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Prospect Watch: Strong Starting Pitching and Dingerz Provide Some Highlights

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The system got only one win tonight, but there were welcome outings from several pitchers and some equally welcome longballs from some of the top hitting prospects.  Shalin Polanco had the best night of all with four hits.  There was also a lot of rehabbing going on.

SUNDAY’S RESULTS

Prospect Watch: Indianapolis Puts Up 15 Runs on Sunday

TRIPLE-A: INDIANAPOLIS INDIANS

Pirates 2023 Minor League Previews: Indianapolis Indians

INDIANAPOLIS VS IOWA

Final Score:  Indianapolis (19-20) 9, Iowa 1
Indianapolis Starter
:  Quinn Priester
Pitching Line
:  7 IP, 5 H, ER, BB, 9 K
Box Score

Top Performers:

  • Nick Gonzales 2-5, 2B, HR (3), 3 RBI
  • Canaan Smith-Njigba 2-4, HR (2)
  • Endy Rodriguez 1-4, HR (4)
  • Cal Mitchell 1-3, BB
  • Rob Zastryzny IP, H, BB, K
  • Angel Perdomo IP, 2 K

Game Recap:

Indianapolis got a big start from Quinn Priester and dingers from the top three hitters in the order, helping it to a 9-1 drubbing of Iowa.

Priester went seven innings and allowed just a run on five hits and a walk.  He fanned nine.  After a rough start to the season that saw his ERA at 7.78 at the end of April, Priester has now allowed just three runs over 19 innings in three May starts.

Indy played longball to take an early lead, as the 1-3 hitters each hit solo shots.  Endy Rodriguez hit his fourth home run in the first, then in the third, Nick Gonzales and Canaan Smith-Njigba went back-to-back.  Gonzales has three on the year and Smith-Njigba two.  Gonzales also hit a double; his OPS stands at .846.  After a very bad start upon moving down to Indy, Smith-Njigba has his up to .790.  Unfortunately, these guys and Cal Mitchell are stuck where they are, as the Pirates obviously have no need for offense.

Rob Zastryzny made his first rehab appearance, throwing a scoreless eighth.  Angel Perdomo worked the ninth.  Vinny Capra had three RBIs.

DOUBLE-A: ALTOONA CURVE

Pirates 2023 Minor League Previews: Altoona Curve

ALTOONA @ BOWIE

Final Score:  Bowie 4, Altoona (15-17) 3
Altoona Starter
:  Jared Jones
Pitching Line
:  4 IP, 2 H, ER, BB, 7 K
Box Score

Top Performers:

  • Liover Peguero 3-4, 3 2B

Game Recap:

Jared Jones had a strong start in his second outing after returning from the IL, but Altoona lost to Bowie in walkoff fashion, 4-3.

Jones retired the first nine batters he faced before running into some trouble in the fourth.  He gave up a walk, single and double to start the inning, but got two strikeouts and a ground out to strand runners at second and third.  He left after that, having thrown 54 pitches, 39 for strikes.

Altoona unfortunately couldn’t get any offense, apart from one swing by the usual source.  Henry Davis connected for his ninth of the year with two aboard in the sixth, and that was it.  When Davis came up with a runner on third and two out in the eight and the game tied, Bowie just pitched around him.

The Curve currently are saddled with a bunch of older, non-prospects who aren’t hitting at all.  This is not a young team; the weighted average age of their hitters is 25, second-oldest in the Eastern League and well above the league average.  They could seemingly use some help from Greensboro, which has a lot of players putting up good numbers.

Anyway, Davis gave the Curve a 3-1 lead, but Matt Eckelman quickly gave the runs back.  Tahnaj Thomas and Oliver Garcia combined for two and a third scoreless innings, but Juan Minaya wild-pitched in the winning run with one out in the bottom of the ninth.

Apart from Davis’ blast, the Curve managed only six hits.  Half of those were doubles by Liover Peguero, boosting his OPS to .713.  Altoona went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

HIGH-A: GREENSBORO GRASSHOPPERS

Pirates 2023 Minor League Previews: Greensboro Grasshoppers

GREENSBORO @ ASHEVILLE

Final Score:  Asheville 6, Greensboro (20-14) 4
Greensboro Starter
:  Braxton Ashcraft
Pitching Line
:  3 IP, H, 3 K
Box Score

Top Performers:

  • Tsung-Che Cheng 1-4, HR (5)
  • Tres Gonzalez 1-4, HR (2)
  • Jase Bowen 2-4, 2B
  • Wyatt Hendrie 2-3, 2B, HR (1), BB
  • Michell Miliano 3 IP, 2 BB, 3 K

Game Recap:

Greensboro used the longball to take an early 4-0 lead, but they couldn’t add on and the bullpen ultimately blew the game.

Tres Gonzalez hit a two-run shot in the first, his second for Greensboro and third of the year.  In the second, Wyatt Hendrie and Tsung-Che Cheng went back-to-back.  Hendrie’s was his first for the Hoppers and second of the year, while Cheng (the guy who supposedly has 20 power) got his fifth.  Cheng, who’s still only 21, is now batting 268/378/542 with only three fewer walks than strikeouts.  This was not a home game, by the way, so that’s not the explanation for the longballs, and Cheng is hitting much better, with much more power, on the road.

