Results tagged ‘ Zach Phillips ’

Two More Former Kings Make MLB Debuts

LHP Zach Phillips pitches for Baltimore, RHP Mark Hamburger pitches forTexason same night

In a season that’s already featured the Major League debuts of eight former Clinton LumberKings, Wednesday night saw the addition of two more.  Left-hander Zach Phillips, a part of Clinton’s rotation in 2006 and 2007 made his big-league debut with the Baltimore Orioles, while right-hander Mark Hamburger, a reliever on the 2008 squad, debuted as well for the Texas Rangers.

Phillips, 24, was called up by the O’s from triple-A Norfolk after going 1-1 with a 2.63 ERA and one save in 14 relief appearances with the Tides.  He made his debut last night in the eighth inning of the Orioles’ 13-0 loss toTorontoatOriolePark, pitching a scoreless inning with two hits, a walk and a strikeout of Mark Teahen.

Originally drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 23rd round out of Sacramento City College in 2005, Phillips pitched in parts of three seasons with the LumberKings from 2005 to 2007.  After going 5-12 with a 5.96 ERA in 28 starts during the 2006 season, Phillips returned in 2007 and was a Midwest League All-Star, going 11-7 with a 2.91 ERA in 27 starts.  In his final season withClinton, the left-hander struck out 157 batters while walking only 43 over 151.2 innings.  Reaching as high as triple-A Oklahoma City in 2010, Phillips was dealt to Baltimore on July 19 of this year for minor-league infielder Nick Green.

Hamburger, 24, got the call to Texas after going 7-4 with a 3.88 ERA in 31 games, four starts for triple-A Round Rock.  He debuted last night at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, firing a scoreless ninth inning in the Rangers’ 4-1 loss to Tampa Bay. 

Signed by the Minnesota Twins as a non-drafted free agent in 2007, Hamburger was traded to the Rangers in exchange for reliever Eddie Guardado on August 25, 2008.  His first assignment in the Texas system came with the LumberKings, where he went 0-0 with a 2.25 ERA and three saves over four outings.  Hamburger went 2-9, 4.75 with low-A Hickory in 2009, then split 2010 between high-A Bakersfield and double-A Frisco, going a combined 4-2 with a 2.20 ERA and 21 saves.

Both join right-handers Josh Lueke (Seattle), Tom Wilhelmsen (Seattle), Cody Eppley (Texas), Maikel Cleto (St. Louis) and Blake Beavan (Seattle), left-hander Anthony Vasquez (Seattle), infielder Kyle Seager (Seattle) and catcher Manny Pina (Kansas City) as former LumberKings to make big-league debuts this season.  A total of 234 former Clinton players have now appeared in a Major League game dating back to the franchise’s inception in 1937.

-DL

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.

-DL

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.

-DL

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.

-DL

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. 

-DL

More Photos from Scott Lucas

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

-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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