Results tagged ‘ Matt Wisler ’

The Avenger, Hambone, News Quiz

Monday night’s game didn’t have the same irregularities of extreme weather like Sunday’s game did, but it still featured a good amount of excitement. Duanel Jones connected on his second home run of the second half, and the TinCaps bullpen stole the show, as Fort Wayne rolled to its third consecutive win, and fourth straight series victory.

Cody Hebner went just three innings, his shortest outing of the year, but Dennis O’Grady had no trouble picking up the slack and he earned the win with three scoreless innings of relief.

A story that I found to be of particular intrigue was the appearance of Matt Stites out of the bullpen. It marked his fourth outing of the second half, and his first save opportunity since a June 4th game at Lake County. On that night, Stites faced MLB rehabber Carlos Santana, who hit a game-tying home run to right field, and the Captains went on to win 4-3 in 13 innings.

Monday night was a chance for Stites to avenge that June evening–and he did just that, earning his first save since June 1st. It was a 1-2-3 ninth for the righty, who’s  one of the best relief pitchers in the Midwest League. He has a 0.73 ERA in 21 games, with 24 2/3 innings of work under his belt. He’s given up only two earned runs, walked two and has struck out 29 batters.

Fort Wayne is now 8-3, alone atop the standings in the Midwest League’s Eastern Division. The TinCaps have either been the only team in first or tied for first for seven straight days. They’ve now secured four straight series victories in a row to open the second half. The last time Fort Wayne won four consecutive series was last August. If the TinCaps can keep this up, they’ll find themselves contenders down the stretch of the second half.

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, hear from Matt Wisler as he tells us what book he’s reading, and how it’s helped him forge his approach on the mound:

HAMBONE

You’ve got to read this story on Josh Hamilton. No, really–you must. It includes anecdotes from his childhood, like this one:

“Eventually Josh had to be moved from shortstop to the outfield because his first baseman so feared catching Josh’s bullet throws that he began ducking out of harm’s way. Whenever Josh pitched, batters backed out of the box before he even began his windup and whenever Josh came to bat, all of the infielders retreated into the outfield, until finally complaints from opposing players’ parents prompted Josh’s promotion to a league of older kids. Josh and Landon played on a team sponsored by Mitchell’s Hair Styling and wore purple jerseys. They won three state championships in a row.

In one of those state tournaments, Josh pitched a total of 24 innings and never allowed a hit. The next season Josh won a Home Run Derby against a bunch of boys nearly twice his size. At that time, Josh was still scrawny, but he was so athletic and coordinated that he could run backward faster than the other kids could run forward.

Powell has never forgotten a conversation he had with Bob Sanderford, the father of one of Josh’s teammates. “Bob was a former college basketball player who knew youth sports really well and knew sports at a high level,” Powell says. “One day after a game when Josh had done something only Josh could do, Bob leaned over to me and he said, ‘That kid’s going to be the first player picked in the major league draft when he’s a senior in high school.'”

Josh was 10.”

ARE YOU UP TO DATE?

If you’ve been keeping up with current events, you’ll do well on this 12-question current events quiz from The New Yorker. If you haven’t been paying attention, well, you’ll score poorly.

Hint: The Supreme Court had a big week.

I got eight questions right.

Good luck.

MUSICAL GUEST

Led Zeppelin…take it away!

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

Triple Shot, Reader Questions, Team in Perspective

It would have been difficult to ask for a better finish to the TinCaps’ game against Lansing on Wednesday afternoon. Trailing 2-1 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Fort Wayne rallied for two runs–an Austin Hedges homer to tie and a Kyle Gaedele RBI single to win–to defeat the Lugnuts 3-2. With the victory, the TinCaps won the series two games to one and secured a 4-2 record on the half-opening home stand. It was the first time Fort Wayne had won a series from Lansing dating back to August of last year.

The bats have come to life in the second half, the pitching has kept the team in games and now they’ll have to do it on the road. Today the TinCaps open a three-game series with the Great Lakes Loons (3-3) at Dow Diamond. The Loons have struggled pitching-wise, and Fort Wayne will certainly look to capitalize on that aspect of the game. The 2012 draft is already starting its trickle-down into the Midwest League, as Duke von Schamann, a 15th round pick by the Dodgers earlier this month, will make his Loons debut against the TinCaps on Friday.

