- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
Billy Beane is still dealing with the changes in time zones, working in a nap when he can. But any sleepiness he has felt hasn't dulled the first impression from Yoenis Cespedes' debut in the big leagues this week.
"He's got no fear whatsoever," Beane said Saturday.
The scouting report on Cespedes was established weeks before he signed with the Oakland Athletics.
When Cespedes played in a handful of winter ball games in the Dominican Republic, he struggled against breaking pitches -- sliders, in particular -- in the eyes of scouts. So it wasn't any surprise that the Mariners hammered Cespedes with breaking balls in the first two games, like lions going after a limping gazelle.
But Cespedes gave no ground, Beane noticed. If Cespedes swung and missed at a breaking ball in one at-bat, there was no carryover to the next at-bat. "He's got an incredible amount of focus," Beane said. "He wants to be a great player. ... He doesn't take [a bad at-bat] with him."
And he made adjustments during his at-bats, reaching down and away to drive a slider from Felix Hernandez for a double in the opener. In Game 2, Seattle reliever Shawn Kelley hung a slider -- and Cespedes crushed it for a home run. "I don't know if television could've done it justice," said Beane. "It was an absolute rocket."
Some scouts who have seen Cespedes this spring believe that he is so strong, he will hit some home runs almost by accident: If he gets fooled on a pitch and doesn't make perfect contact, he'll still have enough power to lift the ball out of the park.
"Every time he comes to the plate," Beane said, "he's got a chance to hit one out. ... He's a very serious kid, and he's not afraid."
Based on recent history, the Mariners and Athletics might have a tough time early in the year, as they adjust back to U.S. time.
- "It's tough," said Cole Hamels, one of the three remaining pitching aces who will be leaned upon heavily to produce in the absence of Howard and Utley. "They are the guys who have been here since I've been here. These were the go-to guys. They are the guys you always count on, and they definitely put fear in an opposing pitcher."
Now they have put fear into the fan base, and there are plenty of scouts who believe the trepidation is justified.
"I am saying the Marlins and the Nationals are now the favorites," a baseball scout said after hearing about Utley. "Father Time is passing the Phillies by."
• The Marlins have reacted to concerns about inadequate parking at their new ballpark.
• The Pirates' expectations are at a different level, writes Bob Cohn and Rob Biertempfel.
Having written off Moyer in 1995 -- when I covered him as a struggling starter for the Baltimore Orioles -- I've long since stopped assuming that he can't be successful. But of all the ballparks in the majors, Coors Field would seem to be the toughest for him, because of the enormous spaces in the outfield and because hitters will generally put the ball in play against him.
He's had only two starts in that park in his career, a really small sample size, and in those games he allowed 17 hits and 11 earned runs in 11 innings. So it makes sense for the Rockies to start him as often as they can in ballparks on the road -- as they are doing in the first week of the season, when Moyer starts in Colorado's second game, in Houston.
• Richard Griffin did a Q&A with Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos.
• The Rays' radical defensive shifts translate into wins, writes Marc Topkin.
Dings and dents
2.Two-thirds of Washington's starting outfield could start the year on the disabled list.
4. One of the last candidates trying to win a job in the Rangers' bullpen got hurt, Evan Grant writes.
The fight for jobs
2. A guy going for a utility job with the Red Sox hasn't been told to stop showing up, writes Dan Duggan.
3. The Phillies face some difficult roster decisions.
4. A reliever was ecstatic to get word he's made the White Sox roster, writes Mark Gonzales.
Moves, deals and decisions
3. The Indians will need to win early in order to merit a bump in payroll, writes Sheldon Ocker.
6. The Padres like to define their bullpen jobs.
4. The Braves played a rain-shortened game.
• Teams keep looking for the next great idea, writes Tyler Kepner. You hear a lot from executives these days about working to improve their handling of injuries and nutrition.
• Love him or hate him, Bobby Valentine is in charge, writes Peter Abraham.
• To Don Newcombe, this new chapter under the new owners is a long time in coming, writes Bill Plaschke.
• Stan Kasten sees good things ahead for the Dodgers.
• Some young Mets are looking to improve.
• The Mariners are still rebuilding.
• The Yankees are lacking their old characters, writes the esteemed Moss Klein.
• Terry Ryan is back at the helm for the Twins, writes Joe Christensen.
• Development has been slow to come around the Nationals' park, writes Marc Fisher.
• Jay Bruce's offseason work has paid off, writes John Fay.
• The Marlins finished last in runs per game in spring training, but they're not concerned, writes Clark Spencer.
• The Diamondbacks are armed to defend their NL West title, writes Nick Piecoro.
• The last guy to live in a group of friends will be buried with an autographed baseball, Jason Cato writes.
And today will be better than yesterday.
Buster Olney writes that Billy Beane has been impressed so far with young slugger Yoenis Cespedes.