Results tagged ‘ Mitch Moreland ’

Kings in Spring (March 19)

The Texas Rangers announced several roster moves involving former LumberKings today as they sent right-hander Eric Hurley (’05) to the AAA Round Rock roster, plus 1B/OF Chad Tracy (’07) and catcher Jose Felix (’08) to the AA Frisco roster.

The Rangers meet the Seattle Mariners in Surprise, AZ today.  Ian Kinsler (’04) and Mitch Moreland (’08) bookend the starting lineup for Texas, while Justin Smoak (’08) hits fifth for the Mariners.  Most notably in this game, right-hander Neftali Feliz (’08) makes the start for the Rangers in what will possibly be his last outing before Texas brass decide if he’ll remain the closer or join the rotation. 

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Kings in Spring (March 14)

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.

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Kings in Spring (March 4)

Departing from Mariners camp in Peoria for a day, it’s time to check out what’s going on with our old pals with the Texas Rangers.

One of the big Spring storylines not only in Surprise, AZ but across baseball is whether or not defending AL Rookie of the Year and former LumberKings right-hander Neftali Feliz (’08) will transition from closer to starting pitcher.  Feliz made his first Cactus League start yesterday in split-squad against the Cleveland Indians, tossing 2.0 scoreless innings but looking less-than-sharp as he allowed two hits, walked a batter and hit another.  I don’t think Nolan Ryan and company are too worried at this point.

Right-hander Eric Hurley (’05) came on and retired six-straight hitters on all of 21 pitches over 2.0 innings in his first action.  Things looked good for Texas, who held an 8-2 advantage heading into the seventh, until the Indians struck for seven runs against a pair of former Kings.  Mark Hamburger (’08) served up a one-out grand slam to Matt LaPorta and left-hander Zach Phillips (’06-’07) allowed all three of his inherited runners to score in a blown save.  Fortunately, Chris Davis saved the day with a walk-off, two-run homer to give the Rangers an 11-9 win.

Ian Kinsler (’04) continued his hot start in his newfound home atop the order, lifting a leadoff homer in the bottom of the first (his third already this Spring) and finishing 2-for-2 to raise his average to .556.  Davis Stoneburner (’08) and Jose Felix (’08) also chipped in…Stoneburner went 1-for-2 with an RBI and is hitting .333…Felix went 2-for-2 as the starting catcher, keeping his average at 1.000.

The other half of the split squad defeated the Chicago Cubs, 8-7.  Left-hander Derek Holland (’08), eyeing a return to the starting rotation, yielded a run on three hits and struck out two over 2.0 innings in his first outing.  Cody Eppley (’08) fired a scoreless inning in relief to get the win. World Series hero Mitch Moreland (’08) went 2-for-2 with a two-run homer and three total RBI, and David Paisano (’07-’08) lined a two-run triple off fellow former LumberKing Thomas Diamond (’04) to lead the offense.  Diamond took the loss for the Cubs with those two runs over 1.0 relief inning.

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Kings in Spring (March 2)

In a game chock-full of former LumberKings, the Mariners held on to defeat the Texas Rangers, 5-4 at Peoria Stadium yesterday.  Milton Bradley was the offensive headliner with a 3-for-3, two RBI performance, but a former (and potentially future) King also had a big day.  Catcher Steven Baron plated the eventual difference-making run in his only at-bat in the eighth, launching a solo homer off Neil Ramirez.

That’s right, the 19-year-old who hit sub-.200 in Clinton last year and had only four extra-base hits started his spring with a home run in his first at-bat.  Should we read too far into his 1.000 average?  Probably not, but it is an exciting first glimpse at a more mature Baron.

The game featured 12 former Clinton players including Baron, Blake Beavan (2.0 IP, 3 H, 2 ER) and Josh Lueke (1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, got the win) for the Mariners, plus Engel Beltre (0-for-3), Davis Stoneburner (0-for-1), Mitch Moreland (0-for-2), Jose Felix (1-for-1, double, run, RBI), David Paisano (0-for-1), Chad Tracy (0-for-1), Cody Eppley (1.0 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, took the loss), Zach Phillips (1.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER) and Mark Hamburger (1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 1 K) for the Rangers.

