April 2007

CAROLINA ON MY MIND

Oh sorry, was that too obvious a title?

Defending Carolina League champion Kinston Indians opened on the road at Winston-Salem (White Sox) with a nice matchup of top 2006 draft picks and both were living up to draft billing. David Huff for Kinston had allowed two runs, one earned, on one hit in four innings while White Sox pick Kyle McCulloch scattered five hits without allowing an earned run in five in the 2-2 tie mid-six.

  The Potomac Nationals scored early and often, putting a six-spot on the board en route to an 8-0 lead over Lynchburg (Pirates) in the fifth. Craig Stammen had allowed just two hits in four scoreless innings for the Nats.

  In Myrtle Beach, the Wilmington Blue Rocks (Royals) had a 1-0 lead over the host Pelicans (Braves) through three, as Wilminton mascot Mr. Celery no doubt watched at home from his La-Z-Boy recliner, nibbling on veggies as he waits for his team’s home opener.

  Orioles fans were rejoicing as their young pitching prospects were doing well across the board on Thursday night, with Frederick’s Brandon Erbe dazzling in his six innings of work against the host Salem Avalanche (Astros). Erbe and his Keys held a 2-1 lead heading into the seventh innings as the right-hander had allowed one run on three hits over six.

NOT SO SUNNY FLORIDA …

Well, right, it’s night time so it wouldn’t be sunny anyway but drizzly weather has two Florida State League games delayed and others just soggy …

  At Brevard County, the Manatees (Brewers) and Daytona Cubbies were knotted at 2-2 in the sixth. For Brevard, Chris Errecart had homered and Charlie Fermaint had added an RBI triple while Ryan Norwood, who really got onto the radar screen last summer with a great season, had an RBI single to pace the Cubbies.

  The Dunedin Blue Jays’ game at the Clearwater Threshers (Phillies) had yet to start due to rain, while the Lakeland Tigers were leading the Tampa Yankees, 3-0, in the fifth when they were halted. Andrew Miller was starting for Lakeland with center fielder Cameron Maybin batting third in that lineup. 

  One of the best pitchers duels of the night could be seen in the first five innings in Sarasota. Fort Myers Miracle pitcher Kyle Waldrop (Twins) was practically perfect in his five inning stint, striking out seven without allowing a hit or a walk. Only two hit batsmen marred his line. On the other side, Sarasota’s Carlos Fisher, who was one of the top pitchers you never heard about last year at Dayton, tossed six innings of three-hit ball for the Reds. The Reds had a 2-0 lead in the sixth as Jay Rainville gave up a pair of runs in relief of Waldrop.

  The St. Lucie Mets and Vero Beach Devil Rays were scoreless through five in another good pitching matchup as Jacob McGee gave up two hits in three innings for the Devil Rays and Deolis Guerra had struck out five in 4 2/3 innings of two-hit ball for the Mets.

  Both teams could call the park home in the Palm Beach Cardinals-Jupiter Hammerheads (Marlins) matchup, as the two teams share Roger Dean Stadium. Chris Volstad had given up six hits over six innings for the Hammerheads but trailed Tyler Norrick and his Cards, 3-1, after 5 1/2 innings.

AS PROMISED BY JONATHAN …

A look at the Midwest League games here …

  The Great Lakes-South Bend matchup was tied at 2-2 in the fifth. Loons shortstop Preston Mattingly had driven in one of his team’s runs. Starter Clayton Kershaw didn’t make it out of the third inning as he had control issues, walking six, but only have up one earned run and won’t factor in the decision. Brett Anderson, meanwhile, was enjoying quite an impressive pro debut with three hits and no earnies allowed in his five innings of work.

  Clinton (Rangers) still held its 3-0 lead over Quad Cities (Cards), with Mauro Gomez’s three-run homer in the first the margin of difference in that one in the middle of the fourth.

