Dunedin Jays swept in playoffs despite strong season

Despite owning the best overall record (85-53) in the Florida State League, the Dunedin Blue Jays could not translate their success into the playoffs. The Jays suffered a two-game sweep at the hands of the Fort Myers Miracle in the first round of the postseason, putting an abrupt end to their otherwise successful year.

Many positives emerged from the 2008 campaign for Dunedin. Perhaps the most important of which was manager Omar Malave netting the FSL’s Manager of the Year award. Malave led the Dunedin squad to the best record in the league this year, which translated into the Jays reaching the playoffs for the fourth time in the last five seasons.

Another positive for the club was that four of its players were named to the FSL’s 2008 Post-Season All-Star team. Among the players chosen were right-handed starter Reidier Gonzalez, second baseman Brad Emaus, outfielder Cory Patton and designated hitter Brian Dopirak.

*In other news from Toronto’s farm system, the Lansing Lugnuts of the Class A Midwest League were also eliminated from the playoffs following a two-game sweep in the first round. The Lugnuts dropped the first game of the series, 3-1, to the Dayton Dragons and then fell, 7-3, in game two.

— David Singh

Riders Roundup: Game 4 vs. Arkansas Live Blog

FRISCO – Good evening RoughRiders fans. I’m in the press box at Dr. Pepper Ballpark and you’d never know a storm was rolling through here 24 hours ago. Should be a good night for baseball and I’ll be here all night blogging the highlights for you.

— Shawn Shroyer

6:05 p.m.: First pitch (a ball from Derek Holland to Nate Sutton). Again, the weather couldn’t be more beautiful. 83 degrees, to be precise. Sutton ultimately reaches on a bunt single, which Holland made an errant throw on to first, allowing Sutton to advance to second.

6:11: Holland finally gets Wil Ortiz to fly out after an 11-pitch at-bat for the first out in the inning. Sutton still on second.

6:16: Holland gets out of the inning with Sutton on third, striking out Corey Smith in a seven-pitch at-bat. You could tell Holland wanted to win the battle bad with the emotions he showed after.

6:21: After his pitcher labored through the first frame, Julio Borbon did his job, working an eight-pitch at-bat, although he eventually flew out to center. Interesting note: both starting pitchers are southpaws who wear No. 36.

6:26: Chad Tracy flies out to the second baseman with Jose Vallejo on second, but at least Holland got a 10 minute break after tossing 23 pitches in the first inning.

6:32: Holland got his second strikeout of the game earlier in the inning and still needed only nine pitches to get out of the second inning.

6:38: The Riders get their second baserunner of the game as a Dustin Majewski sends a hot shot to first base that takes a bad hop off Mark Trumbo’s face. Majewski wouldn’t get past first on the play, though.

6:40: The Riders get their first stolen base of the night as Majewski swipes second with two out and Steve Murphy at the plate.

6:41: Murphy strikes out swinging to drop his playoff average to .154.

6:44: Holland’s feeling it. Strikes out Jordan Czarniecki to start the third frame.

6:45: Did I mention Holland’s feeling it? Six pitches. Two strikeouts in the third.

6:49: So, Holland didn’t strike out the side. He still needed just 12 pitches to bring his offense back to the plate, getting out of the inning on a 6-4 fielder’s choice.

6:50: Some in-game entertainment they have here at Dr. Pepper Ballpark. They were just force feeding (drinking?) lemon juice to babies on the field between innings. Thanks mom and dad.

6:52: With elimination at stake, I’m sure the Riders would rather be lucky than good. They just got really lucky. Tim Gradoville sent a dying liner to Ortiz at shortstop. Ortiz couldn’t get hit glove under it, then airmailed it to his own dugout to advance Gradoville to second base to lead off the inning.

6:58: Well, Ortiz’ double error wasn’t enough. Holland heads back out to the mound with the score still knotted, 0-0. Julio Borbon and Elvis Andrus are now a combined 0-for-4 on the night.

7:02: Strikeout number five for Holland. Got Brian Stavisky this time.

7:03: Arkansas got its first baserunner of the inning with Corey Smith reaching on a bloop single over first base.

7:06: Holland is in the zone. Strikeout number six. Hank Conger. 57 pitches through four.

7:10: Chad Tracy grounds out to Ortiz at short. Frisco’s top four hitters are now 1-for-8.