The Mariners (2-0-1 in Cactus League play) return to action today in Scottsdale as they take on the Arizona Diamondbacks.  Right-hander Michael Pineda will make his spring debut.  Check out the details over at Mariners.com.

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The Interview Vault: Justin Smoak

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While everyone around baseball watches shockingly as Cliff Lee dons a Philadelphia Phillies uniform at a press conference sometime in the next few days, I’m focusing in on the centerpiece of the deal that sent the left-hander to the Texas Rangers last July 9.  He just happens to be a former LumberKing and is the feature of this week’s edition of “The Interview Vault”.

Switch-hitting first-baseman Justin Smoak was one of the four former Clinton players dealt by the Rangers in exchange for Lee and Mark Lowe prior to last year’s trade deadline.  Once the undoubted future of the middle of the Texas lineup, Smoak was deemed expendable to help the Rangers turn the corner in the immediate.  Now, the 2008 first-round pick (11th overall) finds himself as the cornerstone of Jack Zduriencik’s rebuilding project in Seattle.

Smoak was fresh off the fishing boat when he arrived in Clinton in August of 2008, rested from a drawn-out signing process that wouldn’t end until 15 minutes before the MLB deadline.  Anxious to play baseball again for the first time since he left the University of South Carolina, he’d still have to wait a day before making his professional debut in Peoria on August 18.

The featured interview today took place between myself and Smoak prior to that first action and was his first minor league interview.  We talk about his hectic first 48 hours, fitting in with the likes of fellow first-baseman Mitch Moreland (who hit a pair of home runs in the previous game vs. the Chiefs), getting ready to hit in the 5-spot in manager Mike Micucci’s order, his thoughts on the first round selection by the Rangers and more. 

Listen:   Justin Smoak, Prior to ’08 Pro Debut.mp3

Not long after the interview, Smoak would take the diamond for the first time as a pro, going 1-for-3 with a double off the right-center wall for his first pro hit.  He’d go on to register at least one hit in 13 of his 14 games as a LumberKing, hitting .304 with three doubles, three home runs and six RBI.

Since ’08, he’s accomplished a lot quickly.  Smoak ascended to the Major Leagues in just his second full season in 2010, making his big-league debut for the Rangers on April 23 vs. Detroit.  He’d hit .209 with eight homers and 34 RBI for Texas before being packaged for Lee, and would finish out the year bouncing between Seattle (.239, 5 HR, 14 RBI) and triple-A Tacoma (.271, 7 HR, 25 RBI).  Smoak teamed up with the red-hot Dustin Ackley to bring a PCL championship home to the Rainiers, winning the PCL’s Offensive Player of the Postseason award (.423, HR, 6 RBI) in the process.

With the likes of Ackley, Rich Poythress and Nick Franklin coming up alongside him, the future for Smoak should be very bright in the middle of the Mariners’ order.    

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The Interview Vault: Chad Tracy

tracy interview vault.jpgAs I mentioned in a post yesterday, seven former LumberKings became members of 40-man Major League rosters for the first time as the December 9 Rule 5 draft approaches.  Guys like Engel Beltre, Fabio Castillo, Maikel Cleto, Josh Lueke and others have been in the Minors for at least four seasons, meaning if left off the 40-man roster could be claimed by any team willing to put them on a 25-man roster for the full season.

Former LumberKing Chad Tracy is one of those left unprotected that could very well be suiting up for another team next year.  The third-round pick by the Texas Rangers in 2006 out of Pepperdine, Tracy has done nothing but hit since his arrival in the system.  He’s a career .271 hitter, including 135 doubles, 85 home runs and 363 RBI over a span of five seasons that includes All-Star years in the Northwest League (2006, Spokane), Midwest League (2007, Clinton) and Texas League (2009, Frisco).

