Results tagged ‘ Tyler Davis ’

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.

 

Series Preview Kannapolis at Hickory April 14-15

(Yes, I know it’s late. Paid work takes precedent at times.)

Jose Almonte - Lin

Jose Almonte and the Hickory Crawdads look to continue a three-game winning streak as they take on the Kannapolis Intimidators (Crystal Lin/ Hickory Crawdads)

Kannapolis Intimidators (Chicago White Sox) (1-7) at Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (4-4)

The Hickory Crawdads open the home portion of the 2017 South Atlantic League season as they face in-state rival Kannapolis at L.P. Frans Stadium.

 

If you plan to go:

GAME TIMES: Friday 7:00 p.m., Saturday (DH) 5 p.m.

Promotions: Friday – Post-Game Fireworks. Saturday – Poster Giveaway to first 1,000 fans; Turn Back the Clock; Easter 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. 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 (Kannapolis/ Hickory):

Friday: RHP Bernardo Flores vs. RHP Emerson Martinez

Saturday: TBA vs. RHP Edgar Arredondo, Argenis Rodriguez

 

Thursday’s Game: Hickory scored a 2-1 win in 12 innings, despite a lineup that whiffed 18 times.

Jose Almonte’s triple down to right scored Anderson Tejeda from first for the game winner. White Sox No. 10 prospect Dane Dunning struck out 13 and allowed one unearned run on three hits. Outfielder Travis Bolin pitched the 12th and got the win for the Crawdads.

 

Recent Series History:

The Crawdads were 12-4 in 2016 against Kannapolis, 5-3 at home. Since the Crawdads began the affiliation with the Rangers in 2009 they are 85-53 overall, 41-26 at L.P. Frans.

 

About the Crawdads:

Hickory has won three straight after a 1-4 start. The Crawdads handed Columbia its first loss of the season and then went on to take two of three from the Fireflies before last night’s home opener. Hickory has scuffled to a .216 BA and .294 OBP, both next to last in the South Atlantic League. However, the Crawdads lead the SAL with 11 homers.

 

Prospects to watch- Hickory:

CF Leody Taveras (No. 1 MLB.com and Baseball America, No. 55 MLB.com top-100 prospects): After hits in his first six games, Taveras is 0-9 in his last two with 8 Ks in his last 18 ABs.

SS Anderson Tejeda (No. 8 MLB.com, 16 Baseball America): Struggling to make contact at the plate for now, has at least one K in all eight games, 15 in 29 ABs. Also has five walks on the season after just 18 in all of 2017. Got his first triple of the season in the home opener and later scored the winning run.

OF Yanio Perez (No. 15 MLB.com, 27 Baseball America) Got his first homer of the season during the final game of the road trip, then K’d 4 times in five ABs last night.

2B Yeyson Yrizarri (No. 17 MLB.com): Started slow out of the gate at 2-for-29. Is putting the bat to the ball with just 5 Ks. After just 9 walks in 2016, he’s yet to get a free pass this season.

RF Jose Almonte (No. 29 MLB.com): Has a modest three-game hit streak, including thewalk-off RBI triple on Thursday.

RHP Tyler Ferguson (No. 30 Baseball America): Has not pitched yet this season. The big righty (6-4, 225) had a dominant tenure with Spokane (1.78 ERA, 46 Ks/ 10 BBs 30.1 IP), then struggled to find his command after he joined Hickory for the final month of 2016 (10 Ks/ 18 BBs 13.1 IP). Brings an overpowering fastball/ slider, but the Vanderbilt product’s goal is simple to start the season: find the plate.

 

Others to watch – Hickory:

3B Ti’Quan Forbes: The hottest hitter in the lineup at the start (.414/.485/.759). Homered in each of his first three games and at least one hit in seven of the first eight games. Forbes leads the South Atlantic League in total bases, slugging and OPS (1.243)

RHP Emerson Martinez: Threw five shutout innings in his first start at Greensboro. proven to be a durable arm for the Crawdads over his two seasons coming out of the pen or starting. Looks to get groundballs for outs. Twelve of the 15 outs he recorded at Greensboro were strikeouts or grounders.

