Results tagged ‘ Denny Almonte ’

Kings in Spring (March 25)

Well, it was nice to finally catch the Mariners in Cactus League action, even though it was from the dusty office TV as they played the Chicago Cubs on WGN rather than from my favorite seat down the left-field line at the Peoria Sports Complex.  Still, it was nice to get a look at right-hander Tom Wilhelmsen (’10) in the #73 uni…aside for a minor hiccup in the way of a Blake DeWitt solo homer, he looked pretty comfortable in two innings of relief work.  Wilhelmsen and Justin Smoak (’08), who went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles, look like locks to make the Opening Day roster to me.

Another funny note from the game, former LumberKings infielder Kyle Seager (’09) got into the action at third base, wearing #92 with no nameplate.  The 90’s numbers are normally given to the Minor League players called up to the big-league game for the day, but apparently that number was originally intended for Mario Martinez.  As a result, Cubs’ broadcaster Len Kasper referred to Seager as Martinez for a couple defensive plays and a full at-bat.  I doubt anyone aside from me, the Seager family and a few other Clintonites noticed or cared.

I didn’t catch the entire game, but Denny Almonte (’09) also made a cameo appearance, grounding out on one pitch in his lone at-bat.

In Texas Rangers news, and certainly a note not to be lost in the mix, it appears that former LumberKings’ third-baseman and one-time Futures Game hero John Whittleman (’06-’07) has been shipped to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for a player to be named later.  That’s according to multiple sources, cited in an email I received from The Newberg Report.  Whittleman, a second-round pick in ’05, struggled in ’06 but was an All-Star with the Kings in ’07.  He remains the only active LumberKing ever to participate in an MLB All-Star Futures Game, something I covered earlier this offseason in an edition of The Interview Vault.  If the reports are true, it’s a fresh start for Whit in the deepest Minor League system in baseball.  He’s always been a favorite of mine, I hope this works out well for him.

As you can tell, I’m working late on a Friday night yet again.  Such is life this close to the baseball season.  We’re about 13 days and 15 minutes away from the first pitch.

-DL

Kings in Spring (March 25)

Well, it was nice to finally catch the Mariners in Cactus League action, even though it was from the dusty office TV as they played the Chicago Cubs on WGN rather than from my favorite seat down the left-field line at the Peoria Sports Complex.  Still, it was nice to get a look at right-hander Tom Wilhelmsen (’10) in the #73 uni…aside for a minor hiccup in the way of a Blake DeWitt solo homer, he looked pretty comfortable in two innings of relief work.  Wilhelmsen and Justin Smoak (’08), who went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles, look like locks to make the Opening Day roster to me.

Another funny note from the game, former LumberKings infielder Kyle Seager (’09) got into the action at third base, wearing #92 with no nameplate.  The 90’s numbers are normally given to the Minor League players called up to the big-league game for the day, but apparently that number was originally intended for Mario Martinez.  As a result, Cubs’ broadcaster Len Kasper referred to Seager as Martinez for a couple defensive plays and a full at-bat.  I doubt anyone aside from me, the Seager family and a few other Clintonites noticed or cared.

I didn’t catch the entire game, but Denny Almonte (’09) also made a cameo appearance, grounding out on one pitch in his lone at-bat.

In Texas Rangers news, and certainly a note not to be lost in the mix, it appears that former LumberKings’ third-baseman and one-time Futures Game hero John Whittleman (’06-’07) has been shipped to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for a player to be named later.  That’s according to multiple sources, cited in an email I received from The Newberg Report.  Whittleman, a second-round pick in ’05, struggled in ’06 but was an All-Star with the Kings in ’07.  He remains the only active LumberKing ever to participate in an MLB All-Star Futures Game, something I covered earlier this offseason in an edition of The Interview Vault.  If the reports are true, it’s a fresh start for Whit in the deepest Minor League system in baseball.  He’s always been a favorite of mine, I hope this works out well for him.

As you can tell, I’m working late on a Friday night yet again.  Such is life this close to the baseball season.  We’re about 13 days and 15 minutes away from the first pitch.

