Let’s step out of our Giants’ centric point of view for a day. So many times in these Minor Lines I make off-handed mentions of some “former big leaguer....” or another that Sacramento or Richmond is facing in a game. Usually because some Giants’ prospect was having success against them. But we should always remember that these are guys chasing after a dream that always seems to recede from their grasp. So let’s give a huge Minor Lines shout out to one of the great baseball stories of the year yesterday, an incredible moment of baseball perseverance paying off:
Much respect to former Braves pitcher Johnny Venters, who pitched in his first MLB game last night after recovering from his 3rd Tommy John surgery. pic.twitter.com/5aqzjzlXMC— Georgia Sports Now (@GASportsNow) April 26, 2018
I had doubts about Johnny Venters returning to the MLB. But damn if the man didn’t do it. THREE Tommy John surgeries and SIX years since his last appearance. Not just the physical aspect, but the mental toughness to get back on the bump. Congrats!— Guac's extra (@Beastnthebushes) April 26, 2018
Rays’ beat reporter Marc Topkin rounds up the baseball world’s response to Venters’ comeback and it’s pretty great reading. Congratulations Jonny!
The volume of reaction around baseball to Jonny Venters' return was an indication of not only how hard the #Rays pitcher had worked to come back from repeated elbow injuries, but also of the positive impact he has had on those around him. #RaysUp https://t.co/UqCeqDrkz1— TampaBayTimesSports (@TBTimes_Sports) April 26, 2018
HIGHLIGHTS: Andrew Saurez struck out 9 over 7 IP; Austin Slater had 3 hits w a HR; Jacob Gonzalez had 3 hits w a HR;
Andrew Suarez is knocking on the door! In four minor league starts this year Suarez has allowed just 3 earned runs (5 total, for Brian Kinney). The lefty was a strike throwing machine last night, completing a season high 7 innings in just 85 pitches, 63 of which were strikes. He faced just 16 batters through the first 5 innings, and ended the night allowing only four baserunners. And if all that wasn’t impressive enough, he set a season high with 9 strikeouts. It was his highest total since last July 27 in Round Rock and just one off his career high of 10, which he accomplished twice in 2016.
Excellent discussion there of how things align for Suarez getting another major league start next week (disregard my dumb comment about the double-header yesterday! I was confusing two different people). If so, he prepared for it well!
And if he does come up for the May 1 start, he’ll likely be bringing Will Smith with him. Smith threw a perfect 8th inning last night, checking the “Back to back games” box. He’ll get another game in on Sunday, and apparently the Giants want to put him into a “dirty” inning to navigate him through some traffic. But it looks like Smith is on-schedule for return.
Oh hey! And there were some hitters doing things here, too. In fact, lots of ‘em! The RiverCats offense got to work quickly, as Alen Hanson and Chris Shaw both took the first pitch they saw out of the yard for back to back home runs.
In this house we stan lefty magic ✨ pic.twitter.com/0mflC9cc3A— River Cats (@RiverCats) April 27, 2018
That was the start of a sustained fusillade the Cats launched against one-time D’backs top prospect Braden Shipley, the 15th overall pick of the 2013 draft. There were people staying healthy, and people getting healthy.
Alen Hanson continued his assault on PCL pitching as he’s now hitting .424 with an OBP of .493. His .694 current SLG is a solid .250 points higher than his career minor league line. Sustainable?
Chris Shaw had a fine night with two hits and a walk and just the fourth game this year without a K. His bomb to right-center was estimated at 402’.
The hit brigade was led by Austin Slater, who picked up three more hits including his 1st home run of the year, a powerful shot to the opposite field bullpen.
Solid pitching/solid hitting. Adds up to a tidy win. With victories in each of their first two games of this five game set, Sacramento now has three chances to win just their second series of the year. For the rest of the series, the RiverCats crowded OF is going to get even more crowded, so we’ll see how the playing time gets allotted the next few days.
