Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (5-9, 7th place SAL Northern Division) at Kannapolis Intimidators (Chicago White Sox) (6-8, 6th place SAL Northern Division)
The Hickory Crawdads travel to Intimidators Stadium for a four-game, South Atlantic League series against Kannapolis.
If you plan to go:
GAME TIMES: Thursday – Saturday 7:05 p.m., Sunday 2:05 p.m.
Promotions: Thursday – Gamer Night w/ PS 4 Giveaway; Thirsty Thursday. Friday – Go Green & Recycling Night; Saturday: Jurrasic Ball Park, Appearance by Dakota & Friends; Sunday – Pre-Game Autographs, Design-A-Sign Night, Post-Game Kids Run the Bases.
TICKETS: $5-$7 for children, $6-8 for adults in advance. $2 more per ticket the day of the game.
Where is it?: Ballpark is off I-85 at exit 63. Exit ramp to Lane Street and head west. Turn right onto Stadium. NOTE: There is heavy construction along I-85, so allow extra time.
PARKING: All parking is $2
CONCESSIONS: Intimidators Stadium has the basic ballpark food at a main concession area behind home plate. Other items include Chicken Tenders, Chicken sandwiches, Pretzel Dogs, Wings, and Turkey Wraps. The Hot Dog Hut has footlongs, brats, burgers, Italian sausages, as well as “Dale’s Mater Sandwiches, and Veggie Burgers. BBQ Stand has pulled pork and turkey sandwiches.
Probables (Hickory/ Kannapolis):
Thursday: RHP Kyle Cody vs. RHP Jimmy Lambert
Friday: RHP Emerson Martinez vs. RHP Yosmer Solorzano
Saturday: RHP Edgar Arredondo vs. RHP Alec Hansen
Sunday: Argenis Rodriguez vs. RHP Dane Dunning
Recent Series History:
The teams split a four-game series at Hickory last week. The Crawdads were 12-4 in 2016 against Kannapolis with a dominant 7-1 record Intimidators Stadium. Since the Crawdads began the affiliation with the Rangers in 2009 they are 86-55 overall, 44-27 at Intimidators Stadium
About the Crawdads: Hickory takes the road after a 2-5 homestand, which ended with a three-game sweep at the hands of the West Virginia Power. The Power outscored Hickory 35-11 in the series …The Crawdads have relied on the long ball to get any sort of offense going. Their 14 homers are third in the SAL, but the team is last in the league in runs scored. An impatient team, Hickory is third from the bottom in walks and second in strikeouts. They are also next to last in batting average (.217) and in OBP (.290) … The work on the mound hasn’t been much better. As a staff, they are the lone SAL with an ERA over five (5.28). They have allowed the most hits, runs, earned runs, walks and have the worst WHIP (1.60).
Prospects to watch- Hickory:
CF Leody Taveras (No. 1 MLB.com and Baseball America, No. 55 MLB.com top-100 prospects): Went 3-for-23 in the homestand, though he is making consistent contact. Had a 2-for-5 game against Kannapolis last Friday.
SS Anderson Tejeda (No. 8 MLB.com, 16 Baseball America): Returned on Wednesday after missing nearly a weak with a bruised wrist. Singled and scored in his first game back. Has struggled to make contact, whiffing 17 times in 41 plate appearances.
OF Yanio Perez (No. 15 MLB.com, 27 Baseball America) Saw a five-game hitting streak snapped in Wednesday’s game. Went 3-for-13 with three walks in last week’s Kannapolis series.
2B Yeyson Yrizarri (No. 17 MLB.com): After a horrid start, had his first two-hit game on Wednesday, which included a two-run homer in the second inning to snap an 0-for-12 skid.
RF Jose Almonte (No. 29 MLB.com): One of the few Crawdads swinging well, went 5-for-11 with a walk in the series with West Virginia. Still looking for his first homer of the season, is showing a bit more patience at the plate. He walked only 9 times all last season, but already has four in 13 games this year.
RHP Tyler Ferguson (No. 30 Baseball America): Pitched a clean inning vs. Kannapolis last Friday (2 Ks), but was roughed up by the Power on Monday (1.2 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 1 K.
Others to watch – Hickory:
3B Ti’Quan Forbes: Tied for the SAL lead with 5 homers, is second in total bases, third in slugging (.692) and sixth in batting (.385). Went 6-for-15 vs. the Intimidators last weekend.
2B Brallan Perez: Joined the Crawdads for the Intimidators series last week, had a 4-for-8 weekend.
RHP Kyle Cody: Walked a high-wire act on the mound in his start against the Intimidators last Thursday, managed to get through five innings with one run allowed on seven hits, a walk and a hit batter.
RHP Edgar Arredondo: Has been roughed up at the plate in his two starts, including a 10-hit attack by Kannapolis last Saturday. Walked four in 6.1 IP over two starts, which equals the amount he surrendered in the Dominican Summer League over 62 innings last summer.
About the Intimidators:
Managed by Justin Jirschele, who played in 15 games for the Intimidators in 2013. He was the team’s hitting coach last year… Swept three straight at Asheville to cap a 5-2 road trip. The overall pitching performances have been tough, as Kannapolis has allowed 7 runs over the last five games. The Intimidators have allowed the fewest walks in the SAL and have the second-best WHIP (1.14). Like Hickory, the Intimidators have struggled to score runs. They are just ahead of Hickory in runs scored and have the second fewest extra-base hits.
Prospects to watch – Kannapolis:
RHP Alec Hansen (No. 5 Baseball America, No. 9 MLB.com). Did not face Hickory last weekend. Has allowed three runs on 10 hits and struck out 15 over his last two starts (11 innings).
RHP Dane Dunning (No. 10 MLB.com). First-round pick in 2016 out of Florida. Has dominated SAL hitters so far. In three starts (20 innings), he has 26 Ks to just one walk and allowed one run on 11 hits. Last Thursday against Hickory, Dunning struck out 13 over eight innings.
LF Jameson Fisher (No. 14 Baseball America, 15 mlb.com): Fourth-round pick out of SE Louisiana. As a redshirt-junior in 2016, led NCAA D-I in on-base pct. and was second in batting average. Went 5-for-15 against Hickory.
LHP Bernardo Flores (No. 18 mlb.com, 23 Baseball America): Seventh-round pick out of Southern California. Struggled in college, has mid-to-upper 90s fastball. Allowed two runs on seven hits in his start at Hickory.
Others to watch – Kannapolis:
RHP Mike Morrison: 27th round pick out of Coastal Carolina. Pitched for last year’s College World Series champions.
RHP Yosmer Solorzano: International free agent from Venezuela. Took the loss last Saturday at Hickory, despite allowing just one run over six innings.
2B Mitch Roman: 12th round pick out of Wright St. Leads the SAL with a .422 batting average and a .490 OBP.
CF Joel Booker: 22nd round pick out of Iowa. Attended Polk County High in Columbus, NC., he tortured the Crawdads pitching staff last week, going 7-for-17 with three RBI and four runs scored.
Note of Interest: RHP Tyler Davis was promoted to High-A High Desert. The 24-year-old hit five scoreless innings for Hickory, though he did walk four at Columbia.
Game Story April 18: West Virginia 8 Hickory 3
The Hickory Crawdads continue to sputter on offense and for the second straight night had little answer for a hot West Virginia Power offense in an 8-3 defeat Tuesday night at L.P. Frans Stadium.
The win by the Power (6-7) is the fifth in a row and the sixth out of seven games following an 0-6 start. West Virginia has scored 40 runs in the last three games and has posted five or more runs six of the last seven outings. (5-1 in those games).
Meanwhile, Hickory (5-8) has dropped three of the last four during the homestand. The lineup has scored eight runs over those four games and just 14 over the six games of the homestand, which closes Wednesday night at 6 p.m. against the Power.
Despite wildness by both pitchers, neither team had a hit until the fourth when Stephen Alemais tripled to right-center with one out in the fourth. One out later, Alemais scored when a fastball by Demarcus Evans went to the backstop.
The Power then broke the game open against reliever Tyler Phillips with three in the fifth and four in the sixth. With one out, Logan Ratledge singled, stole second and then moved to third on a fly to right. Hunter Owen singled him in and scored on Carlos Munoz’s lined homer to right.
