Year by year, some of the shine has eroded from Stephen Strasburg. I find this to be simultaneously fair and unfair. It’s fair to the extent that Stephen Strasburg is not the single greatest pitcher on the planet Earth, which seemed to be the universal expectation even before Strasburg was the #1 pick of the Nationals in 2009. It’s unfair because Stephen Strasburg has, in six professional years, pitched to the tune of a 3.09 ERA and 2.83 FIP while striking out 10.4 batters per nine innings and allowing just 7.6 hits per nine.
Objectively, Stephen Strasburg has been better than just about everyone on Earth over the past six, or four, or two years at effectively throwing a baseball. Maybe he’s not The Biggest Deal anymore, but he’s still A Big Deal. So when Strasburg returned to Syracuse for a pair of rehab starts this summer, NBT Bank Stadium wasn’t packed to the gills as in 2010, when a fresh-faced 21-year-old took the International League by storm. There was, however, certainly still a buzz in the yard last summer, when Strasburg made a pair of rehab starts for Syracuse while recovering from a left oblique injury.
The first of those starts, on July 29th vs. Buffalo, wasn’t particularly memorable. The most noteworthy moment could qualify for the oddest of the season, when Strasburg simply stepped off the mound mid-windup and committed a bases-loaded balk in the second inning. In total, Strasburg allowed four hits and three runs in four innings in that game.
His second and final rehab start, however, was – can you use the term “vintage” for a 27-year-old? – vintage Strasburg. On August 3rd, a set-to-be-stretched-out Strasburg took the mound vs. the Pawtucket Red Sox. He wasted little time in establishing his dominance…
The Ks continued. Two more in the second. Two in the third. Two in a perfect fourth. One more in the fifth.
In the sixth, when Strasburg punched out former Chief Sandy Leon for the third consecutive time, that was that. The final tally: five and two-thirds innings, five hits, two earned runs, zero walks and 11 strikeouts. No Chiefs pitcher struck out as many in a game all season.
Strasburg may not be Sandy Koufax. He may not be Walter Johnson. He may not be Greg Maddux. But being Stephen Strasburg is pretty darned good. And getting an in-person reminder of that, for an early August night, was thrilling.
Oh, and, one more note…that game, coincidentally or not, kickstarted the Chiefs’ longest winning streak in decades – which I’m certain we’ll be hearing more about in the days to come…
6. Manny B. Good
Emmanuel Burriss was the bedrock of the Chiefs the last two seasons. He didn’t play much in the majors. He didn’t win the league MVP, like Steven Souza, Jr. in 2014. He didn’t even make an All-Star team. I’ll argue, however, that there was no more important Chief than Burriss, on and off the field. He anchored the team’s infield at shortstop and second base. He surged to career-best offensive years and power numbers under hitting coach Joe Dillon. Off the field, Burriss was everybody’s friend – just look at the way he jokingly eased Kevin Keyes and Ricky Hague into Triple-A.
My most memorable Manny moment comes from 2014. After the Chiefs clinched their first division title in decades, I trekked down to the Pawtucket clubhouse to watch the celebration. Not two minutes later, I found myself dragged into the middle of the maelstrom by Burriss and Josh Johnson, doused with beer and sprayed in the face with champagne. It was exhilarating in the moment – and unfortunate in the aftermath. I had little in the way of extra clothing and a five-hour drive through the night to Syracuse ahead of me.
Thankfully, Manny turned from playful aggressor to helping hand. He loaned me a pair of his socks for the ride back. Funny thing about that – they’re the highest socks I’ve ever worn. These socks reached literally halfway up my knees. So my clothing combination was a mixture of a T-shirt and shorts from the night before, a gray fleece, sneakers and the world’s highest hosiery. (Needless to say, I let my girlfriend grab snacks inside the gas station on the way back. I stayed anchored to the car, afraid to show my getup to the world.)
No matter what happened in last year’s season finale, Burriss certainly left an impression in his time in Syracuse. But he couldn’t resist going out with a bang.
