Mother Nature had a bit of a say in things, but otherwise the first weekend of the minor league season could not have gone much better for Toronto Blue Jays affiliates.
Dunedin's Jairo Labourt got things rolling with 5 innings of 3-hit, 1-run ball for Dunedin, and Mitch Nay, Dawel Lugo, and Matt Dean all went deep as the D-Jays opened their Florida State League season with a victory over Clearwater on Thursday.
That set the stage for several more impressive pitching performances on Friday. Matt Boyd, who got a taste of major league action in Montreal the weekend before, struck out 9 over 4.1 innings for New Hampshire, giving up 3 hits, no runs, and walked only one as the Fisher Cats topped New Britain to start the season. Boyd and relievers Danny Barnes, Luis Perez, Blake McFarland combined to strike out 17 Rock Cats. Meanwhile, in Lansing, Chase De Jong also struck out 9 over 4.2 innings in leading the Lugnuts to an Opening Day win over Lake County.
Lansing had yet another solid start on Saturday from Starlyn Suriel, who contributed 5 innings of scoreless, 1-hit ball, along with 8 K's in a 3-2 win over Lake County in the first game of a doubleheader. Suriel retired the first 11 hitters he faced before allowing a two out walk in the 4th. In game two, Shane Dawson, who hadn't pitched since last July, threw 5 solid innings, but took the loss as Lansing fell 2-1. Dawson gave up a pair of hits, walked one and struck out 6, with the only blemish on an otherwise great outing a two-run homer he gave up in the 4th. Newly acquired Jayson Aquino also tossed five solid innings for Dunedin on Saturday. To round things out, Scott Copeland threw 7 scoreless innings for Buffalo, surrendering just one hit and one walk for the Bisons.
Adding that up, I get six high quality starts for the organization in 24 hours.
On Sunday, the organization went 4-5, as Buffalo, Dunedin, and Lansing all recorded victories, while New Hampshire split a twin bill. Randy Wolf walked a bit of a tightrope early on, but spun five scoreless innings for Buffalo, and a quartet of relievers helped the Bisons shut out Rochester.
New Hampshire lost that first game to New Britain, but a trio of pitchers led the Fisher Cats to victory in the 2nd game to shut out the Rock Cats. Danny Barnes struck out 4 over 2 innings of relief work to earn the save.
Dunedin's offence woke up to lead the D-Jays to victory over Clearwater, with Matt Dean, Andy Fermin, and David Harris contributing two hits each. Harris also belted his first home run of the season. Tiago da Silva, the well-travelled Brazilian reliever, pitched a pair of innings in relief.
And Lansing rode some timely hitting to tie their game against Fort Wayne up in the 9th, then won it in the 10th.
Lastly, Gail Dull is a Phillies fan who lives in Dunedin. She writes a great blog, full of photos and coverage of minor league baseball, primarily the Florida State League's Clearwater Threshers. She lives about four blocks away from the D-Jays home Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, which makes me extremely envious, because if the Gods and Toronto drivers are willing, I'm two hours door to door from my house to the Rogers Centre. She was kind enough to send along some samples of her work:
RHP Luis Santos, who has pitched in the Pirates and Royals organizations prior to signing with Toronto this year:
A rehabbing Michael Saunders up to bat against Clearwater: