Results tagged ‘ Erik Swanson ’

Steering the Staff: An interview with Hickory pitching coach Jose Jaimes

There are some people that know how to teach. Hickory Crawdads pitching coach Jose Jaimes appears to be one of them.

When one looks at the pitchers he has mentored over the past three seasons, it’s an impressive list. The last two Nolan Ryan Award winners, given to the Texas Rangers minor league pitcher of the year, both came from the Hickory squad – Kyle Cody in 2017 and Tyler Phillips last year. The minor league reliever of the year in 2018 also pitched at Hickory – Demarcus Evans.

A look at the current Texas Rangers top-30 prospects on mlb.com is a gallery of pitchers that have come through Hickory, or are here now: Hans Crouse (No. 1), Cole Winn (2), Joe Palumbo (7), Jonathan Hernandez (8), Tyler Phillips (13), C.D. Pelham (15), A.J. Alexy (20), Evans (24), Cody (28) and Ronny Henriquez (30).

Jeffrey Springs and Erik Swanson were also here with Jaimes in 2016, seasons during which both made the South Atlantic League all-star team. They, along with Pelham, have ascended to the majors.

Many of the names on the list above had their share of struggles. Some, like Phillips and Evans, went through demotions before coming back and figuring out what they were doing. Others, such as Pelham and Hernandez and Alexy, had to bull through tough times at Hickory, but eventually caught on to what they needed to do.

They common factor among them all is a calm-demeanored pitching coach in Jose Jaimes. In talking with him, now for four seasons, here is a coach that is positive about every pitcher under his care and expects them to succeed.

I had a chance to talk with Jaimes a couple of weeks ago about coaching and what adjustments he has made in that field. He also gives insights about those who worked through their struggles and those who were stubborn and had to learn the hard way that adjustments were needed.

Here is that interview.

Jose Jaimes Reid Anderson

Hickory Crawdads pitching coach Jose Jaimes works with Reid Anderson prior to a game with the West Virginia Power at LP Frans Stadium in Hickory NC on 7/12/2018. (TRACY PROFFITT)

This is your fourth year here?

Jaimes: The fourth year, you’re right.

 

Does this feel like home now?

Jaimes: Yeah, it kind of feels like home, actually. When we got back this year in early April, I told my wife that it kind of felt like we never left. It felt like we were gone for two weeks and then we came back. I like it here.

 

Obviously, the Rangers keep sending you back here, but you have a say in this. What brings you back here year after year?

Jaimes: Well, those decisions are more to the Rangers, but when they tell me I have to go back I don’t mind it at all, because I like the city. It’s a safe city and my wife loves it. So, it makes everything a little easier. I have only good stuff to say about Hickory.

 

This is your fourth year here. What do you know now that you had to learn since your first year back in 2016?

Jaimes: Well, 2016 was my first full-season as a coach. So, I kind of had to adjust to the workload of the players. Coming from extended (spring training) and Spokane (Wash.), they didn’t play that many games. In Arizona, they get an off day a week, so it’s a lot easier to manage the workload of the players. Coming here, it’s a little more difficult because you play 18 games in a row and you’ve got to travel. You got to do a bunch of stuff that you don’t do in short season. So, being able to manage that with the players was probably my biggest challenge my first year.

And then, it’s getting to know the league and to know the teams that we face. I feel like every year has been a little easier. But, it’s always a challenge, because you’re always getting new players and a new staff. So, you kind of have to adjust to them also.

 

Does this feel like a good niche for you to get these young guys in their first full season? Is that something you see yourself doing longer term?

Jaimes: Yeah. I like it here and I like working with the young players, definitely. I think it’s a really important year for these guys and I feel like I can help to get on track on what to expect in a full season and all that. I feel like it’s a good fit for me.

 

How difficult is it to take a group of 13 -14 guys, especially this year where so many of them are new to you, to learn their stuff and what they like to do, and then take some of what is not working for them, and fix what they can do better?

Jaimes: Everything starts for me in spring training. I try to spend as much time as I can with the guys that I know are going to come with me. So, I try to get to know them and what they like to do on the field, and get to know their routines, know what works for them.

That’s how it starts, and then once I get here, probably that first week, I start to put my plan together for them from when I got to know them in Arizona. Then, as the year goes, they start getting to know themselves a little more, so they start to put stuff together that will work for them.

Most of the time it comes from them. Sometimes I’ll give a suggestion, but at the end of the day, they’re the ones making the decision. That isn’t working for me, or other stuff they’re doing in their routines, thing like that.

 

Do you ever get guys that are stubborn and they have to figure that stuff out?

Jaimes: (Laughing) Yeah. That’s part of it. You’ll always get that guy that wants to do their own things. Sometimes you’ve just got to let it go until they can’t handle that. Then, they realize that they need to listen a little more.

 

How difficult is it to stand back when you see something that you know is not going to work, and they’re getting pounded, and you see the teammates’ reactions that something is not working?

Jaimes: I think that comes with experience. I think, maybe, my first couple of years as a coach, I always tried to jump in right away. But then, with experience, you kind of get to learn to be a little more patient and let the game take care of that. Sometimes, you need to let them come to you.

You always want them to tell you what they didn’t do right, or if they need to change. Sometimes, it gets a little overwhelming to them. I think the best thing, sometimes, is to let them come to you and ask for advice.

 

In your four years, you’ve had Kyle Cody, Edgar Arredondo, Joe Palumbo to name a few. Who is the guy that struggled some early, but you saw the light switch on, that gave you the most pleasure to see that?

Jaimes: There’s a couple, but definitely Joe Palumbo was one of them. I had him in 2014 and 2015. We always saw the potential that he had, but early in his career he didn’t challenge himself and he didn’t put in the effort in practice. Once he started changing that mentality and you started seeing the difference. The velo went up. The command got better. He became more of a true pitcher. It was probably one of the more exciting stories I’ve had in my career.

 

The 2017 and 2018 seasons, the first month to six weeks were tough. You and I would talk, and I know those were tough times. Part of that was what the Rangers were wanting to see the guys in commanding the fastball. How difficult was that to go through as a coach? You knew what the outcome was going to be, but still guys are getting beat up and they’re not happy.

Jaimes: That’s what we teach the players, is that we have to stay with the process. It was a plan that we put together for them. Yeah, it was tough to see it, but we always tried to stay positive, because at some point, that plan was going to pay off. And it did.

It was tough but watching the guys those first five or six weeks start to command their fastball better and getting to know that they can pitch with their fastball. It was cool to see. It was tough, but sometimes you have to stay with the process.

 

Who is the most talented pitcher you’ve had?

Jaimes: Oooo, that’s a tough one. We’ve had a few of them. Demarcus Evans.

Demarcus, for me, is one of the most talented pitchers because, obviously the size. He’s a big guy. He has a plus-fastball at 94-95, but when you look deeper at what kind of fastball he has, you look at the spin rate and the type of vertical movement that he has, that’s what makes his fastball so special. That’s why he has so many swing-and-misses on fastballs at the middle of the plate.

Kyle Cody was another one. Big fastball with some sinker action, then with the slider that he has. Those two pitches play very well.

Crouse, obviously. He’s a big talent and throws pitches for strikes. I love the way that he competes. To me, that’s special. He’s not afraid. He likes a good challenge. So, you pull the talent and then you add the type of person and athlete that he is, and the mentality he has, that makes him even better.

 

So, what’s the feeling like when you see guy like C.D. (Pelham) get a call up? Now, you start seeing the guys get the brass ring, what does that mean to you?

Jaimes: When I think about C.D. – you remember those first couple of months in 2017, he struggled. Then, he started putting it together halfway through the year. When I saw him when he got called up last year, it kind of almost made me cry, because I know how hard he worked and I know how much patience he had with the process. Sometimes, he tried stuff and it didn’t work, but he gave his best effort.

