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Your humble correspondent, fresh off a scintillating e-mail interview with Keith Law and Coach (look for the full text here at Da Box on Tuesday), had the good fortune to attend an Ottawa Lynx game Frday night in the company of both the Syracuse Skychiefs and, far better, his wife (or "Mrs. Beeah Guy," as she's sometimes known). Here's my report on the evening's festivities.

The pitching matchup was Corey Thurman vs. Sean Douglass, a pairing of two pitchers with major-league service time that should have been lower-scoring than it was (in order to eliminate the suspense, I can tell you that the final score was 14-8 for Syracuse). Rob Ryan was the hitting star for the Chiefs, going 4 for 5 with 3 doubles and 3 RBIs, but pretty much everyone got into the act, with at least one notable exception.

Thurman, as Coach noted in last night's game thread, was pitching terrifically well through the first three innings. His fastball was cracking the catcher's mitt and his curve was breaking sharply and late (we had seats five rows behind home plate, but no scouts in the vicinity, alas). The Ottawaians (Ottawaites?) didn't have a chance against him. But in the bottom of the fourth, with a 5-0 lead, Thurman's attention seemed to waver: he gave up a ringing double and then, with two out, hung a pitch to none other than overhyped sabrmetric dreamboat Jack Cust, who took Corey deep into the humid Canadian night. Thurm also got knocked around pretty good in the fifth, and was in fact gone after 5, allowing 3 earned runs over that span. He seemed to fall in love with his breaking stuff, which could be explained by fatigue or by an unwillingness to trust his fastball, or both. The opposing batters figured out pretty quickly that he was throwing just one pitch they needed to worry about, and responded accordingly. Without a reliable third pitch, Corey's looking at a career in the bullpen, which is not what the Blue Jays need. In his defence, I'll only note that the plate umpire was pretty stingy with the strike zone all evening. But I was disappointed that Thurm only gave his team five frames. He'll need to do better than that in the majors, and he'll need to do a better job with a five-run lead (which he was given twice) and the game in hand. One start does not a scouting report make, but I'll admit I was looking for more.

The other noteworthy presence last night was Kevin Cash, whom we all know has been struggling with the bat at Triple-A. Tonight, I began to see why. I saw Cash late last year in Ottawa, and that night he cracked three hits (two singles, one double) to the opposite field. Against the Lynx on Friday, crowding the plate somewhat in an evident attempt to improve his outside corner plate coverage, Kevin did the following:

- pulled an outside pitch to the shortstop, out 6-3.
- pulled an outside pitch to the shortstop, 6-4-3 double play.
- lined an outside fastball to the first baseman on an inside-out swing, doubling off a runner
- grounded a fastball to the second baseman, out 4-3
- lined a breaking ball into left field for a single, with the game already well in hand

It's not like he wasn't trying -- he had an idea of going to right -- but he just couldn't pull it off. I'd hate to think he's hit his limit against AAA pitching, especially because his defence is just stellar. Thurman's mastery early in the game left few opportunities to see Cash in action behind the plate: all I could tell to that point was that he wasn't terribly adept at framing pitches and stealing strikes for his pitcher. But in the fourth, with a runner on second, Cash caught a pitch and just laser-beamed the ball down to second to try to nail the runner wandering off the bag. It was an amazing throw: rocket-launched and dead on the money. The runner got back in time, but I was left open-mouthed: the man has a rifle for an arm. Then in the fifth, a runner tried to score on a hit to right. The throw came in and Cash blocked the plate, snagged the bouncing throw and swung smoothly around to tag the runner, all in one motion. Out at the plate, inning over, and I was even more impressed. The man can play defence, I'll tell you that. If he can post even a 700 OPS, he'll have a major-league job as long as he needs it. But right now, he's nowhere near that level of production.

Nobody else on either team really captured my attention: both squads were filled with AAA and AAAA veterans. Gary Burnham hammered a ball into the right-field gap for a bases-loaded double early in the game, but was otherwise unimpressive. Mike Moriarty had some good at-bats. And I'll tell you what, Tony Zuniga can hit: he launched a huge home run deep to left field in the 6th as part of a three-hit night. But the Skychiefs pitchers who followed Thurman weren't much to write home about. Tim Young had difficulty finding the plate, while Dan Reichert found it way too often: he has great movement on his pitches, but they have an uncanny knack for moving into the strike zone right about the time the batter starts swinging. Outside of Thurman and Jason Arnold (who himself struggled his last time out), there's not much pitching at Syracuse to help the Blue Jays out anytime soon. Corey needs to throw more than two pitches consistently and finish hitters (and innings) off when he has the chance. I still think he'll be in Toronto by July or August, but it could be at least half a season after that before he's ready for a regular rotation spot.

