Driving up to Altoona the density of the air could only be characterized as “molybdenum”. The small wind farm perched over the town of Altoona was standing still. The turbines couldn’t work up the energy to cut through the air.
It was a night that originally heralded few home runs sailing through the air, but that would turn out to not be the case once the humidity cleared out at first pitch. The trip from Pittsburgh to Altoona is worth it to get a live view of Starling Marte, Tony Sanchez, and Matt Curry. There are plenty of other reasons to make the 2 hour (2-1/2 in traffic) trip: Brock Holt, Quincy Latimore, Jeremy Farrell, Jordy Mercer, and tonight’s starting pitcher Mike Colla needs to be evaluated as he’s come out of nowhere as an interesting starting pitcher.
On the mound tonight for the Erie Seawolves was Detroit’s #1 prospect, Jacob Turner. Turner was a 2009 draft pick with high bonus demands that slid to the Tigers. As is the case with the Tigers, they have aggressively promoted their top talent. After seeing Turner, you can see that his $4.7M bonus was well invested. Even though Taillon is more of a power pitcher, you can see how the young HS-drafted pitchers can pay off quickly. Turner is a top talent in his own right, but part of his rapid advancement probably has to do with his major-league contract and presence on the 40-man roster when he signed. Turner sat 92-94 on his fastball, with a nice changeup that he got at least 2 of his 4 strikeouts on. Turner also had a well-shaped curve that he occasionally tossed.
Colla held his own against Turner, mostly utilizing an 89-91 mph fastball and a rudimentary 82 mph changeup. There’s nothing fancy or particularly impressive about Colla, but he knows what he’s doing out there. He’s a guy to keep an eye on, but mostly as a #5 starter or long man. Colla did have an ill-advised pick off attempt to 2B that sailed into center field, allowing the runner to go to 3B. He promptly served a long homer to Fernando Martinez that reached the grass behind the left field bleachers to give the Seawolves a 2-0 lead. Colla also left a ball up in the zone for a no-doubt homer in the 6th that brought Erie within one run to 4-3. His final line was 6 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, and 5 K’s. Colla also did smear a Seawolf player in the face in the 4th inning. Rawley Bishop laid on the ground for a minute or two and then walked off on his power with assistance from the training staff.
Curry holds his hands high pre-pitch, but drops them more into a standard zone as the pitch is being delivered. When John Dreker saw Altoona in Trenton recently, he was unimpressed his Curry’s defense at 1B, but Curry deftly handled a well struck ball on his backhand. Curry did fail to cover 1B on a squib that he and Aaron Thompson both attempted to field in the 8th, but then made a nice scoop in the dirt in the same inning on a failed double play throw. Curry hustled down the line in the bottom of the 7th on a groundout to 1B. He’s not going to be a base clogger.
The best way to describe Latimore’s game tonight would be “awkward”. He took a circuitous route on a flyball in the first inning, but made the catch. In the 2nd inning he seemed totally overmatched by Turner, eventually striking out on high heat at eye level. Then, to paraphrase Dumb and Dumber, he totally redeemed himself in the 4th inning with a deep home run that reached the grass behind the left field bleachers, probably 50 feet directly to the right of Fernando Martinez’s home run for the Seawolves.
With all of the injuries to Pirate catchers, both at the major league level and at AAA, there were some rumblings that maybe Tony Sanchez should be brought up and given a shot as Pittsburgh’s starting catcher. I think defensively he could handle it right now; he’s very quiet behind the plate, frames pitches well, and has a smooth and quick release on his throws to second. Offensively, he would be overmatched, but probably still a better option than the current two catchers in Pittsburgh. On the bases, Sanchez runs better than a typical catcher. He was efficient going from first to third on a single and “stole” home on a failed suicide squeeze coupled with a wild pitch in the dirt that the Seawolves’ catcher lost. It’s best if Sanchez stays at AA the whole season in 2011, mostly to make up for all the lost time from 2010.
Starling Marte went 1-3 on the night with his lone hit a slicing double down the right field line. He runs like a gazelle on the bases. He covered a lot of grass in CF on a long fly ball in the 4th inning. Marte took more pitches than I expected at the plate and even worked a walk from Turner in the 3rd inning.
Jeremy Farrell was the hero of the night with a well-struck homer in the 8th to deep left-center field, giving the Curve the 5-4 lead and eventual victory.
With the Pirates potential starting catcher, starting right fielder, and potential first baseman all playing in Altoona right now, it would be well worth the drive to check out the Curve.