Updated: October 16, 2014
ENTRY #5: THE WEDNESDAY IT WAS
Wednesday, 12 noon, Papago Baseball Complex: The player parking lot is busier than usual. That’s because along with the fans, friends, family members and scouts, leaving the game, the players who’ve spent the past month (or longer) in Arizona are returning home for the off-season. Instructional League 2014 is officially in the books! Vans are packed with duffel bags – and the players to whom they belong – and will soon be headed to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, to be dropped off and homeward bound in a matter of minutes. By the evening, all of social media will be buzzing with comments about how nice it is to sleep in one’s own bed.
This activity is typical for the last day of the Instructs in both in Florida and Arizona: it means the guys are done for the season and will end the day in a different state and time zone than where they started. Friends and family back home have been waiting for this day since June … or February. It’s time.
But this time, this season wrap-up for the Oakland A’s Instructional League players and staff means something more: it’s not just the end of the season, but the end of an era. The relocation from Papago Baseball Complex — nestled among the majestic Papago buttes in Phoenix — to a newly restructured Fitch Park, in a residential area, and just down Center Street from Hohokam Stadium in Mesa will officially begin. The next time these boys return, they will head farther east – about 10 miles or so. This will be the first group not to report to spring training at the corner of 64th street and McDowell in many moons. This will be the first spring training in years when Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman and his 23+ years will report to somewhere other than Papago. The end of an era.
“But Kim, the new clubhouse is a billion square feet and there are offices and meeting rooms, and …”
I know. I know. I’m happy for you. I know you need the room and the modern upgrades; I know you’re ready to bust out of the cramped quarters inside the little clubhouse at Papago, especially at Spring Training when EVERYONE is there. You need the space, you deserve the space AND a newer facility. I know: I opened Camelback Ranch in Glendale in 2009. I was there when it went from all dirt, to the newest-and-best (at that time) facility. I remember when the AZL A’s made their first visit to the Ranch: talking with Mark Smith for the first time about how nice it would be for “them” to have an upgraded facility. Not just the desire, but the need for one. I, and others like me, do not begrudge anything about the need for and move to the new digs. Honest.
But … come on. You can’t dismiss the importance or the beauty of the only home most in the organization have ever known.
I’m a relative newbie to this organization, but, long before Papago became my base, it was my favorite. The curb appeal tells you nothing about the beauty of Papago. As you approach the entrance on 64th street, and even further, as you continue to only see the public fields to the right, you don’t understand the magic. It’s only when you turn left, and proceed to the fields, and then turn around. That’s when you understand; when you appreciate where you are. Especially in the summer, at night, as the clouds and dust storms form during monsoon season. I challenge you to find a more awe-inspiring backdrop than the formation move across the valley, up from the southeast and seemingly right through Field 3, while watching an AZL game on Field 2. That’s Mother Nature at her most artistic and it makes the Arizona Summer League the most special place of all.
No eye-rolling, please. I said I know how important it is have a new facility, a new clubhouse. But this is still about baseball. And, if I may steal a line that was probably only fictitiously associated with a certain General Manager: How can you not be romantic about baseball?
Here’s A Look At How Things Unfolded on The Last Day at Papago:
Just as milestones are acknowledged in the game we all love, it is important to recognize those in historical reference, as well. The last day of organized activity at Papago started as it usually had for the staff and players, but instead of a 12:30 PM game, it was a 9AM getaway match-up between the Bay Area rivals (and closest in spring training facilities) SF Giants.
The Suits-A-Palooza (Oakland’s front office big wigs) was even more evident than it had been out at Peoria on Tuesday. You name him, he was there. Billy Beane, David Forst, Bob Melvin, etc. Quietly sitting amongst the fans, maintaining their privacy, but unless you knew who they were, you would have never known it was them. My understanding is that most were heading over to Fitch Park and Hohokam to tour and review the facilities. I’ll say this: Billy Beane will probably never get skin cancer; he is very good about staying covered up and protected from the sun.