While he certainly was the steady producer in the Clinton lineup in 2007 (.250, 14 HR, team-high 84 RBI), that was a fairly modest year given what he’s done since.  Tracy hit .279 with a Texas League-best 26 home runs and finished second in RBI with 107.  In 2010, he made the move to triple-A Oklahoma City and proceeded to hit .263 with 17 home runs and 55 RBI in just 78 games.

So why has he not been a call-up yet for the Rangers?  It’s a problem of position.  Originally drafted as a catcher, Tracy spent the early part of his career as an outfielder (including 86 games in left with the LumberKings in ’07, although he did start the All-Star Game behind the plate).  His 2009 season saw a transition to first base, where he made 81 starts for Frisco.  Last year, he had most of his at-bats as a designated hitter and also saw time at both first and left.  With the likes of Chris Davis, Justin Smoak and now Mitch Moreland blocking him at first base and the emergence of a strong corner outfield in Nelson Cruz and David Murphy in place, there’s been no real route to the big-leagues for Tracy.

Come December 9, we’ll see if he’s heading elsewhere.  Could it be Colorado, where his father Jim Tracy will be entering his third season as the manager of the Rockies?  Someone’s got to take over for the aging Todd Helton at first base eventually (he hasn’t hit more than 20 home runs since 2004), and only journeyman Brad Eldred (.264, 30 HR, 84 RBI in triple-A Colorado Springs last year) seems like a challenger for first in the near future (Jared Clark, Kiel Roling still have a ways to go).

For today’s edition of “The Interview Vault”, I went back to the 2007 playoffs for what turned out to be my final interview of that memorable season.  I talked with Tracy, undeniably the vocal leader of the team as they prepared to take on Beloit at Pohlman Field, down 1-0 in the best-of-three West Division Championship Series.  Tracy hit .278 with two homers and a team-high four RBI in the playoffs, but he and his teammates did nothing against Matt Fox and the Snappers in a 2-0 loss and were eliminated that evening.

During the conversation, we talk about the situation of being down 1-0 and having to win two on the road, manager Mike Micucci’s season-long philosophy of winning series, plus Chad’s thoughts on teammates like Marcus Lemon, Kasey Kiker and Zach Phillips and more.

Listen: 
Chad Tracy (2007 Playoffs).mp3  

This is my last post before the holiday, but look out for another Top 10 of ’10 most likely going up on Friday.  This time around, I focus on the best pitching performances from last season.

Until then, have a happy Thanksgiving!

-DL

The Interview Vault: Danny Clark

dc interview vault.jpgThe 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. 

Listen Here: 
Pitching Coach Danny Clark (talking about Feliz, Holland in 2008).mp3

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. 

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Scenes from Game 3 of the World Series

100_2108.JPGI went on a very unexpected last-minute trip this weekend.  To Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas, to Game 3 of the World Series.

Myself, along with our General Manager Ted Tornow and Assistant GM Nate Kreinbrink embarked on a 14-hour drive from Clinton to the greater Dallas area to watch five former LumberKings as they suited up for the Rangers in the first-ever World Series game played in the city of Arlington.

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The Giants and Rangers lined up for the National Anthem, sung by Kelly Clarkson.

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Colby Lewis delivers the first pitch of Game 3 to Andres Torres of the San Francisco Giants.

We were not disappointed, and neither was the record crowd of 54,000-plus.  Former Kings’ first-baseman Mitch Moreland ripped a three-run blast in the second inning, supporting nearly eight innings of solid work from right-hander Colby Lewis.  Former Kings’ right-hander Neftali Feliz then worked a perfect ninth inning to nail down the first-ever Rangers’ World Series win and his first postseason save.  The atmosphere was absolutely electric from the moment we got there to the moment we left.

I recorded some great video of Moreland’s home run, Feliz’s save and a few other things in between.  Enjoy.

VIDEO:  Scenes from Game 3 of the 2010 World Series

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Thanks again to our contacts with the Rangers for setting us up, we had a blast.  Too bad we couldn’t stick around for the other two games.  Let’s hope for a Ranger win tonight in Game 5 to send the series back to San Francisco!

