Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Taste Of Minor League Ball

Last week, I decided to take an impromptu drive up the 15, and take in a Lake Elsinore Storm game. For those of you who don't know, The Lake Elsinore Storm are the Single-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres. For most of us in the greater San Diego area, it is but an hour drive north.

I happened to attend on a 951 "Thirsty Thursday" where seats are $9, parking is $5, and hot dogs, cokes, and beers are $1 (951 is the area code in Riverside County.) Sold. I opted to purchase tickets four rows back of home plate, for the low price of $14. Hey, its Single-A, but these guys are still professionals. $14 barely gets you a park pass at Petco Park.

Storm outfielder Corey Adamson waits on deck
In addition to an affordable time, I really wanted to get a look at a few of the Storm's players, namely outfielders Alberth Martinez, Corey Adamson and Hunter Renfroe, the Padres' 2013 first round pick. Renfroe played DH, and went hitless in the game. Before I sat in my seat, I wanted to walk around and take in the atmosphere at my first minor league game.

The first and obvious thing I noticed was the seating. There is literally not a bad seat in the park when the capacity is around 7,000. Pretty good site lines, energetic public address announcer with wacky promotions in between innings. The concessions were pretty affordable -- with cheap baseball around, why would anyone in Riverside County pay to see a movie?

The game didn't feature a ton of action: Lake Elsinore went down 3-1 to the Modesto Nuts (Rockies affliate), but it was still entertaining. Corey Adamson, the aforementioned Padres prospect from Australia took a pitch to the opposite field for a homer that cleared the wall by a few feet. Pitcher Bryan Rodriguez gave the Storm a decent outing, and the bullpen didn't allow a run.

Padres 1st rounder Hunter Renfroe at-bat
The Storm also do a collection for a player on the team, where fans are encouraged to throw a couple of bucks in a bucket and all of the money goes to player. I really liked the gesture, as any serious baseball fans know that most guys in A-ball are flat-broke. Corey Adamson took away a few hundred bucks for his dinger. Not a bad night, at all.

I am definitely excited to see another Storm game at the Diamond. Its a great opportunity to see a few players before they arrive in San Diego. I enjoyed my first taste of minor league baseball, and I am sure to take more sips from that cup in 2014.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Padres Minor League Chronicles: April 21st, 2014

The Padres A-ball teams took Easter Sunday off, but all four of the teams were in action on a busy Monday night. Here is how the farm fared tonight:

Great Lakes 6, Fort Wayne 4: This game was never in doubt, although the Tincaps did score three runs in the bottom of the ninth, thanks to a Jose Urena three-run shot, his second of the year. OF Franmil Reyes had two more hits, raising his average to a robust .345. Walker Weickel took the loss for the Tincaps (7-9 this season), but turned his best outing of the year, allowing four runs in six innings. He has a 7.31 ERA this year.

Lake Elsinore 5, Stockton 0: The Storm received a tremendous effort from pitcher Colin Rea, who allowed just four hits in six shutout innings. Rea also struck out nine for the Storm (10-8). SS Diego Goris and 2B Casey McElroy both homered for Lake Elsinore.

Frisco 6, San Antonio 0: Frisco scored five runs in the second inning, and never allowed the Missions to get into this one. Former Padre big-leaguer Josh Geer started, and took the loss, allowing four earned runs in his six innings of work. INF Jake Lemmerman had a pair of hits for San Antonio (7-9).

Las Vegas 5, El Paso 4: El Paso led this game 4-0 in the fourth, but allowed 3 runs in the bottom of the fourth and two more in the fifth. Jason Lane took the loss for the Chihuahuas (7-11), as he allowed five runs in seven innings of work. Lane also went 2-3 at the plate. Cameron Maybin went 0-3 in his continued rehab assignment in El Paso.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Tyson Ross Is Filthy, Padres Win

Tyson Ross turned in his best outing as a Padre this evening, pitching eight shutout innings for the Padres, in a 2-1 over San Francisco.

The pessimist can focus on the Padres lack of offense yet again, however, Tyson Ross was absolutely outstanding. Ross changed speeds, pounded the strike zone and did not allow much hard contact against the Giants. He used his mid-90's fastball to set up his filthy slider, which generated plenty of strikeouts by the overmatched Giants club.

Ross pitched dazzled for eight innings, allowing just four hits and one walk, to go with nine strikeouts. Ross was extremely economical with his pitches, as he threw only 100 in his eight innings. He was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the eighth.

Yasmani Grandal, who pinched-hit for Ross, homered to give the Padres a pivotal insurance run in the bottom of the eighth.

Ross had a rough start to the season, but he has given up just one run in his last 15 innings, with 16 strikeouts and two walks. He dropped his ERA to a sparkling 2.13.

Andrew Cashner has garnered a tremendous amount of attention this season, but Tyson Ross is quietly turning into a potential ace himself. Ross is an outstanding pitcher with a plethora of talent. The Padres have one of the better rotations in baseball, and Ross is a prime example of why I expect the team to contend this year.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Padres Extend Jedd Gyorko

The Padres made a splash in the baseball world this afternoon, by announcing they signed Jedd Gyorko to a five-year, $35 million dollar contract. The deal was first reported by Buster Olney, via Twitter.

According to multiple outlets, Gyorko will make $2 million in 2015, $4 million in 2016, $6 million in 2017, $9 million in 2018 and $13 million in 2019. The Padres have a $13 million option for 2020, with a $1 million buyout.

Gyorko emerged as an important player for the Padres last year, hitting 23 homers as a rookie. Gyorko wasn't even eligible for arbitration until 2015, so the deal gives the Padres control over his arbitration years and one year of free agency. 

