Friday, October 12, 2007

Instructional League winding down

James Beresford, Matt Moses and Chris Parmelee
James Beresford, Matt Moses and Chris Parmelee

With my vacation days limited at this time of the year by the fact that I'd taken time off while I had the plague (which I caught from Justin Morneau) earlier in the year, plus the time I'd taken off for GCL, I looked at the schedule and decided that I could take 4 half days instead of 2 full days and pick up the games which supposedly start at 1:00.

I know better. I knew better when I made that decision. It's like extended spring training, the games start when the umpires get there. Camp days, which I like even better than game days, are even worse, because they're getting off right around 1:00.

In any case, I believe last week Friday they beat the Orioles, 5-3. This week Friday, the also won by 5-3, this time over the Red Sox. Boston is breaking camp and wished to leave early, so the game started at 11. I got there around noon and it was half over. Last Friday, I got to see Jon Waltenbury knock one over the right field wall. That was nice, because when I congratulated him on it, he wasn't a Crabby Tabby because I wasn't around to see it.

This Friday, I got to see Chris Parmelee hit one over the right field wall. Parms has never pulled the Crabby Tabby routine on me. (He's a NICE boy.)

Last Friday, I'd showed up at 12:30 for the game in progress.

"Whatever happened to the 1:00 start times?" I ask Joe Benson as I sat down in front of him.

"We've been all over."

"When did you start?"

"Noon, and it's the 8th inning," one the pitchers chips in, a refrence to the fact that when I'd showed up on Wednesday they were just starting the 8th inning of a simulated camp day game, which utilized a pitching machine instead of real live pitchers.

I laughed. "None of you can pitch well enough to get us into the 8th inning in half an hour," I told him. "Even Slowey doesn't pitch that well."

"Slowey walks too many guys."

"Riiiiighhhttt." Really, they need some instructional work on their jokes.

I made it last Wednesday for the 5th inning, but they were only playing six. Still, it was interesting as the coaching staff had some new high tech equipment they were trying out, which lead to some laughs.

Today I made it for the 5th as well, but at least they were playing 9.

"Why is Moses at second base?" I ask. It's not like he can play 3rd, I can't image that he'd be any better at 2nd. Parmelee was playing first and with the exception of one ball he couldn't get a handle on, played well enough while I was there.

Mike Allen had pitched three innings and was just finishing up on the mound. Luke Van Mil came on for the sixth.

I like Luke well enough from a personal standpoint, but he's not going in and attacking the strike zone. He got 2 outs before he surrendered a run, and struggled with the 3rd. He had lasted only one inning last Saturday as well. They put him back in for a second, but Blair Erickson was brought in to finish off the 7th inning with 2 outs. The trainer visited the mound as well, as Van Mil appeared to be in some distress.

Blair Erickson
Blair Erickson

Of the "new" guys I've seen thus far in camp, Erickson is probably the most interesting.

A side-arm style right-hander out of UC Irvine, he made a name for himself in NCAA baseball as one of the premier closers in the league.

Erickson surpassed the 50th career save mark in April of 2007, giving him the new mark in the college record books.

He picked up 11 saves in 18 games with the Elizabethton Twins in 2007, posting a 1.53 era along the way, walking only 3 in 17.2 innings pitched. He will likely start the 2008 in Beloit and will be looking to surpass Rob Delaney's 36-save mark. It's probably that the soon to be 23-year-old California native will also spend some time with the Fort Myers Miracle next season.

Delaney, on other hand, who was 2-0 with 7 saves and a 1.54 ERA in 17 games with the Miracle will be taking his soft pitch show up to the AA level. Whether the 'stach will go as well, remains to be seen.

I got another video of Erickson today, this time of the 8th inning as he pitched 2.1 to finish up the contest.

The Twins have a camp day tomorrow and on Wednesday and will play either Baltimore or Cincinnati on Monday at Noon. I suspect Thursday's game will be early as well as the teams will be breaking camp after that and will want to get out of town. Some of the boys haven't seen home since March.

Meanwhile, I heard Tyler saying something about "Blog tonight" so I wanted to make him happy. I think they read this on Myspace. That's the only way I can account for hits there.

I stopped to talk to David Bromberg on the way out, in part because I want to know what JuCo his little brother is going to. The answer is Pierce, in California. Rams was coming off the field and said "Your brother got drafted?

