TAMPA -- This is the time in spring training when you start evaluating results, Toronto Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos mentioned here Tuesday evening while perched on the visitors bench as some of the Blue Jays passed through the dugout before an exhibition game against the Yankees.
Rosters have been pared down to a manageable level, regulars are starting to play daily and are getting at least three plate appearances, and for those who are trying to win a last spot on a roster, a terrible outing could be decisive as staffers look for reasons to separate candidates.
These exhibitions don't actually count, but now they sort of do, as barometers of play, and it's notable that the first manager to really set off alarms about his team's spring performance is neither the Washington Nationals' Matt Williams, whose team is viewed as a candidate to run away from the field in the NL East, nor the Philadelphia Phillies' Ryne Sandberg, who runs his team amid low expectations. Even before the Giants have received championship rings for the third time in five seasons, San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy expressed some concern about his team's play, as John Shea writes.
Said Bochy: "We're not even close to being ready."
Here's more from Shea's piece:
The defending champs are 4-12-1 in the Cactus League with two wins in their past 13 games. Their ERA is 6.00, highest in the majors. Their .235 batting average and 18 errors rank near the bottom of the baseball pack.
"It's that time where we all better start playing a little better," Bochy said. "I know it's spring training, but this is as tough a stretch as I've seen even in the spring. All facets of the game, we're not doing anything very well right now. Pitching, swinging the bats, defense.
"So hopefully this day off will give them a chance to wash off these first couple of weeks, and they can come back and start picking it up in all areas."
The Giants are off Wednesday.
"We're just not swinging the bats with authority at all. We're not hitting any balls on the barrel," Bochy said. "It's really time of possession. These long innings really drain the guys on defense. You're not throwing strikes, it gets sloppy."
The Dodgers won 94 games last season, and while questions hover over the quality of their bullpen, the general perception is that they will be much better defensively, with more depth. The Padres also have improved thanks to a massive roster makeover, although to what degree remains to be seen.
Maybe Bochy's words will serve as the first warning to his players of the long road ahead, that the accomplishments of 2014 are over.