September 2009

Catching up with Nick Masset

My baseball journey continues to Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, home of the Reds.  It’s hard to visit a Major League park and not run into a former LumberKing, and that’s certainly the case with the 2009 Reds club.  The team leader in relief appearances his none other than right-hander Nick Masset, who suited up in the black and green for the entire 2003 season.

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Masset on the mound at Great American Ballpark in 2009.  Photo courtesy of the Reds Media Relations Department.

Masset went 7-7 in 30 games 20 starts with the ’03 Kings, breaking through to the Texas Rangers in 2006.  He’s been traded twice already in his brief career, from the Rangers to the Chicago White Sox (in a deal that included 2004 LumberKing John Danks and brought in ’07-’08 outfielder David Paisano) and from the White Sox to the Reds for his boyhood idol, Ken Griffey, Jr.

By his own admission, Masset is settling in to the up-and-coming Reds and is getting more comfortable against National League opponents.  So far this year, that comfort level has shown.  He’s 5-1 with a stellar 2.47 ERA over a team-high 71 appearances as the prime setup man for closer Francisco Cordero.

In our interview, Masset reflects on this season with the Reds, his excitement over the young core in Cincinnati (including another former LumberKing, 2004 hurler Edinson Volquez, former Dayton Dragons Jay Bruce and Joey Votto), the influence of former pitching coach Andy Hawkins on his career, keeping up with old teammates Kameron Loe and Josh Rupe and more.

Listen Here: 
Nick Masset Interview 9.30.09.mp3

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EDIT:  Masset ended up pitching in tonight’s game, replacing starter Bronson Arroyo with two outs in the ninth of a 6-1 Reds lead (much to the displeasure of the home crowd who wanted to see an Arroyo complete game).  He worked around a single by Albert Pujols and a walk to former Quad Cities Swing Colby Rasmus, striking out Ryan Ludwick to end the game.    

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Masset works to Pujols in the ninth.

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I’ve got a ton of pictures from my trip to Great American Ballpark, including my visit to the Reds Hall of Fame.  Look for those coming up in a future post.

-DL

Catching up with John Mayberry Jr.

Even though the Midwest League season has ended, my baseball journey for 2009 has not.  I’ve been back in Milwaukee reprising my role as the research guy for Brewers Baseball on Fox Sports Wisconsin for the Brewers-Phillies series.

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My view from the back bench of the Brewers home television booth.  Brewers play-by-play broadcaster Brian Anderson (headset) and pregame/postgame host Craig Coshun are pictured.

mayberry09.jpgOf course, we’ve been tracking the Major League career of former LumberKing and current Phillies outfielder John Mayberry, Jr. (’06), and now I get the chance to interview him.  Mayberry is hitting .196 with four home runs and eight RBI over three stints with the defending World Series Champs, his first taste of pro baseball.

The man who led the 2006 LumberKings in home runs (21) and RBI (77) talks about the trade from the Rangers, new beginnings with the Phillies, his storybook debut game on May 23 at Yankee Stadium, fitting in with the likes of Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins, his memories of the ’06 LumberKings, hopes for a ring in ’09 and more.

Listen Here: 
John Mayberry Jr. Interview 9.27.09.mp3

-DL

2009 LumberKings – Final Report

Thumbnail image for 09finalreport.jpgIt’s finally done.  The 2009 Clinton LumberKings Final Report is out.  Included is every bio on every one of the 56 players that suited up in black and green this year, plus a summary of statistics, highs/lows, record breakdown, etc.  From Almonte to Tenbrink, it’s all there.

It should be the most comprehensive analysis of the ’09 Kings that you’ll ever find.  If not, I’m doing something wrong.

Enjoy.

Read the Final Report: 
LumberKings Final Report 2009.pdf

-DL

Follow the LumberKings on Twitter

lumberkingstwitter.JPGYes, we’ve finally moved into the Twitter Age.  Keep up with all things LumberKings this offseason at www.twitter.com/lumberkings

I also have my own account (which I’ve updated just twice since July, still getting used to this thing)…it’s at www.twitter.com/davelezotte.

-DL

Final Report is Nearing Completion

For those of you eagerly waiting on the 2009 LumberKings Final Report, I’m glad to report that it’s nearly complete.  I’m aiming to have it out by our Sponsor Party on Thursday, because Friday I will be heading to the Brewers-Phillies series in Milwaukee.

Putting together bios on every player that’s suited up in the black and green is a painstaking process.  Here’s a small sample of what you can expect this year:

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Also, believe it or not, I should have some new interviews coming up.  My baseball season isn’t quite over…I’ve got three games in Milwaukee and then three more in Cincinnati to go.

