On Wednesday, I spent the majority of my day over at the Lee County Sports Complex and Hammond Stadium taking in different aspects of spring training. With the Double and Triple-A teams taking on the Orioles in the early afternoon, as well as the Twins battling the Red Sox at night, there was plenty of action taking place.
Upon arriving for the day, the most necessary definition was to make my way to the back fields. Knowing that the high level minor league teams would be competing at home for the day, I was looking forward to seeing a handful of guys I've developed relationships with over the past year. While I was plenty early and beat most of the players to the field, I posted up in position to take in the Double-A action.
Although the Orioles don't have the minor league farm system that Minnesota does, the Double-A team still has a good amount of talent. Notably, Chance Sisco, one of Baltimore's top prospects, was behind the plate for them. On the Twins side, former first round pick Levi Michael was starting at second next to defensive wizard Engelb Vielma. No doubt the star of the show however was the starting pitcher, Tyler Jay.
Jay, Minnesota's 2015 first round draft pick, warmed up about 30 minutes prior to gamete. I found this interesting as starters are generally out on the field earlier. However, coming from a relief background, it's completely plausible that his routine is significantly shortened. Regardless, he took the mound in the first, and it was up to the Orioles batters to figure them out.
After a rocky start in which Jay threw just 11 of 20 strikes and gave up an earned run, he settled in. Through four complete innings pitched, Jay pumped 38 of 54 pitches for strikes, registered eight of 16 first pitch strikes, struck out five, walked one, and gave up two earned runs. All in all, his first and fourth innings were the only thing keeping him from a rather crisp start. Sitting at 95 virtually from start to finish, the velocity from the lefty is something incredibly enticing now working as a starter.
Hitting was virtually non-existent in the Double-A game. Orioles pitchers had Twins hitters generally grounding into routine outs and not doing much with the ball in play. Jay was really on hit hard in the fourth, and had the Baltimore batters swinging well after the ball was in Joe Maloney's glove prior to that. For a handful of pictures from the game, check out my Twitter account here.
Making the short walk from one field to the other, I caught a brief bit of the Triple-A action as well. Upon viewing that game, Travis Harrison blasted a homer (which caused some fun ribbing from Adam Brett Walker) before Marcus Walden came on to work his final inning. Up in the Twins half of the inning, Stephen Wickens put a charge into a ball just before Shannon Wilkerson launched a mammoth home run to left field. No idea where the game stood at that point, but the Rochester guys were putting the bat on the ball.
I stuck around a bit to watch Jake Reed come on in relief. He had recently been reassigned from big league camp, and I believe this was his first appearance on the minor league side. He hit his first Orioles batter, and then settled in. Reed has flashed some nice stuff, and consistency is going to be the name of the game if he's going to debut for the Twins this year.
For the nightcap, Boston brought a handful of regulars over to Hammond Stadium to face what looked like the Twins "A" lineup. Byron Buxton was scratched late due to being sick, but regulars were all over the rest of the field. With Mookie Betts, Pablo Sandoval, Dustin Pedroia, and Hanley Ramirez all in the Red Sox lineup, Kyle Gibson would have his hands full.
Gibson gave up a solo shot to Betts in the game's first at bat but then settled in nicely. He worked a 1-2-3 second inning getting both Ramirez and Chris Young on stickers. His third inning was another 1-2-3 and featured strikeouts of both Jackie Bradley Jr. and Betts. The Twins got homers from both Brian Dozier and Eddie Rosario putting them up 7-1 in the 6th, which is when it became to call it a night.
Minnesota now leads the Crosstown Cup 3-1 on the season with six games remaining. Knocking off the Red Sox in the 2016 series would even up the All-Time record at 12 a piece. I plan on heading over to Jet Blue to take in the second Twins and Red Sox matchup of the week on Friday.
For more until then, make sure to stay tuned @tlschwerz