Friday, December 23, 2005

Hot Stove

I need one. It's a balmy 64 degrees here in lovely downtown Cape Coral and to my warm weather acclimated constitution, that's cold. Yes, I know if you hail from Hibbing, Minnesota, that it's summer weather for you, but for us Florida Crackers, even those like me of the half-baked variety, believe me, it's cold. So let's start…

Charlie Walters reported into today's PiPress that Jason Kubel has received clearance to start working without a brace on his surgically repaired leg and that he is expected to compete for a job in the Twins outfield in spring training. Kubel missed the 2005 season after injuring his leg in the Arizona Fall League, but posted excellent numbers (24 HR, 127 RBIs, 44 doubles, four triples and a .347 batting average) in games played at the AA and Triple A level in 2004. He was one of the Twins top 10 prospects before the injury, how he fairs after will be the big question for the spring training-watching crowd.

The Twins inked catcher Shawn Wooten to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training. Wooten, 33, batted .267 (114-427) with 20 doubles, 17 homers and 60 rbi in 114 games for Pawtucket (AAA, International League) in 2005.

Minnesota also signed 1B/OF Jason Hart to a minor league deal for 2006. Hart hit 21 HR for Texas' Double-A Frisco club in 2005, after missing the 2004 season with a non-cancerous brain tumor. Hart was the Topps Minor League Player of the Year in 2000 after hitting a combined .324-31-125 at Double-A and Triple for the Oakland organization. He is expected to replace Kevin West in the Rochester line up. West was injured playing winter ball in Venezuela and is expected to miss most or all of the 2006 season.

The Twins added right-handed pitchers Adam Harben and Pat Neshek, lefthanded pitchers Justin Jones, Jose Mijares and Errol Simonitsch and outfielder Alex Romero to the 40-man major league roster. I don't believe any of them – maybe Neshek and Romero later in the year – are candidates to make it to the majors out of spring training, but they may find invites to join the team when the rosters open up in September waiting for them. Harben, Jones, and Simonitsch will likely start the year in AA ball, and Mijares finished last season with the Fort Myers Miracle and will likely start the 2006 season there as well.

The Twins dealt Travis Bowyer and Scott Tyler to the Florida Marlins in exchange for Luis Castillo. I'd kick Terry Ryan for that except it's just too good of a deal to quibble. And at least Bowyer will be close, as he's projected to be well in the mix as closer in the depleted Marlins line up.

Grant Balfour, who missed the 2005 season with Tommy Johns surgery had been non-tendered by the Twins, but will be offered a minor league deal. Balfour is not expected to be able to pitch again until June, and will likely start the season with the Rochester Red Wings once that happens.

Outfielder and local Fort Myers product Tommy Watkins was resigned by the Twins to a minor league deal. Watkins had a disappointing season in New Britain, hitting only .229 (4 HR, 24 RBIs) but has shown an inclination to work hard. He's player that may never make the major league level, but will likely stay with the Twins for a long while, moving over to coaching once his playing days are over. Watkins just finished up his annual baseball camp at the Lee County Sportsplex and will be one of the player who will be helping out the coaching staff for a six week period running from January 7th through February 18th, as the Twins host their annual free youth clinics in the Collier/Lee/Charlotte county area. A schedule of dates and locations for the clinics can be found at The clinics are for children ages 5 though 16 and parents are encouraged to participate with their sons and daughters in the sessions.

So…that's warmed me up for the moment. We'll take a look at who the Twins acquired in the Rule 5 draft and where they might fit into the system in another posting.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Indians are Coming (yet again)

I’m tempted to put it down a null news day. Either that or we just can’t have a baseball season without THE rumors. You know…the ones about the Cleveland Indians moving their spring training to Southwest Florida? No really, we do this every year.

They’ve tried Collier County, they’ve tried Charlotte County, they’ve tried Lee County – or at least, the City of Fort Myers – where they almost got lucky with an offer to renovate Terry Park for them. Almost, but not quite.

Now they’re back and they’re talking to Cape Coral. The Fort Myers News Press broke a story on Wednesday that two officials (unnamed) from the Indians were in town, met with City officials and toured the city and some potential sites, including the 211-acre Festival Park site in the North Cape area. Currently there are no further meetings planned between the two parties and team spokesman Vice President Bob Dibiasio was unavailable for comment.

Obviously there are a number of issues that would need to be dealt with in building a training facility for the Tribe, one of which would be securing money from the State of Florida, which as been dragging its feet over money for professional sports facilities such as the one the Florida Marlins would like built for it.

However, such a facility, if built and managed properly, such as the Lee County Sportsplex in South Fort Myers, would certainly be a boon to the community.

Unfortunately, too many area residents equate baseball stadium with the “white elephant on Edison” where the Red Sox play. Built by the City of Fort Myers, it was taken over in 2003 by Lee County in an effort to shed operating and renovation costs. The debt structure on the stadium won’t be paid off until 2023, and unlike the Lee County complex, it is not used for other events. The closest that it’s come to an outside event happened just this month when Beasley Broadcasting held a concert headlined by the band Staind in the adjacent parking lot area of City of Palms Park. They managed to time the event for the night before Red Sox Spring Training tickets went on sale, and there were several run-ins and one arrest associated with concert goers harassing fans that were waiting in line overnight. It should be noted that while the Red Sox hired security for the stadium, they did not provide any sort of security to those people waiting in line outside of the stadium. (This is the second time there have been ill-considered incidents involved with Red Sox ticket sales. Last year, a near riot occurred when fans discovered that some seats had been pre-sold over the internet.)

Now, note, I wouldn’t mind having the Tribe here. Heck, if you told me they were coming in the area and were going to participate in Gulf Coast League, I’d be all for it. But the Tribe doesn’t participate in GCL now, preferring to use two short season rookie teams. Still, they’d be in on instructional league ball…well, I’ll consider that later. Right now the entire issue is so tentative, that it seemed even silly for me to have the papers making such a fuss about it. After all, if third time wasn’t the charm, what makes anyone think that the fourth go around is going to be any more successful?

The related stories on this issue:

Cleveland Indians eye Cape as possible spring site
Cleveland Indians scout training site in Cape Coral
Indians looking at Cape Coral for new spring training home

Monday, August 8, 2005

Catching problems catch up with Rock Cats

Kyle Phillips

Talented continues to flow to Double-A New Britain as the Rock Cats added catcher Kyle Phillips to their roster. Phillips replaced Bryan Kennedy who was placed on the disabled list with a bad back.

The 21-year-old Phillips was hitting .230-2-32 in 83 games. In 278 at bats he had 12 doubles and a .302 on base percentage. Phillips threw out 23% of would be base stealers. The 10th round pick by the Twins in 2002 was a career .246 hitter coming into this season.

The scouting report on Phillips: He is a natural baseball player. He does things regularly that other players need to work hard on.

He works well with his pitching staff, is good with his pitch selection and is good at getting the best performance out of them.

He is excellent defensively behind the plate, blocks the plate well and makes the big saves when needed.

However, Phillips has a slow release on his throws, which means opposing players run on him quite a bit.

His swing is fine and makes contact with the ball but...

He can't run. Director of Twins Scouting Mike Radcliffe said that Phillips is one of the three slowest runners in professional baseball today if not THE slowest.

"Matt LeCroy would beat him by 10 feet," he said of footrace.

Radcliff also considers him a poor athlete.

However, the shorter parks in the Eastern League should be to Phillips liking with his sweet swing at the plate makeing the fences reachable.

Phillips was part of the 2003 Elizabethton Twins rookie team that won an Appalachian League pennant.

Saturday, August 6, 2005

Rookie pitcher Nick Blackburn promoted

Nick Blackburn

23-year-old righty Nick Blackburn has been promoted to Triple-A Rochester of the International League.

Blackburn replaces Dave Gassner on the Red Wings roster who is out with a elbow inflamation.

The 6'4", 230 lbs. Oklahoma native is continuing his rapid professional ascent as it was less than a month ago, on July 14, when he was promoted from Single-A Ft. Myers to Double-A New Britain.

He has been impressive in Connecticut, having thrown two complete games in his 4 EL starts, surrendering only 20 Hits and 9 earned runs over 30.1 innings of work. His record stands at 1-3 and his ERA is a very solid 2.64.

Justin Olsen has taken over Blackburn's place on the Rock Cats' starting rotation.

Meanwhile, the Cats have received righty reliever Jannio Gutierrez, a 23-year-old native of Maracaibo, VZ, from Fort Myers of the Florida State League.

Gutierrez will be making his second career trip to the Eastern League as he began the 2004 season in New Britain.

The stocky right-hander has appeared in 15 games for Single-A Ft. Myers in 2005, compiling a 1-1 record and 1.78 ERA out of the Miracle's bullpen. In 25.1 total innings of work, Gutierrez has yielded only 5 earned runs with a K/BB ratio of 39/10.

Friday, July 15, 2005

More pitching changes affect Cats

New Britain left-handed reliever Jason Miller was called up to Rochester after Wednesday's All-star game. Miller, who pitched a scoreless seventh inning in the Double-A All-Star Game, was 1-2 with a 2.72 ERA in 26 games for the Rock Cats.

Leval Speigner returned to the Rock Cats from Rochester. Speigner, 24, was 2-7 with a 3.86 ERA for the Rock Cats when he was promoted to Rochester July 4. Speigner was 0-1 with a 7.36 ERA in two games (one start) for the Red Wings.

With Speigner's return, Matt Yeatman was moved to the Cats' bullpen.

Angelo Fermin joined High A Fort Myers from Low A Beloit. Fermin had 23 runs off 32 hits with the Snappers and was batting .224 before joining the Miracle. Fermin is a switch hitting infielder who was part of the 2003 Appy League Championship Team. He was signed as a free agent in 2000 and is a native of Santo Domingo, DR.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Moses, Blackburn join the Rock Cats

The final two 2005 Fort Myers Miracle All-Star players were promoted to Double-A as Matt Moses and Nick Blackburn were called up to the New Britain Rock Cats on Monday night following the Miracle game against the Palm Beach Cardinals.

