Wednesday’s practice was driven inside by off-and-on rain and wind. The coaches brought out some position players for fielding practice, but I saw few “A-listers” among the group.
Before leaving I stopped by the stadium to see what changes had been incorporated for the start of the Grapefruit League games.
The biggest change is the installation of metal detectors as prescribed by MLB. They are portable and are moved into position before each game. The canopy was installed for protection from the sun while screening. The Spectrum Field sign was being installed as I took this photo and the sign for the south gate was on the truck for installation when this was completed.
I attended the University of Tampa game on Thursday, but stopped by the Complex until the gates opened. Joaquin Benoit and Pat Neshek were throwing live batting practice to Cameron Perkins, Chace Numata, and Jesse Valentin. Neshek’s strange delivery did little to confuse Numata who lashed a couple of line drives and a blast over the right field fence.
Gates open at 10:35. I was able to catch 2 groups’ batting practice and a small portion of a third. If you plan on attending, arrive early and expect to miss some BP. Crowds will certainly be much larger Saturday when a real Grapefruit League game is played against the Yankees.
MarK Leiter got the start against the University Tampa and breezed through the first inning. His first batter reached on a J.P. Crawford fielding error. Leiter retired the next three batters in order. The Spartans put their lead off batter on in each of the first three innings but couldn’t score. Leiter’s fastball topped out at 90 mph.
Tyler Viza pitched the second inning and gave up a ground ball single through the 5-6 hole. Scott Kingery started a beautiful 4-6-3 double play and Viza got the third out on another well played ground ball to Kingery. I had Viza’s fastball at 93-94 mph.
Alberto Tirado started the third inning with a walk but induced a double play ground ball to Crawford. Kingery retired the third out on a shallow pop in right field. Tirado’s fastball was at only 91-92 mph.
Miguel Nunez pitched the fourth inning. He issued the Phillies second walk but also recorded their first strike out. A pop out and caught stealing ended the inning. Nunez’ fastball was consistently at 94 mph but he had trouble throwing it for strikes. When he did, he set up his slider. Jorge Alfaro gunned out the base runner by a safe margin. Kingery appeared to tag him in the face. Alfaro’s arm = cannon.
Colton Murray came on for the fifth inning. He was efficient retiring the Spartans in order for the first time in the game on three ground balls. His fastball was 92-93 mph.
Pedro Beato got the sixth inning. He was the softest tosser of the day only reaching 89 mph with his fastball. But he recorded the Phillies second strike out and retired Tampa in order.
Michael Mariot pitched the seventh and final inning. He immediately got into trouble giving up a lead off, line drive single and hitting the next batter. He bounced back getting the next three batters swinging. His fastball was in the 92-94 mph range.
Offensively, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs donned Phillies’ uniforms. Roman Qunn started the home first with a ground single to center. As I yelled “run, Roman, run” from the stands, Quinn broke on the first pitch and stole second by a wide margin. He advanced to third on Crawford’s ground out, and scored on Dylan Cozens’ deep sacrifice fly to center field.
Before the game, a friend challenged me to pick the Phillie to hit the first home run today. I chose Quinn. In the third inning, he made my prediction come true when he lashed a line drive through the wind over the right field fence. Crawford lofted a fly ball down the left field line that dropped in for a double, and Cozens beat out a ground ball to second before the Phillies were retired.
In the fourth, Alfaro lined a one out double off the wall in right center field. Chace Numata came in as a pinch runner and scored on a Hector Gomez single to left. Andrew Pullin pulled a ground ball through the hole into right field and took second on the throw. The inning ended with no further damage.
Crawford opened the fifth inning with a walk. Cozens crushed a two-run homer to center. (Cozens had been my friend’s pick as the first to hit a home run.) Brock Stassi (Rhys Hoskins replacement) grounded a single up-the-middle and Kingery lined a single to right, but the Phillies couldn’t plate another run.
The Phillies added their sixth and final run in the sixth inning. Cameron Perkins who replaced Quinn in center and grounded a single to center. Pedro Florimon, Crawford’s replacement, lined a single to left and Perkins went to third. He scored on a throwing error on a hard hit fielder’s choice by Cozens.
The Phillies were retired in order only once and scored in every inning but the second. Mark Leiter was awarded the win.
- Scott Kingery showed a heck of a lot of range at second. And an accurate arm.
- Quinn at the top of the order is exciting.
- Cozens is really strong. His HR was into a right-to-left wind and was never in doubt.
- Neither was Quinn’s HR for that matter. He cleared the back fence.
- Alfaro is strong too. His line drive out was on a diving catch in right center.
- And I can’t say enough about his arm.
- Several of our outs came on line drives. These guys put good wood on the ball today.
- Our pitchers were just too much for the Spartans.
- Quinn made a diving catch in the 1st inning on a ball that he seemed to have trouble.
- Lehigh Valley is going to be a tough team to beat this year.
The box score says the wind was coming in from left. I checked the flags on our two home runs. It had shifted and was R-to-L on both.