Abad has a good debut as Bats stay hot
Run-scoring double in 11th shoots down Syracuse, 4-3
By Brian Bennett
Andy Abad's first at-bat as a Louisville Bat left a lasting impression.
Abad, who cleared waivers and arrived in town yesterday afternoon, hit a game-winning double in the 11th inning last night as the Bats beat the Syracuse SkyChiefs 4-3 at Louisville Slugger Field.
"Fortunately, I got in and kept this team rolling," he said after lifting the Bats to their fifth straight victory.
The winning rally began when Brian Tallet (0-1) plunked Ray Olmedo on the elbow on the first pitch of the inning. Chris Denorfia then sacrificed Olmedo to second, and Syracuse intentionally walked Jesse Gutierrez, who had hit a two-run homer in the sixth inning.
Abad, a teammate of Tallet's last year in Buffalo, jumped on a 2-0 fastball and crushed it off the top of the wall in right-center. Driving in big runs comes as second nature for the 33-year-old, who led the International League in RBIs in 2003.
But last night Abad had to shake off rust from barely playing for more than two weeks. After making the Cincinnati Reds' opening day roster, he got only five at-bats before being designated for assignment April 14 and then waiting to clear waivers.
"He's been home for three days, and he walks up and gets the game winner," manager Rick Sweet said, smiling. "That's why we signed him."
Sweet inserted his newest player into the game in the ninth inning as a pinch runner. The move surprised Abad, who's not known for his speed.
"I think only in spring training games have I ever been used as a pinch runner," he said.
But Sweet had an eye on the later innings, just as Abad has been keeping track of the Bats. He could have refused his minor league assignment and become a free agent, but Abad told Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky that he wasn't going anywhere but Louisville.
"I feel real good about this organization, and I think it's going in the right direction," he said. "There was no reason for me to go to another team if I feel comfortable here. This is one of the few organizations that have had confidence in me."
Abad wasn't the only Bats player to make a strong debut last night. Pitcher Darrell May gave up two runs in 51/3 innings in his first outing in the Reds' system. The 33-year-old lefthander, a former fixture in the Kansas City Royals' rotation, signed a minor league contract with Cincinnati on April 1 after being released by Minnesota.
"I thought he pitched outstanding," Sweet said. "He threw strikes and mixed his pitches well."
Unlike May, Abad had to shave his beard before the game to comply with the Reds' rules for minor leaguers. He also got a little new-guy razzing. Olmedo jokingly chided a reporter for interviewing Abad because "he didn't even hit a home run."
"That's OK," Abad said. "I'll take the double."