The 20-year-old Moses made his first All-Star team in 2005 while hitting .306-7-42 in 74 games with the Miracle. He entered play on Monday night tied for sixth in the league in batting. Moses was a first round pick by the Twins in 2003 and played just 48 professional games in his first two seasons. While with the Miracle he set career highs in every single category in just a little over one half of baseball. He also participated in the home run hitting contest at the 2005 Florida State League All-Star Game.

The 23-year-old Blackburn, ended his time with the Miracle by hurling seven shut out innings on Monday night allowing just five hits while walking two and striking out seven. He participated in his first All-Star Game in 2005 and recorded the victory for the FSL's Western Division. He finished with a 7-5 record and a 3.36 ERA in 15 games, all starts. In a team high 95.2 innings pitched he struck out 55 while walking just 16 and opponents hit .265 against him. Blackburn was a 29th round pick by the Twins in 2001 and spent the final month and a half with the Miracle in 2004.

Additionally, Catcher Jose Morales has been placed on the Disabled List through the end of the season.

A CAT scan revealed a stress fracture of the fifth lumbar in his back. He has been sent home to heal and rest. He is expected to make a complete recovery and will return to the Rock Cats in 2006. The switch hitting Morales hit .250 in seven games with New Britian this season, including one run on five hits.

Thursday, July 7, 2005

Romero Get Monthly Award

New Britain outfielder Alex Romero was named Twins' Minor League Player of the Month for June, 2005.

The Cats everyday left-fielder, who was left off the Eastern League All-Star roster, made a complete turnaround from May.

In May, the Maracaibo, Vz., native, only batted .198 in his 27 games. He hit only two home runs while driving in 11. In all, Romero saw his batting average dip from .266 to .225.

"There were some issues about his mental toughness," Rock Cats' coach Stan Cliburn said of Romero in May. "It's not a good feeling and I think it hit home."

June has been a different story all together for the 21-year old slugger. He played in all 30 games this month, compiling a .342 batting average in 114 at-bats. He hit six home runs, which was two more than he had all season.

The 6', 175 pound lefty, finally began to utilize his ability to hit the ball into gaps by slugging 15 extra-base hits. Batting mostly from the six hole, Romero swung at a .596 clip with an on base percentage of .375.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Reinforcements Arrive

The Rock Cats have received two first round draft picks, and a top notch pitcher from the Fort Myers Miracle as left-handed pitchers Errol Simonitsch and Glen Perkins as well as All-Star centerfielder Denard Span were send to Double-A New Britain.

Simonitsch, who pitched Tuesday night for the Miracle giving up just one run in seven innings, was spectacular all season long. The 22-year-old was a sixth round pick of the Twins in 2003. He was tied for second in the league in wins, going 8-3 with a 2.69 ERA (5th). He tossed two complete games and was tied for first in the league in shutouts with one. In 80.1 innings pitched he walked just 12 and struck out 72.

The 22-year-old Perkins was a first round pick and 22nd overall player chosen in the 2004 draft by the Twins. He began the season on the DL, but mowed down FSL hitters during his 10 appearances (nine starts). He was 3-2 with a 2.13 (3rd) in 55.0 innings. He struck out 66 while walking just 13 and the opposition hit a measly .205 against him.

The 21-year-old Span was a first round pick (20th overall) by the Twins in 2002. He was selected as one of the three Miracle All-Stars this season while leading the league in hitting, .335, with one home run and 19 RBI. He led the league in on-base percentage at .410. Span led the club in runs (38) and was tied for the team lead in triples (three) and stolen bases (13).

In exchange, the Rock Cats have sent struggling reliever Jan Grando to Fort Myers.

The 22-year-old Granado was a rule V pick up by the Twins in 2004 from the Cincinnati Reds organization. He pitched seven games for the Miracle earlier in the season going 4-0, 0.68. In 13.1 innings pitched he walked two and struck out 10 while the opposition hit just .213 against him. He was called up to Double-A New Britain on May 3. While with the Rock Cats he was 2-2, 5.61 in 12 games. In 25.2 innings he walked nine and struck out 19 while opponents hit .286 against him.

Two Former Cats Honored

Former Rock Cats' reliever Travis Bowyer was named to the International League All-Star game on Wednesday, June 22nd.

Bowyer, who is six saves shy of the AAA Red Wings club record (22), is 2-1 with 16 saves and a 1.36 ERA in 30 games for the Wings. Bowyer currently leads the International League with 16 saves and has emerged as the top closer in the Twins farm system.

Bowyer (U.S squad) and ex-Rock Cats' Southpaw Francisco Liriano (World team) will also play in the MLB Futures Game Sunday, July 10, in Detroit (ESPN2, 4 pm EDT).

Thursday, June 2, 2005

Maza Promoted, Pattee joins Cats

The Rochester Red Wings have called up second baseman Luis Maza from the Rock Cats. Maza was hitting .247 with 6 homers and 23 RBI in 48 games for New Britain.

To replace him, the Cats have added infielder Ben Pattee who has been promoted from the Fort Myers Miracle. Pattee was batting .333 in 81 plate appearances for the Miracle this season.
The 6'0" 23-year-old from Ukiah, California, was named to the 2004 MWL All Star team prior to his mid-season promotion to Fort Myers. Pattee started the 2005 season on the injured reserve list, but has been batting well since his activation. The utility infielder can also play first and third base and has also spent time in the outfield.

The Rock Cats also announced today that RHP Colby Miller was placed on the disabled list due to a strain in his right shoulder. Miller has a 2.50 ERA in 57.2 innings this year.

In other organizational moves, infielder Brent Abernathy and outfielder Michael Ryan were called up to Minnesota on Tuesday night, and third baseman Terry Tiffee was demoted to their AAA affiliate. Red Wings outfielder Josh Rabe is nursing a leg injury and is listed as day-to-day.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Great Expectations from Goose

I was questioning the wisdom of going to watch a game on Saturday, especially with what was amounting to a super-head cold and voice that was kind of squeaky and sort of came and went.

But I figured, what the heck, the sun would do me good, grabbed a half gallon of orange juice and headed out to the ballpark.

I've had little luck catching the minors players as two weeks ago they moved the game up until 10:00 to allow for travel time to the Trop and last weekend the Reds forgot to show up.

I was told Friday night that the Rookies had won 10-1 over the Pirates, so I was hyped to get to see them on Saturday.

The Orioles showed up with a double bus load. I quickly figured out we had Rookie Blue on one field and Rookie Red on the other. Even under the influence of cold medication, I'm quick on the uptake like that. Then I wondered what game I wanted to watch.

Eventually, I saw Joe "Goose" Gault, who is one of my favorite players, and I croaked "Blue" and "Red" pointing the respective fields.

"Oh, I'm closing for team Red," he says.

"I knew someone would come along and eventually tell me where to go," I rasped as I joined him on the walk to Field Two.

"They have me closing mostly now," he says. "I kind of like it."

Goose "kind of likes" everything the Twins give him to do, even if it's collecting foul balls, something I've seen him doing a lot of during extended spring training.

I watched him pitch quite a bit last season in the Gulf Coast League and probably know more about him than any other player down in the minor leagues. But this is not why I like him.

I like him because I've watching him pitch some very good games.

Consider the "Fried Chicken" start last Fourth of July:

"Joe Gault started on the mound for the Twins and issued three straight strike outs to close out his first inning. His counter part on the Reds, Frankie Keller, returned the favor, but used damage control to take out the three first Twins batters. Gault would allow a double to Carlos Sanchez in the second, but was other wise up and down. Keller struck out Dante Blancarte. Christopher Brown would hit a single, but Jilmar Arriata would hit into a double play to end second for the Twins.

"Goose was cooked by the middle of the fifth but had a solid outing allowing only one earned run on four hits while striking out eight."

There were more. His 5.18 ERA was not really indicative of his performance, but of a few bad outings that even Rick Knapp could not explain.

"Sometimes, you're mechanically good," Knapp said, "and they still hit you."

Knapp, by the way, considers him a legitimate prospect.

Gault was drafted in the 24th round of the 2003 draft out of Canyon High School. His high school coach was only one of two coaches that Gault has had problems with in baseball. The other was a little league coach, but after his mom took him back -- kicking and screaming -- the next season, he fell in love with baseball all over again.

Canyon was difficult though as they wanted him to throw twice a week, potentially endangering his arm. He refused, and so when the scouts came around, they had a hard time getting a look at him. He'd be held out from pitching just for spite.

But it would come back to haunt the coach eventually. With crosscheckers present, Gault was allowed to put in a bull pen performance. But suddenly Canyon found themselves without a relief pitcher. Gualt was all warmed up.

He threw 93-miles-per hour that performance.

While his parents considered colleges, the Twins came a knocking at the door. And the majors only knock once.

Gault joined the Gulf Coast League Twins and has been there for the last two season. He is expected to be moved to the Elizabethton team. His slow down?

"Gulf Coast League Syndrome." We know it happens, we just don't know why. Pitchers generally lose 5 MPH off their pitches, be it the heavy air or the exhaustion related to playing under a 90+ degree sun with 100% humidity in the middle of summer.

So Knapp's challenge to Gault has been to get his speed back up, and that is what Goose has been diligently working on.

Now, don't let all of this fool you. With a 6'5" lanky frame, Gualt is well in a position where he can be throwing some mid-to-high 90 MPH heaters once he fills out. He just need to grow into his power. He reminds me of Travis Bowyer quite a bit in that respect.

And yes, there will be a period in which his control will fall off as he adjusts to the increase in speed.

So don't count on him rising fast and furious through the minors. But look for him to make a big splash a couple or three years down the road when everything suddenly comes together for him.
And it will. If there is one thing Goose is not afraid of, it's hard work.

"I kind of like it," he says.

Saturday at the Park

The Twins lost 4-1, but the game wasn't a total waste. For one thing we had a father and son pair show up. For them, it was an unexpected delight. They'd stopped to purchase Miracle tickets for the Saturday night's game and the 7-year-old noticed the baseball players on the back field and wanted to go check it out.

