Results tagged ‘ Jonathan Hernandez ’

Offensive Tourists Rude to Hosts: Defeat Crawdads 8-6

Hickory reached the 50th game of the season and a familiar theme through the first 49 played out again on Sunday afternoon.

The Asheville Tourists built a big lead early and the held on to an 8-6 win Sunday afternoon at L.P. Frans Stadium.

The Tourists (21-27) took three out of four in the series and sent the Crawdads (19-31) to their seventh loss in eight games and the eighth out of ten.

 

What Happened?:

Two in the first, one in the third, four in the fourth nearly put the game out of reach for the Tourists, though the Crawdads did make it interesting in the middle innings.

With Jonathan Hernandez – the reigning South Atlantic League’s pitcher of the month – on the mound for the Crawdads, Manny Melendez led off the game with a single to center. One out later, Colton Welker (4-for-5) sliced a liner just on the line in right for a run-scoring double. After Willie Abreu popped out, Max George hit a long fly ball to the warning track in center. Leody Taveras tracked the ball, but was never able to get his body square for the catch and it fell in for a triple.

Alex Kowalczyk (3-for-4) took a dead-fish fastball from Ty Culbreth and sent it in orbit over the fence in left-center to cut the Crawdads deficit in half. However, Abreu slapped a Hernandez changeup off the billboards in right to reclaim the original two-run lead for the Tourists.

What turned out to be the difference in the game was the fourth inning. Carlos Herrera tripled and scored on Eric Toole’s squeeze bunt. The inning fell apart with two outs in the ninth when Campbell Wear, the Tourists’ backup catcher, who entered the game hitting .067, walked. From there, Wear stole second and scored on Melendez’s single. Jose Gomez doubled, Welker lined a single to left and it was now 7-1.

With rain falling beyond centerfield – but not in the ballpark – Hickory got back into the game with three in the fourth. Taveras walked and Kowalczyk singled. A fly ball to right advanced Taveras to third and he scored on Carlos Garay’s sac fly. Jose Almonte made the game interesting with a two-run homer to left-center to make it 7-4.

In need of a shutdown inning, it didn’t happen in the fifth. George doubled, moved to third on a Hernandez wild pitch and scored when SS Anderson Tejeda – playing in to try and keep the runner at third from scoring – fielded a groundball hit by Joel Diaz, then double pumped the throw home, which was enough to allow George to slide around the tag of Kowalczyk and score.

The Crawdads got within 8-6 in the seventh when Tejeda doubled and one out later scored on Leody Taveras’s single up the middle. Ti’Quan Forbes walked to put the tying run on, but Asheville brought in Julian Fernandez to finish the inning. He did so emphatically (up to 100 mph!) with a strikeout of Garay.

That turned out to be the game. Fernandez breezed through the eighth to earn the scorer’s-decision win. J.D. Hammer struck out two in the ninth to work around a one-out single and earn his third save of the series, the fifth overall.

 

Hernandez today:

(The following is my own observation. I could be WAAAAAY off base, but this is what I saw. There are smarter people than me that may say this is all bunk.)

Today was the first time I’d seen Hernandez pitch since he started a stretch of four, strong starts that eventually led to a one-hitter over seven innings vs. Greensboro. The thing I noticed was the windup seemed to be much more deliberate than in the past. He starts out facing the catcher, turns as if to reset himself into the stretch position, then the windup and a pitch. Hernandez has a tendency at times to rush his delivery and then fly open, which, to me, seemed to make his pitches flatten out. I’ve seen him use the towel drill between starts to work on staying in line with the plate upon the delivery – he’s done this at least for two seasons now.

In talking with pitching coach Jose Jaimes during the last homestand, he mentioned that Hernandez has developed the ability to throw his changeup at any count. He has a fastball that sits 95-97 – but it is often straight – and he can mix in a slider that does catch the strike zone. The money pitch for him is when that changeup is on. He misses bats with it, but it’s the groundball outs that is the clue as to whether he will be effective or not. Today, it wasn’t.

Today, out of the stretch, he tended to fall off the first-base side of the mound and his pitches flattened and stayed up. Two groundouts (should’ve had a third on the fielder’s choice in the fifth) and a ton of well-struck pitches for hits or outs.

It looked like in the third he was finding a groove. Hernandez started the third with back-to-back whiffs on a change and a slider for the K, then got a quick grounder from Welker. Abreu followed and Hernandez appeared to get him to swing through a change to get the count to 1-2. The umps ruled Abreu checked the swing and whether it was from frustration or something else, another change followed that stayed up and left the yard.

After he gave up the first run in the fourth on Toole’s squeeze, Hernandez seemed to lose concentration. The five-pitch walk to .067-hitting Wear followed and one could sense that things would fall apart… and they did.

Hernandez understands what he’s to do and is working to fix the mechanics. Some day’s he’ll have it; some day’s… no. This was a no day.

Jonathan Hernandez - Proffitt

Jonathan Hernandez (photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

 

Forbes:

Went 0-for-3 with a walk. Two fly balls to right and a strikeout on an 9-pitch AB. The approach is better; he’s seeing pitches better. Hopefully the results will follow as they did on Saturday when he homered to center and singled to right.

 

Taveras:

That fly-ball triple to Taveras in the first, I honestly thought he was going to catch it. He seemed to have no trouble tracking it down and raced it to the warning track. However, it seemed like he couldn’t get his body turned the right way to catch it. Now, admittedly, the play was 450+ feet from me, and so it may have been a harder play than I am describing. But, such as the expectations one has when watching Taveras on a near daily basis.

At the plate today, he looked like his “old” self, working the count or ambushing fastballs. I swear, nearly every plate appearance is over six pitches or 1-2.

 

Kowalczyk:

The dude is strong and right now, he is seeing everything. His third hit in the fifth was a thing of beauty. Down 1-2, he spoiled a Bryan Baker slider (?), then laid off a pair of breaking balls to work the count full. The play-by-play stringer and I both thought there’s no way – given how he attacked the first two ABs – he’d see a fastball, especially with a base to work with. Kowalczyk saw one low and in and he ripped it to left.

Alex Kowalczyk - Proffitt

Alex Kowalczyk homered and knocked in two on Sunday (courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

 

He’s a tall kid, built solid and, at least at this point, the bat is ahead of SAL pitching. The whole adjustment to pro-game breaking balls hasn’t phased him for now. His defensive work, however, has been suspect. Kowalczyk entered Sunday’s game catching just one of 14 baserunners attempting to steal and the throws – at least on this homestand – have not been close. Several have sailed into center, or bounced well to the 3B side of second. Take on three passed balls and four errors thus far on the season – and would’ve added a fifth if not for Taveras backing up the play and throwing out Joel Diaz at third – and it’s been a tough road for him.

 

Falling behind:

Hickory simply falls behind too many times and often it’s big. Here are the numbers:

The Crawdads have scored first in just 19 games this year and when the opponent scores, it comes during the first three innings. Opponents have scored in the first inning in 24 games. The Crawdads have scored just 25 total first-inning runs.

The opposition has scored in the first three innings in 43 of the games and hold a 139-88 over innings 1, 2 and 3 combined. Nine times, Hickory has given up six or more runs over the first three innings 8 times, 5 runs two more times.

The emphasis for the Rangers in their system is to command the fastball. It’s pretty certain that at Hickory, the starters are not commanding that pitch.

Series Preview Hickory at Lexington (KY) May 22-24

Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (18-25, 6th place South Atlantic League Northern Division) at Lexington Legends (Kansas City Royals) (19-24, 5th place Southern)

The Hickory Crawdads play the last three games of an eight-game road trip at Whitaker Bank Ballpark

 

If you plan to go:

GAME TIMES: Monday-Tuesday at 7:05 p.m., Wednesday at 12:35 p.m.

Promotions: Monday: Kids Eat N’ Play for Free (Kids 12 and under eat and play in the kids play area for free); Mommy/ Son Date Night; Super Hero Night. Tuesday: $1 day (Dollar hot dogs, popcorn, ice cream sandwiches, Pepsi products). Wednesday: Hunt Brothers ½ price pizza

TICKETS: $6 for bleacher seats. $9-$23 in advance, add $2 the day of the game.

Where is it?: I-75 North/I-64 Wast to exit 113. Turn right at the end of the ramp onto North Broadway toward downtown Lexington. Follow North Broadway for approximately one and a half miles, past New Circle Road (Highway 4). Turn right into the stadium located adjacent to the Northland Shopping Center.

PARKING: $3-$5. Parking is available at the ballpark as well as other spaces within a 10-minute walk.

CONCESSIONS: Whitaker Bank Ballpark offers a wide variety of food items for fans including Big L’s Gourmet Dogs, Hunt Brothers Pizza, Colonel Cobb, Kona Ice, Kettle Cory, Broadway Cantina and more. For dining, there is the Kentucky Ale Taproom. http://www.milb.com/documents/2/4/0/46314240/Legends_2013_Tap_Room_Menu_v3_opt_0evaa6fd.pdf

 

Probables (Hickory/ Lexington):

Monday: RHP Jonathan Hernandez vs. RHP Travis Eckert

Tuesday: RHP Kyle Cody vs. LHP Andre Davis

Wednesday: RHP Michael Matuella vs. RHP Jace Vines

 

Recent Series History: The Crawdads went 10-5 against the Legends in 2016, which included 5-of-7 at Whitaker Bank Ballpark. The teams played sporadically for several years prior to 2016. In 2015, Hickory all four games, which were all played at Lexington. Before that, the teams played all games for three seasons at Hickory, with the Legends edging the Crawdads 9-7.

 

About the Crawdads: Hickory dropped the final game of a five-game series at Kannapolis, but won the weekend series 3-2. It is the third series the Crawdads won this season, the first against a team other than Columbia (S.C.). Overall, the Crawdads have won 5 of 7 over the past week and climbed out of the cellar of the Northern Division… The Crawdads are in danger of snapping a streak of 14 straight half-seasons above .500, stretching back to the second half of the 2009 season. Hickory will have to win 17 of the final 27 to avoid a losing record… The Crawdads lineup has been humming in May, but will have to do so for a while without Yanio Perez, who is on the disabled list with an undisclosed injury. Perez (.356/.429/.630) leads the SAL in batting average and is in the top three in on-base pct., slugging pct. OPS, hits, homers and total bases. Still, Hickory’s .284 average is the second highest in the SAL for May and the lineup scored 4+ runs in three of the four games since losing Perez. The Crawdads are third in the SAL in homers, OPS (.715) and slugging (.397), fourth in RBI and total bases. However, they are near the bottom in walks received and on-base pct. (.318)… On the mound, Hickory remains well entrenched at the bottom of the SAL in ERA (5.52), and WHIP (1.55), runs and earned runs allowed, and next to last in hits and walks allowed. However, this past week has arguably been the best for the staff and the Crawdads will run the two hottest starters for the first two games. During the five wins this past week, Hickory allowed just 11 total runs. In the two losses, it gave up 18. Hickory has allowed seven or runs 18 times in 43 games, 12 of those during the last 23.

