At the start of the season, Francisco Sosa was considered to be one of the keys to the Modesto Nuts, both offensively and defensively.
The strapping (6-4, 210-pound) centerfielder had a breakout season with Asheville in 2013, hitting .315 with 20 homers and 89 RBI, a .926 OPS and 30 stolen bases.
And he started the season fast, albeit in a small sample size. He was 3-for-8 with a homer and 3 RBI when he came to the plate in the middle of the third game of the season in Bakersfield.
That’s when Sosa was ear-holed by a fastball, suffering a concussion that caused him to miss more than two weeks of playing time.
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Since returning to action, Sosa hasn’t come close to showing signs of the player Colorado expected him to be this season, hitting .196 with no home runs and 4 RBI in 28 games while also having difficulties defensively.
After Sunday’s game, Sosa was sent out to extended spring training and replaced on the roster and in the lineup by Kyle Von Tungeln - who finished the 2013 season in Modesto.
“Ever since he got hit with that fastball things haven’t quite been the same for him,” said Nuts’ manager Don Sneddon. “He’s struggled in the outfield a little bit and wasn’t playing to the level he did prior to getting hit, and I’m not saying that’s the only reason. He just didn’t get to where he needed to be defensively, and offensively he’s struggled.
“He hasn’t been seeing the ball well and the organization felt it was best for him to go down and get on-track, to get some more playing time. They also wanted to bring Von Tungeln up to get him some playing time.
“It’s one of those things in this game that you move up and down. By no means does this mean the Rockies are giving up on Sosa. They just feel in in his best interests to go down and get some work in and get things straightened out.”
COLLISION RULE ALMOST COMES INTO PLAY
The final out of Sunday’s 4-3 Stockton victory came at the plate, when Ports’ catcher Ryan Lipkin grabbed a great throw from rightfielder Dusty Robinson and applied a belt-high tag to Matt Wessinger, who was trying to score from first base on a bloop double down the right field line.
The throw beat Wessinger by plenty, and the Nuts’ third baseman had no place to slide since Lipkin, after grabbing the throw, stepped into the right-handed batters’ box. Wessinger was tagged standing-up to end the game.
There was a team meeting prior to Monday’s game, so I didn’t have the chance to speak with Wessinger, but I did ask Sneddon if he thought Wessinger would have been in a mind-set to bowl-over the catcher under the rules of baseball up until this season.
“Without a doubt,” Sneddon said. “The catcher was up the line. Robinson made a good throw and we were aggressive there. It would have been different without the new rule and this is a great example of what you can’t do now as a runner.”
“The runner has the right to run into the catcher if he’s up the line, even with the ball, if he’s not giving you a sliding lane. The catcher had the ball, but with the new rules it would have been interesting to see what would have happened there.”
Had Wessinger crashed into Lipkin and dislodged the ball, it would have been in the hands of the home plate umpire to rule whether the slide was legal, taking into consideration whether or not the catcher offered a sliding lane. But then, Wessinger still would have had to make a move to slide inside of seeking to make contact.
Yes, it’s one of the flaws of this still-developing rule that the umpire has to take the intent of the runner into consideration. Apparently, telepathy is now a part of umpire training.
“I’m not sure who would have won the collision,” Sneddon said. “Technically, could Wessinger have run into the catcher? Yes, because he was up the line and not giving part of the plate.”