May 2009

On to The Cove

The six-game road trip continues to Stanley Coveleski Stadium in South Bend, Indiana (aka “The Cove”).  It’s the stadium that set the standard for the wave of new parks, not only for the Midwest League but also for Minor League Baseball.


Thumbnail image for 100_0892.JPGOn to tonight’s notes…

Kings “Double” Their Fun in Peoria:  The LumberKings pounded out a season-high six doubles including three from Jake Shaffer as they took the series with Peoria with an 8-3 win at O’Brien Field last night.  Shaffer doubled to open the game and scored three batters later on Kris Sanchez’s double off the wall in right-center.  The Kings took a 2-0 lead as Shaffer again lead off with a double in the third…he later scored on a double-play ball off the bat of Scott Savastano.  Starter Blake Nation gave up just a run on three hits over 3.1 innings, but Peoria tied the score against lefty Jose Jimenez in the fifth.  Junior Lake hit a debated home run that didn’t clear the yellow line in right, but counted anyways for a 2-2 score.  Clinton answered right back with three runs in the sixth, including a sac fly from Maximo Mendez and RBI groundout from Luis Nunez.  Travis Howell added insurance late with a sac fly in the seventh and a two-out, two-run double to straightaway center in the ninth.  Jimenez (W, 3-1) allowed just a run over 3.0 innings, and the rest of the pen combined on 2.2 scoreless innings.  Marcus Hatley (L, 3-3) gave up five runs for Peoria over 6.0 IP.

Listen to Howell’s double:  Howell 2-R double 5.28 at Peoria.mp3

Wild West:  With last night’s win, the LumberKings are 5-2 over their last seven games.  In taking two of three from Peoria, the Kings have now tied themselves with the Chiefs for third place in the West Division, trailing Cedar Rapids (27-20) by 2.0 games for the first-half Wild Card spot and Kane County (29-18) by 4.0 games for the division lead with 23 games left to play.  Clinton has captured a first-half playoff spot in 2007 (Wild Card) and 2008 (Champions).


Taking the Lead:  Jake Shaffer went 3-for-5 with three doubles and three runs scored in the leadoff spot last night, becoming the first LumberKing to record three doubles in a game this season.  It was his fifth game batting in the leadoff spot this year…he’s hitting .304 (7-for-23) with three doubles, a triple, six runs scored and three RBI when batting first, .412 (7-for-17) with three doubles and a home run when leading off in general.  Seattle’s 15th-round pick in 2008 out of Northern Kentucky, Shaffer raised his average from .268 to .295 with his first three-hit game.


Six Shooters:  Travis Howell and Scott Savastano both extended hitting streaks to six games last night.  Howell went 1-for-3 with a two-run double and a sac fly, giving him a three-RBI game…it was just one off his season-best of four RBI, achieved on 5/4 vs. Quad Cities.  The 18th-round pick by the Mariners last year, Howell is hitting .350 (7-for-20) during the streak, including two doubles, a home run (2-run shot on 5/22 vs. Lansing helped end Clinton’s 7-game losing streak), four runs scored and six RBI.  Savastano reached six games with a 1-for-4 night, including his fourth double and a run scored.  The 28th-round pick by the Mariners in 2008, Savastano is hitting .286 (6-for-21) with a double, triple, six runs scored and three RBI during his streak, raising his average from .274 to .293.


On the Brink:  Nate Tenbrink went 3-for-5 with a run scored last night, reaching a five-game hitting streak…it was his team-leading 14th multi-hit game, his fifth three-hit game this season.  Seattle’s seventh-round pick in 2008 out of Kansas State, Tenbrink is hitting .500 (9-for-18) with a double, three runs scored and an RBI…he has raised his average from .289 to a team-best .313, giving him the Midwest League’s 10th-best average.  Tenbrink’s 25 RBI are second-most on the team (behind Denny Almonte’s 28) and are tied for 12th-most in the league.


Smokin’ Aces:  The LumberKings boast the Midwest League’s second-best team ERA at 3.31 (West Michigan leads at 3.07) thanks in part to stellar starting pitching.  Brett Lorin lowered his ERA to 1.79 with an earned run over 6.0 innings last Sunday, his team-leading sixth quality start.  He’s now second in the league in ERA, trailing only West Michigan’s Matt Hoffman (1.12).  Lorin is also second in the MWL in innings pitched (55.2) and third in strikeouts (55).  Aaron Pribanic (currently on the DL) is also amidst league leaders in ERA…his 2.57 mark is seventh-best.  Pribanic (4-1) is tied with Lorin (4-1) and former LumberKing Steven Hensley (4-0) for the team lead in wins.


