One of the benefits of watching a game at Dunedin Stadium is the speed gun readings on the left center-field scoreboard. Unlike at Bright House, after each pitch the mph speed number pop ups for all of us to see. Though the Clearwater Thresher’s lost an interesting extra inning game to the Blue Jays last night, they easily won the battle of the power arms out of the pen again.
On Saturday night Ryan Duke came out of the pen with a 92 mph fastball followed by Hector Neris whose fastball was sitting at 93 mph. That was just an encore for last night’s game. After starter Percy Garner exited after five inning, on came the smoke. First was two innings from Colby Shreve with his 94 mph fastball. Then came two more innings from Tyler Knigge sporting a 94 mph fastball too. The game went into extra inning for Juan Sosa’s 95 mph heater. Though the Thresher’s lost the game, the real story was the smoke that came out of the their bullpen.
Already the Thresher’s have sent Jordan Whatcott and Lisalverto Bonilla from their pen to the Reading pen. One Daytona Cubs player proclaimed Bonilla’s slider then as the best in the Florida State League. It might be one of the best in the Eastern League as well. Bonilla, in his last relief appearance with his slider and 93 mph fastball, racked up five strikeouts in two innings for the R-Phillies.
I was reluctant to do another blog about pitch velocities but I had no choice. Remember I grew up watching pitchers come out of the bullpen throwing trick pitches called knuckle balls, screwballs, forkballs and the folly floater eephus pitch of Steve Hamilton. Of course we tried to throw them too all back then, not very well of course. The only power pitcher I remember was Ryne Duren who came out of the Yankees and Phillies bullpens back in the day. He was famous for wearing thick sunglasses, throwing as hard as he could and was not exactly sure where his fastball was going, especially when he was warming. Of course later the fastballs, splitters, and sliders were the pitches of choice for relievers and they usually went only one or two innings at most throwing as hard a possible.
Still trick pitchers make it to the majors but not as frequently as back in the day. I recall several years ago when Pat Gillick was still General Manager of the Phillies, he was sitting behind home plate on a Saturday night at the Harrisburg Senators Stadium. He was on the prowl for left-handed pitching. He was watching a left-handed pitcher named R.J. Swindle throw what was called a “super looper” curve ball which came in around 58 or so mph. Gillick also watched a starter named Antonio Bastardo with late life on his mid 90’s fastball pitch for Reading that night. Guess which lefty was up for only a cup of coffee with the Phillies that season and the other one is today the Phils top lefty out of the pen?
Sure these Thresher guys need to work on command and a secondary pitch but it is sure fun to watch them come out of the pen bringing the heat with the game on the line. It’s going to be interesting to see which of these power pitchers go all the way and pitch out of the Phillies bull pen in the future.