Around 8:30am, Keith Lieppman, Grady Fuson, all field staff and coordinators, strength and conditioning staff, video (Mark Smith!), and clubhouse rock stars gathered for one final picture; on the edge of the 10-pack, with the Papago Buttes in the background. I was honored to capture this moment.
Warming up on one of the mounds, was the morning’s starting pitcher, Daniel Gossett. Next to him, Chris Kohler, who had thrown a few bullpens and batting practices, but nothing formal, as he is returning to action. The care and concern for the well-being of the young men in this organization is Priority 1. Frustration on the part of the players who just want to be back on the field, is understandable; but with a player development staff like Oakland’s, trust they know best.
Kohler and his catcher Philip Pohl moved from his pen over to throw BP for a bit. Kohler looked outstanding! I talked to him between spots: he feels great and is, of course, thrilled to be back on the path to action. So happy for him, because as much as I’ve enjoyed spending the past two summers with him – and Dustin Driver, as well – that time has come to an end.
Two more wonderful men who made it a priority to visit Papago and pay their respects to the history and to the organization: top catching prospect, and member of the Double-A Champion Midland Rockhounds, Bruce Maxwell, and former minor league pitching coordinator/ current Director of Pitching for the New York Yankees organization, Gil Patterson.
Show Us What You Got, One Last Time – a.k.a. The Last Game
Daniel Gossett started the game against the Giants. You remember Daniel: he’s the guy who, just last week as a matter of fact, struck out SFGiants left-fielder Mike Morse, the day before he joined his team in St. Louis for the postseason.
Then we saw Branden Kelliher, Joel Seddon, Jordan Schwartz, Bobby Wahl, Brett Graves, Kyle Finnegan, and finally, Brendan McCurry, who is also known, with good reason, as “Filthy McNasty”.
Argenis Raga and Max Kuhn were behind the plate; NoGo (John Nogowski) and Sandber Pimentel at 1st, Chappy (Matt Chapman) and then Edwin Diaz at 3rd; and we saw Jose Brizuela, Branden Cogswell, Trent Gilbert, Jesus Lopez, Yairo Muñoz, BJ Boyd, Jaycob Brugman, Shawn Duinkerk, Justin Higley, Tyler Marincov, JP Sportman, and Robert Martinez (whose at-bats always stop me in my tracks and make me pay attention.
The game, in and of itself, was not the focus of the day. But the way it ended, was soooo… how do I put this?… so fitting, that’s it, for this organization.
A quick game summary: Oakland, with all the watchful eyes of the front office upon them, led the Giants 3-0, up through and including the top of the 9th inning. Those of watching see McNasty (McCurry) head to the mound to finish off the game, the season, the era… We know it will be quick, because we know McCurry. Out number one. Bam! Just like that. Out number two: same. So, in my effort to be efficient, type the historical information, “Game/ season/ era over at Papago: McCurry and A’s beat Giants 3-0” to be tweeted as soon as the last out is recorded.
Then McCurry did something I hadn’t seen him do before: he walked a batter. Ok. Whatever, he’s human (apparently, who knew?). Next batter is HBP in a fleshy area. Huh? Runners on 1st and 2nd, but with two outs. It’s McCurry, for pete’s sake. We’re outta here.
By “we”, I meant the 94 MPH fastball that was launched over the left field wall. Game tied, 3-3. Then, next batter grounds out, 6-3. No extra innings, Giants had no more pitchers (and probably less desire to continue.)
So, of all improbable endings, Mr. Perfect (see below) gives up a three-run, game-tying jack, after allowing a walk and then hitting a batter. Whaaat? It’s an ending that fits the Oakland A’s. One to remember, for certain.
