December 2010

Happy Holidays

seasonsgreetings.jpgRather than try and send a card out to every reader, supporter and fan, I figured I’d do this instead.  From the staff of the Clinton LumberKings to you, have a safe and happy holiday season!

More LumberBlog posts to come in January!


The Interview Vault: Michael Main

main interview vault.jpgThe San Francisco Giants showed the world last year how far a young rotation can take you, riding the arms of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Jonathan Sanchez past the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies and Texas Rangers on the way to the World Series title.  With eventual NL Rookie of the Year Buster Posey emerging as their catcher of now, the Giants were able to move veteran backstop Bengie Molina to the Ranger team they’d face for the title in exchange for a bright young arm from the Texas system.

That arm is 2007 first-round pick and 2008 LumberKings right-hander Michael Main.  The DeLand, Florida native was moved along with right-hander Chris Ray in exchange for Molina’s services on July 1.  No question Molina’s expertise aided both staffs tremendously in 2010, and his bat proved pivotal for the Rangers against the Rays and Yankees in the playoffs.

Ray was a proven relief commodity and would go 3-0 with a 4.13 ERA over 28 relief appearances with the Giants, but Main can still be considered the key piece of the deal.  The second of Texas’s two first-round picks in 2007 (24th overall, seven spots after Rangers-turned-Mariners prospect Blake Beavan), Main entered last season as the #21 prospect in the Rangers’ system according to Baseball America despite relatively average career numbers (9-10, 4.39 ERA, 68 walks, 153 strikeouts and a .258 opponent average in 148 innings) and a propensity to miss time (he’s been through a rotator cuff injury in high school, cracked ribs in 2008 and a two-month bout with mononucleosis in 2009).

Last season, Main looked to be on track to stay healthy and enjoyed his best season since 2008 with Clinton (2-2, 2.58 in 10 starts), going 5-3 with a 3.45 ERA, 21 walks, 72 strikeouts and a .250 opponent average in 91 innings with high-A Bakersfield.

Then came the trade.

Main was already headed to double-A Frisco when the Rangers moved him, so the Giants didn’t interrupt his promotion as they sent him straight to double-A Richmond.  Who knows if it was a change in pitching philosophy, lingering jet lag from changing coasts or just jitters with a new organization, but his time as a Flying Squirrel wasn’t positive.  He went 0-3 with a 13.83 ERA and walked twice as many as he struck out (14 walks compared to seven K’s) over just five games before injuring his hip in late July and missing the rest of the season.

What does the future hold for Main?  It’s uncertain if the highly-touted athlete can finally shake free of the injury bug and find the 96-97 mph fastball and power curveball that got him drafted so highly.  The Giants will certainly give him time to do both, probably inviting him to Major League camp before sending him back to Richmond for a full season.

While we wait to see what unfolds for the man we used to call “The Main Event”, let’s revisit the good old days in Clinton when he was part of a rotation that featured Beavan, Ryan Tatusko (also traded by the Rangers in 2010 to the Washington Nationals) and Michael Kirkman.  

The right-hander arrived from the AZL near the start of July, replacing right-hander Neftali Feliz, who jumped two levels to double-A Frisco.  Main really never encountered trouble over his 10 starts with the LumberKings, stifling opponents to a .228 average while never allowing more than three earned runs in any of his outings.  His signature start came on July 31 against South Bend when he worked six innings of three-hit, one-run baseball, walked none and struck out four.

My featured interview with him took place after his first Clinton start in West Michigan on July 10, a 4.2-inning effort in which he scattered seven hits and allowed just a run in a no-decision (a 6-1 LumberKings’ win).  We discussed the start, his fastball/curveball/change arsenal, rehabbing the fractured rib, teaming up fellow first-rounder Beavan in the rotation, learning to pitch under pressure while on the national stage with Team USA, his bat and more. 

