|Posted by timahuwe on April 23, 2014 at 8:05 AM|
On Tuesday morning the Prospect Prius rolled in to Geneva's Fifth Third Ballpark. Iinstead of turning left toward the 'big' parking lot, we got to turn right and park right near the stadium. About the only ones turning left were the twenty or so school buses that indicated one thing. They would play the "Sponge Bob SuarePants" song today. In case I had forgotten, masses of kids can be loud. And they respond to stuff on the scorebord. It was a bit loud until they left, when the one guy who was heckling the opposing hitters finally helped close out a Cougars win.
The Cougars venue is really nice, but then, many facilities are when you can get front row seats half an hour before first pitch. Instead of my usual 'behind the plate' seats, I was behind the Cougars dugout. As I remember, those were the first types of seats I ever had at a minor league game. Mid-70's, Omaha Royals, with Ruppert Jones playing. I even figued out which year it was one time, as in the day, minor league rosters didn't fluctuate as much as they do now.
I seem to have derailed myself.
Cougars starting pitcher Paul Blackburn is the prototype for what the current Cubs brass likes in a pitcher. He's 6'2", fields his position well, and doesn't waste time between pitches. His fastball tends to be low-90's much of the time, but he plays in the high 80's as well also. The key is location. Location, and that nobody seems to get good contact off of him. Even the hits off him were mostly of the three hopper on the infield variety.
Now, to my game notes, with a link to the box score.
B.A. Vollmuth, despite his batting average, was making the best contact for Beloit. He started this off in the first with a solid drive to left, that Cougars LF Trey Martin ranged back for, making a solid catch. Martin would later fight a ball lined into a rather strong wind, and it was amusing watching him combat a knuckling fly ball. Martin is also a smart baserunner. If he can figure out the hitting thing going up the ladder, the outfielder at home in CF could have a future in the game.
Kyle Finnegan, similar to Blackburn, usually working in the high-80's, is my pick for "I want the Cubs to trade for him" in the game. He wasn't at his best, and there was some hard contact against him, but I don't think this was his best game. I still have no idea what home plate umpire Richard Riley considers the strike zone to entail. After all, it's Low-A Ball for them, as well. Finnegan threw strikes, and had hitters under control until the fourth and fifth innings.
In the second, Blackburn allowed a three hopper up the middle over the 2B bag, and Danny Lockhart would have gotten a slow baserunner, but RF Tyler Marincov beat the rap. (Yeah, I remember listening to Milo Hamilton a bit.) The next hitter (DH Jaycob Brugman) executed a perfect hit-and-run, seventeen hopping one to LF where the SS had just left. A sacrifice (that Blackburn fielded rather effectively) moved the runners up. After a walk, a 6-3 ground ball double play ended the threat.
To start the third inning,Blackburn broke three bats in a row. Two of the were of the 'splintered' variety. How was he rewarded? Two on, one out. After a grounder to third, leadoff man Boog Powell (Herschel assumes the moniker of the Orioles slugger from in the day, even though he is a fifty punds lighter. At least.) popped one to third while shattering his bat. As SS Carlos Penalver settled under it, the wind must have blown the ball, as Penalver was unable to record the out. The next hitter shattered his bat on a single to LF.
It seems that minor league teams are focusing more on pickoffs to 2B than before. Yeah, there's always been the 'whirl and throw' or its brother 'whirl and don't throw'. But teams, especially the Cougars, seem to be taking this aspect of the game more seriously. The throws to second are getting more precise. Blackburn went, if I remember correctly, one-for-three at picking runners off second, and pegging Powell in the third stymied the Snappers threat.
Finally, in the fourth, the Cougars figured out Finnegan, ripping himfor three doubles. This led to a two-run inning, and a lead that the Cougars wouldn't relinquish. Yasiel Balaguert and David Bote had RBI doubles, and Bala's was especially well-struck. The bottom of five had a situation that might have cost the Snappers any chance at coming back if the Cougars could have taken advantage of what appeared to be a mis-step.
After struggling in the fourth, Finnegan walked Trey Martin to start the fifth. Jake Hannemann bunted, and Finnegan contemplated going to second. Don't do that if you ever want to retire Jacob Hannemann. I'm not sure if Hannemann will ever learn to hit, but he is a good defender, and is an absolute nuisance on the bases. It was almost worth the price of admission watching him lead off from third base. He wanted the ball to get away about five feet away from the catcher so he could score. Standing up, probably.
Here's the mis-calculation. Finnegan struggled in the fourth, and the fifth was looking like a lengthy inning already.By the time Hannemann reached, it seemed to me, time to get up the bullpen. Finnegan wasn't going to go any more than six, and as the inning progressed, he looked more and more done. But the bullpen stayed quiet. After a sacrifice bunt, a run-scoring single by Ben Carhart (who would later leave with an injured finger when he fouled a ball off it during a swing), a walk and a single, Finnegan was finally lifted. The first Beloit reliever, Dominique Vattuone, looked like he was using a shotput delivery. He got out of the inning.
After sitting for about twenty minutes in the bottom of five, Blackburn was touched for a line-drive homer by Vollmuth. He's a decent hitter with definite power, but if I could have two guys from Beloit's box score, I'd prefer Finnegan and Powell over Vollmuth. Decent hitter, despite his average, but he didn't look anything special at third. And I like two-way players. After Vollmuth's homer, a foul fly to right was Blackburn's last hitter, as he fell victim to the pitch count Gods. Despite giving up a walk and a run-scoring double early, Nathan Dorris was what he is. A mid-to-high-80's throwing lefty that has a chance to move up the chain.
To close it out, I have to talk about Beloit reliever Stuart Pudenz. I think he has to have lost a bet to use his motion. My should hurts when he throws. He walked the bases loaded (including Shawon Dunston, Junor who replaced Carhart as DH) and retired Will Remillard on a bunt. I don't remeber seeing his velocity, but with his motion, I'm not even sure why a scout says "draft this kid".
In the ninth, Jose Arias earned a hold by getting two guys out, walking two, and surrendering two hits. Zack Godley earned his third save, and the remaining people had short trips to their cars in the nearer parking lot afterward.
I see why the brass liked Hannemann. I don't know if he'll ever learn to hit really well, but there is a bunch of speed and moxie there. And, did I mention, speed. Be sure to check the home page to see where Blackburn, Hannemann, Carhart, Balaguert, and others rank on The Zygote 50..