Tuesday, March 13th is opening day for the 2012 minor league spring training games. The Phillies farmhands will take on the Blue Jays. The AAA and AA teams will open at the Carpenter Complex and the low and high teams will head to the Englebert Complex in Dunedin to open play. Players cut from the major league camp are expected to join the AAA team over the weekend. Also Jim Thome is expected to play some first base and Chase Utley will start hitting in the minor league games next week according to reports.
This Sunday the AAA team is scheduled to play the Canadian Jr. Olympic team at Al Lang Stadium down in St. Pete at 1:05. We hope to be on hand to bring back reports on the game. Minor league payers at all levels were going through their drills at the Complex this morning. The AAA team had Jeremy Barnes and I believe Tug Hulett at third, Troy Hansawa and Edgar Duran at short, Albert Cartwright at second, Matt Rizzotti and Cody Overbeck at first. The catchers were Bob Stumpo, John Suomi and Jeff Lanning. Outfielders included Derrick Mitchell, Steve Susdorf, Brent Cleven, Tim Kennelly among others. Pitchers going through the drills were Tyson Brummett, Chris Kissock, Mike Cisco, Nate Bump, Ryan Feierabend, Tyler Cloyd, Jordan Ellis, Eric Petit to name a few. These guys and others will probably make up the AAA team that will take on the Canadians on Sunday.
After watching the minor league workouts I wondered over to the Astros, Phillies game in the afternoon at Bright House. I should have saved my money and stayed at the minor league complex. Vance Worley made his spring training debut and did not have his good stuff in his two innings of work. He was behind in the count most of the time and had trouble locating his pitches. Lefties Pat Misch and Dontrelle Willis struggled. Willis a starter by trade has only relieved in three games in his major league career. He was hit hard and later told pitching coach Rich Dubee his arm was hurting. The Phils reportedly have until March 17th if they want to continue the Willis experiment as a left handed reliever before they must start paying his contract. In Willis’s defense he has been in camp since January for the mini camp and he may have hit the wall with a dead arm.
The only guy who generated long ball power was Hector Luna who is trying to make the team as a utility infielder at the corners. He hit one out to left in the 10-3 lost to the Astros. Luna who put up big numbers in the Dominican Winter League is a 32 year old journeyman who last played briefly in the majors with the then Florida Marlin back in 2010 and hit .138 in a few games with them that year. His best year in the majors was in 2006 with St. Louis and Toronto when he hit a combined .286 in 113 games. He is a player worth keeping an eye on because he is off to a strong start in the spring training games.
With the major league games going in full force and the minor league games soon to start the Phillies organization is humming at full capacity. After today one of the things I will be watching for over the next several games will be to see if the poor showings by the veteran lefty relievers Misch and Willis who are trying to make the team will result in better opportunities for a younger lefty relievers such as Joe Savery or Jake Diekman to win a spot as the second lefthander out of the pen to join Antonio Bastardo. this season.