 

Prospects to watch- Hickory:

CF Leody Taveras (No. 1 MLB.com and Baseball America, No. 43 Baseball America top-100 prospects, No. 51 MLB.com top-100): Signed as international free agent 2015 out of Tenares, Dominican Republic. Went hitless in three straight games for just second time this season during the Kannapolis series and sat out his first game of the season on Sunday. His slash for May is still .300/.324/.457.

SS Anderson Tejeda (No. 7 MLB.com, No. 16 Baseball America). Signed as an international free agent in 2015 out of Bani, D.R. The rate of strikeouts has lessened (40% in April, 29% in May), but so has the rate of walks (14.3% in April, 8.8% in May). Went 4-for-18 during Kannapolis series with 7 Ks, but three of the hits were doubles.

LF Miguel Aparicio (No. 14 Baseball America, No. 29 MLB.com). Signed as an international free agent in 2015 out of San Carlos, Venezuela. Is 8-for-43 (.186) since joining the Crawdads on May 10, but had a three-run double at Kannapolis on Sunday.

RHP Michael Matuella (No. 19 Baseball America, No. 20 MLB.com). Third-round pick in 2015 out of Duke Univ. After two rough starts, he gave up just one run on three hits and fanned four at Kannapolis on Thursday. Pitches have tended to catch a lot of the plate far as the SAL is hitting .410 against him over 8.1 innings (16 hits to 45 hitters faced).

RHP Jonathan Hernandez (No.17 Baseball America, No. 18 MLB.com): Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of the Dominican Republic. Pitched one-hit ball over seven innings and fanned six last Monday against Greensboro. Over his last four starts totaling 25.1 innings, Hernandez has allowed five runs on 20 hits with five walks and 26 Ks.

2B Yeyson Yrizarri (No. 17 MLB.com): Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of the D.R. Saw a 10-game hitting streak come to an end on Sunday. A stretch of at least one hit in 13 of 14 games moved his batting average from .155 on May 4 to .250.

RF Jose Almonte (No. 28 MLB.com): Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of Santo Domingo, D.R. Has perhaps begun to heat up after a prolonged slow start with an injury mixed in. Is 6-for-17 over his last five games with two walks on Sunday. His nine walks so far this season equals his entire output for 2016.

RHP Tyler Ferguson (No. 30 Baseball America, No. 30 MLB.com): Sixth-round pick in 2015 out of Vanderbilt. After two straight outings which yielded runs, Ferguson allowed just one hit in a scoreless outing on Saturday. Has fanned 22 of the 65 batters he faced, but walked or hit 12.

 

Others to watch – Hickory:

RHP Kyle Cody: Sixth-round pick in 2016 out of Kentucky. Returning to the city where he started for the Wildcats in college. Save for a poor start vs. Charleston (S.C.) on May 10, Cody has had a decent run this season. In his last outing on Tuesday, Cody pitched a four-hitter over seven innings and fanned 10. Held the opposition to fewer than two earned runs in four of seven starts.

1B Carlos Garay: Signed as an international free agent in 2011 out of La Victoria, Venezuela. Played this season at high-A Down East before he was assigned to Hickory this weekend due to the injury to Perez. Went 4-for-9 with an RBI in his first two games.

C Ricky Valencia: Signed as an international free agent in 2011 out of Valencia, Venezuela. Enters the series with a five-game hitting streak (7-for-19) and four RBI in that stretch.

LHP C.D. Pelham: 33rd-round pick in 2015 out of Spartanburg Methodist College. Has become a reliable arm out of the pen. Over his last seven outings (13 innings), Pelham has fanned 17 of the 59 hitters he’s faced (29%) and allowed just two earned runs on 17 total baserunners.

 

About the: Legends

Managed by Scott Thorman in his first season with the Legends after two years as the skipper at the Royals rookie-level club at Burlington (73-63) …Lexington returns home after a 5-3 Georgian-road trip to Augusta and Rome. The Legends are tied for the worst home record in the SAL at 5-12. Lexington has played just three home games this month (1-2)… Despite winning two of three from the Braves, the Legends pitching took it on the chin in surrendering 24 runs and playing an 18-inning affair on Friday. Earlier this season, the Legends gave up a SAL record 30 hits during a 22-4 loss to Hagerstown (Md.). Lexington has given up 46 homers in 43 games, seven more than Greensboro. The Legends are also last in hits allowed, next to last in runs allowed, and 12th out of 14 teams in ERA (4.85), WHIP (1.47) and walks allowed… A free-swinging team at the plate, the Legends can run up some numbers. They are second in runs and homers, RBI, total bases, third in hits, doubles, and OPS. Lexington is also second in Ks… The Legends have done well at shutting down the running game with catchers combining to nab 42.9% of runners trying to steal.

 

Prospects to watch – Lexington:

RF Khalil Lee: (No. 12 Baseball America, No. 13 MLB.com) Third-round pick in 2016 out of Flint Hill High (Oakton, VA). Was the Gatorade player of the year in Virginia last year. The Legends leadoff hitter takes a lot of pitches as he leads the SAL in Ks and is fourth in walks. Tied for 9th in runs. Posted a .213/.338/295 slash in May. A threat on the bases with 11 steals (5th in the SAL), though he has been caught six times.

C Meibrys Viloria (No. 14 MLB.com, No. 18 Baseball America) Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of Cartagena, Colombia. Was the MVP in the Pioneer League (rookie) at Idaho Falls in 2016 after posting a .376/.436/.606 slash. After a .186 average in April, Viloria has been hot in May at .339.422/.679 with four homers and 16 RBI in 15 games. Enters the series with an RBI in six straight games and seven of eight. Behind the plate has thrown out 17 of the 40 runners trying to steal.

CF Marten Gasparini: (No. 19 MLB.com, No. 22 Baseball America) Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of Ruda, Italy. Signed the largest contract given to a European prospect. Hit .196 as the Legends starting shortstop last year and has not been much better (.186) in 2017. Committed 48 errors last year precipitating the move to center. Has just four extra-base hits this year in 35 games.

SS Ricky Arcena (No. 27 MLB.com) Signed as an international free agent in 2014 out of San Francisco de Macoris, D.R. Like Gasparini, the stick has been light and the game a bit fast in the field (60 errors in 115 pro games). Started the last road trip with hits in five of the first six games, before an 0-for-7 with 6 Ks over the final two games.

 

Others to watch – Lexington:

LF Kort Peterson: 23rd-round pick in 2016 out of UCLA. Tabbed to the Appalachian League post-season All-Star team in 2016, as well as a Royals organizational All-Star by MLB.com. Fifth in the SAL in OBP (.405) and tied for 10th in hits. Enters the series with a seven-game hitting streak and hits in 16 of the last 18 games (26-for-77, .338). Is 8 for his last 17.

RHP Jace Vines: Fourth-round pick in 2016 out of Texas A&M. Expected to make his third straight appearance as a starter on Wednesday (10 IP, 11 H, 3 ER, 1 HB, 1 BB, 4 K). Enters the series with a 1.67 ERA as a starter. Relies on defense to make plays (1.81 GO/AO) with just 24 Ks in 40.1 innings overall.

RHP Grant Gavin: 29th-round pick in 2016 out of Central Missouri. Has struck out 23 of 81 batters faced (28%). Has allowed one earned run over 21 innings (0.43 ERA) and the league is hitting .130 against him.

1B Joe Dudek: Non-drafted free agent in 2016 out of Kentucky. Enters series with seven-game hitting streak (10-for-26, .385) with three walks. Has reached base in all ten games since he joined the Legends. Was teammate of Crawdads P Kyle Cody.

Series Preview: Greensboro at Hickory May 13-16

Greensboro Grasshoppers (Miami Marlins) (19-15, 3rd South Atlantic League Northern Division) at Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (13-21, 7th SAL Northern)

The Hickory Crawdads continue a weeklong homestand with a four-game series against the Greensboro Grasshoppers at L.P. Frans Stadium in Sally League action.

 

If you plan to go:

GAME TIMES: Saturday 6:00 p.m., Sunday 3:00 p.m., Monday 6:00 p.m., Tuesday 10:30 a.m.

PROMOTIONS:

Saturday: Post-game concert featuring Christian artist Aaron Shust

Sunday: Mother’s Day; Church Bulletin Sunday (Bring your church bulletin to the ticket office for a discounted $6 ticket. The Crawdads will then donate $4 of each ticket to that respective church.)

Monday: Make a Difference Monday (Donate any non-perishable canned-food item at the gate (at least $5 value) for the Food Pantry for a free ticket.

Tuesday: Education Day; Business Card Special (Show a business card at the ticket office for a $5 ticket)

 

TICKETS: $9 dollars for regular seats, $14 for VIP section. Tickets for the Christian Concert are $15 for regular seats, $20 for VIP section

WHERE IS IT?: Clement Blvd., 1 mile west of U.S. Hwy 321, near entrance to Hickory Airport.

PARKING: All parking is $3.

CONCESSIONS: L.P. Frans Stadium has two main concession areas plus the Crawdads Café. The concession stands have your basic ballpark food: Hot dogs, burgers, chicken sandwich, BBQ, etc. The Crawdad Café has a menu that features more diverse items, including the Mac & Crawdog, Banana Foster Bites, Fried Pickles, Sloppy Burger, and more. Click here for the menu http://www.milb.com/documents/3/3/4/185907334/cafe_menu_6eeko6n2.pdf

 

Probables (Greensboro/ Hickory):

Saturday: LHP Dylan Lee vs. RHP Demarcus Evans

Sunday: LHP Braxton Garrett vs. RHP Tyler Phillips

Monday: RHP Michael King vs. RHP Jonathan Hernandez

Tuesday: RHP Jordan Holloway vs. RHP Kyle Cody

 

Recent Series History:

The Grasshoppers opened the 2017 season with a 3-1 series win at home. Overall since 2009 – the start of the Crawdads-Rangers affiliation – Greensboro is 66-64 overall, but the Crawdads are 32-28 at L.P. Frans Stadium.

 

About the Crawdads:

Hickory took the final game of a three-game series against Charleston (S.C.), but were blown out by a combined 25-6 in the first two games… Pitching is a major concern for the squad. Not only is the team last in the SAL in ERA (5.64), WHIP (1.57), runs allowed and earned runs allowed, but also is on pace to set club records in all categories along with hits allowed. Hickory has given up 10+ runs eight times this season, four of those have come in the last seven games… Often the Crawdads are playing catch up as the opposition has scored first in 23 of 34 games. In games they have scored first, the Crawdads are 4-7… The offense continues to plug along, hitting .289 in May. However, Hickory scored just eight runs in the three-game series with the RiverDogs. That output has been indicative of the Crawdads play at home, where they’ve scored just over three runs per and have a .224/.291/.353 slash… As a team, they are third in the SAL with 30 HRs and tied for first with Greensboro with 11 triples.

