Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (18-25, 6th place South Atlantic League Northern Division) at Lexington Legends (Kansas City Royals) (19-24, 5th place Southern)
The Hickory Crawdads play the last three games of an eight-game road trip at Whitaker Bank Ballpark
If you plan to go:
GAME TIMES: Monday-Tuesday at 7:05 p.m., Wednesday at 12:35 p.m.
Promotions: Monday: Kids Eat N’ Play for Free (Kids 12 and under eat and play in the kids play area for free); Mommy/ Son Date Night; Super Hero Night. Tuesday: $1 day (Dollar hot dogs, popcorn, ice cream sandwiches, Pepsi products). Wednesday: Hunt Brothers ½ price pizza
TICKETS: $6 for bleacher seats. $9-$23 in advance, add $2 the day of the game.
Where is it?: I-75 North/I-64 Wast to exit 113. Turn right at the end of the ramp onto North Broadway toward downtown Lexington. Follow North Broadway for approximately one and a half miles, past New Circle Road (Highway 4). Turn right into the stadium located adjacent to the Northland Shopping Center.
PARKING: $3-$5. Parking is available at the ballpark as well as other spaces within a 10-minute walk.
CONCESSIONS: Whitaker Bank Ballpark offers a wide variety of food items for fans including Big L’s Gourmet Dogs, Hunt Brothers Pizza, Colonel Cobb, Kona Ice, Kettle Cory, Broadway Cantina and more. For dining, there is the Kentucky Ale Taproom. http://www.milb.com/documents/2/4/0/46314240/Legends_2013_Tap_Room_Menu_v3_opt_0evaa6fd.pdf
Probables (Hickory/ Lexington):
Monday: RHP Jonathan Hernandez vs. RHP Travis Eckert
Tuesday: RHP Kyle Cody vs. LHP Andre Davis
Wednesday: RHP Michael Matuella vs. RHP Jace Vines
Recent Series History: The Crawdads went 10-5 against the Legends in 2016, which included 5-of-7 at Whitaker Bank Ballpark. The teams played sporadically for several years prior to 2016. In 2015, Hickory all four games, which were all played at Lexington. Before that, the teams played all games for three seasons at Hickory, with the Legends edging the Crawdads 9-7.
About the Crawdads: Hickory dropped the final game of a five-game series at Kannapolis, but won the weekend series 3-2. It is the third series the Crawdads won this season, the first against a team other than Columbia (S.C.). Overall, the Crawdads have won 5 of 7 over the past week and climbed out of the cellar of the Northern Division… The Crawdads are in danger of snapping a streak of 14 straight half-seasons above .500, stretching back to the second half of the 2009 season. Hickory will have to win 17 of the final 27 to avoid a losing record… The Crawdads lineup has been humming in May, but will have to do so for a while without Yanio Perez, who is on the disabled list with an undisclosed injury. Perez (.356/.429/.630) leads the SAL in batting average and is in the top three in on-base pct., slugging pct. OPS, hits, homers and total bases. Still, Hickory’s .284 average is the second highest in the SAL for May and the lineup scored 4+ runs in three of the four games since losing Perez. The Crawdads are third in the SAL in homers, OPS (.715) and slugging (.397), fourth in RBI and total bases. However, they are near the bottom in walks received and on-base pct. (.318)… On the mound, Hickory remains well entrenched at the bottom of the SAL in ERA (5.52), and WHIP (1.55), runs and earned runs allowed, and next to last in hits and walks allowed. However, this past week has arguably been the best for the staff and the Crawdads will run the two hottest starters for the first two games. During the five wins this past week, Hickory allowed just 11 total runs. In the two losses, it gave up 18. Hickory has allowed seven or runs 18 times in 43 games, 12 of those during the last 23.
Prospects to watch- Hickory:
CF Leody Taveras (No. 1 MLB.com and Baseball America, No. 43 Baseball America top-100 prospects, No. 51 MLB.com top-100): Signed as international free agent 2015 out of Tenares, Dominican Republic. Went hitless in three straight games for just second time this season during the Kannapolis series and sat out his first game of the season on Sunday. His slash for May is still .300/.324/.457.
SS Anderson Tejeda (No. 7 MLB.com, No. 16 Baseball America). Signed as an international free agent in 2015 out of Bani, D.R. The rate of strikeouts has lessened (40% in April, 29% in May), but so has the rate of walks (14.3% in April, 8.8% in May). Went 4-for-18 during Kannapolis series with 7 Ks, but three of the hits were doubles.
LF Miguel Aparicio (No. 14 Baseball America, No. 29 MLB.com). Signed as an international free agent in 2015 out of San Carlos, Venezuela. Is 8-for-43 (.186) since joining the Crawdads on May 10, but had a three-run double at Kannapolis on Sunday.
RHP Michael Matuella (No. 19 Baseball America, No. 20 MLB.com). Third-round pick in 2015 out of Duke Univ. After two rough starts, he gave up just one run on three hits and fanned four at Kannapolis on Thursday. Pitches have tended to catch a lot of the plate far as the SAL is hitting .410 against him over 8.1 innings (16 hits to 45 hitters faced).
RHP Jonathan Hernandez (No.17 Baseball America, No. 18 MLB.com): Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of the Dominican Republic. Pitched one-hit ball over seven innings and fanned six last Monday against Greensboro. Over his last four starts totaling 25.1 innings, Hernandez has allowed five runs on 20 hits with five walks and 26 Ks.
2B Yeyson Yrizarri (No. 17 MLB.com): Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of the D.R. Saw a 10-game hitting streak come to an end on Sunday. A stretch of at least one hit in 13 of 14 games moved his batting average from .155 on May 4 to .250.
RF Jose Almonte (No. 28 MLB.com): Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of Santo Domingo, D.R. Has perhaps begun to heat up after a prolonged slow start with an injury mixed in. Is 6-for-17 over his last five games with two walks on Sunday. His nine walks so far this season equals his entire output for 2016.
RHP Tyler Ferguson (No. 30 Baseball America, No. 30 MLB.com): Sixth-round pick in 2015 out of Vanderbilt. After two straight outings which yielded runs, Ferguson allowed just one hit in a scoreless outing on Saturday. Has fanned 22 of the 65 batters he faced, but walked or hit 12.
Others to watch – Hickory:
RHP Kyle Cody: Sixth-round pick in 2016 out of Kentucky. Returning to the city where he started for the Wildcats in college. Save for a poor start vs. Charleston (S.C.) on May 10, Cody has had a decent run this season. In his last outing on Tuesday, Cody pitched a four-hitter over seven innings and fanned 10. Held the opposition to fewer than two earned runs in four of seven starts.
1B Carlos Garay: Signed as an international free agent in 2011 out of La Victoria, Venezuela. Played this season at high-A Down East before he was assigned to Hickory this weekend due to the injury to Perez. Went 4-for-9 with an RBI in his first two games.
C Ricky Valencia: Signed as an international free agent in 2011 out of Valencia, Venezuela. Enters the series with a five-game hitting streak (7-for-19) and four RBI in that stretch.
LHP C.D. Pelham: 33rd-round pick in 2015 out of Spartanburg Methodist College. Has become a reliable arm out of the pen. Over his last seven outings (13 innings), Pelham has fanned 17 of the 59 hitters he’s faced (29%) and allowed just two earned runs on 17 total baserunners.
About the: Legends
Managed by Scott Thorman in his first season with the Legends after two years as the skipper at the Royals rookie-level club at Burlington (73-63) …Lexington returns home after a 5-3 Georgian-road trip to Augusta and Rome. The Legends are tied for the worst home record in the SAL at 5-12. Lexington has played just three home games this month (1-2)… Despite winning two of three from the Braves, the Legends pitching took it on the chin in surrendering 24 runs and playing an 18-inning affair on Friday. Earlier this season, the Legends gave up a SAL record 30 hits during a 22-4 loss to Hagerstown (Md.). Lexington has given up 46 homers in 43 games, seven more than Greensboro. The Legends are also last in hits allowed, next to last in runs allowed, and 12th out of 14 teams in ERA (4.85), WHIP (1.47) and walks allowed… A free-swinging team at the plate, the Legends can run up some numbers. They are second in runs and homers, RBI, total bases, third in hits, doubles, and OPS. Lexington is also second in Ks… The Legends have done well at shutting down the running game with catchers combining to nab 42.9% of runners trying to steal.
