After the announcement from MLB Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr. that Spring Training games have been suspended and the start of the 2020 regular season will be delayed by at least two weeks due to the national emergency created by the coronavirus pandemic, Team Italy players competing for 26-man MLB Opening Day roster spots may be in jeopardy of making their respective big-league squads. The following list provides up-to-date information on their progress.
CATCHERS: Colorado Rockies catcher Drew Butera was crushing the ball with one double, two home runs, two walks, and a .333 batting average in seven games and 12 at-bats prior to the sudden halt to 2020 MLB Spring Training games. In contrast, Miami Marlins catcher Francisco Cervelli was not having his best spring at the plate with one double, three walks, and a .118 batting average in a small sample size of 17 at-bats. Team Italy catcher Alberto Mineo recently signed a minor-league contract with the Chicago Cubs. He did not make any 2020 MLB Spring Training game appearances nor did fellow Italian catcher Cesare Astorri, who remained at Oakland A's minor-league camp.
PITCHERS: Miami Marlins switch-pitcher Pat Venditte made six 2020 Spring Training game appearances and threw a total of 5.2 innings (1.52 ERA) with one win, one save, six strikeouts, and one walk. Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Sam Gaviglio appeared in three games and picked up a win over the New York Yankees on March 10, 2020. In 3.0 innings pitched, Sam Gaviglio was outstanding with three strikeouts, no walks, and no runs allowed. Fellow Team Italy pitcher and Blue Jays teammate Jordan Romano has been equally as impressive by earning a win over the Philadelphia Phillies on February 29, 2020. The right-handed hurler worked a total of five innings in five MLB Spring Training appearances. Like Sam Gaviglio, Jordan Romano allowed no earned runs and issued no walks. Bryce Harper was one of six strikeout victims this spring for the hard-throwing Italian-Canadian reliever. Team Italy lefty Luis Lugo signed a minor-league contract with the Chicago Cubs last year and pitched one scoreless inning against the Cincinnati Reds during MLB Spring Training on March 3, 2020. MLB pitching prospects Nick Fanti (Philadelphia Phillies), Matteo Bocchi (Chicago Cubs), Daniele Di Monte (Detroit Tigers), Samuel Aldegheri (Philadelphia Phillies), and Ettore Giulianelli (St. Louis Cardinals) remained at minor-league camp.
INFIELDERS: Chicago Cubs utilityman Daniel Descalso appeared in 11 MLB Spring Training game with 25 at-bats, but his .160 batting average did not make the best impression on new manager David Ross. Fellow Team Italy infielder and Chicago Cubs teammate Robel Garcia also struggled at the plate by striking out in 10 of his 20 at-bats and hitting .150 with one triple and five walks in 14 games. As a result, he was optioned to Triple-A Iowa on March 6, 2020. Team Italy shortstop Gavin Cecchini signed a minor-league contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks on January 25, 2020. He struck out in his only D-backs Spring Training game at-bat and was assigned to Triple-A Reno on March 7, 2020. Infielder Drew Maggi signed a minor-league contract with the Minnesota Twins on December 19, 2019 and played in 15 MLB Spring Training games. He hit .167 in 18 at-bats with one double and one home run. Team Italy slugger and Cincinnati Reds prospect "Grande" Leo Seminati remained at minor-league camp.
OUTFIELDERS: New Yorks Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo made 11 Spring Training game appearances. In 29 at-bats, he compiled a .379 batting average with three doubles, one triple, two walks, and one stolen base. Team Italy outfielder John Andreoli signed a minor-league contract with the Boston Red Sox on December 20, 2019 and appeared in 14 MLB Spring Training games. He hit .190 in 21 at-bats with two doubles and five walks.
With all due respect to the safety and well-being of players, clubs, and fans, Major League Baseball made the right decision in canceling the remaining MLB Spring Training games and pushing back to start of the 2020 regular season. If some of the Team Italy players do not make their Opening Day rosters due to limited opportunities to prove themselves, it will be a minor-league setback. In the end, the resilient Azzurri players will rise to the occasion and give their best effort to reach MLB. Forza #Italia!
by Roberto Angotti