Going into this year’s Grapefruit League Spring Training festivities, we as fans had many questions in need of answering. Some of those questions were clarified quickly (is Ke’Bryan Hayes already the best player on the Pirates? Yes). Some were made murkier (is Ehire Adrianza Jesus?). Others we may never know (are the grapefruits complementary?).
Regardless, the 2021 MLB season is upon us. But before we get the de-juiced ball rolling, let’s take a moment to re-hash some of the best moments from a long-awaited regular(ish) spring camp in Florida.
Return of the Knuck
Oh, knuckleballs, how we missed you. Since the retirement of R.A. Dickey and Tim Wakefield, there has been a serious lack of knuckle action in the major league game; but thanks to Orioles prospect Mickey Jannis — and a magnificent job by the O’s Spring Training camera crew — we were reminded of just how beautiful a well-executed knuckleball can be:
Seriously, shoutout to Orioles video content creator Johnny Douglass for gifting us with this piece of giphy art. As for Jannis, he’s a fascinating guy, having spent three full years in indie ball before joining the Mets organization in 2015. He’s spent most of the years since bouncing between AA and AAA, where he developed a high-speed knuckler that averages mid-70s velocity. This is his pitch grip.
The 33-year-old isn’t likely to make the O’s bullpen out of camp, but with the expected early-season turnover in Baltimore he’s a name to keep an eye on (if for no other reason than so you can go back and watch this video every time you hear it).
Guillorme Had the Time
You probably saw the highlights of this absurd 22-pitch at-bat between Luis Guillorme and Jordan Hicks from March 14, but it’s worth revisiting.
Luis Guillorme drew a 22-pitch walk in the 5th inning. Relive the entire at-bat right here 😤 😤 😤 pic.twitter.com/cS57po7ulf
— SNY (@SNYtv) March 14, 2021
A few things stand out here:
- This was Hicks’ first live batter faced in nearly two years, as he missed most of 2019 with Tommy John surgery and opted out of the 2020 campaign. He was meant to do one inning of work, and he got it in one batter.
- Guillorme fouled off FIVE pitches off 100 mph or more in this at-bat, which is five more than I could touch if you gave me 100 swings.
- According to our friends @CespedesBBQ, the nine total pitches registering over 99 mph in this at bat is more than 10 MLB teams recorded in the entire 2020 regular season.
And lastly: let’s be honest, we were all Dominic Smith watching this masterpiece unfold.
Yadi’s Still Got it
You’d think, after all these years — 17 of them, to be exact, including a record soon-to-be-16 consecutive opening day starts — people would’ve learned not to mess around with Yadier Molina on the basepaths. Seriously, that man will probably be 70 years old in a retirement home someday and still be humbling youngsters with 80-mile-per-hour darts to second base.
The latest example came on March 7, when Yadi literally dared Houston’s Jose Siri to take second and still gunned him down, on a changeup no less. I’ll let Jomboy explain the rest, as he does best.
Yadier Molina tells runner to steal then throws him out, a breakdown pic.twitter.com/q8Ly2mMXdK
— Jomboy (@Jomboy_) March 7, 2021
We’re the Same… but Different
Where were you on the historic day that Evan Phillips faced off against Phillip Evans? For me, the answer to that question is at home, doomscrolling through twitter for every ounce of fresh baseball content I could find. That’s when I saw this tweet from Sarah Langs, and my life changed forever:
Phillip Evans vs Evan Phillips
Baseball is the BEST pic.twitter.com/niSFQMZYPG
— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) March 7, 2021
Okay, what actually happened is that I forgot about it until this very moment when I was researching this article. But I still think it’s awesome. For those wondering, the at-bat ended after seven pitches with the Pirates infielder earning a walk off the O’s righty who may or may not be his long-lost relative. It was a brief yet glorious moment, and we’ll always have this screenshot to remember it by (until the next time it happens).
Everybody Loves Bryce
No comment here, other than just enjoy this gif of Bryce Harper being a fantastically supportive teammate.
The Magic of Mic’d Up
It’s been a long, hard year since the last time MLB players got the chance to really let loose in spring practice, and they clearly had a blast getting back to it. We know this thanks to the sheer brilliance that is “mic’d up” segments, which were utilized by nearly every team this spring. Here are some of my personal favorites.
First, we’ve got Todd Frazier cutting it up with the Pirates crew, smacking a double to left field and immediately talking trash on Félix Hernández’s declining heat:
The Orioles video team brought us Trey Mancini, fresh off his return from cancer, talking with Stevie Wilkerson about the part-time jobs they considered while they were bored without baseball:
Then we’ve got Martín Pérez talking about throwing iguana eggs, courtesy of ESPN:
ESPN also gave us the full Brett Phillips Experience, complete with such highlights as an update on his ongoing dance feud with Randy Arozarena (0:15), reactions from former teammates to his postseason heroics (2:25), receiving a live zinger from Kevin Cash (5:00) and much, much more. It’s worth your time:
Could listen to @brett_phillips8 mic'd up all night pic.twitter.com/pL5AwuRCIi
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) March 3, 2021
Next up there’s William Contreras asking Eddie Perez how he likes his cooking, among other gems from Fox Sports Braves:
Here’s Cardinals’ bullpen coach Bryan Eversgerd shouting indecipherable things while a man lays dead:
And finally, @MLB gave us Francisco Lindor simply being himself — which is to say, a ray of pure joy.
If that isn’t the energy we need in 2021, I don’t know what is.
Photo by Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)