SAN DIEGO–So far this weekend, I’ve reported on three top pitching prospects for the 2008 draft (Brian Matusz, Tanner Scheppers and Aaron Crow) and two top pitching prospects for the 2009 draft (Stephen Strasburg and Kyle Gibson). Today I was looking forward to seeing one of the very early top pitching prospects for the 2010 draft, San Diego righthander Kyle Blair, and I was not disappointed–even though Blair took the loss against California.
After leaving Tony Gwynn Stadium following Gibson’s departure, I arrived at Cunningham Stadium in the third inning of USD’s game against Cal, with no score on the board and just a couple of hits for each team. Blair ran into trouble in the fourth, when four walks led to a pair of runs for the Golden Bears, but he minimized the damage by striking out Rich Gorman on a breaking ball and barehanding Jeff Kobernus’ drag bunt with the bases loaded and making a nice throw to first base to end the inning. He was strong the next two innings and finished with six strikeouts and five walks over six innings, allowing just the two runs and six hits. Blair threw four quality pitches, as advertised: an 89-91 mph fastball, a high-70s slider, a mid-70s curveball with 11-to-5 break and two-plane depth, and a 79-81 mph changeup.
"They can hit, they can really hit," Blair said. "I just needed to keep them off balance with my change, curve and slider and work off my fastball. My location wasn’t really there today, but I think I worked pretty well off of it with my offspeed stuff and kept them guessing a little bit. I was throwing more slider. My curve, the few times I got it over it was a good pitch, but I threw a lot more sliders for an out pitch, and my curve was more of a get-me-over pitch. My change feels really good, I threw it more to lefties, so I need to work on throwing it more to righties. But I kept it down and away today and got a lot of roll-me-over ground balls and first-pitch outs. It really worked well for me today." [...] Continue Reading »
SAN DIEGO–Thanks to a late schedule change that moved the Missouri-Cal Poly game up an hour to 11 a.m., I ‘ve had a chance to see both Missouri super sophomore righthander Kyle Gibson and San Diego stud freshman righty Kyle Blair today. Gibson, ranked No. 1 on our list of top prospects in the sophomore class, struggled with his command in the first inning, and the Mustangs strung together two runs on four hits and a sacrifice fly despite not hitting any balls sharply. They had a chance to deliver a knockout punch right off the bat, but Gibson got Adam Melker to ground out meekly to first with the bases loaded to end the inning. From there, Gibson was in control.
A tall, lanky righthander with a smooth, effortless delivery, Gibson oozes projection, but he worked in the 88-91 mph range today, touching 92-93 a couple of times. His most impressive pitch is a devastating hard slider in the 84-86 range that he threw to righties and lefties. He registered all four of his strikeouts by getting hitters to chase the slider down out of the zone. He flashed a plus changeup in the 81-82 range at times, and he tinkered with a nascent curveball. After the first, he allowed just four hits and no runs over the next five innings. [...] Continue Reading »
SAN DIEGO–I’ve been fortunate this weekend to see six regional-caliber clubs in action, and I’ve been very impressed with various aspects of all six. This weekend has really been about pitching, as all six teams have quality staffs and there have been legitimate power arms on display every day. I think all six are solid offensively as well, but no club out here at the USD Tournament has squared up more balls than California.
Since putting up 14 runs against Fresno State on Thursday, the Golden Bears have been held to five runs each of the last two days, but it’s clear this will be a very good offense. It’s no secret that first baseman David Cooper is one of the nation’s best hitters, a tough out with impressive power to all fields, but he’s got plenty of help in that Cal lineup. Sophomore third baseman Jeff Kobernus is a great-looking hitter who has smoked line drives all over the field this weekend; he went 2-for-4 in Cal’s 5-3 win against San Diego State on Saturday night and is now 8-for-15 on the weekend. Even his outs are hard–he crushed a line drive right at SDSU left fielder Brandon Decker in the fourth inning tonight. Catcher Dylan Tonneson tattooed three hits, and Brett Jackson hit the ball hard as well, though he only had one hit to show for it (a screaming line drive that nearly took Aztec starter J.R. Murphy’s head off in the fifth).
"I think we can get better, I really do," Cal coach Dave Esquer said. "I think we prepared ourselves to come out and start quickly. We worked hard so that early-season velocity and the breaking ball would not just dominate us, and I think we’re at that point, but even beyond that, we still have that room where when the weather heats up we should be even better." [...] Continue Reading »
SAN DIEGO–Brian Matusz, Josh Romanski and A.J. Griffin get a lot of attention–and deservedly so–but it’s easy to forget about San Diego senior righthander Matt Couch, who picked up his 23rd career win today against No. 5 Missouri. Couch allowed four runs (just two earned) on six hits and a pair of walks while striking out seven over 7 1/3 innings, keeping things close until the Toreros could cobble together a three-run rally in the sixth to take a 5-4 lead that proved decisive.
