June 2011

2011 First Half Highlight Reel

James Paxton's All-Star-worthy performance (3-3, 2.70 ERA, 73 K in 50.0 IP) was one of the bright spots for Clinton in the first half.

Sometimes, first halves go by in the blink of an eye.  Sometimes, they drag on.  The 2011 first half falls somewhere in the in-between for me.  I’ve seen some impressive things so far out of these LumberKings (a red-hot week by Kalian Sams, the dominant outings of James Paxton and Taijuan Walker, the resurgence of Mickey Wiswall in June, the impressive range at short for Anthony Phillips, the emergence of Keli’i Zablan and Jonathan Arias out of the pen, etc.), yet also a lot of struggles as evidenced by a current 23-46 record.

But, as hitting coach Terry Pollreisz reminded me on our way into Elfstrom Stadium today, anything can happen in the second half.  Polls cited his 2002 San Antonio club that finished 25-45 and 17 games out of first place in the Texas League West Division in the first half.  That club (including for just six games a 21-year-old Eddie Menchaca) rebounded to win the division with a 43-27 second-half record and went on to win the Texas League title in seven games over Tulsa.  Something to keep in mind as we head to the second half of 2011 on Friday.

While looking forward here on the half’s last day, it’s also time to look back at some of the high points of the season so far (unfortunately last night’s game-winning homer by Matt Browning just missed the cut).  With that, I present the third-annual “First Half Highlight Reel”.

Listen Here:  2011 First Half Highlight Reel

Today’s Game Notes:  6.19.11 kingsnotes

Starting Lineups:

LumberKings (23-46):  Julio Morban/CF, Mickey Wiswall/DH, Matt Browning/1B, Kevin Rivers/LF, Kalian Sams/RF, Shaver Hansen/2B, Carlos Ramirez/3B, Anthony Phillips/SS, Carlton Tanabe/C, Anthony Fernandez/LHP.

Kane County Cougars (28-40):  Angel Franco/2B, Geulin Beltre/CF, Cheslor Cuthbert/3B, Brian Fletcher/LF, Brett Eibner/DH, Jake Kuebler/1B, Orlando Calixte/SS, Travis Jones/C, Julio Aparicio/RF, Jason Adam/RHP.

Happy Father’s Day as well to you regular readers.  After today’s 1 PM game at Kane County, I’ll be heading home to Oak Creek, Wisconsin to spend my All-Star Break with family.  I won’t be covering James Paxton’s All-Star appearance in the Quad Cities on Tuesday, but you can follow along at with the MiLB Gameday Feature on MiLB.com.

I’ll be back on Friday to start with a clean slate.  Can’t wait.


Saturday Notes (6/18)

Right-hander Taijuan Walker gave us another “no way this guy is 18 years old” start last night in Kane County as he tied a career high with 11 strikeouts over 7.0 innings in his fourth quality start of the year.  Walker gave up just a run on two hits in his second-longest start of the year, but that run — coming in the second inning on a two-out single by Orlando Calixte — proved to be the difference as the Cougars won, 1-0.  The LumberKings couldn’t sniff Kane County right-handers Leonel Santiago and Chas Byrne as they were shut out for the seventh time this season, the third time in the last nine games.  Santiago, by the way, is now 3-0 with a sub-1:00 ERA in three starts against Clinton this year.

No audio highlights or interview today, but rest assured I’m still working hard here on the road.  I’m currently editing audio for my third-annual “Highlights from the First Half” segment.  Despite a 22-46 record this half, believe me, there’s more than a few worthy highlight clips to choose from.  Keep an eye out for that post tomorrow.

Until then, tonight’s Game Notes:  6.18.11 kingsnotes

Starting Lineups:

LumberKings (22-46):  Julio Morban/CF, Mickey Wiswall/DH, Matt Browning/3B, Tim Morris/1B, Kalian Sams/RF, Shaver Hansen/2B, Robbie Anston/LF, Anthony Phillips/SS, Carlton Tanabe/C, Jandy Sena/RHP

Kane County Cougars (28-39):  Angel Franco/2B, Alex Llanos/RF, Cheslor Cuthbert/3B, Brian Fletcher/LF, Brett Eibner/CF, Ryan Stovall/1B, Jake Kuebler/DH, Yowill Espinal/SS, Juan Graterol/C, Yordano Ventura/RHP

The battle for little more than bragging rights continues tonight at Elfstrom Stadium, first pitch scheduled for 6:00 PM.  Join me for the broadcast on 1390kcln.com.