West Virginia batted around in the sixth for the third time in two games. Sandy Santos doubled in a run before Ratledge’s sac fly scored Clark Eagan. Ty Moore’s double scored Santos and Munoz capped the inning with an RBI single.
Hickory got on the board without the benefit of a hit in the fifth. Jose Almonte walked and advanced to second when 3B Owen’s throw went wide of the bag. A Blake Cederlind wild pitched moved Almonte to third from where he scored on Travis Bolin’s grounder.
The Crawdads went hitless until the sixth When Yanio Perez lined a single into the right field corner, moving Franklin Rollin to third after he reached on an error. 2B Trae Arbet dropped the relay throw back to the infield and allowed Rollin to score.
The final run by Hickory came in the seventh when Valencia double and scored on Rollin’s sac fly.
Much was made about the wildness of the pitching staff. For the most part that has settled in as the guys have begun to get into a routine. What has gotten my attention in this homestand are plate appearances in which Crawdads hitters are ahead in the count.
I first noticed it on Friday with a couple of at-bats by Yanio Perez during which he had checked swings on fastballs ahead 2-0 or 2-1. Then, I noticed times when guys would be ahead 2-0, 3-0, 3-1 and then make weak outs.
This evening, Power pitchers through eight innings and thrown 128 pitches with only 73 strikes (55 balls). Despite the wildness, Hickory managed just three hits and four walks. Combined with four errors – three of those allowed hitters to reach – there was opportunity for the Crawdads to do damage. However, Hickory was 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
In hitter’s counts, the Crawdads and 12 different counts of 2-1, 3-0 or 3-1 and went 1-8 with 4 walks. A key at-bat early in the game for me was the bottom of the third. After Valencia reached on a five-pitch walk against a struggling Oddy Nunez – who threw 19 balls to 25 strikes – Travis Bolin went hacking at the first pitch and hit into a force play, which should’ve been a double play ball. Simply, it seems as if guys are trying to put the team on their backs, rather than at a solid plate appearance.
Evans evens out:
At 6-4, 270, righthander Demarcus Evans can hurl the spheroid hard. But in the early going, there was not much a clue as to where it was going. After a strikeout of Ratledge to open the game. Evans preceded to post a walk, hit batter and another walk, with many of the pitches missing wildly to the third base corner of home. After a 28-pitch first (12 strikes), he settled down to a nice outing, allowing just two other baserunners However, the damage was done and Evans needed 77 pitches to get through the fourth.
Forbes cools off:
Ti’Quan Forbes went 0-for-4, but it was anything but quiet. A long liner in the 6th hooked just to the foul side of the LF foul pole. That on top of a sharply hit 4-3 grounder was the highlight of his night.
Other than Forbes, one of the few Crawdads making solid contact right now. Went 1-for-3. The hit, a lined gapper to the wall in LCF. Had another liner that was a scorcher to the 2B for the out. Seeing the ball quite well for now.
West Virginia Power (Pittsburgh Pirates) (4-7, 6th SAL North) at Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (5-6, 4th SAL North)
The Hickory Crawdads continue the opening homestand of the 2017 South Atlantic League season with a three-game series against the West Virginia Power at L.P. Frans Stadium.
If you plan to go:
GAME TIMES: Monday through Wednesday 6 p.m.
Monday – Make a Difference Monday: Receive a free ticket with requested items valued at $5 or more: Requested items (Jars of peanut butter or jelly, boxes of Macaroni and cheese, meat, tuna or chicken, Cans of vegetables, beans (can or dried), fruit, especially mandarin oranges, peaches, and pineapple, low sugar cereal or oatmeal, Dried pasta, can/jar of pasta sauce, bag of rice.) Items go to PORCH.
Tuesday – Dollar Dog Tuesday: Bring pet to the game for $1 each. Dog show each Tuesday night. $1 hot dogs, $2 craft pints and Pepsi products.
Wednesday – Kids Win Wednesday: All kids 12 and under admitted free. Also get vouchers for free meal, bounce house, speed pitch and carousel.
TICKETS: $9 dollars for regular seats, $14 for VIP section.
Where is it?: Clement Blvd., 1 mile west of U.S. Hwy 321, near entrance to Hickory Airport.
PARKING: All parking is $3.
CONCESSIONS: L.P. Frans Stadium has two main concession areas plus the Crawdads Café. The concession stands have your basic ballpark food: Hot dogs, burgers, chicken sandwich, BBQ, etc. The Crawdad Café has a menu that features more diverse items, including the Mac & Crawdog, Banana Foster Bites, Fried Pickles, Sloppy Burger, and more. Click here for the menu
Probables (West Virginia / Hickory):
Monday: RHP James Marvel vs. RHP Argenis Rodriguez
Tuesday: RHP Oddy Nunez vs. RHP Tyler Phillips or Demarcus Evans
Wednesday: RHP Luis Escobar vs. Jonathan Hernandez
Recent Series History:
The Crawdads were 3-5 against the Power in 2016, including a four-game split at Hickory … Both teams switched affiliates prior to the start of the 2009 season – the Pirates moved from Hickory to West Virginia and the Rangers aligned with Hickory. Since those partnerships began, the Crawdads own a 41-33 edge in the series, 22-17 at home. However, the Crawdads have not won an individual series against the Power since 2014 … The clubs faced each other in the 2015 SAL Northern Division Playoffs when Hickory took 2-of-3 en route to the league championship
About the Crawdads:
After a 1-4 start, Hickory went 4-2 including a four-game split with the Kannapolis Intimidators to open the homestand… The pitching staff, which got off to a wild start, has settled into a rhythm, at least with throwing strikes. After 37 walks over the first five games, Hickory combined for just 14 over the last six. A hard-throwing team, they have given up the third fewest hits…The Crawdads have struggled at the plate. As a team, they rank 13th (out of 14 teams) in on-base pct. (.302), batting (.223), runs scored, RBI and have the second most Ks (117). It’s pretty much an all-or-nothing group. They are second in the SAL in homers (12), but with runners in scoring position, they are at a slash of .179/.258/.218… In the field, the Crawdads lead the SAL in fielding pct. (.981, 8 errors)…The team has played at a snail’s pace this season. The fastest nine-inning game to date is 2:51 minutes… Get Hickory early, or not at all. The Crawdads are 5-0 when leading or tied after 6 innings, 0-6 when trailing.
Prospects to watch- Hickory:
CF Leody Taveras (No. 1 MLB.com and Baseball America, No. 55 MLB.com top-100 prospects): Went just 2-for-15, though with a manageable four Ks in the series with Kannapolis. Has yet to steal a base this season in two attempts.
OF Yanio Perez (No. 15 MLB.com, 27 Baseball America) Went 3-for-13 in the Kannapolis series, had a three-walk game during Friday’s contest, which came after a four-K night on Thursday.
RHP Jonathan Hernandez (No. 17 Baseball America, 18 MLB.com): Struggled with control and fastball command in his first start (6 H, 3 SS 2 IP), rebounded last time out at Columbia on 4/12 with 1 ER, 3 H, 1 BB and 6 Ks over 4 innings.
2B Yeyson Yrizarri (No. 17 MLB.com): Having a nightmare start to the season, just 3-for-39 thus far. Has expanded his strike zone to combat a barrage of breaking pitches. Usually an adequate contact hitter, has 5 Ks over his last five games.
RF Jose Almonte (No. 29 MLB.com): Another slow starter on the team, just 5-for-36 thus far. Four of the hits game in a three game span from April 11-13. On Friday, had his first mulit-walk game since 2015.
RHP Tyler Ferguson (No. 30 Baseball America): Held out of the first eight games with an illness, then pitched a scoreless inning vs. Kannapolis on Friday. Will be limited in action until his strength returns.
Others to watch – Hickory:
3B Ti’Quan Forbes: Continues to light up the SAL. Hit his fourth homer of the season on Saturday, which matched his three-season total entering 2017. His 17 hits are one behind two SAL leaders. Among league leaders, he is second in homers, total bases, slugging (.769), on-base pct. (.500) and is third in batting (.436). He has also yet to make an error in the field.
2B Brallan Perez: Joined the team on Friday and is off to a 4-for-8 start, filling in for injured SS Anderson Tejeda.
