April 2009

Special Guest: John Boles


Boles April 09.jpgSpecial Assistant to GM Zack Zduriencik of the Mariners, John Boles is here in Clinton getting a look at the talent on the roster.  He’s pictured above, talking with LumberKings’ outfielder Daniel Carroll.

I had the opportunity to catch the two-time Florida Marlins manager and Seattle talent evaluator on my pregame show for tonight.  Amongst the topics we covered, his thoughts on Carroll and Denny Almonte, other offensive stars like Nate Tenbrink and Travis Howell, the strong starting rotation of Steven Hensley, Brett Lorin and Aaron Pribanic, and the Mariners themselves.

Listen Here: 
John Boles Interview 4.29.09.mp3

The LumberKings get a tough test with the 14-4 Fort Wayne TinCaps coming in for a three-game series starting tonight.  Listen to the game online at www.kcln.com.


A Little Walk-Off For You

…courtesy of Terry Serrano.

Listen here:
Serrano Walk Off Double 4.28 vs. Burlington.mp3



Offensive Breakout

Well, the offense has arrived.  A 10-2 win last night over Burlington was a season-high for runs and hits (12) for the LumberKings.  Last night was also the somewhat rare occurence where a Pregame Interview guest also has the Highlight of the Game.  In this case, that man was Scott Savastano

His Pregame Interview: 
Savastano Interview 4.27.09.mp3

His Two-Run Homer: 
Savastano 2-R HR 4.27 vs. Burlington.mp3

Some notes from last night…


Kings End Slide with Longball:  The LumberKings slugged three home runs, plating a season-high 10 runs in a 10-2 thrashing of the Burlington Bees last night…the win put a halt to Clinton’s four-game losing streak.  The Kings struck first with a three-run first inning on the strength of a two-run single by Nate Tenbrink and an RBI double by Travis Howell.  Two innings later, it was Mario Martinez delivering his first double of the year, plating Howell in the process.  The Kings started swinging for the fences in the fourth as Scott Savastano lifted off for a two-run blast over the wood wall in left-center, making it 7-0.  Leading 7-2 in the eighth, Howell lead off with an opposite-field homer to right-center, and Terry Serrano belted his first of the year, a two-run shot to left-center.  Emergency starter Blake Nation allowed two runs (one earned) over 4.0 innings, and lefty Bobby LaFromboise (W, 1-1) tossed 3.0 scoreless frames.  Left-hander Brent Fisher (L, 0-1) lost the Bees.


That’s More Like It:  After scoring just 10 runs combined in their previous four games (all losses), the Kings erupted for 10 runs on 12 hits, both season-highs.  The three home runs were also the most posted in one game, eclipsing the previous record of two (Nate Tenbrink / Travis Howell on 4/17, Denny Almonte / Mario Martinez on 4/24).  Clinton combined for a season-high seven extra-base hits, including four doubles.


Multi-Hit Men:  The three-hit night by Nate Tenbrink was his second in as many games…he’s 7-for-10 (.700) in the series so far, including two runs scored and two RBI…he leads the team in both total hits (18) and RBI (8).  The latest surge has bumped Tenbrink’s average from .256 to .340, ranking him 14th in the league in hitting.   Equally hot is Scott Savastano…his 2-for-4 effort included his first home run of the year and is his team-leading fifth multi-hit game.  Savastano is 5-for-12 (.417) over the last three games, raising his average from .333 to a team-high .356…that average is also 10th-best in the Midwest League.  Travis Howell also posted a season-best 3-for-4 game (two doubles, HR)…he’s tied for second in the MWL with three home runs.


Nation(al) Emergency:  Right-hander Blake Nation made his first career start last night, but wasn’t scheduled to be the starter.  League ERA and wins leader Steven Hensley was scheduled to make his fourth start, but fell ill before game time…he is expected to make his next start.  Nation performed well, tossing a career-high 4.0 innings.  Last year, Nation converted 11 saves for Pulaski, second most in the Mariners’ system.


Roster Moves:  The LumberKings added left-hander Greg Moviel to the roster today, replacing right-hander Keith Meyer, who has been released.  Moviel, 23, was drafted in the 26th round by the Mariners in 2006 after a three-year career at Vanderbilt.  With Peoria (AZL) in 2007, Moviel was 0-3 with a 24.00 ERA in 11 games.



10-Game Homestand

At last check, your LumberKings were 8-3 and holding the first place spot in the West Division.  Struggles have caught up with the Kings…four-straight losses have them at 8-7 and in third place in the West.

