Wednesday, December 29, 2010
It almost had to happen since there were only three teams remaining from both the Northern and United Leagues, and it seemed like too much of a stretch to make the Western Canada teams play in the league with the Northern teams as one highly-placed official had indicated was possible or to place a travel team in the United bracket. Travel still will not be easy in either bracket.
The Eastern Division breaks down this way: Edinburg, San Angelo and Rio Grande Valley (Harlingen) in Texas plus Lake County (Zion), Rockford and Schaumburg, IL.
The Western Division will have Calgary and Edmonton in Canada, Tijuana (The Embajadores) in Mexico, Yuma, AZ, Chico, CA and Maui, HA. Somewhat surprising is the omission of Orange County (Fullerton, CA).
HOW'S THIS FOR PRAISE?
Paul Abbott was such a good pitcher he was in the major leagues off and on from 1990 to 2004, putting up a 43-37 record and winning 17 of 21 decisions with Seattle in 2002. And, he obviously is a fan of the Independent game, especially after managing Orange County (Fullerton, CA) in the Golden League last season.
"My time with the Flyers was the richest experience and really (the) most fun I've had in organized baseball", the 43-year-old said as he departed his one season of managing (51-35) to become pitching coach at Lowell, MA in the Boston Red Sox system.
Friday, December 24, 2010
The Can-Am, which appeared to be headed back to a more impressive eight teams with the addition of Newark, NJ from the Atlantic League and a possible expansion team in Ramapo, NY, may suddenly have taken a new hit.
The New Jersey Herald broke the story this week that Sussex, one of the two Floyd Hall-operated teams in the state (along with the New Jersey Jackals), may not return unless a last-minute buyer is found. Quoting the Sussex Skyhawks' Facebook page, The Herald reported "if the season were to start tomorrow, the Skyhawks would go inactive".
With opposition continuing to fight the building of a stadium in Ramapo and only five months remaining until the Can-Am normally opens its season, it would not be a shock to see the Northeast-based league once again play with six teams.
SOME THINGS WE SEE IN THE AMERICAN ASSOCIATION SCHEDULE
The American Association definitely appears strengthened with its addition of four teams out of the Northern League plus Amarillo, TX coming in to replace Pensacola, FL and whittle down some of the travel issues, but there certainly are some quirks in the league schedule.
The positive news spills over to the expansion of the schedule from 96 to 100 games, and a straight forward playoff plan that will include the three divisional champions and the wild card with the best record.
We examined the St. Paul, schedule, and presuming it is somewhat typical in an unbalanced environment, the Saints will play everyone but El Paso, TX in at least one series and will make only one major southern trip to play 13 games in as many days while visiting four cities. St. Paul will play eight opponents at least once both at home and on the road, including the four that just departed the Northern League, and will have nine teams visit Midway Stadium overall. Lincoln, NE says it will host 12 of the 13 league opponents.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
They gave 41-year-old Pete Rose, Jr., who spent virtually all of the last eight years of his playing career in Independent leagues, the job of managing their advanced rookie team in Bristol, VA (Appalachian League).
The Chisox only had the son of the major league hit king in their minor league system for two stints early in his career (1991-96)so they deserve credit for not holding anything his dad did against him. After all, Rose, Jr., played professionally for 21 seasons and only got 14 major league at-bats, all with Cincinnati in 1997.
The Rose hiring is the most intriguing transaction of late even though we can point to other Indy players who have gotten new contracts.
Rose first stepped onto an Independent diamond with the New Jersey Jackals (Little Falls), then of the Northeast League and now in the Can-Am, to hit a non-affiliated career high of 15 home runs in 1998. It has been a steady diet of play in Indy leagues since 2002 with Winnipeg, Joliet, IL and Lincoln, NE, followed by Atlantic League play exclusively between 2005 and 2009 with Long Island, NY (three times), Bridgeport, CT, Newark, NJ and York, PA. The left-handed hitter became a hitting coach at Florence, KY of the Frontier League last season.
'SURPRISING' BARTON GETS NEW AFFILIATED OPPORTUNITY
When Brian Barton was playing for Bridgeport, CT in the Atlantic League early last season, the 28-year-old gave this typist the impression he was a strikeout machine. That is not good for an outfielder hopeful of returning to the major leagues. He fanned 34 times in 91 at-bats with only seven runs batted in (.264, three homers).
But Barton ended up in a Newark, NJ uniform, and although the Bears were struggling he caught fire to hit .375 with 24 doubles, 16 homers and 65 RBI in 77 games. He did fan another 72 times in his 277 times at bat, but the production was sufficient that Cincinnati has signed him and placed Barton on their Louisville (Triple A) roster. He has seen limited duty in Venezuela this winter (5-for-17) in trying to be ready to shoot for the majors once more. He already has played for St. Louis and very briefly for Atlanta.
Among other recent signings of former Independent players:
**Minnesota inked catcher Rene Rivera to a Triple-A pact after he started last season with Camden, NJ of the Atlantic League and finished in Class AA with the New York Yankees.
**Baltimore gave former major league receiver Michel Hernandez (Somerset, NJ, Atlantic) another Class AAA contract. It certainly gives him the continued opportunity to be ready if the Orioles need help in the American League East.
**The Yankees re-signed third baseman Myron Leslie (New Jersey, Can-Am League) and elevated him one level to Double-A.
Monday, December 13, 2010
Gillick's closest association, he confirmed at the Winter Meetings last week, has been with Winnipeg Owner Sam Katz. I cannot help but wonder if that relationship had something to do with Seattle purchasing pitchers George Sherrill and Bobby Madritsch back in 2003 when Gillick was general manager of the Mariners.
Both made the majors, and Sherrill, who started his pro journey in the Frontier League in 1999, ranks as one of the very best to climb all the way to the top from a start in an Indy circuit. His last five full seasons have been in the major leagues, with Atlanta the latest to obtain the free agent's services (for 2011). Sherrill hurled in Evansville, IN for two years, then spent 2001 in Sioux Falls, SD and a season and a half with Winnipeg before ever getting a shot with a major league organization. Winnipeg and Sioux Falls, originally Northern League teams, now are part of the American Association.
PENSACOLA TO DOUBLE-A?
We hope to sort it out more before Thursday's Independent Baseball Insider column, but if Pensacola, FL does go dark next season while preparing to launch a Double-A franchise in its new stadium in 2012, as is being rumored, that move likely would get the American Association back to an even number of teams instead of fielding a very awkward 15 next season.
Thursday, December 09, 2010
No fewer than five former Indy players, including three who signed during or after the season, were taken by new organizations during the Rule 5 free agent draft. All five went as part of the Triple-A phase of the draft which means the new organization had to pay $12,500 for each contract. The quintet will be on Triple-A rosters for now although they can play at any level in the organization in 2011.
The Northern League, whittled down to part of the new North American League in the future, came out looking extremely good because four of the players have played there, starting with Triple Crown threat Jacob Blackwood, an infielder, and catcher Travis Scott, both part of the NL this season.
The American Association can claim partial credit for three of the five draftees starting with southpaw Justin Dowdy, who was taken by San Francisco. Dowdy saved 17 games and posted an exceptional 1.08 earned run average with Wichita, KS and pitched in the All-Star Game before having his contract purchassed by Tampa Bay. He fanned 40 batteres in 25 innings. Dowdy, a 10-year pro vet at the age of 27, had one save and a 2.04 ERA in 11 games in Class AA.
Blackwood was drafted by San Diego, Scott by Pittsburgh. The other players with new homes are pitchers, right-hander Matt Sartor with San Francisco and righty Daniel Sattler with the Los Angeles Angels.
Blackwood and Sattler both had ties to the Kansas City (KS) T-Bones, one of the clubs moving from the Northern League to the American Association, while Scott was with Rockford, IL, which was in the Northern League and seems ticketed for the Northern Division of the NAL, which is being formed by the remaining teams in the Northern, United and Golden Leagues.
Sartor played for Lewisville, TX of the Continental League, which stopped play after the '10 season. Dowdy also has had time with Shreveport, LA in the American Association, Alexandria, LA when it was in the United League, Calgary, Canada of the Northern League and Rockford, when the RiverHawks played in the Frontier League.
Blackwood, drafted as a third baseman (he also plays second), led the Northern League with 31 home runs and 86 RBI and his .331 average ranked third. He struck out only 46 times in 426 times at bat. Scott, who bats left-handed, hit .300 in 65 games for Rockford with five homers and 29 driven in.
