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Thursday, March 10, 2005

Iguchi throws to first after his patented pop-up slide pickJust got finished watching the replay of the Sox spring training game vs. the Rangers in Surprise, AZ(I like that name. It would be fun to answer the question "Where are you from?" and reply with simply "Surprise." The looks that people would give you after that answer would be priceless.)

Do I need to tell you again how great it is to be able to watch the new guys and unfamiliar faces 20-plus times before the season even starts? No? Well I just did, and it's probably not the last time I'm going to rave about it.

I came away very impressed with two players, Tadahito Iguchi and Brandon McCarthy.

McCarthy first:
Brandon pitched 4 solid innings against almost a real major league line-up. -- A major league line-up that put up an impressive 860 runs scored last season thanks to All-stars like Micheal Young, Alfonso Soriano, and Hank Blalock. -- McCarthy gave up a double to Blalock in the first for his only base runner allowed during the game.

It wasn't just his performance on the field that made an impression on me. After he was done pitching, he did an in-game interview with Hawk and DJ where he said all the right things. (There are oodles of McCarthy quotes at the link included above, so go check it out.)
"You have to realize you have to be patient," McCarthy said. "These guys have paid their dues in front of me. Obviously, the guys there have a lot of time here. So it is kind of selfish of me to think I can go there right now. But when called up, I think I'll be extremely excited to take that opportunity."

McCarthy's stuff was not overpowering by any means, but that is what I've read in all of the scouting reports. Despite leading all of the minor leagues in strikeouts last season, he really isn't a strikeout pitcher. He relies on control, location, and changing speeds. And that's exactly what he did on Thursday afternoon under the clear Arizona sky, striking out just two in his 4 innings of work.

It appears as if right now McCarthy is penciled in as the #6 starter. In the article above they make it very clear that he's very close to major league ready, and would likely be the first option should one of the starting five falter.

Tadahito at Second: The one thing that I was not worried about when Kenny Williams decided to tap into the Asian market once again to fill the Sox second base position was Iguchi's stick. I'm fairly confident that he's going to be able to produce at league average for second basemen.(.260/.319/.401) But before today's game, I was much less confident in his defensive abilities at second.

Given little Matsui's fielding difficulties, specifically moving to his right and backhanding a ball, I was expecting some of the same from Iguchi. I had heard/read somewhere that the japanese were taught to round off the ball, because backhanding it is considered disrespectful. (It's entirely possible that I just made this up on my own. I'm known to do that during one of my frequent sugar-induced psychotic episodes.)

My fears were eased in the top of the 4th inning. With Mark Teixeira at the plate, McCarthy induced a groundball up the middle to the right of second base. Iguchi broke to his right, moving relatively slow compared to most second basemen. It appeared like he wouldn't be able to make the play as he was running with an upright gait instead of the hunched-over-so-they-can-backhand-and-throw-to-first-quickly style most players use, but just as the the ball reached the dirt Iguchi broke into a slide. -- It was a pop-up slide like you would see from a base runner who had just stolen second easily. -- He slid, fielded the ball cleanly, and fired and accurate shot over to first (Throw pictured above) all in one motion for the last out of the inning. Hawk made it sound like this a patented move that Iguchi perfected over in Japan. I don't know if that true, or this was just a one time thing, but I sure feel a lot better about Iguchi's defense after seeing just that one play.

deep towards second
slide, grab, throw in one motion
His name? Iguchi