Winter league full of hot hitters
Arizona Winter League notebook
Arizona Winter League hitters have spent the first week of play lighting up the runs column on the scoreboard and heating up the field with base hits galore once the sun goes down and the temperatures begin to fall.
Following the San Diego Surf Dawgs' 12-3 win against the Canada Miners, all four of the 6 p.m. league games played at Desert Sun Stadium through Friday night featured at least one team scoring more than 10 runs.
Canada was on the winning side of a lopsided game Wednesday night beating Blythe 16-5, and snuck past Sonora on Tuesday 11-10 in a game that featured 22 hits.The hometown Yuma Scorpions got in on the hitfest as well on Thursday night, compiling 19 runs on 20 hits.
And while the Arizona Winter League is filled with experienced hitters like San Diego's Mike Thompson (Single-A Burlington), Canada's Darryl Brinkley (Calgary Vipers) and Yuma's own Henry Calderon, Scorpions pitcher Mike Marshall thinks the high-scoring affairs are more a result of the league's pitchers still getting into shape.
"Pitching is a premium," he said. "Most guys were pitching in games in January two days after they arrived, and the fact is it's still cool and so early in the season and they're getting right on the mound. You try to tell them to take it easy early on, but I think some pushed it their first couple times out and hit the wall pretty quickly."
Unfortunately in sports, it's never too early to run into some problems. Yuma third baseman Matt Voorhies was not supposed to play Saturday or tonight when the Scorpions host Canada due to injury, and pitcher Tyler Pearson had an early exit during Friday's game in Palm Springs after being hit by a line drive.
Marshall ended up needing three of his pitchers to throw more than 60 pitches in Friday's 12-8 loss. The result of it all leaves the Scorpions with the difficult task of trying to play their next two games with only five pitchers.
"The defense hasn't been as good as we'd like, even on my team which is a pretty experienced club," Marshall said. "Anytime you play nine innings and you see four or five errors, it's more like playing 11 innings, and when guys have to throw 60 pitches in early February that's a lot to ask of them."
Marshall said the league considered bumping its organization up to eight teams and only playing seven-inning games, but felt the best way to get all the players the appropriate amount of playing time was to stick with the six-team, nine-inning game format.
No wins for Blythe|
Heading into Saturday's home game at Alexander Field against San Diego, the Blythe Heat are the only team in the AWL still looking for win No. 1. Ironically, Blythe (0-5) was the last team to join the league, reaching an agreement with the city in early November.
Much like the Scorpions, the Heat, managed by 14-year MLB veteran Jeffrey Leonard, have been trying to survive on the mound as four of their nine pitchers deal with injuries.
"They had us beat 6-0," Marshall said of Tuesday's game before the Scorpions came back to win 10-6. "It's just pitching depth and having guys who can throw strikes."
There's always something going on at Desert Sun Stadium besides the baseball game on the field thanks to the AWL's partnership with some of its sponsors. Each Wednesday night is free admission for bald-headed fans courtesy of Keny's Barbershop, and soft drinks are $1 on Thirsty Thursdays. Yesterday's 4-H Barnyard Night kicked off a variety of theme nights, including Feb. 22's T-shirt night with Jackson Hewitt Tax Service and Halloween Night on Feb. 23, when Yuma Mortuary and Crematory will give out foam headstones to the first 500 fans.