VIERA, Fla. - Tanner Roark has been quietly going about his business so far this spring, but very little about pitching coach Steve McCatty is quiet.
So when Roark was wrapping up his bullpen session this morning, McCatty turned to minor league pitching coordinator Spin Williams and took a playful shot at Roark, well within earshot of the right-hander.
As most of you surely know, Roark’s name is pronounced “Ro-ark,” but when he first came up to the big leagues last season, many people mistakenly pronounced his name as if it rhymed with “fork.” For a while, Roark opted not to correct anyone, but eventually he made the proper pronunciation known.
That sets the stage for today’s jab by McCatty, who was discussing the change in pronunciation with Williams.
“Spin, he didn’t do that until after he won five games!” McCatty said, incredulously. “Then he changed it to ‘Ro-ark.’ “
Made me chuckle, that’s for sure. A few seconds later, after he had finished his final tosses, Roark turned to Williams.
“I have no idea what he’s talking about,” Roark said, clearly confused by McCatty’s ramblings.
I mentioned the other day that manager Matt Williams has opted to have his pitchers rotate through the infield positions on bunt drills, taking their turns playing all of the spots. Today, I popped over to that field as Christian Garcia was playing third base and Luis Ayala was playing shortstop.
“They have to understand what the rest of the infield is doing on a bunt play,” Matt Williams said. “So they went through two of our bunt plays in the last two days. We introduced it to them so when we get here first day and we run through our bunt plays, they know exactly what they need to do. I want to also give them the sense of what the other guys are doing so they can see from a different perspective, from all perspectives, how that play moves and what the shorstop’s responsibilities are and the first baseman’s responsibilities. Besides - it’s fun for them. So Doug Fister really enjoyed playing shortstop today.”
Fister is an athletic guy. He played basketball in high school and played first base, third base and some outfield in college.
“He looked good. He moves well,” Williams said. “For as big as he is, he fields his position really well. He’s accurate with his throws in the infield. And it will be a vital part of our success if we can do those things. So it’s good to get him out there and let him experience it.”
It was a bit awkward seeing left-handed reliever Jerry Blevins out at shortstop, though. You almost never see lefties at the spots on the left side of the infield because of how much tougher it is for them to turn and make the throw to first.
“Jerry Blevins said ‘Hey, just to let you know - I’ve never played shortstop. I throw with this hand?’ ” Williams said. “I said ‘Well, you’re going to today.’ And he enjoyed it.”
Here’s today’s photo gallery from the morning workout: