Results tagged ‘ Omar Poveda ’

The Interview Vault: Beau Jones

beau jones interview vault.jpgJuly 31, 2007.  A day that had as much importance in the recent success of the Texas Rangers as any other in the team’s history.  On that afternoon, General Manager John Daniels swung a deadline deal with the Atlanta Braves that sent Mark Teixeira and Ron Mahay over in exchange for catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, shortstop Elvis Andrus, right-hander Neftali Feliz and left-handers Matt Harrison and left-hander Beau Jones.

Andrus and Feliz are nearing household-name status after starring roles in the 2010 playoffs and near back-to-back Rookie of the Year awards (Andrus finished second behind Oakland’s Andrew Bailey in 2009, Feliz won it yesterday) and there’s no question they are two of the cornerstones of the franchise.  Saltalamacchia caught in roughly 190 games for the Rangers and appeared to be their catcher of the future (he hit .243 with 19 HR and 81 RBI in his first three seasons), but a case of “Rube Baker syndrome”, a visit with a psychologist and just two more games with Texas in 2010, he was sent over to the Boston Red Sox.  Harrison went 13-8 over 26 starts in the 2008-2009 seasons, but transitioned to a relief role in 2010 and was not included on the playoff roster.

So what happened to Jones, the ninth-best prospect in the Braves system in 2006 and a LumberKing in 2007?

As LumberKings fans may remember, Jones stepped into the rotation after the promotion of Omar Poveda in 2007 and went 4-1 with a 2.70 ERA in seven games, six starts.  Clinton fans surely will recall his gutsy playoff performance in Game 2 of the West Division Quarterfinals against Cedar Rapids when, after rain forced the early exit of right-hander Kasey Kiker, Jones stepped in to deliver six innings of scoreless, one-hit relief as the Kings battled back for an 8-2 victory.

Since then, Jones has been under the radar in a Rangers’ system chock full of prospect arms.  He had moderate success with double-A Frisco in 2008 and 2009, going a combined 5-5 with a 4.37 ERA in 47 relief appearances with the RoughRiders.  He returned to the Texas League in 2010 and had his best season to date as a Ranger, going 3-0 with a 2.91 ERA in 34 games, mostly relief.  The numbers look even better when you condense it to relief outings only, as his ERA drops to 1.90.  Jones limited opponents to a .192 average (including a .122 average to right-handed hitters) and struck out 56 in 47 innings out of the pen.

The Metairie, Louisiana native looks bound for the new triple-A affiliate of the Rangers in Round Rock next year with the possibility of a Major League call-up.  If the latter happens, it will prove to be a rarity in the world of deadline deals: a seven-player trade in which every player involved makes the Majors.

For today’s edition of “The Interview Vault”, I dug up my conversation with Jones following that Game 2 performance against the Kernels.

Listen Here:  Beau Jones (2007 Playoffs).mp3

-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. 

-DL

Diamond Debuts, Beavan Impresses in Tacoma

diamond.JPGMy apologies lately for letting a lot of LumberKings alumni news slip through the cracks, but I’ll attempt to resolve some of that right now.

Less than a week after first-baseman Mitch Moreland (’08) became the third former King to make a big-league debut, right-hander Thomas Diamond (’04, pictured left) stepped to the mound for the Chicago Cubs to make his first Major League start last night against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Diamond struck out 10 of the 27 batters he faced over 6.0 innings, but also allowed three runs on seven hits as the Cubs lost, 4-3 to the Brewers at Wrigley Field.  He became only the second Cub in 90 seasons to strike out 10 in his debut. 

Amongst his seven seasons in the Minors (all in the Texas chain until this year) was the 2004 season with Clinton, in which Diamond went 1-0 with a 2.05 ERA in seven starts.  He walked only eight while fanning 42 batters over 30.2 innings as a LumberKing.  Diamond joins Moreland, first-baseman Justin Smoak (’08) and right-hande Omar Beltre (’03) as former LumberKings who have made Major League debuts this season.

Diamond isn’t the only former Clinton pitcher moving up in recent days.  Right-hander Blake Beavan, a member of the 2008 Kings, moved up to triple-A Tacoma and earned a win in his first start with the Rainiers.

Recently acquired by the Seattle Mariners in the deal that sent Cliff Lee to Texas, Beavan was denied his triple-A debut with Oklahoma City but did not have to wait long to get his shot in Seattle.  The Irving, TX native and former first-round pick worked 6.0 innings, yielding two runs on seven hits and striking out two in a 9-3 win over Reno. 

Right-hander Josh Lueke (’07-’08) has also joined Beavan in Tacoma and has pitched well so far, going 0-0 with a 3.00 ERA, no walks and five strikeouts over 3.0 innings.  At least for now, infielder Matt Lawson (’08) has not moved up to Tacoma despite hitting .365 with four doubles, two HR and 14 RBI in just 15 games with double-A West Tenn.

Elsewhere, right-hander Evan Reed (’07-’08) made his first outing as a Florida Marlins farmhand last Saturday, pitching in relief for the double-A Jacksonville Suns.  Reed worked 1.2 innings and struck out one of the six Carolina Mudcats’ hitters he faced.  The former Clinton starter was shipped by the Rangers along with right-hander Omar Poveda (’06-’07) in the deal that brought them Jorge Cantu.  Poveda is still coming back from Tommy John surgery.

Through five games, four starts with double-A Richmond, left-hander Michael Main (’08) is 0-3 with a 13.83 ERA in what has been a rough introduction to the San Francisco system.  The former first-round pick has battled control issues with 14 walks and seven strikeouts over 13.2 innings so far.  Main was acquired by the Giants in the deal that sent catcher Bengie Molina to the Rangers.

With our bus to the Quad Cities leaving in less than an hour, that’s all the time I have for today.  I’ll hopefully have a new interview and game notes prior to the 7:00 PM game against the River Bandits tonight.

-DL

Lemon Invited, Poveda Sidelined

Lemon.jpgTwo emails crossed my desk today regarding former LumberKings currently in big-league camp with the Texas Rangers.  It’s a bit of good news and bad news for some key members of the class of ’07.

First, the good news.  Marcus Lemon (’07) has been added to the list of non-roster invitees to Rangers camp.  The 21-year-old Lemon (that’s right, he was 18 when he was here) hit .262 with 19 doubles, 5 triples and a home run for double-A Frisco last year, playing primarily at second base.  Originally drafted as a shortstop, he went on to play center field in the Arizona Fall League, hitting an impressive .343 with 4 HR and 13 RBI with the Surprise Rafters.  Lemon did spend four games with the Rangers during Spring Training last season.

Now, for the bad.  Our friends over at the Newberg Report have announced that right-hander Omar Poveda (’06-’07) will undergo Tommy John surgery, effectively ending his 2010 campaign before it starts.  The Turmero, Venezuela native enjoyed a great 2009 in Frisco’s rotation, going 11-5 with a 4.14 ERA in 22 starts.  Poveda is on the 40-man roster and would have been competing for a 25-man roster spot this Spring.  At the very least, the 22-year-old was expected to pitch with triple-A Oklahoma City this season.

Poveda is the second former LumberKing to undergo season-ending surgery prior to camp, joining Houston Astros’ infielder Jose Vallejo (’06-’07).

Texas’s first Cactus League game is on Thursday, March 4 against the Kansas City Royals in Surprise.

-DL

Former Kings to Watch this Spring

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
feliz.JPGemerge 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.

Smoak Rising

 
smoak.JPGAfter 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
moreland.JPGquietly 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

poveda.JPGFour 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!

-DL 

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