Results tagged ‘ Noah Bremer ’

Series Preview: Charleston (S.C.) at Hickory May 25-28

(I am my own editor… I did this in a rush. Laugh at my mistakes, but laugh gently. Thank you.)

Charleston (S.C.) RiverDogs (New York Yankees) (20-25, 5th SAL South), at Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (16-26, 6th SAL North)

If You Plan to Go:

GAME TIMES: Friday, 7 p.m., Saturday, 6 p.m., Sunday, 3 p.m., Monday, 1 p.m.

 

PROMOTIONS:

Friday – Memorial Day Weekend Kickoff, Salute to Troops, Post-game Fireworks

Saturday – ZOOperstars! Appearance, Hat Giveaway (1st 1,000 fans)

Sunday – Church Bulletin Sunday, Birdzerk!

Monday – Memorial Day Celebration

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. Here is that menu http://www.milb.com/content/page.jsp?ymd=20130627&content_id=51970362&sid=t448&vkey=team4

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 (Charleston/ Hickory)

Friday: RHP Jio Orozco vs. RHP Noah Bremer

Saturday: RHP Alex Vargas vs. RHP Derek Heffel

Sunday: RHP Rony Garcia vs. RHP Tyler Phillips

Monday: LHP Dalton Lehnen vs. RHP Tyree Thompson

 

Recent Series History:

Charleston took five of six in the series last year, which included a 2-1 series win at L.P. Frans. The RiverDogs’ three-game sweep at home in late August began a downward spiral for the Crawdads in the final week of the season that knocked them out of the SAL playoffs. Charleston has won 4 of 6 at Hickory the past two years. Since 2009, which was the start of the Rangers-Crawdads affiliation, Hickory holds a 50-45 edge in the overall series, 27-21 at L.P. Frans.

 

About the Crawdads:

Hickory started the homestand with two straight wins over Delmarva (Md.), then lost the final two to fall into a split. The current eight-game homestand is the longest of the season… Overall, the Crawdads have pitched well as of late, especially in the starting rotation. Prior to Thursday night’s 10-5 loss to the Shorebirds, Hickory starters had an eight-game stretch during which they allowed eight earned runs over 46.1 innings with 49 Ks and 8 walks. The Crawdads starters have not walked a batter in four straight games. Near the top of the SAL in walks allowed much of the season, the Crawdads are now fourth in that category… Meanwhile, the Crawdads are back to looking for answers at the plate. Since scoring 11 runs in a win vs. Columbia on 5/9, Hickory has scored more than three runs in a game just five times in 13 games. Among the 14-team SAL, the Crawdads are last in doubles and next to last iin extra-base hits. They are also 11th in batting average, 12th in runs scored and total bases, and 13th in hits. Their .240 batting average in May is next to last.… The team continues to be stellar in the field. Their 39 errors – just 23 on the infield – are the second fewest in the SAL.

 

Prospects to watch- Hickory (rankings are by MLB.com):

CF Bubba Thompson (No. 6): 2018 stats: .245/.302/.429, 4 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 3 BB, 14 K, 3 SB. Last series vs. Delmarva: 3-for-14, 2B, 6 K. First-round pick of the Rangers in 2018 out of McGill-Toolen High, Mobile, AL.

RHP AJ Alexy (No. 17): 2018 stats: 7 games (6 starts), 29.2 IP, 25 H, 19 R (18 ER), 2 HR, 5 HB, 20 BB, 41 K, 5.46 ERA, .231 OBA, 1.52 WHIP. Last start 5/19 at Kannapolis: 5.2 IP, 2 H, 1 HB, 2 BB, 9 K. Joined the Crawdads after a trade that sent Yu Darvish to the Dodgers. Originally 11th round pick of Dodgers out of Twin Valley HS, Elverson, Pa. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-4th walks, T 4th hit batters.

RF Miguel Aparicio (No. 18) 2018 stats: .217/.280/.325, 3 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 10 BB, 22 K, 0 SB, 2 CS. Last series vs. Delmarva: 2-for-4, BB, K. Rejoined the team on 5/24 after an 11-day absence. Signed as an international free agent with the Rangers in 2015. Native of San Carlos Venezuela.

RHP Alex Speas (No. 23): 2018 stats: 14 games, 4 saves, 20.1 IP, 14 H, 9 R (7 ER), 1 HR, 19 BB, 37 K, 3.10 ERA, .187 OBA 1.62 WHIP. Last game 5/22 vs. Delmarva: 1.2 IP, 3 K. Second-round pick of Rangers in 2016 out of McEachern HS (Powder Springs, GA). SAL Top-10 Rankings: 1st Ks-per-9 innings among relievers (16.38), T-9th walks.

C-1B Sam Huff (No. 26): 2018 stats: .254/.313/.449, 8 2B, 5 HR, 6 BB, 39 K, 1 SB. Last series vs.Delmarva: 6-for-16, 2 2B, HR, 2 K. Seventh round pick of Rangers in 2016 out of Arcadia HS (Phoenix, Ariz.).

RHP Tyler Phillips (No. 30): 2018 stats: 44 IP, 44 H, 15 R (14 ER), 2 HR, 1 HB, 5 BB, 46 K, 2.86 ERA, .257 OBA, 1.11 WHIP. Last start vs. Delmarva: 7 IP, 5 H, 7 K. Sixteenth-round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Bishop Eustace HS, Pennsauken, N.J. Native of Lumberton N.J. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 4th walks-per-9-inning ratio among starters (1.02).

 

Others to watch – Hickory:

RHP Noah Bremer: 2018 stats: 1 game (1 start), 1 IP, 1 K. Made only start on 4/8, pulled and placed on disabled list with an oblique injury shortly after. 2017 stats at AZL Rangers and Spokane: 11 games (0 starts), 20 IP, 10 H, 4 R (3 ER), 1 HR, 1 HB, 4 BB, 30 K, 1.35 ERA, .152 OBA, 0.70 WHIP. Sixth-round pick of the Rangers in 2017 out of the Univ. of Washington. Attended Berkeley (Calif.) HS.

RHP Derek Heffel: 2018 stats: 2 games (1 start), 8 IP, 9 H, 6 R (6 ER), 1 HR, 1 HB, 6 K. Last start 5/20 at Kannapolis: 5 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 1 HB, 3 K. Began season at extended spring. Fourteenth-round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Madison Area (Wisc.) Technical College. Attend St. Catherine’s HS in Racine, Wisc.

RHP Tyree Thompson: 2018 stats: 8 games (7 starts) 38.2 IP, 37 H, 26 R (21 ER), 6 HR, 3 HB, 12 BB, 17 K, 4.89 ERA, .247 OBA, 1.27 WHIP. Last start vs. Delmarva 5/22: 7.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 BB, 3 K. Twenty-sixth round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Edna Karr HS, New Orleans.

SS Yonny Hernandez: 2018 stats: .194/.354/.226, 2 2B, 7 RBI, 14 BB, 14 K, 5 SB, 2 CS. Last series vs. Delmarva: 2-for-4, R. Played in four games at Frisco (Tex.) from May 11-14, (3-for-11, 4 BB, 3 K, 2 SB.) Signed with the Rangers as an international free agent in 2014. Native of Maturin, Venezuela.

UT Ryan Dorow: 2018 stats: .253/.340/.425, 3 2B, 4 HR, 10 BB, 37 K, 1 SB, 1 CS. Last series vs. Delmarva: 0-for-10, 2 BB, 5 K. Will likely see more playing time with 2B Kole Enright on the disabled list. Thirtieth-round pick of the Rangers in 2017 out of Adrian (Mich.) College. Attended South Haven (Mich.) HS.

UT Justin Jacobs: 2018 stats: .281/.364/.385, 4 2B, 2 HR, 12 BB, 34 K, 1 SB. Last series vs. Delmarva: 1-for-11, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 5 K. Leads Hickory with an .813 OPS in May over 16 games. Signed with the Rangers in 2017 as a non-drafted free agent from Gonzaga Univ. Also played at Lower Columbia CC (Wash.). Attended Riverside HS in Auburn Wash.

