Here we go again…again.
It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for – the start of our offseason countdown chronicling the top 12 Syracuse Chiefs moments of 2012! We’re a little bit later this year as opposed to 2011, but Jason and I have needed months and months to compile our lists from an otherwise action-packed season. (Wait, does that excuse actually work? Let’s move on before you really have time to think about it.)
(Look, over here!)
I’ll start it off, and Jason will respond in kind (or in mean, I guess) on Friday.
#12: Keep The Fat Lady On Ice
When you’re 69-73 and 14.0 games back in the division with two games remaining in the season, it’s easy to calculate that you’re not exactly post-season bound. The Chiefs weren’t a playoff team this year, and they certainly knew it before the season’s penultimate game. But in the 2012 Alliance Bank Stadium finale, Syracuse had no intention of rolling over and playing dead, despite what the first six batters might have you believe.
Mitch Atkins started on the hill on that sunny Sunday for Syracuse (selling seashells by the sea shore), and his outing against the Rochester Red Wings started off with just a minor hitch, when shortstop Eduardo Escobar singled to center field. Not to worry, though, as Atkins was facing a Red Wings team that ranked third-to-last in the International League in runs scored. What was the worst that could happen here?
- Tsuyoshi Nishioka doubles (16) on a line drive to center fielder Corey Brown. Eduardo Escobar to 3rd.
- Brian Dozier singles on a line drive to center fielder Corey Brown. Eduardo Escobar scores. Tsuyoshi Nishioka to 3rd.
- Wilkin Ramirez doubles (17) on a ground ball to left fielder Jesus Valdez. Tsuyoshi Nishioka scores. Brian Dozier to 3rd.
- Clete Thomas singles on a soft line drive to right fielder Brett Carroll. Brian Dozier scores. Wilkin Ramirez scores.
- Rene Rivera homers (10) on a fly ball to center field. Clete Thomas scores.
Ah. So that’d qualify as “worst that could happen”, then.
In the blink of an eye, it was 6-0 Red Wings. Six batters, six hits, six runs, no outs, one bullpen set in motion. If Pat Lehman ever warms up earlier in a game, it’ll be because I started. The floodgates were as open as a 24-hour Wegmans.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the blowout – Atkins settled down, retiring the next three batters he faced. Then Corey Brown and Jesus Valdez homered in the first, slicing the deficit to 6-2. Then Atkins tossed a perfect second inning before Brett Carroll doubled in a run in the bottom half of the frame. 6-3. Then Atkins mowed down the Wings in the third, and the Chiefs responded with three runs, knocking out Rochester starter Nick Blackburn – the last of which came right here.
And just like that – we were all squared away at six. Yes, Mitch Atkins ended up with the longer stint of the game’s two starters after giving up six consecutive hits to start the game. Silly Mayans.
Of course, the Chiefs needed to do more than just tie the game, or else I wouldn’t be writing about this. Valdez and Chris Marrero knocked in seventh-inning runs, and Wilkin Ramirez’ eighth-inning home run wasn’t enough for Rochester, as the Chiefs won, 8-7. Turns out any comebacks in the season’s first 142 games were just appetizers for a hearty, medium-rare main course in Game #143. Now that’s going out in style.
So in case you were thinking “well, this season wasn’t that memorable” – that comeback ranks below 11 other moments for me. Beat that, Benetti.
Before you know it, it’ll be baseball season again in Syracuse…in fact, we’re just four months and a few weeks away from Opening Day 2013. Yes, that sounds like a long period of time, but once this whole Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Festivus thing gets finished, it’ll zip right by.
But we’re not past looking back to last season, and that’s why Jason and I are getting ready for our second annual list of last year’s Top 12 memorable Chiefs moments. Last year’s list starts right here – and you can access all entries under the “Inside The Chiefs Blog Archive” drop-down menu on the right side of your screen.
This season’s list might be a little trickier to compile than last season’s, since nobody threw a perfect game or hit four home runs in one game in 2011. But 2012 still featured dramatic moments all around in its 144-game span, and we’d like you to help us pick them out. Shoot us an email at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts.
We’ll be starting the segment up within the next week. Until then, we look forward to hearing from you.
We’re less than a month away from the end of Syracuse’s 2012 season, but there’s still plenty of reason to come stop by Alliance Bank Stadium this year. Take today for example: the Chiefs and Buffalo Bisons will go at it in a Triple-A battle of the Nationals and Mets. For any Chiefs fans in the area, or any fans of the big league Mets, today’s twin bill features a number of juicy storylines. Let’s take a look at the two games through four intriguing players – that just so happen to have something in common…
Duke’s the Game 1 starter for Syracuse, and there’s reason to believe that the International League All-Star will submit another brilliant performance tonight. Duke, who’s tied for the league lead with 11 wins, has simply dominated the Bisons this season. He tossed seven shutout innings against Buffalo in a May 1 win, and threw six scoreless frames against the Bisons on July 4. Why has Duke been so successful against Buffalo? The Bisons are a very patient team, second in the league in walks and first in strikeouts, and Duke prides himself on throwing strike one. Get ahead of hitters and work from there – that’s more or less Duke’s philosophy.
