Results tagged ‘ Spring Training 2012 ’

Timber Rattlers Spring Training – March 25, 2012

Pitchers on Parade;
Rattlers v. Manatees on My Last Day in Arizona

Chris Narveson prepares to face Jimmy Nelson on Sunday.

Fans who showed up for the 10:45am game between the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers and the Brevard County Manatees on Sunday in the Brewers minor league complex got a surprise.

Chris Narveson, Yovani Gallardo, and Zack Greinke all got into the game to hit in game conditions against prospects Jimmy Nelson and Matt Miller.

More on that in a moment.

The day started later than usual. Players did not get out on to the field until 10am. There were some brief warmups

Before the games started, Chris Dennis stopped over to say hello. I asked him where he had been because I hadn’t seen him in camp during my time down here. He mentioned that he had been out with a concussion – he was hit in the head with a pitch in his first at bat of camp. But, he should be back on the field this week. Fingers crossed.

The Timber Rattlers and the Manatees had a five inning game scheduled. There were some slight changes to the lineups that I had reported on twitter earlier this morning. So, here are the lineups as they actually were:

Wisconsin Timber Rattlers:
Ruben Ozuna – LF
Orlando Arcia – SS
Michael Nemeth – 3B
Jason Rogers – 1B
Kenneth Allison – RF
Brent Dean – C
Gant Elmore – 2B
Kevin Berard – CF
Jimmy Nelson – P

Brevard County Manatees:
John Dishon – CF
Brandon Macias – SS
Cody Hawn – 1B
Mike Walker – 3B
Ben McMahan – RF
Tyler Robers – C
Chris McFarland – 2B
Matt Franco – LF
Matt Miller – P

Narveson, Gallardo, and Greinke were sprinkled in through the lineup multiple times for both teams to get their cuts.

I kept score as best I could so what follows is the play-by-play of the game. I will sprinkle in some pictures and save comments for the end.

Timber Rattlers First:
Narveson strikes out swinging
Ozuna walks
Ozuna caught stealing 2-6
Arcia F7

Manatees First:
Narveson strikes out swinging
Dishon doubles off the third base bag
Dishon picked off second 1-6
Hawn F7

Rattlers Second:
Nemeth singles
Rogers flies out to deep right -center
Allison singles, Nemeth to second
Dean out L4, Allison doubled off at 1st for double play

Manatees Second:
Greinke L5
Walker strikes out swinging
Gallardo 5-3

Rattlers Third:
Narveson strikes out swinging
Gallardo singles
Elmore 5-3, Gallardo to second
Berard F8

Greinke singles off Miller.

Manatees Third:
McMahan singles
Roberts reaches on FC, McMahan safe at second. McMahan to third on E6, Roberts out 9-4-3 at first
McFarland singles, McMahan scores.
McFarland out 2-6 CS
Franco F7

Rattlers Fourth:
Gallardo F7
Greinke singles
Ozuna reaches on FC, Greinke out 6-4
Ozuna steals second, takes third on E-2
Arcia out 3U

Matt Miller makes a pitch on Sunday.

Manatees Fourth:
Dishon strikes out looking
Macias 3-1
Hawn 4-3

Jimmy Nelson ready to come home with a pitch.

Rattlers Fifth:
Nemeth strikes out looking
Rogers strikes out swinging
Allison walks
Allison takes second on wild pitch
Dean doubles, Allison scores
Elmore 4-3

Kenneth Allison scores the tying run in the fifth inning on Sunday.

Manatees Fifth:
Walker walks
McMahan grounds into 6-3 double play
Roberts singles
McFarland 5-3

Michael Nemeth at third base on Sunday.

Nelson: 5IP, 4H, R, 0ER, 2BB, 4K
Miller: 5IP, 5H, R, ER, 2BB, 3K

Gallardo’s hit off Miller in the third inning was a high popup that dropped in front of the mound after the infielders had trouble picking the ball out of the Arizona sky.

Greinke hit the ball hard twice. His single was sharply hit between the shortstop and third baseman in the fourth. Nemeth made a nice play on the line drive in the second.

