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Yesterday's 5-3 loss to the Tigers wasn't terribly interesting -- Kelvim Escobar should have to run laps for giving up a home run to Shane Halter, and Aqualino Lopez got knocked around a bit, but it was truly rewarding to see Mike Moriarty back in action and scoring runs. Today it's Tanyon Sturtze against Randy Wolf -- and don't expect the Jays to light up the Phillies' up-and-coming ace this time around. But there's continued good news all the same.

Spencer Fordin's commentary highlighted two young pitchers about whom Blue Jays fans can start getting legitimately excited. Mark Hendrickson is still struggling with his release point, but he knows what's wrong and he's working on it. Tall pitchers unfold on the mound like a calliope, limbs poking out every which way, and it's devilishly hard for them to get their mechanics down pat. But even on a day when his release point wasn't good, Hendrickson shut down the Tigers (granted, it was the Tigers) over four innings. He's a work in progress, but progress is undeniably being made.

Even more encouraging is Corey Thurman, who continues to throw lights-out with a new slider and a consistent release point. Keep in mind that even as a AA Rule 5 pick stuck on the major-league roster all last season, Thurman nonetheless gave up fewer hits than innings pitched. With sharper command and a wider arsenal, he could be a revelation. The party line has always been that Thurman would pitch in AAA and gain more experience, and that remains the most appealing course, but Tosca hinted for the first time that Corey might head north with the Blue Jays. Just another example of JP's excellent eye for talent, and another example of why the Royals are such a backward organization. Corey Thurman is a player to watch.
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_Matthew Elmslie - Thursday, March 13 2003 @ 08:22 AM EST (#93696) #
I thought I read somewhere that Thurman was a Keith Law find.
Coach - Thursday, March 13 2003 @ 08:24 AM EST (#93697) #
Oops! Not expecting Jordan to be awake so early, I linked to Fordin's story in a post about Tosca, but I am always eager to talk about Hendrickson. The fact that Mark can battle while he's making adjustments is a great sign, and he's not far from finding a groove. More than the release point can be elusive, for a pitcher of any height. Arm angle affects the movement of pitches, and it's not easy to keep that 100% consistent, especially if you're trying to change old habits. Sometimes even big leaguers tip a pitch by dropping into a slightly lower slot.

One of my high school kids, a lefty with a heavy fastball, sails it occasionally into the backstop, and his breaking pitch doesn't always break. By accident, watching him throw wiffle balls into the floor, I discovered he grips the ball too tight. The gentler touch that lets him throw strikes from 30' indoors will help him at 60.5' with a real ball. Once I tried a SS on the mound, and his fastball was electric when he concentrated on keeping his landing foot slightly closed, but slower and straighter when he opened up his stride (as he did for years on those 6-3 throws). It was a habit he couldn't break; end of experiment. Pitching coaches earn their pay; I admit it's more fun coaching hitters, where positive results are easier to measure and maintain.

Thurman has been terrific. His eventual role (#4 starter?) doesn't absolutely require a full season in a AAA rotation, but that would be helpful. If he's used as a long reliever, he could get 100+ IP in the Show, which is another way to develop him. If he sticks, who gets bumped? Doug Linton was much better in his latest, but seems to be on the slippery slope. Justin Miller strained his shoulder lifting weights, and is well behind schedule -- is it possible he could start the season on the DL, then go to Syracuse for a rehab assignment? Lopez seems to be victimized by bad luck every time he pitches; another error and his own wild pitch yesterday. Perhaps a deal can be worked out with the Mariners to keep him in AAA, and Thurman would inherit that job.

Interesting "problems" compared to last year, when the decisions involved which overmatched, not-ready-for-prime-time arm to sacrifice into emergency service, and which of Carpenter, Parris and Prokopec was healthy enough to scratch his ear on a given day.
_Chuck Van Den C - Thursday, March 13 2003 @ 08:29 AM EST (#93698) #
Matthew: I thought I read somewhere that Thurman was a Keith Law find.