Prospects to watch – Lexington:
RF Khalil Lee: (No. 12 Baseball America, No. 13 MLB.com) Third-round pick in 2016 out of Flint Hill High (Oakton, VA). Was the Gatorade player of the year in Virginia last year. The Legends leadoff hitter takes a lot of pitches as he leads the SAL in Ks and is fourth in walks. Tied for 9th in runs. Posted a .213/.338/295 slash in May. A threat on the bases with 11 steals (5th in the SAL), though he has been caught six times.
C Meibrys Viloria (No. 14 MLB.com, No. 18 Baseball America) Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of Cartagena, Colombia. Was the MVP in the Pioneer League (rookie) at Idaho Falls in 2016 after posting a .376/.436/.606 slash. After a .186 average in April, Viloria has been hot in May at .339.422/.679 with four homers and 16 RBI in 15 games. Enters the series with an RBI in six straight games and seven of eight. Behind the plate has thrown out 17 of the 40 runners trying to steal.
CF Marten Gasparini: (No. 19 MLB.com, No. 22 Baseball America) Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of Ruda, Italy. Signed the largest contract given to a European prospect. Hit .196 as the Legends starting shortstop last year and has not been much better (.186) in 2017. Committed 48 errors last year precipitating the move to center. Has just four extra-base hits this year in 35 games.
SS Ricky Arcena (No. 27 MLB.com) Signed as an international free agent in 2014 out of San Francisco de Macoris, D.R. Like Gasparini, the stick has been light and the game a bit fast in the field (60 errors in 115 pro games). Started the last road trip with hits in five of the first six games, before an 0-for-7 with 6 Ks over the final two games.
Others to watch – Lexington:
LF Kort Peterson: 23rd-round pick in 2016 out of UCLA. Tabbed to the Appalachian League post-season All-Star team in 2016, as well as a Royals organizational All-Star by MLB.com. Fifth in the SAL in OBP (.405) and tied for 10th in hits. Enters the series with a seven-game hitting streak and hits in 16 of the last 18 games (26-for-77, .338). Is 8 for his last 17.
RHP Jace Vines: Fourth-round pick in 2016 out of Texas A&M. Expected to make his third straight appearance as a starter on Wednesday (10 IP, 11 H, 3 ER, 1 HB, 1 BB, 4 K). Enters the series with a 1.67 ERA as a starter. Relies on defense to make plays (1.81 GO/AO) with just 24 Ks in 40.1 innings overall.
RHP Grant Gavin: 29th-round pick in 2016 out of Central Missouri. Has struck out 23 of 81 batters faced (28%). Has allowed one earned run over 21 innings (0.43 ERA) and the league is hitting .130 against him.
1B Joe Dudek: Non-drafted free agent in 2016 out of Kentucky. Enters series with seven-game hitting streak (10-for-26, .385) with three walks. Has reached base in all ten games since he joined the Legends. Was teammate of Crawdads P Kyle Cody.
Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (15-23, 7th place South Atlantic League Northern Division) at Kannapolis Intimidators (Chicago White Sox) (20-16, Tied for 3rd place Northern)
The Hickory Crawdads start a road trip with a five-game series at Intimidators Stadium.
If you plan to go:
GAME TIMES: Thursday 7:05 p.m., Friday Doubleheader 5:05 p.m., Saturday 7:05 p.m., Sunday 5:05 p.m.
Promotions: Thursday: Motorsports Night with a Bank of America 500 ticket giveaway; Thirsty Thursday. Friday: Daddy-Daughter Date night with Pre-game Princess Parade. Saturday: Faith and Family Night with post-game fireworks; Sunday: Team Photo Giveaway, Bark at the Park; Pre-Game Autographs; Picnic in the Park (All-you-can-eat for $10).
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 Michael Matuella vs. RHP Chris Comito
Friday (DH): RHP Edgar Arredondo and RHP Reid Anderson vs. LHP Bernardo Flores/ TBA
Saturday: RHP Demarcus Evans vs. RHP Jimmy Lambert
Sunday: RHP Matt Ball vs. RHP Yosmer Solorzano
Recent Series History:
Kannapolis is 5-3 against Hickory this season, which includes a 3-1 series win at home back in April The Crawdads were 12-4 in 2016 against Kannapolis with a dominant 7-1 record at Intimidators Stadium. Since the Crawdads began the affiliation with the Rangers in 2009 they are 87-58 overall, 45-30 at Intimidators Stadium.
About the Crawdads: After a horrendous start to a just-concluded home stand, the Crawdads won the final two games vs. Greensboro to split that series and salvaged a 3-4 record. Hickory is 7-10 in road games… For the most part, the team’s pitching has posted some ugly numbers. Their 5.52 ERA is nearly .60 higher than the next lowest team (Hagerstown) and the 1.56 WHIP is .12 higher than Lexington. Hickory is second in the SAL in hits allowed and walks issued. The Crawdads team ERA would be worse if not for No. 1 starter Jonathan Hernandez (2.80) and No. 2 starter Kyle Cody (3.41). Neither are scheduled to pitch during the series. Ball and Anderson will each make their first start in the series. Hickory has allowed seven or runs 16 times in 38 games, ten of those during the last 18… The lineup continues to hum along, hitting .281/.331/.394 in May after a .235/.306/.394 slash in April. After hitting 25 dingers in April, Hickory has just eight so far this month. Overall, the Crawdads are tied for third in homers, and fourth in slugging and OPS (.709)… Hickory stole a single-game record of 8 in a game at Kannapolis in April and may again wish to take advantage of catcher Seby Zavala, who has thrown out just 7 of 37 base stealers.
Prospects to watch- Hickory:
CF Leody Taveras (No. 1 MLB.com and Baseball America, No. 43 Baseball America top-100 prospects, No. 51 MLB.com top-100): Signed as international free agent 2015 out of Tenares, Dominican Republic. Hitting .345/.362/.545 in May with seven extra-base hits. Prior to an 0-for-4 on Wednesday, he had at least one hit in 15 of 16 games, seven of those with 2+ hits. Along with 3B Ti’Quan Forbes, has played in all 38 of the Crawdads games and leads the SAL in at bats. He is also 6th in total bases.
SS Anderson Tejeda (No. 7 MLB.com, No. 16 Baseball America). Signed as an international free agent in 2015 out of Bani, D.R. Still among the leaders in the SAL in strikeouts, but the rate of his strikeouts is shrinking. Tejeda fanned in 40% of his plate appearances during April, but is down to 26.5% in May.
LF Miguel Aparicio (No. 14 Baseball America, No. 29 MLB.com). Signed as an international free agent in 2015 out of San Carlos, Venezuela. Is 5-for-23 since joining the Crawdads on May 10.
OF Yanio Perez (No. 15 MLB.com, 27 Baseball America): Signed as an international free agent out of Havana, Cuba. Leads the SAL in OBP (.430), and is tied for first with 46 hits. Other top-ten rankings: 2nd in batting avg. (.354), OPS (1.030), third in homers (8), slugging pct. (.600) and total bases, tied for third in RBI (26).
RHP Michael Matuella (No. 19 Baseball America, No. 20 MLB.com). Third-round pick in 2015 out of Duke Univ. In many ways, he is still on the mend from injuries (back and Tommy John surgery) suffered in 2015, but would like to see results. Has given up 9 runs over 5.1 innings with SAL hitters pasting him for a .481 batting avg. Is limited to 60-70 pitches per outing.
2B Yeyson Yrizarri (No. 17 MLB.com): Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of the D.R. After a 1-for-39 funk (.065) to start the season, he is more than making up for lost time with a .425/.452/.475 slash in May. Was at .155 for the season on May 4, but with hits in 9 of the last 10 games (17-for-33) – including two four-hit tilts in that stretch – he is up to .246.
RF Jose Almonte (No. 28 MLB.com): Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of Santo Domingo, D.R. Enters the series 4-for-8 in the last two games, which included a walk-off homer vs. Greensboro.
RHP Tyler Ferguson (No. 30 Baseball America, No. 30 MLB.com): Sixth-round pick in 2015 out of Vanderbilt. After five straight scoreless outings, he has given up three runs over 2.1 innings during his last two outings. He has hit or walked 12 of the 61 hitters he has faced.
