Hurricanes Baseball Reporter
As reported on Tuesday the high expectations of great things to come, fell on a flat note via ineffective pitching. It seems that I was not the only one to feel this way in that the pitching roster is now sporting one man less in the BP. Left-handed pitcher Alex Valentin appears to have been cut after just one outing. Today 4 new pitchers making their first appearances, all freshmen, and am happy to report that there was a notable improvement in the quality of pitching than I witnessed on Tuesday. The difference being control, only allowing three walks through 6 innings compared to 7 in three innings on Tuesday. It wasn’t all roses allowing 4 HRs, two by Lorenzo Carrier, to leave the park, but this was a reflection of the offensive juggernaut starting to make its presence known.
We have yet to see the first team which I am sure they are waiting until Saturday to roll out. I am most anxious to see Brian Walters coming off of Tommy John’s surgery who was on the fast track last year as the set-up pitcher before his injury. Rafe Schlesinger was reported by some opposing coaches at the end of the season as the one person that they did not want to face. Then there is Gage Ziehl returning and hopefully stronger than last year as a starter. Also, Ben Chestnutt, whom I was never overly excited about, but I was clearly in the minority. Our returnees are going to have to come in with their A-game and hopefully, among the others, we will be able to find a gem or two.
We just might have found sparkle coming from our opening duo Jordan Vargas and Nick Robert. The first two innings were just what the doctor ordered in Jordon going 6up/6down. The same for Nick but the 6 he faced 4 went down by the K looking. These were not newbies he KOed but 2 veteran players (Renzo Gonzalez, Gaby Gutierrez). After Tuesday’s dismal showing, this was a breath of hope that the BP will have quality representation. Like everything, all good things must come to an end. By the third inning, the sleeping warriors started waking up and letting these freshmen know that the road could become unsettling when they least expected it. Jordan was the first to feel it with a lead-off blast into the stratosphere by Lorenzo Carrier which woke up the fans. This was followed by a walk and a hit batter. Shaken but not out, with runners on first and second got Renzo Gonzalez to hit into a 5-4-3 DP. Nick wouldn’t go away unscathed also coming in the 3rd inning. Jason Torres opened the inning with a single, followed by Blake “Hollywood” Cyr, no longer sporting the blond look, joining Carrier in crushing his first of the preseason. Even with these minor setbacks, both young pitchers looked good for their three innings in the spotlight.
Next up JT “hat” Caruso and Chris Diaz. I bestowed this name “hat” on JT because after every pitch his hat would fly off his head which might cause him problems paying more attention to his hat than to a ball coming 100 MPH back at him. Fortunately, that didn’t happen, but I can see it possibly in the future unless he gets a haircut or a bigger hat. By the time JT and Chris came to the mound, the boys of spring had had a couple of turns at bat and started flexing their muscles. Hat skated through his first inning (4th), with the batters paying more attention to the flying hat coming off his head striking out in the process. Chris was less fortunate, in that he took a pounding with a pair of doubles by Gaby Gutierrez and Antonio Jimenez and a single by Edgardo Villegas accounting for three runs. The bats continued to pound the ball in the 5th with a lead-off walk by Hat to Jack Kulikowski (only the second in the scrimmage) who would eventually make his way around the bases coming home on a 6-4 ground out by Jacoby Long. In the bottom half of the inning, the second batter coming up to the plate, welcomed Chris to the HR distributors by Luca Reyes sending his contribution out of the yard with his first in a Cane uniform. Being brothers in arms, Hat didn’t want Chris to feel out in the cold giving up the 4th HR of the day, joined the ranks compliments of Lorenzo Carrier with his second HR of the day. Chris had the roughest outing of all the pitchers today, but he still looked better than any of the two we saw on Tuesday.
The hitting today shifted into another gear today pounding out 4 HRs(Cyr,Reyes, Carrier(2)) and a pair of doubles(Jimenez,Gutierrez) for a total of 10 hits overall. Lorenzo definitely earned the honors of player of the day going 2-3.
There was one scare today coming in the 4th inning off the bat of Gaby Gutierrez. Gaby hit the ball deep to right-center and out of nowhere comes speedy Jacoby Long in what would have been the catch of the day smashing into the wall and robbing a sure double away from Gaby. On impact, the ball came out of Jacoby’s glove sending Jacoby to the ground. Everyone was holding their breath for this was an injury we could not afford this early in the season. Fortunately, he came around and was able to finish the game.
Today, overall this was a much better scrimmage all around. Pitching improved, hitting took a giant leap forward, and the fielding was flawless. Only the second scrimmage but things are looking up. Still, I am holding back on judgment until I see what the rest of our pitching staff brings to the table. How they look, will decide how far the team goes this season. Without quality pitching, which I will say time and time again, we are going nowhere. The hitting will keep us in the game but our pitching will take us to the next level.
We go out it again tomorrow, 6 innings, with the first pitch set for 4PM.