THIS PAST WEEK... The Bats stumble through some makeup games with lowly Norfolk as the big-leaguers wrap up their rehab; Carolina improves slowly but has quite a lot of ground to make up; Bakersfield continues to be fun to watch as a few Blaze players put up videogame numbers; and the Dragons' 12-of-13 win stretch comes to a screeching halt.
AAA Louisville Bats
This week: 3-4.
Overall: 16-10, second place, five behind Columbus (CLE).
4/28: MAKEUP MADNESS at Louisville Slugger Field! The Bats swept Durham (TB), 3-2 and 11-5. Matt Maloney lasted four innings in game one (3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K) and Jose Arredondo picked him up with two perfect innings for the win (2 K). Jerry Gil got the final two outs for save #3. DH Devin Mesoraco was 2-for-3 with a RBI and 3B Todd Frazier (#4) and 1B Yonder Alonso (#2) each homered. The nightcap saw the win go to Scott Carroll (W 1-0, 3.82, 6 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 HR). CF Dave Sappelt hit a three-run homer (#4) and went 2-for-4 (.358). Mesoraco didn’t make an out (2-for-2, 2 BB, RBI, .310). Frazier homered again (#5, .227). RF Brian Barton, struggling all season, was 2-for-2 with two RBI, a walk, and two runs (.139). Alonso was 2-for-4 with a RBI to raise his average to .269.
4/29: Chad Reineke returned to starting as the Bats went for the home sweep over the Bulls. Louisville grabbed a 2-1 lead in the second when 2B Kris Negron pulled a bases-loaded walk, then 1B Eric Eymann grounded into a run-scoring force play. But Durham’s Chris Carter homered in the top of the third to even the score. Reineke continued to give up quite a few hits- nine through five innings (2.10, 2 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 98 pitches/58 strikes)- but he kept the tie preserved with some help from RF Daniel Dorn’s throwing out a runner at home trying to score from second on a single. Kyle McCulloch got out of a sixth-inning jam by inducing a 5-4 line-drive double play.
4/30: Rehabbin’ Homer Bailey completed his Louisville stint with 6.1 strong (W 2-0, 0.54, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K) as the Bats hammered Norfolk (BAL), 10-1. SS Zach Cozart had a career day, lashing four doubles and a solo homer (#1) to hike his average all the way to .225. He drove in three. C Corky Miller was 2-for-4 with three runs scored and three RBI (.250) and both Alonso and Mesoraco were 2-for-5.
5/1: Norfolk got to Jose Arredondo (L 1-1, 6.00, 1 IP, 2 H, 2 ER) to snap a 2-2 tie and take this one, 5-2. Rehabbin’ Johnny Cueto made it to 99 pitches, although he wasn’t very efficient (4.2 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K). One of the two runs was let in by Jeremy Horst (1.59, 1.1 IP, 1 H). Alonso seems to be heating up; he was 2-for-3 with homer #3 and two RBI (.295). 12-for-36 with all three of his homers and all nine of his RBI over the last ten games- also a five-game hitting streak.
5/3: MAKEUP MADNESS in new-and-improved all-daytime format! This wasn’t kind to the Bats- they lose both ends, 4-0 and 2-1, and get a total of ten hits. Dontrelle Willis struck out ten Tides in his start (L 2-1, 2.10, 6 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 97 pitches/61 strikes) and Matt Maloney got a no-decision (5.1 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K). An unearned run off Jerry Gil (BS #2, L 0-2, 3.38, 1.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB) proved decisive.
Transactnotes: 4/28: RHR Jose Arrendondo up from Carolina. He struck out eleven in 7.2 Double-A innings, permitting just four hits and two runs. 5/4: OF Jeremy Hermida down from Cincinnati as the rehab assignment ends for Fred Lewis.