Others to watch – Hickory:
RHP Edgar Arredondo: Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico. Had his best outing of the season last Friday when he allowed one run on five hits and fanned three over five innings for the win. The Intimidators has touched him up for 16 hits over nine innings in two starts.
RHP Matt Ball: Acquired from the Chicago White Sox in a trade in 2016. Expected to make his first start of the season against his old team. Has allowed two runs over five relief appearances (8.1 innings) since joining the Crawdads on 4/27/17. Fanned 12 and walked just one during that stretch.
C Ricky Valencia: Signed as an international free agent in 2011 out of Valencia, Venezuela. Returned to the team after a disabled list stint with an injured hamstring. Will split time with Alex Kowalczyk.
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… A Shermanesque march through Georgia has placed Kannapolis in the thick of the Northern Division chase. The Intimidators won three of four at Rome after taking two at Augusta… Pitching has been a strong suit with the I’s allowing just 8 total runs during their five wins on the trip. Their 3.32 ERA in May is fourth in the SAL… At the plate, Kannapolis’ .282 average for May is just behind Charleston for the league lead… Speed is not their game. The Intimidators have just 17 steals in 27 attempts, both SAL lows.
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. Has hits in each of his last three games, but is at .226/.333/.419 for May. Hickory struck him out ten times in 33 plate appearances in April.
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. Pitched four-hit ball over six innings in his last start with six Ks.
RF Micker Adolfo (No. 20 mlb.com, 24 Baseball America): Signed as an international free agent in 2013. Saw his 16-game hitting streak (24-for-66) end with an 0-for-5, four-strikeout game at Rome.
Others to watch – Kannapolis:
CF Joel Booker: 22nd round pick out of Iowa. Attended Polk County High in Columbus, NC. Is tied for 7th in hits, tied for 8th in runs scored. He tortured the Crawdads pitching staff in April with 9 hits in 26 ABs and scored seven runs.
RHP Mike Morrison: 27th round pick out of Coastal Carolina. Pitched for last year’s College World Series champions. Currently tied for second in the SAL with seven saves. Over his 14 appearances spanning 17.1 innings, he has allowed eight baserunners and struck out 26 with no runs allowed.
The Hickory Crawdads had a rough start at the plate. April rains in the area often limited the hitters work to the batting cage and on the field the Crawdads as a unit struggled to put an offense together other than homers.
Hickory jumped to the South Atlantic League’s lead in homers in April and still remain near the top. However, hitters too often missed in-game opportunities during individual at bats and wasted scoring chances as a team.
But, the season is long and as the sunshine returned to the area, the team perked up as well, especially during a late-April series against Columbia (S.C.). Yanio Perez tortured Fireflies pitching and won the Sally League hitter-of-the-week award as a result of that work and hasn’t looked back. Leody Taveras – the Texas Rangers top prospect – has been as advertised. He went through a 15-game stretch during which he had more hits (20) than swings-and-misses (15). Yeyson Yrizarri woke out of a 1-for-39 slump and has had two four-hit games this month. Anderson Tejeda has cut his strikeout rate.
The talent is here and, more importantly, it is developing. I had a chance to speak with Crawdads hitting coach Kenny Hook during the recent home stand about the young hitters and how that development is coming along.
Let me ask you first of all, the team, started really slow. You and I talked a little bit on the side about all the rain we had and guys not being able to get into a routine. Suddenly, a lot of guys have found a stroke of genius that you’ve given them, or whatever. What about that turnaround and where the guys have come from?
Hook: The weather and not being able to spend a lot of time out on the field. The main thing is, you can get kind of fooled inside a cage sometimes. Being out on the field and seeing the flight of the ball offers you some pretty valuable feedback. So, that did play a factor, but some of it is being able to get locked in on a routine, develop more of a plan and an approach at the plate, and then getting a good understanding of how they’re going to get pitched in certain situations.
I think that’s been the biggest thing is the ability to get a better pitch earlier in the count, to not be afraid to get deep into a count, then be a little more refined in a two-strike approach. I think you saw that really with our last road trip. That was really good with two outs and two strikes was a big difference.
One of the things I noticed up front – and that turned around in the second home stand – is when guys would get in hitter’s counts, they almost seemed jumpy to try and do something, rather than waiting on the next pitch. That 2-1 or 3-0 pitch wasn’t the one you wanted and they weren’t ready for a fastball. That seems to have come around.
Hook: Yeah, I think some of that is having to do with their youth. I think a lot of them really want to get big hits instead of just getting a good pitch and putting a good swing on it. They’re trying to do too much at those times. I think they get excited and a little anxious when they work themselves into good counts. They kind of anticipate something good is coming pitch wise and then maybe they chase a little bit and swing at a pitcher’s pitch in those counts.
That’s gotten a lot better. We’ve slowed it down and allowed pitchers to make mistakes more often. But, I think that’s going to come and go because we’re young. These guys get really high and then they get down on themselves because they all want to perform and they put a little too much pressure on themselves at the plate in certain situations. They’ll get better at the more games and the more times they are in those situations.
I’m going to do a little name association and start with Leody Taveras. As an 18-year-old, he brings a lot. I know you’ve watched the twitter things I’ve posted of him having more hits that missed bats over the last couple of weeks. For an 18-year-old, that’s pretty rare.
Hook: You know what, I would say, other than his baseball skills, I’ve been most impressed with just his preparation, how intense he is. He shows up and performs every night and he is really locked in as far as playing one pitch at a time. He really understands what he needs to do in certain situations in the game. He understands that guys aren’t just going to just attack him and allow him to get good pitches in certain situations.
I think the switch to the three hole has really kind of changed his mindset there. He’s been more patient and he’s really refined his play, as far as looking for a really small zone early in the count, something he can do some damage on, and then later in the count being able to use the whole field. I think shrinking the zone early has allowed him to work into deeper counts and get ahead in counts, and then trust that he can drive the ball the other way later in counts is huge for him.
You mentioned his preparation, what does he do differently than the average 18-year-old that stands out to you?
Hook: I think it’s just mentally. I don’t think it’s something you can really see as far as that. I think all the guys prepare physically. I think he has a certain way, as far as his demeanor and really processing whatever it takes to win. He’s a fierce competitor. I think a lot of them are competing and are great competitors, but he just has a knack for being able to stay in the moment and not get too outside of himself or try to do too much in certain situations. Where I think he’s built a little different, as far as being able to control his emotions at such a young age, is what stands out for me the most.
Yanio Perez started slow, but man did he find a stick in the Columbia series. He pretty much tortured anything they threw up there. He was one of those that seemed a little jumpy in hitter’s counts early, but has found a groove.
Perez: For him, I think it’s just his mind set as a hitter. He’s so good at kind of being able to hit breaking balls and offspeed pitches up the middle and the other way to where, he was seeing a lot of them and he was just giving up on fastballs and looking to drive the breaking stuff the other way and get his hits that way.
What you saw in the Columbia series, and kind of the ongoing thing with him as far as what he needs to improve on, and what we’re preaching is, stay on the fastball timing all the time. Because, at any point, he recognizes well enough to where he can still hit the offspeed the other way. What you saw in that series is, he was looking fastball and he was committed to it, so when they did hang a slider or offspeed, you saw him get the bathead out and pulled more baseballs in that series. When he gets extended and pulls the ball, obviously you’re going to do more damage. So, you saw big power numbers in that series.
When Andy Ibanez came here last year, one of things that the Rangers wanted him to do was having him get used to how baseball is played here. How has Perez coming here and playing here made those adjustments at this level, in this country, at this setting, etc.?
Hook: I think he’s done a really good job, especially for a guy that’s played multiple positions and is getting moved around a lot. He’s transitioned pretty well. Offensively, that’s been the easiest aspect. The defensive stuff at first base – he may be in right field, left field, third base, first base – I think that’s something that’s his biggest asset, as far as being able to move around. But at the same time, it does take a certain understanding that you have to get your groundballs during BP, you have to get fly balls. There’s a lot of work to stay ready to play those positions.
I would say is, what you’re seeing is that he’s a pretty sound defender when he’s on the dirt and he can always go play corner outfield, but I think being able to do both is a huge asset, I would think in the industry as a whole and obviously, for our club.
