Saturday, March 26, 2005

Send Down Saturday

Is it still considered a Red Sox rally when the home team falls apart?

Coach Milt Cuyler calls me his good luck charm. Today, he had a friend down from St. cloud -- she was in town to watch her son play baseball at a tournament at Terry Park -- so he had two good luck charms.

How could we lose? We didn't. But we ended up settling for a 4-4 tie.

Actually, the GCL Rookies got off to a really good start. Jeff Hawes was one of the send downs yesterday so he took the start today for the Twins. He allowed 2 hits, one walk and two strike outs in three innings of work. In fact he struck out both of the first two batters he faced. One of the hits turned into a triple though. Should have been a put out but the winds were again making things difficult in the outfield. I do however need to state that our starting outfield of Richard Sojo, Mark Robinson, and Larry Jones did an excellent job out there, despite adverse conditions.

Meanwhile, on the batting side, short stop William Luque walked to start the game.

Stop right there. I have to rave about William Luque. Not as a short stop but on the basepaths. This kid was just TREMENDOUS once he got on base. He's got to be Paul Molitor's prized pupil. The kid get's walked to first. Then, with Odannys Valdez up to bat, he steals second. Just sweet and clean, it was so fast the opposing catcher never even got the throw off. Scott Lucas, a 1st baseman who is with the team on a try out agreement, singled and by this time, Luque was on third. I could just imagine him stealing home, but former Gulf Coast University stand out Chris Brown doubled both of them in for a 2-0 lead.

Greg Najac, who was also a victim of "send down Saturday", lined out and then outfielder Richard Sojo struck out to end the first. I think it was Sojo who failed to snag the put out in the first that resulted in Hawes getting charged with a triple, but...

Travis Kalin hit a single in the second, but went nowhere on it. Which brought us back to the top of the order for the third.

Evidently Ramos Linares was not paying attention to Cooper Eddy's first ining, as he walked Luque. Valdez was taken out at first, so I suppose we could say Luque reached second on a fielder's choice. Then Lucas got a nice solid line drive, a single for him, but Luque was over the plate on that one. Good kid, pleasure to watch. Hope we get to see a lot more of Luque.

Brown walked, but Lucas was caught off base at second and tagged out. Najac lined out to end the inning.

Kyle Eldich took over the mound for the fourth and fifth and turned in a really good performance. He only faced six batters and struck out one. He walked T. Bawden, but caught him off base while Dee Williams was at bat, ending the fifth inning. Nice defensive work on that one.

The fourth for the Twins over over quickly. Jones walked to start the fifth but Robinson struck out. While Luque singled to advance Jones, he would later be caught off base, trying to steal again, while Valdez was at bat. Valdez then did his best to keep the inning alive, but couldn't quite get to first before the ball did.

Alex Garcia came out to pitch for the Twins in the sixth and seventh. He would ultimate face 10 batters, allowing four hits, including a double which the outfield failed to catch, struck out one, and hit Torres (Sorry, I don't have first names on most of the Red Sox guys) in the sixth. I should note on the double that we had changed over the outfield by that point, putting in Simon Fletcher and Ricky Prady in for Robinson and Sojo.

Leonard found is way home on a sac-fly to Bawden in the seventh, putting the hated Red Sox on the board.

Lucas walked to start the sixth for the Twins, but was taken out at second as Najac reached first on a fielder's choice. Dean hit a long single, putting Najac on third. Prady struck out, but Najac was able to come home on Joe Arabella's bat to give us four. We'd need four.

In the seventh, catcher Kris Lankford walked to start and Jones singled, Fletch flew out, but Juan Delgado would reach on a fielder's choice, as they took Lankford out. Wesley Conner struck out to end the inning.

Jose Castillo came out on the mound for the Twins in the eighth. E. Linsres singled to start the inning, but Castillo induced Pritz to hit into a double play. Mareno would double though for the Sox as the outfielders failed to make the put out. Torres hit a high pop up at the plate and rookie catcher Kris Lankford made an absolutely great catch behind the plate to take him out on the foul. This catch was only second to Ricky Prady's put out in the sixth, when he ran straight into the fence, but still managed to hang on to the ball to foul Williams out.

Lucas, Dean, and Prady all hit in the eigth, but both Dean and Prady reached on fielder's choices as first one, than the other was taken out. Najac's strike out would provide the second out for the Twins, before the Sox caught Prady at second on Joe Abellera's at bat to end the inning.

Jeff Shoenbachler took over for the ninth but this is when the outfield fell apart. Two balls that should have been put outs turned into a double and a triple, and Arambarris and Bawden singled for the Sox. In the end, Shoey gave up three runs, all earned, to tie the game at four.

The Twins declined to bat in the ninth, settling for the tie, as the game was running longer than either of the Single A games.

While the Twins ran through most of their roster in batting, the Sox brought only a limited number of players. It will be a similar situation tomorrow at the Rex Sox facility as the as Twins teams will have a limited roster and Red Sox will have more of their players bat.

* I told Najac I didn't want to see him back in Gulf Coast. Nothing personal. He laughed and said he was going to Elizabethton.

* Pitcher Joe Gault was working as the second referee for the game, as we only got one. They do actually give us two during regular season. Luke Thwaites served as ball boy. Need I say, these were two of the pitchers I really wanted to see and the pitched yesterday while I was watching Beloit get slaughtered. Grumble.

* Today turned out to be probably the hottest day we've seen so far this season, with even a touch of hummidity. Of course, this was NOTHING compared to what we go through in July and August. That's why it always amazes me that some of these kids repeat the Gulf Coast League level. If you've been through hell once, why would you EVER want to repeat it?

* Okay, the big news as "Send Down Saturday". Nick Blackburn dropped from Rochester to Fort Myers. I like Blackie, I won't mind having him back. Both Millers, Jason and Colby, joined the AA team as did Justin Olsen and catcher Jose Morales. Of interest, Levale Speigner remains with the AAA group. Danny Matienzo, Jake Mauer, Matt Scanlon and James Tomlin all found themselves on the AA roster as well.

Catcher Kyle Geiger, third baseman Omar Burgos, and outfielder Scott Whitrock all joined the Fort Myers group as did pitchers Josh Gray, Adam Harben, Glen Perkins, Jay Sawatski, and Errol Simonitsch. Nick Webb was cut from camp.

Pitchers Robbie Hebert, J.P. Martinz, Even Meek, and Alex Smit were all send down to Beloit. Johnny Lynch was cut, Justin Jones and Billy Mauer were added to the DL as were Matt Fox and Frank Mata who had been with the Beloit work group.

Interestingly enough, only catcher Korey Feiner and outfielder Burt Landon were dropped from the High A fielding roster. Ramiro Chamizo, who is in camp as a try out was moved from outfielder to 3rd base at the High A level, however.

I covered a few of the low A send downs in the main body of the story, but I'll be updating the Spring Training Roster shortly for those that are interesed.

Evidently pitchers Armano Garino and Ryan Gehring were also cut from Minor League Camp.

* I did give Geiger a hard time about being sent down but also noted we were happy to see him. I told him there were girls weeping in the stands last year after they'd found out he'd been send down. "Oh, they were not," he said. Honestly, they were. Especially after they found out they'd given his number to someone else. Of course, after I got to watch Elvis Corporan catch a game, I was ready to start weeping as well. I'm surprised the pitching staff didn't break down in tears over that one.

I did watch Geiger and the rest of the High A group take some practice at the hands of coach Jeff Carter. Brutal. Mommas, don't let your babies grow up to be catchers!

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?