Our week’s trip through the Phillies farm system took Baseball Betsy and I to State College to see more NY-Penn League action with the Williamsport Crosscutters taking on the St. Louis Cardinals farm team, the State College Spikes. Not surprisingly, we watched our third straight loss on our trip as the Cutters went down to a 6-3 defeat with Cord Sandberg standing at home plate taking a called third strike with the bases loaded to end the game.
But the real story of the game from a prospect perspective took place in the bottom of the eight inning when right handed, side-arming reliever Manny Martinez came into the game for the Cutters. It looked like another mop-up role for Martinez who we saw pitch in Friday’s opening night loss. In that game he came on late in another mop-up role with the Cutters trailing big. He struggled with control, had no strike outs and gave up a three-run homer in the 10-3 defeat to the Spikes in Williamsport.
Last night it was a new and improved Manny with a fiery attitude. Maybe it was the fact that modern Medler Field has a pitch speed reader as they call it for the fans and historic Bowman Field does not because Manny was pumped up this time. His first pitch was a 97 mph fastball which nicked the Spikes batter Brian O’Keefe in the face. With such velocity the Spikes training quickly rushed on to the field to see if O’Keefe could stay in the game as he headed to first. Somehow he survived.
Manny was just getting warmed up. He kept lighting up the speed reader with fastballs in the 94-97 range and one even registered 98 to the first two batters who he faced. He got his first strike out swinging though when he went up and in on a right handed batter but at only 94 mph.
He would walk O’Keefe who then stole second base, putting runners at first and second. Manny then started firing away at Leobaldo Pina who faced in consecutive order, fast balls of 95, 97, 96 and 96. Then Manny broke off his best pitch of the night, an 81 mph curve ball which Pina grounded into a 6-3 force out at second.
The final out in the inning was really no contest. Manny simply overpowered the Spikes Jake Stone with the heater: 96, 96, took a little off at 91 and then blew him away swinging with two 96 mph fast balls.
The fans around the concourse where we were standing were amazed at Manny’s velo. One even suggested that he was putting on a show for the scouts in the stands. Most of the night’s fastballs on the speed reader were in the high 80’s only occasionally hitting in the low 90’s by the rest of the pitchers on the two teams.
After watching the likes of Jake Diekman and Ken Giles come out of the Phillies bullpen in the last week or so with high heat, the Phillies have to add Manny Martinez to the high heat list in the minor league system. If Manny could only do what he did last night on a regular basis in close and late games he would not be in the NY-Penn League much longer.
We will be on the road again heading to Allentown tonight to see what’s up with the IronPigs. Then on to Reading tomorrow. Can’t wait to fly back to Clearwater to see the season opening noon game of the GCL Phillies on Friday in Dunedin against the GCL Blue Jays. But, I am not too excited yet to go to the Threshers game later Friday night to wrap up our week’s vacation through the Phillies farm system.