Results tagged ‘ Michael Kirkman ’
This may be old news to some, but I was back home in Milwaukee and unable to post it until now. Right-hander Blake Beavan (’08) made his first Spring start as a Mariner on Saturday against Oakland and earned the win, limiting the Athletics to a run on three hits over 3.0 innings. Shortly thereafter, Beavan was re-assigned to Minor League camp. Right-hander Yoervis Medina (’10) also saw his time in big-league camp end as he was optioned to the High Desert spring roster.
In that Beavan start, a 10-2 win over the A’s, first-baseman Justin Smoak (’08) finally woke up his bat with a 2-for-2 game including a two-out two-run single in the fourth inning and a two-run homer to left-center in the sixth. The blast was Smoak’s first in Cactus League action.
The Mariners’ roster still includes Smoak, right-handers Josh Lueke (’07-’08) and Tom Wilhelmsen (’10) and catcher Steven Baron (’10) at this time. I have to say, I’m still surprised Baron is there.
Over in Surprise, the Texas Rangers sent outfielder Engel Beltre (’08), right-hander Fabio Castillo (’08) and left-hander Zach Phillips (’06-’07) back to Minor League camp on Saturday.
Continuing with Rangers camp, Ian Kinsler (’04) is hitting a healthy .367 with a .933 slugging percentage…the former Clinton infielder has a team-high five homers and nine RBI in 11 games. While Chris Davis continues to assert his value to the team as a corner infielder, Mitch Moreland (’08) keeps fighting to hold onto the first-base spot…he’s hitting .375 with a .719 slugging percentage, five doubles, two home runs and seven RBI in 12 games. Aside from catcher Jose Felix (’08), who is 5-for-5 with a double in big-league action, the group of former Kings that includes Chad Tracy (’07), Craig Gentry (’07), Marcus Lemon (’07) and others has been largely quiet offensively.
Left-hander Derek Holland (’08) is 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA, no walks and six strikeouts in his two starts, totaling 5.0 innings. Right-hander Neftali Feliz (’08) has pitched just twice in camp, including one start…the flamethrower has not allowed an earned run over 5.0 innings, but has walked three and has hit a batter in that span. Lefty Michael Kirkman is carrying a 3.00 ERA in three outings and has struck out eight over 9.0 innings.
Scanning other camps, outfielder John Mayberry Jr. (’06) continues to look impressive in a bid for a roster spot with the Philadelphia Phillies…he’s hitting .324 with three doubles, four homers and nine RBI in 14 games. Right-hander Maikel Cleto (’09) has had two outings with the St. Louis Cardinals and is 0-0 with a 4.50 ERA, one save, four walks, three strikeouts and a home run allowed over 4.0 innings. Right-hander Thomas Diamond (’04) is 0-1 with a 5.79 ERA over four relief outings as he attemps to make the Chicago Cubs’ Opening Day roster. Catcher Manny Pina (’07) and outfielder Tim Smith (’08) have both seen minor action in Kansas City Royals’ camp…Pina is 4-for-16 (.250) with a home run and three RBI in 10 games, while Smith is hitless in two at-bats.
There’s plenty more players to track, but I’ll leave it at that for now.
The San Francisco Giants showed the world last year how far a young rotation can take you, riding the arms of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Jonathan Sanchez past the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies and Texas Rangers on the way to the World Series title. With eventual NL Rookie of the Year Buster Posey emerging as their catcher of now, the Giants were able to move veteran backstop Bengie Molina to the Ranger team they’d face for the title in exchange for a bright young arm from the Texas system.
That arm is 2007 first-round pick and 2008 LumberKings right-hander Michael Main. The DeLand, Florida native was moved along with right-hander Chris Ray in exchange for Molina’s services on July 1. No question Molina’s expertise aided both staffs tremendously in 2010, and his bat proved pivotal for the Rangers against the Rays and Yankees in the playoffs.