RHP Edgar Arredondo: Had 56 Ks to just four walks last season with DSL Rangers, but struggled with control during his first stateside start on Sunday. Managed to record just four outs as he walked three and hit a batter.

 

About the Intimidators:

Managed by Justin Jirschele, who played in 15 games for the Intimidators in 2013. He was the team’s hitting coach last year… The Intimidators have started slowly and have lost three straight after last night… Like Hickory, the Intimidators have struggled at the plate and are next to last in the SAL in runs scored and are last with just 10 extra-base hits.

 

Prospects to watch – Kannapolis:

LF Jameson Fisher (No. 14 Baseball America, 15 mlb.com): Fourth-round pick out of SE Louisiana. As a redshirt-junior in 2016, led NCAA D-I in on-base pct. and was second in batting average. Continued to rake in the Pioneer League (.342/.436/.487). Was a catcher in college before hurting his shoulder and had surgery for a torn labrum.

LHP Bernardo Flores (No. 18 mlb.com, 23 Baseball America): Seventh-round pick out of Southern California. Struggled in college, has mid-to-upper 90s fastball. Struggled in his first start (4 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 B, 6 K

 

Others to watch – Kannapolis:

RHP Mike Morrison: 27th round pick out of Coastal Carolina. Pitched for last year’s College World Series champions. So far has allowed just one hit and struck out six over four innings in three appearances. Fanned four in two innings during Thursday’s game.

RHP Yosmer Solorzano: International free agent from Venezuela. Likely starter for Saturday’s doubleheader. In his last start on Monday against Rome (Ga.), gave up just one run on six hits and struck out nine over six innings. To date, has the only win for Kannapolis.

3B Zach Remillard: Tenth-round pick out of Coastal Carolina. Played for last season’s College World Series champs. Started pro career well with the AZL White Sox and earned a promotion to full-season club at Kannapolis for the final month. Currently on a four-game hit streak.

2B Mitch Roman: 12th round pick out of Wright St. Had three hits during Thurday’s loss to Hickory. Currently at .370/.414/.481 for the season.

CF Joel Booker: 22nd round pick out of Iowa. Attended Polk County High in Columbus, NC. Has four multi-hit games, including a two-hit night on Thursday.

 

Note of Interest: Hickory added RHP Tyler Davis and LHP Christian Torres during the road trip and will pitch out of the bullpen. Both pitched for Hickory in 2016. Davis made 16 starts for High Desert last year… Kannapolis RF Micker Adolfo (No. 20 mlb.com, 24 Baseball America) is on the disabled list.

 

Davis & Company Set Down Legends to Cap 6-1 Homestand

After a see-saw affair through the first four innings, the Hickory Crawdads bullpen restored order and snared the team an 8-4 win over the Lexington Legends in a Monday morning game at L.P. Frans Stadium.

With the win and a split by Hagerstown (Md.) in its home doubleheader with Rome (Ga.), the Crawdads (17-8) now sit one-half game behind the Suns in the South  Atlantic League’s Northern Division. Lexington dropped to 10-15 and is now in sixth in the Southern Division, seven games out of first and one game ahead of last place Rome.

The Crawdads took three of four in the series and wrapped up a 6-1 homestand.

The teams exchanged leads three times before Hickory scored two runs in the fifth to keep the lead for good.

The bullpen was the story of the afternoon for Hickory as a quartet of relievers held the Legends to two hits over the final 4.1 innings and posted six strikeouts.

Tyler Davis picked up for starter Brett Martin with two outs in the fourth and struck out five of the seven hitters he faced. Adam Choplick gave up two hits after two were out, but got out a break when catcher Chuck Moorman threw out Marten Gasparini trying to steal third to end the inning. Johan Juan and Jeffrey Springs each pitched perfect innings to close out the game.

Jose Almonte hit his team-leading fourth homer of the season to tie the game in the fourth. In the fifth, Moorman singled in the go-ahead run and then Tyler Sanchez scored when Lexington botched a run-down play of Moorman between first and second. Yrizarri’s RBI double in the seventh and Dylan Moore’s run-scoring single in the eighth tacked on insurance runs for Hickory.