When you see guys like that make it to the big leagues, it makes you feel good for them, because you know how hard they work. He’s a special kid and a great guy, a good teammate and he was always good with the coaches.

 

What’s your path to the big leagues, or do you see a path? Do you like this part of the process in the teaching and developing?

Jaimes: Yes, I love teaching. I would like to see myself at some point, in a few years, getting into the big leagues. That’s the ultimate goal, for sure. But, as long as I have a job and doing what I like, I’ll be okay.

 

What made you want to do it in the first place?

Jaimes: My last year, when I played, I was the oldest Latin kid on the team. We had a lot of Latin players, so I kind of took them under my wing. So I started guiding them to what they were going to face when they went to Spokane. So, that’s when I started liking the teaching part. They were listening to what I was saying, so that’s when coaching started to become more intriguing to me. I knew my playing career was probably going to be pretty short, so I thought, ‘you know what, if I get to stay in baseball and I can coach, I’ll be fine.’

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Jose Jaimes (center) with catcher Melvin Novoa and pitcher Tim Brennan (Proffitt)

The Reality of “Our” Players: Crawdads past and present major pieces in recent trades

Yesterday, two of “our” own players from the Hickory Crawdads were suddenly taken from us. Hickory Crawdads pitchers Erik Swanson and Dillon Tate were a part of a trade in which the parent club Texas Rangers acquired slugger Carlos Beltran from the New York Yankees.

For many Rangers fans, it is a time to get excited about what Beltran can bring to the lineup at Arlington. For many Crawdads fans, their hearts have been stomped.

We don’t see many trades at the low-A level. When pitcher Matt Ball came here in May after a trade with the White Sox, it was the first time a player came to Hickory via a trade since 2008 – the final season of the Pittsburgh Pirates affiliation. As far as sending a player away, that hadn’t happened since 2013 when C.J. Edwards went to the Chicago Cubs. Prior to that, it had been since 2009 when Matt Nevarez left the Crawdads in a trade that brought Pudge Rodriguez back to Texas.

At this level, we know we are going to bid farewell to “our” players in due course. It may happen in a few days, or a couple of years. We certainly hope that when “our” players leave that it is to move up the ladder – to get one step close to their own major league dreams. Of course, at times they leave after being waived and that dream ends.

We often have this fantasy of “our” players moving up to the major league level with the parent club. The joy of seeing in a Texas Rangers uniform Rougned Odor and Joey Gallo and Nomar Mazara and Martin Perez and Hanser Alberto and Ryan Rua and Jurickson Profar is a genuine joy for those of us in Hickory who knew them when. We have this Elysian hope that “our” players will continue to play together always and do so for Texas. It’s like hoping your neighborhood kids will grow up together and always remain friends. The reality is that most of those kids move away from home and rarely keep in touch. The same is true in baseball – minor league teams rarely play together in the big leagues.

Our hope was to see Swanson and Tate, as well as Lewis Brinson and Luis Ortiz – former Crawdads involved in another trade that moved those players into the Milwaukee Brewers chain – in those Texas Rangers uniforms taking the field in Arlington. However, if you ask those four players about their major league dreams, the name on the front of the uniform won’t matter to them – Braves, Brewers, Yankees, Blue Jays, Cardinals, etc. They are chasing the dream of a major league career. It matters not in which multi-tiered stadium that takes place. As minor league fans, we have to remember that.

They are “our” players, but in reality they are not. The name on the front of the jersey says Hickory, but the big red T on the patch located on the sleeve reminds us they belong to another. The Rangers pay the salaries and we have to remember that the minor leagues exist solely to help bring the major league club a championship. As hard as it is, sometimes that involves sending “our” players elsewhere.

However, for those who follow minor league teams – especially for us in Hickory –we gain an attachment during the time they are here. They are “our” players. It’s not just because “Crawdads” is on the front of the jersey with the letter “H” on the cap standing for our hometown of Hickory. At this level, they become part of us – of our community, and in some cases, part of our families. We have a different kind of access to these guys that those in the major league community do not. We celebrate their successes after a game, and share in the struggles and offer encouragement. We meet their families and welcome them to Hickory when they visit and roll out the welcome mat to our town.

So, while Rangers fans celebrate, we here in Hickory are in a bit of shock – for two of “our” own are leaving us for another team. (It could get really weird in a couple of weeks when Charleston (S.C.) visits L.P. Frans, as it is rumored that both Tate and Swanson will be assigned to the River Dogs.) But while the reality that “our” players will always leave, there is another reality present: Swanson and Tate and Brinson and Ortiz and Travis Demeritte and Jorge Alfaro and Nick Williams and Edwards and everyone else who donned a red claw on their cap will be “ours”.

We look forward to following their careers all the way to the majors.

Training for a renewed career: An interview with Erik Swanson

Last Tuesday, June 21, 2016, Erik Swanson took the mound at the South Atlantic League All-Star Game, which was held at Lexington, KY. It was exactly one year to the day that Swanson made his debut with the Hickory Crawdads.

The plan was to begin his stint out of the bullpen and then work into the rotation. However, after seven relief outings, a forearm flexor strain ended his season, save for a brief rehab stint in the Arizona Summer League near the end of its season.

A lot has changed for Swanson in the course of the season, especially a renewed attention to his training. That training has paid off in velocity – his fastball sits in the 94-96 mph range and has been clocked up to 98 – and in the ability to take the ball every six games as part of the Crawdads rotation. After throwing 38 innings total over his first two pro seasons, Swanson is already at 57.2 innings following his last start at Greensboro.

In the interview below, Swanson talks about the benefits of his training, the adjustments to his repertoire, and coming to the pros from Iowa Western Community College.

 

First off all, considering where you were this time last year, you’ve got to be especially pleased with how things have gone for you.

Swanson: Yeah, I am. Last year, coming up here at the all-star break and pitching for about a month and then getting hurt and missing the rest of the year, my main focus this year was to stay healthy. Making the all-star team was another goal of mine coming in here and playing for Hickory. It was a pretty good accomplishment that I was able to do.

Erik Swanson all-star game

Erik Swanson pitching in the SAL All-Star Game at Lexington, KY (Crystal Lin/ Hickory Crawdads)

 

What do you think has been the key to your success this year versus where you were last year? Obviously getting healthy is a big part of that, but a lot of guys are hurt one year and come back the next and don’t do what you have put together in the first half.

Swanson: Obviously, like you said, health has been the biggest key for me. Being in a little different role this year – last year I was out of the pen when I was here – this year coming in as a starter, I feel that that’s a big key for me. I think it’s what I do best. I’m able to prepare myself a lot better – getting that routine. Being on a six-man (rotation) here, I’m able to get into the six-day routine, which has been really big for me this year.

One of the things that Mike Daly (Texas Rangers senior director of minor league operations) mentioned when he was here, he said one of the things that he was pleased with was that you’ve owned the strength and conditioning and the training and the arm care.  What was the turning point for you in that area?

Swanson: Obviously health was my biggest. Last year, missing as much time as I did, I knew that year was going to be a big year for me. This offseason, I got after it as much as I could. I felt like I prepared myself going into spring training and put myself into a situation to succeed. Then, being able to carry that from spring training to Hickory this year was been huge for me. Working with Dustin (Crawdads trainer Dustin Vissering) on some different arm care routines that I’ve been doing that have been working. I’m just trying to do that and continue that to stay healthy.

Did you take the training less serious before you got hurt?

