New Britain is now in their sixteenth season as the Twins' AA club, and in their fifteenth season in their new ballpark. And with the Trenton Thunder in town and the Yankees' 2008 supplemental first round pick Jeremy Bleich slated to pitch, I decided to take a trip to the park and catch the game, a 2-1 Thunder victory.
Bleich had struggled a bit through his first six starts of 2010, walking 23 batters through 30 innings, while only striking out 19. For one night at least though, he put things back together. He faced the minimum through three. The only baserunner he allowed in the first third of the game came on a four pitch leadoff walk in the second, and he was subsequently erased on a caught stealing.
There was one out in the fourth when Bleich surrendered his first hit, a high chopper off the bat of Ben Revere, good for an infield single. A hit by pitch later in the frame left Bleich in a two out, two on jam, but he used his second strikeout of the inning the end the threat.
He issued another leadoff walk in the fifth, but erased the runner on a double play ball. In the sixth, he allowed a two out single, then promptly got the runner on a pick off/caught stealing. The only real jam he faced came in the seventh, Number three hitter Rene Tosoni led off with a well struck double. Bleich got cleanup hitter Chris Parmelee to bounce to second, moving Tosoni to third.
That pitch left Bleich with a pitch count of 89 on the night, and manager Tony Franklin went to the pen. Corey Arbiso retired all five batters he faced over an inning and two thirds, but the first of those outs was an RBI groundout that plated New Britain's only run of the night.
For the evening, Bleich went six and one-third, gave up three hits, one run, walked two, struck out five, and hit a batter. The two walks are a positive sign; Bleich issued fewer base on balls in just one start this year, and his other two-free-pass-start lasted only five innings. The five strikeouts tied a season high. I had him at 89 pitches, 55 strikes (61.8%), and needing fewer than 15 pitches in every inning but the fourth. It was easily his best start since his first of 2010.
The stadium gun wasn't working last night, but several of the Trenton starters (D.J. Mitchell, David Phelps, and Lance Pendleton, I think) were sitting across the aisle from me charting pitches. They had Bleich at 87-89, and from what I could tell and overhear, his velocity remained fairly consistent from the first through his exit in the seventh. In the fifth, I noticed several fellow lefties having a hard time getting around on his fastball, fouling several off the other way. He went with the fastball mostly, mixing in the occasional curve at about 79. He threw back-to-back change ups on the number eight hitter in the third, getting two ugly swings and misses, but I don't specifically recall any other change ups.
As for the bats, the two Thunder runs came early on. Austin Romine, DHing for the second straight day, led off the second inning and reached second base on an E6, one of three errors New Britain shortstop Estarlin De Los Santos made on the night. Romine came around to score on a subsequent E6.
The other run came in the third. Marcos Vechionacci jumped all over a first pitch fastball, and absolutely crushed it to dead center. It's 400 feet straightaway, plus what looks to be about a twenty foot fence, and his blast cleared it easily on a chilly night where the ball wasn't carrying well.
Some other thoughts and observations:
I was a little disappointed that Romine wasn't catching, especially considering he had DH'd on Monday as well. However, today's getaway game begins at 10:30 AM, so it could just be that the team plans to catch him tomorrow and didn't want to catch him a night game before a day (morning?) game.David Phelps, who has been impressive thus far in 2010 starts this morning's game. I'd like to catch that one as well, but it's just not in the cards today. Trenton returns to hard-hittin' New Britain at the end of next month. Maybe I can make another visit then.
Romine's father, Kevin, spent the 1983 season playing in New Britain.
Jose Gil caught in place of Romine and showed off a pretty nice arm in gunning down one of two would-be basestealers.
Austin Krum went 2 for 4, including a bunt single. His legs were good enough to get him on base, but not quite good enough to keep him there, as he was caught stealing after the bunt. The whole park knew he was going. New Britain pitcher Carlos Gutierrez threw over three times; twice Krum barely made it back safely. They also pitched out when the count was 1-2, but that was not the pitch on which Krum chose to run.
David Adams went 1 for 4 on the night, with two Ks and a GIDP. But his one hit was a rocket of a liner right back up the middle, that narrowly missed Gutierrez.
Trenton didn't draw a walk all night.
Arbiso was impressive in relief. He retired all five batters he faced, two by strikeout.
Grant Duff, who narrowly missed being added to the 40 man roster this past off-season, worked the ninth for the save. It was a bit of a high wire act. Though he had the best velocity of any pitcher to take the mound all night at about 93 MPH, he was wild. He fell behind each of the first three hitters he faced 2-0, and allowed the winning run to come to the plate with two outs before closing it out.
Not only was the bulk of Trenton's starting rotation sitting across the aisle from me, former Yankee Steve "Bye-Bye" Balboni was seated about three rows behind me. There was also a scout there with a Diamondbacks hat and credentials, and probably three or four other scouts who weren't so conspicuous.