Michael Main, Following First Start (2008).mp3

That’s all for The LumberBlog before the Christmas holiday, but keep an eye out for another entry of “The Interview Vault” on Tuesday, January 4.  Until then, happy holidays!


The Interview Vault: Justin Smoak

smoak interview vault.jpg

While everyone around baseball watches shockingly as Cliff Lee dons a Philadelphia Phillies uniform at a press conference sometime in the next few days, I’m focusing in on the centerpiece of the deal that sent the left-hander to the Texas Rangers last July 9.  He just happens to be a former LumberKing and is the feature of this week’s edition of “The Interview Vault”.

Switch-hitting first-baseman Justin Smoak was one of the four former Clinton players dealt by the Rangers in exchange for Lee and Mark Lowe prior to last year’s trade deadline.  Once the undoubted future of the middle of the Texas lineup, Smoak was deemed expendable to help the Rangers turn the corner in the immediate.  Now, the 2008 first-round pick (11th overall) finds himself as the cornerstone of Jack Zduriencik’s rebuilding project in Seattle.

Smoak was fresh off the fishing boat when he arrived in Clinton in August of 2008, rested from a drawn-out signing process that wouldn’t end until 15 minutes before the MLB deadline.  Anxious to play baseball again for the first time since he left the University of South Carolina, he’d still have to wait a day before making his professional debut in Peoria on August 18.

The featured interview today took place between myself and Smoak prior to that first action and was his first minor league interview.  We talk about his hectic first 48 hours, fitting in with the likes of fellow first-baseman Mitch Moreland (who hit a pair of home runs in the previous game vs. the Chiefs), getting ready to hit in the 5-spot in manager Mike Micucci’s order, his thoughts on the first round selection by the Rangers and more. 

Listen:   Justin Smoak, Prior to ’08 Pro Debut.mp3

Not long after the interview, Smoak would take the diamond for the first time as a pro, going 1-for-3 with a double off the right-center wall for his first pro hit.  He’d go on to register at least one hit in 13 of his 14 games as a LumberKing, hitting .304 with three doubles, three home runs and six RBI.

Since ’08, he’s accomplished a lot quickly.  Smoak ascended to the Major Leagues in just his second full season in 2010, making his big-league debut for the Rangers on April 23 vs. Detroit.  He’d hit .209 with eight homers and 34 RBI for Texas before being packaged for Lee, and would finish out the year bouncing between Seattle (.239, 5 HR, 14 RBI) and triple-A Tacoma (.271, 7 HR, 25 RBI).  Smoak teamed up with the red-hot Dustin Ackley to bring a PCL championship home to the Rainiers, winning the PCL’s Offensive Player of the Postseason award (.423, HR, 6 RBI) in the process.

With the likes of Ackley, Rich Poythress and Nick Franklin coming up alongside him, the future for Smoak should be very bright in the middle of the Mariners’ order.    


All-Stars, Cleto and More

A few things of note regarding former and future LumberKings and this blog:

  • The Seattle Mariners’ Organizational All-Stars list came out last week, and it’s finally up on  Nick Franklin (’10) was a natural choice as the All-Star shortstop after hitting .281 with a Midwest League-best 23 homers last year.  Kyle Seager (’09) makes the list at second base, while left-handers Anthony Vasquez (’09-’10) and Brian Moran (’09-’10) also show up as the top left-handed starter and top reliever, respectively.  Potential future King Kevin Rivers is amongst the three outfielders after posting a .332 average in Everett last year.



  • Last Friday’s post on the 2010 Baseball Winter Meetings was my 500th on The LumberBlog.  That’s a lot of posts.  It appears that you’re still reading, as I finished #41 out of the Top 50 ProBlogs in November.  Thank you again!


Sattler, Rasner selected in Rule 5 Draft

I still have been unable to stay at the Winter Meetings long enough to witness a Rule 5 Draft, as this year my 6 AM flight home was cause to keep me away.  The list is out, and only two former LumberKings were taken.