 

Prospects to watch- Hickory:

CF Leody Taveras (No. 1 MLB.com and Baseball America, No. 43 Baseball America top-100 prospects, No. 51 MLB.com top-100): Signed as international free agent 2015 out of Tenares, Dominican Republic. Saw his 12-game hitting streak come to an end on Friday when he fanned twice and hit into a double play. Is one of two Crawdads (Ti’Quan Forbes) to play in all 34 games this season. Posted a .350/.357/.550 slugging pct. in May.

SS Anderson Tejeda (No. 7 MLB.com, No. 16 Baseball America). Signed as an international free agent in 2015 out of Bani, D.R. Went 1-for-7 in the series vs. Charleston with four Ks. Has 16 walks, but 40 Ks in 115 plate appearances.

LF Miguel Aparicio (No. 14 Baseball America, No. 29 MLB.com). Signed as an international free agent in 2015 out of San Carlos, Venezuela. Joined the Crawdads at the start of the homestand and went 3-for-9 with a double. Also walked and was hit by a pitch.

OF Yanio Perez (No. 15 MLB.com, 27 Baseball America): Signed as an international free agent out of Havana, Cuba. Has asserted himself as THE big bat in the lineup over the last couple of weeks. Went just 1-for-10 with a walk in the Charleston series. Is one of the few hitters to hit well at home, posting a .351/.439/.649 slash. Five of his seven homers and 14 of 23 RBIs have come at LP Frans. Has also feasted against lefties at a .406/.459/.844 clip.

RHP Jonathan Hernandez (No.17 Baseball America, No. 18 MLB.com): Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of the Dominican Republic. Has been the lone wolf of the starting rotation this season, or at least the last three starts. In his last outing, Hernandez struck out ten over 5.2 innings and allowed just one run on six hits. Prior to that, he gave up two runs on five hits over 7 innings and got 11 groundball outs. His changeup is his make-or-break pitch.

2B Yeyson Yrizarri (No. 17 MLB.com): Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of the D.R. After a 1-for-39 funk (.065) to start the season, Yrizarri is back over .200 (.217) with hits in six of seven games. Went 4-for-8 in the series vs. Charleston. Lefties have contained him, however, at a .152/.152/.273 clip.

RF Jose Almonte (No. 28 MLB.com): Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of Santo Domingo, D.R. Since missing a week with a leg injury, Almonte is 6-for-33 (.182) since his return.

RHP Tyler Ferguson (No. 30 Baseball America, No. 30 MLB.com): Sixth-round pick in 2015 out of Vanderbilt. Working on a string of five straight scoreless outings covering 7.1 innings with 14 Ks.

 

Others to watch – Hickory:

RHPs Demarcus Evans and Tyler Phillips: The two had worked in tandem this season, but will now be in the rotation as full-fledged, solo members. Evans has a better ERA (3.12 to 12.00) and strikeout ratio (34% to 25%) as a reliever, while Phillips has been better as a starter (5.40 ERA to 8.10).

RHP Kyle Cody: 6th-round pick in 2016 out of Kentucky. Along with Hernandez, he had been steady in the rotation, but was roughed up in his last outing (5 ER, 5 H, 2.2 IP). Has lost four straight starts, but prior to that last start, he had allowed just four earned runs (three homers) and fanned 11 over 15.2 innings in that stretch.

P Kaleb Fontenot: 21st round pick in 2016 out of McNeese St. His 14 Ks per 9 IP is the fifth best among SAL relievers. Is unscored upon in six of nine outings, but gave up three runs in 2.1 IPs vs. Charleston on Wednesday. However, he did fan five in that appearance and he has 18 Ks in his last 10 innings.

 

About the Grasshoppers:

Managed by Todd Pratt in his first season… The former major league catcher was the head coach at West Georgia Tech the past five seasons… Greensboro saw its seven-game win streak snapped last night at Lexington (Ky.), but has still won 10 of the last 13… Despite playing in a hitter-friendly home park, the Grasshoppers have just 20 homers this season, eight of those in 17 road games, Conversely, the pitchers have allowed 32 HRs, the second most in the Sally League. However, just eight of those are surrendered on the road… Collectively, the Grasshoppers hitters get deep into counts, as they are tied for first in walks and are second in strikeouts… Greensboro will test the arms of the Crawdads catchers as it is third in the SAL in steals and caught stealing attempts…. The Grasshoppers are 8-0 in one-run games and 10-3 when they score first… Defensively, Greensboro is third in the SAL in fielding pct.

 

Prospects to watch –Greensboro:

LHP Braxton Garrett (No. 1 MLB.com, No. 1 Baseball America, No. 37 MLB.com top-100, No. 80 Baseball America top-100): First-round pick (7th overall) out of Florence (AL) High School. Pitched for the 18-and-under USA World Cup team in 2015, which won the gold medal. Published reports rated his curveball as one of the best in the 2016 draft class. Made his pro debut last Sunday vs. Rome (4.2 IP, 1 H, 1 unearned run, 3 BB, 4 K).

3B James Nelson (No. 10 MLB.com, No. 18 Baseball America): 15th-round pick in 2016 out of Cisco JC (Texas). Did not start the season with the Grasshoppers until April 21. Currently has a 10-game hitting streak with multiple hits in eight of them and 2+ hits in 9 of 12 games. Went 7-for-14 at Lexington. Made 12 errors in 40 games last year, but just three so far in 2017.

RHP Jordan Holloway (No. 15 Baseball America, 16 MLB.com): 20th round pick in 2014 out of Ralston Valley High, Arvada CO. After a solid short-season year with Batavia in 2015, he took a step backwards when he struggled with control with the Grasshoppers (15 walks/ 31 innings over eight starts) then was shut down with a triceps injury after a demotion back to Batavia. The control issues remain with 17 BBs in 34.2 IPs this season. However, he showed his promise on 4/28/17 at Asheville when he threw five no-hit innings – though he walked three.

RHP Sam Perez (No. 18 MLB.com, 23 Baseball America): Fifth-round pick in 2016 out of Missouri St. Gave up 14 earned runs in 9.1 innings over his first five relief outings, but has been unscored upon in his last three appearances. SAL hitters have touched him for a .321 average.

2B Justin Twine (No. 26 MLB.com, 28 Baseball America): Second-round pick in 2014 out of Falls City (TX) High. In his third season with the Grasshoppers. Ks have held him back. He entered the season with 276 strikeouts in 970 ABs and is at 35 out of 98 in 2017. Still just 21, but the Marlins patience may be wearing thin for a third-year guy hitting .153/.222/.194.

 

Others to watch –Greensboro:

RHP Michael King: 12th-round pick in 2016 out of Boston College. Named the SAL pitcher of the week on April 16 after allowing two hits over seven innings at Lakewood (NJ). He equaled that in his last start on Wednesday at Lexington (KY).

RHP Kyle Keller: 18th-round pick in 2015 out of SE Louisiana. Fifth in the SAL with five saves, has 15 Ks over 11.1 innings.

 

Notes: Crawdads IF Blaine Prescott was activated from the disabled list (hamstring) with C Shaq Matta going to extended spring.

Series Preview: Hickory Crawdads at Hagerstown (Md.) Suns May 5-8

Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (10-17, 7th South Atlantic League Northern Division) at Hagerstown Suns (Washington) (17-10, 1st Northern Division)

The Hickory Crawdads continue a two-city road trip with a four-game series at Hagerstown’s Municipal Stadium.

 

If you plan to go:

GAME TIMES: Friday 7:05 p.m., Saturday 6:05 p.m., Sunday 2:05 p.m., Monday 10:35 a.m. (Games are streamed through the Suns website or milb.com

 

Promotions:

Friday – Post-game fireworks

Saturday – Disney Night & Vacation Giveaway

Sunday – Superhero Day

Monday – Education Day

 

TICKETS: $12 VIP section, $10 Grandstand, $9 General Admission

 Where is it?: 274 East Memorial Blvd., Hagerstown. From I-81, take exit 6A (US 40 East) through downtown Hagerstown. Turn right at Cleveland Ave.

PARKING: Free parking available at the stadium.

 CONCESSIONS: Municipal Stadium has standard ballpark fare (Burgers, hot dogs, pizza, funnel cakes, etc.) There is also a beer garden down the left field line.

 

Probables (Hickory / Hagerstown):

Friday: RHP: Edgar Arredondo vs. RHP Carlos Pena

Saturday: RHP: Argenis Rodriguez vs. LHP Tyler Watson

Sunday: RHP: Tyler Phillips vs. RHP Sterling Sharp

Monday: RHP: Jonathan Hernandez vs. LHP McKenzie Mills

 

Recent Series History:

The Suns took the season-series 5-3 in 2016, including 3-for-4 at Municipal Stadium. Since 2009 – the start of the Crawdads affiliation with the Rangers – Hagerstown holds a 44-42 edge overall, but the Crawdads are 27-22 on the road.

 

About the Crawdads:

The Crawdads began the two-city road swing by winning game one of the series at West Virginia, then dropped the next two. The play in the field has been a concern of late. Hickory committed six errors in the Power series, and has at least one error in nine straight games, two or more in six of those. Collectively, the Crawdads are 11th in the 14-team South Atlantic League in fielding (.965)… After struggling the opening weeks of the season, the offense continues to perk up. Hickory has scored at least five runs in five of the last seven games. The homer pace has cooled off – only Yanio Perez and Anderson Tejeda have homered over the last four games – but Hickory’s 26 homers is one behind the SAL lead… The Crawdads remain at the bottom of the SAL in ERA (5.13), hits allowed, runs allowed, earned runs allowed and WHIP (1.54). Three of the starters in the six-man rotation and one tandem member have ERAs above 6.62 (Phillips). Hickory is 5-8 on the road.

 

Prospects to watch- Hickory:

CF Leody Taveras (No. 1 MLB.com and Baseball America, No. 51 MLB.com top-100 prospects): Signed as international free agent 2015 out of Tenares, Dominican Republic. In the middle of a six-game hitting streak (10-for-27) and has reached base in eight straight. Went 5-for-13 in the series at WV. Has played in all 27 games for the Crawdads, just one of two players to do so (3B Ti’Quan Forbes). Is second in the SAL in at bats. Has hit better on the road (.333/.397/.509) than at home (.189/.246/.245).

SS Anderson Tejeda (No. 7 MLB.com, No. 16 Baseball America). Signed as an international free agent in 2015 out of Bani, D.R. Went 3-for-12 in the series at WV and had the team’s only homer. Is 2-for-17 against lefties with 7 Ks. Strikeouts continue to plague the phenom with 34 in 89 plate appearances (38%).

