Day 8: Bradenton
Sorry I’ve been a little less than daily. Truthfully, the game yesterday was kind of devoid of prospects. I could’ve come up with something, but it was Saturday, I figured no one would mind.
In today’s (Sunday) action, I once again saw the Reds and Pirates for the second day in a row. I’m looking forward until tomorrow when I get to see the Blue Jays play the Reds. With all due respect, I see the Pirates all the time back home. I don’t need to see them here every day.
But I digress. The Prospect Impression… Since I won’t see the Pirates again for a while, I’ll go there.
I’m not 100 percent sure about his status (meaning is he a rookie or not), but Brian Bixler is a guy who was highly regarded, the possible future shortstop for the Pirates. And it’s not that he’s been bad in the Minors — he’s been an All-Star the past two years — but he’s been an All-Star two years in a row in the same league. His stints in the bigs last year weren’t particularly inspiring, with a .157 average in 108 at-bats. He didn’t seem ready to handle big-league pitching.
But something’s looked different this spring. He looks, well, like he belongs. Playing both second and short to increase his flexibility, he’s hit .333 and slugged .513. Now, I wouldn’t expect that kind of production, obviously, but he’s working his way into the picture as a utilityman for the Pirates. Something to watch for anyway for the rest of Pirates camp.
Finally, that small world story I promised. I was at my hotel in Clearwater and I went to the front desk to make sure I had the best directions to head to George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa for the Pirates-Yankees game. The conversation went something like this:
Front desk lady: I don’t like the Yankees.
(We chatted a bit about the Evil Empire, etc.)
Front desk lady continued: I’m a Braves fan.
Me (figuring that people in Florida are often Braves fans back when there weren’t teans in Floriday): Oh, a Braves fan, huh?
(This basically was the pleasant ****-chat between hotel patron and nice front desk lady. Then she said…)
FDL: My brother is a manager in the Braves’ Minor League system.
Me: (After double-taking) Who’s your brother?
FDL: Rocket Wheeler
Me: (Flabbergasted) I know Rocket Wheeler!
I then went on to explain how I got to know Rocket a little during the Arizona Fall League. I mean, I knew he was the manager of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, but I knew him more, in some ways, as the skipper of the Mesa Solar Sox, who played in the AFL championship game. Don’t know if you remember this (or ever knew), but Rocket let his players vote on who should play and what the lineup should be. Don’t believe me? Read about it here.
OK, here’s hoping Travis Snider makes the trip to Sarasota in the a.m.