WEEKEND ROADIE: BAKERSFIELD BLAZE AT MODESTO NUTS

It was back to the California League this past weekend for a matchup of North division clubs. The visiting Blaze are the Cincinnati Reds’ hiA affiliate while the Nuts’ parent club is the Colorado Rockies. John Thurman Field had just over 4,000 in attendance on this beautiful Saturday night.

The Blaze sent RHP Carlos Contreras to the mound against Modesto’s Daniel Winkler and both did their part to make it a low-scoring affair. The Nuts eventually won by a score of 3-2 as both starters were stingy in allowing hits and runs. Winkler improved his record to 3-1 with 6+ innings of 2-hit ball, allowing just 2 runs, 1 of them earned. He held the Blaze hitless until the sixth inning when they scratched out a run on a walk, a single and a sacrifice fly.

Bakersfield’s Carlos Contreras

Contreras (1-3) took the loss, but he was almost as good as Winkler in his 6 IP. In a shaky first inning, Contreras allowed two singles and balked home the game’s first run, then settled into a groove. He hit 95 with his fastball and was effective with his curveball over the next couple of innings.

In the fourth inning, with a runner on first via a walk, Modesto CF Tyler Massey belted a towering home run to right. That would be the last of the scoring for the home club, who led 3-0 at that point. Contreras, Cincinnati’s #13 prospect according to Baseball America, finished his night with 6 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 2 BB and 7 K’s.

A scoring sacrifice fly off the bat of Bakersfield SS Juan Perez followed in the top of the 6th to make it 3-1, Modesto. Then the Blaze struck for another single run in the top of the 7th before the Nuts’ bullpen closed the show with scoreless innings in the 8th and 9th to preserve a 3-2 win.

One player I was keeping an eye on was Nuts SS Trevor Story. The highly-rated prospect is off to a tough start in 2013 and he wasn’t able to break out on this night.

Modesto’s Trevor Story

Story is ranked by Baseball America as Colorado’s #3 prospect and he is coming off of a solid season at loA Asheville in 2012. He was taken as a supplemental 1st round draft pick out of high school in 2011 and had a good debut in the Pioneer League that year. Baseball America says he has good all-around skills with impressive bat speed and good pitch recognition for a player who is only 20 years old.

But this season has been a struggle at the plate for  Story, whose 0-for-3 performance on this night dropped his average for the year to .143. He flew out to CF in the first inning, struck out swinging in the fourth, and grounded out 6-3 in the seventh. The flyout was driven deep to right-center field, just short of getting out of the park.

In the field, Story showed his strong arm on a couple of chances where he threw runners out at first. But he also had a throwing error in the 7th on a play to his right. Story went down to backhand the ball, came up with it cleanly then threw in the dirt past 1B for his fifth error of the season.

So Story isn’t adjusting to hiA ball just yet, but it is still early. (He has picked up a bit since this game and has gone 4-for-12 over his last three games). You can see the skills and he’s had a lot of success in his past. I’m still betting on his first-round talent to get it going and keep moving up the ladder.

John Thurman Field was a great place to see a ballgame, once again, and will be the subject of my first in-depth look at the California League ballpark experience later this week. 4,000 fans got to see a great game and the usual minor league park fun-and-games went on all night.

All Photos: Steve Cummings/HOTSTOVEHEAT.com

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