On Opening night, many players must have wondered why they had to leave Florida and Arizona. Nine games were postponed because of weather, while the teams that played in the Eastern League, Midwest League and parts of the International League needed to pack handwarmers as they endured freezing temperatures and 20 mph winds. As you would expect in those conditions, pitching dominated the night. Here’s our first BAPR Plus of the regular season, as we’ll try to spotlight what happened last night in minor league baseball.
Nate Schierholtz’s three-run home run helped Fresno to a win on Opening Day. Portland catcher Pete LaForest hit a home run, but he also watched as the Grizzlies stole four bases (Freddy Lewis stole two).
If there was anything to criticize in James Loney’s amazing season at Las Vegas last year, it was that he didn’t hit for too much power. That wasn’t a problem on Thursday as he hit a home run in his first at-bat.
Jason Hammel pitched in Durham’s no hitter last season. He flirted with getting another one on Opening Day, as the Bulls carried a no-hitter to the seventh but still lost.
Trenton starter Chase Wright took advantage of the cold conditions to fan nine, but it wasn’t enough for a win, as Bowie’s Beau Hale matched him step-for-step. Not surprisingly on a night that all but two Eastern League games were called for snow or cold, cold (it was 38 with 25 mph winds) played a part as each team struck out 10 times.
Joey Devine was pitching at Turner Field just three months after being drafted in 2005. He’s still working his way back up the ladder after back problems last year. On Opening Night, he struggled, picking up the loss as Adam Heether’s RBI single gave Huntsville an extra-inning win. Matt Harrison’s strong start (six strikeouts in five innings) was squandered by the Braves hitters, who had just as many problems against five Huntsville pitchers.
How many times will you read something like this this season? Evan Longoria and Reid Brignac led the way to a Montgomery Biscuits victory. Longoria and Brignac each had two hits, and they had a hand in three of the Biscuits four runs in a 4-0 win over West Tenn. Chris Seddon pitched seven scoreless innings for Montgomery.
The sprinklers at Mobile’s Henry Aaron Stadium worked just as designed. Every night during the offseason at 10 p.m. the automated sprinklers cut on. No one remembered to change the settings for Opening Day, so the infielders were left to dodge drops for a minute until someone could cut off the water. Mobile ended up winning despite the dousing, as Abe Woody beat hit former Reds teammates. The Lookouts squandered one of the best performances of the night, as Chris Dickerson went 5-for-5. The Reds’ prospect amazingly didn’t drive in or score a run.
High Class A
You have to feel somewhat sorry for the Lake Elsinore hitters. In the first two games of their openings series with Rancho Cucamonga, the Storm are facing Bartolo Colon and Jered Weaver. As you would expect, that wasn’t good news for the Storm batters on Opening Day. Colon looked very sharp in a rehab start as he works his way back from a torn rotator cuff. The righthander threw 42 strikes in 61 pitches, retired the last 10 batters he faced and hit 95 mph on the radar gun.
Kyle Waldrop didn’t pick up a win, but he pitched as well as anybody on Opening Day. The Fort Myers starter only allowed a pair of baserunners–two hit batsmen–in five innings. But the Twins lost, as Jay Rainville making his first appearance since 2005 as he comes back from shoulder surgery, was a tough-luck loser thanks to a pair of errors.Deolis Guerra is picking up wins in the Florida State League as a 17-year-old. Guerra doesn’t turn 18 for two more weeks, but he outdueled Jacob McGee on Opening Day in a rain-shortened game. According to the Palm Beach Post, three of Guerra’s five strikeouts came on three pitches.
Low Class A
Clayton Kershaw’s first pro experience came in balmy Florida as he worked in the Gulf Coast League last summer. It in no way prepared him for what he faced Thursday night. The Great Lake Loons inaugural game began with 32-degree temperatures with 20 mph winds. Blame the conditions, as Kershaw walked six as he struggled to get through 2 1/3 innings. According to the South Bend Tribune, Kershaw needed 78 pitches to face 16 batters. Jason Neighborgall has trouble enough hitting the strike zone on a good day, so the conditions for the Great Lakes-South Bend game was downright cruel for him. The Diamondbacks reliever, who walked 46 batters in 13 innings last year, walked three batters and gave up one hit in 1/3 inning of work.
The Orioles are sliding Brandon Snyder from catcher to first base in an attempt to help keep him healthy–he’s recovered from a torn rotator cuff he suffered last season. So far so good, as Snyder went 3-for-4 with a double. Delmarva starter Pedro Beato threw five shutout innings.The Shorebirds are already the Orioles’ most prospect-laden minor league club, but they will get even more stacked when top prospect Bill Rowell joins the club. He’s still a couple of weeks away from being activated as he recovers from a strained oblique.
The Red Sox are taking it easy with lefthander Jon Lester’s rehabilitation as he works his way back from last year’s cancer treatments. He’s expected to make four starts with low Class A Greenville as he rounds into form. He looked major league ready on Thursday, as he pitched four scoreless innings while hitting 96 mph on the scoreboard radar gun.
Speaking of working back into form, Devil Rays’ 2005 first-rounder Wade Towsend threw six scoreless innings for low Class A Columbus in his first outing since 2005. Townsend missed all of last season after Tommy John surgery.