The Crawdads posted 13 hits on the afternoon and scored in six of eight innings. All nine batters had at least one hit with Eric Jenkins, Moore, Sanchez and Yrizarri collecting two each.

Yrizarri knocked in three runs and finished the series 7-for-12 with 3 runs scored and six RBI.

Yeyson Yrizarri hittinng

Yeyson Yrizarri had two hits and three RBI to finish off a 7-for-12 series against Lexington. (Photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

Bullpen Legen—wait for it – dary in Win:

The outing for Tyler Davis didn’t start well when he entered the game in the fourth. With two outs in the inning and DJ Burt at first, Burt took off for second and reached safely when Davis was called for a balk, as he attempted to turn and throw to second. However, Davis recovered to get Marten Gasparini looking on a changeup to end the inning.

“When Davis came in, he came in and pounded the zone with his fastball and was able to get some breaking balls and changeups in there,” said Crawdads manager Steve Mintz. “He really went after them and I think that gave us some momentum to start scoring a little more then without people all over the bases.”

Tyler Davis

Reliever Tyler Davis struck out five of seven hitters to get the win (2-0) for Hickory on Monday (photo by Tracy Proffitt)

 

The right-handed Davis – the Texas Rangers 23rd round pick in 2015 out of Washington – pounded the arm-side corner with an 89-91 mph fastball. But it was his ability to change speeds along that corner which that kept the Legends hitters off stride. In the fifth, Chase Vallot spoiled a fastball on the corner and then swung through a change in the same spot. Amalani Fukofuka was the one batter that seemed to solve Davis through a nine-pitch at-bat before whiffing on a slider off the plate to end the inning.

“I have to give Chuck (Moorman) a lot of credit,” said Davis. “He had a good plan behind the dish all day today. I was just pounding the strike zone with fastballs early and getting ahead of batters. Obviously, when you’re ahead of batters, it makes everything a lot easier. You can do a lot more with the at-bat; you can do a lot more with what you can throw. You’re basically in the driver’s seat.”

In the sixth Davis got Ben Johnson to swing through a slider off the plate before blowing an 89 mile an hour fastball by him. He used a similar plan to Xavier Hernandez, getting the first two strikes on off-speed pitches before painting the corner on a fastball to get him looking.

“I’m not an overpowering pitcher and I know that,” Davis said. “I really try to focus on keeping the ball down and getting ahead of batters and then mixing it up, getting them off balance a lot and keeping them off balance constantly with off-speed stuff and with fastballs as well. Being able to do that is huge and makes life a lot easier for me and the catcher and the coaches.”

Six-foot-eight lefty Adam Choplick used a 94 mph fastball and a biting curve to handle Lexington in the seventh. He left a pair of heaters over the plate that were struck into the outfield.  Overall, a good outing that was helped along when Gasparini was thrown out stealing third.

Johan Juan had little trouble in the eighth, sporting fastballs in the 92-94 range. Jeffrey Springs closed out the ninth on just six pitches.

A comedy of errors:

Whether it was the 10:30 a.m. start, or getaway day prior to an off-day for both teams, fundamental plays were difficult to come by.

In the first, the Crawdads had a chance to get out of the inning unscathed for starter Brett Martin. With runners at first and second, the slow-footed Samir Duenez hit what looked to be a routine double play ball to Frandy De La Rosa at second. However, he and Yrizarri and short were slow in getting the play in motion and Duenez beat out the play. Burt scored on Vallot’s single.

Lexington returned the favor defensively in the bottom of the inning. With runners at second and third with no outs, Moore rifled a shot that Jecksson Flores snagged at third. Instead of taking the sure out at first, Flores gambled and lost when he tried to tag Chris Garia scrambling back to third. Garia beat the play and the bases were loaded. Hickory then traded two outs for two runs in the inning.

The Crawdads appeared to add to its early lead in the second when Garia lifted a fly ball to right that scored Ti’Quan Forbes. However, Lexington successfully appealed the play and Forbes was ruled to have left third early.

A leadoff error by 2B Frandy De La Rosa led to a pair of unearned runs in the third that gave Lexington a 4-2 lead.  Then in the bottom of the third, a single and a double, a walk and another single led to only one Crawdads run as Eric Jenkins was picked off first.

