It has been a rough couple of weeks for the Mesa Solar Sox. They’re riding a six-game losing skid and have been outscored by 26 runs through the first 12 games of the fall slate. Despite the overall rough beginning, a few Yankees farmhands are making the most of their time in the desert.
Ben Cowles started this week slowly at the plate. Through Friday’s action, he was 2-for-13 after his excellent first week. But in the final game of the week, he had his best performance. Cowles went 2-for-3 on Saturday with a double, his second two-bagger and second extra-base hit of the nascent fall season. That strong performance has him in the clubhouse second on the Solar Sox in both batting average and OPS two weeks into the campaign.
Fellow infielder Caleb Durbin is also performing well early. Wednesday, he put together a heck of a game in a losing performance. Durbin notched two base hits on Wednesday, including a double. He also walked and stole two bases. Two weeks in to Mesa’s fall slate, he has walked more than he’s struck out and is tied for the team lead with four stolen bases.
Nelson Medina, on the other hand, is yet to find his stride. Through two weeks, the outfielder has only managed two base hits and has struck out in nine of his 15 at-bats.
Trystan Vrieling continued to get valuable innings under his belt. This week at the AFL Media Day, Vrieling made it clear how much he felt he gained from valuable tutelage while he spent this season rehabbing and how ready he is for the opportunity to pitch this fall. He made his second start this week, taking the loss in part due to some sloppy defense behind him. Through 2.2 innings he is still yet to allow an earned run, though his four walks allowed are a definite red flag.
Like Vrieling, Kevin Stevens boasts a perfect ERA through two weeks. He’s now appeared in four contests, tossing a combined 3.1 innings with four strikeouts and nary a run marring his ledger.
Baron Stuart got his first taste of adversity, after hurling two scoreless frames in the first week of the season. This week, he allowed two runs in three innings of work, and, like Vrieling, his propensity to give out free passes (four of them in five innings) is something he needs to clean up.
Finally, a tragicomedy rounds out the week in review. Matt Sauer and Nolberto Henriquez both struggled this week, and the two of them teamed up to seize defeat from the jaws of victory Wednesday. Sauer entered the contest in the ninth with Mesa leading by three runs, 8-5. Unfortunately, he immediately gave up a leadoff single and a two-run home run to cut the lead to one.
It gets worse, though. Sauer struck out the next hitter swinging, though he reached on the dropped third strike and advanced to second on a throwing error by the catcher. Sauer proceeded to get two outs - which admittedly would have ended the inning if they could have gotten the out on the strikeout - but then walked two.
That set the stage for Henriquez, who relieved Sauer. He promptly unloaded a bases-loaded wild pitch that allowed the tying run to score then balked in the winning run. If that hasn’t already been officially dubbed “a balk-off,” I’d like to propose we make it so.
The sample sizes for everyone involved are miniscule so there’s no real point in trying to draw too many conclusions. For some of the players New York sent to Mesa, this fall is all about getting much-needed reps after missing time to injury.
That said, it’s good to see Cowles and Durbin off to solid starts at the plate for a struggling team, while Vrieling and Stevens are holding up well early in an offensive environment where half the clubs have a team OPS of at least .826.