Returning to Haunt An Old Friend
New Orleans Baby Cakes second baseman Yadiel Rivera didn't come down from the major leagues to the minors specifically to torment one of his former managers.
It's just the way it worked out.
Two nights ago, in his third game since he was outrighted from the Miami Marlins to the Cakes, Rivera stepped to the plate and unloaded with a majestic, three-run home run that measured 464 feet -- one of the longest this year at Wolff Stadium.
On Friday night, Rivera was a bit more subtle with his contributions, but they turned out to be every bit as effective, in a 4-2 Pacific Coast League victory over the Missions.
With the win, the Cakes handed the Missions a season-high eighth straight loss and dropped them 2 and 1/2 games off the pace the PCL's American Southern Division.
Afterward, Rivera said it's always an odd feeling to play against Rick Sweet, who managed him for parts of three seasons up until a few years ago.
Also, for a former seven-year member of the Brewers' organization, the 6-foot-3, 185-pound Puerto Rico native said there's always some catching up to do with all his other old acquaintances, as well.
"It feels kind of weird, being with the Brewers for eight years," said Rivera, who's been in the Miami Marlins system since November 2017. "I got a lot of friends on that side, and a lot on this side.
"When we're inside the lines, we're all just trying hard, trying to beat the other team, you know. We're just doing our job here, trying to play for the playoffs."
Sweet also feels different, sometimes conflicting, emotions when he manages against Rivera.
In a sense, it's almost like the first-year Missions' manager is working to defeat a member of his family.
From 2015-2017, Rivera played parts of each season for Sweet in Colorado Springs, which was then the Triple-A outpost of the Brewers.
The relationship evolved, during that time, into something beyond the usual manager-player norm.
Seth Sweet-Chick, the manager's son, would come out to the SkySox's pre-game workouts with his glove in hand.
He'd seek out Rivera for advice on how to play shortstop, and the two would alternate taking ground balls.
"Seth loved him," Sweet said. "Yadi was kind of his mentor, and he worked with him. He was really good with him."
Rivera said he was happy to help with a young man who is now considered one of the best high school baseball players in Arizona.
"I'd always try to help him out, to try to let him know what I know," Rivera said. "He's getting big now. It's something that feels pretty good for me, to be able to teach him to play the right way."
Ever since Rivera left the Brewers, Sweet has tried to stay in touch.
The two communicate often on social media, particularly on Instagram, and sometimes with playful jabs at one another.
For instance, Sweet said he suspected that Rivera might have delivered a barb via Instagram after Thursday night's game, a 5-3 victory for the Baby Cakes in 10 innings.
"I noticed ... that he had put something on Instagram, and then it was taken down," Sweet said. "So, I wondered if he hadn't said something (about the home run) and someone said something to him, and he took it down."
Informed of the speculation by a reporter after Friday night's game, Rivera denied it.
"No, no," Rivera said, smiling. "But I'll probably send him something tonight."
One possible topic of discussion could be the PCL's American Southern Division.
At the moment, the Round Rock Express lead the division by 2 and 1/2 games over the slumping Missions, who have lost eight in a row.
The third-place Cakes who have won four straight, remain 6 and 1/2 behind the Express and just four behind the second-place Missions.
After the Missions jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning Friday night, Rivera stepped in to cut off what could have been big outburst.
With the bases loaded, Lucas Erceg smashed a ground ball to the right side that Rivera gobbled up for the last out.
Another one of Sweet's former players -Cakes catcher Taylor Heineman - blasted a home run to right to tie the game in the top of the second.
Rivera struck again in the eighth. With the Missions holding onto a 2-1 lead, the Cakes erupted for three in the eighth to take charge.
Two scored on a Missions throwing error, and the third came home via an RBI infield single by Rivera.
On the play, Rivera hit a slow grounder to the left side.
Missions shortstop Jake Hager fielded it and, with an athletic play, side-armed a looping throw across the diamond that appeared initially as if it would get Rivera.
But as first baseman Travis Shaw caught the ball and tried to swipe tag the base runner, Rivera twisted his body to get around it, and a run scored to make it 4-2.
