Greenville Drive (Boston Red Sox) (11-12, 3rd Southern Division)
The Hickory Crawdads start a weeklong homestand with a three-game series at Fluor Field at West End in downtown Greenville.
IF YOU PLAN TO GO:
WHERE IS IT?: From Hickory, take Hwy 321 South to Gastonia, then I-85 South into South Carolina. Take I-385 (exit 51) towards downtown, which ends into North St. Turn right onto North Church St. Follow that down to the Municipal Complex and plan to park there. Shuttle from the lot to the stadium is free, as is parking.
GAME TIMES/ PROMOTIONS:
Tuesday: 2:05 p.m. (Drive Business Downtown)
Wednesday: 7:05 p.m.
Thursday: 7:05 p.m. (Dollar Drink Night)
TICKETS: Prices in advance range from $8 at Pesky’s Porch to $16 for Green Monster Seats. Add $1 on the day of the game. $8 lawn and deck seating available on the day of the game.
RECENT SERIES HISTORY:
The two teams played all eight games at Greenville a year ago with Hickory taking six of the eight played at Fluor Field. Overall, since 2009, the Crawdads are 46-41, 22-21 at Greenville.
PROBABLES (Hickory/ Greenville)
Tuesday: RHP Yerry Rodriguez vs. RHP Chris Machamer
Wednesday: RHP Hans Crouse vs. RHP Brayan Bello
Thursday: RHP Jean Casanova vs. RHP Alex Scherff
The Crawdads polished off their second winning homestand of the young season by defeating Lakewood 10-3 on Sunday. Hickory split this four-game series against the BlueClaws and went 4-3 overall. The team has played better on the road. They are 8-2 on the road and 8-5 at home.
Manager: Matt Hagen (2nd season)
Prospects – (team rankings are by MLB.com):
RHP Hans Crouse No.1 (No. 8 in top-100)
SS Chris Seise No. 12
IF Jonathan Ornelas No. 18
C Sam Huff No. 21
3B Sherten Apostel No. 22
RHP Ronny Henriquez No. 30
Possible lineups: C: Matt Whatley or Sam Huff; 1B Curtis Terry; 2B Frainyer Chavez or Jonathan Ornelas; 3B Sherten Apostel; SS Chris Seise; OF LF: Miguel Aparicio; CF: Pedro Gonzalez; RF: Jose Almonte.
Pedro Gonzalez – Tied for 2nd homers (7)
Sam Huff –1st homers (12), 1st slugging pct. (.805), 1st OPS (1.163), 1st total bases, tied 3rd runs (17), tied for 9th hits (25), tied for 8th RBI (16)
Greenville (S.C.) scored five runs over the middle innings to support the start of Jhonathan Diaz as the Drive defeated Hickory 5-3 at L.P. Frans Stadium Thursday night in front of 1,725 fans.
The Drive (37-23) took the three-game series by winning the final two games and now lead the South Atlantic League’s first-half Southern Division standings by three games over the Columbia (S.C.) Fireflies with ten games to play.
Hickory drops to 23-37 in the first half and are three games behind sixth-place Delmarva (Md.) in its bid to avoid the first last-place finish in a half-season since 2008, when the team was affiliated with the Pirates. The Crawdads are also trying to avoid the worst half-season record by a Rangers affiliated club. The 2009 second-half team finished 30-40.
Both lefties – Hickory starter Sal Mendez and Diaz – held the hitters at bay for the most part through the first three innings. The lone flaw by Diaz over the first five innings occurred in the third, when Jose Almonte golfed what appeared to be a low fastball over the fence. The solo blast was his fourth of the season and it gave the Crawdads their only lead.
That was short lived as Greenville returned fire in the fourth to take a 2-1 lead. Ryan Scott doubled hard to left and scored one out later on Rolandi Baldwin’s double to center. After Tucker Tubbs popped out, Tyler Spoon ripped a liner to right for a single. Almonte charged the ball and threw a one-hop bullet home that handcuffed the catcher Ricky Valencia and allowed Baldwin to score. (More on this play later)
In the fifth, Steven Reveles and Chris Madera both singled and later scored when Scott lifted a single past the drawn-in infield (Also more on this play later)
The Drive tacked on their final run in the sixth against Luke Lanphere. Spoon doubled to left, advanced to third on a grounder and scored on Reveles’s ground single up the middle through another drawn-in infield.
Meanwhile, Diaz faced one over the minimum through five innings, the lone blemish being Almonte’s homer and a single by Franklin Rollin in the first that was erased on a double play. The 20-year-old Venezuelan, making just his third stateside start, struck out eight through five innings.
However, the Crawdads finally got to him in the sixth with three straight hits. Yeyson Yrizarri singled to left and moved to third on Anderson Tejeda’s opposite-field double. Rollin singled in Yrizarri and in the process chased Diaz. Pat Goetze faced Leody Taveras, who bounced into a fielder’s choice to third. Reveles charged the play hard in order to get the force at second, but his throw sailed high and allowed Rollin to reach and Tejeda to score. But with runners at first and second, Yanio Perez hit into an infield fly and Forbes hit into a fielder’s choice. The inning ended when a double-steal attempt blew up and Rollin was caught stealing at home.
The Crawdads mounted an uprising in the eighth against Hildemaro Requena. With two outs, Taveras and Perez slapped back-to-back singles to place runners at the corners. However, Requena fanned Ti’Quan Forbes to end the threat.
Requena worked around a walk in the ninth by striking out the side to earn his third save of the season.
Examples of why errors and earned runs do not tell the whole story:
My friend Scott Lucas, who sends out a Rangers minor league report daily during the season, does a primer at the beginning of the season. In it, he explains that while ERA does reflect some of how a pitcher is doing, there are things that happen during a game that have more of an effect on earned runs (on none) than what meets the eye. Heck, an official scorer’s demeanor might get in the way of a judgment call at times. (Though I’m not one of those… I don’t think.) Earned runs, or the lack of them, do not always tell the fan the whole story.