They never realized that was all back there. The kid started out by running down foul balls. The first one he brought back and gave to a player and they gave him a drink of Gatorade in return. Before you know it he was trading foul balls for Gatorade and when he wasn't chasing balls, the players were teach him drills. They took a real shine to him. Had him in the dugout, tried to let him swing a "real" bat, and loaned him gloves.

It was fun to watch them and it showed a side to players I rarely see. But perhaps he was one of their own. "He's been baseball crazy since the day he was born," the boy's father said. "If he's not outside playing baseball, he's inside playing baseball on the Play Station 2." And for seven, the boy was very well versed in the game and actually knew what he was watching.

As for the father, well, it's always fun sharing my passion with a newbie. Danny Vais' family joined us in the stands and there was actually a good turn out on both fields.

on the game side of things, Jeff Schoenbachler took the start allowing (by my count) one run on seven hits, while fanning three. He issued no walks. I'm reasonable sure that the run would be unearned though as the players advanced on a throwing error by the 2nd baseman during the inning.

Vais pitched a scoreless inning in the sixth, while Jose Castillo allowed a run in the seventh. The problem was the eighth inning, a performance by a player I only know as "Willey". And yes, I walked over to the office and looked for a new roster but there were none available.

Eddie Ovalle had the RBI in the first and Jilmar Arratia hit for a double in the seventh. That was probably our best chance to score again, but Arratia was taken out at third as Joe Arabella reached on a fielders choice, Larry Jones struck out and Rodalfo Palacios flew out to end the inning.

Jones turned in an excellent performance in the field however, with four put outs in the first three innings. He tried for a fifth, running full tilt into the fence which caused a moment of concern for players and spectators alike. But Jones played football and was quick to get up, dust himself off and throw the ball back in.

This is the second week I've seen a very good effort out of Jones. Two weeks ago when I was watching he turned in a phenomenal performance on the basepaths. I don't think this defense or his baserunning are holding him back, only his batting. He was 1-for-3 with two strike outs Saturday.

Odannys Valdez was 2-for-3 in the game, and was walked once. Patrick Ortiz has the lone run for Fort Myers.

I'm sure they would have played harder if I could have yelled louder, but as it was my voice was sparse and coming in patches.

We also saw some very good pitching out of the O's kids, so I won't hold the game too much against the boys. I know they were trying their best.

Another Crawford in the System

Australian righty Nathan Crawford as reported to camp. Nathan is the younger brother of Miracle reliever Tristan Crawford.

I've not had the pleasure of seeing him pitch yet.

Crawford, who is 6'5" and 18 years old appealed to the Twins for both his height and the smooth action he has with his arm. He has however had some medical problems in the past, including bone chips in his right elbow and bicep tendonitis. The Twins believe he has recovered fully from both, but they will certainly be keeping an eye on his health.

He is expected to spend the summer with the Gulf Coast League Twins, so I will have a bit more to say once I've seen him throw.

Fox back in Action

1st Rounder Matt Fox is back to throwing duties although I've not caught him yet either. Perhaps this is a good thing. He's been off for nine months and while he said his arm felt fine, the rest of him did not.

It will take a bit for him to work back into shape after the layoff, but he did say it was nice to throw without pain for once. And that yes, he said it was really nice to get back out on the mound.

In other news, Beloit pitcher Billy Mauer retired this week following another flair up of tendonitis. "He's going to move on." said minor league director Jim Rantz in a recent article in the Star Tribune. Fellow Snapper Angel Gracia is expected to miss two weeks with an impingement in his right shoulder.

In AA Rochester, Jake Mauer has been activated off the DL, as has pitcher Kevin Cameron. Southpaw Jan Granado was added to the disabled list.

The Twins released infielder Jesus Merchan, placed pitcher Peter Tautor on the disabled list and reassigned him to extended spring training, and activated outfielder Justin Arneson (not to be confused with FSL broadcaster of the year Sean Aronson).

More Miracle news coming soon, including word on the 2005 Miracle card sets. Three first rounders! How can you resist?!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Strike Out for Troops

I appologize for my lack of posts, but I'm getting over Strep throat -- I'm down to the nasty summer cold stuff now, and have been sleeping rather a lot.

This article showed up in the Herald today and reminded me that I forgot to include in my article on Errol Simonitsch:

Barry Zito providing for troops

It seems Zito is not the only one with a generous soul.

Miracle pitcher Errol Simonitsch has pleged $10 per strike out to SFT this season. He and Zito share an agent.

If you don't think that sounds like a lot, consider this: Simonitsch had 9 strikeouts Sunday for a total of $90. Yet he only makes around $250 a week and needs to provide not only his food and personal expenses, but his housing from that amount as well.

Drafted in the Sixth round of the 2003 draft, Simonitsch joined the team with a modest $140,000 signing bonus. He's not rich by any means. Yet when he heard about this deal well...

"It was just something I had to do." he says.

Simonitsch is not the only Miracle member contributing. Catcher Kyle Phillips, taken in the 19th round of the 2002 draft, has pledged $10 per hit.

"I'm not donating too much though, as I'm not getting any hits," he says. It's a stituation he hopes to change.

Phillips donation was only $50 last week, a total of $200 to date.

Simonitsch's $470 though is outstanding for a minor league player.

Miracle pitcher gives $10 per strike to troops

Strikeouts for Troops was at William Hammond Stadium Sunday to watch Simonitsch pitch and accept donations.

You can pledge per pitch if you want, or just make a one time donation. To get involved, visit their website at which unfortunatly, seems to largely ignore the minor league contribution to this effort.

If you're "pitching" in with a donation, please also take a moment to "pitch" in and write to and ask her to include minor league content on their website.

Hang tight, I should have some updates coming shortly including a feature on a little known minor league prospect.

While, your waiting, also check out GCL Twins for an interview with minor league pitching prospect Eduardo Morlan which was included in a recent edition of At the Yard magazine.

Sunday, May 8, 2005

Simply Simonitsch

While not quite as impressive as Jacob Tata's complete game shut out for the Lakeland Tigers earlier in the Week, Errol Simonitsch spun a very good game Thursday against the Tampa Bay Yankees.

The 23-year-old from Glendale, California allowed eight hits, but only one run -- a solo shot homer -- through seven innings while striking out six. Nor did he issue a free pass, something he's been very stingy with through six games, allowing only five.

At 6'4" and 225, Simonitsch presents a big powerful figure on the mound, a bit of an illusion, as the southpaw is not a power pitcher.

Simonitsch's fast ball tops out at 89 miles per hour, but he has a good change up and an excellent curveball. He locates his pitches well, and he moves them around quite a bit, baffling hitters who are never quite sure what to expect next.

A sixth round draft pick for the Twins in 2003, Simonitsch played NCAA for the Gonzaga University Bulldogs and received honorable mention as a Louisville Slugger All-American in his freshman year. He played short-season Elizabethton the year of his draft and pitched a full season in Low A with the Quad City Swing last season.

Simonitch, who grew up a Dodger's fan and who is a bit of a car conoisoure (he drives a '69 Chevy El Camino) relaxes before the game with a good book. He says it helps him focus.

The Twins have Simonitch pegged as a fourth or fifth starter if he continues his steady improvement through the minors. While he's never going to be a power pitcher, he is a big strong prospect that throws a lot of strikes, has a great mound presence and puts in effective performances.

Certainly someone for farm watchers to keep an eye on through out this season.

Walk wise, Simonitsch is not the only stingy player on the team. Nick Blackburn, who sports a 3-1, 2.90 ERA record as only given up three in 31 innings. Blackburn has been hot, but struggled early on Tuesday, giving up four earned runs on 9 hits during the second inning. The Miracle bounced back though with a stellar 7 run rally in the ninth in a game that saw everyone except first baseman Omar Burgos get at least one hit.

Education Day

Once again, I've gotten through a homestand without a chance of seeing Glen Perkins pitch. Perkins made his first home start on Wednesday, but the game was at 10:30 in the morning, a field trip day for the children of Lee and Collier Counties.

It was also the first game that Perkins went five innings after recovering from a bruised wrist earlier this season. He allowed one run on three hits, walked two and struck out five.

(On a side note, he did seem to find our harassment of the outfield umpire Thursday evening rather amusing.)

The education day question however was how does a pitcher, facing two batters in the sixth, give up two runs, both earned on one walk and no hits?

The Miracle put Peter Tautor on the mound for the start of the sixth. The struggling Australian walked one and hit the second batter before he was pulled from the mound. Josh Gray, who was not fully warmed up, came into the game and allowed the hits that drove in the runs.

Tautor's continued presence in the line up was been a bit of a bafflement. Josh Hill was demoted down to Beloit after struggling a bit early on, but his 6.71 era at the time of his demotion is nothing compared to Tautor's, who was not really impressive during spring training either. However, Beloit wanted a potential starter and Hill fit that roll, actually getting a start last night for the Snappers who defeated the Fort Wayne Wizards, 13-3.

Hill allowed two runs on six hits, walking three and fanning five. Kevin Culpepper received credit for the win, however.

And yes, while I understand it's really hard to evaluate a prospect on 3.2 innings pitched through five games, the point remains that if Tautor wasn't struggling so badly, he'd have had more time on the mound. I did check, but there is no report of injury to the Melbourne resident, although his performance does remind me of prospect we had several years ago who was struggling badly while coming off a shoulder injury.

Talk of the Town

Tim Lahey
Tim Lehey - just another righty or the Twins' secret weapon?

When Tim Lahey reported to minor league spring training, it was as catcher. Drafted in the 20th round in 2004 out of Princeton (yes! Princeton) University, the Ivy Leaguer spent short season with Elizabethton where he had seven runs on seventeen hits in 26 games, including 3 yarders.

By the time Extended Spring Training started, the 6'4", 248 pound 23-year-old had hung up the mask. Two weeks later, he stepped out on the mound for his first professional game as a pitcher -- and promptly hit 93 MPH on the radar gun.