Monday, December 06, 2010
The last I have seen is that Justin Christian still is a free agent after playing much of 2010 in the New York Yankees system. His presence is going to be known to those scouting the winter leagues because this fleet outfielder is leading the Dominican League with a hefty .383 average (69-for-180) and has been successful in all 22 of his steal attempts. Christian, who started in Independent Baseball with River City (O'Fallon, MO) of the Frontier League and came back to play briefly in the Atlantic League last spring (Southern Maryland at Waldorf), also is showing extra base power with 16 doubles and seven home runs.
THE SIGNINGS SCENARIO
While veteran major league lefty George Sherrill is on the free agent market after being non-tendered by the Los Angeles Dodgers, the big bats of Daryle Ward and Wily Mo Pena are off the market. Ward (Newark, NJ, Atlantic League) has been signed by the Chicago White Sox for their Triple-A Charlotte, NC club and Pena (Bridgeport, CT, Atlantic) is reported to have been signed by Arizona with a major league spring training invitation. Sherrill is one of the best signings ever among players who started in Indy circles. He went all the way from Evansville, IN of the Frontier League and former Northern League cities Winnipeg, CA and Sioux Falls, SD to closing in both Baltimore and with the Dodgers. Winnipeg and Sioux Falls now are in the American Association.
Tampa Bay has once again signed southpaw R. J. Swindle, giving this Northern League (Schaumburg, IL) and Atlantic League (Newark) reliever another chance. Shortstop Ed Rogers (Bridgeport), a steadying influence both on the field and in the clubhouse, has gotten a new contract from Arizona.
Stan Hough is getting another managing opportunity, this time with Fort Worth, TX of the American Association. He spent two years in the Northeast League (Waterbury, CT), then was an affiliated field boss, working as high as Triple-A Ottawa, CA.
Meanwhile, longtime Indy Manager Les Lancaster has departed Sioux City, IA (American Association) after three years to become pitching coach for Philadelphia's Gulf Coast League team in Clearwater, FL.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
The best news is seeing that two more former Indy pitchers have been added to 40-man major league rosters, which means that come spring training time they will get an opportunity to show they are ready for the big time.
Tom Wilhelmsen's promotion by Seattle was not such a major surprise, given some of the right-hander's performances last season and the fact he also got exposure recently in the Arizona Fall League.
But Tampa Bay also is giving Dane DeLaRosa the 40-man treatment. This hulking righty has truly traveled the Independent landscape, working in three different seasons in the Golden League (Orange County, which is in Fullerton, CA plus Long Beach, CA and Yuma, AZ. He was in both the American Association (El Paso, TX) and the Atlantic League (Southern Maryland in Waldorf) in 2009, and this season went 9-3 with four saves and a 1.97 earned run average for Class AA Montgomery, AL.
RE-SIGNINGS PICKING UP TEMPO
The signing of recently-released players is continuing. Tagg Bozied (Sioux Falls, SD), coming off a strong season in Double-A, has inked a new pact in the Philadelphia organization. This one is with Triple-A Lehigh Valley (Allentown, PA).
Reliever Scott Patterson, who like Bozied started his pro career in the Independent ranks, is getting another opportunity with Seattle's top farm club in Tacoma, WA. His Indy time was in Sauget, IL (Gateway Grizzlies) in the Frontier League and with Lancaster, PA of the Atlantic League. Another Lancaster product, RHP Jon Huber, has re-signed in the Los Angeles Dodgers chain despite recent struggles in Venezuala and southpaw Edwin Walker has gone up a level in the Houston organization, now residing on the Double-A Corpus Christi, TX roster. Walker pitched in three Indy leagues, the Northern (Gary, IN), United (San Angelo, TX) and Frontier (Chillicothe, OH), and he once was ticketed for the Atlantic League although he did not appear in any games for York, PA.
Friday, November 19, 2010
I always applaud efforts to keep professional baseball in markets that could go dark because I know what it can mean to local fans. So, I wish the North American League the very best. As a longtime public relations man myself, I also tip my cap to much of the positive spin put into the release, which came out of the Golden League.
I had pinpointed in the Insider the importance of Monday's Frontier League meeting and continue to do so, unless the determined officials in Joliet, IL back off of their pledge that "we want to be in the Frontier League". Without Joliet, the NAL would only have three former Northern League teams. Surprisingly, The Joliet Herald News is completely silent on the subject so far, not even mentioning the formation of the NAL, as best I can tell.
One scenario, I suppose, could be that Joliet would play in the NAL for a year while the Frontier League can make appropriate adjustments to take the JackHammers in in a more orderly manner in 2012.
The reason for this is that while the NAL release says this combined effort of the previous Northern, United and Golden Leagues "will have 16-20 teams" that number seems somewhat high, unless Joliet, Laredo, TX, Yuma, AZ, Tijuana (Mexico) and wild cards such as Omaha, NE come together very quickly. Even holdovers such as Schaumburg, IL, Chico, CA and Orange County (Fullerton, CA) still seem to have some unresolved roadblocks.
The other challenge for many of the operators in the '11 version of the NAL will be coming out with a nice bottom line once they have taken on some trips to play outside of their division since several of the teams the circuit is planning on have not been strong attendance locales in recent years. The banner of the North American League, no matter how good, is not likely to erase these headaches overnight.
Time will tell how it all plays out, and I will be among those cheering the loudest for a successful launch and a long term triumph.
Monday, November 15, 2010
The news swirl today, which we hope to sort out in time for our detailed subscription Independent Baseball Insider column on Thursday, has the remaining Northern, United and Golden League franchises joining forces into three or four divisions under the Golden's banner.
Four divisions do not make any sense to this corner. Three may work, but even then nearly half of the 12 primary teams we have heard mentioned have been battling their own major issues.
The only public information we know of with any likely credibility came out of Rockford, IL., which is an interesting locale since the RiverHawks left the Frontier League for the Northern one year ago and is one of four remaining franchises in that circuit, all of whom have applied separately to join the 12-team Frontier. Owner Dave Ciarrachi told hometown WREX-TV that Rockford is headed to the Golden League.
Everything else seems to be mostly speculation.
The possible three-division setup which makes geographic sense has the Golden League's own teams in Canada (Edmonton and Calgary) plus Chico, CA and Maui, HA in one division. Four Illinois teams coming out of the Northern League (Joliet, Schaumburg, Zion and Rockford) would be in another division and existing United League teams in four Texas communities (Edinburg, Harlingen, Laredo and San Angelo) would make up the third unit. Coastal Bend (Robstown, TX) has been omitted from the information we have seen. Seventy-five per cent of the approximate 76-game schedule--a sizeable reduction in all cases--would be played within the "home" division to greatly reduce travel costs.
The problem with this plan, as we see it, is that Joliet and Schaumburg have been facing major ownership or financial issues, Chico and Zion could have stadium problems and Laredo very likely is headed to the American Association in another year. Zion has made one hiring which indicates it expects to play with veteran field boss Tim Johnson, who has been in Tucson (it will be in Triple-A in '11), taking over managerial duties.
The safest information of all: Stay tuned.
Friday, November 12, 2010
The Northern League, as we have been reporting for weeks, seems to be completely disappearing some 18 years after it truly launched modern-day Independent Baseball, and at the same time it is becoming more and more difficult to understand how either the Golden or United League can operate with any significant zest in 2011. Perhaps those two could combine, but the geography would be very scary.
These are primary reasons we reach these conclusions:
NORTHERN LEAGUE: The four franchises remaining after half the league joined the American Association have now applied to join the Frontier League. Applied does not mean they are being admitted, of course, with stories continuing to fly out of mainstream media in the Chicago area about the financial woes still being faced by Joliet and Schaumburg. Frontier League Commissioner Bill Lee indicated the four teams (Lake County at Zion, IL and Rockford are the others) applied individually, according to The Joliet Tribune. Asked how long a decision would take, Lee said: "I just think you've got to move in a prudent fashion, but sometimes that prudent fashion is not fast enough for some people." To complicate the matter more, The Joliet Herald News is reporting the Windy City franchise (Crestwood, IL) is demanding compensation for territorial infringement if Joliet is admitted to the league.
