Observations as we near the first homestand of the season:
• Brian Bixler looks timid at the plate, on the bases and in the field. It’s not surprising, considering he’s a 25-year-old rookie who got an unexpected callup last weekend. Still, you’d like to see a little more aggression, especially in the batter’s box. Moments ago, he struck out with runners on the corners and one out and pitcher Ian Snell on deck. It was a great opportunity for his first RBI in the majors, yet Bixler never took one hard swing — he struck out on a checked swing.
• Evan Meek could be getting ready to rev it up. Meek has been working with pitching coach Jeff Andrews on a revamped delivery. I’m not gonna go all seamhead on ya with the boring details; it has to do with Meek getting his hips a bit lower as he throws.
The alteration is designed to give Meek better control. At the moment, however, he’s struggling to get comfortable with it and doesn’t fully trust it. “When you see me get it back up to 97 mph, then you’ll know I’m close,” he told me. Thursday night, Meek blew a 97 mph heater past Derrek Lee.
• Before today’s game, I asked manager John Russell if Tom Gorzelanny’s shoulder is healthy. Russell assured me everything is good to go. The lefty was overused last season, especially in the final few weeks. I would not be shocked if Gorzelanny needs to skip a start or two somewhere along the line this season.
• Matt Morris, on the downward arc of his career, has to get it done with guile and guts. He showed plenty of both Thursday by going seven innings and giving the bullpen a breather. He won’t win 20 games … or 15, or maybe even 10 … this season, but he is teaching everyone else in the clubhouse — especially the 20somethings in the starting rotation — something about what it means to be a pitcher.