  At Dayton, where Jonathan sits comfortably in the cozy warm pressbox, the Whitecaps still lead 1-0 with the lone run scored by Deik Scram. Who, may I add, really should have lasted way longer in our Moniker Madness brackets than he did … Jonathan also shared with me a great on-field promotion where they give three babies a lemon to taste and the one who makes the best "lemonface" wins. I think they should give away Lemonface CDs to the winner but I admit to having a slight bias on that front …

  And in one of the most eagerly anticipated games tonight, the Peoria Chiefs blasted out to a 7-0 lead against the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Mariners) in Chiefs manager Ryne Sandberg’s debut in that capacity. The Wisconsin lineup was particularly interesting as it certainly demonstrates why the Seattle system has earned such a fine reputation for spanning the globe in its quest for players:

CF Gavin Dickey (USA), SS Carlos Triunfel (Dominican Republic), RF Greg Halman (Netherlands), 1B Gerardo Avila (Venezuela), 3B Alex Liddi (Italy), LF Kuo Hui Lo (Taiwan), DH Kalian Sams (Netherlands), C Jair Fernandez (Colombia) and 2B Luis Nunez (Dominican Republic). Starting pitcher Ricky Orta hails from Venezuela by way of the University of Miami.

And the final game in the league, Kane County (Athletics) at Burlington (Royals) was just getting underway so we’ll get back to that in our next trip around the MWL.

Live from Dayton…

Hey, everyone,  it’s  Jonathan. I have to admit I’m quite happy that I’m in the pressbox and they are playing out there…kudos to multimedia producer Joe Cronin for battling the elements to shoot video while we’re here. First pitch was 7:09 with temps sitting at 35 (windchill at 27). Reds second-rounder Starter Sean Watson gave up a run in the first, but it’s been zeroes since then. Drew Stubbs was showing his plus speed in the first inning. He hit a slow grounder to short and turned it into an infield single — Dayton fans should get used to that. He then stole second. He had the chance to tie the game or give the Dragons a lead in the second, but struck out with the bases loaded to end the threat against West Michigan starter Chris Cody. For the Whitecaps, Scott Sizemore had a double in that first inning and Brennan Boesch — both were NY-Penn League All-Stars last year for Oneonta — drove in leadoff hitter Diek Scram with a sac fly. At this rate, the game will end sometime in mid-May.  More later, but use this as a lead-in to Lisa’s Midwest League report. –  Jonathan

AN OPENING SALLY …

In an effort to try to bring some sort of form and format to this 10-ring circus, I’m going to try to divvy these posts up into league updates, starting with the Sally League … but first I HAVE to bring you this observation from Kevin in Scranton regarding the SWB Yankees’ new mascot:

The Yankees also have a new mascot, The Holy Cow. It’s some dude dressed in a cow suit wearing the traditional red, white and blue Yankees top hat.

Anyway, on to a quick tour of Sally action …

  Hickory (Pittsburgh) took a quick 1-0 lead over host Hagerstown (Nationals) on a homer by newcomer Jamie Romak. Romak was the Minor Leaguer the club acquired along with first baseman Adam LaRoche when they dealt shortstop prospect Brent Lillibridge and pitcher Mike Gonzalez to Atlanta …

  Remember last year when the Lakewood Blueclaws (Phillies) started off 0-9 before actually going on to win the SAL championship? Well, hopefully they do too so they won’t feel as badly about trailing Greensboro (Marlins) 9-0 in the first inning. Starting pitcher Carlos Monasterios, acquired from the Yankees in the Bobby Abreu deal, didn’t make it out of the first, giving up seven runs on five hits and three wild pitches.

  The Columbus Catfish (Devil Rays) staked Wade Townsend to a 4-0 lead early in their game against Kannapolis (White Sox) thanks to a three-run homer from Quinn Stewart in the first … Townsend, the Devil Ray’ top pick in 2005, missed all of 2006 following Tommy John surgery but had allowed one hit and struck out five through three innings of work so far tonight.

  In Rome, Ga., the Braves trailed Augusta (Giants) 1-0 as outfielder Tyler Graham basically manufactured his team’s first run, batting leadoff and singling, stealing second and third and scoring on a passed ball.

