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This afternoon at 1:35, the Minnesota Twins farmhands will have a big hand in the Phoenix Desert Dogs attempt to win their fifth straight Arizona Fall League championship. You can watch it live on mlb.tv.
Rochester Red Wings manager Stan Cliburn is the manager for the Desert Dogs. He is sending Twins prospect Jeff Manship to the mound to start for the Desert Dogs. Manship is 2-1 with a 5.01 ERA this year. In 31.1 innings, he has walked just three hitters while striking out 29. Last year, Nick Blackburn was the AFL Pitcher of the Year and the winning pitcher in the AFL Championship game. Tim Lahey, Rob Delaney and Anthony Slama will be ready in the bullpen if called upon.
The lineup will also contain all three Twins hitting prospects. Steve Tolleson will be batting second and playing Shortstop. Tolleson has been a great surprise with the bat. He has hit .383/.449/.543 with seven doubles, a triple and two home runs. He has also stolen seven bases. He has walked 11 times and struck out 16 times in his 107 plate appearances. Dustin Martin is batting sixth and playing in LF. Martin has also been quite impressive. He has hit .314/.397/449 with five doubles, a triple and three home runs. He has also stolen seven bases. He has struck out 37 times and walked 17 times in 136 plate appearances. Danny Valencia is batting eighth and playing 3B. Valencia has been disappointing with the bat this fall, but his glove work is spectacular. He has hit .209/.254/.270 with seven doubles. In 122 plate appearances, he has 25 strikeouts and seven walks.
The will get to face arguably the best pitching prospect in the Arizona Fall League, Tommy Hanson of the Atlanta Braves. The Braves have said that they would not consider dealing him, even for Jake Peavy.
It should be fun to watch, and I will add some notes based on the game itself, so check back from time to time.
Top of 1st – Jeff Manship struck out the first two batters he faced, and then got the third out on a weak ground ball to 1B.
Bottom of the 1st – Steve Tolleson grounded out to 2B.
Top of the 2nd – Jeff Manship is throwing hard. The first batter was Jeff Larish of the Tigers. On a 2-2 pitch, Manship jammed Larish, but it was a single down the 3B line. Danny Valencia played it well and made a strong throw, but Larish beat it out. On the very next pitch, Manship got another groundball to Valencia, who fielded it, made an accurate throw to 2B to start a double play. Manship then got ahead 1-2 on the next batter before walking him. On a 2-2 pitch to another Tigers minor leaguer, Casper Wells, he hit a double to the right centerfield gap. Eric Young bobbled the ball. The run scored and Wells went to 3B. Two strikes later, Manship jammed Van Pope, and he popped up to 1B for the third out.
Bottom 2nd – With two outs (both on strikeouts), Dustin Martin flew out to medium deep left centerfield.
Stan Cliburn is being interviewed. Wish he could have talked about some of the Twins, or at least Manship!
Top 3rd – Manship got the first out on an easy fly ball to centerfield. Matt Young of the Braves organization lined a single that 2B Chris Nelson dove and knocked down, keeping it in the infield. On the next pitch, a ground ball to SS Tolleson was played well and it was an easy double play to end the inning.
Bottom 3rd – Chris Nelson led off with an infield single. On the first pitch, Danny Valencia turned on a fastball and grounded to SS. The force out at 2B was made, but Valencia beat the throw to 1B, so it was just a fielder’s choice. Rockies speedy outfield prospect, and son of a former big leaguer, Eric Young, Jr. worked out an impressive walk. Twins prospect and another son of a former big leaguer, Steve Tolleson then struck out on three pitches, a fastball on the outside corner and two sharp curveballs.
Top 4th – I’ve lost video for some reason, but maybe that’s ok. Manship gave up a single up the middle to Logan Morrison to lead off the inning. Jeff Larish followed with a home run to give Mesa a 3-0 lead. He got Tyler Flowers to fly out to CF. That was followed by back-to-back singles by Scott Cousins and Casper Wells. Got video back! Manship struck out Van Pope and got Will Rhymes to fly out to CF.
Bottom 4th – Dustin Martin hit a fly ball to the warning track in RF for the third out of the inning. Hanson is absolutely dominant!
Top 5th – Jeff Manship started the inning with a strikeout of Matt Young. Jason Donald singled after an eight pitch at bat. Logan Morrison then walked on five pitches. Manship fell behind Jeff Larish, but on a 3-2 pitch, he got a ground ball to 2B for a force out. Cliburn came out and took Manship out. Rob Delaney, aka Big Daddy, is coming in. Delaney coaxed Braves catching prospect Tyler Flowers into a pop up to end the inning.
Analysis – Manship’s numbers won’t look great. Three runs in 4.2 innings isn’t great. However, having now seen him pitch, I think he has a chance to be very good. Four good pitches, throws pretty hard. Delivery is max-effort, almost like Jesse Crain… but more balanced. Delaney, for one batter, showed a lot of movement. It’s maybe a slider, more of a cutter.
Bottom 5th – With one out, Danny Valencia drilled a deep line drive/fly ball off the wall in dead center. He showed very good speed for a big guy and turned it into a triple off of Hanson. The announcers, Vinny Micucci and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com, said that the fence in centerfield is deeper than most pasrks in the big leagues. Valencia scored on a ground out.
Top 6th – Delaney stayed in the game. Scott Cousins flew out to CF. He then got a pop up in the infield that needed a diving catch. The sun must be tough! Van Pope doubled. Will Rhymes slowly singled up the middle, allowing Pope to score easily. The final out came on a line out to Valencia.
Bottom 6th – Hanson is out… Tolleson grounded out to 1B. The next three batters reached, including an RBI single, so Dustin Martin came up with two on, one out and down 4-2. Martin doubled down the 1B line, driving in one and advancing the other runner to 3B. After a Chris Nelson strikeout, Danny Valencia singled in two runs to give the Desert Dogs a 5-4 lead! Pitcher Change. Another single scored Valencia and they were ahead 6-4.
Top 7th – Andrew Bailey from the A’s is now pitching. The first hitter grounded out to Tolleson in the hole in short. He showed an adequate arm. With two outs, Dustin Martin made a very tough catch look pretty easy.
Bottom 7th – Tolleson led off the inning again. This time, he worked out a walk. He sure looks like a top of the order type of hitter. After a fly out, Tolleson stole second base easily. He got a huge jump. After an intentional walk, Josh Donaldson (1B with A’s) hit a long, three run homer to give the Desert Dogs a 9-4 lead. A lefty (Aaron Thompson – Marlins) was brought in to fact Dustin Martin. Martin fell behind 1-2 before fouling off some pitches and working the count full. He then grounded out to SS, but he definitely stayed in there well against the lefty. After a Chris Nelson single up the middle that he turned into a hustle-double, Valencia was intentionally walked. An RBI double meant that Eric Young, Jr. was intentionally walked. That brought Steve Tolleson to the plate… again. After a pitching change, Tolleson struck out. Phoenix 10 (9 in last two innings), Mesa 4.
Top 8th – First batter popped out to Tolleson for the first out. The next two innings struck out.
Bottom 8th – After the first two batters got out, a single gave Dustin Martin one more plate appearance. Unfortunately, he struck out.
Top 9th – Three outs late, and the Phoenix Desert Dogs have their fifth straight Arizona Fall League championship!
Congratulations to Danny Valencia, Steve Tolleson, Dustin Martin, Jeff Manship, Robert Delaney, Anthony Slama and Tim Lahey… and manager Stan Cliburn!