I had the pleasure of taking in a few Grapefruit League games late last week, including two Phillies contests at wonderful Bright House Field. (Well, one and a third: we got soaked at Saturday's rained-out contest against the Tigers.) There are pictures, but technical issues--specifically, the fact that I can't find the cord that attaches the digital camera to the computer--render these unavailable for now. A few thoughts:
- Reports of Kyle Kendrick's demise have been exaggerated. Albeit against a Pirates lineup lacking Jason Bay, Adam LaRoche, and Freddy Sanchez, the rookie revelation of 2007 looked damn good through five innings of Thursday's 3-0 win. Kendrick got ahead of almost every hitter and recorded 11 of his 15 outs on the ground, the two keys to his success last season. I'd still be surprised if he posts an ERA below 4.50, but I'm no longer quite so worried that he'll be anchoring the Lehigh Valley staff by Independence Day.
- The Durbins might be better than you think. My single biggest surprise of the trip was watching Chad Durbin go nine-up, nine-down Saturday against a Detroit lineup that included Granderson, Polanco, Ordonez, Guillen and Pudge Rodriguez, with two strikeouts and only a couple hard-hit balls. As a middle reliever, he might be fine. Surprise #2 was watching J.D. Durbin absolutely dominate the Pirates for two shutout innings on Thursday, with three strikeouts. His stuff is easily MLB-caliber; the question is whether he'll ever be able to master it. The hunch here is that some other team will get to find out; the Phillies, in win-now mode, can't really afford to wait on Durbin's command.
- Ryan Howard is good to go. Not that you need much more than a look at the numbers--or various Sportscenter highlights throughout March--to tell you this, but the big guy really looks primed for a huge year. He took Ian Snell out of the yard on Thursday with a laser shot to left-center, and Pirates pitching wanted little to do with him for the rest of the afternoon. This should be fun.
- John Maine could be the best #3 starter in the NL. With a Mets-fan friend on the trip, we spent Wednesday evening watching the 2007 NL East runners-up host the Indians in Port St. Lucie. Maine, the Mets' de facto ace for much of last season, continued an impressive spring (2.33 ERA) by striking out seven Cleveland hitters over 5 1/3 innings as New York took a 3-1 victory.