Sacramento River Cats Notebook: Home Opener

SACRAMENTO - The weather in Sacramento was perfect for baseball and River Cats' fans turned out in droves for the teams' home opener. The Las Vegas 51s brought their young, star-studded lineup with them to battle a veteran River Cats team. Paul Rathert has the report from Raley Field in Sacramento.

The 51s' lineup features top prospects Willy Aybar, Joel Guzman, Delwyn (not to be confused with Delmon) Young, and former A's farmhand Andre Ethier who was sent to the Dodgers in the off-season trade that brought Milton Bradley and Antonio Perez to Oakland.

Taking the mound for the River Cats was Shane Komine. He came into the game with a 1-0 record and an ERA of 3.00. Komine set the 51s down in order in the first, but that would prove to be his only 1-2-3 inning of the game. He got early run support when his counterpart on the mound, William Juarez, gave up a solo home run to leftfielder Doug Clark to lead off the top of the first. Komine then gave up a game-tying solo homer to start the second inning to talented first baseman Joel Guzman.

The game would continue to go back and forth as Clark would hit his second home run of the day and third of the season to lead off the bottom of the third inning to give the River Cats a 2-1 lead. The 51s would fight back in the fourth, as Ethier began the inning with a single and moved to second on a Guzman fielder's choice. Young drove Ethier in with a double after working a full count, then advanced to third himself when designated hitter Nick Alvarez singled to center.

Young was held at third because of center fielder Charles Thomas' strong arm and it was a wise decision as he easily would've been gunned down. Komine then made a double pick-off move with runners on first and third and got Alvarez in a run-down before applying the tag himself at first. Young could not advance as the River Cats played it perfectly, looking him back to third after each exchange. Komine has picked off three runners this season already. He induced grounder to Oscar Robles to end the threat, but the game was tied 2-2.

Back-to-back doubles by catcher Edwin Bellorin and Jon Weber in the top of the fifth gave the 51s a 3-2 lead. Komine struck out Aybar and got Ethier to ground to Mike Rouse at short to end the inning and keep the deficit at one run. Komine was pulled with one out in the sixth after allowing a single to Young. Reliever Victor Moreno came in and induced a 6-4-3 double play with his first pitch. Moreno was extremely effective in 1.2 innings of work. He threw seven pitches, all strikes, and recorded five outs.

The River Cats fought back in the bottom half of the inning, as third baseman Scott McClain singled to left to lead off. First baseman Daric Barton worked a 3-1 count before doubling down the left field line on a perfect inside-out swing. DH Brian Stavisky then had an RBI ground out and Thomas drove in Barton with a single to left. Thomas would take second on a passed ball and advance to third on a John Baker fly out to left. Rouse would ground out to second to end the inning, stranding Thomas at third.

Ron Flores relieved Moreno and struck out two. Ethier then singled to right. Guzman was up again with a chance to give the 51s the lead with one swing. Thomas made an excellent running/diving catch, laying out to haul-in a weak shallow fly ball. Thomas' defense continues to be impressive and his bat is following suit. He is hitting .333 with eight singles in 24 at-bats.

Santiago Casilla came in to nail things shut in the top of the ninth and was going along fine after retiring the first two batters. Then it seemed he either was missing by very little, or he was getting squeezed as he issued a four-pitch walk to Oscar Robles. All of the pitches were borderline. Wilson Valdez then singled and Robles advanced to third. Edwin Bellorin then went to 1-2 before swinging at a down and away slider to end the game.

51s Standout- Guzman homered, but it was his only hit in four at bats. Ethier went 2-for-4 in the place he likely would've begun the year had he stayed with the A's. He's hitting .414 on the season. He doesn't have a homer yet, but he may fix that problem this weekend.

River Cats Standout- Doug Clark went 2-4 with two homers and a great catch in left on a drive off the bat of Young after Guzman homered in the second.

Play of the game- Charles Thomas catch to end the eighth was just another in Thomas' line of highlight reel defensive plays. If he continues to hit well all year, he'll be primed for a promotion into the Oakland outfield rotation next season.

Scouting Report- Komine was impressive, but he couldn't consistently keep his changeup down in the zone. In watching him, it's easy to see why hitters feel uneasy in the box when he's on the mound. His fastball/change combo throws off their timing and they end up behind the fastball or in front of the change. His curveball is thrown with unfailing break and he can throw it for strikes or as an out pitch, dropping it out of the zone.

The questions about his durability should be rendered moot because of his easy delivery. He finishes towards home plate and can reach back for an extra 1-2 MPH on his fastball when he needs to. It appears that he throws a 2-seam fastball as well as there were times when his fastball would be straight and other times where it had some late break in on righties. With the exception of the occasional high change-up, he exhibited good control all night, walking none and finishing with 64 strikes in 92 total pitches. He's also an alert, nimble fielder with a good pick off move.

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