"What round, by who?"

"32nd," Bromberg mumbles.

"Us," I chip in.

"Why didn't he sign?" David mumbles something about the signing bonus not being the kind of money they were looking for.

"He's not ready yet anyway," Bromberg says. "He's only 17."

I point out the idea behind getting rid of the Draft and Follows was the keep the signing bonuses down, but I know that boys don't want to hear that.

"We'll redraft him," I say.

"Maybe not," David warns. "The Tigers have been looking at him," as well as several other teams.

Pierce is the same Juco that Danny Berlind pitched for last season.

Anyway, I will try to get some type of a coherent story of out camp day tomorrow. At lease all know who all the guys on both teams are, and maybe I'll get a look at some of the kids I've yet to see play.

In other news...

Lara 5 at Aragua 3

W: J. Carlson (1-0, 0.00); L: J. Guanchez (0-1, -.--); SV: R. Houston (1)
HR: LAR: L. Jimenez (1). ARA: L. Maza (1).

The Tigres de Aragua fell 5-3 to the Cardenales de Lara at Aragua. Former Miracle pitcher Jose Mijares allowed a home run to Boston's Luis Jimenez for the blown save. He faced three batters, struck out one and took the other on a ground out.

Jose Guanchez suffered the loss for the Tigres. Twins prospect Bobby Korecky finished off the game, allowing 2 runs on no hits and 1 walk as he fell victim to throwing errors by 3rd baseman Mike Aviles (Kansas City), 2nd baseman Alex Nunez and shortstop Jose Martinez (St. Louis).

Twins prospect Brian Buscher was 2-for-4 at the plate with 1 run and 2 doubles in the designed hitter role. Former Miracle Luis Maza was 1-for-4 with a home run, while Fort Myers alumni Alex Romero was 0-for-4,


Twins' Macri, Phoenix dominate Scottsdale

Ryan Mullins

Phoenix 7 at Scottsdale 2

W: P. Bresnehan (1-0, 0.00); L: M. Scherzer (0-1, 18.00)
HR: PDD: M. Macri (1). SCO: E. Longoria (2).

It was Twins night for the Phoenix Desert Dogs, with former Miracle pitcher Ryan Mullins starting things off by pitching 2 innings of 1 hit baseball against the Scottsdale Scorpions. Mullins threw 26 pitches, 18 for strikes and struck 3 of the 7 batters he faced.

Mullins' first batter, Eugenio Velez (San Francisco), singled out to right and stole second. He made it to third on a Reid Brignac's (Tampa Bay) ground out, but Mullins then took Toronto's Travis Snider and Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria out on strikes to end the first inning.

Matt Macri lead the offense of the Dogs, going 3-for-5 at the plate with 2 runs and 3 RBIs. He went yard at the top of the fourth inning off Arizona's Max Scherzer after designated hitter Jason Delaney (Pittsburgh) had walked his way onto base. He then doubled in top of the 5th for Phoenix off Toronto's Jamie Vermilyea.

Macri joined the Twins organization from the Rockies in August in the deal for pitcher Ramon Ortiz.

Catcher Drew Butera was 1-for-4 at the plate with 2 RBIs while former Miracle Trevor Plouffe as 0-for-5 with 4 strike outs on the night.

The two teams rematch tonight at 7:05 PM MST, with Phoenix getting home field advantage.


No score is currently available on the Tigre's de Araqua game in the Venezuelan Winter League. The Tigers face the Leones del Caracas today at 4:00 (Venezuelan local time).

It was my intention to try to make it to today's Instructional League game, however, I despite having an additional six months to work with, I've had three clients to felt the need to wait until the extreme last second to get their 2006 tax information into me. Monday is the deadline for individual extensions and I've got two slow pokes coming in today and one coming in Monday. However, if I don't see this info on my desk bright and early today I might leave and go to the game just be cruel.

Slowey named MILB AAA Pitcher of the Year: Former Miracle Kevin Slowey was named MILB's AAA Pitcher of the year Thursday. Slowey finished with a 10-5 record for the Rochester Red Wins and his 1.89 ERA was second only to Class A Augusta's Kevin Pucetas (1.86) in the Minors. The International League batted just .223 against the Winthrop product, who continued to post one of the most gaudy walk ratios this side of future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux. The right-hander struck out 107 and walked only 18 in 133 2/3 innings. In 353 2/3 career Minor League frames, Slowey boasts a 1.93 ERA, walking 48 and striking out 342. Fantasy players certainly would appreciate the future of a pitcher who had an 0.86 WHIP in the Minors.

