Cedar Rapids Sweep, Keeping Talent Fresh, Who’s the Best?

Veterans Memorial Stadium was the place to be in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Friday night, if you’re a Fort Wayne TinCaps fan, that is. Cascade, Iowa, native Colin Rea started and got the win for Fort Wayne in front of “a few hundred” friends and family, as his mom told me after the game. The TinCaps completed a three-game sweep of the Cedar Rapids Kernels with a 6-3 victory.

Colin Rea signs autographs after the win Friday night in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Cascade is just about an hour away from Cedar Rapids, so Friday presented a great opportunity for the Colin Rea fan club to come and see their hometown star. Travis Whitmore, who drove in a run, hails from Burlington, Iowa, and said he had about 50 people on hand last night, too.

The win marked the fourth win in a row for the TinCaps, which ties them for their longest winning streak of the season. It was also the first time Fort Wayne swept an opponent this season, and the first time that has happened since August of last year, when Fort Wayne swept Lansing on the road.

I went on Talkin’ Sports with Jim Shovlin this morning on 1380 ESPN and 106.7 The Fan to talk about the team, and he asked me what I thought was helping the team play so much better in the second half, compared to the first half. I’ll point to a few things:

1. Hitting: In the first half, Fort Wayne hit .234, the worst team average in the league. In 27 second half games, they’re hitting .256.

2. Bullpen: At the All-Star break, which the team entered on a season-worst five-game losing streak, the bullpen ERA was 4.53. After this most recent three-game series in which the bullpen didn’t allow an earned run, the ERA is now down to 3.75.

3. Awakenings: Kyle Gaedele and Duanel Jones have played much better baseball in the second half. In the first half of the season, Gaedele hit .200 in the first half and is now hitting .333 in the second half, raising his overall average 38 points. Jones was a .214 hitter in the first half and is up to .266 here in the second half. A few slots in the offense, with Jones usually hitting fifth and Gaedele ninth, that can make a big impact.

Tonight Fort Wayne opens a three-game series against the Quad Cities River Bandits, the league’s St. Louis Cardinals affialite. Quad Cities, like Cedar Rapids, has a long tradition of baseball, which leads me to my favorite former team name for a Quad Cities club, the Knickerbockers. Here’s a link to their roster, which featured a ballplayer by the name of Davey Crockett (no, not the King of the Wild Frontier). This was back in 1906, so there were some great old-timey baseball names like Roxey Walters. I am a big fan of old-timey baseball names.

But back to news you can use–Quad Cities is 15-12 in the second half and just took two of three against Lake County. Fort Wayne will have to activate Ruben Mejia from the disabled list to make tonight’s start, which will be his first since July 9th.

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, I chat with the newest member of the Double-A San Antonio Missions, Adys Portillo, about his promotion to the Texas League:

In case you’d like a little more info on Portillo, click here to see his segment on this past week’s edition of Sound Off with the TinCaps.

APROPOS OF NOTHING

Here is a picture of a fairy cleaning the bases with an oversized toothbrush in Cedar Rapids:

Courtesy of the TinCaps Amateur Photography Department

I like to think she just does it for fun, but I’m told it’s part of a promotion.

KEEPING YOUNG TALENT FRESH

Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated brings a timely piece to the table, as he takes a look at how organizations around baseball are handling their young, superstar pitchers.

Fort Wayne starters are limited to between 120-130 innings, per Padres Director of Player Development Randy Smith. Here’s an example from within the farm system of how the Padres take those innings limits very seriously:

One of the more telling examples of this proactive approach occurred recently with Padres prospect Donn Roach, a 22-year-old righthander in Double A. Immediately after Roach was named Texas League Pitcher of the Week, and with a 1.88 ERA over 105 1/3 innings this year and with his arm feeling great, the Padres told him he was done for the year. They shut him down for precautionary reasons.

Why? Roach threw 70 1/3 innings last year as a reliever in the Angels’ system. Roach, a third-round pick, was one of nine players drafted in 2010 from the College of Southern Nevada. (You may have heard of one of them: Bryce Harper.) Los Angeles converted Roach to a starter this year, then traded him and infielder Alexi Amarista to the Padres on May 3 to get reliever Ernesto Frieri. Though the trade was quickly portrayed as a heist by the Angels — Frieri did not allow a run until after the All-Star break — San Diego turned a setup reliever into a starting second baseman with an .804 OPS and a got a potential major league starting pitcher who went 11-2 with a 1.025 WHIP this year to go along with that 1.88 ERA.

