One of the reason why I kept going to the Clearwater Thresher home games last season was to watch Hoby Milner pitch and Carlos Alonso play second base. Milner went on to tie for the lead in wins in the Florida State League and Carlos simply was one of the best second baseman in all of minor league baseball.
For reasons known only to the Phillies Front Office, Milner and Alonso never were promoted to AA during last season. It was the Phillies loss and our gain. They both were so consistent and gave everything they had all season at high A.
Today on Schmidt Field at the Carpenter Complex it was like last season all over again watching Hoby pitch five shut out innings and Carlos hit a 3-2 pitch for an rbi double with two out in the second inning to help the AA Phillies jumped out to a 2-0 lead after the first five inning against the New York Yankees AA team.
My all time favorite baseball player and my greatest Yankee of them that I am saw play is Yogi Berra. He is credited with the saying, “It’s déjà vu all over again”. Berra explained that this quote originated when he witnessed Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris repeatedly hit back-to-back home runs in the Yankees’ seasons in the early 1960s.
Well, Hoby and Carlos are not Mickey and Roger but to us hard pressed Thresher fans last season it sure seemed that way especially after Maikel Franco and Kelly Dugan were called up to AA mid way through last season.
Milner did not have overpowering stuff today but he kept pounding the strike zone even when he did not get a call, pitched through terrible outfield defense and never gave up when runners were in scoring position due to no fault of his own to pitch five shutout innings.
Hoby reminds me of Cole Hamels in appearance but pitches like Cliff Lee. He throws strikes as Lee does. And like Cliff does not let the play of his fielders or the ump affect how he pitches. He is the anti-Hamels on the mound.
When the ump blew what should have been a called third strike resulting in an eventual walk, Hoby went on to pitch out of the inning. When center fielder Albert Cartwright lost a lazy fly ball in the cloudy sky the next inning, Hoby pitched out of the jam again. When Anthony Hewitt dropped a line drive hit right at him in right the next inning, Hoby yet again simply pitched out of the jam. That’s how you pitch five shutout innings and win games at every level.
For reasons known only to the Phillies Front Office, Alonso wound up batting eight and playing shortstop today. Last year he was the best defensive second baseman in minor league baseball committing only two errors at second all year. But today the Phillies Front Office said that a journeyman free agent infielder named Jim Negrych is a better second base option and must start there.
Carlos worked a 3-2 count with the Yankee pitcher getting ahead of the count early on pitches the ump gave him for strikes a couple of inches off the outside corner of the plate. Carlos stood in there taking a couple of more pitches well outside the zone for balls and then he lined yet another outside pitch near the corner of the plate down the right field line for a run scoring double.
Two professionals, two good ball players that should be at a higher level this season than even AA. These two guys play the game right. For Baseball Betsy and I that was something we already knew from last season’s Florida State League action. It was deja vu all over again for us. Someday, somewhere, Hoby Milner and Carlos Alonso will get a chance to play in the major leagues.
Below are Carlos Alonso and Hoby Milner in action in this afternoon’s AA game against the Yankees AA team at Schmidt Field.