“It took us a couple of innings to get together and then everybody pulled their heads back out and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got something to do here,’” said Mintz. “For the most part, we did what we had to do. We could’ve helped ourselves a little bit better early.”

Lexington appeared to get a break from Hickory in the fifth when Moorman was caught off first after Emilio Ogando’s pitch in the dirt was corralled by Vallot behind the plate. However, Bart’s throw during the rundown got away and Sanchez scored.

The Legends last chance to stay in the game came in the seventh. Down 6-4 in the seventh, Gasparini and Duenez both singled. But with Vallot at the plate at a 1-1 count, the runners took off for a double steal with Moorman easily throwing out Gasparini at third as Gasparini appeared to injure his left leg during the play.

Eric Jenkins reached on an error at short in the eighth with two outs and scored on Moore’s RBI single.

Martin looking for go-to pitch:

Crawdads starter Brett Martin needed 90 pitches to record 10 outs and it was partially his inability to finish off hitters that was his undoing.

An omen as to what was to come occurred in a lengthy battle between Martin and Gasparini. Martin continually stayed away from the right-handed hitter with a series of fastballs on and off the outside corner. Gasparini spoiled several fastballs and was then able to read a changeup in the same area and laid off a curveball away. On the tenth pitch of the plate appearance, Gasparini served an outside-corner fastball into right.

Martin had difficulty with throwing his secondary pitches consistently for strikes, leaving him without a trusted out pitch. On two-strike counts against Martin, Lexington went 6-for-12 with a walk. The botched double play ball and the De La Rosa error also hampered things for Martin.

“Martin threw okay,” Mintz said. “Just his execution today on some pitches when he was ahead on counts and different things, the execution wasn’t there. Obviously, he ate up some pitches, but we didn’t help him in the field there a couple of times.”

 

Running, running, running:

The Crawdads stole 19 bases during the four-game series, getting caught just three times. Nine different players stole a base in the series with Jenkins leading the way with five. Yrizarri and De La Rosa each had three, while Dylan Moore had two.

Game Story April 7: Hickory 5 Kannapolis 1

(I apologize ahead if I miss anything grammatical, as I am in a hurry. :-))

 

The Hickory Crawdads won the opening South Atlantic League game with a 5-1 win over the Kannapolis Intimidators at Intimidators Stadium Thursday night.

The win was the first managerial win for new skipper Steve Mintz in his first game.

Said Mintz of the win, “That was fun to finally get out here and play a game that really counted and see these guys do the work after all the stuff that they’ve done in spring training to prepare for it.”

After Kannapolis scored an unearned run in the first, Hickory took the lead in the third via a two-run triple by Andy Ibanez, after Eric Jenkins reached safely on an error with two outs in the inning. Ibanez added a fielder’s choice RBI in the fifth before Yeyson Yrizarri tacked on an RBI single.

Hickory’s final run came in the seventh as Chuck Moorman doubled and scored on an Ibanez single.

The Crawdads put up ten hits on offense while the pitching staff combined to shutout Kannapolis over the final eight innings with 13 strikeouts.

 

Sticks:

Andy Ibanez had four hits and four RBI on the night, as he looked the part of schoolroom bully against Kannapolis pitching. After reaching on an infield hit in the first, Ibanez smoked a fastball from Luis Martinez that one-hopped the wall to the right of straight-away center. He went on to single up the middle and line a fourth hit to left.

“He got some good pitches to hit and didn’t miss them. He had a couple of big hits there to give us some runs.

Jose Almonte showed good bat control by slapping an away fastball hard to the hole at second for an infield hit.

Eric Jenkins showed the wheels with a bunt single in the fifth. His speed likely rushed Intimidators 2B Daniel Mendick into an error that wound up leading to a two-run inning that gave Hickory the lead for good.

Arms:

After giving up an unearned run on a freaky play in the first, Brett Martin appeared to pitch a bit angry and K’d the side -2 on fastballs, 1 on a change. From there, Martin had complete control as he allowed four hits, two walks and struck out eight. He introduced more offspeed offerings the second time through the order. Against Zach Fish in the third, Martin got strike one and two on curveballs, then completed the K by getting Fish to swing through a CH. He finished the game with 8 Ks in 4 innings, getting 50 strikes (19 missed bats) out of 73 pitches.