The Reds are listed in the latest BA Minor League Transactions as having signed C James Skelton, the former Tigers prospect who spent 2009 in the Arizona organization (after the Diamondbacks sent RHR Brooks Brown to Detroit to keep him following a Rule 5 selection), 2010 in the Pittsburgh system, and spring training 2011 with Milwaukee before drawing his release. Skelton is an interesting player- a short, slight, lefty-swinging catcher who has little power and a stupendous batting eye. He was very successful as a low-minors player before hitting a wall in Double-A. However, Skelton is not listed on a roster at minorleaguebaseball.com so I have no idea where he will play. My guess is Carolina. This thread says he’s in extended spring training.
Interesting quote from Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus about Zach Cozart: “Cozart has long been a personal favorite, as I've always seen him as an underrated commodity due to the fact that he doesn't hit for much of an average and probably never will. On the positive side of the ledger, he's a plus defender with at least average power and good speed, and more than enough secondary skills to make up for it, especially considering his position. Hitting just .179 heading into Saturday, Cozart had a game for the ages against New Orleans, going 5-for-5 with four doubles and his first home run of the season and raising his OPS 162 points over the course of five at-bats. That assortment of hits (5-for-5, four doubles, one home run) has been recorded only once in a single big-league game, by Lou Boudreau in 1946, and while Cozart still has a long way to go in building up his numbers, Saturday night was a historic start.”
Rick Sweet found a way to spend 7:22 talking about Louisville’s week-ending three-game losing streak.
Around the league: Boston put LHR Dennys Reyes on the restricted list- did Big Sweat go AWOL? No idea. Philadelphia called up C Dane Sardinha- the one of Jim Bowden’s two 2000 draftee big-league contracts to make the majors (holla to David Espinosa, who hit .351 in the American Association in 2010) has managed a total of 46 games in the big leagues over parts of six seasons; he sports a .148/.191/.262 line in 133 at-bats. Heck, he’s hit .210/.262/.329 in Triple-A… for his career (535 games). Now that must be some killer D.
AA Carolina Mudcats
This week: 4-3.
Overall: 8-19, last place, eight games behind Huntsville (MIL).
4/28: Lefty Travis Webb gave up two runs in the first to Tennessee (CHC), but Carolina came back with a four-spot in the second; the key blow was CF Quintin Berry’s two-run double (he did strike out his other four times up). Webb coughed up the lead in the third, though, and the Smokies went on to take it 8-5. Webb fell to 0-3 (13.50, 4.1 IP, 9 H, 7 ER, 2 BB, 7 K). Nick Christiani still hasn’t given up an earned run (1.2 IP, 1 H, 2 K) although Brad Boxberger did finally get scored on (0.77, 2 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K). RF Felix Perez picked up a couple of hits (2-for-4, .176, R) and C Chris McMurray also had a couple (.220, 2 R, RBI).
4/29: Daryl Thompson served up a two-run homer in the Smokies’ first, although Carolina was able to halve that in the second when Cook doubled and came home on 2B Jose Castro’s grounder. 1B Mike Costanzo gave the Mudcats a 3-2 lead with his fifth homer following SS Miguel Rojas’ single. The Mudcats added single runs in both the fourth and fifth, allowing Thompson to depart with a 5-3 lead (6.46, 5 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 HR, 84 pitches/54 strikes) but Tennessee blasted the bullpen for six runs in the seventh and won going away, 10-6. The brunt of that was borne by Justin Freeman, who retired just one of the seven men he faced (BS #2, L 0-1, 10.61, 0.1 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 1 BB). Tennessee finished with 18 hits.
4/30: 2B Cody Puckett made the largely singlehanded choice that the Mudcats were not going to be losing this time around. With Carolina down 5-0 entering the sixth, he hammered a three-run homer (#6), then followed that with a bases-loaded double the next inning. The Mudcats rally for the 7-6 win! Puckett’s 3-for-4 and six RBIs gave him a .351 average and a league-leading 25. Rehabbin’ Justin Lehr again struggled with command (3 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 2 K). Jeff Jeffords didn’t fool many (W 1-0, 8.49, 3 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K) but he was around in the right spot to pick up the win. Donnie Joseph pitched a strong eighth and Nick Christiani worked the ninth for save #3.
