Results tagged ‘ Cody Buckel ’

Series Preview: Asheville at Hickory July 22-25

The Hickory Crawdads begin a seven-game road trip with a three-game series against the Asheville Tourists at McCormick Park.

Probables (Hickory/ Asheville):

Wednesday: Cody Buckel (RH, 0-4, 3.32) vs. Sam Howard (RH, 4-8, 4.24)

Thursday: Brett Martin (LH, 4-4, 3.31) vs. Helmis Rodriguez (LH, 7-4, 3.49)

Friday: Ariel Jurado (RH, 10-0, 2.10) vs. Ryan Castellani (RH, 0-6, 4.04)

Recent Series History:

The Crawdads are 5-1 against the Tourists in 2015, including a four-game sweep at McCormick back in April. Over the last three seasons, Hickory is 11-1 at Asheville and 20-16 since 2009.

Entering the Series – Hickory:

The Crawdads (56-37 overall, 12-13 second half) dropped the final two games of a series against Augusta to finish a weeklong homestand at 4-3. After scoring 38 runs in the first four games of the homestand, Hickory scratched out just five over the final three. The lineup is batting .254/.319.382 for the season in what has been a down year for offense in the South Atlantic League. Hickory is second in the SAL with 66 homers.

After scuffling on the last road trip, the pitching staff returned to its old self by allowing seven earned runs over the last five games. Overall, the club leads the SAL in ERA (2.90), WHIP (1.17), and has given up the fewest hits, runs and earned runs.

Defensively, the Crawdads have committed a SAL-low of 80 errors.

Entering the series- Asheville:

The Tourists (48-46, 16-8) took the last three games at Greenville to close out a 5-2 road trip. Oddly Asheville is just 22-22 at home this season (5-4 second half), while carrying a winning record on the road.

As usual, the Tourists bashed mound opponents at home (.278/.353/.442), but have only scored 20 more runs at home than on the road. Opponents are hitting .288 at McCormick and 41 of the 55 home runs allowed by Tourists pitching have occurred there. Asheville has 205 stolen bases this season to lead the SAL.

Defensively, Asheville have the worst collective group in the league with 145 errors committed in 94 games (.961 fielding).

Players to watch- Hickory:

OF Luke Tendler: He continues to be among the hottest hitters in the SAL, and certainly on the Crawdads. He is leads the Crawdads in total bases and tied with Carlos Arroyo for the most hits (28) in the second half. His 21 RBI are second in the SAL. For the year, Tendler is fourth in doubles (23) and fifth in total bases.

CF Jose Cardona: Has become a catalyst for the offense since moving to the leadoff spot. Before ending the homestand 0-for-8, Cardona had a nine-game hitting streak during which he went 17-for-34, scored 12 runs, knocked in 10 runs and stole seven bases. A dead-red, fastball hitter, Cardona has a .304/.375/.532 slash leading off an inning.

SS Josh Morgan: Has handled shortstop well since the injury to Michael De Leon, going 25 games without an error at the position. At the plate, he continues to hold up in his first full season. Morgan has shown a good eye with at least one walk in ten of his last 15 games (13 total) and has reached base in 15 of 18 games.

2B Carlos Arroyo: Went three straight games without a hit for the first time in his Crawdads career to close out the homestand.

OF Jairo Beras: Hitting .288 in July and July and has 23 of his 26 RBI the last two months.

SP Cody Buckel: Looking to corral control issues, has walked 15 batters and hit five in his last 23 innings (5 starts). He also has 16 Ks over last 15 innings.

SP Brett Martin: After posting his shortest start of the year (1.2 innings at Lakewood), Martin put up one of his better ones in his last outing against Greensboro when he allowed two runs on five hits over seven innings. Martin threw three-hit ball over six innings at Asheville back in April.

Ps Ariel Jurado/ Yohander Mendez: The tandem continues to wreck havoc on opposing lineups. In their five outings together, the duo has allowed 36 baserunners and struck out 39 over 34.2 innings. Separately, Mendez has a 1.15 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP in 39 innings, while Jurado has a 2.10 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP.

Players to watch – Asheville:

C Dom Nunez: The number nine prospect (mlb.com) of the Colorado Rockies has had a dominant second half with a SAL-high seven homers to go with a .373/.506/.780 slash. He was drafted in the sixth round (2013) as an infielder, but the Rockies moved him behind the plate. His 16 errors lead all catchers

CF Omar Carrizales: The Rockies No. 30 prospect currently leads the SAL in batting .328 and is fifth in OPS at .843. He has six multi-hit outings in his last ten games. The speedster has stolen 21 bases in 64 games.

OF Drew Weeks: Among the hottest hitters in the SAL with a .357/.446/.607 slash in the second half. Overall, he is second in the SAL with 24 doubles and 55 RBI. Weeks

1B Roberto Ramos: The native of Mexico has crushed the ball since joining the Tourists on July. In 16 games, Ramos has four homers and posted a .361/.420/.607 slash. The lefty is batting .421 against right-handed pitching.

SP Ryan Castellani: The Rockies second-round choice in 2014 out of Phoenix is the No. 10 prospect. He has managed to put up good numbers and McCormick (4.33 ERA) and kept the ball in the park, giving up one homer in 27 innings. Castellani has thrown five innings just twice in 18 starts.

SP Helmis Rodriguez: Currently the No. 27 prospect in the Rockies system, the lefty has walked seven and hit four in his last two starts, leading to 13 runs (9 earned) covering 5.2 innings.

RP: Josh Michalec: The Rockies’ 21st-round selection out of Baylor has six saves in eight chances this month. He can be wild at times (8 walks in last 22.1 innings), but rings up strikeouts as well (42 in 43 innings.

Clark Talks Crawdads Pitching

Sunday’s game (July 19 vs. Augusta) marked the two-thirds point of the South Atlantic League season for the Hickory Crawdads and the story of 2015 has been the pitching staff. Five starting pitchers and a reliever claimed spots on the South Atlantic League’s all-star team and the group has a chance to rewrite the Crawdads record book.

With the final 46 games of the season still left to be played – plus the playoffs – the Crawdads have the potential to set single-season records in fewest hits, runs, earned runs, and homers allowed, as well as in ERA and WHIP.

Texas Rangers minor league pitching coordinator Danny Clark was in Hickory this week to fill in for Crawdads manager Corey Ragsdale during his vacation. Clark had an extended, first-hand look at most of the pitching staff during his visit and he sat down with me to give an assessment of several individual pitchers.

First I just want to get just an overview. We are almost two-thirds of the way through the season and this has been one of the better pitching staffs we’ve had here. Let me first get your overall impression from what you’ve seen.

