By Peyton Wesner
Since 2012,Triple-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, have been swallowed in the darkness of losses. More specifically, the Bats have failed to finish over .500 in each of the last four seasons. In fact, the last time they had a winning record, current Big Leaguers Todd Frazier, Devin Mesoraco, Yonder Alonso, and Zack Cozart were all present on the roster while suiting up for at least 77 contests. But, now is finally the time to exit the darkness and shine in the light as the Bats house MLB Top 100 prospect after MLB Top 100 prospect to begin the 2016 campaign.
However, rain on Friday, which turned into snow on Saturday and Sunday limited what was planned to be a four game series into a one game get-together.
With the organization's best pitching prospect toeing the rubber for the Cincinnati Reds in his Major League debut at Great American Ballpark, Delino DeShields turned to A.J. Morris for a quality start to kick off the season. It did not go well. Despite squandering a Nate Schierholtz two-out double in the first inning, the former Indianapolis Indians' reliever had smooth sailing through the heart of the Mud Hens order. Or, that was until he permitted Thomas Field to extend the 2nd frame via a two-out bases on balls.
From there, disaster struck, for the next four drove in a total of five runs, including RBI singles from Dixon Machado and Nate Schierholtz as well as a lined Bobby Wilson two RBI double. But that's not all. After a walk to MLB veteran Casey McGehee, the very powerful Steven Moya blasted a three-run bomb to center field, ultimately worsening Louisville's wound to an eight-run deficit just two innings in.
On the mound for Toledo was the promising young southpaw Matt Boyd. Though, on this day he was not invincible either as after three shutout frames, in which he faced just one over the minimum, the Bats' Bryson Smith dribbled a soft grounder and beat first baseman Jordany Valdespan in a race to the bag. Following Smith advancing to second on a fly out and putting himself in scoring position, Brandon Allen sent a laser to Moya in right field, scoring the first Louisville run of the season.
Nevertheless, the Bats soon had their wings clipped as Moya struck again, this time in two-run fashion, to put the Mud Hens ahead by the score of 10-1 after four innings. In the top of the fifth, the Bats' Carlos Triunfel added another tally to the board with an RBI single; however, it was a mood point as Louisville failed to string together back-to-back hits in the final four innings.
To be callous and frank, there is just two facts manager DeShields can take any positive away from, and that is the pitching of Ryan Mattheus, JC Ramirez, and Steve Delabar as well as Jeese Winker's Triple-A debut inside the batter's box. For starters, the pitching trio allowed just one batter to reach (walk) while fanning five total over three innings (Mattheus and Delabar with two respectively and Ramirez with one). These three will be a huge factor in regard to closing the door on opponents for the duration of the season. Focusing on Cincinnati's top prospect, Winker finished 2-for-4 in his first game donning Bats across his chest. The 22-year old will be looked upon to be the club's most powerful and productive hitter. MLB's 70th prospect Jose Peraza went 0-for-3.
What's On Tap
Very fresh and eager to get back on the diamond, the Louisville Bats will attempt to play (barring Mother Nature) Monday evening in Columbus. The Clippers had just as much trouble with rain and snow, for they had their home opener yesterday in the form of a double header. Chris Tremie's club split the twin bill with the Indianapolis Indians and will enter the three-game series 1-1.
Due to take the mound for the Clippers is Ryan Merrit (Monday), T.J. House (Tuesday), and Will Roberts (Wednesday). Out of the upcoming opposing starters, just House has experience in "The Show," for he possessed a 5-7 mark over the last two years. Aside from him , Will Roberts and Ryan Merrit have not offered a single pitch in the Major Leagues. But, that does not mean they are "minced meat." Both captured postseason victories last year in the Clippers' Governors' Cup title run as well as winning at least nine games in the regular season and posting an ERA under 3.75 (Roberts was 9-6 between Double-A Akron and Columbus while Merrit was 12-7).
For the Bats, an aspect of uncertainty looms for the rotation. More specifically, the question currently remains of whether Robert Stephenson will pitch Tuesday evening. As mentioned, Stephenson is coming off his ML debut against the Philadelphia Phillies. In his memorable start, the 23-year old right hander allowed three earned runs over five innings while striking out one and walking two.
On Monday, former Kansas City Royals' farmhand Cody Reed is set to take the hill. Reed, currently MLB's 65th overall prospect, was nearly unstoppable in his time with the Reds' organization as he went 6-2 with a 2.17 ERA in 8 starts with Double-A Pensacola. With the responsibility of closing the series, now three-year Louisville Bat Josh Smith will be looked upon. Even though he was horrific in his time with the big club in 2015 (0-4 record, 6.89 ERA), the Lipscomb product posted an 8-9 record and 3.45 ERA in 25 appearances (22 starts).
Who To Watch
Jeese Winker: .500 BA (2-4).
Ryan Mattheus: 0-0 record, 0.00 ERA, & 2 SO in IP.
Jesus Aguilar: .167 BA (1-6), R, HR, & RBI.
Ryan Merrit: 12-7 record, 3.63 ERA, & 105 SO in 171 IP. (2015 statistics)
IL West Standings
1. Toledo 1-0
2. Indianapolis 1-1
3. Columbus 1-1
4. Louisville 0-1