April 2011

Tonight’s Interview: Brandon Maurer

We received a bit of the thrilling and a bit more of the disappointing yesterday as the LumberKings rallied from a 3-1 deficit to tie the score 3-3 in the bottom of the ninth, only to lose to Burlington 4-3 on a 10th inning error.  Anthony Phillips provided both the game-tying solo homer in the ninth (LISTEN TO PHILLIPS’ BLAST) and the throwing error that plated Burlington’s go-ahead run.  It just goes to show how quickly things can turn in this game, and it unfortunately happened to Phillips, who celebrates his 21st birthday today.

Not lost in the mix was a solid 4.0-inning start from right-hander Brandon Maurer.  For a guy who would have likely been in the Clinton rotation last year if not for a season-derailing right elbow injury, simply making an April start was a victory in itself.  A four-hit, six-strikeout performance was pure icing for the ’08 23rd round pick.

Today, I caught up with Maurer to talk about yesterday’s outing, the experience in joining Clinton at playoff time last year, his offseason stint with the Adelaide Bite of the Australian Baseball League (where he developed his new slider), pitching in a tandem with right-hander Fray Martinez and more.

Listen Here:  Maurer Interview 4.11.11.mp3

Tonight’s Game Notes:  4.11.11 kingsnotes

It’s an all-international mound matchup tonight as South Korean-born right-hander Seon Gi Kim makes his LumberKings’ debut against Moscow, Russia native and Beloit left-hander Andrei Lobanov.  First pitch is at 6:30 PM, listen online at 1390kcln.com.

Tonight’s Lineups:

LumberKings (1-3):  Matt Cerione/CF, Julio Morban/RF, Ramon Morla/3B, Mickey Wiswall/1B, Stefen Romero/2B, Tim Morris/DH, Steven Baron/C, Marcus Littlewood/SS, Kevin Rivers/LF, Seon Gi Kim/RHP

Beloit (2-2):  Daniel Santana/SS, Gunner Glad/2B, Lance Ray/1B, Oswaldo Arcia/DH, Derek McCallum/LF, Daniel Ortiz/RF, Kyle Knudson/C, Reggie Williams/3B, Wang-Wei Lin/CF, Andrei Lobanov/LHP


Sunday Notes (4/10)

Kevin Rivers belted a thrilling two-out, two-run homer on the first pitch he saw in the seventh inning to put the Kings ahead 4-3, but Burlington rallied for three runs with the help of two errors in the eighth to win, 6-4 last night.  Right-hander Matt Bischoff (L, 0-1) took the loss, allowing three runs — one earned — on six hits over 2.0 innings in relief.  The series concludes today with Clinton looking for the split on a rare 80-degree April Sunday.

Listen to the Rivers bomb:   Rivers 2-R HR (#1) 4.9.11.mp3

Right-hander Brandon Maurer (4-8, 3.23 career) makes his first start of 2011  today against the Bees, first pitch scheduled for 2:00 PM.  Right-hander Blake Hassebrock (0-1, 5.96 career) starts for Burlington.

Today’s Game Notes:   4.10.11 kingsnotes

Today’s Lineups:

Burlington (2-1):  Tyreace House/CF, Nino Leyja/3B, Douglas Landaeta/LF, Tony Thompson/1B, Yordy Cabrera/DH, Wade Kirkland/SS, Royce Consigli/RF, Ryan Pineda/2B, Daniel Petitti/C, Blake Hassebrock/RHP

LumberKings (1-2):  Matt Cerione/CF, Julio Morban/RF, Ramon Morla/3B, Mickey Wiswall/DH, Stefen Romero/2B, Tim Morris/1B, Steven Baron/C, Kevin Rivers/LF, Anthony Phillips/SS, Brandon Maurer/RHP

Listen in for the pregame show beginning at 1:45 PM on 1390kcln.com!


Tonight’s Interview: Marcus Littlewood

We watched a lot of baseball on a chilly April night here at AEF last night as the LumberKings and Burlington Bees finished up the final five innings of Thursday’s suspended game and played seven more innings in the nightcap.  After fallling 9-5 in game one and trailing 2-0 in the third inning in game two, the Kings rallied for three unanswered runs to beat the Bees, 3-2.