C Ricky Valencia: In the midst of a six-game hitting streak, is 8-for-23 (.348) on the season with three doubles. Is getting the majority of time behind the plate thus far, catching seven of the 11 games.
RHP Tyler Phillips: Has made two appearances (one start) and has allowed seven baserunners (one walk) over seven innings with six Ks.
About the Power:
Managed by Wyatt Toregas in his first season. He managed the Pirates short-season affiliate West Virginia Black Bears the past two seasons (80-72), with whom he won the New York-Penn League championship in 2015… After an 0-6 start, the Power won the finael of a weeklong, season-opening homestand and then took the final three games of a four-game series at Lexington (KY)… The Power scored just ten total runs over the first six games, but has put up five or more in four out of the last five, including a 13-run barrage on Sunday. It’s a team that will put the ball in play (second fewest walks). They are third in homers (10), OPS (.734) and slugging (.402)… On the mound, the Power will make hitters put the ball in play. They have allowed the second-fewest walks, but the second-most hits…The Power have had slow-paced games. Just one nine-inning game in less than 2:42… West Virginia has had difficulty getting leads. It is 3-0 when leading after 6 innings, 1-7 when tied or trailing after six.
Prospects to watch – West Virginia:
RHP Luis Escobar: (No.14 MLB.com, 28 Baseball America). International free agent from Colombia. According to observers, throws fastball 95-97 mph, but still refining a curveball and change. Just 20 on opening day. Threw a one-hitter with 12 Ks over five innings on opening day, then K’d 11 over 6 innings and gave up five hits on Friday. Currently leads SAL in Ks and is 6th in WHIP (0.64).
SS Stephen Alemais: (No. 18 MLB.com, 29 Baseball America). Third-round pick 2016 out of Tulane. Has been a glove-first shortstop, though he already has four errors in six games. Had a .189/.244/.270 slash during an end-of-season cameo with the Power. Has shown some patience at the plate, but will need to pick up with the stick in a league where he is already 22.
Others to watch – West Virginia:
RHP James Marvel: 36th round pick in 2015 out of Duke. Missed much of 2014 and all of 2015 with an elbow injury. Has allowed just one run (1.74 ERA) in each of his first two starts with ten hits, two walks and five Ks.
IF Logan Ratledge: 13th round pick in 2015 out of NC State. Played high school ball at Ardrey Kell in Charlotte. Currently used in a utility role, making appearances at three infield positions, two outfield slots and on the mound for an inning. Currently in the midst of a five-game hitting streak (6-for-20, 5 walks). Patient hitter, already nine walks altogether, slash line of .263/.404/.500. Already 24, going to have to continue to hit to stay in the system.
LF Ty Moore: 12th round pick in 2015 out of UCLA. Assigned to the team out of extended spring, has hits in all six games (11-for-28) with four extra-base hits.
2B Trae Arbel: 5th round pick in 2013 out of Great Oak High (CA). In the midst of a five-game hitting streak (7-for-19), currently fifth in the SAL in slugging (.633), but his only extra-base hits are the result of three homers.
Note of Interest: Hickory SS Anderson Tejeda was placed on the inactive list after taking a pitch off the right arm. X-Rays were negative, but the arm is sore and will require rest. No timetable is set for Tejeda’s return. Blaine Prescott was also placed on the inactive list… Power 1B Albert Baur (Newberry College) is on the DL.
With the first full week completed, the Hickory Crawdads go into an off-day on Easter at 5-6 following a split of Saturday’s doubleheader with Kannapolis.
The opening series at Greensboro was a wild one for the pitching staff, as the combined for 37 walks over the first five games, which had much to do with a 1-4 start. Over the last six, that number was cut to 14 and the team’s record is 4-2 in that stretch.
On Friday, I had a chance to catch up with Crawdads pitching coach Jose Jaimes about the team’s start and to ask about some of the names that started the season at Hickory.
First, let me get your overview of the season’s first week on the pitching staff. Control has been a bit of an issue, but for some guys it’s starting to come around a bit. Let me get your assessment of that first week.
Jaimes: Those first four games, we had a tough time finding the zone. Some guys just walked too many guys, especially the starters early in the game. We couldn’t locate our fastball. But, if feel like it’s coming and getting a lot better, especially these last four games in Columbia and yesterday. I feel like guys are starting to make some adjustments. To be honest, the fact that we couldn’t practice before the season and we couldn’t play, I think that had some effect on some guys. They couldn’t face hitters for almost a week. That had a big factor on what happened those first four games.
That was my next question, how much did the rain affect your guys who couldn’t throw side sessions, etc?
Jaimes: Yeah, especially that exhibition game was going to be huge, especially for the starters. Obviously, we couldn’t play and they ended up throwing bullpens, but it’s not the same as throwing to a catcher in a game. I think it was one reason why they couldn’t find the zone as quick as they wanted. But, it’s getting better.
Jonathan Hernandez is back here for another year and honestly, I was a little surprised to see him back as he finished so strong last year. What are the Rangers wanting to see him accomplish starting here a second year?
Jaimes: Consistency with the fastball. Last year, like you said, he finished strong. He put together five good outings towards the end of the year. We just want to see that on a consistent basis. We got to see that in the last outing at Columbia. That’s what we’re looking for. He’s working ahead on the count on every hitter the first time through the lineup. So, that’s the main thing for him, his fastball command. Hopefully, at some point, we’ll get to see him move up.
Jake Lemoine is a name some folks have asked me about. I saw him the first outing at Greensboro. At first, he had a little struggle finding a feel, but then had a strong second inning. Coming off the shoulder troubles, what’s sort of things are ahead for him?
Jaimes: He dealt with a lot of bumps the last few years. He last pitched two years ago. I’m actually pretty impressed, especially with his last outing in Columbia where he pounded the zone. He’s a guy that has a feel for the baseball. He controls his fastball and has pretty good control with his secondary pitches. So, I think he’s going to be a big part of the team. Hopefully, he can stay healthy and let the talent play. A great guy.
Is he going to be getting bite-size outings?
Jaimes: For right now, we’re going to try to keep it to three innings, just because of what happened the last two years with him. He’s going to be a guy that’s going to pitch every two or three days.
Let me ask you about Kyle Cody. Like everybody else, had a rough first outing, then pitched in and out of trouble the last start.
Jaimes: The two outings have been almost the same, Kind of erratic the first two or three innings, but then once he gets it going he gets a lot better. Last night, we saw that. The fourth and fifth innings, he did a really good job of mixing his pitches. His fastball command was a lot better. That was his main issue the first three innings: a lot of deep counts, a lot of 2-1 counts and guys were able to put the barrel to the baseball. A 6-7 guy that’s a really good talent and I’m pretty excited for him. He’s one of our main guys this year, so hopefully he’ll stay healthy. I think once he gets it going, he’s going to keep getting better.
Somebody I’m looking forward to seeing, based simply on the stats from the Dominican – this is his first stateside assignment – is Edgar Arredondo. He had a 56 Ks and 4 walks last year. Like everyone else the first week, he had that wrinkle, but I’m looking forward to seeing what he has to offer based on the stats sheet.
Jaimes: He’s a strike thrower. He’s a guy that’s going to feel through it some. He’s going to attack here. It was the first time he was pitching in front of fans and lights. So, I was kind of expecting that, but I after that I saw his first inning, I was really excited. He pounded the first inning 1-2-3. I think he got a little upset when he gave up the first hit on an 0-2 count and then he lost his concentration and couldn’t get it back. Again, he’s a guy that’s going to throw strikes. That was not the Arredondo that I know. I don’t even worry about him. He had a really good bullpen session yesterday. He’s a guy that commands his pitches: fastball and a really good changeup and a really good curve.
Tyler Ferguson hasn’t thrown. What’s happening with him?
Jaimes: He couldn’t make the Greensboro series because he got sick, so we just kept him at home. We didn’t want anybody else to get sick. Then coming back, he had to play catch at least three days. He threw a bullpen a couple of days ago and now he’s ready to go.
Of the guys that I haven’t mentioned yet – there’s so many guys that come in and out – who’s somebody that you’re looking at as someone that will step forward?
