Rick's attempt to be in the C's record books was just one of many Opening Day headlines around Nat Bailey Stadium, which included passport issues, contract glitches, and a number of returning players from the 2007 Vancouver Canadians.
The biggest headline around 'The Nat' Tuesday evening was Jeremy Barfield. The son of Toronto Blue Jay great Jesse Barfield, the youngest Barfield was ready to start his professional career on Opening Night, and was in the starting lineup, set to play the field. Well, he didn't.
A glitch in the young man's contract appeared just 30 minutes before game time, so he was forced to sit out game one of the season. That didn't, however, change the fact he was interviewed by almost every media outlet that covers the C's by the end of the first five game series of the season.
A number of players, who are newly drafted, were set to play for the C's this week, but there was just one problem. Half of them didn't have passports, and Vancouver is located in Canada. Uh-oh. Some 2008 draft picks had to sit out until they received a passport, and some are still not on their way to Nat Bailey.
Opening Night was one Inoel Deaza, and the C's, would most certainly like to forget. Offensively, there were two stars. One was Lorenzo 'Zorro' Macias, who had the first hit of the '08 season, and the other being Jareck West who was outstanding at the dish. 'Wild Wild' West was 2-3 with a pair of doubles, a walk and the C's lone RBI of the night.
On the hill, Vancouver tested Ronny Morla against Juan Nicasio of the Dust Devils, but it was the visitors that prevailed. Morla threw five innings of one-run baseball before he was relieved by Deaza. Deaza, facing Josh Banda as his first batter of the year, threw a high fastball that Banda crushed over the centerfield wall, a three-run shot (Deaza inherited two runners), and it was suddenly 4-0 for Tri-City. Two batters later, Deaza then proceeded to give up another long bomb, this time to Radames Nazario. 5-0 for the Dust Devils by this point.
Deaza was relieved after only one inning by Edgar Tejeda, who, in three innings, didn't give up a hit, struck out eight of the 10 batters he faced, and only a hit batter ruined his perfect outing.
The C's managed a run in the 9th, on a Jareck West RBI to bring in Dan Wentzell, but that's all they could manage, as they fell short, 5-1, in their first game of the year.
The next night was a phenomenal pitchers duel. For Vancouver it was Pedro Figueroa, who went five innings, giving up three hits, two walks and striking out six, while for the opponents, Kenneth Durst threw 5.2 innings of two-hit, one-run baseball, striking out nine Vancouver Canadians.
Vancouver managed just three hits all game, all of which were doubles. J.D. Pruitt, who scored the only run of the game, Mitch LeVier and Jareck West, with the lone RBI, all had the hits.
After Figgy was done pitching, Fabian Gomez came in and pitched excellently. In two innings, he gave up a hit and two walks, but picked-off two Tri-City runners. The only disappointing thing about his outing was when he was struck in the knee with a line drive. He was not allowed to pitch for the rest of the series because of that injury, which was a huge blow to the pitching staff, as he's the only LHP in the bullpen. Fabian ended up picking up the win.
Jose Guzman picked up the save, throwing two innings of perfect baseball, striking out four. The Canadians won 1-0, in a game that lasted only 2 hours and 30 minutes. In total, between the two teams, there were 20 strike-outs.
Thursday night was one of the poorest showings that I can remember from any minor league baseball team, and the stats showed that. Six errors were committed by the C's, and four of those six came from Carlos Arrieche and Julio Rivera. There were two errors on pickoffs that brought in a few runners, two throwing errors, a catcher's interference call and a fielding error by Walter Correa. If you ask me, that inexcusable.
Vancouver did manage six hits, but only one guy came around to score, and it happened to be when he ran over the catcher to do so, while the opposition of the Dust Devils had excellent pitching from the young Parker Frazier, and squeezed six runs off of SP Ryne Tacker of the C's.
Offensively, there was no star. Jareck West improved his average to .400, but that was it. On the mound, aside from Tacker's so-so performance, Chad Lee pitched an inning of scoreless baseball, despite loading the bases, and Juan Villegas hurled 2.1 innings, giving up three hits, two unearned runs and striking-out three.
Inoel Deaza looked to regain himself from a dismal Tuesday night, and got two quick outs, including a strikeout, to end the top of the 9th.
The C's were looking to rebound from that poor Thursday performance in an afternoon game Friday. Well, they didn't.
Defensively there were three errors (two of which were from Julio Rivera, putting his season total at four) and the C's gave up 11 hits. On the mound, SP Carlos Hernandez was phenomenal. His breaking ball was sure breaking, and his fastball was confusing the heck out of the Dust Devil hitters. He lasted six innings, giving up six hits, two runs and a walk while striking out six.
His three relievers, Edgar Tejeda, Shawn Haviland and Jose Guzman didn't do poorly, as they gave up five hits, two unearned runs, a walk and together struck out four.