Swanson: No, it’s not something that I took as serious as I am now, which is one of my bigger downfalls. I was a little overweight last year. The big key focus for this year was if I could come in spring training at a healthy weight – a good weight – physically strong.  I feel like I did and I think that most everybody thinks that I did that as well. Now, the focus for me is being able to maintain that and show them that I can do that.

Having thrown so few innings, in the last year, so you think that has helped you to stay strong, at least in the first half, with the idea that you’re going to add some innings to that total this year?

Swanson Yeah, that’s a big part of it. I don’t know off the top of my head how many innings I threw last year, but I think I’m close to double the innings I’ve thrown my entire professional career. A big part of that is me staying healthy and me getting in the shape that I needed to be in to come in this year as a starter and bring able to maintain that throughout the rest of the year. Staying healthy is going to be huge for me. It’s going to be a challenge and that’s my main goal this year.

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Erik Swanson pitching in a 2015 contest (photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

Was there a moment in the training that you flipped the switch, or did somebody say something to you, or was there a combination that said to you that this has to be different?

Swanson: Obviously, this is only my second full year. Me being a college guy, I’m 22 years old and in Low-A, which is fine with me. But, I just kind of sat down and thought to myself, “How long are they going to keep me around if I’m not doing what I need to be doing?” I think that’s kind of the point in the offseason was when I started to really flip that switch.

I came into spring training and I felt great and still feel great. I still have lot more room for improvement on all those aspects of everything – physical shape, mentally strong – and all that comes down to what I do on the field and off the field. So yeah, I think there definitely was a point where I decided to flip the switch on my own, along with other people telling me that it’s time.

What’s been the difference as far as your stuff goes. I remember you had a good fastball last year and a change – but we didn’t see you enough to get a grasp. What are some different things you’ve done as far as your stuff goes?

Swanson: I had a decent fastball last year and it’s definitely improved this year. The changeup has been a big one for me. It’s a pitch that I’ve been constantly working on, changing grips – and I’ll probably continue to do that until I find a grip that I feel comfortable throwing. That’s something that’s definitely improved from my first start here until my last start. I’m working on slider grips a little bit. Now, I’m working on a little bit of a curveball that hopefully the next start I’ll be throwing it in some games. I feel comfortable throwing it in my bullpens.

How does someone pitching at Iowa Western get noticed by pro scouts?

Swanson: Going from my first Juco (Wabash Valley CC , IL) to Iowa Western, that was my biggest thing. I needed to go somewhere where I’m going to get recognized, where I can go on and continue my college career and possibly have the opportunity to play professional baseball. It just seemed like they go back to the (NJCAA) World Series every year in Grand Junction (CO).

My head coach Marc Rardin was phenomenal. He taught me so much stuff and improved my game on the mound and off the field. That’s kind of his motto; he teaches us to become men before baseball players – to prepare us for life after. Going there, he helped me with that. It’s a winning program, so they’re going to get scouts around there and I just happened to go there. He gave me all the tools I needed and I put them together and had a successful season and got noticed by the right people.

When you were drafted by the Rangers, was the expectation that you would start or they would throw you from the bullpen?

Swanson: When I went to Spokane, I was a little bit on an innings limit because in my freshman year in college I threw only 17 innings, and then I threw close to 90 innings in my sophomore year. So, they wanted me out of the pen in Spokane. But in the future, the plan was to become a starter. I think that was the direction I was headed last year when I first got here, but then obviously injuries put that on hold a little bit.

I want to go back to your college coach and you saying that he treated you like men. What was a big life lesson you got out of that experience with your coach at Iowa Western?

Swanson: When I went there, it was a big program with team. You focus on the guys around you. He’s big in the classroom. If you’re not doing your stuff in the classroom, then I’m not going to say you didn’t deserve to play, but you’ve got to earn it.

The reason I said that, that he wants us to become men first and prepare us for life after baseball, because that’s something he always told us. What I do here, whether it’d be on the baseball field or off the baseball field with classrooms, study halls and stuff like that, my first goal is to help my ballplayers to become men and prepare them for life after baseball. At some point it’s going to end. You can go online and I can guarantee you that you can find that quote in a few different articles. I heard it all the time when I was there and even in articles that I read now, I still read it.

Erik Swanson pitching

Erik Swanson throwing in a 2016 Crawdads game (Hickory Crawdads)

What are the goals for the rest of the year?

Swanson: I had a few goals coming in. Obviously, staying healthy is my main goal. Reaching my inning limit is another one. At some point, one of my goals is to get out of here. Obviously, that’s out of my hands. I just need to do what I’m doing here. I need to keep up what I’m doing. If they decide that I need to move somewhere, then obviously that’s decision. I just need to keep doing what I’m doing and trying to get to the point to where they have no choice but to move me up. Notching a playoff spot while we’re here.

You get a call to the major leagues, what does that look like for you? What do you think your reaction will be?

Swanson: It’s kind of a dream come true. That’s something you dream about since you were a little kid, getting a call. I think the coolest thing for me, once I realize what is happening, will be making that call to all my family and letting them know that I’m going up.

I don’t know, that’s a really good question. I’ve never really thought about how I would react or anything. I think that’d be definitely the coolest part is to be able to call my mom and dad and friends, brother and sister-in-law and telling them that.

You guys put up with some much crap. What’s the biggest part of the crap that you might look back on and say, “That was worth it”?

Swanson: There’s a lot of little things that, I wouldn’t say that it’s crap, they might just get boring. You get that same routine every day and stuff seems like it’s tough. You come to the field every day at the same time. Obviously, that’s your time you get your work done, but sometimes you wake up and you might not want to come in, but you know you have to and you know that your ultimate going that you’re trying to get to, going in that day is going to help you get there.

You’ve got instructionals at the end of the year. The regular season is over with and it’s another month that you’ve got to add on, that can be a little frustrating at times. I’ve been twice, once because of injuries last year. I had to get some more innings in. It’s tough doing that, but at the same time, you know it’s worth it. The things that you do there is going to prepare you for the next year and get you better. You’re constantly learning, no matter where you are, so that’s the way that I look at it. No matter what you’re doing, no matter how bad it sucks, you’re going to learn something – whether it’s something really small, or something that may impact your game for the rest of your life. It’s all worth it.

 

Erik Swanson mug.jpg

Crawdads Send 4 to SAL All-Star Game

The South Atlantic League announced the all-star rosters for the annual mid-season exhibition game that will take place on Tuesday, June 21 at Lexington, Ky. Included on the Northern Division roster will be four members of the Hickory Crawdads.

The lone starter from Hickory is shortstop Yeyson Yrizarri. In 51 games this season (through June 8), Yrizarri, 19, has posted a .256/.278/.387 slash with 16 extra-base hits and stolen 12 bases. The native of Puerto de Ordaz, Dominican Republic will be a part of his second straight league all-star game. Yrizarri was also picked on the Northwest League All-Star team that played against the Pioneer League in an exhibition game in 2015. He has also been adept in the field, as Yrizarri has committed just eight errors in 273 chances. He is the first Crawdads shortstop to start a SAL all-star game since Hanser Alberto was tabbed to do so in 2012.

Yeyson Yrizarri hittinng

Yeyson Yrizarri is the 1st Crawdads SS to go to the SAL All-Star game since 2012. (Photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

The other position player from the Crawdads to make the Northern Division squad is catcher Tyler Sanchez.  The native of Port St. Lucie, Fla. has posted a .265/.374/.412 slash in 39 games with four homers and 23 RBI. Sanchez, 23, was the Texas Rangers 17th round pick in 2015.

Tyler Sanchez hitting

Tyler Sanchez has four homers in 39 games for the Crawdads in 2016 (Photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt) 

 

Two of the Crawdads starting pitchers will be a part of the Northern Division roster, as Pedro Payano and Erik Swanson parlayed strong first halves in to an all-star spot.