Jaimes: I’ve got one guy and that’s going to be Sal Mendez. He’s been a guy that had a really good spring training. A guy that goes out there and competes. He has average stuff, but the way that he throws the ball with the conviction that he has, he makes it look better. In his last outing at Greensboro when he went 4.2 innings. He’s going to command all three pitches coming from the left side. He has some sink and a really good changeup. I think he’s going to be our sleeper.
Emerson(Martinez) is pitching tonight. I know you don’t care about wins and losses, but it seemed that he pitched in a little tough luck when he got into the starting rotation last year. He had a good outing last time.
Jaimes; Actually, we almost made a big deal of it because last year he went 0-6. It seemed like every time he didn’t pitch we’d score a lot of runs. Then every time he’d pitch, we didn’t score. When he got his first win, he was all pumped up. He said, “It’s a new year and a new beginning and I’m going to help the team.” He grew up a lot last year for us. I had him two years ago when I worked in Spokane. He was kind of timid and he didn’t trust his stuff. That was something that last year he realized that his stuff was good enough to get people out. He showed that in his first game. He went out there and just pounded. I’m really happy with what he’s doing.
I’ve seen Tyler (Davis) pitch both in Columbia and here last night and showed some good stuff. Had some good outings here last year before he got bumped up. Doesn’t throw hard, but he spots well and throws a decent slider.
Jaimes: He’s a pitcher, though. He goes out there and pitches. He knows what he has. He knows that he doesn’t have power stuff, so he goes out there and just locates it. He locates his fastball; he locates his changeup, slider. He knows how to pitch. Everybody loves Tyler. When he got here last week, I was pretty excited to have him a part of the team. He not only brings his stuff, but he’s around the bullpen helping me with these kids. I’m really happy for him and having here with me.
Christian Torres is back. Another (Alex) Claudio clone, maybe?
Jaimes: You’re hoping for that. Claudio is one of those guys that knows what he does. Claudio is a little bit bigger, but I can see a little bit of Claudio in Torres. Decent sinker, really good changeup. They’re pretty close.
Best fastball on the staff right now.
Jaimes: Kyle Cody.
Best secondary stuff right now:
Jaimes: Sal Mendez.
Best Breaking ball:
Jaimes: Emerson Martinez and Tyler Davis.
Kannapolis 3 Hickory 1 (Game 1). Hickory 1 Kannapolis 0 (Game 2)
Despite mustering two runs on ten hits over 14 innings the Hickory Crawdads rode the back of strong pitching and the bat of Ti’Quan Forbes in game two to earn a doubleheader split with the Kannapolis Intimidators Saturday night at L.P. Frans Stadium.
The split left the teams in a series split for the four games. The Crawdads are off for Easter Sunday and then will resume South Atlantic League play Monday night at 6 p.m. as they start a three-game series against visiting West Virginia.
What happened in game one:
Polk County native Joel Booker continued to harass Hickory pitching with a three-hit performance in game one and had a hand in all three runs.
He led off the doubleheader with a broken-bat single and moved to second as Mitch Roman’s sneaked an infield hit to the right side, as Booker beat a throw to second from second baseman Brallan Perez. One out later, Brandon Dulin hit a ball to Preston Scott, who fielded the ball on the run, but his throw to second went into leftfield and allowed Booker to score from first.
Kannapolis (3-8) made it 2-0 in the second. With one out, Antonio and Wilfredo Rodriguez (no relation) both singled. After Max Dutto whiffed, Booker oozed a grounder through the infield for an RBI single.
The Crawdads (5-6) got a run back in the bottom of the inning. Ti’Quan Forbes singled and was then erased on Scott’s fielder’s choice. One out later, Ricky Valencia got enough wood on an inside fastball for a bloop RBI single.
However, the Intimidators added an insurance run in the fourth as Booker singled in MIcker Adolfo to account for the final margin.
Jimmy Lambert (1-0) pitched a complete-game six-hitter with one walk and five strikeouts.
Edgar Arredondo (0-2) gave up all three runs on ten hits and a walk, and struck out three. Reid Anderson pitched two scoreless innings with one hit allowed and two Ks.
What happened in game 2:
Both team had just four hits each, but Forbes’s homer in the fourth was the difference.
Sal Mendez (1-0) made the spot start for Hickory and gave up a walk and two outs over five innings with four strikeouts. The Intimidators threatened just once against him and that came in the third. Grant Massey singled and moved to second when Tyler Sullivan was hit by a pitch. Mendez then got Booker looking and induced Roman to tap into an double play.
Jake Lemoine worked around a double in the sixth. In the seventh, Seby Zavala singled and Adolfo was hit by a pitch. Zach Remillard botched a sacrifice and bunted a third-strike foul for a strikeout. Lemoine then struck out Massey before Christian Torres was brought in to face Tyler Sullivan.
Torres needed just three pitches to fan Sullivan and get his first pro save.
Yosmer Solorzano pitched a complete game in the loss (1-1).
Forbes had four pro homers in 227 games entering this season. He has four in 11 games this season. For the season Forbes has hits in 10 of 11 games and his at .436/.500/.769. He’s in a good place right now.
I had a twitter conversation about Forbes and I pondered if Forbes gets a bump up when Charles Leblanc is ready at extended spring. Or… after Forbes struggled so much over his first two seasons as a pro, will the Rangers let him dominate for now and amp up his already burgeoning confidence.
An intriguing arm:
The Texas Rangers have had success with late-round pitching selections and I wonder if they perhaps have a nugget with 40th-round selection Sal Mendez.
In talking with Crawdads pitching coach Jose Jaimes, I asked him to give me a pitcher that is under the radar. Sal Mendez was his answer. When I asked for who had the best secondary pitch, Jaimes said it was Mendez’s changeup.
Mendez needed 68 pitches (44 strikes) to get through five innings. He relied on a two-pitch mix of fastball (89-91) and change (81-83) and did so effectively with very little squared up. Three of his five Ks came consecutively in the first and second. He got Dula to swing through a change off the 1B side of the plate in the first. Then fired a fastball that Zavala took for a called third strike. Then, it was back to the change off the plate to get Adolfo.
Very simply, he attacked the strike zone and got mostly weak contact. Mendez threw 11 of 18 first-pitch strikes to hitters, much of that total coming early (6 of the first 7). He’ll have to continue to throw strikes and hit spots, but he’s not afraid to attack.
I’m interested and want to see more.
Yey-yey is ney:
Yeyson Yrizarri is not in a happy zone right now. One-for-14 in the series, 3-for-39 for the season, it’s been a tough one. The one hit in the series was on a ninth-inning, get-me-over fastball with a five-run lead on Friday night. Otherwise, he is seeing a lot of breaking stuff in front of the plate and in the dirt and hacking away.
He did hit into a bit of tough luck in game one. In the second inning, Remillard took a roller behind the bag and then with a Manny Machado-esque throw from behind the back, got Yrizarri by a quarter step.
In his first AB in game two, he was unable to hold back on a fastball at the thumbs and then later whiffed at a curveball in the dirt. After the AB, the body language had the look of one who was beaten for now.
Defense wins games:
While Booker played a big part in the game-one win, so did the Kannapolis defense – especially from shortstop Max Dutto.
In the third, Brallan Perez lined a pitch to right. Adolfo ran the ball down and made a strong throw to second that was to the centerfield side of the bag. Dutto made the catch on the one-hop throw, then made the lunging tag on Perez. Later in the inning, Dutto made a diving stop of a grounder and made the quick throw to first to barely get Leody Taveras at first.
With a runner on first in the fifth, Yrizarri hit a comeback to Lambert, whose throw to second on the pivot was to the third-base side. Dutto made a back-handed catch while his momentum carried him across the bag and then completed the double play at first.
In the sixth, Dutto made a grab of a grounder deep in the hole and made a strong throw to complete the out at first.
Missing hitting counts:
Scuffling as a team, the Crawdads collectively seem to be unable to take advantage of hitter’s counts. In game two, Solozano threw first-pitch strikes to just eight of 22 hitters. However, Hickory managed just four hits and a walk.
After the Hickory Crawdads were involved in so many lengthy extra-inning games last year, the Texas Rangers decided to limit the use of their pitchers in such marathon games. The result of that will be the use of position players on the mound once the game gets to a certain point. Enter Travis Bolin during Thursday night’s 12-inning win over the Kannapolis Intimidators.
