Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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I'm in Tucson today, where I took in my first ballgame of the year. The White Sox beat the A's, 12-8.
There were only 4,500 people at the game, so I was able to walk right up to the bullpen and watch the A's pitchers warm up. I stood and watched from about six feet behind the catcher, about 10 feet up above the pen. I tried to imagine myself trying to hit off of Haren. I'd probably be scared to death. Haren's pitches sizzled through the air and popped in the mitt.
Haren and Curt Young seemed to be having an entirely non-verbal discussion about his breaking pitches. Every time Haren threw one, he was shaking his head. Young was holding a baseball and demonstrating something (grip? release?), and Haren would nod. I could hear everything they said, but nothing was said at all. Haren seemed to know what he was doing wrong, but couldn't stop doing it, whatever it was.
And he kept not doing whatever it was in the game, as the White Sox bashed him around for seven runs in 5 2/3 innings.
In the middle innings, some guy got up that I did not recognize, and watching him warm up, he certainly suffered in comparison with Haren. His fastballs didn't sizzle, the mitt didn't pop. I thought that even I might be able to stand in the box against him without getting killed by a HBP.
When he came into the game, I found out who it was: Tim Harikkala. He promptly hit the first two batters he faced, Everett and Konerko. The batters seemed upset. Not upset that they were hit, but upset that they lost an AB. I guess they didn't feel afraid against him, either.
Jermaine Dye followed with a rocket double to drive in two. Dye looked great, going 3-for-4 and almost nailing Charles Thomas taking too big a turn around first base on a single. But then again, he looked good last spring training, too. Then the regular season started.
Later, I got my first look at Huston Street. Several articles have compared his delivery to Dennis Eckersley, but I didn't get that impression at all.
As Street was warming up in the A's pen, Shingo Takatsu was warming up in the White Sox pen. It struck me that Street had kind of a funky Japanese-style delivery, too. I tried to figure out what it was that was giving me that impression. I looked over at Takatsu, and Street's delivery didn't really look like Takatsu's all that much.
Then I realized whose delivery Street reminded me of: Shigetoshi Hasegawa. Similar arm angles, similar size, similar follow-through, similar landing position. I'll have to look at Hasegawa again to see if I'm remembering him right. But that's who Street reminds me of. And for more realistic expectations, Hasegawa is probably a better comp than Eckersley.
When Street came into the game, I went and stood at the back of the section right behind home plate to watch him work. I've heard that Street has impeccable control, but that wasn't evident today. His slider was too far off plate, nobody was chasing it. His fastballs were missing the black. He did strike out Carl Everett on a nice changeup, though.
The White Sox also stole two bases off him. Part of that may have been because Jeremy Brown was the catcher, but Street didn't seem to be doing much to prevent them from running. Given that Street has given up runs in his last several outings, I'm beginning to think that Street might be working on a few things in Sacramento for awhile before we see him in Oakland.
Ross Gload made a great play at first base in the ninth, snaring a screaming liner by Nick Swisher, and almost doubling off Bobby Kielty. Kielty barely made it back to the bag ahead of Gload. After watching some shoddy defense by Keith Ginter and Dan Johnson earlier in the game, it was nice to see a major-league quality play to help finish things off, even if it wasn't my team that made it.
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