A native of Worcaster, Massachusetts, Lahey has only pitched relief innings for the GCL Twins, but look for him to be getting a lot more time in if he continues to dominate.

And dominate he did on Saturday during a 10-9 rally win over the GCL Red Sox. Lahey took to the hill for the ninth, and struck out two of the three batters he faced. The first two pitches to the first batter were fast balls, with the third pitch being a deceptive slider that slipped beautifully past the bat. And yes, those fast balls were hitting 93 on the radar gun.

It was the type of performance that made you sit back afterwards and say nice, VERY NICE. Lahey may well be back in short season Elizabethton for the 2004 season, but don't expect to him stay there long if he continues to live up to his early billing.

Injury Report

Tim & Matt
Tim Henkenjohann & Matt Fox

The ranks of the wounded are starting to thin out a bit. First round draft pick Matt Fox has started throwing extended spring training games again. German prospect Tim Henkenjohann made his debute for the Miracle, allowing two hits, issuing one walk and striking out 2 in two innings worth of work.

Denard Span who spent a week on the disabled list with a hamstring injury was actived again and played for the Miracle Saturday night against West Palm Beach. Billy Mauer was activated from the DL and sent to Beloit and Fergus Falls native Justin Arneson made a rehab start with the GCL Twins.

Continuing to nurse injuries however is Justin Jones, the lefty prospect the Twins received in the Doug Mientkiewicz trade, who has been suffering with tendinitis through extended spring training. He says he is still three weeks away from resuming pitching activities.

The Aussie Connection

The Twins recently signed a 17-year-old infielding prospect in Matt Lawman, who is considered to be promising short-stop, as well as one of the best hitters to come out of Australian baseball in a while.

The Victorian prospect however will not report to the GCL Twins this season but will instead go to the MBLAAP Baseball Academy. He will report for Minor League Spring Training in 2006.

Signed by Howie Norsetter, Lawman received a lucrative signing bonus as well as opting into the Twins college scholarship plan.

One 17-year-old who has reported to the Twins however is catching prospect Allan de San Miguel, and he has been opening eyes early on.

De San Miguel turned down another season at the MBLAAP Academy, and a rather lucrative job in his father's business to report to the Twins camp this season.

He did offer some insight into "The Wizard of Aus" though. "Howie will sign anyone," he laughed. "He'd sign every ballplayer in Australia if he could. He'll throw ten-thousand dollars at them in the hopes they'll sign cheap."

Rock Cats Report

Rock Cats' outfielder Selwyn Langaingne currently ranks 10th in Eastern League batting with a .310 average, and seven RBIs.

Hitting, especially clutch hitting has plagued the Cats, whose are currently ranked eighth overall in Eastern League batting.

Pitching wise, the Cats rank 5th over, and Rock Cat starter Colby Miller is third in the league with 0.82 ERA. He is 2-0 on the season and has struck out 24. Lefty ace Francisco Liriano is tied for league second, with 43 strike outs.

One stat that the Cats do not like to see belongs to Levale Speigner, who is tied for first in the league with Home Runs Allowed, giving up five so far on the season.

The Cats made several roster moves this week, adding Rick Bell to shore up the infield at 3rd base.

Bell is the son of ex-big leaguer Buddy Bell, The 26-year-old was released by the Chicago Cubs Tuesday after going 5-for-25 (.200) with two RBIs at Triple-A Iowa. He arrived in town during batting practice Thursday, but has yet to play for the Cats, who were rained out on Saturday.

Meanwhile, struggling outfielder Matt Scanlon was released. An 8th round draft pick of the Twins in 1999, Scanlon has worn a Rock Cats jersey through parts of the last four seasons.

Jake Mauer, the older brother of Twins Catcher Joe Mauer was placed on the DL with an elbow injury. New Britain catcher Jose Morales was placed on the DL as well, while veteran catcher Gabby Torres came off the DL to replace him behind the plate.

Finally the Cats shipped relief pitcher Ricky Barrett to Rochester and received lefty reliever Jan Granado from the Miracle. Granado was one of the players drafted in the minor league portion of the Rule V draft this last winter.

The Cats were 3-3 on the last week finishing their series at New Hampshire with a split as well as splitting with the Portland Sea Dogs.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Is Defense important?

Matt Moses: a rebuttle

I find myself endlessly perplexed by this question. First we had Michael Sandoval at third base. He could not play this position. He showed no apparent aptitude at ever learning to play the position. So Miracle fans got treated to a guy for a year and half who would stand around at third, wave his glove at a passing ball and hope that it would somehow magically jump in there.

So why did we keep him around that long? Well, he could hit, of course. .294 in 2003 with an OBP of .385. And yes, this is the Florida State League so those are big numbers. It's all relative.

They finally released Sandoval, not because he couldn't learn to play third base, but because well...he stopped hitting. But that was okay, we had other problems in 2004. This time at first.

His name was Danny Matienzo. Matienzo had been a catcher, and then got moved to first base. I'm not sure anyone really explained to him that you have to more around a bit more at first base than you do behind the plate. So Danny stood around at first base and waited for balls to be thrown to him -- not to the right, not to the left, not a little over his head -- but exactly to him. Hit him on the numbers and he could catch it.

Not a good first baseman. But he had one great talent. He could swing the bat. Finished up 2004 with a .305 average. So he gets promoted to New Britain...not because of his stellar defensive skills at first, but he because he could hit the ball.

The Twins took three of the top four batters from last season's underachieving Miracle squad and moved them up to New Britain.

Now remember, the AA Eastern League is a batter's league. Smaller ballparks mean that the ball should be launching itself, right?

Yet just over two weeks into the season, the Rock Cats are hitting sixth in the 12-team league with a .239 average. Matienzo is only hitting .230. And former FSL All-Star Jose Morales has only hit twice, as he's been injured.

Now the other guys they got from the Miracle, Doug Deeds and Alex Romero have been hitting; Deeds especially with a not really surprising .302 average. But some of the guys brought in to replace the slackers on the Fort Myers squad -- Luis Jimenez for example -- are not producing.

Jimenez is only hitting .067. But maybe that's not surprising for a guy that, in his statement on his substance suspension said "I've weighed 270 pounds for three years and I don't have muscles."

Gil Velazques who was brought into play short, is only hitting .195. Makes you wonder if Cliburn is regretting not taking Jesus Merchan up. After all, he was hitting .200 through Saturday's game.

So needless to say, its not surprising that suddenly everyone is pushing for Matt Moses to be moved up to Double A. My handy Miracle program tells me the guy has played a grand total of 48 games in his two professional years. That's not a whole lot of experience. And I can't help but think that eventually, that inexperience is going to show up in more than just his baserunning and defensive skills.

Moving him to AA isn't going to guarantee that he's going to feast on AA pitching either. After all, James Tomlin hit .303 in 2003 in the FSL. He ended up hitting .216 in New Britain last year, and is only hitting .179 in the early going this season. Maybe they should get rid of Tomlin, who does bring some brilliant fielding work to the team, and some excellent baserunning skills. After all, those skills seem to be meaningless in a game where you need to be successful at the plate only one-third of the time to excel.

But I have to question if a promotion for Moses is really warranted. Then again, I need only look at the examples over the past couple of years to know that the Twins could really give a rats ass about his fielding. As long as he hits the ball.

Baseball America writes in today's Daily Dish that "Moses, a first-round pick out of Mills Godwin High in Richmond, Va., in 2003, appears to have fully recovered from the bulged disc in his back that limited him to 29 games last year, and he is impressing the Miracle coaching staff."

I'm not sure that statement is true. Moses was scratched from the April 14th game because his "back was acting up". I'm not saying that's not the case. But I found it odd considering he was out on the field prior to the game playing catch. Ricardo Ingraham saw him and said "I don't want you throwing the ball if you're too hurt to throw the ball," and chased him off the field.

So was Moses really hurting? Or did he just want a day off?

I suppose if his back is going to act up, I'd rather it did it up in AA. But then I also have to wonder why, when the bats aren't working in Double A the first thing everyone wants is to pluck a big, juicy hitter out of the FSL.

Stan Cliburn made the following comment in the New Britain paper "Based on the guys who are new here, they didn't learn how to win last year. They had a terrible year down in the Florida State League. It was not a good situation down there. I heard a lot of negative things."

Hey Stan? What about the winning situation with the Rock Cats this year? Maybe you should try teaching them instead of raiding the cupboard ever time something isn't working for you?

New Britain is now 7 and 10 on the season. Even with Moses, the Miracle dropped two game to the Lakeland Tigers this week and struggled against the Dunedin Blue Jays. What Baseball America failed to report is that Moses' 3-for-4 plate performance Sunday came against the Clearwater Threshers, who are the bottom feeders in the FSL in terms of pitching right now.

Against Lakeland he was 1-for-4 and 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Still not bad, but not quite as stellar as his performance on Sunday. Against the Jays, who took a 16-2 win over Lakeland yesterday, he was 0-for-7 (and laid off with bad back).

Considering all of that, does he still look like a prime candidate for promotion? All of Moses' success has come against Sarasota, Tampa and Clearwater and guess which three teams are on the bottom of the FSL in terms of pitching? You got it! Sarasota, Tampa and Clearwater.

Maybe we should just stop jumping the gun when it comes to promotions and look at the overall picture. I'd like to think the Twins do. But then, I know better.

· Injury updates:

Jason Kubel was out on field four Sunday afternoon, playing catch. No, don't get your hopes up. He still had a knee brace on and it was part of a therapy work out.

Yes it bends, but he still has a very long way to go before he'll be ready to start patrolling the outfield again.

First round draft pick Glen Perkins made his debut with the Miracle Friday allowing two hits and striking out four in three innings worth of work. Josh Gray took the loss, allowing one run on four hits while striking out five in the last three innings. Julio DePaula also gave up a run in two innings, while the Miracle bats were relatively silent, managing only one run on seven hits.

Another first rounder, Matt Fox reports that he is about a week and half away from pitching extended spring training games. A college pitcher for the University of Central Florida, Fox pitched 8 game -- 26.2 innings -- with a 5.40 ERA so far in his professional career.

