It’s game two of a seven-day homestand for the TinCaps, and Joe Ross takes the hill today against lefty John Pedrotty for South Bend. Also, it’s just one day away from Video Game Night tomorrow at Parkview Field. As someone who spent far too much time as an elementary school student playing Game Boy rather than learning long division, this is a very exciting time.
The 18-year-old Ross is coming off of his best outing of the season. Last time out he threw six innings against West Michigan, striking out seven, walking one and allowing two earned runs. He didn’t get the win as the game went to 12 innings, but did get help from fellow Californian Austin Hedges, whose 12th inning sac fly lifted the team to victory.
Padres Farm Director Randy Smith is in town this week to have a look at some of the system’s top prospects, so keep an eye on the blog, or become an e-mail subscriber and have your daily dispatch delivered to your inbox each day, for Smith’s thoughts on players like Ross and Hedges.
The team has returned home after a seven-day road trip through Michigan and Ohio, and I’ve got to say–it is much easier to fit all of your clothes into the suitcase on the way there than on the way back. Thank goodness for the expandable zipper on my suitcase.
The TinCaps looked stellar over the time they were gone from Parkview Field, and upon returning home looked good in a 5-2 win over the South Bend Silver Hawks. TinCaps President Mike Nutter points out just how much baseball has been played over the last few days:
In the last 20 hours @TinCaps played 3 games w/ a total of 31 I.P. & only gave up 6 earned runs. 2 wins as well. TinCaps home thruogh 5/15—
Mike Nutter (@minorleaguenutt) May 09, 2012
The pitching has been really good lately, especially the starting pitching. Adys Portillo threw seven scoreless innings on Wednesday, and held the Silver Hawks hitless through the first two innings. Over his last two starts, Portillo has worked 14 innings, allowed three hits, no runs, walked three and struck out 12. His 38 strikeouts on the season are a team high, and tie him for third most in the Midwest League. His season ERA fell from 1.72 to 1.41 on Wednesday.
On top of that, Travis Whitmore knocked in two runs in Wednesday’s win, and it was his first two-hit game since before the road trip began. You’d have to go back to April 29th against Peoria to find his last multi-hit game. It was also the last time he had batted in a run.
The TinCaps have won five of six and look like they’re really hitting their stride.
A MASSIVE UNDERTAKING
A husband and wife, Matt and Carolyn Lawell, are traveling the country attempting to see every minor league ballpark in just one season. It may sound crazy, but they seem to be having a blast doing it:
“Five months, 119 cities, 26,000 miles around this incredible country. We want to talk with players and coaches, team owners and the folks they pay to work behind the concessions counter, fans. We always want to talk with fans. We want to find the local spots that make our cities great. We want to tell one chapter of the story of America.”
The couple has a journalism background, and it definitely shows in their writing:
“We drove through places like Andrews, Texas, where oil pumps bobbed as the sun rose. Places like Encino, New Mexico, where cafes, motels and houses have been abandoned and boarded up. Places like Hatch, New Mexico, where the Yellow Pages read: Chile Willie’s, Hot Damm Chile, Sparky’s World Famous, Pepper Pot. All the while, signs on the sides of the roads have read “Dust Storm No Visibility Possible,” “Gusty Winds May Exist” and “No Gas For 19 Miles”.
The most vivid memories, though, are the colors. The greens turned to tans turned to clay reds. And the blue, well, there’s a reason they call it sky blue.
I’m looking forward to their visit to Fort Wayne.
I couldn’t believe myself when I was out to lunch on Tuesday afternoon in Dayton, and this happened to appear upon the receipt of a friend of mine:
It was just yesterday that I had written about the overuse of exclamation points these days, and then this falls into my lap. I asked the waitress why there were three exclamation points, and she didn’t have an answer, other than to say that some of their drinks have the entire line of the receipt filled with them. So I gave her a raised eyebrow
and went on with my day.
Dire Straits…take it away!
There wasn’t a single pitch thrown on Monday night in Dayton, Ohio, as the TinCaps and Dragons were postponed by rain. The tarp went on the field at about 6:30, and the game was officially made into a doubleheader just shy of 9:00 PM.