Today it’s a triple-shot of the TinCaps Report Podcast:

Hear from Austin Hedges, who hit the game-tying home run in the ninth:

Hear from Kyle Gaedele who hit the walk-off hit for the TinCaps:

and hear from Tom Felice, who put together a feature presentation on how the TinCaps players relax by hitting the links:

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First Half Finale, Travel Numbers, Programming Notes

It’s the final game of the first half, and the TinCaps and Hot Rods square off at 3:05 CDT here in Bowling Green, Kentucky this afternoon. I’ve been told there may be some rain in the forecast. Upon further examination, that may be accurate. Here’s what the radar looks like at first pitch:

This is the opposite of good.

On an unrelated note, I did a little bit of math last night and found out just how many miles the TinCaps have traveled by bus in the first half (according to Google Maps):

4,587

That, I have determined, is the equivalent of driving from New York to Los Angeles, turning around in an attempt to drive home, and then running out of gas in St. Louis. Well, you don’t have to run out of gas in St. Louis. You might have relatives there, or you might want to catch a Cardinals game. I shouldn’t speak for you in that instance. Either way, that’s a lot of bus miles. I probably should’ve signed up for the frequent rider progra–

What? There is no frequent rider program?

This seems somewhat to moderately off. I could’ve sworn I’d at least get a sweatshirt or travel tote bag for all of the miles. I’ll need to speak with a customer services representative.

In all seriousness, though, today’s game should be a good one as Cody Hebner (6-2, 3.43) takes the hill against Bowling Green’s Roberto Gomez (6-2, 2.79). The TinCaps will try to give Hebner the run support he’s used to, a team best 6.6 runs per start, after having been shut out three of the last four nights. Prior to this week, Fort Wayne hadn’t been shut out at all in the first half. The TinCaps are also in danger of being swept for the first time in the half, and so a win would go a long way in preserving that streak.

With an 0-3 game last night, Travis Whitmore’s 11-game hitting streak came to an end. It stands as the longest hitting streak of the year for Fort Wayne. Donavan Tate and Matt Colantonio each carried streaks of eight straight games with a hit earlier this season. (more…)

Saturday’s Loss, The No No-No Club, The Consequences of Caring

Jose Valentin didn’t struggle to find his thoughts after Saturday night’s loss for Fort Wayne, it’s just that they came with a sense of apparent frustration.

The TinCaps went up 2-0 in the first inning against South Bend in the opener of  a three-game series, but ended up on the losing end of a 9-3 final score. Matt Wisler started the game and threw five innings, allowing one run. He left in line for the victory, the score 2-1 at the time of his departure.

“He deserved to get a win, and we didn’t help him out,” Valentin said. “Our pitching staff has been great all year…They either keep us in the game or give us a chance to score some runs. Our offense (does not) help at all.”

The TinCaps have the league’s second-lowest average, hitting .237 as a club. Valentin has placed a particular emphasis on getting runners home once they’re on base. Saturday night the TinCaps were 0-10 with runners in scoring position. Over the last seven games, the team has gone 6-63 (.095) with runners in scoring position.

“We are the best team in (batting practice). In the cages, unbelievable,” Valentin said. “But when we get to the game, we are a different team. It’s tough.”

The TinCaps are now 28-34, with eight games remaining in the first half. Today they face one of the more talented pitchers the Midwest League has to offer, Archie Bradley. The 19-year-old was selected seventh overall last June by the Diamondbacks. He’s faced the TinCaps twice this year and in 11 innings, he’s given up six hits, four earned runs, walked six and struck out ten. While he’s got maybe the best curveball in the league, he’s proved hittable in his last two starts. Over his last 9 2/3 innings, he’s given up nine earned runs and taken the loss his last two starts. Could today be his third? You can find out by joining us at Parkview Field, listening to the radio broadcast on 1380 ESPN and ESPNFortWayne.com, or watching on TV on XFINITY Digital Cable Channel 81. First pitch is at 3:05.

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Six-Man Rotation, Awesome Proposal, Mosquitoes are Back

For the second time in three days, the TinCaps surrendered a season high in runs. On Saturday, that number was 11. After yesterday’s game, the number is 14. The Hot Rods took a 2-1 series lead with a 14-7 shellacking of the TinCaps.