With little delay, some of us from Papago headed out to Surprise to see the Mesa Solar Sox take on the Peoria Javelinas. It’s almost an hour drive, and the Surprise campus is the least accessible from the freeways, or streets. But we were rewarded with a Mesa line-up of: Matt Olson at 1B, Daniel Robertson at SS, Boog Powell in CF. Then, when CJ Edwards was done for the day, Tanner Peters took over on the mound, followed by Ryan Doolittle, Drew Granier, and Austin House! It was our reward for making the drive! Mesa beat Peoria 5-2: CJ Edwards with the Win, and Austin House with the Save.
Boog Powell, doing his best Matt Olson impression, hit his 2nd home run in as many games.
What a day. What. A. Day.
Prior to the game activities, various end-of-camp “awards” were given. They include:
Mr. Fix-It: Tyler Willman
A little tweaking and voila!
Mr. Efficient: Joel Seddon
A pitch-count-lovers’ dream
Mr. Perfect: Brendan McCurry (remember, I said this was announced before the game started)
Never having allowed a run, not 1 run to be scored during Instructs
Most Improved: Corey Walter
Defender: John Nogowski
Rookie: Sandber Pimentel
Most Improved: Branden Cogswell
This award was for Most Improved Position Player, but I think there should have been a special award for the best “Brandon/Branden/Brendan” – so many options!
Lights On: Edwin Diaz
CLICK! When it all comes together…
Strength & Conditioning: Heath Fillmyer & JP Sportman
Gym Rats (Pitcher and Position Player)
And…drum roll, please
The Grinder: Max Kuhn
Up next for Lieppman and his staff: The Dominican Winter League. The A’s are not sending any US players, just the usual instructors, who will be working with the organization’s Dominican League prospects from Oct 20 – Nov 28.
Updated: October 9, 2014
ENTRY #4: CATCHING UP…
In the past week plus, the A’s and Dbacks have faced each other about 50 times … or so it seems. Actually, it was three times, in seven days. If the rain holds off and a game is played today (Thursday), the A’s and Giants will face each other for the fourth time in eight days. Location is key; the less travel (and gas and time) the better. The work takes place in the morning, is put into practice during games, and refined when they return back to Papago. With a 3:1 ratio of ballplayers to instructors, why waste time on the road, when so much can be gained on the fields or in the cages?
Speaking of instructors: Rickey Henderson is at Papago again for the fall, working on drills and skills, and of course serving as the team’s official motivator during games – both home and away! The boys, including B.J. Boyd, know how fortunate they are to be learning from the Hall of Famer himself. Such an experience is unique to those in A’s camp. “Sign with Oakland; Run with Rickey” should be a slogan made into buttons, bumper stickers (or those white film window things used these days) and printed on all business cards to be distributed before the June draft.
Speaking of cool experiences, the most memorable of the season took place on Thursday, October 2nd, as the boys made their way to Salt River Fields at Talking Stick to play the team from South Korea. The SK Wyverns share the Rockies’ side of the facility. They have a unique energy, and can be seen smoking cigarettes DURING the game. The first few pitchers were sidearm/submariners; their jerseys have their names in native characters, and some uniform numbers are in the triple digits. They’re aggressive with both hitting and baserunning. Such a great experience to have cross-culture exposure.
Oakland’s catching farmhand and 2011 international free agent signee Seong-min Kim is from South Korea, and was behind the plate for the game at Salt River Fields. Prior to the bottom of the 1st inning, Kim told the home plate umpire that he was from South Korea and wasn’t afraid to acknowledge the crazy feeling of facing the team from his motherland. If you listen carefully to the video, you can hear this exchange on the video I posted on Tout.com (user name: @Cu_As, same as my Twitter account.)
NOTE: Check my Tout.com account to see the video of this conversation, just minutes before game action. I use Tout for all my video posts. Thanks to the great folks at Tout, namely Daniel Mansfield, I am able to share a full minute of video rather than the standard 15 seconds.
Each pitcher on the roster is on the mound in a predictable rotation. Beasley, Bracewell, Driver, Fagan, Fillmyer, Finnegan, Gauna, Gossett, Graves, Grundy, Huber, Johnson, Kelliher, Kohler, McCurry, Miller, Schwartz, Seddon, Sosa, Stalcup, Stull, Wahl, Walter, and Willman.
