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This Moment in Spring Training History

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Last night, while going through blank VHS tapes not looking for a dubbed copy of "Pokeahotass II" (that's how rumors get started), I came across Jesse Foppert's Pac Bell debut. It was a spring game against the Mariners, back when the Mariners were pretty good. The hype machine was being pedalled extra-fast for Foppert at the time. There was a joke going around in the sports bars, even:

Knock knock.
Who's there?
Jesse Foppert.
(Before they can respond with "Jesse Foppert who?", move on...)
Knock knock.
Who's there?
Juan Marichal.
Juan Marichal who?
Exactly.

Yep. Popular in the sports bars, and not just made up in the last twenty seconds. That's the McCovey Chronicles Guarantee.

The exhibition game was televised on FSN, and was the first chance many non-Fresnonians had to watch Foppert pitch. At this point the speed of his fastball was not up for debate yet. FSN did not have a radar gun reading up, and it looked like Foppert was throwing hard. Not 97 mph hard, but hard enough to force a lot of pop-ups and late swings. Just how hard did he throw in the minors? From John Manuel of Baseball America:

Yarr. I remember it well. Me and me Jack O' Staves were loaded to the gunwhales, and were looking for a small nipperkin to finish off the night. Suddenly, it sounded like a chain shot was fired from the chase guns. And just as we were forgin' ahead through the crowd, we peeped Jesse Foppert. I ordered me mate to heave to. Foppert was yarning 99-mph fastballs one after the other. Avast ye, I have never seen a fastball so lively. Tried and true, 99 miles per hour. I'd swear me life on it. Yarrr.
Hmm. Perhaps that wasn't a faithful Manuel quote, but rather me having fun with a pirate-speak site. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to. Point is, the scouts and minor-league followers stand by their claims that Foppert could sit in the high '90s for extended periods of time. The Giants were on record as saying, no, he never threw that hard. After his injury, though, that makes a lot more sense. The team didn't want Foppert to be concerned with his missing velocity.

Foppert looked pretty good in the game. He was getting a lot of first-pitch strikes with the fastball, which was something of a rarity later in the season. His slider was pretty flat, but his changeup was awesome. It didn't look like a changeup, but I'm deferring to the analysis of Mike Krukow, who was bouncing off the walls after watching Foppert pitch. The change came in pretty fast, and broke like a 12-to-6 curve. He was leaving it in the middle of the strike zone, but still getting early swings from the likes of John Olerud.

All told, it wasn't the dominating flash we were hoping to see. Perhaps the injury had already started to manifest itself, or perhaps the hype was a touch overblown. Still, I'd be happy to see this version of Jesse Foppert emerge this year. Good control, solid fastball, off-speed stuff as a work in progress, and good control. Alou seems to have backed off his guarantee that Foppert will make the team, but his opening performance of the spring and his non-game pitching haven't done anything to hurt him so far.