Tampa Yankee's Ian Kennedy was named the overall Starting Pitcher of the year for 2007. Kennedy finished the Minor League season with a 12-3 mark, posted a 1.91 ERA and dominated at three different levels before taking his act to New York.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Venezuelan Winter Ball Preview

Yohan Pino

Venezuelan Winter League kicks off Thursday, October 11th, with LaGuaira taking on Zulia, Lara at Aragua, Margirita at Caracas and Caribes at Magallanes.

Not all the teams have posted their rosters, but for the most part the Twins current prospects are part of the Aragua Tigers.

Because VWL includes major leaguers, it's generally considered a higher level of play than either Fall Instructional League or Arizona Fall League, although players from all level of baseball seem to end up on various team rosters.

The Aragua pitching staff sports a number of former Miracle players. Frank Mata, Jose Mijares, Yohan Pino and Oswaldo Sosa will all take the mound mixed in with current twin prospects Brian Bass and Bobby Korecky. Former Miracle Josmir Romero and Victor Moreno are also on the Tigre's roster, although they are no longer part of the Twins organization.

Twins prospect Wilson Ramos as listed as one of Aragua's catchers, but I saw him last Friday at the Lee County Sportsplex with his hand still all bandaged, so don't expect him to see any action until much later in the season.

Current Minnesota propsect Brian Buscher will be spliting time at 3rd base with the Marlin's Miguel Cabrera, and former Miracle Luis Maza and Luis Rodriguez. Another Fort Myers alumni, Alex Romero, will be in the Aragua outfield.

A look over at the roster of the Navegantes del Magallanes reveals former Miracle Erol Andrus patroling their outfield, and Jesus Merchan, who is currently in the Phillies organization, will be handling their shortstop duties.

Former Twins catcher Henry Blanco is behind the plate for Leones del Caracas, while current Twin Carlos Silva is pitching for the Caribes de Oriente. Juan Rincon and Ryan Rowland-Smith, who I believe the Twins had a look at one year for Spring Training, are on the Cardenales de Lara as is former Miracle Luis Ugueto.

Familier names dot the rosters and I'm sure there are several I've overlooked. Caribbean Winter League information can be found HERE.

For the most part I'll be limiting my Venezuelan League coverage to the Tigres, but will try to keep you appraised of notable players on the other teams as much as possible.

The Mexican Pacific League is underway, but my interest in it is slight, having already looked over the rosters. The Dominican League starts on october 17, 2007 and rosters have not been posted as of this writing. Hawaii Winter Ball is also under way. The Twins do not participate in the league but FSL fans might be familier with a number of players there including Florida's Brett Sinkbeil and the Red's Logan Ondrusek, who are pitching for the North Shore Honu. Interested fans can keep appraised of those players progress HERE.

Desert Dogs shut out Solar Sox, 1-0

Eddie Morlan

Phoenix 1 at Mesa 0

W: D. Haehnel (1-0, 0.00); L: J. Berg (0-1, 4.50); SV: B. McCrory (1)
HR: None.

The Phoenix Desert Dogs upended the Mesa Solar Sox Wednesday night, 1-0. Twins 3rd base prospect Matt Macri had the lone run for Dogs.

The Notre Dame product was 1-for-3 at the plate with a double.

Macri swatted himself over to 2nd after the Solar Sox replaced pitcher Matt Avery with Justin Berg, both from the Chicago Cubs organization. After catcher Donny Lucy (Chi-Sox) ground out, Oakland's Cliff Pennington took walk. Nyjer Morgans' (Pittsburgh) single to right would score Macri, but that would ball the the Desert Dogs would get.

Still, it would be enough. The combined pitching staff of both the Dogs and the Sox allowed only 3 hits each.

Baltimore's David Haehnel picked up the win for Phoenix allowing only 1 hit in 1 innings worth of work.

Former Miracle Eddie Morlan threw a scoreless frame in the 7th, issuing a walk to Milwaukee's Adam Heether, but getting St Louis' Joe Mather to hit into a double play and Houston's J.R. Towles to ground to end the inning.