5/1: Back-to-back road wins against the first-place Smokies! James Avery had his best start of the season by far, firing seven innings of four-hit shutout ball (W 2-3, 4.55, 1 BB, 3 K, 90 pitches/55 strikes) and Carolina broke a scoreless tie with three runs in the seventh en route to a 4-1 win. A wild pitch and a bases-loaded walk to CF Denis Phipps accounted for two of those; RF Felix Perez doubled in the other. Perez also knocked in an insurance run in the next inning (2-for-4, steal #1, .205). Brad Boxberger gave up Tennessee’s only run in the eighth, but Joseph took care of the ninth for save #1 (7.84, 1 H, 1 K).
5/2: Carolina played a Monday-morning game in Tennessee as a students’ reward game- the same thing happens in Zebulon a time or two per year. These early games never seem good to the Mudcats, and this one was no exception. They grabbed a 4-1 lead in the third when Perez doubled in two and 2B Jose Castro followed him with an RBI single, but a Puckett throwing error with one out and no one on in the bottom of the inning led to a five-run Smokies third. Dallas Buck pitched well otherwise (L 1-2, 4.85, 5 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 81 pitches/52 strikes). Tennessee beat on Ruben Medina (3.77, 2 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 1 HR) and Justin Freeman (10.45, 1 IP, 2 H, 1 ER) for insurance-providing homers late. Things are not going well for Freeman, who had been very reliable in 2009 in Sarasota (3.48 ERA, 64.2 IP, 10 BB despite 75 H) and 2010 in Lynchburg (2.91, 55.2 IP, 7 BB, 53 K). He made eight solid appearances in Carolina at the end of last season (11 IP, 8 H, 3 ER) but is getting hammered in a similar sample in 2011. Let’s see if the Reds give him a chance to turn it around; 32nd-round draft picks often don’t get much margin for error. Anyway, Rojas was 3-for-4 with a walk but was left on base each time (.313). Perez finished with a pair of doubles, and two runs scored to go with the two RBI (.218).
5/3: The Mudcats are still without a five-game series win on the season- could they get it at home against under-.500 Montgomery (TB)? Well, game one came pretty easy- the bats and the arms both fired on all cylinders as Carolina buttered the Biscuits, 7-0. Matt Klinker worked five (W 1-1, 1.64, 2 H, 2 BB, 4 K) and Lee Tabor (5.93, 2 IP, 2 K), Justin Freeman (9.53, 1 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 1 K) and the debuting James Adkins (see below- 1 IP, 1 H, 1 K) turned in scoreless work. The Mudcats hammered lefty Frank de los Santos for five runs in the first, four unearned. Every hitter in the starting lineup had a hit.
5/4: The Biscuits tie the series at one, whipping the Mudcats 8-1. Cody Puckett played third in this game- and it didn’t work out so well, as he made three errors. Three of Daryl Thompson’s runs were unearned (L 0-3, 5.52, 5.2 IP, 2 H, 4 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 7 K, 100 pitches/61 strikes). Sadly, Nick Christiani hit the wall with a splat, giving up his first four runs of 2011 while retiring just one of six batters faced (2.84, 0.1 IP, 3 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 0 K). Berry set the table nicely in this game, going 2-for-3 with a walk and three stolen bases, but Carolina went 2-for-13 with men in scoring position.
Transactnotes: 4/28: RHR Jose Arrendondo moved up to Louisville. 5/2: RHS Dallas Buck returned from Louisville. 5/3: OF Kyle Day to Billings. RHS Justin Lehr back to the DL; not sure if this is a problem or just a paper move.
