Hi all. Here’s how I see baseball on this Wednesday, May 1.
Until a player makes the move from AA to AAA, there isn’t much real difference. The towns are small, so are the parks. The motels are usually dismal and the pay is lousy unless you were an early round draft pick who got a large signing bonus. But time and again I’ve witnessed guys joining a AA team from A ball, and more often than not the pitchers get hammered or the hitters don’t hit. The pitchers find the strike zone is smaller and hitters who have been succeeding in AA are better disciplined. Newly promoted hitters mistakenly believe what they did in A-ball will continue to carry them. Now and then there’s an exception that proves the rule, but I never saw it when I was in the game except for Vladimir Guerrero. Such an exception was Casey Mize, a Tigers’ prospect who made his first start for their AA team in Erie, Pennsylvania on Monday night. His first AA start, a 9-inning no-hitter over the Altoona Curve (Pirates) is one he’ll talk about to his children and grandchildren if God grants him with offspring.
Mize used a tidy 98 pitches to shut out the Curve allowing no base hits. He needed to be that good, as his Erie Seawolves’ teammates got him only one run to work with. With that lone run, he won the game.
In fairness to Mize, he faced tougher competition as a collegiate than he was seeing as a pro before his promotion. He pitched for Auburn in the SEC and that’s no easy task. Tennessee, from that same conference has spent much of this season on top of the college baseball rankings. Mize had to face LSU, Florida, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, South Carolina and many more. In decades past, Bo Jackson and Frank Thomas played for Auburn before becoming major leaguers. A weekend series on the road against any of the teams I’ve mentioned is every bit as tough as the AA foes Mize faced for the first time on Monday night. And while he wasn’t at the bat, Casey made the best first impression a prospect can make.
Of Mize, his catcher Jake Rogers said “He came out on all cylinders.” I’ve heard players say a pitcher is “dealin’,” when all his stuff is working. Off the air I would tell my partner Jim Lucas, “Buddy, we were dealin’ tonight,” when I felt a game had gone especially well. One of our AA pitchers described his best game as “being in a zone somewhere between reality and heaven.” That’s where Mize was when he was sending the AA Pirates back to the bench shaking their heads. His catcher Rogers scored the only run Erie got when Chad Sedio grounded to first base bringing Rogers home.
Mize could have been excused for being nervous on his first AA night. He plunked the first Pirate he saw, then had 19 in a row walking the plank before he issued a free pass in the 7th. By the end he had thrown 98 pitches to register his first professional complete game, and a no-hitter in the bargain.0