Oliver Perez, Xavier Nady, and Ben Johnson

I’m back, if a bit tired. Quick rundown of the Con before we get back to baseball. <noBaseball>Saw Brent Spiner (Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation), lots of Kung-Fu movies, and the guys behind Cartoon Network’s Space Ghost: Coast to Coast and its various spinoffs. Bought a bunch of goofy little board and card games, a book on Kung-Fu movies, and some Avengers memorabilia. All in all, a great time as always.</noBaseball>

In the baseball world, I did manage to sneak in a Storm game Saturday night. You won’t find a box score for this one, because it was suspended, canceled, or postponed after the sixth inning thanks to an alleged bomb threat…

Okay, a quick call to the Storm office confirms that it was, in fact, a bomb threat. Here’s the deal. The game was suspended and will be resumed as part of a doubleheader over the weekend of August 3-5, when the Storm will be at Mudville, but only if deemed necessary by the league. Otherwise, the game and all the stats accrued during it will be wiped out forever.

Not to belittle the significance of a bomb threat (by the way, I commend the Storm staff for getting everyone evacuated from the stadium in an orderly and efficient manner; my only complaint is in not being informed of the reason for the evacuation, but I suppose I can understand why they withheld that information) because it is a very serious matter, but I’d rather focus on the game that was played to that point.

Teenage southpaw Oliver Perez made his Cal League debut and looked pretty darned good. His fastball topped out at 92 MPH, according to the scoreboard reading, but generally fell into the 88-90 range. He also worked in a sharp-breaking slider that came in around 82-84 MPH, and what was either a slow curve or a straight change that came in around 77-80 MPH. Whatever that pitch was, he didn’t throw it a whole lot, but it was effective when he did.

Perez has a nice, fluid delivery, though occasionally he falls off the mound trying to sell his breaking pitch, a la Carlos Perez a few years ago. He works both sides of the plate and shows a surprising willingness to pitch inside, particularly to right-handed hitters. Perez spent much of last season in the Mexican League, facing more experienced players, and it shows. One aspect of his game that impressed me was his pickoff move. Actually, it wasn’t so much the move as the thought process behind it. The first time he threw over there, I thought, There’s something he needs to work on. And his first several tosses were like that, nothing special, fooling no-one. Then, later in the game, when he actually needed to pick someone off, he did one of those Dave Righetti left-foot-off-the-rubber moves and darned near got his man. Very quick. I still don’t know how the guy got back in time.

Perez has a live arm, and his command was way better than what I’d expect from a 19-year-old. I didn’t keep score on Saturday but I believe his final line was something like 5+ IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 SO. Again, this may not show up in any official records but the kid made a heckuva nice Cal League debut. Although Perez is not as highly touted as some of the other young arms in the Padres organization, he’s definitely someone to watch.

Elsewhere in the game, Xavier Nady had hits in both of his at-bats. Both were essentially well-placed grounders to shortstop, the first deep enough in the hole that he barely beat the throw to first. The second squeeked through the hole and dribbled into left field. Nady should be in Double-A on the merit of his numbers, but I sure wouldn’t mind seeing him hit a ball hard a couple times before he moves up the ladder.

Ben Johnson made a terrific throw from right field to keep a runner from scoring. This is not the first time I’ve been impressed by his arm. He’s also got a very quick bat but he needs to work the count better to take advantage of it. He swings a lot early in the count and then ends up either striking out or hitting a pitcher’s pitch. Johnson’s numbers are nice in and of themselves; taking into consideration his youth and relatively crude approach, they’re even more impressive. If he learns how to wait for his pitch, he could be a scary, scary hitter.

On the Mudville side, I saw former Pepperdine backstop Dane Sardinha for the first time as a pro. The only time I’d seen him previously was in an Alaskan Summer League game, and he didn’t impress me then. Sardinha is extremely aggressive at the plate, swinging early and often, often getting himself out. He did that his first couple times up on Saturday, too. Then, in his third at bat, after falling behind in the count, he hammered a pitch that wasn’t far enough down or in over the right-centerfield fence for a homer. He put a serious charge into that one, and it got out in a hurry. I didn’t get to see him throw but he moved well behind the plate in terms of blocking pitches in the dirt. Sardinha is often compared to Charles Johnson but I’m not sure he’ll hit enough to warrant that. Dan Wilson seems more likely to me, and even that is looking doubtful right now. Sardinha is batting .227/.258/.316 in 304 AB in a good hitters’ league. He’s piled up 79 strikeouts against just 11 walks (two of which were intentional). He’s young, and he was highly touted as an amateur, but I’m not real optimistic about Sardinha’s chances to become much more than a catch-and-throw guy. Nothing wrong with that. I happen to like guys like Wilson and John Flaherty. They’re just not the kind of players to build around, which the Reds appear to think Sardinha will be.

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