June 2011

Baron Promoted to High Desert

Catcher Steven Baron is latest Clinton call-up to join Mavericks

Clinton, IA – The Clinton LumberKings, in conjunction with the Seattle Mariners have announced the promotion of catcher Steven Baron to high-A High Desert.  No counter move has been made, leaving the Clinton active roster with 24 players.

Baron, 20, hit .197 with a team-high 13 doubles, four home runs and 20 RBI in 57 games with the LumberKings this season.  Seattle’s supplemental first-round pick in 2009 out of John A. Ferguson High School in Miami, FL also spent the first half of 2010 with Clinton, hitting .182 with three doubles, a home run and 14 RBI in 45 games.  He finished last season with short-A Everett, hitting .253 with 12 doubles, three homers and 22 RBI as the Northwest League’s Post-Season All-Star at catcher.

With Baron’s promotion, the LumberKings are left with one active catcher, Carlton Tanabe.  Infielder Jetsy Extrano will be used as the emergency catcher until the roster spot is permanently filled.


Thursday Notes (6/30)

Eyeing a second-straight series win to start the second half, the LumberKings instead suffered one of their worst defeats of the season last night as the Beloit Snappers, led by Michael Gonzales’s 3-for-5, two-homer, five-RBI performance, routed the Kings 14-5 last night at Alliant Energy Field.  Jairo Perez also capped a monster series going 3-for-5 with a solo homer and three RBI for the Snappers.

There were bright spots in the form of the first back-to-back home runs hit by LumberKings this season, as Carlos Ramirez and Mickey Wiswall each lifted solo homers off Beloit left-hander Ryan O’Rourke in the fourth (listen: Ramirez and Wiswall Go Back-to-Back 6.29.11).  Wiswall added another RBI single in the eighth inning, while Matt Browning singled home a run and then scored on an RBI triple by Mike McGee to make the score more respectable.  Still, right-hander Jandy Sena suffered his worst performance of the year with 10 runs, six earned over just 2.2 innings and lefty Edlando Seco took another step backwards with three runs allowed on two homers.

It’s back to the road for the first time this half now for Eddie Menchaca’s Kings, but they’ll only have to travel to neighboring Quad Cities for the next three games.  The Bandits swept the series here at Modern Woodmen Park back in early May, but the LumberKings are 10-8 on the road since then. 

Right-hander George Mieses (1-9, 5.58) hasn’t won since April 30 but hasn’t been as bad as the numbers look over his last three starts…he’s gone at least five innings all three times with fewer than three earned runs, but the offense has not scored him a run of support that entire time (17.0 innings).  Quite simply, it’s time to start putting up some runs behind Mieses.

Tonight’s Game Notes:  6.30.11 kingsnotes

No pregame interview tonight as I will be airing the second part of my Tony Blengino conversation at long last.  The broadcast begins at 6:45 PM, listen online at 1390kcln.com.


Tonight’s Interview: Stefen Romero (Vol. 2)

As you’ll recall from yesterday’s post, I planned to air part two of my conversation with Mariners’ Special Assistant Tony Blengino on tonight’s pregame show, but I can’t pass up a chance to interview Stefen Romero following his 12th inning walk-off single last night against Beloit.

The LumberKings are 3-2 so far in the second half, and all three wins have come in the last at-bat.  Steven Baron’s two-run double highlighted a four-run eighth inning as the Kings won 5-4 over Burlington last Friday night, and Robbie Anston’s walk-off ninth-inning single scored Carlos Ramirez for a series-clinching 5-4 win over the Bees again on Sunday.  Romero was the hero last night, lining a no-out single to right-center scoring Jetsy Extrano, who had walked to lead off the inning and moved to third on a throwing error by Snappers’ left-hander Nelvin Fuentes.  That made a winner of right-hander Tyler Burgoon, who turned in a season-high 4.0 scoreless innings in relief to get his fourth victory of the season.  Lefty Nate Reed (2.0 scoreless innings) and catcher Carlton Tanabe (game-tying sac fly scoring Mike McGee in the bottom of the ninth) also deserve “unsung hero” mention.

Listen to Romero’s first-career walk-off winner:  Romero Walk-Off Single 6.28.11

Tonight, I chat with Romero for the second time this season.  We talk about his first-career walk-off hit, his red-hot .424 month of June, the task of working on multiple defensive positions, his focus for the second half and more.

