Thursday, September 25, 2014

INDEPENDENT HURLERS COMBINE FOR 91 MAJOR LEAGUE WINS

Nineteen former Independent pitchers have earned at least one win this major league season (through Wednesday, September 24), with a total of 91 victories. The list:

•Detroit’s Max Scherzer, Fort Worth , TX, American Association, earned 17 wins.
•Washington’s Tanner Roark, Southern Illinois, IL, Frontier League, earned 15 wins.
•Oakland’s Scott Kazmir, Sugar Land, TX, Atlantic League, earned 14 wins.
•Kansas City’s Aaron Crow, Fort Worth, TX, American Association, earned 6 wins.
•Philadelphia’s Jerome Williams, Lancaster, PA, Atlantic League, and Long Beach, CA, Golden League, earned 6 wins while pitching for Houston, Texas and Philadelphia.
•Seattle’s James Paxton, Grand Prairie, TX, American Association, earned 6 wins.
•Arizona’s Brad Ziegler, Schaumburg, IL, Northern League, earned 5 wins.
•Milwaukee’s Brandon Kintzler, St.Paul, MN, American Association, and Winnipeg, MB, American Association, earned 3 wins.
•Seattle’s Tom Wilhelmsen, Tucson, AZ, Golden League, earned 3 wins.
•Toronto’s Steve Delabar, Brockton, MA, Can-Am League, and Florence, KY, Frontier, earned 3 wins.
•Arizona’s Vidal Nuno, Washington, PA, Frontier League, earned 2 wins while pitching for the New York Yankees and Arizona.
•Boston’s Craig Breslow, New Jersey Jackals (Little Falls), now in the Can-Am League, earned 2 wins.
•Los Angeles (AL) Joe Thatcher, River City, MO, Frontier League, earned 2 wins while pitching for Arizona and the Los Angeles Angels.
•Minnesota’s Caleb Thielbar, St. Paul, MN, American Association, earned 2 wins.
•With one win apiece were Atlanta’s Ian Thomas, Winnipeg, MB, American Association, Cincinnati’s Dylan Axelrod, Windy City, Crestwood, IL, Frontier League, Los Angeles Angels’ Yoslan Herrera, Lancaster, PA, Atlantic League, the New York Mets’ Scott Rice, York, PA, Atlantic League, and Newark, NJ, Can-Am League, and Pittsburgh’s John Holdzkom, Amarillo, TX, and Sioux City, IA, both in the American Association.




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Monday, September 22, 2014

AFTER SIX-GAME SERIES, YORK AND SUGAR LAND NOW SQUARE OFF IN ATLANTIC LEAGUE PLAYOFFS

The York (PA) Revolution should have a pretty good idea of the best restaurants near their hotel in Sugar Land, TX.

Mark Mason’s gang got to Sugar Land last Tuesday (September 16) to begin a season-ending six-game series against the Skeeters, and now the Revolution are there for the first two games of the best-of-five Freedom Division playoff series starting one week later (Tuesday, September 23). Playing long series in Sugar Land is one of the quirks in the Atlantic League schedule until it can add more teams in that region.

Sugar Land confidence should be running high since the Skeeters won four of six from York (four of the last five, actually) to capture the second half divisional title. For anyone scratching their head to figure out how Sugar Land won the half-season championship when it actually finished tied with Lancaster, PA, the answer is that the Skeeters won five of nine second-half games from the Barnstormers. The two teams split 20 decisions over the entire campaign.

Lancaster’s prize for becoming the wild-card entry in the four-team playoffs is to open with Games 1 and 2 against Somerset, NJ for the Liberty Division title at home. Somerset, which won both halves, will have the remaining games in the five-game set back in New Jersey.