I’m sure Eric will cover this game in more detail, but the Chiefs’ season finale with playoff-bound Scranton/Wilkes-Barre was frankly interminable, as meaningless last-day-games go. 12 walks and four errors led us to the bottom of the 11th inning, where the Chiefs trailed 4-3. A bases-loaded walk by Jason Martinson tied the game, setting the stage for Burriss one final time…
Nearly seven months later, Burriss is trying to fight his way back to the big leagues in Phillies training camp. We’re pulling for ya, Manny.
Funny you should mention the lack of overlap…
7. Changing of the Guard
Here’s how bad things were before June 15th – the Chiefs had recently gone from 16-19 to 17-38. That’s a 1-19 stretch in a 20-game period. Their 3-6 record in the nine games after that didn’t move the needle much before the arrival of Keyes and Hague.
Starting with the five-run first and blasting of Toledo, the Chiefs won six of their next eight games. They promptly lost 8 out of the following 10. Turning point? It’s normally impossible to pick one turning point in a 144-game baseball season. There are so many major or minute points that shift a team on its axis from month to month or week to week.
June 15th seemed to be a trend-setter of sorts, though – it may have marked the day the Nationals began a mini-overhaul of the Chiefs’ roster. Infielder Chris Nelson joined six days later. Starter Joe Ross and shortstop Trea Turner, two of the organizations’ most prized possessions, soon followed. Those two, along with Keyes and Hague, certainly firmed up the backbone of the Chiefs’ roster for some time until the team became more whole as the year went along.
A couple of other notes on that game, which Eric covered in detail otherwise…
- Manny Burriss tried his best to lighten the mood for Keyes and Hague beforehand, per Lindsay Kramer of The Post-Standard…
After both were called up from Double-A Harrisburg to make their Triple-A debuts against Toledo at NBT Bank Stadium, Burriss asked each whether they were nervous about the big moments.
“Manny was giving us both a hard time,” said Hague, a second baseman. “Like, just to stay in the moment, don’t let it get too big. Just messing with us. Just shrug it off, laugh a little bit.”
“After the homer (Burriss) didn’t give me a hard time after that.” Hague said.
“I thought I was going to have a lot (of jitters),” Keyes said. “Burriss kept asking me if I was scared again and again. I was like, no, I don’t think I am. He was just trying to lighten the mood.”
- You’ve heard the audio…now, here’s the video, of Hague’s first (and, to date, only) Syracuse home run…
One last side note: we didn’t know Ricky liked to be called, well, Ricky, until postgame. That’s why I called him Rick in the video. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s a 1:1 ratio of “games not being identified by the preferred name” to “games with a home run” for Rick(y).
Mr. Turner’s inclusion on this countdown will not be limited, Eric, but that’s for another day…
8. Now Pitching…
We’ll miss Josh Johnson in Syracuse this year. That might sound like a strange thing to say about someone who hit .250 with just two home runs in 277 Triple-A games, but it’s true. Johnson – taking over this season as the first-year manager of the Gulf Coast League Nationals – brought energy and enthusiasm to the park every day in his four years with the Chiefs. He provided humor and an upbeat mentality at all times.
Here’s how Johnson detailed his approach to the game to The Post-Standard‘s Bud Poliquin in 2012…
“Nobody’s ever told me to tone it down, uh uh,” said Josh, who proudly confessed that his happy approach to the game mirrors that of his father. “I’m going to continue to run on and off the field, bust my butt down the line. If I pop out, I’m gonna try to get to second base before the ball hits the ground. It’s just part of my game. If I’m not true to myself, I won’t be able to sleep at night.
“I like to get out there early. I’ve got a little routine. I like to run out there in center field, say a prayer and thank the lord for all the blessings he’s given me. My parents are still here. My sister is still here. I’m still breathing. I’ve got the uniform on. I’ve got all my fingers. Both my eyes work. I can speak. I can go on for days.”
That’s how we’ll remember the playing career of Johnson. Well, that and one memorably weird moment from last year…
Last July 10th, the Chiefs and Rochester Red Wings locked horns in a doubleheader. Syracuse won the first game 4-0. Rochester won the second game 11-2. The most memorable half-inning of those, somehow, was the top of the seventh in Game Two.