Hickory was charged with three errors on the night and none officially had anything to do with the scoring. A glance at the box will tell a person the Crawdads played poorly defensively – and they did – then you look at the pitching line for Mendez and you’ll think, “well, they played poorly, but they didn’t affect Mendez’s earned run total.” While the errors didn’t affect earned runs, misplays that are not charged as errors did.
The first error came opening batter of the game, when Yrizarri’s high throw allowed Chris Madera to reach. Madera was erased on a double play hit into by Santiago Espinal, so no biggie.
The second error was the play that handcuffed Valencia at the plate. The runner, Baldwin, should have been out by 10 feet, as Almonte’s throw was on the money. But, you don’t assume the runner would be out or safe on such a play. There’s usually a benefit of the doubt given to the runner with the hitter getting the RBI. So, what was the error for? Allowing the runner, who had stopped at first, to advance to second. In short, the second run of the fourth shouldn’t have scored, but it did and it ups Mendez’s ERA total.
In the fifth with runners at first and second and none out, Espinal hit a sharp grounder to Perez at first. Perez made the fielding play cleanly, but a hesitation cost him a chance to throw to second for a simple force out, though a double play would’ve been tough. Perez did record an out at first, but his misstep took away a chance at a double play later to end the inning. So, with a runner at second and third and one out, Crawdads manager Spike Owen had to have the infield play in to try and keep the runner at third on a ground ball rather than at normal depth to try and turning an inning-ending double play. It cost them an out and a second run in the inning as Scott’s base hit was a routine pop up just beyond the second baseman’s position ad it fell in for a two-run single. It’s not a play an official scorer can award an error on, but the right kind of out saves a run. Regardless, it cost Mendez an earned run.
One inning later, Taveras and Almonte converge at RCF to retrieve a single that fell in. The runner stopped, but moved up when the two outfielders couldn’t decide on who would make the play. The ball bounced between them and so I gave the error to the player that should’ve taken charge, the CF Taveras – even though neither of them touched it.
Mendez deserves better, but….
The defense did cost him two runs, but Mendez didn’t help his cause by elevating his pitches. Throwing a well-spotted 89-91 mph fastball, he accompanied that with a changeup that dipped well, especially to left-handed hitters early. His effective mix of speeds worked well as he missed several bats with the change. He pounded the strike zone for first-pitch strikes (17 of 24 hitters). Add to that four broken bats, 10 groundball outs and two Ks and it was good night…. Except in the fourth and fifth he left a lot of pitches up that were spanked. It looked like Valencia kept reminding Mendez to stay out in front rather than fly open on delivery.
I like him more than most. He’s not going to wow you with “stuff”, but to me, there’s a lot there with that changeup that tantalizes hitters to swing… and miss. He has to keep his pitches down, as there’s not enough otherwise to keep him from getting mauled on the mound.
The Greenville (S.C.) Drive rallied with two runs in the fifth and one in the sixth to defeat the Hickory Crawdads in front of 3,625 fans, many of whom spent the 10:30 a.m. matinee in line at the lemonade stand at L.P. Frans Stadium.
The win for the Drive (35-23) snaps both their three-game losing streak and the Crawdads (23-36) three-game winning streak. Pending today’s other action in the South Atlantic League’s Southern Division, the Drive is guaranteed at least a three-game lead with 11 games to play in the first-half title chase. Columbia (S.C.) already defeated Lexington (Ky.) today and is three back. Rome (Ga.) will play at in-state rival Augusta this evening. The Braves started the day 2 ½ games behind the first-place Drive.
The loss assured the Crawdads first sub-.500 record for a half-season since the second-half of the 2009 season. Hickory is now simply trying to avoid its first last-place finish since their affiliation with the Pirates ended in 2008. They entered the day two games behind sixth-place Delmarva (Md.). The Crawdads worst half-season record as a Rangers affiliate came in the 2009 second half with they finished 30-40.
The Greenville started the game with a single by Chris Madera and a walk issued by Edgar Arredondo (2-3) to Santiago Espinal. One out later, Tyler Hill doubled to left to score Madera.
Hickory pounced back with two of its own in the bottom of the first against Darwinzon Hernandez. With two outs and the bases empty, Yanio Perez singled and then walks to Ti’Quan Forbes and Alex Kowalczyk loaded the bases. Carlos Garay hit a broken-bat, jam-shot blooper into shallow center to score both Perez and Forbes.
That turned out to be almost the last of the Crawdads offense as Robby Sexton replaced Hernandez in the second and was nearly unhittable in earning his first pro win (1-5). The lefty, a 14th-round pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2016 out of Wright State, retired the first 11 and 18 of the 20 hitters he faced.
Greenville vaulted ahead 3-2 in the fifth with two runs that came after the Crawdads missed a chance for the third out. Mitchell Gunsolus doubled and one out later moved to third on Arredondo’s wild pitch. Madera joined him on the bases when he was hit by a pitch. The key play of the inning occurred when Espinal flew out to shallow right. Jose Almonte made the catch and while Gunsolus held at third, Madera, for some unknown reason, tagged up from first and tried to advance to second. 1B Yanio Perez cut the ball off, but his throw to second to cut down Madera was high and the runner slid in safely. Ryan Scott singled in both runners to give the Drive a lead they would never relinquish.
Greenville used a two-out rally for a run in the sixth. Reliever Christian Torres loaded the bases by sandwiching walks to Gunsolus and Madera around a single by Carlos Tovar. Espinal hit a liner that was initially caught when SS Yeyson Yrizarri made a leaping grab. However, the ball tumbled out as he fell to the ground and that scored Gunsolus.
Franklin Rollin hit his third homer of the season in the eighth off closer Stephen Nogosek (11th save). However, Madera returned serve with his third homer of the season to start the ninth and accounted for the final score.