RUCINSKI GETS LENGTHY STINT FOR ANGELS

New major leaguer Drew Rucinski, who spent all of 2012 plus parts of ’11 and ’13 in the Frontier League (Rockford, IL), got an extended outing from the Los Angeles Angels over the weekend. The 25-year-old out of Ohio State hurled four innings at home against Texas, allowing three hits and a walk plus two earned runs. The right-hander struck out five.

Rucinski, 10-6, 3.15 in 26 starts for Class AA Arkansas this summer, also faced Texas in his only other major league appearance so far, giving up two runs in an inning of work back on July 10.

GREAT POWER SEASON FOR MATT FIELDS

Matt Fields, a onetime Independent Baseball player at Southern Illinois (Marion) of the Frontier League, has pounded 59 home runs the last two seasons in the Kansas City farm system without getting any time with the parent Royals. A first baseman-designated hitter, the 6-foot-5, 235 pounder, hit 28 homers and drove in 81 runs for Omaha this season, then helped the Storm Chasers all the way to the Triple-A championship. He was 1-for-4 in the 4-2 win over Pawtucket, RI (Red Sox) in the title game between the two AAA league winners. The 29-year-old Fields improved his average by 40 points to .262 at Omaha after a 31-homer output when he hit .222 for Double-A Northwest Arkansas one year ago.


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Friday, August 29, 2014

RECORD CROWD SAYS GOODBYE IN ST. PAUL; MORE PETE ROSE SIGHTINGS PLUS AFL ASSIGNMENTS

Leave it to the St. Paul (MN) Saints. They played their 999th and final game at Midway Stadium Thursday night as they prepare to move into a sparkling new home for American Association games next season, and a franchise record 9,455 fans turned out.

The Saints have been a big draw since their very first year (1993) in the Northern League, and this crowd brought the season home total to 248,106, their best since 2009. The fans had to have a nostalgic feeling for Midway because the team is out of playoff contention. Incidentally, St. Paul was beaten by playoff-bound Winnipeg, 4-3.

PETE ROSE BACK IN DEMAND FOR TWO INDY APPEARANCES

The major leagues’ all-time hit king, Pete Rose, has been booked for two more visits to Independent Baseball stadiums before the season ends, following up on his one-day stint earlier as guest manager for the Bridgeport (CT) Bluefish of the Atlantic League.

Rose will even step into the batter’s box as the leadoff hitter in the bottom of the first inning for the Florence (KY) Freedom of the Frontier League on Tuesday (September 2). He will be introduced, then a pinch hitter will replace him and Rose will coach both third and first base for some of the remaining innings.

On September 14, he returns to Bridgeport once again in a guest manager slot to take part in Ken Shepard Day activities as the team honors its general manager, who is leaving after the season to continue his fight against Stage 4 kidney cancer.

INDEPENDENT PLAYERS, FIELD STAFF HEADED TO ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE

Two players are among a contingent of at least five people with Independent Baseball credentials headed to the prestigious Arizona Fall League. All represent major league organization now.

Right-handed pitchers Brandon Cunniff and Alex Smith are on the rosters announced to this point. Both spent time in the Frontier League. Cunniff, who played for Southern Illinois and River City and now belongs to the Atlanta Braves, will pitch for Peoria. Smith, out of River City and currently in the New York Yankees system, will be with Scottsdale.

Onetime Frontier League Manager Andy Haines (Windy City, Dubois County), who has worked his way all the way up to managing Miami’s top minor league club in New Orleans, will lead the Salt River team. Peoria’s co-pitching coaches are Jason Simontacchi and R. C. Lichtenstein. Simontacchi, now coaching in the minors for St. Louis, played for Atlantic League teams in Lancaster, PA, Long Island, NY and Bridgeport as well as for Springfield of the Frontier League. Lichtenstein, a Tampa Bay minor league coach, was involved with Dubois County (and possibly other Indy teams).


