Timber Rattlers Spring Training – March 22, 2012

Wounded Warriors, Defense, & Intrasquad!

I arrived at Maryvale a little before 9am this morning.  Dan O’Brien greeted me and let me know the whole schedule for the minor leaguers.  Meeting at 9am, defensive work until 11am, and intrasquad games starting at 11am.

Usually, I will stay as far away from a meeting as possible.  But, this meeting was for all of the minor league players in camp.

There were a couple of special guests to speak to the players.  They are members of the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team.  I didn’t get the names, but judging from the profiles on that website, I think the two were Matt Kinsey and Josh Wege, who lists his current residence as Fond du Lac.

Both wounded warriors worked with the Timber Rattlers during this defensive day in Maryvale. Here is a picture of them playing catch.

Matt is in the foreground. Josh is out in centerfield.

More on the Warriors later.

Manager Matt Erickson and hitting coach Dusty Rhodes are both upbeat about how the team is playing this spring.  Erickson mentioned that the team beat the Dayton 13-1 on Wednesday.  Rhodes mentioned that the Rattlers have won four in a row.

I could list off the whole roster of players who were working out as Timber Rattlers today, but the group was nearly 40 strong.  plus, workout squads change almost every day.

Instead here are the Rattlers from last year who were working out with the team today:

Greg Hopkins
Seth Lintz
Brandon Macias
Matt Miller
Nick Ramirez
Yadiel Rivera
Chad Stang
Tyler Roberts

For the Prospect watchers out there, the Baseball America Top 30 Brewers Prospects working with the team today were: Rivera (#15), Pitcher David Goforth (#17), Orlando Arcia (#22), Drew Gagnon (#23), Michael Reed (#24), & Nick Ramirez (#28).

It was a little different day today than most other Spring Training days for the minor league side.  It was all defense.   Lots of grounders on Diamond #4

This is only half of what is actually going on during the drills.

Lots of time trying to turn two.

Nick Ramirez ready to throw to second base after fielding a grounder.

Yadiel Rivera after he takes a throw at second base.

Lots of grounders back to the mound

Step and throw...

Eye on the ball.

After 15 minutes it was on to Diamond #5 for a game of 27.  I mentioned this drill last spring when I was at a Defense Day.  The nine players in the field have to field 27 consecutive plays perfectly or the count goes back to zero and they have to start again.

And I do mean perfectly.  It’s not just a matter of fielding the ball and making the throw.  The cutoff man has to be in perfect position.  The pitcher has to be in the right spot at the right time to back up the base.  Everything has to be perfect.  I think that the most consecutive perfect plays was eight or nine.

On to Diamond #6 for more drills.  The outfielders worked on fly balls.  The pitchers were in left field with some agility and hand-eye co-ordination drills.  The infielders had a little target practice by fielding grounders at either short or third and making throws into a net that was set up at first base.

During this time catchers went over to do whatever it is that they do….which is blocking balls in the dirt up in the bullpen area.  So, you want to be a catcher?

On to Diamond #7 where the outfielders got to track and catch flyballs against the bright, yellow Sun and the infielders had more fun.  “King of the Infield” was played.  All of the infielders working with the Rattlers lined up at short and took grounders.  Miss one and you were out.  The winner would be the last person left.

It was a little odd to see Yadiel Rivera go out first – on just the second grounder hit to him in the series.  He heard about it a little bit.

Then, the most amazing play I have ever seen occurred and one of the loudest cheers on the outer diamonds at Maryvale was heard.  Josh Wege took a step to his left on a high chopper and the ball was going left.  He planted, dove back to his right, and – with full extension – cleanly fielded the ball in the webbing of his glove.  The shout went up from around the field.

This wasn't the play described above, but this is Josh Wege during "King of the Infield".

You may understand why the players and coaches reacted the way that they did on Josh’s diving play if you click on that picture.

At the end it came down to Greg Hopkins against Adrian Williams.  Williams had a tough hop and missed.  Hopkins got another tough hop, but stuck with it and he is King for a Day.

Stick with it and you could be King.