Ti’Quan Forbes has gone the opposition direction. He started real hot and has cooled off. But the thing I noticed about him last year and the start of this year is that his confidence is so much above when he started here last year. What you do you see in him, even now when he is slumping, what he is bringing to the plate?
Hook: What I think is that it’s a trust in himself and maturing and understanding his body and his swing, and he realizes if he sticks to his plan and stays and gets ready to hit fastballs, he’s athletic enough to where good things are going to happen. That confidence and I think it’s a matter of maturing.
As kids mature, they start to understand what kind of player they are, what’s important for them to have success. You’ve seen that and even through not getting hits, he’s still hitting the ball hard every night. He’s still a threat in our lineup. He spent a lot of time in that four hole where you go into a series and you put that batting average and those power numbers up on the board, they’re going pitch him a little different. I think he’s shown how much he’s grown up by the way he’s handled that.
He’ll come out of it and they’ll start falling. He hit two balls last that were right on the barrel and hit them over 90 miles an hour. That’s all you can ask for as a hitter is hard contact and eventually those are going to turn into hits.
It doesn’t look like it’s hurt him defensively and it didn’t last year. He doesn’t take it to the field.
Hook: He’s got a great routine and he realizes how important his defense is. So, I think that’s one other aspect of his maturity. He understand that once it’s time to play defense, he really focuses on that and doesn’t let his offense affect his defense and vice versa. It’s just a matter of being a well-rounded play and understanding his role and his job.
Where does Anderson Tejeda get that power? He’s still a bit of a scrawny guy and not much bigger than my 15-year-old?
Hook: Well, I think it’s what he generates in his swing. He’s got a big leg kick and he really gets a lot of separation, and there’s a ton of bat speed in there. He’s a guy who’s at bats have gotten a lot better because he’s been able to control his body a little bit. He’s another guy that understands that people aren’t going to throw fastballs inside, because that’s his strength. So, he’s been able to be more selective. He can hit the ball out to any field. I think trusting that has been the key for him. He doesn’t have to pull the ball to do damage. He’s just a talented, gifted hitter that, at his age, is pretty impressive.
Yrizarri came back and for me, that was a bit of a surprise. He came back here and struggled at the start, but has seemed to find himself again. Did he struggle with all of this coming back and trying to figure out what he’s doing here and moving positions?
Hook: I think there’s probably something to that, as far as feeling a little disappointed that he didn’t move up from here. You know, I think he understands at this point that’s what’s best for him. He’s got to take it for what it’s worth, but come out and improve on what he did last year here and play a little more second base and being able to control the strike zone better and really get more of a well-round game. I think what you’ve seen with him lately is he’s got a lot of two-strike hits. He’s not chasing as much.
I think what you saw early on was a guy who felt like: I was one swing away every time I went up there, getting big hit and then getting moved out of here as fast as possible. You’ve just got to do what you can and stay in the present every time and that stuff will take care of itself.
I’m really happy with his work ethic through all his struggles. He’s been at it every day and his mindset hasn’t changed. He’s a great kid that puts a ton of pressure on himself. He’s very emotional and cares so much about the team and about his performance that sometimes to a fault. Keeping an even keel is probably the biggest challenge and will directly affect his success.
What happened with Eric Jenkins? He came here and had really good at bats the first couple of games. But there was the Columbia series where the team had a tight game in the ninth, and he had a chance for a big hit and the uppercut swing came back. What mindset do you see with him so far?
Hook: I think it’s a work in progress. I think he was on to some really good things and having some plate discipline in there. I think, as it is with any hitter, if you don’t start to see the results, as any human would do, you revert back to what you know and what you’re comfortable with.
I expect him to go down there (extended spring) and work and be back here soon. He’s very talented and a very likable kid and he’s got a lot of tools. So, I think it’s a matter of giving him a chance to step back and just understand what he needs to do to develop his game. He’ll be back here, I’m sure pretty soon.
Who has surprised you the most to this point of the season?
Hook: To this point, I think Ricky Valencia. I’ve known, but I haven’t seen Ricky, though this is my fourth year with Texas. Ricky has never been in a situation where he’s been a frontline guy, in my time with the Rangers. His leadership – he’s a little bit older – but his ability to hit and to understand having a plan, and being that guy that can teach the younger Latin kids. He’s a great role model and a great leader for them. He’s a solid, solid guy. Every night, you know what you’re going to get. Whether he’s 0-for-4 or 4-for-4, he’s pretty much the same.
He’s probably been the most impressive because I’ve never seen him in that role and it looks like he’s talking full advantage of that chance and opportunity.
Kowalczyk is taking advantage of his opportunity.
Hook: Yeah, he’s a big strong kid that can obviously generate some bat speed. He just needs experience, I think, learning how to call a game and learning the catching position at this level. He’s been impressive since he’s gotten here with the bat.
What do we look for in Aparicio?
Hook: A guy that is a lot like Tejeda. He’s got a little pop. He can really play the outfield and has a really good and a really food competitor. He’s a guy that sprays the ball around. I think he’s got some real tools. He can run. He’s got the hitability. I think we’re getting a player that’s exciting, a lot like that players we have here right now, so he should fit in great.
Tuesday afternoon’s game was a reversal of the script that occurred much of the home stand.
The Hickory Crawdads opened up a big league early in support of strong starting pitching by Kyle Cody and cruised to a 6-1 win over the Grasshoppers in front of 3,025 fans at L.P. Frans Stadium.
The win gave the Crawdads (15-23) the final two contests and forged a split of the four-game series and closed out a 3-4 home stand. While teams generally are unhappy with that kind of homestand, given the angst of the club after a woeful stretch of pitching, 3-4 gives the Crawdads a sense of “whew” as they head out for an eight-game trip to Kannapolis and Lexington, KY.
For Greensboro (21-17), losses the last two days dropped it from second to fourth place in the South Atlantic League’s Northern Division chase. The Grasshoppers now sit two games back of first-place Hagerstown (Md.)
Hickory scored two in the first and four in the second off starter Jordan Holloway, who started his morning by hitting Franklin Rollin on the calf. A hit-and-run brought fruit as Miguel Aparicio bounced a single through the right side that moved Rollin to third. Leody Taveras’s grounder to first scored Rollin and later Alex Kowalczyk singled in Aparicio to make it 2-0.
The Crawdads batted around in the second to build a 6-0 cushion. Jose Almonte steered a single to left and one out later went to third when Anderson Tejeda doubled into the RF corner. Rollin and Aparicio both walked, which scored Almonte. The assault continued against reliever Marcus Crescentini as Yanio Perez singled in two and Kowalczyk added his second RBI hit of the game.
That was more than enough for Crawdads starter Kyle Cody, who pitched brilliantly Tuesday afternoon. The 6-7, 245 lbs. right-hander from the University of Kentucky pitched four-hit ball over seven shutout innings and struck out a pro-career high ten. After Greensboro singled in each of the first and second innings, Cody held the Grasshoppers hitless until they put up two in loading the bases with two outs in the seventh. Cody kept the fledgling shutout in tact by getting Corey Byrd to tap back to the mound.
Crawdads reliever Tyler Ferguson struck out the side around a walk in the eighth but ran into trouble in the ninth. With one out, Boo Vazquez doubled off the fence in left and advanced to third on Jarett Rindfleisch’s single. A fielder’s choice by Mason Davis got the runner from third home, but Rindfleisch reached second on a throwing error by 1B Perez. Corey Bird singled to load the bases, but then Ferguson struck out Aaron Knapp and got Justin Twine to fly to center to end the game.
Put-Away-Pitches Put Holloway Away:
Greensboro pitcher Jordan Holloway has had control issues much of his pro career (20 BB, 3 HBPs in 36.1 innings for this season after today), but his stuff (MLB.com has his fastball and curve at a 60 grade on the 20-80 scale) has been enough to put in the mid-teens range as a Marlins prospect. His control did indeed waiver as se walked three today and hit a batter during his 1.2-inning stint, but his inability to put away hitters ultimately did him in.
I didn’t see “every” pitch, but I don’t recall seeing many curveballs by Holloway, and the ones I did see didn’t have much bite. Otherwise, he stayed fastball/ change, but nothing that was commanded well.