Listen Here:  Romero Interview 6.29.11

Tonight’s Game Notes:  6.29.11 kingsnotes

Starting Lineups:  6.29.11 lineup

Right-hander Jandy Sena (4-3, 3.69) makes his 12th appearance, fourth start tonight looking to extend his quality-start streak to three-straight in his first-career match-up against Beloit.  The 6’6″ Sena takes the mound for the first pitch at 7:00 PM, listen online at 1390kcln.com.


Tonight’s Interview: Tony Blengino

Seattle Mariners’ Special Assistant of Baseball Operations Tony Blengino has been in town this homestand evaluating the 2011 LumberKings in first-person for the first time this season.  Last night, he witnessed an up-and-down performance from right-hander Taijuan Walker (career-high 5 ER, 5 walks, 8 strikeouts) and the bullpen in a 9-2 loss to the Beloit Snappers, but still had plenty of praise for the 18-year-old Walker and his Clinton teammates.

Blengino, who shared his time with me last year to talk about prospects like Nick Franklin, Erasmo Ramirez and Vinnie Catricala, turns his sights to the 2011 edition of the Kings including the likes of Walker, tonight’s starter James Paxton, Mickey Wiswall, Tim Morris, Kalian Sams and others on this special pregame interview.  We also talk about the talent coming up through the Mariners system, Tony’s involvement in and thoughts on the 2011 Draft, some on-the-cusp former LumberKings like Blake Beavan and Kyle Seager and more.

It’s a nearly 12-minute interview that will air in two parts on the pregame show and is definitely a worthy listen.  Listen Here:  Blengino Interview (Full Version) 6.28.11

Tonight’s Game Notes:  6.28.11 kingsnotes

Starting Lineups:  6.28.11 lineup

K-Pax makes his first post-Futures Game nomination start tonight for your LumberKings, looking to avenge a May 30 loss to the Snappers.  Since that outing (4 R, 2 ER over 5.0 IP, 4 BB, 7 K), Paxton has combined to go 2-1 with a 3.24 ERA.  Last time out against Quad Cities, he fanned a career-high 13 batters over 6.1 innings in a 5-1 win.

First pitch is scheduled for 7:00 PM, listen to the broadcast online at 1390kcln.com.


Tonight’s Interview: Robbie Anston

The LumberKings recorded just their second “walk-off” win of the season yesterday afternoon, knocking off the Burlington Bees and winning the series with a 5-4 win at Alliant Energy Field.  Tied at 4-4 in the bottom of the ninth, Carlos Ramirez singled to center and advanced to third on an Anthony Phillips sacrifice bunt and subsequent throwing error by Bees’ catcher Juan Nunez in an attempt to force out Ramirez at second base.  After falling behind 0-2 to right-hander Zack Thonrton, Robbie Anston (who replaced injured Julio Morban midway through the game, more on that below) singled up the middle past the drawn-in infield to score Ramirez (listen: Anston Walk-Off Single 6.26.11).

Anston’s hit made him my Espresso, Cigars & More Player of the Game yesterday, but a huge honorable mention has to go to Kalian Sams.  The Swinging Dutchman went 2-for-4 with a game-changing three-run homer (surprisingly the first three-run blast by a LumberKing this season) in the fourth inning (listen: Sams 3-R HR (#8) 6.26.11) and drove in a season-high four runs.  On the mound, left-hander Anthony Fernandez looked less than sharp with solo homers allowed to Nino Leyja and Tony Thompson, but he kept the game tied and so too did the relief combo of right-handers Jessie Nava and Tyler Burgoon.  As a result, the Kings are now 2-1 and tied for third in the West Division this half.

My interview guest tonight is Anston, Seattle’s 26th round pick in 2010 out of Boston College.  We talk about yesterday’s walk-off hit, his time at BC along with Mickey Wiswall, staying ready in a crowded outfield, his 2010 season in Everett and more.

Listen Here:  Anston Interview 6.27.11

Roster Move:  Back to Morban…he’s headed to the disabled list for the third time this season after coming out of the game yesterday.  No official word on what the issue is or what the timetable is for his return, but we do have his roster replacement.  The Mariners’ 15th round pick in 2011, outfielder Mike McGee comes to the club after hitting .556 with three triples and four RBI in two AZL games.  McGee was a standout in both the outfield and on the mound at Florida State University.

