I noted in this
post on the blog that eight former Timber Rattlers made their Major League
debuts in 2012. There was also a bit
in there about how the number of former Rattlers to reach the major leagues is
now at 83, but that's another column for another day.
This week, I wanted to take a look at how the 2012 season went for all of the alumni who made their MLB debuts this season.
RHP Phillippe Aumont (Timber Rattler in 2007): The tall Canadian made his major league debut with the Philadelphia Phillies on August 23 with a scoreless inning against the Cincinnati Reds at home. Aumont appeared in eighteen games over the final six weeks of the season. He would earn a pair of saves and the praise of the player who was traded to Seattle for him.
"Obviously he's a big guy who throws really hard and has a pretty good curveball," [Cliff] Lee said. "I don't know what more to say. He's done everything that has been asked of him so far, so I expect him to be a huge part of our bullpen for several years to come. He's got unbelievable stuff."
Aumont hopes he is part of that Phillies bullpen to start 2013.
"I think I left a good impression, I've done mostly what they've asked me to do," said Aumont. "I had one bad series (in Houston), but the rest was pretty solid for me. Compared to the minor leagues, I was throwing more strikes, getting guys out, using my defense.
"I'll see if I fit into their plans, but I feel comfortable I will be a part of it."
Aumont said it took him a year to stop trying to prove he was worth what the Phillies gave up to acquire him.
"I was the guy who was going to climb the ladder and sprint through the organization and I was always looking ahead," said Aumont. "To try to fill the void Cliff left, that was never going to happen."
SS Juan Diaz (Timber Rattler in 2007 & 2008): Diaz was called up to the Cleveland Indians due to an injury to Asdrubal Cabrera, another former Timber Rattler, and appeared in his first MLB game on May 25. He was brought up from AA ahead of someone else.
Rookie Juan Diaz is still surprised to be in the big leagues and starting at shortstop for the Indians. So are a number of other people who might wonder why Jason Donald wasn't called up Friday before All-Star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera injured his left hamstring against the White Sox.
Donald opened the season as the Indians' utility infielder. When Cabrera has had injury problems in the past, Donald always got the call to replace him. But reportedly, Donald is suffering from a case of the defensive "yips" since being optioned to Class AAA Columbus on May 12.
Diaz played in five
games with the Indians before Cabrera got healthy again.
He had four hits in at bats. Diaz
committed one error in eighteen chances at shortstop.
What does his future hold?
"We've had some issues (with shortstops) over the last two years at the higher levels in the minors," said [Manny] Acta. "Donald has been on-and-off injury wise and learning different positions.
"We really need somebody, when we give Cabby a day off or he goes down, who can step in help us out. It's been an issue. . .It's been an issue."
Regarding Diaz, "For the most part, Juan has only played Double-A baseball. It would be unfair to ask him to stop his development and be just a backup guy. He still have some development to do with his bat, too. Down the road, he is a guy who could fit that profile."
RHP Jim Henderson (Timber Rattler in 2009): Henderson's long road to the major leagues finally ended on July 26 when the Milwaukee Brewers called him up from Nashville in late July. It was a great story. Click the link to remember.
Henderson appeared in 36 games
after getting the call. He went 1-3
with three saves and struck out 45 batters in 30-2/3 innings in his time with
His first save was on August 7.
After the Brewers' 3-1 win over the Reds on Tuesday, reliever Jim Henderson was in the training room, talking about former Milwaukee closer Trevor Hoffman.
Henderson and Hoffman share the same No. 51 jersey number, but that's about where their similarities, as of now, run out. Because while Hoffman finished his career with 601 saves, Henderson -- a 29-year-old rookie who spent 10 years in the Minors -- earned his first, in his first opportunity, on Tuesday at Miller Park.
"It's something I didn't think about two weeks ago, for sure," Henderson said. "I just wanted to come up here and help as much as I could. If it's a save here, if it's pitching in the fifth inning, sixth inning, it doesn't matter. I'll go out there and do whatever they want."