On the bright side, Alliant Energy Field received some accolades in the Chicago Sun-Times last week.  Dave Hoekstra calls the 72-year-old home of the LumberKings his “favorite destination” for baseball in the Midwest.  Pretty lofty accolades given some of the newer parks in this league.  You can read the whole article here.  Also, his book, Midwest League Field Guide (Cougars and Snappers and Loons, Oh My!) is due for release next month.

Here’s some excerpts from today’s notes:

Kings Come Undone in Eighth:  The Burlington Bees plated four runs in the eighth inning, including a go-ahead RBI double by Nick Francis, sending the LumberKings to their fourth-straight loss yesterday afternoon, 6-2.  The game was knotted at 2-2 for most of the day as the Kings twice battled back from one-run deficits…Daniel Carroll was hit by a pitch and scored on an RBI double by Scott Savastano in the first, and Nate Tenbrink reached on one of his three singles to lead off the second and scored two batters later on an RBI groundout from Juan Fuentes.  Starter Kenn Kasparek had his best outing this season, limiting the Bees to two runs (one earned) on three hits over 5.1 innings.  However, right-hander Ryan Moorer struggled in the eighth…after allowing a one-out single to Eric Hosmer, Moorer (L, 1-1) served up the game-winning double to Nick Francis.  A pair of errors allowed another run to score, and an RBI double by Jose Bonilla and RBI single by Antonio Jimenez gave the Bees breathing room.  Right-hander Carson Bryant (W, 1-0) got the win in relief.


Relief. Please:  After starting the year 5-of-6 in save opportunities and recording 10 holds, the LumberKings’ bullpen has blown saves in three of the last four games, all losses.  Prior to Thursday night’s 8-5 loss to Cedar Rapids, the Kings had not lost when tied or leading after the sixth inning.  The recent struggles have raised Clinton’s bullpen ERA from 2.42 on 4/22 to 3.57 currently…the pen as a whole is 1-4 this season.


Starting a New Streak:  Since seeing his six-game hitting streak snapped on 4/24, Nate Tenbrink is 4-for-6 over the last two games, including a 3-for-3 performance yesterday afternoon.  He is one of just three Kings to reach the three-hit plateau this season…Maximo Mendez (4/10) and Scott Savastano (4/15) are the others.  Over the past five games, Tenbrink is hitting .412 (7-for-17) with a double, three runs scored and an RBI.  Only one other King has a hitting streak as long as two games right now…Savastano is 3-of-8 in his last two games.


Eight is Enough:  Denny Almonte saw his team-best eight-game hitting streak come to an end yesterday, going 0-for-4.  The second round pick by Seattle in 2007, Almonte hit .387 (12-for-31) during the streak, including three doubles, a triple, a home run, four RBI and two multi-hit games.  He also started the season with a five-game hitting streak, making yesterday’s performance just his second hitless game in 15 starts this year.


Need for Speed:  The first-inning steal by Daniel Carroll was his team-leading seventh of the season and sixth since coming off the disabled list (strained groin) on 4/22…he’s a perfect 7-for-7 this season, tied for second in the Midwest League with two others.  The LumberKings as a club have stolen 27 bases in 39 attempts (69% success rate), second-most behind Cedar Rapids’ 28 steals (28-of-42, 67% success rate).


Smokin’ Aces:  The LumberKings boast the Midwest League’s best team ERA at 2.66 thanks to the most dominant 1-3 starting trio in the league.  Right-handers Steven Hensley, Brett Lorin and Aaron Pribanic are a combined 7-0 with a 0.69 ERA (4 ER / 52.1 IP) with nine walks and 49 strikeouts through their first nine starts this season.  Hensley is the league’s ERA leader at 0.00, while his three wins are also tied with four others for the top spot.  Pribanic is fourth in the league with a 1.02 ERA, while his 17.2 innings pitched are tied with Hensley for fifth-most.  Lorin is fifth in ERA at 1.06, while his 19 strikeouts are tied with three others for fifth.  The 4-5 starters are a combined 0-3 with a 5.55 ERA (13 ER / 21.1 IP), 13 walks and 19 strikeouts.


Hopefully another big outing from Hensley tonight.  Listen online at www.kcln.com!


The Future Is Now

I could tell you about the Major League debut of Derek Holland (’08) from last night, but wouldn’t you rather see it?


Enjoy.  I did.


Off Day Odds and Ends

No baseball yesterday here in Clinton because of more rain, no baseball today because of a scheduled off day.  What does a Midwest League broadcaster do with his free time?

1.  Laundry

2.  Sleep

3.  Blog

We’ll start with #3.