The Desert Dogs play at Scottsdale Thursday at 7:05 PM MST. Scottsdale fell to Peoria Saguaros 5-4 Wednesday and Surprise took a 14-11 win over the Peoria Javelinas.

Former Tampa Yankees short stop Reegie Corona when yard for the Javelinas, ended up 2-for-5 at the plate with 1 run, and 4 RBIs.


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Mesa downs Pheonix as Arizona Fall League play starts

Anthony swarzak

Mesa 7 at Phoenix 3

W: J. Motte (1-0, 0.00); L: J. Chavez (0-1, 18.00)
HR: MSS: M. LaPorta (1).

Twins prospect Anthony Swarzak pitched 2 innings of baseball to kick off the Arizona Fall League, allowing 1 run on 3 hits and 1 walk while striking out 1.

It would prove to be a no decision though as three relievers combined for 6 runs on 10 hits and 1 walk to see the Phoenix fall to Mesa, 7-3.

Trevor Plouffe played at short stop for the Desert Dogs, going 1-for-4 at the plate with a double and 1 RBI. The Chi-Sox's Ryan Sweeney and Pittsburgh first baseman Jason J. Delaney drove in the other two runs for Phoenix.

The two teams rematch tomorrow at Mesa at 7:05 Mountain Standard Time.

The Arizona Fall League is a cooperative league that provides fall games for the most promising minor league players that have reached the Double- and Triple-A levels. Unlike Fall Instructional League, its game are reported. You can visit the Arizona Fall League homepage by clicking here.

Aside from Swarzak and Plouffe, the Twins are represented in the Arizona Fall League by former Miracle pitchers Eduardo Morlan, Nick Blackburn, and Ryan Mullins, New Britain catcher Drew Butera, and Rochester 3rd Baseman Matt Macri.

Andrew McCutchen will be blogging for the Desert Dogs this season. The Pirates outfield split time between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis during the regular season. His first entry is due Wednesday, October 10th.


Blackburn was one of two former Miracle players honored by Baseball America at the Triple A level. Kevin Slowey and Blackbrun were both added to the Triple-A post season All-star team. Slowey posted a 10-5 record with a 1.89 ERA for the Rochester Red Wings this season. He struck out 107, and walked only 18 in 20 games for the Wings. Blackburn, a 29th round pick for the Twins in the 2001 draft, went 7-3 for the Red Winds, with a 2.11 ERA. He struck out 57 pitchers and walked 12 in 17 games for Rochester. Blackburn was a member of the 2005 Miracle and was named to the FSL All-star game that year. Slowey was on the 2006 Miracle pitching staff and started in that year's All-Star game in Lakeland.

Baseball America also named Beloit pitcher Tyler Robertson to the post season All-star team. Robertson's 123 strike outs lead the Snappers despite the fact that the big lefty was only there for half a season. He posted a 9-5 record and a 2.29 ERA for the Snappers, walking 33 in 18 games. Robertson is likely to start the 2008 season with Fort Myers.

Snappers head coach Jeff Smith was named the Low A Manager of the Year by B.A. The Naples, Florida, resident lead the Snappers to a 79-61 overall record in the Midwest League, good for first place in the Western Division. He took the Snappers all the way to the MWL playoffs, where the team took the series to 5 games before falling to the West Michigan (Detroit) Whitecaps.

Three pitchers for the Elizabethon Twins were named to the post season All-star team. Starter David Bromberg posted a 9-0 record for the Twins with a 2.78 ERA, striking out 81 and walking 32 in 13 games. Mike McCardell, who started the short season with the GCL Twins, recorded a 5-1 record with Elizabethton after his promotion, including a 2.00 ERA, and 70 strike outs with only 5 walks in 8 games for the Twins. Closer Brad Tippett picked up a 7-1 record along with 3 saves, and a .93 ERA for the Appalachian League Championship team. He recorded 51 strike outs and 4 walks in 21 games. All three of these pitchers could see time with Fort Myers in the 2008 season.

Finally Elizabethton Twins field manager Ray Smith was named the Rookie League Manager of the year. Smith's team posted a 50-18 record, good for first place in the Appy League in 2007 in route to its 3rd division title in 4 years. Smith had amassed a 529-347 win record going into the season. He has been held his post as Elizabethton field manager since 1987 and has won 4 Appalachian League titles with the Twins.