GLENDALE, Ariz. – The AFL reminds me of the early days of covering the Pirates’ system on this site. Back in 2009/2010, the Pirates had very few prospects, and most were in the lower levels. This meant that a lot of games left you waiting for the 1-2 actual hitting prospects in the lineup, and hoping that an interesting pitcher was going in order to have something extra to watch.
Today, Glendale had Austin Meadows in the lineup, which didn’t provide many opportunities to see a Pirates prospect in action. Fortunately, two things happened. First, Glendale had a big day on offense, which led to more plate appearances from Meadows. Second, Tyler Eppler came on for an inning in relief.
Meadows didn’t do much at the plate today. He went 0-for-4 with a walk, while hitting two easy fly balls, and one hard hit fly ball for a sac fly RBI. The walk was impressive, as he battled back in the count and fouled off a few close pitches to stay alive. That was followed by a three run homer by Kyle Farmer.
Eppler struck out the first two batters he faced, then gave up a single on a grounder up the middle. He followed that up with a groundout to shortstop, getting out of the inning. Eppler was sitting 93-95 MPH with his fastball, and was working on his slider, which has been a focus for him this year. He entered the system with a curveball, but wasn’t seeing good results with the pitch. The Pirates switched him to a slider this year, and he’s been focusing on adding more depth to the pitch in order to bury it low in the zone and in the dirt. Eppler is another one of the interesting pitchers who could emerge as a rotation option in the majors in the next few years.
Trevor Williams was added to the Fall Stars Game roster today as a replacement. I heard today that he has been hitting 95 MPH in shorter outings this fall, although he usually sits 89-92 as a starter. If he pitches tomorrow, it will be the first time I’ll see him live.
An amusing moment took place at the end of today’s game. One of the Glendale pitchers was tossed by the third base ump in the ninth inning with one out after making comments from the bench about the strike zone. The manager went out to argue the decision to throw the player out, and after what appeared to be a calm conversation, the umpire tossed the manager. The manager then said he didn’t say anything, and refused to be tossed, heading back to his spot in the dugout.
At this point, the second base umpire (who I assume was the crew chief) walked in and said the manager needed to go. This led to the manager blowing up, and a funny situation with the manager dropping a lot of F-bombs, while a dad sat in the front row behind the dugout, with his three young kids all holding earmuffs through the argument.
Since the stadium was pretty empty, you could hear the argument, which got pretty childish. The umpire said he was going to walk the manager out of the stadium, and the manager said that no one was walking him out. That led to a power struggle where the manager refused to leave until the umpire returned to his position, while the umpire refused to return to his position until the manager left. The manager returned to the dugout, while the umpire stood outside waiting for about a minute. Then the manager walked to the other end of the dugout and walked off the field.
Overall, it was one of the biggest ump shows I’ve seen. It all started over the fact that the third base umpire couldn’t let a few comments from the dugout slide with just two outs left in the game, and then couldn’t let a comment go from the manager.