Spring Training is a cool time of the year. Every March, youngsters who you've never heard of and will likely never see again play against seasoned Major League veterans to show everyone what they've got.
Today was Brock Hebert's time to shine.
Unless you're a minor league aficionado, you probably haven't heard his name much. Perhaps you're like me and didn't know how to pronounce it until today (AY-bear). But with the game tied 4-4 on a windy day in Peoria, Hebert took the spotlight.
That's a shot Hebert is going to remember for a long time. John Lannan is an established major league pitcher who was once the most reliable starter for the Nationals. Whether or not Hebert ever gets to play in a real major league game, nobody can take this moment away from him. He'll be able to tell his kids and grandkids that he hit a home run off a major league pitcher. That's pretty cool.
While Hebert's blast was the difference maker, it definitely wasn't the most impressive of the afternoon.
Robinson Cano cleared the batter's eye in center field on his fourth home run in two days. The guy is absolutely locked in right now. It's hard not to be excited to see what he can do when the season gets going in a week.
On the pitching side, Nathan Karns had a solid-but-unspectacular outing. The newly-crowned No. 5 starter threw six innings, allowing four runs (two earned) while striking out six and walking none. Karns pounded the zone all afternoon with 50 of his 63 pitches going for strikes. He especially utilized the bottom of the zone with his snapping curveball.
Karns' command today was a positive sign for him considering he has displayed control issues in the past. If Karns threw enough innings last year to qualify, he would have had the eighth-worst walk rate in the majors (3.43 BB/9). Today he threw 79% of his pitches for strikes. Overall this spring, he's had 64% of his pitches fall in the zone against 63% during the regular season in 2015. This was easily Karns' most encouraging outing of the spring. He's not going to blow anybody away with his stuff. But if he can stay inside the zone and eat up innings, it will go a long way.
Overall, the Mariners had an encouraging game. They drew five walks against seven strikeouts. Luis Sardinas did a decent fielding job at first base. The M's pitching staff combined for zero free passes. We've got just one week to go before the regular season begins. Soon we'll be able to analyze games for real. Until then, enjoy the fun of spring training where even a Single-A infielder can be a star.