The Threshers opened the 2015 season with a home loss to the Dunedin Blue Jays. The game featured two rehabbing major leaguers, Michael Saunders as DH for the Blue Jays and Domonic Brown in RF for the Threshers. Neither figured in the scoring.
These are not the Matt Boyd/Dalton Pompey/Dwight Smith Blue Jays that were so dominant in the FSL last season. But they have restocked with prospects Mitch Nay (#11), Dawel Lugo (#18), and Matthew Dean (#19) who each hit opposite field home runs. Pitcher Jairo Labourt (#13) stymied the Threshers thru the first four innings before tiring in the fifth and sixth innings. The left-handed pitcher struck out Domonic Brown swinging in his only two ABs.
Matt Imhof breezed thru the first two innings. He locates the ball pretty well so his lack of velocity was not a concern early. That 5 of his 6 first outs were recorded on fly balls to the outfield was a bit alarming. (FWIW, the stadium gun on 21 of Imhof’s first 24 pitches registered 85, 87, 87(F7), 87, 87, 90, 89(F9), 88, 97, 83, 83, 88, 82, ?(F8), 84, 85, 81, 87(5-3), 85, 79, 87(F9), ?, ?, 86(F7).)
Imhof’s string of 6 retired batters ended with a single off SS Devin Lohman’s glove to start the third inning. After another fly ball to the outfield, the runner stole second base. He remained there on a ground out to Mitch Walding at third base. Imhof had almost escaped the inning when a soft ground single up the middle was just out of the reach of both Lohman and second baseman Drew Stankiewicz. Imhof ended the inning with a pickoff – 1-3-1-4-2-6. (Imhof threw 18 pitches in the inning, he touched 88 once.)
Imhof gave up a first-pitch, line drive single to start the fourth inning. He followed that with his first and only walk on his third (of four) full-count of the evening. His next pitch was a sharply hit ground ball toward the left field corner. Walding gloved the ball while moving to his right and took an additional step to touch the third base bag to force out the runner. He turned and threw to Stankiewicz for another force at second base. Stankiewicz pivoted and fired to Zach Green to complete the triple play. (only 1 of the 7 pitches I recorded was as fast as 87.)
Imhof finally got burned on a fly ball when Mitch Nay led off the fifth inning with a home run to right. He recorded a pop up and two ground balls to end the inning. (14 pitches, 4 fastest at 86.) My count is not exact, but I had him at about 64 pitches. It seemed that he threw predominantly strikes in the first inning. But my rough count over the final 4 innings was 49 pitches – 26 strikes, 23 balls. He moves the ball around well to make up for his velocity, but the stadium gun may be a little fast. If so, he’ll need to keep the ball down to stay successful.
Mark Leiter pitched the next 2 innings. He lit up the gun at 90-91 mph. His first batter dribbled a ball through the 5-6 hole into left field. A hit-and-run ground out moved the runner to second. He scored on an opposite field home run to right by Dawel Lugo. Leiter responded with a 3-pitch strike out and was quickly ahead of the next batter when he was squeezed on 6 of the next 9 pitches. After a base on balls, he retired the third out on a fly to right.
Leiter came back strong in the seventh inning. He got a first-pitch come-backer for the first out and a 4-pitch strike out for the second. He got the third out after an 11-pitch battle that ended on a 2-2 fly ball to right. His fast ball was still 90-91 during the inning, but he threw a lot of 83-84 changes and a couple of slow curves to keep the batters off balance.
Edubray Ramos came on to pitch the final 2 innings. He recorded 4 ground balls and 3 fly balls. Unfortunately, one of the fly balls was an opposite field home run by Matthew Dean with one-out in the ninth inning. He had just watched the previous batter ground out to third on a 79, 82, 94, 94, 85 progression, and was evidently sitting first-pitch, fast ball. Even so, he didn’t get around on the 95 mph offering and drove it to the opposite field.
Ramos stuff looks nasty. He throws hard and gets some movement. The stadium gun had his fast balls at – 94, 93, 95, 96, 95, 96, 94, 94, 94, 95, 93, 93, 95. Chris (StatsKing) King was behind the plate with a gun on him and had him at 92-94, T96. So, the stadium gun could be maybe 1 mph to fast.
In addition to the triple play, the defense was sharp. Aaron Brown crashed into the wall in RCF to make an inning-ending catch in the first inning. Andrew Knapp had to play goalie on several balls in the dirt. Only one got past him and didn’t figure into the scoring. Mitch Walding had 6 assists and a putout. Aside from starting the triple play, he made a great stop behind third and a strong throw to Green at first. He also had to charge a couple of soft choppers and make quick, controlled throws to retire batters. Clearwater commited no errors. The only criticism would be the rundown after the pickoff. Too many throws. Here’s the Aaron Brown catch (from a Jeremy Carlson tweet).
Offensively, I’ve seen these guys more productive. They collected 7 hits and a walk. Two other runners reached on errors. Three of the 7 hits were doubles. Knapp was the offensive star going 3-4 with a 2B and an RBI.
He singled in the first after Willians Astudillo reached on an error, but both were stranded.
Stankiewicz reached via a walk in the third but was forced out by Astudillo who was thrown out on a steal (delayed, I think).
Green opened the fifth with a line drive single and moved to second on a wild pitch. He reached third on a ground out. With two outs, Lohman’s two-out ground ball was mis-handled and Green scored. Through the first 5 innings, the Jays starter had struck out 3 batters (D. Brown accounted for 2 of them).
Andrew Pullin doubled in his first at bat in the sixth inning after replacing Dom Brown on the field the inning before. It was a solid line drive deep into the LCF gap. He scored on Knapp’s RBI single. After a fly out, the Jays bull pen took over and struck out the next two batters. The Jays bullpen recorded 5 strike outs over the final 3.2 innings.
Knapp one-hopped the wall in LCF for a double with two outs in the eighth and was stranded.
Aaron Brown lined a one out double into LCF with one out in the ninth and was stranded.
Here’s the box score –
- Stankiewicz, 2B 1-3; BB, K
- Astudillo, DH 0-4; CS
- D. Brown, RF 0-2; 2 K
- Pullin, LF 1-2; R, 2B
- Knapp, C 3-4; RBI, 2B
- Cozens, LF, RF 0-4; K
- Green, 1B 1-4; R, 2K
- A.Brown, CF 1-4; 2B, K
- Walding, 3B 0-4; K
- Lohman, SS 0-4
- Imhof 5.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1 HR, 1 WP
- Leiter 2.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HR
- Ramos 2.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 1 HR
David Whitehead takes the mound tomorrow night in Dunedin.