TAMPA, FL - Both the Tampa Yankees and the Charleston RiverDogs fell in their respective games against the Phillies on Thursday but it didn't prevent shortstop Jorge Mateo from continuing to be absolutely electric in the batter's box and on the base paths.
Jorge Mateo went 2-4 for Charleston in their 6-2 loss to Lakewood on Thursday and was downright dynamic in the process. He got thrown out by a half-step on his bunt attempt in his first at-bat and later flew out to deep right field in his second at-bat. However, he hit a scorching missile off of the right field wall [missing a home run by three feet] in his third plate appearance and not only had a standup triple as a result but was oh-so close to attempting an inside the park home run. He later had an infield single in his fourth at-bat, promptly stole second base on the very next pitch, and would have most likely stolen third base too had the pitcher not thrown one in the dirt on the next pitch, allowing Mateo to cruise into third even though the pitch evaded the catcher by a mere two or three feet.
Tampa outfielder Ericson Leonora has been swinging some heavy lumber this camp and Thursday was no different. He went 2-3 in Tampa's 6-2 loss, singling hard to right field in his first at-bat and later hitting a titanic solo home run to deep left field. He has been murdering the ball.
Tampa's Starting Lineup: Mark Payton, Tyler Wade, Miguel Andujar, Mike Ford, Matt Duran, Angelo Gumbs, Dominic Jose, Ericso Leonora, Collin Slaybaugh, and Leonardo Molina.
Charleston's Starting Lineup: Jorge Mateo, Gosuke Katoh, Dustin Fowler, Chris Breen, Austin Aune, Abiatal Avelino, Allen Valerio, Alexander Palma, Jake Hernandez, and Brandon Thomas.
Just like Mateo, Tampa third baseman Miguel Andujar continues to smack the life out of every pitch, even his outs. He went just 1-4 in the loss but two of his three outs were absolute bullets, one directly to the shortstop and the other a line-drive to the right field wall. His lone hit was a booming double off of the centerfield wall.
Tampa outfielder Mark Payton has also been stinging the ball with regularity too. He went 1-4 as well, grounding out sharply to second base and lining out to deep right field for two of his outs. And like Andujar, Payton's lone hit was a double off of the centerfield wall. He has certainly been surprising the opposition with his power this camp.
Tampa right-hander Jonathan Holder relieved David Carpenter [1 IP, 3 H, 2 R] and continued his solid spring, tossing three more scoreless innings. Sitting mostly 90-91 mph, he gave up two hits and one walk, and struck out three batters. He was once again mixing in all of his pitches; two-seamer, four-seamer, cutter, curveball, and changeup. His solid repertoire was on full display.
Charleston first baseman Chris Breen has been pulling an Andujar in camp, lacing balls all over the field. He went a perfect 2-2 on Thursday, singling sharply to centerfield in his first at-bat and doubling down the left field line in his second and final plate appearance. He showed some solid speed on the double.
Charleston reliever Conor Mullee looked like his pre-three-Tommy John surgery self on Thursday. While he was sitting mostly 91 mph, his sinker was beyond impressive. He retired all five batters he faced in quick fashion, inducing three ground outs and striking out a batter. He was ahead in the count against every batter.
Tampa right-handed reliever Yoel Espinal is somebody to put in the memory bank. The former Detroit Tiger pitching prospect, who pitched briefly in their farm system in 2012 and signed a minor league contract with the Yankees in April of last year, was turning heads with his stuff and command on Thursday. Sitting 93-95 mph with his fastball, he showed a plus 87 mph slider and a changeup that bottomed out at 89 mph too. He tossed two innings of shutout relief, walking just one batter and striking out the last four he faced. He looked great.
Tampa first baseman Mike Ford hasn't had much in the way of hits this camp but he's arguably had some of the best at-bats. He went just 0-1 but drew two walks, and Charleston first baseman Connor Spencer has had some bad luck too despite having some great at-bats, going 0-2 but lining out hard to both centerfield and left field.
Charleston outfielder Alexander Palma [1-3, K, SB, run] and catcher Jake Hernandez [1-2, 3B, RBI, run], and Tampa outfielder Leonardo Molina [1-2, BB, K] and shortstop Tyler Wade [1-4, K] each had good games too. Wade in particular has made every play imaginable defensively this spring.
Like Mullee, Charleston reliever Joe Harvey was sitting mostly 91 mph with his fastball and flooded the zone with strikes. He retired all four batters he faced in order, striking out one.
Both Tampa right-hander Joey Maher and Charleston right-hander Sean Carley were hit hard in their respective games. Maher, sitting mostly 90 mph, served up four runs in his two innings of work and Carley, sitting mostly 89-90 mph, was torched for three runs in essentially one inning. He walked three batters after serving up a leadoff home run and was taken out in his second inning of work without retiring a batter.