Clark: I think from the experience level that these guys have right now, coming into pro ball, most of them are one to two-year starters, to be able to do what they’ve done to this point, I think the biggest accomplishment to me is to make every start. That’s been a goal of ours to see from start to finish them being healthy. We’ve got two or three guys in the rotation who haven’t been able to do that in the past. So I think first and foremost, that’s our main goal.

Let me ask first about the guy that wasn’t talked about a lot coming in – seeing him pitch, I don’t know why – and that’s Ariel Jurado. Pretty much from day one he’s six, seven innings when he’s started. He kept down the opposition and has developed some pitches along the way.

Clark: I think in Jurado’s case, obviously, I’ve got to admit I didn’t see the high ceiling leaving instructs last year. Some of our pitching coaches were talking about changing a little bit on his arm slot and trying to get more of a run or a sink to his fastball. I think he took that in the winter and came back to spring training and was very impressive.

He had a very good spring training, so he earned his right to get here. Then from that point on I think just the confidence level that he’s had.  Oscar Marin has done a good job of trying to keep him continue to go forward. A lot of times guys, especially young pitchers that jump out record wise, they look at their stats. We throw out new competitions for him and his mind to keep that cultivating. That has been a big plus for him.

Yohander Mendez and Jurado are in the tandem right now. Mendez started the season in the bullpen and I know the plan was to get him back into the rotation at some point. I know a lot of the focus with him has been to keep him healthy.

Clark: Last year we only had him for 31 innings and we had to shut him down. Our goal for this year was to get him to around the 90-inning mark. We see Mendez as a high-ceiling starter. He has a good feel for all three of his pitches. Sometimes a pitcher like that can become bored on the mound. So, just keeping those small, short-term challenges for Mendy has been the thing for him mindset wise, versus just looking at the results all the time.

The two of them have gone in tandem the last four or five starts. Is there a a point where they will break back out as individual spots? I know with Mendez you want to build up the innings and do you see that with Jurado as well?

Clark: Both of them, we’ve got to control their innings. You won’t see them be by themselves, other than the tandem, until the playoffs. We’ll keep them that way. We’re committed to keeping this rotation together.

We’ve tried to build this rotation how we have in the past with a couple of different rotations that’s been here to kind of keep five or six guys together, as they go through the system, I think competing against each other. But to answer the question of those two, I think they’ll have to stay on those things just from the innings standpoint.

Let me get an update on Luis Ortiz’s progress after being out the past month.

Clark: He went to Dr. (Keith) Meistner, our team doctor today. He should be back. We got good reports from him. We didn’t think it was nothing severe in anyway. We’re going to start seeing him do his throwing program next week and he’s going to start doing bullpens. So, we’re probably looking to see him realistically sometime in mid-August.

Stuff wise, for the most part, he looked really good.

Clark: Obviously, he’s got stuff. He was drafted in the first round for a reason. Our job is to not worry about stuff, but to cultivate all the maturity things that goes in to being a starting pitcher at a high level. So that’s the process that he’s going through. He’s doing a lot better in his workouts.

He’s doing a lot better, really, just paying attention to detail that goes into it. Obviously, we have a high ceiling for Luis. We think a lot of Luis. It’s just the process that he and a lot of guys have to go through.

Collin Wiles. Everyone I’ve talked to raved about his off-season work and how he put it into practice this year. What sort of challenges does he have left at this level before he moves up? Or has he shown you that he’s about ready?

Clark: In some ways, yes he has. I go back to Collin finally committed to having ownership of his career. I think it started there. I don’t think there was no one that was involved other than Collin.

Going forward, I do see sometimes, do we challenge Collin and send him to High Desert? I think it goes back to the philosophy of what we build the pitching rotations around, competing against each other more than the opposition. So we’ve decided to keep those same six guys together. Could he go? Yes, he probably could, but I think long term it allows him to compete against this team.

Let me ask you about a couple of guys of interest to me. Scott Williams was a guy that didn’t pitch a lot in college. He had trouble hitting the strike zone last year and a little bit at the start this year. Since early June, he’s found a groove and found the plate. He seems more comfortable with the off-speed pitches. Your view on him.

He’s a converted guy, who was a position player in college. So, anytime you convert someone it’s usually a year process before you start seeing more fluidity as a pitcher. Last year, he kind of threw like a position player.

I think Oscar’s done a good job as far as getting his hands more relaxed on the mound and getting his body in a better position, and then obviously confidence and results. When you have good results, confidence builds it, and it continues to go for him.

Yesterday, I was very impressed with him. More than anything, yes I saw the velocity, but I saw the easiness of the delivery. It wasn’t compared to last year, where I thought he forced a lot of things on the mound and tried to muscle the ball there, versus allowing his arm to carry the ball.

Let me ask you about Cody Buckel and his ups and downs. I know it’s been a long process. He’ll have some good days and he’ll have some not good days. Where do you see him in that process?

We all know Cody and he had a lot of success at an early age. Sometimes, that’s a fault, because we push him and he goes to big league camp as a 19-year-old and flies through A ball and AA.

Cody’s in a situation right now where I’m more concerned with how Cody is as a person. I focus on those things with Cody. We don’t try to focus on what he’s doing on the mound. Cody’s an outstanding person, a young man that’s got a lot of upside in whatever he does after baseball. So, I think we focus more on that with him right now and try to get some of the attention off of him, as far as being a pitcher, but just being an everyday person.

You’ve got a couple of guys sent here in Erik Swanson and Shane McClain. McClain seems to be a guy that can be used in various roles. Swanson at the back end can throw some heat. What are they here to work on?

Swanson, we held him back coming out of spring training. I see him as a starter eventually, so you’ll probably see him the next six weeks start building into more of a starter role, as we do some different things with some of the starters, maybe giving some guys some breaks. I do like his fastball. He does have to do some things to keep himself in top shape.

I think McClain is a guy who had a very good spring. He signed as a free agent last year after the draft. We felt like maybe we could push him a little bit to High Desert. Probably looking back, and I have told Shane this, we should have started him at Hickory and let him get his feet wet before we sent him going forward. So I take the blame for that more than anything. We can use Shane in a lot of different roles. He started for us in High Desert for a couple of spot starts. He can give his length and multiple innings, back-to-back days. So, he’s a very versatile pitcher.

Austin Pettibone has been interesting coming into the rotation. I know he started for you before. He can throw low to mid-90s and he’s talked about developing his changeup. What can you say about his development?

Austin was a starter in college. Coming out of spring training, you can only send six starters to a full-season club, so we had him starting in extended knowing that at some point that we were going to send him here. We just had to find the right time.

