Prospect Notebook: Tony Sanchez, Kris Johnson and Victor Black
Sanchez praises batting coaches after productive afternoon
Sneaking a peek at Phil Irwin’s major-league debut on the visiting clubhouse’s television on Sunday afternoon, Tony Sanchez received an urgent summons to action: home plate umpire Jon Sapphire had ejected starting catcher Brian Jeroloman in the fourth inning and Sanchez had to take the field. “That had never happened to me before,” said Sanchez of his sudden substitution. “I didn’t get loose until the second inning I was in.”
Sanchez’s bat hardly seemed to suffer from the unplanned entrance. His four plate appearances yielded a two singles, a double and a walk. Coming a day after Sanchez had contributed a two-run single to a four-run first inning in the Indians’ nightcap win over Columbus, his in media res afternoon suggested evidence of life after starting the season with one hit in fifteen at-bats. He added another double, but also three strikeouts, on Monday night’s 5-4 win at Toledo.
After Sunday’s game, Sanchez lauded the mentoring of new Indianapolis hitting coach Mike Pagliarulo and organizational hitting coordinator Jeff Livesey.
“They’ve put lots of effort into helping me,” he said. “They’ve made lots of little twerks and adjustments to my swing. We had a good early batting practice before Sunday’s game. The important thing is to be able to trust what you are doing out there.”
Adjustments fuel Johnson’s repeat success
When a pitcher makes back-to-back starts against the same opponent, both parties’ adjustment skills get tested. Will the hitters, leveraging prior exposure to the pitcher’s repertoire, gain the upper hand? Or will the pitcher, knowing the batters’ tendencies, take control of the situation?
Kris Johnson’s rematch with Columbus in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader followed the latter pattern. Six days and a trip west on I-70 after throwing five shutout innings at the Clippers, Johnson allowed very little solid contact in a six-inning stint. Matt Carson’s sixth-inning home run, on a 1-0 fastball that the lefthander attempted to get inside but left over the plate, snapped Johnson’s scoreless string and ultimately saddled him with a 2-1 defeat, but his four-hit, three-walk performance spoke well of his ability to adjust.
“They’re an aggressive team,” Johnson said. “The first time against them, I tried to read their swings. The second time, I was able to make the adjustments.”
Black battles April chill
Victor Black took the mound for the seventh and final inning of Saturday’s nightcap. He immediately walked Carson on four pitches, prompting a mound visit from pitching coach Tom Filer on the chilly night.
“It was the temperature,” Black said. “The ball was slippery because it was cold and I couldn’t get a grip. It was moving in my hand.”
Filer’s visit had no impact on the local mercury level, but Black found his target shortly thereafter. He put a 96-mile-per-hour fastball over the plate to Jeremy Hermida, but left fielder Darren Ford, who Black noted “has the most range of anyone I’ve played with,” ran down Hermida’s drive in the left center gap. Black then set down Mike McDade and Adam Abraham on swinging strikeouts, his fastball reaching a peak of 97 miles per hour.
“Consistency is my main goal now,” Black, who battled injuries in 2010 and 2011, said. “I want to be able to show that I can pitch back-to-back days. Right now, I’m trying for two-inning outings. The Pirates have some good guys in the back of their bullpen, so if I’m going to fit in there I will have to be pitching two or more innings at a time.”
Black added two more strikeouts in a perfect ninth inning to earn the save on Monday in Toledo.
– Oscar Tejeda, playing AAA for the first time after spending the past two seasons in AA, contributed an alert effort at second base on Sunday. In the second inning, Hermida grounded an Andrew Oliver pitch sharply down the right-field line. The ball struck the curved fence behind the bullpen and bounced back toward the playing field. Tejeda hustled to short right field, picked up the ball, and gunned down Hermida’s attempt to stretch the hit into a double. Five innings later, he dashed home from second base when McDade, seeking a force at the plate with the bases loaded, threw the ball to the backstop. Tejeda also added an opposite-field RBI double, high off the fence in right center, and a stolen base.
– The Indians made it to their clubhouse after Sunday’s game just in time to see Michael McKenry’s game-tying home run on television. The blast provoked whoops of joy from the assembled players.