It was a bit of an abbreviated day on the back fields for me, as I didn't arrive until 11, and the players had already departed for their lunchtime break because the games were slated for noon. And then that noon start meant the game was over well before 3:00. Fellow TD moderator ChiTownTwinsFan joined me to watch the Cedar Rapids single-A squad (or at least the momentary roster bearing that designation - with Gentleman Tommy Watkins guiding them) play their counterparts from the Baltimore Orioles farm system. There was a high-A Fort Myers squad playing their game 30 or 40 yards to the west, but I never got around to even taking a look-see.
I failed to do my homework, and discovered as I strolled in that Stephen Gonsalves (no single-A player now, of course) was warming up and slated to start, making this to my knowledge his first "official" action since being sidelined with a bum shoulder March 8. I heard scuttlebutt as the game started that he would pitch only one inning, and that's exactly what played out. He struck out the first two batters, gave up a sharp double to right field, then got another strikeout for the third out. Some people call that striking out the side; I don't, sorry. But it was a satisfactory inning, I'm sure, and if he doesn't report pain then it will have been a very good start indeed.
Here, take a look at this photo: does anyone know what this grip is, with Stephen's pinky flared up like he's drinking tea with the Queen? Looks kind of like a circle change or a palm ball, but is the pinky important to that or not? It wasn't evident to me in real-time, but I did notice when I looked through the photos after dropping the film off at Walgreens and picking up the prints.*
The game moved fast, not solely because of the lack of TV advertising, but because it was a low-scoring affair until the very end. The Twins broke through in the bottom of the first inning with a run, and it stayed 1-0 until they tacked on an insurance run in the 8th. Unfortunately, they should have bought more insurance: 22-year old relief prospect Logan Lombana coughed up three or four runs in the top of the ninth, after beginning with two quiet putouts.
Three or four, you say? Yeah. A few years ago, I learned a new notation, when keeping a scoresheet of a game: "WW". Ever heard of that one? Have I mentioned it before? It stands for: Wasn't Watching. Well, there were several of those in my scoresheet today. I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to keep the lineups straight, which meant that several times I looked at the field and asked "how'd he get on base?" and not every time did someone within earshot admit to knowing. I now know that in a Spring game, you can't even assume there will be 9-man batting orders. Unless I suddenly forgot how to count, I believe both teams cycled through 10 batters in this game. Even "better" for record-keeping, in that climactic ninth inning, I swear Baltimore skipped a batter. This way lies Madness! If I simply overlooked him, then he was part of the two-out parade on the bases and it's four runs; otherwise, three. We lost either 4-2 or 3-2, so either way no extra innings needed to be played (or, more probably, dispensed with because, you know, "Spring Training").
Yesterday I just jotted down impressions of the game I watched. I'm not sure my scoresheet today gives me any better picture of this one.
OK, here is something I am sure about: Ben Rortvedt is the real deal on defense. He gunned down two would-be base stealers. I'm too lazy a photographer to wait long enough to capture a shot of that, but here he is in typical posture to receive a strike - looks like good form, also making life easy for Blue behind him, to this untrained observer.
Contrast that with this somewhat less graceful and confident stance by Orioles counterpart Ronald Soto (sorry to pick on you, Ron, especially because it's not quite an apples-to-apples comparison):
On top of that, I would also venture to say Ben has the "good face" that old-school scouting mavens such as Terry Ryan prize:
As for other impressions of our young Twins: outfielders Aaron Whitefield and Casey Scoggins both showed good speed on the bases and in the field. I'm sorry to report that T.J. White bollixed a couple of plays at third base, although he did do well going back on a popup (and he did drive in that run in the first inning). On the pitching side of the ledger, Eduardo del Rosario (not to be mistaken for a similarly-named outfielder in the Twins' employ) pitched innings 2 through 6 and gave up a few baserunners but nothing too serious, as the shutout continued. Domenick Carlini wriggled out of trouble after allowing two baserunners to start the seventh, and Alex Robinson pitched a clean eighth. As mentioned, Lombana pitched an untidy ninth, unable to secure that final out quickly and allowing five (or six?) baserunners before he could finally shut the door. One overall impression was that Gentleman Tommy in the dugout had all the pitchers focusing on holding every second-base runner (which involves the catcher, of course).
As the game drew to a close, a few fans in the small grandstand were discussing housing arrangements for the Cedar Rapids players this summer. A relative of Caleb Hamilton, who plays infield, was collecting some phone numbers from CR folks in attendance who are involved in the hosting program. Very cool networking, although it's unfortunate if the players and families feel in the dark about what to expect, since the team goes through the same process every year and the players are the ones who are new at it.
As usual, the area cleared quickly once the game was over, with the fans shuffling to their cars and the visiting players walking briskly to their buses. The Twins players headed over to their training complex building. And me, I headed to Rib City nearby, for a belated lunch.
* Just kidding - I embraced the digital revolution in photography a few weeks or months ago, I forget exactly when.