Monday’s Report from Everett
Did anyone expect the Aquasox to start the season 7-0, breaking a few franchise records along the way? Because I sure didn’t. There were some vets on the roster, true enough, but I wasn’t thinking they had quite the talent required to take it to this level. Here are some notes I have typed up from my trip to Everett Memorial for Opening Day. Remember, you can still catch them tonight at seven with the Mariners out of town, if you are so inclined. It will be the last game of the homestand before the team heads over to Spokane.
• The book I had on Sorce was that he liked throwing his fastball and was not a big fan of throwing anything else. The SR proved to be reasonably true, as I don’t think he threw an offspeed until late in the second inning. Sorce will pump fastballs into the zone around 91-93 all night long and tends to use his offspeed pitch merely to jam opposing hitters. While he kept the ball on the ground for much of the game, the flyouts were quite long and led to a couple of home runs, as well as a few near misses. I’d make a bigger fuss over it, but Everett Memorial is a high school park with a fancy videoboard and great amenities.
• You could look at his line from the game and see that Merry didn’t pitch all that well, but there’s more to it than that. He had been in Clinton, IA that morning and after his flight was delayed two hours, he arrived at the park in time to pitch (apparently), but not in time to make it into the opening day introductions. He was throwing in the high-80s and missing up in the zone quite a bit, which led to some walks. In spite of all the travel time and the lackluster performance, he was still hanging out in front of the gate to the clubhouse the longest, chatting it up with the local fans.
• Hudson, I don’t think I noticed as much as the two runners scoring under his watch. Merry was pretty much done before he opened the inning, walking two, which brought Hudson in. After a strikeout on a mid-80s pitch, the pinch-hitter got a bunt single that just tapped in front of the plate. Baron tore off his mask and made a barehanded snag for it, then threw to first. This was a play he had already made earlier in the game, but in this case the ball was too far to Sharpley’s left and bounced away from him. By the time someone got to it, the second runner was bearing down hoping to tie it. Baron was standing up, positioned to catch the ball and make the tag, but it went inches away from his glove and the runner, still plowing his way down the line, ran right into Baron and spun him out to the dirt. The ump called time and Baron got up a few seconds later and resumed catching.
• The runner bowling Baron over was the most startling hit of the game, but Baron himself had the second most startling hit, which was a shot to left-center which gave the Aquasox a 4-3 lead at the time. It was impressive in large part because Everett is not an easy park for right-handers, and everyone in the booth had been eying Sharpley and Rivers as candidates to be the first Aquasox to hit one out at home. Earlier in the game, he also hit a liner up the middle on a 2-1 count for a single. Two of the balls in play he had were up the middle, but he looks like he’s trying to pull it a lot of the time, which resulted in a double play late in the game. The approach wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, though still flawed.
• The other home run probably went farther, just left of the Aquavision board, but wasn’t quite as impressive overall considering the hitter. Britton struck out his other three times out, once on a breaking ball, once on a bad fish for an outside low pitch, and finally after screwing up a bunt to advance the runner in the ninth. On the plus side, his home run was in the at-bat after he got hit by a pitch.
• I might as well talk about the walk-off at this point. Anthony Phillips doubled to open the inning, but it was hardly the only good at-bat for him. I don’t know about his ability to hit overall, but he’ll display a pretty good eye at times, taking advantage of some strikezone irregularities to draw walks in his first two at-bats, and the double came I believe on a 2-2 count. After Britton struck out, the Bears’ pitcher had to face one of the team’s other good eyes in Terry Serrano, who took a walk his third at-bat. He was trying to bunt Phillips over at first, not something I’m ecstatic about given there was one out already, but after getting into a quick 0-2 count, he got a ball on a checked swing and then had the pitcher throw a wild pitch behind him, which got Phillips to third. All he needed to do at that point was hit the ball to a not-stupid place and the Sox were going to win it. After two fouls, the first just barely finding its way into the stands, he singled a pitch up the middle a little to the right of the second base bag and was mobbed at first.
• Two hitters that impressed me a bit were Mailloux and Rivers. I talked about Mailloux last year and it seemed like he had one of the more advanced approaches. He hit one up the middle in the first inning and then knocked a double off the scoreboard in right his third time up. Not bad for a right-handed hitter. Rivers’ first at-bat had him hit a double that looked like it had a chance to leave the park, but instead hit the scoreboard, and seemed to bounce in and out of the right fielder’s glove along the way. Both of them, unfortunately, missed on hits up the middle that quickly found their way into the glove of the pitcher.
• Least impressive batter was probably Jose Rivero. He’s going to be a case study in how easily you can condition a guy to take pitches. In his second and third at-bats, he was patient. He got a double to the right field corner, which is probably a triple for anyone with a semblance of speed, and drew a walk the next time out on four pitches. The first and fourth times he was up were just horrible, as there were men on and he was swinging wildly. In the first inning, he went down on three pitches, and in the seventh he grounded the second pitch he saw to short, stranding Mailloux for the second time in the game.
• Sharpley was a guy whom I had mixed feelings on watching. I’m willing to let him slide on the fact that he was on a football scholarship to Notre Dame. There were certain pitches he started to offer on, and held up with, that I don’t think a better hitter makes an attempt at. He also collected a couple of ugly swinging Ks on offspeed pitches. More positive notes were that he singled one up the middle, and he looks like enough of an athlete to make you wonder about his later power potential.