Bolin got an inkling a few days prior to Thursday’s game that he could be used as a pitcher at some point during the season, if the situation called for it. Then, it happened and no one was more surprised that Bolin.
“I came out here (to the bullpen) and threw about 20 pitches,” said Bolin. “Then they called me in. I thought they were joking at first. The last out came and the pitching coach (Jose Jaimes) called me and said, ‘Hey, you’re going in.’ And I was like, ‘Are you guys serious? You guys are actually letting me go out and throw?’ Yeah, I went out there and had a good time.”
A good time, indeed. Bolin pitched, despite the tie game and his scoreless inning was enough to get the win as Hickory scored a run for the 2-1 walk-off victory.
“That is pretty cool,” said Bolin of the decision. “I was just happy about my first strikeout, the first batter. I thought it was pretty cool.”
Bolin said he hadn’t pitched since high school and threw just a few innings then. His brother was a pitcher, and so in watching him, Bolin had some sense of pitching out of the windup, which was fairly seamless.
“I’m pretty accurate when I’m trying to hit my spots,” said Bolin. “I did a pretty good job of it last night.”
The strikeout came as the inning’s leadoff hitter Zach Remillard swung through a 2-2 fastball. Grant Massey sent then a 2-0 fastball (heck, they were all fastballs) for a 6-3 grounder.
The one wrinkle came on a walk issued to Tyler Sullivan, an at-bat Bolin said he thought the umpire squeezed him on a pitch.
Bolin said, “Man, I painted one right on the corner and he didn’t give it to me. But that’s how it goes with pitching.”
The inning ended with a groundout to second by Joel Booker. Bolin threw all fastballs – topping out at 85, though he said he could gas up to 92, but was told to keep it eased back so as to not hurt his arm – but he was prepared to use a slider if needed.
“Actually, I was going to go to throwing a slider, or a real cut-fastball, but we ended up getting the guy out on the next pitch anyway, so we didn’t have to go to that.”
The response from teammates was described by Bolin as ecstatic and the opportunity may indeed arise again to pitch.
“I asked Spike today, I said ‘Hey, now that that actually happened, is that going to happen again?’ He said, ‘Of course, that was a test. Good job.’ I was like, ‘OK, I’m ready to go.’”
Crawdads position players pitching:
It rarely happened in the early years of the club’s history, but as major league teams become more cautious about over using pitchers and keeping them in a routine, position players throwing in games is becoming more common.
Over the first 15 seasons, just five position players pitched for Hickory. None did until 1999 and then from 2007 until 2013, but since 2014 it’s happened ten times, five of those in 2016.
Below is an overview of those position players who have climbed the hill.
1999: 1B Carlos Rivera – and a future big leaguer – mopped up in a game during which he gave up a run on two hits in an inning.
2000: 1B/ OF Jason Landreth allowed three hits and walk, all of which scored during his lone inning.
2000: C Jose Hernandez walked the only batter he faced and took the loss.
May 15, 2005: 2B Dan Schwartzbauer. The Crawdads were completing a suspended game from the night before against Lake County (OH), which eventually went to extra innings. After the Captains scored three in the 11th – and with another full nine-inning game to go – Crawdads manager Jeff Branson brought in Schwartzbauer, who struck out the only batter he faced.
June 28, 2007: 2B Jose J. De Los Santos. In the night cap of a doubleheader against Kannapolis, the Crawdads had blown a 5-2 lead and ran out of available arms to pitch in extra innings. De Los Santos was brought in and gave up six runs to take the loss in an 11-5 defeat.
May 23, 2013: LF Nick Vickerson. In one of the wildest games in Crawdads history – both managers were ejected and a walk-off homer was reversed – the Kannapolis Intimidators scored four runs in the top of the 12th to take the lead. Vickerson got Justin Jirschele – the current Intimidators manager – to hit into a fielder’s choice. The Crawdads went on to score five in the bottom of the inning for a 7-6 win.
June 25, 2014: IF Janluis Castro. In mop-up duty vs. Kannapolis, Castro retired all four batters he faced, fanning two.
July 8, 2014: IF Janluis Castro. Became the first Crawdads position player to pitch twice as he entered a game during a blowout loss to the Lexington Legends. Gave up two hits, but struck out two during a scoreless ninth inning.
July 9, 2014: 2B Janluis Casto. The Legends scored three in the top of the 14th and rather than waste a pitcher, Castro moved over from second and strike out the only batter he faced. For the season, Castro allowed two hits and struck out five of the ten hitters he faced.
August 8, 2015: C Jonathan Meyer. Became the first position player to pitch on the road since 2000. Gave up a walk-off, three-run homer at Lakewood in the 18th inning for the loss.
May 15, 2016: 1B Dylan Moore. Back-to-back errors on what should’ve been inning-ending double play balls played a big role in seven unearned runs during a 9-2 loss to the Rome Braves in 19 innings.
June 6, 2016: OF Josh Altman. The utilityman worked around two hits in the 13th inning during a game with Greensboro. However, two errors were costly in the 14th as Hickory dropped a 6-5 loss to the Grasshoppers.
July 15, 2016. C Chuck Moorman. The starting catcher entered the game during a blowout loss to West Virginia and retired both batters he faced with one strikeout.
July 24, 2016. OF Connor McKay. A 15-3 blowout at Lakewood precipitated the use of McKay in the ninth, who retired all three batters he faced.
July 30, 2016. OF Connor McKay. After the Crawdads gave up four runs in the top of the 10th against Hagerstown, McKay was brought in and he retired the lone batter he faced.
Toothless at the plate much of the early season, the Kannapolis Intimidators muscled up three homers in support of three pitchers in an 8-4 win over the Hickory Crawdads in front of 2,525 fans at L.P. Frans Stadium Friday night.
The win snapped the Intimidators three-game losing streak, as well as the Crawdads three-game winning streak.
Hickory took a 1-0 lead in the first as Leody Taveras hit the first pitch from Bernardo Flores into the right field corner for a triple. A wild pitch later scored him.
Kannapolis used an error to get even in the third. After Joel Booker walked, Mitch Roman singled him to third and then Booker scored with LF Yanio Perez’s throw to third clanked off Booker’s helmet.
Brandon Dulin’s second homer of the season put the Intimidators in the lead 2-1 in the fourth. One inning later, Booker singled with two outs, stole second and scored on Jameson Fisher’s single to right.
The Crawdads got a run back in the sixth. Perez led off with a single and worked his way to third on successive grounders to third. Travis Bolin singled in Perez and the Crawdads eventually loaded the bases with two outs. Alex Katz entered the game and struck out Brallan Perez to end the threat.
Fisher unloaded a two-run blast off the scoreboard in right-center in the eighth and Seby Zavala added a solo shot to make it 6-3.
Hickory eased back into the game briefly in the bottom of the inning. Jose Almonte and Isaias Quiroz each walked. A wild pitch moved both runners up a base and Perez’s single scored Almonte. Taveras came to the plate as the tying run, but Lane Hobbs struck him out to end the threat.
Kannapolis pushed two more runs across in the ninth before Preston Scott’s sacrifice fly scored Yeyson Yrizarri in the bottom of the inning to account for the final margin.
Roman went 4-for-4 with a walk, Fisher, Dulin and Zavala homered, but Joel Booker had the key at-bats of the game.
Booker saw 34 pitches during his five plate appearances and it was his persistent patience that played into a big night. With two outs and the bases empty in the third, Booker worked a walk. He made an aggressive play to go first to third and it paid off when Perez’s throw hit him in the helmet and led to a run.
In the fifth, Hickory starter Emerson Martinez needed just eight pitches to get the first two outs. Martinez got ahead 0-2 but was unable to put Booker away, who worked the count full before steering a single to left. Martinez went on to throw 28 pitches in the inning and inflated his pitch count to 76 and cost him a chance to go deeper into the game.
With two outs in the ninth, Booker again fell behind 0-2 before working the count even and eventually made contact on a swinging bunt up the first base line to score Max Dutto.
Hickory reliever made his first appearance of the season in the sixth. His debut was delayed after he got ill upon his arrival in Hickory. Flowers threw 93-94 mph and mixed in the slider with ease missing three bats. He struck out two during a perfect inning.