You couldn’t tell by his 5-for-7, two-RBI performance, but shortstop Marcus Littlewood played his first two games as a professional last night.  He set up the game-winning run in the fifth, leading off with a single to right, taking third on a single by Ramon Morla and scoring on Mickey Wiswall’s smash single.  Littlewood, the 2nd round pick by the Mariners and the highest player ever drafted out of the state of Utah has already turned heads here in Clinton.  No doubt he’s filling some big shoes at Nick Franklin’s old position, but as you’ll hear on tonight’s interview, that’s not phasing the 19-year-old.

Listen to Littlewood’s first pro hit:  http://www.zshare.net/audio/88814098090121e2/

In my first conversation with Littlewood, we talk about the hot start, handling the duties of hitting second, learning the game from his father Mike — a former Milwaukee Brewers farmhand and veteran head coach at Dixie State University — his thoughts on the talented Clinton lineup, comparisons with Franklin and more.

Listen Here:  Littlewood Interview 4.9.11.mp3

Tonight’s Game Notes:  4.9.11 kingsnotes

Right-hander George Mieses makes his LumberKings’ debut against the Bees tonight in what should be a fantastic night for baseball.  Temperatures in the 70’s?  It feels like June tonight.

The Lineup:

Burlington (1-1):  Tyreace House/CF, Nino Leyja/3B, Douglas Landaeta/DH, Tony Thompson/1B, Jose Rivero/LF, Yordy Cabrera/SS, Wade Kirkland/2B, Royce Consigli/RF, John Nester/C, AJ Griffin/RHP

LumberKings (1-1): Matt Cerione/CF, Marcus Littlewood/DH, Ramon Morla/3B, Tim Morris/1B, Stefen Romero/2B, Julio Morban/RF, Steven Baron/C, Kevin Rivers/LF, Anthony Phillips/SS, George Mieses/RHP


Tonight’s Interview: Ted Tornow

Rain wouldn’t allow us to complete last night’s season opener against Burlington, so we’re finishing it tonight.  The LumberKings and Bees stand tied, 4-4 heading into the fourth thanks to an early comeback effort against right-hander Seth Frankoff.  Kings’ Opening Night starter Forrest Snow was touched up for four runs — three earned — over three innings, but was starting to settle in when the tarp went on.  An RBI triple by Julio Morban, RBI single by Marcus Littlewood (pictured right), RBI sac fly by Stefen Romero and RBI single by Steven Baron brought Clinton back from 3-0 and 4-2 deficits.  Littlewood singled again to left with two outs in the bottom of the third, but Tim Morris was thrown out trying to score by Bees’ left-fielder Douglas Landaeta to keep the game tied.

A lot of game left to go tonight, and it’s only the opening act.  We’ll also have a seven-inning game afterwards, in which 2010 Everett Pitcher of the Year and Northwest League All-Star left-hander Anthony Fernandez will make his first start in black and green.  It sounds like we’ll see right-hander Stephen Kohlscheen, the 45th round pick out of Aubur in 2010, in the resumption of the first game.  Those two will alternate starts anyways to begin the year, so the twinbill setup works perfect for them.

Read more about the action in tonight’s Game Notes:  4.8.11 kingsnotes

As for the interview, I caught LumberKings’ General Manager Ted Tornow tonight.  We talked about the beginning of the 75th anniversary of the franchise and what that means to everyone involved, improvements to Alliant Energy Field that fans will see this season, building stability with the Seattle Mariners and more.

Listen Here:  Tornow Interview 4.8.11.mp3

First pitch of inning #4 will be at 6:00 PM.  Listen online at 1390kcln.com.


Opening Night Interview: Jesus Azuaje

It’s finally here…the Opening Night of the 75th season of Clinton Baseball At Riverview Stadium/Alliant Energy Field.  The LumberKings open their West Division Title defense against some familiar foes wearing different uniforms.  They didn’t face the Burlington Bees in last year’s playoffs, but they did take on Bees’ manager Aaron Niekula, his staff and several returning players from last year’s Kane County club in the West Division Championship Series.

