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.
The Rangers announced their Minor League pitcher, player and defender award recipients for the month of August.
Double-A Frisco left-hander Derek Holland took home the pitching honors while Low-A Clinton first baseman Mitch Moreland and Frisco second baseman Jose Vallejo won player and defender honors, respectively.
Holland went 3-0 in August with a 2.03 ERA in five games, split between High-A Bakersfield and Frisco. All three victories came with Frisco, but in four Double-A starts, his ERA was a microscopic 0.69 in 26 innings. Holland’s August honors come a month after winning Texas’ July Minor League Pitcher of the Month.
Moreland hit .380 in the month of August with five home runs, eight doubles and 23 RBI in 108 at-bats over 28 games for Clinton. His OPS for the month was a robust 1.037 – not bad for a kid who wasn’t drafted until the 17th round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft.
Forming half of Frisco’s keystone combo with Elvis Andrus, Jose Vallejo committed just one error at second base during the month of August.
Oklahoma drops game three against Iowa
Triple-A Oklahoma now trails Iowa two game to one in a best-of-five series after losing, 2-1, on Friday. The series continues tonight at 7:05 p.m. Central.
Frisco completes sweep of San Antonio
Michael Schlact allowed one run in six innings as Frisco won, 9-3, to finish off its sweep of San Antonio in the best-of-five series. Schlact scattered six hits and struck out four. Schlact’s effort came on the heels of two gems pitched by the aforementioned Holland and Neftali Feliz.
In Game 1, Holland went 7 1/3, allowing one run on two hits, including a home run, and a walk as he struck out five. The next night, Feliz hurled seven shutout innings, striking out 11 and allowing just three hits and two walks. The seven innings set a career high and the 11 strikeouts matched a career best.
Clinton was eliminated from the postseason with a 5-4 loss to Cedar Rapids in 11 innings. The LumberKings were swept, 2-0, in a best-of-three series.
Hogan walk-off in 10th inning lifts Spokane
Doug Hogan, Texas’ 18th round selection in last June’s First-Year Player Draft, hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 10th inning Friday against Salem-Keizer to tie the Short-A Spokane’s best-of-five series with Salem-Keizer at a game apiece.
Aug. 28: Derek Holland lowered his ERA to 0.69 with Double-A Frisco, despite earning a no-decision. Holland shutout the Corpus Christi Hooks over six innings, allowing just four hits and two walks and striking out seven.
Aug. 29: The next night against the same Corpus Christi Hooks club, Neftali Feliz pitched nearly as well as Holland, but took a loss. Feliz allowed a solitary run in five innings on six hits and two walks while he struck out six as his Double-A ERA ducked back below 3.00 to 2.98.
Feliz’ regular season ends with 127.1 total innings pitched. With Frisco, Feliz went 4-3 with 47 strikeouts to 23 walks and opponents hit .217 against him.
The same night, Low-A Clinton right-hander Blake Beavan, Texas’ first-round pick from 2007, pitched four shoutout innings against Cedar Rapids, allowing just two hits and striking out three.
In 23 starts with Clinton this season, Beavan has gone 10-6 with a 2.37 ERA in 121.2 innings and 73 strikeouts to 20 walks.
Justin Smoak wrapped up his first calendar month of professional baseball with a .294 average, three home runs and six RBI in 13 games. He’s hitting .412 with a home run and two RBI.
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.
The latest addition to the Texas Rangers organization, Justin Smoak, made his professional debut Monday night at Low-A Clinton.
Smoak, the Rangers’ first-round pick in this June’s First-Year Player Draft who signed the night of the signing deadline, went 1-for-3 with a walk in four trips to the plate. The walk came in his first professional plate appearance in the top of the second and he scored later in the inning.
After flying out his next two at-bats, Smoak doubled to right field for his first professional hit.
Coincidentally, Texas’ first-round pick from last year, Blake Beavan, was on the mound for the Lumberjacks.
In six innings, Beavan allowed just one run on three hits – including one home run – and two walks while he struck out five. The strong outing dwindled Beavan’s ERA with Clinton to 2.50.