Richmond had a scheduled travel day.
They return to the Diamond to start a six-game homestand tonight.
San Jose had a scheduled travel day
The Giants got to celebrate one of those oh so rare home days off yesterday, as they make the easy drive over to Modesto for a quick three game road trip. Enjoy it while you can, boys!
While we have a dark night, you might want to catch up on your Joe Ritzo pre-game interviews. I particularly enjoyed the one with Kyle Haines, which I recommend listening to (here’s a teaser: “I think Logan Webb is going to be the Giants #1 pitching prospect.”)
Augusta won at Greenville Drive, 8-7
sweeping their series, 4-0
Augusta made some hay in their visit to the last place Drive, picking up a four game sweep that pushed them to the Sally League’s best overall record. For awhile, it looked like they were going to run to another laugher as they jumped out to a 7-0 lead early in this one, but things got dicey in the late innings as the bullpen allowed the Drive a big comeback. But a Ryan Kirby RBI double in the 9th gave them an insurance run that turned out to be the winner.
That’s how you shut up the hecklers, Ryan!
Jacob Gonzalez had been struggling a bit early going, as his batting average dipped down to .214 with strikeouts in nearly a third of his PA on the year. But it’s still early, and if you want evidence of that, just consider that Gonzalez picked up 30 points in his batting and on base averages in a single game yesterday! Gonzalez picked up three hits and a walk in the game, including his second HR of the year, a deep shot off the buildings in left-center field.
One day after bragging about how Heliot Ramos was really making strides in his contact, he picked up a hat trick! That was some pretty classic jinxing! Two of the strikeouts were called and it was actually an interesting series of at bats that will no doubt be a learning experience for Heliot. In the first K, he took a pitch that appeared to be just outside the zone and was rung up on a called 3rd strike. The next time up, protecting that outside pitch he chased after a pitch well outside. And the last time he once again took a borderline pitch on the outside corner and was rung up again. So always one step behind. The connective tissue behind all three at bats was getting behind early as all of the Ks were on 0-2 or 1-2 counts. Heliot did also draw his fourth walk of the year. Anyway, I blame the DH for his problems yesterday!
On the mound, 21 year old Aaron Phillips out of St. Bonaventure college made his first appearance of the year. The 9th round pick last year, Phillips made his full season debut a good one. He threw four shutout innings before tiring in the 5th, striking out 6 against 0 walks. He used a lively fastball combined with a sharp breaker to really dazzle the Drive, producing a lot of swings and misses.
Phillips was followed to the mound by Eduardo Rivera, whom the Giants picked up off minor league waivers last December. The 25 year old Rivera has spent a long time not getting very far in his career. He has spent nearly all of his seven year career prior to 2018 in rookie league or short season ball with the Yankees organization, getting in just 11 games higher than short season ball (all in 2016) before becoming a minor league FA. Rivera seems to throw hard, but he’s definitely a minus control guy. So far with Augusta he’s allowed 12 ER in 10 IP, including at least three runs allowed in each of his last three appearances. He does, however, also have 17 Ks in that time. It would be nice to get a little payback for Jonathan Loaisiga, the one-time Giants DSL pitcher suddenly added to the Yankees 40 man this winter.
Today’s Scheduled Starters:
Sacramento: Dereck Rodriguez vs. Taylor Clarke
Richmond: Garrett Williams vs. Peter Lambert
San Jose; Logan Webb vs. Ljay Newsome
Augusta: Joey Marciano vs. TBD
Hey there’s #1 pitching prospect Logan Webb now! With pretty close to #1 pitching prospect Garrett Williams in the day’s slate as well. We got three teams in 1st place and Sacramento just a couple wins away from joining them over the .500 line. And we got bit league rehab coming to Sacramento to confuse everything.
I don’t know what’s going to come of the Hunter Pence situation, but just to be clear, we want no more of Mac! in Minor Lines this year. You’ve dominated our posts enough! You just stay where you are, young man!