Tonight’s Interview: Rick Waits

After allowing a career-high five earned runs in his previous start, it’s clear that left-hander James Paxton had a rebound outing last night against Quad Cities.  He set a new career high with 13 strikeouts and yielded just one run on four hits over 6.1 innings as the LumberKings beat the River Bandits, 5-1 at Alliant Energy Field.  Paxton struck out six-straight batters at one point in the game (listen:  Paxton 11th Strikeout 6.16.11), but left in the seventh with the bases loaded and one out.  Right-hander Tyler Burgoon came on and left them loaded as he induced a highlight-reel double play started by second-baseman Jorge Agudelo (listen: Agudelo Flip to Ramirez for DP 6.16.11).  Burgoon did not allow a run over 2.2 innings to secure his seventh save, making Paxton a winner for the third time.  Mickey Wiswall had the clutch hit of the night, singling home two runs to open up a 4-1 lead in the fourth (listen:  Wiswall 2-R single 6.16.11).

The efforts for K-Pax and Burgoon were well-timed as they took place in front of Mariners’ Minor League Pitching Coordinator Rick Waits.  After coaching for 15 seasons with the New York Mets (including 2003 as their Major League Bullpen Coach), Waits has inherited a minor league system chock full of potential impact arms.  Waits is my pregame guest tonight, and he shares plenty of his own insight into Paxton, tonight’s starter Taijuan Walker, Burgoon and the Clinton bullpen, former LumberKing and current Tacoma Rainier right-hander Blake Beavan and how close he is to a Seattle call-up, the outstanding arms in double-A Jackson including Andrew Carraway, Erasmo Ramirez, Anthony Vasquez, Kenn Kasparek and Tom Wilhelmsen and more.  It’s definitely a worthy listen.

Listen Here: Rick Waits (Minor League Pitching Coord) Interview 6.17.11

Tonight’s Game Notes:  6.17.11 kingsnotes

Today’s Roster Move:  Despite the potential game-saving play last night, Agudelo has been sent to short-A Everett to clear space for infielder Shaver Hansen, who has been reinstated from the DL and will play tonight in Kane County.

Starting Lineups:

LumberKings (22-45):  Julio Morban/CF, Mickey Wiswall/1B, Tim Morris/D, Matt Browning/3B, Kalian Sams/RF, Shaver Hansen/2B, Robbie Anston/LF, Billy Marcoe/C, Anthony Phillips/SS, Taijuan Walker/RHP

Kane County Cougars (27-39):  Angel Franco/2B, Ryan Stovall/3B, Brett Eibner/CF, Brian Fletcher/LF, Jake Kuebler/1B, Geulin Beltre/DH, Orlando Calixte/SS, Travis Jones/C, Julio Aparicio/RF, Leonel Santiago/RHP

First pitch is at 7:00 PM here at Elfstrom Stadium, listen to the broadcast on 1390kcln.com.


Tonight’s Interview: Carlton Tanabe

The LumberKings fell 9-5 last night as Quad Cities scored five times in the ninth to break a 5-5 tie.  The winning run scored as Michael Swinson came home on a two-out bases-loaded wild pitch by Jonathan Arias.  Cody Stanley followed with a three-run double to put the game out of reach.

Clinton had overcome a 5-2 deficit with a three-run fourth inning after a 38-minute rain delay.  Carlton Tanabe started the two-out rally with an RBI double to left-center off Rock Falls, IL native Seth Blair.  He’d later score on a single by Julio Morban, who would in turn score on a single to center by Mickey Wiswall (listen: Wiswall RBI single 6.15.11).  The Kings scored five total runs against Blair, including two on a first-inning homer by Stefen Romero (listen: Romero 2-R HR (#4) 6.15.11), his first since April 30.

My interview tonight is with Tanabe, fresh off his 2-for-4 game.  The 24th round pick out of Pearl City, Hawaii has been Steven Baron’s back-up this season but is now getting a chance to play with Baron on the DL.  We talk about last night’s double, staying productive despite playing sparingly, getting an opportunity to start, his experience with former Mariners’ catcher Dan Wilson earlier this year, being the other half of the Hawaiian battery with Keli’i Zablan and more.