To Hickory’s credit, the lineup did a good of spoiling his pitches and making him work. In the first, Taveras fell behind 1-2 before working the count full and rolling over the seventh pitch for a grounder to the right side that scored a run.
During the Tejeda at bat in the second, Holloway got ahead 0-2 and then left a fastball up that Tejeda smoked into right. Rollin fell behind 1-2 and then walked. Aparicio fell behind 0-2 and he, too, walked.
Perez victimized the reliever Crescetini, but taking a low breaking ball up the middle for a two-run single.
With the count 0-2 or 1-2 in the second inning, the Crawdads went 2-for-3 with two walks and four RBI.
A 6-7 player from Kentucky rebounds, and it’s not basketball:
After his last outing (2.2 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 3 K), Kyle Cody was in charge from the start. Many of his Ks came on the slider to right-handed hitters and he was able to paint the arm-side corner with his fastball for punch outs. I talked with pitching coach Jose Jaimes about Cody’s start and to the differences from last week to today.
“I’m pretty excited about Kyle. Last time was not him. Today, he came out and had the right attitude. The main thing today was that he was able to throw that slider for a strike early in the count and put guys away with it, and then also locating his fastball, for the most part.”
Cody’s work in the seventh was especially impressive given the odd circumstances the bases were loaded. Colby Lusignan struck out to start the inning, but reached on a wild pitch. The second hit of the inning happened with first base wasn’t covered on a bouncer to second. Jaimes said the ability for Cody to keep his composure was a big step.
“The last inning, he had the strikeout, but we couldn’t make the out at first. I do know that the main thing is that he stayed focused. Even with two outs when something behind him happened, he didn’t lose command of his pitches.”
I’m starting to get asked about Yanio Perez and if he is going to be promoted soon. At .354/.430/.600 over 37 games, he is certainly making a loud statement that he is ready for a challenge. However, as with his Cuban countryman last year Andy Ibanez, there are other parts of his game to work on, namely defense.
I made that response to a tweet question this afternoon and soon after a couple of plays showed up that made me look like a prophet. With two outs in the seventh, Mason Davis bounced a ball to the right side of the infield. Perez made two quick steps to the ball, then let it go to Blaine Prescott at second. Looked like a routine play, except Perez didn’t retreat to the bag at first. Davis reached without a throw.
In the ninth, a throw by Perez to start a routine 3-6 force play (I don’t think it would’ve been a double play) sailed into left center.
However, like Ibanez last year, and possibly even more so with Perez, who is two years younger than Ibanez, the Rangers could be content to just let him get used to the country and the American way of playing the game and just letting him be for a bit and having him dominate.
Another game during the homestand, another blowout loss.
The Greensboro Grasshoppers scored the first five runs and went on to an 8-2 win over the Hickory Crawdads Sunday afternoon at L.P. Frans Stadium.
The win for Greensboro (21-15) was an important win as the Grasshoppers are tied with Lakewood (NJ) for second place in the South Atlantic League Northern Division, with both teams a game behind Hagerstown (Md.). The Grasshoppers have won 9 of 10 – including the first two games of the current four-game series – and 12 of 15 to get into the division chase.
Meanwhile, Hickory (13-23) has dropped four of five and 8 of 11. Only Augusta (11-24) has a worst record in the Sally League.
Poor command and untimely defensive play was again the downfall for the Crawdads. Today, it was starter Tyler Phillips that took the brunt of things early.
Greensboro scored two in the first, which started when Eric Gutierrez was hit by a pitch – the first of five on the day. Boo Vazquez followed with a bouncer to SS Yeyson Yrizarri. His feed to start a potential double play was a slow, underhanded toss to 2B Blaine Prescott covering the bag. With the runner sliding in, Prescott’s turn and subsequent and relay to first was off the mark, which allowed Vazquez to reach. The misplay proved to be a key part of the inning as Jarett Rindfleisch doubled in Vazquez. One out later, Corey Bird singled in Rindfleisch.
Greensboro added three unearned runs in the fourth. With one out Vazquez lined a single to right and went to second when Rindfleisch was hit by a pitch. The inning began to unravel when a grounder by Luis Pintor was fielded in the hole by Yrizarri, who then attempted a force play at third. However, Ti’Quan Forbes dropped the throw, which allowed the runner to reach and loaded the bases. From there, Bird’s sacrifice fly scored Vazquez and Austin Knapp singled in two more. Phillips’s (1-2) day was done after he walked Justin Twine.
As has been the case lately, that was more than enough for starter Braxton Garrett. The Miami Marlins top prospect pitched five innings of two-hit ball to pick up his first pro win (1-0). One of the few mistakes Garrett made was a high changeup that Yanio Perez hit high off the billboards in right for his eighth homer of the season.
Matt Ball entered the game in relief of Phillips and after he got the Crawdads out of further damage in the fourth and stranded two more in the fifth, Greensboro tagged him for a run in the sixth when Colby Lusignan singled in Justin Twine.
Tyler Ferguson entered the game in the eighth on the heels of five scoreless outings (7.1 IP), but he too was not immune to the week of wildness. Bird and Knapp both singled and advanced to second and third on a fly to right. James Nelson walked and then Bird scored on a wild pitch. Lusignan was walked and Gutierrez was hit by a pitch to score Knapp and end Ferguson’s day. Kaleb Fontenot retired the final two batters of the inning pitched a perfect ninth to prevent further scoring.
Leody Taveras accounted for the final run in the ninth with a towering homer off the batter’s eye.
The beat goes on:
This afternoon’s game was the 16th time in 36 games the Crawdads have allowed seven or more runs, the tenth in the last 16 games.
In the four games during the homestand that went nine innings, Hickory has combined to throw 750 pitches with just 440 going for strikes. Today’s total: 189 pitches with 116 for strikes.
What next?: With the short outings by the starters this week – only Edgar Arredondo reached five innings – the bullpen has been taxed. Only Jake Lemoine has not seen since Thursday, and that outing was the second straight poor one for him (2.1 IP, 8 H, 7 ER, 3 BB). I would not be surprised to see the Rangers make some roster moves to help with a stretched-out bullpen, but then perhaps a rotation spot or two come open for grabs. Argenis Rodriguez (13.80 ERA in 5 appearances, 4 starts) has already been sent to Arizona. Phillips (6.39 ERA in seven outings, four starts) and Demarcus Evans (7.88 ERA in seven outings, 3 starts) could be the next to at least come out of the rotation.
One-quarter of the season is gone and adjustments have not been made. Those adjustments may need to come in Arizona and/ or Spokane.
#1 vs. #1
The matchup I wanted to see was a pair of top-100 prospects squaring off: Garrett vs. the Rangers top prospect, Taveras.
In the first, Taveras ambushed a first-pitch fastball by Garrett that was down, but served hard into right. The southpaw then caught Taveras leaning the wrong way, but Taveras was able to beat the throw to second for the steal.
In the fourth, Garrett used a fastball and change to get ahead 0-2. Taveras ignored a curve and fastball that both went low, fouled off another pitch (Don’t remember what it was) before Garrett froze him with a curveball on the 1B corner of the plate.
Impressions of Garrett:
The No. 7 overall pick made his second pro start and from what I could pay attention to – we had computer issues in getting the game info to New York – he impressed. Fastball ran 90-94 mph with some life and he mixed in a changeup liberally that stayed armside, as well as a curveball from the first inning on.
I mentioned to the stringer working the game with me in the third that the curveball seemed very loopy. He must have heard me from the press box because right after that, Garrett tied up the right-handed hitting Franklin Rollin up with back-to-back 11-5 curves that bore in on the hands as he swung through both.
As stated above, the only real mistake was the high change that Perez punished.
Had the Crawdads lineup not put together 12 hits, Saturday night’s 14-2 loss to the Greensboro Grasshoppers might be one of the uglier losses in my own memory here.
Eleven walks, three hit batters, a wild pitch, an error on a throw to first following a strikeout, two passed balls all added up to every bit of that 14-2 defeat.
To the Grasshoppers credit, the lineup was patient and took advantage of the opportunities given them. Greensboro went 10-for-28 RISP and still stranded 14 for the game.
