Nico's Spring Training Eyeball Report, Part II

"...because I couldn't handle the throw!"

Part I is here, or as the French would say, ici.

Just a few additional observations from Sunday and today as I sit in Sky Harbor Airport awaiting my flight back home. Be advised and warned that this is small sample theatre at its best...

I had a chance to see Billy Burns bat right-handed today, and if you read my recent interview Burns feels a lot more comfortable batting from the right side. In fact that might be the understatement of the year, right after "Bengie Molina is a bit slow on the bases," as even I was surprised at how openly deprecating he was about his left-handed swing.

Watching Burns bat right-handed, the difference is indeed noticeable. Where from the left side Burns -- as he himself notes -- fouls off pitches he could hit and has a "reach and slap" approach, from the right side his swing is more fluid and as a result produces more authoritative contact. His first at bat he laced a single to LF, the result of a good swing producing a legitimate solid knock. He looks to me like someone who will, at least for now, get on base from the left side mostly by spoiling off pitches and eventually walking, beating out 4-hoppers on the infield, slapping, slashing and occasionally lining a base hit.

From the right side, though, I could see Burns getting his fair share of "legitimate hits" that are lined past the infield, through the infield, and even into the gap. Don't expect too much from the left side in the immediate future, and also don't be too quick to write off his ability to keep defenses a bit honest, and not overly rely on infield hits, from the right side.

Brandon Moss and Alberto Callaspo have something in common: You do not want to bounce a throw to them at 1B. Moss struggled throughout the weekend and while Friday night's troubles could be attributed to bad lighting that affected others as well, overall he just didn't give you the feeling it was any better than a crapshoot as to whether he could scoop a low throw to save an error.

As for Callaspo? Wow. It's not his fault, as he is trying to learn a new position quickly, but not only did he fail to scoop any of the short-hop throws he looked terribly awkward in his attempts. I would absolutely, unequivocally, not be on board with him starting at 1B in a big league game right now. The major leagues are not a training ground, deficiencies are quickly exposed, and the ball will find you where your skills are weak. And the A's have Jed Lowrie at SS. Callaspo is, in my opinion, a ways from ready to play 1B at the big league level and it isn't fair to him or to the team to ask him to do so right now. I hope the A's brass saw what I saw -- and I imagine they did -- and don't throw Callaspo to the wolves at his expense and the expense of the other infielders. Or else I hope he's a really quick learner.

Speaking of which, Jed Lowrie sure bounced an awful lot of throws to 1B. Man can the guy hit, though.

Sean Murphy, who is not Murphy Smith, was intriguing. The first inning today, I was not impressed as he hung a couple changeups, one of which Prince Fielder hit to the RF wall, and didn't show me anything to get excited about. Then he settled into a groove that included some killer swing-and-miss changeups, what looked like a slider, cutter, and curve, a solid sinker and a range of velocity and looks.

Now Murphy may not, in fact, have a repertoire that includes a 4-seam fastball, a 2-seam fastball, a cutter, a slider, a curve, and a changeup. However, if he does that's impressive because at times he commanded them all, and if he doesn't then at the very least he is able to give the look of having that variety and really all that matters is what it looks like to the hitter. (Or to some blogger who is sitting behind home plate pretending to know what the heck he's talking about.)

That's all for now, but come Thursday you can eyeball it for yourself because the A's are heading back to the Bay Area, and onto local TV, in just 72 hours!

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