Ten-day spring-training sprint prepares York Revolution for Atlantic League regular-season marathon
In the strenuous marathon that is the 140-game Atlantic League regular season, spring training is basically a sprint.
It's a rapid tuning-up period that is almost over as soon as it gets started.
In the major leagues, players report to their Florida and Arizona camps no later than late February, with pitchers and catchers arriving even earlier than that, and their season doesn't start for at least another month after that.
But, in the Atlantic League, teams such as the York Revolution get all of 10 days to prepare for the regular season. The league franchises have to wait for major league organizations to fill out their rosters before free agent players decide to sign with an independent organization.
It's not a lot of time for managers to see what they have in new players and how to incorporate them into their upcoming lineup. It requires a steady mix of getting the returning players the necessary repetitions to prepare for the season, while trying to make sure the new guys have a chance to display what they'll bring to the table.
"It's more trying just to get to see everybody," Revs manager Mark Mason said. "The guys I had before, I know what they can do. And a 10-day window is not a lot of time to see things. The main thing you want to check out is to make sure everybody's healthy. That's a big part of it. And then just to try to get them as many repetitions as you can and then just watch what progresses from there."
The brief spring training period is also a time for the returning players to develop chemistry with the new ones. Roster turnover in the Atlantic League happens more commonly and with more players than at any other level of professional baseball. Of the 30 players on the Revolution roster right now, only 13 were part of last year's playoff club.
There are some guys returning from last year's team who didn't finish the season in York last year, but there are still a lot of chemistry issues to clear up before Friday's season opener.
"We had a good group last year and the guys returning, everyone's pretty welcoming and we'll definitely have the spring training to mesh and get along good and have a good time," returning second baseman Eric Patterson said. "... We're just trying to mesh the new guys in and hope we have a good year."
Working on hitting: The one aspect that the Revs need to work on during this 10-day period is their hitting.
That's nothing new. Mason believes that hitters tend to enter the season a step or two behind pitching. But, he sees York already making positive strides to get the swing back that led the team to a playoff berth last season.
"We haven't had a whole lot of live at-bats yet," he said. "Some guys have probably had 10 or 11 at-bats. ... I think at the beginning, it was typical, pitchers are a little bit ahead of hitters, but over the past couple games, we've hit the ball a lot better. This lineup will hit."
Those precious live at-bats have come in exhibition games played against other Atlantic League opponents over the past several days. So far, the Revs played three spring training games, with another one on the schedule for Tuesday at Southern Maryland. York's preparations got stalled a little on Monday when its practice was scrapped because of rain.
There's a lot of focus put on making sure the physical attributes of the game come together in the brief training period leading up to the start of the season. But, perhaps more than anything, York is focused on making sure it gets through these next few days fully healthy before welcoming in the Long Island Ducks on Friday, when the games start to count.
After all, this is only the warm up.
The marathon has yet to begin.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at yorkdispatch.com