Yesterday was a long day but I wanted to get down some thoughts on the big league game before I went to sleep and allow dreams of baseballs enter my head.
Before I talk about the game, I want to talk about the experience of watching a game at Steinbrenner Field. It is very characteristic of the newer minor league stadiums in that it is meant to recreate the experience of seeing a game at the team’s big league park but on a smaller scale. I was sitting in the sixth row, just beyond first base and sightlines were quite good although the seats down the lines aren’t angled towards home as they are in the newest of the ballparks like Bright House Field, the spring home of the Philadelphia Phillies. Despite the fact that there were no cupholders, the feeling that you were in the Yankees’ park was always palpable. It was interesting how the Yankees’ faithful are so present in spring training but there was also a very vocal crowd of Blue Jays fans on the other side of the stadium, above the visitors’ dugout.
Situated right across the street from Raymond James Stadium, where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play, you can’t help feel that Steinbrenner Field was small and cute compared to the massive scale of the football stadium but the place still has two levels of seating and is much bigger than Florida Auto Exchange Stadium; at a seating capacity of almost 10,000, Steinbrenner Field has almost twice the number of seats.
Maybe it’s the congeniality of spring training but the Yankees fans were nothing but welcoming. There was no hostility towards those wearing Blue Jays paraphernalia and everyone seemed to be having a great time, watching C.C. Sabathia return to game action despite a Yankees loss (and a Blue Jays win).
Last night’s game got people excited for a number of reasons but most of it had to do with pitching. Drew Hutchison got the start and was originally slated for five innings while Miguel Castro was set to go another three and Roberto Osuna ready for one more. Things didn’t work out exactly like that but all of the pitchers had moments where they looked excellent.
Hutchison had a tremendous first inning but lost the zone a bit in the second, giving up a run. He did manage to recover and finished out four innings with two runs against. In came Castro in the fifth and all he did was retire eight Yankees in a row including the “A” lineup that included Brett Gardner, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Texeira and Carlos Beltran. Osuna also looked great at times. In his second inning, he retired the first two batters two fairly weak groundouts, getting the hitters to offer at his pitch, both down in the zone. While he gave up a triple, he managed to get out of the inning with another strikeout. While Osuna was in jams in both innings, he managed to get out of them and is remarkably composed on the mound.
Castro is just other-worldly, calmly throwing his 97+ mph fastball and a high-80s changeup to keep the hitters off balance. I wrote last year about how I thought Castro’s changeup was his better offspeed pitch and here he was having not even thrown it until today’s game.
Other thoughts from the game:
Jonathan Diaz is one hell of a fielder. I knew this before tonight, of course, but he continues to make stunning plays that defy belief.
Devon Travis had a great night, both at the plate and in the field. He fields his position well and made all of the routine plays while hitting the ball hard.
Dioner Navarro was kind of a “speed demon,” scoring from first base on a double.
Caleb Gindl hit the ball hard once but didn’t have much to show for it.
Jose Reyes was teasing the potential and excitement that he brings to the field. If only we could have that Jose Reyes who hit a triple and just missing a home run, and stealing a base on another play and taking third on the overthrow.
Dalton Pompey didn’t have a great night at the plate or in the field. He came close to making some nice catches but couldn’t catch up to either one.
Liam Hendriks struggled against minor league hitters. Was he just not sharp today or is he the classic 4-A pitcher? It’s hard to tell in one appearance and it’s also tough when I’m sitting to the side and I can’t really see the strike zone.
Munenori Kawasaki drew a big cheer from the section of Blue Jays fans when he was announced and Castro got a big ovation from that same area when he came out of the game with two outs in the seventh inning.
Stay tuned, fans. I’ll be bringing you my copious observations from yesterday’s day at minor league camp in one or two other posts this evening once I’ve returned from today’s activities. It’s a “camp day” in the minor league facility, meaning that they’ll do drills and play intrasquad games. Tomorrow the Pirates minor leaguers are going to be around camp and I’ll watch some of the older players – the potential Bisons and Fisher Cats – in action.
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