BRADENTON – The Pirates opened Fall Instructional League last week and Monday began the exhibition part of the FIL. (It’s not really a “league” as stats and records aren’t kept) The “older” players in camp played an exhibition game against the Blue Jays. There was also an intrasquad game, more of a scrimmage really, involving the “younger” players.
The players in camp are, for the most part, drawn from the Pirates’ four short-season affliates: the DSL and GCL Pirates, Bristol, and Morgantown. There’s also a smattering of players working their way back from injuries or getting ready to participate in the Arizona Fall League or, in a few cases, winter ball. Austin Meadows, for instance, is in camp, although he was in workout duds today and not dressed for game action.
The Blue Jays game featured several players headed to the AFL. Kevin Kramer, for instance, was one, and he played short as advertised. The game also included some players who haven’t played at very high levels, such as Yondry Contreras and Jeremias Portorreal, who were at Bristol and in the GCL this year. They’ve both, however, been with the organization for several years.
The pitchers included Mitch Keller, Brandon Waddell, Taylor Hearn, Jake Brentz and others. It’s not possible to get any meaningful impression from performances in a game like this, as the pitchers all threw just an inning and at least some of them were probably just tuning up for the AFL. All of the above pitchers had quick innings except Hearn, who got hit around some, giving up two runs and leaving after recording just two outs. Hearn missed the last six weeks of the minor league season, except for one rehab outing in the GCL at season’s end.
The intrasquad game featured a lot of players from the GCL, as well as even more just arrived from the DSL. One exception was Oneil Cruz, who played short. He was in low Class A this year, but he won’t even turn 19 until October 4. As I said above, this “game” resembled a scrimmage: innings sometimes started with a runner on base, or with one out, or with a 1-1 count on the hitter, as the coaches had the players working on various situations. There’d be three or four hitters bat and then the teams would switch sides, with several mass substitutions. The game lasted a little over an hour. Below are some photos of players up from the DSL who are getting their first experience in the U.S.