Mintz said that Martin’s experience was the key to keeping things under control after the crazy play in the first. “You grow up each year and you learn more and he showcased that tonight, being able to keep his cool. When he got in trouble there, he went to his offspeed, like he’s supposed to, and slowed the game down properly. It was nice to see.”

Tyler Davis showed a good slider as he threw three scoreless innings. He was especially tough in the sixth after allowing a walk and a double to the wall in left. He then struck out Silverio and Mendick swinging and finished off the inning on a 5-3 grounder.

“Davis pitched out of that second and third with nobody out and saved two big runs right there,” Mintz said. “All they (the Intimidators) needed were two ground balls and they could’ve picked up two easy runs, but he didn’t let them get them.”

Eric Swanson worked out a leadoff walk with two weak popups and an easy fly. (Honestly, I missed much of the 8th inning.)

Jeffrey Springs worked around an E-3 in the ninth with little trouble.

As a whole, the quartet allows six hits, four walks and struck out 13 in the game.

“The starting pitching, like I said, if they can keep us in it,” said Mintz. “Davis came in and gave us three quality innings, Springs finished it up there and Swanson in the middle. That’s what we want, keep us in the game.”

Leather:

Kannapolis got its first run on a bit of a comedy of errors. With Tyler Sullivan at first, Johan Cruz hit a grounder to Dylan Moore at 1B. Moore botched the grounder, but gathered the ball. However, Moore lofted the throw to Brett Martin covering at first. Sullivan circled the bases on the play and came home as Martin was late covering the plate.

The wind played havoc with pop ups in the top of the fourth inning, but Hickory weathered the storm, so to speak. A popup by Louis Silverio started to the left of the mound, but curved back to Frandy De La Rosa well to the right of second. After Daniel Mendick walked, a popup by Grant Massey that carried beyond De La Rosa and into RF. Jose Almonte wound up recording a 9-6 fielder’s choice on the play.

Ti’Quan Forbes came into the season with a bit of a reputation of the game being too fast for him at third. At least on Thursday, those reports appeared off base. Forbes easily made the long throw across the diamond to nab Fish. But the highlight play of the night came in the fifth when Forbes sprinted across toward the mound to make a quick bare-handed snatch of a roller from Johan Cruz and fired a laser to first to get the speedy Cruz.

Bases:

The Crawdads had three baserunners thrown out stealing and should have had a fourth. Andy Ibanez was thrown out in the first with De La Rosa going down in the second and fourth. Ibanez should’ve been caught a second time in the fifth as he went into second standing, but Mendick bobbled the catch at 2B.

Jose Almonte showed good speed as he stole second in the third (at 6-3, 205, he looked like a linebacker running) but nearly got picked off at 3B in the third as he circled too far after Eric Jenkins reached on an error. Almonte further showed good wheels by just missing a second infield hit in the eighth.

Looking at the 2016 Crawdads Roster: Pitchers

The Texas Rangers and Hickory Crawdads released the opening-day roster for the Crawdads earlier this week. I’ll take a look at the roster over two parts beginning with the pitchers in this entry.

 

In looking at the roster, the first thing I noticed was how much older the pitching staff is this season compared to season’s past as a Texas Rangers affiliate. During the Crawdads-Rangers tenure over the past seven seasons, Hickory has had such teen pitching phenoms as Martin Perez, Wilfredo Boscan, Wilmer Font, Joe Ortiz, Robbie Erlin, Andrew Faulkner, Victor Payano, Jose Leclerc, Akeem Bostick, Luis Ortiz, and Ariel Jurado start the season in a Crawdads uniform.

 

In 2015, 19-year-olds Jurado and Ortiz, along with 20-year old Brett Martin were the cornerstones of the starting rotation with LHP pitching prospect Yohander Mendez – himself 20 – waiting in the wings in the bullpen. This season, Jonathan Hernandez is the lone teen wolf (19) on the Crawdads staff.

 

Now, in the past, the Rangers have sent teen-aged pitchers to Hickory in early-to-mid May to save wear and tear on the arms (Joe Wieland, Neil Ramirez, Cody Buckel, Luke Jackson to name a few), with most repeating the Low-A level the following season. That may well happen here and that remains to be seen.