Today it’ll be lefty Frank Garces in game one and righty Justin Hancock in game two. Hancock will be making his second start of the year, after he filled in for Matt Wisler last month on the 19th against Kane County.
The TinCaps are on a three-game winning streak, their longest of the year, and will look to make it five in a row tonight. I hope you can join on the radio, starting with pre-game coverage starting at 5:45 and first pitch at 6:00.
In today’s TinCaps Report listen to Fort Wayne native and Homestead High School graduate Ryan Wright talk about his baseball influences, getting to play at Parkview Field, and his ties to the Komets:
After Sunday’s matinee victory for the TinCaps, the team has now put together four straight dominating pitching performances. Starting with Adys Portillo’s outing on Thursday night, and continuing on with Joe Ross, Matt Wisler and Cody Hebner, the last four outings have yielded the following:
-25 innings pitched
-3 earned runs
That’s pretty darn good, and it’s no surprise that Fort Wayne is in the midst of the first three game winning streak of the year. Not to be overlooked, either, was the performance that the TinCaps had at the plate on Sunday. They beat the Dragons 11-1, Casey McElroy went deep twice, and Mike Gallic hit his first home run of the year. Kyung-Min Na had two triples in his first two at bats, and the TinCaps sent Dayton to loss number seven in a row. Pretty good Sunday, huh?
Frank Garces takes the hill tonight at 7 against Dan Jensen, who is making a spot start for Dayton after their ace, Justice French (Top-10 best names in MWL?), was promoted to Advanced-A Bakersfield of the California League.
Pregame coverage gets underway at 6:45 on 1380 ESPN in Fort Wayne and ESPNFortWayne.com. I hope you can join.
In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, hear my chat with Casey McElroy, who after hitting two home runs yesterday, leads the team in longballs and RBI:
FLYING TOO MUCH?
Ever seen Up In The Air? I think that’s a fantastic movie for two reasons: 1) It’s entertaining and tells a good story. 2) What guy doesn’t want to be George Clooney?
In the movie, Clooney is a traveling businessman who flies all over the country for work and gets rewarded when he reaches the 10 million miles mark. Big deal, right? Not for a few folks in real life who have far surpassed that.
“We thought originally it would be something that firms would buy for top employees,” said Bob Crandall, American’s chairman and chief executive from 1985 to 1998. “It soon became apparent that the public was smarter than we were.”
The unlimited passes were bought mostly by wealthy individuals, including baseball Hall-of-Famer Willie Mays, America’s Cup skipper Dennis Conner and computer magnate Michael Dell.
Mike Joyce of Chicago bought his in 1994 after winning a $4.25-million settlement after a car accident.
In one 25-day span this year, Joyce flew round trip to London 16 times, flights that would retail for more than $125,000. He didn’t pay a dime.
“I love Rome, I love Sydney, I love Athens,” Joyce said by phone from the Admirals Club at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. “I love Vegas and Frisco.”
And I love that quote. I laughed the first time I read that, sitting outside the team hotel here in Dayton last night, waiting to head to dinner. If you had the opportunity to fly like that, wouldn’t you?
Well, the gist of the story is that now American is involved in lawsuits with some people who bought AAirpasses, there’s potential fraud and it’s gotten costly and ugly. Interesting concept, probably not a good ending, though.
HARPER STEALS HOME
In Sunday’s Nationals-Phillies game at Citizen–, uh, I mean Nationals Park, Bryce Harper decided that a pickoff throw to first base would be an excellent time to attempt a steal of home plate. He was right:
Very impressive. Cole Hamels, who made the pickoff throw to first base, had plunked Harper, allowing him to reach in the first place. Hamels later admitted after the game that he hit Harper on purpose, saying, “I was trying to hit him. I mean, I’m not going to deny it. It’s something that I grew up watching. I’m just trying to continue old baseball, because I think some people get away from it. I remember when I was a rookie, the strike zone was really, really small and you didn’t say anything, because that’s the way baseball is … It’s just welcome to the big leagues.”