It started so innocently. Crawdads starter Demarcus Evans needed just ten pitches to get through the first. Good, lively fastball and three F-8’s later we’re thinking, here we go. Then it happened…
Hit batter, walk, walk, K, then a walk to .134 hitter Luis Pintor sent manager Spike Owen to the mound with a matter-of-fact walk to remove Evans. Reid Anderson entered and gave up a two-run single to Corey Bird (4-for-5) and a run-scoring double to Aaron Knapp (3-for-5, 5 RBI).
In the third, with one out, Colby Lusignan and Eric Gutierrez singled. Anderson K’d Boo Vazquez, but a passed ball on strike three scored Lusignan from third. Then, hit batter, Pintor’s RBI single, Bird RBI single and Knapp’s three-run homer made it 10-0 after three.
Grasshoppers starter Dylan Lee then just had to throw strikes and he did. Through seven scoreless innings, he scattered seven hits and struck out two.
Ismel Lopez was next up for Hickory and Greensboro got him for single runs in the fifth and sixth. Pintor walked and scored on a bases-loaded walk to Lusignan. In the sixth, Knapp’s sacrifice fly brought in Jarett Rindfleisch.
An unearned run made it 13-0 in the seventh. James Nelson earned the golden sombrero, but got all the way to second when catcher Alex Kowalczyk’s throw to first to complete a strikeout went into right. Vazquez eventually singled him in.
Finally in the ninth against CD Pelham, Vazquez and Rindfleisch hit back-to-back doubles.
The Crawdads got their runs in the ninth as Ti’Quan Forbes and Yeyson Yrizarri each had RBI singles.
Our internet combined with Gameday’s brain fart late in the game skewed pitch counts from the sixth inning on. By my count, I had the Crawdads combining for 234 pitches with 125 going for strikes. Just 28 first-pitch strikes to 55 hitters.
Evans threw just 19 strikes out of 42 pitches to get five outs.
What may be:
Getting the feeling that there will be some changes made and it could be a wakeup call for some guys. Tonight was the quarter-mark of the season and we now see what the reality is. Guys are not throwing strikes or commanding pitches in the strike zone. With manager Spike Owen having to go to the pen in the first through third innings too often, guys in the bullpen are shouldering a ton of work. The rotation and pitching roster may look different when the Crawdads go to Kannapolis on Thursday.
Tough night for Kowalczyk:
Whether it was the strain of trying to will pitchers into, or catching nearly every day for a week after sitting out until last week, Kowalczyk had a tough night. Two passed balls in the third, several other pitches that were simply dropped and then the error in the seventh on a routine throw to first. He had a ground single in the fourth, but otherwise K’d twice and bounced to second.
Leody busts it:
After a tough night Friday (2 Ks and a GIDP), Taveras was his young self again Saturday. After a Willie Mays, cap-fall-of-the head running catch in the first, he lined an 0-1 pitch hard off the mound, which bounced high into centerfield. He grounded to short and third in his next two ABs, but both times he sprinted hard to first and made both routine plays close. Taveras got rewarded for that hustle in the ninth when he beat out an infield hit to third.
Yay for Yay-Yay:
Yeyson Yrizarri had the best AB I can recall seeing in the third. (This was with the team down 10-0). A 9-pitch adventure, during which he spoiled five different 1-2 pitches, turned into a hard-hit single to left on a hanging curve. An infield hit in the fifth, a double into the LF corner in the eighth and an RBI single in the ninth and he winds up with a four-hit night. Add in a leaping catch of a liner to save two runs in the fifth and that’s a pretty good night for a guy during a game when he, and others, could’ve mailed it in.
Anderson at second:
Anderson Tejeda looks pretty comfortable at second and I think I could get used to seeing him there. Made two difficult plays look easy as he charged in on both and made the quick, across the body throw to first on the run.
Yanio is Yanio:
Three hits, two of them smoked, and I think he’s getting ready to go to Columbia, S.C. with Taveras for the SAL all-star game.
Rollin is rollin’
Franklin Rollin went 1-for-5, but could’ve easily had three more hits. Lined hard to first twice and to short to end the game. Just one of those nights.
As a matter of fact:
Several hitters torched the ball but found gloves. Along with Rollin’s smashes, Ti’Quan Forbes smoked a liner to third in the seventh that nearly doubled off Perez at third. Rollin’s smash to first did double off Yrizarri in the third. Almonte had a hard hit liner to center in the fifth. Hickory had 12 hits, but could’ve had more.
Greensboro Grasshoppers (Miami Marlins) (19-15, 3rd South Atlantic League Northern Division) at Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (13-21, 7th SAL Northern)
The Hickory Crawdads continue a weeklong homestand with a four-game series against the Greensboro Grasshoppers at L.P. Frans Stadium in Sally League action.
If you plan to go:
GAME TIMES: Saturday 6:00 p.m., Sunday 3:00 p.m., Monday 6:00 p.m., Tuesday 10:30 a.m.
Saturday: Post-game concert featuring Christian artist Aaron Shust
Sunday: Mother’s Day; Church Bulletin Sunday (Bring your church bulletin to the ticket office for a discounted $6 ticket. The Crawdads will then donate $4 of each ticket to that respective church.)
Monday: Make a Difference Monday (Donate any non-perishable canned-food item at the gate (at least $5 value) for the Food Pantry for a free ticket.
Tuesday: Education Day; Business Card Special (Show a business card at the ticket office for a $5 ticket)
TICKETS: $9 dollars for regular seats, $14 for VIP section. Tickets for the Christian Concert are $15 for regular seats, $20 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 (Greensboro/ Hickory):
Saturday: LHP Dylan Lee vs. RHP Demarcus Evans
Sunday: LHP Braxton Garrett vs. RHP Tyler Phillips
Monday: RHP Michael King vs. RHP Jonathan Hernandez
Tuesday: RHP Jordan Holloway vs. RHP Kyle Cody
Recent Series History:
The Grasshoppers opened the 2017 season with a 3-1 series win at home. Overall since 2009 – the start of the Crawdads-Rangers affiliation – Greensboro is 66-64 overall, but the Crawdads are 32-28 at L.P. Frans Stadium.
About the Crawdads:
Hickory took the final game of a three-game series against Charleston (S.C.), but were blown out by a combined 25-6 in the first two games… Pitching is a major concern for the squad. Not only is the team last in the SAL in ERA (5.64), WHIP (1.57), runs allowed and earned runs allowed, but also is on pace to set club records in all categories along with hits allowed. Hickory has given up 10+ runs eight times this season, four of those have come in the last seven games… Often the Crawdads are playing catch up as the opposition has scored first in 23 of 34 games. In games they have scored first, the Crawdads are 4-7… The offense continues to plug along, hitting .289 in May. However, Hickory scored just eight runs in the three-game series with the RiverDogs. That output has been indicative of the Crawdads play at home, where they’ve scored just over three runs per and have a .224/.291/.353 slash… As a team, they are third in the SAL with 30 HRs and tied for first with Greensboro with 11 triples.
Prospects to watch- Hickory:
CF Leody Taveras (No. 1 MLB.com and Baseball America, No. 43 Baseball America top-100 prospects, No. 51 MLB.com top-100): Signed as international free agent 2015 out of Tenares, Dominican Republic. Saw his 12-game hitting streak come to an end on Friday when he fanned twice and hit into a double play. Is one of two Crawdads (Ti’Quan Forbes) to play in all 34 games this season. Posted a .350/.357/.550 slugging pct. in May.
SS Anderson Tejeda (No. 7 MLB.com, No. 16 Baseball America). Signed as an international free agent in 2015 out of Bani, D.R. Went 1-for-7 in the series vs. Charleston with four Ks. Has 16 walks, but 40 Ks in 115 plate appearances.
LF Miguel Aparicio (No. 14 Baseball America, No. 29 MLB.com). Signed as an international free agent in 2015 out of San Carlos, Venezuela. Joined the Crawdads at the start of the homestand and went 3-for-9 with a double. Also walked and was hit by a pitch.
OF Yanio Perez (No. 15 MLB.com, 27 Baseball America): Signed as an international free agent out of Havana, Cuba. Has asserted himself as THE big bat in the lineup over the last couple of weeks. Went just 1-for-10 with a walk in the Charleston series. Is one of the few hitters to hit well at home, posting a .351/.439/.649 slash. Five of his seven homers and 14 of 23 RBIs have come at LP Frans. Has also feasted against lefties at a .406/.459/.844 clip.