Though the Chiefs are nine games back with 30 games to play, Duke still has plenty left to pitch for. At 11-5 with a 3.78 ERA in 21 starts, he’s already showed that he can have success in the International League, consistently giving the Chiefs a solid start. He’s thrown at least six innings in eight consecutive starts and at least 5.2 innings in 13 straight starts. There are ramifications for Duke here for the future, as he’s with Washington on just a one-year deal. Can he still be effective in the majors? He’s held lefties to a .255 average this year and posted an ERA in the threes in the last three months. Another good start could go a long way toward solidifying a return to the major leagues for the former National League All-Star.
Buffalo’s Game 1 starter is an appetizing one. Wheeler – perhaps the Mets’ best overall prospect – will be making his Triple-A debut tonight. The 22-year-old righty-hander was 10-6 with a 3.26 ERA in 19 starts with Double-A Binghamton. He throws in the high 90s with a sharp curveball, named the best curve in the Mets’ organization by Baseball America. Wheeler was acquired by the Mets last season in a one-for-one swap with the San Francisco Giants for Carlos Beltran. Considering Beltran didn’t re-sign with the Giants, and likely wouldn’t have re-signed with the Mets – consider this a potentially huge win for New York.
While the big league club’s started to slip, hopes are high for Mets fans now. Vaunted prospect Matt Harvey has recently gone up to the major leagues and tossed a few great starts, while Buffalo right-handers Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia still have tremendous potential. But it may be Wheeler who’s the most anticipated of anyone, and he could provide the foundation of a future rotation of aces for the Mets. And the beginning to the final step before the majors starts today in Syracuse.
Walters, a 22-year-old middle infielder, is one of the newest Chiefs, after being added to the roster on Friday. He’s jumped through the Nationals’ system this year after starting the season with Advanced-A Potomac. Walters was also part of a one-for-one trade last season, coming over to the Nationals from Arizona in exchange for starting pitcher Jason Marquis. (Marquis didn’t re-sign with Arizona and likely wouldn’t have re-signed with Washington…so, much like the Wheeler deal, this could end up being a steal.) He’s a switch-hitter with a solid glove and some pop in his bat, smacking 19 doubles and 11 home runs in 99 games so far this season.
Where does Walters fit in the Nationals’ future plans? He’s looked at as a potential Steve Lombardozzi-type, providing some help for middle infielders Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond. Of course, a 22-year-old switch-hitting shortstop with pop doesn’t need to be relegated to backup status. Walters has already exceeded expectations this season, and it should be fun to see if he can continue to do so with Syracuse. Plus, the youth movement’s already been good to Syracuse this year, thanks to the 15-game hitting streak of Triple-A rookie Eury Perez.
26 years old might be the outside edge of being considered a “prospect”, and Lutz reached that mark two months ago. But just because he’s hit that magical number doesn’t mean there’s no future for Lutz. On the contrary, the infielder is a powerful bat whose best days seem to be ahead of him. In 47 games this season, Lutz has posted a slash line of .325/.429/.556 thanks to 11 doubles and 8 home runs. The right-handed hitter who made his major league debut this season (1-8 in four games) has always hit when healthy – but it’s the latter concern that’s often been the problem. Over the last three seasons, Lutz has played just 72 games (in 2010), 63 games (2011) and 53 so far in 2012. In those 188 games, he’s smashed 39 home runs. If he stays healthy, Lutz is a definite corner infield option for the Mets in the future.
From 22-year-old Eury Perez to 39-year-old C.J. Nitkowski (just promoted minutes ago!), there are plenty of reasons to come check out the Chiefs and Bisons today. But we’ve given you at least four, a group of Zach(k)s that likely have big league years galore to come. So catch ‘em while they’re still here.
We’d love to hear from you here on our blog with potential ideas. Shoot us an email at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Evening, Chiefs fans. Syracuse is back in town today to begin a four-game series with the Norfolk Tides after dropping three out of four games in Pawtucket. The Chiefs lost their first four games against the Tides this year down in Norfolk, but the four losses came by a combined five runs – so either way, you’ll want to stay tuned until the final out.
Let’s take a look now at the Tides – the Triple-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles – before their lone visit to Alliance Bank Stadium this year.
Catcher: Luis Exposito, Ronny Paulino, Chris Robinson
40-man member Exposito, who’s just recently been activated from the Disabled List, is an intriguing 25-year-old player who was claimed off of waivers from the Red Sox this season. He’s got a strong arm and is a plus defender, but there’s work to be done offensively – he’s hitting just .267 with no home runs and seven walks in 28 games this season. Paulino, a 31-year-old major league veteran, was recently sent down to Norfolk after big league backup Taylor Teagarden’s activation from the DL, while the 28-year-old Robinson likely provides mostly organizational depth at this point.
