Diamonds in the Desert: A Baseball Blog from Tucson

Colorful Uniforms Didn’t Help
June 9, 2013, 16:11
Filed under: Uncategorized

Let’s see if we can speculate what might have been going on in young RHP Matt Branham’s head as he took the start for the Tucson Padres last night…  Drafted in 2010, you think you’ve done pretty well to be pitching in High-A ball in your fourth professional season.  After starting at Lake Elsinore all of last season, the organization has shifted you to the pen.  You’ve been in 18 games (32.2 innings) this season and you’re starting to get the hang of things.  You’ve had a couple rough outings, but the last few have been very good.  Your confidence is growing even though the team is struggling in its Division of the Cal League.  You’re in a good place…getting better…happy to be playing pro ball.  You hit the sack in Bakersfield Friday night after a close win, not knowing that the San Diego Padres were about to make a move that would reroute your life for the next couple of days.  Unbeknownst to you, the organization has recalled Tucson’s scheduled starter for their third game versus the Sacramento River Cats.  This may not have been on your radar…except for the call you get early Saturday morning saying, “Pack your undies, son, you’re going to Tucson!  You’re gonna make an emergency spot start for the AAA team!  Good luck.  Your flight leaves in 2 hours.”  You can’t believe your ears, but you can’t dwell on it, because you’ve got to get to Tucson, find the field, meet the team…a million things running through your head.  You’ve heard about the PCL…they’re a bunch of grizzled old vets – lots have major league time – and balls fly out of the ballparks.  It’s a hitter’s league.  You arrive at Kino Stadium and your adrenalin is spiking.  The clubhouse attendant hands you the brightest, most colorful uniform you’ve ever seen, saying, “Big promo tonight. Here’s your guest jersey.”  You did some checking and found out that Sacramento seems to own the T-Pads this year.  Do you think you can hold them in check?  And boy, it’s hot in Tucson…but at least not as muggy as some places in the CAL League.  You and your new AAA teammates look like giant hot dogs, slathered in mustard and ketchup with a big helping of something blue – and the media has actually shown up because of the throw-back uniforms.  You try to find your zone…push the anxiety down a notch as you face your first AAA batter.  It’s Jemile Weeks – his brother plays for the Brewers.  OMG!  One pitch and Weeks is aboard with a triple.  Yikes!  What was that?  Weeks scores when the second batter, Grant Green, hits a single.  You take a deep breath.  Scott Moore is next – he’s got time in The Show! – and you get him to strike out!  That’s more like it!  But generally, they outmatch you (not to worry, Matt, they’ve outmatched all of the T-Pads pretty badly so far this season).  You do your best, but you’re done after three innings, having given up five runs on seven hits and three walks.  Your AAA debut is over.  You did it!  But you sure hope you’ll be better when you get back up to this level to stay.

In fact, Matt, some of our everyday pitchers have done much worse than you did last night.  Sacramento does seem to live in the T-Pads heads – we can’t seem to turn the tables on them.  After Matt’s debut, Tucson sends former Mission’s pitcher, Jeff Ibarra, in for his second outing in AAA.  He’d had a tough debut, too, giving up three runs in one-third of an inning two nights ago.  Ibarra made it through two complete innings last night, though he also gave up five runs, which gave the River Cats a ten-nothing lead through five innings.  Manager Pat Murphy then used four of our “regular” relievers for the next four innings – they held Sacramento scoreless!  Well done, Nick Vincent, Jorge Reyes, Daniel Stange, and Miles Mikolas!  At the same time as our core relievers began taking innings, Tucson’s offense began to show a bit of spark!  Rene Rivera led off the sixth inning with a solo homer that ended the chance that Sacramento’s RHP Bruce Billings would earn a shutout.  And that was a close thing.  Billings was nothing short of exceptional to that point:  in his six innings of work he allowed only that one run on only four total hits, three walks, and three Ks.  The Pads were thrilled to see him leave!  Against the Cat’s first reliever of the evening, Dean Anna launched a two-run homer that scored him and Daniel Robertson (who had reached on a walk), giving Tucson three runs through seven.  With two out in the eighth against Sacramento’s second reliever of the evening, Brandon Allen smashed out a solo homer to give the Pads four total runs!  Sacramento left Chris Resop in to take the ninth, as well…Tucson played some little ball, scoring D-Rob on an RBI single by Gregorio Petit.  In my typical, glass-half-full manner, I’m really pleased that Tucson was able to hold Sacramento at ten through the second half of the game – and that we split the score rather than being shut out.  Well done!  However, we did lose…and slipped back to three games behind Sacramento for our Division lead.  The good news is that Vegas was shutout at Tacoma, so we’re still in a virtual tie for second place.  AND we have one more game tonight!  A win would prevent a sweep and bring us back up a game in the standings.  You can do it – Go Padres!  Final Score:  Tucson 5; Sacramento 10.

Inspirational!  There are times when baseball does something that takes my breath away…the way the PCL surrounded and embraced New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina…the way all of baseball adopted Boston following the Marathon bombings…and now this:  yesterday the Arizona Diamondbacks used their 34th draft choice to select Arizona State University’s OF Cory Hahn.  Hahn had big plans for his baseball career, but they were cut short in 2011 by a horrific collision at second base (during only his third game as a Sun Devil) which left Cory paralyzed.  In honor of the number Cory wore for ASU, #34, the DBacks used that pick to select him.  And it’s not just an empty gesture!  DBack’s President Derrick Hall is quoted as saying, “I was able to spend time with them right after the injury in his hospital room and he’s a wonderful kid. We want to make this permanent. We don’t want this to just be about the selection and him being a draft pick, but about him working in full-time employment with the Diamondbacks and hopefully we’ll make that come to fruition for he and his family here soon.”  Isn’t that a beautiful story!  You can read more here.  (There’s also a tie to the Tucson Padres here…Hahn played at ASU for current T-Pad’s Manager, Pat Murphy, who was reportedly thrilled at the news during last night’s game.)

Transactions.  I don’t see anything new to report today.

One More Night in This Homestand!   The Tucson Padres play the final game against the Sacramento River Cats (AAA Athletics) in this series at Kino Stadium tonight at 7:05pm.  Tonight is Military Appreciation Night and Bark in the Park Night.  All military personnel (active, retired, and veterans) and a guest will be given two free box seats!  They need only present their Military ID at Padres Box Office. Dogs will also be admitted free with their owners; the first 250 dogs will receive a free Frisbee!  All this and GREAT baseball too!  I’ll see you there!  Tomorrow the Padres hit the road to Fresno for another four games against the Grizzlies (AAA Giants).  All of those games will air at 7:05pm on 1290 AM The Source or live-streaming off the Tucson Padres website.

(Disclaimer – This posting has not been reviewed or approved by Pima County, the City of Tucson, the Tucson Padres, Tucson AAA Baseball, San Diego Padres, PCL, MiLB, MLB, National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, the Pima County Sports and Tourism Authority, or any other baseball official and represents the views and biases of the author alone)


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