Baseball Betsy and I are fans of the entry level players of the Phillies organization. Last year we rarely missed a Gulf Coast League rookie game mostly played in the heat and humidity of June, July and August starting at the noon hour. We even went off to Pirate City’s Willie Stargell Field; Tigertown’s Al Kaline Field and Field Three at Disney’s Wide World of Sports to watch the young ones play in addition to Robin Roberts Field at the Carpenter Complex where most of the GCL Phillies home games were played last season.
So it was no surprised that we journeyed over to the Englebert Complex in Dunedin today where the Blue Jays minor league complex is located to watch opening day of the A level minor league camp games. (Groups 3 and 4 on the Work Group List). Or if you will, A+ is the early formation of the Clearwater Threshers and A-, the Lakewood BlueClaws.
It’s a good location to watch two games at one time but it is still a challenge to stay on top of every play in the two games played at the same time and I used my Group List sheet to keep score. Not the easiest thing to do. In the A+ game the score was actually kept on an electronic scoreboard in centerfield but the scoreboard on the backfield for the A- game was dark. But in spring training camp games the score really does not matter as these guys are fighting for roster spots to start the regular minor league season, stick with the organization at extended spring training or above all else avoid being released if they are considered organizational fillers.
Let’s start with good defensive plays in today’s games. In the A+ game starting catcher Gabe Lino showed a strong arm by throwing out a runner at second. First baseman Art Charles made a nice pick on a throw in the dirt to get the out at first base. Shortstop Anthony Phillips showed good range at short to go deep in the hole to throw out a runner at first. Jiandido Tromp took extra bases away from a Blue Jay by running down a long fly ball in the gap in left center after taking over for Carlos Tocci in center.
In the A- game center fielder Herlis Rodriguez made the catch of the day by hauling in a ball over his shoulder in deep center and second baseman Andrew Pullin made the infield play of the day when he went to his left and laid out to nab a hard hit ground ball headed into the hole to right field. Then straightened himself enough to throw out the runner at first.
On the mound the pitchers threw strikes for the most part and held the Blue Jays to two runs in the 5-2 A+ game Phillies win. Miguel Nunez started for the A+ team and pitched three innings. He was followed by lefty Lino Martinez, and right-handers Jeb Stefan and Jordan Guth. Guth was hitting 91 on the radar gun.
In the A- game Feliberto Sanchez started and pitched two scoreless innings striking out three but was up in the zone at times. He was followed by Tyler Viza who pitched two innings and Jesen Therrien who struggled through two innings giving up several runs. Cody Forsythe, Will Morris and Lee Ridenhour each pitched an inning of scoreless ball.
The hitting for the A+ was provided by Dylan Cozens and Lino with doubles. Hilton Richardson doubled and singled in the game. Backup catcher Willians Astudillo, Art Charles, reserve second baseman Sam Dove and left fielder Samuel Hiciano chipped in with base hits.
In the A- game the offense was provided by Andrew Pullin who had three singles and a walk and Larry Greene who hit a Texas league single to left to drive in two runs and later singled to right. Jan Hernandez who looked good at third chipped in with a couple of hits as well. Starting catcher Deivy Grullon singled and then almost got one out to left but it was caught at the base of the fence. Rodriguez and right fielder Jonathan Knight added base hits . Venn Biter came on as a late inning outfield replacement and pick up a hit. Shortstop J.P. Crawford laid down a perfect drag bunt between the mound and first base and beat it out for a base hit.
The biggest disappointment was watching first baseman Wilmer Oberto come up in the top of the first and foul a ball off his foot in the A- game. He needed to come out of the game and was replaced by utility infielder Robinson Torres at first. Oberto has had a great minor league camp so far but spent the rest of the game trying to walk off the foot injury. He did not seem seriously injured and I would expect to seen him back in action soon.
For the first games of the minor league camp, Baseball Betsy and I saw some good, well played baseball by both sides. The pitchers were throwing strikes and the games were well played by all the teams on the field.
Without a doubt Andrew Pullin was the most impressive player on the field with his bat and play at second in today’s games. The pitching was good but not dominating and we saw several outstanding defensive plays. The best Phillies base running was a double steal with Sam Dove on third stealing home after the throw by the catcher trying to get the runner at second.
If hockey can have its three star selections after each game, baseball can have its four star selections. Here’s my Four Star selections from today’s games: No. 1, Andrew Pullin; No. 2, Herlis Rodriquez; No. 3, Gabreil Lino and No. 4, Jordan Guth.