Four To Go, Weickel’s On a Roll, Batting Practice Rituals

The TinCaps get set to close out the first half, opening a four-game series tonight at Fifth Third Ballpark, the home of the West Michigan Whitecaps.

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In short, the team has already qualified for the playoffs, and now has its eye on the Eastern Division title. Fort Wayne trails South Bend by 1.5 games, and while the TinCaps have four games left (they’ve got a doubleheader tomorrow), South Bend only has three games left in the first half. So they’ve got that going for them, which is nice.

Last night’s win was a 4-1 victory over the Lake County Captains, and it was powered by Walker Weickel, who picked up his first home win of the season.

He described the victory as “one of a kind,” and was definitely happy to earn his second straight win. Considering he went five scoreless innings, didn’t walk anyone and struck out a career-high five batters, it’s easy to say that it was the best win of his young career.

Jose Valentin even heaped praise on Weickel, saying to keep an eye on the righthander during the second half of the season.

“His numbers kind of look bad, but if you look when he pitches, he’s always going to give you five or six innings, keep the game close,” TinCaps manager Jose Valentin told The Journal Gazette. “It’s been tough, but you know, the way he finished the first half, he could be our best pitcher in the second half.”

With Justin Hancock and Joe Ross in the rotation, those are pretty lofty expectations. To hear what Weickel has to say in response to that, listen to the podcast below.

TINCAPS REPORT PODCAST

To hear my pre-game chat with Walker Weickel, listen to today’s TinCaps Report Podcast:

NOT AS SIMPLE AS IT SEEMS

There’s a fun story from Barry Svrluga of The Washington Post on the ritual of batting practice. While from the stands it may look like a very mundane routine, there’s really a lot that goes into it all:

Jim Lett, the team’s bullpen coach, stands on the third base side of the cage, hitting grounders across the diamond to first. Nilson Robledo, one of the team’s bullpen catchers and batting practice pitchers, smacks fungoes from the first base side of the cage to Ryan Zimmerman and Tracy, his backup, at third. “There’s an art to it,” said bench coach Randy Knorr, who gets his turn hitting grounders to the next group. “And I’m probably the worst of the group.”

It is at this intersection – the pitcher throwing pitches, the coaches banging out grounders, outfielders and pitchers shagging fly balls – when batting practice dissolves into its percussive beat. The coaches wait to swing their fungoes until the split second after the hitter in the cage makes contact, just to allow the fielders a chance to protect themselves.

And the fielders, they’ve got issues with which to deal, too, particularly when the team arrives for the first game of a road series. “If the grass is long, or if the dirt goes deeper than most,” Desmond said, “just as far as picking out how I’ll position myself, I need to know all that.”

And although batting practice may seem like the first part of the “work day” for players, it’s really, at least at the minor league level, about an hour or two into their sometimes tightly-scheduled afternoon. This year, hitting coach Morgan Burkhart and Manager Jose Valentin have put in a lot of time in the 2:00-3:30 window with guys, doing baserunning, infield and front-toss exercises at the batting cage.

MUSICAL GUEST

OneRepublic…take it away!

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

MCsig

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