Listen Here:  Tanabe Interview 6.16.11

Tonight’s Game Notes:  6.16.11 kingsnotes

Starting Lineups:

Quad Cities River Bandits (37-28):  Michael Swinson/LF, Ronny Gil/SS, Oscar Taveras/RF, Starlin Rodriguez/2B, Cody Stanley/C, Nick Longmire/CF, Victor Sanchez/DH, Jonathan Rodriguez/3B, Geoff Klein/1B, Trevor Rosenthal/RHP

LumberKings (21-45):  Julio Morban/CF, Mickey Wiswall/DH, Tim Morris/1B, Matt Browning/3B, Kevin Rivers/RF, Jorge Agudelo/2B, Carlos Ramirez/SS, Robbie Anston/LF, Carlton Tanabe/C, James Paxton/LHP

Lefty James Paxton makes his final start before the 2011 Midwest League All-Star Game tonight and is looking to snap Clinton’s five-game losing streak.  Paxton gave up a career-high five earned runs over 5.1 innings in his last start against Bowling Green, but is still 2-2 with a 2.63 ERA and 54 strikeouts over his last seven starts.

The broadcast begins at 6:45 PM, listen online at 1390kcln.com.


Tonight’s Interview: Keli’i Zablan

Not too much to write home about last night as the LumberKings opened a three-game series against the Quad Cities River Bandits with a 5-0 loss, their fourth-straight on the homestand.  Bandits’ right-hander Carlos Martinez has been drawing comparisons to Pedro Martinez (no relation, as far as I know), at least if you believe this article on MidwestLeague.com, and while I still wouldn’t pencil him in as a future Cy Young award winner quite yet, I’d say he pitched impressively.

Martinez limited the Kings to three hits over 6.0 innings, hitting 99 mph on the in-house speed gun and displaying a sharp hook and nasty changeup to go with his heater.  Then, relievers Ryan Copeland and Cale Johnson continued the trend for a combined 7-hit shutout for the Wild Card-hungry River Bandits.

Yes, this is still a post about the Clinton LumberKings, and that’s where I lead in to tonight’s interview guest.  Right-hander Keli’i Zablan was yet again effective in relief last night, tossing 2.0 scoreless frames following up right-hander George Mieses.  Though the Kings already trailed 5-0 at that point, it was still a fifth-straight scoreless outing for Zablan, lowering his ERA to 3.29.  He’s becoming a go-to arm for Rich Dorman, though his path to this point has seen plenty of twists and turns.

After going undrafted out of Southern Utah University, Zablan caught on with River City of the Frontier League.  He pitched and played second base for Rascals, helping them to the 2010 Frontier League Championship.  After that, he tried out for the Seattle Mariners and waited nearly a month to hear back about his signing, ventured to Peoria, AZ to start his career in extended spring training and got the call to Clinton.  We talk about his journey, being half of an all-Hawaiian battery alongside Carlton Tanabe, his goals for his first season in affiliated ball and more.

Listen Here:  Zablan Interview 6.15.11

Tonight’s Game Notes:  6.15.11 kingsnotes

Today’s Roster Moves:  It’s lengthy.  Right-hander Forrest Snow was called up to high-A High Desert today and will make his Mavs debut at Stockton tonight.  Catcher Steven Baron, who exited in the fifth inning last night after being struck on the right wrist by a foul tip, has been placed on the disabled list.  Outfielder Jabari Blash has been sent to Everett.  The Kings have received left-hander Anthony Fernandez back from High Desert, catcher Billy Marcoe from Everett and have activated Julio Morban from the disabled list.  Oh yeah, and right-hander Tyler Blandford came off the DL today as Mieses went on.  And that’s the short version.

Starting Lineups: 

Quad Cities River Bandits (36-28):  Michael Swinson/LF, Ronny Gil/SS, Oscar Taveras/CF, Starlin Rodriguez/2B, Cody Stanley/C, Nick Longmire/RF, Colin Walsh/3B, Victor Sanchez/1B, Chris Edmondson/DH, Seth Blair/RHP

LumberKings (21-44):  Julio Morban/DH, Mickey Wiswall/LF, Tim Morris/1B, Stefen Romero/3B, Kevin Rivers/RF, Jorge Agudelo/2B, Robbie Anston/CF, Anthony Phillips/SS, Carlton Tanabe/C, Edlando Seco/LHP

Rock Falls, IL native and St. Louis Cardinals’ first-round pick Seth Blair will be a local attraction tonight, but hopefully lefty Edlando Seco continues his uncanny ability to help the LumberKings win.  Despite the fact that Seco is just 1-0 in five starts, the Kings are 4-1 in those games.

Join me for the broadcast starting at 6:45 PM on 1390kcln.com.


Everett Roster Announced, Mariners Sign 21 Picks

News from elsewhere in the Mariners’ system today that will likely have an impact on the Clinton roster in the near future…

The defending Northwest League Champion Everett AquaSox announced their 2011 Opening Night Roster today, and it features two former LumberKings on the roster and one on the bench.  Manager Scott Steinmann’s (’09) crew includes infielders Jetsy Extrano (’09) and Marcus Littlewood (’11).  No sign of Ramon Morla (’11).

