The big leagues teams have left the ballparks of the Grapefruit League as spring training is over and is season is tipping off. Also starting is the league that will take place in those same stadiums, the Florida State League. The FSL began it’s season on Thursday night and let’s recap what transpired.
Charlotte Stone Crabs (TBR) 8, Fort Myers Miracle (MIN) 6
Opening Night for the Stone Crabs and Miracle turned out pretty crazy. This game was headlined by Scott Baker starting a rehab game for Fort Myers and the High-A debuts of several notable prospects for both teams. The game ended up as a slugfest. Baker faced just three batters, allowing a single to Ty Morrison and a double to Hector Guevara before finally recording his first out. Later in the inning, Rays 2011 first round pick Mikie Mahtook delivered a sac fly in his first pro plate appearance (excluded the Arizona Fall League), and Phil Wunderlich singled in a run to give the Stone Crabs a 2-1 lead after 1. Rays supplemental Grayson Garvin got the Opening Night nod for Charlotte and struggled, allowing 3 runs (2 ER) in 3 innings, walking 4 compared to 3 K’s, but the Stone Crabs offense stepped up to compensate. A 2-run double by Derek Dietrich and an RBI double by Mahtook gave the Stone Crabs a 5-3 advantage in the 4th, and they tacked on 3 insurance runs in the 7th and 8th as Cody Rogers doubled in Mahtook, Dietrich singled in a run, and Wunderlich drove in another run with a double. Those insurance runs would prove crucial as the Miracle rallied against Stone Crabs closer Chris Rearick, scoring thrice on RBI doubled by Jairo Perez and Lance Ray along with an Angel Morales RBI hit, but the Miracle fell just short as the Sone Crabs held on to win 8-6. Six Stone Crabs had multi-games as part of a prolific offensive day: Mahtook (2 for 2, double, 2 RBI, SB, run scored, two walks), Wunderlich (3 for 5, double, 2 RBI), Dietrich (2 for 5, double, 3 RBI, 2 runs), Hector Guevara (2 for 5 double, SB, 2 runs), Kevin Kiermaier (2 for 3, double, SB, 2 runs), and Cody Rogers (2 for 3, RBI). Luke Bailey was the lone Stone Crab without a hit, going 0 for 4 (although one of his outs was a bullet lineout). The game marred the pro debut of Twins’ 2011 first rounder Levi Michael, who went 0 for 3 with a walk, although Oswaldo Arcia did do 1 for 2 with an RBI and 3 walks for Ft. Myers. Daniel Santana and Angel Morales both had 3 for 4 days for Ft. Myers. No one would have expected a game started by a big leaguer and a polished 2011 draft pick to end up like this, but it was an exciting game that was tense in the final moments.
Brevard County Manatees (MIL) 11, Daytona Cubs (CHC) 4
It was a smaller-scale NL Central battle as Brewers and Cubs affiliates squared off in FSL play. Brewers first round pick Taylor Jungmann started this one for his pro debut for Brevard County and he has plenty of offense to back him up. Jungmann was able to work out of some jams, allowing 4 hits and 4 walks in 5 innings, but allowing just 1 run while striking out 3 to earn the win. Brevard County put this one away early with 7 runs in the first two innings as Daytona starter Matt Loosen struggled mightily with control, walking 4 as he allowed 3 earned runs in just a third of an inning. Shawn Zarraga and Reggie Keen had big days for the Manatees, with Zarraga going 4 for 5 with a double and 4 RBI out of the 7 spot in the order, and Keen went 2 for 5 with 4 RBI from the 8 spot. Nick Shaw went 2 for 4 with 2 runs scored for Brevard County, while Shea Vucinich managed to drove in 2 runs without a hit thanks to two bases-loaded walks. On the D-Cubs side, Matt Szczur went 1 for 5 with an RBI and a run scored, and three Daytona players had multi-days, Rubi Silva (3 for 4, run scored), Arismendy Alcantara (2 for 4, double, RBI, run scored), and Ronald Torreyes (2 for 5). Brevard County got the better of Daytona this time, and the Brewers have to be encouraged by Jungmann’s gutsy performance.