Texas Toast:  Kenn Kasparek tossed his second-consecutive quality start Thursday night (6.0 IP, less than 3 ER), allowing just a run on five hits over 6.1 innings.  His previous time out on 5/22, the former University of Texas standout pitched a career-high 7.0 innings and yielded only two runs in a win against Lansing.  The 12th round selection by the Mariners in last year’s draft, Kasparek has not walked a batter while striking out 11 in his last two starts.  After going 0-2 with a 7.71 ERA in three April starts, he’s 2-2 with a 1.41 ERA in six starts in May.


Super Mario:  Mario Martinez kept his average on the rise Tuesday, going 2-for-5 to give him a hit in 16 of his last 19 games.  He is hitting .308 (24-for-78) with five doubles, a home run and nine RBI during that span, including a season-best six-game hitting streak from 5/18 to 5/23 (hit .478, 6 RBI during streak).  The torrid span has raised his average from .190 on 5/17 at Wisconsin to a current .236, his highest average since hitting .286 on 4/10 at Burlington.  The #7 prospect in the Seattle system as rated by Baseball America, Martinez is hitting .265 with 12 RBI in May.


Triple Trouble: Scott Savastano’s triple on Monday was his third this season, Clinton’s league-leading 29th as a team.  The Kings are far and away the best triples club, outdistancing second-place Great Lakes (19 triples) by 10.  Lead by Midwest League leader Maximo Mendez (seven triples), the Kings are already six triples behind their entire total for last season.  The 2008 LumberKings recorded 35 triples in 137 games, lead by Engel Beltre’s nine.


Holland in USA Today

On my way out the door to the Perkins next to the Peoria Super 8, I reach for a complimentary USA Today, only to find our favorite Major League lefty Derek Holland on the cover of the sports section.  It’s an article about young pitchers in the big leagues, and Holland is seen toting the pink backpack as many a Texas Rangers’ rookie before him has done.

Click here to read the article.

Off to the ballpark!


Blue Jersey Auction Now Online

DSC_0528(Brett Lorin 05-24-2009).jpgClinton, IA – Beginning today, Clinton LumberKings’ fans from around the world can enter their bids for game-worn blue jerseys, donned by the Kings in their 2-1 win over Great Lakes on May 24.  The jerseys were worn on Ed Randall Prostate Cancer Awarness Day presented by Mediacom.


The auction will take place on Ebay and will feature a set of four to five jerseys for a five-day auction.  The first round of jerseys include right-handers Kenn Kasparek, Blake Nation and Aaron Pribanic and infielder Luis Nunez.  All four jerseys are autographed by the players who wore them.


The current auctions close on Sunday, May 31.  The next round of jerseys will be listed on Monday, June 1.  To find the auctions, search for “LumberKings Blue Jerseys” on  Each starting bid is $50.00.


Stay tuned to and The LumberBlog ( for details on when the next set of jerseys go live.  For more information, contact the LumberKings at 563-242-0727 or



Memorial Day Interview: Brett Lorin

brettlorin.jpgHappy Memorial Day!  It looks like some rain might be  putting a damper on our scheduled game against the Great Lakes Loons today, but I’ll post the pregame interview as usual.

Right-hander Brett Lorin lowered his ERA to 1.79 yesterday with another 6.0 innings of three-hit, one-run baseball.  The Cal State Long Beach product also beat the low-A affiliate of his favorite team, the Los Angeles Dodgers.  He’s first in the league in innings pitched (55.1), second in strikeouts (55) and third in ERA (1.79).  At this rate, he could be suiting up for the West Division in the All-Star Game.

Lorin is today’s pregame interview guest.  He’ll talk about the sharp outing, the dangerous Loons lineup, working with catcher Travis Howell (in college and now here in the pros) and what it would mean for him to be an All-Star, right at his own home park in Alliant Energy Field.

Listen Here:  Brett Lorin Interview 5.25.09.mp3 


Blue Sunday


100_0874.JPGIt’s Mediacom Cancer Awareness Day here at Alliant Energy Field…your LumberKings will lose the black and green for just one day and don the powder-blue unis for a good cause.  You can get your hands on these via online auction at in the near future (Steve Moss in the top photo, Travis Howell in the bottom photo).  Proceeds go to the Ed Randall Bat for the Cure fund for prostate cancer research.