 

About the RiverDogs:

Managed by Julio Mosquera in his first season as the skipper. He led short-season Staten Island to a 46-29 record and a playoff berth in the New York-Penn League in 2017… The RiverDogs were shutout in two games at Augusta (Ga.), but salvaged the final game of the rain-shortened series… Like the Crawdads, Charleston has struggled to put runs on the board. It has scored five or more runs in just 6 of 20 games in May, with one or fewer runs in eight of them. They are just above Hickory at .241 for the month and for the season. Collectively, the RiverDogs are 12th in OBP (.309) and slugging pct. (.360) and that has contributed to a last-place showing in the SAL in runs scored… Base stealing has also been an issue as they are just over .500 in pilfer attempts (29-for-57)…The pitching, however, has kept the team from sliding into an abyss record wise. The staff WHIP of 1.13 is second in the SAL and the team ERA of 2.86 is third. Charleston has surrendered just 18 HRs, the fewest in the league, and only Augusta has given up fewer hits.

Prospects to watch-Charleston (rankings by MLB.com):

3B Dermis Garcia (No. 21): 2018 stats: 4-for-22, 2B, HR, 10 K. Joined the RiverDogs from extended spring on 5/17. Last series at Augusta: 2-for-11, 4 K. Signed with the Yankees as an international free agent in 2014. Native of Santo Domingo, D.R.

Others to watch-Charleston:

RHP Jio Orozco: 2018 stats: 1 game (1 start) 4 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K. Made first start with the RiverDogs vs, Columbia on 5/18. Made 12 starts for the RiverDogs in 2017: 56.1 IP, 61 H, 37 R (31 ER), 3 HR, 7 HB, 34 BB, 48 K, 4.95 ERA, .286 OBA, 1.69 WHIP. Fourteenth-round pick of the Seattle Mariners in 2015 out of Salpointe Catholic, Tucson, Ariz. Traded to the Yankees on 8/31/16 as a part of a package for RF Ben Gamel.

RHP Alex Vargas: 2018 stats with Charleston: 3 games (3 starts), 14.1 IP 17 H, 9 R (6 ER), 2 BB, 11 K, 3.77 ERA, .288 OBA, 1.33 WHIP. Last start 5/19 vs. Columbia: 6 IP, 5 H, 1 R (0 ER), 1 BB, 4 K. Made a spot start for AA Trenton in April and a relief outing at High-A Tampa. Signed with the Yankees as an international free agent in 2014. Native of Santiago, D.R.

RHP Rony Garcia: 2018 stats: 7 games (7 starts), 39 IP, 46 H, 24 R (18 ER), 2 HR, 2 HB, 8 BB, 33 K, 4.15 ERA, .291 OBA, 1.38 WHIP. Last start 5/20 vs. Columbia: 5 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 HB, 2 BB, 7 K. Signed with the Yankees as an international free agent in 2015. Native of Mao, D.R.

LHP Dalton Lehnen: 2018 stats: 8 games (7 starts), 41.1 IP, 35 H, 14 R (12 ER), 3 HR, 2 HB, 8 BB, 44 K, 2.61 ERA, .220 OBA, 1.04 WHIP. Last start 5/21 at Augusta: 5.2 IP, 6 H, 1 R (0 ER), 1 HB, 1 BB, 7 K. Sixth-round pick of the Yankees in 2017 out of Augustana (S.D.) Univ.

RF Steven Sensley: 2018 stats: .278/.353/.497, 13 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 15 BB, 49 K, 2 SB, 3 CS. Last series at Augusta: 2-for-11, 2B, 4 K. Twelfth-round pick of the Yankees in 2017 out of the Univ. of Louisiana-Lafayette. Attended University HS in Baton Rouge, La. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 2nd doubles.

1B Chris Hess: 2018 stats: .280/.396/.439, 6 2B, 5 HR, 18 BB, 39 K, 0 SB, 3 CS. Last series at Augusta: 0-for-8, 1 BB, 4 K. Seventeenth-round pick of the Yankees in 2017 out of the Univ. of Rhode Island. Attended North Kingstown (RI) HS. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 5th OPB.

The Fire to Win: An Interview with Sam Huff

In writing the feature for the Hickory Daily Record, I had a bit of a writer’s block. I found the subject of this interview, Sam Huff, to be a multi-faceted person and there were so many directions in which I could’ve steered the article.

For the HDR writeup, I chose to go the route of the guy that had his baseball fire sparked at the age of five. As I mentioned in the article, there is a fire there that burns in the baseball soul. This kid wants to win and he wants to win however necessary.

I interviewed Huff a day after a game against Rome during which he and pitcher Jean Casanova put together a clinic on how to change the plan of attack against a lineup when the original plan didn’t work.

The night before, I had talked to the two of them about the game. A minor blip on Huff’s night was getting the golden sombrero (4 strikeouts in a game at the plate, for those that don’t know). When I asked him about that, while he wasn’t happy about the strikeouts, in the grand scheme of the game itself, he didn’t care. His team won. He had a part of that win because of the work as a catcher and that’s all that mattered to him. He repeated the mantra over and over, “I just want to win.” I left without the expletive that was a part of one of those statements.

So, inside of a measured speaker, that fire is there and the more it smolders.

There were other areas we touched on in this interview: his development, his leadership, and his curiosity for learning. I think readers will see that curiosity when reading through the interview and how he seeks to soak up information.

Both Huff and catching coordinator mentioned the influence of former Crawdads catcher Jose Trevino on Huff. So, I tracked down Trevino to get his perspective on Huff and what stands out to him.

Said Trevino about Huff:

“He’s different. Swings different. Throws different. He’s a special kid.

“He doesn’t know how dangerous he is yet though and I think being in his first full season, he will start to figure it out. He’s like that baby snake that doesn’t know how poisonous it is, yet. But sooner or later he will know when to strike and how much he needs to take down someone.

“He always wants to learn and he’s always picking my brain about everything! I like being around the kid because he still needs that person to check him back into place at times. It looks funny, a 5’8” dude telling a 6’8” dude something that will help him.

“But yes, a very special kid with a lot of talent. I don’t really compare him to a player in the big leagues right now cause I don’t think you can. Sam Huff is Sam Huff. He’s going to keep getting better and he’s always going to want to learn. Great ballplayer and a better person!”

However, Huff is not just a student for the sake of being a student. He wants to lead. He wants to lead his team. He wants to lead his pitchers. Huff doesn’t appear to be a person to lead in such a way that gives the feeling he that wants the world to revolve around him; he wants to figure out how to make his teammates better—so they can win.

Sam Huff fist pump

Sam Huff with a first pump during a game against West Virginia (photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

 

Here is the interview with Sam Huff:

First of all, your three-headed monster at catcher, I guess, is now down to two with you and Pozo. How did the three of you work together where you’re not getting total playing time behind the plate but you’re having to figure that out?

Huff: At the start it was kind of different because we’d play like Melvin, me, Pozo, Melvin, me, Pozo and we kind of had to work off of that. It was kind of hard to get into a rhythm and a groove. Then we’d finally start to get the hang of it and we were like, “Okay, this is our day.”

The day before that we’d get focused on watching and studying. Then the day of, we’d talk to each other. Melvin would say, “Hey, this team is good at hitting fastballs” or “This team likes to hit offspeeds and the fastball away” or “They’re a fast team, so then like to bunt or run.” We just had to almost give each other reports to keep us in the game and to help our pitchers.

Because, our goal is to help our pitchers. Us three together, we knew we all had to come together and help each other, because overall, we want to be good and we like to see each other do good because we’re winning. What I said last night, we like to win and have us three catchers calling good games and our pitchers in the strike zone and keeping them in good rhythm. It helps a lot to talk to each other.

 

Was it hard to get the pitchers into any kind of consistency, though, when you have three different voices coming at them?

Huff: Yeah, because pitchers will want to throw to a different guy, or to one or the other, but we just had to work with it. We had to learn our pitchers by talking, then catching the bullpens, catching the sides and getting an idea of what they like to do. So, every day I didn’t catch, and it was my off day, I would go to the bullpen and catch all the relievers. That’s the biggest part is every night, you’ve got a new guy coming in. You’ve haven’t caught them in two weeks and you don’t remember the ball movements. My biggest thing is I can remember my pitchers.

I live with four: Tyler Phillips, Joe Barlow, Josh Advocate and Noah (Bremer) – he’s coming back from the rehab. I talk to them. I always work with them. I know them like the back of my hand. I love them and it’s just good to talk to pitchers because then they tell you what pitchers think like from a perspective of what they want to do, how they want to do it. What’s their strengths and what’s their weaknesses. How they rank their pitches. That comes into play because you’ve got to know, if he doesn’t have his fastball, what’s his second best and go off that. You can’t just say, “Okay, we’re going to go to his third best,” and that’s not his strength. You got to work to the strengths of the pitcher and understand them.