A missed opportunity for the final out in the fifth aside, the game came down to the ability of the pitchers to throw strikes. When Hernandez couldn’t throw strikes in the first (32 pitches, 16 strikes), the Drive moved quickly to shuffle in Sexton and he was brilliant. He mixed in a few breaking balls to miss bats – especially to Jose Almonte and Alex Kowalczyk – but it appeared he stayed with a fastball that was 88-90 according to the pitch trackers with a few changeups mixed in. Sexton (65 pitches, 46 strikes) moved the ball around well, hit spots and the Crawdads never really made solid contact against him.
Arredondo’s fastball was in the 90-92 range with iffy command and he had difficulty getting any of his secondary pitches (change, curve, slider) over the plate. He finished with just 57 strikes out of 87 pitches through 4 2/3 innings.
Christian Torres walks (32 pitches, 19 strikes) cost him a run in the sixth, though he used his change effectively in getting out of Arredondo’s jam in the fifth.
Early-run woes continue:
The first-inning run by Greenville was the 30th time in 59 games that an opponent has performed that feat. Further, Hickory has kept the opposition off the scoreboard over the first three innings just nine times.
Center field prospects take the day off:
Hickory’s Leody Taveras – the Texas Rangers No. 1 prospect – had his second straight off day on Wednesday. He had missed only one game this season prior to this week and on the heels of a 1-for-18 weekend at Delmarva (Md.) a chance to rest and regroup could be what is needed for now.
Greenville’s Lorenzo Cedrola – the Boston Red Sox No. 15 prospect – sat out on the heels of getting pulled from Tuesday’s game for not running out a groundball.
Tuesday night, it was the last place (Northern Division) Hickory Crawdads against the first place (Southern Division) Greenville (S.C.) Drive. So of course, the Crawdads won 2-1 at L.P. Frans Stadium.
The win was the third straight (23-35) for Hickory and sent the Drive (34-23) to their third loss in a row. However, the loss didn’t harm Greenville in the chase for the first-half Southern Division title. It remains 2 ½ ahead of second-place Rome (Ga.), which lost at Augusta (Ga.). However, Columbia (S.C.) moves to three games out with 12 to play.
Four Crawdads pitchers combined to hold the Drive to seven baserunners and Ti’Quan Forbes drove in both runs, including the go-ahead tally in the eighth.
Michael Matuella retired nine of the first ten hitters he faced before Santiago Espinal hit a sharp grounder up the middle. Espinal stole second and scored when Ryan Scott lined a hard single to center to chance Matuella.
Hickory got even in the bottom of the inning against starter Bryan Mata. Yanio Perez singled with one out and moved to second on a wild pitch before Forbes singled him in.
Mata held the Crawdads in check through the sixth innings as he allowed just the one run on four hits, one walk, and fanned six.
Kaleb Fontenot quelled further damage by Greenville in the fourth and went on to pitch three scoreless. He struck out three and allowed a walk and a hit.
Hickory’s Matt Smoral and Matthew Gorst matched scoreless seventh innings before action for both sides in the eighth determined the final score. Smoral walked Chris Madera to start the eighth and that prompted manager Spike Owen to bring in Reid Anderson. Espinal failed at two sacrifice attempts before Anderson got him looking. Scott then bounced back to the mound and Tyler Hill flew out to right to end the threat.
Gorst retired the first two hitters in the eighth before the Crawdads put together three hits. Miguel Aparicio lined to right, Perez followed with an opposite field liner to right. Forbes then singled to left to score Aparicio.
Roldani Baldwin singled to start the ninth and moved to second with one out on a wild pitch. Anderson then struck out Isaias Lucena and got Mitchell Gunsolus to ground out to second and end the game.
“We haven’t had a lot of those from the standpoint of solid pitching, good defense and timely hitting,” said Owen. “That was a fun game. A 2-1 game, obviously, you want to be on the winning side of it, but that’s all we’re looking for is good baseball. That was a good baseball game.”
Forbes back to April?:
Ti’Quan Forbes was a pleasant surprise when he cranked out a bunch of homers and hits to start the season. Then, what seemed like a hitch showed up in the swing in the latter part of April and was it made him late on fastballs. He also swung through a ton of breaking balls.
During the last homestand, Forbes seemed to have an approach of taking everything up the middle and away and was able to pick up the breaking pitches better, but was still able to stay on the fastball.
Mata chewed him up with breaking pitches (looked like sliders) in the second for a strikeout. In the fourth, Forbes waited back on the curveball and bounced it along the line and past third. In the eighth, he sat dead-red and ambushed a fastball to left.
He now has a six-game hitting streak (8-for-24). Over a longer stretch, he has hits in 15 of the last 18 games, five of those with two hits. More importantly for him, he has just 10 Ks in that stretch over 69 plate appearances (14.4%). Forbes whiffed 27% of the time in April. He still needs to work the occasional walk, but he’s seeing the ball better and making contact.
Matuella no-match for the Drive:
The Rangers pitch trackers had him at 96-98 mph and most of his secondaries were changeups. There seemed to be a few sliders mixed in, but I was told they were changes. He needed only 38 pitches (27 strikes) to get through the third and so having him go to the fourth seemed to be an easy call. The first sign of trouble got him pulled.
“He had a good fastball and threw some changeups,” Crawdads manager Spike Owen said. “He’s still on a pitch limit and once action started happening in the fourth, we went ahead and went to the pen.”
As good as his stuff is, whether Matuella is tiring or hitters are adjusting to him, the few times he faces the lineup the second time through the order, he is getting hit. Both hits tonight came the second time through the order and both were smacked hard. He’s faced the order a second time in four starts and thus far hitters are 6-for-15 (2 Ks) with two doubles, a hit batter and a sac fly. There are adjustments to be made on Matuella’s part as to what he offers the hitters.
