With Campillo being sent to AAA yesterday, an apparent injury to Atchinson today, Bucky finally getting clearance to pick-up a bat, Sele seemingly gripping tight to a rotation spot and the weird infatuation with Dobbs, the murkiness surrounding the M's Opening Day roster is beginning to clear. While it still is a bit early, I believe the majority of the decisions have been made on who will be traveling north with the big club in April. My educated guess:
The Fantastic Four
Greg Dobbs - Mr. Fantastic
Willie Bloomquist - The Invisible Woman
Dan Wilson - The Thing
Scott Spiezio - The Human Torch
Ryan Franklin/Joel Pineiro (whose status for Opening day is still unknown)
Jeff Nelson/Julio Mateo
The final bullpen spot is probably between Nelson and Mateo. I do not see the club attempting to try and pass Thornton through waivers, so I expect them to keep him on the roster, unless they are able to find a trade to their liking. The final spot hinges heavily on the health of Pineiro. If Joel is healthy and able to open the season on the roster, one of two options will likely take place with Franklin moving to the pen. One would have Sherrill being optioned to Tacoma. The other would be releasing Nelson and demoting Mateo. If I had the choice I'd keep Sherrill and send Nelson and Mateo on their way. I still think the club is going to need another body on the bench and hopefully Bucky can get into game shape as soon as possible.
We have been touting the importance of not reading too much into spring training stats since early February. Players use this time to refine, tune-up and show off their skills and putting any form of significant value on this extremely small sample size is a monumental mistake. There are rare instances when a player or two in a camp illustrates either a tremendous improvement or decline. This year, one of the biggest improvements is probably the play of Jose Lopez. Destined for AAA, he has out hit Pokey and has shown improvement in the field. Despite his steps in the right direction, Lopez will more than likely be sent to Tacoma in the next week or so where he will begin his work on becoming the heir apparent to Bret Boone (possibly as soon as July).
On the flip side of the coin, there is one player in camp that has appeared to have taken some steps backward. Ron Villone has had an awful spring. While he has only walked one batter, he has drilled two and given up 12 hits in just 4 innings of work. Complicating matters is the fact he hasn't taken the mound since March 15th. I hate to say I told you so, but there is no reason that the M's should have given him a two year deal, let alone bring him back (especially with the emergence of George Sherrill last season). They seemed to forget that they found Villone in the same pile last year that they found Sele, Nelson, Bland and Reichert this year. Update: As if on cue, Villone went pitched 2 2/3 IP of no hit ball this afternoon. It's an encouraging sign and hopefully he has made the necessary adjustments as the team will need him to be effective this season. I still don't like the contract.
As an off-topic rant, I wanted to talk about Jeff Cirillo. Despite the fact that Cirillo absolutely sucked upon his arrival in Seattle, I rarely spoke ill of him. He was brought in as the missing piece of the puzzle and took a lot of flak for his ineptitude at the plate, which in my opinion wasn't entirely his fault. His skill set had begun to deteriorate when he was a member of the Rockies and Coors Field helped to hide his decline. Gillick should have recognized this decline and never made the move.
So why am I bringing him up now? Well, our good friend hit a game winning home run off Nate Bland last night. And how did the Jeff act? Like a child. His nice slow trot around the bases was as if he was attempting to pour salt into a wound that was exposed when the M's traded him. Apparently, no one informed Cirillo that there never was a wound. There was a sharp pain right after the trade once it was discovered that the only players the M's could acquire for Cirillo were garbage and that management had to write a check for $4+ million as well. I liken it to removing a bandage from a wound after a couple of days. The ensuing pain hurts like hell, but then you notice that the wound is gone and in it's place is Adrian Beltre.
According to Cirillo, the shot just happened with little effort on his part.
Kudos Jeff, you hit a homerun off a non-roster invitee. I can understand the intense thrill that must have been running through his body at the time. It came against a former team that let him go because Bloomquist could hit the ball harder and had a salary that was 23 times less than Cirillo. It was also his second home run against the M's in a year! Although, the shot he hit last year in front of a packed stadium of Mariner faithful was much less significant. This meaningful spring training four bagger will remain in the memories of fans for much longer.