Eveland helps bid for A's rotation 

March, 17, 2008
Dana Eveland continued his bid for a spot in the Oakland rotation with another strong outing, ripping through five innings against the Royals without giving up a run. His fastball was down a bit from his previous start, as he pitched mostly at 88 but threw some fastballs as low as 85 mph. But his secondary stuff was strong, including a curveball with good depth and a sharp slider that he used as his out pitch. Even more impressive was the presence of a clear pitching plan: get ahead with curveballs and fastballs, put hitters away with the slider, show the changeup to lefties and see if they'll chase it off the outside corner. Eveland reminds me a lot of Ted Lilly, with a little less fastball and an inferior changeup; both are lefties who reached the majors with shaky control and reputations as head cases, both feature four-pitch repertoires, and both have multiple weapons to get swings and misses. Lilly blossomed as a starter when he went to the big ballpark in Oakland and didn't have to worry about giving up fly balls. The same could be true for Eveland this year.

Brian Bannister started for Kansas City and was his usual self. Bannister has received a fair amount of attention this offseason because of the fact that he recognizes and understands the concept that a pitcher's ability to limit hits on balls in play is somewhat limited. He's talked about trying to improve his odds by getting ahead of hitters and putting them in counts where hitters tend to perform worse. Bannister did have one vintage Bannister inning Monday (the fourth), inducing three weak field outs, but otherwise gave up plenty of hard-hit balls. Bannister's fastball topped out at 85, and I've only seen him up to 87 during past regular seasons; it's hard to get hitters out or even get ahead of them in the count when they know you can't put your fastball by them.

Alex Gordon still has the talent to become a star in the majors, but it's a little frustrating to see him fail to make adjustments against offspeed stuff. He's very vulnerable to changeups away, and isn't much better at hitting breaking stuff (or laying off it) from left-handed pitchers. He has great bat speed and plus raw power -- comfortably a 65 on the 20-80 scale -- and if he gets a fastball he can pull, the ball flies off his bat. But a guy who doesn't recognize offspeed stuff is going to see a lot of offspeed stuff, not fastballs, and given the mediocre pitching hitters get to face in spring training, this is the time for Gordon to work on his pitch recognition.