 

I also noticed a heavier – at least it seems to me – tilt towards pitchers with college backgrounds than in years past. Last year, seven of the 14 pitchers on the opening-day roster had four-year or two-year backgrounds. This year, 10 of the 12 have college experience, eight of those from a four-year school.

Last year’s pitching staff was an average of 21.4 years old (Baseballreference.com). At the start of this season, eight of the 14 members of the pitching staff are 22 and older. This is similar to the Pirate-affiliate days.

 

One possible effect of the heavier-than-normal college presence on the roster could be the allotment of innings. In years past, the Rangers would begin skipping starts at the midpoint of the season and heavily monitor the wear-and-tear of the younger arms to limit innings. However, with the older group, I wonder how much of that will be in play with this group. Even the younger pitchers on the roster (Brett Martin and Pedro Payano) have already built up to 90+ innings the past year. One thing to keep in mind, though, is several of the pitchers on the roster (Wes Benjamin, Adam Choplick to name a couple) have had “Tommy John” surgeries in the past and that will, of course, bear watching.

 

SURPRISES:

A couple of surprises, at least to me, related to the pitchers sent to Hickory. The first, for me, is the return of 2015 SAL All-Star Brett Martin. The left-hander had 72 Ks and 26 BBs in 95.1 innings, but at times struggled with consistency (1.07 WHIP first half of 2015, 1.41 second half) and with nagging injuries. Like Collin Wiles from 2015, this season could be about finding that groove of becoming a consistent six-to-seven inning starter each time out.

Brett Martin 2

2015 SAL all-star Brett Martin looks to build consistency during his second season with Hickory (photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

 

Another is the return of Dillon Tate, the fourth-overall pick in 2015. A major checklist item from his time at Hickory in August of 2015 was the development of a changeup and that could be better suited during his time in South Atlantic League ballparks rather than in the rarefied air of the high desert of California.

Dillon Tate 2

Dillon Tate rejoins Hickory after a brief stint with the Crawdads last summer (photo by Tracy Proffitt)

 

WHAT ELSE TO LOOK FOR:

Wes Benjamin comes to Hickory after pitching a lone inning in the AZL last summer. The Kansas product had been out since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2014.

 

Pedro Payano opened a ton of eyes in 2015, pitching at three levels with the final coming at Hickory. His three-pitch combination (fastball, curve, change) was used to great effect here in August and the playoffs, as he showed the ability to use any pitch in any count. Given that ability at age 21, his No. 29 prospect listing by MLB.com seems a bit low, though that could have more to do with the Rangers talent up the chain rather than with Payano’s ability. With his pitchability and poise on the mound, Payano could have a Ariel Jurado-type season that further opens eyes.

Pedro Payano

RHP Pedro Payano dominated the SAL in the final month of the 2015. season (Tracy Proffitt)

Starting rotation likely begins with Tate, Payano, Martin and Hernandez. Others with starting experience in the pros include Bass, Tyler Davis, Peter Fairbanks and Joe Palumbo. Jeffrey Springs started at Appalachian St.

 

 

2016 HICKORY CRAWDADS PITCHER CAPSULES

 

BLAKE BASS (RHP, 6-7, 265)

2015 Pro Season: 13 games (4 starts) at Spokane (Wash.), 33 1/3 IP, 3 HR, 15 BB, 29 K, 4.32 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, .242 OBA.

About Bass: A native of Lubbock, Tex,. Bass, 22, was the Texas Rangers eighth-round pick in 2015 out of Angelo (Tex.) St., where he was a first-team All-Lone Star Conference pick. Was an All-State performer as a senior at Coronado High.

 

WES BENJAMIN (LHP, 6-1, 197)

2015 Pro Season: 1 game (1 start) at Arizona Summer League (AZL) Rangers, 1 IP, 1 BB, 2 K.

About Benjamin: A native of St. Charles, Ill., Benjamin, 22, was the fifth round pick of the Rangers in 2014 out of Kansas. Was an All- Big 12 Freshman Team selection. Underwent elbow ligament replacement surgery in 2014 (Tommy John). Formerly drafted by the New York Yankees (48th round) in 2011.

