The Scottsdale game on Wednesday night was a slugfest early, with 17 runs scored in the first four innings. Scottsdale ended up losing 13-11 to drop to 5-3 on the season. Two Pittsburgh Pirates players were in the starting lineup. Josh Bell was at first base and batting fifth, while Elias Diaz was behind the plate and batting eighth.
We announced the other day that Nick Kingham isn’t going to participate in the AFL despite being on the initial list for the league. On Tuesday, the Pirates replaced him with right-handed pitcher Angel Sanchez, who pitched six games for Altoona after being picked up off waivers from the White Sox in late July. Sanchez made his AFL debut on Wednesday.
In the first inning, Bell lined out to left field on the first pitch he saw. With two outs and two men on in the second inning, Bell grounded out to second base to end the inning. In the fourth, he reached first base on a fielder’s choice/throwing error from the pitcher. Bell doubled in the seventh inning, his third straight game with a double. He lined out to second base in the eighth inning. Bell finished 1-for-5 with a run scored and he is now hitting .261 through 23 at-bats. On defense, Bell made his first error at first base. In came on a ground ball hit to him in the second inning, which followed a hard hit ball three batters earlier in the inning, that deflected off his glove and was ruled a hit.
Elias Diaz led off the second inning with a ground out to third base. In the following frame, he singled to right field. Diaz then struck out and grounded out to second base in his next two at-bats. In the ninth inning, Diaz lined out to right field. He is 2-for-15 so far. He was 1-for-3 in throwing out runners.
Angel Sanchez made his debut in the sixth inning and picked up three strikeouts, though it wasn’t an easy inning. He walked one batter and another reached on an error. He needed 18 pitches to get out of the inning and it was his only inning of work. Two of his strikeouts were swinging strikeouts.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.
You have to wonder how much effort these players give in the AFL, since nothing counts and also how much they are working with different things. I realize in the winter leagues you play hard or you go home.
I don’t think it’s any different from a normal minor league game. The manager is Frank Kremblas, who is pretty high up in the Pirates ranks. I don’t think you’d want to slack at all in front of him. I’m sure if a player isn’t giving 100%, they would be sent home. A team wouldn’t want to waste a roster space on someone who doesn’t want to be there. These are minor league all-star games daily, no one wants to look bad in front stands packed with scouts and front office people.
As far as working on things, that happens a lot for pitchers, where they are trying some adjustments or throwing a new pitch, or trying to improve their change-up, so they throw it more often and in situations where you normally wouldn’t. The Pirates let players do that during the regular season, one of the reasons Adrian Sampson had poor numbers last year, but the experience helped him this year.