Fontenot signaling he is ready to become a DEWD?:
He throws 91-92 with a slider, change and curveball. When he is on, the fastball is spotted well and he can befuddle hitters with the breaking stuff. His 12.54 Ks per 9 innings (52 Ks in 37.1 IP this season) is the fifth best among SAL relievers.
Over the last four outings, he has allowed two hits, hit two, walked three and struck out 14 over 11.2 innings.
“Fotenot’s been outstanding all year,” said Owen. “He can flat out pitch. He throws harder than you think and he can put it where he wants. He’s got a good changeup and slider he can throw at any time in the count, so he’s able to keep them off balance. He’s not afraid to throw an offspeed pitch behind in the count. He’s been really good.”
Smoral and Anderson:
Smoral’s fastball was at 85-87 with iffy command which led to two walks of the five hitters he faced. He was able to get the slider to miss bats and it accounted for the lone K. His delivery out of the stretch is glacially deliberate and it led to his removal Smoral walked the leadoff hitter in the eighth with the game tied.
“He could’ve went more, but his situation was once he walked the leadoff guy, we wanted to be able to control the running game better,” said Owen. “He’s slow to the plate and we didn’t want to ask him to do something he’s not comfortable doing right now.”
The outing for Anderson was a needed one, as tonight was just the fourth scoreless outing in 13 appearances (2 starts). He attacked the strike zone with the fastball, pounding 17 of his 23 pitches for strikes.
“I’m happy for him and I hope he can gain some confidence off that in a tight game, coming in with a go-ahead run at first base and doing what he did,” said Owen. “Then once we took the lead, coming back and attacking the strike zone.”
The Drive entered Tuesday night’s game on the heels of two straight shutouts, the last a 17-0 pasting on Sunday by Charleston. So, when Drive CF Lorenzo Cedrola (Red Sox No. 15 prospect) jogged unenthusiastically to first on a 4-3 grounder to start the game, it was not received well. 1B coach Wilton Veras gave him an earful as he returned to the dugout and manager Darren Fenster took out the lineup card in the third-base coach’s box.
Surprisingly, Cedrola took the field in the bottom of the first, though he did not return for the second.
What’s the Mata?:
The 18-year-old from Maracay, Venezuela has impressed in his first three stateside starts. The Red Sox No. 27 prospect has now 16 Ks in 15 innings with 11 hits and five walks allowed. On Tuesday, he was clocked in the 90-92 mph range with which he was able to paint the corners for punchouts. Add in a curveball that had some bite and found the strike zone, Mata was tough to solve at times. However, the curve could be loopy and Forbes was able to wait on one long enough for an RBI single in the fourth.
From what I saw, there’s a lot for Red Sox fans to be excited about.
The Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers affiliate) host the Greenville Drive (Boston Red Sox) for a three-game series Monday through Wednesday at L.P. Frans Stadium to close out a seven-game homestand.
If you plan to go:
Games Monday and Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. with Wednesday’s tilt at 10:30 a.m.
Persons can get into the game free on Monday by bringing an item to support the Greater Hickory Cooperative Christian Ministry. Items needed are diapers, socks, men’s undershirts, light bulbs, batteries, paper towels, toilet paper, cleaning products, or air fresheners. Item(s) must be $5 or more in value.
Tuesday is Dollar Dog Day. Dogs are admitted for $1 each and hot dogs are $1 each at the concession stand. The Crawdads will have 16 oz. craft pints and 22 oz. Pepsis for $2.
Wednesday is the first Education Day of the year.
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 and an updated version of the CLAWlossal
Where is it?:
L.P. Frans 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 (Greenville/ Hickory):
Monday: RHP Anderson Espinoza vs. RHP Peter Fairbanks
Tuesday: LHP Logan Boyd vs. LHP Brett Martin
Wednesday: RHP Roniel Raudes vs. RHP Dillon Tate
Recent Series History:
Hickory and Greenville split a four-game series at LPFS last season in the only meetings between the clubs. The Crawdads have taken 9-of-12 the last two seasons. Since 2009, which is the start of the Rangers-Crawdads affiliation, Hickory is 34-29 overall, 23-21 at home. Overall, since the Drive began play in 2005 after moving from Columbia, Greenville holds the series lead 52-49, including a 28-24 mark at LPFS.
Entering the series – Hickory:
The Crawdads are 9-2, which is their best 11-game record to open a season since at least the 2000 season. (There are no game-by-game records available prior to 2000.) They are tied with the West Virginia Power for first in the South Atlantic League’s (SAL) Northern Division… Hickory took the final two games of the four-game series with Kannapolis and have won 6-of-7 overall.
At the plate: the Crawdads are tied with Greenville with a .423 slugging pct., trails only Greenville in OPS (.760) at .758 and are second in batting avg. at .265. The Crawdads lead the SAL in total bases and are second in hits.
On the mound, the team ERA of 2.00 is second in the SAL and as a group have allowed the fewest HRs (2) in the league. Despite the number of errors, especially early on, Hickory has given up just six unearned runs
In the field: After eight errors over the first four games of the season, the Crawdads have just five over the last seven.
On the bases: Hickory has a SAL-high of 35 steal attempts with 15 caught stealing. Eight different players have at least one steal with six putting up two or more. Dylan Moore leads with five and has yet to be caught.
Entering the series –Greenville:
The Drive are 7-4 after taking the final three games in their series at Columbia (S.C.) this weekend and sit two games behind first place Charleston (S.C.) in the SAL’s Southern Division. Greenville is in the midst of a stretch of games in which it had a three-game winning streak, a three-game losing streak, and now its current three-game winning streak.
At the plate: After scoring 25 runs over the first eight games of the season, Greenville exploded for 24 over the final three games, which included nine home runs against Fireflies pitching. That explosion has put them into the SAL lead with 13. They have more homers than doubles (12) and trail only in Hickory in total bases.