I see him as a sinkerballer, groundball type guy, He’s a mature guy. He’s a mature college pitcher. So, we kind of expect some of these things to happen here. We’re just now getting him stretched out. Really, in my mind, it’s a little early to make a decision on Austin whether he is going to the bullpen or if he is going to be a starter.

Let me ask you of one other guy and that’s Nick Gardewine. Another guy, like Pettibone, who started in the bullpen before coming to the rotation. He’s had some ups-and-downs, but had a nice last outing.

Nicky was a guy coming out of spring training who got hampered with a foot issue. So, we brought him here out of the bullpen. He was building up as a starter, so I felt like he got behind the eight ball there for about the first month. Nicky, for me, if his slider is on, he’s going to go deep in the game. He’s got to be able to have a better feel for his change. Until he can do that, I feel like that he, right now, is a two-pitch pitcher from what I saw a couple of days ago. He knows that and that’s things that he’s got to work on.

I still think Nicky’s a young guy – he’s a little older than most of the starters here – but when we get some innings on him, I foresee him down the road. Could he be a starter? Yes. Could he go into the bullpen? There’s a lot of options there because he does have a good fastball.

This year has been the first year, I can recall, of having a six-man rotation, with the idea that you’re not going to skip starts in the middle of the year like what has happened in the past. Has that gotten the results that you were looking for, as far as keeping guys healthy for the year?

We hope so. I don’t want to speak too quick on it because we’re doing it here and High Desert and Spokane. We’re doing it at all our lower levels. I’ve seen, as far as our velocity goes, more consistent velocity going across the board.

Typically in a five-man rotation at the lower levels, you hit June and August, you start seeing velocity drop. So, I haven’t seen the drastic drop as I have in the past. So, that’s one thing. Obviously being healthy, we’re seeing good signs of that. There’s a lot of positives to it. I think if you ask me the same question when the season’s complete and we start getting more concrete data, I might have a different opinion about it. As of right now, I like the flow of it. I like what I’m hearing from the pitchers and from the pitching coaches.

I’ve got to ask you about Brett Martin. He had a rough time in his last outing, but was obviously very sharp tonight (July 16 vs. Greensboro). He talked about having to stay within himself to make things work for him.

I thought he showed stuff early. Then after his stuff early, around the fifth inning he had to work himself out of some jams. I thought Martin’s fastball obviously was probably 93-95 tonight. His breaking ball for me was probably the least pitch of the secondaries. He tended to pitch to his changeup.

Brett’s got a very high ceiling. What I don’t think a lot of people understand with Brett is that you don’t teach the things that Brett has and he’s got a lot of God-given talent.

To me, I was more pleased to see him finish the seventh. I went out there to basically talk to him and see where he was at. He said he wanted to finish the seventh, and so I thought it was a huge development for him.

Series Preview: Greensboro at Hickory July 14-16

The Hickory Crawdads (52-34 overall, 8-10 second half) entertain the Greensboro Grasshoppers (34-53, 5-13) for the second time and final time this season at L.P. Frans Stadium.

Probables (Greensboro/ Hickory):

Tuesday: Enderson Franco (RH, 0-0, 1.50 ERA) and Nick Gardewine (RH, 4-6, 4.50)

Wednesday: Tyler Kolek (RH, 4-6, 4.69) and Cody Buckel (RH, 0-3, 2.65)

Thursday: Luis Castillo (RH, 4-3, 2.93) and Brett Martin (LH, 3-4, 3.39)

Recent Series History:

Hickory is 8-2 against the Grasshoppers in 2015, which includes a 3-0 series sweep at home back in May. Since the Texas Rangers- Crawdads affiliation began in 2009, the Greensboro holds a 50-48 lead in the series with the Crawdads having a 25-22 advantage at home.

Entering the Series – Hickory:

The Crawdads limp home after losing five of six to cap a season-high, nine-game road trip. Four of the losses came in a five-game series at Lakewood, N.J. During the 1-5 stretch, the opposition banged out 50 hits and scored 32 runs.

Hickory owns the South Atlantic League’s best record and the best home record (28-15).

The Crawdads lead the SAL with a 2.90 ERA, a 1.16 WHIP and have given up the fewest hits, runs and earned runs in the league.

At the plate, Hickory holds the top spot in the SAL with 63 home runs. They are third in slugging pct. (.383) and total bases.

In the field, the Crawdads remain at the top of the SAL in fielding pct, having committed the fewest errors and turning the most double plays.

Entering the Series – Greensboro:

After losing three of four to Hickory last weekend, the Grasshoppers dropped three of five to West Virginia to close out a nine-game home stand. Greensboro has the worst overall record in the SAL, as well as the worst road record (13-31). The Grasshoppers have won back-to-back road games just three times this season and won just two series on the road

On the mound, the Grasshoppers are last in the SAL in ERA (4.22) and WHIP 1.42.

At the plate, Greensboro is last in the SAL in batting avg. (224), OBP (.304), OPS (.651), runs scored, hits, triples and RBI. The Grasshoppers are next to last in walks and 12th out of 14 teams in total bases.

Players to watch- Hickory:

SP Nick Gardewine: Has been roughed up in his three starts since the all-star break (7.04 ERA). The Grasshoppers touched him for three homers in his last start a week ago. SAL hitters are batting .310 against him as a starter and he has lasted past five innings just once.

SP Cody Buckel: The roller-coaster ride continues for the hurler this season. After a three-hitter over six shutout innings against Greenville, he walked four and allowed four hits in five innings at Lakewood. The strikeouts, though, have begun to pile up with 12 over his last 11 innings.

SP Brett Martin: Had his shortest outing of the season in his last start at Lakewood (1.2 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 2 BB).

RP Scott Williams: Has become more viable in the late innings in recent weeks. Since June 6, Williams has give up two runs (both solo homers) on nine base runners and struck out 18 over 13.1 innings. After six walks over his first four outings, he has given up just two in ten games since.

OF Luke Tendler: Continues to rake in the 17 games since the all-star break. Posting a slash line of 328/.373/.590, Tendler has three 3-hit games in that stretch. In SAL top-ten rankings, he is fifth in total bases, tied for seventh in RBI and doubles, and tied for eighth with 8 homers.

OF Jose Cardona: Has hits in four straight games and multi-hit games in three straight. Is currently the lone player in the lineup with double-digits in steals with 16 of the team’s 57 for the season.

2B Carlos Arroyo: Arguably the most-consistent hitter in the lineup at the moment, Arroyo has reached base in eight straight and 12 of the last 13 games. He has not put up back-to-back hitless games since his first two games upon joining the Crawdads. Arroyo has 13 multi-hit games in his last 27 outings.

