GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Royals pitcher Eric Cerantola and Mets infielder/outfielder Rowdey Jordan faced one another more than 20 times on the practice fields of Starkville, Miss. But on Wednesday night at Camelback Ranch, the two stood across from one another during Arizona Fall League action, looking for bragging rights between
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Royals pitcher Eric Cerantola and Mets infielder/outfielder Rowdey Jordan faced one another more than 20 times on the practice fields of Starkville, Miss. But on Wednesday night at Camelback Ranch, the two stood across from one another during Arizona Fall League action, looking for bragging rights between the former Bulldogs.
After Cerantola’s first offering, a fastball, missed in off the plate, Jordan started hacking the second time around. At first, it looked as though the foul pop might reach the seats, but Surprise third baseman Damiano Palmegiani hauled it in, swinging the pendulum firmly in Cerantola’s favor.
“I was like, ‘He knows exactly what I'm going to try to do with him.’ So I was just trying … to figure out how to get him out,” Cerantola said. “But I couldn't help just having a smirk on my face when I faced him.”
“I'm sitting there thinking, ‘I can't let him get to me. I can't let him get to me,’ and of course, he blows me up and I pop out to foul territory,” Jordan laughed. “So we're gonna have to get him next time though.”
Before the showdown of former teammates took place, the 6-foot-5 hurler opened his start -- an eventual 7-1 victory by Jordan’s Desert Dogs over Cerantola’s Saguaros -- by zooming his first offering of the contest over everyone’s head and off the screen behind home plate.
“I was definitely a little antsy. I definitely knew that I was just excited,” said Cerantola, who threw six straight balls to begin his start before locking in. “After that, I just relaxed and made the pitches I needed to do.”
The hard-throwing right-hander put his command concerns by the wayside, finishing by throwing 26 of his 38 pitches for strikes. He allowed just one hit -- a run-scoring single -- and struck out four over three innings of work.
The outing was the latest in a strong closing flurry to the 2023 season for Cerantola, who is looking to continue building up innings after a lat injury shut him down last summer. Over his final eight appearances between High-A Quad Cities and Double-A Northwest Arkansas, the 23-year-old racked up 44 strikeouts in 30 1/3 frames, posting a 1.47 ERA and a .171 average-against.
Once Cerantola departed, Jordan helped lead the Glendale bats with a pair of RBI doubles. He plated two with a liner to center field in the fourth and roped another down the third-base line in the eighth.
“That was my biggest thing: I got beat on the fastball my first at-bat, so don't get beat on it in my second at-bat and I ended up getting a good pitch to hit,” Jordan said.
Jordan was one of four Mets Minor Leaguers to reach the 30-steal plateau during the 2023 regular season, which he spent with Double-A Binghamton. He racked up 39 extra-base hits and started at six different positions, serving as an everyday cog during the team’s run to the Eastern League Championship Series.
The paths for both to arrive on campus at Mississippi State were almost entirely different and a world apart: Cerantola, a native of Oakville, Ontario, was an eighth-round pick in the 2016 Ontario Hockey League Draft, while Jordan was a two-sport star in baseball and football at Auburn (Ala.) High School. By the time they left campus to begin their professional journeys, the Bulldogs had added their first national title (2021) to the trophy case.
The duo make up two-thirds of the championship-winning Mississippi State flavor on hand at the fall circuit, joined by Will Bednar (SF No. 26). But those aren’t the only members of the Bulldogs squad still enjoying action on the diamond in 2023.
“It's awesome seeing a guy that we played with -- my roommate [the Orioles’ Jordan Westburg] -- in the playoffs now with Baltimore,” Jordan said. “Just being able to go out here and compete with guys we've been competing with since we were 18, freshmen in college [is great]. So it's fun seeing those guys come out here and compete.”
Fellow Royals prospects Gavin Cross (KC No. 6) and Peyton Wilson (KC No. 26) accounted for half of Surprise’s hits Wednesday. Wilson is off to a strong start in Arizona (.429 average, 1.127 OPS) while Cross has a hit and stolen base in consecutive games for the Saguaros. JT Schwartz (Mets) joined Jordan in the multihit column, which included the RBI knock off Cerantola.
Jesse Borek is a reporter/coordinator of prospect content at MLB Pipeline and MiLB. Follow him on Twitter @JesseABorek.