Because of the length and consistency of a baseball schedule, it’s hard to analyze the sport on a day-to-day basis. Games aren’t all won or lost by what happens in the 24 hours during that day. They’re often changed by what happened in the 24, 48 or 72 hours beforehand. And two days before the Chiefs’ doubleheader, Syracuse used up nearly all its bullpen in a 12-inning win at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. So, 48 hours and 13 innings later, Billy Gardner looked it his lineup card and surmised that his best option, down nine runs, was…
Johnson had never pitched professionally. His dad used him as a pitcher in high school, he told us after, but that was as close as he’d come to taking the mound in a pro game. So Johnson dialed up the necessary courage in the clubhouse, toed the rubber and started firing.
You know how some position players come in and start lobbing to preserve their arm? Josh Johnson was not one of those position players. He fired a first pitch north of 80 miles per hour for a strike to Argenis Diaz. The next pitch was popped up – in foul ground – to catcher Craig Manuel. One out.
Johnson’s third pitch was hit by Carlos Paulino on the ground to second base, where Chris Nelson threw him out. Two down.
Pitch #4 was his first ball, to highly-touted young infielder Jorge Polanco. Pitch five was a called strike. Pitch six was lined – right to Jason Martinson at shortstop. Inning over.
Six pitches, five strikes, three outs – and, upon the final line drive, one Tiger-Woods-esque, right-handed fist pump. Nobody entertained us more on the mound this year. We’ll miss ya, Josh.
Great pick, Eric. I remember that day just as much – if not more so – for the wind than the walkoff. Not that we’ll experience that sort of thing again with 15 home games in April, of course.
Let’s move on…
9. The Power of Paolo Compels You
To quote Oscar Wilde, or perhaps Will Rogers, or possibly Mark Twain – or, definitively, Head & Shoulders – “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
The pre-conceived line of thought set forth by this quote is that once a first impression goes poorly, you won’t receive a second chance. What if, however, the first impression goes well, and you still get left out in the cold?
That’s where Paolo Espino found himself last May. In August of 2014, on the heels of a solid season with Harrisburg, the right-handed starter was promoted to Syracuse for a spot start on the final day of August. Espino – the winning pitcher in two Governor’s-Cup clinchers for Columbus in 2010 and 2011 – more than proved his Triple-A worthiness with six no-hit innings to begin a terrific outing vs. Buffalo. He stood in line to start Game Five of the Chiefs’ playoff series with Pawtucket – a series that, of course, didn’t make it past Game Three.
And then, like a flash, he was gone. Espino broke camp back in Double-A and toiled through eight games with a 4.26 ERA and 0-3 record for the Senators, despite the impressive impression of the previous season. On May 24th, however, fortune smiled upon the Panamanian right-hander, with a return trip to Syracuse for a spot start against Indianapolis on his agenda.
Once again, Espino rose to the occasion. He authored an absolute gem, scattering four hits and no walks in seven scoreless innings. Somehow, that was merely the subhead.
The first home run by a Chiefs pitcher since 2012 clocks in as ninth on my list. My next moment will provide a firm and amusing mirror to this, but first, we’ll check back in with Eric…
On its surface, a baseball season is a behemoth – 144 games in 152 days. 1,296 scheduled innings. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 40,000 pitches thrown.
Many of these pitches fade from view immediately as they’re thrown. The 0-1 sinker in the dirt. The 2-0 fastball fouled away in a 9-4 game. The 3-0 grooved down the heart of the plate for a strike on the fifth-place hitter.
Most actions in a baseball game, frankly, seem inconsequential in the long run. The single in the fourth inning that’s immediately followed by a double play to hold the score at 6-1. The wild pitch with a runner on first with a team trailing by four and down to its final out. The line drive that seems destined to be an extra-base hit before it fades seven rows into the seats, disappearing from the minds of the batter and the pitcher and the thousands of witnesses forever just moments later.
Even the results themselves – the wins, the losses, the comebacks, the collapses – tend to escape our memories in the short or the long run – for somewhere in our limbic system, there must be space for more pressing details, like our ATM pin, or which relative has what food allergy, or who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 1995.
To your great relief, and to mine, this is not a series about those moments.
