For most of spring training we see big league players paired with the players who are right on the cusp, giving us a glimpse of where our teams are at now and what they could look like in the near future. At the end of the spring, however, while the more advanced prospects are in minor league games getting the playing time they need to be ready for the season, we see teams resort to a barrage of players who will spend the season in Short Season ball to complete their rosters. It makes sense, but it isn’t fun when a hitter in the Gulf Coast League comes up to the plate in the 9th inning with just about no chance of even making contact against a Triple-A pitcher. So why do teams do it? Why can’t they just use their starters and backups at the big leagues for all the at-bat? They do it because some players might have an experience like Spencer Edwards did on Wednesday afternoon.
Spencer Edwards pinch-ran for Wil Myers in the 7th inning, and was set to make it to third base easily when Wilson Betemit followed with a single. But when Edwards saw that Orioles centerfielder Adam Jones had some trouble handling the ball, he kicked it into another gear and scored without a throw. It was a huge run, tying the game at 3. Scoring from first base on a single? Edwards had certainly done something to attract some attention. Little did we know that there was more to come in the 9th.
Edwards came to bat against John Stinson, who had struck out the first four batters he faced. Edwards stayed patient at the plate and drew a five-pitch walk. Two pitches later, Edwards was off and running to second base on a steal attempt, and he made it easily before the ball got a away, allowing him to go to third base. Then two batters later, Ray Olmedo hit a groundball back to the mound, and Edwards’ speed caused Stinson to rush the throw. It got by catcher Brian Ward, and Edwards scored against to knot the contest at 4. The Rays settled for a 4-4 tie, but they would not have gotten there without the contributions of Spencer Edwards.
Edwards has a long way to go as a prospect. A second round pick in 2012, Edwards hit to just a .232/.290/.330 line in 213 plate appearances at Advanced Rookie Princeton in 2013, striking out 50 times against just 15 walks. He has blazing speed and flashes of power, but his approach at the plate is going to require a ton of work before he can become a big league player. On Wednesday, though, Edwards got to taste the big league experience for one day, and now you know he will do anything to get there for real. Edwards will enter 2014 as motivated as ever to show the Rays what he is capable of, and that could change everything for his career. That’s a pretty good trade-off for the low cost of bringing him to big league camp for three innings of one game.