Ray was a proven relief commodity and would go 3-0 with a 4.13 ERA over 28 relief appearances with the Giants, but Main can still be considered the key piece of the deal. The second of Texas’s two first-round picks in 2007 (24th overall, seven spots after Rangers-turned-Mariners prospect Blake Beavan), Main entered last season as the #21 prospect in the Rangers’ system according to Baseball America despite relatively average career numbers (9-10, 4.39 ERA, 68 walks, 153 strikeouts and a .258 opponent average in 148 innings) and a propensity to miss time (he’s been through a rotator cuff injury in high school, cracked ribs in 2008 and a two-month bout with mononucleosis in 2009).
Last season, Main looked to be on track to stay healthy and enjoyed his best season since 2008 with Clinton (2-2, 2.58 in 10 starts), going 5-3 with a 3.45 ERA, 21 walks, 72 strikeouts and a .250 opponent average in 91 innings with high-A Bakersfield.
Then came the trade.
Main was already headed to double-A Frisco when the Rangers moved him, so the Giants didn’t interrupt his promotion as they sent him straight to double-A Richmond. Who knows if it was a change in pitching philosophy, lingering jet lag from changing coasts or just jitters with a new organization, but his time as a Flying Squirrel wasn’t positive. He went 0-3 with a 13.83 ERA and walked twice as many as he struck out (14 walks compared to seven K’s) over just five games before injuring his hip in late July and missing the rest of the season.
What does the future hold for Main? It’s uncertain if the highly-touted athlete can finally shake free of the injury bug and find the 96-97 mph fastball and power curveball that got him drafted so highly. The Giants will certainly give him time to do both, probably inviting him to Major League camp before sending him back to Richmond for a full season.
While we wait to see what unfolds for the man we used to call “The Main Event”, let’s revisit the good old days in Clinton when he was part of a rotation that featured Beavan, Ryan Tatusko (also traded by the Rangers in 2010 to the Washington Nationals) and Michael Kirkman.
The right-hander arrived from the AZL near the start of July, replacing right-hander Neftali Feliz, who jumped two levels to double-A Frisco. Main really never encountered trouble over his 10 starts with the LumberKings, stifling opponents to a .228 average while never allowing more than three earned runs in any of his outings. His signature start came on July 31 against South Bend when he worked six innings of three-hit, one-run baseball, walked none and struck out four.
My featured interview with him took place after his first Clinton start in West Michigan on July 10, a 4.2-inning effort in which he scattered seven hits and allowed just a run in a no-decision (a 6-1 LumberKings’ win). We discussed the start, his fastball/curveball/change arsenal, rehabbing the fractured rib, teaming up fellow first-rounder Beavan in the rotation, learning to pitch under pressure while on the national stage with Team USA, his bat and more.
That’s all for The LumberBlog before the Christmas holiday, but keep an eye out for another entry of “The Interview Vault” on Tuesday, January 4. Until then, happy holidays!
It’s a two-for-one Cyber Tuesday special for today’s installment of “The Interview Vault”, and for good reason. First, it makes up for next week when I will be unable to post a new (or in this case, old) interview as I will be at the Baseball Winter Meetings in Orlando. Second, it’s to honor newly-minted Texas Rangers’ Minor League players of the year Engel Beltre and Michael Kirkman. Third, both of their interviews are rather short, so pairing them gives you more to listen to.
Beltre was named the Tom Grieve Minor League Player of the Year yesterday, while Kirkman took home the Minor League Pitcher of the Year accolades, named after Rangers’ president and Hall-of-Famer Nolan Ryan. They both played together in Clinton in 2008 and each had pivotal, if not contrasting, seasons with the LumberKings.
Beltre, an 18-year-old centerfielder from Santo Domingo was heading into his first full season as a Rangers farmhand after being acquired from Boston in a four-player deadline deal that shipped Eric Gagne to the Red Sox. He had played briefly in the AZL and Spokane while still only 17, but his expectations heading into 2008 were lofty as Baseball America named him the #10 prospect in the Texas system. His season needed to be one about making good on those expectations.
Meanwhile, the 22-year-old left-handed Kirkman was just hoping to prove worthy of his 2005 fifth-round selection what was already his fourth season in the system. After a solid first stint in the AZL (3-1, 3.44 in 14 games), he battled through 2006 and 2007 seasons that saw setbacks in the form of injuries (hamstring in ’06) and inconsistency (88 walks compared to just 66 strikeouts and an ERA around 8.00 in 30 outings). His season needed to be one about getting back to basics and gaining confidence.
