The Phillies AAA and AA minor league groups traveled up the road a few miles to the Blue Jays minor league complex in Dunedin on Friday. Two pitchers for the Phils stood out: Ethan Martin and Brendan Lafferty. Martin started for the AAA team and pitched five shut out innings giving up only two hits, walked two and struck out four. Over on the adjacent field in the AA game Lafferty came on in relief and in the 1.1 innings I watched him he struck out four and walked two in facing six batters. The Phillies seem to have pitching depth with Martin as a starter for Lehigh Valley and Lafferty as a lefty out of the pen likely for Reading.
Martin who was a No. 1 draft pick of the Dodger and acquired in the Victorino trade at the trade deadline last year was more effective than last Sunday when he started in the intrasquad game. The only two hits he gave up were softly hit singles and his command improved from Sunday’s outing. Lafferty on the other hand continues to amaze. He is a 26 year old who comes from the Royals organization where he was an 18th round draft pick out UCLA in 2009. His numbers at AA in the Texas League last year were very ordinary and he had control control problems. He walked 40 and struck out 71 with a 4.77 ERA in 60.1 innings of relief. The Phillies did draft him out of high school in 2004 but he did not sign and then they drafted him again this time in the minor league draft back in December.
Last Sunday in a two inning relief appearance in an intrasquad game Lafferty retired all six batters he faced and struck out the last two . In Friday’s game he struck out the first two batters he faced on what appeared to be a change up and then on a slider. He walked the next two batters and struck out the final batter swinging at a high fastball. He stayed on to start the next inning to face his first left handed batter of the spring that I have seen and struck him out on a called third strike fast ball on the out side corner of the plate. It might be hard to believe but in the last eight batters I have seen Lafferty face none of them have been able to put the ball into play against him. Now that is impressive.
The AAA game ended in a 7-7 tie with the Phillies scoring three runs in the top of the ninth to over come a 5-4 Blue Jays lead. Switch hitting shortstop Edgar Duran lined a homer to left on a down and in fast ball from the Blue Jays starter,, big lefty Sean Nolin to give the Phils a 1-0 lead in the first inning. They stretched the lead to 4-0 before the Blue Jays struck back to regain a 5-4 advantage as Mike Cisco was hit hard. Kyle Simon came on in the eight and gave up a two run homer to make it a 7-4 game before the Phillies used hits by Steve Susdorf and Jim Murphy and rbi sacrifice flies by DH Tommy Joseph and right fielder Tyler Henson to tie it up. Austin Hyatt who appears to be the likely closer for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs came on and pitched a clean bottom of the ninth inning to end the game. Center fielder Derrick Mitchell and third baseman Cody Asche were among others who added base hits in the game.
Other than when I saw Lafferty pitch I was not able to closely follow the AA game but I did see center fielder Aaron Altherr double and Sebastian Valle single up the middle in that game. Starter Brody Colvin appeared to have a rough outing. Tyler Knigge who appears to be positioned to be the closer for Reading finished up the game after Lafferty and picked up two strike outs.
Saturday is a camp day for the Phillies minor league system. We expect more intrasquad games at the Carpenter Complex which are always interesting as we can watch all four groups play as AAA plays AA and the two A ball teams play against each other on an adjacent field.