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4/5 Minor League Observation-Rewatching the 2019 Ironbirds

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Continuing with the 2019 Ironbirds season, I’m following along and so far they are 3-2 preparing to finish out the series at home against Tri-Cities before heading to Hudson Valley.  Ryan Conroy starts again and on the games first pitch he gets hit for a long double to left.  Bouncing back immediately he gets a K  on a split to infielder Deury Carrasco. He ended up giving up a single run in the first.  The bottom of the inning made it seem like this would be the Birds’ night as runs were even easier.  After a Joey Ortiz walk, Jean Carmona went opposite field to left for a double that set up the Birds with guys in scoring position.  Alex Murphy didn’t have a good AB, but catcher Korey Lee couldn’t hold righty starter Jayson Schroeder’s offerings and two passed balls led to two runs.  After an inning it’s 2-1 Aberdeen.

The second starts with Carmona on a full spring into short right center to catch a sinking liner.  A true web gem and a very difficult play to make.  His speed got him close to being in position for this tough play as he cut Johnny Rizer’s angle and ran toward the big guy to make the play.  Awesome grab.  I wrote holy s!  Next play, was even stranger as a loner hit first base before bouncing up and waiting in midair for Juan Montes to glove it and tag the runner slickly.  After a pair of Conroy walks, he gives up a single but it’s run-free as Dalton Hoiles absolutely pegs Hector Martinez.  Nice arm on that Hoiles guy huh.....

I loved to see the D on display, despite the pitching needing it, and although the Birds did make it easy and  run away scoring 12.  The highlight of the game was broadcaster Michael Lehr’s chat in-studio with Mike Elias.  He loved the progress of the pitchers under Chris Holt who he proudly brought over from Houston. Randomly he said that Holt has innate abilities to see and correct problems that guys don’t even realize they have like Dallas Litscher getting more break on his curve by adjusting his fingers.  Holt saw it and adjusted it according to Elias.  The entire organization getting on the same page as far as development is huge for Elias and at this time (June 2019) that’s his top priority.  Interestingly enough, Tri City is an Astros affiliate and Elias scouted and drafted most of the players on both squads.  

An offensive explosion took place while Elias was talking and I saw Carmona drag a bunt to first that he had wrapped up after 3-4 steps.....he can absolutely burn that baseline!  What a way to impress the boss.  They put up 4 in the inning and got to 6 before adding 6 more later to cover up some less than good pitching from Conroy and Yelin Rodriguez who followed him.  A since released arm Parker McFadden and GCL reliever Jose Alejandro both had one of a pair of Aberdeen appearances respectively to finish up.  I liked Elias talking about the system and his ability to scout more than the game.  But I can’t leave out 3B Toby Welk bringing his average up to a nice .364 with a 2-5 and 2RBI.  


Next game featured Kevin Macgee starting and it was a boring loss.  There was not many times where I grabbed my pad and thought, ‘note this’. Actually there were none, but I did like to see reliever Jason Montville bounce back with a damn good performance; 4.2 IP, 5 hits, 6 K’s.  It made me look a bit more into this pitcher that I liked so much from the GCL.  I discovered something about him and the Orioles that definitely stood out.  Montville’s college in California called St. Katherine’s is a tiny private school who only has a few hundred students.  The athletics participate in the  National Christian Collegiate Athletics Association and the baseball team’s coaching staff features Tom Brunansky and Doug Stange.  There’s been 3 years of baseball at St Kat’s and they’ve had 4 total players go pro.  Montville, Tucker Baca, John Ryan and Dallas Litscher.  The Orioles must like what they see out there, at least a little.  

So I skipped to the opener of the series at Hudson Valley and was pleasantly surprised by different broadcasters and lots more angles, even replay!  The Ironbirds enter at 4-3 and the starters are Litscher against Rodolfo Sanchez.  The game’s first pitch is laced under SS by Clay Fisher and 3B Irving Ortega popped in next to whack an RBI triple. A sac fly by 1B Ian Evans gets them another run and the frame closes out with Aberdeen starting out up 2-0.  

Litscher takes the mound and is working so fast he looks out of rhythm.  Speedster Greg Jones sees some inside heat to get to 2-2 from 2-0, but Litscher misses afterwards walking him.  He gets out of the inning and the Ironbirds add on again in the second as 2B Andrew Fregia knocks in Jaylen Ferguson with a double to deep left.  After an inning and a half, the Ironbirds are up 3-0 and should be feeling good.  

