Sunday's (1-25) Baseball Practice Notes

Today's intrasquad game marked the final tune-up for four key pitchers before the opening series this weekend. Read about how all four fared in this latest update from Sunken Diamond. In addition, two middle infielders starred at the plate today as the Cardinal batting order becomes more into focus.

Sunday marked the first day of the final set of intrasquad games.  The team will play games on Monday and Tuesday of this week before the season opener on Friday night versus Cal State Fullerton.  Today's contest featured real umpires for the first time this season (as opposed to a coach calling balls and strikes from behind the pitcher's mound).  The game lasted a total of 6 1/2 innings, with Team A defeating Team B by a 6-3 score.

Team A
1. Brian Hall, RF
2. Jonny Ash, 3B
3. Danny Putnam, LF
4. Jed Lowrie, SS/2B
5. Donny Lucy, C
6. Chris Minaker, 2B/SS
7. Jim Rapoport, CF
8. Ben Summerhays, 1B

Team B
1. Sam Fuld, CF
2. Adam Sorgi, SS
3. John Mayberry, Jr., 1B
4. Chris Carter, LF
5. John Hester, C
6. Chris Lewis, 2B
7. Ryan Seawell, RF
8. Josh Corn, DH
9. Joe Ayers, 3B

Jeff Gilmore and Mark Romanczuk were the two starting pitchers while Kodiak Quick and Matt Leva also saw time on the hill.  Team A struck for two runs against Gilmore in their first at-bat.  Hall started off by reaching safely on a Sorgi fielding error.  Ash then ripped a single in between first and second to put two runners on.  Gilmore bore down against Putnam though and got the slugging outfielder to fly out to shallow center field.  But then Jed Lowrie stepped to the plate and cracked a triple off the wall in left center field to score both runs.  If anyone out there is not a Jed Lowrie believer yet, then jump on the bandwagon before it gets too full.  I've been absolutely amazed at how good a hitter he has become.  He certainly is stronger which has helped, but he now reads pitches so much better.  And when he does make an out, he's visibly frustrated at himself - he now expects to get a hit every time up.  Just the fact that he's batting fourth in today's game should tell you the coaching staff is a firm believer in Mr. Lowrie's skills.  I would expect Jed to hit either fifth or sixth in the Cardinal batting order.

Getting back to the game, after the Lowrie triple, Gilmore settled down to strike out Lucy and induce Minaker to ground out to end the frame.

Romanczuk's first inning wasn't an easier.  Facing the same group of hitters, Romanczuk got Rapoport to fly out to center to begin the inning.  After Summerhays walked, Hall blasted a deep home run over wall in left field.  Hall also homered off Romanczuk during fall ball and generally hits lefties better than righties.  Expect Hall to hit second in the lineup against left handed pitching, but probably drop down against a right hander (with Ash moving up to the second slot).

Like Gilmore, Romanczuk settled down after the big hit as Ash flied out and Putnam struck out looking to end the inning.

Gilmore breezed through his next two innings again showing signs that he'd be a capable starter if Coach Marquess decides to use him in that role.  Gilmore struck out Fuld looking on a beautiful back-door breaking ball.  In his fourth and final inning of work, Gilmore struck out Carter swinging to start things off.  After Hester singled to left, Lewis stepped up and crushed a no-doubt-about-it home run to left field.  A very impressive at-bat by Lewis as he fought off some tough two strike pitches and was brushed back with a high-and-inside fastball before hitting the homer.  It was Lewis' second home run of the preseason - not bad from a projected #9 hitter. 