On the mound: As a group, the Drive is around the middle of the pack in most statistical categories, though their 2.66 ERA is fourth in the league. That ERA may need to be given more weight as to its excellence, considering that their home ballpark in Greenville is a hitter’s park. The relief pitching in many cases have been nearly lights out. Bobby Poyner, Jeffrey Fernandez and Kuehl McEachern have combined to strike out 18 and walk one over 16.1 scoreless innings.
In the field: Next to last fielding pct. (.957), Greenville has 17 errors on the season, eight of those in the last five games. Infielder Luis Alejandro Basabe has four.
Players to watch- Hickory:
RHP Peter Fairbanks: The 22-year-old was the Rangers 9th round pick in 2015 out of Missouri. Allowed three runs (two earned) on four hits and two walks over five innings with four Ks in his first start at Greensboro last week.
LHP Brett Martin: The 2015 SAL All-Star returned for a tune-up of his repertoire and it has worked well out of the gate for Hickory in 2016. Unrattled after a rough first inning during opening night at Kannapolis, the native of Morristown, Tenn. has allowed one earned run over nine innings with 12 K and four walks. He is prone to hits, as Martin sports a .264 OBA in his career, including ten hits allowed this year. Martin is the Rangers No. 11 prospect according to MLB.com, No. 18 by Baseball America.
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. He returned for the home opener last Thursday to strike out ten Intimidators over six innings and allowed four hits. Possesses a fastball/ slider combo with a developing changeup.
LHP Joe Palumbo: Has been tough to face in his two outings, as he has struck out 12 over 6.1 innings. That ratio of 17.05 K’s-per-9 innings is tops among relievers. Palumbo was the Rangers 30th round pick in 2013 out of St. John the Baptist in N.Y.
2B Andy Ibanez: Has arguably been the best hitter in the SAL over the first week-and-a-half of the season. Ibanez leads the SAL in hits (18), doubles (7), batting (.439), slugging (.732), extra base hits (9), total bases (30) and is third in OBP (.489). Baserunning has been a problem area early on as he has been caught stealing five times with three pickoffs. The 23-year-old Cuban native is the No. 8 prospect according to MLB.com and Baseball America has him No. 16.
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 13 strikeouts during the opening week-long road trip, but has adjusted for now with just three over the weekend. Has blazing speed with which he uses well to track down balls in the gaps. On offense, Jenkins will lay down effective bunts, but has the ability to pull the bat back and slap the ball around the field. Has shown emerging power as of later, with his first pro homer at Greensboro and a double to the track in CF vs. Kannapolis.
SS Yeyson Yrizarri: He is the No. 12 Rangers prospect according to MLB.com, No. 27 by Baseball America. Thus far, he has not appeared overmatched as a 19-year-old in his first full-season league. Yrizarri is errorless at the position and has shown good range. The cannon of an arm that was advertised ahead of his arrival has proved to be true. At the plate, he has a six-game hitting streak during which he is 9-for-25, including three two-hit games. Also has a streak of four games with at least one RBI. Showed promising power when he homered to LCF on Friday.
IF Dylan Moore: He began to get well at Greensboro last week, but had a six-game hitting streak snapped on Sunday vs. Kannapolis. Went 8-for-20 during the stretch. Has settled down at first after he made two errors opening night; gone errorless since and seems to look more comfortable there.
C Tyler Sanchez: At this point, Sanchez has worked himself into a few more at bats. Was the first catcher to work back-to-back games this season when he did so on Friday and Saturday, then played first on Sunday. Sanchez has shown patience at the plate with seven walks over his last four games.
Players to watch-Greenville:
RHP Anderson Espinoza: At 18, the native of Caracas, Venezuela is already the Red Sox No. 4 prospect by both Baseball America and MLB.com, which has him at the No. 37 overall prospect and the 10th-best right handed pitching prospect. Comes armed with a fastball that has touched 100 and an advanced curve and change. He shut down Asheville on two hits over five innings in his first start before West Virginia touched him for four runs (three earned) on six hits in his last start. Has nine Ks and no walks in 10 innings. Likely slated for around 75 pitches.
LHP Logan Boyd: The 22-year-old out of Sam Houston St. was the Red Sox 19th round pic in 2015. Gave up a hit per inning in his short-season tenure at Lowell (Mass.), has a 1.50 WHIP in two starts this season. Gave up two runs on four hits over three innings in his last start at Columbia.
RHP Roniel Raudes: From Nicaragua, the 18-year-old is MLB.com’s No. 14 prospect, No. 24 by Baseball America. Skipped short-season level after making his stateside debut in the Gulf Coast League last summer. Entered the season with 79 Ks and nine walks over 74 innings, is already at a 9/1 ratio in 10 innings this year. He four-hit Asheville to start his season and then allowed a run on three hits at Columbia in his last outing. Has a low-90s fastball with curve and change. Like Espinoza, will also likely top out at 75 pitches.
RHP Anyelo Leclerc: A member of the 2014 Crawdads squad, the Red Sox acquired him in the offseason during the minor-league phase of the Rule 5 draft. Has 10 Ks in 8.2 IP over 4 relief outings thus far in 2016. Gave up two runs in back-to-back outings before bouncing back on Sunday with a scoreless 1.2 innings at Columbia, though he gave up two walks and a hit.
CF Luis Alexander Basabe: The 19-year-old from El Vigia, Venezuela is listed as MLB.com’s No. 8 prospect, 9th by Baseball America. Is already in his fourth pro season after having signed with Boston in 2013 at 16. Evaluators have noted his speed and bat speed. A patient hitter at the plate for his age, has 126 walks in 867 plate appearances (15%). Has struggled at the start of the season (.176/.222/.353) with hits in only 3 of his 9 games. He is the twin brother of Drive infielder Luis Alejandro Basabe.
