According to the Central Valley Business Times, 2009 will be the last season for Texas’ High-A affiliate in Bakersfield, Calif. With Bakersfield’s Sam Lynn Ballpark having been deemed inadequate, the Blaze will move from Bakersfield to an unannounced North Carolina city starting in 2010, when the club will start play in the Carolina League.
The 67-year-old Sam Lynn Ballpark opened with the creation of the California League, but by today’s standard is too small and in poor condition.
Big honor for Little
Frisco manager Scott Little, in his first season with the RoughRiders, was just named Texas League Manager of the Year. Heading into Thursday, Frisco is 83-52 overall and won its division the first half of the season to clinch a playoff spot.
This is the second year in a row Frisco’s manager has won TLMOY honors. Dave Anderson earned the honor last year after leading the RoughRiders to a club-best 85 victories. Only one other club in Texas League history has earned back-to-back Manager of the Year awards.
Arizona Fall League rosters released
Your Surprise Rafters are: John Bannister, Julio Borbon, Willie Eyre, Beau Jones, Andrew Laughter, Chad Tracy and John Whittleman. The fall schedule opens Oct. 7.
Elvis Andrus and Max Ramirez were named to the Texas League postseason All-Star team.
Speaking of Ramirez
Since returning from injury, Ramirez is .286 (6-for-21) with two home runs and six home runs in five games at Triple-A Oklahoma.
With nine professional games under his belt, first-round pick Justin Smoak is batting .235 with a double, two home runs, four RBI, and four walks to five strikeouts in 34 at-bats. His on-base percentage sits at .308 and he’s slugging .441. He has a hit in eight of his nine games, but has yet to post a multi-hit game.
As most of you are probably aware, baseball will not be an Olympic sport in 2012 and 2016 doesn’t look promising. So, this year’s Summer Games may be the last to include America’s pastime, but it just so happens that the Rangers have two players representing their respective countries.
Catcher Taylor Teagarden left Triple-A Oklahoma to play for Team USA while catcher Emerson Frostad left Double-A Frisco to play for Team Canada. The Olympic Baseball schedule gets underway on Aug. 13.
For those of you interested in the full Olympic Baseball schedule, check it out.
Speaking of enjoying it while it lasts…
Justin Smoak and Robbie Ross – Texas’ top two overall picks in the First-Year Player Draft – have less than five days left to sign with the Rangers.
Ross, a left-handed pitcher, sounded pretty confident that he would eventually get his $1.5 million signing bonus, while calls to the Smoak residence weren’t returned, so the switch-hitting first baseman may be in a position where he really can’t discuss his situation.
Smoak would be a senior at the University of South Carolina if he doesn’t sign and Ross would be a freshman at the University of Kentucky.
General manager Jon Daniels was measured in his responses when discussing the status of the contract negotiations with Dustin Bledsoe, who represents both Smoak and Ross. But Daniels did squeeze in one deadpan joke.
When asked if it was any significance – positive or negative – that both players had the same representative, Daniels answered, “Not really, other than saving on the phone bill a little bit.”
Daniels did say that there were no huge obstacles to overcome in the negotiations, so it should just be a matter of matching up on dollars.
Daniels also went philosophical in explaining how Major League Baseball is such a “deadline driven industry.” As a result, for whatever reason, trades, arbitration and contract negotiations all tend to move along slowly until a deadline approaches.
This was the case last August when Texas signed first-round pick Blake Beavan on Aug. 14 and its third overall pick Julio Borbon on Aug. 15.
Then again, baseball isn’t alone. Deadlines seem to bring out the best in all of us, don’t they?
All teams must have their draft picks signed by midnight (ET) on Aug. 15. For more on Smoak, Ross, what Daniels had to say, and what former Rangers first-round picks think about when the right time to sign is, check the Rangers official site.
Since the last ‘Roundup’
-Brian Gordon (3-4) took two losses for Oklahoma. He has a 9.00 ERA in his last four starts.
-Despite an 0-for-5 day Saturday, Joaquin Arias is 9-for-23 in his last five games, collecting multiple hits in the other four games. Two of those nine hits were of the home run variety, giving him six on the season to go along with his .290 average.
-Doug Mathis pitched three scoreless innings on Sunday in his first rehab start with Oklahoma. On the disabled list since June 16 with inflammation in his right shoulder, Mathis allowed just two walks in the start and struck out four.
-Nelson Cruz received an injection in his strained left quad last week, but is still a week or so away from returning to action.
-John Mayberry Jr. continues to have a much more productive August after hitting .158 in July. In nine games this month, Mayberry is 12-for-38 (.316), despite a couple 0-for-4 days. However, he hasn’t gone deep since the first day of the month and his last RBI came the day after that.
-Max Ramirez remains on the disabled list with a hip flexor injury.
-Catcher Michael Pina has a five-game hitting streak for Frisco, going 7-for-18 during that span with three RBI and a stolen base. Pina was called up from High-A Bakersfield when Frostad left for the Olympics.
