While I hadn’t planned to see the Jays and Yankees Double-A and Triple-A teams face off in Tampa on Sunday, I ended up there for a couple of reasons. First of all, I anticipated the difficulty of trying to scout the Yankees’ players without names on the backs of their jerseys (I still had trouble but you can read all about that over at Grading on the Curve) and, since I couldn’t count on being able to get a copy of the Yankees’ roster in Dunedin, I decided to make the drive out there (only about half an hour) to get their roster list. The second reason was that the weather forecast for Monday is not good (thunderstorms) and so I figured I wanted to get another look at the Blue Jays’ higher level guys at least one more time before I leave.
The first thing that I noticed when I got to the minor league complex in Tampa was that the Yankees don’t make life easy for spectators. Picture a four-leaf clover configuration for the ball diamonds with about 15 feet of space separating the edges of each leaf (or, diamond). In between two of those diamonds (the two facing north), there is a set of bleachers that only face one diamond while access is limited to the area from the outfield to the benches with everything else inaccessible. On the one hand, this makes it much easier to keep an eye on both games at the same time but it makes it impossible to actually really see the pitchers and how their pitches move.
Now, on to the baseball.
I was very pleased to see Daniel Norris start the Double-A game on the mound. In the first inning, he was utterly dominant, striking out two batters and getting a ground out to third base. In the second inning, however, he got rattled, surrendering a single, home run and a walk before catcher Derrick Chung went out to the mound to talk things over. After the conversation, Norris gave up another single but got the next batter to strike out and had a ground out. It seemed like the Jays called the inning after just two outs were made (which can happen in minor league spring training games) but I also may have missed a batter. Norris came out for one more inning and gave up a double and got a ground out, handled easily by Emilio Guerrero.
If my count is accurate, his final line was 2 2/3 (ish) innings, 3 runs (more on that later), 4 hits, 3 strikeouts, 1 walk.
Overall, Norris looked much more in command of his mechanics than I had seen last year (similar to what I saw in his bullpen a few days ago). He was missing up with his offspeed pitches but he froze a batter on a curveball to strike him out and he also showed that he was able to locate much better than last year, even when he was missing. Again, it’s still early, but I’m really liking what I’ve seen from Norris so far in 2014.
On the other side, Scott Copeland started the Triple-A game and looked really good. Locating down and throwing to A.J. Jimenez, I counted at least four strikeouts (although I was charting Norris’s game much more closely) with a really sharp slider and a well-located fastball.
In the Double-A game, the big lefty Scott Silverstein relieved Norris and, after giving up a home run to his first batter (scoring Norris’s runner that Silverstein inherited), he settled down nicely, striking out the next two batters. I sort of lost count after the first four batters of his next inning but he got two ground ball outs followed by a single and a walk.
Highlights of the rest of the pichers:
Randy Boone looked very solid for the Triple-A squad. He was followed by Justin Jackson who faced four batters and gave up four ground balls (two were hits) and got three outs. Bobby Korecky looked good relieving Jackson and Ryan Tepera showed off a nice slider, retiring three straight batters, striking out one looking. On the other diamond, Ian Kadish pitched an inning with a strikeout and a walk and was helped out by Derrick Chung picking off a runner at second base. I didn’t note who else threw for the Jays in that game and I left a little early (after the Triple-A game had finished).
The hitters in the Double-A game took advantage of a wind blowing straight out to center field with home runs by Jason Leblebijian and K.C. Hobson. Hobson added a double and I don’t have any other notes for Leblebijian other than that he made some really smooth defensive plays in the game.
Nick Baligod had a good game too with a double and a triple (at least) while Emilio Guerrero showed good hustle on a ground out and hit a double later. Big Kevin Patterson showed some solid contact on a line-drive base hit to center.
There weren’t as many fireworks in the Triple-A game. I saw Brian Van Kirk walk twice, Kenny Wilson get a solid hit (but was later picked off second base), A.J. Jimenez get a solid base hit up the middle and Kevin Nolan also had a base hit on a line drive. Nolan also made a really nice play, bare handing a soft chopper to short and getting the runner at first by a hair with a strong throw.
A couple of the subs made loud outs towards the end of the game. 5-foot-5 shortstop Jorge Flores launched one to center field for a long fly out while Chaz Frank did the same to deep right field. Frank also made a very nice catch in center field in the dying innings of the game.
That about sums up the games, or at least what I saw of them! Today, the actual games against the Yankees’ minor league teams were rained out but I saw a bit of the intrasquad games before the rain put a premature end to those too.
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