Hurricanes Baseball Reporter
The curtain descended one final time today as the fall preseason concluded under threatening skies with a slight drizzle every now and then. Even though it was not the shiniest of days, it did not damper the spirits of the fans, players, and large contingent of scouts who were there for one final day of Cane baseball. Nine innings of baseball displaying 5 of the 7 eligible pitchers for the draft. Not seen were Herick Hernandez and Drew Dwyer whose last appearances were during the Orange/Green World Series. Concern was raised last week that Drew might have injured himself and hopefully, JD is taking a precautionary measure of letting him rest. As for Hernandez, I know nothing to pass on. Taking their place was freshman Brandon Olivera who pitched the final three innings.
Festivities set up for the scouts prior to the start of today’s scrimmage were the performance of each of our players in running, fielding, and batting. Due to the inclement weather and the field being covered, the 60 yard dash and batting practice was omitted from the schedule. Unless one of the newbies has been hiding something, based on what I have seen from last year and this, the honor goes to Jacoby Long as the swiftest of foot. As for our outfielders, the strongest arm with accuracy was Lorenzo Carrier followed closely behind by Edgardo Villegas. Edgardo’s arm took him farther but way off the mark. Still, for the shortest guy on the team, he has one of the strongest throwing arms. The infield had a surprising wrinkle that I did not expect. For the majority of the preseason, they have had Blake Cyr playing SS, but today his designated position was at second alongside Dorian Gonzalez. Who was not seen today and who played second the entire preseason was the walk-on Cruz Mujica. Will have to wait until the spring preseason on whether Cruz is still on the team when the new roster is released.
All the preliminaries taken care of, it was time to get down the the nuts and bolts of actual play. JD started off with two of his headliners: Gage Ziehl and Rafe Schlesinger. Both are tagged for weekend starts as it now stands. Gage has been struggling during the preseason while Rafe has stood out as our only true starter. Sorry to say it is going to be another one of those years of iffy starters trying to make their way beyond the 6th inning. Rafe right now may be the only one able to do so. Hopefully, Gage and Chris Scinta who has had the worst preseason of the three will be able to turn things around. Challenging Gage and Chris I see Drew Dwyer and Nick Robert with probably the best chance of moving up in the charts. Brian Walters who last seen action 22 Feb against Indian State is set to return at the end of February or March but it will probably be a long process before we actually see him in the rotation eventually becoming our closer. We are talking a lot of baseball between now and then. We have what we have and let’s hope there is enough POW in the bats to stay ahead of the runs that the existing pitchers are going to give up. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that with more seasoning all will work out for the best. We lived or died on the HR last year. The productivity is not the same but we will still see our fair share of homers, but will it be enough? Smart small ball is what is going to be needed.
Back to today with Gage and Rafe to open the session. Both pitchers had an easy first two innings with Gage giving up a lead-off single to Jacoby Long and Rafe a hit batter in the second. Neither gave up a run. Both had issues in the third. While no runs were put on the board both their pitch counts zoomed up. Gage gave up three straight walks and Rafe back-to-back singles. An attempted steal saved Gage and the singles Rafe got slammed on came with two outs. Rafe is still the best we have and believe has a lock as our Friday starter. Gage as with Chris, more so with Chris for holding on to a weekend slot. Still will be theirs to lose. Robert and Dwyer(barring his injury) are definitely in the hunt.
Ben Chestnutt and Chris Scinta are up next. I have never been high on Ben which did not change my opinion all preseason and today put a stamp on his chestnuts being roasted. As for Chris, a much better showing not allowing a run to score although he never actually completed his final inning. Ben got off to a very poor start with back-to-back singles by Dorian and Lorenzo. Ground out to first advanced the runners only to have AJ Goytia walk to load the bases. Jacoby SF fly to center put the first run on the board which also concluded the inning (5th batter). It didn’t get any better in his second inning and for the second time had the inning cut short without completing. Opening walk to Jake Kulikowski, followed by a hard-hit FO to center. This is where his chestnuts really got roasted with back-to-back doubles by Edgardo Villegas and Renzo Gonzalez for two runs. Managed to record the second out 6-3 before being shut down once more with a man on second, two outs. His final inning escaped without a run ending on Lucas Costello becoming overzealous trying to squeeze a single into a double. Without coaches at first and third, our players have been making bad decisions on their own.
While Ben was having problems keeping batters off the bases and runs scoring, Chris was doing the opposite having a 3up/3 down 4th, a 9-3 DP to end the 5th, but a hanging 6th leaving BL with 2 outs. After striking out Jake to open the inning, Antonio Jimenez doubles and Edgardo gets hit by a pitch. Renzo grounds out 1-3 advancing the runners to 2nd and 3rd. the 5th batter of the inning, Carlos Perez walked to load the bases, and that concluded the inning with the BL and two outs.