Players to watch- Greensboro:

SP Enderson Franco: Acquired by the Marlins in June as part of a bonus-slot deal with Tampa Bay. He was 5-6 with a 3.89 ERA at the Rays’ low-A affiliate at Bowling Green, Ky. Franco allowed a run on three hits over six innings against West Virginia.

SP Tyler Kolek: The Marlins first-round pick (second overall) in 2014 is currently the club’s top prospect and the 8th best right-handed pitching prospect in the minors. He has struggled in his first full season (4.69 ERA/ 1.48 WHIP), especially with control. Kolek has 32 walk and hit seven batters in 71 innings with only 45 Ks. Hickory roughed him up for four earned runs on seven hits over four innings on July 4.

LF Austen Smith: One of three players to start for the Northern Division in the SAL All-Star Game, he has been tough on Hickory pitching (.280/.419/.640) this season. Against the league, he is second in homers (13), eighth in walks and 10th in slugging (.460). Smith is also susceptible to the strikeouts with 90 in 301 plate appearances.

1B KJ Woods: The starting DH in the All-Star game has also been a thorn in the side of the Crawdads, hitting .324 with five extra base hits. The Ft. Mill, S.C. native is batting .241 in July, but has homered twice against the Crawdads. He is sixth in the SAL in slugging (.469)

C Arturo Rodriguez: The starting catcher for the Northern Division has three homers in ten games against the Crawdads.

Series Preview: Hickory at Lakewood July 8-12

The Hickory Crawdads (51-30 overall, 7-6 second half) make their second of three trips this season to FirstEnergy Park to take on the Lakewood (N.J.) BlueClaws (39-42, 6-7) in a five-game series.

Probables (Hickory/ Lakewood):

Wednesday: Cody Buckel (RH, 0-2, 2.79) vs. Ranfi Casimiro (RH, 3-5, 3.51)

Thursday: Brett Martin (LH, 3-3, 2.73) vs. Austin Davis (LH, 0-2, 2.40)

Friday: Ariel Jurado (RH, 9-0, 2.15) vs. Elniery Garcia (LH, 6-6, 3.08)

Saturday: Collin Wiles (RH, 9-3, 2.29) vs. Shane Watson (RH, 0-1, 2.45)

Sunday: Austin Pettibone (RH, 1-1, 3.94) vs. Will Morris (RH, 0-0, 0.82)

Recent Series History:

Lakewood holds a 5-4 edge in the 2015 season series after taking three of five at Hickory to open the second half. The Crawdads and BlueClaws split the series at Lakewood in early June. Hickory is 32-30 since 2009 – the start of the affiliation with the Texas Rangers – and 18-18 on the road.

Entering the Series – Hickory:

The Crawdads took the first three games of the series at Greensboro before dropping the matinee Tuesday afternoon. Winners of six out of the last nine on the road, Hickory (23-15) currently holds the best road record in the South Atlantic League.

The team pitching ERA of 2.82 is nearly a half-run better than second-place Lakewood (3.29). However the BlueClaws bats battered Hickory pitching for 32 runs on 51 hits in the recent five-game series at L.P. Frans. Overall, the Crawdads pitching staff has surrendered the fewest hits, runs and earned runs in the SAL. They also have the lowest WHIP at 1.16.

At the plate, Hickory has reclaimed the top spot in the SAL with 61 home runs. They are third in slugging pct. (.384).

In the field, the Crawdads remain at the top of the SAL in fielding pct, having committed the fewest errors and turning the most double plays.

Entering the Series – Lakewood:

After winning three straight at Hickory, the BlueClaws are 3-6. They split a four-game series at home with Hagerstown over the weekend.

Lakewood will put the ball in play as the hitters taken the fewest walks and have the second fewest strikeouts in the SAL. The BlueClaws are second in doubles and third in hits. They are next to last in OBP (.312).

Players to watch- Hickory:

SP Ariel Jurado: Currently pitching in tandem with Yohander Mendez, Jurado is expected to start, but could be switched to the relief role. He is first in the SAL in WHIP (0.96), tied for second in wins (9) and fourth in ERA (2.15). Jurado has thrown only six innings in the second half and will likely be limited to around three innings for now. He currently has 60 Ks to just eight walks in 67 innings.

SP Collin Wiles: Having won six of his last eight starts, two of those have come against the BlueClaws over the last month (12,1 IP, 11 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 7 K). Opposing teams are hitting just .221 against Wiles. He is tied with Jurado with nine wins, is second behind Jurado in WHIP (1.00) and fifth in ERA (2.29)

SP Cody Buckel: After giving up nine baserunners in 2.2 innings against Lakewood on June 26, Buckel rebounded against Greenville with a three-hitter over six innings and struck out six to just one walk. SAL hitters are batting just .182 against Buckel, but he has thrown 16 walks and hit six batters in 29 innings.

SP Austin Pettibone: Has settled into the rotation nicely since gaining a permanent spot in late June. Spun a two-hitter over six innings against Greenville on June 30, then followed that up with a one-hitter through six at Greensboro before falling apart in the seventh for a no-decision.

RP Scott Williams: Has two wins and a save in the second half during which Williams has allowed one base runner (a solo homer) in seven innings and struck out 11. After sporting a 4.26 ERA in May, Williams has allowed two runs overall in 12.2 innings (8 appearances) on six hits and two walks with 17 Ks.

OF Luke Tendler: Arguably the hottest hitter in the lineup in the second half, Tendler is at .333/.375/.489 in the 12 games after the all-star break. He put up six RBI in the weekend series vs. Lakewood to open the second half and has a team-high of nine RBI against the BlueClaws this season. Tendler is tied for sixth in the SAL with 19 doubles.

C Jose Trevino: Has a .301/.322/.460 slash on the road compared to a .216/.252/.399 mark at home. He is off to a cool start in July (3-for-20) with all three hits coming at Greensboro on Saturday. Currently, Trevino is third in the SAL in homers (10) and tied for 11th in RBI (39).

OF Jose Cardona: Of current active players, Cardona has the highest avg. (.290) against the BlueClaws this season. Like Trevino, Cardona is off to a cool start in July and is three for his last 31 – two of the hits homers. His nine homers are tied for fourth in the SAL.

C Chuck Moorman: Joined the Crawdads at Greensboro, the 17th round pick of the Rangers in 2012 played two games at AAA Round Rock this season.

C-1B Jonathan Meyer: Had a six-game hitting streak (8-for-22) and a three-game RBI streak snapped in the shutout loss to Greensboro on Tuesday.

2B Carlos Arroyo: Currently in the midst of a three-game hitting streak (5-for-12) and has at least one hit in 17 of his last 22 games since going hitless in his first two games with the club.