Also close to returning is Tim Henkenjohann who pitched in 2003 in Elizabethton and who is recovering from Tommy John surgery. The 6'5" 215 German import came up through the beer leagues in Germany and said the closest baseball field to his house was 80 miles away!

Trent Oeltjen has also come off the IR and returned to the Fort Myers squad. "Dingo" is hitting .385 through 13 at bats following his very scary eye injury during spring training.

· Movements:

The Twins have released lefty Jeff Randazzo. The 6'7" Pennsylvania native suffered a major accident in 2003 while playing in the Appalachian league. Once considered a top pitching prospect, he never regained his earlier form and was struggling in the New Britain bullpen. Brian Wolfe was demoted from Triple A Rochester to take his spot.

Both Terry Tiffee and Dave Gassner were reassigned to New Britain by the Twins. The Twins also signed southpaw Jimmy Anderson for Rochester following his release from the Pirates organization.

· Extended Spring Training:

The rookie Twins dropped their Sunday game 2-1 in front of some strong Reds pitching a the Lee County Sports Complex. Armando Gambino took the loss, allowing two runs on nine hits, while walking two and striking out three. Jeff Schoenbachler allowed only a single in two innings of relief, but managed to run his pitch count up to 95! Kyle Edlich was competent for three more, before Jose Mijares was brought in to close out the game. I've been seeing a good deal of Edlich so far and have not had a problem with him.

Of note was William Luque who hit a double and single in the game and made a couple highlight reel catches at short. Mijares also made a stellar play on the mound, snagging a hit ball midair and riffling it to first. Mark Robinson batted in Odannys Valdez for the lone Twins run.

Rick Knapp was in town, "teaching" he said. I caught him giving helpful suggestions to Kris Langford behind the plate, but from what I could get from the rest of the pitching staff who joined me for the game, he was not teaching, but terrorizing.

"Oh," I said. "Knappy's a really nice guy."

The boys scoffed at this suggestion, saying "Oh yeah, he's nice to YOU." Well, he is. However, I decided again having them "practice" signing my GCL ball since Knappy had already signed it and decided a get a new TC ball for them to practice on.

The Extended Spring Training roster is now available online for those that are interested.

· The Skunk Story:

This is Brock Peterson's to tell, but he was driving in Tennessee while playing for the Elizabethton Twins when the vehicle in front of him hit a skunk and the carcass was flipped up onto the windshield of his truck. He tried to get rid of it by turning on the windshield wipers, but the skunk got stuck in the blades.

Now...logic defies me a bit on this because I can't really figure out how a skunk, even flattened by a previous vehicle, could manage to get trapped under the windshield wipers. In any case, I'm sure it was not only smelly, but a bit gruesome as well.

Finally he had to get paper towels and pull the critter off his truck that way. (I also have this really strange mental picture of him standing out on a dark road, on his cell phone going "Mom? How do I get rid of skunk stink?" I wonder if he had to wash the truck in tomato juice?)

I understand that some of the Betsy fans, when treated to the odor of skunk these days say "I smell a Brockie!"

· And Finally...

The Miracle are on the road and will not play at home until Saturday when the first 750 fans through the gate will receive free Miracle tote bags. This will make some of the rookies happy who have been harassing me about having a Marlin's tote bag. "But you do like the Marlins," Fox says, noting that I'd lived in Fort Lauderdale.

I assured him I did and also added that we know a guy that pitches in the Marlins Farm System. Chris Resop is a Baron-Collier High School grad who is currently with their AA squad in the Southern League. A converted fielder, Resop has a six saves on seven games, with a great big .000 ERA, no walks and 8 strike outs in 7 innings pitched. (Yes, I promised his dad I'd work him into at least one Twins report his season.)

However, aside from the fact that they'd eat me out of house and home, memorabilia is another good reason not to bring the rookies home. I'm sure they'd take one look at my autographed Derek Jeter jersey and I'd never hear the end of it...

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Real Baseball

"Real Baseball should be played in the daytime, in the sunshine" ~ Lou Gehrig

The Miracle got back into the win column with a 2-1 victory over the Dunedin Blue Jays. All of the scoring happened in the first period and some good fielding, especially by short stop Jesus Merchan, kept the game that way through the end.

Nick Blackburn picked up the win, and Jan Granado and Jay Sawatski pitched some good innings of relief to help with the win.

The game time was a brisk 1:55 minutes, although I had some kid sitting behind me that wanted to leave before the game even started, so it seemed a good deal longer to me.

In any case, I was ready for some real baseball today, which did not include dancing bear-dogs, cute promotions and well...children.

(On a side note, the performer they had at the game who did mime/balancing and juggling routines was kind of interesting. I especially liked the bit where he stood up on an oversized baseball and juggled three baseballs.

Miracle catcher Kyle Geiger can juggle three baseballs, but I don't think he could stand on an oversized baseball while he was doing it. I kind of wanted him to watch that bit. Unfortunatly, he was catching at the time and needed to watch the pitcher. Darn it all anyway.

What are we to do for amusement for the rest of the year? I mean, if Joe Mauer can juggle a major league pitching staff with only one knee, these kids have got to do something special if they hope to advance...right?

REAL baseball turned out to a 6-4 in for the Twins over the Red Sox.

Evidently I lost an inning and I was blaming it on the boys who were distracting me. But in the end, it wasn't them. Somehow, I skipped scoring in the second and went onto the third. So now I'm blaming it on Moma Goose. In any case, some highlights from the extended spring training game:

Trent Oeltjen, on a re-hab assignment hit a double in the third, bringing in Yancarlos Ortiz and Jason Arenson to make it 2-1. Jose Leger lined out but it was enough to advance Dingo, who scored on a Juan Portes single.

Mark Robinson also gave us a double in the eighth, and Eli Tintor's deep single brought in Larry Jones and Robinson. Jones got on base on a walk, his second of the game, and singled in the fourth inning.

Kyle Edlich started the game, allowing only one run, followed by Javier Martinez. I believe Martinez gave up the second run but Jannio Guitierrez, who is on a rehab assignment came over to quiz me on the scores up and down the minors.

Once he left, I had Matt Fox (Shoulder) and Tim Henkenjohann (Elbow), Tim Lehay (who claims he has now switched from catching to pitching) and Kris Lankford (who says I may now call him "Lankie") came over to bother me. This also included a tri-lingual lesson in how to ask for sunflower seeds. Great. Like I'm ever going to want to ask for Sunflower Seeds in Mexico.

Travis Kalin started at first base and was 2 for the two I watched. I missed most of the fifth inning because of the boys asking me questions. One of these days I'll get to a point where I can score and talk at the same time. I am getting better at it.

I did see some good fielding out of Kalin as well, who is usually a third baseman. As mentioned in a previous post, Chris Brown, who was slated for Elizabethton was promoted to the Snappers.

Justin Jones also kept us company, but he didn't say much. When he did offer his opinion at one point I hold him to hush, as he hadn't pitched for us yet. This was backed up by the rest of the boys.

Allan DeSanMiguel did the catching honors through most of the game, and did a fine job. Eli Tintor took over the back four.

Greg Najac has been released. I've not sat down to look at the rosters to pick up the other releases. I am somewhat saddened though by Najac's release, as he was a nice kid. But it's a numbers game and I guess the Twins weren't happy with his numbers.

Of the pitchers today (Edlich, Martinez, Armano Gabino, and Jose Casillo) was most impressed by Brandon McConnell who pitch in the um...eighth? with two strike outs and a walk and a ground out. He was also hitting 88-89 on the clock, from what I could gather from the boys.

Gambino also put in a pretty good performance on the mound.

I did pick up a roster, so I'm working on getting that online. (Yes, I type it. No, I'm not putting Nelson' cell phone number online. I'm questioning the wisdom of putting up the phone numbers for the clubhouse and training room online.)

Meanwhile, Moma Goose and Scott Lucas parent's picked up my GCL website address, and the rookies are going to look it up on Google. So I guess I should get it updated. The big question too was why can't I get a night job and come out to watch the GCL boys all the time. Honestly, I wouldn't mind that, but I had to borrow money from my employers to pay for my last car repairs, so I'm now an indentured servent for a while.

Anyway, since I totally lost track of the game...I won't do a recap. But it was fun. I believe the record is now 3-1 after four in favor of the Twins for extended spring training (according to Jannio).

Also, thanks to Aaron for showing up as he knew where to send the boys for putting (putt-putt) practice. Fox is a bit of a South Florida boy and didn't like the local course, but he's played at Boomers and everything else is pretty tame after that.

· Who doesn't like Fireworks?

Evidently some people in New Britain don't. The Rock Cats are currently facing a fireworks crisis. A local group has sued the team to stop the Saturday night fireworks displays as they find the noise "annoying".

Superior Court Judge Marshall Berger has said he will make a decision on the case, after he has attended a Saturday game.

Saturday fireworks are a staple to draw fans for many weekend games in many minor league towns. The Fort Myers Miracle hold only a handful of fireworks games each year, the annual July 3rd game being sold out way in advance, but with the current build up around the stadium, it's become increasingly hard to get permits for fireworks.

This is akin to building a house next to the airport and then complaining about the noise from the jets. Yet some people do this as well!

· The Seventh Inning Stretch

It's not my intention to use this blog to complain about the Miracle productions of their games. On the whole I really don't give FIG about what you do each night. I just want to watch some baseball with a minumum of interuptions.

However, it used to be that we enjoyed the Seventh Inning Stretch. We'd get up, we sing, and sway to the tune (and Aaron and I being the knotheads we are would sway in opposite directions so we could bump into each other.) When Rutgers was injured I brought Faux Rutgers and tossed him up and he always did a backflip to finish off the tune.

We always root, root, rooted for the MIRACLE.

To me...that was FUN.

Now, in the name of "Fun is Good" we are treated to an unsingable version of "Take me out". Even if we managed to get to the "root, root, root" part we'd be overpowered by "the Hometeam" which is blaring over the loudspeakers.

