Scratch Wes Hodges off the list of potential September callups to the big leagues. The 23-year-old third baseman is headed to Arizona.
Hodges is one of seven Indians Minor Leaguers who will join the roster of the Arizona Fall League’s Surprise Rafters. Class A Lake County pitching coach Ruben Niebla will be a coach for the Rafters, whose season starts Oct. 7.
Here’s a look at what Hodges and the other six players have done this season for their respective Minor League clubs.
Hodges – AA Akron Aeros – 3B – Recently named to the 2008 Eastern League All-Star team, Hodges had a breakout season with the Aeros. After 127
games, he is batting .285 with 25 doubles, three triples,
91 RBIs and 16 home runs. In July, Hodges — along with the recently acquired Matt LaPorta — represented the Indians in the 2008 Futures Game.
Beau Mills – A Kinston Indians – 1B – The Tribe’s 2007 No. 1 Draft selection leads the Carolina League in RBIs with 90 and has slammed 21 homers — also good for the league’s best — along with 34 doubles. He is batting .293 and his 58 extra-base hits ranks second in the CL and his 141 hits ranks third.
Josh Rodriguez – AA Akron Aeros – SS – The 23-year-old is batting .248 with 70 runs, 21 doubles, 10 triples — good for second in the Eastern League — seven home runs and 49 RBIs.
Chuck Lofgren – AA Akron Aeros – LHP – The 22-year-old lefty has bounced between the ‘pen and starting rotation in a full season at Double-A. He is 2-5 with a 5.25 ERA in 26 appearances (14 starts). He has struck out 71 while walking 47 batters.
Tony Sipp – AA Akron Aeros – LHP – The 25-year-old has gone 0-3 with a 4.58 ERA out of the bullpen in limited action this season. Sipp, who underwent Tommy John surgery last season, has thrown just 17 2/3 innings since returning to action.
Erik Stiller – AA Akron Aeros – RHP – The 24-year-old is 6-5 with a 4.36 ERA in 32 appearances, all out of the bullpen. In 53 2/3 innings, Stiller has struck out 52 while walking 21 and has a 1.25 WHIP.
Neil Wagner – AA Akron Aeros – RHP – The 24-year-old spent most of his 2008 season with the K-Tribe, but was recently promoted to Double-A. He is 0-1 with 5.06ERA in five appearances for Akron. With Kinston, Wagner went 3-6 with a 4.50 ERA, 81 strikeouts and 21 walks.
Carlos Santana didn’t even need a full season in the California League to earn its highest honor, as he was named the Cal League’s MVP on Monday.
Before the Indians acquired him in a deal that sent Casey Blake to the Dodgers, Santana batted .323 with 34 doubles, four
triples, 14 home runs and collected 96 RBIs for the Inland Empire 66ers. The
22-year-old switch-hitter hit
.411 with runners in scoring position and .500 with the bases loaded. He
reached base safely in 91 of his 99 games and had more walks (69) than strikeouts
Santana still leads the league in on-base percentage (.431)
and is in the top five in slugging percentage (.563) and runs scored (88). He could still win the league’s batting title as well because Lancaster’s Daniel Nava, who currently leads the league with a .337 batting average, is
on the disabled list and would not qualify if the season ended today.
Since he arrived at Class A Kinston, Santana has not let up, batting .333 with four homers and 14 RBIs in 24 games.
– Andrew Gribble
The Indians’ most struggling farm team, the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons, got a big boost of power and experience this week when Victor Martinez, Travis Hafner and Josh Barfield joined the Herd for their home series against Lehigh Valley.
And the results have been positive, from both the Tribe’s perspective and the Bisons’, who are now riding a mini two-day winning streak since Barfield and Hafner arrived Monday night (Martinez played his first game with the Bisons on Tuesday).
Hafner showed no ill effects from his puzzling sore shoulder, which has kept him out of the lineup since May 25, as he went 2-for-3 with a double. Barfield has looked solid also, playing a good second base and chipping in with a sacrifice fly Monday. Same goes for Martinez, who caught six innings and drove in two runs in the Herd’s 10-1 win Tuesday at Dunn Tire Park.
But the Tribe’s trio of rehabbers won’t be there long, and, as the Minor League season winds to a close, many others won’t be in Buffalo much longer, either. A few players from Double-A Akron may also be on their way out.
September call-ups are upon us. Here are a few players that may make their way up to Progressive Field for the final month of the regular season. (No, Matt LaPorta will not be on this list.)
