Missions on a Mission

This isn’t becoming a San Antonio Missions blog, but you follow the story, and right now, the story is in south central Texas. After scoring 87 runs in their first nine games, the Missions have scored just four in their last three. They’re at home, in a tough park for hitters (the 26-run outburst last Friday was a fluke), and their earlier pace was unsustainable.

On Monday, the Missions lost, 6-1, to Tulsa. Right-hander Anthony Bass started for San Antonio and pitched reasonably well. He allowed single runs in the second, third, and sixth innings.

In the second, Bass got into trouble when he walked no. 7 hitter Mike Daniel with two out after getting ahead in the count, 1-2. The next batter hit a squibber to shortstop that went for a single. Opposing pitcher Juan Nicasio then singled — in his second professional plate appearance — on an 0-2 pitch.

The next inning, Bass got head of no. 3 hitter Ben Paulsen, 0-2, before Paulsen worked the count even and then singled to right. He would come around to score on a two-out triple to right by Drillers catcher Wilin Rosario (a good prospect, ranked no. 36 by Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein entering 2011).

The run in the sixth came on a one-out, full-count walk to Rosario, followed by a grounder to third that advanced him to second and a single to center off the bat of Daniel. If Bass didn’t throw a masterpiece (he didn’t), neither did he get cuffed around much. The only real hard hit balls came off the bats of Paulsen (double to left in the first) and legit prospect Rosario (who struck out swinging at a 2-2 slider from Bass in his first at-bat).

One valid criticism of Bass throughout his pro career is that he doesn’t rack up a lot of strikeouts (7.2 K/9 in 313.2 IP). Although that isn’t quite Josh Geer territory, you’d like to see a guy miss more bats. On Monday, Bass had trouble putting hitters away — notably Daniel and Nicasio in the second, and Paulsen in the third — and it came back to haunt him.

In a radio interview following his previous start (a 6-0 victory over Nicasio and the Drillers), Bass discussed the importance of throwing strikes, getting ahead in the count, and letting the defense do its job. On Monday, he threw 90 pitches, 55 for strikes (61%), over six innings. With a few notable (and costly) exceptions, he executed that plan.

Before the game, San Antonio pitching coach (and former Padres first-round pick) Jimmy Jones talked about Bass. Of couse, Jones has a vested interest in the young man, but he praised Bass’ work ethic and stuff.

Jones went on to intimate that Bass wouldn’t be in the minor leagues much longer. Again, we must consider the source… at the same time, Jones is more familiar with Bass and his capabilities than you or I ever will be.

I’m not suggesting that Bass will be a star, but a ceiling of no. 4 starter isn’t out of the question. Failing that, he could become a middle reliever.

In that same radio interview, Jones cited southpaw Rob Musgrave as a potential sleeper on the staff. Musgrave, who owns a career 10.9 K/9 in 233.2 IP, worked primarily out of the bullpen in his first three pro seasons but has shifted to the rotation this year.

Two caveats with Musgrave: His walks are way up in the early going (two starts, but still), and he’s 25 years old. I’ve always kind of liked him, and I like that Jones likes him… but it’s entirely possible (and likely) that there’s nothing to see here. Not that that will keep me from watching…

* * *

Right-hander Casey Kelly got the call on Tuesday. Although Kelly didn’t get a decision in the Missions’ 3-2 victory, he pitched an efficient and mostly effective game.

Kelly gave up two solo homers in the third and got into a bit of a jam in the sixth, but generally was in control. The home runs might seem like cause for concern, especially given that Wolff Stadium isn’t kind to hitters. However, it’s worth noting that both balls just cleared the fence.

If this sounds like excuse making, well maybe it is… but Tim Wheeler’s shot to left field originally wasn’t ruled a home run. He stopped at third base, and the umpires then conferred and declared it a homer. Two batters later, Paulsen hit one out to right that the radio announcer thought might have glanced off Sawyer Carroll’s glove.

You can’t just take the home runs away from Kelly’s record. They happened, they’re in the books. But not all home runs are created equally, and let the record show that Kelly wasn’t serving up moon shots. Sometimes baseball lives up to its cliches, and in this case, a few inches or maybe feet means the difference between two homers and none.

Also worth noting is that both home runs came on the first pitch. Kelly worked a very aggressive game, getting ahead in the count more often than not (he issued two four-pitch walks, fell behind 2-1 twice, and fell behind 2-0 to his final batter… that’s it out of 25 batters faced). Here is Kelly’s workload by inning:

Inn Pit Str
1    13   9
2    14   8
3    14  11
4    11   7
5    12   8
6    19  10
Tot  83  53

Except for the final frame (he had a 19-pitch inning his last time out as well), that is some efficient pitching. Note also that Kelly, who like Bass has had trouble putting the ball past hitters (7.2 K/9), struck out 7 (including the opposing pitcher twice) in 6 innings.

* * *

Other assorted Missions notes:

  • Can’t get enough Kelly? Robert Emrich chats with the man at MiLB.com.
  • Left fielder Jaff Decker was named Texas League Player of the Week. He doubled, singled twice, and walked in Monday’s contest, and knocked a pinch-hit single to center in his only at-bat on Tuesday. Decker is hitting a ridiculous .422/.544/.889 through the season’s first 12 games.
  • Third baseman James Darnell went 0-for-2 with 2 walks on Tuesday, snapping his 10-game hitting streak to start the season. He is now hitting .500/.596/.750, with 11 walks against one strikeout. Reader LynchMob points out that John Sickels has named him today’s Prospect of the Day.
  • Beamer Weems went 0-for-4 on Tuesday but had good at-bats. He worked the count full twice and saw 23 pitches in four trips to the plate.
  • Kyle Blanks got the start at first base on Tuesday, marking the first time he’d played in the field since May 17, 2010. He went 2-for-4 with a double. Blanks hit the ball to center field in all four of his at-bats.

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18 Responses »

  1. How long do you wait before you bring up Blanks to play 1B? Rizzo has been great so far at Tuscon so Blanks window of opportunity might be really short – just until Rizzo come up with is probably September at the latest.

  2. Tom – I’m in favor of brining up Blanks “soon” … ie. sooner rather than later … but that’s gotta be at least a couple of weeks … 50 ABs … and then there’s question of who goes … do you just release Hawpe if/when Blanks is ready for callup?

    On a different subject … GET DUSTIN SOME RUNS!!!

  3. @LynchMob

    Agree. Bringing up Blanks before he gets enough at-bats against quality pitching is setting him up to fail. I’d prefer to err on the side of more than 50 ABs in the minors.

    We’ve all said it was the case, but did Edmonds look as bad as Hawpe? Brad doesn’t seem like he could make contact if the catcher told him pitch type and location.

  4. re: Edmonds … I didn’t see him … but I remember MANY, MANY folks saying he looked BAAAAAD …

    re: Dustin … they got him a run! Well, not him, per se, but a run to take him off the hook so that at least he won’t be 0-4! Now the bully needs to lock ‘em down and the “O” needs to score one more for the W!!!

  5. Hey!

    Mike Adams gave up the HR to Holliday on Opening Day … and then he pitched 8.2 *PERFECT* innings before giving up the single to Fukodome … ack, so close to 27-up-27-down … but “well done” none the less! Lights OUT!

  6. Mike Adams gave up a single to Fukadome with two outs in the 9th, which broke up his perfect 9.1 innings since giving up the HR to Holliday on Opening Day. Is there a less-heralded, more dominant pitcher in baseball than Adams? Other than Mariano Rivera, who has been better since he joined the Padres?

    And Hawpe failed again with runner on 3rd, less than two out.