OF Eric Jenkins (No. 14 MLB.com, No.26 Baseball America). Second-round pick in 2015 out of West Columbus High (Cerro Gordo, N.C.). After a promising couple of games for the 20-year-old, Jenkins has returned to his contact issues from a year ago. Has at least one K in seven straight and 11 in 36 PAs (31%). Speed is his game, but the SAL’s leading base stealer from a year ago has just one as he has posted a .129/.229/.161 slash. Recently moved to the No. 9 slot in the order after leading off all last year.

OF Yanio Perez (No. 15 MLB.com, 27 Baseball America): Signed as an international free agent out of Havana, Cuba. After claiming the SAL’s hitter of the week award, the 21-year-old cooled off to just 2-for-11 in the WV series. Has hit right-handers (.338) and left-handers (.333) equally, but powered up against lefties, slugging .750 against southpaws. Gone five straight games without a K.

2B Yeyson Yrizarri (No. 17 MLB.com): Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of the D.R. In an 0-for-11 funk with four Ks and a double play. Hitting just .128/.143/.213 on the road.

RHP Jonathan Hernandez (No. 17 Baseball America, No. 18 MLB.com). Signed as an international free agent in 2013 from the D.R. After a rough start, had his best outing of the year at WV on Tuesday, needing just 80 pitches to get through seven innings. Though he can through up to 97 mph, he is at his best when his changeup is working. Got 11 groundball outs in the start at WV.

RF Jose Almonte (No. 29 MLB.com): Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of Santo Domingo, D.R. Returned from the DL (leg) this week and went 2-for-7. Has six walks in 19 games after just 9 all last year. Hit 8 homers in 57 games last year, he is still looking for his first in 2017.

RHP Tyler Ferguson (No. 30 Baseball America): Sixth-round pick in 2015 out of Vanderbilt. Continues to dominate over the last couple of weeks. Has been unscored upon over his last four outings (6.1 IP) with 11 Ks to just three hits allowed. The league is hitting .219 against him.

 

Others to watch – Hickory:

C Alex Kowalczyk: 12th-round pick out of Pittsburgh. Expected to be activated for the series after missing all three games at West Virginia. Likely to receive a bulk of the playing time while starting catcher Ricky Valencia is out with a hamstring injury. Is 0-for-4 in his lone game after joining the Crawdads last week.

3B Ti’Quan Forbes: 2nd -round pick out of Columbia (MS) High. After a hot start, has cooled up to .267 for the season. A likely candidate for a day off, has 2 Ks in each of the last two games and two errors over the last three.

2B Brallan Perez: 2012 international free agent out of Cartegena, Colombia. Rejoined the Crawdads to start the road trip and went 3-for-7 with a pair of walks in two games.

OF Franklin Rollin: 2013 international free agent out of La Romana, D.R. Has begun to receive more playing time lately, filling in at right for Almonte and as the DH. Went 5-for-13 in the WV series.

RHP Tyler Phillips: 16th round pick in 2015 out of Bishop Eustace High, Pennsauken, NJ. Finally put together a decent outing last time out Sunday against Columbia on the back end of a tandem with Demarcus Evans. Allowed one run on one hit and a walk over four hits. Not an over powering pitcher, he has to keep the ball down and let his defense work. The SAL is hitting .290 against him.

 

About the Suns:

Managed by Patrick Anderson in his fourth season with the Suns (255-190). Led the team to the SAL playoffs two of his first three season. Lost in the SAL finals in 2014 and in the first round last year… The Suns took a 2-1 series win against Rome (Ga.) and have taken four of the last five…The offense is nearly unstoppable as their team slash of .285/.353/.438 leads the SAL in all categories. Added to that, they lead the league in runs, hits, doubles, homers, RBI and have the fewest strikeouts. Hagerstown set the SAL record with 30 hits in a game at Lexington on Sunday… However, the pitching staff can be had as shown by a 4.26 ERA. The Suns are one of two SAL teams without a shutout. They’ve allowed 27 homers, tied for second most in the SAL.

 

Prospects to watch – Hagerstown:

SS Carter Kieboom (No. 4 mlb.com, No 8 Baseball America): First round pick (28th overall) out of Walton High (Marietta, GA). Currently in the midst of a seven-game hitting streak (13-for-30). Had a three-homer, five-hit game for the Suns during their 30-hit outburst on Sunday. He is fourth in the SAL in total bases and slugging pct. (.570), tied for 4th in hits and homers (5), 8th in batting avg. (.333). His brother Spencer made his MLB debut with Washington in 2016.

3B Sheldon Neuse (No. 6 mlb.com, No. 17 Baseball America) Second-round pick in 2016 out of Oklahoma. Three-time, first-team All-Big 12 for the Sooners. Tied for 5th RBI and 9th runs scored. Saw his seven-game hitting streak (9-for-27) snapped on Wednesday.

1B Anderson Franco (No. 14 Baseball America, No. 15 mlb.com): 2013 international free agent out of Bani, D.R. Had four hits on Sunday, but is hitting at a .200/.303/.307 pace this season. Has a good eye at the plate (12 walks), but thin-railed (6-3, 190). Missed much of 2016 with a back injury.

CF Blake Perkins (No. 16 mlb.com, No. 20 Baseball America) Second-round pick out of Verrado High (Buckeye, AZ). Went 0-for-8 in the Rome series and is in the midst of a 2-for-29 skid. A natural right-handed hitter, the switch-hitter is hitting .339 as a lefty, but only .171 from the right side. He is currently second in the SAL in runs scored.

LHP Tyler Watson (No. 19 mlb.com, No. 27 Baseball America): 34th- round pick in 2015 out of Perry High (Gilbert, AZ). 6-5 lefty came out of nowhere to post a 1.88 ERA and 10 Ks-per-9 innings with short-season Auburn (NY) last year and got a late-season promotion to the Suns. Has fanned 34 of the 110 batters he’s faced. Fanned 8 over six innings in his last start. Signed away from a commitment to Loyola Marymount (CA).

LF Nick Banks (No. 25 mlb.com): Fourth-round pick in 2016 out of Texas A&M. Enters the series with a nine-game hitting streak (11-for-34). Named SEC Tournament MVP in 2016. Played for Team USA in 2015.

OF Daniel Johnson: (No. 29 mlb.com) Fifth-round pick in 2016 out of New Mexico St. Named the WAC player of the year in 2016. Tied for second in HRs (6), fifth in total bases and slugging (.565). Had five homers in his first ten games, but just one since. The left-handed hitter is hitting .339/.369/.645 against righties.

 

Others to watch – Hagerstown:

2B Jake Noll: Seventh-round pick in 2016 out of Florida Gulf Coast. Is 11-for-21 with five RBI and 6 runs scored.

LHP Jordan Mills: Free agent signee, last pitched for the Houston Astros chain in 2015. Unscored upon in his last eight outings, with 13 Ks and no walks over 13.1 innings.

LHP McKenzie Mills: 18th round pick out of Sprayberry High (Marietta, Ga.). Has 35 Ks to just seven walks over 25.2 innings this season. Allowed two runs (one earned) over his last three starts.

Note: Preston Scott was placed on the disabled list on Tuesday (undisclosed injury) and Jose Almonte returned to the lineup…. Suns RF Juan Soto (No. 100 prospect mlb.com/ No.3 Nationals) went to the DL after suffering an ankle injury on Tuesday. His .360 batting average is third in the SAL.

Series Preview: Hickory at West Virginia May 2-4

Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (9-15, 7th South Atlantic League Northern Division) at West Virginia Power (Pittsburgh) (11-14, 6th SAL Northern Division)

The Hickory Crawdads start a seven-game road trip against two Northern Division foes with a three-game series at West Virginia’s Appalachian Power Park in Charleston, WV.

 

If you plan to go:

GAME TIMES: Tuesday-Thursday at 7:05 p.m. (Games are streamed through the Power’s website or milb.com

 

Promotions:

Tuesday – Two-for-One Concession Specials,

Thursday – “Thirsty Thursday”, Power-Comic Con

 

TICKETS: $8 for box seats, $6 for general admission 

Where is it?: I-77North / I-64West to Capital St./Leon Sullivan Way Exit #100

PARKING: Ample parking garages near the stadium.

CONCESSIONS: Appalachian Power Park has generic ballpark food, as well as chicken options. Other stands including Italian food (Chicken parm sandwich), portable grill with brats, philly cheese steaks, ruebens, as well as a BBQ stand.

 

Probables (Hickory / West Virginia):

Tuesday: RHP Jonathan Hernandez vs. LHP Cam Vieaux

Wednesday: RHP Kyle Cody vs. RHP Matt Anderson

Thursday: RHP Michael Matuella vs. RHP James Marvel

 

Recent Series History:

West Virginia swept a three-game series at Hickory two weeks ago and was 1-3 at home against the Crawdads in 2016. Since 2009, Hickory holds a 41-36 edge in the series, but are 19-23 at Appalachian Power Park. The Crawdads have not won a series vs. the Power since 2014.

 

About the Crawdads:

The Crawdads took the Columbia Fireflies to the woodshed over the weekend and scored 30 runs in winning three-of-four to salvage a 3-4 homestand. The Crawdads entered that series with only 22 runs in their first 10 home games… Near the bottom of the SAL in many offensive categories, the recent barrage has evened that out somewhat. Next to last in the SAL at .217 as recent as 10 days ago, they are now 9th in batting average at .235.,. Hickory continues to have the all-or-nothing approach. They are second in the league in homers with 25 and second in strikeouts. However, the whiffs have come at a fewer pace in recent days, as they are no longer on a pace for the SAL record in a season… On the mound, Hickory took a hit over the last few days as the Fireflies put up 33 runs on the team and pushed the ERA to a league-worst 5.40. The Crawdads have also allowed the most hits, runs, earned runs and are last in WHIP (1.60)… Defensively. Hickory has at least one error in its last six games, with two or more in five of them… Hickory is 4-6 away from home.

 

Prospects to watch- Hickory:

CF Leody Taveras (No. 1 MLB.com and Baseball America, No. 51 MLB.com top-100 prospects): Signed as international free agent 2015 out of Tenares, Dominican Republic. Has reached base in nine of his last ten games with five hits in his last three. Has an uncanny eye at the plate for an 18-year-old. Saw 112 pitches during the seven games of the homestand, he swung and missed just six of them.

SS Anderson Tejeda (No. 7 MLB.com, No. 16 Baseball America). Signed as an international free agent in 2015 out of Bani, D.R. Has 31 Ks in 77 plate appearances (40.2%), but that has curtailed some in recent days and he finally went without a strikeout in a game for the first time this season on Sunday. Has struggled against lefties (1-for-14, 7 Ks).

