As he bird-dog scouted from the stands on Saturday night and charted pitches, one of the newest arrivals to the Eastern League—a righthander on the verge of making his Double-A pitching debut—kept telling himself not to get too awestruck.
Tim Alderson couldn’t help it, though. The Giants’ top righthanded prospect took a look at the New Hampshire Fisher Cats (Blue Jays) lineup and couldn’t help but wonder what their bats might have in store for him.
That is, until Connecticut pitching coach Ross Grimsley walked by on Sunday.
"I was excited to see what it (his Double-A) was all about, and my pitching coach talked to me before the game and said that I didn’t have to be perfect," Alderson said.
Alderson made a striking debut in the Eastern League on Sunday, striking out 10 over 6 2/3 scoreless (and hitless) innings in a 3-1 win and then grabbed a seat near the back of the team bus, eager to see what his contemporary has in store tonight.
Yes, 19-year-old lefthander Madison Bumgarner, the Giants’ top prospect, takes the hill tonight at New Britain for his Double-A debut.
The Giants dispatched the duo, along with shortstop Brandon Crawford, from high Class A San Jose to Connecticut last Thursday in roster moves that were only a matter of time before the weather warmed in the EL.
"It’ll be fun to watch him as always," Alderson said. "We’re having a blast. He’s been throwing lights out."
Bumgarner was 3-1, 1.48 with 23 strikeouts and only eight walks in 24 1/3 innings at San Jose. His ERA ranked second in the California League behind Modesto (Rockies) righthander Bruce Billings.
Alderson, who led the Cal League in ERA last year, dominated in his 26 innings in San Jose, finishing 1-1, 4.15 with 20 strikeouts and only three walks.
But when he arrived to Norwich, Conn., his debut looked as if it would be quite a challenge. New Hampshire’s lineup featured a pair of hot hitters in one-time Cubs top prospect (in 2005) Brian Dopirak and second baseman Brad Emaus, who entered the year as BA’s No. 10 Blue Jays prospect.
Dopirak had a five-hit game Friday night and was batting .327/.394/.619 with seven home runs and 26 RBIs entering Sunday. Emaus was twirling a big bat of his own, too, as he brought in a line of .330/.395/.539 thanks in part to a pair of back-to-back, three-hit games.
It was not lost on Alderson.
"(Saturday) night I was watching from the stands when our pitchers went out there," Alderson said. "I looked at their team and they had some big guys. They put the ball in play and pretty hard. I just didn’t want to try to do too much."
In spring training, Alderson incorporated a changeup to go along with his low 90s fastball and the best curveball in the Giants’ system.
On Sunday, he put them all on display and credited his manager, Steve Decker, pitching coach and catcher Jackson Williams for shepherding him through.
Alderson had never faced a Blue Jays lineup in the past season and two months, having spent all of that time in the Cal League while the Blue Jays’ high Class A affiliate is in Dunedin, in the Florida State League.
"I was trying to get ahead with (the fastball) and then I would mix in my other stuff the second and third time through the order," Alderson said. "I was able to use all of my pitches. It kept them guessing it seemed like."
His one big battle was against Dopirak in that seventh inning as Alderson tried to protect a 1-0 lead. The at-bat resulted in a flyout to left fielder Bobby Felmy, but Alderson’s heart nearly sunk to his stomach.
He had issued a one-out walk to David Cooper and saw Dopirak, a 25-year-old first baseman, launch a 3-2 curveball.
"Right off the bat, I thought it was going to go out," Alderson said. "But then the wind got a hold of it and it stayed in the park somehow. They (New Hampshire) fought all day and I knew I had to be close to perfect with every pitch. I was just trying to battle with him, and it was fun."
Three relievers covered the final 10 outs, and Connecticut added two runs in the top of the ninth to pad its lead.
To Alderson, other than winning his Double-A debut, his changeup was encouraging. He says he’s getting the arm speed to mirror that of his delivery on the fastball.
"I like where it’s at right now," Alderson said. "I’m not trying to make it perfect and that helps."
THE HANSON WATCH
Triple-A Gwinnett (Braves) righthander Tommy Hanson struck out nine over eight innings on Sunday, but yielded three home runs in a 4-3 home loss to Durham, as we eavesdrop on the Gwinnett Daily Post.
Justin Ruggiano got in on the home run binge, extending his own from Saturday night.
Hanson is 1-3, 1.99 with 57 strikeouts in 40 2/3 innings.
NOT SUGARCOATING IT
Double-A Reading (Phillies) lefthander Joe Savery missed his shot at a third consecutive win Saturday, working only five innings, and is ratcheting up the pressure on himself, according to The Reading Eagle.
Savery ranked as BA’s No. 3 Phillies prospect a year ago but dropped to No. 20 in this year’s Prospect Handbook.
What a weekend it was for Double-A Mobile (Diamondbacks) righthander Bryan Augenstein, who flirted with perfection on Saturday night and then got summoned to the majors on Sunday.
Augenstein, a seventh-round pick in 2007 out of Florida, had a perfect game through three innings on Saturday at Double-A Carolina before a rainstorm swept through the Raleigh-Durham area.
The weather delay led Mobile to call it a night for Augenstein, who is 5-0, 0.78 with 31 strikeouts and six walks in 34 2/3 innings.
He makes his big league debut Wednesday night against the Reds, a move brought on by the Diamondbacks placing righthander Yusmeiro Petit on the disabled list because of a right shoulder strain.