Friday, July 25, 2014

SIX-PITCH RULE ALREADY BEING USED; JASON LANE, JAKE FOX SWINGING HOT BATS

It turns out one of the speed-up rules adopted by the Atlantic League has been in play in the Can-Am League and American Association for some time. That is the rule which limits pitches between innings (except in cold weather) to six instead of the normal eight.

Miles Wolff, commissioner of those leagues, believes this single step, which does not apply when a pitcher is first entering a game, could be saving seven or eight minutes a game. The veteran executive points out the Carolina League at one time allowed only five pitches.

Wolff says when the American Association All-Star Game is played in Winnipeg Tuesday the Can-Am League rule instituted this year whereby when a game gets to the 11th inning each team will start the inning with a runner on second base. That rule will apply if the All-Star contest gets to a 10th inning since the teams will have a limited number of relievers, and most or all of them will be in the game by that time.

JASON LANE’S AVERAGE UP TO .419; FOX DRIVING RUNS IN

Jason Lane, who had a brief recall to the parent San Diego Padres as a pitcher earlier this season, is 5-8, 4.76 after 18 starts for Triple-A El Paso, TX, but the real news may be what this onetime major league outfielder is doing at the plate. He has appeared in 32 games, and after a 3-for-3 performance earlier this week is hitting .419 (18-for-43) with three homers and 10 runs batted in. His OPS (on-base plus slugging) is off the charts at 1.211.

2013 Atlantic League Player of the Year Jake Fox, who we probably will pay attention to in next week’s Independent Baseball Insider column, has 42 RBI in 38 games (.343) since joining the Class AA Reading (PA) Fightin Phils from Mexico.

TRACKING PLAYER RELEASES

As always, there have been a few former Indy players released in recent days by major league organizations.

One such release was handed to Frank Viola III, trying to make it as a knuckleball pitcher. Toronto dropped the former St. Paul (MN) Saints (American Association) right-hander. Other releases have been felt by RHP Brett Brach (Somerset, NJ, Atlantic League) from Washington, SS Jaime Pedroza (Lancaster, PA, Atlantic) from the Chicago White Sox and 3B Rusty Ryal (Sugar Land, TX, Atlantic) by Philadelphia. Pedroza is already back with Lancaster.

RHP Mitch Lively, a major league spring training invitee by San Francisco again this year, was released by the Giants, then quickly signed by Washington and sent to Triple-A Syracuse, NY.


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Friday, July 18, 2014

VAN STRATTEN MOVES WITHIN TWO OF AMERICAN ASSOCIATION'S ALL-TIME HITTING STREAK

Nick Van Stratten of Laredo, TX extended his American Association hitting streak to 32 games, two shy of Stephen Douglas’s league record, with a single in four at-bats Thursday night. The Lemurs topped host Sioux Falls, SD, 1-0, on John Alonzo’s seventh-inning home run. Van Stratten is on pace to break the record at Grand Prairie, TX this weekend.

HERE AND THERE

Bouncing around with a few former Independent players now in major league organizations:

**Jerome Williams (Lancaster, PA, Atlantic League, and Long Beach, CA, Golden League), released recently by Houston, made his first start for Texas’s top farm club in Round Rock, allowing seven hits and four runs (three earned) in 4.1 innings.

**First baseman Brock Peterson (Bridgeport, CT, Atlantic) is taking advantage of his new organization (Los Angeles Dodgers), hitting a homer and double in five at-bats for Albuquerque, NM, Thursday night with his average at .375 (18-for-48) in 14 games. He has three homers and nine RBI.

**Julio DePaula, who jumped from York, PA (Atlantic) to the parent Baltimore Orioles in a mere 11 days, returned to Class AA Bowie, MD, but has allowed four runs in as many innings over three outings. Still, in six appearances overall with Bowie, DePaula has two saves and a 3.48 ERA while posting 14 strikeouts in 10.1 innings.