The game started off well. Ruben Mejia made his first start since September of last year and lasted four innings. Mejia is the newest addition to the TinCaps starting rotation, which now features six pitchers in an effort to cut back on innings for the starters. Director of Player Development Randy Smith said earlier this year that most TinCaps starters were on track to throw between 120-130 innings. As of today, here’s how many each starter (not counting those on the disabled list) has thrown:

Frank Garces: 51.0 in 10 starts

Adys Portillo: 54 2/3 in 10 starts

Colin Rea: 35 2/3 in 4 starts, 12 relief appearances

Matt Wisler: 45 2/3 in 9 starts, 1 relief appearance

Cody Hebner: 46 2/3 in 9 starts

Let’s use Frank Garces as a case study. He’s next scheduled to pitch on Thursday against Great Lakes, and then would theoretically start two more times in the first half. If, and I’m just guessing here, he goes five innings in each of his next three starts, he’ll be at 66 innings for the first half. Extrapolating for another 13 starts in the second half at a theoretical five innings each, and Garces would be at 132 innings—over his limit. These numbers are all theoretical on my end, but it goes to show why the Padres have change to a six-man rotation with Fort Wayne.

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Close to Home, Howard is Back, High Expectations

For the first time all year, TinCaps closer Matt Stites gave up a run. It was bound to happen at some point, but it happened to be at a crucial time in Sunday’s ballgame. Stites came on in relief of Justin Hancock, who had already worked 2 1/3 innings, and surrendered a sac fly followed by a two-run home run by Dean Green that made the difference in a 5-3 Sunday loss.  Stites had gone 13 1/3 innings to begin the year without giving up a run, and he still hasn’t surrendered a walk.

“He’s been doing a great job. The situation can happen to anybody in the game. It’s happened to the best one in the game in Mariano Rivera. You just have to forget about what happened today and continue to get better,” said Manager Jose Valentin.

Stites was frank in his assessment of the home run.

“I was up in the zone the whole time and got burned by one pitch. It was up and away. I missed my spot. I was supposed to go down and away with it. I missed up and he got a lot of it.”

{At the bottom of the post, you can read my story on pitcher Joe Ross, which appears in the current issue of the TinCaps gameday program at Parkview Field}

Today’s a 7:05 first pitch as Adys Portillo throws for Fort Wayne against West Michigan’s Tommy Collier. Both starters have an ERA under 2.00, Portillo at 1.41 and Collier at 1.80, so we should be in for a good pitching matchup in game three of four.

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, hear from Manager Jose Valentin as he gives his thoughts on Stites, the team’s offense, and his impressions on the loss:

CLOSE TO HOME

TinCaps starting pitcher Matt Wisler is from Bryan, Ohio, just about an hour to the east over the state line. About this time last year he was on track to attend Ohio State on a baseball scholarship. Then, in June, the Padres selected him in the seventh round of the draft, and he was off to Arizona to begin his professional career.

WANE-TV weekend sports anchor Joe Whelan has the story of the beginning of Wisler’s pro career, including comments from his father, Bob, and mother, Sue, who were at Parkview Field for Matt’s most recent start:

http://www.wane.com/dpp/sports/ml_baseball/wane-fort-wayne-tincaps-wisler-beginning-career-close-to-home-jwh

Thanks to Bob who joined me for the sixth inning on our telecast that night, as well.

STERN’S GOT TALENT

Howard Stern’s going to be a judge on America’s Got Talent, and The New York Times wrote about that move this weekend, by way of a profile. (Bill Carter writes one heck of a piece.)

“There’s a certain incongruity in the move, as Mr. Stern realizes. “Me going on a family-friendly show?” he asked.  (“America’s Got Talent,” a celebration of acts from singers to clowns to acrobats to much farther afield, definitely fits that description.) “I’m not crazy. I know there’s a huge population out there that thinks I’m going to come on and ruin the show.”

“It would be really pathetic if I was still in the same space as when I was 20 or 30, when I felt threatened by everyone, and there was no room for anyone else on the radio,” he said. “I’ve come to appreciate other people’s talents.”