Payano, 21, is second in the SAL in ERA (1.47), opponent batting average (.182) and is seventh in WHIP (1.04) over 55 innings. The native of San Pedro de Macoris, D.R. threw a one-hitter earlier this season against Greensboro and has struck out 57 to just 22 walks.

Payano 1-hitter Lin

Pedro Payano is second in the SAL with a 1.47 ERA (through June 8)  (Photo by Crystal Lin/ Hickory Crawdads)

Swanson, 22, is fifth in the SAL in WHIP (1.01) and tenth in ERA (2.45) in his first pro season as a starter. The native of Terrace Park, Ohio has struck out 48 and walked 12 over 51.1 innings of work.

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Erik Swanson has a 1.01 WHIP in 51.1 innings (photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

Crawdads SAL All-Stars

2016 SAL All-Stars (L to R) Tyler Sanchez, Yeyson Yrizarri, Pedro Payano, Erik Swanson

Interview with Mike Daly, Part 3 – the Crawdads pitching staff

This is the final installment of an interview I did with Mike Daly, Texas Rangers Senior Director of Minor League Operations.

He discusses the progress of prospects Brett Martin, Jonathan Hernandez and Pedro Payano, as well as a few other pitchers making their way onto the parent club’s radar.

In case you missed it: Part I focused on the Crawdads top hitting prospect (at the time) Andy Ibanez and the top pitching prospect Dillon Tate

Part II looked at the Crawdads hitting prospects, including Eric Jenkins and Yeyson Yrizarri.

 

I was surprised to see Brett Martin come back here. When I talked with him at the start of the season he said there was a checklist essentially: first pitch curve ball for strikes; work on the secondaries deeper in the count, getting through hitters a little bit quicker rather than running up count. How is he doing with the checklist as far as you can tell?

Daly: I think it’s been real good for Brett. Brett came in here last year, I think he was with that group of Yohander Mendez, Ariel Jurado, Luis Ortiz, and now he came back to Hickory being one of the lead guys. I think some of the challenges for him last year was to go out there, get deep in games and get guys out. Now, he’s taken like a step and it’s a little bit about pitch development.  It’s about throwing that breaking ball when you’re behind in the count. It’s about getting guys out in three or four pitches or less. I think it’s been like a challenge for Brett and we think that it’s something that’s ultimately going to be helpful for him as he starts to move up the ladder.

I think there are a lot of discussions at the end of spring training about challenging him there at high A, or do we have him back to Hickory. We felt there were a number of challenges that he could go through here in Hickory that would prepare him better to go to High A, ultimately AA and on up to the Major leagues. Where Brett’s at, it’s been a challenge, but a very good one and something that we see as helping his career up to this point.

 

Jonathan Hernandez is somebody I’m beginning to enjoy more and more watching him pitch. He’s a young guy at 19. In his first start at Kannapolis, he was falling all over the place and he’s toned that down a lot. He seems to learn quickly into what he needs to do to make the next step.

Daly: He also comes from a baseball family. His father pitched in the minor leagues for a number of years. He actually was born in the states when his father was playing for Memphis. His father is also a pitching coach in the Dominican Winter League for Aguilas down there. So Jonathan has grown up in baseball and he’s always been a very focused young man.

I give Jonathan a lot of credit. When we signed him, he was very, very skinny. He’s put on a lot of good weight. He’s put in a lot of time in our Dominican complex. He pitched for two years for our Dominican Summer League team. He’s a young man that has some weapons. He can really mix all of his pitches. He has a very good I.Q. and aptitude of what he’s trying to do out there on the mound. It’s been real exciting to see him grow both physically and mentally over the past few years that he’s been in the organization.

 

Pedro Payano has been at the top of the rotation, when you run them out there one through six. He’s always going to give your five or six innings. He had the one-hitter. In a lot of ways, he came out of nowhere for us when he came here in August last year.

Daly: I think that Pedro is another guy that has a very good I.Q. He’s very good in terms of being able to read what the other hitters are trying to do. He’s able to attack them based on what the hitters are trying to read; so, he’s able to read bats. He’ll throw the breaking ball behind in the count. He’ll throw his changeup in any count. He can throw the fastball up to 92-93 and has good deception.

He’s a guy that took a couple of years in out Dominican Summer League program to kind of get himself going, but he’s been on a rocket ever since.  He’s a guy that started 2015 in the Dominican Summer League, jumped to Arizona and then ended up here and was a huge part of the championship team for the Hickory Crawdads. We see a guy that has a very, very bright future.

 

Erik Swanson is another one that has taken another step forward after not throwing much last year.

Daly: It’s another credit to our scouting department. We get him in the eighth round out of Iowa Western and that was a good job by our scouts to even dig him up.

He’s a young man that has a very, very good arm. He’s really invested in what he’s doing off the field. He’s really invested in the strength and conditioning program and has done an outstanding job with Wade Lamont and Dustin Vissering, our strength and conditioning coach and our trainer, in terms of our arm care program that got derailed last year with some injuries. But he’s a guy that’s come in here this year and taken the ball each and every time that he’s gotten it, and it’s been very impressive.

He’s got a very heavy fastball, sneaky fastball and really pounds the strike zone. He’s a guy that we’ve been really excited about over the first couple of months, and that’s a real credit to Swanny and the investment he’s made in the strength and conditioning program.

 

Who are we not paying enough attention to on the pitching side, someone who’s not on the radar and then all of a sudden, there he is?

Daly: I think anytime you’re six-foot-seven and left-handed, I think Adam Choplick is a guy that is someone to keep an eye on. He throws up to 94 with a slider.

We got a real interesting guy in Matt Ball in the trade there with the Chicago White Sox for Anthony Renaudo. Again, a good job there by our scouting department to identify him – a 6-foot-4 pitcher with a 94, 95 mile-an-hour fastball and a slider. He’s been real impressive in the short amount of time that he’s been here so far.

I think Jeffery Springs from right up the road here (Appalachian State) is a guy whose fastball has taken a couple of steps up. He’s got a plus changeup. He can throw that changeup at any time in any count. He’s a left-hander with a really good makeup.

 

Braves Hop Over Crawdads 3-2

 

The Rome (Ga.) Braves scored three runs in the fourth to edge the Hickory Crawdads 3-2 during a Wednesday morning contest held at Hickory’s L.P. Frans Stadium.

 

What Happened?:

What had been a tough-hitting  series (14 total runs in the three games) continued on Wednesday as for the most part Rome’s Ricardo Sanchez and Hickory’s Erik Swanson held the opposing lineups in check.

Hickory (28-18) scored both of its runs in the second as Dylan Moore walked and Eduard Pinto followed with a two-run homer that just skimmed the tip of the fence in the rightfield corner.

The Braves (18-28) got their rally started with one out in the fourth as a ground ball to second baseman Andy Ibanez caromed wildly to Ibanez’s right for a single. A four-pitch walk to Wigberto Nevarez and a single by Jonathan Morales loaded the bases. Swanson (3-1) issued a second four-pitch walk in the inning, this time to Justin Ellison to score the first run. Carlos Castro popped up to first, but Alejandro Salazar singled in two runs to provide what turned out to be the game’s final margin.

Sanchez (3-4) allowed just the two runs on two hits with two strikeouts and two walks over 5.2 innings. He left in the sixth due to a shoulder injury.

Oriel Caicedo finished up for the Braves, though he had to work out of a Crawdads rally in the ninth. With two outs, Ibanez and Moore singled and Pinto walked to load the bases. However, Caicedo got Yeyson Yrizarri to pop to first to end the game.

Game management the difference:

The difference in the game was the ability of the two starters to work out of their one trouble spot in the game.