GOLDEN LEAGUE: After losing Tucson to Triple-A for at least a year and with Tijuana, St. George, UT, Yuma, AZ, Chico, CA and Orange County (Fullerton, CA) all facing stadium or ownership issues, Victoria, British Columbia, has announced it is ceasing operations. This only leaves Edmonton, BC, Maui, HA and Calgary, Alberta somewhat certain for 2011. The most positive step we have seen over recent weeks for the league was Calgary's appointment of 26-year-old Patrick Haas as general manager.
UNITED LEAGUE: With six teams in the past, that number is down to five after Potter County Commissioners (Amarillo, TX) awarded a stadium lease to Southern Independent Baseball to operate an American Association team in the city starting in 2011. Amarillo has been the leader in United League attendance. Theoretically, Amarillo becomes the 15th team in the American Association although this corner expects that number to somehow drop to 14, its size after the four teams joined out of the Northern League.
The new Pecos League in Texas and New Mexico appears virtually certain to be added to the Independent Baseball landscape next season. BallparkBiz.com reported Friday the Pecos, which will a largely be for younger professional aspirants, has formally launched with eight teams although two of those will be travel squads. The other six are Las Cruces, White Sands and Clovis in New Mexico and Roswell, Del Rio and Alpine in Western Texas. Las Cruces and Alpine were part of the now departed Continental League in 2010.
The good news for Indy fans is that the Atlantic and Can-Am leagues appear to be pretty solid in addition to the strengthening of both the American Association and the Frontier League. Those four circuits will have about 44 franchises among them and at least the Atlantic and the Association have new organizations lined up for one year from now.
Tuesday, November 09, 2010
Washington hired Brian Daubach, who took the Pittsfield (MA) Colonials from a late startup all the way to the Can-Am League championship series, to manage its South Atlantic League club in Hagerstown, MD. The onetime major leaguer was named Can-Am Manager of the Year for building Pittsfield from an 8-18 June to a 20-9 July and ultimately the third bast overall record in the league.
VALDES, ZAVADA LOSE 40-MAN ROSTER POSITIONS
The New York Mets have outrighted lefty Raul Valdes, the Can-Am grad (New Jersey, Nashua) who had some solid moments in his rookie major league season, to Triple-A and Arizona did the same to southpaw Clay Zavada (Southern Illinois, Frontier League), who was 3-3, 3.35 in 49 games with the parent club in 2009 before being sidelined virtually all of this season.
SO MANY WINTER LEAGUE OPPORTUNITIES
It was not long ago when Independent league players had a difficult time finding Winter League opportunities, but that is not the case any longer. The American Association reported recently that 39 of its current or former players are playing in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico or Colombia. The Can-Am League had 28 in those same leagues.
Raul Valdes (see story above), who was 3-3 with a save and a 4.91 earned run average in 38 games during his rookie major league season, has 17 strikeouts in 12.1 innings in three appearances (two starts) to go with a 1-0 record and a 1.46 ERA in the Dominican.
The best winter league pitching marks belong to another southpaw, Alberto Castillo, who shuttled between the Baltimore bullpen and Triple-A all summer. He has five victories (in as many decisions) already to lead the Mexican Pacific League. Castillo ranks third with a 2.25 ERA after five starts. He has been a frequent Independent Baseball player, working for Atlantic League teams in Newark and Camden, NJ plus the traveling Road Warriors and for Schaumburg, IL in the Northern League.
Jarrett Grube, whose contract was purchased by Seattle from Southern Maryland early in the Atlantic League season, is 3-1, 2.28 after five starts in Venezuela.
Tom Wilhelmsen, a Seattle farmhand by way of the Golden League (Tucson, AZ), has the fourth best earned run average at 0.96 in the prospect-laden Arizona Fall League. He has 14 strikeouts in 9.1 innings. Brandon Kintzler, who finished the National League season with Milwaukee, is 1-0, 3.00 after eight appearances. Kintzler spent his Indy time with American Association cities St. Paul, MN and Winnipeg, CA although the latter still was in the Northern League at the time.
Among hitters, the Mexican League batting leader is Justin Christian (Southern Maryland) at .411, with Marshall McDougall (Pensacola, FL, American Association, 2009) third at .409 and Sandy Madera (Newark, NJ) sixth at .352. Madera's 23 RBI in only 91 at bats rank No. 2, and the first baseman-DH has seven home runs.
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
One notable move involving a former Independent player saw Milwaukee claiming right-handed reliever Justin James off waivers from Oakland. The 29-year-old James made history within the Northern League this season by becoming the first player to go from the 18-year-old league to the majors in the same season.
He started the year with 11 appearances (0-0, six saves, 1.69) for the Kansas City (KS) T-Bones, one of the franchises that have since jumped to the American Association, and finished with his first five major league outings (0-0, 4.50). James, now pitching in the Arizona Fall League, is on the Brewers' 40-man roster.
SIX OTHERS SIGN NEW PACTS
Half a dozen Indy grads have received pleasant news in recent days in the form of new minor league contracts with their major league organizations. Three of them were promoted, too, which means it is less likely they will be lost when the minor league draft takes place next month.
The Los Angeles Angels promoted lefty Matt Meyer (St. Paul, MN, American Association) two levels to Triple-A and Seattle did the same with righty Tom Wilhelmsen (Tucson, AZ, Golden League). Milwaukee elevated right-hander Darren Byrd (Fargo, ND, then Northern League, now American Association) to Class AA.
Cincinnati re-signed third baseman Mike Costanzo (Camden, NJ, Atlantic League) and kept him at Triple-A and the Brewers did the same with infielder Erick Almonte (Long Island, NY, Atlantic). Toronto gave right-hander Jamie Vermilyea (Maui, HA, Golden League) a new pact although it moved him down one level to Double-A.
More moves, including possible promotions to major league rosters, will be made throughout the month as teams get ready for the Winter Meetings.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
FUTURE MAJOR LEAGUERS?
Here are a couple of names to keep in mind as possible Indy grads who may some day be added to the 149 others who have gotten to the majors after playing in one or more non-affiliated leagues.
Both right-handed pitcher Will Savage and third baseman Corey Smith are in the Los Angeles Dodgers farm system, but at a time of year when major league organizations often drop players they have signed new contracts. And, both have some time to reach the top. Savage is 26, Smith 28.
Savage was 5-7 with a strong 2.94 earned run average in 19 starts for Wichita, KS (American Association) in 2009, then finished with two appearances (1-0, 3.24) for Lancaster, PA of the Atlantic League. A Philadelphia draftee in 2007 after playing in college at Oklahoma, Savage was 10-5 with a 4.32 earned run average split with three Dodgers clubs this season. He ended up with Double-A Chattanooga, where the going was tough(0-1, 10.80 in four starts), but the Dodgers obviously like the upside.
Smith, who we wrote about frequently in our Atlantic League Notebook and Independent Baseball Insider for his all-star performance in the Southern League (Chattanooga) this season, was one key factor in Newark, NJ winning the Atlantic League title in 2007. He drove in 86 runs this season, and Los Angeles has promoted him to Triple-A Albuquerque.
Kansas City has re-signed catcher Cody Clark, who was .255-4-25 at Triple-A Omaha. Clark and Smith also got some at-bats in major league spring training this last season.
Savage and Smith are now playing in Venezuela. Savage is 0-0, 0.93 for two starts at Margarita while Smith had a three-run homer in his initial game for LaGuaira.
MORE HOT WINTER LEAGUE STATS
Outfielder Jon Weber, the New York Yankees' top rookie last spring training who later walked away from a Detroit minor league job when the major leagues were about to hand down a 100-game suspension, continues to swing a sizzling bat in the Mexican Pacific League. The onetime Northern Leaguer (Fargo, ND) and Frontier Leaguer (Canton, OH) ranks fifth in hitting at .405 (17-for-42), is tied for third in RBI (11), fifth in on-base percentage (.469) and second in slugging (.667).
Current Yankees minor league outfielder Justin Christian, who started his pro career in the Frontier League (River City, O'Fallon, MO), is next in hitting at .400 (20-for-50). Christian, who got to experience 24 games in the majors in an earlier stint with the Yankees, played briefly at Southern Maryland (Waldorf) in the Atlantic League last season.
Another outfielder, Michael Ryan, a Somerset, NJ (Atlantic League) grad who got some time in the majors again this season (Los Angeles Angels) before becoming a free agent this fall, is tied for fifth in the Venezuelan batting race at .378 (17-for-45).
