Well, my Saturday night plans this weekend were ruined. We had both a barbeque fest and an Italian fest in downtown Knoxville, and instead of constantly eating, I ducked home at 3:00 in the afternoon to avoid a full night of torrential rains. The good part though was that I had tickets for the Barons/Smokies game the next day, which nicely turned into a double header of 2 seven inning games.
Barons @ Smokies, 4/25/10, Twin-bill at Smokies Park
Basic summary, before I focus on some of the people. The Barons staged comebacks in both games. The Smokies came in leading the Southern League and on a winning streak, the Barons came in at the bottom of the SL. The wind was blowing hard out for both games, so it surprised me we only saw 2 HR. The first game, Matt Long gave up a 3 run homer to Robinson Chirinos in the first inning, but settled down and stopped the Smokies afterwards. Brent Morel keyed a comeback with a bunch of extra base hits, and the Barons won 4-3 with Socolovich taking the win for 2 solid, scoreless innings. The 2nd game saw more offense, as Anthony Carter spotted the Smokies a 6 run lead. The Barons came all the way back to tie it at 7-7, but Joe Torres came out of the bullpen and couldn't hold the lead.
Now, my attempt to be a scout. Someone hire me!
First guy I want to talk about is Brent Morel.
There were 2 people playing today who looked like they belonged in the big leagues eventually. Morel was one of them. He didn't show HR power, but he was hitting the ball with authority all day. You didn't want Morel coming up with men on base. He looked solid defensively, made a good play with the backhand and a strong throw across in game 2. He was charged with an error, but it was on a play moving far to his left where the ball skipped off of his glove on a dive. If it had been Starlin Castro at 3b instead of Morel, it wouldn't have been an error. He also let a foul ball drop in game 2 that he should have caught on a miscommunication between him and Fuller. So yeah, he still seems to need more seasoning, but he really impressed with his bat.
Oh, and one other move by Morel did suggest that he's ready to join the White Sox. He's got their form on this one down perfectly:
The Barons pitching wasn't anything to write home about, although Long and Socolovich had decent outings. Long struggled early but settled in, and Socolovich earned the win with a couple scoreless. Anthony Carter was beaten around in game 2. Here's him pitching:
Jacob Rasner did have a decent outing, and stopped the bleeding in game 2 long enough for the Barons to come back. Shame they couldn't get him the win.
One guy that I paid some attention to who was something of an enigma still was Salvador Sanchez. I don't want to delve into his story too deeply, but it's hard to ignore. The main thing I noticed about him was...I'm not good at telling people's ages, but if you told me he was 27, I'd believe you. He looked like an athlete, like a guy that could already be in the show.
He didn't have a spectacular set of games, one caught stealing, another at bat he grounded out on a checked swing, but he was 3/7 on the day with several solid singles. He did have a baserunning blunder also; was on 1b for a Paiml single, rounded 2nd, stopped and then continued on to get thrown out with ease at 3rd. Either he should have stopped at 2nd or never stopped while rounding 2nd; the pause was what killed him. If he's as young as everyone else in this league, he's got a chance to be a solid ballplayer because I think he's probably in better shape than anyone else I saw, I just don't know how to evaluate his age.
A few other notes from the Barons:
*John Shelby's swing seems very long to me. It's working for him right now, but it was long enough that I noticed.
*Christian Marrero quietly went 4/8 and was key to a couple of those Barons rallies.
*I don't think the Barons have a 1b coach. Paiml spent a lot of time there in game 2. I also liked his first game.
Some notes about the Smokies:
Andrew Cashner pitched all 7 in game 1 and took the loss. Probably had the best fastball of the day, got up to 92 if the gun is believable. He got a bit wild late in the game, maybe just getting tired, and that helped the Barons come back. It seemed like his fastball velocity went up in the last inning or two; I thought he was tiring out and just starting to throw as hard as he could to keep the ball going. I'd bet if you looked at video, you'd see his mechanics start to break down later in the game as he focused more on velocity, although I couldn't tell just from my seat.
The guy the Smokies have who looks ready for a promotion is Robinson Chirinos, Catcher/DH. Threw out Sanchez trying to steal, was nearly impossible to get out, and homered to LF for the Smokies first 3 runs.
The guy who I was expecting to impress me but who did not: Starlin Castro. Supposedly he had a 10 game hitting streak or so coming into game 1, and he was 0/7 with a walk on the day. Furthermore, he had a couple plays that if Morel had made them would have been called errors. Had a ball drop between him and another fielder on a pop-up, and had a ball up the middle jump over his glove that he probably should have at least kept on the IF by knocking it down, if not fielding cleanly. Didn't really hit the ball that well and didn't impress me with his acumen. Last inning of game 1, he came up with 0 out and runners on 1st and 2nd, and popped the bunt up to the pitcher for the first out, setting up what would become the GW double play. First at bat of game 2, he was trying to bunt again. Maybe he was just having a bad day, but I sure didn't see him screaming "Star in the making" on this day.
Oh, and had a great day at Smokies Park. Gotta love any ballpark that opens an all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant an hour before gametime; that's just a perfect way to start off a double-header. Beautiful weather for baseball, lotsa fun, can't figure out why they didn't keep the Dippin Dots stand open longer, sigh. Good work Smokies org!