Both would do that with Mike Micucci’s LumberKings. Beltre was the electrifying catalyst to the league’s top offense, hitting .283 with 26 doubles, nine triples, eight home runs, 47 RBI, 31 steals in 42 attempts and a league-best 87 runs scored. Despite finishing third in the Midwest League in total bases (228), he was neither a mid-season nor post-season All-Star. Kirkman would have his bounce-back year, going 4-3 with a 4.36 ERA in 15 games, 14 starts. A 2-0, 1.38 month of July including a .195 opponent average showed the Rangers (including pitching coach and later Minor League Pitching Coordinator Danny Clark) a glimpse of the dominance they had hoped for.
Just two seasons later they’ve both become rising stars in the Texas system. Kirkman was the PCL’s top pitcher while with triple-A Oklahoma City and earned a late-season call-up to the Rangers that included three post-season appearances. After starting his pro career with nine-straight scoreless innings (third-longest by a rookie reliever in Texas history), he went on to post a 1.65 ERA and a .161 opponent average in 14 games.
Beltre was added to the 40-man roster to avoid a possible Rule 5 selection. He’s never had quite the same production as ’08, but he is hitting for average (.300, 133-for-444 between high-A Bakersfield and double-A Frisco) and still can put the ball out of the yard (6 HR) or swipe a base (18 steals) when he needs to. Plus, he’s done it all and an accelerated pace. The 21-year-old was the youngest position player in the Texas League last season and third-youngest overall. The 2011 season will already be his fifth, and he won’t turn 22 until next November.
Getting now to the interviews. I spoke with both Beltre (who at the time was called EN-yel, but now prefers to be called Angel) on a date I can’t pinpoint during that ’08 season and Kirkman on July 6, 2008 after what had been his best start to date, a seven-inning blanking of Burlington. Beltre talks about going from Santo Domingo to New York and back before getting signed by Boston as a teenager, advice he gained from David Ortiz, his thoughts at the time of the trade to Texas and other topics. Kirkman speaks about his outing against the Bees, some of the setbacks he faced in ’06 and ’07, his mental changes leading to success and more.
The next edition of “The Interview Vault” will be on Tuesday, December 14. Stay tuned for that! Also, keep an eye out for another “Top 10 of ’10”, coming later in the week.
The World Series is over, and the San Francisco Giants are the well-deserved champions. No doubt, their young rotation of Tim Lincecum/Matt Cain/Madison Bumgardner — and to a lesser degree Jonathan Sanchez — handcuffed the Rangers over the course of five games en route to the 4-1 series victory. Only Mitch Moreland hit above .250 for the series, batting .462 with a home run and three RBI.
While the San Fran arms are sure to be the buzz around baseball all winter, there’s no doubt that the young guns of the Texas rotation and bullpen proved a little something as well on the national stage. Colby Lewis stepped out of the shadow of Cliff Lee to prove to be the Rangers’ stopper, going 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA in four postseason starts including the lone World Series win. Rookie closer Neftali Feliz shrugged off doubts that he could perform in the playoffs, posting a 1.23 ERA in seven appearances including a World Series save.
Ignore the blowups in Game 2 and left-handers Derek Holland and Michael Kirkman were actually pretty solid. The Rangers might not get past the New York Yankees without the clutch 3.2 scoreless innings thrown by Holland in Game 4 of the ALCS. Alexi Ogando was another unknown heading into late October, and he responded with a 1.50 ERA in five postseason outings before ending up on the disabled list.
All of these pitchers (aside from Lee), at some point on their way to reaching Arlington have worked with Texas Rangers’ Pitching Coordinator Danny Clark. Better known as “DC”, Clark was the pitching coach here in Clinton from 2007-2008 before rising to his current rank prior to the 2009 season.