First Base: Joe Mahoney
Mahoney, a 6’6″, 25-year-old first baseman, just made his big league debut with the Orioles 13 days ago, but he was quickly sent back down to Norfolk. At .259 with only six home runs in 92 games, he’s likely not a big league offensive player yet, but he’s the only active infielder on the 40-man roster and he’s played regularly for the Tides this year. Baltimore’s survived with basically-average first base play this year from swing-hard-and-maybe-make-contact titans Chris Davis and Mark Reynolds, who have combined for 23 home runs and 170 strikeouts on the season.
Second Base: Bill Hall, Carlos Rojas
Speaking of strikeouts…Hall, who started the season in the majors before being designated for assignment, has been the ultimate king of whiffs this year. He’s punched out 91 times – to just 13 walks – in 56 games with the Tides. Hall does have 11 doubles and 11 home runs in 56 games with Norfolk, however. Rojas, a .222 hitter with one extra-base hit in 35 games, is a 28-year-old who likely provides organizational depth. Unfortunately for the Orioles, neither of these two appear to be the answer to their major league problems. Robert Andino, who’s posted a .230/.292/.325 slash line, has been the regular second baseman this year. Former All-Star Brian Roberts is currently on the DL – and even when he’s been off it, he’s been slowed down to the tune of a .182 average in 17 games. And right now – with both Andino and Roberts on the DL – it’s Steve Tolleson, up from Norfolk, who’s become the starter.
Shortstop: Blake Davis
J.J. Hardy’s started 90 games for the Orioles this year, though the position’s not necessarily set in stone for Baltimore – he’s hitting just .217 on the season. But Davis, at .247 with two home runs in 75 Triple-A games, is likely an “in case of emergency” option. The real long-term option here is likely in Double-A – uber-prospect Manny Machado. The 20-year-old who was the #2 pick in the 2010 MLB draft is having a solid offensive season, batting .257 with 23 doubles and eight home runs, though he’s committed 17 errors. But Machado’s likely still in need of some seasoning at the lower levels before coming to Norfolk.
Third Base: Brandon Waring, Zelous Wheeler
Neither the 26-year-old Waring or the 25-year-old Wheeler is much of a prospect at this point, and neither player has ever appeared in a major league game. Luckily for the Orioles, there’s no shortage of potential third-base options up in the major leagues, with Reynolds, Tolleson, Wilson Betemit and Ryan Flaherty all able to play the position if needed.
Outfield: Xavier Avery, Led Ford, L.J. Hoes, Jamie Hoffmann, Nate McLouth
Avery’s the only 40-man roster member here, and the speedy 22-year-old has already been up in the major leagues a few times this year. He wreaked havoc against the Chiefs in his only game versus Syracuse this year, collecting two hits and two walks while stealing a base and scoring a run. But it’s Ford, the former Minnesota Twin, who’s been the team’s offensive standout this year. He’s hitting .340 in 54 games with a colossal .964 OPS, and though Ford’s 35, those kind of numbers seem certain to catch someone’s eye, whether it be Baltimore or not. Hoes, a 22-year-old prospect, has also opened some eyes with a .314/.371/.444 line in his Triple-A debut season. And then there’s McLouth, with an asinine .746 slugging percentage in 59 July at-bats, along with a former major leaguer in Hoffmann – so yes, this is a fairly stacked group.
However, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis have a firm grasp on two of the major league club’s starting outfield spots, with Steve Pearce and Davis also getting their fair share of playing time. So outside of an injury, that group’s likely to stay the same, and it seems logical that 40-man member Perez would be the first guy to go up.
Starting Pitchers: Jake Arrieta, Jason Berken, Dana Eveland, Steve Johnson, Brian Matusz
Four of these five starters are members of the 40-man roster, with the exception being Dana Eveland, who was designated for assignment just six days ago. Tonight’s starter, Matusz, has more than double the amount of major league starts to minor league starts in his career – but at 5-10 with a 5.42 ERA, he’ll be making his third Norfolk start of the season tonight. Johnson’s back here after making his major league debut a few days ago, while Arrieta’s down with the Tides after a 3-9, 6.13 record in 18 Baltimore starts this year. It’s a trio of likely future contributors for the big club – but for now, it’s time for extra seasoning.
Relief Pitchers: Tim Bascom, Greg Burke, Pat Neshek, Zach Phillips, Miguel Socolovich, Oscar Villarreal, Pedro Viola
Hey, remember that note about all those starting pitchers on the 40-man roster? You know, the one from six lines ago? Well, a whopping one member of the Tides’ relief group is on the 40-man – IL All-Star Socolovich, who just pitched in his first two ever big league games on the 14th and 16th. There likely won’t be too much of a concern for Baltimore, though – Kevin Gregg’s 3.90 ERA represents the worst mark in a completely stacked major league bullpen. Outside of Socolovich, another former Twin has excelled here, in Neshek. The submarine-throwing right-hander’s posted a 2.48 ERA in 32 games, striking out 44 batters to just seven walks in 40 innings.
That’s all for today’s version of Triple-A Trickledown. Hope to see you at the park tonight for Breast Cancer Awareness Night, tomorrow for fireworks, or on Sunday or Monday for some more Chiefs baseball.
