Another day brings us more of the same:
Lowe: 1 IP, 3 H, 2 R
Aardsma: 1 IP, 2 K
On the spring, Aardsma's got 12 strikeouts and four walks in 11 innings, while Lowe comes in at two and four (with 21 hits) in 11.
Most of the time, I don't care very much about Spring Training numbers. The level of competition is all over the place, sample sizes are small, motivation is low, and many players are working on things that may sacrifice immediate success in an effort to improve long-term performance. Things like pitching to specific spots. For guys like, I dunno, Washburn or Beltre, whose jobs are secure, I couldn't give two hoots about their stats in March because they're likely just using the time to get warm and work out a few little kinks. Their numbers are meaningless.
But consider the closer competition. With a brand new coaching staff and a wide open battle, I can't imagine that the potential candidates have just been going through the motions. While I'm sure each has been working on a couple things, it's likely that they've all been trying to impress the new guys in charge in order to get greater consideration for the role, and it's with that in mind that I find Lowe's numbers alarming. Mark Lowe has presumably been trying pretty hard to succeed this month - I see no reason to believe otherwise - and he's sucked. Meanwhile, Aardsma's shined the brightest, missing bats and commanding the strike zone better than many anticipated. Lowe entered camp as the favorite to close, but if these last several weeks have been auditions, he's done nothing to earn the job.
This is not to say that Lowe is a bad pitcher, or that Aardsma is a great one. Lowe, I believe, has the most suitable closing stuff of anyone in the bullpen, with good velocity, a sharp slider, and a powerful changeup to use against lefties. But all the coaching staff has seen of him is what he's done in camp, and in camp he's been one of the worst pitchers on the roster. Barring a big turnaround on a few fronts over the last little while in Arizona, to hand Lowe the job would arguably be to concede that the role was never really open in the first place. And that doesn't seem like the kind of thing Wakamatsu would do. He's been pretty big on fostering competition ever since he got hired.
I dunno. I could be missing something. Maybe the numbers aren't indicative of the quality of stuff that Lowe and Aardsma (and others) have been throwing so far. Maybe the coaches don't care. But gun to my head, I'd say that this is a race that no longer has a clear favorite, because Mark Lowe has pitched himself out of the lead. And that's both good and bad, because on the one hand I like Aardsma and think he's done a lot to earn the job, but on the other I also want to see Lowe pitch up to his stuff. He may never have a better chance to get on the road to big money, and so far he's just thrown that opportunity away.
This is going to be awkward when Cordero gets better. I wonder if we'd get some kind of award for having four guys with ten saves.