This is a series about the moments that transcend baseball. The never-saw-it-coming ones. The thought-it-could-happen-but-still-can’t-believe-it ones. The wouldn’t-it-be-something-if-this-happened-oh-my-goodness-it-IS-happening ones. The streaks. The pitches. The swings. The celebrations. The lunacy. The prevailing power of the human spirit.
These are the moments when baseball becomes more than a game where, to quote Twins reliever Aaron Thompson, “a monkey with a ball of a yarn” throws it “to a monkey with a stick”.
Every weekday from now until Friday, April 1st, Eric and I will count down our individual 10 most memorable moments from last year’s Chiefs season. We’ll dig through our brains to bring you what we believe made last season memorable. I have no idea what’s going to be on his list, and he has no idea what’s going to be on mine. One thing’s for certain: even after a 66-78 season, there’ll be more than enough moments up for discussion.
I’ll begin with a standout moment from one of the most surprising Syracuse performers in years…
10. Bleier, Bleier, Strikes on Fire
Here’s a dirty little secret: when we compile the Chiefs media guide every offseason, we don’t actually expect every player whom we profile to play for Syracuse that season. Triple-A’s such a fickle game, however, that should the Chiefs have an open roster spot for a day, you might see some pitcher from the lower minor-league levels fly in for the day, throw a few mop-up innings and depart, never to be heard from again. In that case, we like to have some basic information ready at our disposal.
That was the case with Richard Bleier. A journeyman left-hander with all of nine Triple-A appearances to his name in seven years, compared to 150 in Double-A? Sounds like the perfect recipe for a one-day Chief. Get in, get your number, throw three innings in a 12-2 game, leave without so much as a hello or a goodbye.
And so we thought it would go when the Nationals recalled Taylor Jordan on April 15th. Needing a spot-starter for an early-morning tilt at Lehigh Valley, Bleier made his way from Harrisburg to Allentown and tossed four respectable innings of one-run ball. Two weeks later, when he allowed just one run in six innings in Pawtucket on two (two!) days’ rest, it seemed we were proven wrong. Bleier and his massive sinker were here to stay…until the next day, when he was shipped back to Double-A, to be the answer to a trivia question in “2015 Syracuse Chiefs Trivial Pursuit”, the world’s least popular board game.
Three months after that, however, with a hole in the rotation, Bleier made his return to Syracuse. His first two starts after the call up were unworthy of remembrance. His third was anything but.
On the 7th of August, Bleier took the mound at Pawtucket one day after Paolo Espino twirled eight shutout innings. He proceeded to up the stakes over the course of nine surgical innings, with efforts such as this…
…not to mention this…
…and ultimately this…
…which ended in this…
The final damage: 21 groundouts, one – yes, one – fly out. Bleier – a lefty who doesn’t throw 90 miles per hour and doesn’t strike out more than a batter or two in a typical outing – would end the season with a 2.75 ERA in 11 Syracuse starts. We’ll likely see him down the road with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this year.
What’s your first move, Gallanty?
By Eric Gallanty (@ericgallanty)
It’s been 178 days since Emmanuel Burriss drove in the game-winning run of the 2015 season finale last September, a season defined by Syracuse’s ability to seemingly never be out of a game, no matter how bleak things might have looked. Despite a slow start overall, the 2015 Chiefs completely changed the course of their season. Syracuse finished with the IL’s best record after June 14th, posting a 47-35 mark (.573) in that 82-game span, and an even more impressive .613 win percentage after July 3rd. 2015 proved to be a memorable year in Chiefsville, even if it didn’t end in a division title like the 2014 counterparts.
Now as we sit just 35 days from Opening Day, Kevin and I are so excited to get you set for the 2016 season. We’re looking forward to expanding our Chiefs coverage from our radio booth to you in a few new ways.
- Leading up to and during the season, we’ll post a Today in Chiefsville Update. This will feature some links we think are worth looking at, similar to our Stuff You’ll Like section we’ve featured in the past. We will also include daily headlines from our game notes and more news from the 2016 Chiefs.
- Starting next Monday, Kevin and I will go through our top 10 moments from the 2015 season. Kevin’s #10 will be featured Monday, I will go Tuesday, and we’ll each count down to our #1 moment (I have a feeling a certain Father’s Day walk-off may be prominently featured).