One last thing…congrats on behalf of myself and the LumberKings to the High Desert Mavericks.  Their season ended this week in a three-game sweep at the hands of the Cal League Champion San Jose Giants.  Still, it was a heck of a season for the Mavs.

-DL

MWL Season: Officially Over

The Fort Wayne TinCaps finished off a three-game sweep of the Burlington Bees with a 4-3 win at Community Field last night, taking their first Midwest League Championship.  Thus, the Midwest League season is now officially over.

Congrats to the TinCaps players, coaches, staff and fans on behalf of myself and the LumberKings. 

The long offseason begins.  LumberKings in 2010?  We’ll see.

-DL

Former Kings in the Cal League Playoffs

While I’ve obviously been following the Midwest League Playoffs in depth (Fort Wayne is currently up 2-0 on Burlington in the best-of-five Championship Series), I haven’t given any coverage so far to what has been a thrilling Cal League Playoffs.

That changes today.  Mention needs to be made of what several former LumberKings have done out West.


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Mauro Gomez (left) and Ian Gac drove in 16 runs combined for the Blaze in eight playoff games.

Ian Gac (’06-’08), Mauro Gomez (’07), Matt Lawson (’08), Kennil Gomez (’08) and others helped power Bakersfield to the post season, and the Blaze didn’t settle with a first-round letdown.  They came back from a 1-0 deficit to oust Modesto with 13-6 and 6-1 wins. 

In the second round, they fell behind 2-0 to Cal League powerhouse San Jose (league-best 93-47 during the regular season) as Ryan Tatusko (’08) yielded just a run and lost to Clayton Tanner in game one and the bullpen failed for a disastrous eight-run eighth inning in an 8-3 loss in game two.  Tim Murphy (’08) turned in 7.0 scoreless innings, but Justin Miller and Glenn Swanson (’06-’07) were beat up in relief. 

That’s when the Blaze turned it on.  The Gomez’s teamed up for a 7-3 win in Bakersfield as Kennil Gomez stifled the Giants to a run over 6.2 innings while Mauro Gomez homered and drove in three.  They evened the series with an 11-4 win in game four thanks to Gac’s season-best six-RBI night, including a three-run blast that cleared the famed Sam Lynn Ballpark batter’s eye.  Michael Main (’08) tossed 2.0 scoreless relief innings to help Tanner Roark get the win.

Unfortunately, that’s where the dream ended.  San Jose erased an early 2-0 Blaze lead and won going away, 12-3.  The Gomez/Gac combo went 0-for-7 with three strikeouts combined as Bakersfield fell short of meeting High Desert in the Cal Leage Championship Series.

As you well know, Bakersfield was our old High A affiliate and High Desert is our new High A affiliate.  It would have been great to see the two match up in the finals, but it’s still exciting to see the Mavericks enjoy continued success.

 
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Kyle Seager (left) and Steven Hensley will attempt to lead the Mavs to the title.

Three former LumberKings are with the Mavs, including Steven Hensley (’09), Travis Howell (’09), Kyle Seager (’09) and Stephen Penney (’09).

The Mavs had a first round bye thanks to a South Division-best 83-57 record.  Their second-round matchup pitted them against the Angels-affiliated Rancho Cucamonga Quakes.  That means a ton of former Cedar Rapids Kernels.

High Desert took game one behind Hensley’s outstanding complete-game, three hitter.  He struck out 10 Quakes and Jamie McOwen continued his dream season with a two-run blast to finish off a 5-0 victory.

The Mavs still wouldn’t let the Quakes on the board in game two as their second ace, former West Michigan Whitecap Mauricio Robles did his best to match Hensley with 7.0 scoreless frames in a 4-0 win.  Carlos Peguero was the man with the two-run clout this time around.

Rancho outlasted High Desert and staved off elimination with a 7-6 walk-off win in the 10th in game three.  Joe Dunigan was the offensive highlight thanks to yet another two-run homer in a 3-for-4, three RBI game.  The Quakes forced the deciding game five with an uneventful 2-1 win behind former Kernel Ryan Brasier’s 8.0 scoreless innings.

The series returned to Adelanto for the deciding game, and a 3-2 pitcher’s duel favored the Mavs through the first four innings.  Then, the bats took over.  Juan Diaz, Dunigan and Peguero all homered after the fifth and the bullpen was stellar in an 11-6 lashing to end the series.  The stiff-armed Penney was the man on the mound in a non-save ninth, and he turned in a scoreless frame to send the Mavs onward.

That sets up the best-of-five Cal League Championship Series, your High Desert Mavericks against the San Jose Giants.  The two best teams from their respective divisions rightfully meet up.  The series begins tonight in Adelanto with Hensley on the mound.