Good morning, Chiefs fans…and what a good morning it is. Syracuse is over .500 for the first time since April 16, 2011. Here are some more nuggets to brighten your day…
*The box score from the last time Syracuse was over .500.
*Why Jim Thome’s 13th walkoff home run was more valuable than the others.
*Newsday looks at the 25-year anniversary of groundbreaking sports talk radio station WFAN.
*Bill Murray’s brilliant acceptance speech for the South Atlantic League Hall of Fame.
*The NY Times tackles our current generation gap.
Hope to see you out at the park today for a slightly earlier start time than normal, as the Chiefs and G-Braves tangle at 5:00 PM. If you can’t make it, catch the game on The Score 1260 at 4:45.
For the first time since April 17, 2011, the Chiefs are at .500 (not counting 0-0, of course). After a 6-2 win over the Gwinnett Braves last night, Syracuse improved its record to 37-37. The Chiefs now have a chance to sneak over .500 for the first time since – well, April 16, 2011. So let’s meet the enemy, the G-Braves, and examine who’s where and why…
Catcher: J.C. Boscan, Shawn McGill, Jose Yepez
If it seems a little bit odd that Gwinnett is carrying three catchers, it is. Boscan – despite a .193 average – is here as the de facto third catcher for Atlanta, since he’s on the team’s 40-man roster. Yepez is a 31-year-old career minor leaguer – save a week last season with the Mariners where he didn’t appear in a game – and he’s hitting .241 with some good defensive skills. McGill’s inclusion, however, is somewhat odd – he’d played just 19 games above Single-A in his career until this season, and he’s just 4 for 27 with the G-Braves this year.
First Base: Christian Marrero, Ernesto Mejia
Mejia’s been the offensive MVP of the G-Braves this season, ranking third in the league in batting average and RBI, fourth in total bases and fifth in extra-base hits. However, he’s a 26-year-old Triple-A rookie who still strikes out at a high volume, doesn’t walk a ton, and only plays first. Mejia’s certainly a big bat to have in Triple-A, but he’s not on the 40-man roster, so who knows where his ceiling lies. Former G-Braves star Freddie Freeman – all of 22 years old – looks to have a solid grip on first base up in Atlanta. Marrero, the older brother of Chiefs first baseman Chris, was traded to the Braves from the White Sox for cash considerations this offseason. At 26 years old, he provides first base and outfield insurance for the team.
Second Base: Lance Zawadzki
Zawadzki’s a former Padre who went 7 for 35 in limited time with San Diego in 2010, though he’s been a career minor leaguer outside of that. But there’s no need to worry about this position for Atlanta, as former All-Star Dan Uggla has started all of the Braves’ 70 games at second this year. 2010 fifth-round pick Philip Gosselin could make his way up here eventually, but he’s hitting .260 with no home runs in Double-A.
Shortstop: Tyler Pastornicky, Josh Wilson
The 22-year-old Pastornicky was Atlanta’s opening-day shortstop, but the Braves sent him back to Triple-A after a .248 average in 45 games. It likely won’t be the last time Pastornicky steps on a major league field – and honestly, the move shows long-term faith in the shortstop. Pastornicky could have stayed in the major leagues in place of the .175-hitting Jack Wilson, but Atlanta would prefer regular at-bats for Pastornicky. Meanwhile, Josh Wilson (no relation) is a long-time veteran who once played for nine teams in a four-year span. He played in 60 games with Arizona and Milwaukee last year, though he’s just a .227 career big league hitter with nine home runs. Another top prospect, Andrelton Simmons, has become Atlanta’s regular starter. And he’s performed quite well, with a .323/.368/.500 slash line in 18 games.
Third Base: Ruben Gotay
This was Joey Terdoslavich’s position for most of the season, but the 23-year-old hit just .180 in 53 games before being reassigned to Double-A. Terdoslavich broke a Carolina League record last season with 52 doubles and was so impressive that he originally skipped Double-A, but it turns out the jump was a bit too high to handle. So it’s now manned by the veteran Gotay, who’s only 7 for 42 in 13 games. Former Louisville Bats infielder Juan Francisco currently owns the position of Chipper Jones’ backup in the major leagues, where he’s posted just a .243 on-base percentage, but it doesn’t appear his job’s in any sort of jeopardy.
Outfield: Jose Constanza, Luis Durango, Stefan Gartrell, Felix Pie
Unless there’s an injury, it doesn’t seem like Atlanta’s going to need anyone from here. With Jason Heyward, Michael Bourn, Martin Prado and lefty-masher Matt Diaz, the Braves are just about set up in the major leagues. Constanza would be the easy – and logical – choice to go up first. He’s the only 40-man member of this bunch, and he hit north of .300 with both the G-Braves and A-Braves (does that work?) last season. Gartrell was unleashing his case after being named the IL Player of the Month in May, but a June slump’s knocked him down to .242/.343/.422 for the season. Durango, a .280 hitter, leads the IL with 27 stolen bases, while Pie’s a former big leaguer hitting .281 in 38 games. It’s a group that’s certainly the offensive strength of Gwinnett this season.