- Throughout the year, we’ll continue to bring you features we’ve gotten good feedback on in the past, including Triple-A Trickledown, Road Trip Report, Inside the Clubhouse, and more.
- We are excited to announce the return of the weekly Inside Pitch podcast. Each week during the season, we’ll go around the International League and the Nats’ farm system, and discuss top baseball news with people around the Chiefs and the I.L.
There’s a lot to talk about with the 2016 Chiefs. This year marks the 20th season the Chiefs will call NBT Bank Stadium home, and the 40th Anniversary of the last Chiefs Governor’s Cup Championship team in 1976. We’ll dive into that and plenty more as we get closer to the season.
For now, lets start with our first edition of the 2016 Stuff You’ll Like. Here’s what you might have missed this off season in Chiefs and I.L. news.
- Year one of the pitch clock in the I.L. was a success.
- Chiefs groundskeeper John Stewart was named Triple-A groundskeeper of the year!
- Former Chiefs broadcaster Jason Benetti was added to the Chicago White Sox broadcast team, joining a long lineage of former Chiefs announcers in the majors.
- The Chiefs have a new look, returning to their traditional red, white and blue color scheme. Syracuse will not be the only IL team with a new look this year, with Louisville also returning to its roots, and Norfolk moving to…a giant green sea horse.
- Syracuse will have a new hitting coach this year, after former coach Joe Dillon left for a new gig.
- Chiefs manager Billy Gardner, Jr. is back for his third year after gaining some valuable experience with the big club.
Plenty more to come in the coming weeks as we approach opening day. And don’t forget, single-game tickets are on sale starting Saturday.
Syracuse Chiefs catcher Dan Butler loves baseball because of the unexpected. Throughout his career, Butler has been through ups and downs in a quest to continually prove he is worth a roster spot on the highest level. And, he does not mind taking a beating to get there.
As soon as Butler was old enough, he signed up to play tee-ball in his local rec league. Soon after that, Butler moved to a new neighborhood and was asked to join a Little League team by his friend’s dad who happened to be the head coach. The league Butler joined was a Farm League, which used a pitching machine rather than coach or player pitch. At age eight, Butler put on the catcher’s gear for the first time in the farm league, simple because he “was the only guy that could fit in the gear.”
After one year, Butler’s father, Steve, took over coaching him from nine years old until the younger Butler’s freshman year of high school. Although the elder Butler was more of a standout football player than baseball, he understood that work ethic was everything.
“He was just as involved with it as I was. He was pushing me to get better; he’s always been a hard worker,” Butler said. He’s always trying to push me to do stuff and he knew what it was like to excel in sports.”
Butler’s father could have played Junior College football “had [Dan] and his sister not come along,” and also played high school baseball. This combination gave Butler all the tools he needed to make himself better.
“He knew what it was like to play hard and to put everything out there to make yourself better,” Butler noted, and that is the same mindset that Butler comes to the field in everyday.
When Butler turned 12 and had a few years of experience behind the plate, he started formal hitting and catching instruction. The two Butlers made it a point to go to the batting cages as often as possible to work on the basic mechanics of hitting.
One of the turning points in Butler’s development was the friendship he and his dad created with Rafael Melchione. Melchione had experience in minor league baseball already, spending seasons in Independent ball in the Prairie and Texas-Louisiana Leagues. Although Melchione’s playing career did not last more than a few years, he became a major influence in Butler’s development as well as his father’s coaching ability.
Butler’s father and Melchione became close friends, the younger Butler noting his “dad kind of coached me through him.” Butler and Melchione formed their own relationship, with Butler even living with Melchione during an off-season.
Once Butler finished his 12-year-old Little League season, he immediately began year-round travel baseball since there was no middle school team and the weather in Arizona allowed for 12 months of baseball. He graduated to the 90-foot bases as well as metal spikes for “hundreds of travel ball games.”
In high school, Butler earned the starting catcher role for the freshman team and received a promotion to the varsity squad near the end of the season. During his sophomore year, Butler played third base since the starting varsity catcher was a senior. Finally, Butler got a chance to catch for the varsity squad. But, although Butler had formal catching instruction from Melchione, he had yet to learn how to call a game.