The last set of pitchers to wrap up the session was Slaide Naturman and freshman Olivera filling in for probably an injured Drew Dwyer. Slaide has been a sleeper for much of the preseason. Not sure really what to expect from him except he will be used in relief. Today he added to his stock not allowing a run to score. Never in real trouble for any of the three innings pitched. 7th was a 3up/3down inning, 8th a lone single, and the closest anyone got to scoring off of him was a two-out double from Daniel Cuvet. Striking out Eric Fernandez concluded his day and earned several checkmarks in the plus column. Slaide is a junior transfer from Gulf Coast State. We are going to need him in relief and I am sure he will see plenty of action.
Winding up the session was Brandon Olivera, a freshman from Miami Springs. He found himself in trouble in his first inning hitting the second batter faced(Jack Scanlon), walking Blake, followed by a Daniel Cuvet single to load the bases to face his 5th batter, Eric Fernandez. Two-run double which an overzealous Daniel tried to make a bases-clearing double got caught in a rundown at home. Again no coach at third to have him put on the brakes. The 8th, a similar fate with another BL double, this by Jacoby Long, for a pair of runs. This came about with a lead-off single by Lorenzo, followed by back-to-back walks to Torres and Goytia. Another unfinished inning. The ninth was a completed inning but not before another run on the board with a run scoring on a 4-3 groundout. Carlos opened the inning with a walk, advancing to 3rd on a Jacoby single(who would get p/o at first), with Jake grounding out 4-3 scoring Carlos. An outing Brandon wants to quickly put behind him. He has three years to make up for it hoping the scouts won’t remember.
Offensively, production was not as plentiful considering we played 9 innings. Seventeen hits punched out, six for extra bases, and five players with multiple hits. Daniel Cuvet 2-3(double); Renzo Gonzalez 2-4 (double,RBI); Lorenzo Carrier 3-4; Jacoby Long 3-5(double,RBI); Edgardo Villegas 3-4 (double,RBI). Additionally, doubles from Antonio Jimenez and Eric Fernandez (2RBI). We can hit, at least off our pitchers, and let’s wish they can continue to do so against outside competition. Bunting and stealing up from years prior and hopefully we will see more of both. Just wish when one of our batters has a shift placed on them, they can learn to hit to the opposite field.
As to how I see the starting lineup: 1B: Jason Torres; 2B: Dorian Gonzalez; SS: Blake Cyr; 3B: Daniel Cuvet; C: Carlos Perez. The middle infield could have them switched but Blake played SS in HS and might force him to actually throw the ball in that position. The Left side of the infield is definitely not of the caliber of Yoyo and Dom but that was a treat of a lifetime we had for three years. Renzo Gonzalez, I really like and see him with time at first or the OF. His bat is hard to keep out of the lineup. The same for Blake. Great little hitter but his fielding and decision-making need a lot of work. Can not see sitting Dorian. He is back to where he was in his freshman year hitting and a better all-around fielder than Blake. Might decide on Blake at 2nd and Dorian at short. Waiting in the wings is Antonio Jimenez who will see time at short if something happens to Blake or Dorian. In the OF, the only lock is Jacoby for his hitting, speed, and all-around coverage. He will make the top 10 on ESPN several times this season. In left, in a very tight call has to go to Edgardo Villegas over Gaby Gutierrez. They are both so very good that I hate to see either one out of the lineup. In right, Jake Kulikowski is the only freshman to break into the starting 8. The only reason Jake is over Lorenzo is because of his fielding. Lorenzo still gets lost playing the position. He has the best arm and would give him the MVP this preseason because of his bat which was awesome. Lorenzo would be my DH.
Lastly, which is what all preseason is about is pitching. This is again our Achilles Heel which is going to keep us from going deep into post-season play unless some-way, some-how we are blessed with an awakening. Rafe is the only real starter we have at this time with Gage a distant second. Hopefully, Drew Dwyer’s injury isn’t season-ending and they are just being cautious. Nick Robert is the one I am counting on to shine this season along with Rafe. Chris will probably get to start because of his experience but I hope JD keeps him on a short leash which we always seem never to have around and let our starters get too deep in the hold. Our starters must give us the opportunity to get beyond the 5th or 6th so the BP, if we can find someone reliable, to take us to our setup and closer as yet to be determined. Brian Walters will be that person but not until later in the season. Until he works himself back into shape somebody is going to have to step up. I don’t want another season of pitching-by-committee.
That is it until we prepare for the regular season starting at the end of Jan with the first pitch on 16 Feb and the Alumni game one week prior, Saturday 10 Feb. Come out and support our team. It is the best deal in South Florida and an experience for the entire family. Happy Holidays.