Saturday, April 2, 2005

Rock Cats ready to break camp

Heads up New Britain! A whole new squad of Rock Cats is coming your way!

While Saturday's pre-season game in Fort Myers may be cancelled by rain, the Rock Cats have put in a solid training camp and are ready to get back to patroling New Britain Stadium.

The Cats will bring some big bats north with them, starting with University of Miami stand out Danny Matienzo, who nearly earned the Florida State League batting title last season. Matienzo will serve as a first baseman when he is not DHing, splitting time in that position with Luis Jimenez. Jimenez, a free agent off-season signing, hit .310 for Lara in the Venezuelan Winter League.

Also high on the list of Cats with Bats will be outfield Alex Romero, who is noted for more that just his batting. Romero brings speed to the basepaths, and a canon of an arm to the outfield. Joining Romero in the outfield is former Ohio State University alumni Doug Deeds. Deeds had been slowed in the early part of his career by a hand injury, but is fully recovered now and was considered one of the best players with the High A Fort Myers Miracle last season. Deeds lead the Florida State League in triples last season with 12.

Behind the plate, look for switch hitting Jose Morales. While Morales, a Florida State League All-Star, needs some work with his catching skills -- especially in learning to work his pitching staff and in calling the games -- his althetic skills speak for themselves. He is both skilled with his bat and is defensively solid, taking steady aim at anyone who might try to steal second. Morales' inexperience will be offset by the mentoring of veteran cat Bryan Kennedy. Kennedy is a heart and soul player who does well with the mental portion of the game and who deals well with his teammates. These two should provide the Cats with one of the best catching tandums in the Eastern League.

Also returning for to New Britian is two utility players, Tommy Watkins and Jake Mauer. "These guys will at least get an opportunity to play at AAA, and who knows from there?" said Jim Rantz, director of the Twins farm system, who also noted that much like his younger brother, Jake Mauer can also catch.

Leading off the starting rotation will be Francisco Liriano, a late season call up in 2004. This southpaw was clocked at 97 mph this spring, and could reach Class AAA Rochester this season, as soon as he fine-tunes his control.

Next up should be sharp eyed Colby Miller, who was slowed last year by injuries. Justin Olson will be the third starter. Originally a reliever, the hard throwing Olson worked his way into the starting rotation in Florida last season, and will be looking to prove himself with the Cats.

6'4" righty Matt Yeatman will also start for the Cats. Yeatman, who was obtained in a trade with the Brewers in 2002 posted respectable numbers in Single A. He was slowed last year by tendantis, but should come on strong for the Cats.

Finally, righty Levale Speigner from Thomasville, Georgia, will round out the starting rotation. Speigner was a mid season call up to High A ball last season had a 4-3 record with a 1.79 ERA for the Miracle.

While last season's Cats were shy on lefties, that won't be the case this year with Jason Miller, Jeff Randazzo, J.T. Thomas and Ricky Barrett in the bullpen. Submarine throwing Pat Neshek will share the closing duties with Kevin Cameron, both returning to the Rock Cat pride.

The Cats start their season Thursay April 7th on the road against New Haven for a 6:35 pm game and will play a series in Portland against the Sea Dogs before their home opener on April 14th.

Expect an explosion of baseball excitment with the new 2005 version of the New Britian Rock Cats!

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Easter Sunday Treat

Who ticked off the Baseball Gods?

The winds today were 16 to 20 mph steady (from the Southwest) with higher gusts up to 32 mph when the Paw Sox were at the plate.

This isn't a joke, it was for real. Everytime the Red Wings got up to bat the winds died down. At first it seemed kind of funny, but then after a while, we were kind of wondering what sort of cruel joke this was.

In any case, the final score was 9 to 1, Paw Sox.

The Twins even decided to help us out, loaning us Carlos Silva to start the game. Silva would surrender four runs on six hits, including one home run, while striking out three in four innings worth of work.

Honestly, you can't fault the pitcher. The first double he gave up went far into the outfield and while we had two fielders on it, neither could make the play as they couldn't judge where the ball was going. So it fell in between the two of them. Was not Silva's fault. He was doing his best in adverse conditions.

We also got Mike Redmond to catch for us. He was one for two at the plate with one walk.

And finally, they loaned us Luis Rivas. I was wondering by the second inning if it would be too soon to give him back. It was.