7:12: Seeing how it’s 0-0 heading into the fifth, I should give Daniel Davidson credit. He’s held the Riders to two hits through four and struck out four after getting Emerson Frostad and Majewski for the last two outs in the fourth.

7:17: Perfect, six-pitch fifth for Holland.

7:20: Could this be the beginning of a Riders rally? Thomas Berkery leads off the fifth with a single through the left side. However, Murphy and Gradoville are up next before the top of the order comes around.

7:26: Case in point: Murphy pop out to second. Gradoville swinging strikeout.

7:31: Borbon earned a walk and a Davidson wild pitch moved Berkery and Borbon up to second and third. That brought Andrus up, who dropped down a bunt. The bunt didn’t surprise the Travelers as much as Andrus had hoped. Davidson pounced on it and got Andrus at first to end the threat.

7:37: No strikeouts, but just eight pitches needed for Holland to complete his sixth inning.

7:42: Not to jinx it, but the Riders have a rally going. Tracy just singled on a blooper to left after a Vallejo walk. Now Frostad is up with no outs. and Vallejo on second.

7:48: Following the Tracy single: Frostad strikeout, Majewski groundout and Berkery strikeout. Score: 0-0 going into the seventh.

7:49: Clayton Hamilton has come in to replace Holland. Holland tossed just 71 pitches in six innings, allowing two hits and a walk while striking out six. His playoff ERA dropped from 0.61 to 0.44.

7:56: Perfect seventh for Hamilton.

7:59: Not to get anyone’s hopes up, but Murphy leads off the seventh with a bunt single and Davidson commits a throwing error to first, advancing Murphy to second. Gradoville up, then the top of the order.

8:02: Three mintues have passed and only one pitched has gone home. Arkansas is either stalling, or confused. Breaking up a team mound visit right now.

8:03: The team meeting did little good. Gradoville bunted to move Murphy over and third baseman Smith tried to nail Murphy to no avail. Now Murphy stands on third and Gradoville on first with no outs and Borbon up. Barrett Browning now in for Davidson on the mound.

8:09: The Riders post their first run and pull ahead, 1-0, as Murphy dashes home on an infield single by Andrus. The Travelers tried to get an out at second, but Gradoville slid in to beat the throw. Two on, one out and Vallejo up.

8:15: The Travelers have been living on borrowed time with their poor defense and a Smith throwing error, which would have gotten Browning out of the inning, ushered in Gradoville and Andrus for the Riders’ second and third runs of the game. Frostad up with two outs and Tracy on second.

8:19: To recap Frisco’s seventh-inning rally: Two hits, neither of which went out of the infield, one walk, which was inconsequential, a sacrifice bunt and a big, big, big throwing error. By my count, the Travelers gave the Riders three extra outs that inning.

8:27: After retiring the first batter of the inning, Hamilton walked Czarniecki and let him go to second on a wild pitch. He might have just lucked out. It appeared he hit Chris Pettit with a pitch, but Pettit offered at it for a foul ball.

8:28: Pettit strikes out swinging.

8:30: Sutton singles to left-center to drive Czarniecki home. 3-1. Hamilton on his way out. Beau Jones on his way to the mound.

8:34: Jones did what Hamilton could not – hit a batter (Ortiz). Two out, one on.

8:36: Stavisky flies out to center to end the inning with no further harm done.

8:37: Fernando Rodriguez in to pitch for the Travelers.

8:43: The Riders are now three outs away from taking the series to a fifth game.

8:44: Brandon Puffer in to pitch.

8:46: If Puffer wasn’t awake, he is now. Smith sent a line drive right at his head to lead off the inning and he snagged it. Two outs to go.

8:48: Puffer got Hank Conger swinging to finish a perfect ninth and earn the save. 3-1 final. Hamilton got the victory. Davidson took the loss. Game 5 tomorrow night at 7 p.m. Dan Denham is going for the Travelers and Neftali Feliz is going for the Riders. Thanks for hanging with me.

P-Nats claim Carolina League title

Advance Single-A Potomac finished off a marathon season of accomplishments on Friday with an 8-2 victory over Myrtle Beach in Game 4 of the Carolina League’s Mills Cup Finals. As a result, the P-Nats took the series, three games to one, and were crowned 2008 Carolina League Champions.

The P-Nats became the first team within the franchise to win a Carolina League title since the Prince William Cannons beat the Durham Bulls in 1989.

