Taking a break from the already underachieving biog league club, we ventured to Bowie, Md., last night to witness the Class-AA season opener for the Reading Phils against the hometown Baysox. Besides the cheaop tickets and the invitation from a softball teammate and college buddy, we were looking forward to seeing one of the mid-level squad's golden arms pitch. In this case, it was Scott Mathieson, better known as the Canadian pitcher who nearly gave up a home run to Chase Utley in the WBC.
Bowie's stadium is weird -- located in kind of a suburban megaplex behind the home depot -- the chill in the air prevented more than a few hundred people from attending the game. The majority of attendents were of the young pursuation and the excitement of every foul ball in the stands seemed to grow inning by inning. To be fair, this game had more foul balls than any we'd ever seen. That probably has something to do with opposing aces on the mond as well as rusty hitters.
The Phils seemed to be ready early, knocking out six singles in the first 3 innings and scratching out a run in the second. Conversely, Mathieson was tough early, sending the first seven batters down in succession by throwing hard -- his fastball popped Jason Jaramillio's glove at 96 two or three times --and little else. His first spin through the lineup, only one hitter caught up with anything he through and that was an 88 mph slider that Michael Bourn amazingly ran down in the gap in leftcenter with a spectacular diving catch.
By the second time, through, however, was a different story. Mathieson walked a few batters, and gave up a two run dinger to leadoff hitter Jeff Fiorentino on a slider that he apparently developed in the Arizona Fall League in order to drop his curveball. With all due respect to whatever his pitching coaches tell him, Mathieson might want to think about keeping that curve, or some form of slurve, around, since essentially all his pitches were coming in at the same speed and same angle. Mathieson seemed to throw almost all fastballs the first three innings, as everything was straight and between 91-94. By the 6th inning, Mathieson's pitch count was over 100 and while his velocity was still pretty solid, with the occasional dip in the mid-80s, his fastballs appeared to lose a few mphs and were getting higher and higher.
The other player we were very interested in watching was catcher Jason Jaramillo, who seemed not entirely confident behind the plate (one very bad passed ball as well as some communcation problems with Mathieson), and had both a good at-bat at the plate and very bad one in which he swung at three straight balls low and outside to K. Jaramillo, a switch hitter, posted a .300-plus average last year, so we don't expect too many bad showings at the plate this season.
While some of us have been excited to see Reading this season, they have an absolute dearth of power. Only two players on the roster had more than 10 HRs last season at any level, while Bowie, a team that finished 6 games over .500 last year, has 4 players with more than 20 HRs. It will be interesting to see if Reading can generate enough offense this year to support their talented pitching staff.
We left in the 6th because of the chill, with reading down 3-1. That's how it ended.