Friday, April 18, 2014

LEFTIES VALDES, COUSINS IN THE NEWS; TOUGH BREAK FOR INDY VET MINICOZZI

Left-handed pitchers always seem to generate interest, and today is no exception.

We had no more than mentioned in Thursday’s Independent Baseball Insider column that the veteran Raul Valdes (New Jersey Jackals and Nashua, NH, Can-Am League) was doing well at Triple-A Oklahoma City (1-0, 2.45, 4 games) when we found out the Astros were adding the 36-year-old to their major league roster. Houston is Valdes’s fifth major league team since 2010.

And, how about veteran major leaguer Scott Cousins, who was ticketed to play the outfield for the Camden (NJ) RiverSharks (Atlantic League) until he joined the Texas organization. It turns out Cousins, 29, is going to extended spring training to try converting into a southpaw pitcher. He last pitched in college at the University of San Francisco.

MINICOZZI OUT WITH SHOULDER SEPARATION

We did not realize it at the time we mentioned Mark Minicozzi, the well-traveled former Independent player, was hitting .444 but not seeing much playing time for San Francisco’s top farm club in Fresno, CA, that there is a reason for the limited action. It turns out he separated a shoulder sliding into second base, and is expected to be out for at least a month. It is very unfortunate for the versatile infielder-outfielder, who trained with the parent Giants this spring and was in position where he might get that long-awaited first major league opportunity.

Minicozzi, 31, spent a season in the American Association (Winnipeg and Kansas City, KS), two years in the Can-Am League (Worcester, MA) and appeared briefly with Camden.

He hit .309-10-66 in an all-star summer in the Eastern League (Richmond, VA) last year.

‘LIFE IS BETTER’ ON LONG ISLAND

It is difficult to find any argument with the Long Island (NY) Ducks’ new slogan “Life Is Better Here”. After all, Bethpage Ballpark is within a commute of New York City, and even more importantly the team has won the last two Atlantic League championships.




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Monday, April 14, 2014

CAMPS OPEN AS ATLANTIC LEAGUE SEASON NEARS; TWO MORE INDY HURLERS IN MAJORS

This was somewhat of a milestone day in Independent circles with most Atlantic League teams, including two-time champion Long Island, NY, opening training camp in preparation for the start of the regular season on March 24. Other leagues will get busy when the calendar first turns to May.

At the same time, two more former Independent players have donned major league uniforms, increasing that total to 25 for the young season, counting Kansas City’s Luke Hochevar (Fort Worth, TX, American Association), who likely will spend the entire season on the disabled list because of injury.

The Los Angeles Angels called up right-hander Yoslan Herrera, who spent all of last season in the Lancaster (PA) Barnstormers bullpen, working a team-leading 59 games with a 2-1 record, 11 saves and a 3.74 ERA. The Cuban native, who turns 33 later this month, also was in the majors for five starts with Pittsburgh (1-1, 9.82) in 2008. Reliever Dane DeLaRosa, who has experience in the Atlantic League (Southern Maryland), American Association (El Paso, TX) and the former Golden League, was optioned to Triple-A by the Angels.

PHILS CALL GARCIA

Philadelphia has added righty Luis Garcia, who got into nine games with Newark, NJ (Can-Am League) in 2012, to its bullpen although indications are the stay may be brief as another player comes off the disabled list. Garcia went 1-1 with a 3.73 ERA in 24 games with the Phillies last season. That was the first time the 27-year-old had been in the majors.


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Friday, April 04, 2014

HAS ANY INDEPENDENT PLAYER MATCHED COLABELLO'S SIX RUNS BATTED IN?

I cannot help but wonder today how many–if any–pure Independent Baseball players have had a six-RBI game in the major leagues as longtime Can-Am League star first baseman Chris Colabello did Thursday in helping Minnesota to a chilly, come-from-behind 10-9 victory against the Chicago White Sox in the Windy City.

How sweet it must have felt to the former Worcester (MA) Tornadoes star to see that he was batting cleanup (and the DH) for the Twins, then to come through with two big doubles and an RBI groundout. Colabello later told reporters an effort to cut down on his swing when he has two strikes is paying dividends, and typical of the 30-year-old’s approach to the game he told The Minneapolis Star Tribune “That was a character win.”

One must remember Colabello only drove in 17 runs in 55 games in his debut season in the majors (2013), which came in the second year after his seven-year stint in the Can-Am League.