That would include competitors Mr. Stern once eviscerated. “I’ve actually apologized to some people I was a real jerk to, because I feel ashamed,” he said. “I didn’t need to be that hungry. There was something going on inside me when I was angry and feeling very threatened and not feeling good about myself.”

It took months of negotiations — including an undisclosed salary agreement estimated at $20 million a year and NBC’s commitment to move the show from Los Angeles to New York to accommodate his radio schedule — before Mr. Stern chose to take up what he called “a noble cause”: giving unknowns a chance at a show-business career.

“I’ve been in radio for over 35 years, and to me that’s the biggest competition in the world,” Mr. Stern said, outlining the ferocity of facing off against every kind of format and host in that medium. “And I was a music director early in my career. So I feel like I have credibility, something to offer.”

He has strong opinions, of course, many framed by what he has seen on other competition shows. He favors the unsentimental, honest judges, the ones “where you say, if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be watching,” he said. For Mr. Stern that means the man who defined that persona on “American Idol,” Simon Cowell (who is also the top producer on “America’s Got Talent”), L. A. Reid from “The X Factor” and especially Len Goodman of “Dancing With the Stars.”

This is the kind of commentary Mr. Stern said that viewers should expect, though he added, “I’m not going to be a stereotype of the mean judge. I’m relying on straight talk.” He replaces Piers Morgan, who had a reputation for brutally frank assessments, and is working with the holdovers Howie Mandel and Sharon Osbourne.”

Could he be the next Simon Cowell, except with a huge head of hair and minus the accent? It seems like no matter what Howard does, people will be watching.

MUSICAL GUEST

Counting Crows…take it away!

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

P.S. — If you’d like to read the feature story that I wrote on Joe Ross for the current issue of our gameday magazine at Parkview Field, you can find it below:

From High School To High Expectations

A year ago, Joe Ross wasn’t worried about his ERA or how his last start went. Instead, he was busy dipping strawberries into melted chocolate; it was his way to ask his girlfriend to their high school prom.

“My best friend helped me make between 80 and 100 chocolate covered strawberries. We went through the whole process of melting (the chocolate) and dipping the strawberries and letting them dry. It spelled our p-r-o-m on a big platter,” Ross said.  “I delivered it at school so she could see it, and then she carried around a whole thing of strawberries all day.”

In the year that followed, Ross became a first-round draft pick of the San Diego Padres and is now one of the starting pitchers for the Fort Wayne TinCaps. On opening day, Ross was the fifth youngest player in the Midwest League, and he’ll turn 19 on May 21st.

Ross stands at a towering 6’3”, optimal height for a pitcher, but he wasn’t always the biggest guy on the diamond. He started tagging along to his older brother Tyson’s baseball games when he was four years old, and Joe originally wanted to be an infielder.

“I used to be a shortstop, when I was much shorter than I am now, and played second base, third and then as I grew and my arm got stronger I started to pitch,” Joe says. His older brother Tyson, who is six years older, is now a pitcher for the Oakland A’s.

“I was there at every game just in the stands, running around, eating candy and just being a little kid pretty much,” said the younger Ross.

But ever since a growth spurt hit for the TinCaps star after his freshman year of high school and he went from 5’4” to 5’10”, pitching has been his calling.

Growing that quickly certainly isn’t easy on a teenager or his parents, especially when it comes to buying clothes, Joe says.

“It wasn’t too bad because over the summer it was mostly baseball so I didn’t have to worry about all the clothes, but once school started again it was all new clothes and I got some of my brother’s stuff. It was kind of a hassle.”

While the growth spurt was what sparked the Oakland, California native’s development as a ballplayer, he says it was also the time spent with his summer baseball club that helped him turn a live arm, into a powerful one.

“I did a velocity improvement workout in the fall one year. That jumpstarted my growth as a pitcher. I gained a lot of arm strength with the program. It was with my travel ball team, Nor Cal Baseball, and the program focused a lot on core and shoulder strength. We worked a lot with medicine balls and used weighted balls to throw into a net. That was three days a week for three or four months, and that was probably the first time I really worked out hard. I had been in the gym before and worked out, but this was the hardest work I’d ever done.”