"Last night we went over and watched them play at San Diego State, and we had a pretty good game plan," Couch said. "Coach (Eric) Valenzuela called a great game. We kept them off balance early with offspeed pitches, then toward the middle innings and the later part of the game we went fastball in, fastball away, and messed with their heads a little bit. The changeup was working great for me today. I left one up, I think it was in the fifth inning when they scored two, and I was pretty upset about that, but other than that it worked well for me."
He used the changeup and a newly developed cutter–really a modified version of his breaking ball–to get most of his seven strikeouts, and though his fastball topped out at 88, it had good movement. It’s not overpowering stuff, but it’s tough to hit. [...] Continue Reading »
SAN DIEGO–Both early games today started at 1 p.m., so I started the day at Tony Gwynn Stadium to see Cal Poly lefthander Derrick Saito take on Fresno State before heading over to Cunningham Stadium to catch the second half of the San Diego-Missouri tilt.
A number of scouting directors lingered in San Diego today to get a glimpse of Saito, a junior lefthander listed at 5-foot-9. As a reliever last year, Saito used an electric fastball that reportedly touched 97 mph to rack up 56 strikeouts in 36 innings, and I was curious to see how he’d look as a starter. The diminutive southpaw did not disappoint in the three innings I saw, showing a 92-93 mph fastball that touched 94-95, a good 78-81 curveball that he threw to righties and lefties, a changeup with screwball action and an 87-88 cutter that he used primarily against lefties. The last pitch I saw him him throw was a 94 mph fastball on the outside corner for a called third strike against lefthanded slugger Steve Susdorf, ending the third. He wound up allowing just four hits and four walks over six shutout innings, striking out nine. For more on Saito, check out Matt Blood’s upcoming Draft Dish.
Fresno State got a strong outing from imposing sinkerballer Clayton Allison, who allowed just one run over 7 1/3, and the score is 1-1 in the eighth.
SAN DIEGO–Missouri junior righthander Ian Berger isn’t afraid of facing dangerous lineups. A year ago, Berger was at his best against some of the nation’s strongest offenses, beating Oklahoma State, holding Arizona State to three runs and holding a red-hot Louisville team to two runs (one earned) over six innings in the Columbia (Mo.) regional.
So facing a San Diego State club that entered Friday night averaging more than 10 runs per game over its first six contests, the Tigers felt confident they had the right guy on the mound. Berger responded by holding the Aztecs to just one run on six hits and no walks while striking out five over 7 1/3 innings, and Missouri won a brisk 3-1 affair to complete a sweep of its two games Friday. Earlier, the Tigers held on to beat California 7-5.
"I just tried to go out there and throw strikes and keep them off balance," Berger said. "I was throwing all three pitches for strikes–my fastball, changeup and curveball–so it really worked out for me today. (Catcher) Trevor Coleman did a great job mixing it up back there, and we discussed our game plan between innings. I could basically throw any pitch I wanted today for strikes, so it helped me out. I think the only pitch I actually threw inside was the home run I gave up (to Troy Hanzawa in the third), and the kid put a good swing on it, so what are you going to do? But I was living away the whole game." [...] Continue Reading »
SAN DIEGO–Brian Matusz captured my sentiments perfectly.
"It’s fun. When there’s a low-scoring game like that, it’s real college baseball, and that’s what fans like to come out and watch," San Diego’s All-America lefthander said after the Toreros beat Tanner Scheppers and Fresno State 5-2 this afternoon.
The battle between Matusz and Scheppers (pictured at right) was to be the marquee event of an outstanding weekend of baseball here in San Diego this weekend, and it more than lived up to its billing. Despite taking the loss today, Scheppers might have been the most impressive pitcher of the weekend. For six brilliant innings, he sat in the 93-95 mph range with a very lively fastball that he located to all quadrants of the zone. He elicited a number of impressed grunts from scouting directors with a vicious low-80s slider that he could throw for strikes or bury, and he mixed in a high-70s curveball that was outstanding at times, though not as consistent as the slider. He carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning and allowed just four hits in six innings while striking out nine. [...] Continue Reading »
SAN DIEGO–I was in a tough spot this afternoon. Here at Cunningham Stadium, San Diego and Cal Poly were locked in a tight, low-scoring battle until about 12:30 p.m. PT. Down Interstate 8 a few miles, at Tony Gwynn Stadium, Missouri ace righthander Aaron Crow was set to pitch against California at 1 p.m., and the duel between USD lefthander Brian Matusz and Fresno State righty Tanner Scheppers would start an hour later. Many members of the assembled scouting horde left the first game shortly after San Diego lefty Josh Romanski left the game in the sixth, then went to see the beginning of Crow’s outing and buzzed back to Cunningham for the Matusz-Scheppers battle.
