AZL Indians fall in season opener, 11-6
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GOODYEAR - The only thing younger than the AZL Indians ballplayers were the AZL Rookie League umpires. In their season opener last night the Indians lost to the Reds 11-6.
The season started out in grand fashion at the Goodyear Indians' Complex as 2011 second round pick Dillon Howard struck out the AZL Reds’ Ty Washington looking. That may have been the highlight of the night for Howard, the IPI’s top rated pitching prospect and number three overall prospect, as he proceeded to walk the next hitter, yield a sharp ground out from Cincinnati’s three-hitter, then fortunately got out of the first despite a beam hit to dead center.
Howard ran into trouble in the third when he gave up six runs (four earned) that included a hit batter, a walk, an error and a home run. Howard’s fastball sat right around 88 MPH through the duration of his three innings.
From the offensive side, the AZL Indians got off to a quick start in the first. Center fielder Andrew Campbell led off by punching a single up the middle followed by a sliced ground rule double by left fielder Anthony Santander. The number three hitter, shortstop Dorssys Paulino, recorded the second out on a ball to the second baseman, but it yielded the season’s first RBI. Third baseman Jorge Martinez reached base on an error which scored the Indians' second run.
Breily Puerta, a 19-year old import out of Venezuela, came in to relieve Howard in the fourth inning and pitched two lights out innings. Puerta looked polished in his first outing as he begins his first season of AZL ball.
Cincinatti second round draftee, Tanner Rahier, who signed yesterday afternoon, thumped against the Indians’ pitching as he drove in three runs with a homer run off Howard and an RBI single in the seventh innings.
The seventh and eighth innings proved to be tough innings for the Tribe as right-handed pitchers Juan Santana (D.R.) and Estevenson Encarnacion (from the U.K.) struggled to miss bats. Santana gave up three earned runs including a two-run home run off the bat of first baseman Argenis Aldazoro. Encarnacion relieved in the eighth inning, though a rather inconsistent delivery caused him to fall behind in the count to nearly every Red he faced in his two innings of work as he walked a batter, hit a batter, threw a wild pitch and gave up a hit in his two innings.
Santander had himself a good debut with a single and double, plating two runs. The other offensive standout last night was number three hitter and shortstop, Dorssys Paulino, who went 3-for-5 including a double and RBI.
From a defensive standpoint, the Indians looked raw, which is absolutely expected. The league is primarily filled with 17 to 20 year olds with great potential but inexperience. Martin Cervenka, the starting catcher out of the Czech Republic, was tested five times and the Reds were five for five in steals; however, four of Cervenka’s five throws were on the money. The steals were partly attributed to his pitcher’s lengthy deliveries and a Billy Hamilton-esque Reds lineup (three of the four runners were speed demons clocked well above average).
The AZL Indians play their second game of the season tonight against the AZL Angels.
Notes: In case you are unfamiliar with the Arizona Rookie League, it sure is a different animal; players serve as ball boys (last night it was 2012 5th round draft pick Dylan Baker) and the teams are made up of over 35 players! Both teams are grossly overstaffed and coaches sit on lawn chairs only feet away from the fans. ... The family and friends of 2012 draftee, Tyler Booth, made up half of the crowd as the Goodyear native felt right at home at his first professional game, though he did not actually play. ... The majority of the players last night were guys previously in the system as the recent draftees witnessed their first taste of pro-ball. ... Lastly, Roberto Heredia Hernandez was sent to the AZL in 2009 when he was exiled for his struggles in the majors—the Goodyear Indians building facilities has an image of his ’07 playoff performance versus the Yankees. He is still “Fausto Carmona” in the framed picture.
For AZL Indians updates and Tribe musings, follow me on Twitter @Smahon2Go.