Tuesday, March 03, 2015

GRANDPA HENDRICKSON PASSES FIRST TEST WITH ORIOLES

One can only imagine the taunts Mark Hendrickson is going to hear this season if he makes the Baltimore Orioles bullpen since the 6-foot-9 lefty has a six-month old granddaughter. Where he stands on the comeback trail likely won’t be known for a few weeks, but the onetime NBA player passed his first test during a six-inning intra-squad game that ended in a 0-0 tie.

Pitching in the third inning, Manager Buck Showalter had Hendrickson extend an extra batter so he would face power-hitting Chris Davis. Showalter even left the dugout to get a closer look, and the 40-year-old, who last season was in the York (PA) Revolution bullpen in the Atlantic League, did not disappoint. He got Davis to watch a called third strike.

“It’s an opportunity,” Hendrickson, who last pitched in the majors in 2011, told CSNBaltimore.com earlier this spring. “I think, if anything, the way I progressed the past couple years that’s all I’m looking for.”

Colabello to Get a Look in Left Field

Start looking for former Can-Am Leaguer Chris Colabello in left field during Toronto’s spring training games. That seems to be the seven-year Worcester, MA star’s best opportunity with his new team although he primarily played first, right field and designated hitter when he was with Minnesota the last two seasons.

Sportsnet.ca reports Toronto Manager John Gibbons has hinted Danny Valencia and Colabello, who is in camp as a non-roster invitee, will see time in left as the Blue Jays fill the void created when the expected starter, Michael Saunders, suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee that is expected to keep him out of action until July.

Holdzkom Will Get an Early Look

With 20 of its former players in major league camps, it was easy to predict the American Association would be in the news frequently. Sure enough, that is true as teams head into the exhibition season.

For starters, John Holdzkom, one of the darlings of last season when he started out in the American Association (Amarillo, TX) and ended up in Pittsburgh’s playoff game after a whirlwind climb, has been tabbed to work an inning in one of the Pirates’ first two Grapefruit League games, both against Toronto as he zeroes in on trying to nail down a fulltime bullpen spot.

“He’s got an opportunity,” a home country blog in New Zealand (stuff.co.nz) quoted Pittsburgh Manager Clint Hurdle. “It’s real. He knows it’s real. I don’t think he’s putting any pressure on himself. Still, in his mind, he’s got nothing to lose. He got a taste of it (major leagues), he likes it, and he wants more of it.”


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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

INDEPENDENT LEAGUES HAVE 52 PLAYERS TICKETED FOR MAJOR LEAGUE SPRING TRAINING

By the time all position players have reported to spring training in little more than a week, 52 players who have spent time in one or more Independent leagues will be wearing major league uniforms, records compiled by the blog IndyBaseballChatter.com reveal. This is an increase of one over last year and the number of players on 40-man rosters has jumped from 25 to 28. The rest of the players are non-roster invitees.

Forty-one pitchers are included.

The American Association tops all leagues with 20 players, four more than the Atlantic League, with eight representing the Frontier League and five the Can-Am. Several leagues no longer operating also have representation.

The list with major league affiliation and previous Independent leagues and teams, with those who started in a non-affiliated league identified with an asterisk (*) and non-roster players shown with an “n”:

Pitchers (41)—nAndrew Albers, Toronto (Quebec, Can-Am League); Dylan Axelrod, Cincinnati (Windy City, Frontier League); Craig Breslow, Boston (New Jersey, Northeast League); nBrian Broderick, Kansas City (Sugar Land, Atlantic League); n*Greg Burke, Toronto (Atlantic City, Atlantic); nAngel Castro, Oakland (Lincoln, American Association); *Aaron Crow, Miami (Fort Worth, American Association); Brandon Cunniff, Atlanta (Southern Illinois and River City, Frontier); Steve Delabar, Toronto (Brockton, Can-Am League, and Florence, Frontier); nDane DeLaRosa, Baltimore (Southern Maryland, Atlantic; El Paso, American Association; and Victoria, Orange County, Long Beach and Yuma, all Golden League); Jon Edwards, Texas (San Angelo, North American League, and Alpine, Pecos League); Luis Garcia, Philadelphia (Newark, Can-Am); nMark Hamburger, Minnesota (St. Paul, American Association); nMark Hendrickson, Baltimore (York, Atlantic); n*Luke Hochevar, Kansas City (Fort Worth, American Association); John Holdzkom, Pittsburgh (Amarillo and Sioux City, American Association, and San Angelo, United League); n*James Hoyt, Houston (Wichita, American Association, and Edinburg and Yuma, North American); Scott Kazmir, Oakland (Sugar Land, Atlantic); nLogan Kensing, Chicago-AL (Bridgeport, Atlantic); Brandon Kintzler, Milwaukee (St. Paul, American Association, and Winnipeg, Northern League); nJason Lane, San Diego (Sugar Land and Southern Maryland, Atlantic); nMitch Lively, Washington (San Angelo, United); *Chris Martin, New York-AL (Grand Prairie, American Association); Vidal Nuno, Arizona (Washington, Frontier); *James Paxton, Seattle (Grand Prairie, American Association); nScott Rice, New York Mets (York, Long Island, and Newark, Atlantic); *Tanner Roark, Washington (Southern Illinois, Frontier); nChaz Roe, Baltimore (Laredo, American Association); Drew Rucinski, Los Angeles Angels (Rockford, Frontier); nCody Satterwhite, New York-NL (Sioux City, American Association); *Tanner Scheppers, Texas (St. Paul, American Association); *Max Scherzer, Washington (Fort Worth, American Association); Bo Schultz, Toronto (Sioux Falls and Grand Prairie, American Association); nJoe Thatcher, Houston (River City, Frontier); Caleb Thielbar, Minnesota (St. Paul, American Association); *Ian Thomas, Atlanta (York, Atlantic, and Winnipeg, Northern and American Association); nJon Velasquez, New York – NL (Camden, Atlantic, and Rockland, Can-Am); Tom Wilhelmsen, Seattle (Tucson, Golden League); Jerome Williams, Philadelphia (Lancaster, Atlantic, and Long Beach, Golden); nDontrelle Willis, Milwaukee (Bridgeport and Long Island, Atlantic); Brad Ziegler, Arizona (Schaumburg, Northern).

Catchers (3) – Rene Rivera, Tampa Bay (Camden, Atlantic); nEddy Rodriguez, New York-AL (Sioux Falls and El Paso, American Association); nJose Yepez, Atlanta (Pensacola, American Association, and Gary, Northern).

Infielders (4) — n*1B-OF Chris Colabello, Toronto (Worcester and Nashua, Can-Am), *2B-SS Stephen Drew, New York-AL (Camden, Atlantic); n1B Matt Fields, Kansas City (Southern Illinois, Frontier); n1B-OF Jake Fox, Toronto (Somerset, Atlantic).

Outfielders (4) — nBen Francisco, Lancaster (Atlantic); *Daniel Nava, Boston (Chico, Golden); David Peralta, Arizona (Amarillo and Wichita, American Association, and Rio Grande Valley, North American); nAntoan Richardson, Texas (Schaumburg, Northern).


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Monday, February 09, 2015

COLABELLO'S STATUS TO BE KNOWN SOON WHILE ANOTHER TRIO EXCELS IN CARIBBEAN SERIES

This could be one of the biggest weeks in longtime Can-Am League star Chris Colabello’s baseball life since the 10-day window after he was designated for assignment by his new team, Toronto, will expire.

This means the 31-year-old first baseman-outfielder will either become a free agent or have his contract picked up by another major league team. It seems unlikely he would re-sign a minor league pact with the Blue Jays although Korea or some other foreign league could once again come into play.

GIL, FUENMAYOR, MARIN STAND OUT IN CARIBBEAN

What a bizarre finish to the Caribbean Series with Cuba, which only scored seven runs in its first four games and down 4-0 in the semifinals, bouncing back to oust Venezuela 8-4, then finish off Mexico 3-2 on Sunday.