**Lefty Greg Smith (Grand Prairie, TX, American Association) has a winning record (7-6) and a 3.86 ERA in 18 starts for Philadelphia’s top club, Lehigh Valley (Allentown, PA).

**Outfielder Cory Aldridge (Somerset, NJ, and Newark, NJ, Atlantic) is hitting .333 (10-for-30) with a .432 on-base percentage in 10 games since Toronto promoted him to Triple-A Buffalo, NY.

RE-ENTERING GAMES NOW POSSIBLE

One unique aspect of the Atlantic League’s speed-up rules is that even a player who has been taken out of the game may serve as the substitute runner for a catcher. He could even be used multiple times so some creative team may look for a speedster who would serve primarily in that role.

To clarify from yesterday’s Independent Baseball Insider column, umpires will be allowed to give a batter an automatic ball if the team in the field uses more than the allowable 45 seconds for a mound visit if the pitcher is not relieved.


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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

NEW TEXAS FARMHAND HAMREN WAS HAPPY WITH ATLANTIC LEAGUE ALL-STAR SELECTION

While the major leaguers have their All-Star Game tonight (Tuesday), we will be watching no less than four minor league classics Wednesday since two are Independents (Atlantic and Frontier) and the other two (Triple-A, Eastern League) have a number of former Indy players. Our regular Independent Baseball Insider column will have all of the details for subscribers on Thursday
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One pitcher who must have some mixed emotions is right-handed reliever Erik Hamren, who was chosen to represent Southern Maryland (Waldorf) in the Atlantic League contest in Sugar Land, TX, then had his contract sold to the Texas Rangers.

"I was excited to get the news (of the All-Star selection)," the 27-year-old had told SoMdNews.com. "It's near the top (of my career achievements), just simply to be recognized in a league with a lot of great talent." Hamren's goal, like every minor leaguer, is to get to the majors where he enjoyed a stay with San Diego (1-0, 4.38 in 14 appearances) three years ago. Hamren was having a strong campaign with the Blue Crabs (42 strikeouts in 37.1 innings with a 2.41 ERA in 36 games), and started well in the Class AA Texas League with two scoreless innings and three strikeouts for Frisco.

NEWEST MAJOR LEAGUERS

Two onetime Indy southpaws earned major league promotions in recent days, Ryan Feierabend (York, PA, Atlantic League) with Texas and Kris Johnson (Kansas City, KS, American Association) with Minnesota. Feierabend, 8-5, 4.54 in 19 starts for Triple-A Round Rock, TX, had not been in the majors since stints with Seattle in 2006-7-8. He worked 1.1 innings (one run) over the weekend for the Rangers. Johnson is in his second stint with the Twins this season.

COELLO REAPPEARS IN BALTIMORE ORGANIZATION

Former Golden League pitcher Robert Coello, a major league spring training invitee of the New York Yankees but released recently out of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, PA, signed with Baltimore over the weekend and one day later picked up a save for Triple-A Norfolk, VA.
Other players who have drawn their walking papers from organizations in recent days include former Can-Am League batting star Bridger Hunt from San Diego and Continental League pitcher Brandon Sisk from the Los Angeles Angels

A REAL CHAMPION

New Grand Prairie, TX Manager Eric Champion brings an impressive resume to the American Association team. He led Baptist Christian to back-to-back small-college national championships. Champion replaced Ricky VanAsselberg at Grand Prairie. He had been the bench coach.