On the mound, lefty Alberto Castillo, a reliever with Baltimore off and on in 2010, threw six innings of two-hit shutout ball this week. The onetime Newark, NJ and Road Warriors hurler (both Atlantic League) leads the Venezuelan League early on with a 1.54 ERA and has won his first two decisions.
Friday, October 22, 2010
--Scott Patterson, who was closing for Lancaster, PA (Atlantic League) as recently as the early weeks of this season before signing with Seattle, has a loss to go with a 2.67 ERA for his first six innings. The right-hander started his pro career at Gateway (Sauget, IL) in the Frontier League.
--Another 2010 Atlantic Leaguer (Southern Maryland, Waldorf), Jarrett Grube is 1-1, 1.64 and has not walked anyone in 11 innings covering two starts. He also played in the Seattle organization this season.
--Jon Huber (Lancaster) is off to a rocky start with a loss and a 7.71 ERA for 4.2 innings. He is in the Los Angeles Dodgers system.
--Catcher Jose Yepez, a Seattle minor leaguer who played at Pensacola, FL (American Association) and Gary, IN (Northern League), is 6-for-25 (.240) and getting considerable playing time.
--Right-hander Jon Hunton (Oakland farm system) is 1-0, 2.25 for four outings. He has been with five different Independent teams, including New Jersey (Little Falls) in the Can-Am League, Somerset, NJ and Lancaster, Atlantic League, and Fort Worth, TX plus Coastal Bend (Robstown, TX) in the American Association.
--Speedy outfielder Justin Christian, a New York Yankees farmhand, is flying out of the gate with a .344 average (11-for-32) with two home runs. Christian played briefly at Southern Maryland this spring and started his professional career in the Frontier League (River City, O'Fallon, MO).
--Infielder Jacob Blackwood, who made a solid bid for the Triple Crown while playing at Kansas City, KS (one of the teams transferring from the Northern League to the American Association), is at .241 (7-for-29) but has a homer and six RBI (7 games). Blackwood signed after the Indy season with San Francisco.
--Southpaw Nick Bierbrodt has been near perfect in four appearances (0.00 ERA), giving up just two hits and two walks in four innings. He has worked at Bridgeport, CT and Somerset in the Atlantic League and Long Beach, CA in the Golden League
and belongs to the Rockies.
--Outfielder Cory Aldridge, who got some time with the parent Angels this summer and remains on their 40-man roster, is off to a slow start (5-for-29, .172) although he has driven in five runs in his first seven games.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
A few new nuggets were cleared up at the end of the American Association meetings in Grand Prairie, TX Wednesday although the primary news was the official addition of the four teams from the Northern League that we told subscribers about in our Independent Baseball Insider column last week. What we learned Wednesday:
**There will be three divisions in the 14-team league in 2011 with newcomers Fargo, ND and Winnipeg, CA joining St. Paul, MN and Sioux Falls, SD in one grouping and Gary, IN and Kansas City, KS joining holdovers Lincoln, NE, Sioux City, IA and Wichita, KS in a five-team bracket. These two divisions mean some of the rivalries that existed prior to 2006 when the American Association was formed will resume. Southern holdovers Pensacola, FL, Shreveport-Bossier, LA and the three Texas franchises in El Paso, Fort Worth and Grand Prairie continue to make up the other division.
**The schedule will increase from 96 to 100 games, which the Northern League had this season.
**The salary cap will increase, with reports varying on what the total will be.
It seems likely the American Association rule which requires a minimum of five rookies on each team will be retained. The NL only required four. Playoffs also need to be ironed out although a logical step would match the three divisional champions and a wild card unless the league wants more than four teams to qualify. That would not be unreasonable even though some teams look at being in the postseason as taking more drain on team finances.
Northern League Commissioner Clark Griffith is quoted in one report that the veteran circuit will continue even though it is down to four teams at this point.
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
To say that changes are occurring in Independent Baseball would be a major understatement. Not a single league is left out as major movement is taking place, and one established league may disappear altogether.
We are sorting it out as quickly as possible, and will report on every move--announced or not--in Thursday's Independent Baseball Insider column.
Monday, October 04, 2010
THE DRAMA OF 2010 PLAYS OUT WITH SURREAL VIDEO OF JOHN LINDSEY AND A SURPRISING ATLANTIC LEAGUE FINISH
THE INDY SEASON ENDS IN EXCITING FASHION
The Independent Baseball season ended with all the drama one would hope for late Saturday night.
York, PA, which had to be given the longest of odds when the four-team Atlantic League playoffs started because of a struggling second half of the season and major questions about its pitching, rallied from three runs down in the eighth and ninth innings, finally pulling even at 4-4 when the apparent final out of the game went awry for the host Bridgeport (CT) Bluefish. Andy Etchebarren's Revolution went ahead in the top of the 10th and held on behind the right arm of their eighth pitcher of the evening, Michael Nix, to win, 5-4 and complete a three-game sweep for a worst-to-first turnaround and their initial title since joining the league in 2007.
The four-hour, 16-minute contest lacked some of the artistry of a normal game, with 17 hits, 18 walks, 22 strikeouts, seven errors and 26 runners left on base, but it did not lack for tension.
Both teams were less than full strength, but Bridgeport had the worst of it with cleanup hitter Josh Phelps lost the previous night with a broken hand and switch-hitting infielder Victor Mercedes, one of the Bluefish's key hitters down the stretch, departing to pick up a big paycheck playing for the Dominican Republic in a World Cup-qualifying tournament in Puerto Rico. York was without outfielder Erold Andrus, who left the team even though he had come off the bench with a 2-for-2 performance (home run, single) in Game 2.
The new champions were scheduled to be honored in York on Monday.
Monday, September 13, 2010
Atlantic League: Defending champion Somerset, NJ has clinched a tie for the final spot with six games remaining. Long Island, NY and Newark, NJ, both with seven games to go, will be eliminated with one more Patriots win or their own loss. York, PA will be the other half of the Freedom Division matchup while Southern Maryland (Waldorf) and Bridgeport, CT will square off in the other series, which starts next week.
Can-Am League: Pittsfield, MA and Quebec are in the championship series.
Frontier League: Traverse City, MI is awaiting its opponent for the finals with Southern Illinois (Marion) leading River City (O'Fallon, MO), two games to one in the best of five series.
Golden League: Newcomer Maui meets Chico, CA in the finals.
Northern League: Kansas City, KS and Fargo, ND will square off in the championship round.
The latest champion is Shreveport-Bossier, LA. The Captains surprised Sioux Falls, SD in three consecutive games to take the American Association title. Shreveport-Bossier is celebrating this very evening (Monday) with a 7 p.m. party at the Fair Grounds Field Beer Garden.
Big Bend (Alpine, TX), in the Continental League, and Amarillo, TX, in the United League, won titles earlier this season.
Friday, September 10, 2010
Chris Coste, the five-year Independent vet, was 33 when he broke in with Philadelphia in 2006, but he was "only" 111 days past his birthday compared to Lindsey's 222 days since his January 30 birthday until he was announced as a pinch hitter Wednesday.
Lindsey finally got to the plate to pinch hit for Ted Lilly in the seventh inning of Thursday's Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 loss at Houston, and with 13 family members, including three-year-old son John, Jr. on hand, the big right-handed hitter flied out to center field.
"It's an awesome feeling," the former New Jersey Jackals star told CBSSports.com of having his family travel from Mississippi to be at the game. "My little boy to see his dad up there. For all I know, he was playing around up there (during the at-bat). It was truly a good feeling to know that they were there to support me."
Lindsey and his family will get an even better feeling on Saturday because Dodgers Manager Joe Torre says he plans to start Lindsey.
Jackals Manager Joe Calfapietra, whose team was dropping its first Can-Am League playoff game in Quebec, 7-4, about the time Lindsey got his first at-bat, has tentative plans to visit Dodger Stadium for the season-ending series against Arizona October 1-3.
"John worked at all aspects of the game" during his two seasons in New Jersey (2005-06), praised Calfapietra.
We went into depth on the continuing friendship between Lindsey and Calfapietra in Thursday's subsriber-driven Independent Baseball Insider column.
Monday, September 06, 2010
John Lindsey, the onetime star of the New Jersey Jackals of the Can-Am League, is now a major leaguer, some 15 years and 1,445 games after starting his pro career.
He is the fourth Independent player called up to the major leagues in recent days. (See story immediately below this.)