Rich Rundles – The Herd’s lone representative to the International League All-Star squad, Rundles has been the steadiest arm out of the bullpen (Mostly because he’s one of the few that has been there all season). The left-hander is 5-4 with a 3.00 ERA in 49 appearances this season. Over his last 10 appearances, he has been more impressive, not allowing a run, striking out 10 and walking just two over 7 1/3 innings.
Aaron Laffey – It’s somewhat surprising that Laffey didn’t get called up when Paul Byrd was traded, which makes it almost a lock that he will be back to the Majors in the upcoming weeks. After a rough first start back in the Minors, the young lefty has been nearly unhittable, not allowing a run in his past two starts. He has give up just seven hits over 14 innings and has struck out an uncharacteristic 14 batters.
John Meloan – The Indians will likely want a look at Meloan at the Major League level to dictate whether or not he belongs in the bullpen or starting rotation. Meloan, who was acquired from the Dodgers in the Casey Blake trade, is in the Buffalo bullpen for now, but it would not be out of the question for him to come back next year as a starter. Meloan’s ability to get batters out with four pitches convinced the Dodgers that he could start, but the numbers didn’t back it up. Look for him in Tribe ‘pen before the season wraps up.
Jeff Stevens – The young right-hander certainly has made a case for himself to be called up before the season ends, but the Indians could be timid to bring him up because of the hectic August he has had and continue to has. Stevens has served as the back-end bullpen guy for Team USA in the Olympics. Before he blew town for Beijing, Stevens was 5-3 with a 3.23 ERA and six saves for both the Aeros and Bisons.
Trevor Crowe – Recently promoted to the Bisons, the Tribe’s No. 1 selection in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft has been a spark plug for the Bisons. Playing primarily at center field, Crowe is batting .271 with 18 runs, four homers and 11 RBIs in his first 23 games in Triple-A.
Todd Linden – The outfielder is batting .276 with 18 doubles, 12 homers and 45 RBIs this season for the Bisons. He has hit safely in nine of his last 10 games and has hit .291 since the All-Star break.
Wes Hodges – The infielder has had a breakout season with the Aeros and could be the one player that makes the jump from Double-A to the big leagues come September. Hodges is batting .280 with 23 doubles, a team-high 13 homers and 87 RBIs, which is also good for a team-high.
Bryan Bullington came into the big leagues with overblown expectations. Now, with the Triple- A Bisons, there are none.
It’s safe to say, the former Pirates No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 amateur draft is OK with that.
“Obviously, there’s expectations in that situation, as anybody who is in that situation will tell you,” Bullington said. “There’s certain expectations you have to live up to.
“It was kind of a weird experience for me in Pittsburgh.”
It has been reported that the Pirates chose Bullington over the likes
of Prince Fielder, BJ Upton, Scott Kazmir and Nick Swisher because they
believed he would be easier to sign. And, though it was also reported
that Bullington projected to be, at best, a No. 3 starter when he made
it to the Majors, he hasn’t even lived up to that.
Bullington, who pitched at Ball State for two years, breezed through the early levels of the Minors before landing in Triple-A Indianapolis for the 2005 season. After going 9-5 with a 3.38 ERA in 18 starts, Bullington was dealt the worst news of his professional career: He had a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder.
Bullington had to go back to the basics and learn how to throw a baseball again.
“When you start your throwing program,” he said, “you can’t throw the ball 40 feet.”
Bullington eventually regained, what Bisons manager Torey Lovullo describes as a “big-league slider,” and made his return to the Pirates in 2007. He didn’t regain his old form, however, as he compiled an 11-9 record in 2007 and a 4-6 mark with a 5.52 ERA this season before the Pirates designated him for assignment early in July.
The Indians didn’t have much to lose when they picked up Bullington off waivers. With players such as Jeff Weaver, Morgan Ensberg and John Halama trying to rejuvenate their careers with the Bisons, the 27-year-old right-hander seemed like an easy fit on Lovullo’s helter skelter roster.
Since he arrived in Buffalo, Bullington has been shaky, but showed signs of hope in his last start Thursday against his former team. He tossed seven innings without giving up an earned run in a no-decision. He starts Monday against Lehigh Valley.
“Maybe he lost a little confidence and placed too much pressure on himself,” Lovullo said. I just know that him coming over here was probably a breath of fresh air with a new set of eyes and a new set of expectations.
Scotty too hotty
Akron’s Scott Lewis was named Bank of America Pitcher of the Week for the week ending Aug. 10. He went 1-0 with a no-decision in two starts, allowing just one run and five hits over 13 1/3 innings. He struck out 15 batters and walked just two.