My memory of Emerson Martinez was a guy that threw low 90s, mixed in a change and slider and a bit of guile to get hitters out. According to the Rangers pitch trackers, Martinez was hitting 95 mph. His change at time had the Intimidators off balance, but as seen above, he was unable to finish off innings with a put-away pitch. After getting 12 of 15 outs via the whiff and groundball in his first start at Greensboro, had just 9 of 15 on Friday.
The Kannapolis staff has taken the step of throwing breaking balls to Yeyson Yrizarri and it made him look silly. He fanned in his first two at-bats – five swing-and-misses for the game, all on breaking balls – then was out on his front foot during back-to-back grounders. Up five runs in the ninth, the Intimidators threw a first-pitch fastball the Yrizarri rifled to the wall in left-center.
Both sides had some curious baserunning plays that potentially cost the team runs. In the no-harm-no-foul category. In the second, Brallan Perez appeared to take a couple of steps in reverse during a pop-up to second with two outs.
Ti’Quan Forbes delayed the turn at second, which proved costly during Preston Scott’s down double the line in left. Forbes then tried to make up for lost time during a scamper to the plate, but was thrown out.
Kannapolis had a curious baserunning decision of its own in the fifth. Fisher’s double scored Booker from second. Roman trailed behind at third and held up with two outs while the throw went to second.
3B Ti’Quan Forbes continues to shine defensively and he in the eighth contributed two more plays to his portfolio of artistic plays. He made a backhanded stab of a liner to the right of his knees as he spun backwards to keep his balance. But there was a better one to come. The inning concluded when Forbes stumbled left to corral a Zach Remillard ground, then from his knees, fired a strike to first for the out.
2B Brallan Perez started a double play in the second by snatching a quick short-hop during which he had to avoid the obstruction of the umpire. In the ninth, Perez had his feet slip on the wet track, but he was able to reach back over his right shoulder to take a high hop and complete the out at first.
(Yes, I know it’s late. Paid work takes precedent at times.)
Kannapolis Intimidators (Chicago White Sox) (1-7) at Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (4-4)
The Hickory Crawdads open the home portion of the 2017 South Atlantic League season as they face in-state rival Kannapolis at L.P. Frans Stadium.
If you plan to go:
GAME TIMES: Friday 7:00 p.m., Saturday (DH) 5 p.m.
Promotions: Friday – Post-Game Fireworks. Saturday – Poster Giveaway to first 1,000 fans; Turn Back the Clock; Easter Celebration.
TICKETS: $9 dollars for regular seats, $14 for VIP section.
Where is it?: Clement Blvd., 1 mile west of U.S. Hwy 321, near entrance to Hickory Airport.
PARKING: All parking is $3.
CONCESSIONS: L.P. Frans Stadium has two main concession areas plus the Crawdads Café. The concession stands have your basic ballpark food: Hot dogs, burgers, chicken sandwich, BBQ, etc. The Crawdad Café has a menu that features more diverse items, including the Mac&Crawdog, Banana Foster Bites, Fried Pickles, Sloppy Burger, and more. Click here for the menu http://www.milb.com/documents/3/3/4/185907334/cafe_menu_6eeko6n2.pdf
Probables (Kannapolis/ Hickory):
Friday: RHP Bernardo Flores vs. RHP Emerson Martinez
Saturday: TBA vs. RHP Edgar Arredondo, Argenis Rodriguez
Thursday’s Game: Hickory scored a 2-1 win in 12 innings, despite a lineup that whiffed 18 times.
Jose Almonte’s triple down to right scored Anderson Tejeda from first for the game winner. White Sox No. 10 prospect Dane Dunning struck out 13 and allowed one unearned run on three hits. Outfielder Travis Bolin pitched the 12th and got the win for the Crawdads.
Recent Series History:
The Crawdads were 12-4 in 2016 against Kannapolis, 5-3 at home. Since the Crawdads began the affiliation with the Rangers in 2009 they are 85-53 overall, 41-26 at L.P. Frans.
About the Crawdads:
Hickory has won three straight after a 1-4 start. The Crawdads handed Columbia its first loss of the season and then went on to take two of three from the Fireflies before last night’s home opener. Hickory has scuffled to a .216 BA and .294 OBP, both next to last in the South Atlantic League. However, the Crawdads lead the SAL with 11 homers.
Prospects to watch- Hickory:
CF Leody Taveras (No. 1 MLB.com and Baseball America, No. 55 MLB.com top-100 prospects): After hits in his first six games, Taveras is 0-9 in his last two with 8 Ks in his last 18 ABs.
SS Anderson Tejeda (No. 8 MLB.com, 16 Baseball America): Struggling to make contact at the plate for now, has at least one K in all eight games, 15 in 29 ABs. Also has five walks on the season after just 18 in all of 2017. Got his first triple of the season in the home opener and later scored the winning run.
OF Yanio Perez (No. 15 MLB.com, 27 Baseball America) Got his first homer of the season during the final game of the road trip, then K’d 4 times in five ABs last night.
2B Yeyson Yrizarri (No. 17 MLB.com): Started slow out of the gate at 2-for-29. Is putting the bat to the ball with just 5 Ks. After just 9 walks in 2016, he’s yet to get a free pass this season.
RF Jose Almonte (No. 29 MLB.com): Has a modest three-game hit streak, including thewalk-off RBI triple on Thursday.
RHP Tyler Ferguson (No. 30 Baseball America): Has not pitched yet this season. The big righty (6-4, 225) had a dominant tenure with Spokane (1.78 ERA, 46 Ks/ 10 BBs 30.1 IP), then struggled to find his command after he joined Hickory for the final month of 2016 (10 Ks/ 18 BBs 13.1 IP). Brings an overpowering fastball/ slider, but the Vanderbilt product’s goal is simple to start the season: find the plate.
Others to watch – Hickory:
3B Ti’Quan Forbes: The hottest hitter in the lineup at the start (.414/.485/.759). Homered in each of his first three games and at least one hit in seven of the first eight games. Forbes leads the South Atlantic League in total bases, slugging and OPS (1.243)
RHP Emerson Martinez: Threw five shutout innings in his first start at Greensboro. proven to be a durable arm for the Crawdads over his two seasons coming out of the pen or starting. Looks to get groundballs for outs. Twelve of the 15 outs he recorded at Greensboro were strikeouts or grounders.
RHP Edgar Arredondo: Had 56 Ks to just four walks last season with DSL Rangers, but struggled with control during his first stateside start on Sunday. Managed to record just four outs as he walked three and hit a batter.
About the Intimidators:
Managed by Justin Jirschele, who played in 15 games for the Intimidators in 2013. He was the team’s hitting coach last year… The Intimidators have started slowly and have lost three straight after last night… Like Hickory, the Intimidators have struggled at the plate and are next to last in the SAL in runs scored and are last with just 10 extra-base hits.
Prospects to watch – Kannapolis:
LF Jameson Fisher (No. 14 Baseball America, 15 mlb.com): Fourth-round pick out of SE Louisiana. As a redshirt-junior in 2016, led NCAA D-I in on-base pct. and was second in batting average. Continued to rake in the Pioneer League (.342/.436/.487). Was a catcher in college before hurting his shoulder and had surgery for a torn labrum.
LHP Bernardo Flores (No. 18 mlb.com, 23 Baseball America): Seventh-round pick out of Southern California. Struggled in college, has mid-to-upper 90s fastball. Struggled in his first start (4 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 B, 6 K
Others to watch – Kannapolis:
RHP Mike Morrison: 27th round pick out of Coastal Carolina. Pitched for last year’s College World Series champions. So far has allowed just one hit and struck out six over four innings in three appearances. Fanned four in two innings during Thursday’s game.
RHP Yosmer Solorzano: International free agent from Venezuela. Likely starter for Saturday’s doubleheader. In his last start on Monday against Rome (Ga.), gave up just one run on six hits and struck out nine over six innings. To date, has the only win for Kannapolis.
3B Zach Remillard: Tenth-round pick out of Coastal Carolina. Played for last season’s College World Series champs. Started pro career well with the AZL White Sox and earned a promotion to full-season club at Kannapolis for the final month. Currently on a four-game hit streak.
2B Mitch Roman: 12th round pick out of Wright St. Had three hits during Thurday’s loss to Hickory. Currently at .370/.414/.481 for the season.