3B Michael Chavis: The Red Sox first-round pick (26th overall) in 2014 is in his second season with the Drive after a .223/.277/.405 season in 109 games last year. Still just 20, the native of Marietta, Ga. is the No. 10 prospect according to Baseball America and MLB.com. Won the home run derby at the 2013 Perfect Game All-American Classic and cranked out 16 homers with the Drive last year. But his 144 Ks derailed his season (31% K-rate). Has improved in that area early on in 2016 with just eight in 43 appearances. Is at .350/.395/.500 to start this season.
1B Josh Ockimey: The Red Sox 5th round pick in 2014, out of Sts. Neumann and Goretti High in Philly. Signed away from a commitment to Indiana. Already 6-1, 215, some evaluators have given comparisons a young Ryan Howard with his potential power. Had four homers and 20 extra-base hits in 56 games at short-season Lowell last year. Coming off back-to-back homers at Columbia and is third in the SAL in slugging at .676). MLB.com ranks him as the Red Sox No. 16, while Baseball America pegs him at No. 23.
C Austin Rei: The Red Sox No. 25 prospect, according to MLB.com was their third round pick in 2015 out of the University of Washington. Struggled at the plate at short-season Lowell (.179/.285/.295 in 130 plate appearances), has started just 4-of-28 at Greenville. Caught 4 of the 6 runners attempting to steal this season.
Notes of Interest:
Both teams have yet to lose a game when having the lead after five innings. Hickory is 7-0, while Greenville is 5-0. Both are undefeated (4-0) when scoring first. The Crawdads have won six of seven games decided by more than three runs…Drive catcher Roldani Baldwin went to the 7-day DL and was replaced on the roster by C Jhon Nunez. It is Nunez’s first stint at low-A… Drive RHP Michael Kopech (No. 5 prospect) is on the DL…The lone Crawdads DL casualty is pitcher Jacob Shortslef (cut finger).
I’ve had the unique pleasure to work in a minor league press box for the past 11 seasons and for a baseball junkie like me, there’s nothing like it.
One of the cool things for me is to meet the visiting radio guys from across the South Atlantic League. Many of the teams have radio play-by-play guys that are here today and gone the next, as they move up to better and brighter jobs in order to one day to get to the major leagues. But there are some names and faces you get used to seeing as they are synonymous with the teams and their cities.
Ed Jenson is one of those familiar faces I’ve come to know over the past decade. Ed has been the radio voice of the Greenville Drive since they began in 2005 and one of those faces I look forward to seeing each year when the Drive come to L.P. Frans Stadium in Hickory. No matter what I have going on with player interviews, setting up for my scorekeeping duties, etc. I try to make time to chat with Ed on that first game of a series to catch up. Mostly, it’s how each of our teams are doing – honest conversations, for better or worse.
When the Drive came to Hickory in late June for their lone series of the year, I arrived at the ballpark around 5 for a 7 p.m. game, set my briefcase down at my chair, then made my way to the visitor’s radio booth to say hello to Ed.
I pulled back the curtain, said, “Hey Ed, how’s it going?” When he turned around, my expression was such that you could’ve picked my jaw up off the ground. Ed’s response was, “Not very well.” He’d lost a ton of weight and his face was gaunt.
Ed had a couple of heart attacks over the past year and another heart situation during a series at Kannapolis that sent him to the hospital a few days. His travel bag at the time had not only his radio equipment, but a collection of nebulizers and medications and such. As we got to talking about what was happening, though the same strong radio voice was still present, it dawned on me that this could be the last time I see Ed.
Ed is a radio nut. He’s followed jobs from Iowa to Florida to Georgia to South Carolina doing a variety of sports. But his first love is baseball – correction, his first love is Greenville Drive baseball. To hear his stories – of which I’ve heard probably a lone chapter in a volume of work – is hearing a history of small town baseball.
As we talked on that June day, knowing that this is a man that could very well not come to Hickory again, I got Ed’s permission to do an interview about his life in radio, baseball, some of his favorite players, and life in general, including the plans he has for his own memorial service.
I typed up the interview quickly, but then as my own life has taken twists and turns, it sat on my computer waiting for the right day to post on my blog as other stories took precedent. About a month ago, I knew when it had to post – the closing day of the season.
Here is the interview.
How did you get from Storm Lake, Iowa to the South?
Jenson: I went from Storm Lake to Florida, then I went up into Georgia and up into South Carolina just following different jobs in radio and doing play-by-play as well.
Have you always done baseball?
Jenson: No, baseball, basketball, football, softball, wrestling – which you don’t want to think about doing.
I’m guessing that’s amateur wrestling and not the pro stuff.
Jenson: College and high school wrestling. You always wanted to have somebody that knew the different moves and calls. That was fun.
Did some Clemson baseball, St. Leo’s (FL) – that was a lot of fun. I did some Florida Gators games as well.
How did you get hooked up with the Drive?
Jenson: I was helping with the Greenville Braves when they were here and got to know Eric Jarinko, who at the time was the media relations guy coming with the Drive. We got to talking and he said, “I can either have you do PA and we can do play-by-play.” We just started off day one and he called me with about a week-and-a half to go and says, “We’re going to do the game.” And he said, “you’re going to do it.” I said, “oh my God, it’s a dream come true.”
So baseball has been your main sport?
Jenson: Baseball is my number one sport. Probably after baseball, I’d have to go basketball. I’ve not been a real big football lover.
What have you enjoyed about calling baseball?
Jenson: A lot people say, ‘How can you do baseball? It’s boring. There’s so much time in between.’ And I say, ‘To pinpoint one thing, it’s kind of hard.’ Just kind of growing up in the game and playing a lot of baseball, I guess I just fell in love with the game early in my life.
Did you every have the inclination to do this in the major league at some point?