Odds and ends to finish off with: not a bad walk-up crowd for tonight's game (sunny and warm all day here, though it spattered droplets throughout the middle innings), but the stands were still more than half-empty; baseball in Ottawa remains a tenuous proposition at best. $9.25 for a pint of Keith's is the next best thing to being robbed at gunpoint for your lupins, but that's the going price for beer at Lynx Stadium. And all I know about Orioles' minor-league pitcher Mike Drumright is this: he has a terrible time throwing strikes, and his two-year-old daughter Aubrey (seated across the aisle from us with her mom and numerous other Lynx players' kids) is as cute as a bug's ear. It's hard to criticize prospects when you're sitting within earshot of the young families who follow them across the continent in hopes their young man will have a big-league career. If any of y'all are reading this, you have my distinct admiration for sticking this whole thing out.

Skychiefs vs. Lynx | 8 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
_Brent - Saturday, June 07 2003 @ 01:23 AM EDT (#100656) #
Good job Gideon. I look forward to reading the Law interview.
_EddieZosky - Saturday, June 07 2003 @ 08:45 AM EDT (#100657) #
I once sat right behind Johnny Damon's hotty wife and two cute kids. It really makes it tough to catcall when they turn around every five minutes to see who's calling their daddy an "overpaid prettyboy" Fortunately Jose Offerman's tarty wife was sitting right next to them.

Great recap by the way. I watched part of the Lynx-Skychief game on Rogers the other day. Too bad Linton was pitching.
_the shadow - Saturday, June 07 2003 @ 10:47 AM EDT (#100658) #
Who is the Pitching Coach at Syracuse? If these shortcomings of Thurmans are obvious, are they working on correcting same, Ive always been of the opinion that top flight pitching coaches are a must at the minor league level
_Lefty - Saturday, June 07 2003 @ 03:03 PM EDT (#100659) #
Hey Gideon,
Thanks for the report. Man I sure miss AAA ball out here in Vancouver. The Canadians as you probably know have in past order been affiliated with the Whitesox, Angels and A's. Seen a ton of great ball players go through Vancouver starting with the contrversial Sammy S, Troy Percivel, Edmonds, Garret Anderson, Glaus, Mulder and my favorite Todd Greene. Loads of others as well.
We have single A here now and you can sure tell the difference, even if a AAA team doesnt have any sure fire propects you get a chance to see all the AAAA players and sometimes those who are trying to work there way back to the bigs. Those are generally the power hitters such as Rob Deer etc.
If you can keep the Lynx reports running you will have at least me, promise to read them to the end.
Thanks again
_George - Saturday, June 07 2003 @ 08:20 PM EDT (#100660) #
Apparently the shadow doesn't know... that Tom (7-0) Filer is the Syracuse pitching coach.
_George - Saturday, June 07 2003 @ 09:41 PM EDT (#100661) #
Oh, and in case anybody missed it... buried in the Game 60: Birdfight thread was Stephen Tomlinson's recap of the game Jason Arnold threw in Ottawa... worth checking out for those interested.
_DS - Sunday, June 08 2003 @ 11:08 AM EDT (#100662) #
A quick hijack.

David Bush was fantastic again in the FSL.
The line:

7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K

I think it's time for a promotion, JP.
_R Billie - Tuesday, June 10 2003 @ 04:23 PM EDT (#100663) #
Tom Filer is the current pitching coach, but the Jays had Randy St. Claire from the Expos lined up for the job up until the last minute. That's when Omar Minaya stepped in and gave St. Claire the major league job in Montreal.

Anyway, Thurman's problems aren't much different from Kelvim Escobar's...except that Thurman doesn't have anywhere near as good stuff. He sometimes get more concerned with tricking batters with his good changeup, throwing it out of the strikezone and getting himself behind in the count, than getting ahead of them and getting them out the old fashioned way. Escobar is often the same way with his splitter. Thurman used to throw a curveball but was supposed to learn a slider instead since he didn't have much consistency with the curve.

If you look at Corey's walk rate in the majors last year, it's awful. The big hurdle for him will be throwing twice as many strikes as balls, and having good control of his fastball (and using it a lot). If he can do that, he'll be fine.
Skychiefs vs. Lynx | 8 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.