Sanchez:

In the second, Sanchez was clearly affected by a 3-2 pitch to the right-handed Moore that appeared to catch the outside corner, but was called ball four. After a fastball away to the lefty Pinto, a fastball in was pulled down the line and went about 333 feet and barely cleared the 10-foot fence.

After Yrizarri flew out to center, Ti’Quan Forbes beat out an infield hit to short.

The inning seemed to affect Sanchez, as he took several trips around the mound between pitches to collect himself. It took mound visits by the shortstop Salazar, the catcher Nevarez and finally Braves pitching coach Dan Meyer to settle down the 19-year-old lefty. Sanchez then got Chuck Moorman to ground into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.

Swanson:

It appeared that Swanson was a candidate for a “Maddux” after needing 30 pitches to get through three innings. After getting Ray-Patrick Didder to ground to short, the inning began to unravel as Swanson’s pinpoint control with the fastball suddenly left him.

Four straight 95 mph pitches sailed to the righty’s glove side. Morales was able to get a seeing-eye single into left to load the bases before four straight fastballs then went off the plate arm side.

Castro popped up a 2-2 fastball onto the infield and then it appeared Swanson was going to keep the lead when he started Salazar 0-2. But a slider to Salazar caught a lot of the plate and he lined it hard to left and that turned out to be the ball game.

 

Stellar play in the field:

Third baseman Frandy De La Rosa and shortstop Yrizarri make stellar plays in support of Swanson in the second. De La Rosa snapped up a tough short-hop off the bat of Ellison to get the out. Yrizarri then made a grab of a grounder deep in the hole and then made a Jeter-like jump throw on the money to first to retire the slowfooted Castro.

 

Missed hitter’s counts:

What was an blip in the game log in the second turned out to be a key play as Moorman pulled a 2-1 fastball into a double play to keep Sanchez in the game with only two runs. But other hitters missed out on hitter’s counts as well.

In the third, Jenkins laid off a pair of curveballs away, but then mistimed a fastball and popped it to third.

One inning later, Moore worked a 2-0 count as two secondary pitches missed. But he, too, missed a fastball and bounced weakly to second.

In the fifth, De La Rosa saw a 2-0 fastball and bounced it to third.

Said Crawdads manager Steve Mintz after the game, “I don’t know why we couldn’t figure that guy out. I don’t know why we were getting in counts to hit and we couldn’t square up any balls.”

Erik Swanson Goes Solo: Dominates Le… wait for it… gends.

Entering the season, Hickory Crawdads pitcher Erik Swanson was expected to work in a tandem arrangement with teammate Wes Swanson in the starting rotation. After a couple of turns through the rotation, that arrangement, for now, has been put on hold, due to an injury to another starting pitcher, Dillon Tate.

After a tough outing in the first start after he was spun off from tandem-mate Wes Benjamin (4.2 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 6 K), Swanson allowed three hits and struck out a career-high eight batters over seven innings – also a career high – as the Crawdads defeated the Lexington (Ky.) Legends 6-2 Friday night at L.P. Frans Stadium.

“With Tate out the past couple of starts, we kind of had to step up,” said Swanson after the game. “Wessey and I try to at least go those five or six innings to help our bullpen a little bit. Keep the pitch count down, and tonight I felt like I was attacking with the fastball, which helped me out with the pitch count a little bit and got the job done.”

The big right-hander out of Iowa Western CC was able to hold up his end of the bargain where innings were concerned, as he was able to pitch effectively to contact, or power up if need be. Of the 24 batters Swanson faced, 16 of them saw four or fewer pitches during a single plate appearance.

“Getting ahead is the biggest thing,” said Swanson, who threw first-pitch strikes to 14 hitters. “You get strike one on them, that’s a game-changer right there. It throws them off a little bit and gives you momentum to either get that second or third-pitch ground ball, or even get that strikeout within the first three or four pitches.”  Three of the eight strikeouts came on the third or fourth pitch of the at-bat.

For the most part, Swanson was able to stick with a 94-95 mph fastball (topped out at 98 mph) and changeup (89-90) combination that was more than enough to keep the Legends hitters off balance. The fastball was especially effective to right-handed hitters as consistently buried the pitch on the outside corner at the knees. The change had enough deception to miss bats. By my count it missed seven.

He brought a slider (84-86) into the mix starting in the fourth inning, if only to give the hitters another pitch selection to ponder at the plate.

Said Swanson, “I didn’t really bring out my slider until the fourth or fifth, which was when I threw it the most. Then, I think I threw it once or twice in the third inning, or maybe the second inning. I was trying to go fastball/ changeup and save that third (pitch) as long as I can.”

Perhaps the most impressive part of the outing was the final inning, during which he struck out two. After working the count full to the leadoff hitter (RH) Josh Banuelos, Swanson whizzed a 97 mph heater for a called third strike on the outside corner.

After RH hitter Ben Johnson worked a 3-1 count against him, Swanson rebounded with a 95 mph on the corner at the hands. Johnson stayed alive by fouling off a 97 at the ends, but succumbed to Swanson by flailing through a 97 mph buzzsaw away at the knees for the strikeout. Swanson then needed a final fastball away to get Xavier Fernandez tried to pull, but it went meekly to Yeyson Yrizarri for the 6-3 play.

Of the 16 pitches Swanson threw in the final inning, 11 of them were at 95 mph and above.

Swanson said, “I was feeling pretty good tonight, fastball wise. The arm felt great. Going out for that seventh inning, I knew I had to be getting close. I tried to empty the tank a little bit, but keep a little bit in there, in case I needed to go back out for the eighth if Mintz needed me to. Everything was working tonight, so it was good.”

What will be interesting to watch is how Swanson will be used over the next several months. After 38 total innings of relief work over the past two seasons combined, Swanson is already at 21 in 2016. But at 6-3, 220, he physically appears to be a guy that could handle what looks to be a much heavier total workload, giving the parent club Texas Rangers some options on how to handle that increased labor.

Tate will be back in the rotation soon – perhaps as soon as his next turn, which would be scheduled for Monday. However with Tate and Martin expected for promotions later in 2016, and the season-opening work of Crawdads No. 3 starter Jonathan Tate, as well as Pedro Payano bucking for a promotion after his one-hitter on Wednesday, there  could be room for a longer stretch of starts later in the season.  That is, until the Rangers pull back the reins on the number of innings Swanson is to throw.

Erik Swanson 2

RH Erik Swanson in a game earlier this season vs. Greenviille, (photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

Game Story April 17: Hickory 2 Kannapolis 1

The Hickory Crawdads scored twice in the first inning and the tandem-pitching duo of Wes Benjamin and Erik Swanson made it stand up for a 2-1 win over the Kannapolis Intimidators Sunday afternoon at L.P. Frans Stadium.

The win improves the club’s record to 9-2, which is the best mark through at least the 2000 season (no game-by-game records are available prior to 2000). Hickory completed a 3-1 series win over the Intimidators (4-7) and is now 6-2 against its in-state rival this season.

What happened?:

With two outs in the first, Tyler Sanchez shot a groundball between the first-base bag and 1B Corey Zangari to score Andy Ibanez and Eduard Pinto, who had walked and double respectively.

That turned out to be enough for Benjamin and Swanson. Benjamin completed the first five innings, as he allowed one run on six hits and three walks with six strikeouts.

His only speedbump came in the third. With two outs and the bases empty, Benjamin walked Tyler Sullivan. Grant Massey (3-for-4) doubled and Landon Lassiter walked to load the bases. The run scored as Zangari reached on an infield hit to third, which allowed Sullivan to score. Benjamin then got Cody Daily to ground out to second.

“They started to get rolling as soon as I hit a little hiccup there and I had to adjust with my arm side,” said Benjamin. “I was turning up a little bit too much and throwing a lot more balls than I expected. My defense made some good plays and we worked out of it.”

