Old Friends

Edwin Diaz

Hard to believe that the season is just around the corner. The Generals open things up two weeks from Thursday with a game against the Birmingham Barons April 6. But we are far from the doldrums of Spring Training. Sure, there are relatively pointless games going on and everyone is talking about Tim Tebow. But there has been compelling action almost nightly thanks to the World Baseball Classic.

The international tournament has featured fantastic players, drama and emotion not seen during much of the MLB regular season. It’s not often that we get to see that kind of enthusiasm in March.

One of the more effusive players in the tournament is none other than former General Edwin Díaz. Less than a year, ago he was Jackson’s Opening Day starter. Now, he’s throwing 100 miles per hour while closing games for the Mariners and Puerto Rico.

Díaz pitched a pair of scoreless innings Monday night, earning the win that sends Puerto Rico to the finals Wednesday night. In the semifinal round, he earned a save against the American team with strikeouts of Buster Posey and Paul Goldschmidt.

The rest of the world is starting to see what Southern League hitters had to deal with last year.

Some other familiar names are making headlines in Spring Training. Though this is our first year with the Diamondbacks, we’ll be keeping a close eye on happenings in Seattle. With the amount of talent that came through Jackson last year, there will be a lot of guys in that organization who make noise at the Major League level.

Tops on the list of players we’re watching in 2017 is Tyler O’Neill. The Canadian slugger rewrote the Jackson record book last year en route to a Southern League MVP award. He’ll more than likely begin the year in Triple-A, but hopefully he’ll get a shot to play in the majors sometime this season. He gave everyone a taste of what he can do last week with this absolute bomb against Clayton Kershaw.

To recap: Last week, a 2016 General struck out Paul Goldschmidt and another one homered off of Clayton Kershaw. Not bad.

Later this week, we’ll look ahead at some of the guys we can expect to see in Jackson this year. But after winning a championship, looking back ain’t so bad.


Diaz Dominant in Debut

Diaz Smile

That was awesome. I got home last night just as Edwin Diaz was entering for the Mariners in his Major League debut. And what a debut it was. Edwin ramped it all the way up to 101 miles per hour, retiring all three batters he faced with a strikeout.

I can’t explain how surreal it was to watch. Edwin made it to Jackson last May, so I was fortunate to spend a year with him before he made the jump to Seattle (first player to do so in-season since 2010). I’ve watched the highlights approximately 75 times today.

Wow. Everything was perfect. The inning. The velocity. The standing ovation. His family taking pictures. And that smile. Gave me chills.

He took the the relief role so well. It took Edwin, at 22 years of age, just 10 appearances out of the bullpen in Double-A before he was summoned to The Show.

Here’s to a long, productive Major League career for Edwin Diaz. Just seeing him pitch in Seattle was so special. I talked to him on Friday and saw him pitch last Thursday. Days later, I saw what I had seen in person for a year on TV.

The big news today is that the Generals had seven — including Diaz — named to the North Division All-Star team. It was the most of any team and the most for Jackson since 2012. We’ll talk more about those guys as the game, which is on June 21, gets closer.

For now, I’ll just go back to watching Diaz dominate big league hitters like, well, Southern League hitters.

Generals Hot at Home, Diaz Dominant in Relief

Diaz Finish 640

Hello again! It has been too long since we’ve posted here. Things have been a little busy recently, but the good news is the Generals are still scoring more runs than the other team! Jackson is off Tuesday, and right now the Generals are atop the Southern League with a 27-17 record.

Much of the team’s success is coming at home. The Generals are 17-6 at The Ballpark at Jackson after winning 23 home games all of last season. The team is 5-0 in home series after winning just four series in West Tennessee last year. The turnaround has been remarkable.

The team is coming off taking four of five from Chattanooga. The Generals finally got a comfortable 7-0 win in Monday’s finale, but the team has made a habit of winning close games this year. They are 16-6 in games decided by two runs or fewer. On Sunday, it was Tim Lopes completing a comeback from three runs down with a walk-off single in the 11th.

On Monday, the team won by more than three runs for the first time since May 5. The team’s ability to win six of 12 in a stretch where it failed to score more than four in a game is quite impressive. The offense seemed to find itself in the finale thanks in large part to D.J. Peterson who had three hits including this moonshot.

If Peterson starts to hit like he has been consistently, the offense goes from good to great. In the last four games of Jackson’s series against Chattanooga, Peterson went 8-for-16 with two doubles, a home run and three RBI. He raised his average from .213 to .242.

The Generals embark on a big road trip Wednesday morning. The team currently leads Montgomery by 3.5 games in the North Division. The Generals and Biscuits are set to play six games in Montgomery before Jackson plays five against the Tennessee Smokies. This trip will play a big role in whether or not the Generals can win the First Half.

The offense came through against Chattanooga, but the pitching has been splendid of late for the Generals. Monday’s win was the team’s seventh shutout of the season, the most of any team in the Southern League. Ryan Yarbrough pitched seven scoreless frames to give the Generals their 17th quality start of the season. Last year, Jackson had 11 shutouts and 29 quality starts all season long.

Jackson has lowered its team ERA to 3.51, good for fourth-best in the league. Three pitchers — Dylan Unsworth, Ryan Yarbrough and Edwin Diaz — rank among the top ten in the league in earned run average.

The staff has a new look, as top pitching prospect Edwin Diaz was moved to the bullpen at the beginning of the month. This move surprised some, but his stuff plays up in relief and I think he has a real shot to make it to the majors later this season. The early returns are good. In six outings, the lanky right-hander has allowed just an unearned run on three hits while striking out 11 and walking no one. This is a guy that hadn’t pitched in relief since 2012, his first year as a pro.

David caught up with Edwin and talked to him about the adjustment and some of the changes he has had to make.

Diaz is getting used to pitching more regularly, as he appeared in games one, three and five of the series against the Lookouts.

The staff managed to get even stronger Tuesday, as the Mariners announced that righty Andrew Moore would be making the jump to Double-A from Bakersfield. Moore led the California League in ERA (1.65), WHIP (0.90) and average against (.188) at the time of his promotion. Seattle took Moore with the 72nd overall pick in last year’s draft out of Oregon State.

Moore gets the ball in game one of the big series between the Generals and Biscuits. It’ll be exciting to see him in a high-pressure situation. Lets hope the Generals can put some distance between themselves and the anthropomorphic breakfast food.

Until next time!