Interim manager Jesus Azuaje wasn’t on the Clinton staff last year, but he’s a familiar face all the same.  Azuaje was the hitting coach here in 2009 under manager Scott Steinmann.  As I’ve mentioned, he’ll be leading the team while manager Eddie Menchaca waits for his second child to be born in Phoenix.  For the first two weeks, we’ll be in Azuaje’s capable hands.

My first pregame interview of the year naturally is with the skipper.  Jesus and I talk about his interim role, the 12 returning players from last year’s squad including Matt Cerione, Mickey Wiswall and Tim Morris, exciting new prospects like Marcus Littlewood and Ramon Morla, tonight’s Opening Night start for right-hander Forrest Snow and more.

The new WordPress setup for MLBlogs won’t let me host MP3’s yet, but hopefully this works… 

Listen Here:  Azuaje Interview 4.7.11

Tonight’s Game Notes:  4.7.11 kingsnotes


Burlington (0-0):  Tyreace House/CF, Nino Leyja/2B, Douglas Landaeta/LF, Tony Thompson/3B, A.J. Kirby-Jones/1B, Jose Rivero/DH, Yordy Cabrera/SS, Royce Consigli/RF, John Nester/C, Seth Frankoff/RHP

LumberKings (0-0):  Matt Cerione/CF, Ramon Morla/3B, Mickey Wiswall/LF, Stefen Romero/DH, Tim Morris/1B, Steven Baron/C, Julio Morban/RF, Marcus Littlewood/SS, Anthony Phillips/2B, Forrest Snow/RHP

First pitch is at 6:30, listen online at 1390kcln.com!


It didn’t count, but it was still baseball

The LumberKings hit the field for batting practice and a simulated game this evening in front of a crowd of die-hard fans.  Seon Gi Kim and Edlando Seco got some work in against live hitters, two who already visited the Leinenkugel’s Lumber Lounge.  Both Kevin Rivers and Julio Morban hit home runs…home runs that don’t count for much other than pride.

Still, it was a fun first-time experience.  Probably not as fun as High Desert’s exhibition action against Victor Valley College last night.  Nine Mavs pitchers, including former LumberKings Jimmy Gillheeney (’10), Nick Czyz (’10), Jon Hesketh (’09-’10), Ogui Diaz (’09), Jose Jimenez (’09-’10), John Housey (’10) and Chris Kirkland (’09-’10) threw a no-hitter in a 12-0 win over the Rams.

I doubt we’ll see a nine-pitcher no-no tomorrow night in the 2011 Opener against Burlington, but we’ll get a good look at Forrest Snow and some other solid arms as well.  Here’s a look at the opening series rotation:

Thu:  RHP Forrest Snow vs. RHP Seth Frankoff

Fri:  LHP Anthony Fernandez vs. RHP Josh Bowman

Sat:  RHP George Mieses vs. RHP A.J. Griffin

Sun:  RHP Brandon Maurer vs. RHP Blake Hassebrock

Game notes will be up tomorrow along with an interview with likely interim manager Jesus Azuaje.  See you here at Alliant Energy Field tomorrow!


Where They’re At

In case you’re scouring the web to find where former LumberKings are in the Mariners’ system, read this handy post to find out where they’re at to start the year.

Seattle:  RHP Josh Lueke (’07-’08), RHP Tom Wilhelmsen (’10), 1B Justin Smoak (’08)

AAA Tacoma:  RHP Blake Beavan (’08), INF Jetsy Extrano (’09)

AA Jackson:  RHP Steven Hensley (’09), RHP Kenn Kasparek (’09), RHP Stephen Penney (’09), RHP Erasmo Ramirez (’10), LHP Andrew Carraway (’09), LHP Bobby LaFromboise (’09), LHP Brian Moran (’09-’10), LHP Anthony Vasquez (’09-’10), C Brandon Bantz (’10), INF Scott Savastano (’09), INF Kyle Seager (’09), INF Nate Tenbrink (’09), OF Jake Shaffer (’09)

A High Desert:  RHP Daniel Cooper (’09-’10), RHP Ogui Diaz (’09), RHP John Housey (’10), RHP Chris Kirkland (’09-’10), RHP Yoervis Medina (’10), RHP Taylor Stanton (’10), LHP Nick Czyz (’10), LHP Jimmy Gillheeney (’10), LHP Jon Hesket (’09-’10), LHP Jose Jimenez (’09-’10), INF Vinnie Catricala (’10), SS Nick Franklin (’10), INF Gabriel Noriega (’10), 1B Dennis Raben (’10), OF Denny Almonte (’09), OF Daniel Carroll (’09-’10), OF James Jones (’10), OF Kalian Sams (’09-’10)

INF Shaver Hansen (’09-’10), 3B Mario Martinez (’09-’10), RHP Stephen Pryor (’10) and RHP Alfredo Venegas (’09) are all listed on the High Desert disabled list.

