Theplay a Spring Training game against the today. That's not what's unusual. Two other things are unusual. First, the game starts at 7:05, rather than 12:05 or 1:05 like we've all gotten used to. And second, the game will be televised on ROOT Sports. For those of you who don't know, ROOT Sports is the same as FSN. It isn't a new channel; it's just the re-branding of an existing one, with the new name intended to convey one or more of a handful of possible messages:
(1) We root for sports!
(2) Our sports are embarrassing and we should bury our heads in the ground, like roots
(3) This is a fundamental and essential sports channel, without which all other sports channels would shrivel up and die
(4) (ROOT Sports) * (ROOT Sports) = Sports
Now, a Spring Training game being broadcast on television isn't automatically a Spring Training you'll want to bother to watch. But there's something special about this particular game - taking the hill for the Mariners will be Michael Pineda. Pineda isn't fully stretched out, but after throwing 49 pitches in his last start, he should get up to 60 or 70 or so tonight, and this should be a great opportunity to see what he brings with your own eyes. Watch him, and watch for these things!
Batter reactions to fastball. We've talked about this before. Not only does Pineda throw in the mid- to high-90s; he's so tall, and he releases the ball so close to the plate, that his perceived velocity is even higher. Are hitters taking good cuts? Do they look comfortable, or does it look like they're on the defensive? Pineda's fastball could and should be an excellent weapon but we'll want to know how it looks to big league-quality bats.
Consistency of location. Make note of the position of the catcher's glove as Pineda's in his wind-up, and then make note of where the ball gets caught. Keep an eye on Gameday for confirmation, as we'll have PITCHfx data available. Pineda really struggled with his command the last time out. Is he hitting his spots? Is he hitting his spots with all of his pitches, or only one or two of them?
Tempo and consistency of mechanics. Another thing we saw from Pineda last time was that he had to slow things down and work more deliberately when he grew frustrated, because he was rushing through his delivery. Watch to see how quickly he's working, and in particular watch to see how he works if and when he runs into trouble. Does he get his delivery back on track quickly if it goes off? Does he stay composed? Learning to respond to the occasional hiccup will be crucial to Pineda's development.
Approach against lefties. How much confidence does Pineda have in his changeup? How good does his changeup look? The Brewers aren't loaded with left-handed bats but we may at least see Pineda face Prince Fielder and Mat Gamel. Does he nibble? Does he throw aggressively? Does he lean heavily on his fastball? Lefties stand to be Pineda's greatest challenge so it'll be important to see where he is, and where he could stand to improve.
So there's your handy, somewhat generic Michael Pineda viewing guide. You'll probably lose interest rather quickly once he comes out of the game, but fight the urge to turn off the TV immediately, because Tom Wilhelmsen is also scheduled to pitch in relief, and that could be a lot of fun. Beyond Wilhelmsen though, yeah, I wouldn't blame you if you wanted to read a book. Books can take us to far-away worlds without ever leaving the comfort of the sofa.