days. Kevin Russo, please claim your spot in minor league camp. There’s little chance Cano will be around for tomorrow afternoon’s game against Detroit, but he could be back in the lineup Friday against Boston.
It was tough not to enjoy the game last night. If camp broke today, you’d have to believe Gardner and Coke would be heading north with the team. They’re really impressing this Spring. Now they’ll have to keep doing it for the next three weeks.
* That’s what she said!