Friday, April 4, 2014

Opening night struggles for the Athletics

       (Photo Courtesy: Chris Lockard) 

The Athletics' MiLB affiliates officially commenced their 2014 campaigns as Midland, Stockton, Sacramento and Beloit took part in their April openers, with Midland and Beloit the only representatives starting at their home facilities. For the Snappers, it was a difficult transition initially as Bobby Wahl garnered the fronting rotation duties and seesawed throughout his outing, concluding with a 3 1/3 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 3 K, 70 pitch (43 strike), 3 GB/3 FB line after being escorted from the contest following a droning 28 pitch third frame. Essentially, there were only two hard hit balls off the Mississippi alumni, a leadoff triple and double, but the righty failed to consistently place his offerings at the desired locations throughout his appearance, contributing his pair of walks permitted and lofty cumulative pitches thrown total. Regardless, Wahl occasionally flashed a plus curveball that was raved over and additionally bolstered that with a couple devastating sliders, as the premier Oakland pitching farmhand has the potentially to develop four above average offerings for his repetiore between a fastball, slider, changeup and curveball. Relieving him was Matt Stalcup, the southpaw possessing a delievery reminiscent of Warren Spawn, who dazzled in somewhat of a dual start, going 2 2/3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K, 4 GB/1 FB to establish himself as the turtle's primary long relief asset, in a performance that if duplicated repeatedly could result within his own rotation berth eventually. Lee Sosa struggled to an extent following that while Chris Lamb, attempting his third straight try within the Midwest League, was phenomenal by facing six batters and punching out four of them. Offensively, the Snappers were anemic upon the seasonal debut as Boogie Powell (2-4, BB, SB) was the only consistent performer throughout the entire nine inning contest while batting leadoff. Chih Fang-Pan and BA Vollmuth (1-4, 2B), smacked XBHs in the contest as Fang-Pan plated the lone run of the contest for the Wisconsin affiliate. Melvin Mercedes (2-4), despite defensive gaffs, knocked through a pair of base hits while Ryan Huck and BJ Boyd completed going a combined 0-7 with a mere one walk drawn by Bijon and Phil Pohl, upon his Snappers demotion, went 0-3 with a trio of strikeouts in a lackluster effort from the Coopertown native. Despite the 5-1 decision, Louie Trivino shall attempt to rectify the loss for the Snappers. 

Elsewhere, the Rockhounds' anticipated opening festivities were halted as Drew Granier and Blake Hassebrock unfortunately imploded as Granier, whose secondaries were restricted upon his initial Midland ascent and were presumed to be the cause of his perculiar outings, permitted 10 baserunners within his 1 2/3 IP sample while throwing 53 pitches (29 strikes) with 2 BBs and a mere one strikeout tallied. Completing with a 1 2/3 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 2 BB, 1 K result, Granier now must acclimate once more to the daunting Rockhound assignment. Blake Hassebrock arguably was even more inept, permitting the first seven baserunners he faced to reach following his relief of Nate Long, constructing a 2/3 IP, 6 H, 7 R (1 HR), 2 BB, 0 K performance for the recently Rule 5 eligible North Carolinian. Ryan Dull, additionally another bullpen asset who struggled initially within the Texas League, did so once more as the offspeed specialist permitted a dinger with no strikeouts and a duo of batters walked through his 1 2/3 debut. Andrew Werner, who initially walked the first two batters he confronted, struck out three of the remaining four he faced to conclude his outing. And Seth Frankoff, the converted Stockton reliever from the 2013 campaign, had the lone flawless pitching outing for the Rockhounds with a 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K. Upon the offensive front, Addison Russell burst through within his initially Midland entry with a 3-5 outing to complement an additional stolen base for the consensus major league farm phenom, while Max Muncy amassed a 1-4 (BB) outing as the tandem batted besides one another within the third and fourth positions within the lineup. Jefry Marte went 2-5 (2B), Burns 1-3 (2B/2 BB), and Coleman 3-4 (HR) to feature as the remaining notable Rockhound contributors as Dusty Coleman blasted the only dinger of the Athletics' MiLB slate and Burns, despite being on-base in three separate instances, sees Addison Russell, Billy McKinney, Bobby Crocker and Boogie Powell swipe bases before he does. Ultimately, it was a deflating 20-7 Midland defeat, as the Rockhounds utilize the sophomore Rockhound, Zach Neal, in a hopeful more reliable capacity. 