If you’re looking for more baseball to listen to, check out the Mavs tonight at 9:05 central time.  The link to the audio is here:  http://v3.player.abacast.com/player/player.php?pid=eldorado_kixw&stream=bb

-DL

MWL Playoffs Update, Part 3


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Game two of the Burlington/Cedar Rapids series at Perfect Game Field last Sunday.

In case you missed it, Fort Wayne defeated Great Lakes, 4-3 in 10 innings on Robert Lara’s walk-off homer to claim the East Division title last night.  In the West, it was Jason Taylor lifting off for an early two-run homer and lefty Ivor Hodgson limiting Cedar Rapids to a run as Burlington won the West for the second-straight year with a 2-1 win over the Kernels.

Looks like my Great Lakes/Peoria prediction, while well researched, was way off.  The Fort Wayne/Burlington MWL Championship Series is not all that surprising, however.  The TinCaps had Minor League Baseball’s best winning percentage, while the Bees got hot down the stretch in similar fashion to last year’s title run.

Fort Wayne is my revised choice to win it all in this series, most likey in four or five games.  The Bees will certainly put up a fight given the fact that the final three games will be at Community Field and they’ll get to throw Hodgson again.  However, the TinCaps just came off a grueling series with the Loons and have proven their mettle.

Simply, more clutch hits for the TinCaps means a championship.  Then again, I’ve been wrong before.

-DL

MWL Playoff Update, Etc.

The first round of the Midwest League Playoffs concluded last night, so let’s see how my predictions have fared so far.

It turns out I couldn’t have been more right about the East Division, but I couldn’t have been more wrong about the West.  Fort Wayne survived a scare and beat South Bend 5-4 on Cole Figueroa’s late two-run double last night, taking a series that was much closer than most people thought.  Mark Haley’s Silver Hawks finally won a game at Parkview Field and pushed the TinCaps to the brink.  They should be proud of that.

The Great Lakes Loons won, 3-2 in 10 innings to oust the West Michigan Whitecaps thanks to Jaime Pedroza’s blast.  You’ll recall, Pedroza was my darkhorse for the second round.  Looks like he’s showing up early.  So, the Loons take on the TinCaps in the MWL East Division Championship Series starting tonight, just as I predicted.

Over in the West, it’s a very different story.  The Burlington Bees are now 8-0 in the playoffs over their last two seasons following a clean sweep of the Kane County Cougars.  I thought the Cougars would fare well with Kenny Smalley getting the game one start, but he served up two homers and exited early.  It was all Bees after that (12-7, 4-0 wins) as Jim Gabella takes his club back to Brian Rupp territory, the West Division Championship Series.

It’ll be a rematch of the ’08 MWLWDCS as Cedar Rapids pulled off the stunning upset of offensive powerhouse Peoria.  How did they take out the West’s best team?  In classic Kernel style…seizing opportunities, capitalizing on miscues and winning in frustrating ways.  The Chiefs lost 6-4 in 10 innings in game one, then had a disastrous bullpen lapse in game two as the Kernels loaded the bases on walks.  Closer Chris Huseby tied the game on a bases-loaded walk and then hit Matt Crawford for the walk-off winner.  Season over on a hit-by-pitch?  That hurts Peoria far more than it did Crawford.

So, it’s Bees-Kernels Part Two:  The Revenge.  Since my pick for the West was Peoria, I’ll re-pick amongst these two teams.  It’s really anybody’s guess between these clubs, especially in a three-game series.  Burlington won last year, but I’ll go with the Kernels by virtue of their home-field advantage.  Plus, the Bees have to lose a playoff game at some point, right?

Overall, I’m still sticking by the Loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooons.  I like them over Fort Wayne and whoever comes out of the West.

On to LumberKings Alumni news.  Outfielder Craig Gentry (’07) finally got a taste of big league baseball on September 6, going 0-for-1 with a groundout in his Major League debut with the Texas Rangers in Baltimore.  The Rangers lost, 7-0 with Derek Holland (’08) falling to 7-10.  Gentry has not appeared in a game since.

Former Kings’ manager Carlos Subero (’04-’05) has been called up to join Joe Torre’s coaching staff in Los Angeles.  It’s fairly routine that extra minor league coaches get brought up this time of year, but it’s the first time for Carlos.  Well deserved.

That’s all for now. 

-DL

Second Half Highlight Reel

Now that I’ve actually had some free time, I’ve completed the second-half highlight reel for 2009.  It’s roughly seven minutes long and doesn’t have EVERY highlight from the second half, but a few that I felt were pretty darn good.

Enjoy: 
2009 Second Half LumberKings Highlights.mp3

-DL

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