-DL

Greetings from Dayton

As you can probably tell by the lack of content from yesterday, the LumberKings were rained out in Bowling Green and will not play the finale of the series against the Hot Rods.  That is, unless we schedule a doubleheader for 2011.  The two teams won’t play again till then, and the Kings won’t return to Bowling Green Ballpark until 2012.

100_1816.JPGThus, the 10-game, three-city trip moves into its final leg here in scenic Dayton.  Still the “big leagues” of Midwest League parks, Fifth Third Field is home to the Dayton Dragons, the only club in A ball that continually sells out every game.  There’s additional excitement this season with former Big Red Machine right-fielder Ken Griffey on the staff as the hitting coach.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed for an interview sometime in the next three games.  I know some of you are probably wondering why I haven’t weighed in on Ken Griffey Jr.’s retirement yet, but I’m holding out in case I get the chance to talk to his dad.

One storyline to follow in this series.  Fifth Third Field is usually a power-hitter’s haven most seasons as the ball really jumps to left for right-handed sluggers and also gets out to right equally well.  I’ve done some checking in on Clinton’s home run numbers here over the past four seasons:

  • 2006:  6 HR in 4 games (including five in one game, two by John Whittleman)
  • 2007:  2 HR in 4 games (both by Mauro Gomez)
  • 2008:  3 HR in 3 games (two by Ian Gac, including a Grand Slam)
  • 2009:  8 HR in 3 games (Denny Almonte’s coming-out party, he hit 4 of them)

How will this year’s club fare?  The LumberKings have a league-best 57 home runs as a team and are coming off a six-HR game in pitcher-friendly Bowling Green Ballpark.  Will the likes of Kalian Sams, Nick Franklin, James Jones and Mario Martinez tee off?

One more thing to consider.  Dayton pitchers have allowed just 15 homers in 29 home games this year.  Also, don’t rule out the Dragons’ sluggers.  Chris Richburg has belted six homers (four at home) from the right side, while left-handed hitting Josh Garton has six also (three at home).   Kings’ pitchers have allowed 24 road homers this season and 35 total.

For those who regularly listen to my pregame interviews, you didn’t miss it last night, I decided not to post it with the impending rain in Bowling Green.  I sat down with James Jones to talk about his three home runs on the road trip, the six-homer game against the Hot Rods and more.

Listen Here: 
Jones Interview 6.3.10.mp3

Tonight’s Game Notes: 
6.4.10 kingsnotes.pdf 

Right-hander Taylor Stanton (5-2, 3.31), pushed back by last night’s rainout, will make the start tonight against the Dragons.  First pitch is scheduled for 6:07 PM central time, listen in on 1390kcln.com.

-DL

Day 6 – Video and Pictures

My Spring Training trip officially ended yesterday as the Seattle Mariners took on the Milwaukee Brewers in Maryvale.  Whoever said that Arizona never gets rain and is always scorching hot was wrong.  It was a damp, cold morning in which the area temperature was –get this — just six degrees warmer than Milwaukee.

Still, it was an enjoyable afternoon.  I got up close to Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and company out by the batting cages, then ran into former LumberKings closer Ruben Flores (’09) on the practice fields.

“Flo” had the opportunity to suit up for the Crew as the emergency man in the bullpen and was hoping to face the team that drafted him.  Unfortunately for him (and me, as it would have made for great video), it didn’t happen.

My dream matchup was Flores against fellow former King Denny Almonte (’09), who was brought along as part of Seattle’s split squad that day.  Sadly, Denny also did not get into the game.

I did get some video on Dustin Ackley, who got the start at second base and went 1-for-5 with a triple.  The video I have wasn’t of the triple, but rather a frozen rope that would have dropped for a single if not for the ageless wonder Jim Edmonds, who made a shoestring catch to rob him.

By the way, the Brewers won, 6-2.

Video of my last day in the Cactus League can be found here:  “Scenes from Maryvale“.

Pictures:

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The Maryvale back fields.  It looks dreary, but that’s really only because of the weather.  The fields are each named after a famous Brewer.  I was somewhere between Paul Molitor Field, Rollie Fingers Field and Robin Yount Field.

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Field this way, clubhouse that way.