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

WINLESS IN ATLANTIC LEAGUE, SCARPETTA PART OF CAROLINA LEAGUE NO-HIT HISTORY

Cody Scarpetta could not even collect a victory (0-2, 5.13) in his eight starts for the Lancaster (PA) Barnstormers this season, but the 25-year-old already has two wins in his first three starts in the Carolina League.  Oh yes, the onetime Milwaukee draft choice from Guilford, IL also played a major part in a no-hitter. Scarpetta made history for Lynchburg, VA Friday night, hurling the Hillcats to their second consecutive no-hitter for the Atlanta Braves Class A farm club.  Since pitchers in affiliated leagues often are held to tight pitch counts, the 6-foot-3 right-hander went the first seven innings and Benino Pruneda threw the last two in the 5-0 victory at Wilmington, DE. “Being able to go pitch Indy baseball, it taught me some things,” Scarpetta told MiLB.com.  “I had to learn how to pitch to older hitters in that (Atlantic) league and I was able to carry that with me here.  It’s a different mentality that came through than when I was younger. ”  Scarpetta, who is 2-1, 1.89 for three starts with Lynchburg, has allowed 12 hits and five walks in 19 innings while striking out 15.  He surrendered a two-out walk in the sixth and hit the leadoff hitter in the seventh while throwing 99 pitches in the no-hitter. It is believed this is the first time in the long history of the Carolina League that pitchers have thrown no-hitters against the same opponent on consecutive days although Rocky Mount, NC hurlers combined for two seven-inning no-hitters in a doubleheader May 15, 1966.

We will have more on Scarpetta’s gem in next Thursday’s Independent Baseball Insider column, which is written exclusively for subscribers (www.WirzandAssociates.com).

HOW IS THIS FOR PARITY?

All four teams in the Freedom Division of the Atlantic League have posted 5-5 records in their last 10 games.  Pennsylvania rivals Lancaster and York share the first-half lead with nine games remaining while Sugar Land, TX, which has 10 games to play, trails by two and a half games.  Southern Maryland (Waldorf) is well off the pace. York is the most recent team to lose a player to a major league organization.  Reliever Julio DePaula (2.42 in 28 appearances) had his contract purchased by Baltimore this week.

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

Pitchers Cody Eppley, who was in the major league camp of the Pittsburgh Pirates this spring, has been let go by the Bucs out of Triple-A.  The same fate hit veteran major leaguer Mike MacDougal, who was with Seattle’s top farm club.  Eppley was signed by Pittsburgh after last season with Lancaster while MacDougal also has Atlantic League experience with Camden, NJ. 


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Friday, June 20, 2014

CATCHING UP WITH STEVE DELABAR, SHAWN HILL AND OTHERS

Catching up on a number of Independent Baseball notes this Friday afternoon.

Wildness probably cost Steve Delabar his bullpen job with Toronto when he walked three and gave up a run when the Blue Jays were only trailing the New York Yankees 5-2 in the seventh inning Thursday night.  As we had noted in this week’s Independent Baseball Insider, Delabar (Can-Am and Frontier Leagues) had been optioned to Buffalo for two days earlier in the week, in part because of six walks in his previous 5.1 innings…Shawn Hill, who was scheduled to return to return to the Atlantic League’s York (PA) Revolution until Toronto decided to give him another look this season, has had two decent starts since his contract was sold to the Chicago White Sox.  Hill has allowed two earned runs in five and six-inning starts for Triple-A Charlotte, NC, bringing his season record in AA and AAA to 2-4, 4.63 for 11 appearances (nine starts)…I am not certain I would class the decision by the San Rafael (CA) Pacifics of the Pacific Association to wear uniforms next Friday (June 27) patterned after those worn by the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League as one of the highlights of the season although it will net some publicity.  There is a worthy cause involved since A League of Their Own star Tom Hanks will autograph two of the uniforms with the proceeds after an auction going to support breast cancer…first baseman Mark Minicozzi’s 28 RBI in only 29 games with San Francisco’s top farm club in Fresno, CA along with his .423 on-base percentage has to keep the Giants thinking of this longtime Indy leaguer (Can-Am League, American Association and Atlantic League)…Former NBA star Tracy McGrady, who has been on the inactive list for some time, will make another start for Sugar Land, TX at Long Island, NY tomorrow (Saturday) in the 1 p.m. portion of a day-night doubleheader…catcher Salomon Manriquez, who spent a great deal of time in the Atlantic League and some in the American Association from 2009-last season, has taken a minor league coaching job in the Texas Rangers system.

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