Additionally, we get to watch -- in the words of a Miracle staff memember -- a "fat, trashy dog" dancing around on the dugout to the song.

So now the seventh inning stretch has become a quick trip to the rest room and the last call for alcohol.

I guess I just don't know what fun is, anymore.

However, given that "the boys" were, in my honest opinion, a riot at the game today, I did promise to get a tape recorder so we could do some "seventh-inning-streches" interviews. I was also telling them how to eat and drink cheap at the Miracle games, although I'm not sure telling them about cheap beer was a good thing, as most of them aren't over 21.

Lahey was the one interested in the cheap beers for the most part though, and he's 23, so I'm reasonable sure I'm not contributing the deliquency of minors.

Am I?

· Around the Farm

The Wings spit a pair against the Ottawa Lynx yesterday. Ottawa rallied for three seventh inning runs off Beau Kemp to take the first game 5-4. The Wings found their way to victory in Game Two, with a big second inning and an insurance run in the fifth. Travis Bowyer made his first AAA save in the game, enticeing pinch-hitter Napoleon Calzado to ground into a game-ending double play.

Juan Lorenzo got under a pitch from Jeff Randazzo and sent it high and far to left field to drive in the winning run in the 11th inning for the Harrisburg Senators.

The Cats are now 3-6 on the season and yes, Jannio my friend, they RoCk! Just as you say.

Dave Winfree, Deacon Burns, Luke Hughes, Jeremy Pickrel and Mark Zamojc all homered for the Snappers who took a 14-6 decision over the Lansing Lugnuts.

Remember, you can pick up the lastest news from around the farms at the Twins Minor League Forum. Even when I miss something, someone else will likely have posted it.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Sloppy Seconds

The Miracle's 6-0 start on the season proved they were good. The loss to Tampa proved they were human.

The three games series against the Dunedine Blue Jays is proving they've got some things to work on.

Thursday the Miracle managed only hit against the Blue Jays who took a 6-0 win.

Adam Harben

Steve Tyler took the start on the mound. Tyler, who is on the Twins 40-man roster, had wanted to start the season with the New Britain Rock Cats.

According to an interview on Will Young's Blog, he did want to play in Fort Myers. He went five innings allowing two runs on six hits, walking one and striking out four. Not exectly the kind of performance that's going to land him on the Rock Cats Roster fast.

Julio DePaula faired little better against the Dunedin bats through allowing two runs on four hits in three innings worth of work.

It's hard to pinout the collapse. Was the Dunedin pitching that good? Or were we back to the home excuse of they've been doing a lot of off-field work that Marzan trotted out frequently for yearly early season home losses.

Omar Burgos was getting some one-on-one instruction before the game on how to be a good hitter, but the tips that he picked up certainly didn't serve him well in the game. On the whole, it was hard to find a stellar spot in Thursday's performance.

Friday's was a little better, but Adam Harben struggled through three innings of ball allowing three run, (two earned) on four hits while walking four and fanning five. He certainly didn't a lot of help from the fielding either.

Brock Peterson was solid on first and the outfield played well. The problems lay in the middle infield of Matt Tolbert and Felix Molina, both of whom seemed have problems hanging on the to the ball. Tolbert's problems were eased a little though by the fact that he got a hit -- and a run, batted in by Scott Whitrock.

Brock Peterson

Pitching coach Eric Rassmussen had a fairly busy night, with several trips to the mound to have a talk to his young pitching staff. Harben and Peter Tautor both got his attention, as Ras tried to get them into the "mental" part of the game. However, for as much as Harben and Tautor were struggling, there was some good Miracle pitching Friday night as well.

Chris Schutt turned in a very solid performance, fanning six in three innings and allowing only two hits. Whether he was "Schutt 'em out", "Schutt 'em down" or "Schutt the door", he got his job done.

Jay Sawatski kept the Jays at bay through one 1.1 inning as well, replacing the stuggling Tautor.

I'm hoping that tonight's outing will be a bit more positive for the team. I knew that Dunedin would be difficult for this young team, but I don't believe they should prove impossible. It would be nice to see the Miracle back on the winning track.

THIRD BASE: The Twins third baseman of the future is not Matt Moses. It's David Winfree who's been ripping the cover off the ball in Low-A Beloit. Winfree is hitting .379 through 29 plate appearances and has four runs and four RBIs. He's also turning in some nice defensive work for the Snappers.

Moses nearly had another home run Friday night, but the winds were blowing back into the park, and the ball didn't go as far as it could have. He also hit it to one of the deeper parts of the field -- he might of made the fence if it had gone further to the right. As it was though, it turned into a harmless little put out at the hands of Jay's center fielder Jason Tingler.

Matthew Moses

STELLAR: Kyle Waldrop made an outstanding start for Beloit Wednesday night, pitching a complete game (7 innings, the second game of a double header) allowing only three hits while walking one and striking out three in route to a 3-0 win.

ROSTER MOVES: Beloit right-handed pitcher David Shinskie was placed on the Snappers seven-day disabled list with right elbow soreness and Jay Rainville was added to the roster Monday, April 11th to replace him, being promoted from Extended Spring Training.

First baseman Johnny Woodall was also placed on the DL with a broken right foot. Chris Brown, a stand out with the Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles, was promoted to the Snappers to take his place. Brown was a free agent signing who received no bonus money. He struggled with the batting at the Gulf Coast level last season but spent extra hours in the batting cages trying to improve. He was rewarded when the Twin picked up his option for a second year. He'll now have the opportunity to prove himself at the single A level.

Beloit swept Kane County before falling last night to the Lansing Lugnuts, 6-4.

Twins starter Carlos Silva will make a rehab start with Beloit on Sunday night and his knee will be elvaluated to see if he can continue to pitch for the Twins.

Matt Tolbert

ROCKY ROADS: The Rock Cats are back in the win column with an 1-0 victory in 11 innings over the Harrisburg Senators. The Cats dropped their last five including the home opener to the Senators, 4-0 on Thursday.

Colby Miller, coming off an injury which ended his season last year, when seven innings in the game, allowing only four hits, walking one and striking out three.

John Thomas picked up the win, throwing 2 1/3 innings without a hit for the Cats.

CLIPPED WINGS: The Red Wings got a much needed night off after splitting a series against the Norfolk Tides.

Scott Baker turned in a better outing than his first, allowing five hits, walking one and striking out three on Tuesday night. Travis Bowyer picked up the win on that game, fanning four in two innings worth of work.

The Wings have added reliever Brian Wolfe to their roster, as well as former Pirate Jimmy Anderson, who was picked up by the Twins after being released by the Pirates. The 27-year-old lefty replaced Dave Gassner in the Red Wings line up.

Matt Tolbert

SPRING CONTINUES: The Extended Spring Training schedule is now available online HERE. I will not have regular reporting on it the scores are generally not released, however, I will be able to attend tomorrow's game against the Bosten Red Sox as the Miracle take a day off before facing the Threshers for three starting on Monday.

This means I will likely have the extended spring training roster available shortly as well.

FOUL BALLS CAN CAUSE INJURY: On my blog here Tuesday I wrote a rant about parenting and baseball.

Friday, the San Carlos Scrappers Little League team was present and not sitting in their seats. As a result, one kid got drilled in the ribs by a foul ball.

He managed to get out of the stands with a little help, but EMS was still working on him after the game.

These kids were sitting down in row 1 of section 114, just past the third base dugout and had been told AT LEAST a dozen times, if they were going to sit there, they had (1) sit and (2) pay attention to the game.

The child in question was (1) not sitting and (2) was not paying attention to the game.

Anyway..I just want to restate what I'd already stated. If you bringing a child to the game with you, PLEASE make them sit down and pay attention to the game. If you, as a parent can't do this, don't bring them to the game.

Remember, once you walk into the park, anything that happens to you or your child is your own responsiblity.

Bunting isn't going to work

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Must they go to the ballgame?

A Rant on parents and baseball...

I always get accused of not liking children. Honestly, I adore children. Especially Bar-B-Qued. Although roasted with a bit of basil in light wine sauce can prove very tastey as well. I've even got a bit of a receipe collection going for when I have children for dinner.

Aaron says "Oh, you were a child once yourself." No I wasn't. I never was.

But really, it's not the children themselves that bother me. It's the parents. You know, the ones who bring precious little Timmy or Tina to a game, and then let them run around unsupervised? In a stadium. With over 8,000 strangers in it. Man, it must really be a real drag for them to have to take little Timmy or Tina home again. I can only imagine that they were really hoping their kid would get abducted. Or perhaps hit in the head with a foul ball.

Maybe I should print up those receipes into a little booklet and have the unattended offspring take it back to their parents?

On Sunday game with maybe 70 or 700 people in the stands, I can see if the kids want to run around and chase foul balls. But there's no way in the world someone's gonna notice if little Tina gets spirited away in a crowd of 8,000. Or 3,000. Even if you drag the kid out of the park crying and screaming, most people would just assume they were overtired and having a temper tantrum. Time to go home. Right? No one knows what kid came in with what adult.

What bothers me the most - be it 8 or 8,000 is the children that, unsupervised by their loving and concerned parents, will go stand over the dugout or the bullpen and repeat over and over "Hey, can I have a ball?" or "Hey, number 2, can have your autograph?" in the middle of the game. And while no place in the park is really safe from a potential foul ball, standing over the dugout puts the child in serious danger if a ball should come flying foul off a bat at 90 MPH. And they do that. I know. I've seen it.

I was at a Marlins' game several years ago where I saw a ball came foul off a bat, line drive speed past first base and into the stands about section over from here I was, straight at a woman who was sitting there with her baby. She had no real time to react, so she instintively leaned over to protect her child. The ball took her square in the side of her face and shattered her jaw. She's very lucky it didn't hit her in her temple, where she would have been killed instantly.

It's become a Dave Barry joke, but it was not joke at the time it happened. She was taken out of the park by EMS. (This is one reason I honestly believe babies and baseball don't mix.)

But no, here's little Timmy or Tina, hanging out in the aisle right by third base, over the dugout not paying attention to the game in foul ball heaven.