I recall reading this as well, but I can't remember where. Apparently Thurman was not someone anyone in the organization had scouted. Apparently he was a rule 5 pickup based on his minor league record and Law's recommendation.
Pepper Moffatt - Thursday, March 13 2003 @ 08:39 AM EST (#93699) #
Thurman was picked up on Keith's recommendation... or Keith has been lying to me. :)

Coach: I used to drive my pitching coaches nuts, so I sympathize. I used to hold the ball like I was trying to crush it and nobody ever picked up on it. Odd.

Speaking of coaching hitters. I've been going to the cage every other day and I've been simply horrid. I look like a combination of Mark Belanger on NyQuil and Bruce Hurst in the '86WS (anyone remember that?). What can I do to increase my bat speed?

Pistol - Thursday, March 13 2003 @ 09:24 AM EST (#93700) #
I've read JP credit Law with Thurman coming to the Jays. I found it interesting that no one had seen him before they took him.

Hinske was picked up from the Cubs by the A's sight unseen as well, and now I just read Depodesta picked all 3 Rule 5 picks without having seen any of them.


Neyer: I'll start with an easy question ... Aside from keeping everybody healthy, what is spring training about for you?

DePodesta: In a few specific cases, it's about evaluating players. We took three players in the Rule 5 draft -- pitchers Buddy Hernandez and Mike Neu, and outfielder Rontrez Johnson -- and this is really our only chance to see them, because we basically drafted them because of their numbers.
Coach - Thursday, March 13 2003 @ 09:45 AM EST (#93701) #
Mike, the writing won't win any prizes, but Jack Mankin's site is a good summary of the mechanics I teach. With hitters advanced enough to work on both methods, I steer them to the Lau/Hriniak principles for two-strike counts or when we need a baserunner more than a long ball, but the "rotation around a stationary axis" theory is exemplified by Bonds, and among RH, maybe Phelps is the heir to McGwire.

Earliest known mention of J.P. giving K.L. credit for Thurman came in a November Tom Verducci column on CNN/SI, which yours truly linked to in another BB thread about Law.
_R Billie - Thursday, March 13 2003 @ 11:20 AM EST (#93702) #
It's true...Thurman was drafted on Law's recommendation sight unseen. They just took into account his age, his size, his strikeouts over lots of innings pitched at the AA level and concluded this guy was a good risk. Quite simply, the KC Royals who will struggle to find competent innings this year (much like the Jays did last) were asleep at the switch yet again in leaving him unprotected. Of course they probably would have misused or rushed him anyway. They won't even have Jeff Suppan this year to soak up his annual 200+ innings, so after Affeldt and Hernandez, Thurman would have been young arm sacrifice of the day.

If he really does have a good third pitch in that slider then I wouldn't be surprised to see Thurman as a 5th starter on the team in the second half, or maybe sooner. Hendrickson, Arnold, Thurman, Miller, and maybe Chulk provide hope for building a young, cheap, competitive staff by the end of the year.

On another note, despite the fact that it's only spring I had to make the following comparison of spring numbers:

Halladay, 9 ip, 2 h, 0 er, 0 bb, 6 k
Sturtze, 5 ip, 2 h, 0 er, 0 bb, 5 k (pending today's start against the Phillies)

Apparently Sturtze has adopted a lower arm slot and has found better control. It did wonders for Halladay two years ago and so far so good for Sturtze. In 13 innings, Lidle and Sturtze have struck out 9 and walked 1. Whether or not they end up with winning records or stellar ERAs, that added control and poise in the 2nd and 3rd slots bodes well. Has Ricciardi plucked Lidle Part II from the Devil Rays?
robertdudek - Thursday, March 13 2003 @ 12:25 PM EST (#93703) #
Rany Jazayerli, of Rob and Rany fame, wrote a piece for Prospectus about how moronic it was for the Royals to leave Thurman off their 40 man roster in preparation for the 2001 Rule 5 Draft.

Here is Rany's assesment of Thurman:

"I think Thurman is as good as gone. What do teams look for in Rule 5 picks? One of two things: players with huge upsides, usually tools goofs in A ball or any pitcher capable of registering 95 on a radar gun, or players capable of contributing immediately in a minor role, like a quality fourth outfielder or a situational left-hander. Thurman is both: he is polished enough to make a contribution immediately, and having just turned 23 last month, he's young enough to grow into a much larger role. A package that enticing is a rare find in the Rule 5 Draft."
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