Brooklyn (SSA – New York Penn League)
While developing players should always be a team’s primary goal, the more immediate daily objective of winning can bring some emotion to July in the minors and serve as a welcome catalyst. Monday’s Cyclones-Staten Island Yankees game illustrates this perfectly. The Cyclones entered play trailing the Yankees by six games for first and in the words of Brooklyn manager Edgar Alfonzo, it wasn’t just important, it “was like a playoff game,” for his club.
In the second inning, the Cyclones took advantage of two Yankees erros to score the game’s first run. 2B Josh Satin led off by grounding the ball past thirdbase man Mike Lyon for an error, but landed awkwardly on first. He eventually left the game and is listed as day-to-day with a twisted right knee. His skipper saw a teaching opportunity: Satin was running with his head down trying to beat out an infield hit while the ball was skidding into leftfield. “He shoulda seen his [firstbase] coach,” the manager explained. “your firstbase coach is gonna tell you what to do: come hard straight or turn it. Javy was telling him go to second base.” It’s not just Satin though, as Alfonzo continued, “We need to teach these kids how to run the bases.”
On the hill Pedro P. Martinez took advantage of an enormous strike zone to wind his way through four innings without trouble. Martinez is listed at 6’4” 191 lbs, but the numbers don’t capture just how skinny he appears in person. Martinez was able to throw three pitches, a fastball at 86-90, sitting 88, a slurvy slider (79-81) and a changeup (79-83) for strikes. None are big league pitches for me.
With the hitters griping all evening about the strike zone, the angst seemed to infect the coaching staffs. Yankees hitting coach Ty Hawkins, couldn’t stand too much of it, and was ejected in the second inning.
In a 1-1 game in the fifth, with one out, Martinez left with runners at the corners. In came Wendy Rosa and his fastball (90 mph) and slider (80) combo. Rosa walked the first hitter he saw to load the bases. In the midst of the second AB, a coach in the Yankees’ dugout called time, and pulled his hitter aside to provide counsel. This irritated Alfonzo who hopped on the field to scold the ump to get the other coach off the field. Said the skipper, “I was a little mad about that situation.” Rosa fanned the hitter looking before Alfonzo reappeared out of the dugout looking for his third pitcher of the inning looking to match lefty-righty.
In trotted LHP Matias Carillo, who relied on his breaking ball to induce a foul pop-out to end the threat and keep the game tied. It is rare to see three pitchers in an inning in a shortseason game for purely strategic reasons.
The game moved to the eighth tied 1-1. With one out, Ike Davis pulled a first pitch fastball middle-in to right-field. He almost jumped he was so excited to see a first pitch heater he could handle after a steady and frustrating diet of sliders in his early AB. His skipper counsels patience: “they’ve been throwing a lot of breaking balls to him. He’s going to make that adjustment. He’s not there yet, but he’s going to figure it out.”
With Davis at first, the Yankees called on switch-pitcher Pat Venditte. After his fiasco with Ralph Henriquez, MLB issued a new ruling: both the pitcher and batter are allowed to switch once per at bat, but the pitcher must declare first. Venditte chose right, and Abruzzo, with the wind blowing out to right happily stood in from the left side. Abruzzo admitted after the game that he asked the umpire for guidance “What’s the rule here, how does this work?” Given a choice between batting from the left side or right, Abruzzo professed to leave the matter to the heavens, “with that wind blowing, man, I saw that, … and [was] happy.” Sure enough, he lined a wind-aided homer to right that just scraped past the wall and rightfielder Dan Brewer’s leaping effort. Neither Abruzzo nor most of the ballpark that the ball was out, “I was surprised it went out” the DH said, “I saw the guy at the fence and thought he robbed it.” The Cyclones added another run in the inning on an Eric Campbell double.
Up 3-1 in the eighth, Brooklyn called on righty Stephen Clyne and his power sinker. Clyne easily had the best heater of the night, sittin 92-93 with some serious movement. However, he came in wild, walking the first hitter and running the count full on the second. He explained that he was just suffering from “a little nervousness with a big game on the line,” but he found some calm and composure. Clyne has made a very important mechanical adjustment, that had Alfonzo, “very happy.” I will illustrate this change in a separate post on the site on Tuesday.