Tonight’s Clearwater Threshers game against the Palm Beach Cardinals was anything but usual. Single A Minor League Baseball Games are never televised, like tonight’s game was on Comcast Sportsnet. Single A games never have Jim Jackson and Ricky Bottalico calling the game, and Single A games never have a televised “Post Game Live.”
The reason Single A games never have these things is because Single A teams never have Roy Oswalt, Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz in the lineup. But that was the case tonight as Oswalt, Utley and Ruiz were all on rehab assignment in Clearwater as they try to get off the DL, and back onto the Phillies lineup.
The highlight of the night came in the 5th when Utley homered to right (video after the jump).
Despite allowing a hit on his first pitch, Oswalt looked sharp early. He struck out two batters in the first inning, and one in the second inning.
One interesting play in the first inning was on Oswalt’s first strikeout. Oswalt pitched to Ruiz who then threw to Utley to try and catch a runner stealing. It was a play that included all three of the Phillies’ stars.
He continued his dominance in the third inning striking out another two batters. Oswalt did not use his fastball as much as expected, but located his breaking pitches well, getting almost all of his strikeouts on breaking pitches.
The former NLCS MVP ran into a little trouble in the fourth inning. A double, followed by a single put runners on the corners with just one out. Oswalt got the next batter to hit what looked like a double play ground ball, but Utley misfired when trying to avoid the sliding Kyle Conley. The fielder’s choice scored a run, but Oswalt got out of the inning by getting Cardinal Domnit Bolivar to ground out to end the inning.
The troubles continued in the fifth inning allowing two runs on three hits, but he was able to end the inning and his outing with a strikeout on a beautiful breaking pitch.
His final line was 5 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO.
Oswalt’s breaking pitches looked great. They were almost always located perfectly with a nice late break. However, the same could not be said about his fastballs. They often looked flat and lacked a lot of velocity. The Single A Cardinals seemed to notice this as well and jumped all over the weak fastballs, and got most of their hits on Oswalt’s fastball.
Despite his lack of fastball, I’d say Oswalt is almost ready though. Oswalt was able to keep the ball down for the most part and forced Cardinal batters into twelve ground outs.. Personally I would have him pitch in one more rehab start, but I would not be surprised if the Phillies bring him back up without another minor league appearance.
Carlos Ruiz is expected to return to the Phillies tomorrow when they start their series in Atlanta, and he certainly looks ready to return. At the plate Ruiz went 1-3 with a single and a run scored. He also made great contact in his last at bat on a deep fly out to center field.
Ruiz looked comfortable behind the plate catching and made a hard, accurate throw in the first inning when trying to catch a runner stealing.
Second basemen Chase Utley, the most notable member on the DL, had a great game going 1-2 with a home run, a walk and two runs scored. More importantly, Utley looked good on the bases. He ran hard, stopped, and slid while on the bases, and showed no signs of a limp or any pain. Despite misfiring on throw while trying to turn a double play, Utley looked comfortable fielding as well. Judging by how he looked today from my living room, I would be shocked if he needed all twenty days after his first rehab start on Tuesday.
And now, some footage of Utley’s home run courtesy of The Fightins.