OF Jairo Beras: Has begun to heat up again with hits in five straight games (7-for-18) before an 0-for-3 game on Tuesday. However, he has at least one strike out in seven straight (11 overall).

Players to watch- Lakewood:

SP Elniery Garcia: He has dominated the Crawdads in his two starts, having allowed two runs on nine hits over 13 innings with eight strikeouts. Garcia threw a four-hitter over seven innings against Hickory on June 28. He followed that up with a five-hitter over seven innings against Hagerstown in his last start. Garcia is ninth in the SAL in ERA (3.08) and WHIP (1.20).

SP Shane Watson: The first-round pick of the Phillies (Lakewood (CA) High) in 2012 missed all of 2014 with shoulder surgery and a 50-game suspension for a drug of abuse violation to start this season. Watson allowed one run on seven hits over 3.2 innings in his first start for the BlueClaws on Sunday.

SP Will Morris: Former teammate of Evan Van Hoosier at College of Southern Nevada, the 24th-round pick of the Phillies in 2013 made the first start of his career last Monday against Hagerstown (5 IP, 2 H, 2 K). Morris had 51 relief appearances over three seasons before the start.

RP Joey DeNato: Was selected to the SAL All-Star Game. He is eighth in the SAL with 26 appearances.

CF Herlis Rodriguez: Has two SAL hitter-of-the-week awards and is arguably the best hitter on the team after the promotion of key teammates Carlos Tocci and Rhys Hoskins to high-A. Currently seventh in the SAL in slugging (.469) and tenth in RBI (41).

3B Damek Tomscha: Has ripped through Hickory pitching this season at a .370/.419/.556 clip with seven RBI and a homer. He put together four straight multi-hit games at the end of June, but is hitless in his last four games and is 2-for-21in his last six. Tomscha has 20 doubles, tied for third in the SAL.

1B Kyle Martin: The Phillies fourth-round pick out of South Carolina last month made his pro debut at Hickory. He has a .340/.365/.580 slash in 13 games since joining the BlueClaws with six multi-hit games.

LF Cord Sandberg: Was the third-round pick of the Phillies in 2013 out of Manatee (FL) High and is currently the No. 13 prospect in the organization. Sandberg with 10-for-21 against the Crawdads two weeks ago with four extra-base hits, five runs scored and five RBI.

2B Scott Kingery: The Pac-12 player of the year was the Phillies second-round draft pick a month ago. Like Martin, he made his pro debut at Hickory with two hits in the opener. Kingery finished 6-for-21 in the series with six runs scored. So far in July, he is 3-for-24 (.125).

Game Story: Lakewood at Hickory June 26

Lakewood at Hickory June 26

The Lakewood BlueClaws took advantage of poor control by Hickory Crawdads starter Cody Buckel to build an early lead and take a 6-3 win Friday night.

The win by the Blue Claws (34-36 overall, 1-1 second half) evened the five-game series at a game apiece. Hickory (45-25, 1-1) snapped a mini two-game win streak.

The teams will resume the series Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. at L.P. Frans Stadium.

What happened?:

After the Crawdads dodged a bullet in the first, Lakewood put up a run in the second. Cord Sandberg (3-for-4) singled to right and moved to second on an error by Jairo Beras. A wild pitch by Buckel placed Sandberg at third and he scored when Kyle Martin collected his first pro hit, a double to right.

The decisive point of the game came in the third. With one out, Buckel hit Scott Kingery with a pitch and then walked Herlis Rodriguez. After Damek Tomscha was drilled by a pitch, Sandberg lined a first-pitch changeup over the fence in right for a grand slam to make it 5-0.

The Crawdads got a run back in the bottom of the third. Ricardo Valencia walked to start the inning. The next batter Jose Cardona hit into a potential 5-4-3 double, but the throw from Derek Campbell at third sailed into right field and put Valencia at third. Michael De Leon’s sacrifice fly scored Valencia to make it 5-1.

Save for the unearned run in the third, starter Ranfi Casimiro (3-5) held the Crawdads in check until the fifth. He walked Cardona and served up a single to De Leon. A wild pitch moved the runners to second and third. One out later, Beras steered a seeing-eye single into center to make it 5-3.

However, that turned out to be final threat by the Crawdads offense in the game. Scott Harris pitched two perfect innings before turning the game over to all-star closer Alexis Rivero. Eduard Pinto was the only Crawdad to reach over the final four innings, as he doubled to start the ninth. He eventually reached third, but was stranded as Rivero struck out Jonathan Meyer to end the game.

Lakewood’s final run came when Gustavo Martinez scored on a passed ball in the ninth.

The Good:

The Defense – Michael De Leon: With a runner at third and one out in the second, the Crawdads brought the infield in. Campbell hit a popup about 25 feet past the cut of the grass. De Leon raced back into the outfield and avoided the on-charging Beras from right to catch the football-like post pattern.

The Defense – Jose Cardona: In the sixth made a long run before making an over-the -shoulder catch on the track in straight-away centerfield. Also tracked down a liner in the RCF gap in the seventh.

The Defense – Luke Tendler: Kept the BlueClaws off the board in the first with a strong, on-the-money throw to Valencia at home to cut down Drew Stankiewicz on a sac fly attempt by Tomascha.

Kelvin Vasquez: Other than an E-5 that allowed Martinez to reach in the fourth, Vasquez held court on the mound. Needed only 11 pitches to complete the final two innings of his 4.1 inning tenure (43 pitches, 30 strikes). Had a little extra giddy-up on the fastball (95-98) than he’d shown in the recent past. Fanned his only two hitters of the night on back-to-back at bats in the fifth. Struck out Tomascha, who whiffed through a 97 mph heater, then got Sandberg to waive at a slider.

Jairo Beras: Swung through five breaking balls by Casimiro, but laid off an 0-2 slider in the fifth before getting enough on a changeup to get it through the infield for a two-run single.

Josh Morgan: Had the only two-hit game for Hickory, both coming on fastballs by Casimiro.

The Not-So-Good:

Cody Buckel: Color me concerned. Friday’s outing was painful to watch, as I know how much Buckel has put into getting back to the type of pitcher he was in 2011-2012. There was no fastball command. Of the 41 fastballs (out of 68 total pitches- 27 strikes) he threw (by my count), only16 went for strikes. Six of those were put into play, 3 went for hits, two of those doubles. Usually able to rely on his curveball to get strikes, the smattering of those Buckel threw stayed well up and to the catcher’s glove side. The only missed bats I had were from sliders, which did have some bite. But with the fastball control what it was, there was not much sense chasing.