Lindsey was expected to join the Los Angeles Dodgers in San Diego in time for the Monday night game. The 33-year-old won the Pacific Coast League batting championship with a .356 average for Albuquerque.
Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti and Manager Joe Torre both praised the first baseman to MLB.com. "Well earned, well deserved," said Colletti. "He's worked hard to make his dream a reality." Torre said Lindsey would be used mainly as a pinch hitter. "It's a good story", the manager said. He's a strong young man. He's not the best defensive first baseman but the son of a gun works like crazy and tries hard. And he is a threat, there's no question, from the right side of the plate."
We will have much more on Lindsey and the other new major leaguers in this week's Independent Baseball Insider column.
Sunday, September 05, 2010
Right-hander Justin James, who was with the Kansas City (KS) T-Bones in the Northern League earlier this season, is now with Oakland and he has been joined by catcher Mike Rivera with Florida and another righty, Robert Coello, with Boston. Rivera, with Milwaukee much of the last two seasons, played his Indy baseball with Atlantic City, NJ of the Atlantic League in 2005 and Coello played for both Edmonton and Calgary of the Golden League two years ago.
James and Coello are in the majors for the first time.
Monday, August 30, 2010
September is the dominant month for Independent Baseball playoffs, but the calendar is going to get stretched just a bit with the American Association and United League starting their postseason competition Tuesday (August 31). The Atlantic League, which does not close out its regular season until September 19, will spill over on the other end into the early days of October.
This is what we know for now, with much more in this week's Independent Baseball Insider which will go out to subscribers on Thursday:
AMERICAN ASSOCIATION--Defending champion Lincoln, NE squeezed its way into the postseason on the final day of the regular season, and now faces the rugged task of taking on Sioux Falls, SD, on the Pheasants' home diamond starting Tuesday. Shreveport-Bossier, LA and Pensacola, FL both won a division title in the South Division, and the first two games in that best-of-five set will be played in Pensacola.
UNITED LEAGUE--With four Texas-based teams involved, regular-season champ Amarillo visits Harlingen to take on Rio Grande Valley in the start of best-of-three series play Tuesday. Laredo hosts Edinburg in Game 1 of the other semifinal series.
CANSECO STAYS HOT: Former American League MVP and Rookie of the Year Jose Canseco, who originally signed with Laredo only to play in home games, decided to join the Broncos for much of their season-ending road trip against Edinburg and Rio Grande Valley. Canseco, 46, posted numbers much like the six-time All-Star of old. In 10 games, he hit .400 (14-for-35), with three doubles, four home runs, 13 RBI and a similar number of runs. He went 3-for-4 but also walked six times in the last two games against the Coastal Bend Thunder. Canseco also pitched twice in free-swinging affairs for first time since 2006. Canseco entered the first game in the midst of a 17-4 blowout at the hands of the White Wings (Rio Grande) and effectively silenced bats for one inning, giving up only one hit and striking out a batter with a steady diet of knuckleballs. It was not so easy the next time out when he walked five, gave up two hits and four runs in another inning of work.
Monday, August 09, 2010
Jay Gibbons, who got prominent time with both Long Island, NY and Newark, NJ as he resurrected his reputation after being named in the Mitchell Report on performance-enhancing drugs, is being given a chance to produce as the top left-handed pinch hitter for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Now 33 and out of the majors since 2007, Gibbons's contract was purchassed from Albuquerque Sunday to replace Garret Anderson (designated for assignment), and he produced immediately with a run-scoring pinch single in the bottom of the sixth inning to increase the Dodgers' lead to 6-3 over Washington. LA won, 8-3.
Gibbons played 27 games for Long Island in 2008 (.280-5-19) and 40 for Newark last season (.233-4-19), and the Dodgers signed him during the winter although they did not issue the Lakewood, CA resident an invitation to the major league spring training camp. The outfielder-first baseman went to Triple-A and hit .347 with 19 homers and 83 RBI for the Isotopes.
Meanwhile, outfielder Matt Watson, who played at Lancaster, PA of the Atlantic League until May 28 of this season and was getting increasing playing time with the parent Oakland Athletics, was taken to the hospital prior to Sunday's game when he complained of pain in his side and back. The team said later the issue was not baseball related. Watson had started five of the previous six games in left field, and while his season average was only .200 (6-for-30) he had gone 4-for-14 (.286) with three runs batted in the five games.
We expect to cover these developments in greater detail, including some of their own comments, in this week's Independent Baseball Insider column.
Tuesday, August 03, 2010
This has been an issue through the years with games frequently delayed early in the evening when the sun is directly in the eyes of hitters at the venerable stadium built 91 years ago. Wahconah was given what I understand was a very nice facelift recently--Daubach called it much more "fan friendly"--but that did not change the sun, of course.
He estimated "six or seven" Colonials games have been delayed an average of 12 to 15 minutes, but that the delays were less intrusive than when he played for the Pittsfield Mets in the New York-Penn League on his way to the majors. The improvement in battling the sun is pretty basic, as Daubach explained: "The trees have grown" since 1992.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
The answers were pretty predictable with the league that caters to more veteran professionals than any other, the Atlantic League, at the top and the circuit that concentrates almost exclusively on the younger guys, the Frontier, as No. 2. It should be known if someone has played in multiple Independent leagues he is counted multiple times, which swells the actual tally of about 200 players. We also decided to throw out players who signed with—or trained with—Indy teams, but did not actually play any games.
While fearing the telephone will start ringing with minor adjustments because of some late signing or release, these are the counts the Insider has:
American Association 34
Several leagues no longer active also showed up: South Coast 3, Central 2, Western 2, Northeast 1, Heartland 1. The Northern League edges the Atlantic, five players to four, with the most active major leaguers.
Thursday, July 08, 2010
--Now it can be told that host Long Island Ducks officials were genuinely concerned about the warnings of a possible blackout in Central Islip, NY, because of the extreme heat. Owner Frank Boulton took to the telephone himself to take any possible measures that Central Islip would be spared.
--The first confirmed sale of an All-Star is that of Bridgeport right-hander Patrick Ryan to the Boston Red Sox. The 27-year-old will report to Salem, VA of the Class A Carolina League Saturday. Ryan was the league earned run average leader (1.39), and had just been named Pitcher of the Month (5-0, 0.94 with 48 strikeouts in 38.1 innings.
--Seven scouts requested credentials with five from major league teams.
--Of the 44 players in the game, 11 have major league experience while seven have not played above Class A. Everyone else has topped out at AA or AAA to this point.
--Matt Watson got into his first major league game since 2005 Wednesday when he played leftfield and hit eighth in Oakland's 6-2 loss to the New York Yankees. The recent Lancaster, PA outfielder went 0-for-3.
--League batting leader Steve Moss of Bridgeport (.343) was MVP after hitting a two-run homer (2-for-2 plus a walk and two runs scored) in the Liberty Division's 7-1 triumph and Josh Pressley of Somerset took the home run-hitting championship by belting three out of Citibank Park with only one failed swing remaining in the second playoff round.
--The crowd at Citibank Park was announced at 6,436, which is well above the regular seating capacity of 6,002, and the stadium was surprisingly full considering the oppressive heat. All but about 300 of the tickets were sold a month or more in advance of the game.
Monday, June 28, 2010
Catcher (1)--Chris Coste, Brainerd, North Central; Brandon, Prairie; Fargo, Northern, to Philadelphia and Houston.
Infielders (7)--Mike Cervenak, Chillicothe, Frontier, to Philadelphia; Stephen Drew, Camden, Atlantic, to Arizona; Bobby Hill, Newark, Atlantic, to Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh; Kevin Millar, St. Paul, Northern, to Florida, Boston, Baltimore and Toronto; Brian Myrow, Winnipeg, Northern, to Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego; Rey Ordonez, St. Paul, to New York Mets and Tampa Bay; Jarrod Patterson, Regina, Prairie, to Kansas City.
Outfielders (3)--Justin Christian, River City, Frontier, to New York Yankees; J.D. Drew, St. Paul, to St. Louis, Atlanta, Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston; Jim Rushford, Dubois City, Heartland; Schaumburg and Duluth, Northern; to Milwaukee.
Twenty-two pitchers have made this climb. If you feel we have missed any other position players we would love to hear from you.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Jon, who many people remember for his brilliant spring training with the New York Yankees (.483 and the outstanding rookie award)followed by a disappointing few weeks with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and his eventual release, had just signed with Detroit where he will start play with the Toledo Mud Hens Thursday.