OF Eric Jenkins (No. 14 MLB.com, No.26 Baseball America). Second-round pick in 2015 out of West Columbus High (Cerro Gordo, N.C.). In many ways, still catching up from missing most of spring training with a hamstring injury. Goal no. 1 for Jenkins is to cut the strikeouts. A speed demon on the bases – he led the SAL with 51 steals last year – he has to make contact to take advantage of that speed. Whiffed 154 times last year, has eight in 25 plate appearances so far this year, capped by a four-strikeout game on Sunday.

OF Yanio Perez (No. 15 MLB.com, 27 Baseball America): Signed as an international free agent out of Havana, Cuba. In the midst of an eight-game hitting streak (16-for-28), he is the hottest hitter in the SAL and took home the league’s hitter-of-the-week award after popping five homers, a double, scoring eight runs and knocking in 15. The last 22 times he made contact with a pitch, ten went for hits and only two for outs.

2B Yeyson Yrizarri (No. 17 MLB.com): Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of the D.R. After a 1-for-39 funk (.065) Yrizarri has begun to even his season out a bit with 12 hits in his last 11 games.

RHP Michael Matuella (No. 19 Baseball America, No. 20 MLB.com). Third-round pick in 2015 out of Duke Univ. Was on the path of becoming a first-overall pick in 2015 before back troubles and then Tommy John surgery derailed that promise. In his first start of the season last Thursday, Matuella stayed in the 94-96 mph range with good movement, as he K’d 5 of the 9 hitters he faced. Left some pitches up that were hit hard, two of them for doubles and a hard-hit, RBI single.

RHP Tyler Ferguson (No. 30 Baseball America): Sixth-round pick in 2015 out of Vanderbilt. Of his five relief outings so far, four of those were scoreless for the 6-4 right hander. His one blowup outing (5 ER over 1.2 IP) which is responsible for much of the 6.14 ERA. In his last three outings covering 4.2 innings, Ferguson has fanned 9 of 15 batters. However, control will be the make-or-break issue. This season, he has walked or hit seven of 35 hitters.

 

Others to watch – Hickory:

Catching crew: Two of the three catchers on the Crawdads team are possibly out for at least part of the series. Ricky Valencia injured a hamstring on Sunday and Alex Kowalczyk is away for a personal issue. Potentially, that leaves Shaq Matta as the lone catcher. Expect the Rangers to bring back Isaias Quiroz from the extended spring training roster in case Valencia can’t go.

1B Preston Scott: 34th-round pick in 2016 out of Fresno Pacific Univ. Reached base in nine straight games, is 6-for-16 in his last four games, which included a homer and a walk-off double on Saturday. Playing 1B for the first time as a pro and has committed a league-high six errors.

RHP Jake Lemoine: Fourth-round pick in 2015 out of Houston. Good reviews in his pro debut after dealing with shoulder issues the past two seasons, Lemoine is scoreless in six of his seven outings and has a 1.59 ERA.Has struck out 14 of the 39 batters he’s faced and the SAL is batting .154 against him.

RHP Kyle Cody: Sixth-round pick in 2016 out of Kentucky, allowed two unearned runs on five hits over 5.2 innings his last time out. A heavy groundball pitcher (1.81 GO/AO), reliable defense is a must for him.

 

About the Power:

Managed by Wyatt Toregas in his first season. He managed the Pirates short-season affiliate West Virginia Black Bears the past two seasons (80-72), with whom he won the New York-Penn League championship in 2015… A streaky team, the Power lost their first six of the season, then won 7-of-8, then lost 7-of-11, though they split four games at Rome (Ga.)… West Virginia is only 3-11 at home, despite posting a 3.10 ERA… As a team, they are hitting .226/.310/.321 at home, but .310/.389/.506 on the road. Only six of the team’s 21 homers have come at Appalachian Power Park… It’s a patient team that has good plate discipline, as they are next to last in strikeout, but fourth in walks.

 

Prospects to watch – West Virginia:

SS Stephen Alemais: (No. 18 MLB.com, 29 Baseball America). Third-round pick 2016 out of Tulane. Has been a glove-first shortstop, the bat has started to come around. Has hits in five of the last six games (7-for-26), but is battling strikeouts 20 in his last 12 games. Hitting .306/.325/.611 on the road, but just .206/.289/.294 at home. Was 3-for-10 against Hickory with two homers.

 

Others to watch – Kannapolis:

RHP James Marvel: 36th round pick in 2015 out of Duke. Missed much of 2014 and all of 2015 with an elbow injury. Allowed one run on four hits over five innings in his start at Hickory.

IF Logan Ratledge: 13th round pick in 2015 out of NC State. Played high school ball at Ardrey Kell in Charlotte. Went 6-for-15 vs. Hickory with a homer and three RBI. Is ninth in the SAL in runs scored. Currently used in a utility role, making appearances at three infield positions, all three outfield slots and on the mound for an inning.

LF Ty Moore: 12th round pick in 2015 out of UCLA. Went 7-for-14 against Hickory with two doubles and four RBI. Currently leads the SAL with a .377 batting average, is fifth in OBP (.377) and seventh in slugging (.532). Is also tied for second with 9 doubles, tied for fifth in hits.

2B Trae Arbet: 5th round pick in 2013 out of Great Oak High (CA). Went 5-for-14 against Hickory.

1B. Carlos Munoz: Signed as an international free agent in 2010 out of Parral, Chihuahua, Mexico. Went 6-for-13 against Hickory with a homer and 6 RBI. Is tied for 6th in the SAL with 16 RBI.

RHP Matt Anderson: 10th-round pick in 2016 out of Morehead St (KY). Over his last two starts, has allowed one run on six hits and fanned 13 over 11 innings. Control can be an issue as he has walked four in two separate starts.

RHP Geoff Hartlieb: 29th-round pick in 2016 out of Lindenwood U. (MO). Has given up one earned run on seven hits in 11.2 innings covering seven outings this season. A groundball pitcher (3.17 GO/AO), the league is hitting .179 against him.

 

Note: Hickory OF Jose Almonte is on the DL with a leg injury. He is expected to be back within the week.

Roster Moves: Matuella heads list of new Crawdads

The Texas Rangers announced several moves today regarding the roster of the Hickory Crawdads. They are as follows.

Added to the Hickory roster:

RHP Michael Matuella, RHP Ismel Lopez, LHP Sal Mendez, C Alex Kowalczyk

Matuella was the third-round pick of the Rangers in 2015 out of Duke University. The 22-year-old was a potential first-round pick before suffering spondylosis, an issue involving vertebrae in the lower back, and then undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2015. He had one appearance with Spokane in 2015, which lasted three innings before he was pulled due elbow tenderness.

Lopez signed with the Rangers as an international free agent in 2013 from Carupano, Venezuela. The 22-year-old is making his stateside debut after pitching the last three seasons in the Dominican Summer League. There, he struck out 114 in 111.1 innings over 52 appearances out of the bullpen. He has been a heavy groundball pitcher with a GO/AO ration of 2.38 in his career. Opposing batters hit .262 against him.

Kowalczyk was drafted in the 12th round by the Rangers in 2016 out of Pittsburgh. The 23-year-old native of Landsdale, PA put up a .288/.331/.432 slash in 31 games for short-season Spokane. Defensively last year, he threw out 8 of 38 baserunners attempting to steal. He will likely split catching duties with Ricky Valencia.

Mendez’s addition is a paper move.

 

Going to extended spring:

LHP Christian Torres, C Isaias Quiroz, RHP Luke Lanphere, RHP Jonathan Hernandez

Torres posted a 3.86 ERA in six games over 9.1 innings. He struck out ten and walked three with 8 hits allowed. Had a couple of rough outings in the past week vs. West Virginia and at Kannapolis. Otherwise, he had four other scoreless outings, but for now, it was not enough. I’m guessing he’ll show up on the Spokane roster in June unless the need arises again for bullpen help at Hickory. The move leaves just CD Pelham as the lone lefty in the pen, as Sal Mendez appears to be the piggy-back option for Matuella.

Quiroz was 3-for-23 (.043) in seven games with the Crawdads. Had served as the backup to Valencia behind the plate, but with Kowalczyk on the roster that playing time has evaporated. I would think he’ll play in Arizona this summer.

Lanphere posted a 12.60 ERA and South Atlantic hit a robust .429 against the righty. A third trip to Spokane this summer appears to be in the cards for the 21-year-old.

Hernandez’s move is on paper and he is expected to make his next start on Tuesday.

Game Stories 4/25/17: Rome builds two in a day; Sweeps DH

The Rome (Ga.) Braves took the lead early in both games went on to sweep the Hickory Crawdads 2-1 and 4-1 Tuesday night at L.P. Frans Stadium.

The wins pushed the Braves (13-6) to a 5-1 record during their current road trip and improved the road record to 10-2 for the season. Rome has won 8 of their last 10 games at L.P. Frans over the last two seasons. The Crawdads (6-13) have lost three straight and are now 2-7 at home, where they’ve scored 21 total runs.

The teams conclude the series on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m.

 

What happened?:

Game 1:

Rome took advantage of a rough start by Crawdads starter Jonathan Hernandez to get on the board in the first. Randy Ventura lined a single to center, moved to second on Derian Cruz’s sacrifice and then to third by Cristian Pasche’s single. Juan Yepez’s fly ball to left was deep enough to score Ventura, but Pasche was out on the play as he failed to retouch second on his way back to first.

The Braves added a run in the third. Lucas Herbert and Kurt Hoekstra singled back-to-back to start the inning. Ventura bunted into a strikeout (I still don’t get that one) and then one out later, Pache squeezed a grounder past the dive of Ti’Quan Forbes at third to score Herbert.

The Crawdads put five runners on over the first three innings, but Rome’s starter Jeremy Wilson (Gardner Webb Univ. product) faced only two over the minimum in that stretch. Eric Jenkins led off the first with a double, but was doubled off second on a sharp liner by Leody Taveras to short. Hickory loaded the bases with one out in the second, but Jose Almonte hit into a double play. Anderson Tejeda opened the third with a single, but was then caught stealing.

Hernandez (0-3) settled down and had his longest start of the season, going into the sixth. The Crawdads right-hander allowed just the two runs on eight hits – five of those in the first three innings – over 5.2 innings with six Ks and – more importantly – no walks.

Hickory finally scratched a run across in the seventh against Rome reliever Jon Kennedy. Ricky Valencia doubled and went to third on Yanio Perez’s single. Preston Scott whistled a sharp grounder up the middle through Kennedy’s legs, but the Braves were able to get an out at second while Valencia scored. Scott eventually stole second and third, but Almonte and Tejeda both struck out to end the game.

 

Game 2:

Hickory took its only lead of the doubleheader in the second inning when Yanio Perez hit his second homer of the season, a high fly ball to right after it appeared he was jammed.