We moved our seats this year in part because we got tired of having a bunch of non-baseball fans, standing up during play, chatting with each other and showing their babies off to each other. Watching someone's six month old get killed is just not my idea of a real good time.

But in moving, I discovered we're now sitting next to begging central. So I kept running the children off, and they kept coming back. On regular nights we have at least Don or Jerry or Paulie to take care of us. The kids come back, and they threaten to throw them out of the stadium. And yeah, Don may LOOK like Santa Claus, but I'd bet on him in a match against a pit bull. He's MEAN.

But this was the "Twins" spring training security staff on duty and no one told them what to do.

I was buggered, the people sitting next to me, which have a child, were buggered, and the people sitting on the other side of the aisle, which also have children were buggered. So see, it's not just me and my anti-child attitude that was ready to commit genecide. And of course the "mom" next to me is standing up and can't find a neon green shirt anywhere in the crowd of people when we needed one.

Once the aisle got too full we had kids trying to crawl in front of our seats. I stuck my arm out and fastened it to the dugout railing to prevent intrusions. Some kid tryed to pry my fingers off the railing. I gave him an evil look. Then he attempted to climb under and ran into my other hand and my leg. Were where those lethal fouls when I needed them? Hitting the upper deck. Shoot! Luck was just not with us that night.

Meanwhile the "Dad" on the other side of the aisle picked a child up who was trying to crawl over him and placed him back on the steps. Immediately some guy was there yelling at him. "You touched my kid!" Yeah, you know what? If it had been me I've told him to go get the police so I could charge the child with assault and the parent with child neglect.

I mean, I dunno. When I was a kid, my dad took me and my sister to baseball games. We had to sit in our seats. If we had to go to the bathroom we had to wait (quietly) until the end of the inning and then he'd take us up. And it didn't matter if only one had to go we both had to "try" to cut down on return trips. And you never, ever told him you had to go until there were at least two outs in the inning and you never, ever said you had to go NOW! This would get us taken home in a flash and as my folks were divorced, this meant we didn't get to see our dad for another week or two.

So you sat down and watched the game and learned it, just so knew the most opportune time to let that lemonaid you'd had earlier out of your bladder.

What a deprived childhood I had. I never got the opportunity to be abducted by a stranger. Or to be hit in the side of the head with a foul ball.

· "Give it to a kid": You know, it used to be that if I got a foul ball, I'd would give it to a kid. Then I found out the little extortionists were selling them to adults for $10 each.

But honestly, what really turned me off last year was when Travis Bowyer tossed me a ball from the bullpen. (We used to sit next to the bullpen and I'd leave the game for a bit to see who was warming up.) I looked around and saw the cutest little girl sitting in her seat with big round eyes watching the game. So I gave her ball. She was thrilled. She wanted to know if she could get it signed. I told her after the game, my friend #19 would sign it for her. Not a problem, Trav is really good with children.

The next thing I know her mother has her by the hand and is dragging her over to the bullpen. "Hey," she yells. "Can I have a ball too! #19! Can I have a ball too!" And nothing I could do would make this woman shut up and sit down.

So this year, I'm giving them to the whitecaps up in the disabled rows. They never act up and they never run around the stadium chasing balls and they never stand of the dugout or the bullpen begging for balls. Beside, Wes says I should be nice to the oldtimers. They're sitting in God's waiting room.

· "He Promised": This one is two fold. Saturday during opening night some kid came in the seventh inning, trying to muscle the other kids out of his way to the dugout. I was trying to clear the kids out (yet again) and said "You can't stand here! You have to go back to your seat!" The kids says "Number 5 said if he broke his bat I could have it and he broke his bat and I want it." Ron did shatter his bat, a few innings earlier. I said "AFTER THE GAME". He persisted and I kept telling him: AFTER THE GAME.

Finally, he left. The next thing I know, he's down on the other side of the section cutting through the first row to try and collect his bat. Guess what he was told when he got to the dugout? You've got it. After the game.

Last year, during a game as Sarasota, I was sitting next to the "Miracle" dugout, and a little league team had taken up residency next to me. They wanted autographs and I promised I'd get them autographs if they would agree in turn to cheer for the Miracle. They did. I had a bunch of players over and they signed everything and anything put in front of them, including shoes and body parts.

The kids held up their part of the deal as well and chanted "Let's go Miracle" through out the whole game. However, during the game, when Liriano had just vacated the mound and Travis was on from the bullpen and I had all the kids yelling "Go TRAVIS! Strike him out!" pretty much all together at the same time when this guy comes over from the next section. "That pitcher promised my daughter a ball when he was going into the dugout last inning and she's up there crying because she didn't get one."

I said "That pitcher just came out of the bullpen and has never been to the dugout yet and so he couldn't promise your daughter anything."

"Then it was the pitcher before him."

"That as Liriano and he speaks no english."

The guy gets fed up with me and starts hanging over the railing and trying to attract the attention of the people in the dugout. An usher finally told him he had to go sit down.

Red Snots fans. Gotta hate 'em. If the guy wanted his daughter to have a ball so badly, go to the gift stand and buy her one for $5.00. She wouldn't have known the difference.

(By the way, you can tell from this passage how much I REALLY hate kids, right?)

· Graphers: I've been accused by some fans of selling my autographs. Last year at the season ticket holder party I had Travis sitting there autographing a series of shots I'd taken (yes, I'm very partial to him) and someone came by and said "What's this? And E-Bay session?" Travis jumped up and said "She'd never!" followed almost instanteously by me with an "I'd never!" I like having the autographs because they are mementos of "my boys".

If you doubt me -- go ahead. Try and find something I've sold on e-Bay. I dare you to.

Now, there are some people that are professional graphers and will want the top prospects' graphs to sell. I remember a guy dropping a box of 12 balls in front of Colby Miller in 2003 and expecting him to sign them all. "I've got a shop in the Cape," he tells him. Well, at least he's honest. Try this one...

This kid, maybe about 8 or 9, is standing down at the landing at the bottom of 115, a popular autographing spot prior the Fort Myers games with a ball in his hand and cell phone in his pocket. The phone goes off, walkie-talkie style.

"Now remember, only get the players with the following numbers on that ball." The numbers of Baker, Liriano and several other players are rattled off. The kid promises. He picks nervously at the ball, which was a gift shop ball.

The phone goes off again. "And don't pull that little silver sticker off of the bottom of the ball." The kid says okay and then bends down to pick up the little sticker he's just crumbled into an irrecoverable wad and tries to put it back on the ball.

You kind of had to feel sorry for that kid. He was ruining his college fund. And he was obviously in fear of what might happen if he got the wrong players, or what was going to happen when his father found out he'd pulled the MLB sticker off the ball.

There's also a lot of kids, generally of the older level -- like 12 or 13, who will "run cards" meaning they'll go down and try to get cards signed by players and then give them back to dealer in exchange for cash or merchandise (usually Yu Gi Oh cards).

Yeah, I would like to believe my MLB/NBA/NHL/NFL card collection is my retirement fund, but I find it very hard to part with even the Barry Bonds cards (and I HATE Barry Bonds).

· Feeding Frenzy: But honestly, the Florida State League is not as bad as the major leagues in one regard. The ball boys are not allowed to throw balls out to the crowd. So this makes for only localized begging as you have to get one from a player or coach. This is also why we call the ball boys "Ball Trolls" because, you know, they can't give them out. So we know they are hoarding the balls. [[wink!]]

I go to a major league game and the ball boy runs by and people just leap to their feet going "Ball! Ball! Ball!" accompanied by a clapping of hands. It reminds me a lot of the seal feeding tank at SeaWorld Orlando. "Arr! Arr! Arr!" accompanied by a clapping of flippers. Except that's probably really insulting to the seals, who actually shut up after they've had enough to eat.

For baseball fans however, one ball is never enough.

The people next to me, who I believe are premium pack holders, weasled two balls out of the team on Saturday, using their little boy as a poster child for ball-less children. They kept them both! And I bet that kid never gets to play with them either!

· Why I REALLY like the GCL: Easy. No introduction ceremonies. Not promotions. The umpires show up, the managers exchange line ups, and then we play ball. No screaming kids, no oversized orange mascots, no stupid promotions. Just baseball. Wow! What a concept!

Monday, April 11, 2005

First Impressions

A look at what might be the most talented team in the minor league system and just where the heck is Glen Perkins anyway?

First impressions can be lasting, and if that's the case, the 2005 Miracle squad made a very good first impression on the home town crowd in a pair of games on Saturday and Sunday.

Glen Perkins was to start on Saturday, however he as a bruised wrist and was given the night off. He will be re-evaluated before his scheduled start on Thursday. So when I walked into the park and saw Josh Gray's name on the line up, I sort of groaned internally.

Gray was a starter for the first part of 2004, won his first pair of games, and then fell apart. I mean, I tried sticking up for him. "Oh, it's the fielding," or "Oh, he was getting a lot of bad bounces," or....finally I just threw my hands up in disgust and said "Okay. You're right. He can't pitch."

So he got moved to the bullpen. "It's not a demotion," he tells me. "It's a ...change." He was determined to make the best of it. Unfortunately he just seemed to get into more trouble. Finally I noted the lack of playing time.

"They're using me as a left-handed specialist," he tells me. "They want to be able to say that I got out every left-handed batter I faced." I looked skeptical. I am generally skeptical of specialists as a whole. "Hey," he says. "It's a living." Rather unfortunately, he failed even at that.

However, he's lefty and you know...the Twins love their lefties.

So he shows up this year for spring training and he looked like he's filled out some frame wise. He had a good spring training and while he wasn't scheduled to be a starter, they decided to give him a shot.

He did make the most of it, allowing two runs in two innings on four hits and fanning two. So okay...maybe he can pitch.

Actually most of the returnees played pretty well. Ron Perodin seemed more solid in the outfield with four or five put outs on the night. Very nice. Dog's got game. Felix Molina turned in a credible performance at second, with the exception of one stealing attempt that I will cover in a bit more detail in just a bit.

The new players were delightful as well. So, let's start with the batting order...