“In my high school days it wasn’t really about controlling the game as it was just hitting,” Butler said. “That’s all they cared about: if you could hit, they’re gonna play you in high school.”
So, Butler relied on the coaches to call pitches while he gave signs and instructions to the rest of the infield.
“Honestly, I didn’t know how to control a game,” Butler admitted. “I didn’t call pitches. I didn’t do any of that except in club ball. Just the standard stuff of catching the ball, throwing people out, blocking balls and hitting is all that was necessary for me in high school and I didn’t know anything else.”
Butler committed to play for National Champion coach Andy Lopez and the University of Arizona for his college ball. What really drew Butler to Lopez, however, was not his winning percentage, but how he worked with his catchers.
“He was really tough on everyone, especially the catchers,” Butler remembers. “He understood how important the job of catching is, he was real hard on us and taught us the game from every aspect.”
With Lopez calling pitches, Butler learned how to call a game by watching his head coach. During and after games, Butler asked Lopez why he called certain plays, and eventually picked up enough from the former National Coach of the Year to call his own games.
Right as Butler was establishing himself as a dominant catcher, he blew out his arm 10 games into his second season. And, the most frustrating part for Butler was that the injury came during infield-outfield throwing work, not even a live game.
The injury was a blessing in disguise for Butler. Coming out of surgery and rehab, Butler was in “the best shape [he] was ever in,” and a little lighter than usual. He also had the realization that “you’re not going to last forever and you might as well put everything into it that you can.”
By the time his senior season came around, Butler was fully healthy and relieved “to get back out there and know that everything went well.” He only wanted a chance to finally play since he had just 81 total at-bats over his first two seasons. Butler got 76 at-bats his final year, but was used more as the “late inning catcher”, mid-week catcher, and the Sunday catcher.
So, even though Butler was not getting the playing time he wanted, he knew that the team “had to be able to trust that I wouldn’t screw the game up, which is pretty tough to do catching. I had the ability defensively and there were no worries.”
Butler entered the 2009 First-Year Player’s Draft but did not get any phone calls on draft night. For Butler, it was an average day: no phone calls and just a few questions from scouts.
“Maybe a late, late round thing but I didn’t think I had any pull to get drafted,” Butler reflected. “I was gonna go back for a fifth year of college in my mind.”
Instead, he found a job in the Cape Cod Summer League as a replacement catcher for a player still in the College World Series. When that player returned, the Brewster Whitecaps, also in the Cape League, wanted Butler to be their catcher for the rest of the season. Butler finally had the season he was waiting for, even if it did not come in college.
“I went to the Cape Cod League to show that it doesn’t matter how much I played in college, I still have the ability to play,” Butler said.
The Boston Red Sox saw a special player in Butler. The team approached Butler after the season and asked him to sign, the only reason Butler wanted to play in the Cape League in the first place.
Steve Butler was always a Red Sox fan and Butler’s mom, Karen, was simply happy for her son to make it to the professional baseball ranks. Butler remembers his mom “was ecstatic, obviously, but it was just the unknown after that. All of it was just pure excitement.”
Butler moved through the Boston ranks quickly, which he laughingly attributes to “being old.” Soon enough, after four years in the system, Butler was called up to make his Boston debut.
“That first step in the clubhouse is exciting and to do it in Fenway Park is something even better,” Butler said while grinning. “It’s a whole different realm with the gear on, warming up for your first game. It’s a whole new level of excitement and you can’t replicate that.”
Butler was part of a loaded catching group in Boston, and was traded to the Nationals before the 2015 season. Yet, Butler is no stranger to proving himself, having done it at Arizona, the Cape Cod League and finally with the Red Sox. Part of baseball is the great unknown, and proving oneself is what Butler enjoys the most.
“I think everyday you get nervous, it’s unknown everyday what can happen,” Butler said. “That’s the exciting part about baseball is just the unknown of what’s gonna transpire the next out, the next minute.”
Through it all, Butler remains positive, always smiling and being a voice in the clubhouse to show people that he is there to stay.
The Chiefs open up their second-to-last home stand of the season against the IronPigs on Saturday night at NBT Bank Stadium. A Triple-A Trickledown was already done on Lehigh Valley this season. You can find that here. Let’s take a look how things have shaped up for the Triple-A Phillies over the past several months.