 

There’s so much that goes into catching, not just handling the pitching staff, obviously the defense, then you’ve got to come out and bring a stick to the plate and hit. Then, there’s so many intangibles. What’s the biggest thing you are working on right now, at this level?

Huff: The biggest thing is being consistent behind the plate, catching, calling the game, maintaining a good pitching staff and how I want to approach hitters. Last night was a really good thing for me as a catcher to learn. If a plan doesn’t work, we can work off of it where we can modify it a little bit. We don’t have to flip the script and get a whole new plan. We just build off of it. It was really cool to understand that. Here’s a team that’s a fastball hitting team. They don’t like curveballs, so, okay, we’ll pitch backwards now. As a catcher, when I see that, it’s going to be easier to call because you understand, because I’m right here and the hitter’s standing right there. So, it’s easier for me, but it has to come from the pitcher, too.

Learning that as a player and hitting and just being consistent. I’m just working on some stuff. Overall, I don’t try to focus too much about hitting, because the biggest thing for me is to become the best catcher and I want to be the best.

Sam HUff hitting

Sam Huff with a home run swing during an exhibition game vs. Catawba Valley CC (Tracy Proffitt)

 

What made you decide you wanted to be a catcher in the first place? You guys take a beating and there’s so much going into what you do at the position.

Huff: I didn’t catch my whole life. I played short when I was little, third, first, the outfield and pitched. I didn’t pitch in high school. I played first base my freshman year.

I watched a guy named Tommy Joseph and Matt Wieters and Joe Mauer. I liked the way they did their catching. I just kind of said, I want to be a catcher. I went to a guy in Arizona – he was Tommy Joseph’s catching coach. Tommy was in the (Arizona) fall league at the time with the Giants, so he’d come and watch and hang out. It kind of got me triggered there. I was in my sophomore year. In my junior and senior year, I caught.

It’s been different. I didn’t think I was ever going to be a catcher when I was younger. I thought I was going to be a third baseman or a first baseman, or the outfield type. It stuck with me. I liked the way it is, that you’re in every pitch. You’re not just standing there, but you’re doing something to help the team win.

 

What is the thing you think you bring to the position? You were playing other positions and now you’re fresh behind the plate. What did you bring to the position that you thought would make it work?

Huff: I thought I received well. I caught the ball. I threw the ball good and I could throw guys out. Blocking, I had to work at it and I’m still working at it, but it’s becoming one of my strengths. I just felt like I could catch and throw really well. I felt like I could bring energy as a player and being able to control my team and help my teammates out, because I want other guys to be good.

To be able to see a catcher, even though he’s down, but he’s still up and going, that’s a leader. I’m just trying to fill the role, because it’s something I want to be, but it’s something I’ve got to work at. Every day I’m working and I’m talking to guys that I feel like are leaders to me and they tell me how they do it and I try to copy that.

 

Who are the leaders to you?

Huff: I feel like Clay Middleton. He’s a really good guy to look after. Tyree Thompson, Tyler Phillips, I could go on. I feel like everybody, in some aspect of the way, is a leader to me. They show me things that I can do different, and they tell me things that I can do different, and I show them things that I’ve improved on that they could do different. So, it’s really cool. As a team, I try and incorporate everybody as a leader. It doesn’t matter how you lead, if you’re just a quiet guy or if you like to talk a lot. If you’re a leader, you’re a leader.

 

You mentioned some guys that got you interested in catching like Mauer and Tommy Joseph. At this stage of you career, who are you looking at as someone you’d like to model your game after?

Huff: I’d like to model my game after Mike Piazza. He wasn’t the best catcher, but he could hit. He’s a Hall-of-Famer, so you can’t say that he’s not that bad of a catcher. But, I really like to model my game after him, because watching video, he had the mentality of, he’s going to beat you. He doesn’t care about you. He doesn’t give, you know what, about you.

He plays hard. He wasn’t given the opportunity, he had to work for it. I like watching him as a player, because he had the flow. He had the mentality to just go out there and play to show everyone that he was better than they thought he would be.

 

(Rangers catching coordinator) Chris (Briones) will come in and say, “it’s time to fill my guys up.” What does a guy like Chris bring to you when he comes on a visit?

Huff: We talk about what I can do different and what I’m doing good at. What things he’s seen that I’ve improved on, or I need to improve on. Lately, we’ve just talked about being consistent behind the plate and getting wins, being consistent with the blocking, the throwing, the receiving, calling. I love Chris and love when he comes here and we talk.

We always bring up Trevino because we’re in the same agency and we always talk. I always talk to Jose, so I ask him little things and he just tells me what’s the deal and how to do it. It’s really awesome to have a guy like that talk to me. It’s really cool.

 

What are you looking at as the next step of development for you?

Huff: Just getting better every day at everything. I feel like I can get better at everything. There’s always something I want to improve on. I feel like once I start to get the hang of hitting, then everything will come together. Overall, I want to get better at everything. I’m always anxious to learn. Briones, he knows that and I’m always talking to him about stuff. So, it’s always cool to have him here and pick his brain a little more.

 

You get a call that says you’re going to the major leagues? Who’s the first person you call?

Huff: My parents. My dad first. He’s been there since the start, so he would get the first call. Then my grandma and grandpa, and then my whole family members and my coaches and friends.

 

Who is the biggest factor in your career that is not a family member?

Huff: As crazy as it sounds, my dad’s best friend, Marty Maier, a pitching coach at Scottsdale Community College in Arizona. We talk all the time and he’s been playing for a while.

He was kind of the first guy I talked to in baseball when I was a five-year-old kid. He’s a pretty funny guy, but he told me, “This game ain’t easy, but you can do a lot if you just apply yourself. Play every game like it’s your last. Never, ever take anything for granted.” I took that to heart and I really love this game and I like to play.

I thank myself every day and I thank my parents. I thank everybody that’s helped me along this journey. Even though I’m in the ups and downs, I still remember what would I rather be doing: going to school or playing baseball for a living? When you tell yourself that, you really take it to heart. I’m playing a game that’s a kid’s game and I’m having fun with it. So, I try not to take anything for granted. For him doing that and telling me that at a young age, that was really cool and I thank him for that every day.

Huff Jaimes Mendez mound visit

A mound visit with Sal Mendez (left) Jose Jaimes and Huff (Proffitt)

Unlucky Seventh Dooms Crawdads

The line will show that Hickory left-hander Sal Mendez had a rough seventh inning, and certainly he contributed to his demise on the mound. However, a couple of unlucky breaks did him in, and in turn it proved to be the difference in a 4-3 loss to the Greensboro Grasshoppers Sunday afternoon at First National Bank Field.

 

What happened?:

Hickory took a 3-1 lead into the seventh-inning stretch and after Sal Mendez dominated Greensboro in the sixth, the Grasshoppers got their revenge when they sent eight to the plate to score the decisive three runs.

JC Millan started the inning with a solidly lined single to right. With the middle infielders playing at double play depth, Micah Brown hit a medium-speed grounder to the hole at second. Kole Enright from his second base position ranged far to his left, made a diving stop of the ball, but from the seated position he wasn’t able to get enough on the throw to first for the out.

Michael Hernandez then line a shot through the box – I thought it might have hit Mendez – and zoomed into center to score Millan. Zach Sullivan’s sacrifice put runners at second and third before Mendez walked Aaron Knapp.

The tying run scored when Sam Castro hit a checked-swing grounder between the mound and first. First baseman Sam Huff charged the ball but he had no play at home for the force. He turned to get the out at first, however no one covered the bag and the bases remained loaded. That proved crucial as the next hitter Isael Soto hit a high chopper that the 6-4 Huff leapt to snag and then step on first for the out.. However, that made it only two outs and Hernandez score the go-ahead and subsequent deciding run.

The Crawdads took a 2-0 lead in the first on Pedro Gonzalez’s two-run blast to right off the scoreboard.

Hickory started Noah Bremer but was pulled after the first with an oblique injury. A.J. Alexy entered in the second and gave up a lone run on a double play grounder in the fourth. Huff’s first homer of the season accounted for the Crawdads other run in the sixth.