The travel ball took Ross to places like Florida, Georgia and North Carolina. He played in ballparks like Tropicana Field in Tampa and PETCO Park in San Diego, where he hopes to play one day as a member of the Padres.

In a few of those tournaments, Ross even made a connection. It was with a player whom he loosely knew, but didn’t realize would be his battery mate just a few years down the road, when they both turned down scholarship offers from UCLA to sign with the Padres. That other player is TinCaps catcher Austin Hedges. Ross says the backstop is one of the best receivers he’s ever worked with.

Now Ross forges his own path, and even though his older brother plays in the big leagues, he says their relationship centers much more around friendship than it does on the game.

“He’s six years older than me, but we act like the gap is two years. I think our relationship isn’t as baseball based as other people might think. The most important thing he tells me is to be competitive and no matter what happens to keep fighting. He’s like a best friend more than a brother, “ Joe says.

Now a year removed from high school prom, Ross smiles. “I don’t think I could’ve pictured this a year ago,” he says sitting in the TinCaps dugout before a game. For the teenage pitcher from California who’s never seemed to stop growing, both vertically and developmentally, he knows that this is just the beginning of what’s to come.

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Early Game, Difference Makers, Podcast

Monday morning ‘s 11:05 first pitch against Peoria gives the TinCaps a chance to erase a Sunday game that got away from them early. A Taylor Davis grand slam off of Matt Wisler in the third inning made a 1-0 Chiefs lead a 5-0 advantage, and they didn’t look back from there, winning 5-2.

Fort Wayne got two runs on a Travis Whitmore single in the eighth, but that was the full extent of the scoring for the home nine on Sunday afternoon. Although Wisler went just 2 2/3, the bullpen came in and finished the game without allowing a run over the final 6 1/3 innings.

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, take a listen back to the highlights from Sunday’s game, in addition to what Manager Jose Valentin says his team needs to do to stay competitive in ballgames:

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Road Trip Split, Even Harvard’s Complaining, Don’t Judge

BACK HOME

The TinCaps first six-game road trip of the year came to an end with a 7-3 win on Tuesday afternoon in Clinton, Iowa . The game started slowly, but finished with a bang for Fort Wayne, as the team scored four runs in the top of the ninth—all with two outs—and salvaged the three-game set with the Clinton LumberKings. While the bullpen had surrendered leads on Sunday and Monday, Tuesday it was the bullpen hanging on after starter Matt Wisler left the game, and then the offense putting it away.

Wisler went six innings but did not earn the win. Johnny Barbato pitched the seventh and the eighth, facing just seven batters, and Matt Stites pitched the ninth, allowing just a single, to silence the LumberKings over the final three frames.

Jace Peterson drove in the go-ahead run with a two-out hit for the win. It was Matt Colantonio who scored on that single, and he happened to be my guest on our pregame show Tuesday afternoon. Of the many things we talked about, one of them was his exceptional educational record. Colantonio has dual degrees from Brown in both economics and history.  In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, he’ll explain how his educational background helps him when he’s behind the plate:

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Three in the Books, Away We Go

The first series of the season has come and gone, and with the dust settled, the TinCaps are 1-2 to begin the year.  Here are a few numbers from the first three games:

29: The number of runs scored between Fort Wayne and Lake County in the first series of the year.

8: The differential of runs (16) vs. earned runs (8) surrendered by the TinCaps pitching staff. Kane County has the largest gap, having surrendered 21 runs, with 11 of them being earned.

15: The cumulative number of errors committed by both teams throughout the three-game series.

15, 673: The number of tickets sold for the opening series at Parkview Field. Fan support was great, even with chilly weather for a few of the games.

2: The number of people who found this blog last week using the search term “worlds biggest shark tooth.” Thanks for stopping in!

0: Number of home runs hit in the first three games between Fort Wayne and Lake County.

It’s off to South Bend on Monday for a three game set with the Silver Hawks. They’ve gotten off to an identical 1-2 start to the year. We’ll see the debut of Bryan, OH native Matt Wisler at 7:05.

TINCAPS REPORT PODCAST

Take a listen back to some of the calls from Saturday’s game, and hear postgame reaction from TinCaps Manager José Valentin:

Click here for the video recap of Saturday night’s game with highlights and analysis from me and Kent Hormann.

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