Afternoon on the Back 40

SURPRISE, AZ — Everyone who was anyone was there to see Kevin Millwood’s appearance in the Bakersfield game this afternoon and while it went well, it was Rangers catching prospect Manny Pina (pictured below) who stole the show.

Afternoon_farm_016 In Millwood’s first inning, he started off getting the first batter to ground out to second on the sixth pitch, but the second hitter slammed a double to left. 

The following batter singled to right, but Kyle Murphy drilled the runner trying to score from second with a bullet to the plate. 

Pina expertly blocked the runner’s path and applied the tag, holding on through hard contact.

Three pitches later, Pina ended the inning by picking off the runner leading off of second.   

Then,  to prove his Pudgy point, he ended Millwood’s second frame by nailing a runner leading off of first with a Pudge Rodriguez snap throw.  He also had two hits in the game.

He good.  Very good.   Pray for his bat to come around.

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In case you were wondering, Millwood looked very healthy.  His fastball was comfortably in the 90-93 range.  He fired off a couple of strong 84 mph sliders and high 70’s curves.

Jack Benoit appeared to be nearly back to full strength, dealing low-90’s heat with excellent location and wicked 85 mph sliders that overwhelmed the High-A hitters he was facing.

CJ Wilson had no trouble getting through his one inning of work in an efficient 10 pitch effort.  His fastball velocity (88 –  90 mph) was well off his normal 94-96 mph, but he appeared to be locating at will.

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Afternoon_farm_023 Lefty Derek Holland (pictured left) made a very good impression in the Clinton game.   

The a 6’3", 185-pound lefty, signed as a draft-and-follow out of Wallace State (Ala.) Community College just before the 2007 draft. The Rangers projected him as a fourth- to seventh-rounder.   

Holland posted a 3.22 ERA for Spokane last summer, racking up an impressive 11.15 K/9 and an equally impressive 1.16 WHIP while holding the opposition to a .224 batting average.

From a nice, repeatable delivery, he fired off a low-to-mid 90’s fastball with good life and a slider with good late tilt. 

Johnny Whittleman smoked a double to the right-center gap to cap off an eight-pitch at bat in the first inning of the Bakersfield game.   It was the hardest hit ball of the day.   He’s proving to be a very picky hitter. 

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SLEEPERS:

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Afternoon_farm_026 The most interesting young pitching prospect to take the mound today was perhaps Kennil Gomez (pictured),  a 6’3" 165 lb. 19 year old who posted a 9.96 K/9 for the Arizona League club last summer (3.15 ERA & 1.17 WHIP).   He threw a 90ish fastball with explosive life and he’s obviously in love with his slider, which features sharp, hard late break and he throws it for strikes.

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Afternoon_farm_027 Another sleeper might be second baseman Matt Lawson (pictured, left) who hit .295 / .360 / .402 for Spokane last summer after the Rangers tabbed him in the 14th round out of Missouri State.   

Lawson, about 6’0",  195 lbs., is an above average glove with excellent speed, and he showed some pop in his bat, taking a Rockies prospect deep over the left field wall this afternoon.

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I’m going under the radar to find this guy, but 2007 sixth rounder Bobby Wilkins put a charge into minor league pitching coordinator Rick Adair with his morning side session (and vice versa).

St_143 Wilkins, a powerfully built (6’4",  225 lbs.) San Diego-area high school star, had a relatively disappointing debut season with the Arizona League club, posting a modest ERA of 5.25 and a K/9 of 5.25.   

Today, Adair tweaked up his delivery, raised his arm slot, and it was fun to watch the excitement level of both the teacher and his student as they witnessed immediate results.

What started off as a lackluster side began to pick up steam when Adair challenged Wilkins, asking the big kid "so you want to be a sidearm pitcher?"

Adair worked with Wilkins to lift his arm angle, and soon the leather was really popping.  Moreover, Wilkins started dropping in power curves that — it seemed from his reaction — he’d never managed to whip off before.

There are a lot of things about the John Hart era that leave something to be desired, of course, but I feel pretty confident in stating that in bringing Adair into the system, Hart may have made one of his most important contributions to the organization.

And Bobby Wilkins may turn out to be even more proof of that.

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2 comments

  1. Mike

    I found out that I missed both Ocampo and Ramirez on my first day. Didn’t know they were scheduled to pitch until it was too late. I had finished watching Feliz, Font and Castillo and then headed back across the complex before they took the mound.

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