On offense, there was definitely an improvement over the first three games, but not a big one, when it came to clutch hitting. J.D. Pruitt legged out a triple in his first at-bat of the game, while Jareck West and Marcos Luis each had an RBI (of the C's three runs, one was unearned). Juan Nunez was spectacular, going 2-2 before getting pulled for a pinch-runner.
By the end of the game, the C's had a chance to win it. Walter Correa walked to open the 9th inning, with the C's down by two runs. Then Dan Wentzell struck out. That was followed by a Jeremy Barfield single, and runners were on first and second with one-out. Correa scored on an infield single by Marcos Luis, leaving runners on first and second, with one out and the C's down by one. Up comes Julio Rivera to the plate, and what does he do? Strike-out on a very high swinging strike. Two gone, Mitchell LeVier at the dish, and he does the same thing. A disappointing way to end the game, for sure.
The finale of the five-game set was Saturday night, and featured spectacular pitching - up until the 9th inning.
Jason Christian was 2-3 with a walk, while teammate Jeremy Barfield was 1-4 with a run. Juan Nunez was one strikeout away from the Golden Sombrero, striking out in all three of his at-bats, lowering his average to .250.
Defensively, however, the C's were still not as sound as they should have been. Carlos Arrieche picked up his third error of the year, on a terrible throw, while Jason Christian had a fielding error, his first as a pro.
The pitching, was pretty sound all game. The hard throwing Hector Garcia was hitting 95 MPH pretty consistently all night, and in six innings gave up just five hits, three runs (two unearned), three walks and K'd two batters. He picked up the loss, after Brent Lysander pitched three innings, giving up four runs in the 9th inning.
Tri City won the series 4-1, and Vancouver's record stood at 1-4 heading on the road, to Yakima, Washington.
The C's first game on the road was one they should have easily won. Up 5-1 in the 6th, relievers Fabian Gomez and Edgar Tejeda gave up five runs, with Vancouver only picking up one more run before the 9th inning, leaving the game in a tie going into the 9th.
Well? It just wasn't meant to be. Yakima slugger Anthony Smith hit a walk-off shot off of Juan Villegas, and Yakima took the game 7-6. It was a good game for the C's offensively, after a slow start.
Ryne Jernigan and Rodney Rutherford, both in their first game for the C's, combined to go 0-8, striking out three times. Jason Christian was 2-3 with a triple, a walk and two runs scored, while Walter Correa drove in a run and went 2-3 at the dish with a pair of runs along with a walk. Jeremy Barfield also had two hits, going 2-4 with a double and two RBI. The killer offensively was Mitch 'No-Fear' LeVier, who was 1-5 picking up the Golden Sombrero, with four strikeouts on the night.
There was only one error defensively, committed by Jason Christian for back-to-back nights with errors, and the starting pitching was very good.
Ronny Morla went five innings, giving up eight hits and only one run. He struck out five, improving his ERA to 3.60. Fabian Gomez gave up three runs (two earned) while Edgar Tejeda, picking up the blown save, gave up two runs, including the tying one. Both runs were off of a Colin Cowgill (a former unsigned A's pick from 2007) homerun in the 8th.
And, of course, Anthony Smith's walk-off shot facing Juan Villegas, which ended the game, and brought the C's record to a dismal 1-5.
This team, however, is one that perseveres. On Monday night, they re-focused, and bet the Bears 4-3 for a come-back win on the road. Their record went up to 2-5 and with every other Western Division team losing, they gained a game on each team, sitting two games back.
The team was down 3-2 in the 8th on Monday, but two walks and a sacrifice bunt put runners on early before a single and a ground out brought in both J.D. Pruitt and Jason Christian, giving Vancouver the lead. They would hold on, taking it 4-3.
Pruitt was reminiscent of his 2007 self, taking three walks to go along with his one HBP. Walter Correa was the key offensively on Monday, hitting a towering shot to left-field in the 4th inning, which gave the C's an early 2-0 lead. Ryne Jernigan, in just his second game, helped the ballclub, going 1-2 with a pair of walks and an RBI.
On the hill, Pedro Figueroa pitched a very solid six innings, giving up just two runs and two hits, carrying a no-hitter into the 6th. He struck-out an astonishing nine batters in his second appearance during his second year with the C's. His ERA is at 1.64.
Figueroa's relievers weren't much worse on Monday. Trey Barham, in his first pro game, went an inning, giving up two hits and a run. Shawn Haviland pitched a perfect 8th, before Jose Guzman came in for the save in the 9th, giving up a hit and striking out two.
The best part of the night? Vancouver committed no errors!!
After playing the final three games of the Yakima series, which concludes Thursday night, Vancouver will board a bus home and play six game homestand against the Eugene Emeralds and Everett Aquasox.
Jeremy Knight is known as Canada's wonderkid of sports reporting. He covers CFL football, college baseball and minor league hockey for The Roadkill Sports Blog, and pro baseball for Notes From The Nat and Scout.com.