AMERICAN ASSOCIATION TOPS IN BIG LEAGUERS PRODUCED THIS TIME

As we reported in yesterday’s subscription-only Independent Baseball Insider column, a record 20 former Independent players were on Opening Day rosters in the major leagues with another three on the disabled list. Eight–plus two of the DL players–were in the American Association at one time, with half of the eight (plus one on the DL) playing their very first professional game in the league. The count of eight includes pitcher Bo Schultz of Arizona, who was active for the Diamondbacks’ first two games in Australia before going back to Triple-A Reno.

The Atlantic League accounts for five players plus one of those disabled while the Frontier League has four and the Can-Am League two. Three leagues no longer active also have players among the major leaguers.


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Monday, March 24, 2014

AMERICAN ASSOCIATION'S BO SCHULTZ DEBUTS IN AUSTRALIA, TWO OTHERS IN SPRING TRAINING GAMES

While it no doubt went largely unnoticed in all of the hoopla surrounding baseball taking its first two official 2014 games to Sydney, Australia, the those contests between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks provided the platform for a right-handed pitcher only three years removed from the American Association to make his major league debut.

Bo Schultz, who used the 2011 season as a reliever for the Grand Prairie (TX) AirHogs (4-3, 4.13 in 37 games, including four starts) as a springboard to get back to affiliated baseball and climb above Class A where he had plateaued with Oakland, gave up a leadoff single to Hanley Ramirez when he stepped on a regular-season major league mound (okay, it was the Sydney Cricket Ground) for the first time, then put down the next three Dodgers in order in the top of the eighth inning. (Adrian Gonzalez grounded to second, Andre Ethier lined to left and A. J. Ellis grounded to short.)

Now Schultz will have to sweat out whether he will be on the 25-man roster when play resumes stateside since both teams were allowed to have 28-man rosters for the early start to the new season. Even if the right-hander should be sent to Triple-A, he has a major league appearance on his record with the possibility of many more down the road for the 28-year-old former journalism student at Northwestern University since the D-Backs have been singing his praises.

Three Independent graduates pitched for Arizona in their two losses to the Dodgers with established relievers Joe Thatcher (River City, O’Fallon, MO, Frontier League) and Brad Ziegler (Schaumburg, IL, then in the Northern League and now in the Frontier) also working out of the Diamondbacks’ bullpen. It should be noted that non-roster spring training invitee Andy Marte, a corner infielder who has seen heavy action in spring training for Arizona, was not among the active players for the Australian games.

Schultz is the 188th Independent player to make it to the majors, according to records we maintain for our regular subscription column, the Independent Baseball Insider.

BRIDGER HUNT, CODY SATTERWHITE GET INTO MAJOR LEAGUE GAMES

Two players in Independent leagues as recently as last season are the most recent minor leaguers we have noticed who have appeared in major league exhibitions this spring.

Right-hander Cody Satterwhite, who posted a 0.65 earned run average and struck out more than a batter per inning in 19 appearances for Sioux City, IA (American Association), played for the New York Mets. Can-Am League batting champion Bridger Hunt, a brilliant .402 hitter for Newark, NJ, made a brief appearance with San Diego. He is an infielder.


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Friday, March 21, 2014

BROCK PETERSON'S CURRENT BID ENDS WHILE ROBERTSON AND TOMKO GET ANOTHER LOOK

Sometimes, you cannot win. In writing Thursday's Independent Baseball Insidercolumn, I made the point that first baseman Brock Peterson (Bridgeport, CT, Atlantic League) was continuing to have a good spring in his quest to stick with the Washington Nationals. A .370 batting average (10-for-27), .433 on-base percentage with a homer and six runs batted in would seem to justify the comment.

Then, I found out a few hours later Peterson had been sent to the Nationals' minor league camp that very day. Oh, my! I can only hope that performance will lead to a call-up for Peterson sometime during the season.

PAIR OF VETS GETTING LOOKS

Southpaw Nate Robertson, 36, and right-hander Brett Tomko, 40, are getting new opportunities at picking up on their major league careers, although, for now, it is in the minor league camps of Detroit and Kansas City, respectively.

Robertson, part owner at Wichita, KS and a former hurler for the American Association team, was signed by the Tigers for whom he compiled much of his 57-77 major league record. Tomko, who has a 100-103 major league record, spent much of last season with the Atlantic League's York (PA) Revolution.

Tomko contacted the Royals after Luke Hochevar (Fort Worth, TX, American Association) was pronounced as out for the season and the team released Brad Penny. "So I contacted them and said 'look at me, give me a 15-minute bullpen'", he told NewYorkDispatch.com. "I'll do whatever you want. I busted my (butt) this winter in the Dominican (Republic). Just tell me whatever role you want me in."

Stay tuned.

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