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  • Writer's pictureSteve Potter

1/18/24 : High Performance Camp - Day Nine

My plan yesterday was to take a couple days off from the daily coverage of HP camp since Phantasy Camp has now taken over the complex  … however plans change 🙃.  I thought that I wouldn’t be able to watch the guys work the next couple of days but while Phantasy Camp has indeed engulfed all four fields at the complex plus the two across the street at the DiMaggio complex the Bowa half field, adjacent bullpen mounds to it and the stadium field are being used by the real professional ballplayers.  We can still watch from different vantage points on those fields - so my daily coverage continues uninterrupted 😎.

This morning initial side bullpen sessions were thrown by Cam Brown, Gunner Mayer, Brandon Beckel, George Klassen, Jake Eddington, Casey Steward, Jean Cabrera, Ethan Chenault, Wen Hui Pan and Alex Rao.  Previously in camp each had thrown “9 square” sessions to a net target with nine zones marked off.  Today they threw to catchers.

Alex Rao was my focus this morning - he’s coming back from an injury interrupted year last season but told me earlier in camp that’s he’s now feeling completely healthy and ready to go.  The young man from the University of Notre Dame can rush the heater to the plate and also features a plus delivery in his primary second pitch - a splitter.  He’s got a somewhat violent release with the ball jumping on the hitter from a three quarter slot, compact delivery to that point - a big push at the end - here’s my notes on Alex from last season.

RHP Alex Rao - 24 years old - drafted in 8th round of the 2022 draft from University of Notre Dame, IN

2023 Stats :  appeared in 16 games (15 with Clearwater Threshers and 1 with FCL Phillies) posting a 5.79 ERA in 28 IP.  He recorded 33 strikeouts and 14 walks with a 1.50 WHIP.  Averaged 17.36 pitches per inning pitched and had a 58 % strikeout ratio. Was a starter/opener at the beginning of the year for the Threshers making six starts.  Went on the IL on 6/2 and didn’t return to game action till 8/22/23.

2023 Notes :  added a cutter to a previous three pitch mix during 2023 spring training (fastball -sits in a range of 93 to 96 mph - max 98, slider, splitter) and hopes were to extend him out as a starting pitcher, he was a reliever in college.  Spent a good deal of time this summer on the IL but was able to return in August and made six appearances (all as a reliever including one in the playoffs).  Fastball has big life and splitter is an out maker.

Alex’s reflections :  “Personally, I think I was exposed to a lot more in terms of ways to grow and where I can get better, so it’s exciting to see that I still have a lot of ways to improve and grow.  From the org perspective, it kind of goes hand in hand in that they have so many ways for us to develop and can give us a pretty clear picture on how to get there, which I think is a testament to both how much they’ve invested in player development and how skilled the staff as a whole is.  Obviously being on the IL isn’t what I wanted to happen or even expected, but the org as a whole did an incredible job of making rehab an opportunity rather than a negative place.”

Other Camp Notes :

Infielders and outfielders drilled today on the half field by practicing their eye-hand coordination on ground balls.  There were also individual base-running drills, catching drills and infield ground ball practice.  Pitchers who didn’t throw bullpens today continued their throwing programs with toss and catch work on the stadium field.  Hitters were in the hitting lab throughout the day divided into separate groups for skill preparation and feedback for when they hit the cages for BP - likely next week.  The camp is well run and there’s a distinct schedule that gets quite a bit of work done at a workmanlike pace - good stuff.

Spring Training Non-Roster Invites:

The club announced fifteen invitations today for big league camp - here’s a link to my article on those invited -

Just Sayin :

As an amateur writer I am fully aware that my daily training camp descriptions aren’t worthy of employment however my goal is that they at least depict a glimpse of the activities that build up to the baseball season.  In times past I’ve heard some folks utter (mostly in jest I hope) that training camps like spring training aren’t important or vital to the process.  Folks who don’t witness the daily grind of the journey are absent of the knowledge it presents.  Becoming a top level professional in any endeavor is a build of experience, growth and acumen - all products of training and participation.  The player development process in baseball is emblematic of that - players don’t become overnight successes, it takes a great amount of work and investment of energy to become a major leaguer.  I think as fans of the game many of us often become blind and deaf  to what’s required to be successful at the highest level - it takes a village of support to help talent emerge and time for it to do so - it’s truly my hope that those who chose to read what I present get that message.  Yes, I’m an amateur writer without great skills but my words are  hopefully clear - the players, coaches, managers, administrators and front office leadership group of the Phillies do possess the skills to succeed and they’ve made that an expected standard with a detailed plan of process and measurement- indeed training camps are vital to achieving success - just sayin 🤓.

Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️

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