Dustin Driver, 7th round pick in 2013 from Wenatchee High School, Wenatchee, Washington, made his third start of the Instructional League yesterday (Wednesday). The young man, who turns 20 on Saturday, October 11th, greeted each new batter with “strike one.” His velocity was back in an impressive and consistent way: 96 with some 97s thrown in for good measure. Did I mention that it is an effortless 96/97? It is.
Max Kuhn, 13th round pick in June was drafted as an infielder out of the University of Kentucky, but his time and attention this fall are turned to converting to a catcher. Initially, there was no expectation to see much, if any, game time behind the plate, but that changed on Tuesday (10/7) when he strapped on the gear for an inning. Kuhn did so well, he was the starting catcher on Wednesday. No pressure, kid. Go play the toughest position on the field, in game action, for the first time in your pro career. Oh… and your battery mate sends out 96mph fastballs on a regular basis.
And ya know what? He did a good job!
Now, including Kuhn, the six catchers on the Instructional League roster share evenly distributed innings behind the plate: Lana Akau, Seong-min Kim, Jose Santiago Chavez (NDFA 2012 from Mexico, who spent 2012 & 2013 in the DSL before spending most of 2014 in Vermont); and Robert Mullen (NDFA 2013 from Panama, spent the past two seasons in DSL) round-out the half-dozen backstops.
One last addition to the roster on October 3rd: shortstop Yairo Muñoz, who was not only named to the New York-Penn League Mid Season All Star team, but was also recently named by Baseball America as the league’s #6 top prospect. The 19 year old native of the Dominican Republic brings his 60 grade arm and raw tools to the Instructional League for the final two weeks of play.
Friday, 10/10: The team will play the Diamondbacks one last time. One advantage of playing in the hometown of a big league club is that the two teams will play at Chase Field; home of the MLB Arizona Diamondbacks.
Yes, despite the past couple of seasons, they are still considered a major league team. Until next time…
Updated: September 30, 2014
ENTRY #4: INSTRUCTS DRAWS A CROWD
It’s the last day of September. And, more importantly to the Oakland faithful, the day of the AL Wild Card win-or-go-home game at Kansas City. I know one thing about the big league club: when their backs are against the wall, they make things happen. We’ll see tonight – 5:00pm AZ/CA time.
Today also marks one week from the start of the Arizona Fall League. The Mesa Solar Sox (the team our boys are on) open the season in Glendale, against the Desert Dogs. The AFL website has all the team info and schedules: www.mlbfallball.com. As is customary at this time of year, before heading to their AFL team, the selected players will warm-up a little with their Instructional League team.
That’s what Boog Powell did today; as did Ryan Doolittle, Austin House, and Tanner Peters.
Monday’s game was a SOLD-OUT, standing-room only Instructional League game, and the parking lot was packed, too! This was due in part to the scouting department meetings that are here for the next couple of days. The men who scouted and signed many of the boys on the Instructional League roster are able to see them play, sometimes, for the first time, as a professional. Nobody in the organization has just one job; cross-training is the name of the game – and that’s a game where everyone wins, if not now, then in the long run.
I have such great respect for baseball scouts, as well as for those who make the greatest impact on the careers and lives of young ballplayers; I’m more of a fan at these times, than anything else. You can’t blame me, either, with Keith Lieppman, Garvin Alston, Scott Emerson, Marcus Jensen, Juan Dilone, Gabe Ortiz, Carlos Chavez, Ruben Escalera, the field staff of each minor league team, and of course, Grady Fuson; I dare anyone not to be a fan. By the way, if you sit near Grady during these games, you hear his specific encouraging words/ reminders for each batter. Player development is in his DNA.
