Thursday afternoon's game in Mesa was marred by an injury to Matt Wallner due to an errant pitch high and inside. I wrote up what I know here. I find it disquieting that we have not quickly heard a simple "X-rays proved negative" by mid-evening. The 11-4 drubbing administered to the home Solar Sox by our Twins' Scottsdale Scorpions pales in comparison to the concern I have for Matt, but here is my game summary from a Twins fan perspective.
In attendance along with me at Sloan Park was Twins Daily stalwart USAFChief. Perhaps there were other luminaries in attendance, but this was enough star power for me!
Wallner was the only Twins representative in the batting order, playing in RF. In terms of fielding, he handled a routine fly out and dealt capably with the base hits in his direction. As for his work at bat... after striking out to end the first inning, he launched a no-doubter HR to left center to lead off the third, off of Oakland pitching prospect Jeff Criswell (presumably no relation to the famed narrator of Plan Nine From Outer Space). Two innings later, he came to bat again and on 2-0 was hit in the leg on the bounce by a 55-foot pitch that I'll assume to be a curve that got away from Criswell, still in the game for the last of his four innings of work. I thought nothing of it at the moment, but then the next inning Wallner faced a different pitcher, Hogan Harris also of the A's, and I really, really, really hope this was nothing more than a coincidence - the two HBP had little in common in terms of the kind of pitch, and the second one occurred on a 1-2 count which is not a typical situation for a purpose pitch - but in the box score they all look the same. Wallner headed straight to the dugout after the 95-MPH beaning, not taking even a step toward the base he was being awarded. After the third out he was escorted across the field, walking under his own power and seemingly steadily, to the left field corner where presumably medical attention was to be had. Here is a photo of him, a pitch or two before the fateful one:
The only Twins farmhand to pitch was Zach Featherstone. As with Laweryson yesterday, the fastballs I saw were low-90s at best, but his mix of pitches was effective and his body of work in the eighth inning was a clean 1-2-3, with two swinging strikeouts after a harmless fly to left. (Chief noted that, what with Funderburk also, the Twins apparently are cornering the market on three-syllable pitcher names. Maybe it's the new market inefficiency.)
The layout of the ballpark allows fans to wander over toward the bullpen and observe pitchers warming up from a vantage point above them, and here is a shot of Zach before he came into the game:
These are the only Twins tidbits to offer from the game, but it happens that Wallner was not the only person on the field who had unwanted contact with a baseball. Scorpions third base coach Ydwin Villegas (Giants) was nailed, in the shoulder I think, by a sharp foul liner. He was cool as a cucumber, having dodged actual injury, and popped right back up to resume signaling the base runners as though nothing at all had happened. Occupational hazard, which is why base coaches earn the big bucks.
The AFL has some experimental rules. One I noticed in both my games so far is that the umpires frequently check pitchers caps and other areas of the uniform for banned substances. Chief remarked on the lack of extreme defensive shifts. And a walk seems to have been awarded to Scorpions first baseman Triston Casas (Red Sox) when the pitcher apparently exceeded the 15-second time limit while there was a 3-ball count - we at first thought a balk had been called, to advance the runners, except that Casas also trotted down to first. This prompted me to look up the rules for the AFL this year, and some these are covered at this website. (I had failed to notice that the bases were slightly larger, and also that in last night's Salt River game the balls and strikes were not being called by the plate ump.)
It was a super pleasant afternoon, with temperatures in the low 80s. But it is sobering to realize that Chief and I have not brought the best of luck to Twins prospects in the AFL when we view games together, as we have witnessed AFL-season ending injuries to Taylor Rogers (struck in the shoulder by a line drive) and Lamont Wade (concussion after collision with a fellow outfielder). I hope that Matt bounces back as well as these two players have been able to.
Mrs Ash and I will be concluding the Phoenix area portion of our vacation with one more game, a home game at Scottsdale, Friday afternoon.