Catcher: Gabriel Lino, Erik Kratz and Logan Moore
Tommy Joseph’s tenure as a catcher in the Phillies organization has ended as he now switches over to first base. Logan Moore and Gabriel Lino have taken over as the backstops for Lehigh Valley since Joseph’s return off the disabled list for a concussion. Joseph’s history of concussions limits him to first base duties as opposed to catching. Lino boasts the most promise of the three catchers. He is just 22-years old and has already become an every day catcher in Triple-A.
First Base: Russ Canzler and Tommy Joseph
Tommy Joseph, the Phillies former top catching prospect, is now a first baseman after he suffered his third concussion in five years in May of this season. Joseph remains on the 40-man roster. He was placed on the 40-man in 2013 in order to avoid the Rule 5 draft. Now that he is healthy and playing a position that does not put him at risk for more concussions, it is possible to see Joseph get some time in September, once MLB rosters expand.
Second Base: Tyler Pastornicky and Tyler Henson
In the first edition of Trickledown, the Jayson Nix era was beginning in Lehigh. However, that era came and went very quickly. The Phillies acquired Tyler Pastornicky in a trade with Texas on August 10th. Pastornicky is hitting .250 since joining the IronPigs. Neither second baseman is on the 40-man roster.
Shortstop: Chase d’Arnaud
D’Arnaud has officially won the battle with Duran for the starting shortstop role. He is hitting .284 this season with the IronPigs.
Third Base: Cord Phelps
With the Maikel Franco and Cody Asche drama over, Phelps has become the starting third baseman for the Triple-A Phillies. In 111 games for the IronPigs, Phelps is batting .242.
Outfielders: Kelly Dugan, Brian Bogusevic and Jordan Danks
Brian Bogusevic and Jordan Danks are the only remaining outfielders left in Lehigh Valley that started the season in Lehigh Valley. Domonic Brown and Cody Asche are now in the Major Leagues and don’t appear to be leaving soon. Danks is on the 40-man roster and may see some time in Philly by the end of the season. Bogusevic is not on the 40-man but has had a good season for the IronPigs. He is hitting .301 for Lehigh Valley, which is good for fourth-best in the International League.
Fun fact about Kelly Dugan: His father has directed almost all of Adam Sandler’s movies since Big Daddy. Kelly has a bright future. He made his Triple-A debut this season at 24.
Starting Pitchers: Severino Gonzalez, Jesse Biddle, Anthony Vasquez, Sean O’Sullivan
Severino Gonzalez is a name to watch over the next several seasons. He is only 22 years old and has made 14 starts in Triple-A this season. His numbers are a little escalated with an ERA around 5.00 but Gonzalez has a high ceiling. The right-hander made his Major League debut this season and made seven starts for Philadelphia. He posted an ERA close to eight before he was optioned back to Lehigh Valley.
Jesse Biddle is another starter on the 40-man roster. He began the season with Double-A Reading and posted a 7-2 record with an ERA just above four. The former first round pick of 2010 is in his first stint in Triple-A at 23 years old. He could make his Major League debut when September call-ups happen at the end of the season.
David Buchanan continues to impress. His ERA is just above three in eight starts for Lehigh Valley this season. He made 10 starts for Philadelphia this season but did not fair well. However, he could get a second chance when the MLB rosters expand.
Relief Pitchers: Dalier Hinojosa, Seth Rosin, Dustin McGowan, Chris Leroux and Colton Murray.
Dalier Hinojosa and Seth Rosin are both on the 40-man roster and are likely to find themselves in the Majors come September. Hinojosa began the season with Pawtucket before he was claimed off waivers by Philadelphia in July. He has pitched in nine games since coming over to Philadelphia. He has thrown in four Major League games this season. Hinojosa did not allow a run in six and two-thirds innings.
Rosin has been a workhorse out of the bullpen. He has appeared in 44 games for Lehigh Valley and has posted a 3.25 ERA. Rosin pitched in one game in Philadelphia this year and allowed five earned runs in two innings of relief.