Kannapolis had an opportunity to score in the fifth as it put together two singles and a double. But Benjamin picked off Daniel Mendick at first. Massey got a sun-aided double and Lassiter singled. However, Benjamin struck out Zangari to set down the threat.

Eric Swanson pitched the final four innings and allowed just one walk and struck out one.

Luis Martinez took the loss for Kannapolis, allowing both runs on just four hits, two walks and striking out five over five innings.

 

The sticks:

Tyler Sanchez had the lone run-scoring hit of the game for Hickory has he put an inside-out swing on a 1-2 fastball and had enough to shoot it into right.

As indicated by the score, Hickory didn’t put up much at the plate after the first innings, as the Crawdads had only four baserunners after the first.

Martinez was a one-pitch pitcher in the early going, as he was unable to get either the changeup or slider over the plate. However the Crawdads were unable to take advantage. Just 4 for the first 16 secondary pitches found the strike zone through the first 1.1 innings. One that did in the first – a hanger up and middle – was fouled off by Dylan Moore, who went on to strike out.

After Chuck Moorman doubled with one out in the second, Darius Day battled through a 6-pitch AB before striking out on a slider in. LeDarious Clark down 1-2 spoiled a breaking ball that appeared to be off the plate and then swung through the next.

Andy Ibanez had his six-game hitting streak snapped, but his first-inning at bat was a key part of the rally. With the count 2-2, Ibanez laid off a slider that just missed off the plate. He eventually worked a walk and scored the first run.

Eduard Pinto had two hits and a walk, and hit .571 in the series.

 

The mound:

The tandem of Wes Benjamin and Erik Swanson has been a good one over the first two turns through the rotation. They have combined to pitch all 18 innings of their turn and allowed one run on nine hits, five walks (four by Benjamin) and strike out 12.

“Obviously, the starter that goes in, you try to go as deep as you can,” said Swanson of the first two outings. “And it’s obviously it’s nice if you can go in, like we have the first two times, and keep them to either one or no runs and have that guy come back in in back end and finish up the game and save our bullpen, too.”

 

Benjamin:

Benjamin showed a fastball that stayed in the 89-91 mph range, and on Sunday that was his best pitch as, for the most part, he was able to spot it effectively for strikes. Of his six strikeouts on Sunday, three were on fastballs that were called-third strikes on the catcher’s glove side. Another was swung through by Corey Zangari.

“I had a set game plan and I knew what I was going to do from the get go. We established the fastball down and then it worked really well for us today.”

His most-used secondary was his change (81-83), that hit the zone for strikes, but other than Zangari’s whiff in the first, it enticed very few hitters to swing. Benjamin admitted that the pitch, normally his best he said, wasn’t on.

“I had to make a couple of adjustments, especially from the stretch. I was rushing a little bit too much and the ball was kind of flying up in the zone. So, I made some adjustments later on and got the ball down.”

Benjamin did break out the curve later on in the outing and Corey Schroeder to swing through one for a strikeout in the fourth.

 

Swanson:

Erik Swanson was impressive from the very start as his 95 mph sinker to his first batter splintered the bat of Cody Daily for a 6-3 grounder.

“The ball ran in a little bit more than I wanted it to. It was supposed to be on the outer half, but I mixed in a slide step there and it kind of bull-rushed him and caught him off-guard and got in on his hands a little bit.”

It didn’t get much better from there for the Intimidators as Swanson allowed just a walk with two outs in the eighth.

Seven of the 12 outs recorded came on groundouts as he established the sinker and mixed in a 90 mph slider (I think, slider?) that was enough to keep the hitters off stride.

“The plan going in there was to pound fastballs and get in on them a little bit and get some quick outs and hold it where we’re at.”

 

The gloves:

Battling the sun on a clear afternoon was job-one for both sides. Crawdads outfielder Jose Almonte was the lone casualty as he lost a fly ball by Grant Massey that fell 10 feet in front of him.

3B Ti’Quan Forbes nearly cut off the Intimidators only run of the game as he cut off a grounder in the hole by Zangari. He stumbled a bit as he fielded the ball, which cost him as he throw to second for the potential final out was late.

 

The bases:

Almost a clean game but in the eighth, Pinto was caught leaning towards second by left-hander Matt Ball and it turned into an easy pickoff. Pinto did get a good jump on the slow delivery of Taylore Cherry for a steal in the sixth.

Series Preview: Kannapolis at Hickory April 14-17

Kannapolis Intimidators (Chicago White Sox) at Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) 

The Hickory Crawdads open the home portion of the 2016 South Atlantic Season with a four-game series against their neighbor to the southeast, the Kannapolis Intimidators at L.P. Frans Stadium.

 

If you plan to go:

Games Thursday and Saturday are at 6 p.m., Friday is at 7 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m.

All ticket prices are $9 with VIP tickets going for $14. Parking is $3. On Sundays, the Crawdads offer $6 tickets when presenting a church bulletin.

The Crawdads are giving away 2016 magnet schedules on Thursday, a commemorative 2015 SAL championship banner on Saturday, and a poster schedules on Sunday. All giveaways are to the first 1,000 fans to the gates. There will be post-game fireworks on Friday.

Concessions are basic ballpark fare with a wider selection of items at the Crawdads Café, which is located above the 1B stands. New this year is a mac-and-cheese footlong hotdog.

 

Where is it?:

L.P. Frans Stadium is located on Clement Blvd., approximately 1 mile west of U.S. Hwy 321. From I-40 east or west, take exit 123 B and follow the signs to U.S. 321 North. The left turn for Clement Blvd. is at the light that houses Pizza Hut, CVS, RaceTrac gas station and Peak Motors.

From the north, take Hwy 321 South to Clement Blvd. and turn right.

From downtown Hickory, take 3rd street NW to the west and follow it until it turns into Clement Blvd. past the U.S. 321 intersection.

 

Probables (Kannapolis/ Hickory):

Thursday: RHP Zach Thompson vs. RHP Dillon Tate

Friday: LHP Tanner Banks vs. RHP Pedro Payano

Saturday: RHP Johnathan Frebis vs. RHP Jonathan Hernandez

Sunday: RHP Luis Martinez vs. RHP Erik Swanson/ LHP Wes Benjamin (piggy back)

 

Recent Series History:

Hickory won three out of four games last week at Intimidators Stadium to open the season. Last year, the Crawdads took a 9-6 season-series win, which included a 5-2 record at L.P. Frans Stadium. Against Kannapolis, the Crawdads are 75-50 since 2009 – the start of the affiliation with the Texas Rangers – 35-23 at LPFS. Kannapolis has one series win at Hickory since 2011, which came when the Intimidators took 2-of-3 in the first week of the 2014 season.

 

Entering the series – Hickory:

The Crawdads return home after a three-game sweep at Greensboro, which wrapped up a 6-1 season-opening road trip, and are a game ahead of West Virginia in the SAL’s Northern Division… At the plate, the Crawdads are tops in the 14-team league with a .429 slugging pct. They also lead the league in homers, total bases and are tied with Lakewood for the most hits. Hickory is second in runs scored, RBI, and team OPS (.734)… Expected to be aggressive on the base paths, the Crawdads have attempted a league high of 24 steals and lead the SAL with 9 caught stealing attempts. They are second in steals with 15…On the mound, the Crawdads pitching staff has allowed two or fewer runs in five of their seven games. Overall, their 2.14 ERA is third in the SAL and they have allowed just one home run… After committing 8 errors during last weekend’s Kannapolis series, the Crawdads had just one during the three-game series at Greensboro.