Last point on the major leaguers in this game. After Narveson was struck out by Nelson in the Manatees first inning, I thought that I heard him say the phrase “downhill thunder”. “Downhill Thunder” would be Nelson’s 94 with heavy, crazy sink.  Nelson has been pitching that way since the second half of the Timber Rattlers season in 2011.

By my count, Nelson broke three bats on Sunday.  One was on the double by Dishon in the first – the ball hit off the third base bag.  The second was on a bloop single by McMahan in the third.  The last was on Cody Hawn’s ground out in the fourth.  It is going to be fun following Nelson this summer if he can keep that going for himself.

One last note on Nelson: Of the four hits he allowed on Sunday, two were on broken bats, one was through a drawn-in infield (McFarland’s RBI single in the third), one a sharp single to the outfield by Roberts.

No velocity reports on how Miller threw.  I thought he looked good.  He didn’t struggle with control as much as he did at times last season.  I briefly spoke with Tyler Roberts about Miller after the game.  Country said there were times that Miller came off his breaking stuff and tried to make it do too much, but aside from that he liked what he saw.  The two-out walk in the fifth and the wild pitch kept Miller from a clean sheet.

Country also wanted to talk Base Running 101 after the game.  He KNOWS that he rounded the base too far in that situation in the third inning.  He also sheepishly admitted that he almost got caught again after his single in the fifth.  It’s a long, long road.

Both catchers, Roberts and Dean made strong throws to second base to cut down base runners.  Roberts caught Ozuna in the first.  Dean got McFarland in the third.  Roberts committed an error on a throw in the fourth when Ozuna ran on him again.  This throw was a little low and a little to the first base side of the bag with the shortstop covering.

But, throwing to second has never been a concern for Tyler Roberts.

Defensively, Arcia rushed a throw while trying to turn a double play in the third.  His off target throw to Elmore covering wound up in right field.  He didn’t have to rush it.  Roberts was the other runner.  Later in the game, Arcia made a very nice double play against McMahan.  Walker was on first and McMahan hit a high chopper near the second base bag.  Arcia handled a shorthop, stepped on the bag and threw to first in time.

If you remember one thing about Orlando Arcia this year, remember this…He does not turn 18 until August 4, 2012.

Staying on the defense.  Including the play on the Greinke liner that was noted above, Nemeth made several nice plays at third in the game. He also made tough barehanded plays to retire Gallardo in the second and McFarland in the fifth.

During the game, I chatted a bit with Brian Garman, a Rattlers reliever during 2011.  Garman pitched on Thursday, but has been shutdown for a bit after that last outing.  He thought he should be back in action soon.

I also spotted another Rattler reliever from 2011:


Since this is my last day in Arizona, I guess that it would be about this point of the column when I should make predictions on the players I think will be in Appleton to start the season.  It is hard to make those predictions.  A lot can happen in the final week of camp.  I’m pretty sure that both Nick Ramirez and Max Walla were slated to come to Appleton, but their injuries have set back that plan.

Plus, the Brewers minor league people will need to make some decisions on cuts over the next few days.

There is a good possibility that we won’t know what the team will be until they get on the plane to Wisconsin on April 2.

Instead of a prediction, here – aside from the players in today’s lineups for both the Rattlers and the Manatees – are the players who played games as Timber Rattlers over the last few days:

IF Greg Hopkins
P Andrew Moye
P Andrew Gagnon
P David Goforth
P Seth Harvey
C Adam Weisenburger
P Kevin Shackelford
P Jacob Barnes
SS Yadiel Rivera
C Kevin Moscatel
P Manuel Ruiz
P Tommy Toledo
P Seth Lintz
P Mike Francisco
OF Chad Stang
P Connor Whalen
P Michael Strong
P Will West

Any of these players could be headed to the Midwest League this season.  There is also the possibility that players who did not see action with the Rattlers during spring may be on the roster for Opening Day.  We will know in just over a week.

If you have enjoyed these reports, thank the Rattlers front office for sending me down here.  This is my third spring in a row covering the minor league side of the Brewers camp to give you an idea of the part of the Cactus League that you don’t see.