  The much anticipated matchup of the Greenville Drive (Red Sox) at Charleston RiverDogs (Yankees) got a late start due to Opening Day ceremonies. Drive manager Gabe Kapler makes his debut in that capacity tonight, while Red Sox southpaw Jon Lester takes the mound in his comeback from anaplastic large cell lymphoma.

  In Lexington (Astros), the legends trailed the Delmarva Shorebirds (Orioles) early, 1-0, as club ace Pedro Beato took the hill for the ‘birds and 2005 first-rounder Brandon Snyder staked him to the lead with an RBI double in the second.

  The Savannah Sand Gnats (Mets) saw greg Veloz lace a triple in the first inning and score on a wild pitch as they took an early 1-0 lead over the visiting Asheville Tourists (Rockies).

  And finally, West Virginia Power superfan, the Toastman, no doubt had plenty to say when his team fell behind visiting Lake County (Indians) early, 1-0, as Adam Davis scored on an error.

HO HUM, ANOTHER SELLOUT IN DAYTON …

Dayton is getting underway and Jonathan shares this …

We’re into the pre-game introductions here in Dayton and the crowd is slowly filling in despite the cold. Thanks entirely to season-ticket sales, this will be the Dragons’ 497th consecutive sellout — every game since the team was born back in 2000.

AND NOW IT REALLY BEGINS …

First off, this latest missive from Kevin in Scranton, where Yankees GM just threw out one of the ceremonial first snowballs, er, pitches:

The Mets are no longer affiliated with Norfolk but they seem to have a lot of old New York faces here tonight. In addition to Jesse Levis, a former Met farmhand and coach, the club’s advance scout Gary LaRocque also stopped by the press box at PNC Park. Today is his 54th birthday. Happy Birthday Gary. Try and stay warm down there in the lower bowl. Though the snow has stopped for the time being, the temperature here continues to drop as the players get introduced. Wind chills could be in the teens by the end of the game. That hasn’t seemed to damper the enthusiasm, though, as the sellout crowd continues to file in. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman is also in attendance tonight.

  Not all midwest games fell victim to the elements, though … the Minors’ one and only NEW team, the Great Lake Loons (Dodgers), just got started at South Bend with one of the marquee matchups of the night. Loons ace Clayton Kershaw, a first-rounder last summer who struck out 54 and walked five in 37 Gulf Coast League innings in his debut, takes the mound for the Loons while Arizona Diamondbacks prospect Brett Anderson makes his professional debut for the Silver Hawks.

  Anderson, a second-round pick last year, is the son of Oklahoma coach Frank Anderson. In his first inning he allowed a leadoff hit to speedy Trayvon Robinson before retiring the side including his first pro strikeout.

  The Loons have moved to Midland, Michigan, near Saginaw from across the state in Battle Creek where they played last year as the Southwest Michigan Devil Rays. They play at the brand new Dow Diamond.

  Two more games on the evening’s slate have bitten the dust as Altoona-Erie (Eastern League) and Corpus Christi-Wichita were both postponed. I know, I didn’t think we’d lose a Texas League game either but apparently it is raining in Kansas. At least it’s not a tornado.

  Most of the night’s games are just getting started around now so sit back and enjoy.

ONE IN THE BOOKS …

  And we have our first final for 2007 as the Indianapolis Indians (Pirates) beat the Columbus Clippers (Nationals), 6-1, to open Minor league and Triple-A International League play …

  Former first-rounder Sean Burnett got the win with five innings of six-hit shutout ball while Major League vet Tim Redding took the loss for the Clippers.

  Indy combined for 14 hits on the day, four of them from center fielder Nyjer Morgan in his Triple-A debut.

  Rehabbing Pirates second baseman Freddy Sanchez was 1-for-2 with a pair of walks.

  For Columbus, outfielder Michael Restovich was 3-for-4 while first baseman Larry Broadway drove in the team’s lone run with the first homer of the Minor League season.