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Jim Edmonds stops to sign a few.  A Brewer this Spring, a Red or a Pirate next year?

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Ruben Flores suited up in Brewer blue.

 
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Flores in the Brewer bullpen.

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Denny Almonte on equipment bag detail.

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Almonte up close.

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Mariners’ GM Jack Zduriencik talking with Brewers broadcaster Bill Schroeder.  I used to be Bill’s research/stats guy.

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Dustin Ackley faces Brewers’ lefty Manny Parra.

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Maryvale, my last Cactus League stop this year.  I’ll be back.

And there you have it, five Cactus League games in six days (one rainout, unfortunately), five former LumberKings sighted and pictures/video of four different Spring Training facilities.  Every baseball fan needs to experience Spring Training at least once in their lives, and I highly recommend the Cactus League because of the close proximity and overall quality of the parks.

If you have just one day to spend in AZ, I’d recommend going to Camelback Ranch.  It’s the biggest of the Cactus League parks and has probably the best Southwestern feel and most unique back fields.  You also can’t go wrong with the laid-back atmosphere in Peoria, where the palm trees lining the berm make you feel like you’ve gone to a tropical locale.

Now, with under 30 days left until the start of the season, it’s back to Clinton.  See you there.

-DL

Predicting the 2010 Roster (Part 1)

As promised, it’s the second annual “Predict the Roster” segment here on the LumberBlog.  With this being the second season as a Seattle Mariners affiliate, I can now talk about players that might return from last year’s club in addition to new faces from the Everett, Pulaski and Peoria rosters.

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Part 1 starts with a look at who might be returning from the 2009 squad.  The LumberKings suited up 57 players last year, many of whom saw limited action in black and green.  Twelve position players appeared in less than 20 games, while 12 pitchers appeared in less than 10 games.

There’s also some regulars from last year’s club that might get a re-visit.  We’ll start there.

Last year’s Opening Day roster featured a pair of highly-touted 2007 draft picks in Denny Almonte (2nd round) and Daniel Carroll (3rd round).  Both have had a measure of success in the Midwest League, but both have also had their struggles. 

After hitting .262 with 12 HR in the first half, Almonte suffered through a dismal second half.  He hit just .183 following an All-Star appearance and hit just one more homer over his final 153 at-bats.  Amongst league leaders in RBI at one point, Almonte finished with 58 (only 14 in the second half).  Is he dominant when he’s on?  Absolutely.  He practically carried the team through May with 8 HR and 21 RBI.  Still, it’s hard to ignore his .091 month of August and his 148 strikeouts in 409 at-bats. 

Carroll’s season was derailed by a pair of injuries.  He missed two weeks with a groin issue suffered on Opening Night in Burlington and then spent nearly all of May and June coming back from a broken thumb.  Once he got truly healthy, Carroll started to hit.  Following the All-Star break, he hit .240, scored 29 runs and stole 15 bases.  He’s been at High Desert before and should get a chance to make that roster with a good Spring.

Bottom line, I believe both Almonte and Carroll will be in High Desert to start 2010.  Almonte’s key to staying there is making consistent contact, while Carroll’s I believe is simply staying healthy.  Only time will tell.

martinez.jpgIf Almonte is gone, who will step in to be the primary power threat?  I think we see the return of ultra-talented third-baseman Mario Martinez (pictured left).  At age 19 last year, Martinez hit .214 with 2 HR and 24 RBI in 61 games with Clinton.  He was getting hot down the stretch of the first half, but was then sent to short-A Pulaski at the All-Star break.  There, he hit .308 with 20 doubles, 3 HR and 33 RBI in 71 games.   Yes, he hasn’t hit for consistent power yet in his career, but the Mariners have high hopes for him and this could be the breakout year.  Defensively, he looked great at both third and first base.  Where he plays next year will likely be determined by whether or not Jharmidy DeJesus makes the roster.

Other position players who could return include Travis Howell (.205, 8 HR, 29 RBI in 66 games), Maximo Mendez (.213, 8 triples, 38 runs scored, 20 steals in 64 games) and Terry Serrano (.236, 40 runs scored, 18 steals).  All three should go to High Desert, but very well could see time back with Clinton next year following injury-plagued 2009 seasons.