Field staff: With Buckel struggling from the beginning, it seemed that a mound visit would’ve been in order, if for no other reason than to give Buckel a chance to collect himself. Valencia made a few visits, but nothing from the bench. With pitching coach Oscar Marin away for his mid-season sabbatical, his fill-in finally trotted to the mound with the bases loaded in the third. On the next pitch – a flat change – Sandberg took Buckel deep for the decisive slam. Through all this, no one was warming until after the slam. Two batters later, and after his third HBP of the inning, Vasquez was brought in. Buckel threw 31 pitches to get two outs and surrender four runs on five base runners.

Ninth-inning defense: The BlueClaws insurance run in the ninth was a matter of “non-error” misplays. Herlis Rodriguez reached on a bunt when pitcher Shane McCain was slow to cover first. McCain later picked off Rodriguez, but first baseman Rock Shoulders’ throw to second went wide of the bag allowing Rodriguez to steal the bag. Jonathan Meyer’s passed ball (in fairness, he was pressed into service after Valencia’s injury) brought in Rodriguez.

The umpires: I’m not usually one to rag on the boys in blue. They are developing and learning just as the players are. Working as a two-man crew brings difficult challenges in making calls, such as making a call at first on the check swing by a left-handed hitter. A horrible call on a checked swing cost Tendler a strikeout in the sixth and the remainder of the game on the subsequent ejection. Perhaps placing the base umpire in the middle of the infield for left-handed hitters will allow them to make better calls.

The Opposition:

RP Scott Harris: Though the command of it was spotty, he threw a good, hard sinker to record three ground ball outs and K’d Tendler with one in the sixth. Left a trail of tears as three of the six hitters he faced broke their bats.

LF Cole Sandberg: Feasted on a couple of fastballs for hits, but picked off a get-me-over changeup for a homer after the Crawdads bench paid a mound visit in the third.

Series Preview: Charleston at Hickory June 9-11

The Hickory Crawdads begin the final homestand of the first-half with a three-game series against the Charleston (S.C.) RiverDogs at L.P. Frans Stadium.

Probables:

Tuesday: Luis Cedeno (RH, 3-5, 2.85 ERA) and Luis Ortiz (RH, 2-1, 2.00)

Wednesday: Matt Wotherspoon (RH, 0-0, 6.23) and Cody Buckel (RH, 0-1, 1.80)

Thursday: Matt Marsh (RH, 0-0, 4.50) and Collin Wiles (6-2, 1.92)

Recent Series History: The RiverDogs took three of four from the Crawdads in early May. Last year, Hickory edged Charleston 7-6 and was 5-2 at L.P. Frans. The Crawdads are 40-35 vs. the RiverDogs since the Rangers affiliation began in 2009.

 

Entering the Series:

Hickory (36-20) split a four-game series at Lakewood N.J. over the weekend before an off day on Monday. The Crawdads are 19-8 at home this seaon, but have won just one of the last three series played at L.P. Frans Stadium (6-4). Hickory leads second place West Virginia by 2 ½ games in the first-half Northern Division chase with 13 games left to play. The Power begin a three-game series at home against the Savannah (Ga.) Sand Gnats.

Charleston is just 5-5 in its last 10 games, but has picked up two games in that span and now trails first place Greenville by three games in the Southern Division chase. The top five teams in that division are separated by four games. The Sand Gnats are a game out, followed by Charleston, then Augusta at 3 ½ out and Rome four out in fifth place. Augusta travels to Greenville, while Rome is at Asheville.

Players to watch – Hickory:

IF Carlos Arroyo: With Travis Demeritte out due to a suspension and Michael De Leon nursing a quad strain, the 21-year-old native of Valencia, Venezuela was sent to Hickory from AAA Round Rock to fill the gap. He’s now played in ten games at three separate levels posting a .286/.333/.500 slash. He’ll be looked at to provide some speed as he has 11 triples and 25 steals in 131 pro games.

OF Jairo Beras: The Rangers had hoped that Beras would springboard off a strong finish to the 2014 season, but injuries (quad, back) and discipline issues (running out a pop up) have curtailed his season. He returned on Thursday at Lakewood and went 3-for-7 with a couple of walks, but went hitless in the final two games.

SP Luis Ortiz: He held the Hagerstown (Md.) Suns hitless until the fifth before they got to him with two walks, three hits and two runs that cost him the game in a 2-0 loss. After posting a 0.66 ERA in his first six starts, Ortiz has allowed seven earned runs in 13.2 innings with five walks.

SP Cody Buckel: Strong early on in his last start, Buckel walked five of the last 11 batters he faced. In what is expected to be the hottest day of the early summer, Buckel’s control issues could be key to not taxing the bullpen too early, and keeping the defense active in the hot sun.

RP John Fasola: Moreso for what could be his absence after throwing 3.1 innings to close out the Crawdads 5-3 win Sunday at Lakewood. The SAL all-star selection leads the league with 11 saves.

RP Yohander Mendez: Has yet to give up a run in nine relief outings (19.1 innings) with 14 baserunners allowed and 30 strikeouts.

Players to watch – Charleston:

SS Jorge Mateo: The solo top-30 Yankees prospect (no. 3 by Baseball America and mlb.com) on the roster. Has had marginal success getting on base (.268/.322/.371) but when he does, his speed is a factor. He leads the SAL with 38 steals and has scored a team-high 25 runs.

CF Dustin Fowler: Activated from the disabled list today, Fowler went 5-for-16 against Hickory last month with a homer and five RBI.

1B Connor Spencer: The Yankees 8th round pick out of UC Irvine is the RiverDogs lone all-star selection. He leads Charleston with 23 RBI and a .394 OBP.

C Collin Slaybaugh: Just called up from extended spring, the 26th round pick in 2014 out of Washington State went 8-for-8 in his first two games (June 3-4) against Augusta. He is 10-for-15 with three RBI, a walk and two steals.

SP Luis Cedeno: Has lost his last five starts. Facing lineups the second time through the order has been his downfall. Opponents are hitting .115 in the first inning and .200 in the second, but it just to .345 in the third and .400 in the fifth. He has given up eight runs and walked eight in his last 16.1 innings.

SP Matt Wotherspoon: The Pittsburgh (34th round 2014) product is in his second start with Charleston after pitching for AA Trenton and High-A Tampa. He allowed three runs on five hits in 4.1 in his first start against Augusta.

SP Matt Marsh: Demoted from Tampa, Marsh – teammates with Crawdads pitcher Adam Parks at Liberty Univ. – game up two earned runs on five hits in four innings last week against Asheville.

Series Preview: Hickory at Hagerstown June 1-3

The Hickory Crawdads start a week-long road trip to the Northern tier of the South Atlantic League as they visit the Hagerstown (Md.) Suns for three games and then travel to Lakewood, N.J. for four to face the BlueClaws.