The Padres have extended many players in recent years, including Carlos Quentin, Will Venable, Huston Street and Cameron Maybin among others. 

Kevin Says: The move comes with a bit of risk for the Padres. It is imperative for the budget conscious Padres to target young players who will form the core of future teams. However, the team has been burned badly by extensions to Maybin, Quentin, Cory Luebke and Nick Hundley.

Gyorko is an above-average second baseman with power. With Chase Headley due to hit free agency after this year, Gyroko could move across the diamond to the hot corner. The contract is extremely reasonable if Gyorko has the kind of year he did last season. Overall, it is a solid move for the organization. 

Padres Minor League Chronicles: April 13, 2014

It was Sunday Funday, and there was a lot of fun going on in the minors, especially in Lake Elsinore, where the Storm won in extra innings. Here is what is happening on the farm.

The Fort Wayne Tincaps game was rained out, in Clinton, Iowa. The team returns home tomorrow to start a series with Burlington.

Lake Elsinore 3, Lancaster 2: The Storm won on a walk-off homer by second baseman Diego Goris, his only hit of the game. Corey Adamson had a pair of hits, raising his average to .297. Joe Ross started for the Storm and was magnificent, pitching five shutout innings, striking out six. He has a 2.25 ERA in three starts this year. The win helped the Storm (4-7 record) avoid the sweep.

Tulsa 4, San Antonio 3: The Missions scored all of their runs in the first inning, but could not hold on for the victory. Santana High alum James Needy took the loss for San Antonio, allowing four runs in 4.1 innings. He has a 6.23 ERA on the year. Austin Hedges (.250 avg) and Cory Spangenberg (.317 avg) each had multi-hit games. Hedges had a pair of RBI's. San Antonio is 5-5 on the year.

Reno 6, El Paso 4: Reno scored two runs in the late innings to pull away from the Chihuahua's. Cody Decker (.240) had a monster game, with three hits, including a homer and three RBI's. Tony Sipp took the loss in relief, allowing a run in two innings.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Weekend Series Gives Padres Reason For Optimism

The first couple of weeks of 2014 were rough for the Padres. The team started out 3-6, and showed no signs of life. Starting pitchers weren't getting deep into games, the team could not buy a knock with runners in scoring position. While nine games is far too small of a sample size to make a fair assessment of any team, for a frustrated fan base the losses seemed like business as usual. Then the Tigers rolled into town, and things changed.

I attended the Friday night game, and I witnessed Andrew Cashner dominate. It might have been the greatest pitching performance I have ever witnessed a Padre have. Cashner worked ahead, throwing strikes all night. He changed speeds effectively -- throwing his fastball in a range from 91-96 MPH. His slider baffled the Tigers all night. The one time that the Tigers threatened, Cashner was able to induce a double play. He threw a complete game, one-hit shutout, with 11 strikeouts.

It wasn't just the pitching, the Padres came up with several clutch hits. Jedd Gyorko had an RBI triple in the first inning and Chase Headley knocked in a run. Later on, Headley slammed his first homer of 2014 into the right field stands. The Padres won 6-0, pounding out 13 hits.

Saturday night's game was about missed opportunities as the Padres went 1-10 with runners in scoring position. On a positive note, the team put together several good at-bats against Justin Verlander -- they just couldn't get the key hit they needed.

Sunday's game displayed another great pitching performance, this time by Tyson Ross. Ross had a rough outing in last turn, as he was knocked around in Cleveland. On Sunday, Ross displayed much better command of his fastball, and allowed one run in seven innings of work. The Padres did not have a ton of baserunners, but went 2-5 with runners in scoring position, including a two-run double by the slumping Will Venable. Xavier Nady also homered in a 5-1 win.

The Padres stand at 5-7, but a series win against a quality team is a huge reason to be optimistic. The Padres bats woke up a bit, and the pitching was excellent. While the team has a long season ahead, getting some momentum in April for the Padres is huge. Here are some other Padres notes:

  • Scott Miller reported on Padres.com that Carlos Quentin will take batting practice this week. There is still no timetable on his return, but hopefully it gets him closer to a rehab assignment. 
  • Cameron Maybin became the first El Paso Chihuahua to be ejected, as he was tossed Saturday night for arguing balls and strikes. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Padres Minor League Chronicles: April 10, 2014

Tonight was the home opener for the Lake Elsinore, as they battled former #1 overall draft pick Mark Appel. All of the Padres' farm teams were in action today. Here is what happened on the farm:

Kane County 7, Fort Wayne 5: Another brutal outing for Walker, as he allowed six runs (four earned) in only two innings. He has a 14.40 ERA in two starts this season. CF Mallex Smith stole another bag, his ninth of the season. OF Franmil Reyes hit his first bomb of the year.

Lancaster 6, Lake Elsinore 5: As I mentioned earlier, the Storm played their first home game of the year and lost in 11 innings. OF Corey Adamson socked his first homer of the year, off of the aforementioned Appel. SS Stephen Carmon had a pair of RBI's. He is hitting .467 on the young season.

Springfield 8, San Antonio 5: San Antonio lost this game in 14 innings. Springfield got the win, despite committing six errors. Josh Geer pitched well, allowing only one run in five innings of work. Cory Spangenberg and Travis Jankowski had multi-hit games.

El Paso 5, Tacoma 2: Keyvius Sampson started for El Paso, and pitched four shutout innings. Tony Sipp got the win in relief, when he took over for Sampson. Jeff Francoeur had a pair of hits and an RBI in the win.