However, Rome quickly and swiftly took the lead back in the third. Kevin Josephina lined a Tyler Phillips (1-1) 0-2 pitch to center and stole second. Ventura singled Josephina to third and then himself stole second. Anfernee Seymour singled in Josephina and advanced moved up to second. Ventura and Seymour scored on back-to-back grounders to make it 3-0.

The Braves added an unearned run in the sixth as a botched pickoff at first set up Seymour’s second RBI single of the game.

Hickory managed only three hits against starter Oriel Caicedo (4-0) over his five innings of work. Matt Custred gave up two hits and fanned two over his two-shutout innings for his first save of the season.

 

Jenkins returns:

Last year’s starting centerfielder Eric Jenkins played in his first game of the season with Hickory. In his first AB, he fell behind 0-2, the proceeded to spoil a couple of fastballs and spit on breaking balls off the plate to get the count full. The 8-pitch plate appearance ended when he turned on a fastball and shot it into the rightfield corner.

The second time up, he waved through a low breaking ball, but then recovered to work the count full before again turning on a fastball. Only this time, it was a liner to first. After 157 Ks last year, job one is to make contact to take advantage of his speed.

One thing of note to me was not that Jenkins played left in game one, but when Leody Taveras went into the DH role in game two, Jenkins did not play in center. It’s probably nothing, but it grabbed my curiosity.

 

Taking advantage of the advantage:

I’ll admit it. It’s frustrating to watch the lineup miss opportunities to cash in runs. It’s a young lineup, I know, but it feels like this team never feels like it has the advantage. When it has the opposing team against the wall, it feels like Hickory is standing by the wall with them.

In game one, Hickory had the starter Walker on the ropes in the second inning. Struggling with control, Walker loaded the bases after back-to-back, five-pitch walks with one out. A mound visit ensued after which Jose Almonte tried to pull a fastball away, which turned into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.

From there, Hickory had just three more baserunners until the seventh. In that inning, Valencia doubled and Scott worked a walk out of an 0-2 count. Almonte fanned and then with Anderson Tejeda at the plate, Scott – the tying run – stole second and third. However, Tejeda went fence chasing and turned a 2-0 count into a full-count K and ended the ballgame.

It was more of the same in game two. Hickory was gifted an error and a hit batter in the fourth. However, a 2-0 count with runners at second and third turned into an Almonte K. Hickory had just one other baserunner the remainder of the night.

 

Hernandez night

Hernandez has struggled with fastball command so far this season and it was more of the same at the onset on Tuesday.

An 0-2 fastball was lined to center by Ventura to start the night. One out later, Hernandez went 3-1 to Pache before losing the battle on a fastball. He also struggled to get his change over the plate. But suddenly in the fourth, he found a groove with both pitches and with a slider mixed in, Hernandez began to take command. The most impressive AB was the fourth-inning sequence to Brett Cumberland. Facing last year’s Pac-12 home run champ, Hernandez got the left-handed hitter to chase a pair of changeups off the plate, then ran a fastball (93-96 mph on the night) in on the hands for the Ks.

His fate though was sealed in the third when .140 hitter Lucas Herbert lined a 2-0 fastball for a single and .182 Kurt Hoekstra fought back from 0-2 to also single. Later, Hernandez made a good pitch (low-and-in fastball) to Pache that needed 75 hops to find a hole through the left side of the infield.

 

That was… different:

Hickory got out of further damage in the first when on Yepez’s sacrifice fly to left, Pache went well past second and then on the return trip, cut through the inside cut of the grass near the second base bag. This wasn’t an attempt to cut a corner. He took the most direct route back to first.

After Herbert and Hoekstra singled in the third, Ventura (.368) was asked to bunt… not once… not twice… but on every pitch, including for strike three.

 

Phillips looking for the out-pitch:

Tyler Phillips used sinker/ change to get the Braves hitters to beat the ball into the ground. Four straight outs and a ground single stretched from the first through all the second inning. But in the third, Phillips couldn’t find a put-away pitch and eventually that put Phillips away. Josephine’s single was on 0-2. Ventura’s single was on 1-2. Seymour’s on 0-2… All on what looked to be off-speed pitches away to the left-handed hitters… All of whom used shortened swings to politely serve them into center and left. Phillips threw 39 pitches in the third before manager Spike Owen took him out.

 

Evans hurls the spheroid:

Listed at 6-4, 270, Demarcus Evans gassing it at 95 can be intimidating. He fanned five of the 14 hitters he faced Tuesday and for the season K’d 16 of 48. But, with two walks this evening he now has walked 11 to go with 2 HBPs.

His offspeed I thought was a slider, but the Rangers pitch trackers say it’s more of a curve at 80. Whatever it is, it stays up and was quite hittable. Also, to my untrained eye, Evans seems to slow everything down when he throws anything offspeed. I could tell it was coming.

Series Preview: Rome Braves at Hickory Crawdads April 24-26

Rome Braves (Atlanta Braves) (11-6, 1st SAL Southern Division) at Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (6-11, 7th SAL Northern)

The Hickory Crawdads open a seven-game homestand with three South Atlantic League games against the Rome Braves at Hickory’s L.P. Frans Stadium.

Leody Taveras - Lin

Leody Taveras looks to continue his hot streak (5-for-11) as Hickory begins a three-game series with the Rome (Ga.) Braves

 

If you plan to go:

GAME TIMES: Monday-Tuesday at 6 p.m., Wednesday at 10:30 a.m.

Promotions: Monday – Make a Difference Monday: Receive a free ticket with requested items valued at $5 or more: Requested items include Pencils, Markers, Loose-leaf papers (wide ruled), Pencil sharpeners, Erasers, Highlighters, Dry-erase markers (Expo Markers), Permanent markers, Three-ring binders (any kind of size), Black & Blue pack of pens, Paint Brushes, Acrylic Paints, Washable Paints, Construction papers, Drawing sketch pad for arts & crafts, Yarns, Scissors, Glue Sticks, Hula hoops, Jump ropes, Football/ Soccer ball/ Basketball /Volleyball, and any Toys for boys/girls ages 6-17. Items go to Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club.

Tuesday – 25th Anniversary Celebration: If the Crawdads score five runs in the fifth inning, one lucky fan in attendance will win $25,000. T-shirt Giveaway: First 500 fans in attendance will receive a free Crawdads replica jersey T-shirt.

Dollar Dog Tuesday: Bring pet to the game for $1 each. Dog show each Tuesday night. $1 hot dogs, $2 craft pints and Pepsi products.

Wednesday – Business Card Special: Show your business card at the Ticket Office for a $5 ticket.

 

TICKETS: $9 dollars for regular seats, $14 for VIP section.

 Where is it?: Clement Blvd., 1 mile west of U.S. Hwy 321, near entrance to Hickory Airport.

PARKING: All parking is $3.

CONCESSIONS: L.P. Frans Stadium has two main concession areas plus the Crawdads Café. The concession stands have your basic ballpark food: Hot dogs, burgers, chicken sandwich, BBQ, etc. The Crawdad Café has a menu that features more diverse items, including the Mac & Crawdog, Banana Foster Bites, Fried Pickles, Sloppy Burger, and more. Click here for the menu

 

Probables (Rome / Hickory):

Monday: RHP Jeremy Walker vs. RHP Argenis Rodriguez

Tuesday: RHP Ian Anderson vs. RHP Tyler Phillips

Wednesday: LHP Joey Wentz vs. Jonathan Hernandez

 

Recent Series History:

The Crawdads and Braves split the 2016 season series 9-9 with each club taking charge at the other’s ballpark. Rome held a 7-4 advantage at L.P. Frans, while the Crawdads were 5-2 at the State Mutual Stadium.

 

About the Crawdads:

The Crawdads return home after a 1-2 trip to Kannapolis. Hickory was 2-5 during last week’s homestand… After the Hickory lineup limped to Kannapolis near the bottom of many of the SAL statistical standings, the Crawdads charged ahead to 24 runs over the last two games. When the Crawdads are churning, it usually involves the longball. Hickory leads the SAL with 18 homers and is third in slugging (.400).  However, their 73 runs are seventh in the league … Awakened from a dormant state on Saturday was the running game. The Crawdads had seven for the season entering Saturday’s game at Kannapolis, then ripped off a single-game, club-record eight in four innings… The pitching, however, continues to struggle. Currently, they are last in the SAL with a 5.30 ERA, which is nearly a run more than the next lowest. Greensboro is at 4.47. Hickory is also last in hits allowed, total runs allowed and WHIP, as well as second in walks allowed… The Crawdads fate is usually determined by the sixth inning. They are 6-1 when ahead or tied after six innings, 0-10 when trailing. The one loss came in the last game, when the bullpen coughed up an 8-1 lead.

 

Prospects to watch- Hickory:

CF Leody Taveras (No. 1 MLB.com and Baseball America, No. 51 MLB.com top-100 prospects): Signed as international free agent 2015 out of Tenares, Dominican Republic. After posting a 3-for-28 skid during the last homestand, Tejeda started to heat up at Kannapolis. Enters the Rome series with 5 hits in his last 11 ABs. Got his first two steals of the season on Saturday.

SS Anderson Tejeda (No. 7 MLB.com, No. 16 Baseball America). Signed as an international free agent in 2015 out of Bani, D.R. Returned to action last Wednesday after bruising his forearm on a hit-by-pitch. Hit a three-run homer on Friday and then singled on Saturday. Perhaps the most encouraging part of the weekend at Kannapolis was a three-walk game on Saturday. Has eight walks already in 2017 after just 18 all last season in 66 games.

OF Yanio Perez (No. 15 MLB.com, 27 Baseball America): Signed as an international free agent out of Havana, Cuba. Sat out Friday’s game at Kannapolis following an 0-for-9 drought, then went 2-for-5 with a walk on Saturday. Normally makes good contact, though he can run up Ks in bunches. Has 2 whiffs in each of his last two games after having none the previous five.

RHP Jonathan Hernandez (No. 17 Baseball America, No. 18 MLB.com). Signed as an international free agent in 2013 from the D.R. Arguably the Crawdads best starter down the stretch in 2016, Hernandez has struggled to put it together out of the gate in April. Has yet to make it out of the fourth in his previous three starts, he has six walks in ten innings so far. Opponents are hitting .386 against Hernandez.

2B Yeyson Yrizarri (No. 17 MLB.com): Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of the D.R. After starting the season 1-for-39 stretch and hitting .065 over his first 12 games, Yrizarri has begun to show signs of life at the plate. He doubled and homered during the last home game on Wednesday, and then went 4-for-13 the last two games of the Kannapolis series. Yrizarri has scored five runs and knocked in three over his last four games.

RF Jose Almonte (No. 29 MLB.com): Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of Santo Domingo, D.R. After just nine walks all of last season, Almonte has five already in 15 games. Went 0-for-7 in the Kannapolis series with a walk and three Ks.