CF Joel Booker: 22nd round pick out of Iowa. Attended Polk County High in Columbus, NC. Has four multi-hit games, including a two-hit night on Thursday.
Note of Interest: Hickory added RHP Tyler Davis and LHP Christian Torres during the road trip and will pitch out of the bullpen. Both pitched for Hickory in 2016. Davis made 16 starts for High Desert last year… Kannapolis RF Micker Adolfo (No. 20 mlb.com, 24 Baseball America) is on the disabled list.
Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (1-3) at Columbia (S.C.) Fireflies (New York Mets) (4-0)
The Hickory Crawdads complete the second leg of their two-city, weeklong road trip at Columbia’s Spirit Communication Park to open the 2017 South Atlantic League season.
If you plan to go:
GAME TIMES: Games Monday through Wednesday at 7:05 p.m.
BROADCAST: MILBtv.com or through Gameday Audio links on milb.com.
TICKETS: Ticket prices range from $5 for an outfield berm seat to $14 for a “Scout Seat”.
Where is it?:
From Hickory, take Hwy 321 South to Gastonia, then I-85 North towards Charlotte. Take exit 30 to the I-485 outer loop, then I-77 South toward Columbia. Take I-77 to 277 South to Columbia. Take the Farrow Road/SC-555 exit. Turn left onto Farrow Road/SC-555. Continue onto Colonial Drive. Turn left onto Gregg Street. Turn right onto Freed Street. The ballpark is located on the left side of the street.
PARKING: Parking in the general lots is $3 and located along Colonial Dr. as well as Gregg St. Take the complimentary trolley shuttle to the stadium. ADA permit parking is available by the stadium property.
CONCESSIONS: Spirit Communications Park has four permanent stands and 25 specialty carts. The team’s website does not list food offerings.
Probables (Hickory/ Columbia):
Monday: RHP Argenis Rodriguez vs. RHP Colin Holderman
Tuesday RHP Tyler Phillips or RHP Demarcus Evans vs. LHP Blake Taylor
Wednesday: RHP Jonathan Hernandez vs. RHP Harol Gonzalez
Recent Series History:
The Fireflies took two of three at Hickory’s L.P. Frans Stadium during the only series the teams played in 2016. This is the first trip by the Crawdads to Spirit Communication Park, which opened last year. The Columbia franchise was previously stationed in Savannah, Ga. and known as the Sand Gnats. This will be Hickory’s first trip to the Mets low-A affiliate since 2014. Since 2009, the first year of the Crawdads-Rangers affiliation, the Sand Gnats/ Fireflies hold a 14-13 lead in games played at their home ballparks. Overall, Hickory holds a 29-27 advantage during the same time period.
About the Crawdads:
Hickory is coming off a 1-3 series loss at Greensboro in which the pitching staff struggled with control. The crew walked 12 in an opening-night loss to the Grasshoppers, eight the second night, and finished with 30 in the series. The Crawdads lead the South Atlantic League with ten HRs.
Prospects to watch- Hickory:
CF Leody Taveras (No. 1 MLB.com and Baseball America): Had hits in all four games (6-for-16) with 5 runs scored and two homers at Greensboro. He had one dinger all last season.
SS Anderson Tejeda (No. 8 MLB.com, 16 Baseball America): Hit a mammoth homer (441’) opening night, but went 3-for-16 in the series at Greensboro with 7 Ks. Showed encouraging signs of discipline, as he worked four walks in four games. He had 18 in 66 games last year.
OF Yanio Perez (No. 15 MLB.com, 27 Baseball America) Had a four-hit game at Greensboro on Saturday and went 6-for-17 in the series. Started at 1B opening night, then shifted to right the remainder of the series.
RHP Jonathan Hernandez (No. 17 Baseball America, 18 MLB.com): Hernandez struggled in his first start on opening night, as he allowed nine of 16 batters to reach base. Control was his downfall as he threw just 33 strikes out of 65 pitches. He can rack up strikeouts at times (three in two innings last Thursday), but Hernandez relies on a sinker to get groundballs.
2B Yeyson Yrizarri (No. 17 MLB.com): Singled opening night, had a homer the next game, then suffered through an 0-for-6 on Saturday. Just three Ks over 14 PAs, so he is making contact. Has handled the move to second base well in the early going, turning a couple of double plays and making plays with ease.
RF Jose Almonte (No. 29 MLB.com): Opened the season in RF, then shifted to LF the next two games. Had a 1-for-11 weekend and sat out Sunday’s game.
RHP Tyler Ferguson (No. 30 Baseball America): Did not pitch over the weekend. The big righty (6-4, 225) had a dominant tenure with Spokane (1.78 ERA, 46 Ks/ 10 BBs 30.1 IP), then struggled to find his command after he joined Hickory for the final month of 2016 (10 Ks/ 18 BBs 13.1 IP). Brings an overpowering fastball/ slider, but the Vanderbilt product’s goal is simple to start the season: find the plate.
Others to watch – Hickory:
3B Ti’Quan Forbes: Homered in each of the first three games of the series, Forbes went 6-for-11 over the three games he played before sitting out Sunday’s game.
RHP Jake Lemoine: The 2015 fourth-round draftee made his pro debut on Thursday night at Greensboro. Looked rough early, the Univ. of Houston product settled in nicely in his second inning and racked up a pair of Ks, including a 91 mph on the corner for a called third-strike.
1B Preston Scott: Reached base in seven of 13 plate appearances over the weekend, including a pair of homers and a double to account for the three hits. The two homers came in Saturday’s game during which he also stole two bases and reached on a hit and a walk.
About the Fireflies:
Managed by Jose Leger in his third season with the Mets’ low-A affiliate. The Fireflies are coming off a four-game sweep of the Augusta (Ga.) as they outscored the GreenJackets 36-12. Two of the wins came on shutouts. During the sweep, the team put up a .313/.446/.458 slash and worked a SAL-high 32 walks. They also stole 12 bases, the most in the SAL.
Prospects to watch – Columbia:
CF Desmond Lindsey (No. 4 Baseball America, 6 MLB.com). The 2015 second-round pick of the Mets struggled with hamstring issues, missing much of his high school senior season. He again suffered the same injury and was limited to 37 games during the 2016 season at two short-season stops. Showed good plate discipline with 25 walks to 31 Ks in 2016, sporting a .433 OBP. Played 3B in high school, moved to the OF to showcase his speed.
2B/SS Luis Carpio (No. 16 MLB.com, 20 Baseball America) Missed much of 2016 after surgery for a torn labrum. Came back late in the 2016 season, but was exclusively a DH. Went 5-for-16 during the opening-season series vs. Augusta
C Ali Sanchez (No. 21 MLB.com, 27 Baseball America) At this point, Sanchez is defensively ahead of the offensive side of his game. Has thrown out 92 of 191 base stealers (48%), though he has 24 passed balls in just 111 games. Struggled to a .535 OPS at short-season Brooklyn in 2016, started this season 4-for-12 over three games.
RHP Harol Gonzalez (No. 28 Baseball America) Led the New York-Penn League with a 2.01 ERA and 88 Ks over 85 innings. Struggled in his opening-night start vs. Augusta, giving up five runs on six hits while walking and striking out three over 3.2 IP. Leaned heavily on fly ball outs until a huge shift in 2016. Posted GO/AO of 0.79 in 2014 and 0.86 in 2015. Went to 1.58 last year.
3B Blake Tiberi (No. 29 MLB.com) Went 3-for-11 over the weekend, shows a patient eye at the plate with 25 walks to just 34 K over 207 ABs. Has not shown much pop for the position, slugging just .319 for his young career.
Others to watch – Columbia:
LF Tim Tebow: The former Heisman Trophy winner slugged a homer in his first official pro AB on Thursday and added a three-run shot on Sunday. Has just three hits total and struck out five times in 14 PAs.
C Anthony Dimino: Played at North Mecklenburg in Charlotte before spending his college career at Belmont Abbey. Went 5-for-6 with a 2B and two walks in the recent series.
IF Michael Paez: Played for the Coastal Carolina during the team’s run to the 2016 College World Series title.
1B: Dash Winningham: Returned to Columbia for a second season, went 7-for-19 over the weekend.