This is, once again, a happy guy. Now, if only his usual run of hits follow maybe, just maybe, the 32-year-old lefty outfielder will get his first trip to the major leagues.
Another classy guy, reliever Brian Sweeney, got the call he had hoped for yesterday, rejoining the Seattle Mariners, for whom he last pitched in 2003. Sweeney spent parts of 2004 and 2006 with San Diego, went to Japan for a time, and was signed out of the Somerset Patriots' Atlantic League preseason camp in April.
Weber and Sweeney are both veterans of Independent leagues, Weber with Canton, OH in the Frontier League and later with Fargo, ND of the Northern League while Sweeney started in the departed Heartland League with Lafayette, IN.
We will include some of Weber's thoughts and have more to say about Sweeney in this week's subscriber-based Independent Baseball Insider.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
I realize the word awesome is pretty strong, but it really does fit in these instances.
Daniel Nava, only the 34th player since the Indy game started in 1993 to begin his professional career at that level and advance to the major leagues, became the second player ever regardless of his background to hit a grand slam on the very first pitch he faced in the major leagues.
This feat occurred Saturday when the Boston Red Sox promoted Nava from Triple-A and he blasted a Joe Blanton pitch for a grand slam to erase a 2-1 deficit and lift the Red Sox to a 10-2 win over Philadelphia. Kevin Kouzmanoff had accomplished the feat in 2006, according to STATS LLC..
Nava, batting ninth, also doubled in four at-bats in front of his parents and the usual capacity crowd at Fenway Park.
The 27-year-old Nava had gone undrafted out of Santa Clara, and started his professional career in the Golden League in 2007. Playing for Chico, CA, he hit .371, was named the league MVP, helped the Outlaws to the league championship and was honored by Baseball America as the No. 1 prospect in the Independent game.
FIVE CONSECUTIVE HOMERS BY CRISTIAN GUERRERO IN NORTHERN LEAGUE
The other unbelieavable feat was accomplished by longtime minor league outfielder Cristian Guerrero, who homered on five consecutive at-bats for the Gary (IN) RailCats in a Northern League doubleheader.
Guerrero, the first cousin of major leaguers Vladimer and Wilton Guerrero, homered in his last two trips to the plate in Game 1 of a doubleheader, then came back with round-trippers in his first three at-bats in the nightcap.
The indication, to this point, is the feat may never have been accomplished previously in professional baseball.
Guerrero, 29, is in his third season at Gary. He spent a good portion of 2007 at Camden, NJ in the Atlantic League.
Friday, June 04, 2010
AFTER HIS GEM, SCHLICHTING GOES TO MINORS WHILE THE BAT OF THE 'KNUCKLE PRINCESS' GOES TO COOPERSTOWN
"Schlichting pitched his tail off", was the quote from Los Angeles Dodgers Manager Joe Torre that we used in yesterday's Independent Baseball Insider column, courtesy of The Los Angeles Times. The 25-year-old former infielder and Independent Baseball reliever with the Northern League's Kansas City (KS) T-Bones had just won his first major league game with four shutout innings as the Dodgers edged Arizona, 1-0, in 14 innings.
Schlichting was sent back to Triple-A Albuquerque one day later because the Dodgers needed a fresh arm in its bullpen. "It wasn't easy to tell Travis," Torre confessed to MLB.com. The 6-foot-4 right-hander was gracious, however, saying: "I'm just happy I got the opportunity to pitch in a game situation." It was only his third major league appearance, with two shorter outings last season.
He likely will return to the majors before long, and also can be thankful to have his health after missing two months last season with back issues and fighting off the effects of Gilbert's syndrome (fatigue and weight loss), which limited his work during spring training this season.
DODGERS HONORING JOSE LIMA'S LIFE SUNDAY
The Dodgers are making good on their promise to pay tribute to fallen hurler Jose Lima with various musical numbers and recollections of his fun-filled time in baseball during Viva Los Dodgers Day Sunday. Lima had planned to perform during the celebration, as he had previously.
While the 37-year-old is best remembered for his colorful antics during his major league career, he also re-energized his career during stints in the Atlantic League with Newark, NJ in 2003 and Camden, NJ five years and 27 major league wins later.
YOSHIDA MEMORABILIA HEADED TO HALL OF FAME
It is great to know the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY will be getting both the jersey and the bat used by Japanese teen Eri Yoshida during her historic debut in the Golden League May 29.
The bat is a neat sidebar to her first United States pitching appearance for Chico, CA because the "Knuckle Princess" had a bases-loaded single in the bottom of the first inning. The Hall of Fame has confirmed, according to the Golden League, that the hit was the first by a female player in men's professional baseball in this country since the days of the Negro leagues. Ms. Yoshida, of course, is primarily known for her sidearm knuckleball pitching delivery. She will next take the mound June 12, also in Chico.
Monday, May 24, 2010
I was on my way to the Ballpark at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport, CT Sunday when I heard the news on the radio. It seemed like everyone I encountered at the York-Bridgeport Atlantic League game had already heard. Each person echoed the same thing. These recollections centered on what a fun-loving guy Lima was, and how people remembered his days in the league when he pitched in New Jersey for Newark in 2003 and Camden in 2008.
"I caught his first game in winter ball, managed him in winter ball and managed him in Kansas City," current New York Yankees bench coach Tony Pena told The New York Post. "Today is a very hard and long day."
Lima had his best two seasons in 1998-99 with Houston, putting up 16-8 and 21-10 campaigns. But he struggled thereafter, bottoming out with a 4-6, 7.77 year with Detroit in 2002.
Needing a re-start his career, Lima went to Newark in '03 where, as I reported in my Independent Baseball Insider column, pitching coach Pete Filson pointed out a flaw in his delivery which was causing the right-hander to lose velocity. Lima won six of seven decisions in eight starts (2.33 ERA) for the Bears before Kansas City bought his contract.
He bolted to a 7-0 start with the American League Central-leading Royals, and the same Tony Pena, his manager, told USA Today's Baseball Weekly: "We're having fun here, and now Lima is part of the fun. Really, his personality is perfect for this club." Lima finished the year 8-3, and he went 13-5 for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2004, then hurled a complete-game, five-hit shutout over St. Louis in the National League Division Series.
By 2008, he was back in the Atlantic League, going 5-5 at Camden. It was more Independent Baseball last season, a combined 6-7 between the Long Beach (CA) Armada and the Edmonton (Alberta) Outlaws in the Golden League.
Who could have projected his career and especially his life would end so soon.
"He was a man full of life, without apparent physical problems and with many plans and projects on the agenda," Lima's wife, Dorca, told ESPNdeportes.com.
Sunday, May 09, 2010
The Angels gave Ryan his first major league opportunity since 2005 when they made room on their 40-man roster and the active 25-man roster Friday. He has paid one dividend already with a pinch single in the ninth inning Saturday in an eventual 4-3, extra-inning win in Seattle. He was 0-for-1 and played briefly in the outfield in his debut Friday.
The 32-year-old left-handed-hitting outfielder spent much of 2008 with Somerset, NJ in the Atlantic League, hitting .282 with 20 doubles, 15 home runs and driving in 44 in 65 games before his contract was sold to the Florida Marlins.
"For this organization and (Mike Scioscia) to give me a chance, I'm just so relieved," Ryan told MLB.com. "I'm not going to do anything to screw that up, and whatever they ask me to do, I'm going to give 100 per cent to do it." Ryan's previous major league experience came in 127 games for Minnesota spread over four seasons (2002-05).
MILLAR DOUBLES IN FIRST GAME
Kevin Millar, making what could be a farewell tour as a player, had a run-scoring double in four at-bats Saturday in an exhibition game for the St. Paul (MN) Saints, for whom he started his pro career in 1993. He is expected to play with the American Association team for about a week once the regular season begins Thursday.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Lefty Alberto Castillo got another call to Baltimore and righty Chris Jakubauskas joined Pittsburgh. Neither had made the cut at the end of spring training.
Jakubauskas is the one with the argument. The 31-year-old got only 12 pitches into his initial 2010 major league start at Houston Saturday night when Lance Berkman lined a pitch off the back of his head, sending Jakubauskas to the ground for several minutes and to Methodist Hospital for the night. Early indications are the pitcher is going to be okay, which also is a relief to Berkman. "That's probably the most rattling thing I've been a part of in the big leagues," Berkman told MLB.com. The Houston first baseman ran to first base on his hit, then quickly ran to the mound in a gracious effort to help.
