Time to focus back in on the majors with WBC all done

Updated: March 24, 2009

Ron Vesely/Getty Images

Chris Getz already earned a job, but other prospects will be sweating out the next two weeks of spring.

BACK TO THE MAJORS

There are just about two weeks left in spring training. Right now the goal for teams that had players at the WBC is to integrate those guys back into the team and get them ready for a long season. That's especially necessary for double-play combinations like Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley in Philadelphia. These are guys that just need to get their timing down.

The final two weeks are generally most important for the guys who've had bad spring trainings so far. Most players can get themselves ready for the season in four weeks. Some veterans will even tell you that three weeks is all they need. The reason spring training is so long is because it's a free advertisement for Major League Baseball; it gets in the news every day. Also, for guys rehabbing from injuries or surgery it can take longer to get back in playing shape. The extra time can also give you a chance to restart the process if you have a nagging injury early in spring training.

The healthy players use this time just to make final adjustments and maintain their focus, the injured players use it to get healthy and the struggling players have a last chance to impress. Teams are making the final decisions about their rosters, partly because they've had time to evaluate but also because at this point, the players with a realistic chance at making the team are playing more often and for longer stretches in games. The games are generally more competitive this time of the year, too.

For instance, if a team is trying to make a call on a veteran pitcher who they are not sure still has it, they'll have a better indication in the last two weeks, because that pitcher will be facing five major league hitters in a row now. In early March, he was facing four career minor leaguers and one major leaguer who didn't have his swing yet.

Also, since there are fewer and fewer days left, young players can't help but start to think they have a real chance to make the big league team. In turn, the pressure rises, and you can see how they perform in those types of situations. It gives you a better read on their mental and emotional makeup. It's different than the first three weeks, when they are just happy to be there. Suddenly they look around and their Triple-A teammates have been sent down.

So yes, for the players, it's a final chance to make an impression. You can sway the team's front office into keeping you with the club. Now, if you have a meltdown, you can also doom your chances. After every game, teams are going to meetings and poring over their rosters and making tough decisions. If you are trying to prove yourself, it is make or break time.

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: March 23 | March 22 | March 19 | March 18 | March 17

BEST OF THE BLOGS

Each day, ESPN.com's contributors offer a wide array of thoughts and analysis in their blogs. Keith Law takes a look at can't-miss prospect Stephen Strasburg:

What you have heard on Stephen Strasburg is true. He is bar none the best college pitching prospect in at least 10 years, and there's nobody close to him -- college or high school, pitcher or position player -- in this draft.

The stuff is legit. The San Diego State right-hander hit 99 twice on my gun Friday, sat 97-99 through the third inning against Brigham Young and was still touching 98 in the seventh while never dropping below 94. His fastball has hard riding life to his glove side. His slider was a wipeout pitch, 81-84 mph with tilt and depth and a high degree of toxicity to opposing hitters.

He showed above-average command and was helped by BYU hitters who were playing defense the entire game; he didn't have great location on his fastball but rarely missed inside the zone. He never showed a changeup but didn't need one, as he fanned 15 men in seven innings, and has now struck out 60.6 percent of the batters he has faced this season.

Physically, Strasburg is in the best shape of his life, and that's not just spring training talk. He has a wiry-strong build with barely any fat on him, which is a major improvement over where he was in high school, when excess weight was a major reason he was bypassed entirely in the 2006 Rule 4 Draft. (He wasn't throwing 97-99 then, either.)

He takes an enormous stride toward the plate and generates absurd arm speed as his arm catches up to the rest of his body (that is, his arm is slightly "late" relative to his front side), which is a double-edged sword since it gives him great velocity but the lag puts some extra stress on his shoulder. He has no problems repeating his delivery, which is a good sign for future command.

For the rest of this entry from Keith Law's blog, click here.


Rob Neyer isn't so sure about the math when it comes to the financing for the Marlins' new stadium:

Looks like the Marlins are finally getting their new ballpark, and here's how the story is generally being spun:

"The Marlins are kicking in $155 million! And most of the public money will come from taxing tourists, so really it's the out-of-towners who will pay most of the tab! Yippee!"

You know better, right? If not, we've always got Neil deMause:

    • The county will now put in a whopping $359 million for stadium construction and roads and utilities, mostly from tourist taxes. While the Marlins argued that tourist-tax money legally can't be used for anything other than tourism projects, the way the county got these funds for the stadium in the first place was by funneling off new tax money to pay for what the tourist taxes had been previously pledged to -- meaning the cost will ultimately come out of the county's general fund.

    • The city puts up $119 million, mostly to build parking garages for the team.

    • The Marlins kick in $155 [million] in private funds, a good chunk of which will likely come from the sale of naming rights, assuming there are still any corporations left to buy naming rights in the future.

    For the rest of this entry from Rob Neyer's blog, click here.


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BBTN ON THE AIR: WEDNESDAY

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BBTN MINUTE: CHECKING IN ON THE AL EAST

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TUESDAY'S BEST AND WORST

BEST
Cole Hamels• Deep breaths all around in Philadelphia: Cole Hamels returned to the mound, and he felt good. The Phillies' ace, who had missed the past week because of elbow tightness, tossed 3 2/3 scoreless innings in a minor league game. If all goes well, Hamels will pitch again Sunday, this time against the Red Sox.
WORST
Cha Seung Baek• OK, it's only spring, but still, pitching lines like this are never good. Cha Seung Baek gave up nine runs, nine hits and two homers over 4 2/3 innings for the Padres on Tuesday in a 10-5 loss against the Angels. The bad news is it's the second consecutive outing in which he's been knocked around.

SIMON SAYS

Simon Says ESPN researcher Mark Simon digs deep, looking for the night's best baseball numbers.

Tonight a look at the Yankees and Red Sox seemed appropriate since the two teams got together earlier Tuesday for some spring training action.

Red Sox-Yankees (Reg. season, since 2004)
Red Sox Yankees
Wins 45 48
BA .284 .263
Runs per game 5.7 5.3
HR 116 112
SB 55 70

HOLLIDAY READY FOR NEW START

NUMBERS TO KNOW

Injuries have slowed Ken Griffey Jr. the past few years. Have the injuries also put the skids on his bat as well? The prevailing thought is that Griffey can't catch up to the fastball, and when a hitter can't touch the heat, he starts guessing. As Griffey goes looking for fastballs, pitchers have countered with off-speed stuff:

Ken Griffey Jr.
2007 2008
1st-pitch chase pct. 6.6 9.5
Slider swing-miss pct. 23.8 35.4
Changeup swing-miss pct. 10.0 19.4
SLG vs. fastball .545 .455

As Griffey has zoned in on fastballs, pitchers have adjusted. Griffey's chase percentage increased from 17.5 percent in 2007 to 20.4 percent last season.

-- ESPN Stats and Information

FANTASY BASEBALL

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ESPN INSIDER

Insider Spring injuries make you nervous? BP Daily takes a look at which ones should concern you heading into the season. BP Daily

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