For the second time in three days to open the 2018 season, Blue Jays affiliates who took to the field all emerged victorious. Buffalo is still yet to get its season underway (and today’s game has already been cancelled to boot), but New Hampshire, Dunedin and Lansing all won.
The wildest game was in Lansing, where the temperature hovered around freezing point and contributed to some significant control problems. In particular, Great Lakes walked 12 batters, including six from their starter who didn’t make it out of the first innings with 27 pitches and just 3 strikes. That allowed Lansing to score four runs over the first two innings without a hit, and in fact they were no hit through six innings. That was broken up by a hard leadoff double from Ryan Noda, who also hit a ball hard to the gap earlier that just hung up. Kevin Smith singled behind him, later scoring, and that was the extent of the Lugnut offensive production.
For their part, Lansing pitchers has trouble finding the zone, with starter Zach Logue only finding the zone with 46 of his 80 pitches. Last year’s 9th round pick out of Kentucky went 5 innings in his full season debut, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits and 3 walks but striking out 6 batters.
Loque’s fastball was 89-91 MPH in the early going, but seemed to ramp up later in the game as his arm warmed up, touching some 94s on the stadium gun - though it’s hard to say if that was just the vicissitudes of the notoriously inconsistent Lansing gun. He did give up a fair bit of hard contact, getting touched up for a home run and two doubles while missing some bats (9 whiffs on 30 swings, 70% contact rate).
In Dunedin, Patrick Murphy made his season debut, working 5 solid innings over which he allowed one run on 3 hits, 3 walks, and 3 strikeouts. More importantly, his good stuff was there, as he consistently worked 94-95 MPH on his fastball, touching a couple of 96s while snapping off swing and miss curveballs.
His first time through the order was particularly successful, striking out two batters (and the first batter the second time through), and keeping six of seven balls in play on the ground. The last turn through the order over the last two innings were more difficult, as his fastball control lapsed with 3 walks. But his stuff was still good enough to get weak contact and get out of those jams unscathed.
Overall, Murphy kept 11 of 15 balls in play on the ground (73%), with three hard hit balls. The one thing he didn’t do was miss bats, with just 5 whiffs on 34 swings (85% contact rate). That will be something to keep an eye on going forward, including his times through the order splits as both were issues last year, and could point to a future in relief.
Jackson McClelland made his first appearance of the year and was electric, striking out the side and working around two errors on a routine ground ball and pop fly. He was 96-98 with his fastball and touched a 99, with a couple of whiffs on his slider as well. Send him to AA.
Offensively, Brad Jones and Riley Adams went yard back-to-back for their first home runs of the year.
New Hampshire won 4-1 behind a 6 strong innings from from Nick Tepesch. Justin Shafer was strong in relief, striking out three over 1.1 innings, registering 95 on his fastball. Bo Bichette had a couple hard hits, though a couple strikeouts as well. Vlady Jr. continues to get pitched very carefully, and has made a lot of contact in the air to little effect with the ball not carrying in cold weather.
On Friday, Jordan Romano made his AA debut, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits over 5 innings, with a walk against 6 strikeouts. He had a very successful run first run through the order after taking a couple batters to settle in, but ran into trouble the second time through against the middle of the order. He allowed two solo bombs, the first on a 0-2 hanger. His swing-and-miss ways carried over to AA, with 11 whiffs on 36 swings (69% contact).
Zach Jackson also bears mentioning, as he struck out 5 batters over two innings of relief (one a failed bunt). Not notably, he piled up a ridiculous 7 swinging strikes on 11 swings (bunt attempts excluded).