Jenson: In the old days, yes (chuckles). Now, probably not. I mean, you’ve come to Greenville and you saw the ballclub. You come to the ballpark and you’ve seen the organization, it’s a Red Sox affiliate. I’m 65 years old, who wants to leave that kind of setup.
What’s struck you about working and staying in Greenville?
Jenson: It’s a great city, it really is. It continues to grow. We draw 5.000 people a night, every home game. It’ll be four to five and sometimes six-and-a-half a game. People just enjoy coming to the game, coming to the park. You look out and you see the stands filled, it puts a little extra spark in you.
What do you enjoy as far as the game on the field with the Drive? Obviously, you get the Red Sox product and you get to see them move up. What are some memories you have of the last ten years?
Jenson: Making it to the playoffs a couple of times. We did wrap up a divisional title at home and had a big dog pile out on the pitcher’s mound. The big party down in the locker room.
I guess it’s been fun to watch so many of the Drive players go from us, up to Salem, up to Portland and make the jump into the majors. I forget the count, but I think there are 15 or 16 former Drive players that are now wearing major league uniforms. Not necessarily with Boston, but playing in the major leagues.
Who do you remember most that has stuck out in your mind?
Jenson: (Anthony) Rizzo, who is with the Cubs. You’ve got (Mookie) Betts, (Clay) Buchholz. Those are the guys that really stuck in my head.
Were there any of those you saw in Greenville that you said immediately, this is going to be a major leaguer?
Jenson: Yeah, (Xander) Bogaerts is another one. The year that we had Bogaerts, we could see that it’s not going to take very long.
Betts is kind of a funny story, because he started off the year with us really slow, barely hit over .210, .215. But something tripped and boom, he’s gone. By August, he was up to Salem and upwards you go from there.
You and I talked yesterday about some of your medical issues and so on. You said you had two heart attacks?
Jenson: I’ve had two heart attacks, two stints and the guy says some serious infection in the chest. So, you’re having the good days and the bad days.
When was your last heart attack? You said a month-and-a half ago?
Jenson: Yep, I did. I had the first one back in November.
The other one was during the season?
Jenson: Right before.
Did you miss the first part of the season?
Jenson: Nope, I did not miss. I did miss a game in Kannapolis. We were playing a four-game series up there and I pulled in the fourth day and I just couldn’t move even out of the car. And they called the EMS and I told the guys from the EMS, “In two hours I’ve got to be on the air.” So they worked on me and we were in contact with the hospital. The EMS guys says, “How much time do you have before the ballgame?” And I said, “About an hour-and-a half, now.” And he said, “Well, you’re not going to make it.” He says, “We’re taking you to the hospital.” So they took me down to one of the hospitals in Charlotte. I was there for three days. I came back and I had a day off and then I went right back to work
This thing in Kannapolis, that was not your second heart attack?
Jenson: No, I thought it maybe was the third. That ended up being a real bad case of bronchitis that kind of set in and it forced me to have some heavy problems with breathing.
You said that you are taking different things now. You said you had a chest infection, or getting one?
Jenson: I’m real susceptible to be able to get it. I do take the medication. I have nebulizers when I do and this and that. Like I said, it’s a day-by-day thing. Some days you’re good, some days you’re bad. They put me on some medicine that they’re hoping that will take care and keep me going. That’s what I’m hoping for right now.
How long do you want to do this?
Jenson: Probably until I die.
Are we going to find you in a radio booth some afternoon or some evening?
Jenson: If that was the way I’d have to go, that’s the way I would want to go. Calling a game, or calling a playoff win.
What’s your prognosis long term?
Jenson: They say, “we feel confident that this (the medication) could work. But, if doesn’t, maybe a year, year-and-a-half. But they’re confident it could work if it’s treating right. And I said, “well, let’s hope it’s treated right.”
It’s not cognitive heart failure, is it?
Jenson: No, just some problems up there and they’ve got some spots there that they don’t like and that’s that.
Do they think that if it’s something that ‘s not going to heal that it will deteriorate over time?
Jenson: That’s the hope. (chuckles)
When you and I chatted yesterday, you said you’ve got your funeral planned?
Jenson: Yeah. If it happens, I want the funeral at the ballpark. I really do. That’s kind of my home away from the home where I’m at by myself. The people and the organization with the Drive, that’s a close family. I’d like to have it at the ballpark.
And you want the ashes placed there at the ballpark?
Jenson: Yeah, I’d love to. (laughs). Probably the federal government will have something to say about that.
Maybe they can put you in an urn, or something like that.
Jenson: Well, you never know. Obama’s approved stupider things, so you never know what could happen.
What do you want folks to remember about you?
Jenson: I can’t even think of anything for people to remember me. Just, don’t remember me, just live your life. Have fun with it because sometimes it’s short. That’s the thing: have fun. Treat people nice. Treat people the way you want to be treated. If you don’t, change your ways.
Is your family here?
Jenson: No, I don’t. All of my kids are up in Iowa. I’ve got a couple of grandchildren that live up in Iowa. I get a chance to talk with them a little bit by phone, and mostly we text back and forth. But like I tell them, hey, you guys have got a life. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be here.
How many kids?
Jenson: Three. I’ve got two boys and a girl. All grown up, thank goodness, and al in their 30s and enjoying life in Iowa.
Do they get to come down and see you at all?
Jenson: No. Being the fact that they’re so cotton-picking busy, they don’t. And I’m not going to force it on them. They’ve got their lives to lead. They’ve got wives and husband. I’m just, “Don’t worry about me; you’ve got to worry about your family first.”
Do you have a baseball dream that you want to see before you pass?
Jenson: Yeah, I’d like to go to Fenway. I’ve never been there. I would really love to see Fenway once. I was close, I got to see Pawtucket and I’ve been to Portland. But stupid me, I didn’t go to Boston. That’s one dream, before I go, I want to see Fenway, whether it’d be sitting in the stands, sitting in the dugout, sitting in the radio booth, or whatever.