And speaking of being a fan: I had the pleasure of talking with Oakland’s Scouting Assistant, Kate Greenthal, for little bit today, and I’m already a fan of hers, as well! It is Kate’s voice you hear on MLB.com announcing Oakland’s selections on the non-televised days of the June draft. Such an impressive woman! She and I will continue the conversation while she’s here, and then I’ll share what I learned about her in an article that will be up on OaklandClubhouse.com shortly thereafter.
Saturday morning at the Giants minor league facility, Dustin Driver, 7th round pick in 2013, returned to the mound for the first time in more than four months. The right-hander feels great and performed like it, as well. His next start is scheduled for Thursday, to face the South Korean team at Salt River Fields.
Daniel Gossett, Branden Kelliher and Cody Stull, 2014’s 2nd, 11th, and 29th round picks from last June, also threw at least an inning against the Giants.
During Monday’s game at Papago against the Rockies, we saw another good outing by Kevin Johnson, 24th round pick in 2013, who had to sit out the season due to having had Tommy John surgery. Tanner Peters, Austin House, and Ryan Doolittle also took the mound as they prepare to join their Solar Sox teammates soon.
The starters: Sandber Pimentel, Trent Gilbert, Edwin Diaz, Matt Chapman, Tyler Marincov, Jaycob Brugman, and Argenis Raga remained in their positions throughout the game, while Justin Higley and B.J. Boyd switched off playing centerfield.
Kudos to Raga; in the top of the 7th, he threw out another would-be base-stealer at second! Max Kuhn is in the process of converting to a catcher, as well. He’s been DHing but no game time behind the plate as of yet.
After Monday’s game, I went down to Fitch Park and Hohokam Stadium to survey the progress on the new homes for the Oakland A’s. Check out my twitter feed (@Cu_As) to see the progress.
Games this week:
Today: home v Dbacks; Wednesday: home v Giants; Thursday: at South Korean Wyrens – Salt River Fields; Friday: at the Angels; and Saturday morning, 10am, at the Giants. Sunday, as always, is a rest day.
Updated: September 27, 2014
ENTRY #3: “SCOUT-A-PALOOZA DAY” AT THE ANGELS
My thoughts; Grady Fuson’s words; and a daily reality this time of year. But It seemed as if more were there today. The Angels practice fields have ample up-close seating, with great shade-tarp-things to protect spectators from the elements, but 30 minutes before game time, there was a handful of men in the SRO area. I claimed my space in the nick of time.
The electronic scoreboard was on an innings limit, and had to be shut down before the game started. This time of year, a functioning, and correct, electronic scoreboard becomes almost a luxury.
A luxury, along the lines of the multiple uniform options the Baby A’s have. Just as in Spring Training, Extended Spring, and the AZL, the Fall Instructional League teams wear the uniforms of their parent clubs. Based on that, I know I don’t have to tell you how much better dressed the boys from Oakland are than all other teams combined. The home all-whites are my very favorite of all time. But today, for the first time I saw their new all grey unis, with green numbers and letters. Very nice!
During the summer, the AZL A’s visited the AZL Angels quite often. The evening games are played in Tempe Diablo Stadium, where the Angels play during spring training. They do a nice job; have always played the National Anthem, and had the batters’ name on the video display board, but this year they added a P.A. announcer to introduce the players, and the playing of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at the 7th inning stretch time. Come to think of it, the Angels organization seems to have improved in all areas this season.
Sorry. Moving along…
Dustin Driver’s return to the mount since Extended Spring Training was bumped to Saturday, weather-permitting. That means in case we get the rain that has been forecasted and it drenches the Giants minor league facility at Hayden and Camelback Roads in Scottsdale. My hope is that there is no doubt about cancelling the game, one way or the other; if the field is going to be wet; let it be drenched, if not, then let it be dry. Is that too much to ask? The Giants minor league complex is my least favorite, and I will avoid it unless completely necessary. If Driver pitches, I will be there.