LHR James Adkins signed as a free agent on 5/3. The 6’6”/230# pitcher has a solid pedigree but has never really succeeded at a level due to aggressive placement. He was the Dodgers’ supplemental first-round pick out of the University of Tennessee in 2007 after pulling three full years in the Volunteers’ rotation. After signing he put up a 2.42 ERA in limited action in Low-A, then was up and down through a 2008 split between High-A Inland Empire (5-8, 5.34 in 18 starts) and Double-A Chattanooga (1-3, 4.74 in 8 starts with 28 BB in 38 IP). He was a little better in 2009 in the Southern League (6-10, 4.48, 26 starts, 138.2 IP, just eight HR) but 72 BB against just 81 K was not good. Last year he pitched out of the Lookouts bullpen, going 3-1, 4.76 in 40 games with 50 K in 45.1 IP and just 23 BB. Five appearances with AAA Albuquerque didn’t go well. So while the 25-year-old has still not mastered this level, he did show some promise as a reliever in 2010. It’s a little surprising that the Dodgers didn’t give him another chance in the relief role this season, as their system is not what it once was in terms of depth.
2B/OF Cody Puckett was named as Southern League Hitter of the Week for April 25-May 1, going 10-for-29 (.345) with three homers, 13 RBI, and a pair of stolen bases.
High-A Bakersfield Blaze
This week: 3-4.
Overall: 15-12, third place, two games behind San Jose (SF) and Stockton (OAK).
4/28: Bakersfield drops back-to-back home games to Visalia (ARI), falling 4-1. Josh Ravin struck out eight in 4.1 innings, but was more hittable than in previous outings (L 1-1, 2.49, 4.1 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 BB). The bullpen pitched very well- Mace Thurman (2.25, 1.2 IP, 2 K), Tyree Hayes (4.66, 2 IP, 2 BB, 3 K) and Tzu-Kai Chiu (5.59, 1 IP, 1 H). RF Stephen Hunt raised his average from .520 to .536 with two of the four Blaze hits and the only RBI. Dude is 15-for-28 with 16 RBI in seven games!
4/29: Pedro Villareal was socked with his first loss of the year (L 4-1, 3.10, 4 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K), 8-3. Stockton (OAK) right-hander Daniel Straily did not permit a Blaze hit until LF Josh Fellhauer scratched an infield hit with one out in the sixth. 3B Eric Campbell did hit homer #3 off Straily for the only run he gave up in eight innings. SS Brodie Greene had a two-run single in the ninth. Drew Bowman gave up four more runs- three earned- in two innings (7.20) although Tzu-Kai Chiu set down all six men he faced (4.63, K).
4/30: Two in a row for the Ports; they broke a 4-4 tie in the seventh off Scott Gaffney (L 0-3, 7.59, 1.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 3 K) to win 6-4 with the help of C Chase Weems’ second passed ball of the game. Weems had, however, socked his first homer of the year in his first at-bat. Fellhauer had three hits (.394, R, steal #2) and Hunt was 2-for-4 with two RBI(.514 still). Starter Curtis Partch looked decent (5.20, 6 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 7 K).
5/1: Bakersfield managed to salvage a game in this three-game set, 8-7. They had to come back from a 7-1 deficit, scoring four in the eighth and three more in the top of the ninth. Campbell’s fourth homer accounted for three of those in the eighth; it followed a Greene RBI single. In the ninth, DH Yasmani Grandal grounded a run-scoring single to make it 7-6; after Campbell took a Rudy, 2B Henry Rodriguez punched a two-run single that proved decisive. Righty Tyree Hayes allowed two hits in the ninth but closed it down for the well-deserved W (1-0, 4.26, 3 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K). Started JC Sulbaran took an early exit (6.26, 3.2 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 1 HR).
5/2: A Campbell grand slam (#5, 2-for-6, .429, 6 RBI) provoked early-and-often Blaze scoring; they whipped Lake Elsinore (SD), 12-7. Lance Janke managed the win (W 2-1, 7.11, 5 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 K). Drew Bowman gave up four runs for the third straight appearance (9.00) but Clayton Shunick was sharp over the final two (2.02, 2 IP, 1 H, 3 K). Rodriguez was 2-for-5 with two runs scored, steal #4, and homer #2 (.340). CF Andrew Means was 3-for-5 with steal #17, a run, an outfield assist at third, and two RBI (.320). Greene was also 3-for-5 (.292). Every starter had a hit except Grandal, who walked twice and scored twice.