I’ve waited to see some tension or adversity strike his team early and this game is where they started being tested.  Manager Kevin Bradshaw, who I’m growing to like even more than I already did (a lot) came out of he dugout in this game 3 times to either fight for a player or tell the ump they were wrong and each time, the vice grip of game pressure was a bit tighter.

Litscher was so much slower by the 4th inning he had NO rhythm and had already had a 3rd where he gave up a pair of singles and a walk, mixing in a WP for an earned run.  Dallas has a pair of pitches from my perspective, a straight one and a breaking one that snaps in to righties.  He hit his spots a bit (46-76 strikes)but couldn’t finish guys off and couldn’t escape some bad 3-ball counts.  It wasn’t an inspiring performance but all that being said he only gave up 3 runs in 5 innings despite his 6 traditional base runners and 3 total wild pitches plus a hit batter.  Rodolfo Sanchez, the starter for the Rays affiliate was locating his curveball for strikes to righties with ease and did it to start and finish counts. He located much better with breaking stuff than heat tonight, I was a little impressed.  After a walk in the fifth, Irving Ortega looks shot out of a cannon as he gets to third on an Ian Evans single and I like Ortega’s fiery attitude.....a lot!  What a pleasant surprise.  Bottom 5 and Litscher looks much better but he’s forced to get 4 outs after catcher Luke Ringofer can’t get the wild strike 3 in his grip to throw out Greg Jones after the K.  More adversity to follow as reliever Felix Bautista brought his worst to the bump next.  It’s a 3-3 tie in the 6th and as the game tightens up, Bautista walks the leadoff hitter.  The pitches didn’t seem close but Irving Ortega was seen yelling at the ump to look closer.  Bautista looks affected and throws up a meatball that corner Jacson Macgowan belts into right.  Two on, no out, bad start to the 6th.   Bautista bounces back to get a swinging strikeout next to catcher John Embry.  Confidence as he started him off with a big curve.  Maybe too much confidence on display as the first pitch to the next batter Hill Alexander featured a double steal.  With a pair of runners in scoring position Bautista gave up a poorly timed double that should have plated a pair but for an outstanding Andrew Fregia relay started by RF Tristan Graham that pegged Macgowan at home.  Really great turn and fire shown by Fregia, the camera even caught the whip of the ball in the air.  Perfect toss.  Bautista averted disaster there and gets the next hitter to ground out, finishing up down by a run, 4-3.  Highlights later include Clay Fisher getting picked off 1st by a lefty but somehow beating a bad throw to second and Kevin Bradshaw coming out to argue on behalf of runner Juan Montes being ‘tagged’ behind the back passing first.  Felix Bautista in the 8th inning had a sequence where he threw a pair of wild pitches, needed to be calmed by catcher Lenin Rodriguez twice, Ortega once and took 1:24 seconds between pitches before taking even longer the next one.  He gave up only one, making it 5-3 but his body language and actions needed to be better.  I’m eager to see what happened to him after this because it was a terrible performance for a guy with some decent stuff and a bit of experience too.  Late in the 9th, the Birds rallied to get one and maybe extend the game, but Andrew Gross finally shut the door on them.  The player of the game was lefty relief pitcher Steffon Moore and he got 7 outs in between Rodolfo and Gross, all on K’s.  

I have a feeling that after this game the team was dressed down and ripped to shreds.  The performance left a lot to be desired, although could have been worse.  The skipper and several players were frustrated and whatever standard they needed to play to, through 8 games and 4 wins had only been partially met.  I have lots of info on Bradshaw from watching him and he is unquestionably a difference maker and gap filler in terms of development.  I can’t wait to see him manage this team to success knowing how hands on an and active he’s going to be at camp.  This is a loud and proud leader and one who knows his experience is a wonderful asset in terms of education.  He also has some serious funk on BP pitches but can groove them on a line for dozens of throws in a row.  Bradshaw can be heard in so many of my videos cheering on both players and instructors and now that I know his M.O. I want to see him run the game as much as his roster plays it out.

In any event, they’re 4-4 and probably should be a game better.  I’ll keep watching and let you know what there is to see as they continue the 3 game weekend set at Hudson Valley.

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