The Somerset Patriots have been the gold-standard of the Atlantic League and baseball in the independent ranks since their inception as a franchise in 1998. On Tuesday night, the team put pen to paper to begin writing their first chapter as a Yankees minor league affiliate with a 6-0 shutout victory over the Harrisburg Senators at TD Bank Ballpark.
Manager Julio Mosquera handed the ball to highly touted pitching prospect Luis Gil and he flashed moments of dominance in his season debut. The right-hander, ranked as the Yankees fourth best prospect by Baseball America, allowed just two hits and issued one walk while fanning six batters over 3.2 innings of work. On a standard early season pitch count, Gil tossed 63 pitches on the night, 38 of which went for strikes and generated a swing-and-miss on nine of them (24%).
“I think that he attacked the zone as much as he could,” said Mosquera. “There were a couple pitches in there that he felt like he couldn’t get a call, but that’s fine, you’ve just got to keep making pitches.”
Mosquera added, “He mixed his pitches a lot and didn’t just rely on his fastball, so that’s something that I saw that I thought was good.”
Before many of the 1,903 fans on hand were even settled into their seats, centerfielder Estevan Florial sent a 2-0 offering from Nationals prospect Tim Cate over the right fielder wall to give Somerset a 1-0 advantage right out of the gate. Following a Diego Castillo sac-fly later in the inning, left fielder Thomas Milone jacked a three-run homer to right to give Somerset a 5-0 first inning lead. That was more than enough of support for Gil and the Patriots bullpen to give Mosquera his first victory as a manager at the Double-A level.
“I just want to say to the fans, thank you; this was for you” Mosquera said . “It was a big win for all of us and there’s nothing better than starting out on the right foot.”
Thoughts and observations:
- On a night when one of the most highly regarded pitchers in the system toed the rubber in Luis Gil, I walked away most impressed with the bullpen work from right-hander Ron Marinaccio, who tossed 3.1 innings of scoreless relief behind Gil to earn the victory. The New Jersey native has averaged 12 strikeouts-per-nine in his three seasons in the system and on Tuesday night, he struck out seven batters, all on swing-and miss offerings.
When asked about what his bread-and-butter is in a strikeout situation, Marinaccio added “A bunch of change-ups today, in previous years it’s probably more fastball-slider. Diving into the analytics a little bit this year and they’re like ‘yeah, your change-up is way better than your slider’ and that’s kind of where I’ve been going with that.”
Marinaccio added, “I’m still working to get that slider sharper and sharper, but the change-up is kind of something that I’ve discovered to be much more of a weapon than I thought it was. Today, I could tell the difference a bunch that hitters weren’t looking for that change-up as much. I’m sure it’s not on scouting reports, but I’m sure it will be soon.”
- Third baseman Hoy Jun Park impressed me with his ability to work counts and get on base when I covered him at Trenton in 2019 – he posted a .363 on-base percentage that season after putting up a career-best mark of .387 the year prior at High-A . Park picked off right where he left off, going 1-for-3 with a walk and stolen base in the opener. In all four of his plate appearances on Tuesday, Park worked three-ball counts on the opposing pitcher.
- Going into this season, most people that seem to agree that the strength of this Patriots roster as presently constructed is the pitching staff. The arms of Gil, Marinaccio, Stephen Ridings and Greg Weissert combined to strike out 15 Senators on the night while allowing just three hits and four walks. You win on most nights when your staff only gives up three hits to the opposition.
The Patriots continue their six-game set with Harrisburg on Wednesday night at TD Bank Ballpark. First pitch is slated for 7:10 P.M. with Right-hander and New Jersey native Shawn Semple taking the mound for Somerset in his season debut. He will be opposed by 26-year old right-hander Mario Sanchez of the Senators.