Starting Pitchers: Erik Cordier, Yohan Flande, Eric Junge, Todd Redmond, Julio Teheran
Redmond, Cordier and Teheran are all 40-man members here, but it’s Flande who was the closest to making the Braves on Opening Day this season. The 26-year-old left-hander was still in camp when Atlanta got down to 25 players and looked to have a bullpen spot sewed up, but Atlanta then signed right-hander Chad Durbin, and Flande returned to Gwinnett. He’s still not on the 40-man-roster, so his path still isn’t quite clear.
Meanwhile, uber-prospect Teheran, who’s tonight’s starter, has made one spot start in the majors this season after being called up for a few starts last year. At 21 years old, he’s likely got a long career ahead of him, so it seems Atlanta will be as cautious with Teheran as possible. Redmond was just called up to the majors for the first time earlier in the week, though he didn’t pitch out of the bullpen. The Braves’ rotation right now is 80% complete, with the fifth spot somewhat in flux – Brandon Beachy (and his 2.00 ERA) just injured his elbow and is out for the season, so Jair Jurrjens was recalled to take his spot. Jurrjens, who struggled early this season, allowed just three hits in 7.2 innings against Boston in his return, so Atlanta will be keeping a sharp eye on that spot.
Relief Pitchers: Billy Bullock, Buddy Carlyle, D.J. Carrasco, Jaye Champan, Cory Gearrin, Dusty Hughes, Adam Russell
Chapman (3.15 ERA in 28 games) and Gearrin (1.41 in 24 games) are the two 40-man members here, part of an overall strong Gwinnett bullpen. But the Braves are equally strong in the majors, with a strong and young core of relievers. Veteran Buddy Carlyle’s also had a strong season for the G-Braves, going 3-1 with a 2.11 ERA in 16 games. But overall, it doesn’t sound like there will be too much movement bullpen-wise with the big leaguers or the Triple-A squad this year.
Hope to see you out at the park tonight for the Chiefs and G-Braves at 7:00 – or if not, we hope you tune in at 6:45 to The Score 1260.
Afternoon, Chiefs fans. After Scranton/Wilkes-Barre left town yesterday, another AL East power brings its Triple-A club into town with the Pawtucket Red Sox. (I should note that “power” is relative to past years, not just this season.) Boston’s highest minor league level has been sensational this year, sporting an IL-best 45-25 record. So why are they so good? Shouldn’t all these guys be in the majors? Let’s take a look.
Catcher: Ryan Lavarnway, Mike Rivera
Lavarnway shot through the minor league system last season en route to 17 games in the major leagues, but he’s stayed in Triple-A this season thanks to some potent production from Boston’s catchers. Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Kelly Shoppach, each slugging north of .500, may be two of the few players actually exceeding expectations for a 33-33 Red Sox team, so Lavarnway might stay in Pawtucket the entire season just to get regular at-bats. At .284/.377/.433, he’s having a solid season, and he is only 24, so the future’s still bright for Lavarnway. Rivera, a 35-year-old backstop, provides good insurance.
First Base: Lars Anderson, Mauro Gomez
Here are two of the main reasons Pawtucket’s the best team in the league – Anderson (.271/.393/.487, 14 doubles and 9 home runs) and Gomez (.296/.360/.596, 20 doubles and 15 home runs). Anderson, a once-top prospect in the Boston organization, has started playing the outfield this season to increase his versatility – he’s played 37 games at first base and 15 in the outfield this season. Gomez, who’s split time at first base and designated hitter, ranks in the top 5 in the league in batting average, runs, doubles, home runs, extra-base hits, RBI, and total bases. They’re each on the 40-man, but with Kevin Youkilis and Adrian Gonzalez up in the big leagues, they’d likely only be used in case of injury.
Second Base: Jonathan Hee, Tony Thomas
Neither of those two players has a day of major league experience, so any second base help would likely come from outside of the organization if needed. Dustin Pedroia’s backups, Nick Punto and Mike Aviles, could fill in admirably if needed, though Pedroia’s a fairly durable player, so this isn’t likely to be an issue for Boston.
Shortstop: Pedro Ciriaco, Jose Iglesias
The 22-year-old Iglesias, who’s currently on the 7-day Disabled List, has been labeled Boston’s shortstop of the future for quite some time now thanks to his defensive prowess. It’s a defense that’s always been well ahead of his offense, though Iglesias has made some strides this season. He’s upped his Pawtucket batting average from .235 last season to .269 this year (despite an OBP and SLG each at just .317). It wouldn’t be a shock to see Iglesias in the big leagues this season, because Aviles hasn’t been great offensively (.284 OBP). Ciriaco, the former Pittsburgh Pirate, is hitting .301 – though it’s with just five walks and a 10-for-18 stolen base rate.
Third Base: Nate Spears
Spears was called up to the majors earlier this season, only to go 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. He’s since been designated for assignment, so he’s no longer on the 40-man roster. Spears is hitting .242 with four home runs for Pawtucket in 52 games. He wasn’t supposed to be the regular Pawtucket third baseman, though – but Will Middlebrooks blew up those plans by setting baseball on fire. The 23-year-old rookie, who posted a 1.057 OPS in 24 games with Pawtucket, has an .813 OPS in 35 games with Boston, and it’s safe to say he’s ahead of schedule after spending most of last season in Double-A.
