With all four full-season teams beginning play on Thursday, the minor league teams are off and running. And what a wonderful first day it was as Fort Myers' exciting comeback fell short holding the organization to a 2-2 day.
We got a good look at what we may expect this year as the Twins continued to fine tune the organizational changes that began a year ago. It appears only the best prospects will be moving up AAA with AA also stocked with several veteran minor league players sprinkled in with organizational veterans and top prospects. The New Britain Rock Cats roster had five players with some major league experience including their opening day starter.
My observations from opening day follow the jump.Aided by MiLB.TV, I watched the Rochester Red Wings (AAA) opener on a gloomy day in Syracuse. Following a 7-4 win, are the Wings ready to put the past two disastrous seasons behind them?
With a starting rotation that includes Sam Deduno, Cole DeVries, Scott Diamond and Daryl Thompson, manager Gene Glynn gave the ball to P. J. Walters. Although Walters put a few runners on in the first inning, he pitched four shutout innings with only two hits. Jeff Manship, who was the first man out of the bullpen, did a fine job until the sixth. With the Wings leading, 2-0, and a runner on first with one out, Glynn brought in lefty Tyler Robertson to face Bryce Harper who already had two hits. Robertson would strike Harper out with several nasty breaking balls well out of the zone. Robertson would get into trouble in the seventh when a lead off single became a double after it was misplayed in left by Rene Tosoni on a play I would have scored as an error. After a Michael Holliman error on the next batter, a pop out and walk, Brendan Wise replaced Robertson. Wise gave up a single to his first batter, scoring two after Tosoni committed an error on what should have been a single. The Wings would give up four in the seventh before Wise pitched a scoreless eighth. Casey Fien faced only three batters in the ninth for his first save.
Brian Dozier had a double and single in his first two at bats while scoring a run and picking up a walk later in the game. Joe Benson was 0-3, however, walked twice and made a hard slide stealing second in the third inning enabling Dozier to score their first run as the ball went off the shortstop's glove into right center field. Benson didn't look good in one at bat when he struck out on a breaking ball, but did line a shot right at the center fielder later in the game. Aaron Bates was 2-4 with a pair of walks while Drew Butera was also 2-4 with a run scored, 3 runs driven in, a double and the Wings first home run off the left field foul pole. Brian Dinkelman broke the game open in the top of the seventh when he tripled to right with the bases loaded. The hitting star however was Matt Carson, who was 4-5 with a run scored, double and triple. The game ended when Benson made a very nice running catch in right center on a ball most center fielders wouldn't get to. It was only one game, however, this team looks like it is going to score a lot of runs.
The New Britain Rock Cats (AA) opened their season Thursday evening, hosting Richmond. Former big leaguer Luke French got the start, pitching five shutout innings with only two hits, two walks and four strikeouts as he led New Britain to a 3-2 win. Deolis Guerra pitched two perfect innings with three strikeouts before Daniel Turpen came on in the eighth. Turpen allowed two runs in the top of the ninth before Lester Oliveros struck out the last batter for his first save.
Darin Mastroianni was the Cats' lead off hitter, going 1-3 with a walk and two runs scored. Mastroianni, who led off the first with a single, scored on Evan Bigley's double with one out. Although Mastroianni played a lot of second base this spring, he was in left field for the opener with James Beresford at second and Pedro Floriman at short. Chris Herrmann was 2-4 while Mark Dolenc and Beresford were both 2-3.
I expect most of you are aware of Scott Baker's problems in his start for the Fort Myers Miracle (Hi-A). He lasted eleven pitches, leaving the game with two runners on and one out. In what has been reported as "he couldn't get loose," it appears that Baker won't be back to the Twins as soon as hoped. Edgar Ibarra replaced Baker. He allowed Baker's two runners to score before pitching 2.2 shutout innings while the Miracle fought back to take the lead, 3-2. Jose Gonzalez came on in the fourth, allowing three runs in one inning. Charlotte stretched their lead to 8-3 with a run off Ricky Bowen, who pitched three innings, and two runs off Matt Hauser who pitched the eighth. The Miracle made an effort to pull it out in the ninth, scoring three before running out of outs in a 8-6 loss.
Lead off hitter, second baseman Daniel Santana, was 3-4 with a walk, two runs scored, two driven in and a pair of doubles. Angel Morales also was 3-4 with a run scored, run driven in and walk. After singling in the first to drive in Santana, Oswaldo Arcia walked three times (once intentional) before striking out in the ninth. The Miracle got only two other hits, doubles from Jairo Perez and Lance Ray, while the bottom of the order (Danny Rams, Michael Gonzales, and Levi Michael) was hitless.
The Beloit Snappers (A) also dropped their opener, 5-2 to visiting Peoria. Madison Boer sat down the first six batters he faced before running into trouble in the third inning when he allowed four runs (only two earned). He allowed another unearned run in the fourth when the lead off hitter got on because of an error by second baseman Eddie Rosario. Matt Tomshaw came on in the fifth to pitch two hitless innings with three strikeouts. Much like he did last year at Elizabethton, Matt Summers struck out the side in seventh before Nelvin Fuentes and Bart Carter combined for scoreless eighth and ninth innings.
The Snappers were held to only five hits, two by Jonathan Goncalves. Miguel Sano was 0-3 with a pair of strikeouts while Eddie Rosario doubled in the sixth, scoring Goncalves from first. After going to third on the throw home, Rosario scored the Snappers second run on a wild pitch to the next batter. Danny Ortiz also had a double with three Snappers (JaDamion Williams, Wang-Wei Lin and Sano) picking up their first stolen bases.
My selections for player of the game and week are Matt Carson (Rochester), Luke French (New Britain), Danny Santana (Fort Myers) and Matt Summers (Beloit). Who do you think should be our Player of the Week?