 

Entering the series – Kannapolis:

Kannapolis swiped two out of three at home against Delmarva (Md.) and went 3-4 on its homestand… At the plate, the Intimidators have scored two or fewer runs in five of their seven games. They are third in hits, fourth with a .254 batting average. Kannapolis leads the league with the most strikeouts… On the mound, the Intimidators are second in the league in strikeouts… In the field, they are tied with Lexington with 10 errors committed and are next to last in fielding pct.

 

Players to watch- Hickory:

RHP Dillon Tate: The Rangers No. 4 prospect by MLB.com, No. 5 by Baseball America. He is also MLB.com’s No. 35 overall prospect and the 8th best RHP. In his opening start of the season, Tate allowed an unearned run on five hits with a walk and six strikeouts over 4.2 innings at Kannapolis. It is apparent that Tate will have a higher pitch count than has been the case for a younger pitcher at the start of the season. He threw 85 pitches (52 strikes) in last Friday’s start. Possesses a fastball/ slider combo with a developing changeup.

RHP Pedro Payano: The MLB.com No. 29 Rangers prospect had a steady start last Saturday, but it was tainted by control issues. Payano held the Intimidators to one run on two hits and struck out seven over five innings. However, he also tied his career high for a game with four walks. Like Tate, it appears that Payano also will be pushed early on with pitch counts, as he threw 91 pitches (45 strikes) in the start at Kannapolis. Armed with fastball/ curve/ change, he will throw any pitch at any count.

RHP Jonathan Hernandez: The righthander is the Rangers No. 20 prospect, as determined by Baseball America, No. 28 by MLB.com. Hernandez was the lone starting pitcher to struggle his first time through the rotation. Needing 73 pitches to record 10 outs, Hernandez gave up 8 runs (6 earned) on seven hits and walked two over 3.1 innings at Kannapolis in his last start on Sunday. His defense committed four errors behind him during the game, but Hernandez had control issues with his fastball, as well. He has allowed the lone Crawdads homer surrendered thus far in 2016

RHP Erik Swanson: The Rangers 8th round pick in 2014 out of Iowa Western CC had a stellar first pro start at Greensboro on Monday, during which he gave up two hits and a walk over five innings and struck out four. Swanson had the sinker working as he recorded 11 groundball outs.

LHP Wes Benjamin: Will piggyback with Swanson for now. The 22-year-old was the Rangers fifth round pick in 2014 out of Kansas. Had Tommy John surgery while with the Jayhawks in 2014. In his first outing last Monday, Benjamin earned a four-inning save at Greensboro during which he allowed three baserunners (one hit) and struck out two.

2B Andy Ibanez: Continues to be among the conversation when considering the hottest hitter in the minors at the start of the 2016 season. Ibanez leads the SAL in hits (14), doubles (5), total bases (24), batting avg. (.560), OBP (.607), slugging (.960) and OPS (1.567). Last week at Kannapolis, Ibanez went 9-for-17 with two doubles, a triple, a homer, 6 RBI and three runs scored. The 23-year-old Cuban native is the No. 8 prospect according to MLB.com and Baseball America has him No. 16. He is splitting time at second with Frandy De La Rosa and DHing.

CF Eric Jenkins: At 19 on opening day, he is Baseball America’s No. 6 Rangers prospect, while MLB.com has him at No. 7. Had a tough weekend at Kannapolis with seven strikeouts in 14 plate appearances, including a “Golden Sombrero” in Saturday night’s game. Jenkins struck out six more times at Greensboro, but started to make better contact in the series with three hits, including his first pro homer, over the final two games.

IF Dylan Moore: He began to get well at Greensboro this week. During the three-game series, the Orange Co. California native went 4-for-10 with a homer, a double and four RBI.

RF Jose Almonte: Had a nice weekend series at Kannapolis, going 5-for-11 (all singles) and walked twice. Overall, the Dominican Republic native has a .318/.400/.455 slash with four RBI and five runs scored. He hit his first homer of the season at Greensboro and only his third overall as a pro.

 

Players to watch-Kannapolis:

LF Landon Lassiter: The 22-year-old attended North Davidson High in Lexington and UNC  Chapel Hill. Was drafted two different times prior to finally signing with the White Sox after being picked in the 21st round in 2015.  His 4-for-4 game vs. Delmarva on Wednesday placed him behind only Ibanez in the SAL with a .526 batting avg. Lassiter is third in the league in OBP (.571) and OPS (1.256). He also had three hits in the game that Hernandez started on Sunday.

CF Tyler Sullivan: Tied for third in the SAL in walks (5), he has a slash of .333/.455/.444. Went 6-for-16 against Hickory last weekend. Sullivan was the White Sox 14th round pick in 2015 out of Pacific.

1B Corey Zangari: The White Sox sixth-round pick out of Carl Albert High in Midwest City, OK. He is currently the White Sox’s No. 10 prospect according to MLB.com and No. 13 prospect according to Baseball America. Went only 3-for-16 against Hickory, but had three hits including a homer over the last two games vs. Delmarva to push slash to .231/.310/.346.

SS/3B Johan Cruz: Currently the White Sox’s No. 16 prospect from MLB.com and No. 27 by Baseball America. Struggled versus Hickory last weekend at the plate (4-for-17, 6 Ks) and on the field (3 errors). Had two hits and three RBI in a game that Hernandez started for Hickory last Sunday.

C Seby Zavala: No. 26 prospect by Baseball America. Was the 12th round pick of the White Sox in 2015 out of San Diego St. Started the season 0-for-16 before putting up a 2-for-4 game vs. Delmarva on Wednesday. Had Tommy John surgery in 2013.

1B/ OF Zach Fish: Has the Intimidators only homer through seven games this season – a three-run blast vs. Hernandez on Sunday. Named the Big XII Conference Player of the Year at Oklahoma St. He was the Rangers 4th round pick in 2011 out of Gulf Lake High (Mich.).

RHP Zach Thompson: A native of Burleson, Tex., Thompson was the White Sox fifth round pick in 2014 out of Texas-Arlington. Allowed one run on five hits and struck out eight over five innings in his lone start of the season, which came against Hickory last Saturday.

LHP Tanner Banks: The White Sox 18th round choice in 2014 out of Salt Lake CC helped pick up the Intimidators first win of the season on Sunday, as he held Hickory to three earned runs on six hits and struck out five over five innings.

RHP Luis Martinez: No. 29 prospect by MLB.com. Made 24 starts for the Intimidators last season as a 20-year-old and allowed 155 baserunners in 108.2 innings. So far in two 2016 starts, Martinez has given up just 13 baserunners in 10 innings. He has 10 Ks and one walk, a promising improvement after a 69/ 53 ratio in 2015. Had Tommy John surgery in 2011.

RHP Taylore Cherry: Was the 32nd round pick of the White Sox in 2015 out of UNC Chapel Hill. Is listed at 6-9, 290 lbs.

 

Notes of Interest: Like last season, it appears the Rangers will play a bit of merry-go-round with the Crawdads roster to accommodate a six-man rotation that will actually contain seven pitchers, as Erik Swanson and Wes Benjamin throw in a piggyback situation. For now, it is Swanson and fellow starter Peter Fairbanks switching places on the active list… Crawdads reliever Jacob Shortslef is on the DL with a cut on his pitching hand…Kannapolis RHP Drew Hasler is the son of former Crawdads pitching coach (1993-1994) Curt Hasler, now the White Sox minor league pitching coordinator… Crawdads catcher Tyler Sanchez and Kannapolis pitcher Alex Katz were teammates at St. John’s. Katz surrendered his first pro home run last Sunday – to Sanchez.

Series Preview Hickory at Greensboro April 11-13

Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (3-1) at Greensboro Grasshoppers (Miami Marlins) (1-3)

The Hickory Crawdads continue the opening week of the season with a three-game series at NewBridge Bank Park in Greensboro.