Potomac put two runs on the board in the first inning and never looked back. Despite a homer by Ernesto Mejia in the second, the Pelicans couldn’t muster any type of rally against starter Erik Arnesen. Arnesen went 6 2/3 innings and allowed just two runs while striking out four in the victory.

Jhonatan Solano earned Mills Cup Finals MVP honors for his efforts in the series. Solano tied Game 3 with a two-out, three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth. He finished the four-game set with the Pelicans by going .429 (6-for-14) with two home runs, four RBIs and five runs scored.

-Mark Remme

Spinners falter, drop NY-Penn League semis

For a moment, it looked like Short Season Single-A Lowell were on the cusp of reaching the New York-Penn League Finals with a two-game throttling of Batavia. After all, the Spinners won Game 1 in 12 innings and led 8-2 in the sixth frame of Game 2. But that’s where things changed. The Muckdogs rallied for 11 runs in the final three innings, winning Game 2 and forcing a decisive Game 3 on Wednesday.

Batavia took advantage of its new life, defeating the Spinners, 3-2, earning the right to advance to the best-of-3 championship series against Jamestown. For Lowell, it was a season in which it dominated the NYP Stedler division by 7 1/2 games down the stretch, finishing with a 40-33 record.

The Spinners were by and large led by Mitch Dening throughout the season. Dening, the Australia native, batted .321 over the course of 62 game in 2008 while playing strong defense in the outfield. On the mound, Brock Huntzinger was 5-0 in eight starts with a 0.64 ERA before moving to play with the Greenville Drive. In the bullpen, Stephen Fife went 1-1 with a 2.33 ERA in 14 games — a solid start for the 2008 First-Year Player Draft pick.

-Mark Remme 

Bulls Fall Short, Several More Join Rays

Right-hander Wade Davis gave up 8 runs (5 earned) in only 2 innings as the Durham Bulls bowed out of the International League playoffs Friday night, falling three games to one to the Yankees’ Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre team. 

While the previous three games were all decided in the final at-bat, the Bulls were beat handily on Friday. Following the game, right-handed pitchers Jeff Niemann and Mitch Talbot were called up to the Rays, along with outfielder Jonny Gomes and lefty phenom David Price. 

 The top overall pick in last year’s draft, Price compiled a 13-1 record and a 2.39 ERA in 21 starts for Vero, Montgomery and Durham, including two playoff outings with the Bulls. He last pitched Tuesday in Scranton, allowing four runs in six innings in the opener of the Governors’ Cup finals.

The initial plan is for the Rays to use all three pitchers–starters the entire season–out of the bullpen. But there is at least one spot start available, in the second game of the Sept. 23 doubleheader at Baltimore. Although Price would be an enticing choice as a spot starter, the club will remain cautious in putting too much pressure on the 22-year-old pitcher.

 Gomes and Price joined the Rays in New York on Saturday (although Price was not used in the Rays doubleheader) and Talbot and Niemann are expected to join the team on Monday back in St. Petersburg.

Talbot and Niemann will each begin their second stint in the Major Leagues this season. Niemann posted a 1-1 record with a 5.79 ERA in two starts for the Rays and went 9-5 with a 3.59 ERA for Durham. Talbot did not get to pitch during an abbreviated one-day stint with the Rays and went 13-9 with a 3.86 ERA at Durham.

The quartet joins former Bulls teammates outfielder Fernando Perez, first baseman Dan Johnson and catchers John Jaso and Michael Hernandez as a length list of September call ups.    


— Brittany Ghiroli

Mudcats’ season crumbles in the end

Up 2-1 against the Mississippi Braves, Double-A Carolina dropped the final two games of the series in extra innings to come up short in the Southern League Finals.

tuohlnrs.jpgMIAMI — The Carolina Mudcats were so close.

But, in the end, the only thing they were close to was the celebration by the Mississippi Braves players near the mound at Trustmark Park (pictured), as they beat the Marlins’ Doube-A affiliate, 3-2, in 10 innings during the Southern League Finals.

Back in Game 4, when they were up 2-1 in the series, the Mudcats had a chance to seal the deal in the 11th inning before surrendering a home run tie it up. Two innings later, they lost on a walkoff single.

