Here are some of my observations from yesterday's Rockies-USA game:
* Watching Yorvit Torrealba prepare is a lot of fun. He was the first player out to the field, and his focus and precision with his prep for a spring training game was what you'd expect from someone who's been in the game for a while and is serious about playing another year. Jose Gonzalez came out shortly after Torrealba, and headed over to the crowd to sign autographs and chat. Yorvit wasn't interested in socializing and, at one point, whistled to Gonzalez to break away from the throng and go to work playing long toss. Once that was done, Yorvit headed into the bullpen and worked on blocking about 10 or so balls in the dirt. Regardless of how you feel about Torrealba's return, it was a treat to watch a professional get ready for a game.
* Spring Training is a game simulation only in a very limited sense, and it's even less realistic when your pitchers are facing a coterie of the best players in the game. So I didn't mind if Pomeranz and company were roughed up by Team USA, and really only watched Pomeranz for two things: the effectiveness of his secondary pitches and his pitch count, two things with which he struggled last season. He was 1 for 2 on these. He didn't always have command of his secondary stuff (or even his fastball), but when he did, they were effective. His cut fastball was very good last night, and some great hitters swung right through it. Pomeranz's pitch count was less encouraging, reaching his allotted 60 pitches in only 2 2/3 innings. I suppose some nibbling should be expected when you're facing a lineup in which Giancarlo Stanton bats seventh, and I thought Pomeranz was squeezed badly in the first inning. But even when he's effective, Pomeranz runs up the pitch count, and it's something to keep an eye on as he proceeds.
* Pomeranz's fastball velocity in the first inning was a healthy 94-95 mph, which drew a "Wow!" from Dan O'Dowd when he asked the scouts with the radar guns. But those same scouts noticed a dip in his velocity in the second inning when he reached around 25 pitches. It's early yet, and Pomeranz has been sick and unable to pitch for several days, so it's not too disconcerting. But it's something else to keep an eye on.
* Chris Volstad has had better days: 8 hits in 3 innings of work. Again, there's no shame in being roughed up by an all-star team, but I thought he looked very hittable, and nothing he was throwing was fooling his opponents. It's still a wide-open race for the fifth rotation spot, but I despair a little at the thought of seeing those pitches thrown at Coors Field.
* That is, unless, those pitches are being thrown in the other team's uniform. It hadn't occurred to me that the highest and best use for some of our pitchers was to loan them to the other team, then tee off. It's a great idea and Walt Weiss deserves credit for original thinking to bring home a win. Snark aside, I thought Manship looked pretty good pitching for Team USA. He worked quickly and attacked the zone, so he wasn't afraid of letting his defense work for him. Back on the Rockies' side, much the same could be said for Wilton Lopez in his one inning of work. Two singles, two ground outs, and a strikeout. He also fielded his position well, making a nice play to charge a dribbler and get Jimmy Rollins at first.
* One note on offense: Nolan Arenado had a terrific at bat in the bottom of the 9th, which should be Exhibit A to rebut the questions about Arenado's "maturity" and "makeup" from some in the professional commentariat (nota bene: "makeup" is a term that must be intoned in a grave voice, unlike the seemingly-related term "grit," which should always be said with a sneer). Arenado came up with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the 9th, representing the winning run. Torre made a pitching change, relieving Nick Schmidt in favor of Logan Kensing and giving Arenado time to think about his situation. Arenado fell behind and, down to his last strike, had the choice of either sitting on a fat pitch he could drive or protecting the at bat (and the game). Kensing threw what seemed to be a decent breaking pitch center-away from Areando, but Arenado did a nice job of staying back on it, keeping a level (and pretty) swing, and taking it up the middle for a two-run single. What the heck do I know, but I would have surmised that a green, immature player would've undercut that pitch in an effort to be a hero, risking a fly out or strikeout. Arenado kept it simple and brought his team closer to an eventual win.