The 2008 campaign alone saw Clark teach the likes of Feliz, Holland, Kirkman, Blake Beavan, Michael Main, Josh Lueke, Kennil Gomez and Ryan Tatusko. The year before, he guided pitchers like Kasey Kiker, Zach Phillips, Omar Poveda and Evan Reed, all right here in Clinton, IA.
Today, we’ll dust off an interview I did with DC during the second half of that tremendous ’08 year. We talk about Feliz’s development of a breaking ball/changeup to compliment his blazing fastball, Kirkman’s revival after tough seasons in ’06 and ’07, Holland’s 7-0 start to the season, Gomez and Beavan working through struggles and more.
Interestingly enough, we ran into DC just hours before Game 3 on Saturday in Arlington. It was one of those “coming full circle” moments that baseball often provides. I imagine that, like us, he was pretty astounded by how fast the success has come for many of his pitchers. It’s a success I believe you’ll see around Texas for seasons to come.
The Texas Rangers have added former LumberKings’ left-hander Michael Kirkman to the 25-man ALCS roster today. Kirkman (#62) and fellow lefty Clay Rapada were both placed on the roster, while right-hander Dustin Nippert and infielder Esteban German were removed to clear space.
Kirkman, a King for stints from 2006 to 2008 was impressive as a lefty reliever for the Rangers during the regular season. He went 0-0 with a 1.65 ERA in 14 relief appearances, allowing just three runs on nine hits over 16.1 innings, striking out 16 and limiting opponents to a .161 average.
He’s been noticeably in the dugout the entire postseason for the Rangers, but was left off the roster for the ALDS. Looks like Ron Washington and Mike Maddux have decided on extra southpaws to face the likes of Robinson Cano, Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson. Not to mention the fact that Alex Rodriguez hit .217 against left-handed pitching during the regular year.
Kirkman is the fourth former LumberKing on the Rangers’ ALCS roster, joining second-baseman Ian Kinsler, first-baseman Mitch Moreland, left-hander Derek Holland and right-hander Neftali Feliz.
Game one is tonight at 7:00 PM.
The 2010 Major League Baseball Postseason begins in just about 40 minutes as the Texas Rangers start things off with the opener of their ALDS against the Tampa Bay Rays. With Texas’s return to the playoffs for the first time since 1999 there’s an extra-high volume of former LumberKings to watch this postseason. Not all of them, however, are Rangers.
The 25-man playoff roster for the Rangers includes former LumberKings second-baseman Ian Kinsler (’04), first-baseman Mitch Moreland (’08), right-hander Neftali Feliz (’08) and left-hander Derek Holland (’08). Left-hander Michael Kirkman (’06-’08) was left off the playoff roster but will probably still be with the club in Tampa in case of injury.
The man traded for four former ’08 LumberKings (Justin Smoak, Blake Beavan, Matt Lawson and Josh Lueke) in Cliff Lee gets the game one start for the Rangers, who have never won a playoff series.
Over in the NL, the Central Division Champion Cincinnati Reds also begin their NLDS against the Philadelphia Phillies today. They’ll start a former LumberKing in right-hander Edinson Volquez (’04, pictured left as “Edison Volquez”) against the defending NL Champs.
The Reds also have right-hander Nick Masset (’03) on their playoff roster, while the Phillies decided not to include their only Clinton alumnus, outfielder John Mayberry, Jr. (’06) amongst their 25 players.
To my knowledge, there’s no former LumberKings with the Atlanta Braves, San Francisco Giants, New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays or Minnesota Twins. I could be wrong.
Given the high volume of former recent Kings with Texas, the Rangers have my backing this year. Feel free to weigh in on the 2010 MLB Playoffs (and all your old favorite Kings) by commenting below!
Via a press release from the Texas Rangers, it is confirmed that former LumberKings’ left-hander Michael Kirkman (’06-’08) has been called up to the 25-man roster to take the place of fellow former King Derek Holland (’08), who has been sent back to triple-A Oklahoma City.
Kirkman, 23, went 13-3 with a 3.09 ERA and 130 strikeouts in 24 games with the RedHawks. He lead the PCL in strikeouts, ranked second in wins and third in ERA at the time of the promotion.