RHP Jonathan Hernandez (No.17 Baseball America, No. 18 MLB.com): Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of the Dominican Republic. Has been the lone wolf of the starting rotation this season, or at least the last three starts. In his last outing, Hernandez struck out ten over 5.2 innings and allowed just one run on six hits. Prior to that, he gave up two runs on five hits over 7 innings and got 11 groundball outs. His changeup is his make-or-break pitch.
2B Yeyson Yrizarri (No. 17 MLB.com): Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of the D.R. After a 1-for-39 funk (.065) to start the season, Yrizarri is back over .200 (.217) with hits in six of seven games. Went 4-for-8 in the series vs. Charleston. Lefties have contained him, however, at a .152/.152/.273 clip.
RF Jose Almonte (No. 28 MLB.com): Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of Santo Domingo, D.R. Since missing a week with a leg injury, Almonte is 6-for-33 (.182) since his return.
RHP Tyler Ferguson (No. 30 Baseball America, No. 30 MLB.com): Sixth-round pick in 2015 out of Vanderbilt. Working on a string of five straight scoreless outings covering 7.1 innings with 14 Ks.
Others to watch – Hickory:
RHPs Demarcus Evans and Tyler Phillips: The two had worked in tandem this season, but will now be in the rotation as full-fledged, solo members. Evans has a better ERA (3.12 to 12.00) and strikeout ratio (34% to 25%) as a reliever, while Phillips has been better as a starter (5.40 ERA to 8.10).
RHP Kyle Cody: 6th-round pick in 2016 out of Kentucky. Along with Hernandez, he had been steady in the rotation, but was roughed up in his last outing (5 ER, 5 H, 2.2 IP). Has lost four straight starts, but prior to that last start, he had allowed just four earned runs (three homers) and fanned 11 over 15.2 innings in that stretch.
P Kaleb Fontenot: 21st round pick in 2016 out of McNeese St. His 14 Ks per 9 IP is the fifth best among SAL relievers. Is unscored upon in six of nine outings, but gave up three runs in 2.1 IPs vs. Charleston on Wednesday. However, he did fan five in that appearance and he has 18 Ks in his last 10 innings.
About the Grasshoppers:
Managed by Todd Pratt in his first season… The former major league catcher was the head coach at West Georgia Tech the past five seasons… Greensboro saw its seven-game win streak snapped last night at Lexington (Ky.), but has still won 10 of the last 13… Despite playing in a hitter-friendly home park, the Grasshoppers have just 20 homers this season, eight of those in 17 road games, Conversely, the pitchers have allowed 32 HRs, the second most in the Sally League. However, just eight of those are surrendered on the road… Collectively, the Grasshoppers hitters get deep into counts, as they are tied for first in walks and are second in strikeouts… Greensboro will test the arms of the Crawdads catchers as it is third in the SAL in steals and caught stealing attempts…. The Grasshoppers are 8-0 in one-run games and 10-3 when they score first… Defensively, Greensboro is third in the SAL in fielding pct.
Prospects to watch –Greensboro:
LHP Braxton Garrett (No. 1 MLB.com, No. 1 Baseball America, No. 37 MLB.com top-100, No. 80 Baseball America top-100): First-round pick (7th overall) out of Florence (AL) High School. Pitched for the 18-and-under USA World Cup team in 2015, which won the gold medal. Published reports rated his curveball as one of the best in the 2016 draft class. Made his pro debut last Sunday vs. Rome (4.2 IP, 1 H, 1 unearned run, 3 BB, 4 K).
3B James Nelson (No. 10 MLB.com, No. 18 Baseball America): 15th-round pick in 2016 out of Cisco JC (Texas). Did not start the season with the Grasshoppers until April 21. Currently has a 10-game hitting streak with multiple hits in eight of them and 2+ hits in 9 of 12 games. Went 7-for-14 at Lexington. Made 12 errors in 40 games last year, but just three so far in 2017.
RHP Jordan Holloway (No. 15 Baseball America, 16 MLB.com): 20th round pick in 2014 out of Ralston Valley High, Arvada CO. After a solid short-season year with Batavia in 2015, he took a step backwards when he struggled with control with the Grasshoppers (15 walks/ 31 innings over eight starts) then was shut down with a triceps injury after a demotion back to Batavia. The control issues remain with 17 BBs in 34.2 IPs this season. However, he showed his promise on 4/28/17 at Asheville when he threw five no-hit innings – though he walked three.
RHP Sam Perez (No. 18 MLB.com, 23 Baseball America): Fifth-round pick in 2016 out of Missouri St. Gave up 14 earned runs in 9.1 innings over his first five relief outings, but has been unscored upon in his last three appearances. SAL hitters have touched him for a .321 average.
2B Justin Twine (No. 26 MLB.com, 28 Baseball America): Second-round pick in 2014 out of Falls City (TX) High. In his third season with the Grasshoppers. Ks have held him back. He entered the season with 276 strikeouts in 970 ABs and is at 35 out of 98 in 2017. Still just 21, but the Marlins patience may be wearing thin for a third-year guy hitting .153/.222/.194.
Others to watch –Greensboro:
RHP Michael King: 12th-round pick in 2016 out of Boston College. Named the SAL pitcher of the week on April 16 after allowing two hits over seven innings at Lakewood (NJ). He equaled that in his last start on Wednesday at Lexington (KY).
RHP Kyle Keller: 18th-round pick in 2015 out of SE Louisiana. Fifth in the SAL with five saves, has 15 Ks over 11.1 innings.
Notes: Crawdads IF Blaine Prescott was activated from the disabled list (hamstring) with C Shaq Matta going to extended spring.
In anticipation of an oncoming storm, neither the Hickory Crawdads and nor the Charleston (S.C.) RiverDogs expected to see a full nine innings Friday night. Played in a cool mist from the start, the game made it to the sixth inning before rain claimed the remaining innings and the Crawdads would up with a 2-1 win.
With the win, the Crawdads (13-21) salvaged the final game of the three-game series with Charleston (17-18), a series in which the RiverDogs took the first two by a combined 25-6 margin.
Fully aware of the rain to come, the game kept a brisk pace and that seemed to help both starting pitchers attack hitters effectively.
Hickory’s Edgar Arredondo had his best outing of the season as he allowed a run on five hits over five innings and struck out three. The five innings tied his longest outing of the season and he picked up his first win (1-2) of the season.
Coming off a rough week in which most of the Crawdads starters struggled, Arredondo’s outing was a welcomed sight for manager Spike Owen.
“It was really, really good to see,” said Crawdads manager Spike Owen. “He attacked the hitters tonight and really went after them. He had a really good changeup tonight and kept a good hitting team in check.”
A key moment, as it turned out, came in the fourth inning. Blake Rutherford doubled and when Donny Sands singled to left, manager Patrick Osborn gambled and sent Rutherford to the plate. Strong throws by LF Miguel Aparicio and 3B Yanio Perez got the ball to C Alex Kowalczyk in time, but the throw handcuffed the catcher and forced the backstop to drop the ball.
Sands went to second and advanced to third on a back.
Arredondo got two of his three Ks back-to-back to end the innings as both Brandon Wagner and Isiah Gilliam whiffed to strand Sands at third.
“Leaving the guy stranded at third base was big,” said Owen. “(Arredondo) showed good mound presence and composure. He attacked the hitters, which is what you have to do. His fastball and changeup were very effective.”
Former Texas Rangers farmhand Nick Green was nearly as sharp early, but then ran into trouble in the fourth. He walked Perez to start the inning then surrendered a double to right-center by Kowalczyk. A balk scored Perez and moved Kowalczyk. Ti’Quan Forbes served a soft fly to shallow CF. Rutherford lost the ball off the bat and his late charge for the catch went unrewarded with Kowalczyk scoring on the bloop single.
Green allowed just the two runs on five hits. He also walked three and struck out four.
That was all the rain allowed as the game was called after a 40-minute delay in the sixth.
The Charleston RiverDogs entered Thursday night’s game with a South Atlantic League high .319 batting avg. in May. The Hickory Crawdads have the league’s worst pitching statistically. That’s proved to be a bad combination over the last two nights and on Thursday, the result was a 14-4 thrashing by Charleston in front of 2,525 fans at L.P. Frans Stadium.
