So, what did the Winnipeg Goldeyes learn on Tuesday night, when they squeaked out a 1-0 exhibition win over the Sioux Falls Canaries?
Well, on a chilly night at Shaw Park, the offence didn't exactly heat up in the second of three pre-season games at home. They combined for only six hits through nine innings (they played the bottom of the ninth for training purposes, though the Fish were winning). The game's lone score came in the first, when shortstop Tyler Kuhn snapped out a lead-off single, and outfielder Ray Sadler drove him home two batters later.
The Fish nursed that 1-0 lead for the rest of the match, as the Canaries scrounged up five hits in front of a smattering of Winnipeg fans. The two teams will meet again tonight at Shaw Park, before the Goldeyes hit the road on Thursday for a two-week jaunt down south.
For Goldeyes manager Rick Forney, Tuesday night's game was a prime chance to see what some of his younger hurlers can do. "Practice doesn't really tell you anything," Forney said before batting practice that afternoon. "You need to see them playing games, and facing some quality opponents."
Barring injury or outright disaster, Chris Salamida, Jason Jarvis, Matt Jackson and Ethan Hollingsworth are all likely to stay in the rotation come opening day. That leaves newcomers Nick Hernandez and Kyle Anderson to battle for a staring job. There's a few bullpen jobs up for grabs too, as Forney hunts for the right bunch to round out the dynamic duo of Chris Kissock and Brendan Lafferty, who were so strong for the Fish last year.
To get a sense of what the younger pitchers can do, Forney gave two innings to Anderson, the 23-year-old pitcher fresh off a solid season with the Blue Jays' minor-league affiliate in Vancouver. He gave two to David Hatt, the Canadian rookie battling for his first pro gig, and two to 22-year-old Christan Garcia, already a third-year pro.
So, how did the new guys do? Southpaw Anderson opened the game, pitching two scoreless innings marred by just one hit, from the first batter he faced. Canadian Hatt struck out the first two batters he saw at the plate, and finished with a walk and no runs in his two frames. Garcia gave up a double to his first opponent, Canaries first baseman Chris Duffy, but turned things around to finish with a hit and a walk in two scoreless frames.
Gabe Aguilar, a returning Goldeyes rookie, struck out one and gave up a base hit in the seventh inning. Taylor Sewitt, who pitched a few innings for the Fish after being traded to Winnipeg late last year, gave up a hit in the eighth. Another newcomer, Alex De La Cruz, closed things out with a quick three-up, three-out to earn the save. Make of all of those numbers what you will.
For Anderson, the chance to get back on the mound was a thrill. He was rated the third-best pitcher in the A-level Northwest League last year, after hurling for a 2.71 ERA in 15 starts. Still, the Blue Jays organization let him go this spring. "It was definitely surprising, but I understand it," said Anderson, who had signed with the Jays as an undrafted free agent. "It's a business. It caught me off guard, but just because that happens doesn't mean it's the end."
Through the baseball grapevine -- one of Anderson's neighbours was a longtime baseball buddy of Forney's -- the Fish learned that Anderson was on the market. Still, Forney waited a couple of days before offering a job -- he thought another affiliated club might want to pick the young pitcher up. When that call didn't come for Anderson, the Goldeyes did.