After the blast, Hickory had just two more baserunners. Yohel Pozo doubled to start the seventh. From there, Remey Reed, RJ Peace and Tyler Frohwirth combined to retire the next seven straight, which ended with Gonzalez’s check-swing single. Pozo hit the next pitch for a 6-4-3 double play.

 

The offense is offensive: Just five hits on Sunday, two of those left the yard, and the Crawdads leave First National Bank Field with a .214/.267/.337 slash. Hickory fanned 11 times today and have Ks in over 25% of its at-bats.

I do wonder how different this weekend would have been had the team scored in the first two innings of the opening game of the season. Having the bases loaded twice, the Crawdads came up empty both times and needed a ninth-inning HR by Enright to avoid the shutout. After going 5-for-20 RISP, they only had three opportunities Sunday afternoon and went hitless.

There are a couple of members struggling to make contact. Gonzalez is 4-for-12, but 7 of his 8 outs are Ks. Tyler Ratliff is 0-for-10 with 5 whiffs and Chad Smith is 0-for-7 with 4 Ks. But strikeouts aside, the issue I saw on Thursday and a little this afternoon, is the inability to take advantage of opportunities. When Greensboro starter Brady Puckett got into those opening-inning jams, Hickory went first-pitch hacking and let him off the hook.

This afternoon, speedy Eric Jenkins in the eighth went up 3-0, then swung through three straight pitches. In the ninth after Pedro Gonzalez reached on a checked-swing single, Yohel Pozo went first-pitch hacking and hit into a game-ending double play.

I think this team will hit and do it well and score some runs. But, they need that spark. Unfortunately, guys are trying to force the issue.

AJ’s day: I’m guessing Alexy had planned to pitch today, but not as early as the second inning and perhaps he wasn’t loose, etc.

According the Marlins pitch fx guy, Alexy was around 92 mph with the fastball. He appeared to have trouble spotting the pitch consistently, especially from the stretch. By my count – there was no stringer for Greensboro today, so I kept my own pitch count – Alexy threw just 43 strikes out of 75 pitches in four innings. He missed 10 bats, only one on the fastball (at least it appeared to be a fastball from my vantage point in the pressbox, located in the ionosphere. The curveball seemed to have good bite to it.

Sal Mendez: I’m guessing I like Sal Mendez more than most and it’s because of innings like the sixth that appeal to me. The lefty breaks a bat on a fastball to start the inning. He then gets back-to-back strikeouts on a swing-through change and a curveball for a called third-strike. Then there are those moments like the seventh when weird things happen and he is unable to minimize the damage.

He is able to get outs, but his stuff is such that there is a small margin of error to get outs or to get hit. Crawdads pitching coach Jose Jaimes loves Mendez’ changeup and it is an outstanding pitch when he can keep it down and miss bats. When he misses his spots, he’s very vulnerable.

Defensive gems: Hickory has been almost flawless in the field. Through the first three games, the lone two errors have come of pickoff throws by pitchers. The group covers a lot of ground and, at least to this point, are sure-handed.

Jenkins in left went back and to his left to make a diving catch of a liner off the bat of Millan in the second. SS Yonny Hernandez bailed out catcher Yohel Pozo’s off-line throw on a steal attempt. Hernandez had to cross the bag and avoid the sliding runner, but he managed to make the catch and slap a tag on Sullivan, who was sliding in.

 

 

Series Preview: Hickory at Greensboro April 5-8

Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (0-0) at Greensboro Grasshoppers (Miami Marlins) (0-0)

The Hickory Crawdads and Greensboro Grasshoppers open the 2018 South Atlantic League season with a four-game series at First National Bank Field in Greensboro.

 

If you plan to go:

GAME TIMES: Games Thursday through Saturday are at 7:00 EDT with a 2 p.m. start on Sunday.

TICKETS: Ticket prices range from $7-11.

PARKING: Parking at the ballpark is $5. There are independently operated parking lots nearby that charge a varied amount. Metered parking about a block away from the outfield is free after 6 p.m., on weekdays and is free on weekends.

CONCESSIONS: First National Bank Field is more of a AA park and so the concession offerings are a vast upgrade from what a smaller Low-A ball park provides. Other than basic ballpark fare, there is a BBQ stand, Sausage Shack, Pimento Cheese along with veggie options. Here is the entire menu  

Where is it?:

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

 

Probables (Hickory/Greensboro):

Thursday: RHP Tyler Phillips vs. RHP Brady Puckett

Friday: RHP Alex Eubanks vs. RHP Tyler Kolek

Saturday: RHP AJ Alexy vs. RHP Ryan Lillie

Sunday: RHP Noah Bremer vs. RHP Taylor Braley

 

Recent Series History:

The Grasshoppers won the 2017 season-series 13-9, which included a 4-7 mark at First National Bank Field. Since the stadium opened in 2005, Greensboro is 62-42 at home vs. the Crawdads, 42-38 during the Rangers affiliation (since 2009).

 

Prospects to watch- Hickory:

CF Pedro Gonzalez (No. 10): 2017 stats: .294/.364/.475 in 2017, 25 XBHs in 51 games between rookie Grand Junction (Col.) with the Rockies and SS-A Spokane (Tex.). Came to the Rangers in a trade for C Jonathan Lucory. Originally signed with Rockies in 2015. Native of Santo Domingo, D.R.

RHP AJ Alexy (No. 17): 2017 stats: 24 starts, 94.1 IP, 3.53 ERA, 113 Ks, 52 BBs, .180 OBA, 1.18 WHIP with Low-A Great Lakes (LA Dodgers) and Hickory. Joined the Crawdads after a trade that sent Yu Darvish to the Dodgers. Originally 11th round pick of Dodgers out of Twin Valley HS, Elverson, Pa.

RF Miguel Aparicio (No. 18): 2017 stats: .266/.315/.361, 19 XBHs in 95 games between Hickory and Spokane. Signed with the Rangers in 2015. Native of San Carlos, Venezuela.

RHP Alex Speas (No. 23): 2017 stats: 16 games (7 starts), 33.2 IP, 6.15 ERA, 45 Ks, 25 BBs, .223 OBA, 1.60 WHIP with Spokane. Second round pick of Rangers in 2016 out of McEarchern HS (Powder Springs, GA).

C-1B Sam Huff (No. 25): 2017 stats: .249/.329/.452, 20 XBHs in 49 games at AZL Rangers. Tied for AZL lead in HRs last season. Seventh round pick of Rangers in 2016 out of Arcadia HS (Phoenix, Ariz.)

 

Others to watch – Hickory:

RHP Tyler Phillips: 2017 stats: 20 games (17 starts), 98.1 IP, 4.21 ERA, 93 Ks, 20 BBs, .269 OBA, 1.28 WHIP between Hickory and Spokane.

C/1B Yohel Pozo: 2017 stats: .323/.351/.478, 21 XBHs in 54 games between Hickory and Spokane. Signed with Rangers in 2013, AZL post-season all-star in 2016. Native of Maracaibo, Venz.

LF Eric Jenkins: 2017 stats: .207/.264/.289, 15 XBHs in 73 games at Hickory. Second round pick of the Rangers out of West Columbus HS, Cerro Gordo, N.C.

 

Prospects to watch-Greensboro:

RHP Edward Cabrera (No. 13): 2017 stats: 13 games (6 starts) 35.2 IP, 5.30 ERA, 32 Ks, 8 BBs, .286 OBA, 1.40 WHIP with SS-A Batavia (N.Y.) Native of Santiago, D.R., signed with Marlins in 2015.

OF Isael Soto (No. 27): Missed entire 2017 season with fractured foot, his third leg injury in three seasons. 2016 stats: .247/.320/.399, 38 XBHs in 113 games at Greensboro. Signed with Marlins in 2013. Native of Bani, D.R.

RHP Tyler Kolek (No. 28): 2017 stats: 5 games (4 starts) 3.2 IP, 29.45 ERA, 1 K, 14 BBs, .286 OBA, 4.91 WHIP with rookie GCL Marlins. Missed all of 2016 and much of 2017 after “Tommy John” surgery. First round pick (2nd overall) of Miami 2014 out of Shepherd HS, (Tex.)