The Phils got the last laugh as they went on to a victory.
Golden Earring…Take it away!
The TinCaps picked up their first shutout victory of the season with a 3-0 win over the Dayton Dragons on Saturday evening at Fifth Third Field in Dayton. Matt Wisler threw one of the best outings of his professional career, going six innings, allowing two hits, no runs, walking two and striking out four as he earned his first win.
The Fort Wayne offense was aided significantly by three Dayton errors. The first two runs of the game scored without an RBI being attributed to a TinCaps batter. The third, however, was a home run by Casey McElroy, his first of the year, over the wall in right field. Dayton starter Tanner Robles left a 3-2 fastball over the inside part of the plate, and McElroy gave one of the 8,733 fans in attendance a nice Saturday souveneir.
With how well this team’s been playing lately, the pitching deserves a lot of credit, especially the starters, and Padres farm director Randy Smith has taken notice:
FTW Young Guns in their last 3 starts by Portillo, Ross, Wisler went 19 IP, 11 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 W, 17 K - ERA of 1.06. Hebner up today—
Randy Smith (@ResPadres) May 06, 2012
In somewhat related news, I used to work for the Dayton Dragons, and got a hilarious welcome back treatment before Sunday’s game:
Yes, that is in fact a dancing bobblehead of yours truly. Well done, Dragon friends. Well done.
In today’s TinCaps report, hear my conversation with Manager Jose Valentin, as he discusses his team’s recent success, and talks about some of the new faces added to the roster in the last week:
MILES TO THE MAJORS
Remember Miles Mikolas, a TinCaps reliever in 2010? He made his major league debut last night, throwing one inning in a 4-1 Padres loss against the Miami Marlins.
When Mikolas was with Fort Wayne two years ago, he appeared in 60 games, all in relief, in 2010 and worked to a 6-13 record with 13 saves and a 2.20 ERA. In 81 2/3 innings, he struck out 78 and walked 15.
He becomes the 109th former Fort Wayne player to make the big leagues.
SUMMER OF GEORGE
British publication The Guardian had an interesting piece the other day about Seinfeld, and why no show has been able to replicate the success that it first had in the mid 90′s.
”It proved that shows don’t have to dumb down. What’s wonderful and inspiring about it is that it’s incredibly popular and also very smart.”
How many shows, especially ones that ended in 1998, are still so widely quoted every day? How many shows have situations that we can all relate to in our every day lives? We all know a close-talker or a double-dipper, right?
I think of Arrested Development, which was sadly canceled by FOX after three seasons, in a similar vein. That show might’ve been too smart, though.
Bruce…take it away!
WELCOME TO THE GEM CITY
Always remember this when you’re going to watch a minor league baseball game: just because the guys out there on the field might one day be in the big leagues, doesn’t mean that they live a lush lifestyle in the present moment. After playing 23 innings in two days, including 12 last night, the TinCaps hopped on the bus and rode about five hours down to Dayton, for a 4AM arrival at the team hotel. Tonight they’ve got to open a four-game series against the Dayton Dragons. Now they’ve got to go out on an irregular sleep schedule and perform their best. No flights here, folks.
The TinCaps got a huge boost last night from the pitching staff, as Joe Ross went six innings, struck out seven and allowed just two runs, helping to keep it close. Fort Wayne scored two runs in the eighth inning, courtesy of a throwing error by West Michigan’s Warwick Saupold, and won the game with a sacrifice fly from Austin Hedges in the 12th.
Behind Ross, the TinCaps got two scoreless innings of relief from Justin Hancock, three perfect innings from Matt Stites, and a scoreless 12th from Robert Eisenbach, who picked up his first save. Stites has been phenomenal in his first nine outings, surrendering just three hits, no walks, and striking out 15.
Here’s something not everyone gets to see at Fifth Third Field:
This is down in the clubhouse level, and on both sides of the wall, each team’s logo is painted.