Two former Independent players had great offensive series for Venezuela with catcher Jose Gil (Lincoln, NE, American Association) enhancing his free agent status by going 5-for-11 (.455) with four runs and one RBI in three appearances after hitting .328 during the winter league season and Can-Am MVP Balbino Fuenmayor (Quebec) going 7-for-19 (.368) while playing in all five games. The first baseman, now Kansas City property, had a homer and three runs batted in.

Frontier League grad Terance Marin (Evansville, IN), now in the Chicago White Sox system, was a mound standout for Mexico, picking up a win in relief and another with a six-inning start (no earned runs) against Cuba. He had 8.2 innings in all without allowing an earned run.

Free agent Gary Majewski (Sugar Land, TX, Atlantic League) hurled two scoreless innings over three appearances for Mexico while teammate Marquez Smith (Camden, NJ, Atlantic) went 0-for-5 in his two appearances. He now belongs to Cincinnati. For host Puerto Rico, Rene Rivera (Camden) caught all four games, going 3-for-16 with an RBI and lefty Jon Velasquez (Camden and Rockland County, Can-Am) had two strikeouts in his only appearance of one inning in relief. Rivera now heads to Tampa Bay’s major league camp and Velasquez to the New York Mets. Free agent Mark Serrano (Laredo, TX, American Association) was on the Venezuela roster but did not pitch.

WHERE HAVE THEY GONE?

With the help of Somerset, NJ (Atlantic League) closer and player personnel boss Jon Hunton, we can report on several players on our most recent list of free agents.

Pitcher Virgil Vasquez (Southern Maryland, Atlantic) and shortstop Vance Albitz (Lincoln) have retired as players to join the minor league systems of Minnesota and St. Louis, respectively. Veteran lefty Raul Valdes (New Jersey Jackals and Nashua, NH, Can-Am) has signed to play for Chunichi in Japan and Jarrett Grube (Southern Maryland) has inked a deal to pitch in Mexico.


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Tuesday, February 03, 2015

CHECKING OUT THE CARIBBEAN SERIES, INCLUDING CUBA'S GURRIEL FAMILY

After all of the shuffling of rosters that goes on between the individual league championships and the Caribbean Series, I have spotted seven current or former Independent players who are on the 28-man rosters for these climactic winter league games being played now in Puerto Rico. There may be others.

The Camden (NJ) RiverSharks of the Atlantic League should have considerable interest with a trio of their former players involved. Catcher Rene Rivera, expected to carry a significant load with Tampa Bay this season, went 1-for-4 with an RBI in Puerto Rico’s opening 5-2 loss to Venezuela. Jon Velasquez, who will be an invitee in the New York Mets’ spring training camp, is on the Puerto Rican mound staff and first baseman Marquez Smith (Cincinnati farm system) is with Mexico. Velasquez also played for Rockland County in the Can-Am League.

Another Atlantic Leaguer with Mexico is Gary Majewski, a strong part of the Sugar Land, TX bullpen the last three seasons. Venezuela has a trio of Indy players, including catcher Jose Gil (Lincoln, NE, American Association), who played a big role in that opening victory by going 2-for-3 with two runs. He hit .328 during the regular winter league season. Laredo, TX (American Association) right-hander Mark Serrano and first baseman Balbino Fuenmayor (Quebec, Can-Am and recently signed by Kansas City) also play for Venezuela. Fuenmayor was 0-for-4 in the opener.

GURRIEL FAMILY WELL REPRESENTED WITH CUBA

It was significant news last summer when 32-year-old Yuniesky Gurriel became the first player to receive the Cuban government’s approval to play in North America, and the outfielder joined the Can-Am League’s Quebec Capitales. He likely will be back there this season after hitting .321 in 30 games.