Thanks for reading the updated version of the Lehigh Valley Trickledown. The Chiefs and IronPigs play five more times before the end of the season. The two teams begin a three-game series at NBT Bank Stadium starting on Saturday night at 7:05 p.m.- Broadcast Intern Andrew Grella
This season, Chiefs infielder Jason Martinson was selected to his first All-Star team, representing Syracuse in the Triple-A version of the Midsummer Classic. The All-Star play of Martinson should come as no surprise to those that know him. On and off the diamond, he has been a star athlete his entire life.
Martinson grew up in Bedford, Texas, about 20 minutes northeast of Fort Worth. One of his earliest memories is of playing rec-league baseball in elementary school. With his father Robert coaching, the younger Martinson progressed through the baseball stages; from Tee Ball through machine pitch and by coach pitch, until he reached high school and travel baseball leagues. Robert played shortstop through his college baseball days at Ranger College in Texas, partially influencing his son to play the same position. Jason primarily played shortstop and pitched, with third base and the outfield mixed in.
Baseball was not the only sport that the All-Star third baseman played in his youth. Martinson lettered in track and field and was a highly touted wide receiver coming out of Birdville High School in North Richland Hills, Texas. Being a natural-born athlete allowed Martinson to pick up the sport of football in middle school and still have enough talent to get recruited by schools such as Baylor and SMU out of high school. He played wide receiver and also filled in on special teams as a kick and punt returner.
Ultimately, Martinson chose to go to Texas State University on a football scholarship with less emphasis on baseball. He only visited colleges with the thought of playing football, even attending a Nike football camp at Texas A&M University. Martinson eventually ended up committing to Texas State when a star receiver and baseball player left for Rice University.
“Baseball-wise, I had quite a bit of interest,” Martinson noted on his recruitment. “But, I had so much interest in football and I committed pretty early. Originally I committed to play just football at North Texas and I wasn’t even going to play baseball.”
North Texas however, did not have a baseball team, something that Martinson also wanted as an option. So, when the spot opened up on both the football and baseball teams, Martinson could not pass up Texas State.
“North Texas had told me that they were going to be opening up a baseball team. But, still to this day, they have yet to open up one,” Martinson said with a smile.
Martinson ended up on a full football scholarship at Texas State and was content for a year. After his freshman year however, Martinson began to have a change of heart. As a freshman, he pulled in only one catch for eight yards before tearing his hamstring and ending his season. Before his sophomore year, Martinson decided to drop football entirely to focus on baseball and rehab his torn muscle.
“I had a little better chance of making a career in it than football,” Martinson said on the switch to just baseball. “That’s basically where it all started.”
Working with the baseball coach and the athletic department, Martinson was able to pick up a partial baseball scholarship late in his sophomore year, allowing him to remain at Texas State to pursue his dream. At Texas State, he played with future MLB All-Star Paul Goldschmidt and against future teammates Ricky Hague, who was at Rice, and Kevin Keyes, who played for Texas.
Martinson declared for the 2010 amateur draft, the same class in which the Nationals selected Bryce Harper with the first overall pick. On draft night, Martinson was sitting in his mother Lynn’s house, watching the draft tracker and listening to the picks on the radio. Even before he was contacted by his agent or the Nationals, Martinson saw his name pop up on the computer screen in the fifth round.
“We started jumping up and down and I got the phone call shortly after that,” Martinson remembers. “My mom started laughing, grabbed me and made me start jumping up and down. It was awesome to share that experience with her.”
Robert was excited for his son, too. His dream for his child had come true.
Adding an All-Star selection to Martinson’s 2015 season only makes sense for the gifted athlete. Through August, Martinson leads the Chiefs in home runs, RBIs, runs, total bases and walks. He is the only Syracuse player with more than seven home runs so far this year.
For Martinson, that run of success is not enough. He knows his dedication to the game will eventually pay off with a promotion to the major leagues.
“It’s been a lifelong dream to get called up, so when that day comes, I don’t know what kind of feelings will happen,” Martinson said. “Until then, I’m just going to keep putting in hard work and try to stay consistent.”
Right now, Martinson is getting through the grind of playing 143 games in a season. His teammates will all play 142, but Martinson’s All-Star recognition gives him one more game to prove his talent.
— Broadcast Intern Josh Hess