The Dragons have lost five in a row, including their last three against the Lake County Captains. Of intrigue tonight is that Major League rehabber Miguel Cairo is in the lineup batting eight for the Dragons . Because of Dayton’s proximity (one hour) to its parent club (Cincinnati) there have been some pretty big names to have rehabbed at Fifth Third Field, including: Joey Votto, Homer Bailey, Edinson Volquez and Jose Rijo.
In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, you can listen to my conversation with TinCaps first baseman Clark Murphy, as he talks about how his life changed in a big way last year. His brother was involved in a car accident that nearly killed him, and Clark stepped away from the game to be back home, where he was needed most.
TOUGHEST JOB IN TOWN
If you haven’t heard, future Hall of Famer and New York Yankee Mariano Rivera tore his ACL while shagging fly balls a few days ago.
After holding down that closer’s role for New York for nearly 17 years (his entire NYY career), he now will watch from the sidelines. So while many wonder what will become of Rivera, others ask, “Who will replace him?”
In June 2006, Robertson was a sophomore pitching for the University of Alabama when he gave up a game-ending, season-ending, heart-wrenching home run to North Carolina first baseman Chad Flack.
“It was like somebody had shot us in the heart,” his mother, Brenda, said in a telephone interview Friday. “Honestly, it just seemed like people avoided us afterward. We knew everyone, but that’s how emotional it was.”
Since arriving in the Bronx in late June 2008, Robertson has given the Yankees reason to believe in his ability, particularly his gift for getting out of potential trouble. Some Web sites have gone so far as to rank Robertson’s greatest escapes, and most agree that he established his fortitude in the 2009 postseason, when he wriggled his way out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in Game 2 of the division series against the Minnesota Twins. The Yankees swept the series on their way to the World Series title.”
That’s a good little read by Sam Borden of The New York Times, as he details the fact that Robertson will need to overcome significant pressure, and criticism in order to succeed in the Bronx.
The Killers…take it away!
The TinCaps lost 2-1 on an 11th inning walk-off home run from off the bat of Aaron Westlake on Thursday night. Fort Wayne is now down 0-2 in the series, and will try and avoid the series sweep here tonight at West Michigan. First pitch is scheduled for 6:35.
MiLB.com had a good write up on the game, and it has quotes from TinCaps pitching coach Willie Blair, as he talks about the fantastic performance from starter Adys Portillo:
“He had great rhythm and tempo, which is one of the things he’s really been working on,” Fort Wayne pitching coach Willie Blair said. “His command tonight was excellent. He was able to throw his fastball, breaking ball and changeup for strikes. He mixed his pitches well and he just really had a great all-around game.”
“Even though he gave up a couple hits early, it wasn’t like they were on him,” Blair said. “You’re going to give up hits if you’re around the plate, and he was around the plate all night. He did get stronger and more confident as the game went on. His stuff was really dominant.”
Portillo tossed a career high seven innings and surrendered just two hits, one walk, and struck out six.
In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, I chat with TinCaps OF Mike Gallic:
ON TO THE NEXT ONE
The Wednesday series opener for the TinCaps didn’t go quite as they’d have liked, as West Michigan picked up an 8-4 victory. Frank Garces had a rocky fourth inning, where five runners crossed home plate, and heading to the fifth it was a 6-1 Whitecaps lead.
From today’s game notes:
-When Fort Wayne has scored four runs or fewer this year, the team’s record is 1-13. In the 10 TinCaps wins this year, the team has scored an average of 7.2 runs per game. In their 16 losses, they’ve put up an average of 2.7 runs per game.
-Fort Wayne starter Adys Portillo ranks fourth among starters with opponents hitting just .179 (15-84) against him. However, control has plagued the Venezuelan, as he’s surrendered at least two walks in each starts, an is tied for the third most walks surrendered in the league (14).
First pitch tonight is once again at 6:35, with pregame coverage embarking at 6:20. I’ll check in with 2011, and now 2012, TinCaps outfielder Mike Gallic. He provides good insight on the expansive outfield here at Fifth Third Ballpark, and I think you’ll enjoy hearing what he has to say.
