GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- With the Indians playing tonight against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the braintrust spent all morning watching their prospects on the minor-league fields. Players from throughout the organization were split into games -- and the featured pitching matchup was Nick Hagadone vs. Kelvin De La Cruz. Both left-handers started for squads designated as "Mahoning Valley".
The mantra throughout camp on every field all spring has been "first-pitch strikes" and Hagadone obviously has heard it. He went 10-for-10 in getting immediately ahead of hitters.
Hagadone averaged 94 mph for his 46 pitches over three innings, topping out at 96. He gave up two hits, one run and struck out five without a walk. He hit Jason Donald with a pitch.
As sharp as Hagadone was in the zone, De La Cruz struggled. He was only 9-for-22 on first-pitch strikes and walked five, though he didn't allow a run over five innings. He made 80 pitches, averaged 88 mph with a top speed of 91, allowed four hits and struck out two.
Both prized lefties will be handled very carefully this season. Hagadone had Tommy John surgery in 2008 when he was in the Boston organization. He was dealt to the Indians in July as part of the package for Victor Martinez and did pitch a few games very effectively for Lake County.
De La Cruz missed most of 2009 with a strained elbow, but did not have surgery.
Hagadone has a relatively smooth delivery, but does have an very slight hitch at the start of his motion. Tribe officials are not overly concerned with it, though they would like him to smooth it out.
Right-hander Hector Rondon started for "Columbus" and as usual threw strikes. He was 17-for-21 on getting ahead and struck out five without a walk over five innings. He gave up six hits and two runs, topping out at 92 mph on his 76 pitches.
Omar Aguilar worked one inning after Rondon, averaging 92 mph for his 14 pitches with a top speed of 96. He was 3-for-4 on first-pitch strikes.
Jared Goedert went 2-for-2 with a solo homer over the left-field fence off Tom Mastny.
Mastny gave up three hits and two runs over 1 1-3 innings. He was only 2-for-8 on first-pitch strikes and topped out at 89 mph in relief of Zach Putnam.
Putnam was 11-for-15 on first-pitch efforts, hit 92 mph, and gave up five hits and three runs over 3 1-3 innings.
For "Kinston", Alexander Perez worked four hitless innings. He was 9-for-11 on first-pitch strikes. Brian Grening then worked one inning, allowing one run.
Right-hander Joe Gardner was only 9-for-19 on first-pitch strikes for Lake County. He fanned five over four innings, allowing one walk, three hits and one run.
Right-hander Erik Stiller was efficient over two scoreless innings, allowing two hits. He went 5-for-8 on first-pitch strikes and topped out at 90 mph.
Carlos Moncrief, who has switched from pitcher to playing the outfield, went 1-for-3 with two walks -- but was thrown out trying to stretch a single to left-center into a double.