Entering the ninth inning of the deciding game, Carolina was down, 2-1, before a leadoff homer by Scott Cousins off Southern League Pitcher of the Year Todd Redmond tied it up. But after a couple of singles in the 10th inning by the Braves, Chris Mobley checked into the game and threw a wild pitch, allowing J.C. Holt to score the winning run.

Read the full story here.

But hey, here’s one thing to look forward to: Now that the Mudcats’ season is over, there’s a good chance you can see center field prospect Cameron Maybin pretty soon. Gaby Sanchez, the Southern League MVP this year, isn’t as likely of an addition, considering he’d have to be added to the 40-man roster first, and there wouldn’t be much of an opportunity for him to play with the Marlins. Ryan Tucker could also be added.

Jammers update

The Marlins’ short-season, Single-A affiliate, the Jamestown Jammers, lost the first game of the New York-Penn League Finals to the Batavia Muckdogs, 4-3. Down a run in the bottom of the ninth, the Jammers had the tying run in scoring position with one out, but Brandon Tucker struck out, and Justin Bass grounded out to end it.

The second of the best-of-three series on Saturday was postponed due to rain and will be played Sunday at 6:05 p.m. ET.

– Alden Gonzalez, associate reporter/MLB.com

Brewers farm teams close out the year

Thumbnail image for Gamel.jpg

Milwaukee is loaded with homegrown talent (Prince Fielder, J.J. Hardy, Ryan Braun, Bill Hall,
Ben Sheets and Rickie Weeks came through the system). Who will be next in line? Some prospects took positive steps during the 2008 season. Here’s a look back.

Triple-A Nashville

Regular Season: 59-81

Postseason: None

Statistical Leaders: 1B Brad Nelson (.286, 18 homers, 78 RBIs), OF Laynce Nix (.284, 23 homers, 60 RBIs), LHP Lindsay Gulin (7-7, 3.54 ERA, 120 Ks)

Lowdown: The Sounds finished in last place in the Pacific Coast League. In fact, it’s the worst record in the franchise’s 31-year history. Nelson, Nix and Gulin, all veteran Minor Leaguers, somewhat helped their careers, but another step needs to be made to challenge for big-league playing time. The Sounds were hurt by the amount of talent developing in Double A for most of the season, which brings us to …

Double-A Huntsville

Regular Season: 73-67 (41-29 first half, 32-38 second half)

Postseason: None

Statistical Leaders: 3B Mat Gamel (pictured, .329, 19 homers, 96 RBIs), LHP Brae Wright (6-10, 3.59 ERA, 120 Ks), LHP David Welch (11-4, 3.90 ERA, 95 Ks)

Lowdown: The Stars posted the best record of any team that missed the playoffs in the Southern League, if that’s any consolation. The hitters need no comforting, they were solid. The Stars hit a league-leading .285, 16 points higher than the second-best team. The top three individual hitters in the league? All Stars: C Angel Salome (.360), Gamel and SS Alcides Escobar (.328), all of whom were September callups. Then there’s OF Matt LaPorta, who led the team with 20 homers despite getting traded to Cleveland in the CC Sabathia deal.

Class A Brevard County

Regular Season: 66-72 (35-34 first half, 31-38 second half) 

Postseason: None

Statistical Leaders: 3B Taylor Green (.289, 15 homers, 73 RBIs), RHP Alexandre Periard (9-6, 3.51 ERA, 76 Ks), LHP Bobby Bramhall (5-4, 2.51 ERA, 106 Ks)

Lowdown: The club lost a lot of pitching talent to promotion, which explains the win/loss dropoff in the second half. RHP Jeremy Jeffress earned club Minor League Pitcher of the Year honors after missing the first the first 40 games because of a suspension in August 2007 for testing positive for marijuana. Jeffress was Milwaukee’s first-round pick in 2006 and went 4-6 with a 4.08 ERA in Brevard County before moving up to Huntsville.

Class A West Virginia

Regular Season: 77-62 (32-37 first half, 45-25 second half) 

Postseason: South Atlantic League runners up (first round: 2-1 over Lake County; championship: 0-3 to Augusta)

Statistical Leaders: 1B Steffan Wilson (.289, 19 homers, 100 RBIs), RHP Evan Anundsen (12-8, 4.28 ERA, 102 Ks)

Lowdown: Second best team in the Sally League for the second straight year, but look at the difference between the first and second halves. Something got into the Power. They ended up leading the league in batting average and runs scored for the season. 

— Nick Zaccardi