 

Probables:

Monday: Luis Ortiz (RH, 2-0, 1.76 ERA) and Luis Reyes (RH, 1-3, 5.44)

Tuesday: Cody Buckel (RH, 0-0, 0.00 in two starts) and Matt Purke (LH, 0-1, 4.50)

Wednesday: Brett Martin (LH, 3-1, 2.50) and TBA

Entering the series:

Hickory (34-16) scored only six runs on 12 hits the past three games, but took two of three from Rome to salvage a split in the four-game series with the Braves and complete a 5-2 homestand. The Crawdads now lead the South Atlantic League’s Northern Division by four games over West Virginia and by nine over third place Hagerstown… The team waited until the night of May 31 to make their first overnight road trip, leaving after Sunday night’s extra-inning game against Rome…Hickory went 3-1 against the Suns to open its 2015 season at L.P. Frans Stadium and is now 35-34 since the current affiliation with the Rangers began in 2009.  However, the Crawdads are 24-16 at Municipal Stadium… Despite having the second overall youngest pitching staff in the SAL, Hickory leads the league with a 2.52 ERA, trails only Lakewood in WHIP (1.19) and is third in strikeouts. Their 18 saves is second to Charleston, S.C.…The starters have not given up a home run since May 11.

Since a 1-4 start, the Suns (25-25) have hovered around the .500 mark much of the opening two months of the season. Hagerstown lost three of four to visiting Kannapolis during the weekend…The Suns roster is usually loaded up with college products and this year is no different. Hagerstown has the second oldest group of position players (22.7 age) in the South Atlantic League and the third oldest pitching staff (22.4)… The Suns trail only Hickory in errors allowed (47) and fielding pct. (.975), and has the second-best caught stealing ratio in the SAL (34.7%)…The Suns .260 team batting average is second in the league and they have struck out the fewest times.

Players to watch – Hickory:

RF Luke Tendler: After hitting .229 during a homerless May, Tendler looks to get healthy against a team he had success with to start the year. Tendler went 6-for-15 with two homers, four RBI and five runs scored during the four-game series vs. the Suns in early April. He is tied for third in the SAL in doubles (14) and total bases (85). A day off during the series may not be out of the question, as he has played in all but one game this season.

3B Josh Morgan: Though he ended May with his first back-to-back hitless games since May 1-2, Morgan still finished May with a .323/.411/.419 slash. He also showed good patience at the plate with ten walks in 109 plate appearances.

SS Michael De Leon: Hit .206/.241/.290 in May, but began to see pitches batter over the past week. He was 5-for-14 vs. Hagerstown in April.

Closer John Fasola: Only a game-tying, broken-bat RBI single with two outs in the ninth on May 31 kept Fasola from having a near perfect month. Fasola closed out seven of eight save opportunities in the month with just the one earned run allowed. He also posted 16 strikeouts to just two walks over 13.1 innings. Fasola leads the SAL with ten saves overall.

SP Luis Ortiz: Struck out 17 and walked three in 19.1 innings in May. After giving up a lone run in three starts, Ortiz was hit up for four runs allowed in 3.1 innings against Delmarva last Tuesday. With the uncertainty of the two starters to follow, Ortiz will be looked at to complete at least his normal five innings, if not longer, as his pitch count allows.

SP Cody Buckel: In his two starts since coming to Hickory, Buckel has been unscored upon in seven innings with three walks and five hits allowed.

SP Brett Martin: He hopes to return to the mound after a stiff back cancelled his previous start last Thursday.

Relief Corps: With Buckel still getting stretched out and the uncertain of Martin’s back – and his longevity on the mound will likely be limited at best – the relief corps will likely see a lot of innings in the series. Yohander Mendez has thrown 16.2 scoreless innings (eight appearances) since joining Hickory. David Perez gave up one unearned run during six games in May and struck out 16 to go with ten walks in 11.2 innings.

 

Players to watch – Rome:

SP Matt Purke: The former unsigned first-round pick (2009) of the Texas Rangers is making his second start (4 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 3 K vs. Kannapolis on May 28) for the Suns since returning from “Tommy John” surgery. He also had shoulder surgery in 2012 and has made only 30 starts in the five seasons since the Washington Nationals took him in the third round in 2011. Ranked the 11th best Nationals prospect by Baseball America prior to the 2014 season, he has dropped of its top-30 list. Purke is still No. 28 on mlb.com’s rankings.

SP Luis Reyes: He held Hickory to just three hits and struck out over five innings in a start during the season-opening series at L.P. Frans Stadium. He’s been hit hard over his last five starts, allowing 17 earned runs on 28 hits over 25.2 innings. Opponents are batting .342 against Reyes at Municipal Stadium.

C Raudy Read: The lone top-30 prospect (mlb.com) on the Suns roster has struggled the past three weeks, as he is 7-for-39 (.179) since May 10. Read belted his first homer of the season on April 10 against Hickory as part of a 2-for-4 game with four runs scored.

LF Jeff Gardner: Hit .298/.319/.423 in May and finished the month with at least one hit in 17 of the last 18 games (27-for-69, .391), eight of those multi-hit games. Gardner (8th round, 2014, Louisville) went 2-for-10 against Hickory in April, with both of the hits coming on April 10 to go with two walks and four runs scored in that game.

3B Grant Debruin: Snapped at 10-game hitting streak on Sunday vs. Kannapolis (16-for-39, .410). Overall, his .319 average is sixth in the South Atlantic League. He signed with the Nationals as a free agent after playing two seasons with Joliet of the Frontier League.

1B Carlos Lopez: Played college ball at Wake Forest (12th round, 2012), he joined the Suns last week for his third straight season with the Suns.

UT Cody Dent: The son of former major leaguer Bucky Dent. The 22nd round pick of the Nationals in 2013 out of the University of Florida.

Starting Fresh Again: An Interview with Cody Buckel

Pitcher Cody Buckel – scheduled to make his first start at L.P. Frans Stadium in four seasons when he faces the Delmarva Shorebirds today (May 27) – was seemingly in the midst of a meteoric rise to the majors after a strong first full-season at Hickory in 2011.

After posting a 2.61 ERA and fanning 120 in 96.2 innings with the Crawdads, his stock rose further at Myrtle Beach in 2012, when he named Baseball America’s Class High-A’s Pitcher of the Year. Buckel closed out the 2012 season as the Texas League’s (AA) “Pitcher of the Week”. Next spring, the then 20-year-old earned an invitation to major league spring training with the Texas Rangers in 2013.