 

Others to watch-Greensboro:

RHP Reilly Hovis: 2017 stats: 22 games, 29.1 IP, 3.38 ERA, 8 BBs, 35 Ks .205 OBA, 1.06 ERA. Ninth round pick of the Marlins in 2015 out of Miami. Played high school baseball at Forestview in Gastonia.

RHP Brady Puckett: 2017 stats: 12 games (5 starts), 47.1 IP, 2.92 ERA, 35 Ks, 9 BBs, .280 OBA, 1.28 WHIP with GCL Marlins and Batavia (NY). Native of Murfreesboro, Tenn. Was 15th round pick out of Lipscomb Univ.

Notes of Interest: Hickory’s Matt Hagen makes his managerial debut with Hickory after leading the SS-A Spokane Indians to the 2017 NW League playoffs. Hagen was an assistant with Hickory in 2016 ….  Greensboro RHP Brandon Miller and Hickory RHP Reid Anderson were teammates at Division II Millersville (Pa.) Univ. and were both drafted in 2016… Grasshoppers CF Aaron Knapp is the brother of Philadelphia Phillies catcher Andrew Knapp… Grasshoppers manager Todd Pratt, a 14-year major league veteran, played for the old Greensboro Hornets in 1986, then an affiliate with the Boston Red Sox. Pratt is in his second season with the Grasshoppers… This is the second straight season the Crawdads have opened a season at Greensboro and the third time in 5 seasons. Hickory has opened the season against a North Carolina rival seven of the last 8 seasons (Hagerstown at home 2015).

The 2018 Crawdads: Pitchers – An interview with pitching coach Jose Jaimes

The first half of the 2017 Hickory Crawdads season was a tough one to watch. Most of the games were blowouts early as pitchers were under an organizational mandate to throw fastballs and learn how to use the pitch before infusing secondary pitches. Some of them figured it out and moved on – Kyle Cody being the best example – others struggled with the concept and went down to Spokane for more seasoning.

Of the pitchers to start the 2018 season, eight spent time at L.P. Frans Stadium last year. Tyler Phillips and Demarcus Evans figured out some things at lower levels and are back again with Phillips snagging a top-30 prospect ranking along the way.

With the returnees and a healthy load of college pitchers, the 2018 version could – and should? – be better equipped to handle what is being asked of them: place the fastball correctly, throw strikes and get outs. A group of eight of them did that during Monday night’s exhibition game against Catawba Valley Community College. Save for a second-inning hiccup by Alex Eubanks, the group that pitched threw gas and made quick work of the overmatched JUCO club.

Starting with Phillips on Thursday at a hitter’s park at Greensboro, we’ll begin to see where he and the Crawdads are to start the 2018 season.

I interviewed Crawdads pitching coach Jose Jaimes about the pitching staff and basically went down the list to get a sense of where everyone is at the start. At least until he had to get to on-field workouts before we could finish.

So below is an overview of many, but not all, of the Crawdads pitchers to start the season.

 

 

 

That was impressive last night. There was no gun, but I’m guessing you ran guys out there throwing 93, 94, 95 pretty much all along the line last night.

Jaimes: Yeah, it was exciting. We have a pretty exciting group. Starting with our rotation, our rotation is a little more experience than last year, so that’s going to make a difference. We’ve got a few college guys and that’s going to help the young kids. Then, when you look to the bullpen, everybody’s around the mid-90s, which is exciting. Hopefully, they can do what you saw yesterday and keep getting better.

 

There was a lot of talk last year about the Rangers wanting the guys to work fastball, fastball, fastball. They had to spot it so many times, or whatever percentage was set before they started to bring in the secondaries. Are they staying with that or is it being tweaked any?

Jaimes: It’s still going to be a priority to control the fastball. That’s still the number one thing, so we’re going to keep preaching that. Definitely, we’re making some adjustments on the plan, but for the most part it’s going to stay the same. It’s fastball and they’ll learn how to use it and learn how to get outs with it and learn to how to play with it. You’ve got basically six pitches with the fastball – going down and away, down and in, up and in, up and away, middle – so you can do anything you want with your fastball. That’s going to be the main focus again this year. I think with the group that we have this year, they have more experience and a little better command than last year.

 

Will it be as strict the first time through the order as it was last year?

Jaimes: (hesitating) No, no, no.

 

I don’t mean to have you give away things, but it at almost seemed like last year, “You will throw the fastball to everybody pretty much the first time through the order.” Like you said, it’s six pitches, but still guys are sitting on it.

Jaimes: Yes, it was tough and you saw it. But it’s a great plan and we saw it pay off towards the end of the year in the second half. Guys learned how to use their fastball and learned how to get outs with it and once they implemented the other pitches, it made a huge difference. I think that was one of the biggest turnarounds that we had in the second half of last year, because they were able to pitch with it. They relied too much on their secondary stuff, so again, that’s going to be a main thing.

 

The rotation, is it still going to be six guys?

Jaimes: Yes, it’s still a six-man rotation. Tyler Phillips will be our opening-night guy. Alex Eubanks will be our second guy. AJ Alexy, that you saw last year, Noah Bremer. Reid Anderson is going to join the rotation and then Tyree Thompson will be the sixth guy.

 

I’m just going to go down the list and if you can give me a little bit about their stuff and your expectations for them. I’ll just start with Tyler. He just seemed overmatched here last year when he started. Like Miguel (Aparcio), he seemed overmatched and then found himself when he went to Spokane. What do you see from him coming back here that he learned from last year?

Jaimes: I think last year was a big learning year for him. He had a good spring training. He showed up this spring stronger, bigger, but most important, more mature. So, I’m expecting him to lead the rotation and be that guy that’s going to teach the young kids. Stuff wise, I was watching down in Arizona, he was 94-95 (mph) fastball. He’s got a really good changeup and a breaking ball. I think he’s come really far physically and mentally and I’m expecting good things about him this year.

Slider?

Jaimes: Curveball and it’s improved a lot since last year.

 

Alex Eubanks.

Jaimes: A strike thrower. He’s a very mature guy. I love the way that he handles himself on the mound. It seems like nothing bothers him when he doesn’t have his best stuff. You saw him last night, the second inning he gave up three hits in four pitches. He never lost his composure; he stayed within himself and minimized the damage. So, that’s him. He’s going to be that guy that’s going to be able to bounce back quick. I love the stuff that he brings. He has good movement on his fastball and a really good changeup, cutter and slider. Good command of every pitch.

 

AJ, he came here and was pretty impressive for a guy who got bounced from his first organization all of a sudden. He had some moments, but all in all not a bad August.

Jaimes: No, he was actually one of our best guys in August. We’re going to continue to build onto what he did towards the end of the year. He had a good spring training, too, so again he’s another guy that’s bigger and stronger, which is good for him. Command wise, it definitely has improved from last year. Again, it’s another guy that we have a lot expectations for.

 

Curveball for his breaking ball, if I remember?

Jaimes: Yes, curveball and it’s a pretty good one and a really good fastball, which is mid-90s that looks harder than what it is.

 

Noah Bremer.

Jaimes: He’s a funky guy delivery wise. He hides the ball really well – I think that’s his biggest weapon – the hitters don’t really get a good pickup of the ball. Again, he’s another gut that can play with his fastball on each side of the plate. He has a really good changeup and a nice breaking ball, too. He’s kind of like what you’re going to see from Eubanks; they’re pretty similar guys.

 

Reid Anderson. He pitched better in the second half, but he always seemed to be the guy that had the one quirky inning or the one quirky moment that would fell him. He’d get 5 2/3 and we could see you’re trying to get him through six and he’d have that one moment where the guy would hit the ball out of the ballpark and you’d be like, “doggone it.” Did he grow up from that last year?

Jaimes: I think so. In spring training at one of his last games, it was the first time he was going to five innings. He got through four innings without any issues, really good. He got to the fifth, the first two pitches he spiked the fastball and threw one over the catcher’s head and went to 3-0. I’m thinking, maybe it’s going to happen what happened last year and he’s not going to get through the fifth and he’ll lose everything. But he did. He went to a 3-0 count and then came back with two good fastballs and struck the guy out and then retired the next two guys with no issues. The next outing, he went six innings without any problem.

So, again, he’s another guy that learned a lot from last year. He knows that he needs to keep the game simple. He knows that he’s preparing himself not to pitch five innings; he’s preparing himself to pitch nine innings. I think that was his main issue last year; he knew that he was about to be done and doubt set in and he couldn’t control it. He’s doing a better job with it.

