DURHAM, N.C.—Opening Day is here, and so are the two best prospects in baseball. No, David Price isn’t going to pitch tonight—he throws tomorrow, and our plan is to live blog that game too—but Matt Wieters and his Triple-A Norfolk teammates are in town to take on Reid Brignac at the rest of the Durham Bulls. The game starts at 7:05 p.m., with righthander Mitch Talbot starting for the Bulls opposite Norfolk righthander Brad Bergesen.
This post will have all of the updates throughout the game. You can check out a live box score of the game to help you follow along. If you have any questions or comments, send them in to me in the comments section with your name and location.
7:10 pm: OK, we’re here live, folks. I’m at one of the finest minor league parks in the country on minor league Opening Day, watching the No. 1 prospect in baseball… doesn’t really get much better, does it? I’ll be live blogging the action here from behind home plate. It’s a great view, but unfortunately there’s no outlets here, so if my laptop runs out of juice, I’ll update the rest of the action later tonight. But we should be good to go for the next two to two and a half hours.
7:15 pm: Watching Matt Wieters take batting practice, it’s amazing how easily he generates his power. His swing takes a direct path to the ball, and the ball jumps off his bat. Everything works free and easy for him, and he finishes with great extension. You know how there are some athletes with great speed who just seem to glide in the outfield? That’s what it’s like to watch Wieters swing. There’s very little effort involved, but the ball flies off his bat.
7:19 pm: Wieters just struck out. Here’s the pitch sequence: Fastball, 92, strike looking on the inner half; Fastball, 91, foul; Changeup, 83, foul tip on the outer half; Off-speed pitch 83, foul; Changeup, 83, ball outside; Changeup, 82, ball outside; Fastball, 91, struck him out looking on the inside corner (and maybe even just inside of the inside corner).
7:23 pm: Brignac is up, he just grounded hard up the middle for a single to center field.
7:25 pm: Wow, Brignac just tried stealing second against Wieters and wasn’t even close. Wieters with a 1.91-second pop time, which is a very good time, and especially so for a 6-foot-5 guy.
7:27 pm: One inning in the book, 0-0 game.
7:29 pm: Nolan Reimold safe after an infield single that traveled about 10-15 feet to the third base side.
7:32 pm: Stuff update on Talbot: Fastball is coming in at 91-92 mph, curveball’s at 78-79, with inconsistent depth.
7:33 pm: Reimold’s tried stealing second base twice now, but Donnie Murphy’s fouled off both pitches. Looks like they’ll be testing Durham catcher John Jaso’s ability to contro the running game tonight.
7:34 pm: The inning just ended with Murphy striking out on a nice 83 mph changeup. Middle of the 2nd, still 0-0.
7:36 pm: Runner on first now, thanks to the second baseman’s error. Please, please try to steal against Wieters. I love seeing the 1.91 on the stopwatch after a steal attempt.
7:37 pm: No steal, but the runner gets to second anyway on a ground ball to third base, with a nifty piece of defensive work on a slow grounder by Norfolk third baseman Scott Moore.
7:40 pm: Bergesen strikes out Durham second baseman Adam Kennedy swinging on a 90 mph fastball. That’s the highest I’ve gotten him at today in terms of velo. Mostly he’s been sitting at 88.
7:41 pm: Elliot Johnson flies out to deep left field at the warning track, inning over. End of the second, still zip-zip.
7:42 pm: We’ve got a couple of pitchers here with slow-tempo deliveries. Talbot has a pause in his delivery before he releases the ball, while Bergesen tries to hide the ball behind his body in his delivery, which probably creates some deception for the hitters trying to pick up his release point.
7:43: I knew this would happen. The battery on this computer is running out quicker than I thought, but we should be good for another hour or so. We’ll have to get two machines out here tomorrow for Price-Wieters.