Pitching-wise, there shouldn’t be too many returners from the staff that led the Midwest League in ERA.  Starters like Kenn Kasparek (10-6, 2.41), Andrew Carraway (4-0, 2.50) and Bobby LaFromboise (8-9, 4.03) will certainly move up.  Relievers like Cheyne Hann (2-2, 1.32, 12 saves), Blake Nation (3-5, 3.16), Matt Renfree (3-2, 2.60), Jose Jimenez (4-2, 3.38), Brandon Josselyn (0-1, 0.75, 3 saves) and others should all move as well.

Now that we’ve covered some of the more familiar faces, let’s move on to the guys who had brief stints in Clinton last year.

When talking about position players, I’m excited to see what a guy like Ryan Royster can do with a full season in the Midwest League.  In eight games last year, Royster hit .333 with 3 doubles, 2 HR and 7 RBI.  He spent most of his year at Everett and performed there, hitting .325 with 7 HR and 27 RBI in 41 games.

Another intriguing hitter is Welington Dotel.  He exhibited tons of raw power in batting practice, but belted just one homer in 19 games.  Dotel did hit a solid .286 and drove in 11 runs in 49 at-bats.  I believe we’ll see him in the Clinton outfield this season.

We won’t see 2009 third-rounder Kyle Seager back, but we might see the return of sixth-rounder Shaver Hansen if for no other reason than shoring up his defense (13 errors in 36 games, primarily at third base).  Hansen hit .205 with 7 RBI and could probably use another year against Midwest League pitching as well.

Others we might see back include outfielder Dwight Britton (.192 in 11 games), infielder Jetsy Extrano (.045 in 6 games) and catchers Henry Contreras (.167, 2 RBI in 4 games) and Tommy Johnson (.167 in 5 games).

Back to pitching, there’s several 2010 rotation candidates that spent brief time with the LumberKings last year. 

At the top of the list is hard-throwing righty Maikel Cleto (pictured right), who arrived in latecleto.JPG June after some visa issues.  Two stints on the disabled list and a very strict pitch count allowed us a very brief look at Cleto, and it was hard to determine if he was the 0-3, 5.33 guy we saw over eight starts or the guy who struck out six over 3.0 innings in a matchup against Carlos Zambrano and the Peoria Chiefs on August 20.  Hopefully we’ll get a chance to see Cleto mature in the rotation.

Another potential starter coming back could be Anthony Vasquez.  Seattle’s 18th round pick out of USC went 3-3 with a 5.66 ERA in 7 games, all starts.  The numbers aren’t overly impressive, but Vasquez did win each of his last two starts, lowering his ERA from 7.71 to 5.66 in the process.  He also shut down a volatile Great Lakes Loons’ offense to a run on eight hits over 5.2 innings in his LumberKings’ debut on August 1.  The left-handed Vasquez could be a top-flight starter next season. 

Right-handers Andres Esquibel (1-1, 4.91 in 8 games) and Chris Kirkland (0-1, 5.00 in 4 games), and left-hander Jon Hesketh (1-1, 12.60 in 3 games) could all potentially be starters next year as well. 

Esquibel was 2-4 with a 5.00 ERA in Everett, but flashed dominance with a three-hit complete-game shutout win over Boise on August 6.  Kirkland, meanwhile, led the Northwest League with 85 strikeouts.  He went 4-5 with a 4.83 ERA in 15 starts.  Hesketh didn’t fare well in Clinton, but did limit opponents to a .188 average while going 0-1 with a 1.67 ERA in seven outings with the Aqua Sox.

The 2010 bullpen is less clear.  Daniel Cooper, a teammate of Vasquez at USC and Seattle’s 21st round pick, went 0-1 with a 9.28 ERA in eight relief appearances with the LumberKings last year.  Ogui Diaz spent most of 2009 as an infielder, but converted to right-handed reliever and went 1-0 with a 4.50 ERA in four games with Pulaski.  The rest of the pen is a guessing game.

That’s just the first part of my two-part “Predict the Roster” segment.  Next week, I’ll look at potential LumberKings coming from Everett, Pulaski and Peoria.  Feel free to add your comments on my predictions below, especially if any of the players I’ve mentioned have changed organizations without my knowledge.  Hey, I’m human.