It all crumbled in 2013, when Buckel suddenly couldn’t find the plate. In the following interview, Buckel shares about the start of his troubles at AA Frisco, some of his rehab, and what he appreciates about the game four years after leaving Hickory.

Cody Buckel, shown here during a start in 2011, when was 8-3 with a 2.61 ERA and 120 Ks in 96.2 innings

Cody Buckel, shown here during a start in 2011, when was 8-3 with a 2.61 ERA and 120 Ks in 96.2 innings (photo by John Setzler)

You came here last week, so let me start with what is the game plan for you?

Buckel: To get back into starting and to get back into a starting role and get that routine back. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been into a starting position. I think that’s where I’ll feel much more comfortable is getting back into a routine.

Does it feel weird coming back here four years later?

Buckel: I can honestly tell you, I never expected it – to be here – four years ago. But, it’s kind of a part of life. It just kind of throws you around. It’s the game of baseball and the unexpected lifestyle. I’m just trying, while I’m here, to make the most of it.

You’re still only 22, which is not old for this league. Do you look at it that this is a chance to start fresh again? Or is it, gosh, I’ve got to come back here again?

Buckel: It’s definitely a fresh start. It’s definitely a new opportunity. It’s not very likely in this game that you get many chances and I’ve been blessed to get three new chances. I’m starting over again and trying to find out who I am again. This is a great place to do it.

What is the first thing you hope to find again coming here?

Buckel: Just getting the routine back again. I had a really set routine back in 2011 and 2012, and I got away from it in 2013 and I really didn’t get to do it last year. Now that I’m starting again – coming here with a six-man rotation is a little different – but it’s going to be getting back into a routine, knowing what I have to do this year throwing wise, lifting wise, running wise. I just think that works out well for me.

At the end of the year, what is success going to look like for you when you pack up and leave Labor Day, here or elsewhere?

Buckel: It’s definitely being back into starting; to be able to get back and throw the five to seven innings again. Being able to take the team, regardless of how they’re playing, deep into games, Being able to throw all of my pitches for strikes. Being ahead in the count and use all of my pitches again.

As far as stuff, what are you hoping to find again?

Buckel: Stuff wise, it’s not necessarily the movement or the sharpness of it. It’s more just being to command it and use it in any count. That’s what I was really known, and really prided myself for, was being able to throw any pitch in any count, and being able to throw the ball wherever I wanted to throw it.

The last few years have kind of been a struggle of finding command. It wasn’t necessarily that the stuff wasn’t good; I didn’t really throw it where I wanted to throw it. The first start I had here a couple of days ago, I actually had pretty good fastball command and I threw the curveball pretty well. I threw the changeup pretty well. It’s just finding, basically, the command of all of it.

Take me through the start of 2013, which had to be just an absolute nightmare for you when you started at Frisco.

Buckel: I was a young kid in big league camp and I let it get the best of me. I went down on the minor league side and I had two outings after that went really well. I thought it was the case of just getting down to Frisco and doing really well. There was something in my mind that turned off or clicked off, or something. In my last start, or my last outing, or really my last two outings, I really had no idea where the ball was going and I couldn’t figure out why, and that carried over to Frisco. It just kind of mentally drained me. There was one point where they thought I had mono; I had so much stress. I had put so much stress and pressure on myself.

I spent the rest of that year down in Arizona just really re-learning how to throw the ball again. It was like I had a traumatic injury and had to learn how to walk again, but this time, it was learning how to throw again. Keith Comstock was very supportive and it worked out very well.

In 2014, I was trying to jump back and start, I think, a little bit too soon. I wasn’t quite ready and I ended up in the bullpen. I had a pretty solid few months at the end of the year. This past offseason, I went to Australia and got a few starts under my belt and did pretty well down there. I did pretty well in spring training being able to go out and get three to five innings starting again. I went out to Frisco and went back to the pen and then I fell out of my routine again, because I wasn’t a starter at Frisco.

I think the Rangers realized that and they said that, “we want you to start, because we think that’s what you’re best at. So, we’re going to send you back down to the lower levels and get you back into your routine and get you back to starting again and get your confidence back.”

I’m sure you remember Matt Thompson, who in a sense went through a lot of the same things, where in 2011 he just couldn’t find the plate anymore Did you have in the back of your mind, is this going to happen to me?

Buckel: It did happen to me. It happened to me likewise in 2013. I couldn’t play catch from 30 feet away. It was embarrassing; you almost wanted to go home and cry every night because you couldn’t do what you loved.

Did you have worries that you’d be released?

Buckel: No, not really. Obviously, there were some worst-case scenarios about that, but the Rangers were very supportive and said, “We know what you can do. We know what we’ve seen you do for two and three years now. We know that it is still in you and that it’s still capable of you. We’re going to be out there with you until you find it again.”

When you get a call to the majors, will this all seem like a blip? Will you look back at it in appreciation?  How do you think you will see it?

Buckel: A necessary evil. Like I’ve said before, I never saw myself as a greedy or prideful kid. I think the game showed me that I was and I didn’t realize that I was. I knew I was good and I thought I was the best. I thought I was going to get to the major leagues at 21. That was the way I was going and that was the pressure I put on myself. Then, when I started falling away from that, the pressure overcame me and it dragged me down.

So, I’ve learned now how to kind of relieve pressure. Even when I was struggling in 2014, or even in Frisco when I was struggling a little bit, I still didn’t feel as much pressure, or I didn’t get as hard on myself, which I used to do very much so. I used to be super hard on myself. One day, when I’m in the big leagues – obviously, I have to be able to get there – I’ll be looking at this as a necessary thing I had to go through.

What do you appreciate most now that you maybe didn’t in 2011?

Buckel: I had tunnel vision in 2011 and 2012. My sole focus was getting to the big leagues and my sole focus was baseball, baseball, baseball. I’ve just kind of open up the blinders to the side of my eyes, to realize that there’s more in the world than baseball. I’m not saying to take me away from baseball, or any of that. I can focus on baseball when I’m out at the field.

Now when I’m away from the field, I can appreciate the things that baseball does for me, as far as traveling around the country, or have the friends I get to meet and the experiences I get to have. In 2011 and 2012, I didn’t even realize that. I just kind go to the field, get back to the apartment, come back to the field, go to the apartment.

Now, I’m kind of being a good teammate – hanging out with the guys, going to see movies with the guys, going to the golf course. Back then in 2011 and 2012, I wasn’t very social. I wasn’t very talkative. Now, I’m more part of the guys, especially here. I was here in 2011, so some of the guys are asking me, “what’s it like in Frisco?” or “what was it like here in 2011?” So, I kind of get to play that little bit of a role model, which is a new role for