Puerto Rico Unravels Early

Jonathan Albaladejo–the Puerto Rico starter tonight–and I go back to 2004 when I did a series of stories in uniform in the Pirates organization. He was with the high Class A Lynchburg team I traveled with, so I sought him out on Saturday night to say hello more than anything else.

He was all smiles, saying how he was in the best shape of his career–a couple years ago a Pirates official referred to him as “a fat tub of goo”–how he’d gone through some injury problems last year at Double-A Altoona, but he’d had a great winter and he was excited to pitch in this big game against the Dominicans tonight.

The problem with Albaladejo–other than his velocity usually topping out in the upper 80s–has always been a little bit of a confidence issue. And when the DR came out with back-to-back singles, he started nibbling with his slider and changeup. He walked Miguel Tejada to load the bases and then gave up two ground ball outs–both drove in runs, but he had two outs in the can.

But then Jose Fernandez ripped an 88 mph fastball into the right-center gap to drive in another run, and Alex Fernandez followed with an RBI single for the four-run lead.

Things started ominously in the second, as Bernie Castro reached on an error by shortstop Luis R. Figueroa. Anderson Hernandez singled and then Luis Polonia drove in two more runs with a double to right.

That was the end of Albaladejo’s night–one inning, six runs, seven hits. Brutal. It was painful to watch him walk off the mound, especially when he glanced over his left shoulder to look at reliever Josue Matos.