Read more about Anston, Sams, McGee and others in today’s Game Notes:  6.27.11 kingsnotes

Today’s Starting Lineups:  6.27.11 lineup

Right-hander Taijuan Walker, 2-1 with a 1.16 ERA over his last seven starts, gets the call in game one against the Beloit Snappers tonight.  He’ll go up against Masonville, IA native, right-hander B.J. Hermsen of the Snappers.  The game begins at 7:00 PM, listen online at 1390kcln.com.


Today’s Interview: James Paxton (Vol. 3)

I recorded this interview with LumberKings’ left-hander James Paxton two days ago, covering his stellar one-inning performance in this year’s Midwest League All-Star Game and his reaction to being named to the XM Satellite Radio 2011 All-Star Futures Game.  I saved it for today as Sundays are usually tight on time to get interviews.

Enjoy my third interview installment with K-Pax:  Paxton ASG, Futures Game Interview 6.24.11

As for last night’s game, the LumberKings dropped the middle game of the series with Burlington by a 5-1 score.  Kevin Rivers singled home Julio Morban to cut the deficit to 2-1 in the sixth inning, but the Bees scored three times against the pen combo of Jonathan Arias and Keli’i Zablan to put the game out of reach.  Right-hander George Mieses looked sharp, limiting the Bees to two runs — both unearned — on four hits over 5.1 innings, but he received no help from the offense while on the mound for the third-straight start (no runs for El Toro over his last 17.2 innings) and fell for the Midwest League-high tying ninth time.

More on Mieses and the rest of the Kings in today’s Game Notes:  6.26.11 kingsnotes

Here’s a different look at the Starting Lineups:  6.26.11 lineup

Ground ball artist, left-hander Anthony Fernandez looks to build upon his tremendous first-half finale (7.0 IP, 4 hits, no runs in 1-0 win at Kane County) in his first second-half start today.  First pitch is at 2:00 PM, listen to the broadcast on 1390kcln.com.


Tonight’s Interview: Nate Reed

For the first time this season, your LumberKings have a share of first place.  Yes, they’re still 25-46 overall, but with a second-half-opening 5-4 win over the Burlington Bees last night, the Kings are in a four-way tie for first in the West Division.

It didn’t come easy, and it didn’t come without a few breaks going Clinton’s way.  Trailing 3-1 heading into the bottom of the eighth and looking farely overmatched against hard-throwing Bees’ right-hander Pedro Vidal, the Kings looked headed to another close loss at the hands of Burlington.  Stefen Romero ended Vidal’s string of seven-straight batters retired with a flare single to right-center, and Matt Browning reached on a dropped pop-up by recent Midwest League “Star of Stars” winner, Bees’ second-baseman Nino Leyja.  The window of opportunity opened as Mickey Wiswall cut the deficit to 3-2 with a Texas League RBI single to right, and things just got downright odd as Wiswall was caught in an apparent inning-ending rundown between first and second, only to be given second base upon Eddie Menchaca’s appeal to the umpires that Tim Morris had actually been hit by the low-and-in pitch.

That sudden reversal of fortunes put the Bees’ defense back on the diamond (they had gone into the dugout and stayed there in the midst of manager Aaron Niekula’s rebuttal) and brought up Steven Baron, who drilled Vidal’s 1-0 pitch down the third-base line to score Browning and Wiswall (listen: Baron Go-Ahead 2-Run Double 6.24.11).  Kalian Sams then grounded towards All-Star shortstop Yordy Cabrera, but Cabrera booted it, sending Morris home for a 5-3 Clinton advantage.

Left-hander Nate Reed (pictured) would have been a bright spot no matter what the final outcome, given his season-high seven strikeouts (including three-straight against Burlington’s 4-5-6 spots in the eighth) over 2.1 innings last night.  Despite giving up Royce Consigli’s third RBI double of the night in the ninth, Reed closed down the game for his first win with the LumberKings.

And so, he’s my interview guest tonight.  We talk about last night’s outing, his setup role in the bullpen, his long path to the pros (including three seasons at the University of Pittsburgh, a 20th round selection by the Chicago White Sox and one season at Kutztown University) and more.

Listen Here:  Reed Interview 6.25.11

Tonight’s Game Notes:  6.25.11 kingsnotes

Roster Move:  With right-hander George Mieses coming off the disabled list tonight to make the start, someone had to go.  That turned out to be right-hander Stephen Kohlscheen, who was shipped to short-A Everett.