Both the LumberKings and Seattle Mariners are off to hot starts this year, both teams are alone in first place in their respective West Divisions.  The Kings have done it with pitching, timely hits and speed on the basepaths, the Mariners have done it largely the same way.

I’ve already been talking up the 1-3 starters on this staff quite a bit on the broadcasts, and for good reason.  The Steven HensleyBrett LorinAaron Pribanic combination is 5-0 with a 0.77 ERA (3 ER / 35.1 IP) so far on the season.  I believe Kenn Kasparek and Adam Harben will chip in big starts in their next two outings this week.

That 1-3 of the rotation doesn’t look too much different than the Erik Bedard (1-1, 1.86), Felix Hernandez (2-0, 4.26), Jarrod Washburn (2-0, 1.29) combo that’s got the Mariners off to a hot start.

Then there’s the comparisons of the lineup.  There’s a nice write-up on Endy Chavez on the front of Mariners.com at the moment, talking about his excellent on-field start and clubhouse presence.  The Kings are getting that out of MWL veterans Maximo Mendez and Denny Almonte already this year.  On-field, Mendez hitting .290 and is already 5-for-5 in stolen base attempts (including a three-steal game on Saturday night), while Almonte has quietly hit in eight of nine games, batting .281 with four RBI.  When that tandem has been able to produce runs early in the game, the Kings have won…Clinton is 5-0 when scoring first this season, and the club has scored 21 of their 42 runs before the fourth inning.

Of course, Scott Savastano (.440, third-best in the league), Luis Nunez (.320, 5 runs scored, 3 RBI), Travis Howell (.294, 2 HR, 3 RBI) and others have contributed as well.

The biggest early offensive stat that jumps out about this club?  Triples.  The LumberKings recorded six triples on the homestand and lead the league with eight overall.

holland program.jpgOn to big-league debut news.  Many of you have already seen it (or at least heard about it), but the LumberKings stand to have their first player from the 2006-2008 era make a Major League debut.  Left-hander Derek Holland (’08) was recalled from triple-A Oklahoma on Friday despite a less-than-stellar start to his Redhawks career.  He replaces another former King in Josh Rupe (’03) on the Rangers’ 25-man roster.

Still no debut yet for Holland, who went 7-0 with a 2.40 ERA in 17 starts with the LumberKings and was the club’s Opening Day starter last season.  He was a Midwest League West Division All-Star last year before being promoted to high-A Bakersfield and ultimately double-A Frisco.

On a personal note, once Holland (#45) makes that first appearance out of the bullpen, it will be the first player that I myself have known, interviewed and broadcasted to make it to the Majors.  It’s amazing to think that Holland, who just last June was here taking the same trips to Burlington, Beloit, Cedar Rapids, etc. has risen so fast.  With the talent still coming up through the Rangers pipeline, he won’t be the last recent LumberKing to get called up this year.

We wish him the best of luck.  I’ll be sure to update once he pitches.


Your First Place LumberKings

Some notes from the homestand thus far:


DSC_0383(BrettLorin04-17-2009)ForMediaWall.jpgLorin Fans 10, Kings Win Again:
    Right-hander Brett Lorin struck out 10 batters over 6.0 innings and the LumberKings capitalized on four Wisconsin errors in last night’s 8-4 win over the Timber Rattlers.  Lorin (W, 2-0) retired 14 of the first 16 he faced before making his only mistake of the game…Edgar Trejo took him deep to left for a solo home run.  By then, the Kings had already mounted a 3-0 lead thanks to an RBI single by Scott Savastano and a run-scoring error by Rattlers pitcher Dan Merklinger (L, 0-1).  Clinton added two more runs against Liam Ohlmann in the sixth, one on Nate Tenbrink’s sacrifice fly to left and another on Wisconsin’s third error.  Right-hander Cheyne Hann gave up a pair of runs in the eighth inning as the lead was cut to 6-3, but Tenbrink answered again with his second RBI, this time on a groundout.  Righty Blake Nation allowed a ninth-inning home run to Michael Vass, but nothing more over the final 1.2 innings as Clinton improved to 6-2.


Number One Spot:  Though early, the LumberKings tied themselves for first place in the West with last night’s win.  Cedar Rapids fell 7-1 to Kane County for just their second loss to drop to 6-2.  Today marks Clinton’s fourth day tied for first place, their first since 4/13.  The 2008 LumberKings held the first-place spot for 49 days straight in the first half, going on to finish with the Midwest League’s best record at 78-59.