Remind me of his stuff:

Jaimes: Fastball, changeup, curveball and a cutter.

 

Tyree Thompson.

Jaimes: He’s a real competitor. I love what he brings. I love that he’s a strike thrower. Maybe he’s not that big of a stuff guy, but he’s a pitcher with a fastball, curveball and a changeup. His biggest weapon is that he competes no matter what the situation is. So, I’m excited about having him on the staff and I think he’ll be a big part of it.

 

Tell me about Alex Speas. I read the stuff about his big fastball, but he doesn’t always know where it’s going. After getting used to things last night, he settled in and pitched a good inning.

Jaimes: I think by him being in the bullpen he’s going to be able to keep the game simple. Definitely, he has some command issues at times, but I think he has improved a lot since last year. He had a really good year in Spokane when he went to the bullpen. Yesterday with the first guy, he was guiding the ball, then he just let it go and you saw it, he had really good stuff. He has a good fastball and a really, really good slider. I think he’s going to be a big part of the back end of the bullpen for us.

 

Sal Mendez is back. When you and I talked at this same time last year, I asked you who had the best secondary stuff among your staff. You said Sal Mendez’s changeup. How is his progression from last year and what is he coming back to do?

Jaimes: He’s going to be helping to be the leader of the bullpen. He’s going to have the same role that he played last year – a long man, then he’ll spot start here and there. He’s a big changeup guy, but this year’s it’s going to be more of finding a breaking ball. I think it’s doing better, but I think that’s going to be his priority, having the breaking ball to face left-handed hitters.

 

Going down the list of who was here last year. Joe Kuzia had a cup of coffee and got hit around a bit, but like Phillips, once he got back to Spokane he found himself in the bullpen. He seems like he will be a key bullpen guy that will give you some innings.

Jaimes: Yeah, I’m excited about him. Like you said, when he came up I felt like he wasn’t ready for the competition here. He went down to Spokane and worked on some reliever’s stuff and he got back into a rhythm and had a really good spring training. He’s ready to go.

 

As you have time, run down a quick couple of things about the bullpen guys.

Jaimes: Demarcus Evans. We had him last year.

 

He looked more controlled last night, as far as his delivery.

Jaimes: Yeah, I think he’s going to be our guy. I’m excited for him and I think it’s going to be a good thing for him now to be a part of the bullpen and being able to pitch more often is going to help him. Definitely, command wise, it is the main thing that needs work, but he’s doing better. I’m excited to work with him because I know that whenever he finds it, he’s going to be pretty special.

Crawdads Win Exhibition: Snap Lengthy Winless Streak vs. Colleges

After the top of the second, my first thought was, “Again?”

For those that don’t know the Hickory Crawdads recent history against local colleges, it hasn’t been a good run. With a team that had Andrew McCutchen and Steven Pearce in 2006, the Crawdads needed a 7th-inning rally to defeat Lenoir-Rhyne College, as the school was known as then.

One year later, LRC and Hickory tied and then the series was put on hold until 2015.

Now known as Lenoir-Rhyne University, the Bears used a big game by future LA Dodgers draftee Ivan Vieitez to defeat the Crawdads – a team that won the 2015 South Atlantic League title – 4-3.

One year later, LRU got a ninth-inning homer to defeat the Crawdads 7-4. The game was rained out last year.

This year, the Crawdads scheduled a game with Catawba Valley Community College, one of the better Division II JUCO programs.

The Red Hawks entered the game 24-9 and after an inning-and-a-half they held a 2-0 lead and were the aggressors.

So, you understand my thinking: “Again?” But then the roof caved in and Hickory scored in seven-straight innings to rout CVCC 12-2.

“They’re there because of who they are and our guys are trying to get to that level,” said CVCC head coach Paul Rozelle after the game. “So, it was nice to come out early and put some hits together and get a lead there early.

“That was a positive for us, but they’re pretty good and we just didn’t have enough for them coming down the stretch. That’s a credit to them and how good they are, but what an unbelievable experience for our guys to come out here and get this valuable lesson during the midweek. There’s no team we’re going to play this year that are going to look better than them.”

Red Hawks starter Matthew Dailey used a good mix of pitches and speeds to frustrate the Crawdads lineup early, fanning four of the first seven hitters.

Meanwhile, CVCC scored what turned out to be its only two runs in the second. After Crawdads starter Alex Eubanks needed only nine pitches to get through the first, Graham Mitchell lined a high fastball to left. David Graves sent right fielder Miguel Aparicio sprinting to the wall in right to retrieve a double. Aparicio retraced his same path for the next batter Kyran Russ, whose double scored both runners.

After a walk, Eubanks settled down to strike out the next two and then escaped further damage by getting Cory Watt to ground to second.

The game turned on a basic play in bottom of the second. With two outs and a runner at first, Kole Enright hit a slow, rolling comebacker to the box. Dailey mishandled the grounder for an error and he paid for it when Yonny Hernandez knocked a ball off the wall in left for a two-run triple.

The Crawdads then put together four straight hits in the third and scored them all on Yohel Pozo’s singled and Melvin Novoa’s three-run homer.

“They had a good pitcher,” said Crawdads manager Matt Hagen of Dailey. “He kept the ball down and changed speeds. He’s got a breaking ball and a changeup that he can throw for a strike or throw below the zone if he needs to. It took us a while to figure him out and get him timed up, so give our guys credit.”

Aparicio added a two-run shot in the fourth and the rout was on.

Sam Huff added a mammoth blast in the sixth and Eric Jenkins cleared the 32-foot-high fence in right during the eighth for the Crawdads fourth homer and final run.

The Crawdads sent eight pitchers to the mound – with only the starter Eubanks going two innings -and retired 24 of the last 26 they faced. Together, they struck out 12 and gave up just the three hits in the second. AJ Alexy and Demarcus Evans each fanned two in their lone inning of work.

“We showed everything  we’ve got in the bullpen tonight, except for a couple of guys, Hagen said. “We’ve got some good fastballs coming out of the bullpen. That’s the formula for success, get a lead and have those guys throw strikes.”

Quotes: 

**The Crawdads starting lineup was the following: Jenkins-7, Aparicio-9, Pedro Gonzalez-8, Pozo-3, Novoa-2, Tyler Ratliff-5, Chad Smith-D, Enright-4, Hernandez-6.

When asked if that would be the general lineup, Hagen responded, “What we threw out there tonight is close to what our starting lineup is going to look like, with the exception of a couple of guys that will rotate in. We’ve got good depth.”

**Rozelle said the difference for his starter Dailey was the inability to adjust to the hitters the second and especially the third time through the order.

“You saw Dailey come out and have success early and punched out a bunch of different guys and changed speeds and his locations were good,” said Rozelle. “But that second and third time through the lineup, they’ve now seen him and now we’ve got to execute even more. We left a couple of pitches up in the zone and good hitters hit them out.”

**Hagen was especially in awe of Huff’s solo homer in the sixth, a towering blast to left center that left the Red Hawks outfielders flat-footed.

“Huff hit a ball that half the stadium couldn’t find,” he said. “It was halfway up the lights in left center.”

**Rozelle was impressed with the run of arms the Crawdads marched to the mound. He said the experience will be valuable for his hitters as they continue through the college season.

“For our hitters, they’re not going to see much like that. In our league, we’re going to see one or two arms a weekend that are going to look like that. It’s understanding how to compete in those at bats and how to grind out and understand which pitches to swing at. They did a great job of getting strike one, and now they’re in control and they can dictate the at bat and we expand the zone, swinging at balls in the dirt because we’re put in the defensive position.”

 

Thoughts: 

Arms: Hard to really get a read on the Crawdads pitchers facing an overmatched lineup. They did throw pitches for strikes and, as Rozelle stated, controlled the zone for the ballgame. Eubanks was fantastic in the first, then left pitches up in the second that were spanked. Speas appeared to have the more electric fastball – there was no one in the stands with the speed gun – but control at times was spotty. But in all, those two, along with Noah Bremer, Alexy, Speas, Evans, Jean Casanova, Joe Barlow and Grant Zawadzki were never really extended. Only Eubanks second inning (22 pitches) went past 15 pitches in a single inning.