This is Jakubauskas's second major league season. After starting his pro career in the Frontier League (Florence, KY and Ohio Valley), he progressed through Orange County (Fullerton, CA) of the Golden League and Lincoln, NE of the American Association before spending virtually all of 2009 with Seattle, where he was 6-7, 5.32. The onetime University of Oklahoma position player was 0-2, 4.50 in two starts at Indianapolis this season before he was recalled.
Castillo, who also played for four Independent teams, was with Baltimore for 28 games in 2008 and 20 more last season, winning his only decision and putting up a 3.32 earned run average. He played Indy baseball with Schaumburg, IL in the Northern League, then with three Atlantic League teams (Newark and Camden, NJ plus the traveling Road Warriors).
Monday, April 19, 2010
After starting the season 1-for-9 in three road games for Triple-A Albuquerque, the 33-year-old outfielder has pounded out 13 hits in the first five home contests, including back-to-back four-hit games. The lefty hitter, who needed two Atlantic League stints (Long Island, NY in 2008 and Newark, NJ last season) to get his career back in gear, is at .467 (14-for-30) with six doubles, two home runs and 12 runs batted in. His slugging percentage is sky high at .867, and Gibbons has struck out only three times.
ANOTHER SOUTHPAW SIZZLING ON MOUND
Tom Cochran may be nearly as impressive as Jay Gibbons although his level of attention may not be quite as high since he has only pitched twice in the young season.
The former Can-Am League all-star (Worcester, MA) has given up only one earned run (two overall) in a pair of Double-A outings for Cincinnati's Carolina Mudcats. His ERA is a skimpy 0.75, and he has only surrendered five hits in 12 innings while fanning 15.
Cochran, who did not sign with the Reds until he had pitched seven times (three starts) for Lancaster, PA in the Atlantic League early last season, shut down Montgomery, AL (Tampa Bay) on two hits over six scoreless innings Friday. He struck out eight and walked only one. He had limited Birmingham, AL (White Sox) to three hits and the one earned run in six innings in his season debut.
The 27-year-old also spent three seasons in the Frontier League (Ohio Valley and Washington, PA) after a two-year trial as a reliever in the Boston organization right after he had finished at Middle Georgia Junior College.
ALL-STAR 1B LEAVES ATLANTIC LEAGUE FOR NORTHERN
It could not have been two weeks ago when we heard all-star first baseman Jesse Hoorelbeke and Bridgeport were in negotiation for the 32-year-old slugger to return for a fourth season with the Bluefish. But news came down late last week that both Jesse and younger brother Casey, a pitcher, have signed to play with Fargo, ND of the Northern League.
It seemed likely Bridgeport would feel some loss of power, although that may have changed when the ‘Fish signed major league vet Josh Phelps. Another right-handed power guy, Phelps hit 31 homers as recently as 2008 for Triple-A Memphis. He played only 17 games in the San Francisco system last year (two homers) before going down with a shoulder injury. Seven months younger than Hoorelbeke, Phelps has had a better career, hitting 64 major league home runs in 465 games (.273 average), with 52of them coming between 2002 and 2004 with Toronto and Cleveland.
In the meantime, Jesse Hoorelbeke will be a welcome addition back in the Northern League where his 21 homers in only 74 games led not only the RedHawks but also the league in 2006.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
The third such hurler to get in work at Fort Worth prior to being drafted, Royals hopeful Aaron Crow, also had a solid outing on opening night for Class AA Northwest Arkansas (Springdale). Crow, who continued to open eyes during his first major league spring training in Arizona, went 4.2 innings and was touched only for an unearned run.
Crow allowed four hits, walked three and struck out two, but needed one more out to qualify for the 5-1 win over San Antonio. Crow threw 80 pitches (48 strikes).
ALDRIDGE, RYAN OKAY IN FIRST TWO AT SALT LAKE CITY
Many eyes will be on former Atlantic League outfielders Michael Ryan (Somerset, NJ) and Cory Aldridge (Newark, NJ) early this season after they came so very close to crowding their way onto the Los Angeles Angels Opening Day roster.
Salt Lake City has dropped its first two games, but Ryan, who has been in rightfield and DH, is 3-for-7 with a double. Aldridge, the leftfielder and cleanup hitter, has a triple and single in eight at-bats.
Jacque Jones's comeback effort got off to a good start when he homered on opening night for Rochester, NY, Minnesota's top farm club. Jones played for a time last summer at Newark.
Saturday, April 03, 2010
His name now goes alongside the likes of Hideki Matsui, Jorge Posada, Don Mattingly, Willie Randolph, Tippy Martinez, Roy White, Tom Tresh, Tony Kubek and Norm Siebern as a winner of the James P. Dawson Award as the outstanding Yankees rookie in spring training.
Weber was honored in a pre-game ceremony at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa Friday.
By now, you probably know Weber's story. The 32-year-old, who formerly played Independent Baseball at Canton, OH in the Frontier League and Fargo, ND in the Northern League, led the Bronx Bombers in hitting this spring at a lofty .483 (14-for-29) in 17 games, and was second in hits at the time he was sent to the minor league camp. He is a left-handed-hitting outfielder.
Weber is the first non-roster player to win the award since Eric Duncan in 2006. The honor is named for the longtime New York Times writer who died during spring training in 1953. Yankees beat writers vote on the winner. Weber also will receive a Raymond Weil watch from William Barthman Jewelers.
ANOTHER FEAT FOR CORY ALDRIDGE
Onetime Atlantic Leaguer Cory Aldridge is making it tough on Los Angeles Angels brass by continuing a terrific offensive pace in spring training.
The latest feat for the former Newark (NJ) Bears outfielder was a leadoff triple in the bottom of the ninth inning Friday when more than 40,000 fans were watching the homestanding Angels as they tried to erase a 3-2 deficit to the rival Los Angeles Dodgers in a spring training game at Angel Stadium. Aldridge, now hitting .395, later scored the tying run and the Angels rallied for a 4-3 victory.
Michael Ryan, the other former Atlantic League player trying to climb from a non-roster invitation to the major league roster, went 0-for-1. The onetime Somerset star is now at .270.
SPEEDY COBY SMITH GETS A CHANCE
Still another former Independent Baseball outfielder made the best of a one-day trip from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim minor league camp to play in a Cactus League exhibition.
Coby Smith, who started his pro career with a traveling team (Aces, Northeast League, 2004), entered a game against Cleveland as a pinch runner, then went to leftfield and eventually had a run-scoring double in two times at bat in a 7-6 Angels victory. Smith stole 41 bases at Double-A Arkansas last season for a six-year total of 165. He also played for Indy teams in Shreveport, LA and St. Paul, MN, before the Halos signed him to start the 2007 season.
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Two of the best stories of the spring centering around former Independent Baseball players came to a disappointing end. We will be discussing the situation more in this week's Independent Baseball Insider column, but both Kevin Millar, the Indy game's most successful player, and hit-machine Jon Weber found out they will not make opening day rosters with the Cubs and Yankees, respectively.
Millar may catch on elsewhere after his release from Chicago, of course, with Weber departing for minor league camp with the knowledge his .483 average was not good enough to crack the Yankees' roster. The 32-year-old without a single day in the major leagues was hitting .560 until an 0-for-4 in his final game.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Of the four players I have seen who have had the "one-day pass" in the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues, the most interesting may be Oakland farmhand Mike Benacka.
Benacka's stock has been climbing from the day the Athletics purchased his contract midway in 2008, which was his second season as a professional. The right-hander was about to turn 25 when River City (O'Fallon, MO) inked the onetime Lindenwood University product to a Frontier League contract. Lindenwood is in St. Charles, MO, a neighbor to O'Fallon.
The 6-foot-2 Benacka's rookie numbers were not outstanding (2-5, 5.01) although he did save 20 games for the Rascals, who already have produced relievers Josh Kinney and Joe Thatcher, both of whom have made it to the majors. Thatcher still is with San Diego.
Benacka was lights out at the start of 2008, with wins in all three decisions, 13 saves and an eye-popping 0.35 ERA (one run in 26 innings spread over 22 games). That is when Oakland stepped in right after the Frontier League All-Star Game. Benacka has not been closing games on a regular basis for the Athletics, but he has progressed from Class A Stockton, CA to Double-A Midland, TX and Triple-A Sacramento in a year and a half, limiting Pacific Coast League hitters to a .133 average while posting a 1.98 ERA in 10 appearances late last season. He struck out 18 hitters in his 13.2 innings, and allowed a mere six hits. He has fanned 238 hitters in only 173pro innings.