On to other things…as my friend Jim Misudek of the Cincinnati Reds pointed out (via an early-morning phone call), John Mayberry, Jr’s home run came in his SECOND at-bat against the Yankees.  I apologize for the misinformation, although it’s not nearly as big a blunder as Fox having the wrong John Mayberry, Sr. on TV.  There’s more on Jr. Mayberry listed below in the Game Notes section.

Thanks to all the LumberKings and Mariners’ fans for making the LumberBlog the #48 ranked blog amongst ProBlogs on the MLBlogs Network!  I’m still surprised anyone wants to read what I have to say, but I certainly appreciate it.  Comments are always welcome! 

On to the notes/highlights from last night’s 12-6 win over the Great Lakes Loons:

Kings Overpower Loons:  A three-run first-inning homer by Steve Moss opened the floodgates as the LumberKings scored eight runs off starter Ethan Martin of Great Lakes in a 12-6 romp over the Loons last night.  Moss drove home Jake Shaffer and Terry Serrano with his first blast of the year, clearing the fence in left-center.  The Kings then hung six runs on Martin (L, 3-2) in the second, scoring two on a single by Scott Savastano, another run on a single by Kris Sanchez and two more on a double by Mario Martinez.  Starter Walter Suriel couldn’t keep the Loons off the scoreboard early, yielding a home run to Kyle Russell and RBI singles to Anthony Hatch and Tony Delmonico before exiting after 4.2 innings.  Lefty Jose Jimenez came on with a 9-5 lead and shut down the Loons over 2.1 innings…Jimenez (W, 2-1) did not allow a baserunner while striking out five.  Meanwhile, the Kings kept scoring against the Great Lakes bullpen…Blake Ochoa added a flare single to score Moss in the fifth, then lifted off for his first homer in the seventh.  Ochoa’s solo shot to the berm in left made it a 12-5 game.  Andres Esquibel walked home a run with the bases loaded, but was then able to retire Delmonico on a game-ending fielder’s choice.


Listen to Moss’s Homer: 
Moss 3R HR 5.23 vs. Great Lakes.mp3

Listen to Savastano’s 2-Run Single: 
Savastano 2-R single 5.23 vs. Great Lakes.mp3

Watching the West:  Clinton has won two-straight games for the first time since 5/14-5/15 against Beloit, moving them back into a two-way tie for third place in the MWL West…Cedar Rapids also won last night to stay in third (also 22-20).  Both clubs trail second-place Peoria and Quad Cities (both 21-19) by a half game for the first-half Wild Card spot.  The Kings held that second-place spot or higher for 15-straight games from 5/3 to 5/17.


The Boys in Blue:  The LumberKings have set aside their normal black-and-green jerseys for a good cause this afternoon.  Clinton will don powder-blue and white jerseys for Mediacom Cancer Awareness Day today, with the blue the chosen color for prostate cancer awareness.  Select jerseys will be auctioned off at Alliant Energy Field during today’s game, while others will be available via online auction this upcoming week through


You Gotta Have Power:  The home runs by Steve Moss and Blake Ochoa (each their firsts with the Kings) were the 32nd and 33rd for the LumberKings this season.  A team expected to be built on speed, Clinton is now tied for third in the Midwest League in team HR (Fort Wayne also has 33) behind Kane County (34) and Peoria (36).  Denny Almonte leads the team with nine HR after snapping a seven-game, 37 at-bat homer drought on Thursday with a solo shot off Lansing’s Josh Wells…he is also first in the MWL in extra-base hits (24) and sixth in slugging (.553).


Super Mario:  Mario Martinez extended his hitting streak to a season-high six games last night, going 1-for-4 with a two-run double in the second inning…however, his multi-hit streak ended at four.  The torrid span has raised his average from .190 on 5/17 at Wisconsin to .233, his highest average since hitting .286 after 4/10 at Burlington.  The #7 prospect in the Seattle system as rated by Baseball America, Martinez has a hit in 14 of his last 16 games, batting .313 (21-for-67) with five doubles, a triple, a home run, six runs scored and eight RBI.  He’s hitting .264 in May.


Burstin’ Howell:  The two-run opposite-field homer for Travis Howell Friday night was his sixth this season, second-most on the club behind Denny Almonte’s nine.  Howell has now lifted off for home runs twice since coming off the disabled list on 5/18, including a towering shot off the left-field light tower at Time Warner Cable Field in a 14-7 loss at Wisconsin.  The 18th round pick by the Mariners out of Cal State Long Beach in 2008, Howell’s six homers are also tied for fourth-most in the league…he’s hitting .368 with four HR and 13 RBI at home this year.