Bats: As mentioned above, the Crawdads group had trouble with the young, lefty starter at first, then adjusted as Dailey started getting pitches up. However, in what is  admittedly inferior competition, the players seemed to go to the plate with a plan, rather than flail-and-bail if it’s close.

What will make Hickory more interesting on offense than the 2017 version are the wheels. They ran the bases well this evening, especially a play in which Hernandez read a play that turned into a diving catch that allowed him to go second to third and eventually score on a wild pitch. It’s not the total team-speed of the 2016 squad, but they’ll make things uncomfortable for opposing pitchers while on the bases, leading to hittable mistakes.

CVCC: There’s a reason they are 24-9 in its classification. They do a lot well on the field and know where to be. CF Cory Watt made a highlight-reel play on an over-the-shoulder diving play. They get the ball in quickly and appear to communicate well.

Dailey looks like a pitcher to watch at higher levels. He did mix speeds well and used the breaking ball to miss bats and until his error was in control of the hitters.

Meet the 2018 Hickory Crawdads

The Texas Rangers announced the initial roster for the 2018 Hickory Crawdads. A total of 28 players are on the list with three to be pared off before opening day begins on Thursday, April 5 at Greensboro.

Six of the 28 players assigned to Hickory are currently on the Rangers top-30 prospect according to MLB.com. They include outfielders Pedro Gonzalez (No. 10) and Miguel Aparicio (18), catcher Sam Huff (25), and pitchers A.J. Alexy (17), Alex Speas (23), and Tyler Phillips (30).

Twelve of the 28 listed on the initial roster spent some time at Hickory last season, including eight pitchers.

Among the pitchers, five of them – Alexy, Phillips, Reid Anderson, Demarcus Evans and Sal Mendez – made starts for the Crawdads in 2017. Also returning are Dario Beltre, Joe Kuzia and Grant Zawadzki.

The four position players returning to Hickory are catcher Yohel Pozo, infielder Ryan Dorow – his only game with the Crawdads was a start in the final game of the 2017 season – Aparicio and Eric Jenkins, who will spent at least part of a fourth season in Hickory.

Below is a brief look at all 28 players on the initial roster:

PITCHERS                                                                                                           

Josh Advocate (6-1, 195 lbs., 24 y/o) RHP

The native of Mohave Valley, Ariz. pitched in 18 pro games (1-3, 3.63 ERA) out of the bullpen with rookie-affiliate Arizona Summer League (AZL) Rangers and short-season Spokane (Wash.) after his 20th round selection out of Long Beach State. Was a first-team All-Big West Conference pick in 2017. Played one season at Cochise (Ariz.) College and was a first-team Small School All-American in 2012 while at River Valley (Ariz.) High. Also played football in high school and was a first-team All-State pick as a free safety.

 A.J. Alexy (6-4, 195, 19) RHP

The native of Honey Brook, Pa. was obtained by the Rangers last summer as part of a four-player deal that sent Yu Darvish to the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Assigned to Hickory after the trade, he made five starts (1-1, 3.05) and struck out 27 in 20.2 innings. Held opponents to a .180 batting average, the third-lowest among all full-season minor league pitchers (min. 90 innings). Originally drafted by the Dodgers in the 11th round in 2016, he was signed away from a commitment to Radford. Was a catcher before switching to the mound in his junior season in high school (Twin Valley, Elverson, Pa.). Also wrestled in high school. Currently the No. 17 Rangers prospect according to MLB.com.

Reid Anderson (6-3, 185, 22) RHP

The native of New Egypt, N.J. made 28 appearances (13 starts) for Hickory in 2017 (1-11, 5.30). Was a starter almost exclusively in the second half of the season. The 17th round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Millersville Univ. (Pa.) in 2016, he attended college as an outfielder and moved to the mound during his sophomore season. Went 8-1 in 2016 and made three relief appearances during Millersville’s run to the Division II final. Played baseball and basketball at New Egypt High.

Joe Barlow (6-3, 195, 22) RHP

The native of Riverton, Utah made 16 relief appearances (6-1, 2.00) for Spokane in 2017. An 11th-round pick of the Rangers out of Salt Lake Community College in 2016, he struck out 64 of the 158 batters faced (40.5%) in 45 innings. Barlow was second in the Northwest League in opponents batting average (.177) and fifth in Ks-per-9-innings (12.80). A two-way player in college, he also caught 25 games in college. Pitched in high school at Riverton.

Dario Beltre (6-3, 210, 25) RHP

The native of San Juan de la Maguana, Dominican Republic made his first full-season appearance last year since signing as an international free agent contract with the Rangers in 2010. Made 11 appearances with Hickory (1-0, 2.60) with 19 Ks in 17.1 innings before ending the season on the disabled list with a right elbow strain. Missed the 2016 season due to elbow surgery. Fanned 173 in 153.1 innings during his pro career.

Noah Bremer (6-5, 200, 21)

The native of Berkeley, Calif. was the sixth-round pick of the Rangers in 2017 out of the University of Washington. Ranks third in innings, sixth in strikeouts and tied for sixth in starts among all hurlers in school history. In his pro debut with the AZL Rangers and Spokane, he made 12 relief appearances (1-0, 2.61) with 30 Ks and four walks in 20 innings. Held opponents to a .152/.211/.212 slash. Was an All-Pac 12 pick in 2017. Pitched in high school at Berkeley.

Jean Casanova (6-3, 155, 21) RHP

Was the 35th-round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Waukegan (Ill.) High. Spent both pro seasons with the AZL Rangers. Made 11 appearances (five starts) with the rookie affiliate in 2017 (5-2, 2.70) and 47 Ks in 36.2 innings. Moved to the U.S. in fifth grade from the Dominican Republic. His cousin Raul played in the majors from 1996 to 2008.

Alex Eubanks (6-2, 180, 22) RHP

The native of Moore, S.C. made 10 of his 11 appearances with Spokane (3-0, 1.17) after his 14th-round selection by the Rangers out of Clemson last June. Struck out 25 and walked just two in 16.1 innings. Made 16 starts for Clemson as a redshirt sophomore last year and walked just 1.73 per nine innings with the Tigers. Was an all-state as a senior at Byrnes (S.C.) High.

Demarcus Evans (6-4, 270, 21) RHP

The native of Petal, Miss. started the 2017 season with Hickory. A shoulder strain placed him on the disabled list in May and he rejoined the club after a rehab assignment with AZL Rangers. Finished the season at Spokane. With the Crawdads (2-5, 4.85), the Rangers 2015 25th-round pick (Petal High) made 12 appearances (six starts) with 46 Ks in 29.2 innings. Held opponents to a .170/.250/.250 slash in five starts at Spokane. As a high school senior, chosen as one of baseball’s “Dandy Dozen” by The Clarion-Ledger.

Joe Kuzia (6-4, 196, 24)  RHP

A free agent signee of the Rangers in April 2017, the native of Cape Coral, Fla. had a four-game stint with Hickory last summer (1-1, 12.79). Spent the rest of 2017 with Spokane where he made 16 appearances. Had the lowest walk-per-9 inning rate (0.86) among Northwest League relievers to go with a 12.93 K-per-9 inning rate. Previously pitched professional with Garden State in the independent Can-Am League, as well as Bridgeport and New Britain in the independent Atlantic League. Was first-team All-Big East at St. John’s in 2014. Pitched in junior college at Herkimer County (N.Y.) CC and at Seymour (Ct.) High. where he also lettered in basketball, football and indoor track.

Sal Mendez (6-4, 185, 23) LHP

The native of Weehawken, N.J. made 25 appearances (6-6, 4.71), including nine starts, with Hickory in 2017. Spent part of August on the disabled list with a strained quad. Was the Rangers 40th round pick in 2013 out of Weehawken High. Missed first two pro seasons with an elbow injury. Threw a no-hitter in high school. Signed away from a commitment to Howard (Tex.) College. Father Sabah played two seasons in the New York Yankees system and one year with the Minnesota Twins chain in the 1970s.

Tyler Phillips (6-5, 191, 20)

The native of Lumberton, N.J. started the 2017 season with Hickory and struggled (1-2, 6.39 in his seven appearances (four starts) before an assignment to Spokane. With the Indians, the Rangers 2015 16th round pick out of Bishop Eustace Prep (N.J.) had 12 Ks in his final start of the season. Had an 18-0 career record in high school and posted a 1.02 ERA his senior season.