 

If you plan to go:

Games Monday and Tuesday are at 7:00 EDT with an early matinee at 10:45 a.m. on Wednesday.

Ticket prices range from $7-11. No tickets are available for Wednesday’s game, which is a Guilford Co. 6th-grader game.

Parking at various lots near the ballpark are $3-5. There is metered parking about a block away from the outfield that is free after 6 p.m.

The Grasshoppers have a promotion on Monday for $6 lawn seats, $1 dogs and beverages.

There is a wide variety of concessions at NewBridge Bank Park. Other than basic ballpark fare, there is a BBQ stand, Philly Steaks Sandwiches & Nachos, Mexican fare, and a Burger of the Month. There are also veggie options (Black Bean burger). Here is the entire menu

 

Where is it?:

From Hickory, take I-40 East to exit 218 B / Freeman Mill Road. That will turn into Edgeworth St. and the ballpark will be on the right. (Edgeworth and Bellemeade St.)

 

Probables (Hickory/ Kannapolis):

Monday: RHP Erik Swanson/ LHP Wes Benjamin (piggy back) vs. RHP Chuck Weaver

Tuesday: RHP Peter Fairbanks vs. LHP Justin Jacome

Wednesday: LHP Brett Martin vs. RHP Cody Poteet

 

Recent Series History:

Hickory took an 11-6 series win vs. the Grasshoppers in 2015, which included a 6-5 mark at NewBridge Bank Park. Since the stadium opened in 2005, Greensboro is 51-35 at home vs. the Crawdads, 24-31 during the Rangers affiliation (since 2009).

 

Players to watch- Hickory:

RHP Erik Swanson: Expected to make his first pro start in the opener after 26 relief appearances over the past three seasons. Swanson, 22, was the Rangers 8th round pick in 2014 out of Iowa Western CC. Has 38 Ks in 39.2 pro innings and hitters are batting .207 against him.

LHP Wes Benjamin: Will piggyback with Swanson for now. The 22-year-old was the Rangers fifth round pick in 2014 out of Kansas. Had Tommy John surgery while with the Jayhawks in 2014 and has only one pro inning under his belt.

RHP Peter Fairbanks: The 2015 ninth-round pick of the Rangers out of Missouri is expected to make his Crawdads debut Tuesday night. He underwent Tommy John surgery while in high school at Webster Groves High. A fly-ball pitcher thus far as a pro (0.93 GO/AO) that will need to tread lightly in the cozy dimensions of NewBridge Bank Park. Fairbanks has allowed 22 walks in 57.1 innings.

LHP Brett Martin: An SAL All-Star Team selection, Martin is the Rangers No. 11 prospect named by MLB.com, No. 18 prospect named by Baseball America. The fourth-round pick in 2014 out of Walters St. (Tenn.) CC) allowed one unearned run on five hits and struck out eight over four innings in his first start against Kannapolis on Opening Night.

CF Eric Jenkins: Had a tough weekend at Kannapolis with seven strikeouts in 14 plate appearances, including a “Golden Sombrero” in Saturday night’s game. He did have three steals in Friday night’s game and scored three runs. At 19 on opening day, he is Baseball America’s No. 6 Rangers prospect, while MLB.com has him at No. 7.

SS Yeyson Yrizarri: Put up an odd .182/.333/.273 slash over the weekend, walked twice and struck out three times in 11 ABs in three games. At 19 on opening day, he is the No. 12 Rangers prospect according to MLB.com, No. 27 by Baseball America.

2B Andy Ibanez: Had a prodigious opening, four-game weekend series vs. Kannapolis with an OPS of 1.541. He went 9-for-17 with two doubles, a triple, a homer, knocked in six and scored three, while splitting time at second with Frandy De La Rosa.The 23-year-old Cuban native is the No. 8 prospect according to MLB.com and Baseball America has him No. 16.

3B Ti’Quan Forbes: The 19-year-old had a double among his five hits over the four-game series at Kannapolis. The Rangers 2014 second-round pick is MLB.com’s No. 30 Rangers prospect.

OF Jose Almonte: Had a nice weekend series at Kannapolis, going 5-for-11 (all singles) and walked twice. Almonte, 19, has a linebacker build (6-3, 205) and athleticism to the game. Has a .188/.265/.241 slash in 112 games, made his stateside debut this past weekend. For now, holding down things in right field.

Players to watch-Greensboro:

1B Josh Naylor: The Marlins first round pick in 2015 out of St. Joan of Arc Secondary (Mississauga, Ontario) is the club’s No. 2 prospect, according to Baseball America and MLB.com, and the No. 8 overall first base prospect (MLB.com). He put up a .327/.352/.418 slash in 25 games with the Marlins Gulf Coast League team last summer. At 18, he’s shown a decent eye at the plate (11% K rate- 13 Ks in 118 PAs through 4/9/16), but has only 4 walks. His high ranking is posted because of his power potential at 6-0, 225 lbs.

RF Isael Soto: The Dominican native is the Marlins No. 8 prospect by MLB.com, No. 9 by Baseball America. He hit 7 home runs in the GCL as a 17-year-old in 2014.. Soto started with the Grasshoppers in 2015, but tore his meniscus after just 17 games. Has 22 extra base hits in 332 career plate appearances, but 93 Ks (28% K-rate) to just 20 walks.

SS Anfernee Seymour: The native of the Bahamas was the Marlins seventh round pick in 2014 out of Delray Beach, Fla. His calling card will be his speed (grades at 80 with a reported 6.14 second, 60-yard dash.) He stole 29 bases in 64 games last year at Batavia and had two in Saturday’s game vs. West Virginia. A slap hitter at the plate, he has yet to master the strike zone, as Seymour has 81 Ks in 392 PAs.

RHP Cody Poteet: The Marlins fourth round pick in 2015 out of UCLA is the team’s No. 19 prospect (BA and MLB.com). He split time with the Bruins as a reliever and a starter and is currently the ‘Hoppers No. 2 starter. Poteet opened the season with a one-run, two-hit outing over five innings against West Virginia. Had a 2.13 ERA/ 0.85 WHIP at short-season Batavia (N.Y.) in 2015. Possesses a fastball-slider combination.

LHP Justin Jacome: The Marlins fifth round pick in 2015 out of UC Santa Barbara, he is the No. 21 prospect by Baseball America and No. 22 by MLB.com. Was a starter as a freshman in college and went on to play in the prestigious Cape Cod League. Posted a 2.48 ERA/ 1.35 WHIP at short-season Batavia (N.Y.) in 2015. Allowed one run on two hits and struck out one over five innings in his first start this season vs. West Virginia.

Notes of Interest: Crawdads Manager Steve Mintz has said that his club will be aggressive on the bases and that has certainly played out with 11 steals out of 16 attempts over the weekend. At times, the aggressiveness has gotten them into trouble in the form of rundowns and thrown-out baserunners on infield grounders….Although Hickory took three of four at Kannapolis, the team has only four of 11 position players hitting over .200 and just five are over .300 in OBP… The Crawdads committed nine errors during the four-games at Kannapolis…Crawdads RHP Jacob  Shortslef went to the 7-day DL with a cut on his finger….As a pitching staff, the Crawdads K’d 39, but walked 16 in four games…Pitcher Tyler Kolek, the Marlins number one prospect according to Baseball America and MLB.com, underwent Tommy John surgery on April 6. He is expected to miss the 2016 season…Jacome and ‘Dads starter Dillon Tate were teammates with UC Santa Barbara …2015 Marlins SS Justin Twine is on the team’s DL list… Weaver signed with the Marlins after three seasons with the Florence Freedom of the independent Frontier League.