Rotation Domination:  Last night’s stellar outing by Brett Lorin was his second straight quality start (6.0 IP, less than 3 ER).  The 10 strikeouts were just three off his career high (13 in a win against Boise on 6/22/08)…he’s now first in the Midwest League in strikeouts with 16.  The second win also ties him alongside teammate Steven Hensley and six others for the league lead in victories.  Lorin, Hensley and tonight’s starter Aaron Pribanic have combined to go 5-0 with a 0.64 ERA (2 ER / 28.2 IP), three walks and 30 strikeouts.  Overall, Clinton’s starting rotation is 4-2 with a 1.89 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 38.1 innings.


Home Cookin’:  The LumberKings’ offense has set new season highs in runs scored in consecutive games here at Alliant Energy Field…after scoring seven runs on a season-high 10 hits Thursday night, the Kings plated eight runs on eight hits last night.  The club is hitting .253 (37-for-146) on the homestand, including seven doubles, four triples, two home runs (Nate Tenbrink and Travis Howell, both on Thursday) and 17 RBI.  Clinton’s four triples this homestand are more than 11 of the other 13 MWL teams have total this season.


Hit Men:  A 2-for-5 effort last night extended Scott Savastano’s hitting streak to a team-high tying five games.  He’s hitting .471 (8-for-17) with five runs scored and two RBI during the streak, and has hit in six of seven games overall this year.  His .409 average is sixth-best in the league.  Travis Howell is in the midst of a three-game hitting streak (4-for-10, .400), including a HR…he’s tied for second in the league in home runs (2).



Home Opener

After a day’s wait, we opened the home schedule last night.  Mostly cloudy skies, 56 degrees at gametime, about as good as it gets for eastern Iowa in early April.


As for the game, not as good.  The Kings lost 4-1 to Cedar Rapids, marking the second-straight season that the Kernels have won the Home Opener.  Here’s a recap of the game in case you missed it.

Also, for the game notes crowd, here’s today’s: 
4.15.09 kingsnotes.pdf

We’ve got double-header action tonight, starting at 6:00 PM.  Right-hander Adam Harben makes his first Midwest League start since 2004 tonight in Game 1.  Right-hander Walter Suriel gets the spot start in Game 2.  All the action, as always, is online at www.kcln.com.


Let's Play…Tomorrow


The 2009 Home Opener at Alliant Energy Field is on hold until tomorrow at 6:30 PM.  The reason for the postponement?  A rain/sleet mix and 35 degree temperatures.  No thanks.

We’ll play one game tomorrow night at the regularly-scheduled 6:30 start time.  Wednesday is the double-header, beginning at 6:00 PM.  All games will be on AM 1390 KCLN in Clinton.  Also, for those who have had trouble accessing the online stream, go straight to www.kcln.com and click on the link.  There’s a big Louie logo right on it, hard to miss.

On to some notes…

RHP Kenn Kasparek is still scheduled to make his LumberKings debut tomorrow.  Hopefully he can continue the roll that the rotation has been on.

Check out the lines on the first three starters:

RHP Steven Hensley (last Thursday):  5.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R (0 ER), 0 BB, 1 K (win)

RHP Brett Lorin (last Friday):  6.0 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K (win)

RHP Aaron Pribanic (last Saturday):  6.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K (win)

That adds up to a rotation ERA of 0.53 in 17.0 innings thus far.  The bullpen hasn’t been too bad, either.  Five holds and three saves in the first three games, a grand total of four earned runs on five hits over 10.0 innings (3.60 ERA).

There’s no hotter LumberKing at the plate than Maximo Mendez.  He’s off to a 7-for-14 start, including a league-high two triples and three runs scored.  Two times he has crossed home plate have been on steals of home.  Scott Steinmann has kept the club aggressive on the basepaths, especially when Mendez and Denny Almonte get aboard.  That should play well in this series with Cedar Rapids, the team that perennially leads the Midwest League in stolen bases.  If you like speed, this is a series for you.

Again, that series starts tomorrow with better weather in the forecast.  Listen in!


Opening Night

I doubt I’ll be able to do this after every game, but in case you missed the action on Opening Night, here’s some sights, sounds and further reading.

100_0751.JPGFirst off, the LumberKings claimed a 6-3 victory over the defending Midwest League Champion Burlington Bees last night.  Read about it here.

Some highlights from last night:

Nunez 2-R double 4.9 vs Burlington.mp3

Mendez Triple 4.9 vs Burlington.mp3

Howell HR 4.9 vs Burlington.mp3

Carroll Howell Play at Plate 4.9 vs Burlington.mp3

And, in case you’re a big fan of game notes, we too have them at the minor league level.  Here’s mine for tonight, read if you’d like: 
4.10.09 kingsnotes.pdf