That ended Gilmore's afternoon as he was officially charged with three earned runs.  He didn't walk anybody while striking out three.  Gilmore was the top pitcher of fall ball and he followed that up nicely here in the preseason.  In his four appearances totaling 13 2/3 innings, Gilmore had a 3.95 ERA, only one walk and 11 strikeouts.  I would not be surprised if he gets the call to start on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Romanczuk was pulled after two innings of work today as the coaching staff doesn't want to over-extend him just five days before opening night.  Romanczuk wasn't as sharp today leaving too many fastballs up in the zone, but his breaking stuff was certainly moving.  I've said it a ton of times, but the thing you have to watch with Romanczuk is his control.  Some wildness is okay as it can keep the hitters off balance, but if he wants to be a successful #1 starter and take his game to the next level, the control has got to be there for him every time out.  In his four outings this preseason, Romanczuk compiled a 4.05 ERA (13.1 IP/6 ER) with six walks and 12 strikeouts.

Kody Quick had another stellar effort this afternoon.  After not pitching this fall, the rust definitely showed in Quick's first appearance of the preseason.  But his last three outings have been nothing short of spectacular.  Today, Quick fired 3 2/3 scoreless innings with just two hits allowed, one walk, and one strikeout.  Like Romanczuk, Quick can sometimes have a tendency to walk people, but he's been on his game of late.  Everything Quick throws up there has movement on it and it just makes for some uncomfortable at-bats for the opposition.  In 14 innings this preseason, opposing batters hit a paltry .152 versus Quick.  Every time he steps on the mound, Quick has the ability to dominate and is someone that should be successful one time through the order (at least) as a late inning reliever.  Expect to see #28 in the game during the eighth and ninth innings of close games this year.

Leva is just a freshman, but was a pleasant surprise this fall and he's continued that success here in the preseason.  In four innings of work today, Leva surrendered only one run on three hits.  He walked one and struck out one.  I especially like Leva's breaking stuff as he can spot it nicely and it does a good job of keeping the hitters guessing.  Leva should see plenty of action this year and with him and Quick getting four full days of rest before Friday's opener, they are the most likely candidates, in my opinion, to pitch out of the bullpen in the first game.

Notes:
* Lowrie was the star hitter for Team A this afternoon with a 2-for-4 game.  In addition to the triple already mentioned, he smacked a double to deep right center off Gilmore.

* Other strong performances from Team A members included Hall (the big two-run homer off Romanczuk) and Putnam (a triple off the wall in right versus Quick).

* Over on Team B, Lewis was the most impressive hitter.  In addition to his homer, Lewis also doubled off Leva in finishing the day 2-for-4.

* Lucy showed last year and also in practice this season that he hits left handers very well.  If you recall, during the final month of last year, Lucy started at DH and hit fifth in the order against left handed starting pitching.  He's been one of the few to hit Romanczuk well in practice, so I expect Lucy to continue to hit in the middle of the order when a lefty starts.  He will certainly drop down against a righty (while Carter would move up).

* Speaking of Lucy, I've been impressed with the leadership he's displayed from behind the dish.  He looks to be the guy on the infield that will be most vocal.

* Rapoport is seeing extensive work on the base paths during intrasquad games.  He's also being called upon to pinch run and steal bases whenever possible.  And whenever he's on second base, Coach Marquess will call for numerous pickoff attempts by the pitcher to keep him on his toes.  I think it's safe to say that we'll see Jim Rapoport pinch running for someone this weekend.

* Hester is really coming along nicely both as a hitter and a defensive catcher.  He can hit for power, and has been lining the ball all over the field the past couple of weeks.  I don't think Lucy is going anywhere because he's a good hitter and a tremendous defensive player, but Hester is providing plenty of competition in practice.  Hester will get some starts this year (mostly at DH, I would imagine) and he'll be a key pinch hitter off the bench.  The future looks very bright for the catching position at Stanford.

* Continuing with the catching theme, freshman Josh Corn has been red-hot at the plate the past week.  Corn reminds me of Ryan Garko with his similar body type and the fact he won't win any foot races anytime soon.  And like Garko did early in his career, Corn needs work on the defensive aspects of his game.  But man, the kid can certainly hit.  This is a very deep position for Stanford this season.

* Monday's intrasquad game will be highlighted by Matt Manship and David O'Hagan as the two experienced hurlers make their final appearances of the preseason.

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