On Tuesday, the Brewers employed 10 rookies, including seven of the team's nine starters, in the type of game fans might have seen a lot of in Milwaukee had the team not made its surprise surge into contention.
"We joked before the game that it was Nashville Sounds Day," said winning pitcher Jim Henderson.
Henderson had no idea when he high-fived with teammates that he had just logged his first Major League victory. Because Thornburg did not last five innings, it was up to longtime official scorer Tim O'Driscoll to pick the "most effective" reliever, and he tabbed Henderson because he'd held a one-run lead in the seventh inning.
Henderson found out when he glanced at a clubhouse television and saw his name in the box score.
"I thought it was false myself. It was a bit of a surprise because [Brandon] Kintzler pitched the fifth," said Henderson, referring to -- you guessed it -- another rookie. "The official scorer was looking out for me, I guess."
It was a nice parting gift for a 29-year-old who made it to the Majors this season after pitching 10 years in the Minor Leagues.
OF Erik Komatsu (Timber Rattler in 2009) - The St. Louis Cardinals picked up Komatsu from the Washington Nationals in the Major League Rule 5 draft on December 8, 2011. St. Louis had to keep him on their major league roster all season or be returned to the Nationals. Komatsu made his MLB debut with the Cardinals on April 6 as pinch hitter against the Brewers at Miller Park and got his first MLB hit in that appearance.
As Erik Komatsu was wrapping up a series of postgame interviews with the media, manager Mike Matheny exited his office, lineup card in hand, and slowly made his way to the opposite end of the visitors' clubhouse. There, Matheny delivered Komatsu the keepsake.
Komatsu left Miller Park on Friday with both the lineup card, which he had his teammates sign, and the memory of his first Major League hit. He hoped to find the ball, too, though he had yet to track that down in the minutes after the Cardinals' 11-5 win over Milwaukee.
Pinch-hitting for Carlos Beltran with one out in the ninth, Komatsu hit an 0-1 changeup up the middle. Second baseman Rickie Weeks gave chase, but the ball was far enough to his right that Komatsu was able to beat out the throw for an infield single.
"That hit was earned," Komatsu joked afterward before adopting a more serious tone. "It was a special moment. My heart was racing as I walked up to the plate. It was special."
He made one start in fifteen
games for the Cardinals. But, St.
Louis had no place for him to get regular playing time.
They were going to send him back to the Nationals, but Komatsu needed to
go through waivers. That's where
the Minnesota Twins claimed him in late April.
Komatsu appeared in fifteen more games with the Twins. But, the Twins had no place for him. This time, Komatsu made it through waivers and he went back to the Nationals.
Outfielder Erik Komatsu was sent back to the Nationals after clearing waivers, the Twins announced Tuesday.
Komatsu was designated for assignment on Sunday to make room for right-hander Jeff Manship on the roster.
As a Rule 5 Draft pick, Komatsu had to be offered back to Washington for $25,000 after he cleared waivers.
Komatsu, 24, was acquired by Minnesota via waivers from St. Louis on May 4 after he was designated for assignment by the Cardinals, who selected him in the Rule 5 Draft from the Nationals in December.
Komatsu hit .219 with one RBI and four walks in 15 games with the Twins. The Nationals assigned Komatsu to Triple-A Syracuse.
In his 30 games in the major leagues, and was 11-for-51 (.216) with an RBI. Back with the Nationals organization, Komatsu appeared in 31 games for Syracuse and hit .269 before going on the DL on July 7. He did not play in another game the rest of the season.
RHP Jake Odorizzi (Timber Rattler in 2010): The Kansas City Royals called up Odorizzi after an outstanding season with Omaha in Triple-A. He made his Major League debut as a starting pitcher against the Indians on September 23. It went well for five innings, but he took the loss in a rough sixth inning.
Consider Jake Odorizzi's Major League debut a success.
He didn't win the game -- the Cleveland Indians wound up with a 15-4 victory over Kansas City on a lovely Sunday afternoon -- but the 22-year-old Royals right-hander pitched superbly for five innings before giving up three runs in the sixth.
"I think he did an outstanding job for his first start," Royals manager Ned Yost said.