Evidently, the object of the game was not to try to get a win, but to give Rivas as many at bats as possible. He ended up being one-for-five, with one strike out and one hit by pitcher. They put in a pinch runner for him, but it didn't really help as Redmond hit into a double play.

Thank you Twins, you're a fine organization, but I really didn't want to find Luis Rivas in my easter basket. Please refrain from pleasantly surprising us in the future. (And then people wonder why I hate presents.)

Brent Abernathey provided the lone run for the Red Wings in the second, compliments of some fancy base running. The closest we came to a homer was Tommy Watkins long outfield fly in the seventh that fell just inches short of the center field fence. It he'd hit just little to the left, he would have had it. If there was just a bit of tail wind on it, he would have had it but, honestly, if the winds had anything to do with it, they shoved it over toward the outfield fence and so, he didn't have it.

The Baseball Gods were NOT happy with the Red Wings today.

Once Silva left the mound, Beau Kemp took over, striking out four with one walk. It was four strike outs he had to work for though as he really likes working to a full pitch count.

Travis Bowyer handled the pitching chores for the seventh and eighth, striking out five, but allowing two homers and a double. Again, any or all three of these would have been nice easy put outs, but the winds....darn those winds!

April Fools Day isn't for another week!

We did make the best of a bad situation. Gabby Torres and Bryan Kennedy provided us with plenty of entertainment in the dug out and the loss of the balls to the Wind Gods kept everyone busy trying to scrounge a few up.

"Heads Up! Bring it back! I see you over there Neshak, dang you! Bring that back!"

The other topic was the seperation of Watkins and James Tomlin, the inseperable pair. It started shortly after Tommy's mom joined me at the game. One of the pitchers for New Britain came bouncing over and said "James is lonely. He misses Tommy." I pointed out he has Sam to keep him company.

Anna went over to see how James was doing and came back a little while later. "He's talking trash. I told him Tommy misses him and he said 'He does not!'"

The commentary then went along the lines of "Well, it's only for a day or so..." but that may not be the case. Several of the players and staff felt that Tommy could be staying with the Wings. But we shall see how that goes, in part because Luis Maza may be going on the DL after he took a ball to the foot today. (There was no immediate update on that, they took him off in a little cart as he couldn't walk.)

Johan Pino, who is on the Beloit squad, pitched up to finish the game off, allowing a double and a homer, with one strike out and one walk. I was beginning to wonder if we were going to get out of the inning but he induced Selliers to hit into a double play to end the inning.

On the whole though, the Pawtucket pitching really shut down the Wings. I can blame the Sox runs on the winds as much as I want, but the Wings turned in a poor performance at the plate. Garrett Jones struck out twice in two at-bats, Kevin West, hit into two double plays and an outfield fly, and Jason Tyner struck out once on three plate apperances. Watkins, Rob Bowen and Todd Dunwoody also recorded strike outs.

· The boys had the morning off for Easter services. I did get to watch the 11:00 AM bullpen session with J.D. Durbin. On the whole, Durbie was pitching well, and I hope that he will have a productive season with Rochester and hopefully make another stab at the Twins roster later in the season. Red Wings pitching coach Bobby Cuellar was working with him through the session, trying to smooth out the trouble spots.

· The Minnesota Twins today optioned outfielder Michael Ryan to Rochester of the International League (AAA); assigned outfielder Armando Rios to minor league camp; released infielders Andy Fox and Eric Munson. Remember how I told you guys Munson wasn't going to make the Twins?

· After the game I wandered over to see what the Rock Cats were doing. I asked Jeff Randazzo the score. There's a momentary discusion and they come up with "Go ask Frankie (Liriano). He misses you."

"Frankie doesn't miss me," I informed them, although Liriano was doing the score keeping for the game. "Josh isn't going to miss me either," I said refering to Josh Gray. "I'm in Fort Myers again," he says.

"I know that. That's why you're not going to miss me." He's going to be here all year and we're going to have lots of fun together.

"Ace here is going to miss me, he just doesn't know it yet," I say, patting Randazzo on the shoulder.

"Oh, I will miss you!" Jeff says. "I miss you already."

Matt Yeatman and J.T. Thomas aren't going to miss me either, but they ARE going to miss fishing in the outfield pond prior to the games.

· Extended Spring Training starts Thursday, April 14th when we host the Reds. I had not actually rushed to put this schedule up on line because of the general overall lack of interest in it. However, Anna asked about it today, so I guess I should get to work on that.