Outfield: Alex Hassan, Josh Kroeger, Che-Hsuan Lin
Lin, the only 40-man member of that group, was 1 for 5 in six games with Boston this year in his major league debut. At 23, he could factor into Boston’s future plans. Hassan, a former pitcher, is an intriguing prospect at 24 years old, while the 28-year-old Kroeger is likely veteran insurance at this point. But they’d do well to be on standby at all times. A slew of outfield injuries have sent Scott Podsednik, Ryan Kalish and Daniel Nava all to the majors from Pawtucket this season, with Darnell McDonald filling out the group. Meanwhile, Cuban defector J.C. Linares, who played part of last season in Triple-A, is tearing the cover off the ball at Double-A Portland, to the tune of .343/.415/.547 mark in 56 games.
Starting Pitchers: Billy Buckner, Brandon Duckworth, Justin Germano, Doug Mathis
Right-hander Aaron Cook’s starting tonight on Major League rehab, inheriting the fifth spot in the rotation for now – a spot that’s been rotating for Pawtucket recently. He joins a group that features no 40-man roster members outside of Cook himself. That doesn’t constitute a lack of effectiveness, though – Duckworth’s 7-1 with a 3.69 ERA in 13 starts, while last year’s perfect-game hurler Germano is 8-3 with a 2.49 ERA. The Red Sox could be in need of a spot starter soon, though, with Josh Beckett recently placed on the Disabled List. Reliever Franklin Morales made a spot start in Beckett’s stead yesterday, so Boston has a few days to make a decision there.
Relief Pitchers: Daniel Bard, Will Inman, Garrett Mock, Tony Pena, Mark Prior, Junichi Tazawa, Alex Wilson
Since you’ve likely ignored six of the seven names here, we’ll go ahead and skip to Mark Prior, too. The former Cubs phenom, who’s been injured and out of the major leagues since 2006, has rejuvenated his career this season in the Red Sox minor leagues. In 6.2 innings, he’s struck out 15 while allowing just three hits and four walks. Mock, a former Chiefs reliever, has also had a great season – sporting a 1.95 ERA in 21 games with 30 strikeouts in 27.2 innings. Also, keep an eye out for Bard, who was just recently sent down to work on his command.
Hope to see you at the park during this series – the Chiefs and PawSox play at 7:00 for each of the next four nights. We’re on the air at 6:45 tonight with our Clubhouse Show on The Score 1260.
While 2012 has been and should continue to be a trying year for the Yankees’ Triple-A club, it’s a treat for Syracuse – a city and a state full of Yankee fans gets ten extra chances to see Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in action. The nomadic Yankees, whose home stadium is under renovation throughout the season, will play all 16 games with Syracuse and two extra games with Buffalo here at Alliance Bank Stadium this year. So let’s get to know them a little better…
Catcher: Francisco Cervelli, Gustavo Molina
Cervelli – who gets his third straight start of the series today – has received more cheers in Syracuse than anyone this side of Jim Boeheim. For whatever reason, he’s become a massive fan favorite in the Salt City. Of course, Cervelli would rather be a fan favorite in the Big Apple, and it came as a surprise to see the 26-year-old in Triple-A to start the year. But the Yankees decided to keep veteran backup Chris Stewart – a good handler of pitchers – as Russell Martin’s backup. Cervelli’s an injury away from a promotion, but otherwise, the Yankees will likely keep him with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to get regular at-bats. Meanwhile, Molina’s hitting just .170 to date in 13 games.
First Base: Russell Branyan
A recent signee, Branyan is a classic “three true outcomes” player – walk, strikeout or home run. At 36 years old, Branyan is coming off a season where he played in the majors for the Angels and Diamondbacks, but he likely won’t provide too much value to the Yankees in the major leagues unless Mark Teixeira goes down. However, the Yankees could also fill first base with Eric Chavez, Jayson Nix or Nick Swisher if needed.
Second Base: Corban Joseph
Joseph, a 23-year-old Triple-A rookie and 40-man member, got off to a hot start with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, starting his Triple-A tenure with a 10-game hitting streak. However, he’s just 1 for 19 since. Former Chiefs infielder Matt Antonelli is also here and on the 40-man roster, but he’s currently on the Disabled List with a hand injury. Utility infielder Jayson Nix is serving as Robinson Cano’s backup in the major leagues, although the Yankees don’t have another second base candidate on the roster.
Shortstop: Doug Bernier, Ramiro Pena
Eduardo Nunez, who was having a solid season in the major leagues, was sent down to Triple-A to become a regular shortstop and second baseman once more. However, he’s gone on the DL with a thumb injury, leaving Pena and Bernier to man the position. Both players are slick fielders who are better with the glove than the bat. Again, though, an injury to Nix in the major leagues would force a move – Derek Jeter’s obviously not going anywhere, but Nix is the only other major league shortstop option.