7:47 pm: Brignac with a nice 6-3 doube play at shortstop. Ball was hit right up the middle, but Brignac was already shifted that way because of his defensive positioning and his initial read off the bat. The runner took out his legs, but Brignac delivered a strike to first base for the inning-ending double play. Middle of the third, 0-0.
7:50 pm: If Jaso ever becomes good enough defensively to be a regular catcher in the big leagues, he’s going to be a good one. He’s one of the most disciplined hitters in the minors, and I’ve now seen him play last year at Double-A, last year in Tripe-A and again here tonight. He just took three 87 mph fastballs outside to get ahead 3-0, watched stike one go down the middle, then lined a fastball over the shortstop’s head for a single.
7:53 pm: Bergesen tries pitching backwards to Brignac, but he can’t find the strike zone. A pair of 79 mph changeups to the lefthanded batter to fall behind 2-0, an 89 mph fastball away to get to 3-0 and an 88 mph fastbal out of the strike zone for a walk. I haven’t been charting pitches, but it seems like Bergesen’s been behind a lot of batters so far tonight.
7:55 pm: And we have our first lead of the night, as Justin Ruggiano hits a bases loaded grounder to third base, which should have ended the inning, but Moore couldn’t handle the ball, the run scored, and the bases are still loaded. 1-0 Durham.
7:57 pm: Chris Richard with a grounder to first. They get the out at second, but Richard hustles down the line and just beats it out, keeping the inning alive and giving Durham a 2-0 lead. Runners on first and third, two outs now.
7:59 pm: Norfolk’s Rey Sadler just broke two bats in that at-bat, the latter of which resulted in a flare out to second base. End of the third, Durham leads 2-0.
8:00 pm: I’ve got about 30 minutes til the battery gives out on me here, but I’ll try running up to the press box to finish up the game with you guys.
8:01 pm: Lou Montanez up, Matt Wieters on deck.
8:02 pm: Montanez just doubled, no outs.
8:03 pm: Wieters gets ahead in the count 1-0 by taking an outside changeup at 84 mph, then lines to second base, with a nice, well-timed leaping catch from Adam Kennedy.
8:06 pm: Talbot gets out of the inning by getting Oscar Salazar and Reimold to strike out swinging. Talbot’s starting to fall off the mound to the first base side, but if he’s getting swinging strikeouts, that’s all that matters right now.
8:11 pm: Bergesen just struck out Kennedy on an 84 mph pitch, which was either a slider or a cutter. Probaby the best pitch he’s thrown all night.
8:14 pm: OK, it’s probaby a slider. He just struck out Elliot Johnson on the pitch too at 84 mph.
8:15 pm: Wow, great inning by Bergesen. Just struck out the side, getting Jaso to swing and miss at a slider that broke down and in towards his feet. End of the 4th, 2-0 Durham. I’m heading up to the press box, hopefully I’ll get the rest of this game in. Stay tuned.
8:24 pm: We’re back! I’m up in the press box, it’s the top of the 5th.
8:27 pm: And now the 5th has ended, Durham leads 2-0. Talbot is out, righthander Jason Childers is on in relief. Talbot went five shutout innings, allowed three hits and struck out four. His fastball was his best pitch tonight, sitting at 91-92 mph. His curve had its moments, but it got slurvy at times.
8:34 pm: Wieters up now, runner on first, one out, and he’s ahead 2-0 after looking at a pair of offspeed pitches.
8:35 pm: Wieters walks, his first time on base during the 2009 regular season. Wieters got ahead 3-0, then threw a strike low in the zone to get to 3-1, then threw another offspeed pitch inside to Wieters for ball four. Wieters didn’t swing the bat once, but you could tell from Chiders’ pitch selection that he was trying to either walk him or get him to chase something offspeed out of the zone. Runners on first and second, one out.
8:38 pm: And Childers gets out of the inning by getting Oscar Salazar to ground into 6-4-3 double play. Middle of the 6th, Durham’s ahead 2-0.
