Rangers Minor League Notes (3/26)

SURPRISE, Ariz. - The Bakersifeld Blaze won Friday's game, 5-4, on the back of a Robbie Alcombrack grand slam. Lone Star Dugout has notes and observations from another day of back-field action.

Bakersfield Blaze 5 – High Desert Mavericks 4

1. Cody Podraza, DH (1/4, K)
2. Jason Ogata, LF (2/4, 2B, 2 K)
3. Miguel Velazquez, DH (1/3, K)
4. Michael Ortiz, 1B (0/2)
5. Leonel De Los Santos, C/DH (0/2, BB)
6. Ed Koncel, 3B (0/2, 2 K, HBP)
7. Guillermo Pimentel, RF (0/4, 2 K)
8. Edwin Garcia, SS (2/4)
9. Joe Bonadonna, CF (1/3, K, BB)
10. Travis Adair, 2B (1/4, 2B, K, RBI)

Clark Murphy, 1B (1/2)
Robbie Alcombrack, C (1/2, HR, 4 RBI)
Danny Lima, 3B (0/1, K)

• Extremely windy conditions and a high sky made Friday's contest a little interesting, to say the least. Not only was every fly ball an adventure, but the wind was blowing hard and straight out to centerfield–right in the pitcher's face.

• While the Blaze collected 10 hits on Friday, four of them were of the infield variety–only six of the base hits reached the outfield. They were held in check by a stable of Mariners pitchers that featured average velocity with excellent command and natural movement.

• Bakersfield won on the back of one big swing of the bat–the mammoth grand slam Robbie Alcombrack blasted on the first pitch he saw after entering the game in the bottom of the sixth inning. The ball was crushed to left-center field and got out of the park in a hurry.

While Alcombrack batted just .246 for Traverse City of the independent Frontier League last season, he did show quite a bit of pop, blasting 10 doubles, a triple, and 10 home runs in only 183 at-bats.

• Cleanup-hitting first baseman Michael Ortiz, who has generated plenty of positive buzz with his bat this camp, dropped a high infield popup that got caught in the wind early in the game. Ortiz stood flat-footed while waiting for the ball to come down, and that is a major no-no. After he exited the game in the middle innings, he went to a back field and took infield popups out of a pitching machine for between 30 to 45 minutes.

• Travis Adair may not be the toolsiest player in the world, but he looks like an excellent baseball player. The infielder consistently puts together great at-bats. He hit a fly ball down the right field line for an RBI double on Friday, but he also had two excellent at-bats, working full counts in both. Although Adair struck out in the bottom of the ninth, he took an 0-2 count and brought it all the way back to 3-2 before going down.

• Outfielder Guillermo Pimentel is struggling with pitch recognition, especially against the more advanced High-A hurlers. Pitchers began mixing up their stuff in Pimentel's later at-bats, and he appeared fooled with every swing. He was behind fastballs and swinging wildly at breaking pitches. He was 0-for-4 with two swinging strikeouts and two weak groundouts.

• Shortstop Edwin Garcia was one of the more impressive hitters in the game. He grounded a sharp single through the middle for a base hit in his first at-bat, reached on an E5 his second time up, and chopped an infield single to shortstop late in the game.

Michael Kirkman: 3 ip, 1 h, 2 r, 1 bb, 3 k (50 pitches – 33 strikes)
Carlos Pimentel: 2 ip, 0 h, 0 r, 1 bb, 3 k
Kyle Ocampo: 1 ip, 0 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 0 k (11 pitches – 7 strikes)
Willie Eyre: 3 ip, 5 h, 2 r, 1 bb, 3 k (47 pitches – 29 strikes)

• As opening day continues to creep closer, we're now seeing fewer pitchers per game. Michael Kirkman began his spring in big league camp as a reliever, but he is now being stretched back into a starter in minor league games.

• Kirkman was fairly sharp, but he was also throwing too many pitches, particularly for an upper-level pitcher working a High-A game. The southpaw had excellent velocity and movement on all his stuff, but the Mariners were fouling off a lot of pitches and hanging tough.

Because Seattle had a lefty-heavy lineup, Kirkman was able to use his sharp low-80s slider effectively, and he didn't go to the curveball or changeup very often. Kirkman threw his slider 10 times [seven strikes], getting three swinging strikes, two called strikes, and two foul balls. The pitch should be a plus offering down the line, and it could be even more lethal with a ticked-up fastball in short relief stints.

Kirkman also had strong velocity during his three innings, sitting in the 91-93 mph range. He busted out the new two-seam fastball and cutter at times, and both pitches showed solid movement. With a four-seamer, a two-seamer, a cutter, a curveball, a slider and a changeup, the 23-year-old has perhaps the deepest repertoire in the Rangers' system.

• Carlos Pimentel still isn't the flashiest pitcher in camp, but he is improving a bit with each year. Last season, it was his changeup that took major steps forward. This season, it appears to be his fastball, which is about a tick harder and heavier with more late life.

When the Dominican Republic native would dial it up into the low-90s last season, his fastball had a tendency to straighten out, as he was overthrowing it a bit. But in the 86-90 mph range, he was able to get a bit more natural movement and keep it down in the zone.

In Friday's contest, Pimentel worked between 90-91 mph [touching 92] with heavy run. The pitcher was sharp, aside from one at-bat in which he walked the hitter on four pitches. The righty got three strikeouts in the two innings, mixing in both his changeup and curveball effectively. Pimentel's changeup is one of the best of its kind in the organization, and an improved fastball is only going to make it play up a bit more.

• Kyle Ocampo's velocity was down a touch on Friday, but you wouldn't be able to tell judging by results. The Riverside, Calif., native tossed an 11-pitch inning, getting a slow groundout to short and two flyouts. His fastball has plenty of armside run into right-handed hitters, allowing him to tie hitters up. Ocampo threw 10 fastballs and one slider–registering at 78 mph–in the outing.

• Right-hander Willie Eyre worked the final three innings of the game. At times during the appearance, he looked like a big leaguer going up against minor league players. At others–when he was hanging pitches up in the zone–he was getting knocked around the yard.

Eyre's changeup is a plus pitch–it has great deception and movement away from left-handed hitters. However, his fastball sat belt-high for most of the outing, and he was unable to consistently throw his curveball [or downer slider] effectively.

Eyre hung breaking balls to the first two hitters he faced, leading to a pair of long home runs. He surrendered the other three hits on fastballs that stayed up in the zone. Eyre's three strikeouts game on two changeups [both swinging] and one heater [looking].

There is no doubt that Eyre has big league stuff, but it's the consistency that he needs. When he doesn't hang the curveball, it is an excellent pitch with swing-and-miss potential. His low-90s fastball isn't particularly overpowering, but it does just fine if he is commanding two excellent offspeed pitches.

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