Sunday, March 20, 2005

I'm moving to Rainville!

Turle soup on a Sunday afternoon

Anything and everything good you have ever heard about Jay Rainville is true. He has speed and accuracy. He looks very comfortable on the mound.

I figured this all out in one warm up session, standing just behind Eli Tintor at the fence and getting a catcher's eye view. In fact, Eli was having a bit of difficult catching the left inside strikes, but Gary Lucas told Rainville to keep throwing them as Eli could adjust in a few minutes. Jay Rainville

Wow! The game only confirmed all this as he opened up with a strike and retired his side in short order, allowing one single and striking out two.

In the second he did allow a single, the following batter reached when Deacon Burns went to catch an outfield fly, tripped and lost the ball. However, most of what he allowed were easy outs. Nine batters, two innings, three strike outs and no walks. In fact he was never once behind in his counts. Great kid. Can't rave enough about him.

My only regret is they only let him pitch two innings.

I had honestly approached this game with open optimism because we had Trevor Plouffe and the Pirates didn't have Neal Walker. However, I forget to factor in the pitching. Or maybe I did factor in the pitching but who would have guessed?

In any case it was a VERY bad Snapper slaughter as Beloit went down 7-2 to Hickory.

While I am still VERY excited by my first glimpse of Jay Rainville (did I mention what a great pitcher he is?), I was disappointed in the that I did not get to see the highly touted Plouffe play outfield. He did play as designated hitter, however. He did a very good job DHing, but I wanted to see if their was well, Hanley Ramirez-ish about him. I guess that answer will have to wait for another day.

I did however see some VERY good first basework by Johnny woodard and some really good third basework by David Winfree and a wonderful outfield catch by my friend with the blinky phone, Tarrence Patterson.

But okay, now that I've told you all of this, you're wondering how we got slaughtered. WHAT could possibly have happened that Beloit gave up seven runs?

I guess we should start at the beginning. Luke Hughes singled to open, and then Trevor Plouffe was walked. Woodard reached on an infielder's choice as they took Hughes out at third. Winfree flew out and Pickerel ground out.

And Rainville threw very well. Very, very well. Juan Portes was our starting short stop. He flew out to start the bottom of the second inning. Burns tried to follow but it went close to the fence. Very close to the fence. The outfielder had it, and then he didn't have it and it went over the fence. The umpire ruled it a home run and Deacon took a trot around third to home (as he'd already raced to second). A little odd, but okay, we'll take it.

Patterson hit for a single and reached second on a wild pitch. But Tintor and Jilmer Arratia both flew out to end the inning. I seem to recall the lesson on keeping the ball on the ground from rookie league last year? And these were both rookie league guys.

Tarrence Patterson

In any case, David Shinskie took the mound. He pitched last year for Elizabethton with a 4.17 average. He allowed a single on his first pitch. The second batter reached on a catching error to Tintor who bobbled the ball. It was one of those groaner plays. However, it was nothing compared to what happened next.

I want to interrupt this narrative for a while. EVery morning I show up at the park and watch practice. I've been coming in a little late, like round 10 instead of 9, but you know...10 is pretty early for a 1:00 game. And I watch the guys practice and every day it's the same thing. 3-1 drills, and 4-1 drills, "I got it, I got it, I got it", "Take it, take it, take it", "Check home." Jeff Schoenbachler injected a little humor into the drill this morning when he overran the ball -- "I got it, I got it, I got it, I don't got it."

Every morning we do this. Even though training camp has only been open nine days now, Shinskie did pitch for Elizabethton last year and ran these drill, day in an day out in Elizabethton. After all, practice makes perfect.

The batter lays down a bunt and Eli yells "Bunt!" and Shinskie yells "I got it, I got it." Then he tried to get it and fell flat on his face. Tint got there as fast as he could, but by then, the bunt had turned into a double. I hope this is the only time in my life I ever see a double-bunt again unless it's for our team.

We need to work harder on these drills. Obviously, all the practice isn't make perfect.

Shinskie went back, shame-faced to the mound with Pirates up 2-1 and while he was physically okay, it took him a while to recover his composer. The bunter would evenutally score before he finally manage to retire the side with a final strike out. (Ah, no rolling of the innings today, because that was a very long one!)

And it was very cruel to Shinskie to put him after the wonderful pitching of Jay Rainville to start the game.

Plouffe got a single in the third. Besides being 3-0 with a run and a walk in the game, he's going to be heart-throb by the time he makes it to Fort Myers. The local teens will be estatic.