Aside from Wilhelmsen’s gigantic jump, you’ll notice LumberKings 2010 Pitcher of the Year Erasmo Ramirez moving two levels to start at Jackson.  Hopefully he stays on the fast track. 


Opening Night Roster Released

The 25 players that will comprise the 2011 Clinton LumberKings’ Opening Night roster have now been announced over at LumberKings.com.  Here’s a few things to note for the coming days:

  • Jesus Azuaje will be the interim manager for Clinton while Eddie Menchaca and wife Lacy prepare for the birth of their second son in Phoenix.  When the youngest Menchaca is born, I’ll post  about it here.  Azuaje, of course, is an old friend — he was our hitting coach in 2009.
  • Right-hander Forrest Snow will make the switch from lockdown closer to frontline starter.  Pitching coach Rich Dorman is giving him the baseball for the Opening Night start against Burlington on Thursday.  Word from the Bees is that right-hander Seth Frankoff will start opposite Snow.
  • The LumberKings will be taking the field for an intrasquad game on Wednesday, April 6 at 5:00 PM.  It is free to the public!  Come on down, get your first look at the Kings, grab some 75th Anniversary Season souvenir items and get your baseball fix.

More to come, including some photos from tomorrow’s 9 AM workout.  Also, I’ll begin crafting the initial set of LumberKings’ Game Notes.  Tis the season.


Lueke, Wilhelmsen Debut in Same Game

In a game just completed in Oakland, former LumberKings’ right-handers Josh Lueke (’07-’08) and Tom Wilhelmsen (’10) each made their Major League debuts in Seattle’s 7-1 loss to the Athletics.

Lueke came on in relief of starter Doug Fister with two gone in the bottom of the sixth and stranded two runners with a swinging strikeout of Cliff Pennington on a 93 mph heater, but then was lit up for four runs while retiring just one batter in the seventh.  He loaded the bases on a double and two walks, then yielded a two-run single to Hideki MatsuiDavid Pauley came on to replace him, but then issued a bases-loaded walk and gave up a Kevin Kouzmanoff sac fly to add two more runs to Lueke’s line.  Final line:  0.2 IP, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 H, 2 BB, 2 K and a starting ERA of 54.00.  He’s the 225th former Clinton player to make a Major League debut, even if the outing was forgettable.  For further reading, check out this Mariners.com feature on Lueke as he prepared for his first big-league experience.

Wilhelmsen, #226, came on in relief of Pauley in the eighth and fared much better.  The 27-year-old delivered his first pitch at a level above low-A — a 96 mph fastball for ball one — but then retired Coco Crisp on a groundout to first-baseman Justin Smoak (’08), worked back from a 3-0 count to get Daric Barton to fly out and then froze David DeJesus looking at a curveball for strike three.  Final line:  1.0 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 BB, 1 K and a starting ERA of 0.00.

Special thanks to the revamped MLB Gameday feature, which I relied on heavily for this post.


Mayberry delivers on first Opening Day

Former LumberKing John Mayberry Jr. (’06) certainly made the most of his first Opening Day experience, lining a pinch-hit walk-off single over the head of Houston centerfielder Michael Bourn’s head to give the Philadelphia Phillies a 5-4 win over the Astros today.  Mayberry, who made his big-league debut with the Phillies in 2009 but had never made the Opening Day roster, delivered the most memorable hit of a three-run comeback against Brandon Lyon.

Check out the story and the video of Big John Jr.’s big hit here:  http://philadelphia.phillies.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2011_04_01_houmlb_phimlb_1&mode=recap&c_id=phi#