Opening Day for the Rattlers is on April 5.  Tickets for Opening Day against the Kernels and for the rest of the games at Time Warner Cable Field are available.  You can purchase tickets online; in person at the Time Warner Cable Field Box Office, or over the phone – (920) 733-4152 or 800-WI-TIMBER.  Mention that you got the idea from Mehring on Rattler Radio.  That may actually prove to them that I am capable of pulling my weight up there.  (kidding).

I will leave you with an overall impression on the play that I have seen over the last few days.  The pitching has been solid. All of the pitchers I saw threw strikes, worked quickly, and did not allow any big innings.

The hitters have stung the ball and the defense has been very good.

I know, 80 degrees in Arizona sunshine is a lot different from 45 on a rainy night in the Midwest League.  But, you will like what you will see when you come out to see the Timber Rattlers this season.


Timber Rattlers Spring Training – March 24, 2012

I (almost) Called It!

It was a short practice day for the Timber Rattlers squad today since there was a road trip to Tempe for a game against the Angels in the afternoon.

Short, but full.

The outfielders worked on their jumps:

The shortstops worked on the pivot of the double play:

First basemen took grounders and worked on flips to the pitchers:

The pitchers worked on bunt plays:

Catchers took their lumps:

Then, there was batting practice.

The Timber Rattlers groups today were:
Group One: Elmore, Arcia, Stang, Hopkins
Group Two: Franco, Allison, Dishon
Group Three: Rogers, Nemeth, Rivera
Group Four: Roberts, Moscatel, Weisenburger

The way it worked today, one group hit on the field, another hit in the cages, one group ran, and another was in the field.  Every group was less than ten minutes and got everything done that they needed to do.

It was during the first group that I kidded Greg Hopkins about being thrown out at third base in Friday’s game against the Loons.  He had doubled to drive in two runs, but was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a triple.  I said, “You got everything BUT faster in the offseason.”

“NO! I got faster,” Hopkins replied.

“I want to see a Greg Hopkins inside-the-park homer this season,” I said.

“Outfielders will have to collide,” he responded.

I didn’t think anything more of it at the time.  No way it would ever happen.

The game at the Angels minor league complex in Tempe started at one pm.  The Timber Rattlers were playing the Cedar Rapids Kernels, the Midwest League affiliate of the Angels. By the way, the Rattlers open up the 2012 season at Time Warner Cable Field against the Kernels on Thursday, April 5.  Tickets available here.

Across the walkway, the Brevard County Manatees, Milwaukee’s Florida State League affiliate, faced the Inland Empire 66ers, the California League affiliate of the Angels.  More on that later.

The first Timber Rattlers pitcher was lefthander Manuel Ruiz.

Ruiz warming up before the game.

Ruiz worked three scoreless innings with two strikeouts.  The only hit that he allowed was a one out bunt single in the second inning…to the Kernels #5 hitter.  Welcome to Angels baseball, folks!

Does this guy look like a bunter? He's wearing an Angels jersey, isn't he?

The Rattlers grabbed the lead in the second inning.  Adam Weisenburger drew a two out walk and Yadiel Rivera smacked a triple to the gap in right center.

In Rivera’s only other plate appearance, he lined out to the second baseman. That’s two balls hit hard to the opposite field.  He only had to make two defensive plays at short – both times he accepted throws.  One led to him running down a base runner after a pickoff the other was on a force play at second.

Rivera had a cameo with the Timber Rattlers in 2011.  I have a feeling that he will get a more extended look in the Midwest League in 2012.  I also have a feeling that people are going to like what they see.

David Gorforth replaced Ruiz for the fourth inning and he would work three scoreless innings.  There was only one hard hit ball against Goforth.  He gave up three hits – a sharp single to right, an infield dribbler, and a broken bat blooper that dropped just inside the right field foul line.  He also struck out three.

David Goforth

Goforth sat comfortably at 94 and reached 98 – according to the Timber Rattlers radar gun.  That is inline with his writeup in the Baseball America Prospect Handbook.  That publication places him as the #17 prospect in the Brewers organization and says:

Goforth’s four-seam fastball is erratic at times,  but when he comes out of the bullpen he throws it comfortably at 94-97 mph and peaks at 99.  He has had trouble throwing secondary pitches for strikes, though he helped himself in that regard by added an 88-92 mph cutter last spring.