Third Base: Brandon Laird
A 40-man member who made his major league debut last season, Laird is hitting just .236 with three home runs for the Yankees this season. This position is less important for the Yankees in case of an injury, with both Chavez and Nix able to fill in for Alex Rodriguez in a pinch. Laird’s only 24, so he’s likely to be in the Bombers’ plans for quite some time.
Outfield: Colin Curtis, Chris Dickerson, Ronnier Mustelier, Kevin Russo
Mustelier is the most intriguing name of this bunch. He’s a 27-year-old Cuban defector who’s been tearing the cover off the ball, to the tune of a .314/351/.481 slash line in 39 Triple-A games. This year’s just the second for Mustelier with the Yankees after defecting, and he’s shot through the system on a blazing fast track. Manager Joe Girardi’s even stated that the Yankees have had discussions about calling up Mustelier recently, although they’d need to clear a 40-man roster spot for him. The other three outfielders – Curtis (27 years old), Dickerson (28) and Russo (27) – all have some big league experience as well. Russo can play just about any position, while Curtis and Dickerson add speed and good defense. Veteran Dewayne Wise – just 4 for 26 in 31 games – could find himself swapped out for one of the players in this group soon.
Designated Hitter: Jack Cust
Astute readers may note that this is the first time we’ve listed “Designated Hitter” as a position on one of these posts this year. The reason? Cust has played as many innings in the field as you or I this season, unless you are a professional baseball player. Anyway, Cust is doing Jack Cust things, which is to say hitting home runs (13), drawing walks (51) and collecting strikeouts (81). He’s walked, homered or struck out in just about half of his career plate appearances. Maybe you’d see him in the major leagues if regular Yankees DH Raul Ibanez got injured, but otherwise, likely not.
Starting Pitchers: Dellin Betances, John Maine, D.J. Mitchell, Ramon Ortiz, Adam Warren
The next pitcher in line to start for the Yankees would be David Phelps, who was just sent down to Class A Tampa to build up his arm strength – Phelps had been working out of the bullpen for New York this season. Until then, it’s questionable who New York would grab next. Mitchell and Betances are the two 40-man members here, though they sport ERAs of 5.43 and 5.91, respectively. The 39-year-old Ortiz could be an intriguing option – he’s 5-3 with a 3.21 ERA in 11 starts this season.
Relief Pitchers: Jason Bulger, Juan Cedeno, Manny Delcarmen, Nelson Figueroa, Ryota Igarashi, Mike O’Connor, Justin Thomas, Chase Whitley
Even without Mariano Rivera, the Yankees’ bullpen is still a strong one, so there likely aren’t many (if any) spots for the team to swap. The standouts here have been a couple of left-handers – Cedeno, a 28-year-old with a 1.99 ERA, and Thomas, another 28-year-old, who sports a 2.45 ERA. Thomas and former Mets right-hander Ryota Igarashi are the only relievers on the 40-man roster here. But look out for 22-year-old Chase Whitley, a 2010 draft pick who’s the first member of that year’s draft class to reach Triple-A. He’s 5-2 with a 3.96 ERA in 21 games, and right-handers are hitting just .179 against him.
Hope to see you at the ballpark tonight, on another gorgeous night for baseball, as the Chiefs and Yankees play their third game in a four-game series. We’re on the air at 6:45 on The Score 1260 with first pitch slated for 7:00.
It’s hard to believe that 62 games into the season, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs – a North Division opponent – have yet to make their first visit to Alliance Bank Stadium in 2012. But all five games between the Chiefs and the Swine of Steel so far have been at Allentown’s Coca-Cola Park. Tonight, Ryne Sandberg’s crew heads to Syracuse to begin a four-game series and continue the Chiefs’ current 21-game homestand. Let’s take a look at what Syracuse is in for…
Catcher: Tuffy Gosewisch, Erik Kratz, John Suomi
Gosewisch and Suomi combined for 18 Triple-A games last season (all by Suomi), and while Suomi’s on an otherworldly tear right now (12-20, six extra-base hits in his last five games), neither of the two has any major league experience or is on the 40-man roster. In an emergency, they might get leapfrogged by 21-year-old prospect Sebastian Valle, a hot catching prospect in Double-A. But then there’s Kratz, who’s had this transaction log in 2012:
5/2: Recalled by Philadelphia
5/12: Optioned to Lehigh Valley
5/22: Recalled by Philadelphia
5/24: Optioned to Lehigh Valley
5/29: Recalled by Philadelphia
6/4: Optioned to Lehigh Valley
He’s here today. He may be gone tomorrow.
By the way, up in the major leagues, Philadelphia starting catcher Carlos Ruiz has improbably become one of the league’s best hitters at age 33, while Brian Schneider has been a solid, if not spectacular, backup.
