Baseball Betsy and I just finished watching Austin Wright make his 2012 debut with the Clearwater Threshers. I liked what I saw. Another power left handed pitcher who keeps the ball on the ground and strikes out more batters than innings pitched. That is a recipe for success for pitching at the major league level. Wright is an eight round, 2010 draft pick out of Mississippi who joins Adam Morgan and Jesse Biddle in the left handed dominated rotation of the Threshers.
Monday night Wright went five inning and recorded seven strike outs to get the win over the Tampa Yankees. He faced off against Andy Pettitte who made his first start in his comeback from a year off in retirement from the New York Yankees rotation. Wright battled Pettitte to a 1-1 standoff before Pettitte left after three innings. Pettitte did not appear to be throwing hard as he works up his arm strength. It should also be noted that Jose Contreras relieved Wright in the sixth inning and retired the side in order recording two swing and miss strike outs. It appeared one strike out was on a splitter and the other was on a slider. Jose looks ready to join the Phillies bullpen.
Much like right handed pitchers out of college, Vance Worley and Michael Stutes, who moved quickly up the Phillies farm system, I would not bee surprised to see Morgan and Wright move quickly up the organization ladder as well. Both are similar type pitchers. Wright seems to have better fastball location than Morgan but without a gun at Bright House I can only estimate he had similar velocity to Morgan’s 92-94 mph that he registered on the Dunedin scoreboard last Thursday in the league opener.
With the chance that Cole Hamels does not re-sign with the Phillies, the Clearwater rotation takes on special significance since the Phillies have no young left handed starters at AA or AAA. Clearly to me after the first time through the Thresher’s rotation Morgan, Wright and Jesse Biddle have the stuff to be successful lefty starters in the major leagues. Morgan and Wright have more velocity on their fastballs but Biddle has the best curve of the three.
The other player on the Thresher’s roster who is a can’t miss major league prospect is catcher Cameron Rupp. Tonight against the Tampa Yankees he lined two balls to right field that showed he is a professional hitter. With the wind blowing from the left field foul pole to the right field foul, the right handed hitting Rupp went the other way and launch a ball that landed up on the berm in right for three run homer. The next time up he did the same thing lining a double into the right center field gap for an RBI double. Those two at bats showed how he used the weather conditions to his benefit by going with the wind and not trying to pull the ball to left.
I need to mention the three strike out, ninth inning save recorded by Jake Diekman Monday night for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Last year in Reading Diekman was rarely used in save situation because he struggled with his control. He seems to have mastered his control problems and his lefty side arm delivery will soon have him in the Phillies bullpen. Also for the second straight game Dominic Brown drove in the winning run for the Pigs. Saturday night he drove in two runs which provide the margin in a 3-2 win in the second game of a doubleheader. This time Brown drove in the only run a 1-0 win over Pawtucket.
Another item that caught my attention was left handed hitting center fielder Tyson Gillies getting his first home run of the season for Reading Monday night by going deep against former major league lefty and a former Toronto Blue Jays No. 1 draft pick Brent Cecil. Gillies is off to a strong start with the R-Phils and is 4 for 7 against left handed pitching so far. Again remember with Shane Victorino’s contract up the end of the season, a strong year by Gillies will play a factor on what General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. does with Victorino.
Another interesting night in the minor league system. Three lefties have emerged as top starters for the Threshers. Cameron Rupp quickly developing as the Phillies catcher of the future. Jake Diekman and Domonic Brown providing clutch performances for the IronPigs and Tyson Gillies in Reading emerging as the Phillies center fielder of the future. A very good night down on the Farm from this perspective.