Among those who did play today was RHP Brendan McCurry. His last appearance with the Stockton Ports’ was on September 4th – the post-season. McCurry went 2.1IP, gave up no runs and two hits, and struck out three in an unfortunate, season ending loss to Visalia in Round 1 of the Cal League playoffs. I don’t remember who, but someone in Stockton referred to him when he’s on the mound as “Filthy McNasty.” With the pitches in his arsenal, and the way he uses them; the name fits. That’s probably why I immediately think of it when I see his name.
Since we’re talking about the post-season…how about the Midland RockHounds??!! If you were not following their pursuit of the Texas League Championship, then WOW, you missed out on some exciting baseball!! Aaron Nieckula (and his success with the suicide squeeze), Don Schulze, and Webster Garrison led the team to a winner-take-all, game 5 victory over the Tulsa Drillers to become the champions of the Texas League.
Matt Chapman was Oakland’s 1st Draft pick in June. After making his professional debut in the AZL, he spent the summer in Class A Beloit, and was then added to the RockHounds roster on the last day of the season. The youngest member and newest addition to the team became the everyday third-baseman, and impressed everyone with his defensive skills and clutch hitting, especially in Game 3 vs Frisco as he hit a go-ahead home run, giving Midland the win.
Anyway, Matt’s here and played third base today.
Oakland’s 4th round pick in the 2012 draft was B.J. Boyd. As a high-school draft pick, B.J. spent his rookie season in the AZL. For the better part of the season, the former running back on Palo Alto High School’s state championship football team, vied for the league lead in stolen bases. It was fun to watch him steal bases! Today, he stole second beating the catchers’ throw, then stole third as part of a double steal. It’s still fun to watch him steal bases.
In the bottom of the 6th inning, 18-year-old catcher Robert Mullen threw out a would-be base stealer for the third out. The native of Panama has spent the past two seasons on the DSL A’s.
Sandber Pimentel. Get used to hearing that name. The 20-year-old native of the Dominican Republic is listed at 6’3”tall and weighing 216 lbs. Given that muscle weighs more than …non-muscle, I’m going to say that’s maybe 10 lbs too low. He is solid, powerful, and only 20 years old. He’s playing first base, and made two great, athletic plays that resulted in two outs.
One last note:
While the stadium hosts summer evening games, the practice fields next door are where the spring, extended spring and fall Instructional league games are played. I don’t know if any of the boys, or even the coaches, who were here in Extended realized it, but the last game that Bob Welch coached for the A’s, was on Wednesday, May 30th at a game on these same fields in Tempe. Also in attendance that day was (newly hired General Manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks) Dave Stewart, and former MLB pitcher, 17-year veteran, Mike Hampton who is now a minor league pitching coach for the Angels.
Here’s who played in today’s game:
Pitchers: Heath Fillmyer; Derek Beasley; Tyler Willman; Rob Huber; Brendan McCurry; Lee Sosa
Catchers: Argenis Raga; Robert Mullen
First Base: Sandber Pimentel then John Nogowski
Second Base: Trent Gilbert then Jesus Lopez
Shortstop: Branden Cogswell then Edwin Diaz
Third Base: Matt Chapman then Jose Brizuela
Left Field: Shawn Duinkerk
Center Field: J.P. Sportman then B.J. Boyd
Right Field: Tyler Marincov then Justin Higley
DH: Max Kuhn, Lana Akau
The A’s are scheduled to play the Giants at 10am on Saturday. The Giants’ Minor League Facility is at Hayden and Camelback, behind Club SAR.
Updated: September 25, 2014
ENTRY #2: A’S HOST DODGERS AT PAPAGO (SEPTEMBER 24)
First things first: it was hot today. The temperature at first pitch today was 102 degrees. The good news is that the storms and humidity are gone (for now) so it really is back to being a “dry heat”. The other side is that, at 12:30, the sun is bright and hot and the temperature is going to increase, and 102 will be the coolest temp of the game.