Good night to be a RoughRider with two “L’s” in your last name
Derek Holland followed up his eight-innings of shutout ball in his Double-A Frisco debut with six innings of one-run ball Monday while picking up his second victory with the RoughRiders.
Holland’s one run allowed was earned as he surrendered just three hits and a walk and struck out seven. His ERA skyrocketed from 0.00 to 0.64 with just one run allowed in 14 Double-A innings.
On offense, Jose Vallejo went 3-for-3 with three singles and two runs scored.
Most importantly for the Rangers’ immediate future, Hank Blalock went 2-for-4 with two runs and completed the first of three rehab assignment games as he reconverts to first base before returning to the Rangers.
Former Kansas Jayhawks Kyle Murphy and Erik Morrison also had productive nights for their respective clubs.
Morrison went 1-for-4 with his second home run in 19 games with High-A Bakersfield. Morrison, who played the left side of the infield his entire Kansas career has made a position switch with the Blaze in his first professional season, moving to right field.
Murphy went 2-for-4 for Clinton with a run scored and was the one who drove Smoak home in the second inning. Murphy is in his first full professional season after being drafted out of Kansas in 2007.
Doug Mathis was reinstated from the disabled list today and optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma.
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.
With the signings of Clark Murphy and Matt Thompson earlier in the week, the Rangers have agreed to terms with all but three of their top 10 picks.
Murphy, a left-handed throwing and hitting outfielder from Fallbrook (Calif.) High School, was selected in the fifth round. Thompson, a local product who pitched at Grace Prep Academy in Arlington, Texas, was a seventh round selection.
With three weeks left until the August 15 deadline to sign draft picks, the Rangers are in good shape. First round pick Justin Smoak, second round pick Robbie Ross and 10th round pick Kevin Castner are the only players Texas has yet to sign of its first 18 selections.
Smoak, a well-rounded first baseman out of South Carolina who switch-hits and throws left-handed, still has another year of eligibility for the Gamecocks. Ross, a left-handed pitcher out of Lexington (Ky.) Christian High School, has committed to play college ball at the University of Kentucky. Castner, a right-handed pitcher out of Cal-Poly, has two more years of eligibility for the Mustangs.
After those three, Texas has 15 more unsigned draft picks, ranging from rounds 19 to 50, as of Friday. Other than Harold Martinez, a highly-touted shortstop coming into the season picked in the 19th round out of Braddock (Fla.) High School and committed to Miami, all of those unsigned players were drafted in the 27th round or later.
Of Texas’ signees, some are already progressing well on the farm. Tanner Roark, Tyler Tufts and Erik Morrison, picked in the 25th, 32nd and 46th rounds, respectively, are already up to High-A Bakersfield.
In two appearances, one start, Roark is 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA and eight strikeouts in seven innings. Tufts has pitched two innings of relief, having allowed one unearned run on three hits while striking out one. Morrison, who played shortstop in high school and his junior and senior seasons at the University of Kansas, has reached Bakersfield as a second baseman.
Duran’s season in jeopardy
According to numerous sources, including the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (http://www.star-telegram.com/284/story/786011.html), infielder German Duran has been placed on the disabled list and will miss 6-8 weeks after undergoing ligament-replacement surgery in his left thumb.
Duran had been playing at Triple-A Oklahoma after being sent down when Vicente Padilla was activated from the disabled list. Oklahoma’s season will likely be over by the time Duran is healthy, so his only hope of playing again this season would be to join the Rangers in September when the rosters expand.
All eyes on Frisco
Texas was especially interested in a pair of pitching lines Friday night at Double-A Frisco.
Former first round pick Thomas Diamond, who’s recovering from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery and pitching with a bone spur in his ankle, earned his third victory of the season Friday. He allowed one run on three hits and four walks in five innings while striking out four.
Joaquin Benoit, in Frisco as he rehabs his inflamed right shoulder, entered in the seventh, but didn’t retire a batter. He faced five batters and allowed three hits, two walks and two runs.