Last weekend, the Phillies opened their minor league camp, and a group of select Phillies minor leaguers made a successful debut to their season, drubbing the Canadian Jr. National Team by a 9-0 score.
The MiLB Phillies squad was made up of players from their various organizational teams, and was managed by Ernie Whitt, a former big leaguer with Canada’s Toronto Blue Jays and player with the Canadian National Team who is now a roaming instructor in the Phils system.
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Minor League Baseball (MiLB) has a charm all of it’s own. These guys are playing for their careers every single game. Nothing is guaranteed, every and any game could be their last. They always play with heart. That all adds up to a combination making the game at this level even more fascinating.
The game was played at the Walter Fuller Complex in St. Petersburg. The game traditionally has been played at historic Al Lang Stadium, also in St. Petersburg and in use since 1914, but that facility has now been turned over for use as part of a soccer stadium.
The MiLB Phillies used a different pitcher each inning to give them some in-game experience. Colin Kleven, a native of British Columbia in Canada, got the honor of the starting assignment against his fellow countrymen.
Kleven was a 33rd round pick by the Phils in the 2009 Amateur Draft out of a BC high school. He has worked his way through the lower levels of the Phils minor league system ever since, reaching High-A Clearwater last season where he went 6-10 in 24 starts with a 4.83 ERA, allowing 155 hits in 136 innings, with a 107-33 K/BB rate.
There were eight more pitchers following Kleven, each throwing an inning of shutout baseball: Miguel Nuñez, Ricardo Pinto, Alejandro Arteaga, Jesen Dygestile-Therrien, Josh Taylor, Kyle Bogese, Edubray Ramos and Ulises Joaquin.
While just one of the arms used was ranked among the Phillies top 30 prospects by Baseball America this year, righty Ricardo Pinto, the fact that they have not yet caught the eye of the wider prospect community does not mean that they don’t have their own interesting background stories.
24-year old Kyle Bogese is one such interesting story. Bogese, a Trinity University Alumni, was not drafted. He appeared at a “walk-on” tryout held in Williamsport and pitched himself into a contract.
During 2014 in his first season with the organization, Bogese pitched in 13 games, all in relief, for the Phils Rookie-level team in the Gulf Coast League. He had a 5.28 ERA over 15.1 innings pitched, allowing 11 hits and registering a 17-11 K/BB ratio.
The game was played last Saturday, and it was a perfect day for a baseball game, though there was a strong breeze coming in off the Gulf from right field. That strong wind appeared to cost homeruns for outfielders Jiandido Tromp and Andrew Pullin and first baseman Rhys Hoskins.
Tromp and Pullin ended up with two-run RBI doubles. Hoskins, a 5th round draftee just last summer out of Cal State, blasted one that started off looking as if it would head straight over the left center wall, but curved foul just as it reached the foul pole, obviously a wind-blown result.
The blasts came in the 2nd inning off Canadian Jr. starter Josh Burgmann, who was charged with 5 runs on 6 hits during a 3-inning outing, all of the runs coming during that big 2nd for the MiLB Phillies.
The Phillies team had two Canadians, Kleven and Therrien, playing against their home country. After the 9-0 rout, reporters from Canada swarmed to interview Kleven, pointing out that the game had been broadcast all over Canada.
Therrien, meanwhile, was cornered by Baseball America, and had this to say about his experience: “It’s my second time in four years in pro ball that I’ve pitched against Team Canada. It’s a great experience every time.”
Meanwhile, perhaps the most intriguing player for prospect watchers from a Phillies perspective was the 21-year old Pinto, ranked as the Phils #14 prospect. Pinto was signed out of Venezuela in 2011, and pitched in the VSL for two seasons.
A year ago, Pinto made his U.S. debut with the Williamsport Crosscutters in the short-season New York-Penn League. He was 1-5 in 9 starts with a 2.11 ERA and 1.09 WHIP, allowing just 36 hits in 47 innings with a 48-15 K/BB ratio. He is likely ticketed for the low-A Lakewood Blue Claws this season.
This game was so well played, at least by the Phillies minor league prospects, that it deserved a special highlight. Any time that you represent your organization, and especially when playing the national team from any country, it is a special occassion.
The Minor League Baseball Phillies represented the organization well on this day. Now the players will continue their own individual development process, each hoping to one day reach their real ultimate goal, playing for the Major League Baseball Phillies.