-DL  

Bladergroen, Hesketh Headed to Clinton

LumberKings add first baseman from High Desert, pitcher from Everett

 

Clinton, IA -The Clinton LumberKings, in conjunction with the Seattle Mariners have announced the additions of first-baseman Ian Bladergroen and left-hander Jonathan Hesketh to the roster.  To make room, infielder Jetsy Extrano has been sent back to the Arizona League Mariners while outfielder Denny Almonte has been transferred to the disabled list, retroactive to August 1.

 

Bladergroen was signed by the Mariners prior to this season out of independent ball.  The Chino Hills, CA native hit .264 with 17 doubles, 11 home runs and 46 RBI in 79 games with the Mavericks this season.

 

Hesketh was Seattle’s 20th round pick out of the University of New Mexico in the 2009 June draft.  The Langley, B.C. native went 0-0 with a 0.00 ERA in three relief outings with Everett, allowing just a hit in 5.1 innings while walking none and striking out six.  He had started the year in the Arizona League, going 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA in five outings.

 

Extrano hit just .045 (1-for-22) in six games with the LumberKings.  Almonte was hitting .254 with 22 doubles, 13 home runs and 53 RBI in 92 games.

 

The move gives the LumberKings a total of 25 active players, three listed on the disabled list.  Bladergroen and Hesketh are expected to join the team tonight at Alliant Energy Field as they take on the Burlington Bees at 7:00 PM.  Neither has yet chosen a number.

 

-DL

Must Be the Hats

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The kelly green “Louie” cap has caught fire.  The LumberKings are riding a five-game winning streak after last night’s 16-2 Bandit-bashing in the Quad Cities and are now two games behind Cedar Rapids for the first-half Wild Card spot.  Read about last night more in tonight’s game notes: 
6.9.09 kingsnotes.pdf

It could be that Denny Almonte (.364 in last 10 games), Luis Nunez (.419 in last 9 games), Kris Sanchez (.414 in last 9 games) and Scott Savastano (.500 in last 9 games) have all been white-hot.  It could be a result of the new “big three” of the rotation in Brett Lorin (4-2, 2.06), Aaron Pribanic (5-2, 2.32) and Kenn Kasparek (2-4, 2.78).  It could be a league-best team ERA of 3.28.

But, we’ll go with the hats.

No batting practice today for the Kings at Modern Woodmen Park, but I’m still attempting to get Almonte on the pregame interview (2-for-5, Grand Slam, 4 RBI last night).

Until then, enjoy some of last night’s highlights:

Mario Martinez RBI single: 
Martinez RBI single 6.8 at Quad Cities.mp3

Jake Shaffer RBI single: 
Shaffer RBI single 6.8 at Quad Cities.mp3
 

Denny Almonte Grand Slam: 
Almonte Grand Slam 6.8 at Quad Cities.mp3
 

Scott Savastano Solo HR: 
Savastano solo HR 6.8 at Quad Cities.mp3

-DL

The Cardiac Kings Strike Again

The LumberKings achieved their seventh last at-bat win last night, beating Beloit 7-6 in the 13th inning.  Read more about the game below in today’s Game Notes.

Denny Almonte had the game-winner, a one-out single off the leg of Snappers’ pitcher Danny Rondon to score Luis Nunez

Listen to the highlight here: 
Almonte Walk-Off Single in 13th 5.14 vs. Beloit.mp3

Almonte, Kings Walk Off in 13th:  The LumberKings saw a 6-4 lead evaporate in the ninth inning, but went on to win 7-6 over the Beloit Snappers in 13 innings last night.  Denny Almonte provided the game-winning hit, singling off pitcher Danny Rondon (L, 1-2) and into right-center…Luis Nunez, who reached on a one-out single to left, scored from second on the hit.  The Kings battled back from a 4-2 deficit thanks to a sac fly by Kris Sanchez in the third inning and a Terry Serrano RBI single in the sixth.  Clinton took the lead as Almonte walked and scored on a double-play grounder from Sanchez.  Serrano added a big RBI single to center, scoring Jake Shaffer in the eighth.  Closer Ruben Flores walked two batters in the ninth, and Mario Martinez allowed them both to score, committing two errors on the same ground ball by Dominic De La Osa.  Left-hander Greg Moviel (W, 1-0) pitched a scoreless 13th for the win.  Starter Brett Lorin allowed two home runs, including a three-run blast to Jon Waltenbury in the third inning…he gave up four runs over 6.0 IP.

