July 2011

Sunday Notes (7/10)

The ball was jumping in the humid Beloit air last night, evidenced by a combined six home runs hit by the LumberKings and Snappers.  Fortunately, the back-to-back blasts by Anthony Phillips (listen:  Phillips Solo HR (#2) 7.9.11) and Kevin Rivers (listen:  Rivers Solo HR (#4) Back-to-Back with Phillips 7.9.11) in the fifth inning pulled the Kings back from a 3-2 deficit and a towering drive to left by Stefen Romero in the seventh (listen:  Romero 2-R HR (#8) 7.9.11) gave Clinton a healthy cushion as they took game one in Beloit, 8-5. 

Left-hander Nate Reed served up home runs to Jairo Perez and Tobias Streich, allowing a total of three earned runs over 5.0 innings in his first start since September 4, 2010 while with High Desert.  Reed earned the win with help from the bullpen, including left-hander Ryan Kiel and right-hander Jessie Nava.  Kiel, making his Kings’ debut, struck out six over 1.2 innings including four in the sixth inning alone (a wild pitch on strike three allowed Daniel Ortiz to reach base) to pick up a hold.  Nava worked in and out of jams in the eighth and ninth, inducing Perez into a game-ending force out at third base as he represented the tying run.

Not to be lost in the mix was a decent pro debut for catcher John Hicks, Seattle’s fourth-round pick in 2011 out of the University of Virginia.  Hicks reached on an infield single in his first at-bat (listen: Hicks First Pro Hit (Infield Single) 7.9.11 ), threw out his first attempting base-stealer in the second inning (caught Daniel Santana at second) and recorded his first RBI on a sacrifice fly in the sixth.

It’s day baseball today as the LumberKings, now alone in second place in the West and just a game behind first-place Kane County, look to secure their fifth series win of the second half against the Snappers.  Right-hander George Mieses (3-9, 5.38) looks to run his winning streak to three-straight games after a seven-game losing streak.  Mieses has pitched well against Beloit this season, he’s 0-1 with a 4.22 ERA in two outings. 

Today’s Game Notes:  7.10.11 kingsnotes

LumberKings (10-6):  Kevin Rivers/DH, Jetsy Extrano/3B, Mickey Wiswall/LF, Stefen Romero/2B, Tim Morris/1B, Kalian Sams/RF, John Hicks/C, Robbie Anston/CF, Anthony Phillips/SS, George Mieses/RHP

Beloit Snappers (9-7):  Wang-Wei Lin/LF, Daniel Santana/CF, Jairo Perez/3B, Michael Gonzales/1B, Daniel Ortiz/RF, Lance Ray/DH, Tyler Grimes/SS, Jhonatan Arias/C, Andrew Leer/2B, Manuel Soliman/RHP

First pitch is at 2:00 PM on this muggy Sunday, listen to the broadcast on 1390kcln.com.


Tonight’s Interview: Mike McGee

The LumberKings put the finishing touches on their fourth series win in five attempts this second half, scoring six times in the first inning and five more in the eighth to rout the Cedar Rapids Kernels, 11-3 at Alliant Energy Field last night.  An RBI single by Mike McGee (listen:  McGee RBI single 7.8.11) and two-run double by Kevin Rivers (listen: Rivers 2-R double 7.8.11 ) highlighted the opening frame against right-hander Brian Diemer, while a two-run single by Carlton Tanabe (listen: Tanabe 2-R single 7.8.11 ) put the icing on the cake in the final inning against Kernels’ right-handers Justin La Tempa and Donn Roach.  All that offense supported left-hander Tony Butler, who won with three runs over 5.1 innings and seven strikeouts in his second start with Clinton.  Left-hander Edlando Seco stranded two inherited runners and worked 1.2 scoreless frames and right-hander Tyler Burgoon earned his 10th save of the season as he struck out five of the seven batters he faced.

For today’s interview, I chose to catch up with center-fielder McGee for the first time.  Seattle’s 15th round pick out of Florida State University is hitting .306 with four extra-base hits and seven RBI over his first 10 games with Clinton.  He talks about being the first 2011 draft pick to reach the LumberKings (he’ll be joined by fourth-round catcher John Hicks today), his time at FSU including the 2010 College World Series, winning the inaugural John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year award in ’10 (Olerud himself called with congrats) and much more.

Listen Here:  McGee Interview 7.9.11

Tonight’s Game Notes:  7.9.11 kingsnotes

The LumberKings open a three-game road series against the one team that they have not won a series against this half, the Beloit Snappers.  Both teams come into the action with 9-6 records, tied for second in the West behind Kane County (10-5).  We’ll see a new-look battery for the Kings tonight as Hicks starts behind the plate for left-hander Nate Reed, who moves to the rotation to replace right-hander Jandy Sena.  Reed went 1-1 with a 2.89 ERA as a reliever and started in both the AZL and High Desert last season.