In today’s TinCaps Podcast Report, you can hear my full conversation with TinCaps hitting coach Jacque Jones, as he talks about some of the new hitters on the team, and what he thinks this club needs to do to get better:
Greetings from Fifth Third Ballpark, home of the West Michigan Whitecaps. Today, here in Comstock Park, Michigan, the TinCaps open a three-game series following their off-day on Tuesday.
The Whitecaps are 12-13 and sit two games ahead of the TinCaps in the Eastern Division standings. Like Fort Wayne, West Michigan has won five of its last ten ballgames. Beware that they do feature one of the league’s top hitters in Eugenio Suarez, who’s swinging the stick to the tune of a .333 average. Tonight’s starter for the Whitecaps, Wilsen Palacios, is 0-2 with a 4.43 ERA. His last two starts have resulted in his two losses.
The TinCaps have a few new faces in town as the last few days have brought some roster moves. Here’s a quick summary of what’s changed:
April 29: Outfielder Donavan Tate went on the DL with a strained hamstring.
April 30: Outfielder Mike Gallic was put on the Fort Wayne roster out of extended spring training. Infielder Clark Murphy was put on the Fort Wayne roster from extended spring training, and infielder Zach Kometani was sent to extended spring training.
May 1: The TinCaps received outfielder Kyung-Min Na from extended spring training, and outfielder Alberth Martinez was sent to extended spring training.
Gallic was with the TinCaps at the tail end of 2011, but Murphy was signed two weeks ago after being released by the Rangers, and Na was picked up in a trade this offseason with the Cubs, which involved former TinCaps pitcher Zach Cates.
Tonight it’s a 6:35 first pitch in Michigan. Here are a few shots from around the park:
I’ll talk to you at 6:15 on 1380 ESPN in Fort Wayne and ESPNFortWayne.com…around the world!
IF IT WORKS…
As we come across more and more ways to analyze performance in sports, it seems as though more and more methods of training seem to pop up across the board. There are a few prospects now throughout the minors who have taken training into their own hands, and it seems to be working:
“Minor leaguers Dylan Bundy of the Delmarva Shorebirds (an affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles), Trevor Bauer of the Mobile Bay Bears (Arizona Diamondbacks) and Matt Barnes of the Greenville Drive (Boston Red Sox) have had a similar approach to training. Several times a week, and even sometimes on days when they’re pitching, they take a few minutes to play catch with someone who is standing unusually far away from them.”
They’re doing what’s known as long toss, and not everyone believes it to be the best method for improving arm strength. The counter argument to that, however, is results:
“The poster children for long toss are the aforementioned trio of Bauer, Bundy and Barnes. So far, they’ve combined for 100 strikeouts and an earned-run average of 0.66 in their first 68 1/3 innings. Bundy, who was clocked at 100 miles per hour as a high-school senior in Oklahoma and who was selected by the Orioles with the fourth pick last June, hadn’t surrendered a hit through 13 innings heading into Monday night’s start. His high-school coach, Larry Turner, said that in addition to long-tossing more than 300 feet, Bundy used to build arm strength by digging and refilling post-holes and flipping over tractor tires.”
I call that just a regular Tuesday, really.
When Bauer was drafted, some teams were skeptical of his self-imposed training program, but he’s turned in good results for the Diamondbacks so far.
FROM FORT WAYNE TO THE CUP FINAL
One of my favorite journalists out there is Sports Illustrated media critic Richard Deitsch. He’s fair in his critiques and gives praise where it is due. Where it is very due is with Mike Emrick, who Deitsch calls “the announcer most associated with hockey in America.”
Emrick is from the Hoosier State, and his love of hockey started with a team that’s doing pretty darn well right now:
“The son of a high school principal and guidance counselor, Emrick grew up in a La Fontaine, Ind. (pronounced La Fountain and not like Hockey Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine). He initially fell hard for baseball, but his life changed on Dec. 10, 1960 when his parents took him and his older brother Dan (a retired junior high school teacher and coach) to an IHL game between the hometown Fort Wayne Komets and the visiting Muskegon Zephyrs.