Interestingly enough, former Wisconsin Timber Rattler and Oak Creek (WI) High School product, left-hander Tony Butler is back in the Seattle system and with the AquaSox.  This is of course notable for Mariners fans that the 6’7″ Butler, a third-round pick in 2006 who was later dealt to Baltimore as part of the Erik Bedard deal, released by the Orioles, signed and released by the Milwaukee Brewers after a second brief stint with the Rattlers (he faced the LumberKings on 7/31/10 and gave up a three-run HR to Blake Ochoa) and signed again by the Mariners, has come full circle.  It’s notable for me, because I too am a graduate of Oak Creek High (class of ’01).  If only Butler and the West Allis, WI born right-hander Ben Versnik could make their way to the Clinton bullpen, it’d be a regular southeast Wisconsin reunion.

The Mariners also announced the signing of 21 picks from the recently-completed first-year player draft.  From the official press release:

“The Seattle Mariners Director of Amateur Scouting Tom McNamara announced today that the club has signed 21 players from the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, including infielder Daniel Paolini (10th), left-handed pitcher Cameron Hobson (11th), catcher Michael Dowd (12th), outfielder Jamal Austin (13th), right-handed pitcher Cody Weiss (14th), outfielder Nate Melendres (17th), infielder Dillon Hazlett (20th), right-handed pitcher Joe DiRocco (21st), infielder Kenneth Straus (26th), right-handed pitcher David Colvin (34th), right-handed pitcher Brett Shankin (28th), left-handed pitcher Kyle Hunter (31st), right-handed pitcher Alex Sunderland (38th), infielders Chris Andreas (39th), right-handed pitcher Trevor Miller (40th), right-handed pitcher Robert Shore (41st) catcher David Villasuso (42nd), right-handed pitcher Marcos Reyna (43rd), infielder Josh Corrales (44th), outfielder Charles Jimenez (45th) and right-handed pitcher Max Krakowiak (48th).”

Pulaski’s roster should also be announced soon, as the Appy League season starts June 21st.  I’ll post something about that as soon as I see it.


Tuesday Notes (6/14)

The final leg of this nine-game, 10-day homestand opens tonight, pitting the Kings against their geographical rivals, the Quad Cities River Bandits.  Johnny Rodriguez’s crew took all three meetings at Modern Woodmen Park from May 10-12, winning twice by a run and once by three runs.  The Bandits come into play holding a two-game lead on the West Division Wild Card spot with six games remaining, meaning it’s a second-straight series in which Eddie Menchaca’s club will try and slow a team’s path to the postseason.

Right-hander George Mieses, fresh off his third quality start his last time out vs. Dayton (6.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER in a 5-0 loss to the Dragons) makes his 13th start for Clinton tonight.  Mieses hasn’t won since April 30 at Wisconsin and has a 7.71 ERA in seven starts since going 1-2, 4.01 in April.  He’ll hope to get some offensive backing from a LumberKings’ lineup that is hitting .257 so far in the month of June, up from .224 in May and .226 in April.

More on Mieses and the Kings in tonight’s Game Notes:  6.14.11 kingsnotes

Starting Lineups:

Quad Cities River Bandits (35-28):  Michael Swinson/LF, Ronny Gil/SS, Oscar Taveras/CF, Starlin Rodriguez/2B, Cody Stanley/C, Nick Longmire/RF, Jonathan Rodriguez/1B, Joey Bergman/DH, Colin Walsh/3B, Carlos Martinez/RHP

LumberKings (21-43):  Carlos Ramirez/3B, Mickey Wiswall/DH, Tim Morris/1B, Stefen Romero/LF, Kevin Rivers/RF, Steven Baron/C, Jabari Blash/CF, Jorge Agudelo/2B, Anthony Phillips/SS, George Mieses/RHP

Listen to the broadcast at 7:00 PM on 1390kcln.com.


Sunday Notes (6/12)

The second leg of this nine-game, three-opponent homestand comes to a close this afternoon as the LumberKings take on Bowling Green for game three of the three-game set.  The Hot Rods, needing another win last night to stay at least a half-game behind first-place Lansing in the East, got what they needed as Phil Wunderlich clubbed a two-run homer off right-hander Jandy Sena in the eighth to give thema 4-2 lead and ultimately the win by that count.