LumberKings (9-6):  Kevin Rivers/LF, Mike McGee/CF, Mickey Wiswall/DH, Stefen Romero/2B, Tim Morris/1B, Kalian Sams/RF, John Hicks/C, Matt Browning/3B, Anthony Phillips/SS, Nate Reed/LHP

Beloit Snappers (9-6):  Wang-Wei Lin/CF, Adam Bryant/3B, Jairo Perez/DH, Michael Gonzales/1B, Daniel Ortiz/LF, Lance Ray/RF, Tyler Grimes/2B, Tobias Streich/C, Daniel Santana/SS, Blayne Weller/RHP

The game begins at 7:00 PM, listen online at 1390kcln.com.


Tonight’s Interview: Taijuan Walker (Vol. 2)

Tonight’s pregame guest comes as no surprise, following a 6.0-inning effort that included just one hit allowed (a two-out single by Chris Giovinazzo in the third inning), two walks and a career-high-tying 11 strikeouts.  That outing, of course, occured last night for right-hander Taijuan Walker as he won for the first time since May 26 in a 3-0 shutout over the Cedar Rapids Kernels.

Walker, utilizing his best curveball of the season, struck out 11 Kernels over his first 5.0 innings and then pitched to contact in a 1-2-3 sixth.  Right-handers Tyler Blandford and Jonathan Arias combined for seven more strikeouts over the final 3.0 innings to finish off Clinton’s fifth shutout win this season.  A hit-and-run single by Kalian Sams scored Stefen Romero in the fourth inning to give Walker the only tally he’d need, but Romero would add an RBI single in the sixth and Tim Morris singled home another in the seventh.

Walker joins me for the second time this season as we discuss his mastery last night, continued work with pitching coach Rich Dorman, his #38 ranking on Baseball America’s Top 50 Midseason Prospects List and more.

Listen Here:  Walker Interview 7.8.11

Tonight’s Game Notes:  7.8.11 kingsnotes

Starting Lineups:  7.8.11 lineup

Lefty Tony Butler (0-0, 0.00) starts tonight in front of the Alliant Energy Field faithful, looking to secure Clinton’s fourth series win in five tries this half.  He and the second-place LumberKings take on the Kernels beginning at 7:00 PM, listen to the broadcast on 1390kcln.com.


Fourth-Round Catcher Hicks Joins Kings

The Clinton LumberKings, in conjunction with the Seattle Mariners have announced the addition of catcher John Hicks, the fourth-round pick in 2011 out of the University of Virginia, to the Clinton 25-man roster.  The LumberKings have also promoted right-hander Jandy Sena to high-A High Desert and have received left-hander Ryan Kiel from the Peoria Mariners (AZL).

 Hicks was a three-year starter at Virginia, hitting .316 (245-for-775) with 54 doubles, four triples, 24 home runs and 146 RBI in 195 career games with the Cavaliers.  Defensively, he threw out over 42% of attempting base stealers (37-for-87).

 The 21-year-old Sandy Hook, VAnative hit .332 (92-for-277) with 21 doubles, eight home runs and 59 RBI in his junior season at Virginia.  He and fellow Cavaliers left-hander Danny Hultzen (Seattle’s first-round pick, second overall selection) and third-baseman Steven Proscia (7th round) were all drafted by the Mariners this past June.  Hicks joins outfielder Mike McGee (15th round out of Florida State) as 2011 draftees to reach Clinton this season. 

 Sena, 21, was 4-5 with a 4.56 ERA over 14 games, five starts with the LumberKings this season.  Seattle’s 23rd round pick in 2010 out of Marion Military Institute, Sena walked 17, struck out 19 and limited Midwest League opponents to a .279 average.  His move to High Desert is his second promotion this season.  Sena also pitched twice for double-A Jackson in late May, going 0-0 with a 0.00 ERA and a save.

Kiel, 24, joins Clinton after going 0-0 with a 0.00 ERA over two outings (2.0 innings) in the AZL.  Seattle’s 37th round pick in 2010 out of Marshall University went 1-1 with a 3.97 ERA and one save for the Pulaski Mariners of the Appalachian League last year.

Hicks and Kiel join the LumberKings in time for the final game of a three-game set againstCedar Rapidsscheduled for 7:00 PM tonight at Alliant Energy Field.  Their additions give the LumberKings a total of 25 active players with two on the disabled list.  Neither player has yet selected a uniform number.


Walker on BA’s Top 50 Midseason Prospects List

Maybe if this list had come out today rather than yesterday afternoon, LumberKings’ right-hander Taijuan Walker would be even higher up (he struck out 11 Cedar Rapids batters over 6.0 one-hit innings last night).  Baseball America’s midseason Top 50 Prospects List includes the 18-year-old Walker at #38.