It is no wonder A's brass wanted to see Benacka in a Cactus League game. He faced Cincinnati for a scoreless inning of work, giving up one hit, a walk and striking out one hitter.
To say Benacka bears watching this season seems like an understatement.
WHO WILL MAKE IT TO OPENING DAY
The latest projection from this corner is that no less than 15 former Indy players will be wearing major league uniforms when the regular season starts Sunday and Monday, with at least half a dozen others still trying to nail down jobs.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Jon Weber's spring batting average is continuing to drop. That is what happens when someone starts out above the .700 level. Poor guy!
The non-roster outfielder with the World Champion New York Yankees "only" went 1-for-3 Saturday, and his average dropped from .588 to .550. This veteran of the Independent Baseball world, who still is looking for that elusive first regular-season at-bat, has gone an impressive 11-for-20 for the Tampa-based Yankees while playing largely in rightfield or DHing. The 11 hits have him one safety behind team leader Robinson Cano.
Weber, whose Independent experience came in the Northern League (Fargo, ND) and Frontier League (Canton, OH), has five runs, five RBI and three doubles.
It seems impossible the Yankees' decision-makers could be overlooking the veteran's bat and hustle, whether he makes the Opening Day roster or is merely kept in mind when there is a need later in the American League season.
A FAMILIAR NAME SHOWS UP
Gabe DeHoyos was a spring training invitee of the San Diego Padres one year ago. I must admit I lost track after last season until the 29-year-old showed up in a box score with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim a couple of days ago. The right-hander, who once played for the Schaumburg (IL) Flyers in the Northern League, was touched for two hits and two runs in his inning of work.
Meanwhile, the positive results continue to pile up for former Atlantic Leaguers Michael Ryan (Somerset, NJ) and Cory Aldridge (Newark, NJ) as they bid for an outfield job--most likely one spot is open, at most--with the Angels. Ryan carried a .381 average (8-for-21) into Sunday with Aldridge at .364 (8-for-22). They have terrific on-base percentages, with Ryan at .462 and Aldridge at .440.
HOW MUCH DOES A .750 AVERAGE HELP?
It seems like a very long shot for minor league catching veteran Cody Clark to break camp with the Kansas City Royals because of his limited Triple-A time and the presence of Jason Kendall and backup Brayan Pena on the 40-man roster, but the 28-year-old Arkansas lad should carry some great memories if his time with the big league club ends.
Clark, the No. 1 backstop with the San Diego Surf Dawgs (Golden League) in 2005, has three hits in four official at-bats spread over five spring training games. He has scored three runs and driven in two.
Monday, March 15, 2010
Eric Gagne says he is not about to give up, but for now the onetime National League Cy Young Award winner also is a former non-roster invitee to the Los Angeles Dodgers' major league spring training camp.
Gagne, who started his way back by pitching in rotation every five days in the Can-Am League (Quebec) last summer, was reassigned to the minor league camp Monday after three Cactus League outings in which he was roughed up for six runs and eight hits in 2.2 innings (20.25 earned run average).
"I'm on my way back (to the majors)," Gagne told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. "I knew it wasn't gonna be easy. But I'm gonna go down there and work my butt off and be ready if they need help. (It is a) long season."
JOHN LINDSEY OUT, JAY GIBBONS IN
Former New Jersey Jackals (Can-Am League) first baseman John Lindsey went to Taiwan with the Dodgers--as he did to China two springs ago--so it was surprising to see his name in the first round of cuts from the major league camp Monday. It hardly seems fair that the non-roster player only got back to Arizona Sunday night, and the 33-year-old is out of camp only hours later. Lindsey's only appearance at the plate in the Cactus League this spring resulted in a walk. He had 26 official at-bat with LA two springs ago.
Longtime major leaguer Jay Gibbons, who has not been listed as an official non-roster player with the Dodgers, has already been in one game (0-for-1) and the former Atlantic League outfielder (Long Island, NY and Newark, NJ) was among those named to travel to meet the Angels Monday afternoon.
Other Independent players sent packing from major league camps so far include pitchers Vince Perkins (Camden, NJ) by the Cubs and Charlie Zink (Yuma, AZ, Western League) by the Cardinals.
Monday, March 08, 2010
The last thing anyone wants to have happen when a new season is starting is to come up with a significant injury, but that is precisely what has happened to one of last season's bright new faces making the jump all the way from Independent Baseball to the major leagues. A second player also has been shelved, at least temporarily.
Toronto's Scott Richmond, who was hoping to solidify his starting rotation job even more than the 8-11, 5.52 he posted in his first virtually full American League campaign in '09 (27 appearances, 24 starts), has gone out the window for the time being because of a shoulder impingement. Richmond, 30, has been placed on the 60-day disabled list which means the best he can hope for would be an early May return. The initial injury occurred during pre-spring training workouts.
Richmond is a true Independent find since his first three seasons after college baseball at Oklahoma State were with Edmonton when that team was the Cracker Cats of the Northern League. Edmonton has since moved to the Golden League and become the Capitals.
SWINDLE ALSO SHELVED
R. J. Swindle, the 26-year-old southpaw who has had considerable Independent experience (Schaumburg, IL, Northern League, and Newark, NJ, Atlantic League), has had his efforts to win a bullpen job with Tampa Bay at least slowed by an oblique injury suffered in his first Grapefruit League outing against the Yankees Friday.
The Rays have been cautious with their daily medical news on Swindle, but it doesn't sound great after Manager Joe Maddon told Marc Topkin of The St. Petersburg Times on Sunday "he's not going to play for a while".
Swindle, a Boston draftee in 2004, is with his third major league team in as many years. He got into three major league games with Philadelphia in 2008 and six more with Milwaukee last season.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Eric Gagne has spent a chunk of his early days back in the Los Angeles Dodgers' spring training camp trying to explain his admitted "shame" at the use of human growth hormone (HGH). He needs to apologize on another front, too.
The onetime record-breaking closer, who now is trying to get back to the major league level, should ask for forgiveness from both the Can-Am League and the fans of Quebec. Of all people he wants to offend, it would seem to this corner, would be his native French-speaking Canadians. And what about the Quebec Capitales, who kept handing him the baseball every five days, even when he had trouble breaking a pane of glass at times and his earned run average was hovering around 10.00. The ERA got to 10.80 after his fourth start last June, and even though he had given up 20 earned runs in his last 15.1 innings he started once more six days later.
The offense to the Can-Am League and to the predominately French fans? It wasn't HGH this time. He said the Can-Am was like a "beer league", and it seems doubtful this was a misquote since it appeared in stories from the likes of ESPNLosAngeles.com and MLB.com. He must have been talking in similar fashion to The Los Angeles Times or it seems unlikely writer T. J. Simers would have talked about "the baseball pits in Canada" when he discussed Gagne's recent baseball opportunities.
I wonder how this will make his Capitales teammates feel.
"I'm so ashamed," Gagne told The Times, referring to HGH. "It wasn't smart. If I knew what I know now...I didn't need it. I regret it so much, just now maybe getting over the guilt. It was stupid."
So were the thoughtless remarks about Quebec, where the 17 starts and 102.2 innings (6-6, 4.65) gave the 34-year-old enough work despite his inconsistency to have a hope of making a comeback to add to the millions of dollars he already has collected from baseball.
Shame on you, Eric.
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A MIDDLE INFIELDER GETS INVITED TO CAMP
The late addition of Eric Gagne jumped the count of players who have toiled in an Independent league and now are invited to major league spring training camps to 41, with all of one middle infielder in the group. That is Arizona shortstop Stephen Drew, who played at Camden, NJ in the Atlantic League, but even then he was a touted prospect instead of someone who truly had to work his way through the professional baseball system.
Make it two shortstops, now. Ed Rogers, who came out of the Dominican Republic and signed with Baltimore when he was barely 19, is going to camp as a non-roster invitee with Arizona. Now 31, Rogers got a taste of Independent Baseball last summer when he hit .299 in 33 games (38-for-127) with Bridgeport, CT of the Atlantic League. Rogers has 30 games of major league play to his credit, spread over three seasons (2002, '05, '06) with the Orioles.