As the Royals' top-ranked pitching prospect according to MLB.com, Odorizzi gave the 22,960 fans at Kauffman Stadium reason to anticipate the good that he might do for the club in the future. When he left the mound during the sixth inning, they gave him a standing ovation.
"It was pretty moving, just to hear the cheers," Odorizzi said. "They were very accepting of me and it was great to get that on the way out. Especially on the first day, it made it just that much more special."
Odorizzi made his second major league start on September 29. The Royals won the game, but he was not involved in the decision.
It wasn't a good night, though, for the Royals' rookie starter, Jake Odorizzi. His second Major League start lasted just two innings. He had a 6-1 lead when he left the game but there were plenty of reasons for his departure. Namely, a whopping total of 65 pitches.
The 22-year-old right-hander ran up 42 pitches in the first inning alone, when he issued two walks and Chisenhall doubled home a run. He made 23 pitches in a scoreless second inning and that was enough for Yost.
"Pitch count way too high -- 65 pitches in two innings with a young pitcher this late in the year, it's too much. I'm not sending him back out," Yost said. "[Nate] Adcock came in and did a phenomenal job getting us to the 'pen. [Francisley] Bueno did a good job."
Obviously, the Royals' top-rated pitching prospect did not have his command. In his two innings, Odorizzi gave up one run, two hits and three walks with one strikeout. Of his 65 pitches, 43 were strikes.
The future looks bright for Odorizzi. That link notes that he will get every chance to stick with the team to start 2013, but...
It'll be especially interesting to see how Odorizzi is handled; he might need more fine-tuning at Triple-A.
RHP Wily Peralta (Rattler in 2009): Peralta received a brief call up to Milwaukee early in 2012 and worked out of the bullpen on April 22. He went back down and struggled a bit in Nashville. Then, he was called up later in the season as a starter. Things went better the second time as he went 2-1 with a 2.48ERA. That first major league win came in Miami on September 5.
Peralta, the No. 2 prospect in the Brewers' system as rated by MLB.com, gave up three runs on five hits and four walks while striking out three, and he was lifted in the seventh inning after allowing the first two hitters to reach.
"Really happy with the way he threw," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "That first outing, you don't know what's going to happen. You think it's either going to go one [way] or the other. He's going to be really good like he was, or he's going to be wild and get hit around. I'm really happy with him."
Peralta struggled with command early on, giving up a leadoff single and issuing a one-out walk in the first. The righty was able to escape the inning after he got Giancarlo Stanton to ground into a double play at third.
"I threw a good two-seam to Giancarlo Stanton to get a double play," Peralta said. "I was happy to get out of the inning without allowing a run."
The close call in the first provided Peralta with a sigh of relief, and he settled in after that. The double play at third marked the first of eight straight batters retired by Peralta, who gave much of the credit for his performance to catcher Martin Maldonado. The two have been batterymates for the last three seasons in the Minors.
The Brewers skipped Peralta in his last scheduled start of 2012, but - like Odorizzi - the future is bright for Peralta.
The Brewers should be able to concentrate during the offseason on improving their pitching, both the starting rotation and bullpen, the major area of weakness on the 2012 team. The emergence of young pitchers Mike Fiers, Mark Rogers and Wily Peralta, and the potential of Tyler Thornburg, has the Brewers feeling much better about constructing a decent rotation for next season behind Yovani Gallardo.
RHP Tyler Thornburg (Timber Rattler in 2011): Thornburg made his MLB debut as a starting pitcher for the Brewers on June 19. It went well for a while.
Roenicke deftly shifted the conversation toward the earlier innings and Thornburg, the 23-year-old making his Major League debut for Milwaukee on a night he was supposed to be in Knoxville, Tenn., pitching in the Double-A Southern League's All-Star Game.
Instead, he was needed to pitch in place of the injured Shaun Marcum, and for five innings, Thornburg looked the part. Entering the sixth, he had allowed four Toronto hits including one that hurt -- Brett Lawrie's two-run homer in the third inning. But Thornburg had a lead thanks to a four-run rally that he sparked with a double.