Surprisingly, no sign of left-hander James Paxton on this list.  Check out the whole thing over at BaseballAmerica.com.

You’ll likely be hearing more from “Sky” Walker on an interview segment later today.  Stay tuned for that.


Retro Interview: Kyle Seager

A disappointing 4-3 loss in the ninth inning to the Cedar Rapids Kernels combined with more exciting pre-game news coming from Seattle means another “retro interview” segment today.

Infielder Kyle Seager, a LumberKing just three seasons ago, is joining the Seattle Mariners today after hitting .455 in 12 games with triple-A Tacoma.  Once he debuts, he’ll be the sixth former Clinton player to make an MLB debut this season and the 230th in the history of the franchise dating back to 1937.  For the full press release on Seager, visit this link from LumberKings.com.

As I mentioned in my “Retro Interview” post on right-hander Blake Beavan (who debuted for the Mariners just last Sunday and won with a run over 7.0 innings against San Diego), my old audio links from the pre-WordPress days are inactive.  So, here’s a re-visit of my 2009 interviews with Seager and a couple of his LumberKings’ highlights:

Seager, wearing #15, will be available for Mariners’ manager Eric Wedge tonight as they take on the LA Angels.  Meanwhile, we here in Clinton prepare for game two of a three-game series against the Angels’ Midwest League affiliate, the Cedar Rapids Kernels.

Tonight’s Game Notes:  7.7.11 kingsnotes

Tonight’s Starting Lineup:  7.7.11 lineup

Right-hander Taijuan Walker dominated the Kernels with five innings of scoreless, two-hit ball back on May 26.  That’s the last time the 18-year-old earned a win, as he’s gone 0-2 with four no-decisions since then.  He’ll take the baseball starting at 7:00 PM tonight, listen to the broadcast on 1390kcln.com.


Tonight’s Interview: Eddie Menchaca (Vol. 6)

Following Monday’s no-hitter at the hands of Peoria, the LumberKings regrouped and found a way to win the series over the Chiefs with a 5-3 victory last night at O’Brien Field.  Stefen Romero ended right-hander Starling Peralta’s bid for another no-hitter with one out in the fourth, launching a solo home run to the berm in left (listen: Romero Solo HR (#7) 7.5.11).  He’d add a two-run triple (listen: Romero 2-R Triple 7.5.11) as part of a four-run sixth inning that gave the Kings a 5-0 lead.  Right-hander George Mieses pitched 7.0 scoreless innings but ran into trouble in the eighth, yielding three runs (two on Micah Gibbs’ single off Tyler Burgoon after his exit) to cut the lead to 5-3.  Burgoon retired the final four batters in a row, recording his ninth save as Mieses won back-to-back starts for the first time to improve to 3-9.

Clinton finished the trip 4-2 and are now 7-5 and in a three-way tie for second in the West Division.  Manager Eddie Menchaca is my interview guest tonight, and he weighs in on the rebound win after Austin Kirk’s no-no, the red-hot Romero (3 HR, 10 RBI on the trip), Mieses, catcher Carlton Tanabe (he calls him the team’s MVP right now) and more.

Listen Here:  Menchaca Interview 7.6.11

Tonight’s Game Notes:  7.6.11 kingsnotes

Tonight’s Starting Lineup:  7.6.11 lineup

The LumberKings take on the Cedar Rapids Kernels for the first time since taking two of three on the road at the end of May.  Left-hander Anthony Fernandez (2-2, 3.81) makes the start for Clinton tonight looking for his third quality start in four outings since coming back from High Desert.  First pitch is scheduled for 7:00 PM, listen to the broadcast on 1390kcln.com.


Tuesday Notes (7/5)

A tip of the cap is well deserved for Peoria left-hander Austin Kirk, who became the first pitcher to throw a nine-inning no-hitter against the LumberKings since Burlington’s Jason Grote did it on August 5, 2000.  Kirk struck out 10 batters on the outing and allowed just two baserunners, both on walks.  Those walks kept him from becoming the first Midwest League hurler to throw a perfect game since Clinton’s own Scott Dunn did it against Lansing on August 3, 2000 (yes, just two days prior to Grote’s no-no).

Yesterday’s 2-0 loss is historic, but it’s still just one loss.  The LumberKings are still 3-2 on this six-game road trip and are primed to take this series from the Chiefs, who are just 1-4 at home this half and 4-7 on the season.  They’ll move forward with right-hander George Mieses (2-9, 5.57) on the mound, looking to win for the second-straight outing.  Last time out, El Toro utilized seven runs of support and kept Quad Cities to four runs as the Kings won, 8-5. 