-Borbon has cooled off recently, going 4-for-20 in his last five games with one walk, no stolen bases and one caught stealing.
-After going 7-for-19 with a home run, three RBI and a stolen base in a four-game stretch from Aug. 2-6, Elvis Andrus has two hits in his last four games (.143), but has still swiped two bases during that span.
-Jose Vallejo is 7-for-21 in his last five games with a home run and a stolen base.
-Pitching on five day’s rest, Neftali Feliz took his first loss at Frisco, allowing two earned on three hits and two walks in four innings. Oh yeah, Feliz struck out eight batters. Feliz should be pitching on a mound near you as Frisco returns home on Aug. 13 for a six-game homestand.
-Kevin Millwood had a rehab start with Frisco on Sunday, allowing two runs, one earned, on five hits and two walks while striking out six in a losing effort. He threw 42 of 74 pitches for strikes in four innings and will probably rejoin the Texas rotation Saturday.
It’s no secret the Rangers’ pitching situation at the Major League level has been chaotic. Texas has used 10 rookie pitchers this season. Friday night, Tommy Hunter became the seventh rookie to start a game for the Rangers this season – a club record. To top it off, Andy Hawkins and Jim Colborn were installed to replace pitching coach Mark Connor and bullpen coach Dom Chiti, respectively, at the conclusion of the game Hunter started.
The Texas rotation currently consists of Vicente Padilla, Luis Mendoza, Matt Harrison, Scott Feldman and Hunter. Padilla is the only veteran of the five, let alone proven veteran.
Mendoza entered 2008 with 16 Major League innings under his belt. Harrison began the season at Double-A Frisco and spent some of his time there on the disabled list. Feldman had 89 2/3 innings of Major League experience coming into this season, but had never started a Major League game. He’s actually been one of the most dependable of Texas’ pitchers, but was shut down last month in an attempt to cut down his innings. Injuries to the rotation have dragged him back into the rotation. As for Hunter, he began his trek to the big leagues this season at High-A Bakersfield. At this point last season, Hunter was pitching in his first professional season.
However, there is hope that these resilient youngsters will be relieved of duty soon and be allowed to drop down to their appropriate Minor League affiliates.
Brandon McCarthy, rehabbing a case of severe elbow inflammation, pitched 5 1/3 innings Friday for Triple-A Oklahoma. Although he allowed five runs on six hits and two walks, the most important number was his 89 pitches thrown. Once he’s able to stretch his arm out, then he’ll be able to hone his pitches in preparation of rejoining the Texas rotation.
Last Sunday, McCarthy went 4 1/3 innings, allowing just one run on four hits and three walks while striking out five. He tossed 82 pitches in that outing.
Kiko Calero, who could be an asset in the Rangers bullpen down the road, pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings in relief of McCarthy on Friday. He allowed one hit and struck out one. However, on July 28, he allowed six runs in 1/3 of an inning, blowing a save opportunity in the process.
Doug Mathis, who is rehabbing a case of shoulder inflammation, is scheduled to throw two innings today in Phoenix. If all goes well, logic would say a rehab assignment would follow.
On July 30, Joaquin Benoit started for Frisco, but pitched only one inning and got out of there. In his inning of work, Benoit struck out two of the batters he faced, throwing 10 of 16 pitches for strikes.
When Benoit departed, Thomas Diamond came in and pitched four innings, allowing four runs on five hits and two walks while striking out four. He threw just 46 of 81 pitches for strikes.
Benoit is rehabbing an inflamed right shoulder and Diamond is recovering from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery and pitching with a bone spur in his ankle. Benoit is expected to pitch two innings at Oklahoma today. There was an outside chance that Diamond might reach Arlington this season, but that’s looking less and less likely.
Max Ramirez lands on DL
Max Ramirez was placed on the disabled list after injuring his hip flexor on July 30 with Oklahoma.
Catchers Taylor Teagarden and Emerson Frostad have left the Rangers organization temporarily to join their respective National teams in preparation for the Beijing Olympics. Teagarden, who had been at Oklahoma, will be representing the United States. Frostad, who had been at Frisco, will be representing Canada.
Nelson Cruz Update
Triple-A extraordinaire Nelson Cruz has gone homerless since July 27, when he hit No. 37 for Oklahoma. There were rumors that Cruz might be traded before the non-waiver Trade Dealine, but that didn’t happen. Cruz is batting .344 with 98 RBI after going 2-for-3 with a double on Friday, but he left the game after straining a quad sliding into second base in the fifth inning.
Mayberry welcomes August with a bang
John Mayberry Jr., who hit .158 in the month of July, went 1-for-3 Friday with Oklahoma, belting his 13th home run of the season.
Elvis Andrus, Julio Borbon and Jose Vallejo are up to 43, 44 and 34 stolen bases this season, respectively.
Short, but Feliz
In his last start for Frisco on July 28, Neftali Feliz went just 3 1/3 innings, but a scoreless 3 1/3 innings nonetheless. He allowed just three hits and one walk and struck out four as his ERA shrank to 2.21. He threw 35 of his 57 pitches for strikes.