When you and I talked, I was struck that you have a realistic attitude that time is short for you, likely. But then again, it’s short for everybody.
Jenson: It is. But I kind of go on the aspect that: it is what it is. Whatever happens, happens. I don’t have control. It’s the man upstairs. Every morning, I ask him, “Get me through another day.” That’s all I can say. That’s all I can ask for.
The Greenville (S.C.) Drive took advantage of three unearned runs – two of those in the seventh – to edge the Hickory Crawdads 4-3 in front of a sellout crowd of 4,623 fans at L.P. Frans Stadium on Friday.
The win by the Drive (43-36 overall, 5-4 second half) forged a split with the Crawdads by winning the final two games of the series.
Hickory (48-29) ended its second-half, opening homestand at 4-5. They travel to Greensboro Saturday to start a four-game road series before a five-game series in Lakewood, N.J.
The Drive put up a run just three batters into the games. Yoan Moncada led off the game with a triple and scored on a sacrifice fly by Danny Bethea.
A botched pickoff contributed to Greenville’s second run in the second. After Mike Meyers singled and moved to second on Brett Martin’s wild pitch, a subsequent pickoff throw sailed into center to put Meyers at third. From there, Meyers scored on Bryan Hudson’s grounder to short.
The Crawdads cut the deficit to 2-1 in the third when Jose Cardona smacked his eighth home run of the season.
Later in the third, Josh Morgan and Jonathan Meyer each singled before Luke Tendler doubled in Morgan to tie the game.
It appeared in the fourth that in-climate weather might become an issue and the Crawdads took a step to claim a win just in case of a rain-shortened contest. Juremi Profar drilled a first-pitch fastball from Jalen Beeks over the wall in left to put Hickory on top 3-2.
The rain eventually stopped in the fifth and Martin settled in on the mound. He retired 12 in a row at one point and faced the minimum of 15 hitters over a five-inning stretch.
But the game fell apart for the Crawdads in the seventh. It started ominously as Martin walked Bethea on four pitches. The final pitch was in question as it appeared that home plate umpire Kyle Wallace had called time before ball four was delivered. But the pitch stood and Bethea went to first.
Nick Longhi botched a sacrifice bunt to force Bethea, but moved to second on Jonathan Meyer’s passed ball. The game changed with Martin struck out Meyers on a breaking ball in the dirt. The catcher Meyer missed tagging Meyers on the dropped third strike, and then on the ensuing throw to first airmailed the ball down the line in right. Longhi scored from second and Meyers wound up at third.
Martin got Carlos Mesa to ground out to first for the second out to hold the runner. Joe Filomeno was brought in to face Hudson, who greeted Filomeno with a run-scoring single that broke the tie.
The Crawdads last opportunity in the ninth came when Jairo Beras doubled and moved to third on a grounder. But Jamie Callahan got Profar to fly to right to end the game. He completed the three-inning save (1) in relief of Jalen Beeks (7-4), who threw the first six innings.
Brett Martin: Had a rough start with his change as he left a 1-2 offering up that Moncada sent out for the triple. Left another one up to Meyers – again on 1-2 – that went for a single, which came back to bite him in a run scored.
Otherwise, it was the second-straight start in which Martin averaged around 11 pitches per innings. In his previous start last Saturday against Lakewood, Martin needed only 54 pitches to complete five innings. Friday night, he needed only 60 to get through six innings and with a quick seventh could have gone out for the eighth. However, his four-pitch walk likely squashed that idea.
Martin finished with 75 pitches (55 strikes), throwing first-pitch strikes to 16 of 24 hitters. His fastball ran in the 92-94 range. The opening inning aside, his change and a curveball in the 80-82 range contributed to quick outs on grounders. He had single-digit pitch totals of 10 or fewer in five of his seven innings.
Joe Filomeno: After a couple of liners to end the seventh, settled down to retire six of the last seven batters he faced. The lefty throws a lively 92-94 mph fastball that gets onto hitters quick, thought it can be straight . But it was the slider that missed bats on Friday (at least four in the last two innings).
Jose Cardona and Juremi Profar: Both mashed pitches that should be mashed. Cardona ripped a high change out of the park while Profar crushed a first-pitch fastball down the middle.
Josh Morgan: Back on track after an 0-for-5 night Thursday. Stayed with a change from Beeks for a bloop single in the third . Then added a sharp one-hopper to third on a fastball in the eighth for a single.
The offense: Has lost its way in manufacturing runs as of late. In the 40 innings vs. Greenville, the Crawdads scored only seven of them – three of those home run innings. Hickory had nine hits, but scored only three.
Jonathan Meyer: A tough night for the recent, free-agent signee, who is catching his first games as a pro this week. A wild pitch by Martin in the second likely should have been stopped as the short hop hit the glove. But his passed ball and throwing error on a dropped third strike in the seventh were huge.
It appeared that he panicked on the throwing play. Having collected the curveball in the dirt on the strikeout, Meyer tried to tag Meyers out of the box but missed the runner. Meyer quickly checked the runner at second before rushing his throw to first which went into the right-field corner.
Jamie Callahan: The second-round pick of the Red Sox in 2012 (Dillon High, S.C.) showed a hammer of a 12-6 curveball (two Ks with it in the seventh) to go with a 93-95 heater. Jairo Beras squared up a fastball for a double just after Tendler lined one hard to right.
Yoan Moncada: Went 2-for-13 in the series – one of those hits a bloop single – with three strikeouts. Lined Martin’s high changeup to deep center and showed a good burst of speed to leg out the triple. None of the scouts I talked with were enamored with him. Other than maybe the speed on the triple and the ensuring run on the sac fly, there was nothing I saw that made me say, “I want to spend $31.5 million on him.” But he’s 20 and is still feeling his way in this country. There is a solid build in the 6-3, 205-pound (seems low) physique.