Hurricanes Baseball Reporter
THE FINAL COUNTDOWN. With the final scrimmage, Scout Day, scheduled for tomorrow, we had one last look at the 4 of our ineligible pitchers taking to the mound for one final effort to improve upon their numbers. One pitcher might have been given an extended life and for another, just the opposite in possibly losing a starting opportunity come the upcoming season. As for our hitters, they just continued producing with their bats. What became clearer in today’s scrimmage was a clearer picture as to who the starting 8 will be come opening day. Still a lot of baseball to be played before opening day Feb 16th, but the frontrunners I will provide after things wrap up tomorrow. I will say the OF will be the hardest to pin down. The IF and DH are how I see it, which is probably not worth the price of admission but is based on how I saw the preseason from a spectator’s point of view.
JT Caruso and Jordan Vargas opened today’s scrimmage. I have been pretty vocal about Vargas’s chances of remaining with the team following the preseason. Of all the pitchers, he has probably been the least productive on the mound. His primary flaw has been the inability to keep baserunners off the pads due to the number of walks in all of his appearances. Although he continued to do so today, with 4, he managed only one run to score with a walk not weighing in as a factor. One run in three innings just might have been given a lifeline. As for JT Caruso, he did not have one of his better pitching performances. Opening doubles in the first and third innings did not exactly work well for him.
Today’s scrimmage, the order of the day appeared to be base stealing and bunting. Definitely had plenty of both which we lacked in last year’s repertoire and hopefully will be seeing more of the same this season. JT got things started facing off against Jacoby Long whose double would be the beginning of his best outing of the preseason going 3-3 with a pair of doubles and the catch of the day. Eric Fernandez followed reaching first on being hit. Antonio Jimenez continued attacking the ball, singling for the first run on the board. With runners on first and second and one run in, it became steal time which went for both outs attempting to advance to third. An opening single in the second by Lorenzo Carrier saw a rare steal successfully on his part but a great diving catch at third by Daniel Duvet doubled up on Carrier who had advanced to third and if there had not already been one out could have probably turned it into a triple play having Carlos more than halfway to second. After surviving a scoreless second thanks to the grab by Cuvet, back-to-back doubles by Dorian Gonzalez and Jacoby Long (RBI) to lead off the third followed by Eric Fernandez RBI single highlighted the inning and ended the preseason for JT on a down note.
The second set of pitchers for today’s scrimmage were Chris Diaz and Nick Robert. Chris competing to get a higher order of relief from the BP and Nick for a possible starting role in the rotation. Being a freshman that is a big task and up until today, his chances looked pretty good at the very least a midweek opportunity or possibly a Sunday start. Definitely did not make any points for Sunday and might have put a dent in a midweek start opportunity.
Chris did not exactly like how things started for him, and got plummeted in his first inning which he was unable to complete leaving BL, nobody out, and one run already across the plate. Gaby Gutierrez opened with a double reaching third on a great throw from Jake Kulikowski in right but the ball was mishandled by Cunet at third (E5). Gaby got away with one and he had no business trying to stretch a double into a triple. We have had more than a few bad decisions on the bases this preseason which need to be worked out before actual play. It would help to have a 3rd base coach directing matters which has not been the case. It has been up to the runner which for the most part has fallen short in results. With Gaby on third Carlos walked followed by an RBI single by Jason Torres and a perfectly executed bunt single by Dorian. The bats continued with the defense failing on a grounder to Cruz Mujica (E4), to load the bases. The fifth batter, which would be the last batter (Jimenez) walked to load the bases ending a disastrous start for Chris Diaz. The second inning he worked himself into another BL situation but was saved by a great catch by Jake Kulikowski in right preventing a multi-run inning. For his final inning, a pickoff at first on Jacoby who opened the inning with a single made for a relaxing final two outs to finish his day. Today’s showing didn’t help in moving up in the charts but he will have a couple of months to think about it and rebound in Jan for preseason to redeem himself.
Nick Robert, the last of today’s pitchers, has looked really good all preseason and definitely threw his hat in the pot for a starting rotation slot. Today, not a highlight for him this preseason in his continual strive for one of the coveted slots, but one scrimmage doesn’t crush his hopes. Although scoreless in the first two innings, he wasn’t showing the strikeout prowess that he has shown in his other appearances. Jacoby helped him in his first inning with the catch of the day in center preventing a score and a textbook 6-4-3 DP in the second kept the board clean of runs. The final inning is when things spiral downward ending with only a run on the board but had to work a lot harder than he would have wanted. Lucas Costello opened the inning with a single, advancing to second on a WP. A walk to Blake Cyr and a bunt single by Edgardo Villegas loaded the bases with one out. Cruz Mujica “Mr Irrelevant” (walk-on this fall) singles (RBI) leaving the bases still loaded with one out. Nick known for his strikeout production, finally got one when it most counted striking out Daniel Cuvet. Jake Kulikowski already with a pair of hits today had a chance to make it three but Nick won the battle with a 4-3 groundout stranding the bases loaded and having the weight lifted from his shoulders ending today’s scrimmage.
While the pitching had its issues today, the bats certainly didn’t. They continued taking advantage of our pitching pounding out 18 hits, 5 of which were for extra bases. Five players with multiple hits. Edgardo Villegas 2-4 (double); Jake Kuliklowski 2-4; Gaby Gutierrez 2-3(double); Dorian Gutierrez 2-3(double); Jacoby Long 3-4(2doubles,RBI).
One final day, where the eligible for the upcoming draft will have their opportunity to catch the scout’s eye and be put on the radar for having their number called come draft time. Festivities start tomorrow at 10AM with the 60-yard draft to determine the team’s fastest, followed by the best arm in the OF and IF play. At approximately 1150, the festivities will conclude with the final scrimmage of the preseason.