I opted to remain at USD all the way through, but fortunately Baseball America’s Dave Perkin was in town with me. He went to see Crow and came away impressed. Early on, Crow left everything up and flat, and Cal first baseman David Cooper took him deep for a two-run homer in the first–Cooper’s second opposite-field homer in two days. But Crow settled down thereafter, working in the 93-96 mph range with his fastball and showing an above-average 82-84 power curveball. He finished with 10 strikeouts over five innings, though he allowed three runs on eight hits and a pair of walks.
The Tigers chased Cal starter Todd Fitzgerald in a five-run first inning, with Aaron Senne’s grand slam the big blow. Currently the Tigers are clinging to a 7-5 lead in the eighth.
SAN DIEGO–Josh Romanski’s two-way prowess earned him a spot on the preseason All-America team, and he showed why in San Diego’s first game Friday against Cal Poly. Romanski held the Mustangs to a pair of runs (one earned) on eight hits over six innings but left the game with USD facing a 2-0 deficit. No matter; he delivered a three-run homer off the side of Manchester Dorm beyond the right field wall in the eighth inning to give the Toreros a 3-2 win.
"He’s proven that he’s one of the best two-way players in the country, and he had a great summer with Team USA, and so far he’s off to a great start to the season," USD coach Rich Hill said. "On the mound, he wasn’t as sharp as he usually is, I think he elevated some pitches–it’s not generally him. But the great thing about him today was his competitiveness. He gutted it out, the tighter the situation got, the more of a quality pitch he made. He just kind of bent but didn’t break, and kept us in the game." [...] Continue Reading »
SAN DIEGO–Stephen Strasburg has become a bit of a mythical figure early in 2008. Scouts and opposing coaches speak of him in hushed, almost fearful tones, shaking their head at the ease with which he lights up radar guns. Some scouts who saw him beat San Diego last week say his fastball topped out at 98 mph (and reached 97 in the eighth inning), while others swear he was up to 101. I’ve heard multiple scouts invoke the name Mark Prior when talking about Strasburg’s frame, stuff and even his command–and in these parts, that name carries an especially revered aura.
But we didn’t get to see Strasburg at his best tonight against Cal Poly, after he took a line drive off his foot in the first inning. He had his ankle taped up and remained in the game, and he sat in the 95-96 mph range in the first two innings and registered strikeouts with an 81 mph power breaking ball and a 94 mph heater in the second. The Mustangs got to him for three runs in the third, highlighted by Logan Schafer’s two-run double to center field on a hanging slurve, but he bounced back in the fourth and ended the inning on a called third strike on a 78 mph breaking ball over the outside corner. He went to his breaking ball much more often starting in the fourth inning, and it ranged from 79-86 mph. He did not hold his fastball velocity deep into the game like he did a week ago, working in the 91-93 range over his final three innings. He left the game after six innings, having allowed four runs on eight hits and one walk while striking out five.
"I think (his foot) was bothering him most of the night, but he was being a real trooper," San Diego State coach Tony Gwynn said. "He wanted to keep going out there, and he gave us all he could, and he battled for six innings . . . You feel really good when he’s out there, because he wants the ball and he wants to perform and pitch well. Even under circumstances where he didn’t have his best stuff tonight, he was still very competitive, he was competing out there, and he had the lead when he came out." [...] Continue Reading »
SAN DIEGO–I arrived in San Diego early this afternoon in time to catch the start of the California-Fresno State game that kicks off this weekend’s USD Tournament, and I’m happy to report the weather is characteristically gorgeous: sunny, mid-60s, gentle breeze. The buzz among scouts here at Cunningham Stadium was that California ace Tyson Ross would not pitch tomorrow and was going to have an MRI on his right shoulder. Golden Bears coach Dave Esquer confirmed after the game that Ross won’t pitch this weekend, but he said the MRI rumor was false.
"It’s just precautionary. It’s not worth it this time of year," Esquer said. "He felt a little knot, a little tightness (in his lat), and he just didn’t bounce back as well from his last outing as he should. He’s still throwing 92-93, but we’re just not going to risk anything with him."
The way the Bears are swinging the bats, it might not matter who’s on the mound (and for the record, Esquer said lefthander Todd Fitzgerald will get the start tomorrow against Missouri). Cal broke open a 6-4 game with five runs in the bottom of the sixth, en route to a 14-4 rout. Worse than the score for Fresno State is the short outing turned in by ace lefthander Justin Wilson, who was chased in the fifth after allowing five earned runs on nine hits. The Bulldogs were counting on Wilson to go deeper into the game to save the bullpen for the three remaining games this weekend, but instead they’ve had to use four relievers. The Bears, meanwhile, pounded out 16 hits and will carry plenty of momentum into the rest of the weekend. [...] Continue Reading »
About This Blog
Syndicate This Blog
Search This Blog