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The Interview Vault: Mitch Moreland

theinterviewvault.jpgIt’s time for another edition of “The Interview Vault”, the blog segment that relives past interviews with former LumberKings’ players and coaches and other notable figures.  This week, I’m turning the page back to July of 2008 when I visited with LumberKings’ first-baseman Mitch Moreland.

In case you missed Game 3 of the ALCS last night, Moreland drove in a pair with a line single to right in the midst of a six-run ninth inning, helping his Texas Rangers defeat the Yankees, 8-0 at Yankee Stadium.  He’s now 4-for-8 with two runs scored and three RBI in the series, heads and tails more productive than his Yankee counterpart (and former Rangers super-prospect), Mark Teixeira.  Teixeira is 0-for-11 thus far.

Watch Moreland’s big hit:  http://texas.rangers.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=12856707&c_id=tex

Moreland’s path from little-known 18th round pick out of Mississippi State to MLB playoff heroics is one of relative obscurity until only recently.  While guys like Teixeira and later Justin Smoak would arrive in the Rangers system as “heir apparents” to the first base position, Moreland was looked at more as an “experienced colllege hitter from a competitive program”, one of many drafted by the Rangers every season.  In other words, no major fanfare, no immediate spotlight and no clear-cut path to the Major Leagues.


Thumbnail image for mitch moreland.jpgSo, Moreland made the path himself.  He’d arrive on the scene in Clinton two weeks late as a result of a neck injury and would find himself in the shadow of first-baseman Ian Gac’s monster start.  Gac, a third-year veteran of the LumberKings had already blasted four home runs in seven games before Moreland joined the club. Thankfully, his ability to play right field would get him into the lineup immediately, and his bat would help him stay there.

Moreland doubled twice and drove in five runs over his first two games wearing the black and green, only a sign of things to come.  He’d hit .357 in April, .315 with five homers and 18 RBI in May, .313 with 20 RBI in June, .269 with seven homers and 26 RBI in July and would finish with a .380, five-homer, 23 RBI month of August.  On the final day of the regular-season in Cedar Rapids, he ripped his 18th home run and drove in three to finish with a Midwest League-best 99 RBI, the third-highest single-season RBI total in Clinton baseball history.  Moreland would be voted by the league’s managers as the top first baseman and would narrowly miss out on league MVP honors to Beloit speedster Ben Revere.

When I caught up with Mitch in this 2008 interview, he had just enjoyed his first multi-homer game (a 4-for-6, 5-RBI performance on July 5 at Burlington), an effort that raised his average to .327.  We talk about the power outburst, picking up the slack after the then-recent promotions of Gac and fellow All-Star Renny Osuna, hitting in the midst of a talented Clinton lineup, getting more experience at first base and more.

Listen Here: 
Mitch Moreland (2008).mp3

From here, we know where the rest of the story goes.  Moreland would go on to hit a combined .331 with 16 home runs and 85 RBI between high-A Bakersfield and double-A Frisco in 2009, then would bat .289 with 12 blasts and 65 RBI in triple-A Oklahoma City in 2010 before getting his promotion to Texas.  With the Rangers during the regular season, he hit .255 with nine homers and 25 RBI, unseating incumbent Chris Davis to make the postseason roster.

From near-MVP in Clinton to fast-rising prospect to playoff performer, it’s clear that Moreland is fast on the rise to star status with the Rangers.  We’ll see if he comes up big again tonight in Game 4 of the ALCS at Yankee Stadium, first pitch scheduled for 7 PM central time.

Oh yeah, Cliff Lee was pretty good last night also.  In the next edition of The Interview Vault, we’ll revisit an interview with one of the players acquired by the Seattle Mariners in the deal that sent Lee to Texas.  Stay tuned for that next week, unless another former LumberKing has a huge game for the Rangers.

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Following Former Kings in the MLB Playoffs


Volquez ('04).jpgThe 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!

-DL

 

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