To most observers, baseball always boils down to wins and losses. At the Triple-A level, those are secondary to player development.
That is the philosophy of manager Glenallen Hill, at least, but a win can still be a nice bonus. The Albuquerque Isotopes pulled out a well-played, well-pitched 4-1 victory over the visiting Reno Aces on Wednesday night.
“I’ve always told you guys the whole time I’ve been managing, some managers manage for themselves and to get victories (but) this is player development,” Hill said. “This is where players have got to be finished off or they have to address issues why they weren’t consistent in the big leagues.
“They are in a position to deal with whatever trials they have to do with so they can go up and help the major-league team win. That’s why we’re here at this level, we have to get guys ready to go help the major-league team.”
Right-hander Shane Carle (2-1) did his part to show positive strides in his development. After two rough starts (15 earned runs in 10 innings) in his first two starts, Carle tossed six scoreless innings, scattering seven hits and two walks while striking out six.
“I think I was just being aggressive especially with my fastball early and the changeup was pretty good tonight,” Carle said. “I kept them off-balance pretty good and went right after them.”
It was that improvement from his past starts that Hill was focused on, not just the final result. Rebounding back into form for any struggling player is something the organization wants to see.
“His tempo was really good and he attacked the strike zone,” Hill said. “That’s just who he is as a pitcher and it’s nice to see him get rewarded for that with the way he pitched and being able to long today.”
The Isotopes (8-6) were held in check offensively as well until their half of the sixth. They went the manufacturing route first as Mike Tauchman hit a leadoff single, stole second, went to third on an error and score on Ryan Casteel’s two-out single to right.
“We don’t have any power hitters on our team and we’re trying to finish these guys off,” Hill said. “Creating professional hitters who can compete at the next level against guys who can execute a plan.”
Of course, right after manufacturing that first run, Will Swanner stepped up and swatted his first career Triple-A home run, a two-run shot to left-center. Swanner had entered the game batting .179 (5-for-28) with just one extra-base hit, a double.
“It was nice to see Will get ready early and put a good swing on it,” Hill said. “He has a lot of power and I think sometimes when guys like him aren’t getting a lot of hits they try to make up for it with one swing (but) he seemed very relaxed during that at-bat.”
Swanner said he was happy to get things going for one at-bat, at least. The first baseman hit 17 home runs at Double-A last season.
“It has been a struggle for me leading up to this point but I feel my work everyday is good and finally that last at-bat I was able to put a good swing on it,” Swanner said. “I got a good pitch and hit it well.”
Albuquerque is still never going to be a home run-hitting team, something Hill said his players are well aware of through 14 games. Manufacturing runs will still be the primary approach of the lineup.
“It’s just who these kids have to be,” Hill said. “They have to be complete ballplayers and take advantage of what teams are going to give them.”
The Isotopes will aim to clinch the series against the Aces on Thursday at 6:35 p.m. Lefty Ryan Carpenter (0-1, 4.91 ERA) will face right-hander Braden Shipley (2-0, 3.97), the Diamondbacks’ No. 1 prospect.