Mayberry Makes Debut:  Another former LumberKing made his Major League debut yesterday…outfielder John Mayberry, Jr. (2006) suited up for the Philadelphia Phillies at Yankee Stadium yesterday, and went 2-for-3 with a double, a home run and three RBI.  He cracked the three-run homer to left in his second at-bat, taking Andy Pettitte deep…his father, John Mayberry, Sr. (longtime Kansas City Royal) was on hand to see it.  Mayberry was the first-round pick by the Texas Rangers in 2005 and suited up in 126 games for the 2006 LumberKings…he hit .268 with 21 home runs and 77 RBI that season, and is tied with several others for second in club history in single-season home runs, trailing Dick Kenworthy’s 22 in 1961.


Holland Makes First MLB Start:  Former Kings’ lefty Derek Holland (2008) made his first career Major League start with the Texas Rangers last night as they faced the Houston Astros in interleague play Friday night.  Holland did not disappoint, working 5.2 innings and allowing three runs on five hits (all three on a homer by Lance Berkman) …he did not walk a batter and struck out four in a no-decision (Texas won, 6-5 in 10 innings). Holland went 7-0 with a 2.40 ERA in 17 starts with the Kings in 2008 and was a MWL All-Star before being promoted to high-A Bakersfield and double-A Frisco…he was the #2 prospect in the Texas system.



11th Annual Baseball Clinic

Scenes from the 11th Annual David & Son’s Sunflower Seeds Baseball Clinic:


Travis Howell working with the kids on hitting drills.


Bobby LaFromboise (left) and Stephen Penney get a good look at this righty’s fastball.

kidscamp10.jpg Kris Sanchez teaches the art of back-handed stops.


Greg Moviel uncorks a high fly ball for outfield practice.

06-15-2008 008.jpg

Ruben Flores presides over baserunning drills.


Justin Sampson hands out sunflower seeds courtesy of David & Son’s.


Technical Difficulties

Thumbnail image for technical difficulties.jpgWe are currently experiencing technical difficulties that are preventing tonight’s game at Wisconsin from making it on the air.  We’ve got the KCLN staff working on the problem, and as soon as we can, we’ll have baseball back on the air tonight.


Todays Interview: Cheyne Hann

Look ma, we’re on TV tonight!  Time Warner Sports is in town, with broadcasters Bob Brainerd (left) and longtime Milwaukee Brewer Jerry Augustine (right).  Bob and I go back to my days as the research intern for Brewers Baseball on FSN North (now FSWisconsin).


On to my pregame interview.  The LumberKings pitching staff has struggled in this series with 37 runs allowed over the four losses, but right-hander Cheyne Hann still managed to lower his ERA to 0.48 with his 11th consecutive scoreless outing yesterday.

Why?  Maybe it’s the power of the mustache.  He’ll explain more in the interview.

Listen Here: 
Cheyne Hann Interview 5.19.09.mp3

Also, since I haven’t been getting you much in the way of notes during this series, here’s a full set: 
5.19.09 kingsnotes.pdf

Let’s get out of here with a win tonight.


The Cardiac Kings Strike Again

The LumberKings achieved their seventh last at-bat win last night, beating Beloit 7-6 in the 13th inning.  Read more about the game below in today’s Game Notes.

Denny Almonte had the game-winner, a one-out single off the leg of Snappers’ pitcher Danny Rondon to score Luis Nunez

Listen to the highlight here: 
Almonte Walk-Off Single in 13th 5.14 vs. Beloit.mp3

Almonte, Kings Walk Off in 13th:  The LumberKings saw a 6-4 lead evaporate in the ninth inning, but went on to win 7-6 over the Beloit Snappers in 13 innings last night.  Denny Almonte provided the game-winning hit, singling off pitcher Danny Rondon (L, 1-2) and into right-center…Luis Nunez, who reached on a one-out single to left, scored from second on the hit.  The Kings battled back from a 4-2 deficit thanks to a sac fly by Kris Sanchez in the third inning and a Terry Serrano RBI single in the sixth.  Clinton took the lead as Almonte walked and scored on a double-play grounder from Sanchez.  Serrano added a big RBI single to center, scoring Jake Shaffer in the eighth.  Closer Ruben Flores walked two batters in the ninth, and Mario Martinez allowed them both to score, committing two errors on the same ground ball by Dominic De La Osa.  Left-hander Greg Moviel (W, 1-0) pitched a scoreless 13th for the win.  Starter Brett Lorin allowed two home runs, including a three-run blast to Jon Waltenbury in the third inning…he gave up four runs over 6.0 IP.