MLB.com did a major feature on the Gurriel family (spelling it Gourriel) timed to the opening of the Caribbean Series because Lourdes Gurriel, Sr., is a baseball hero in Cuba and he has three quality baseball-playing sons. Yuniesky played center field for Havana this winter although he is not on the Caribbean Series roster, while Yulieski and youngest brother Lourdes, Jr. both are infielders on the team. Yulieski is expected to return to Japan for the regular season and Lourdes may join him. Cuba has dropped its first two games, losing 6-1 to the Dominican Republic today (Tuesday).

NAVA MAY TRY HITTING SOUTHPAWS AS LEFTY BATTER

It is unquestioned that Boston outfielder Daniel Nava has been one of Independent Baseball’s biggest success stories. Now the onetime Golden League Player of the Year (Chico, CA) has his biggest contract at $1.85 million, and the switch-hitter is thinking about trying to bat only from the left side where he has been much stronger.

“Essentially, all I’m doing different is just trying to see how lefty on lefty feels,” he told WEEI Radio in Beantown recently. “But I’m still going to be working as a switch-hitter…I really have to see what lefty-lefty feels like. But I’m open to doing (it) to hopefully get myself on the field more and be more productive.”


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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

RECENT ATLANTIC LEAGUER AMONG SPRING TRAINING INVITEES, BUT 50 STILL IN FREE AGENCY

Eleven of the 30 major league teams have yet to announce their full list of non-roster invitees to spring training camps starting next month and there will be some late signees, still our records already show 48 players who have spent time in Independent leagues will be among the elite players afforded such opportunities.

One impressive name on the list is that of 28-year-old Brian Broderick, who only signed with Kansas City recently after making 60 relief appearances at Sugar Land, TX in the Atlantic League last season (0-2, 11 saves, 2.31 with 65 strikeouts and only nine walks in 62.1 innings).

Broderick has been pitching professionally since ’07 (St. Louis, Washington), but the tall right-hander has only 12.1 major league innings (Nationals, 2011).

Right-hander Dane DeLaRosa (Southern Maryland, Atlantic, El Paso, TX, American Association and four Golden League teams no longer in existence) signed as a free agent with Baltimore this week, and received a camp invitation. San Diego added lefty Jason Lane (Sugar Land and Southern Maryland) and first baseman Matt Fields (Southern Illinois, Frontier League) got an invite from the Royals.

Catcher Eddy Rodriguez (El Paso and Sioux Falls, SD, American Association) signed with the New York Yankees. It would not surprise if he gets a camp invitation although the Bombers have not announced their additions to the established 40-man roster.

STILL AVAILABLE

It might be starting to become nervous time for another group of onetime Independent players who were in major league organizations when last season ended and are without jobs in affiliated or Indy leagues.

While we may have overlooked a late signing or two and a few players likely will retire, the list maintained by the Independent Baseball Insider column still shows exactly 50 such players. They are:

RHP (23) – Eric Brooks, Robert Coello, Michael Colla, Shane Dyer, Jarrett Grube, Erik Hamren, Ray Hanson, Tyler Herron, Shawn Hill, Josh Kinney, Anthony Lerew, Mike McClendon, Kyler Newby, Michael Nix, Mark Pope, Scott Richmond, Jake Roberts, Cody Scarpatta, Mark Serrano, Daniel Stange, Brett Tomko, Virgil Vasquez, Zak Wasserman.

LHP (7) – Brian Burres, Tony Davis, Zach Kroenke, Nate Reed, Will Startup, Joe Thatcher, Raul Valdes.

C (7) – (Also OF) Alex Burg, Mitch Canham, Jose Gil, Ralph Henriquez, J.R. Towles, J.T. Wise, Zach Zaneski.

IF (6) – (SS) Vance Albitz, (3B) Mike Costanzo, Maikol Gonzalez, (1B) Cody Overbeck, (SS) Jaime Pedroza, Nate Spears.

OF (7) – Cory Aldridge, Brandon Boggs, Yusuf Carter, Justin Christian, Tyler Graham, Dustin Martin, Dustin Richardson.


THE INDEPENDENT BASEBALL INSIDER will resume in March. Request a free sample column from December in order to be automatically reminded when the column starts for 2015.

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