BRADENTON, FL - The Yankees unleashed a high octane offense against the Pirates in Instructional League action on Thursday, powered by Miguel Andujar in particular, en route to a 9-3 victory that also showcased some impressive pitching performances as well.
Miguel Andujar was using the entire field on Thursday. He began the day with a hard-hit RBI single to centerfield in his first at-bat, hit a towering solo home run to left field in his second plate appearance, and singled to right field in his third and final at-bat in a perfect 3-3 performance. Not only did he drive in two runs and score two runs, he also made two very good defensive plays, one of which was stabbing a grounder down the line on a nice back-hand play and throwing a seed to first to get the runner out, and the other was on a slow-roller play on a swinging bunt. He was totally locked in.
Towering 6-foot-7 Domingo Acevedo got the starting nod for the Yankees and quickly created a buzz among the scouts in attendance. He sat 95 mph with his fastball and topped out at 98 mph a few times, showed his normal plus changeup in the 85-87 mph range, and even flashed a plus slider in spots. He surrendered a run on two hits [one of which was an infield single] and a walk in a shaky first inning, but settled down to retire the next six batters he faced, striking out four in his three innings of work. When he was commanding the slider -- the pitch he was noticeably working on -- he was unhittable.
Yankee Starting Lineup: Mason Williams, Cito Culver, Miguel Andujar, Michael O'Neill, Tyler Wade, Ty McFarland, Nathan Mikolas, Vincent Conde, Chris Breen, and Trent Garrison.
While Andujar's round-tripper was impressive, it wasn't nearly as impressive as the titanic three-run home that Michael O'Neill hit in the first inning to drive home Andujar and Cito Culver [0-4, run]. He went 0-2 with a walk, a stolen base, and another run scored in his final three plate appearances, and he also had a great defensive play in right field. After a ball was singled to him, a Pirate runner tried to advance from first to third and O'Neill one-hopped an incredible throw to Andujar at third to gun down the runner.
The Yankees signed a ton of International free agent position players this season and they have been the ones getting the majority of the ink in the press, but right-hander Alexander Vargas is a name that should not be forgotten. The 17-year old was very impressive in Thursday's game, sitting mostly 91-92 mph, and showing an advanced feel for both a breaking ball and a changeup that appear to have long-term above average potential. He retired the first four batters he faced before allowing a walk and hit, but was the beneficiary of O'Neill's great throw to third and caught stealing by catcher Trenton Garrison. He looked very poised for such a youngster.
Like Andujar, the Pirates were unable to retire first baseman Chris Breen. He drove home Vincent Conde [0-0, BB, HBP, 2 runs] two different times in successive at-bats from first base with booming RBI doubles to left field in his first two plate appearances. He also singled sharply to centerfield in his third and final at-bat.
As has been the case with left-hander Rony Bautista over the years, the stuff was a lot more impressive than the actual results. He wound up surrendering two of the three runs allowed on Thursday on three straight hits despite striking out two of the first three batters he faced with plus changeups, a plus slider, and a fastball that was sitting 93 mph and hitting 96 mph. He didn't even finish his scheduled one inning of work before the inning was cut short since he reached his pitch limit.
Outfielder Mason Williams [2-3, run, RBI, BB] had a very good day at the plate. He hit the ball hard three times he came to the plate, including a hot-shot single to center, a line-drive triple down the right field line, and even grounded out sharply.
Tyler Wade [2-4, 2B] also looked very good at the plate and in the field. Playing second base, he had a very nice diving play to his right to rob a would-be single to right. And outfielder Dustin Fowler [0-1], who came off of the bench late in the game, had an O'Neill-like defensive play of his own. Playing centerfield, he gunned down a runner at the plate on a one-hopper to the catcher.
As good as Acevedo and Vargas were on the mound, right-hander Anyelo Gomez was arguably even more impressive on Thursday. Sitting 92-94 mph and topping out at 96 mph, he filled the zone with strike after strike and even boasted a plus curveball in the 80-82 mph range. He retired all four batters he faced, one via the strikeout, and did it in extremely quick fashion.