Cardiac Kings:  Denny Almonte became the seventh different LumberKing to record the game-winning hit in Clinton’s seven last at-bat wins this season.  He joins Israel Nunez, Ogui Diaz, Scott Savastano, Mario Martinez, Terry Serrano, and former King Ben Billingsley in the “hero” column.  The Kings have won three walk-off games at home this season, including Almonte’s extra-inning walk-off last night.  Serrano lifted the Kings to a 1-0 win over Burlington on 4/28, scoring Martinez with a walk-off double to right.  Billingsley gave the Kings a 4-3 walk-off win over Cedar Rapids on 4/15 (G2) with a double to left-center, plating Scott Savastano.


Unsung Hero:  Luis Nunez leads the LumberKings’ offense with a team-best .313 average after his 3-for-6 game last night…he’s hit in five-straight games, batting .500 (8-for-16) with three runs scored and two stolen bases during that span.  Nunez is hitting .395 (15-for-38) with three RBI so far in the month of May.


Starting a New Streak:  After seeing his team-best 11-game hitting streak come to an end on Sunday, Denny Almonte is working on a new streak…his 2-for-6, two RBI performance last night gives him a three-game hitting streak and a hit in 14 of his last 15 overall.  During that span, he’s hitting .298 (20-for-67) with five doubles, two triples, sevenhome runs, 15 runs scored and 18 RBI.  The 2nd-round pick by the Mariners in 2007, Almonte is first in the league in extra-base hits (21), second in home runs (8) and third in slugging (.611).


“Maximizing” the Offense:  Maximo Mendez lead off the first inning last night with a triple to center, his third-straight game with a leadoff three-bagger.  His seven triples lead the Midwest League and are two more than Alexi Amarista of Cedar Rapids, who is second (5). Mendez is in the midst of a five-game hitting streak, batting .320 (8-for-25) with two doubles, three triples, five runs scored and a stolen base.  His 14 steals in 19 tries are tied for second-most in the league behind Dee Gordon of Great Lakes, who leads with 19 steals.


Fast and Furious:  Thanks in part to Mendez, the LumberKings are near the top of the league in the two top speed categories…steals and triples.  The Kings have stolen 50 bases in 71 attempts (70% success rate), second only to Cedar Rapids’ 53 steals in 79 attempts (67%).  Clinton also leads the league in triples with 23, eight more than second-place Great Lakes (15 triples).  Through 32 games, the ’09 Kings are already 12 triples away from last year’s team total.  The 2008 LumberKings had 35 triples in 137 games.


Rotation Domination:  The LumberKings boast the league’s best team ERA of 2.62 thanks to a stellar starting rotation. Last night’s starter Brett Lorin dropped from the top spot in ERA to third after allowing a season-high four earned runs.  His 1.71 ERA is now behind Matt Hoffman of West Michigan (1.12) and Ben Hornbeck of Kane County (1.23).  However, Lorin did move into first in the league in innings pitched (42.0) and is now tied third in strikeouts (40).  Adam Harben broke into the top 10 in ERA today…his 2.51 ERA through 28.2 innings is 10th-best in the Midwest League.  Overall, the Clinton starting rotation is 11-7 with a 2.81 ERA.


On the Brink:  Nate Tenbrink continued his hot streak last night, going 2-for-4 with his fourth triple and a run scored…he’s hitting .308 over his last 10 games (10-for-39) with a home run, nine runs scored and nine RBI.  The seventh-round pick by the Mariners in 2008, Tenbrink has 11 multi-hit games and 15 extra-base hits.


We’ve got rain in Clinton again.  If we get this one in it’ll be on as always.


Rain Delay Interview: Beloit Manager Nelson Prada

100_0808.JPGNormally if you’re watching Atlanta Braves baseball or Chicago Cubs baseball on cable and a rain delay comes along, you get some old episodes of Three’s Company, Mama’s Family, or my favorite…Night Court.

For this edition of “LumberKings Rain Delay”, I present to you tonight’s pregame interview with Beloit Snappers manager Nelson Prada.  He and Kings’ hitting coach Jesus Azuaje go back many years with the Cardenales de Lara of the Venezuelan Winter League.  Prada also weighs in on young Clinton prospects like Mario Martinez, Juan Fuentes and Jose Jimenez, all who he’s seen in winter ball.

Listen Here: 
Nelson Prada Interview 5.13.09.mp3

Hopefully we start this game again at some point.  The Kings are down 3-2 in the sixth.