TAMPA, FL - Pitching ruled the day during intrasquad games on Saturday and nobody was more impressive than Dominican right-hander Rafael DePaula.
Rafael DePaula, facing the RiverDogs lineup [each pitcher faced their own work group on Saturday], was scheduled for just two innings of work but because he made such quick work against the hitters he was asked to face two more batters just to get his pitch count up. He faced the minimum three batters in his first inning despite issuing one walk, but quickly erased the runner by inducing a double play. He struck out the first two batters he faced the next inning, served up a single, and then fanned the next three batters he faced. He was sitting 91-92 mph, showed a plus breaking ball, and when the ball actually wasn't thrown in the dirt he was commanding his pitches extremely well. He was beyond impressive.
Right-hander Jairo Heredia made his return to game action on Saturday after more than a year and half layoff from shoulder surgery. Pitching against Tampa, he struck out three of the first four batters he faced, thanks in large part to his plus-plus curveball. While the changeup was fantastic too, the great news is he was sitting 91-92 mph with his fastball and had great command of it too. He ran into some trouble in his second inning of work, allowing four singles, but two of them were dinkers and dunkers.
Tampa Starting Lineup: Mason Williams, Anderson Feliz, Gary Sanchez, Saxon Butler, Yeral Sanchez, Dan Fiorito, Chris Breen, Ericon Leonora, Dalton Smith, and Wes Wilson.
Charleston Starting Lineup: Abiatal Avelino, Austin Aune, Miguel Andujar, Dante Bichette Jr., Luis Torrens, Matt Duran, Jake Anderson, Nathan Mikolas, Daniel Aldrich, and Taylor Dugas.
It was no different in the Scranton versus Trenton game on the other field -- the pitching was tremendous. Right-hander Corey Black allowed just two hits and one walk [although he did hit one batter too] in five scoreless innings against the Trenton squad and struck out eight batters. He had some bouts of fastball control issues but he showed he could make the self-correction and his breaking ball combination was flat-out overpowering.
Shane Greene was nearly as electric against Scranton too. He gave up just one hard hit ball in his four innings -- an RBI double to Jose Tuossen -- and the rest of the three hits allowed were high-bouncing infield singles. He walked just one batter and struck out four in four innings of work. The sliders he was throwing was simply unfair to the hitters.
Scranton Starting Lineup: Cody Grice, Francisco Rosario, Francisco Arcia, Cody Johnson, Jeff Farnham, Bubba Jones, Casey Stevenson, Jose Tuossen, Shane Brown, and Exicardo Cayones.
Trenton Starting Lineup: Jose Rosario, J.R. Murphy, Kelvin De Leon, Kyle Higashioka, Reymond Nunez, Carmen Angelini, Fu-Lin Kuo, Daniel Oh, Mikeson Oliberto, and Leugim Barroso.
The hit of the day came off of the bat of Gary Sanchez. He hit a deep two-run home run to left-centerfield in his first at-bat, plating Anderson Feliz [1-3, SB, run, K]. After becoming a strikeout victim to Heredia's great curveball in his next at-bat, he later doubled to deep right-centerfield in his last plate appearance. He has looked locked in so far early in camp.
The home run Sanchez hit was served up by right-hander Jose Campos who pitched the first inning of the game. It was also his first game pitched since last April. He was sitting 89-91 mph, showed very good late-life with his fastball, and the curveball was impressive. In fact, while he did give up two hits [including the Sanchez home run], he did strike out a pair of batters in his only inning. All in all it was a solid first inning back.
Miguel Andujar had the next best hit between the two games on Saturday when he doubled about 15 feet up the centerfield batter's eye. It was an absolute missile shot. In fact, it were two more feet to the left it would have been a mammoth home run. He later scored on a Dante Bichette Jr. RBI double [1-3, 2 K's] down the left field line. He also had an infield single in the game.
The defensive play of the game came from shortstop Abiatal Avelino. A dribbler got past the pitcher, a play that should have been made, and he made a hard-charging scoop on the slow-roller and gunned down the runner at first base. Offensively he went 1-3 with a walk and a stolen base. He continues to play the game like a seasoned veteran.
Angel Rincon got in for one inning of work on Saturday and he too looked fantastic. Sitting 92 mph and showing a great slider, he retired the first three batters in order and did so in quick fashion, including one strikeout. Asked to face a couple of more batters because he had not reached his intended pitch count, he did serve up the booming double to Gary Sanchez but that was only after the umpire blew a called on a blatant third strike that gave Sanchez one more swing and the rest was history. He did retire a fourth batter immediately afterwards, however.
Mason Williams [1-3, run] and Saxon Butler [1-3, 2 RBI, K] each had hits for Tampa, as did Charleston's Matt Duran [1-2, RBI]. Scranton's Jeff Farnham [1-2] hit a towering two-run home run in the other game and Trenton's Jose Rosario [2-3] had two stolen bases and a run scored.
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