Baseball America thinks that Goforth will start 2012 in the rotation at Wisconsin to build some innings.

The game remained 1-0 until the seventh inning.  Weisenburger drew a walk with one out, Orlando Arcia reached on an error, and Gant Elmore walked.  John Dishon came up with two outs and drew a walk to force in Weisenburger.

Weisenburger walks home.

Then, I had this really weird moment of Did THAT just happen?

Hopkins stepped up an lined a pitch to center.  The Kernels centerfielder raced back, leapt, and missed the ball.  He crashed to the ground and apparently knocked the breath out of him because he did not get up to chase after the ball, which happened to roll out to the fence – a mere 422′ from home plate.

Hopkins raced around the bases and score without a play

Hopkins slides in safely.

Just a routine Inside-the-park Grand Slam.  Seriously. That happened.  Maybe he did get faster.

The rest of the game was academic.  Wisconsin scored one more run, Arcia singled in the ninth and would eventually score on a wild pitch.

Wisconsin sent four more pitchers out to each work an inning.
7th: RHP Tommy Toledo – 0H, K
8th: LHP Mike Francisco – 0H, K
9th: LHP Connor Whalen – 0H, 2K
*10th:  RHP Seth Lintz – 0H, HBP, 0K

*The Rattlers didn’t bat in the tenth.  When Whalen was done with his inning, the defense stayed on the field and Lintz came out of the bullpen for his three outs…Spring Training, Everybody!

Pitching coach Dave Chavarria talks with Seth Lintz after Saturday's game.

Did you happen to notice anything missing when I talked about the pitchers.  I’ll bold it: Ten innings, Nine strikeouts, No Walks!

The Manatees game was still going after the Rattlers wrapped up.  That allowed a few guys to be fans, if only for a brief time:

Manatee watching.

The Manatees won their game 13-2.  I saw three-run homers by Jimmie Pharr and Kyle Dhanani in that game.  Scoreless innings by Eric Arnett, Greg Holle, Tyler Cravy were tossed, too.  Brooks Hall, Evan Anundsen, and Eric Marzec also pitched for the Manatees today, but I’m not sure how they did.

Most importantly today, no injuries.

Max Walla and Nick Ramirez AND Michael Reed were injured yesterday.  Walla (Four weeks) and Ramirez (Six weeks) are out for extended periods of time.  Reed’s was minor and he will probably be back in games early next week.

There is another short day planned for tomorrow.  Morning workout and at 10:45am Arizona time, the Rattlers will face the Manatees in a five inning game.  Matt Miller is scheduled to pitch for the Rattlers.  Jimmy Nelson is set to start for Brevard County.  Both pitchers are scheduled to pitch five innings.

I will be there and updating the game on twitter – @CMehring – with a full writeup after the game.

Until tomorrow.

Timber Rattlers Spring Training – March 23, 2012

It started out as such a nice day

It was a great day to get to the ballpark early.  The weather in Arizona has warmed up and the players in the Timber Rattlers work group today seemed energized after Thursday’s light workload.

Heck, Jeff Isom even requested that I take a picture of him and Matt Erickson.

Matt Erickson and Jeff Isom, the two Timber Rattlers managers of the Brewers Era.

That’s how good a mood everyone was in this morning

This next portion of the post will be represented in slideshow form.  Plenty of drills, some batting practice, and Arizona Railbirds

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Not to say that the morning was without news.
Jeff Paxson is returning for his third year as the Rattlers Athletic Trainer this season.  We were going over the 2012 schedule and mapping out travel plans.  He asked me when the MLB All-Star Game was and when the Futures Game was and wondered aloud how he could make it back in time to catch the bus to Lake County…

“Why would that be a problem?  Are you working it?” I asked.

“Yep,” was his understated reply.

I think this is a pretty big deal.  Pax has been the Midwest League trainer of the Year for the last two seasons and was the Trainer of the Year for all of Minor League Baseball in 2011.  For him to get the opportunity to work the Futures Game is pretty neat.  Of course, he’ll have to work it instead of enjoying it, but still…It should be a mark of the regard that his peers hold for him.