Steven Baron shined in the loss, doubling home Stefen Romero in the second inning off left-hander C.J. Riefenhauser and singling in Romero again in the fourth to tie the game at 2-2 (listen: Baron RBI single 6.11.11)  The Romero-Jabari Blash-Baron trio went a combined 6-for-11 with a double, two runs scored and two RBI while the rest of the lineup went 2-for-20.  Still, the Kings had a shot in the bottom of the ninth with Carlos Ramirez on and just one out against Hot Rods closer Chris Rearick, but pinch-hitter Matt Browning grounded into a game-ending double play as shortstop Derek Dietrich dove to make the stop and flipped to Hector Guevara from the ground for the 6-4-3 twin killing.

Clinton’s streak of three-straight series wins has stopped, but they’re still 7-4 against the East and will attempt to keep the Hot Rods from sweeping today.  18-year-old right-hander Taijuan Walker pitched just 3.0 innings with some minor back soreness his last time out against Dayton on 6/7 but is still riding a rotation-best 14.2-inning scoreless streak over his past three starts.  Walker puts his 2-2 record, 2.81 ERA on the line today as he faces Bowling Green for the first time.

More about Baron, Walker and others in today’s Game Notes:  6.12.11 kingsnotes

Starting Lineups:

Bowling Green Hot Rods (35-28):  Cody Rogers/LF, Hector Guevara/DH, Phil Wunderlich/1B, Derek Dietrich/SS, Steve Tinoco/RF, Robby Price/3B, Kevin Kiermaier/CF, Luke Bailey/C, Robi Estrada/2B, Enny Romero/LHP

LumberKings (21-42):   Carlos Ramirez/2B, Mickey Wiswall/LF, Tim Morris/DH, Stefen Romero/3B, Kevin Rivers/RF, Steven Baron/C, Jabari Blash/CF, Matt Browning/1B, Anthony Phillips/SS, Taijuan Walker/RHP

First pitch is at 2:00 PM, join me for the broadcast on 1390kcln.com.


Off the Diamond: Ben Schlesselman

I recorded and aired this interview yesterday, but it was so close to game time I didn’t have time to put it online.  I interviewed our new Official Scorer, Ben Schlesselman for another “Off the Diamond” segment.  We talk a bit about his first year in the scoring hot seat but more about his passion for collecting baseball memorabilia and his day job as the Sports Information Director for Ashford University Athletics.  It’s definitely a worthy listen.

Listen Here:  Schlesselman OTD Interview 6.11.11


Saturday Notes (6/11)

The LumberKings fell behind 5-3, waited through an hour and 17 minute rain delay, put the tying runs on base in the bottom of the ninth and still lost 6-4 to the Bowling Green Hot Rods last night.  Left-hander James Paxton allowed a career-high five earned runs over 5.1 innings, while Mickey Wiswall homered (listen:  Wiswall Solo HR (#6) 6.10.11) and went 2-for-4 in the losing cause for Clinton.

Arias, Nava, Reed and Sena bring it in for "pitchers" on three.

I’d say more about last night, but fatigue is setting in.  We un-tarped the field at 9:30 this morning for the 13th Annual Youth Clinic, sponsored by David Sunflower Seeds, which, went off without a hitch thanks to Jorge Agudelo, Robbie Anston, Jonathan Arias, Jabari Blash, Matt BrowningShaver Hansen, Julio Morban, Jessie Nava, Anthony Phillips, Carlos Ramirez, Nate Reed, Kalian Sams and Jandy Sena.

Tonight is the first-ever “Country Night” at Alliant Energy Field featuring a post-game concert by Levi Fraley.  First things first, right-hander Forrest Snow looks to make sweet music on the mound as he starts for the 13th time this season, the first time against the Hot Rods and a Tampa Bay Rays affiliate.  Snow pitched 8.0 innings of one-run baseball his last time out in a win at Lake County and is 2-7 despite a solid 3.77 ERA and a team-high seven quality starts.

More on Snow and company in tonight’s Game Notes:  6.11.11 kingsnotes

Starting Lineups:

Bowling Green Hot Rods (34-28):  Cody Rogers/RF, Hector Guevara/2B, Phil Wunderlich/1B, Julio Cedeno/DH, Derek Dietrich/SS, Robby Price/3B, Nick Schwaner/LF, Luke Bailey/C, Kevin Kiermaier/CF, C.J. Riefenhauser/LHP

LumberKings (21-41):  Jorge Agudelo/2B, Mickey Wiswall/LF, Tim Morris/1B, Stefen Romero/DH, Jabari Blash/RF, Steven Baron/C, Carlos Ramirez/3B, Robbie Anston/CF, Anthony Phillips/SS, Forrest Snow/RHP

First pitch is scheduled for 6:00 PM, join me for the broadcast on 1390kcln.com.