Trevor Plouffe

Now, if you've been counting batters on your hands, you might have noticed we were using a ten man rotation with Arratia being the other DH. This happens sometimes in minor league spring training games. After all, the games don't count except maybe for bragging rights, so they do all sorts of weird things. This applies to extended spring training games as well. Except the umps aren't usually as good. We had to Eastern League blues today, the same ones that worked yesterday, but we had to question a few of their calls today.

Also, Portes came out of the game this inning and rookie short-stop Yancarlos Ortiz replaced him. In any case, Plouffe had the only hit in the inning, so we were back to Shinskie on the mound.

He looked a little better this inning, giving up a shakey double to start off. He then struck out the next batter, allowed a ground out, and struck out the final batter to retire the side. Not bad. Good actually. One can almost forgive the previous inning. Almost. But not quite.

Nothing exciting happened in the bottom of the fourth. Three up, three down.

This brought in Hiroyuki Iida to start the fifth. Joe Vavra walked by a little bit later and said "Is that other guy warmed up? Then take this one out." Joe Vavra is my hero. Hiroyuki gave up three runs, all earned. But at least he did not fall flat on his face.

The "other guy" was Danny Vais and he allowed the first batter he faced to hit into a double play. One guy scored (left on base by Iida), but we got two outs. The next guy was a simple enough ground out. I thanked Vavra. He said "It wasn't his fault", whatever that means.

We went three up, three down in the bottom of the fifth. Eli struck out but he did run the pitch count to six before he did it.

Vais stayed in for the sixth and was three up, three down, including a foul out that was handled well by first baseman Javier Lopez who replaced Woodard in the line up. The other changes in the line up included Greg Najac in at catcher, and Dwyane White replacing Jeremy Pickrel at right.

Hughes flew out, followed by Plouffe, who singled. He moved to third on Lopez's single (fast kid!) and then scored when D-White also singled. Winfree stuck out in between those two plays. Ortiz lined out to end the inning.

Mike Rogers, a.k.a. "Rock" and a.k.a. Maroon Hummer, came in next. We all know that Rock's got it going on and he did in the seventh, although he did walk one. For the remaineder of the game, the only hitting we got was Plouffe and Lopez, both with singles in the bottom of the eighth. So I'm going to skip the hitting from now on as it lacked...something.

Okay, I must now admit that I had to take a restroom break. I could not hold out any longer. If I had held out, I could have gotten Aaron to take over the scoring for me the following inning (which he hates) was I to know he was going to come and see me? He likes watching those major league games. (Thanks again for the water!)

So I missed a batter or two. I got back in time to see Rock walk a batter. The next guy hit into a double, and then the guy came home on a sac-fly. Maybe I should have staying in the bathroom longer?

He got the next two guys out on damage control to finish off the inning.

Adam Hawes finished the game and allowed a double, but the guy was stranded, so, not big deal there.

Tim Lahey and Jose Leger batting in the ninth and hit nothing worth even running for.

And did I mention that Jay Rainville pitched great?

Rookie Report: Kris Langford, who pitched last year for Elizabethton returned this year as a catcher. He says he likes it a lot. Travis Kalin was nailed during live batting practice today but was okay after several minutes and returned to the cage. It was scarey though as he went down pretty hard and didn't move for a several minutes. Pitcher Tim Henkenjohann, who is listed on the DL, was participating in drills today. Brandon McConnell, Armando Gabino and Luke Thwaites all pitched for live batting practice. I will get to watch the rookies live next Saturday against the BoSox. Yippee!

Send downs: On Saturday, the Twins optioned Boof Bonser and J.D. Durbin to Rochester. The Twins also reassigned pitcher Trey Hodges to minor league camp. Durbin did not go on the road with the Red Wings today but was at training camp.

Of Note: Both Matt Moses and Brock Peterson looked good in the batting cages today. There was one scarey moment when a ball hit Moses in the foot later on, but he seemed okay after a moment of discomfort.

GCL Notes: It appears that I will be seeing quite a bit of the Reds this year as they are the weekend opponent for this year's Gulf Coast League Season. This means I will have to keep track of the Reds' boys as well as Aaron will want to know about it (despite the fact that he claims the baby Reds aren't the real Reds).

Now Scheduled: An updated minor league spring training schedule is available at the Gulf Coast League Twins site. This replaces the one released by Rochester as there are some changes to the original schedule. Beloit will face Fort Myers in a scrimmage tomorrow. "How come there are guys are always so much bigger than out guys?" I dunno, growth spurt?

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