8:40 pm: Radhames Liz is in pitching for Norfolk. We’ve got some BA staffers down at the field level, so I’ll relay you guys the velos as I get them.
8:42 pm: Liz has some long arm action and falls off to the first base side, but he’s throwing low-90s right now. I know he hasn’t done much in the big leagues yet, but he’s a good example of some of the players that good scouting in Latin America can find after kids are the usual 16 to 17 years old.
8:44 pm: Liz strikes out Richard swinging. Conor Glassey just relayed me the velos from behind the plate, starting with the second pitch: 85, 85, 93, 94, 91, 93
8:45 pm: Durham right fielder Ray Sadler with a broken bat pop up: 93, 91, 91, 92, 93 on the velos.
8:49 pm: Kennedy lines out to right field on a changeup to end the sixth inning: 91, 86, 91, 92, 93, 86. Liz isn’t falling off to first base as much any more and is stepping more directly to home plate, which I think has helped his control, judging from just balls and strikes. From up here though, obviously I can’t tell much more about whether he’s hitting his spots, but it’s a noticeable adjustment he’s made in-game.
8:51 pm: Righthander Julio DePaula in for Durham to start the 7th
8:52 pm: Home run, Nolan Reimold! Reimold just blasted a 2-1 pitch over the wall in left field. No need for the left fielder to even move; he just turned his head and watched that thing fly out of here. Durham still leads, 2-1.
9:02 pm: Sorry, the wireless up here just went out for 10 minutes. It’s the bottom of the 7th, none on, one out, Liz is still on the mound after getting hit with a ground ball (and getting a nifty assist when the third baseman fielded it and threw out the runner). Trainers came out to check on Liz, but he stays in the game. Jaso’s up now.
9:04 pm: Jaso’s working the ount. 2-2 after fouling off a bunch of pitches.
9:05 pm: Jaso fouls out to the catcher. The ball wasn’t hit that high, and Wieters made a nice pay running toward the third base dugout to make the catch and making the adjustment to the ball’s trajectory on the run.
9:06 pm: Liz strikes out Chris Nowak swinging to end the inning. He’s been throwing 92-93 tonight, and Conor says he’s mied in a 76 mph curveball as well. End of 7 innings, Bulls lead 2-1.
9:12 pm: Righthander Winston Abreu’s in now for Durham. With one out, Brignac makes a nice defensive play at shortstop to retire Nofrolk leadoff hitter Justin Christian. Montanez is up, Wieters on deck.
9:13 pm: Montanez with a two-out infield single up the middle, so Wieters is up now with a runner on first, two outs.
9:29 pm (well, really it was 9:18 pm, but the wireless went out at the stadium again): Wow, nice work by Winston Abreu striking out Wieters. Wieters fell behind 0-1 fouling off an offspeed pitch, then chased a high fastball out of the strike zone for strike two. Wieters fouled off the next pitch (fastball), then struck out swinging as he went after another high fastball above the strike zone.
9:30 pm: All right, we’re in the top of the 9th, Salazar just led off with a triple, then Reimold hit a shallow fly out to center field, not deep enough to score Salazar. So we’ve got Moore up with one out and a runner on third. I know wins and losses aren’t of primary importance in the minor leagues, but it’s a pretty good game going on here regardless with a great atmosphere in the stadium.
9:31 pm: Moore strikes out, and we’re one out away.
9:32 pm: Donnie Murphy pops out to Brignac, game over. Bulls win 2-1, and in a tidy two hours and 18 minutes.
Final thoughts: Wieters looked good today, even though the results weren’t there. He got a little impatient in his last at-bat by chasing a pair of high fastballs, but it’s easy to see why he’s so highly regarded. Check back tomorrow when, weather and wireless connections permitting (and with two laptops, for double the behind-the-plate coverage), our plan is to live blog David Price’s start for Durham against Wieters and Norfolk.
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