 

Alex Speas (6-4, 180, 20) RHP

The native of Powder Springs, Ga. made 16 appearances (7 starts) for Spokane (1-6, 6.15) in 2017 with 45 Ks in 33.2 innings. Was ranked the 12th-best prospect in the Northwest League by Baseball America. The Rangers drafted him in the second round of the 2016 draft out of McEachern (Ga.) High and signed him away from a commitment to Auburn. Threw 8.1 scoreless innings with the AZL Rangers in his pro debut season in 2016. Was an Under Armour All-American. Baseball America had him as the 11th-best high school pitching prospect before the 2016 draft. Signed away from a commitment to Auburn. Currently the Rangers No. 23 prospect according to MLB.com

Tyree Thompson (6-4, 165, 21) RHP

The New Orleans native made 13 starts (5-1, 3.15) for Spokane in 2017 and was second in the Northwest League in ERA, fourth in WHIP (1.24). The Rangers 26th-round pick in 2016 was the first player drafted by MLB out of Edna Karr (La.) High, where he threw six no-hitters and two perfect games in his high school career. Signed away from a commitment to play baseball and basketball at Northwestern St. (La.)

Grant Zawadzki (5-10, 200, 25) RHP

The native of Shrewsbury, Mass. signed a free-agent contract with the Rangers in February 2017. Split time with Spokane, Hickory and high-A Down East last season. Made seven relief appearances with Hickory (0-1, 7.71). Previously pitched in the San Diego Padres organization as well as with Lancaster and Southern Maryland in the independent Atlantic League. Played collegiately at Cleveland State (Tenn.) CC and Bryan College (Tenn.). Went to St. John’s High (Shrewsbury).

 

CATCHERS

Sam Huff (6-4, 215, 20) B-T: R-R

The native of Phoenix spent both pro seasons with the AZL Rangers after his selection in the seventh-round of the 2016 draft out of Arcadia High. Posted a .249/.329/.452 slash in 49 games last season. Tied for the AZL lead with nine homers and was fourth in total bases. Named to the post-season AZL All-star team. Reached base safely in 24 of 28 games in 2016. Named to Arizona Republic’s All-Arizona baseball team in 2016 after hitting .554 with 14 homers and 49 RBI. Signed away from a commitment to Grand Canyon Univ. Currently the Rangers No. 25 prospect according to MLB.com

Clay Middleton (6-0, 205, 24) B-T: R-R

The native of Oviedo, Fla. spent both pro seasons with Spokane, splitting time behind the plate and at first last season. Posted .263/.323/.415 slash in 39 games with four homers and 17 RBI last season. Was the 22nd-round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Bethune-Cookman University. Named first-team All-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in 2016. Played high school ball at Hagerty (Fla.) High.

Melvin Novoa (5-11, 215, 21) B-T: R-R

The native of Nandaime, Nicaragua signed an international free agent contract with the Rangers in 2013. When he appears in a game for Hickory, Novoa will be the first Nicaraguan to play for the Crawdads. Hit for a .281/.338/.467 slash with four homers and 15 RBI in 38 games last season at Spokane. Was suspended for the 2016 season after testing positive for PED.

Yohel Pozo (6-0, 201, 20) B-T: R-R

The native of Maracaibo, Venezuela signed an international free agent contract with the Rangers in 2013. In his first full-season assignment last season, posted .338/.373/.465 slash with two homers and 15 RBI at Hickory. His .338 batting avg. is the eighth highest in Crawdads history for a player with a minimum of 150 plate appearances. Opened the 2017 season with Spokane before joining Hickory in July. Threw out 35.1% of baserunners for the Crawdads in 2017. Named to 2016 post-season AZL All-Star Team after hitting .341 for the AZL Rangers.

 

INFIELDERS

Ryan Dorow (6-0, 195, 22) B-T: R-R

The native of South Haven, Mich. played in the final game of the 2017 for Hickory (1-3, double) after suiting up for 40 games with the AZL Rangers. A 30th-round pick last June out of Division III Adrian College (Mich.), he posted a .296/.382/.384 slash. Named MVP of Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association three straight seasons. He is the first player drafted by MLB out of Adrian since 1974 (Sherwin Rogers by Baltimore). Played baseball, soccer and basketball at South Haven. Named to all-state baseball team his senior season.

Kole Enright (6-1, 175, 20) B-T: S-R

The native of Winter Garden, Fla. was the third-round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of West Orange (Fla.) High. After posting a .313/.378/.420 slash with the AZL Rangers in his first pro season, played in 67 games at Spokane last season when he hit .233/.314/.323 with three homers and 20 RBI. Named to the Orlando Sentinel all-area team in his senior season. Signed away from a commitment to Stetson Univ.

Yonny Hernandez (5-9, 140, 20)B-T: S-R

Signed as an international free agent in 2014, he made his stateside debut as a pro last May with AA Frisco (Tex.), where he went 0-for-3. The native of Planta, Baja, Venezuela spent much of the season with the AZL Rangers (32 games) before ending the season at Spokane (18 games). Hit his first pro homer in three seasons with Spokane last year.

Justin Jacobs (6-1, 195, 22) B-T: L-R

The native of Spokane, Wash. signed with the Rangers as a non-drafted free agent in 2017 after playing college ball at Gonzaga. Played in 48 games with the AZL Rangers posting a .326/.438/.431 slash. Was second in the AZL in hits (59) and on-base percentage (.438), sixth in batting avg. Named a JUCO All-American at Lower Columbia College (Wash.). Played high school ball at Auburn Riverside (Wash.).

Tyler Ratliff (6-2, 210, 22) B-T: R-R

The native of Port St. Lucie, Fla. played mostly with Spokane in his initial pro season after his selection by the Rangers in the 17th round out of Marshall Univ. last June. After hitting .500 in eight games with the AZL Rangers, Ratliff hit .264/.330/.421 with the Indians six homers and 25 RBI. Named to the Northwest League All-Star Team. Was a Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week during his sophomore season. Played in high school at T.C. Williams (Va.).

 

OUTFIELDERS

Miguel Aparicio (6-0, 175, 19) B-T: L-L

Signed as an international free agent in 2015, the native of San Carlos, Venezuela struggled as an 18-year-old during a 25-game stint (.176/.255/.247) with Hickory last season in his stateside pro debut. Re-assigned to Spokane, he put together an all-star season with the Indians (.293/.333/.395). Was second in the Northwest League in hits (86), fourth in runs (47) and the third-hardest player in the league to strikeout. Named by Baseball America as the 13th-best prospect in the NWL. Currently the Rangers No. 18 prospect according to MLB.com.

Pedro Gonzalez (6-5, 190, 20) B-T: R-R

The native of Santo Dominguez, Dominican Republic was obtained by the Rangers from the Colorado Rockies last August in a deal for catcher Jonathan Lucroy. Originally signed by the Rockies as an international free agent in 2014. Went 0-for-17 with Spokane in six games after the trade. Before the trade, he put up a .321/.388/.519 slash with 25 extra-base hits in 45 games with the Rockies rookie affiliate at Grand Junction (Colo.). Named the seventh-best prospect in the Pioneer League by Baseball America. Originally a shortstop in the Rockies organization, moved to centerfield in 2016. Currently the Rangers No. 10 prospect according to MLB.com.

Eric Jenkins (6-1, 170, 21) B-T: L-R

The lone North Carolina native (Cerro Gordo) on the Crawdads roster was drafted by the Rangers in the second round of the 2015 draft out West Columbus High. After playing in 51 games with the AZL Rangers in his pro debut season, he hit .389/.421/.444 with the Crawdads in the final five games of 2015 and started in left during the playoffs. Led the South Atlantic League with 51 steals in 2016. Started the 2017 season with a hamstring injury before rejoining Hickory last May. Hit .216/.266/.310 in his final 60 games with the Crawdads. Also played basketball in high school. Signed out of a commitment to UNC Wilmington.

Chad Smith (6-2, 193, 20) B-T: L-L

The native of Snellville, Ga. played for Spokane (.277/.354/.447) for a second-straight season in 2017 before a shoulder injury shut him down for the season after 39 games. A fifth-round pick of the Rangers in 2015 out of South Gwinnett (Ga.) High, he was as Northwest League all-star in 2016. Named a Perfect Game second-team All-American as a high school senior. Signed away from a commitment to the Univ. of Georgia.