AKRON AEROS 9, BOWIE BAYSOX 5 - Aeros win their season opener at home
KEY STATS - Aeros starting pitcher Hector Rondon (1-0) earned the win by limiting the Baysox to a run on five hits while striking out six over 5 2/3 innings. Rondon dominated the first five frames before leaving the ball up a bit after coming back out in the sixth when the Baysox finally managed to get on the board.
"He's a powerful and aggressive strike thrower who does it with ease," said Indians farm director Ross Atkins, who traveled to Canal Park from Cleveland to witness Rondon's Double-A debut in person.
KEY MOMENT - Entering the game with a comfortable 9-1 lead, Aeros reliever Michael Finocchi promptly dished up three runs as the Baysox rallied to within four runs of tying the game late. But with two on and two out, veteran side-armer Randy Newsom came on and quickly quelled the threat. By inducing a groundout to the mound in the eighth and then sitting the side down in order in the ninth, Newsom notched his franchise-record 48th career save in Akron.
STORM'S STAR - Aeros catcher Carlos Santana didn't waste any time showing off his sweet swing to Aeros fans, hitting a three-run home run on the second pitch he saw to give the host a 3-0 lead in the first inning. Santana, the Indians No. 1 prospect as rated by Baseball America, finished the night 2-for-4 with four RBI and a run scored.
"That was a pretty good start to his Aeros '09 year," Aeros manager Mike Sarbaugh said. "He's a very good hitter. We saw that in spring training and with his numbers last year (.326 with 39 doubles, 21 homers, 117 RBI and a minor-league leading 125 runs scored). He showed good patience tonight and swung the bat well from both sides, including an RBI sacrifice fly from the right side."
Santana was originally signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2004 out of the Dominian Republic by the Los Angeles Dodgers. He came to the Indians in the middle of the season last year as the cornerstone of the Casey Blake trade.
UP NEXT - Akron and Bowie continue their four-game opening series tonight at Canal Park at 7:05 p.m. Aeros right-hander Frank Hermann is slated to face Bowie right-hander Jake Arrieta. Hermann was the Aeros most consistent starter last season, going 11-6 with a 4.10 ERA in 23 starts. If it weren't for the depth ahead of him at Triple-A Columbus, he likely would have started there this season instead of having another go around in the Eastern League.
NOTES - It was hard not to notice the rough condition of Canal park turf Wednesday - a rarity for opening day. Usually when the field gets a little worn, it comes in the middle of the season or towards the end after being trampled on by spikes game after game after game. But this season's problems actually began at the end of last year when head groundskeeper Matt Duncan noticed a bunch of patches of bad grass that had to be killed off with a weed-eating product for fear that it would spread to the entire field. Although Duncan began reseeding the field early enough to allow the dead patches time to regrow, the constant flucuations in temperatures - from late fall to yesterday when the field was covered in snow - kept that from happening. Thus, the field will continue to look like swiss cheese until a steady temperature allows the grass to regrow so it can be mowed evenly. The good news is that the problem isn't expected to cause any fielding problems.
"The field really wasn't a concern for me," Sarbaugh said after the game. "It may have looked bad, but it played just fine."