The game between the Timber Rattlers and the Brevard County Manatees was next.  Here were the starting lineups.  Yes, there were ten players to hit in the lineups:

Brevard County
Nick Shaw
Reggie Keen
Max Walla
Jason Rogers
Mike Walker
Ben McMahan
Rafael Neda
Carlos George
Miguel Velazquez
Joey Paciorek

Chad Stang – CF
Michael Reed – LF
Greg Hopkins – 3B
Nick Ramirez – 1B
Jalen Harris – DH
Brandon Macias – 2B
John Dishon – RF
Adam Weisenberger – C
Kevin Moscatel – X
Yadiel Rivera – SS

BC: Austin Ross (4), Alan Williams (1)
WI: Will West (2), Michael Strong (3)

Austin Ross at work.

Brevard County won the game 3-0.  Austin Ross struck out nine in his four innings of work.  The only hit that he allowed was a one out double hit by Jalen Harris.

Mass Haas tipped me to the Jalen Harris story with a tweet during the game.

The windy days are the most challenging for Jalen Harris on the field.

On those days, the soon-to-be, 19-year-old third baseman can’t hear anything but the whistle of the breeze.

But that hasn’t prevented the Toronto native, who was born deaf, from chasing his baseball dreams.

Equipped with cochlear implants since he was three, Harris has been impressing big league scouts with his never-say-die attitude, expert lip-reading abilities and natural athletic gifts over the past few years. His combination of speed, soft hands and a strong arm were enough to convince the Milwaukee Brewers to select him in the 41st round of this year’s First-Year Player Draft.

There. You learned something today, too.

The only other hit by a Rattler player today was by Michael Nemeth, who had a double off Williams in the bottom of the fifth inning.

There were a few other players to get swings for the Rattlers today:  Ken Allison, Gant Elmore, and Ruben Ozuna.

Since Yadiel Rivera is the highest rated prospect on the Rattlers side today, here’s how he did:  0-for-1 with a K and he handled his one chance in the field flawlessly.

Sorry, Yadi. The picture of you on defense didn't turn out as well as this one of you at the plate.

Defensively, Brandon Macias made a nifty 4-3 double play in the top of the first as he was covering second base on a hit-and-run.  The ball – hit by Jason Rogers – was hit towards the base.  Macias made the pick, stepped on the bag, and threw to first to get the twin killing.  In the bottom of the fifth, Mike Walker made a nice diving stop to rob Harris of a second hit on the afternoon.

West worked two scoreless innings with a walk and a couple of strikeouts.

Will West on the mound Thursday.

Strong pitched three innings and gave up three runs.

Michael Strong on Thursday.

One of the runs came on a long home run by Velazquez in the third.  Velazquez is an interesting story, too.  He had been in the Rangers organization since 2007, but did not play last year.  The Brewers signed him in December, 2011.

Unfortunately, two errors and a walk in the top of the fifth led to two more runs charged to Strong.  Carlos George reached on an error by Hopkins.  George stole second and took third on an errant throw.  Velazquez took a walk and Paciorek drove them both home.

I did get a chance to walk over the other diamond to watch the end of the Huntsville-Nashville game.  And I got over there just in time to watch Zelous Wheeler double in a run and a Sean Halton send home a run with a sacrifice fly against Hiram Burgos.

Then, Tyler Thornburg got on the hill for Nashville.

Tyler Thornburg on Thursday.

He got a strikeout and a flyball, but a walk, a single, and an error on the single let in a run.  Then, this neat moment:

Tyler Thornburg pitches to Franklin Romero in a battle of ex-Rattlers.

The game ended an inning later with Huntsville winning.

In all, not a bad first day in Maryvale.  Plenty of upbeat and familiar faces.

Friday will be a little longer with practice in the morning and a game against the Great Lakes Loons in the afternoon.  Follow me on twitter – @CMehring – for updates throughout the day.  I’ll have a write up on the day sometime tomorrow evening.

For now, think warm thoughts, Rattlers fans.  Opening Day is less than two weeks away.

1 Comment

Will during spring training

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