That was in the bottom of the third inning, when Thornburg scored on another double by Carlos Gomez, then watched the Blue Jays give the Brewers a lead. Toronto starter Jesse Chavez threw a whopping 48 pitches in the inning and recorded only two outs. He put five consecutive batters on base with four walks and a hit by pitch -- two of the walks and the hit batsman (Corey Hart) with the bases loaded.
But Thornburg, who was 8-1 with a 3.00 ERA in 13 starts at Huntsville and surrendered only six home runs in 75 innings, lost the lead in the sixth. Rasmus, Bautista and Encarnacion each saw fastballs they liked and pounded them, combining for 1,247 feet of airtime and the Blue Jays' first back-to-back-to-back home runs since 2005.
"It looked like he ran out of gas," Roenicke said. "His velocity wasn't as good. We were hoping he could get us through the sixth inning. But we didn't have anybody else who could stop them, either. Bad day of pitching."
He had a better day pitching on October 2, when he started in place of Peralta. Thornburg didn't get the win - as noted above Henderson did - but this went well for him.
Pitching for the first time since Sept. 22 and starting for the first time since Sept. 2 at Triple-A Nashville, he allowed only one run on four hits in four innings -- with no walks and no home runs, notably -- before hitting his pitch limit.
Thornburg threw 51 pitches.
"I pulled him because we didn't want to get him up in pitch count too high," manager Ron Roenicke said. "Certainly, he was throwing the ball well and he was efficient with his pitches, but he hadn't thrown in 10 days ... and he wasn't 'stretched out.' We didn't want to do anything to take a chance with him."
Said Thornburg: "I was sitting in there, hoping they'd let me go back out and try to get the win. Not my decision."
The team's win made it worthwhile.
"Really happy with a good outing to end it," Thornburg said.
Thornburg had no record in eight games - three starts - for the Brewers in 2012. He gave up eight homers and struck out 20 in 22 innings pitched. He is in the mix for 2013.
SS Carlos Triunfel (Timber Rattler in 2007): Triunfel was 17 when he was a Timber Rattler to start the 2007 season. He made his MLB debut with Seattle on September 7, got his first hit in his second game (September 13), and made his first start on September 21.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge was looking for a good time to give Carlos Triunfel his first career Major League start. That moment arrived on Friday, and it couldn't have come at a better time.
Triunfel hit the go-ahead double in the fourth inning, made several nice plays at shortstop and the Mariners knocked off the Rangers, 6-3, in the series opener at Safeco Field.
"I thought Carlos played a good ballgame," Wedge said. "We had some big double plays there in the eighth and ninth, he made a nice play on a ball in the hole there, got a hit. I thought he played a good ballgame."
Triunfel, a 22-year-old rookie, was selected from Triple-A Tacoma on Sept. 4 and had appeared in five games as a defensive replacement prior to Friday.
With the game tied, 2-2, in the fourth, Triunfel hit a high chopper down the left-field line that easily cleared third baseman Michael Young. The double -- Triunfel's second big league hit -- scored Casper Wells from first, giving the young shortstop his first RBI in the Majors.
Triunfel advanced to third on a groundout and then scored his first MLB run with two outs on an error by Young to pad the Mariners lead, 4-2.
"I went out there to just play my game and I'm glad I did it," said Triunfel on his double through interpreter Fernando Alcala. "It feels good because it scored a run and it helped the team win."
Shortstop: Brendan Ryan's defense is unquestioned, but his sub-.200 batting average made for a tough 2012. Ryan's two-year contract expires, but he remains under team control in his final season of arbitration eligibility and figures to return unless the team decides to pursue a veteran through trade or free agency. There are a couple of quality shortstops in the farm system, but Carlos Triunfel didn't get much playing time even as a September callup, and Nick Franklin was still adjusting to Triple-A pitching with Tacoma. So it probably makes sense to re-sign Ryan for his final year of arbitration and then see how the kids develop next year.
This offseason will be important for all eight of these players as they work to prove they belong back in the major leagues in 2013.