Note of Interest: Hickory last played in Columbia during its 2004 South Atlantic League title run. The Crawdads won games one and two against the Capital City Bombers before completing the sweep at Hickory. Capital City then transferred to Greenville and is now known as the Greenville Drive.
The 2017 season opened with 104 former Crawdads on the roster of a Major League or an affiliated Minor League Baseball Team. Thirty-three other former players are currently in extended spring training due to injury or are inactive and are awaiting an assignment to a team.
Debuts at new levels
Drew Robinson is the lone former Crawdad to make his major league debut at the start of the season, as he begins his career with the Texas Rangers
Luis Marte is the only former Crawdad to make his debut at the Class-AAA level, as he suits up for the Rangers AAA club at Round Rock.
At Class AA, 10 former players step up to a Class-AA roster for the first time. Most of those are with the Rangers affiliate at Frisco. Travis Demeritte has joined the Atlanta Braves club at Mississippi.
At the class high A level, nine former Crawdads will play at this level for the first time, all of those at the Rangers new affiliate at Down East.
Several former Crawdads are playing in foreign leagues, as well as independent leagues. Indy ball will start in late-April or mid-May and more will be added to those rosters as the season approaches.
Want to keep up with where former players are? Clink on the following links during the season:
The list below in order of class level, then team name. [Current Club, (Parent Club): Name (s).] Asterisks indicate players debuting at their current level when the season opened.
Major Leagues (29)
American League (16)
Boston Red Sox: Robbie Ross; Chicago White Sox: Leury Garcia; Kansas City Royals: Chris Young; Oakland Athletics: Rajai Davis; Texas Rangers: Hanser Alberto (DL), Alex Claudio, Joey Gallo, Jose Leclerc, Nomar Mazara, Rougned Odor, Martin Perez, Jurickson Profar, Drew Robinson, Ryan Rua; Toronto Blue Jays: Jose Bautista, Steven Pearce.
National League (13)
Chicago Cubs: Carl Edwards, Justin Grimm; Milwaukee Brewers: Jared Hughes; New York Mets: Neil Walker; Philadelphia Phillies: Jared Eickhoff, Odubel Herrera; Pittsburgh Pirates: Andrew McCutchen, Jordy Mercer, Tony Watson; San Diego Padres: Robbie Erin (DL), Luis Sardinas; San Francisco Giants: Neil Ramirez. St. Louis Cardinals: Zack Duke (DL).
International League (10)
Gwinnett Braves (Atlanta): Luke Jackson; Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (Philadelphia): Jorge Alfaro, Nick Williams; Norfolk Tides (Baltimore): Richard Bleier, Andrew Faulkner; Rochester Red Wings (Minnesota): Matt Hague, Nick Tepesch; Toledo Mudhens (Detroit): Chad Bell, Dustin Molleken, Alex Presley
Pacific Coast League (16)
Colorado Sky Sox (Milwaukee): Lewis Brinson, Ryan Cordell; El Paso Chihuahuas (San Diego): Jamie Romak; Las Vegas Stars (NY Mets): Wilfredo Boscan, Ben Rowen; New Orleans Baby Cakes (Miams): Tomas Telis; Oklahoma City Dodgers (LA Dodgers): Fabio Castillo, Wilmer Font; Round Rock Express (Texas): Preston Beck, Ronald Guzman, Keone Kela, Luis Marte*, Nick Martinez, Jimmy Reyes, Jose Valdespina; Salt Lake Bees (LA Angels): Cody Ege.
Eastern League (1)
Bowie Bayox (Baltimore): Jefri Hernandez
Southern League (7)
Biloxi Shuckers (Milwaukee): Luis Ortiz; Birmingham Barons (Chicago White Sox): Will Lamb; Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp (Miami): Victor Payano; Mississippi Braves (Atlanta): Travis Demeritte*, Dylan Moore; Mobile Bay Bears (LA Angels): Cody Buckel, Abel De Los Santos
Texas League (19)
Frisco RoughRiders (Texas): Jose Cardona*, Michael De Leon, Nick Gardewine*, Reed Garrett, Andy Ibanez, Ariel Jurado, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, David Ledbetter*, Shane McCain*, Yohander Mendez, Juremi Profar*, Connor Sadzeck, Ryne Slack, Luke Tendler*, Kevin Torres*, Jose Trevino*, Collin Wiles*, Sam Wolff; Springfield (St. Louis): Daniel Bard
High A (21)
Carolina League (21)
Buies Creek Astros (Houston): Akeem Bostick; High Desert Mavericks (Texas): Josh Altmann, Blake Bass*, Wes Benjamin*, Jairo Beras, Adam Choplick*, LeDarious Clark*, Frandy De La Rosa*, Peter Fairbanks*, Omarlin Lopez*, Brett Martin, Luis Mendez, Chuck Moorman, Josh Morgan, Joe Palumbo*, Pedro Payano*, Austin Pettibone, Eduard Pinto, Jason Richman, Ricardo Rodriguez, Jeffrey Springs.
Low A (1)
Midwest League (1)
Ft. Wayne Tin Caps (San Diego): Marcus Greene, Jr.
Extended Spring (not assigned to a full season affiliate):
Detroit: Jake Brigham, Jorge Marban, Los Angeles Angels: David Perez; New York Mets: Tom Gorzelanny; New York Yankees: Kellin Deglan, Eric Swanson, Dillon Tate; Pittsburgh: Greg Williams; San Diego Padres: Christian Villanueva; San Francisco: Bryan Morris; Texas: Carlos Arroyo, Matt Ball, Tyler Davis, Darius Day, John Fasola, Joe Filomeno, Eric Jenkins, James Jones, Johan Juan, Steve Lerud, Frank Lopez, David Lyon, Adam Parks, Brallan Perez, Tyler Sanchez, Jacob Shortslef, Luis Silva, Christian Torres, Xavier Turner, Evan Van Hoosier, Kelvin Vasquez, Scott Williams Cole Wiper
Independent Leagues (19)
American Association (4)
Kansas City T-Bones: Joe Jackson; Lincoln Saltdogs: Trever Adams, Chris Garia; St. Paul Saints: Mark Hamburger
Atlantic League (7)
Bridgeport Bluefish: Jonathan Albaladejo; New Britain Bees: Joe Beimel; Somerset Patriots: Chris Grayson; Southern Maryland Blue Claws: Zach Cone, Edwin Garcia; Sugar Land Skeeters: Luis Pollorena; York Revolution: Joe Van Meter
Can-Am League (2)
Rockland Boulders: Joe Maloney, Hector Nelo
Frontier League (4)
Joliet Slammers: Joseph Ortiz; Lake Erie Crushers: Adam Quintana; Normal Cornbelters: Shawn Blackwell; Southern Illinois Miners: John Werner
Foreign Leagues (14)
Dutch Professional League (1)
Amsterdam Pirates: Nick Urbanus
Italian League (1)
ASD Nettuno: Ronald Uviedo
Mexican League (6)
Acereros del Norte: Nyjer Morgan; Leon Bravos: Matt Nevarez; Saltillo Saraperos: Carlos Pimentel; Tabasco Olmecas: Rodolfo Aquirre; Tijuana Toros: Danny Gutierrez; Yucatan Leones: Jairo Asencio.
Nippon Professional Baseball (Japan) (6)
Hanshin Tigers: Roman Mendez; Hiroshima Carp: Brad Eldred; Orix Buffaloes: Matt West; Tokyo Yakult Swallows: Josh Lueke; Yokohama Bay Stars: Phil Klein, Joe Wieland
Free Agents unsigned:
Affiliated Leagues: Arizona: Matt Capps; Boston: Anyelo Leclerc; Chicago White Sox: Josh Richmond; LA Dodgers: Vin DiFazio; Miami: Trey Lambert; Philadelphia: Sean Burnett; Texas: Garrett Brummett, Frank Carvallo, Chris Dula; Sherman Lacrus, Ryan Ledbetter, London Lindley, Tripp Martin; Connor McKay, Francisco Mendoza, Jose Monegro
Independent/ Foreign Leagues: Jose Castillo, Yefry Castillo, Janluis Castro, Brandon Chaves, Humberto Cota, Cody Eppley, Teodoro Martinez, Luis Munoz, Ronny Paulino, Ryan Rodebaugh, Rock Shoulders, Johan Yan