No pregame interview today, but check out the Game Notes:  7.5.11 kingsnotes

The series finale gets underway at 7:00 PM here at O’Brien Field, listen to the broadcast at 1390kcln.com.


Tonight’s Interview: Tony Butler

Happy Independence Day!  The LumberKings freed themselves from a 2-2 tie in the top of the 10th last night in Peoria as Mike McGee ripped a one-out double into the left-field corner, moved to third on a single by Carlos Ramirez and scored on a sacrifice fly by Mickey Wiswall.  Right-hander Jonathan Arias struck out six over the last 3.0 innings including two in the bottom of the 10th, securing his third win and giving the Kings a hard-fought 3-2 victory over the Chiefs.

The “Cardiac Kings” have won five of their six games this second half in the last at-bat, with Wiswall now providing the game-winning RBI in the last two of them.  Wiswall also drove in Kevin Rivers for the deciding run in Clinton’s 5-3 win at Quad Cities on Friday night.

In addition to the big nights for McGee (2-for-5, five-game hitting streak), Wiswall (1-for-4, 7-game hitting streak) and Arias (3-0, 2.16 ERA since May), the LumberKings also received a solid start from a familiar name to Mariners’ fans.  Left-hander Tony Butler, making his first Midwest League start since August 31, 2007, turned in 5.1 innings of two-run, four-hit baseball in a no-decision.  Despite walking five, Butler fanned three (listen:  Butler Strikes Out Rohan 7.3.11) and did not allow an extra-base hit.

Seattle’s third-round pick in 2006 out of Oak Creek High School (WI), Butler has taken quite a journey already through six seasons in Minor League Baseball.  As you’ve likely already read, he went from a top prospect in the Mariners’ system (#4 rated by Baseball America back in 2007) to injury-plagued in Baltimore following the Erik Bedard trade, then was released by the O’s, signed by Milwaukee and released again.  This past Super Bowl Sunday, Butler made the decision to stick with his dream of playing professional baseball, moved to Arizona, worked out to get back into baseball shape and secured a tryout with the Mariners.  Now at age 23, he’s using the lessons learned from the ups and downs to make his way back.

Butler talks about his return to the organization that drafted him, last night’s start against the Chiefs, pitching in short-A Everett for the first time since ’06, comparisons to right-hander Tom Wilhelmsen’s 2010 comeback  and plenty more.  It’s an all-OCHS interview that will likely make my old TV teacher Mr. Stock smile.

Listen Here:  Butler Interview 7.4.11

Tonight’s Game Notes:  7.4.11 kingsnotes

An excerpt from tonight’s notes to keep in mind on this Independence Day:

The LumberKings are 4-0 on July 4th dating back to 2007, including 3-0 on the road.  Clinton erased a 3-1 deficit with a four-run ninth inning last year at O’Brien Field in Peoria as Mario Martinez laced a bases-loaded two-run double off Chiefs’ reliever Frank Batista and Brandon Bantz (sac fly) and Daniel Carroll (RBI single) added runs against Yohan Gonzalez…right-hander Daniel Cooper (W, 3-2) got the win and closer Brandon Josselyn (S, 10) the save.  In 2009, the Kings hosted Kane County at Alliant Energy Field and won 5-0 behind 6.0 scoreless, three-hit innings from right-hander Aaron Pribanic (W, 7-4)…Blake Ochoa had a three-run double, finishing 1-for-4.  Clinton won in 2008 at Beloit behind 7.0 scoreless, three-hit innings from right-hander Blake Beavan (W, 5-5) and RBI from Mitch Moreland (2-for-3, RBI #49) and Miguel Alfonzo (solo HR, his third of the season).  The 2007 season started the trend as right-hander Kasey Kiker (W, 3-2) handcuffed the Swing of the Quad Cities with 6.0 scoreless, three-hit innings and seven strikeouts.  Craig Gentry powered the road win, going 2-for-4 with a solo HR (his third of the season).  Chad Tracy, Marcus Lemon and Mauro Gomez each had an RBI.

Can right-hander Jandy Sena (4-4, 4.75) bounce back from his 10-run (6 ER) outing against Beloit and secure a fifth-straight July 4th victory for the Kings?  We’ll find out tonight starting with the first pitch at 6:00 PM, listen to the broadcast on 1390kcln.com.


Beavan Wins Debut

Ted S. Warren / AP

Much like he won his first career game with the LumberKings back in late April of 2008, right-hander Blake Beavan made his Major League debut memorable with a win over the San Diego Padres yesterday.  Beavan limited the Friars to just a run (coming on a Will Venable double) on three hits over 7.0 innings, walked two and struck out four as the Mariners won, 3-1.

Read the full recap of the game via Mariners.com and check out some video on Beavan here:  http://seattle.mariners.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2011_07_03_sdnmlb_seamlb_1&mode=recap&c_id=sea