RHP Tyler Ferguson (No. 30 Baseball America): Sixth-round pick in 2015 out of Vanderbilt. Can he maintain control? That will separate him from success and failure. In his first outing (4/14), Ferguson threw a perfect inning with two Ks. Three days later, he walked one and hit two of the 12 batters he faced, and along with four hits allowed, he gave up five runs over 1.2 IP. On Friday, he walked one, hit two more, but fanned five over two shutout innings.

 

Others to watch – Hickory:

3B Ti’Quan Forbes: Second-round pick 2014 out of Columbia (MS) High. After a brief cooling-off period after a hot start, Forbes is back at it again with four hits in his last two games, three for extra bases. Among the top-ten in the SAL, Forbes is tied for first with five homers, one hit behind the league leader, second in total bases and in slugging (.647), third in OPS (1.044) and tied for 6th in RBI (12).

LF Franklin Rollin: Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of La Romana, D.R. As the leadoff man, went 9-for-17 over his last three games with six runs scored, two homers and seven RBI. Has also been a spark plug with four steals.

1B Preston Scott: 34th round pick in 2016 out of Fresno Pacific Univ. Sat out last Wednesday’s game following a 1-for-22 drought, then went 5-for-11 in the Kannapolis series. Has just 2 RBI over his last 12 games.

 

About the Braves:

Managed by South Atlantic League, Hall-of-Fame manager Randy Ingle in his 10th overall season (592-675) with Rome during his third stint with the class Low-A club. The Braves are the defending SAL champs and were named “Team of the Year” for the 2016 season by Baseball America … Rome is on the second leg of a two-city road trip, which started over the weekend at Greenville (S.C.) where the Braves took two of three in a rain-shortened series … Rome is 8-2 on the road this season… The Braves lead the SAL with 31 steals and have been caught just five times … As it does most years, Rome relies on a strong pitching staff. The staff has allowed just three homers in 17 games and its 2.30 ERA is second in the SAL and they are second in Ks. They have allowed the third fewest hits in the SAL, but control has been an issue, as they have allowed the third most walks. Rome has given up three or fewer runs in 12 of 17 games.

 

Prospects to watch – Rome:

LHP Ian Anderson (No. 5 Baseball America, No. 6 MLB.com, No. 81 MLB.com top-100) First-round pick (third overall) in 2016 out of Shenendehowa High (Ballston Lake, NY). Had a 2.04 ERA over ten starts at two rookie-level affiliates in 2016, Anderson currently has a 1.98 ERA after three starts this year. SAL hitters are hitting just .133 against Anderson, who has 23 Ks to 8 walks over 13.2 innings. Braves signed him away from a Vanderbilt commitment.

RHP Joey Wentz (No. 13 MLB.com, No. 15 Baseball America) First-round pick (40th overall) in 2016 out of Shawnee Mission East High (Prairie Village, KS). Didn’t allow a run over four starts with the rookie Gulf Coast League Braves, then moved up to Danville (VA) where he struggled with control (20 walks in 32 innings). Has curtailed the wildness in the early going (19 Ks to 3 BBs in 14 innings), but the SAL is hitting .333 against him. Signed out of a commitment to Virginia.

CF Cristian Pache (No. 13 Baseball America, No. 14 MLB.com) Signed as international free agent in 2015 out of Santo Domingo, D.R. Speedy 18-year-old could potentially be the Braves centerfielder of the future, though at this point he has yet to put the speed to use on the basepaths (3 steals in 16 games this year.) Showed the ability to make contact at rookie levels – 24 Ks in 220 ABs – but struggling so far this year, with already 14 Ks in 61 ABs.

SS Derian Cruz (No. 20 MLB.com, No. 22 Baseball America) Signed as international free agent in 2015 out of Puerto Plata, D.R. A natural right-handed hitter, is toying with switch-hitting. Enters the series at .167/.215/.250 as much of his struggles have come from making contact. (16 Ks/ 2 BBs in 60 ABs). He is also working to slow down the game, as he has nine errors in 14 games. The Braves will be patient with the 18-year-old in his first full season.

C Brett Cumberland (No. 23 Baseball America, No. 29 MLB.com) Second-round pick in 2016 out of California. Led the Pac-12 Conference in homers in 2016. A bat-first catcher for now, as caught just three games and DH’d the other seven. Hitting at a .143/.333/286 slash.

C Lucas Herbert (No. 28 MLB.com, No. 30 Baseball America) Second-round pick in 2015 out of San Clemente High (CA). Returns to Rome after splitting time behind the plate for the team in 2016. A defensive-first catcher to date, he has struggled to hit and make contact and enters the series 1 for his last 29 with 15 Ks.

OF Anfernee Seymour (No. 30 MLB.com) Traded to the Braves from Miami in 2016. Was an 2015 all-star pick in the short-season New York-Penn League and one of the speedier shortstops (37 SBs) in the SAL when with Greensboro. But the Braves have chosen to shift him to the outfield. Strikes out too much, given his speed – 118 times in 491 ABs – the Braves are working to cut that ratio and to raise his walk pct. in order to make him into a leadoff hitter.

 

Others to watch – Rome:

RHP Jeremy Walker: Fifth-round pick in 2016 out of Gardner Webb Univ. Had 37 Ks in 39.2 innings with Danville last year,but has just 5 Ks and 5 walks so far in 12.1 IP. Relies on his defense to soak up grounders, has a ratio of two groundouts to airouts in his pro career.

IF Marcus Mooney: 10th round pick in 2016 out of South Carolina. Had 7 hits in his first 10 ABs at Greenville, currently at .378/.462/.444 with the Braves. Among the top-ten in the SAL in runs (6th), hits, Batting Avg. (6th) and on-base pct. (7th).

Series Preview: West Virginia at Hickory April 17-19

West Virginia Power (Pittsburgh Pirates) (4-7, 6th SAL North) at Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (5-6, 4th SAL North)

The Hickory Crawdads continue the opening homestand of the 2017 South Atlantic League season with a three-game series against the West Virginia Power at L.P. Frans Stadium.

Ricky Valencia - Lin

Ricky Valencia and the Crawdads look to get the offense going against the Power this week (Crystal Lin/ Hickory Crawdads)

 

If you plan to go:

GAME TIMES: Monday through Wednesday 6 p.m.

Promotions:

Monday – Make a Difference Monday: Receive a free ticket with requested items valued at $5 or more: Requested items (Jars of peanut butter or jelly, boxes of Macaroni and cheese, meat, tuna or chicken, Cans of vegetables, beans (can or dried), fruit, especially mandarin oranges, peaches, and pineapple, low sugar cereal or oatmeal, Dried pasta, can/jar of pasta sauce, bag of rice.) Items go to PORCH.

Tuesday – Dollar Dog Tuesday: Bring pet to the game for $1 each. Dog show each Tuesday night. $1 hot dogs, $2 craft pints and Pepsi products.

Wednesday – Kids Win Wednesday: All kids 12 and under admitted free. Also get vouchers for free meal, bounce house, speed pitch and carousel.

 

TICKETS: $9 dollars for regular seats, $14 for VIP section.

 Where is it?: Clement Blvd., 1 mile west of U.S. Hwy 321, near entrance to Hickory Airport.

PARKING: All parking is $3.

 CONCESSIONS: L.P. Frans Stadium has two main concession areas plus the Crawdads Café. The concession stands have your basic ballpark food: Hot dogs, burgers, chicken sandwich, BBQ, etc. The Crawdad Café has a menu that features more diverse items, including the Mac & Crawdog, Banana Foster Bites, Fried Pickles, Sloppy Burger, and more. Click here for the menu 

 

Probables (West Virginia / Hickory):

Monday: RHP James Marvel vs. RHP Argenis Rodriguez

Tuesday: RHP Oddy Nunez vs. RHP Tyler Phillips or Demarcus Evans

Wednesday: RHP Luis Escobar vs. Jonathan Hernandez

 

Recent Series History:

The Crawdads were 3-5 against the Power in 2016, including a four-game split at Hickory … Both teams switched affiliates prior to the start of the 2009 season – the Pirates moved from Hickory to West Virginia and the Rangers aligned with Hickory. Since those partnerships began, the Crawdads own a 41-33 edge in the series, 22-17 at home. However, the Crawdads have not won an individual series against the Power since 2014 … The clubs faced each other in the 2015 SAL Northern Division Playoffs when Hickory took 2-of-3 en route to the league championship

 

About the Crawdads:

After a 1-4 start, Hickory went 4-2 including a four-game split with the Kannapolis Intimidators to open the homestand… The pitching staff, which got off to a wild start, has settled into a rhythm, at least with throwing strikes. After 37 walks over the first five games, Hickory combined for just 14 over the last six. A hard-throwing team, they have given up the third fewest hits…The Crawdads have struggled at the plate. As a team, they rank 13th (out of 14 teams) in on-base pct. (.302), batting (.223), runs scored, RBI and have the second most Ks (117). It’s pretty much an all-or-nothing group. They are second in the SAL in homers (12), but with runners in scoring position, they are at a slash of .179/.258/.218… In the field, the Crawdads lead the SAL in fielding pct. (.981, 8 errors)…The team has played at a snail’s pace this season. The fastest nine-inning game to date is 2:51 minutes… Get Hickory early, or not at all. The Crawdads are 5-0 when leading or tied after 6 innings, 0-6 when trailing.

 

Prospects to watch- Hickory:

CF Leody Taveras (No. 1 MLB.com and Baseball America, No. 55 MLB.com top-100 prospects): Went just 2-for-15, though with a manageable four Ks in the series with Kannapolis. Has yet to steal a base this season in two attempts.

OF Yanio Perez (No. 15 MLB.com, 27 Baseball America) Went 3-for-13 in the Kannapolis series, had a three-walk game during Friday’s contest, which came after a four-K night on Thursday.

RHP Jonathan Hernandez (No. 17 Baseball America, 18 MLB.com): Struggled with control and fastball command in his first start (6 H, 3 SS 2 IP), rebounded last time out at Columbia on 4/12 with 1 ER, 3 H, 1 BB and 6 Ks over 4 innings.

2B Yeyson Yrizarri (No. 17 MLB.com): Having a nightmare start to the season, just 3-for-39 thus far. Has expanded his strike zone to combat a barrage of breaking pitches. Usually an adequate contact hitter, has 5 Ks over his last five games.

RF Jose Almonte (No. 29 MLB.com): Another slow starter on the team, just 5-for-36 thus far. Four of the hits game in a three game span from April 11-13. On Friday, had his first mulit-walk game since 2015.

RHP Tyler Ferguson (No. 30 Baseball America): Held out of the first eight games with an illness, then pitched a scoreless inning vs. Kannapolis on Friday. Will be limited in action until his strength returns.