But that was all.  Hendrie later added a double, and Jase Bowen had a single and double, but Greensboro had only four chances with RISP and missed on all of them.

Braxton Ashcraft, still apparently on a limited pitch count, started and threw three scoreless innings.  He allowed just a hit and no walks.  Michell Miliano followed with three scoreless and hitless innings.

The Hoppers were still up, 4-1, in the seventh, but Jack Carey came on and continued his recent struggles.  He retired only one of the six hitters he faced (with a caught stealing fortunately thrown in) and was charged with two runs.  Cy Nielson got the last out of the inning, but Will Kobos had to rescue Nielson in the eighth, fanning the last two hitters to strand two runners.  In the ninth it was Kobos’ turn, as he walked the first two batters and then left after an injury delay.  Mitchell Miller replaced him and immediately allowed a three-run, walkoff home run.

LOW-A: BRADENTON MARAUDERS

Pirates 2023 Minor League Previews: Bradenton Marauders

BRADENTON @ CLEARWATER

Final Score:  Clearwater 12, Bradenton (20-14) 10
Bradenton Starter
:  Tyler Chatwood
Pitching Line
:  IP
Box Score

Top Performers:

  • Jesus Castillo 1-3, 2 BB
  • Termarr Johnson 2-4
  • Javier Rivas 1-4, 2B, BB
  • Geovanny Planchart 1-3, HR (1), SF, 4 RBI
  • Shalin Polanco 4-5, 2B, HR (5)
  • Owen Sharts 2 IP, 2 BB, K

Game Recap:

Injuries were a prominent presence, in two different ways, in Bradenton’s 12-10 loss to Clearwater.  The Marauders used four players — Tyler Chatwood, Carter Bins, Blake Cederlind and Owen Sharts — who were recently activated, but also had some players leave the game.

On the latter point, Bins, just off the injured list, left early in the game.  On a pitch that got away from him, immediately once the play was over he walked straight into the dugout, with some colorful language along the way, uttered in obvious frustration.  It’s likely he tweaked whatever had him on the IL in the first place.

Late in the game, Rodolfo Nolasco got beaned.  It looked and sounded like the pitch mostly got the helmet flap, but he was down for a bit.  He ultimately left looking okay-ish.

In addition, Termarr Johnson came out after the top of the eighth, with no obvious explanation except possibly that the Marauders were trailing by five at the time.

Chatwood started, his first appearance since being activated.  He threw a quick first inning.  Blake Cederlind, in his second outing, had a lot more trouble, mainly because he couldn’t throw strikes.  He lasted an inning plus two batters and was charged with six runs on four hits, two walks and a hit batsman.  The last two runners scored with Miguel Fulgencio on the mound.  He threw an inning without allowing any runs of his own.

Dominic Perachi, who probably would have started if not for the rehabbers, was next and simply got pummeled.  He also couldn’t throw strikes and allowed six runs over two innings, on five hits and four walks.  It would have been much worse, but Clearwater got two runners thrown out at third in Perachi’s first inning.

Sharts got the next two innings.  The Pirates drafted him in round 13 in 2021, shortly after he’d had Tommy John surgery.  He pitched in the FCL last year and walked 27 in 11 innings.  His control wasn’t good in this one — just 14 strikes on 28 pitches — but he threw just enough strikes to get through two scoreless innings without a hit.

Bradenton briefly got back in the game in the fourth.  Geovanny Planchart, who’d replaced Bins, and Shalin Polanco went back-to-back.  Planchart’s, a two-run shot, was his first home run in two years.  He got two more RBIs later.  Polanco’s home run was his fifth of the year.  In fact, it was his fifth in his last 12 games.  He also had a double and two singles in the game.  The big day vaulted his OPS from .631 to .723.

Cederlind’s and Perachi’s misadventures left the Marauders trailing, 12-3, after five innings.  Bradenton eventually made the final look more presentable by scoring seven in the eighth and ninth.  Jesus Castillo reached base three times and Johnson had two hits.  One was about as long a single as can possibly be managed.  With two on, he hit a towering drive that bounced off the top of the fence in right.  The runners had to hold up, so nobody scored and Johnson had to stop at first.

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Wilbur Miller
Wilbur Miller
Having followed the Pirates fanatically since 1965, Wilbur Miller is one of the fast-dwindling number of fans who’ve actually seen good Pirate teams. He’s even seen Hall-of-Fame Pirates who didn’t get traded mid-career, if you can imagine such a thing. His first in-person game was a 5-4, 11-inning win at Forbes Field over Milwaukee (no, not that one). He’s been writing about the Pirates at various locations online for over 20 years. It has its frustrations, but it’s certainly more cathartic than writing legal stuff. Wilbur is retired and now lives in Bradenton with his wife and three temperamental cats.

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