The fifth-round pick by Texas back in 2005, Kirkman went 0-3 with a 6.98 ERA in six outings with the Kings in 2006 before having his season ended by a hamstring injury suffered in the team’s final series ever at C.O. Brown Stadium in Battle Creek, MI. He’d return again in 2007 (0-1, 7.43 in five games, two starts) and 2008 (4-3, 4.36 in 15 games, 14 starts) before really taking off last year. Kirkman went 4-1, 2.06 in Bakersfield and ended up in double-A Frisco by year’s end, going 5-7 with a 4.19 ERA in 18 starts for the RoughRiders.
Kirkman will join first-baseman Justin Smoak (Texas/Seattle), right-hander Omar Beltre (Texas) and 1B/OF Mitch Moreland (Texas) as former Clinton players to make Major League debuts this season.
EDIT: I knew I forgot someone. Thomas Diamond also debuted with the Chicago Cubs this year.
Kirkman will be wearing #62 and will most likely be pitching out of the bullpen. I’ll post an update after he makes his official debut.
They just keep coming, and they’re all awesome. Scott Lucas of the Newberg Report posted more photos today of Texas Rangers camp in Surprise, AZ. Former LumberKings amidst this set include Blake Beavan (’08), Kennil Gomez (’08), Derek Holland (’08), Michael Kirkman (’06-’08), Marcus Lemon (’07), Michael Main (’08), David Paisano (’07-’08), Zach Phillips (’06-’07), Evan Reed (’07-’08) and Ryan Tatusko (’08).
View them here: http://rangers.scottlucas.com/site/TX100317/TX100317day.htm
Also, yesterday’s elusive Kasey Kiker (’07) footage is now available here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbim2PVU34c
Dedicated LumberBlog followers will recall that during my six-day trip to Arizona, I was sadly cheated out of a chance to see many former LumberKings due to Mother Nature. My plan to see the Texas Rangers take on the Cleveland Indians in Goodyear was cut off by the rare desert rain.
Thankfully, I’m not the only blogger in the world who has ventured to the Cactus League this Spring. Scott Lucas of Newberg Report fame is down there right now covering the back fields. He has shot some pictures and video on many of your favorite former Kings.
Here’s some photos from a “B” game, including Craig Gentry (’07), Mitch Moreland (’08) and Chad Tracy (’07): http://rangers.scottlucas.com/site/TX100316/TX100316b.htm
Scott has also posted some very sharp looking video on his YouTube site:
- Derek Holland (’08) and Michael Kirkman (’06-’08) on the side mounds.
- Engel Beltre (’08) taking cuts in BP.
He’s got a link to some video on Kasey Kiker (’07) as well, but I wasn’t able to get that to work. I will post it if that changes.
You can check out more from Scott at rangers.scottlucas.com.
With pitchers and catchers arriving today at both Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers camps, I thought it would be good timing to take a look at some former LumberKings looking to make impacts in Major League camps this Spring.
The Future is Now for Feliz
We’ll start with a man who’s already logged Major League service time, but is looking to
emerge as the top-flight starting pitcher so many in baseball have billed him to be. He of course is fireballing right-hander Neftali Feliz (’08), who is coming off an outstanding 20-game relief stint with the Rangers in 2009. After becoming the first Ranger in history to strike out the first four men he faced, Feliz kept his fastball in the high 90’s and kept Major League hitters baffled to the tune of a .124 opponent batting average. Over his 20 games, the 21-year-old went 1-0 with a 1.74 ERA (just 6 ER in 31.0 innings) and struck out 39 while walking only eight. This performance was enough to earn Feliz the Top Prospect ranking in the entire Rangers’ organization and the #7 prospect in all of professional baseball.
There’s no question that Feliz will be on the Opening Day roster. The question is, will his stuff be good enough this Spring to earn him a rotation spot alongside former King Derek Holland (’08)? Baseball America projects him to be Texas’ #1 starter by 2013, but he’ll still need to prove himself over more than three innings to emerge amongst a host of qualified rotation candidates. Even if he remains in the bullpen, look for Feliz to rise further towards “household name” status this season.