Right-hander Daniel Sattler (’07) was chosen off the Oakland roster by the Los Angeles Angels in the triple-A phase of the draft.  Sattler, a 44th round pick by the Texas Rangers in 2006 out of Purdue, went 0-0 with a 0.90 ERA and three saves in 13 appearances with the LumberKings in 2007.  He found his way to the Athletics’ system after getting released sometime prior to 2009 and was 1-2 with a 4.17 ERA in 33 appearances at double-A Midland last year.  Sattler has struck out 167 batters over 162 career innings and carries a career opponent average of .246, it will be interesting to see what the Angels get from him at Salt Lake.  

rasner.jpgRight-hander Jake Rasner (’06, pictured), who was traded by the Rangers to the Chicago White Sox as part of the Brandon McCarthy deal in 2006, was selected by Baltimore in the double-A phase this morning.  Rasner, a seventh-round pick out of high school in 2005, has always had promise with little statistical results.  I witnessed his first full season in Clinton in 2006, a year that featured a near no-hitter at Wisconsin (the infamous Curtis Ledbetter walk-off homer to end the no-hit bit and hand us a 1-0 loss) and a solid 117 strikeouts in 144 innings, but also saw him go 6-16 with a 5.41 ERA.  Those 16 losses are still a franchise record (although the six wins also led the club that year), but it’s not like Rasner was the only one struggling.  Fellow prospects Zach Phillips, Omar Poveda and Michael Kirkman all had unremarkable stats in the instantly-forgettable ’06 season.

Rasner went a combined 2-8 between high-A Winston-Salem and double-A Birmingham last season, logging a mid-5.00 ERA.  That’s about on par with his 25-54, 5.43 ERA career numbers.  Maybe the change of scenery with the Orioles will do him good.

The Mariners had the #2 pick in the Major League phase of the draft and chose right-hander Jose Flores, a Cleveland prospect and former member of the 2010 Midwest League Champion Lake County Captains.  That’s right…the same Jose Flores that allowed Clinton’s eight-inning comeback in Game 4 of the MWLCS.  Flores, despite being listed as a member of triple-A Columbus on the “2010 Club” column of the draft list, did spend all of last year with the Captains, going 1-1 with a 2.14 ERA and six saves in seven opportunities over 28 regular-season relief outings.  Remember, because the Mariners chose him in the Major League phase, he’s got to make the Seattle 25-man roster and stay there all year, otherwise he’ll be offered back to the Indians at half the $50,000 claiming fee.  The Mariners are rebuilding, yes, but it might be a leap to see Flores at the big leagues all year.

Check out the rest of the Rule 5 selections here:

Now, I’m going back to sleep.  Plenty more on the 2010 Baseball Winter Meetings coming up tomorrow.


Heading to Orlando

2010wintermeetings.jpgThere won’t be a new edition of “The Interview Vault” on Tuesday, because I’ll be out of town.  Myself and the rest of the LumberKings’ staff are heading to the Baseball Winter Meetings in Orlando, FL. 

Don’t get too jealous, it’s only supposed to be in the 60’s.  I’ll have pictures and a general recap most likely on Friday.


Rangers Name Minor League Staff

The Texas Rangers just announced their 2011 Minor League coaching staff, and four former LumberKings’ coaches are included on the list. 

Trainer Jeff Bodenhamer (’05-’07) is with the new high-A affiliate in Myrtle Beach (replacing Bakersfield), while trainer Jake Newburn (’08), who was in Bakersfield, takes over Bodie’s vacated spot in low-A Hickory.

Newburn is joined in Hickory by Jason Hart (’08), who will serve as hitting coach.  Speaking of hitting coaches, Brian Dayett (’05-’08) is back with short-A Spokane.

The list did not include instructors and coordinators, but I would assume that former Clinton manager Mike Micucci (’07-’08) is still the Field Coordinator and former Kings’ pitching coach Danny Clark (’07-’08) is still the Pitching Coordinator.