First Base: Cody Overbeck
At .274 with six home runs and 13 walks in 61 games, Overbeck has been about league-average at first base for the IronPigs while playing 59 games at the position. He’s not a top prospect, though he’s only in his fourth season in professional baseball after being drafted in 2009. Ty Wigginton’s played the majority of Philadelphia’s first base this year, with John Mayberry, Laynce Nix and Jim Thome also getting time there. Down in Double-A, 25-year-old Darin Ruf is tearing up the league to the tune of .328/.409/.549 in 56 games. Ruf, who’s never played in Triple-A, is a name to watch in the Phillies organization.
Second Base: Kevin Frandsen
Up in the major leagues, Phillies second baseman Freddy Galvis just suffered a fractured back, making Mike Fontenot the likely starting second baseman. Former Chief Michael Martinez was just recalled to take Galvis’ place, since Martinez is a 40-man roster. Frandsen, in his second year with Lehigh Valley, hasn’t played in the major leagues since 2010 with the Angels. He’d be a good utility man in an emergency, but with a .242 average, he’s likely not first in line for that promotion. But look out for 22-year-old second baseman Cesar Hernandez, a 40-man member hitting .321 with 20 extra-base hits for Double-A Reading.
Shortstop: Andres Blanco, Pete Orr
Orr, a former Syracuse fan favorite, was part of the major league team until just a few days ago, when he was sent back to Triple-A. He’ll play all over the field, but he’s started his first two games at shortstop. Blanco, a non-roster player in spring training with the Nationals, is hitting just .212 with a .600 OPS despite some stellar glovework. Orr could certainly find his way back to the bigs at some point, but he’s no longer on the 40-man roster, so it’ll take some time.
Third Base: Tug Hulett
If you’re a Chiefs fan, you likely remember Tug Hulett – one of Syracuse’s top hitters throughout the majority of 2011. Hulett, who actually started the season at Reading, has hit safely in 11 of his IronPig starts, despite a .167 average in Double-A. Go figure. Veteran Placido Polanco owns the major league starting job, with Wigginton or Fontenot able to play in a pinch.
Outfield: Domonic Brown, Kyle Hudson, Michael Spidale, Steve Susdorf
If you’re wondering where the name “Rich Thompson” is, the five-year IronPig (he’d been with Lehigh Valley since their inception in 2008) was traded to Tampa Bay a few weeks ago for Hudson. Thompson – owner of one previous major league at-bat – was promptly called up to the major leagues and collected his first major league hit in his first Rays start. In Hudson, though, the Phillies got eight years younger, adding a player who made his MLB debut with Baltimore last season.
The big name here is obviously Brown, a once-heralded Phillies prospect who Ruben Amaro hung on to despite various trade offers. But Brown – still only 25 years old – may not have put together all of his tools yet. He’s posted a .270/.318/.428 line with Lehigh Valley, while spending the entire season with the IronPigs. Spidale, a 29-year-old up from Double-A, and Susdorf, a 26-year-old Triple-A rookie, are the other two outfielders here.
Starting Pitchers: Tyler Cloyd, Tom Cochran, Scott Elarton, Pat Misch, Matt Wright
None of Lehigh Valley’s starters are on the 40-man roster, which means Elarton could be an injury away from an improbable promotion to the major leagues. The 36-year-old, who’s largely been out of baseball for the past three years, made a comeback with a clean bill of health this year and has been tremendous – he’s 5-2 with a 3.36 ERA in 12 starts, including a 22-inning scoreless streak. Cloyd, a 25-year-old right-hander, has also been outstanding, allowing one or no runs in five of his eight starts this season. Overall, he’s 5-1 with a 2.26 ERA. Outside of injuries, Philadelphia’s rotation is likely set in the major leagues, though – even with Roy Halladay on the shelf for a few weeks. 21-year-old right-hander Julio Rodriguez, who’s 3-1 with a 2.67 ERA, leads the Double-A staff.
Relief Pitchers: Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Brummett, Jeremy Horst, David Purcey, J.C. Ramirez, Brian Sanches, Raul Valdes
Aumont, Ramirez and Valdes – the last of whom was just optioned down to Lehigh Valley today – are all 40-man roster members. Valdes, who sported a 2.13 ERA in 11 Philadelphia games with 13 strikeouts to just one walk, would be the logical call up if needed in a pinch, as neither Aumont nor the recently promoted Ramirez have made their major league debuts yet. This is a bullpen stacked with good options, though, with strong numbers from just about every reliever in the group. Down in Double-A, 25-year-old right-hander Justin Friend has stated his case for a promotion with a 0.47 ERA in 18 games and 11 saves in 11 opportunities.
Hope to see you at the park over these next four series as the Chiefs and IronPigs tangle. We’ll start at 7:00 tonight, with a 5:00 first pitch on Sunday and 7:00 game time on Monday before breakfast and baseball – a 10:30 start time on Tuesday.
all right, enough of these shenanigans. To the real links!
- Tom Leo’s game story from last night.
- One Chiefs player looks on track to be an All-Star starter.
- Is this the real end for Manny Ramirez?
- How one play could have changed college football forever.
- I’m sick of “Call Me Maybe” too, but Jimmy Fallon and the Roots do it justice.
Chiefs and Bats tonight in the finale of a five-game series: check it out at 7:00 on The Score 1260 or thescore1260.com.