  And with 53 games to go tonight (one more got wiped out in the cancellation of Cedar Rapids at Beloit), please don’t be expecting this kind of detail on ALL of the upcoming games …

  Meanwhile, here is the latest from Scranton courtesy of Kevin …

Well, it’s 4:45 and the snow has started again. The Norfolk players are stretching and playing catch in right field as the squall begins to pick up. There’s still no talk of calling the game but it continues to seem like a foolish idea to play under these conditions.
Jesse Levis, the former catcher with the Brewers, just stopped by the press box. He’s scouting for the Red Sox now. I got to know him a little when he was with the Mets a few years back. Levis is a good guy who is from the Philadelphia area. His claim to fame is being on the same rookie card as Mike Piazza. he and Piazza were all-county high school players 20 years ago. Levis, however, was the catcher on the team while Piazza played first base.

OTHER COUNTIES HEARD FROM …

First, this just in: The first home run of the 2007 Minor League season was hit by Larry Broadway, the first baseman for the Columbus Clippers. It’s a good sign for Broadway, who had come into spring training with a shot at the Washington Nationals’ starting first baseman’s job before that was filled by veteran Dmitri Young.

So in the bottom of the sixth inning, the score stands Indianapolis Indians 3, Columbus Clippers 1, as the season is officially underway.

Meanwhile, I have on-the-road updates for you from Jonathan Mayo in Dayton, and Kevin Czerwinski in Scranton …

JONATHAN SAYS …

While it?s quite nippy here in southwestern

Ohio

, the plan is to play. I guess they?re not as soft here in

Dayton

as they are in other parts? There is something very wrong intrinsically about driving through snow to go to an Opening Day game, but at least I?m going to see a game, which is more than folks who wanted to see some baseball in Portland, Maine can say. A few things to look out for in this Dayton-West Michigan matchup today. First is Reds? first-rounder Drew Stubbs. The center fielder has all the tools in the world and it will be fun watching how he puts it together in his first full season. Second,

Dayton

starter Sean Watson was the Reds? second round pick last June. He was a closer as an amateur and came to pitching late. But unlike a lot of short relievers, he was never a maximum effort guy. With a smooth delivery and a real feel for pitching, the Reds are confident he can make the transition to starter.

One thing you can count on here is a full house, even with the cold weather. The Dragons have sold out every single game of their existence ? they?ll celebrate 500 straight later this month ? and today will be no different. I?ll check in with everyone later on tonight when the game gets going — Jonathan

And from KEVIN …

It’s coming up on 3:30 in Moosic and for the time being, the snow has stopped. It’s been coming down on and off all day and at times there have been whiteout conditions. Still, despite temperatures that are hovering around 32, there are no plans to call the game. While I understand this is a sellout — the first time since 1989 that Scranton/Wilkes-Barre has sold out a home opener in advance — it’s unfair to the fans to make them sit through this. It’s probably unfair to the players, too. Games have been canceled throughout the Northeast and even the Tigers bagged their game in Detroit because of the weather. Here’s hoping that the weather doesn’t make for a miserable evening.
As for the park itself, the new grass field looks light years better than the dirty, rock-hard turf that had been here while the SWB was affiliated with Philadelphia. Though the field is improved, the rest of the ballpark is still a grimy building with no charm.

SCOOOOOOOOOOORE …

   And the first run of the 2007 Minor League season is scored by Nyjer Morgan, who leads off the third inning with a double off Columbus starter Tim Redding, moves to third on a grounder by Freddy Sanchez and scores on a single by Russ Johnson.

  Indianapolis 1, Columbus 0.

  And no, don’t expect this kind of up-to-the-minute scoring update tonight when there are 50 games going on simultaneously. Unless, you know, 45 more of them are snowed out …

  Word has it (first hand!) that it is snowing in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (well, actually, Moosic) even as we speak but they are determined to get in the game between the Yankees and the Norfolk Tides (Orioles) unless it gets to the point where the shortstop and second baseman are busy building a snowman behind the pitcher’s mound … Tyler Clippard gets the nod for the Yankees in this one with Phil Hughes slated for tomorrow’s game.

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