On Tuesday night at HoHoKam Park in Mesa, Arizona, the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Rookie League squad defeated the Mesa Cubs 6-4 in their final road tilt of the Arizona League schedule. Phildrick Liewellyn drove in a pair of runs, and Francisco Guzman pitched four innings of solid ball to get the D’Backs a victory against the Cubs, who had taken the previous two contests between the teams.
What was noteworthy about this contest, however, was the fact that not one but two Diamondbacks big league regulars were on the field for the Class A club. Shortstop Willie Bloomquist and pitcher Josh Collmenter are both with the “Baby Backs” on rehab assignments, and both contributed in big ways to the team’s victory, as well as showed that they are well on their way back from their respective injuries.
Bloomquist, who has been sidelined with an injured back, has been making quite a few appearances with the youngsters as of late, as the big league D’Backs have had the fortune of a 10-game homestand to coincide with his rehab stint. On Tuesday night, Bloomquist went 1-for-2 with a walk in the game, and also pitched in an RBI single for good measure. He wasn’t tested in the field unfortunately for him, but he did show a great deal of patience at the plate, working several counts and drawing the aforementioned free pass in the process. He looked very comfortable overall, and reports are indicating that he could rejoin the team on Saturday when they battle the Los Angeles Dodgers at Chavez Ravine.
As for Collmenter, he was even better than his position-playing associate. Over four innings, Collmenter scattered three hits (including the only hard-hit ball he gave up in the game, a ringing double off the right-center field wall), struck out six batters (including striking out the side in the third inning), and only allowed one flyout in contrast with three ground balls.
His penchant for keeping the ball in the infield will certainly do a good amount for his confidence, which has surely taken a beating this season with his demotion from the rotation and subsequent injury. That was on display Tuesday, as he was having a great deal of success in locating his fastball and looked to be throwing his off-speed pitches without any hesitation. According to the same report about Bloomquist, Collmenter may also rejoin the team in Los Angeles this weekend, but nothing is for sure on that front yet.
Unfortunately for Diamondbacks fans, the big potential attractions from the team’s minor league system were largely kept out of the lineup on Tuesday, including 2012 first round draft pick Stryker Trahan. The lone exception to that was 2012 second round pick Jose Munoz, who replaced Bloomquist at shortstop. He did get on base via a walk, but also struck out in the contest.
Aside from the on-field action, there were a couple of other things that stood out on this warm night in Mesa. The first, of course, is how cool it is to actually watch a game in a MLB spring training facility on a random summer night. Granted, these guys aren’t the most gifted players of the bunch, but there is still the potential that you can see a hotshot prospect before he gets sent up the ladder, and the Diamondbacks also have a huge benefit in being able to send their big league players here as a rehab stop that’s close to home. That’s why you’re liable to see a guy like a Bloomquist or a Collmenter with the youngsters at Salt River Fields rather than in places like Reno, and that adds to the potential draw of attending a Rookie League game.
In addition to the possibility of seeing Major League talent, there are also the other benefits. The small attendance (there were probably 40 or so people at the stadium tonight) means that you can sit basically wherever you want, and every baseball fan has their preference, so that’s a unique experience. In addition, the games are free of charge, so it’s a nice family outing to undertake that won’t break the bank in the process.
About the only downside to the experience is that it’s fairly bare bones, with no concession items being sold and no scorecards or even player names on the scoreboard to help you follow the action. This may turn some casual fans of the game off, but to the hardcore enthusiast, they are barely blips on the radar in terms of enjoying the experience.
The Arizona League is wrapping up its slate tomorrow, and the Diamondbacks will be hosting the Los Angeles Angels’ rookies at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale. If you are not busy, we would strongly suggest that you check them out before they go their separate ways. Just be careful, because there is a possibility that they might not be playing on the big field at the complex, so keep an eye out for where the lights are on, and if you can manage to find the appropriate place to go, you are in for a unique baseball experience.