5/3: The Storm stole one from the Blaze, getting a run in the eighth and two in the ninth off Mace Thurman (BS #1, L 0-1, 3.46, 0.2 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB) to win it 6-5. Chiu had proceeded Thurman in the relief of starter Josh Ravin (2.93, 6 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 7 K) and pitched pretty well, permitting just an unearned run on two hits in two innings (3.95). Grandal hit homer #7 in the first to put Bakersfield up 2-0 (although he also committed both an error and a passed ball). Hunt, DHing from the nine-hole, reverted to his slugging ways by going 4-for-4 with two doubles, a run scored, and a RBI and raising his average back over .500 (.521, 25-for-48). He has hit in all twelve games he’s appeared in. Greene lifted his average over .300 with a 3-for-4 (.312, R). RF Ryan LaMarre returned to action and went 1-for-4 (.226) with an assist at second base. Means moved to within one of organization steals leader Billy Hamilton by taking third (#18) after knocking in Hunt with a fourth-inning single and motoring to second on the throw home.
5/4: The Blaze win the road series in Lake Elsinore, coming back to win 11-6 after blowing a 4-0 first-inning advantage. Big game for Ryan LaMarre (.269, 4-for-5, 2 R, RBI, steal #7). RF Welinton Ramirez was 3-for-4 with two runs, a double, and a RBI despite a pair of caught-stealings (.265). DH Chris Richburg, off to a slow and injury-plagued start, smacked a pair of doubles and drove in three (.193). Again Pedro Villareal didn’t look all that great (4.36, 4 IP, 9 H, 6 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 2 HR) but the bullpen looked excellent. Tyree Hayes (W 2-0, 3.68, 2 IP, 1 H, 2 K), Scott Gaffney (6.39, 2 IP, 3 K) and Doug Salinas (7.71, 1 IP, 2 K) combined to permit the Storm all of one hit and zero walks over the final five innings.
Transactnotes: 5/3: OF Ryan LaMarre activated from the DL.
I missed it last week because the Blaze website didn’t publicize it much- but OF Stephen Hunt was named the Cal League’s Hitter of the Week for the seven days ending April 24. He was 9-for-16 with three homers and 13 RBI. It’ll be interesting to see if he wins the award again later after going sixteen for his next thirty-two. Hunt’s award made it back-to-back weeks for the Blaze, considering the win by 3B Eric Campbell the week before.
Low-A Dayton Dragons
This week: 2-4.
Overall: 14-13, fifth place, 3.5 behind Lansing (TOR).
4/28: Dayton wins four in a row, spanking Fort Wayne (SD), 6-2. Dan Renken had his best pro start to date, whiffing ten over six innings (W 1-2, 3.38, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB). Chad Rogers retired six straight, four by strikeout (1.59). 3B David Vidal was 3-for-4 with two doubles (.286, 2 R) and C Tucker Barnhart had two doubles and a walk (.295). CF Yorman Rodriguez keeps hitting as well; he was 3-for-4 with a triple and two RBI, jumping his average from .206 to .236. Unfortunately, SS Billy Hamilton fell to .218, going 0-for-4 with a 4-6-3 GIDP. I’d like to see how the TinCaps turned a double play on that guy. The ball would have had to be hit right near second base to get him on that. Or maybe he fell down in the batter’s box.
I need to point something out about the Dragons’ pitching: over the ten-game stretch running from the 18th through the 28th, Dayton gave up no more than four runs in any game- and that was once. Just twenty runs total over ten games- and nine of those were wins. Incredible. Dayton’s team ERA has come down to 3.76, good for second in the 16-team Midwest League. The bats have looked better, too, rising to fifth place with 95 total runs scored despite a team OPS of 701 (.245/.313/.389).
