— Matt Tracy’s comments after his second start are a far better indication of what kind of pitcher he is compared to his results after his first.
After getting tagged in New Hampshire to the tune of five runs in just one third of an inning, the big southpaw addressed reporters after spinning five scoreless frames in a 3-0 win against the Richmond Flying Squirrels. He lowered his ERA from 135.00 to 8.44, secured his first Double-A win and allowed just three hits along the way. But he did struggle with control at times, issuing four walks over the course of his 87 offerings, and that likely explained a lack of enthusiasm with what appeared to be a solid showing.
“The numbers were good, but I still didn’t throw how I wanted to, and I’ve still got a lot of things to work on,” Tracy said. “It was a good start, but there were a lot of things to learn from.”
But Tracy is fortunate to have made it to the second inning for the first time. He fell awkwardly trying to field a comebacker off the bat of the number three hitter, Javier Herrera, and was noticably limping after the trainer came out to check on him.
“My cleat got stuck in the grass, I guess,” he said. “I lost my footing, but thankfully I didn’t get hurt. It was a little scary there for a minute, but I’m fine.”
Thunder manager Tony Franklin, who shockingly did not have The Masters on his television set either before or after the game, was pleased not only with Richmond batters not teeing off of Tracy as the Fisher Cats did, but the effort of his whole staff after Danny Burawa (we’ll get to him in a bit), Aaron Dott and Tommy Kahnle shut the door for the final four innings.
“That was a very nice job by Matt, a good bounceback for him,” Franklin said. “I still think that he can be better. He wasn’t really sharp as far as his strike zone command…but he made some pretty decent pitches.”
— The runs did not come often for the Thunder, but they did come early. Flying Squirrels starter Ryan Bradley struggled mightily in the first two innings, and it ultimately cost his team the game. Kyle Roller smashed a two-run home run to right center in the first inning, his second longball of the young season.
Franklin estimated that Roller is capable of another 13-18 home runs this season — “I think the power is evident there…he’s just naturally strong,” he said — and Roller certainly wasn’t one to disagree with that.
“I’d say 20,” he said. “I feel like I can hit them. It’s all about toning my swing down and pitch selection. I’ve got enough power to drive it to all fields, I’ve just got to believe in myself and use that.”
As for this blast, Roller said he was trying to take a patient approach.
“I was trying to see the ball as well as I can, and kind of sit on a location and a pitch,” said Roller, who said he typically struggles against lefties. “He put it where I wanted it to be, and I put a good swing on it.”
— After the heavy lifting was done by their stocky first baseman, Trenton got their third run in less traditional fashion. With Jose Pirela on first base and Walter Ibarra on third, Bradley attempted to pick Pirela off. This did not go well for him. Ibarra immediately broke from third and just barely beat the throw home to put Trenton ahead, 3-0.
“I’d (stolen home) in Mexico a few times, but over here? No,” Ibarra said. “If I were out, maybe Tony wouldn’t (have been happy). When I started (from third base), I was 100 percent sure (I’d be safe).”
Typically, it’s a play that isn’t going to happen often and doesn’t work when it does. Franklin surely wasn’t expecting either.
“I was surprised,” Franklin said. “I didn’t call that. What Walter actually saw was the pickoff at first, and he took off. That was an instinctive play on his part, and it worked out OK. I don’t know if I’d have been pleased if he’d been out. But it worked, and it was one of those deals where it was a good play when it works, and not so good when it doesn’t.”
Franklin said that while his team works on first and third situations a lot, it’s typically on the defensive side of the ball. But he did say that while there are many scenarios that his team runs in spring training that they don’t use often, it’s best to always be prepared regardless of how infrequently a situation may present itself.
“At any given time, any given game, any given month or time of the year, it’s a possibility that we can use it. You’ve got to be prepared for it,” he said.
— Danny Burawa. Whoo boy. That was my first time seeing that kid live, and he was very, very impressive. He struck out five batters in two innings of work, and touched 98 miles per hour on the radar gun in the process. It would be understandable if he were a little overamped up — he was pitching in front of his family for the first time since they saw him in the Arizona Fall League in 2011 — but that just seems to be what you’ll get from him going forward regardless of who’s watching.
“I would say I’m an adrenaline guy either way,” Burawa said. “So, I think it’s all good. Having them there, I would say it’s good adrenaline. It was a great feeling. You always want to do well, but when they’re there, you want to do even better.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com