A Sunday Afternoon in Altoona
I was on the road Sunday afternoon, making a trip down to Maryland. With the opportunity available, I took a quick detour to Altoona to see the Curve take on the Erie SeaWolves. There was rain in the area, but it stayed mostly dry throughout the game. Erie took home the victory, 2-1 in 13 innings. Aaron Pribanic made the start, and pitched six-plus shutout innings, striking out four with zero walks. Tim Alderson also threw three innings, allowing one run and striking out three. Michael Dubee pitched in with two scoreless innings. Chris Leroux entered the game in the 13th, trying to keep the game tied. Justin Henry ripped his second pitch to right field for a triple, and the relay to third skipped away and bounded into the seats. Henry trotted home with what turned out to be the winning run.
This was my first look at Starling Marte, and I came away unimpressed. He certainly flashed the raw tools, but it was an uneventful and mostly uninteresting game for him. He had quick at-bats and barely hit the ball out of the infield. In the first, he did not put up a fight, striking out on three quick pitches. He added three routine groundouts, a pop-out, and was also retired trying to bunt for a single. He is all upper body at the plate, and he looks like he will need some significant mechanical improvements before he takes the next step. He also looked a bit tentative in centerfield. He did not get much action, and did not record a put-out. In the second inning, Erie hit three fly balls toward the right-center gap. Right fielder Brad Chalk caught all three. Obviously, that is not a very big deal, as all three outs were recorded. However, a confident centerfielder calls off his teammate on these types of fly balls, and Marte was all too comfortable peeling off when he saw Chalk approaching. Marte’s physical tools were still apparent (I clocked him at 4.07 seconds to first base on one groundout, which is plus speed), and I obviously caught him on a bad day, but he clearly still needs quite a bit of work.
It was the first time I have seen Tony Sanchez live as well, and I was disappointed to find that he was penciled in as the Curve’s designated hitter. The only time I have seen him behind the plate has been on video, and I was eager to get a first-hand look at his defense. Sanchez had a mediocre day at the plate. He grounded out in his first two at-bats, including a high chopper in front of home in which he was called out for running inside the baseline. He struck out on a curve the next time up, and looked bad doing it. He again waved harmlessly at a breaking ball in his fourth plate appearance, missing badly. But Zach Simons challenged Sanchez with a fastball, and the young catcher lined the pitch sharply into center for a base hit. Sanchez had a particularly frustrating at-bat in the bottom of the 12th. Jeremy Farrell was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, putting the winning run on first base. Sanchez was sent to the plate with orders to bunt Farrell to second. He pulled back and took a strike on pitch one. He bunted foul on pitch two. On pitch three, he inexplicably squared around again. Another foul ball, and he was out. I traveled to Altoona, and I still could not get away from the nonsensical bunting.
Pribanic was very effective, but he did not look that impressive. Nothing about him stood out, other than solid command. He threw his fastball in the low 90’s, mostly sitting at 91-92 MPH, and he consistently kept the ball down in the zone. I did not notice any sharp movement on his highly-touted sinker, although a professional scout could possibly pick up that movement a bit better than I can. All in all, his stuff was simply uninteresting.
Jordy Mercer hit the ball hard a few times, including a double to right-center that traveled about 375 feet. I have seen him struggle with breaking balls in the past, but he did not have any problems in this game. He displayed good hands on a couple of tough hops at short, but he struggled with his throws across the diamond. Early in the game, he launched an errant toss into the stands behind first base. Later, he threw off-target again, but was bailed out on a nice play by first baseman Miles Durham. Throughout the game, he seemed a bit too nonchalant on routine throws. He has a stronger arm than he showed on Sunday, but he seemed unwilling to unleash it in this game.
Alderson entered the game in the 8th inning, and pitched three solid innings. His fastball velocity was unimpressive, sitting at 88-89 and touching 90. He dropped down to 86 on a couple pitches, including one that was ripped to the left field wall for a double. This was the only sharply hit ball I recall Alderson allowing, but it brought home the tying run that pushed the game into extra innings. I was disappointed in the velocity, as recent reports have had him in the low 90’s. (I should note that the radar gun at which I was peeking malfunctioned a bit in Alderson’s second inning, so there is a chance that some of these readings were a bit off.) His curveball looked very good, and it had the Erie lineup baffled. All three of his strikeouts came on the hook, as hitters struggled to put the pitch in play.
Other than that, I saw very little of interest. The Curve had just seven hits, and no one player managed multiple base knocks. The game did go 13 innings, so at least I got to see some bonus baseball.