While I’d made plenty of trips around North Carolina to cover the Knights, Dash and Intimidators in their respective cities, I’d never crossed Birmingham off my list. So I drove three hours down I-65 to complete the set by taking in the Barons’ season-opening doubleheader against Biloxi, and now I’ve completed the set.
(I can’t say the same for stadiums until I visit the Cannon Ballers’ new downtown digs.)
I’ll have a more thorough notebook after I return on Friday, as I’m going to stay for one more game. But one thing I’ll point out is that the Barons are playing under new Double-A rules that mandate all infielders to have their feet set on infield dirt. Here’s an example:
Somebody in the press box mentioned it immediately, so I don’t know how long it would’ve taken me to notice it on my own. That said, once it was brought to my attention, it didn’t escape my attention, and it factored into the proceedings a few time.
There was one infield single that would’ve been a routine play had second baseman JJ Muno been allowed to set up in short right field against a lefty. Instead, he had to make a lengthy sliding stop and couldn’t gather himself in time to make an accurate throw. There were also a couple of pop-ups in short right field that a MLB second baseman would have camped under, while a Double-A second baseman had to resort to prayer.
I don’t think it made a huge difference, because the two teams combined for 24 strikeouts and just seven hits over seven innings. Eight consecutive Barons struck out at one point, meaning the Shuckers couldn’t put all their infielders in the dugout with no ill effect. But in a sample of two games, there were a handful of batted balls made more complicated by shallower infield positioning. Somebody like Gavin Sheets or Blake Rutherford would’ve loved to see it in Birmingham last year. Somebody like Yasmani Grandal would love to see it in Chicago yesterday.
Charlotte 9, Gwinnett 6
- Blake Rutherford went 2-for-5 with a strikeout.
- Gavin Sheets was 3-for-5 with two doubles and a strikeout.
- Jonathan Stiever is picking on people his own size: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K.
Birmingham 6, Biloxi 1 (Game 1, 7 innings)
- Micker Adolfo went 0-for-2 with a walk and a strikeout.
- Carlos Perez tripled once and struck out twice, neither of which are in his typical box score.
- Ti’Quan Forbes went 2-for-3 with a homer.
Birmingham 2, Biloxi 1 (Game 2, 7 innings)
- Micker Adolfo was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.
- Ti’Quan Forbes went 0-for-2 with a K.
- Ofreidy Gómez: 3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 K
Rome 8, Winston-Salem 7
- Duke Ellis walked twice and struck out thrice, and went 1-for-2 on the basepaths.
- Bryce Bush went 1-for-4 with a homer, walk and strikeouts.
- Lenyn Sosa was 1-for-5 with a K.
- Luis Mieses went 0-for-4 with a walk and a strikeout.
- Yolbert Sanchez went 3-for-4 with a walk.
- Harvin Mendoza went 0-for-3 with two walks and a strikeout.
- Luis Curbelo went 2-for-5 with a homer, double and four RBIs.
*Here’s Bush’s blast:
Down East 8, Kannapolis 7
- James Beard hit a grand slam, walked twice, struck out twice and was picked off.
- José Rodriguez went 2-for-5 with a double and a strikeout.
- Bryan Ramos was 0-for-5 with a strikeout.
- Chase Krogman doubled, singled, walked twice and struck out once.
- DJ Gladney went 1-for-5 with a double and two strikeouts.
- Cabera Weaver doubled, singled and struck out thrice.
- Sam Abbott singled, walked twice and struck out twice.
- Jared Kelley’s pro debut can be scrapped: 0.2 IP, 2 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 1 WP, 1 balk. He threw 19 of 35 pitches for strikes.
*Beard’s grand slam:
I’m not holding my breath, but, golly, it would be nice if Rutherford became interesting and fast.
was thinking the same thing
Yep, but I’ll settle for Sheets.
Literally any outfielder more interesting that Garcia or Hamilton…so basically all of them.
Sheets played in RF the first two games. Obviously they are thinking that outfield is where they would need him to play. 7 rbi’s first two games is a good start, even if it is early. If he stays hot (and he is a lefty which is a plus), why not bring him up pretty quick…. or get Goodwin ready fast. Either of them has at least a small chance of being better than what they are left with now, although I have not given up on Vaughn even if he looks raw. But Sheets has more higher level minor league experience than Vaughn, he might turn out to be a better option in left field for 2021.
Was thinking about Sheets in LF as well. He might not hit the ball as hard, but he may be better able to get lift and HRs right now. I hope the Sox show some flexibiity and are willing to shuffle guys around and see what works.
I agree, they need to be flexible. What will be interesting is with Vaughn and Sheets switching to OF but Mercedes being their DH and doing so well, what will they do with Eloy once he gets back (this season, or next)? Right after they announced he would miss most of the season I was thinking that Eloy should never play OF again, too much of a danger to himself. But with Mercedes doing so well at DH, they actually don’t gain THAT much if Eloy comes back and DH’s, and Mercedes gets pushed to the bench. Granted I think Eloy is a better hitter than Mercedes, but not by a huge margin… Mercedes seems like a very legit hitter who hopefully continues. In which case they should probably be considering putting Eloy back out in left, who knows. It’s a shame they don’t seem to think Mercedes has any chance at being a MLB catcher, he would be so useful to this team if he could. He has a really good arm (threw out high pct of baserunners), but I guess just way too many passed balls and such.
Now I can’t stop thinking about how fun it would be to go back in time to tell our 2019 selves that we’d be discussing a Vaughn-Eaton-Sheets OF in 2021–and somehow thinking it might be an upgrade. That may be even more inconceivable to my 2019 self than a global pandemic.
So I checked the infield dirt rule, since I thought there might be a chance to exploit it with a bunt, but you just have to be inside the outer limits of the infield dirt. This is the rule:
• A requirement that all four infielders have their cleats within the outer boundary of the infield dirt when the pitch is delivered (all Double-A)
Who is the first manager to have a second baseman take his cleats off and leave them on the infield dirt while the player is in the outfield grass?
That James Beard slam looks tasty.
I really like that shift rule and hope it makes it to the MLB. It seems like a fair compromise. There is nothing wrong with leagues toning down defenses when specific strategies get too stifling. And anything that adds more baserunners is good at the moment.