"My former players," Sweet proclaimed later, "they all try to come back to haunt me."
American Southern Division -- Round Rock 74-48, San Antonio 72-51, New Orleans 67-54, Oklahoma City 57-65.
American Northern Division - Iowa 66-57, Memphis 57-66, Nashville 55-66, Omaha 52-71.
Note: Teams play a 140-game schedule that ends on Sept. 2. The winners of the American Southern and the American Northern divisions meet in the first round of the playoffs. The winner of the series plays in the PCL title series against the winner of a Pacific Southern and Pacific Northern series.
New Orleans at San Antonio on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. and on Sunday at 6:05 p.m.
Tyler Austin activated
Missions newcomer Tyler Austin likely will be in the starting lineup on Saturday, manager Rick Sweet said.
Austin, who has played with the New York Yankees, Minnesota Twins and San Francisco Giants, was activated Friday after signing a minor league deal with the parent-club Milwaukee Brewers.
"He's got a good swing," Sweet said. "He really moves well fielding ground balls. Very impressed with him."
Utilized as a pinch-hitter Friday night, Austin flied out deep to right for the last out of the seventh inning.
Veteran Shelby Miller had his most promising start of the season for the Missions. He allowed three hits and one run in five innings. Miller walked three and struck out four. Jimmy Nelson was also good, pitching two scoreless innings. He didn't allow a hit while walking one and striking four.
Freitas' streaks intact
With an RBI single in the first inning, David Freitas increased three streaks: on base (26 games), hits (12 games safely) and RBI (eight). His RBI streak is the longest by a Missions player this year.
• Discuss this story on the Pacific Coast League message board...
Pacific Coast League Stories from August 17, 2019
- Sounds Top Chasers 5-3 - Omaha Storm Chasers
- Missions Snap Skid with 13-Inning Walk-Off Victory - San Antonio Missions
- 'Cakes Fall in 13 - New Orleans Baby Cakes
- Chihuahuas' Rally Comes up Short - El Paso Chihuahuas
- Bees Win Back to Back - Salt Lake Bees
- Garcia's Walk-Off Homer Gives Redbirds Series Win - Memphis Redbirds
- Memphis Spoils Iowa's Early Lead - Iowa Cubs
- Federowicz' Go-Ahead Home Run Wins It for Sounds - Nashville Sounds
- Dodgers Can't Catch Up to Express - Oklahoma City Dodgers
- Express Blank Dodgers 2-0 - Round Rock Express
- Nashville Sounds Game Information: Nashville Sounds (55-66) vs. Omaha Storm Chasers (52-71) - Nashville Sounds
- Game Notes vs. Sacramento - Reno Aces
- Game Notes: San Antonio Missions vs. New Orleans Baby Cakes - San Antonio Missions
- Game Notes: Memphis Redbirds (57-66) vs Iowa Cubs (66-57) - Memphis Redbirds
- OKC Dodgers Game Notes - August 17, 2019 - Oklahoma City Dodgers
- Returning to Haunt An Old Friend - San Antonio Missions
- River Cats Provide the Fireworks Friday Night - Reno Aces
- Davis belts three homers as River Cats cruise to victory - Sacramento River Cats
- Isotopes Take Second in a Row from Aviators - Albuquerque Isotopes
- Grizzlies can't bear the cold, lose 8-1 to Rainiers - Fresno Grizzlies
- Rainiers Pile on Six in Seventh Inning to Take Second-Straight against Fresno - Tacoma Rainiers
- Six Bees Homers Doom Chihuahuas - El Paso Chihuahuas
- Hermosillo Hits Three Homers in Bees Win - Salt Lake Bees
The opinions expressed in this release are those of the organization issuing it, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.
Other Recent San Antonio Missions Stories
- San Antonio Missions Announce 2020 Schedule
- Former Missions Outfielder Trent Grisham Named Milwaukee Brewers Minor League Player of the Year
- 2019 Season Review
- Sorting out Bittersweet Memories
- Missions Catcher David Freitas Wins Pacific Coast League Batting Title