For the second straight night, Charleston (17-17) scored the first nine runs of the game and cruised to victory. The Crawdads (12-21) have been outscored 25-6 over the first two games of the three-game series.
Charleston put the first five runners aboard and eventually sent ten to the plate in the first inning to open a 6-0 lead. Poor defense and poor pitch execution by starter Michael Matuella went hand-in-hand. (More on the defense later.)
Matuella had little command of the fastball in his lone inning, which started with a four-pitch walk to Estevan Florial. After a dubious bloop single to center by Isaiah Gilliam, Hoy Jun Park tripled in both runners. Blake Rutherford singled in Park. Oswaldo Cabrera’s sac fly got a run and Diego Castillo’s two-run single capped the scoring and ended Matuella’s night.
The RiverDogs treated lefty Sal Mendez no better in the second as they sent eight more to the plate and scored three. Gilliam reached on an error and after Park replaced him on a fielder’s choice, Donny Sands singled him in. Cabrera added two more with a single.
Brian Keller kept the Crawdads without a baserunner until the fourth before Miguel Aparicio’s grounder went through the infield. Hickory finally got on the board one inning later as Isaiah Quiroz singled in two.
Alex Kowalczyk (2-for-4) hit a two-run homer in the sixth to cut the Crawdads deficit to 9-4.
However, RiverDogs tacked on three in the eighth and two in the ninth, all against Jake Lemoine, to account for the final margin.
“They have a good hitting ballclub, no doubt,” said Crawdads manager Spike Owen. “We just have to find a way pitching wise to limit the damage and make better pitches. That’s the bottom line. We’re not doing it. We’re not getting it done. The last two nights, we’ve not given our offense a chance to do anything.”
Crawdads pitching beginning to look historic… and not in a good way.
As a team, the Crawdads 5.72 ERA and 1.59 WHIP are the worst in the Sally League. They also have allowed the most hits, runs, and earned runs. With the quarter of the season two games away, one begins to look at how they stack up to Crawdads club records. They’re chasing a few.
Hickory has had just two seasons with an ERA over five, which came in back-to-back seasons in 2007 (5.13) and 2008 (5.02). The club record for the worst WHIP in a season is 1.54 in 2007. The Crawdads are also on pace to set club records for the most hits, runs and earned runs allowed.
Defense was offensive:
While Matuella didn’t have his best stuff, some of the first inning struggles could be laid at the feet of the defense.
After Florial walked, Gilliam hit a short fly to center that appeared to be an easy can of corn for Leody Taveras. Meanwhile, shortstop Anderson Tejeda and second baseman Yeyson Yrizarri were pulling a double-play decoy on Florial running hard to second. The decoy worked beautifully except… Taveras couldn’t pick up the ball and with no fielders pointing out the ball, eventually it fell harmless to the turf. So what could’ve been a double play with Florial totally fooled at second turned into a 1st & 2nd situation with no outs.
Later in the inning, a routine double play turned into one out when Tejeda’s throw to first went wide of Yanio Perez’s stretch at first.
And still later in the inning, 3B Ti’Quan Forbes took his time on a grounder by Ben Ruta. Forbes circled around to make the play, but as he appeared in no particular hurry to complete the play, Forbes throw to first was beaten by the hustling Ruta.
A frustrated Owen spread the blame around equally between hurlers and defenders.
“It accumulates and everything when you don’t make plays,” said Owen. “But, we talk to (the pitchers) all the time that sometimes you’re going to have to get four outs and sometimes five outs in an inning. You’re even going to do that in the big leagues. Obviously, not nearly as much, because they are big league infielders, but they have to overcome those things. They sooner they learn that and figure it out rather than say, ‘I should’ve been out of the inning’ or whatever. It is what it is out there….”
Owen later added, “We’ve got to clean it up all the way around, especially the pitching and defense. We’ve been working really hard during the last four defensively and cutting b.p. time saying ‘Let’s have a clean game.’ We haven’t been able to do that.”
Better Call Sal:
Once Mendez got settled, he went on to retire the last 14 batters he faced and fanned 6 over 5.1 innings. His work allowed the Crawdads offense to chip away at the lead and take some momentum into the late innings.
The two parts of his outing show just how careful he has to be with his stuff. His changeup is a formidable pitch, at least at this level, and had 7 or 8 missed bats. That with his fastball at 90-91, if he keeps his pitches down, he’s tough.
“I thought Mendez did a really nice job,” Owen said. “His first inning of work he left some balls up and he paid for it. Then he comes out and puts up zeroes from that point on. That’s a good adjustment by him.”
The way that Charleston starter Brian Keller mowed through the first three innings, it looked like history was in the making. He fanned six of the first ten hitters, which included a 10-pitch, three-strikeout third inning. The second time through the order, Keller started missing his location and the Crawdads hitters adjusted to the breaking ball.
Owen: “The guy that started was impressive and did exactly what you’d want to see with a guy that’s got a nine-run lead in popping and pounding the zone. We made some adjustments. It’s good to see that you’re down nine runs and still have competitive at bats from our side.”
Smoral on the Fire:
Lefty Matt Smoral made his Crawdads and Rangers affiliate debut on Thursday. A tall presence at 6-8, a SLOW delivery seemed to make his fastball even faster as it whipped from his left hand to the plate. However, the delivery never seemed in control as he flailed about the mound. There’s a lot of moving parts to the motion.
Smoral walked two and threw quite the wild pitch to the back stop. Control has been the issue for the former Toronto Blue Jays first-round pick as he has walked or hit 122 batters in 107.2 innings as a pro
Who was that Lemoine’s jersey?
There seemed to be a body language on the mound that said, “here ya go, hit it if you can.” And Charleston did: Five runs on six hits – all hit hard – over two innings of relief. Fastball straight as an arrow and it went to the wall harder. Throw in a walk and two wild pitches and you have a RiverDogs lineup fattening their stats.
Meanwhile, It’s the second poor outing in a row for the right-hander, who allowed two in a walkoff loss at Hagerstown (Md.) last Saturday.
The Texas Rangers announced player moves for the Hickory Crawdads as they begin a three-game series vs. the Charleston (SC) RiverDogs tonight.
Added to the roster:
OF Miguel Aparicio, LHP Matt Smoral
Aparicio signed with the Rangers in 2015 out of San Carlos, Venezuela. Last year in the Dominican Summer League, he posted a .274/.337/.397 slash in 58 games. Showed good patience at the plate with 18 walks to just 36 Ks. Can pop the ball out of the park (3 homers), for now is likely to be a line-drive, gap-to-gap type of hitter. In skipping two levels, Aparicio is making his stateside debut. Aparicio is the Rangers No. 14 prospect, according to Baseball America; MLB.com has him at No. 29.
Smoral was a Rule-5 pickup (Triple-A phase) by the Rangers last winter from the Toronto Blue Jays. A former first-round pick of Toronto in 2012, the Solon, Ohio, now 22, has made just five appearances above short-season ball, that coming in 2015 with High-A Dunedin (FL). A combination of injuries (foot, line drive) and ineffectiveness (95 BBs, 25 HBPs in 106.2 pro innings) has derailed, to this point, a promising career. He has yet to throw more than 53.2 innings in any pro season (2014), and has just 27.1 over the last 2 years combined. Smoral does have 136 Ks. Is likely to pitch out of the bullpen, as he has not started since 2014.
Deleted from the roster:
OF Eric Jenkins, RHP Argenis Rodriguez
Jenkins started well in his encore season with the Crawdads, working the counts deep and making contact. However, the uppercut swing soon returned and so did the Ks (16 in 49 PAs). Had a .163/.250/.186 slash over 12 games. Still just 20, the Rangers will be patient with their 2015 2nd round pick, but with Leody Taveras slashing away, the CFs prospect clock in the system is ticking. Guessing he gets an assignment to short-season Spokane to figure things out.
Rodriguez just never got his groove going in his first full-season opportunity. South Atlantic League hitters walloped a healthy .429 average against him to go with six walks in 15 innings. He gave up nine runs in his last outing against Hagerstown on Sunday and had yet to last more than 4.1 innings. At 21, my guess is Spokane will get a look at him.