Roach threw in only 18 games this year, 16 of them starts. But with Roach already piling up a 35-inning jump at age 22, San Diego saw no sense in pushing him further.

Remember, too, that no team has watched more pitchers go down this year than the Padres. Robbie Erlin, 21 (elbow), Juan Oramas, 22 (Tommy John surgery), Joe Wieland, 22 (Tommy John surgery), Casey Kelly, 22 (elbow), Anthony Bass, 24 (shoulder inflammation), Andrew Cashner, 25 (shoulder strain), Cory Luebke, 27 (Tommy John surgery) and Tim Stauffer, 30 (elbow strain) all have been sidelined because of arm injuries.”

The minor leagues exist for a reason–to develop future major league talent. Although the majority of the injuries for the Padres have occurred at the major league level, as evidenced with the long list above, those things can happen over time. By shutting players down early, the Padres are protecting an investment not only now, but for the future, too.

MIRROR, MIRROR

With the start of the Olympic games right around the corner, TIME sought out to find which type of Olympic athlete might be the most fit. Well, as it turns out, there’s not one exact answer to the question:

“Are the Kenyans and Ethiopians the fittest people in the world? Or is it the tall, toned rowers ripping through the water toward the finish line? The wiry triathletes can certainly compete for the title, not to mention those relatively small — compared with rowers — leg-and-lung machines known as cyclists. Last year’s Tour de France winner, Cadel Evans, weighs 141 lb. (64 kg), perhaps the perfect weight for pedaling up an Alp.

All the athletes who qualify for the U.S. Olympic team are fit. Boxers, taekwondoers, wrestlers, gymnasts, swimmers, sprinters, cyclists, fencers, archers and trampolinists do not get a ticket to London because they’re just in pretty good shape. And the winner of the decathlon claims the honorary title of “world’s greatest athlete.” But fitness at the Olympic level takes on a different meaning. “Everybody’s looking for an edge, and the edge comes from making sure you are competing at all aspects of performance: biomechanics, the mental, nutritional aspects,” says Chris Carmichael, who has trained dozens of Olympians, including George Hincapie and Ed Moses. “At the Olympic level, they are looking at performance vs. just being fit.” The fittest athletes don’t always get the medals. But they will always have a critical advantage.”

Olympians can come in all shapes and sizes, but no matter how big or how small, all of them work hard:

“Reaching Olympian fitness requires a training regimen that’s not available to part-time athletes. Want to row on the U.S. women’s team? Better be ready to stick an oar in the water at 7 a.m. for two hours on a daily 10,000-m to 12,000-m endurance row. Then you can have breakfast. At 11 a.m. there’s an hour of weight lifting. Then more food and rest. At 5 p.m. you’re back in the boat for a two-hour, 8,000-m row, working on technique and power. You will need to consume 5,000 calories a day. You will sleep well. At the USOC’s Chula Vista, Calif., training center, Lofgren, 27, says track athletes — no slouches themselves — were teasing the rowers over their insane workouts. “They were telling us that we chose the wrong sport,” she says.

That’s definitely not true of Lofgren. Genes matter. They determine ultimately how fast or strong you can be. Everyone is born with a mix of fast-twitch, slow-twitch and intermediate-twitch muscles. If you don’t have the right combination of fast-twitch and intermediate-twitch muscles in your legs, you won’t ever be fit enough to be a sprinter. Slow-twitch muscles can’t be trained to become fast-twitch muscles, although the converse is true. Lofgren’s parents were both elite rowers, meaning she was more likely to have more of the slow-twitch muscles conducive to rowing.”

On second thought, my hotel bed has never seemed more inviting. And when’s the continental breakfast?

MUSICAL GUEST

I do this just for the solo: Lynyrd Skynyrd…take it away!

If you’d like to get in touch, you can reach me at Couzens@TinCaps.com or on Twitter @MikeCouzens.

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