It was a beautiful day for baseball so “let’s play two”. If Ernie Banks had been to Clearwater this afternoon that is what he would have said. Actually three games were taking place at the same time but we will let the Phillies/Astros game be told by others over at Bright House Field. We watched two games at one time in the first intrasquad games of the season, the AAA vs. AA on Ashburn Field and High A vs. Low A on Schmidt. What good baseball it was, especially in the A ball game.
Several players stood out but if I could name one it was first baseman and left handed hitting Wilmer Oberto for the low A or Group 4 team. All Oberto did was hit one of the longest home runs I have ever seen hit at Schmidt Field. He dropped the barrel of the bat on a side arm pitch from Zach Cooper and drove it over the centerfield fence just to the right of the batter’s eye. Earlier Oberto had hit a sacrifice fly and a double off the right field fence. He has dropped a few pounds from last season and he is pounding the ball like never before after tying for the lead in the Gulf Coast League in home runs last season.
Andrew Pullin stood out at the bat as well with a double, a sac. fly and a base hit to drive in several runs. The left-handed hitting second baseman is off to a strong start after playing in Williamsport last season. Look for him to start the season in Lakewood.
The best catcher I saw on the field today was Chad Carmen. He lined a hard single to left and showed off a strong arm with a throw to second in a ‘strike um out, throw um out” double play. He looks to have a shot at playing in Clearwater or Lakewood this season behind the plate.
In the AAA/AA game home runs were hit by outfielders Brandon Short for the AA squad and Anthony Hewitt for the AAA team. Hewitt would leave the game later with an injured ankle.
Hoby Milner started for the AA team or Group 2 and Chris Bootcheck started for AAA or Group 2. In the A game Miguel Nunez and Alejandro Artegea were the starters.
On the mound several pitchers stood out in the games as all the pitcher worked either an inning or two. It was Tyler Viza in the A ball game that showed good stuff in picking up two strike outs in an inning of work. The pitchers continually face situational baseball almost every inning as runners were placed on base in different situations to start the innings. A few times the innings were called before two outs to speed the games along or when a pitcher had reached a pitch count limit.
To me the real interesting pitcher though was my good friend Feliberto Sanchez in the A game. He has never come on in relief much in his two years in the Phillies system and has never closed. Earlier in the morning Baseball Betsy and I took the long walk over to Field Two of the DiMaggio Complex where Sanchez was working out with the Group 4 team. He told us much to our surprise that he was going to close in the afternoon intrasquad game. We both seemed surprised.
It was a long wait as the A ball game went 10 inning and late into the afternoon but there came in Sanchez in the 10th inning for the Group 3 team and he was right in that he was closing for the first time in his professional career. He faced the heart the Group 4 order; its three, four and five hitters, all left-handed bats in Larry Greene, Andrew Pullin and the hot Wilmer Oberto. Sixteen pitches and 13 strikes later he struck out Greens on a check swing breaking pitch, got Pullin to ground out and Oberto to pop to short. He pounded the strike zone and just maybe a closer was starting to be developed today on Schmidt Field.
That’s the beauty of watching the minor league camp games this time of year. You never know when a player might emerge from relative obscurity and find his role which may lead to future success in the game. Who knows yet if Sanchez is closer material but he has the right mental toughness and showed today he can throw strikes with something on his pitches. Most importantly he got out several of the hottest hitters in today’s game in Pullin and Oberto. Something none of the other pitchers for the most part were able to do all day.
The real test will come when the minor league games start on Tuesday when the Phillies AAA and AA teams take on their counterparts in the Toronto Blue Jays organization at the Carpenter Complex and the Phillies A teams journeys up Belcher road a few miles and hang a left to the Englebert Complex in Dunedin. All I learned after today’s games is that Oberto and Pullin are off to great starts with the bat, Chad Carmen is back after injury last season and Viza and Sanchez impressed me on the mound in their inning of work.
Felibero Sanchez showed that he might be closer material as he pounded the strike zone in today’s game
Sanchez’s strong points are his mental toughness and movement of his pitches in the strike zone.
Sanchez and Ranfi Casimiro are good friends of mine and always will be as they took a break to say “hello” after working outs on DiMaggio Field Saturday morning. They are good people.
Wilmer Oberto has come into camp in great shape and is one to watch this season as a power hitting first base man. He hit some of the longest drives of anyone in Saturday’s games including a tape measure home run to centerfield at Schmidt.