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IronPigs Notebook: LV off to good start in its 15th season

The IronPigs opened their 15th season last week in Rochester. Opening Day was a balmy 41-degrees and as the game went on, a light rain began to fall to make it feel even colder.

To make it even more fun, the game went into extra innings, but that part was quick as newcomer Vimael Machin launched a two-run home run in the top of the inning and then held on for an 8-7 win.

Lehigh Valley won another close one on Saturday, beating the Red Wings 2-1. By Sunday, the weather was simply too bad for baseball and the game was wiped out, giving Lehigh Valley an early start home to open the first home series of the season against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Tuesday night through a doubleheader on Saturday.

Reliever McKinley Moore - who came to the Phillies organization in the deal that sent Adam Haseley to the White Sox prior to last season - pitched two innings in relief Friday to get the win. The only run that scored against him was by the ghost runner in the bottom of the tenth inning. On Saturday, starter T.J. Zeuch pitched five innings, allowing just one run and the bullpen chipped in with four perfect innings.

Other than a rough two-thirds of an inning Friday when Francisco Morales allowed three earned runs, the bullpen has thrown 10 innings without allowing an earned run. Even factoring in Morales’ meltdown, the relievers have a 2.52 ERA through the first two games.

Offensively, Machin is hitting .571 (4-for-9) and Simon Muzziotti is batting .500 (4-for-8). Scott Kingery homered Friday to tie the game, and then gave Lehigh Valley the lead in the top of the fourth in Game 2 when he belted a solo home run. Later, he tripled off the center field fence and scored what turned out to be the winning run. Kingery played center field in both games as he attempts to work his way back to the majors after struggling through the last few seasons and being dropped from the Phillies 40-man roster.

“Knowing what he (Kingery) has had to do to bounce back from the injury, and to see his game come back to full strength is probably the best part, and to see him go through an offseason with full health,” said manager Anthony Contreras prior to the team leaving for Rochester. “The confidence level is high; you get to see what that type of athlete can do when given time to heal up and be at full capacity.”

Another player coming off injury is pitcher Hans Crouse, who missed most of last season. Initially, Crouse had bicep tendonitis, but that turned into issues with his flexor tendon in his forearm, keeping him out much longer than the initial diagnosis.

Like Kingery, Crouse is healthy and looking to regain his form and continue his pursuit of pitching in Philadelphia. “It was frustrating. It was humbling, too and made me realize that I can’t take anything for granted,” said Crouse of the injury. “I am healthy now and everything checked out. I saw the right people, and had a good team of people around me this offseason, and they took great care of me to make sure that was possible and to make sure I came into spring training fully healthy, and that’s exactly what we accomplished.”

THE TOP STORY … The big news around the team on Media Day last week was the completion of the new clubhouse and training facility. The clubhouse was enlarged, and a full player’s kitchen was added to assure the best possible nutrition for the team. In addition, a full medical suite and training area complete with two ice bath therapy areas were also added.

THINKING ABOUT NASHVILLE … New infielder Weston Wilson played the past two seasons in Nashville and was hit hard by the news of the school shooting there last week. He and his wife both loved their time in the city and have talked about possibly moving there full-time at some point. “You just start to see this (violence) in so many cities, and I hate to see it in a city that I love. I know they are doing a great job of coming together as a city and supporting that community,” said Wilson.

15 AND COUNTING … With the 2020 season wiped out by COVID, this is the 15th season of IronPigs baseball, and the team is planning some celebrations to highlight the season. A T-shirt featuring some of the more popular players through the years will be given away opening night. “It still gives me a bit of a chill every time we open the gates for games and welcome people in here. It’s kind of a sign of spring for me,” said president and general manager Kurt Landes. “You feel a responsibility operating this venue, and that’s meaningful to our employees and myself. For 15 years to have had the success that we have had, has been so rewarding. The fans in this area are so special, and GM or team says our fans are special, but when you are the 27th largest market in Triple-A out of 30 teams and you finish second in all of minor league baseball in attendance, it shows just how special this is.”

The IronPigs are enjoying a new clubhouse this season. CHUCK HIXSON/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS