Arms overpowered bats during the first weekend of the season
By Benjamin Hill / MLB.com | April 9, 2012 12:50 PM ET
Four days down, 152 to go.
Opening Weekend is now in the books, a baseball extravaganza that featured 120 teams in 10 leagues over four levels of play competing in their first games of the season. Given this exceedingly large sample size, it would seem a fool's exercise to reduce the weekend's myriad action into a concise summary statement.
But we here at MiLB.com are nothing if not fools, so how about this: Pitching reigned supreme.
Indeed, our nation's emerging men of the mound had a veritable coming-out party this weekend, with top prospects and unheralded journeymen alike stymieing the opposition with apparent ease. Perhaps this anecdotal phenomenon can best be summed up through the strange case of the Charleston RiverDogs, who swept a three-game set against the Rome Braves on the strength of scoring four runs. Total.
After an Opening Day washout, the RiverDogs won Friday by a score of 1-0 in a game that took a breezy hour and 56 minutes to complete. Jose Campos, making his debut in the Yankees system after being part of the trade that sent Jesus Montero to Seattle, allowed just two baserunners over six innings, and two relievers followed with three hitless frames. This made a tough-luck loser of David Filak, who struck out seven over six frames and is now on his way to proving that his 7.54 ERA with Rome in 2011 was an aberration.
The RiverDogs won again Saturday, and this time the pitcher in Rome's loss column was none other than rehabbing Braves right-hander Tim Hudson. The three-time All-Star was touched for two runs -- one earned -- over three frames, and that was all the offense Charleston would need thanks to the dominating trio of Caleb Cotham, Wilton Rodriguez (who was perfect over three innings and earned the win) and Ben Paullus.
After the ballgame, Hudson was magnanimous in defeat.
"It's fun to hang out with these kids," he said. "I can see their hunger and passion. It reminds me of my time in the Minors. It's good to see."
The offense of both teams was left hungry in Sunday's finale, with the RiverDogs once again pulling out a 1-0 victory. Bryan Mitchell, the Yankees' 20th-ranked prospect, faced just 19 batters over six innings and earned the win. This must have left Rome's A.J. Holland scratching his head afterward, as the tough-luck hurler took the loss despite a respectable day's work of one unearned run allowed over 6 2/3 innings.
Plenty more where that came from
Though the Charleston-Rome series was on the extreme end of the pitching dominant side of the equation, there is, indeed, plenty more where that came from. A leisurely stroll through the MiLB.com news archives reveals pitching-themed recaps and write-ups galore, with star performers including first-rounders such as Boston's Matt Barnes, Baltimore's Dylan Bundy and Arizona's Trevor Bauer.
Runs Scored on Opening Weekend
Runs per game for the first four days of the Minor League season since 2005
And then there are more unlikely stories, such as that of Lehigh Valley's Tyler Cloyd. The 24-year-old was slated to start the season with Double-A Reading but received a spot start with Lehigh Valley after scheduled starter Dave Bush was suspended during Spring Training. Cloyd went ahead and made the most of his serendipitous assignment by hurling six perfect innings against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre -- the first time in franchise history that a pitcher had attained perfection for such a sustained length of time.
Chicks still dig 'em
Though overshadowed by their pitching brethren, there was still a plethora of Minor League sluggers who were able to leave a mark this weekend. After a 30-homer season with Round Rock last season, Mike Bianucci picked up where he left off by homering in each of his first three games with Triple-A Round Rock.
Bianucci, however, isn't atop the Minor League leaderboard. That honor goes to High Desert shortstop Brad Miller, who went yard once Thursday, once Saturday and then, for good measure, twice Sunday. Though it appears unlikely that the Clemson product will be able to maintain his 140-homer pace for the duration of the season, he has already exceeded what he was able to accomplish in 2011. Miller, the Mariners' second-round pick in 2011, made his professional debut with Class A Clinton late that season and failed to go yard over 53 at-bats.
Each month, MiLB.com's Crooked Numbers column documents the most anomalous on-field happenings to occur in Minor League Baseball. Certainly, Opening Weekend provided a few candidates.
On Opening Day, Kane County's Cole Adams hit a triple and a grand slam against Quad Cities -- in one inning. His above-and-beyond contributions to the nine-run frame proved crucial to Kane County's 11-10 victory.
The Northwest Arkansas Naturals got off on the wrong foot and then some, making five errors on Opening Day. The team hadn't made this many miscues in a contest for nearly three years -- April 9, 2009, versus San Antonio.
Delmarva ran the bases with impunity during their opening series against Asheville, going a perfect 10-for-10 in steal attempts.
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.