Look for him to be in Lovullo’s rotation, wherever that rotation may be located, at the beginning of next season.
General manager Mark Shapiro was pretty giddy about acquiring catching prospect Carlos Santana in the deal that sent Casey Blake to the Dodgers. The early returns have likely taken that giddiness to a whole new level.
Santana, who came to the Tribe leading all Minor Leaguers in RBIs, is batting .398 (21-for-53) with six RBIs, six extra-base hits (two homers) and 18 runs in just 13 games with the K-Tribe (Kinston Indians).
Look for him to stay there the remainder of the season and become the everyday catcher with the Aeros next season.
– Andrew Gribble
Anthony Reyes, acquired from the Cardinals on July 26 (the same day the Indians shipped Casey Blake to the Dodgers), tossed eight innings and allowed just one run in the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons’ 2-1 win on Sunday. Reyes, who feuded with Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan before his departure, has posted a 2.77 ERA over his first two starts, adding eight strikeouts and four walks.
With Matt Ginter struggling in his fill-in role as Aaron Laffey looks to work out some kinks with the Bisons, Reyes could be on a fast track back to the big leagues. A former Baseball America Top 100 prospect in both 2005 and 2006, Reyes won Game 1 of the 2006 World Series. Thereafter, he struggled to maintain consistency, something the Indians and general manager Mark Shapiro will return with his change of scenery.
Speaking of Laffey, the lefty gets the start tonight against Indianapolis.
The gem of the Blake deal, Carlos Santana has continued his big year at Class A Kinston. He has hit safely in his past six games, batting .400 (10-for-25) with eight runs, a double, triple and a homer to go along with four RBIs.
As the Crowe flies
Trevor Crowe, recently promoted from Double-A Akron to Buffalo, is batting .286 (12-for-42) with 10 runs, a triple, four home runs and seven RBIs in his first nine
games with the Bisons.
In their last year as the Indians Triple-A club, the Buffalo Bisons have had, well, an interesting season.
Not once have the Bisons finished below .500 since their affiliation began with the Tribe in 1994, but they’ll need quite a turnaround (48-60) to avoid going out with a thud.
The reason for the Bisons struggles has certainly been well-documented. Indians general manager Mark Shapiro has acknowledged the dry Tribe farm system, particularly at the Triple-A level, by trying to grab as many prospects as possible in the recent trades of CC Sabathia and Casey Blake. For the time being, though, the Bisons are left with a few potential prospects and a surplus of rehab projects for manager Torey Lovullo and his staff to tackle.
Here are a few of them:
Bryan Bullington – RHP – 27 – The former No. 1 draft pick from Ball State has struggled to amount to the potential the Pirates thought he had when they used the first overall pick in 2002 on him. The Indians are hoping he can find that magic with the Bisons. So far, not so good. In three starts, he is 0-1 with a 8.25 ERA.
Brendan Donnelly – RHP – 37 – The former lights-out reliever with the Angels landed with the Indians after Tommy John surgery knocked him out of baseball in 2007. Now finally with the Bisons, Donnelly has made two appearances, each an inning a piece.
John Halama – LHP – 36 – A 10-game winner with the Mariners from 1999-2001, Halama landed with the Bisons early in the season and has been impressive, compiling a 7-2 record and 4.15 ERA thus far.
Anthony Reyes – RHP – 26 – Acquired Saturday for Double-A reliever Luis Perdomo, Reyes will look to settled down in Buffalo, where he will become a full-time starter as the Indians hope to have him up with the big league club by the end of the season.
Jeff Weaver – RHP – 31 – Weaver’s sudden downward spiral from stardom landed him in Buffalo earlier this month. It was speculated that he would be immediately brought up in a spot start when Sabathia was dealt, but he wasn’t, and with the acquisition of Reyes and the emergence of David Huff, it looks like he shouldn’t be going anywhere anytime soon.
Morgan Ensberg – 3B – 33 – The player who combined to hit 59 home runs and drive in 159 runs over the 05-06 seasons with the Astros has been nowhere to be found. Picked up on the fly in early June, Ensberg has continued to struggle with the Bisons, hitting .179 with a homer and eight RBIs.
Tony Graffanino – 2B – 36 – The veteran second baseman, now with his seventh big-league club, underwent surgery in August for a torn meniscus and later in December for a torn ACL. He will now get more time in the lineup in Buffalo as everyday second baseman Andy Gonzalez was called up in the wake of Blake’s departure.
– Andrew Gribble