Congratulations, Pax.

I also had the opportunity to talk with Cameron Garfield.  Gar has been a Timber Rattlers catcher in 2010 and 2011.  If you remember, he was injured during a game early in the 2011 season.  Then, he was injured in Arizona as he rehabbed for the first injury.  He said that he can do everything, but is being held out of games until his knee gets stronger.  Once that happens he’ll be able to get into games.  He is resigned to staying in Arizona to take part in extended spring training, but understands that it is what he needs to do.  Then, he’ll be back.

I’m pulling for that to happen for him.

While the players broke for lunch, I headed over to the big league ballpark.

Inside Maryvale Baseball Stadium.

One of the first people I saw was Adam McCalvy, the Brewers beat writer.  He mentioned that he needs to work on a minor league preview article for next week.  I look forward to it.

The next couple of paragraphs – while containing information on former Brewers prospects – are specifically for one person. I don’t know if he reads anymore, but here goes.

I bumped into an old friend that I hadn’t seen in awhile.  Mike is a scout.  There are people out there who just wrecked their monitors because I called a scout an old friend….but that’s a different story.  Mike had been a scout for the Arizona Diamondbacks and you would know him if you saw him.  He is a big guy, usually wore a big straw hat and would – on occasion – wear a loud Hawaiian shirt.

Mike wasn’t around last year, but he was sitting in the Media Workroom in Maryvale to scout the Brewers and the Angels.  We recognized each other immediately.  Mike told me that he now works for the Washington Nationals as one of their pro scouts.

He mentioned that he was not surprised that the Cardinals took Erik Komatsu in the Rule 5 draft.   Mike also keeps in touch with Cutter Dykstra.  Kid, Cutter is doing well and looking forward to a great season.  There is a chance for him to start in AA this year.

Time to get back over to Diamond 7 for the game between the Timber Rattlers and the Great Lakes Loons.  Plenty of good seats available:

Moments before first pitch between the Rattlers and Loons on Diamond 7.

The Rattlers starting lineup looked like this:

Michael Reed – RF
Orlando Arcia – SS
Michael Nemeth – DH
Nick Ramirez – 1B
Ken Allison – LF
Tyler Roberts – C
Ruben Ozuna – CF
Kevin Berard – 3B
Adrian Williams – 2B

Starting Pitcher:
Andrew Gagnon

Keep in mind that just because a player appears in the starting lineup for the Rattlers in a spring training game it does not mean that the player will be on the Opening Day roster for the Rattlers.  If I could find the starting lineups for the spring training games I attended last year, I would have a more solid number for you.  But, I think that at least a few of these guys may stay behind for extended spring training.  That is not to say that they could not be Rattlers at some point during 2012.

It’s just that some guys are really young, some guys don’t have much pro experience, and some guys don’t have a spot to play based on several factors.  I am making it sound simpler than it is.  Decisions aren’t easy and the Brewers front office people in charge of the minor leagues will put a lot of thought into who goes where over the next nine or ten days.  It’s not a job that I would want.

Friday’s game started with Gagnon striking out the first two batters, but a homer, a dropped foul pop, and a double put the Loons in line for a crooked number.  Then, Gagnon calmly struck out the final batter.

Andrew Gagnon on the hill.

The bottom of the first was when the day took a decided turn.

Arcia was hit by a pitch.  Believe it or not, I actually caught the pitch on its way at the 17-year old.

Arcia is about to get hit.

Then, with two outs and Arcia at second, Nick Ramirez swung at a 3-0 pitch.  He had a good swing, but fouled it back.  It was a swing like any of the hundreds that Ramirez has taken this Spring.  No one thought anything about it.  Ramirez, a top pick in the 2011 draft, has been stinging the ball of late and seemed primed to start the season with the Rattlers.

He stepped back into the box to await the next pitch.  Then, he called time.  He stepped in again.  Then, called time again and started walking off the field towards the Rattlers dugout.  Paxson met him halfway there and Ramirez pointed to his right hand.  I didn’t see Nick or Pax the rest of the day, but Ramirez did update his twitter account:

Well mental toughness comes into play now. Gotta stay strong

Read into that what you will.

