TAMPA, FL - Live batting practice sessions continued on Sunday and it was Andrew Brackman, who pitched a short simulated game, that turned many heads.
Andrew Brackman pitched a two-inning simulated game during live batting practice sessions on Sunday. While his stuff was superb, it was his smoother mechanics, more repeatable delivery, and improved command that made many sit up and take notice. He was brilliant in his first inning. Scheduled to throw 20 pitches per frame, he struck out the first three batters he faced before inducing a flyout and when he missed the zone, he didn't miss by much. He was a little more wild in his second inning, allowing just one walk but getting to full counts against all three batters he faced. Overall his mechanics looked great and he was consistently down in the zone with his pitches.
Manny Banuelos also looked sharp during his session on Sunday. His stuff was just a grade below his normal level [the curveball wasn't breaking as much as normal and the changeup didn't get the same fade it usually gets], but opposing batters still couldn't get good swings on his pitches. Only Brian Baisley hit one out of the infield, a liner to right field. His stuff wasn't quite there, but his command was stellar.
Like Brackman, Lance Pendleton was incredibly impressive in the first-half of his live batting practice session. He was showing great command of his pitches against the first few batters he faced. He was blowing fastballs by hitters and they couldn't come close to touching his curveball. He seemed to tire a bit, however, and his command became spotty against the last few batters. Overall it was a good session.
Matt Richardson, who seems to have grown an inch or two over the offseason, has also reported to camp with much smoother mechanics. He continued to show a very good curveball, but like most pitchers in their first live batting practice session, his command was inconsistent. The improved mechanics are a good sign, however.
On the subject of good curveballs, Brad Rulon was showing his off on Sunday. He was throwing some real hammers inside the strike zone and when he kept his fastball down in the zone [he did leave it up a few times] he was pretty unhittable.
Nik Turley, who looks bigger and stronger this Spring, was up in the zone a lot on Sunday. But like Rulon, when he was down in the zone he was handcuffing batters. He was showing a combination of fastball-curveball-changeup, but the command was sketchy.
Brandon Braboy and Kelvin Perez both had really good live batting practice sessions, each overpowering batters with their plus fastballs. Perez continued to baffle hitters with his effortless delivery and power fastball, and he snapped off some really good looking curveballs. Braboy didn't throw too many secondary pitches at all. He just simply threw fastballs by hitters. Both pitchers continue to look like potential reliever sleepers.
Ryan Zink, Noel Castillo, and David Phelps each threw live BP's as well and all three struggled somewhat with inconsistent command. Zink looked the best of the three, however, showing good zip on his fastball and nice bite with his slider.
A bulked up Jose Mojica continues to look good in the cages. He has gotten a lot stronger in the upper-body this past offseason and team officials have been very impressed with the improved power in his swing.
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