 

ADAM CHOPLICK (LHP, 6-8, 275)

2015 Pro Season: 16 games at Spokane, 33 IP, 1 HR, 23 BB, 35 K, 2.18 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, .242 OBA.

About Choplick: A native of Denton, Tex., Choplick, 23, was the 14th round pick of the Rangers in 2015 out of Oklahoma. Was formerly drafted by the Chicago White Sox (32nd round) in 2014 and the Arizona Diamondbacks (17th round) in 2011. Underwent Tommy John surgery while a junior at Denton Ryan High. Was second team All-State pick in baseball as a high school senior and a first team All-State performer as a senior in basketball.

 

TYLER DAVIS (RHP, 5-10, 190)

2015 Pro Season: 16 games (2 starts) at Spokane, 35 1/3 IP, 4 HR, 12 BB, 30 K, 5.09 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, .293 OBA.

About Davis: A native of Seattle, Davis, 23, was the 23rd round pick of the Rangers in 2015 out of Washington. Was the Northwest League Pitcher of the Week (Sept. 1-7) after throwing six no-hit innings in a start for Spokane. Holds the Huskies record for innings pitched at the school, second in starts and fourth in wins and strikeouts. Was an All-Pac 12 selection his junior and senior seasons and an All-American in 2014. His brother Erik pitched for the Washington Nationals in 2013.

 

PETER FAIRBANKS (RHP, 6-6, 219)

2015 Pro Season: 13 games (11 starts) at Spokane, 57 1/3 IP, 3 HR, 22 BB, 47 K, 3.14 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, .246 OBA.

About Fairbanks: A native of St. Louis, Mo., Fairbanks, 22, was the ninth round pick of the Rangers in 2015 out of Missouri. Was a first-team All-Conference infielder in high school at Webster Grove in 2012.  Underwent Tommy John surgery as a high school junior. His father played one season in the Houston Astros chain in 1983.

 

JONATHAN HERNANDEZ (RHP, 6-2, 173)

2015 Pro Season: 11 games (9 starts) at AZL Rangers, 45 IP, 0 HR, 12 BB, 3 K, 3.00 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, .250 OBA.

About Hernandez: A native of Santiago de los Caballos, D. R., Hernandez, 19, signed with the Rangers as a free agent in 2013.Baseball America has Hernandez as the 20th best Rangers prospect, while MLB.com has him at No. 28. His father, Fernando, pitched briefly for the Detroit Tigers during a 14-season pro career.

 

JOHAN JUAN (RHP, 6-1, 180)

2015 Pro Season: 18 games at Dominican Summer League (DSL) Rangers, 43 1/3 IP, 2 HR, 7 BB, 46 K, 1.25 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, .218 OBA.

About Juan: A native of La Romana, D. R., Juan, 21, signed with the Rangers as a free agent in 2013. After posting a 1.95 ERA over three seasons in the Dominican Summer League, Juan will be making his U.S. debut this year.

 

OMARLIN LOPEZ (RHP, 6-3, 162)

2015 Pro Season: 20 games at Spokane, 36 IP, 3 HR, 16 BB, 36 K, 4.50 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, .267 OBA.

About Lopez: A native of Payita, D.R., Lopez, 22, signed with the Rangers as a free agent in 2013.

 

BRETT MARTIN (LHP, 6-4, 190)

2015 Pro Season: 10 games (18 starts) at Hickory, 95 1/3 IP, 6 HR, 26 BB, 72 K, 3.49 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 2.65 OBA.

About Martin: A native of Morristown, Tenn., Martin, 20, was the fourth round pick of the Rangers in 2014 out of Walters St. (Tenn.) CC. Named to the South Atlantic League All-Star Game in 2015. Threw four shutout innings against Asheville in Game 2 of the 2015 SAL Championship Series. Originally attended Tennessee before transferring to Walters St. He is the Rangers No. 11 prospect, according to MLB.com and No. 18 tabbed by Baseball America.

 

JOE PALUMBO, (LHP, 6-1, 168)

2015 Pro Season: 13 games (9 starts) at Spokane and Hickory, 58 2/3 IP, 3 HR, 25 BB, 43 K, 3.07 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, .253 OBA.