Bradenton Marauders (PIT) 3, St. Lucie Mets (NYM) 2 (11 innings)
Pitching reigned supreme on Thursday night in Bradenton as the Marauders and Mets battled for 11 innings before the Marauders finally won in a walk-off. Both teams scored once each in the game’s first two innings, as Wilmer Flores singled in a run and Francisco Pena had an RBI groundout for St. Lucie, and Alex Dickerson had a sac fly and Dan Grovatt scored on a passed ball for Bradenton. That was all the offense in the game for quite a while. S-Mets started Cory Mazzoni had an excellent outing in his first full-season start following six 2011 relief appearances, allowing just 2 unearned runs in 5 four-hit innings, striking out 5 while walking 2, and Brandenton starter Colton Cain struggled but didn’t crack, allowing 2 runs (1 ER) in 3.2 innings, striking out 4 and walking 4 as well. Both team’s bullpen tossed shutout ball for the next several innings, including 2 shutout innings from Adrian Rosario for St. Lucie and Casey Sadler for Bradenton, as the game went into extra-innings. Ryan Fraser was the pitcher who finally caved in way down in the 11th, loaded the bases on a Gift Ngoepe single and a couple of intentional walks following a sac bunt and a throwing error by Fraser, and he hit Stefan Welch was a pitch to seal the win for the Marauders. Jhonathan Ramos went 3 shutout innings for the win for Bradenton, who also got a 3 for 5 day with 2 runs scored from Ngoepe at the top of the order while Wilfredo Trovar went 2 for 4 with a double for the S-Mets. Flores went 1 for 5 for St. Lucie. It was an exciting game where pitchers ruled and hitters struggled, and it wasn’t until extra-innings that a pitcher finally faltered.
Dunedin Blue Jays (TOR) 6, Clearwater Thrashers (PHI) 3
It was a Florida State League matchup between the teams that came together for the Roy Halladay trade, but only one side could by happy with its pitchers. Another rehabbing big leaguer got shelled, Jose Contreras for Clearwater, as he allowed a wild pitch for one run, then a two-run blast to Marcus Knecht for 2 more as Dunedin took an early 3-0 lead. Dunedin tacked on two more runs in the 4th on a Kevin Nolan RBI triple and Jake Marisnick sac fly to take a 5-0 lead before the Clearwater offense finally came alive. John Stilson tossed 3 shutout innings to begin the game for Dunedin, striking out 3 while walking 1, and he was replaced by Casey Lawrence, who started his outing with 2 shutout innings. But Clearwater finally made something happen in the 6th. A Peter Lavin RBI double and a 2-run double by Jim Murphy got the Thrashers right back into the game at 5-3, but Nolan doubled in a run for Dunedin in the bottom of the inning as Dunedin won 6-3. The Blue Jays got a big day from Nolan from the 9th spot in the order as he went 2 for 3 with a double, a triple, 2 RBI, a walk, and a run scored, and Jonathan Jones and Jon Talley also had 2-hit days. Knecht went 1 for 4 with his 2-run home run. Murphy and Lavin each went 1 for 4 with a double in the loss for the Thrashers, with Murphy driving in 2 and Lavin 1. The Blue Jays have to impressed by how Knecht handled facing a big league pitcher and also what they saw from Stilson and Nolan.
Lakeland Flying Tigers (DET) 8, Tampa Yankees (NYY) 5
If you would believe me, this game was actually a pitcher’s duel for the first half of the evening. Tampa took the early lead in this one on a 3rd inning sac fly by Kelvin Castro and a 4th inning RBI single by J.R. Murphy before the Flying Tigers tied it in the 5th on an RBI single by Daniel Fields and a throwing error by Murphy before going ahead in the 6th on a James Robbins RBI double and a James McCann RBI single. Both starting pitchers were effective as Alex Burgos allowed just 2 runs on 4 hits in 6 innings, striking out 5 while walking 3, while Nik Turley was electric for the Yankees, allowing 2 runs (1 ER) in 5 innings, striking out 9 while walking 2. The Yankees creeped within a run in the 7th as Jose Mojica drove in a run with a groundout, but the Lakeland sealed this one with a 4-run 8th versus Mannuel Barreda, with Dixon Machada driving in 2 with a single, Daniel Fields hitting an RBI single, and James McCann also contributing a sac fly, and a run each in the 8th and 9th was not enough for Tampa as the Flying Tigers won 8-3. A bunch of notable prospects had big days for Lakeland in Tyler Collins (3 for 4, 2 runs scored), Avisail Garcia (3 for 5, 2 runs scored), James McCann (2 for 4, 2 RBI, run scored), and Daniel Fields (2 for 4, 2 RBI), although the most well-regarded prospect, Nick Castellanos, went 1 for 5. On the Yankee side, Kelvin Castro went 2 for 3 with an RBI and a run scored while J.R. Murphy went 1 for 3 with his RBI single and run scored, although his throwing error changed the balance of the game. Both teams have to impressed by their starting pitching in this game, and their bats were not too shabby either.
On Opening Day in the Florida State League, we saw a bunch of interesting games and several talented prospects start off strongly, and 2012 should be an exciting year in the FSL.
Topics: Avisail Garcia, Derek Dietrich, Florida State League, Grayson Garvin, Hector Guevara, J.R. Murphy, James McCann, John Stilson, Jose Contreras, Kevin Nolan, Levi Michael, Marcus Knecht, Mikie Mahtook, Nick Castellanos, Oswaldo Arcia, Scott Baker, Taylor Jungmann, Ty Morrison, Tyler Collins