Wednesday's (10-15) Baseball Practice Notes

The second set of intrasquad games has begun out at Sunken Diamond. Today's contest featured the two sophomore pitchers expected to lead the pitching staff and two freshman hurlers looking to establish themselves. Their mission today was not an easy one though as they went up against their position player teammates now on a level playing field. Here is a complete report.

The intrasquad games were taken up a notch this afternoon out at Sunken Diamond.  The pitchers can now throw breaking balls to opposing hitters (along with fastballs and change-ups).  Instead of a strict ten-pitch per inning limit, no matter how many outs the pitcher had recorded, each hurler is now staying out on the mound until that third and final out is in the books (only exception is if their pitch count is getting very high as in upwards of 20 pitches).  And finally, each hitter is now starting with the standard 0-and-0 count which makes these games much more realistic.

Today's contest was set up as follows.  The 20 position players were broken up into three separate groups, two groups of seven and one group of six.  Two of the three groups saw live pitching today while the third group only played in the field in addition to spending time in the batting cages.  When one group was hitting, the other two were in the field or in the cages.   As a team, it's looking like the hitters are really starting to find their groove, now that they've seen live pitching a few days in a row.

White Team:
1. Jim Rapoport
2. Jonny Ash
3. Jed Lowrie
4. Donny Lucy
5. Ben Summerhays
6. Ryan Kissick
7. Zachary Gianos

The fact that Lowrie was batting third in the order shows that I'm not the only one who's been impressed with his hitting thus far.  Lowrie didn't disappoint today either as he stroked a line drive triple into the right center field gap in his first at-bat.  Rapoport struggled at the plate the last two days, but broke out with a 3-for-4 afternoon today.  None of his three hits were hit particularly hard, but they found holes and he's doing what good leadoff hitters do and that's get on base.  One of those three hits was a beautiful drag bunt on the first base side.  Ash's 1-for-5 game may not look all that impressive, but the senior infielder hit the ball very hard on numerous occasions today and is using all fields well.  Based on what Ash did last postseason and from what I'm seeing thus far from him in the fall, there's no doubt that he's becoming a very complete hitter.  He has yet to strikeout in five intrasquad games this year (after one K the entire postseason last year, if I'm not mistaken) and he's even added a little power to his game.

Red Team:
1. Brian Hall
2. Adam Sorgi
3. Danny Putnam
4. John Hester
5. Ryan Seawell
6. Joe Ayers

Some things to note from this starting lineup.  Sorgi is hitting in a very high spot which isn't surprising considering what he's shown with the bat thus far.  I continue to believe that, as of right now, Sorgi and Rapoport are the two freshman position players that will challenge for immediate playing time.  And while I believe Lowrie is the top fielding shortstop on this club, Sorgi is a close second.  In today's action, Sorgi finished 1-for-4 with a single to right.  Putnam had a big afternoon at the plate going 2-for-3 with a ringing double down the line in right and a single.  Hall also had two hits (2-for-4).  Finally, freshman Ryan Seawell had his first big game of the fall compiling two hits (both singles) in three at-bats.

Blue Team:
This team didn't get to hit today so I don't have a batting order.  The blue team includes Chris Minaker, Sam Fuld, Chris Lewis, Chris Carter, Josh Corn, John Mayberry, Jr., and Cameron Matthews.  Lewis, by the way, saw his first action in the outfield during intrasquad games today and made a diving catch going to his left on a Hall fly ball to right field.

So, who were these hitters facing this afternoon?  Sophomore Matt Manship and freshman Greg Reynolds were the two starting hurlers.  Manship was coming off a very solid outing in his fall debut on Saturday, but got off to a rocky start today.  In his first inning of work, Manship allowed a leadoff single to Rapoport.  After Ash grounded out, Lowrie hit his triple to right center to score a run, and then Lucy followed with a single to left to score another run.  It did look to me though that the hitters were just doing a good job of handling some tough pitches that Manship was throwing up there.  His breaking ball was moving and his change-up looked good, especially to left handed hitters.  Manship settled down in his final two innings as he allowed no runs on just one harmless single.  Manship didn't walk anybody while striking out one in his three innings of work.

Greg Reynolds had his second consecutive impressive outing of the fall.  Reynolds worked a scoreless first inning which was aided by a line drive double play off the bat of Lowrie.  In inning number two, Reynolds quickly picked up two outs, but a walk to Hall and consecutive singles from Sorgi and Putnam produced a run.  That's all the 6'7" righty would give up though as he got out of that inning and then worked a scoreless third frame to complete his outing.  One run on five hits allowed in total with two walks and three K's. 

While watching Reynolds, it's obvious that the guy has all the tools to be a very successful pitcher this season.  He had a few filthy breaking balls today and was spotting his fastball nicely, for the most part.  He also wasn't afraid to throw that breaking ball in any count.  Talking with various major league scouts at practice, many seem to think that he'll be the #3 starter on this team when it's all said and done.  Now, in my opinion, if the season started tomorrow the guy I would probably want at the #3 starting position would be senior David O'Hagan.  But like many observers at practice, you can't deny the fact that Reynolds has tremendous ability and an incredibly high ceiling.  Based on what I've seen so far (granted it's just two outings), Greg Reynolds will see a lot of action this year, very possibly in a starters role.

One other caveat of having Reynolds in the starting rotation, is that it will give the Cardinal an experienced bullpen.  I liken the O'Hagan situation this year to the Ryan McCally situation last year.  Both seniors, both have the ability to start or finish games, but neither was a starter in their first three years on The Farm.  Now this year (not talking next year or beyond when Reynolds could become a superstar), O'Hagan may be the better pitcher.  But there is something to be said for having one of your top hurlers in the game in the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings.  If Reynolds shows he can be at least a capable starter (and as the #3 starter you don't need to be dominating), I would not be the least bit surprised to see Coach Marquess give him a shot in the starting rotation very early in the season.

The other two pitchers that threw today were sophomore Mark Romanczuk and freshman Blake Holler.  Romanczuk probably put together the top pitching performance of the fall - certainly right up there with Gilmore's masterpiece on Monday.  Romanczuk pitched a total of 3 2/3 innings while allowing no runs on just two hits, one of which was the Rapoport bunt.  He didn't walk a single batter while picking up three K's.  He was able to use his curve today, and it was a dandy.  The freshman hitters, in particular, didn't have a prayer.  His change-up also looks improved.  I think this is a guy who's right on the cusp of stardom here at the collegiate level.  The edge today went to Romanczuk over Manship, but we'll examine the battle for the #1 starting spot at a later date.

Holler, meanwhile, had some difficulties today.  He looked fine in his first inning as he didn't allow a run, but then ran into some serious trouble in his second and third frames.  In that second inning, Holler gave up a hit (a Summerhays double to right), two walks, and a run.  He reached his pitch count limit with runners on first and second and one out, but was bailed out when Romanczuk came in and promptly induced Ash to ground into a 6-3 inning-ending double play.

In Holler's third inning, he surrendered a run on two hits with a walk mixed without retiring a batter.  He apparently then reached his pitch count limit for the afternoon, so the game ended.  Like Reynolds, the stuff is there for Holler, but the freshman southpaw hasn't been nearly as consistent as his classmate.  Holler isn't afraid to throw a lot of junk up to the plate and he certainly isn't overpowering.  He can sneak a fastball by you though after a couple of offspeed pitches.  I think the term, "crafty lefty" fits Holler well.  If he can harness all of his pitches, I see no reason why he won't be a contributor out of the bullpen this season.

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