Series Preview: Lakewood at Hickory June 25-29

The second half of the South Atlantic League’s 2015 season begins after a three-day break for the all-star game. Hickory will host the Lakewood (N.J.) BlueClaws for five games at L.P. Frans Stadium, the only series of the year between the two teams at L.P. Frans. Hickory will travel to Lakewood a total of three times this season.

Probables (Lakewood/ Hickory):

Thursday: Tyler Viza (RH, 4-2, 3.69 ERA) and Nick Gardewine (RH, 4-5, 3.73)

Friday: Ranfi Casimiro (RH, 2-5, 3.64) and Cody Buckel (RH, 0-1, 1.77)

Saturday: Chris Oliver (RH, 3-5, 4.12) and Brett Martin (LH, 3-2, 2.83)

Sunday: Elniery Garcia (LH, 4-6, 3.77) and Yohander Mendez (LH, 0-0, 0.00) / Ariel Jurado (RH, 9-0, 2.07)

Monday: Yoel Macias (LH, 0-1, 6.00) and Collin Wiles (RH, 7-3, 2.13)

Recent Series:

The Crawdads and BlueClaws split four games at Lakewood early in June. Since the Crawdads became a Texas Rangers affiliate in 2009, Hickory holds a 31-25 advantage overall, including a 12-9 mark at L.P. Frans Stadium.

Entering the Series:

Hickory (44-24) closed out the first half with a 3-2 road trip to Rome (Ga.) and West Virginia to finish 7 ½ games ahead of the second place Power. The Crawdads have the fifth-best record out of 120 full-season minor league teams. Hickory went 24-10 at home in the first half.

Lakewood (33-35) lost seven in a row – six of those at home – in the final days of the first half. However, the BlueClaws played a spoiler role on Sunday when they defeated Greenville (S.C.) to knock the Drive out of the Southern Division title chase. Lakewood finished in fifth place in the Northern Division, 11 games in back of Hickory. The BlueClaws are 18-15 on the road.

Players to watch – Hickory:

RF Jairo Beras: After struggling to a .204/.271/.241 slash through June 7, the lanky 20-year-old has begun to see pitches – especially breaking pitches – better as of late. He had at least one hit in eight of the last ten games – four of those multi-hit games – with three homers, a double, nine RBI and ten runs scored. His slash for June: .308/.373/.538.

SP Yohander Mendez: Made his first start of the season during the Crawdads last home stand against Savannah on June 14 (3 IP, 2 H, 4 K). He was a starter for Hickory in 2014, but missed much of the year with shoulder/ oblique issues. Mendez has yet to allow an earned run in 24.1 innings with 37 strikeouts to only 17 base runners allowed. SAL hitters are batting just .110 against Mendez.

SP Ariel Jurado: Will pitch on the back half of a tandem with Mendez for now. He adjusted well to his first non-starting role with Mendez against Savannah and allowed one run on four hits and struck out five in five innings. Jurado has 54 strikeouts to only seven walks in 61 innings.

OF Luke Tendler: After a nearly two-month drought in homers, Tendler jumped a first-pitch fastball for a two-run shot in the all-star game on Tuesday.  Had at least one hit in five of his last seven games to close out the first half.

RP Joe Filomeno: With the Crawdads missing their top three relievers (John Fasola, Adam Parks, David Perez) to promotions, Filomeno might be the one to look to at the back end of games. He has thrown six straight scoreless appearances (8.1 innings) with nine strikeouts.

RP Shane McCain: Assigned to Hickory from high-A High Desert, he signed with the Rangers as a non-drafted free agent in 2014 out of Troy (AL) Univ. Although he posted a 0.50 GO/AO ratio, he survived the pinball-machine like atmosphere of High Desert, giving up a reasonable four homers in 19 innings. However, control was an issue, as he gave up 13 in 32.1, including six in 2.2 innings on June 8. McCain gave up 12 earned runs on 16 hits over a stretch of four appearances from May 27 to June 13.

3B Juremi Profar: Played infrequently at High Desert (13 games) and will likely fill the utility role vacated by the departure of Isiah Kiner-Falefa

3B Jonathan Meyer: Was a former third-round pick of the Astros out of Simi Valley (CA) High in 2009. Meyer played in the Texas League All-Star game in 2013 while with AA Corpus Christi. Made it to AAA Oklahoma City in 2014, but was released after the season. Will likely spell Rock Shoulders at first.

Players to watch- Lakewood:

SP Yoel Macias: Currently ranked by mlb.com as the Phillies No. 19 prospect, he is still recovering from “Tommy John” surgery late in 2013. Made four appearances with high-A Clearwater before returning to the BlueClaws for a third straight season.

SP Chris Oliver: Currently ranked by mlb.com as the Phillies No. 20 prospect. The Austin, Tex native was the fourth round pick of the Phillies out of the Univ. of Arkansas in 2014. Has walked 26 in 59 innings over 11 starts.

SP Elniery Garcia: Ranked as the 27th best prospect in the Phillies chain by mlb.com. The SAL hitters are batting .293 against Garcia, who has walked 20 over 62 innings in 11 starts.

RP Joey DeNato: The 19th round pick (2014) by the Phillies out of Indiana, DeNato pitched in the SAL all-star game. Has a 0.89 WHIP and a .196 OBA in 22 outings. Is a strikeout machine with 34 Ks in 32.2innings.

CF Herlis Rodriguez: Was named the SAL hitter of the week last week when he put together a slash line of .407/.484/.741 in nine games. His .479 slugging pct. is sixth in the league while his .309 average is eighth.

2B Scott Kingery: The Phillies second round pick earlier this month out of Arizona will make his pro debut with the BlueClaws. He was the Pac-12 batting champion this season.

1B Kyle Martin: The Phillies 14th round pick in the first-year-player draft this June will make his pro debut this weekend. The native of Simpsonville, SC attended the Univ. of South Carolina.

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