4/29: Josh Smith kicked his start off right, getting all of his first nine outs via the strikeout. But Venezuelan prospect Adys Portillo, 19, whiffed four Dragons through three himself. Finally the Dragons broke through in the fifth, picking up two runs when LF Juan Duran walked and scored on RF Jaren Matthews’ triple. Matthews then scored on Barnhart’s sacrifice fly. As Smith completed his six innings with an amazing 12 strikeouts (W 2-1, 0.93, 4 H, 2 BB), Duran provided some insurance with his third homer of the year, a two-run shot. Ezequiel Infante worked 1.2 scoreless (1.59, 1 H, 1 K) and Drew Hayes finished the 4-0 shutout (1.86, 1.1 IP, 2 BB, 2 K). Hamilton watch: he swiped both second and third after getting his only hit of the game; that’s 18 bags.
4/30: Daniel Corcino turned in six scoreless (W 3-2, 4.01, 3 H, 0 BB, 5 K) as Dayton made it back-to-back shutouts over the hapless TinCaps, 2-0. Pat Doyle (1.65, 2 IP, 3 K) and Blaine Howell (save #5, 2.31, 2 K) did not allow a hit over the final three. Rodriguez keeps hitting; he was 2-for-4 with steal #8, a triple, and a RBI, raising his average to .253. 3B Jefry Sierra was 2-for-3, stole base #7, and scored both Dayton runs (.281).
5/1: Dayton headed out on a road trip to Bowling Green (TB), where the Hot Rods solved Tanner Robles (L 2-2, 4.66, 4 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 2 K) with the help of a couple Dragons errors (Duran had a fielding miscue in the third; Vidal a throwing error in the fourth). They win it, 5-2; that is just the second loss in 14 games for Dayton, ending a six-game winning streak. Matthews had a double and homer (#3); the only other Dragons hits were a Barnhart double and a Hamilton single (.213). Yes, he stole a base; that’s 19.
5/2: Again the Hot Rods have the Dragons’ number, winning 6-2 despite another strong start from Dan Renken (L 1-3, 3.62, 6 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 10 K). Only Vidal managed multiple hits (2-for-4, .277). (Note: this game was technically suspended because it made it through a half inning before being rained out- it was completed in its entirety the next day.)
5/3: The day’s regularly-scheduled game (shortened to seven innings) quickly turned into BG’s third straight win over Dayton; the Dragons were shut out on one hit and one walk, 6-0. Tim Crabbe, fresh off a couple of great outings, was hit hard (L 1-2, 4.76, 3.2 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 2 HR).
5/4: Suddenly the Dragons have dropped four straight after an unstoppable stretch. South Bend rolls into town and whips Dayton, 4-1. Josh Smith struck out eight in five innings, but was considerably more hittable as well (L 2-2, 1.59, 5 IP, 9 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 8 K). No Dragon got more than one hit- although Hamilton did walk twice, poke a single, score the Dayton run, steal bag #20, and get picked off of second base (.220). Another night at the office for Billy.
Transactnotes: 5/4: OF Theo Bowe, 20, activated from extended spring training. Bowe, a 21st-round pick in 2008, played ’08 and ’09 in the GCL and 2010 in the Pioneer League, batting .300/.384/.362 in 44 games with one homer, nine RBI and twelve steals in 21 attempts. The 5’9” L/R Bowe seems speedy as well as adept at working the count and getting on base, although if he is thrown out as often as he was in 2010 it won’t benefit the club too much. We know how much Dayton manager Delino DeShields loves running- and he managed this particular player in Billings last season, too.
From the Not So Hot portion of BA’s Prospect Hot Sheet for April 22-28:
• Billy Hamilton, ss, Reds. A week ago, Hamilton earned a place in the team photo, while teammate Yorman Rodriguez wore the not-hot distinction. They nearly swapped roles this week. Rodriguez got hot, hitting .409/.435/.773 this week to make at least a case for the Hot Sheet, but Hamilton earned his spot, too. He batted 1-for-20 this week (.050/.095/.050) with two steals and a run scored. It's a reminder once again that you can't score runs if you don't get on base, no matter how fast you are.