The majority of the boys on both teams have been back in Arizona for a few days, after having spent the past three-plus months in places like Burlington, Vermont; Ogden, Utah; Beloit, Wisconsin; and Midland, Michigan. Their bodies aren’t used to the heat. Even those who were in the AZL know that, at least when it’s 102 at night, the sun isn’t beating down on you. Neither team was particularly sharp today; and I am certain the weather played a large role in that.
Matt Stalcup started the game and threw two innings, then gave way to the winning pitcher of the Midwest League All-Star Game, Kyle Finnegan. The heat was definitely a drain of energy and hydration. That added to the workload of the bat-and-water boy (a.k.a., yesterday’s starting pitcher) Kevin Johnson. Johnson was equal to the water-supply task, though.
Grant Holmes struggled and was hit hard the first inning and into the second. But for a kid with red hair and fair skin, I could see the longer he was on the mound, the more zapped he was by the sun. One match-up I looked forward to seeing was Holmes facing Justin Higley. This did not disappoint. The lengthy at-bat almost ended the way I fully expected it to, with a Higley BOMB, but it was pulled just to the point of being foul. Good AB by Higley, who ended up walking on the pitch after the almost-bomb.
Lana Akau, who missed a good portion of the AZL season due to being hurt, looked as strong as ever in today’s game; complete with an RBI single during his first at-bat.
Boog Powell, who is due to report to the Arizona Fall League as a member of the Mesa Solar Sox, led off the bottom of the first inning and played center for a portion of the game. This will happen quite a bit between now and October 7th. Players will see some playing time during Instructs before reporting to their assigned AFL team.
OH! File this under You-Don’t-See-This-Much-During-Instructs:
Dodgers’ Field Director, Bruce Hines, served as the team’s first base coach today. After the last out of the top of the 3rd inning, Hines was ejected by the field umpire. Couldn’t really blame the ump, though. Hines, who was displeased with the last “out” call, said to him, “Everyone on the planet saw it [the play] except for you!” Maybe “said” isn’t the right word. Let’s use “yelled so loud the hikers on Papago Buttes heard him”. Yes. That’s better.
Since Hines was on the visiting team, he really had nowhere to go; nowhere to remove himself from the dugout to… until Oakland’s Farm Director (Player Development Director) Keith Lieppman generously invited his counterpart to sit with him and the rest of the A’s coordinators, staff, and Special Assistant to the GM, Grady Fuson. Hines accepted. Keith is the best, isn’t he?
Eric Martins, Southern California scout who found and signed recent prospects such as Daniel Robertson and Chris Kohler is also a coach with the Instructs team. He replaced David Newhan as the first base coach at the midway point of the game. Multi-layered involvement by one and all in this organization!
Often, in Instructs as in Spring Training and Extended, each position is shared; one plays the first 4, 5, or 6 innings, then he is replaced by another who’ll finish the game. More players play, and that’s important. Starting pitchers will usually have two innings, then each subsequent inning is handled by a different pitcher. Usually. Below are those who played today.
Pitchers: Matt Stalcup, Kyle Finnegan, Ben Bracewell, Jerad Grundy, Joel Seddon, Corey Walter, Koby Gauna
Catchers: Lana Akau then Argenis Raga
First Base: Sandber Pimentel then John Nogowski
Second Base: Trent Gilbert then Branden Cogswell
Shortstop: Jesus Lopez then Trace Loehr
Third Base: Jose Brizuela then Edwin Diaz
Left Field: Shawn Duinkerk then Jaycob Brugman
Center Field: Boog Powell then J.P. Sportman
Right Field: Justin Higley then Tyler Marincov
DH: Max Kuhn, B.J. Boyd, Robert Mullen
Thursday is a Work / Camp Day, then they are back in action on Friday for the Instructs version of Battle of the AL West ; traveling to play the Angels at 12:30 at Tempe Diablo.
I will be there, and I believe Dustin Driver will be, as well.
One of us will be on the mound throwing heat; the other will have enough frozen water bottles so that no one gets dehydrated. Come see which one of us is which!