About Palumbo: A native of Holbrook, N.Y., Palumbo, 21, was the Rangers 30th round pick in 2013 out of St. John the Baptist (N.Y.)  High. Made a start for Hickory on the final regular season game in 2015. Named to the Arizona Summer League All-Star Team in 2014.

 

PEDRO PAYANO (RHP, 6-2, 207)

2015 Pro Season: 17 games (12 starts) at DSL Rangers, AZL Rangers, Hickory, 89 IP, 1 HR, 22 BB, 101 K, 1.11 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, .244 OBA.

About Payano: A native of San Pedro de Macoris, D.R., Payano, 21, signed with the Rangers as a free agent in 2011. Named Rangers minor league pitcher of the month in July 2015 after going 5-0 with a 1.20 ERA. Allowed one or fewer runs in five of six starts for Hickory after joining the club August 1, 2015. Threw six shutout innings vs. Asheville in Game 1 of the South Atlantic League Championship Series.

 

JACOB SHORTSLEF (RHP, 6-5, 235)

2015 Pro Season: 16 games at AZL Rangers and Spokane, 37 IP, 1 HR, 8 BB, 33 K, 1.95 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, .271 OBA.

About Shortslef: A native of Sterling, N.Y., Shortslef, 21, was the Rangers 26th round pick in 2015 out of Herkimer County (N.Y.) CC. As a sophomore, ranked ninth nationally with a .157 opponent batting avg. Struck out 20 of 21 batters in a game while a senior at Hannibal (N.Y.) High. Brother Josh pitched for Hickory in 2003 and 2004, as part of his ten-season, minor-league career with the Pirates.

 

JEFFREY SPRINGS (LHP, 6-3, 193)

2015 Pro Season: 17 games at Spokane and Hickory, 27 2/3 IP, 2 HR, 15 BB, 39 K, 2.61 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, .200 OBA.

About Springs: A native of Belmont, N.C., Springs, 23, was the Rangers 30th round pick out in 2015 of Appalachian St. Left the Mountaineers third in career starts and fourth in strikeouts. Attended South Point High and led the Red Raiders to the state 3A title in 2011 and named the MVP of the championship series. Named 2011 North Carolina 3A player of the year.

Jeffrey Springs

Appalachian St. product Jeffrey Springs returns to Hickory after a brief stint last August. (Tracy Proffitt)

 

ERIK SWANSON (RHP, 6-3, 250)

2015 Pro Season: 10 games at AZL Rangers, Hickory, Frisco (Tex.) and Round Rock (Tex.) 15 1/3 IP, 1 HR, 7 BB, 14 K. 2.35 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, .185 OBA.

About Swanson: A native of Terrace Park, Ohio, Swanson, 22, was the Rangers eighth round pick in 2014 out of Iowa Western CC. Made seven appearances for Hickory before landing on the disabled list (elbow strain) on July 23 through the remainder of the season. Named Most Outstanding Pitcher while leading Iowa Western to NJCAA Division I College World Series title in 2014. Was to attend Pittsburgh before deciding to sign with Texas.

Erik Swanson 2

Erik Swanson pitched across four minor league levels with the Rangers in 2015 before an elbow strain ended his season in July (Tracy Proffitt)

 

DILLON TATE (RHP, 6-2, 197)

2015 Pro Season: 6 games (6 starts) at Spokane and Hickory, 9 IP, 1 HR, 3 BB, 8 K. 1.00 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, .100 OBA.

About Tate: A native of Claremont, Calif., Tate, 21, was the first round pick (fourth overall) of the Rangers in 2015 out of California-Santa Barbara. Was highest-drafted player to appear in a Crawdads uniform since Brad Lincoln (4th overall) did so in 2006.Named 2015 Louisville Slugger All-American and a Golden Spikes Award semi-finalist in 2015. Allowed 2 runs over four innings in three appearances for Hickory during the 2015 postseason. Currently the No. 4 Rangers prospect by Baseball America and No. 5 by MLB.com, which has Tate as the No. 36 prospect in the minors and the eighth-best right-handed pitching prospect.