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Friday, August 22, 2014

EXPECT MORE MEXICAN LEAGUERS TO SHOW UP; PRAISE HEAPED DO D-BACKS' PERALTA AND THE SCOUT WHO FOUND HIM

The end of the regular Mexican League season a few days ago reminds me we will almost certainly see the return of a number of players to the Atlantic League and perhaps other Independent leagues in the days ahead, often bolstering rosters for the postseason.

For example, it would not be surprising to see the top two hitters among the returnees. Batting champion Sandy Madera (.403) and runner-up Chris Roberson (.384) have played Independent Baseball in the past with Madera with the New Jersey Jackals (Can-Am League) on multiple occasions as well as with Newark, NJ, which no longer has a team in either the Atlantic League or the Can-Am. Roberson was at Winnipeg (American Association) as recently as two years ago.

MORE PRAISE FOR PERALTA, D-BACKS AND CARMINUCCI

We have written in this space and our weekly Independent Baseball Insider column on various occasions how the Arizona Diamondbacks have been the most active of any major league organization in signing Independent players the last couple of years, largely because onetime Can-Am League and American Association Manager Chris Carminucci is that team’s coordinator of Independent league scouting. J. P. Morosi of FoxSports.com did a lengthy piece on the subject just this week. Excerpts follow:

“The lucky ones (scouts) have assignments that fall within a given geographic region. Chris Carminucci, the Arizona Diamondbacks’™ coordinator of independent league scouting, is not one of them. And his willingness to go anywhere, in the name of finding talent, is why the fourth-place Diamondbacks can claim one of the best stories in baseball this season: David Peralta, the effervescent 27-year-old rookie outfielder from Venezuela.

“€œI can’€™t keep track of him (Carminucci),”€ said Mike Bell, the Diamondbacks’€™ director of player development. “œI don’€™t know if I’€™ve ever called him when he’€™s not in a car driving through Canada, or in Lincoln, Nebraska, or somewhere in the Northeast. Then he gets on a plane and shoots down to Texas.

“This guy must have coffee running through his veins. And I’€™ve never talked with him when he’s not having a good day.”

“A slight amendment: Carminucci is having a good year. This season, the Diamondbacks have called up three players Carminucci signed out of independent leagues: infielder Andy Marte, right-hander Bo Schultz, and Peralta. For three indy ball alums to play on the same team is rare. To have one on the fringe of the National League Rookie of the Year discussion . . . well . . . it would be difficult to imagine this sort of baseball tale even while daydreaming in the grandstand at Yogi Berra Stadium –€” which, by the way, is home to an independent club in Upper Montclair, N.J.

“Peralta, who made his major-league debut June 1, is now the Diamondbacks’€™ everyday right fielder and No. 3 hitter, with All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt lost for the season. Peralta’€™s .793 OPS ranks among the top 30 major-league outfielders who have at least 250 plate appearances this year. His star rose even higher this month, with a bold steal of home on a lazy throw back to the pitcher by Colorado catcher Michael McKenry. He’€™s drawn favorable comparisons to Rays outfielder David DeJesus, the smooth, steady, 12-year big leaguer.

“And to think: Peralta’€™s pro baseball career began as a pitcher in the St. Louis Cardinals’ system. He was released in 2009 after two shoulder surgeries, having never made it out of rookie ball. But Peralta went home to Venezuela, transformed himself into a position player and returned to the U.S. in 2011 as an outfielder with the Rio Grande Valley WhiteWings of the North American League . . . which no longer exists.

“Once Peralta moved in 2012 to the Wichita Wingnuts of the (higher-profile and still-breathing) American Association, he was on Carminucci’s radar

“€œEvery independent league player brings something to the clubhouse: They’ve failed,”€ said Carminucci, a former independent league player, manager and general manager. “€œIn this game, you have to learn how to fail and get back up and fight. David in particular has done that, but that’s true of these other guys, too. And from the moment he walked into that clubhouse last year, everyone had instant respect for him, because he came all the way back.

“There’€™s a saying in Independent ball: ‘You don’€™t like where you are? Play better and get out.’