 

Others to watch – Hickory:

3B Ti’Quan Forbes: Continues to light up the SAL. Hit his fourth homer of the season on Saturday, which matched his three-season total entering 2017. His 17 hits are one behind two SAL leaders. Among league leaders, he is second in homers, total bases, slugging (.769), on-base pct. (.500) and is third in batting (.436). He has also yet to make an error in the field.

2B Brallan Perez: Joined the team on Friday and is off to a 4-for-8 start, filling in for injured SS Anderson Tejeda.

C Ricky Valencia: In the midst of a six-game hitting streak, is 8-for-23 (.348) on the season with three doubles. Is getting the majority of time behind the plate thus far, catching seven of the 11 games.

RHP Tyler Phillips: Has made two appearances (one start) and has allowed seven baserunners (one walk) over seven innings with six Ks.

 

About the Power:

Managed by Wyatt Toregas in his first season. He managed the Pirates short-season affiliate West Virginia Black Bears the past two seasons (80-72), with whom he won the New York-Penn League championship in 2015… After an 0-6 start, the Power won the finael of a weeklong, season-opening homestand and then took the final three games of a four-game series at Lexington (KY)… The Power scored just ten total runs over the first six games, but has put up five or more in four out of the last five, including a 13-run barrage on Sunday. It’s a team that will put the ball in play (second fewest walks). They are third in homers (10), OPS (.734) and slugging (.402)… On the mound, the Power will make hitters put the ball in play. They have allowed the second-fewest walks, but the second-most hits…The Power have had slow-paced games. Just one nine-inning game in less than 2:42… West Virginia has had difficulty getting leads. It is 3-0 when leading after 6 innings, 1-7 when tied or trailing after six.

 

Prospects to watch – West Virginia:

RHP Luis Escobar: (No.14 MLB.com, 28 Baseball America). International free agent from Colombia. According to observers, throws fastball 95-97 mph, but still refining a curveball and change. Just 20 on opening day. Threw a one-hitter with 12 Ks over five innings on opening day, then K’d 11 over 6 innings and gave up five hits on Friday. Currently leads SAL in Ks and is 6th in WHIP (0.64).

SS Stephen Alemais: (No. 18 MLB.com, 29 Baseball America). Third-round pick 2016 out of Tulane. Has been a glove-first shortstop, though he already has four errors in six games. Had a .189/.244/.270 slash during an end-of-season cameo with the Power. Has shown some patience at the plate, but will need to pick up with the stick in a league where he is already 22.

 

Others to watch – West Virginia: 

RHP James Marvel: 36th round pick in 2015 out of Duke. Missed much of 2014 and all of 2015 with an elbow injury. Has allowed just one run (1.74 ERA) in each of his first two starts with ten hits, two walks and five Ks.

IF Logan Ratledge: 13th round pick in 2015 out of NC State. Played high school ball at Ardrey Kell in Charlotte. Currently used in a utility role, making appearances at three infield positions, two outfield slots and on the mound for an inning. Currently in the midst of a five-game hitting streak (6-for-20, 5 walks). Patient hitter, already nine walks altogether, slash line of .263/.404/.500. Already 24, going to have to continue to hit to stay in the system.

LF Ty Moore: 12th round pick in 2015 out of UCLA. Assigned to the team out of extended spring, has hits in all six games (11-for-28) with four extra-base hits.

2B Trae Arbel: 5th round pick in 2013 out of Great Oak High (CA). In the midst of a five-game hitting streak (7-for-19), currently fifth in the SAL in slugging (.633), but his only extra-base hits are the result of three homers.

 

Note of Interest: Hickory SS Anderson Tejeda was placed on the inactive list after taking a pitch off the right arm. X-Rays were negative, but the arm is sore and will require rest. No timetable is set for Tejeda’s return. Blaine Prescott was also placed on the inactive list… Power 1B Albert Baur (Newberry College) is on the DL.

 

Mission Control: An Interview with Crawdads pitching coach Jose Jaimes

With the first full week completed, the Hickory Crawdads go into an off-day on Easter at 5-6 following a split of Saturday’s doubleheader with Kannapolis.

The opening series at Greensboro was a wild one for the pitching staff, as the combined for 37 walks over the first five games, which had much to do with a 1-4 start. Over the last six, that number was cut to 14 and the team’s record is 4-2 in that stretch.

On Friday, I had a chance to catch up with Crawdads pitching coach Jose Jaimes about the team’s start and to ask about some of the names that started the season at Hickory.

 

First, let me get your overview of the season’s first week on the pitching staff. Control has been a bit of an issue, but for some guys it’s starting to come around a bit. Let me get your assessment of that first week.

Jaimes: Those first four games, we had a tough time finding the zone. Some guys just walked too many guys, especially the starters early in the game. We couldn’t locate our fastball. But, if feel like it’s coming and getting a lot better, especially these last four games in Columbia and yesterday. I feel like guys are starting to make some adjustments. To be honest, the fact that we couldn’t practice before the season and we couldn’t play, I think that had some effect on some guys. They couldn’t face hitters for almost a week. That had a big factor on what happened those first four games.

 

That was my next question, how much did the rain affect your guys who couldn’t throw side sessions, etc?

Jaimes: Yeah, especially that exhibition game was going to be huge, especially for the starters. Obviously, we couldn’t play and they ended up throwing bullpens, but it’s not the same as throwing to a catcher in a game. I think it was one reason why they couldn’t find the zone as quick as they wanted. But, it’s getting better.

 

Jonathan Hernandez is back here for another year and honestly, I was a little surprised to see him back as he finished so strong last year. What are the Rangers wanting to see him accomplish starting here a second year?

Jaimes: Consistency with the fastball. Last year, like you said, he finished strong. He put together five good outings towards the end of the year. We just want to see that on a consistent basis. We got to see that in the last outing at Columbia. That’s what we’re looking for. He’s working ahead on the count on every hitter the first time through the lineup. So, that’s the main thing for him, his fastball command. Hopefully, at some point, we’ll get to see him move up.

 

Jake Lemoine is a name some folks have asked me about. I saw him the first outing at Greensboro. At first, he had a little struggle finding a feel, but then had a strong second inning. Coming off the shoulder troubles, what’s sort of things are ahead for him?

Jaimes: He dealt with a lot of bumps the last few years. He last pitched two years ago. I’m actually pretty impressed, especially with his last outing in Columbia where he pounded the zone. He’s a guy that has a feel for the baseball. He controls his fastball and has pretty good control with his secondary pitches. So, I think he’s going to be a big part of the team. Hopefully, he can stay healthy and let the talent play. A great guy.

 

Is he going to be getting bite-size outings?

Jaimes: For right now, we’re going to try to keep it to three innings, just because of what happened the last two years with him. He’s going to be a guy that’s going to pitch every two or three days.

 

Let me ask you about Kyle Cody. Like everybody else, had a rough first outing, then pitched in and out of trouble the last start.

Jaimes: The two outings have been almost the same, Kind of erratic the first two or three innings, but then once he gets it going he gets a lot better. Last night, we saw that. The fourth and fifth innings, he did a really good job of mixing his pitches. His fastball command was a lot better. That was his main issue the first three innings: a lot of deep counts, a lot of 2-1 counts and guys were able to put the barrel to the baseball. A 6-7 guy that’s a really good talent and I’m pretty excited for him. He’s one of our main guys this year, so hopefully he’ll stay healthy. I think once he gets it going, he’s going to keep getting better.

 

Somebody I’m looking forward to seeing, based simply on the stats from the Dominican – this is his first stateside assignment – is Edgar Arredondo.  He had a 56 Ks and 4 walks last year. Like everyone else the first week, he had that wrinkle, but I’m looking forward to seeing what he has to offer based on the stats sheet.

Jaimes: He’s a strike thrower. He’s a guy that’s going to feel through it some. He’s going to attack here. It was the first time he was pitching in front of fans and lights. So, I was kind of expecting that, but I after that I saw his first inning, I was really excited. He pounded the first inning 1-2-3. I think he got a little upset when he gave up the first hit on an 0-2 count and then he lost his concentration and couldn’t get it back. Again, he’s a guy that’s going to throw strikes. That was not the Arredondo that I know. I don’t even worry about him. He had a really good bullpen session yesterday. He’s a guy that commands his pitches: fastball and a really good changeup and a really good curve.

 

Tyler Ferguson hasn’t thrown. What’s happening with him?

Jaimes: He couldn’t make the Greensboro series because he got sick, so we just kept him at home. We didn’t want anybody else to get sick. Then coming back, he had to play catch at least three days. He threw a bullpen a couple of days ago and now he’s ready to go.

 

Of the guys that I haven’t mentioned yet – there’s so many guys that come in and out – who’s somebody that you’re looking at as someone that will step forward?

Jaimes: I’ve got one guy and that’s going to be Sal Mendez. He’s been a guy that had a really good spring training. A guy that goes out there and competes. He has average stuff, but the way that he throws the ball with the conviction that he has, he makes it look better. In his last outing at Greensboro when he went 4.2 innings. He’s going to command all three pitches coming from the left side. He has some sink and a really good changeup. I think he’s going to be our sleeper.

 

Emerson(Martinez) is pitching tonight. I know you don’t care about wins and losses, but it seemed that he pitched in a little tough luck when he got into the starting rotation last year.  He had a good outing last time.

Jaimes; Actually, we almost made a big deal of it because last year he went 0-6. It seemed like every time he didn’t pitch we’d score a lot of runs. Then every time he’d pitch, we didn’t score. When he got his first win, he was all pumped up. He said, “It’s a new year and a new beginning and I’m going to help the team.” He grew up a lot last year for us. I had him two years ago when I worked in Spokane. He was kind of timid and he didn’t trust his stuff. That was something that last year he realized that his stuff was good enough to get people out. He showed that in his first game. He went out there and just pounded. I’m really happy with what he’s doing.

 

I’ve seen Tyler (Davis) pitch both in Columbia and here last night and showed some good stuff. Had some good outings here last year before he got bumped up. Doesn’t throw hard, but he spots well and throws a decent slider.

Jaimes: He’s a pitcher, though. He goes out there and pitches. He knows what he has. He knows that he doesn’t have power stuff, so he goes out there and just locates it. He locates his fastball; he locates his changeup, slider. He knows how to pitch. Everybody loves Tyler. When he got here last week, I was pretty excited to have him a part of the team. He not only brings his stuff, but he’s around the bullpen helping me with these kids. I’m really happy for him and having here with me.

 

Christian Torres is back. Another (Alex) Claudio clone, maybe?

Jaimes: You’re hoping for that. Claudio is one of those guys that knows what he does. Claudio is a little bit bigger, but I can see a little bit of Claudio in Torres. Decent sinker, really good changeup. They’re pretty close.

 

Best fastball on the staff right now.

Jaimes: Kyle Cody.

 

Best secondary stuff right now:

Jaimes: Sal Mendez.

 

Best Breaking ball:

Jaimes: Emerson Martinez and Tyler Davis.