Today we saw a great example of how veteran pitchers are able to take advantage of their guaranteed roster status. Starters on the mound for the Phillies (Roy Halladay) and the Twins (Jason Marquis) used their outings to work on pitches that they felt need work. Results were a lower priority.
In Halladay’s case, he has been struggling with his change-up, so he kept throwing them to try to improve his consistency. Getting batters out was not as important than getting work done on pitches. He is arguably the best pitcher in the majors, so no one is concerned about his effectiveness at this time of year.
For Marquis, in the first three outings he has worked exclusively on his sinker and change-up and getting a lot of ground balls. He is confident when he works in all four pitches, he will be more effective. The fact that he has been successful in inducing ground balls using just two pitches is encouraging to Twins fans who don’t have much experience with Marquis and might be concerned about whether or not he will be a good addition to the starting rotation.
Young pitchers trying to make the team do not have the luxury of working on pitches in games. They must make results – getting batters out – their top priority in their limited appearances and leave their work on mechanics, etc. for bullpen sessions.
There is nothing new about this. It has been this way for a long time. And it is reasonable for teams to expect their best pitchers to do what it takes to get ready for the season and not be too concerned about getting every batter out. Seasoned fans know this and do not panic when their favorite players appear not to be doing very well.
Young pitchers also know this and the best of them do not let the pressure get to them. They come to camp in shape, prepared to be successful. They make the most of their chances to pitch and don’t lose sight of the ultimate goal to make it to the majors leagues some time, if not this year.
For fans, spring games are an opportunity to see some of the future stars as they develop and demonstrate their skills. I find it almost more fun to see the younger pitchers because they are giving it their best effort on every pitch. One joy of spring games is the chance for fans to focus on how individual players are developing rather than only fixating on winning.