 

Cardiac Kings:  Denny Almonte became the seventh different LumberKing to record the game-winning hit in Clinton’s seven last at-bat wins this season.  He joins Israel Nunez, Ogui Diaz, Scott Savastano, Mario Martinez, Terry Serrano, and former King Ben Billingsley in the “hero” column.  The Kings have won three walk-off games at home this season, including Almonte’s extra-inning walk-off last night.  Serrano lifted the Kings to a 1-0 win over Burlington on 4/28, scoring Martinez with a walk-off double to right.  Billingsley gave the Kings a 4-3 walk-off win over Cedar Rapids on 4/15 (G2) with a double to left-center, plating Scott Savastano.

 

Unsung Hero:  Luis Nunez leads the LumberKings’ offense with a team-best .313 average after his 3-for-6 game last night…he’s hit in five-straight games, batting .500 (8-for-16) with three runs scored and two stolen bases during that span.  Nunez is hitting .395 (15-for-38) with three RBI so far in the month of May.

 

Starting a New Streak:  After seeing his team-best 11-game hitting streak come to an end on Sunday, Denny Almonte is working on a new streak…his 2-for-6, two RBI performance last night gives him a three-game hitting streak and a hit in 14 of his last 15 overall.  During that span, he’s hitting .298 (20-for-67) with five doubles, two triples, sevenhome runs, 15 runs scored and 18 RBI.  The 2nd-round pick by the Mariners in 2007, Almonte is first in the league in extra-base hits (21), second in home runs (8) and third in slugging (.611).

 

“Maximizing” the Offense:  Maximo Mendez lead off the first inning last night with a triple to center, his third-straight game with a leadoff three-bagger.  His seven triples lead the Midwest League and are two more than Alexi Amarista of Cedar Rapids, who is second (5). Mendez is in the midst of a five-game hitting streak, batting .320 (8-for-25) with two doubles, three triples, five runs scored and a stolen base.  His 14 steals in 19 tries are tied for second-most in the league behind Dee Gordon of Great Lakes, who leads with 19 steals.

 

Fast and Furious:  Thanks in part to Mendez, the LumberKings are near the top of the league in the two top speed categories…steals and triples.  The Kings have stolen 50 bases in 71 attempts (70% success rate), second only to Cedar Rapids’ 53 steals in 79 attempts (67%).  Clinton also leads the league in triples with 23, eight more than second-place Great Lakes (15 triples).  Through 32 games, the ’09 Kings are already 12 triples away from last year’s team total.  The 2008 LumberKings had 35 triples in 137 games.

 

Rotation Domination:  The LumberKings boast the league’s best team ERA of 2.62 thanks to a stellar starting rotation. Last night’s starter Brett Lorin dropped from the top spot in ERA to third after allowing a season-high four earned runs.  His 1.71 ERA is now behind Matt Hoffman of West Michigan (1.12) and Ben Hornbeck of Kane County (1.23).  However, Lorin did move into first in the league in innings pitched (42.0) and is now tied third in strikeouts (40).  Adam Harben broke into the top 10 in ERA today…his 2.51 ERA through 28.2 innings is 10th-best in the Midwest League.  Overall, the Clinton starting rotation is 11-7 with a 2.81 ERA.

 

On the Brink:  Nate Tenbrink continued his hot streak last night, going 2-for-4 with his fourth triple and a run scored…he’s hitting .308 over his last 10 games (10-for-39) with a home run, nine runs scored and nine RBI.  The seventh-round pick by the Mariners in 2008, Tenbrink has 11 multi-hit games and 15 extra-base hits.

 

We’ve got rain in Clinton again.  If we get this one in it’ll be on www.kcln.com as always.

-DL

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