‘”It was love at first sight,” said Emrick, who was 14 at the time. “I had seen hockey in black and white on our grainy television. We were a long way from Indianapolis and by the time the signal got to us, it was pretty snowy. You could see the Pistons in Detroit or basketball at any high school gym, but there were only two places in Indiana that had hockey: Indianapolis and Fort Wayne.”’
There are few people in any profession quite as well respected as Emrick. He’s worked for NBC, CBS, Fox and Versus in a career spanning five-decades. Truly impressive.
I listened to this on the bus today, and thought you might enjoy it, too. John Mayer…take it away!
TAKIN’ CARE OF BUSINESS
That was the view that construction workers had for Monday morning’s game at Parkview Field. Not bad, I’ll say.
The TinCaps won 8-4, behind seven first inning runs as they sent 11 men to the plate and hit for the cycle as a team. Austin Hedges hit a home run, Jace Peterson hit a three-run triple, and Cody Hebner picked up his third win of the year tossing a career-high five and two thirds innings. Listen to the highlights and hear post-game comments from Hebner and second baseman Casey McElroy in today’s TinCaps Report Podcast:
Imagine having to choose between trying to play basketball or baseball as a pro. For those of us who celebrate over just touching the rim while playing basketball, this choice seems like it would never be in the realm of possibility. However, for Amir Garrett, a St. John’s University student, it’s his reality:
“The Cincinnati Reds drafted him out of high school based on a left arm they believe is full of potential.
The Reds were undeterred that the 6-foot-6 Garrett had committed to play basketball and baseball at St. John’s. They signed him to a $1 million contract, agreed to let him play forward for the Red Storm this winter and asked him to be ready to report to their player development complex in Goodyear, Ariz., once the academic year ended.
Now a month away from doing just that, Garrett is in a springtime no man’s land. The basketball season is over. N.C.A.A. rules prohibit him from playing baseball for the Red Storm. Classes remain. Eligibility pitfalls abound. And a question lingers.
“Everybody asks me which sport I like more,” Garrett said. “I can’t really pick between the two right now. They’re both the same. I love them both.”’
It’s quite a story, and it’s not without precedent either. The most recent example is Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker:
“It has not been uncommon for football players to play baseball, too, even signing contracts with professional teams while finishing out their college football careers. Washington’s Jake Locker, Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson and Michigan’s Drew Henson, all quarterbacks, and the Heisman Trophy-winning running back Ricky Williams are notable examples.”
Although Garrett will report to the Reds complex in Arizona, it doesn’t sound like a stretch that he could make his way to Dayton and play for the Dragons this season. The TinCaps have plenty of games left against their Eastern Division rivals, and that’d be one opposing pitcher you wouldn’t want to miss at Parkview Field.
LOTS OF HATS
I found this cool picture yesterday courtesy of Ben Hill, the business blogger for MiLB.com. Can you find the TinCaps hat in there? If you need a hint and are a minor league baseball junkie, you’ll easily identify it when I tell you that it’s located in between the Fort Myers Miracle hat and the Frederick Keys hat.
Looking at all of the logos for minor league team is pretty fun. On Monday’s TV broadcast, Kent and I were talking about logos, and the Casper Ghosts came up. They’re no longer in Casper (now Grand Junction, CO), but when they were in Wyoming, they had a glow-in-the-dark logo, the only such of it’s kind in Minor League Baseball.
Because…why not, right?
OFF DAY AT THE MALL
While Bryce Harper’s only got a handful of Major League games under his belt, he did have a recent off day with the Nationals while they were back in Washington, D.C. So what did he do with that off day?
He stopped by a pick-up softball game on the National Mall:
Today also happens to be an off-day for the TinCaps. So if you happen to see anyone that looks like they’re way too good and has never been in your Tuesday night softball league before, they may be a Midwest Leaguer enjoying a rare day off.
May has begun. After plenty of cool weather took April into the rear view mirror, I’m hoping those 75 and 80 degree nights are right around the corner.
With that in mind, today’s musical guest is…Rascall Flatts!