The Inland Empire 66’ers got a taste of the majors when they faced Padres star Dinelson Lamet Tuesday night while he was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.
The players on the Inland Empire 66’ers are used to the long bus rides, small locker rooms, carrying their own equipment, and they all have dreams of making to the majors one day.
Whenever a major league comes down Single-A to do an injury rehab assignment it is a big event. The minor league players get hear stories and get pointers from guys who have already made it to the big time. In addition, there is a tradition that the major league player buys the post-game meal, which can be as elaborate as steak and shrimp or as pedestrian as pizza and soda (thank you Manny “cheap skate” Ramirez for that one).
Not only do the players get to interact with the major league players who they dream of playing with one day in the “The Show”, they also get to observe how the players go about their business and prepare for the game which can be invaluable for a young minor league player that often are fresh out of high school or college.
This year already the 66’ers have had Taylor Cole, Luis Garcia, and J.C. Ramirez on the mound for them, and Micheal Hermosillo roaming the outfield for a few days. The Angels top minor league prospect Jo Adell also just finished a week in the IE rehabbing his injured hamstring and ankle.
However, when the shoe is on the other foot and your opponent has a player doing an injury rehab assignment, especially a pitcher, it amps you up a little bit. If you are a minor league player you get to see what you can do against a current major leaguer.
The Sixers as they are affectionately known, got that opportunity on Tuesday night when they squared off against the Lake Elsinore Storm (San Padres affiliate) and pitcher Dinelson Lamet. Lamet has only been in the majors one season because he tore his UCL in his right elbow and did not pitch in the majors in 2018.
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Lamet has a fastball in the mid-to-high 90’s (it topped out at 98 MPH on Tuesday night), with an assortment of breaking pitches to go along with it. The first two innings the Sixer hitters looked overmatched against Lamet other than a lead-off single by Orlando Martinez. Lamet struck out the side in the second inning and seemed to be in control leading 1-0.
However, in the bottom of the third inning the Sixers got to Lamet. Catcher Ryan Scott led off with a walk, which was followed with back-to-back singles by Torii Hunter Jr, and Devin Davis that loaded the bases for Ryan Vega. Vega worked the count to 2 and 2 and then he turned around a 95 MPH Lamet fastball and tattooed deep to left field and over the wall for a grand slam.
“I was just trying to get a pitch I could hit hard somewhere and hopefully drive in a couple of runs,” said Vega of his first home run of the season. “When I hit it I was just hoping it would have enough to get over the fence. When I saw it go over I was excited. To hit a home run off a big league pitcher is really cool.”
Lamet gave up a total of five run in 2.1 innings on five hits, walking three and striking out five batters. After he departed it did not get any easier for the Sixers as they had to face converted shortstop Javy Guerra of the Storm who throws 96-100 MPH.
It didn’t seem to phase the Sixers as catcher Ryan Scott turned around a 99 mile per hour Guerra fastball and launched a two-run homer to left that made the score 8-1.. Scott has hit three home runs in his last five games and has been the hottest hitter on the Sixers. For Scott a six-year minor league veteran who has played as high as Triple-A, he is just hoping to get that major league shot one day.
“It feels good, I’ve never done that before (three homers in five games). I just go up there and try to put a good swing on it no matter how fast it is. Good results are happening so it feels good,” Scott said. “I think with a major league starter throwing, it kind of gets everyone’s adrenaline going. You want to do something against A guy who has done it at the highest level. It gets you going when you see someone hit them. It set the tone for the entire game.”
The Vega and Scott home runs were all that second-year pitcher Denny Brady, who was drafted in the 7th round of the 2017 Amateur Draft out of Mercer Community College in New Jersey, needed. Brady pitched 5.1 innings allowing three hits and two runs while striking out six batters and only walking one in picking up his second win of the season for the Sixers.
Brady said he was just happy to have a strong outing and help his team win.
“Everything clicked (tonight). The fielding was great, the hitting was great. My defense made some great plays behind me tonight and that my job easier,” said Brady who lowered his ERA to 3.19. “I jumped off the bench when he (Vega) hit. He has been working so hard, I was so happy to see him connect with one and be able to drive it like that.”
Brady added. “Once I got some runs it made it easier to make my pitch knowing that my teammates have my back like that. I just tried to make my pitches and get people out. It was a good night for us.”
Despite losing six of their last seven games the Sixers looked like the better team on this night and manager Ryan Barba couldn’t be any happier for his squad.
“Our hitting coach Derek Florko put together a good scouting report on him (Lamet) and our hitters executed the plan to perfection,” Barba said. “It’s always exciting when you get a big leaguer that comes down here. It’s a challenge for our guys and they did a good job tonight. Ryan (Scott) has been working really hard for us and doing a good job with out pitchers behind the plate. It was good to see him get around on that guy.”
Barba also said he was very pleased with Brady’s outing as well.
“I don’t look at record to judge how someone has pitched. Tonight he went out and executed his pitch