“The stellar half-season at Visalia wasn’€™t enough for Peralta to get an invitation to the Diamondbacks’€™ major-league spring camp. He made an impression on general manager Kevin Towers, anyway. Added to the roster for a spring game because the Diamondbacks needed an extra outfielder, Peralta grounded a single up the middle and hustled to second on a momentary bobble by the center fielder.

“KT was sitting ahead of me,”€ Bell recalled. “€œHe turned around and asked, ‘€˜Does he always run that good?’€™ I just said, ‘€˜I can tell you, he always runs that hard.’

“€œThere are certain players who have a look about them. That day, a light bulb went off in Kevin’€™s head, like, ‘€˜This guy’€™s a big leaguer.’€™ Kevin started talking about him [as a call-up candidate] real early in the season. It’€™s funny: That one play in spring training stood out in our GM’s eyes, and it stuck with him all year.”

“The irony, of course, is that Carminucci has had little time to admire the ascent of his star signee. He’€™s too busy trying to find the next David Peralta, while several more of his former independent leaguers are progressing through the Diamondbacks’€™ system. Nick Sarianides, a 24-year-old reliever, has been dominant at low Class A South Bend; Carminucci found him pitching for a Can-Am League team in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec.

“Carminucci said he’€™s grateful that Towers, Bell and chief Diamondbacks scout Bill Bryk value his expertise in what many baseball executives view as a niche market. In contrast to massive amateur scouting departments that cost upwards of $4 million per year –€” before signing bonuses –€” only a handful of major-league organizations employ a full-time independent league scout like Carminucci.

“Perhaps more of them should.”

AMENDING EDWARDS’S PATH TO TEXAS RANGERS

I made a bobble in yesterday’s Insider when I said new Texas Rangers reliever Jon Edwards had spent time in the American Association (St. Paul, MN). I had read that on a website, but did not double check. Edwards only worked in the Pecos and North American Leagues before Texas signed him.


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Friday, August 08, 2014

SEAN BIERMAN KEEPS ADDING TO HIS PITCHING FEATS FOR ROCKLAND COUNTY

Sean Bierman is doing more than his share to keep Rockland County (Pomona, NY) on the heels of the New Jersey Jackals (Little Falls) in the Can-Am League race.

The 25-year-old left-hander picked up an 11-3 victory Thursday night to move the Boulders within one-half game of New Jersey despite the fact he may not have had his best stuff as evidenced by the fact he allowed 10 hits but only one run in working the first six innings, and improving his record to 8-5 with a tiny 1.88 earned run average.

Bierman, a New Jersey native who came out of the University of Tampa, hurled a complete-game three-hitter to defeat the Jackals 1-0 in his previous start. That vaulted him to a second consecutive Pitcher of the Week award and he also took league-wide honors for the month of July. No one had won back-to-back Pitcher of the Week honors since another southpaw, James Leverton, now with Miami’s top farm club in New Orleans, in July of 2011.

Bierman has won four straight and seven of eight since July 1 when his ERA was at 2.67.

SLAM MAY HAVE COST BO SCHULTZ HIS MAJOR LEAGUE JOB

Bo Schultz (Grand Prairie, TX, American Association) had worked his way up to the parent Arizona Diamondbacks for the second time this season, but his second poor outing in three games since coming up from Reno, NV sent him back to Triple-A once more. Schultz was only charged with two runs in a 4.1 inning relief stint against Kansas City although the first hitter he faced, Norichika Aoki, slugged a grand slam to put the Diamondbacks down, 11-1.

Schultz has a 7.88 ERA for his eight innings with Arizona spread over four appearances. He has been 8-7, 5.75 in 21 starts at Reno this season.

RARE CYCLE FOR DUCKS

I can’t shake the thought of what the Long Island (NY) Ducks did in a recent Atlantic League game.

They had a home run cycle, a bases empty job plus round-trippers with one, two and three runners aboard.


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