Updated: September 24, 2014
ENTRY #1: WELCOME TO INSTRUCTS!
Welcome to Instructs 2014! Each of the 15 Cactus League teams has a Fall Instructional League team – or two. Each team’s report date is different, as are the number of games played. Most will play in games against one other, while others… ok, make that singular – one other team (the Cubs) will only play games against themselves. Fine. Whatever. This is an exhibition/ instructional league where selected minor league players (High-A and below, for the most part) are in the company, and under the guidance of, every resource their organization can provide; often, the organizations’ legends return during Instructs to reinvest their success in the their team’s future.
Games are played at 12:30PM during the week; 10:00AM on Saturdays; everyone rests on Sundays. It’s still a little warm at 12:30 in Phoenix. Ok, that’s an understatement, but 102 at 12:30 is a lot better than…. Oh well, never mind. Moving on.
Oakland’s Instructional League team reported last week, and played their first game on Saturday. Game #2 was Monday, at the Dbacks, and Tuesday was Game #3 – at home against the Brewers. Yes, they use the scoreboard and keep track of the innings. But that’s about it. This league isn’t about how many wins the team has; it’s about progress and improvement. Some of the boys have been playing since early February – those who attended the early Spring Training Mini Camp. The goal is to improve, not to wear out the players.
The field staff is led by Stockton’s Ryan Christenson and also includes:
Steve Scarsone – Sacramento Coach
David Newhan – Vermont Coach
Garvin Alston – Rehab Pitching Coord Pitching Coach
Steve Connelly – Vermont Pitching Coach
Juan Dilone – AZL Hitting Coach
Lloyd Turner – Beloit Hitting Coach
Tommy Everidge – Vermont Hitting Coach
Gabe Ortiz – AZL Catching Coach
Brett Boone Coach
Eric Martins Coach
Trevor Schaffer Coach
Jemel Spearman Coach
Jim Coffman Coach
Rich Sparks Coach
This year, rehab pitching coordinator Garvin Alston is also serving as the Camp Coordinator. I believe this officially makes him the busiest person alive. He wears it well, too.
Tuesday, against the Brewers, Kevin Johnson, the A’s 19th round pick from the 2013 draft saw his first game action as a professional ball player. He, like Dillon Overton, learned he needed Tommy John around the time of the draft. The former Illinois star pitched a quick, 3-up-and-3-down inning.
Brett Graves, Michael Fagan, Derek Beasley, Tyler Willman and Rob Huber also made appearances on the mound. Iolana Akau and Jose Chavez have the very same body types (exact same listed weight and height), their birthdays are three weeks apart – both recently turned 19, and, apparently, both have long-ish hair. Both also played today, as did Seong-Min Kim, Max Kuhn (who is converting to catcher this fall), Robert Mullen, Argenis Raga, Jose Brizuela, Edwin Diaz, Trent Gilbert, Jesus Lopez, John Nogowski, Jaycob Brugman, Shawn Duinkerk, Justin Higley, Tyler Marincov, Robert Martinez, J.P. Sportman, and Sandber Pimentel. If I missed anyone, I apologize. I was there for only a few innings.
This was my first time seeing Pimentel. The 20-year-old 1B/ OF out of the Dominican Republic signed with Oakland in 2011 and spent the past three summers in the DSL. The righ- handed batter hit an impressive home run to far right field. He’s listed at 6’3”, 216. Again, he’s just 20-years-old. Expect much to come from him.
Lefty Chris Kohler threw his first bullpen session this afternoon in a long time. Odds are he won’t see game-action during Instructs, but he’s back throwing, and without pain or discomfort, and that’s the best news after he missed the season with arm problems.
I’ll be at Papago on Wednesday for the game against the Dodgers. The team will have a work-day on Thursday, then on Friday, if nothing changes, Dustin Driver(who missed the regular season with back problems) will return to the mound in Tempe against the Angels.
Check back later this evening; I’ll share the fun from the day.