Greg Hopkins, who was scheduled to come in later in the ballgame, grabbed a helmet and a bat and smacked the first pitch he saw into left-center for an RBI double to tie the game.

A two out rally from Ozuna (Bloop double) and Berard (broken bat single) in the second inning put the Rattlers up 2-1.  Here is Ozuna scoring the run with Adrian Williams directing traffic.

Ozuna scores a run.

Gagnon would allow a run in the top of the third, but Tyler Roberts threw out a would be base stealer to stop the Great Lakes rally.  I had Gagnon at: 3IP, 4H, 2R, BB, 4K.

Roberts is in a great mood.  You can tell that he was disappointed in the way last season turned out for him and that he wants to have a better year this year.  Later in the game, he drew a walk and went from first to third on a single to right.  I kidded him a bit about his performance and tossed in  “AND you threw a guy out at second!” He just said, “I could always do that last year.”

The Rattlers padded the lead with runs in the fourth and fifth as Drew Moye worked a couple of scoreless innings.

Andy Moye on the hill.

Moye did allow a run in the sixth, but pitched well over his three innings.  But, in Spring Training the instruction never ends:

Instruction never stops at this time of the year.

That’s Moye talking with Lee Tunnel, the Brewers Minor League Pitching Coordinator, and Dave Chavarria, the Timber Rattlers pitching Coach, after his work on the field.  Moye also worked three innings.  He allowed a run on one hit with a hit batsman and two strikeouts.

It was about the time that I took this picture that I heard about another injury.  Max Walla, a name that is frequently heard in discussions about Brewers prospects, was apparently hurt while trying to make a diving catch in the Brevard County game on Diamond #4.  Walla hit a home run in the Rising Stars Game at Miller Park last year.  I hope that he is going to be okay.

But, hope is such a dumb thing to have.

Just as I was finishing up this post, Mike Walla sent me a tweet.  Short story, Max is out for four weeks. Damn.

Let’s try this again.  I hope that Max Walla AND Nick Ramirez recover fully to return to play baseball ASAP.

Back in the Wisconsin game: The Rattlers blew the game open with four runs in the bottom of the sixth thanks to an odd play.  Wisconsin had the bases loaded and no outs and Gant Elmore at the plate.  Elmore sent a ground ball to short and it looked like a 6-4-3 double play.  But, Chad Stang, the runner at second was hit by the ball before it reached the Loons shortstop.  As Stang happily pointed out back at the dugout, that was the best case scenario. Not only did it keep the bases loaded and erase the double play, it also gave Elmore a base hit.  Canadians.

John Dishon cashed in the opportunity with a three-run double.

The Rattlers put the game away with scoreless innings from Seth Harvey (0 hits, 1K), Kevin Shackelford (1H, 0K), & Jacob Barnes (0H, K).

Seth Harvey (L) warms up in the bullpen before entering Friday's game. Tom Keeling (R) gets ready to go into the Brevard County game.

I did get a shot of the Rattlers dugout in the late stages of the game:

Where's Don?

If you enlarge that picture, should be able to find former Brewer Don Money.  He stopped down at my end of the dugout to chat for a bit.  I asked him if he would be in Appleton in his new role as a roving instructor.  He said that he would so, mark down that homestand against Burlington and Kane County from May 16-21 for Don Money at Time Warner Cable Field.  Keep in mind, he may be a little busy.

I like this shot.  Something about the score…even if it is a Spring Training Game:


I just like this shot, too.  Something about the mountains in the background

Baseball in Arizona definitely has its moments.

Tomorrow is another full day for the Timber Rattlers work group.  A 9am workout and a trip to Tempe to face the Cedar Rapids Kernels work group.

And I can’t wait for it to get here.

Before ending this, a word from our sponsors.  If you have enjoyed these articles, please consider coming out to a Timber Rattlers game at Time Warner Cable Field this season.  You may purchase tickets online right here.  Or, if you wish, stop by the Ticket Office or give them a call at (800) WI-TIMBER or (920) 733-4152.  Tell them about getting the idea from Mehring on Rattler Radio.  It might shock them a bit.

Thank you.

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.

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