After Feliz, first-baseman Justin Smoak (’08) is the next-most-hyped prospect in Surprise. Smoak IS Texas’s first-baseman of the future, but how ready is he to be that guy right now? The former first-round pick is coming off a huge offseason that saw him win the MVP award at the 2009 IBAF Baseball World Cup while guiding Team USA to gold. He’s also hit .292 with 15 HR and 63 RBI in just 120 games as a pro so far.
The question for Smoak is if he’s ready to unseat incumbent Chris Davis at first. His glove, by all accounts, is ready. His ability to hit for power from both sides of the plate will give him an eventual advantage over Davis, who himself has something to prove following a .238, 150-strikeouts-in-391 at-bats season. Still, Smoak struggled in a transition from double-A Frisco to triple-A Oklahoma City last year, hitting just .244 over 54 games with the RedHawks after shredding the Texas League with a .328 average. Much like Feliz, Smoak is a highly-regarded prospect (#2 with the Rangers, #9 overall) who WILL be a Major Leaguer at some point this season. Only question is, how early will his call-up be?
Moreland on the Radar
In the shadow of Smoak’s hype, Mitch Moreland (’08) has been able to go about his business very
quietly the past two seasons. A 17th-round pick by the Rangers back in 2007, Moreland started out as a first baseman with the LumberKings in 2008 prior to the arrival of Smoak. With the future of first basically locked up, the former Mississippi State Bulldog has carved a new path as an outfielder with average range and a fantastic bat.
Moreland captured the Tom Grieve Minor League MVP Award for the Rangers this Winter following a 2009 campaign in which he hit .331 with 16 HR and 85 RBI between high-A Bakersfield and Frisco. He’s certain to get a look at big league camp this season, but how long he stays there will rest part on his hitting and part on the performances of Brandon Boggs (’05), Craig Gentry (’07) and the recently-signed Endy Chavez. Former LumberKing Chad Tracy (’07) could also give him a run for his money. Moreland will most likely spend the bulk of 2010 with triple-A Oklahoma City and could possibly be a late-season call-up.
A Call to ’07 Arms
Four members of the 2007 LumberKings’ rotation are invites to big-league camp for the Rangers this season. Left-handers Michael Kirkman (’06-’08), Kasey Kiker (’07) and Zach Phillips (’06-’07) and right-hander Omar Poveda (’06-’07) will all try and show why they belong. Of the four, only Poveda has spent significant time in Rangers camp before. Kiker is the highest ranking prospect of the bunch, coming in at #6 on BA‘s list for 2010.
Who has a legitimate shot to make a Major League debut this season? I’d put my money on Poveda, who has shown flashes of dominance in Clinton (11-4, 2.79 in ’07) and Frisco (11-5, 4.14 in ’09), but has yet to log more than one start in triple-A. A good Spring and a solid few months in OKC and Poveda should be a Ranger late in the season. Kiker went 7-7 with a 3.86 ERA and yielded an opponent average of .231 while with Frisco last year, his best season since his 7-4, 2.90, 112 strikeout season with the Kings in 2007. He has a chance to crack the Texas bullpen.
Kirkman and Phillips both have tremendous upsides, but both need to show some consistency. “Captain Kirk” finally found his stuff after four tumultuous seasons, going 5-7 with a 4.19 ERA in 18 starts with Frisco last year. Phillips got acclimated to life as a reliever last season, going 2-3 with a 1.39 ERA, four saves and an eye-popping .163 opponent average between Bakersfield and Frisco. However, 2010 will be only his second season in the pen following an ’08 campain in which he went 8-9, 5.54 in 28 Cal League starts. Both are probably at least a season away.
Of course, there’s always the chance that a darkhorse emerges in camp this year. Look out for guys like Engel Beltre (’08) , Blake Beavan (’08) and Marcus Lemon (’07). You could even see the resurgence of John Whittleman (’06-’07) this season. That’s the great part about this time of year, you just don’t know until it starts.
The first games of Spring Training in Arizona start on March 3. I’ll be in Peoria, AZ watching the Mariners take on the San Francisco Giants. Blog updates to follow!