Starting Lineups:

Burlington Bees (0-1, 45-26):  Royce Consigli/LF, Jose Crisotomo/CF, Tony Thompson/3B, A.J. Kirby-Jones/1B, Josh Whitaker/DH, Douglas Landaeta/RF, Yordy Cabrera/SS, Nino Leyja/2B, John Nester/C, Nate Long/RHP

LumberKings (1-0, 25-46):  Stefen Romero/DH, Julio Morban/CF, Matt Browning/3B, Mickey Wiswall/1B, Kevin Rivers/LF, Steven Baron/C, Kalian Sams/RF, Jetsy Extrano/2B, Anthony Phillips/SS, George Mieses/RHP

First pitch is at 6:00 PM on this “Stay Late Saturday”, listen to the broadcast on 1390kcln.com.


Tonight’s Interview: Eddie Menchaca (Vol. 5)

After a four-day hiatus for the Midwest League All-Star Break, your LumberKings are back at it tonight as they open the second half at home against the Burlington Bees.  With the second half beginning, it’s back to a 0-0 record and an eight-way tie for first in the West Division, although the Kings no longer have to worry about both Burlington and Wild Card winner Quad Cities as far as the standings are concerned.

Eddie Menchaca’s LumberKings might get treated like the underdogs as the second half begins, but a 9-8 record so far in the month of June indicates a club ready to turn things around with the fresh start.  My first interview of the second half is with the Clinton skipper, and we’ll talk about the team’s refocused attitude, the strong starting rotation including tonight’s starter Jandy Sena and Futures Game representative James Paxton, an offense now featuring a healthy Julio Morban and a new second-baseman in Jetsy Extrano, setting the tone against the first-half champion Bees and more.

Listen Here:  Menchaca Interview 6.24.11

Tonight’s Game Notes:  6.24.11 kingsnotes

Roster Moves:  Yesterday, the LumberKings swapped second-basemen as Shaver Hansen was promoted to high-A High Desert and Jetsy Extrano was received from short-A Everett.  Today, catcher Billy Marcoe was sent to the AZL to make room for Steven Baron, who has been reinstated from the disabled list.  Extrano and Baron are both in tonight’s lineup.

Starting Lineups:

Burlington Bees (0-0, 45-25):  Royce Consigli/RF, Nino Leyja/2B, Tony Thompson/3B, A.J. Kirby-Jones/1B, Josh Whitaker/DH, Douglas Landaeta/LF, Yordy Cabrera/SS, John Nester/C, Tyreace House/CF, Sean Murphy/RHP

LumberKings (0-0, 24-46):  Stefen Romero/DH, Julio Morban/CF, Matt Browning/3B, Mickey Wiswall/LF, Tim Morris/1B, Steven Baron/C, Kalian Sams/RF, Jetsy Extrano/2B, Anthony Phillips/SS, Jandy Sena/RHP

The quest for the 10th playoff spot in the last 14 seasons starts tonight at 7:00 PM.  Listen to the broadcast on 1390kcln.com.


Pax to the Future

Not even two full days since his 2011 Midwest League All-Star appearance and already another big honor for left-hander James Paxton.  MLB announced the 2011 XM Satellite Radio All-Star Futures Games rosters today, and K-Pax is on the World team.  He’s just the second active LumberKings’ player to ever be named to a Futures Game, joining third-baseman John Whittleman (’07 in San Francisco).

Read the official press release on LumberKings.com here:  http://clinton.lumberkings.milb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20110623&content_id=20914806&vkey=news_t500&fext=.jsp&sid=t500

I’ll attempt to get a Paxton reaction in interview form within the next few days.


K-Pax, All-Star

In case, like me, you weren’t there to see it first-hand last night, LumberKings’ left-hander and lone West Division All-Star James Paxton did his thing on the mound in the third inning of last night’s Midwest League All-Star Game in Davenport, IA.  K-Pax struck out West Michigan’s Hernan Perez on a fastball, struck out South Bend’s Ender Inciarte on a curveball and induced West Michigan’s Rob Brantly into an inning-ending line-out to left.  The West went on to beat the East 8-3 thanks to unlikely hero Nino Leyja of Burlington, who mashed a two-run homer to give the West the separation they’d need.

Read more on last night’s ASG and get a quote from Paxton as well in the MidwestLeague.com feature article:  http://midwest.league.milb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20110622&content_id=20848206&vkey=news_l118&fext=.jsp&sid=l118

Special thanks to Official Scorer Ben Schlesselman for sending me the text updates from his seat at Modern Woodmen Park last night.  This is the first All-Star Game I’ve missed since joining the LumberKings, but it’s been good to get away for the last few days.

See you all on Friday.