Denard Span: This kid is simply magnificent when he takes off. He laid down a bunt on Sunday that left the Red's catcher eating grass. While he's stuck in a system that's heavy in the outfield, his speed is going to set him apart. His only mistake on the evening was an attempt to make a sliding save on a fly. He didn't quite slide far enough. However he was close enough to limit the runner to only one base. He did make rather spectacular catch later, that sort of made up for that one little mistake.

Matt Tolbert: I didn't know too much about him coming into this game. I still really don't know too much about him, save that he was .308 with Elizabethton last season and was drafted in June in the 16th round by the Twins. Played NCAA for the University of Mississippi. I might of thought he was not experienced enough for this level of play, but he's been proving otherwise.

My only problem with him so far was a boneheaded play in Sunday's game. A Reds runner is headed to second and Brock Peterson fires from first toward Jesus Merchan who'd moved in from short to cover the base. Matt Tolbert comes running in to try and intercept, misses the ball, and the runner is safe on second. Teamwork guys, teamwork. Let Jesus have the play when he's on it. That should have been an easy out. I think maybe he's trying to hard to impress.

Matt Moses: He can swing a bat. Defensively, I was a little ambivalent towards him on Saturday. He moves around a lot. More than I thought was maybe necessary. But then I though, you know, Coach Milt (Cuyler) is always telling (Travis) Kalin to bounce around out there a bit in Gulf Coast League so maybe all the movement is a good thing. But I wasn't really comfortable with him. It wasn't anything I could put a finger on, it's not like he didn't make any plays he should of.

I think in part, the problem was with the first boneheaded play. Felix Molina is on second, and Moses is on first with one out. Molina runs at the pitch, but he's not fast enough as Miguel Perez fires to third. Mark Schramek shows Mo the ball and smiles. Mo turns around and heads back to second but Schramek fires to second. Now Luis Bolivar has the ball and shows it Mo, who is caught in between, Mo starts to back up and Boliver comes off the plate -- at which point Moses starts running.

Timing here guys -- timing. As the song goes "Timing is a thing, it's true." If they'd both gone at the same time, Perez would not have known where to throw to and that moment of confusion would have cost them. And Mo, knowing he is going to get tagged out one way or the other, doesn't start to run to third, which I think is what Moses was counting on. Instead he lets himself get tagged out right in front of second plate. And as Moses is sliding in, Boliver gleefully turns around and sweeps the ball across Moses' back for the third out to retire the side.

Now, I'm not sure who was not paying attention. I'm sure Mo was not looking at was Moses was doing, he was watching the ball, but I would have thought that Moses would have made sure that Mo was going to play pickle for a little longer before allowing himself to be tagged out. I'd have waited for the throw to third and then ran, because even if the guy threw back to second, he'd have to chose between a dodging Mo and a sliding Moses. But that's just me. Bleacher coach. What the heck do I know?

So okay. That was Saturday and I kept saying. It was both their faults. Right?

Sunday saw boneheaded play #2 early on. One of the Reds hits a little tapper to the infield, and Harben comes off the mound to play it while Moses comes rushing in from third. Maybe Harben didn't yell "I got it, I got it, I got it" like he's supposed to. Maybe he did, and Moses didn't hear him. In any case, Harben got the ball but ended up getting tangled up with Moses, got the throw off late and the runner was safe on first. Even if Harben didn't say "I got it, I got it, I got it", Moses should have seen that he was at top of that play and backed off. Should have been an easy out.

So you just sort of shake your head and keep believing... Harben did have some words for Moses after that play. I will not repeat them here.

And then finally, Moses fields a ball at third and tries to throw to first but he must have been focusing on a kid in the stands, as he way overthrew Peterson. To Peterson's credit, he tried to leap up and catch it, but he would have had to be superman to even come close. I think it went into the stands somewhere around the eight or ninth row. Take two boys, take two.

So this gives Molina one bonehead, Tolbert one bonehead and Moses three boneheads, making him the early runner for the Bonehead of the Year award.

Moses pays some very good attention when he's at the plate. He needs to stop bouncing around at third and pay more attention to what's going on around him.

Brock Peterson: I love you Mr. Peterson! Finally -- we've got a solid first baseman! One who actually seems to know what he's doing out there!

So 1-for-5 on Saturday and 1-for-4 on Sunday with a RBI on each day. All he needs to do is solidify his batting and he'd be perfect! Augh! Meanwhile, I'm instructed to go ask him about the skunk story from his Elizabethton days. This should be interesting.

Kyle Phillips: Okay, I'm gushing. I admit it. This kid is just so good with his pitching staff! And yes, I've been gushing about him since his brief stint during the 2003 playoffs but consider... Tristan Crawford is struggling on the plate and Phillips stops before he throws back to show him where he wants to try to put the pitch next time. Just a quick one or two fingers out and a wave at area, nothing overly obvious, but Crawford gets the idea.

When Joey Votto finally homers off Crawford, Phillips walks calmly up to the mound. He asks what kind of pitch at was. Crawford shows him the fingering. Phillips says good, don't throw that again. Then walks back to the plate. He manages to nurse Crawford through three innings with three runs on three hits (including the yarder) and get three strikes out of him on top of that.

Good kid. I'm very fond of Kyle Geiger too, but when Josh Hill was struggling on Sunday, he did nothing to help him get through it. It was up to us bleacher coaches to try to muddle him through until he found his stuff.

Additionally there was a high pop up behind the plate Saturday night. Phillips is on it and Matt Moses comes flying in from third and Phillips' mask and hat comes off and suddenly, he's down on his knees in the dirt and we're sure they're both gonna miss it and then suddenly, Phillips is on his belly and somehow, miraculously, he got it!

I don't think Phillips defense has ever been in question. His problem last season was in hitting the ball in a pitchers' league. If he can perform well at plate this year, and continue his strong play behind it, he should go pretty far in this organization.

Scott Whitrock: Ah...long have I waited for Whitrock on this team. He's been playing right field and while he was not been really tested out there on either day, he played as expected. highlight reel yet. Put sometimes, you like the guys that quietly get their jobs done.

The most notable thing about "Red" was on Sunday when he tried to bowl Bolivar over on his way to second. He lost his helmet and Bolivar's spike caught him on the side of the head, right above his right eye. He was down in the dirt for several minutes but made if off the field under his own power. He came out of the dugout later with a bit of knot forming there. He'll be day-to-day and is being held out tonight at least, with utility-infielder Ben Pattee replacing him in right.

J.R. "Sam" Taylor: This is another kid I've been waiting for a long time to make his Miracle debute. He served as designated hitter on Saturday as it seems like Tolbert is hogging playing time at short or 2nd. But the that's what the organization wants so...I will wait patiently for Sam to finally take the field.

He hit 2-for-3 and was caught stealing, but he did make a fair attempt at getting from second to third. How was he to know the ball was going to be hit straight to Schramek?

I've already mentioned Tristan Crawford's performace. I wasn't thrilled, but I think he will improve. Chris Schutt was a little shakey to start as well, but some strong fielding, and bit of coaxing from Phillips got him through.

I have to note that, as far as I was concerned, Saturday's win was a gift from the Reds. The game was tied at the bottom of the ninth, so we went into overtime. Schutt kept the Reds off the board.

The Miracle were more aggressive. With two runners on and no outs against Tyler Pelland, there is a long discussion and then Matt Moses is intentionally walked to load the bases. I knew that was coming sometime that night, but...even with one out it would have been iffy to walk him. In a sudden death situation with no outs and the clean up hitter up to bat (and granted, Peterson was 0-for-4 at that point) it was insanity. Obviously, it didn't work as Peterson put it cleanly by Hector Tiburcio at short to bring in the winning run.

Ah....clutch hitting! What a wonderful invention! Someone should have thought of that sooner!

As for Sunday, Moses was pulled near the end of the game and Omar Burgos finished up for us, with no highlights or low-lights.

Jesus Merchan played at short and hit into the "Ribby" fest in the sixth, bring in four runs on a double. Way to go 'Zuse!

Kyle Geiger was the catcher for the day and Adam Harben was good, but not dominating. I expected better from him. He had three runs, 2 earned, in five innings while fanning three. Julio DePaula came on to get him out of the fifth inning, as he started struggling in the fourth. I'll be interested in seeing if throwing to Phillips makes a difference in his performance.

I REALLY liked DePaula. Very solid performance, only one hit - no runs - in 2.1 innings. I would like to think his solid play on the mound sparked the boys for their big sixth inning but um...

In all honesty, "Mighty" Joe Powers stuggled mightily. We really liked him though. The Reds could have left him in longer. Aaron kept telling me to stop singing "Ding dong, the pitch is dead..." because he wasn't a wicked pitch, we liked him. Yeah, well, six runs, 3 earned on 2 hits while walking five in 1.2 innings. Heck yeah, we liked him! But I think that sixth inning took an hour just by itself to play.

The last of the pitchers was Josh Hill, who threw well in Spring Training, but got off to a shakey start against the Reds. He did finally settle down and get his work done, but the early going was tough. I think Phillips would have nursed him through the early going with a "Put it here, Shaggy", but Geiger hasn't learned these little tricks yet.

Also Geiger failed to throw out two stealing attempts. Weak, buddy. Weak. (That makes him 3-and-0 on the season for stolden bases. Gotta work on that.)

In any case, this put the Miracle off to a very good start -- the only team in the organization that was yet undefeated as of Sunday night. This next week will be the real test though as the Miracle take on the Tampa Yankees, Dunedin Blue Jays and Clearwater Threshers!

· Extended Spring Training starts on Thurday, April 14th and runs through Saturday June 11th. I was thinking great! I can see the guys on Sunday but no...that conflicts with a Miracle game. But maybe I can get a roster. However, Sunday the 24th, the Miracle are in Clearwater so I'll get to watch the GCL boys.

Somedays though, I'm more tempted to go watch Spring Instructional. But I'll cover those reason in a rant tomorrow.

Wednesday I will have a review of the minors after their first week of play and who's hot (David Winfree!) and who's not.