Sacramento was the only one of the three defeated ballclubs to possess a lead at any instance throughout their contest, as Jake Goebbert's (1-4, 2B) two run double that plated Nate Freiman (1-4, 2B) and Kent Matthes (1-3, 3B, HBP) saw them vault forth to a 2-1 advantage at the earlier stages of the game. Despite that however, Arnold Leon went a mere 3 1/3 IP, tying Bobby Wahl for the lengthiest outing for any Oakland MiLB starter upon the day, and permitted 7 H, 4 R (1 HR) and a walk while striking out four through his 71 pitch (39 strike) subpar debut. Eric Berger, recently acquired from Houston, promptly surrendered a three run dinger in relief as well to place the Rivercats in an insurmountable deficit. Fernando Rodriguez, upon a major league rehabilitation assignment for Oakland, alongside Paul Smyth both went 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K to close the evening for the Sacramento pitching core. Stephen Vogt uncharacteristically struggled with a mediocre 0-4, 2 K outing while Aliotti went 0-4 within his opening attempt with the AAA affiliate as well. Jose Martinez went 0-1, 2 BB while Alden Carrithers contributed a 1-4, BB performance to highlight the remainder of the Rivercats. Sean Murphy shall make his PCL debut within Utah today following his notable spring dismantling of Texas while starting for the MLB cast this March. 

Stockton, looking to avenge the affiliates downed through the extremely unfortunate Amaheim sweep, salvaged the Oakland result with a 4-1 victory over Visalia upon their debut while featuring a lineup with Billy McKinney (1-5, 2 K), Renato Nuñez 2-5 (2 2B, 3 K), Daniel Robertson (1-3, 2B, BB) and Matt Olson (1-2, BB, HBP) as the potential laden teenage presence within Stockton assisted the Ports to the result despite Josh Bowman, Stockton starter, succumbing to an undisclosed injury following his entry into the fourth inning. Regardless, Kris Hall, the Ohio native and flamethrower, outmuscled Visalia's lineup upon the mound by immediately completing a strikeout (As Bowman exited while in the midst of a 2-2 count) and then promptly dispatched the following batter on three offerings, two swinging strikes. Hall faced the minimum through his outing while accumulating three punchouts as Ryan Doolityle relieved him, striking out three consecutive himself following an initial double. Ryan Cook, another A's bullpen participant undergoing a rehabilitation assignment, utilized a mere 12 pitches to induce three groundouts to complete his outing and tossed the reins to Nolan Sanburn, who rampaged through a porous Rawhide opposition with a cumulative 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K, 3 GB/1 FB outing to officially complete Stockton's overpowering bullpen performance following Bowman's departure. Offensively, Bruce Maxwell and Dusty Robinson each additionally placed up 1-3 (BB) contributions while Bobby Crocker went 0-3 through his five plate appearances, walking twice, striking out three times, and swiping two bags in an especially odd contest for him. Between the Midwest League fugitives (Chad Pinder, Ryon Healy and Billy McKinney), the trio amassed a cumulative 1-13, 7 K debut that was expected for those transitioning onward to California following a minute Vermont stay in their entry into the Oakland system. It'll be the Australian and Rule 5 chip, Tim Atherton, to combat the Visalia bunch on Friday for the Ports. 

Additionally, Michael Taylor has shockingly cleared waivers and shall be retained within the organization momentarily following his now preeminent assignment to Sacramento. Oakland still shall likely explore trade scenarios for Taylor throughout April however, as numerous ballclubs still have intrigue in the PCL veteran. Antonio Lamas has been assigned from extended to Midland in correspondence to Tyler Ladendorf's ascent to the Rivercats in replacement of Jake Elmore as well, who is currently housed upon the DL. Hiroyuki Nakajima was also outrighted once more, and leaves Oakland with another 40 man vacancy. At the moment, the have no eligible 40 man middle infield replacements due to these transactions, but that ought not to be a prevalent issue unless multiple Oakland infield pieces succumb to injury within the upcoming week. 

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