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5/10 Minor League Wrap-Up

If you ever check out the MiLB official website, their front page flash headlines always cover those East Coast minor league teams, whether single A, double A or Triple A.  Anyone suspecting an East Coast Bias at the big league level can take comfort in the fact that the bias even extends to national minor league baseball coverage.

Okay, unless you're willing to scroll and gloss, make sure you have some time before reading this recap, as it's chock full of action at every level.

A:  High Desert 14, Lancaster 7

Guess who started the game yesterday:

Cibney Bello:  5.1 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 3 walks, 3 K, wild pitch... ah, we missed you, Cibney.
Jose Escalona:  1.2 IP, 2 H, 4 ER (HR), walk, 3 K, hit batter, UH OHS
John Sullivan:  1 IP, 1 H, without hitting anybody in the head
Roman Martinez:  1 IP, 1 H
Casey Craig:  2-5, double, 2 R, RBI (.293)
Michael Saunders SMASH: 4-5, 2 run HR, 4 R, 3 RBI (.258)
Jesus Guzman:  3-5, 2 run HR, 2 R (.317)
Johan Limonta:  1-5, R, 2 RBI, K (.345)
Adam Moore:  0-4, sac fly RBI, K (.215), only starter w/o a hit
Chris Colton:  2-5, double, R, 2 RBI, K (.269)
Jeff Flaig:  1-4, 2 run HR, K (.185)
Josh Womack:  2-4, triple, 2 R, K (.226)

The Mavs were steaming about yesterday's blowout loss, probably even more when they learned that their surprise SP for the day was... The Return Of Cibney Bello!  He loved High A ball so much last year he just HAD to do it again!  For the uninitiated, let's just say that this is like your spouse surprising you on your birthday with herpes.

The Mavs came out firing on Jethawks starter Michael Rozier.  Casey Craig smoked a grounder into left field to lead off, and Michael Saunders laid a perfect bunt down the 3B line, not only moving Craig over but getting on.  Jesus Guzman smoked a grounder through the hole into RF and as Craig turned, RF Chris Turner bobbled the ball, allowing Craig to easily score as Saunders took 3rd and Guzman took 2nd, 1-0 Mavs.  The Dangerous Johan Limonta... grounded to 3rd and 3B Scott White threw to 1st for one out, Saunders scoring as Guzman took 3rd, 2-0 Mavs.  Adam Moore smacked a grounder to 3rd, but White muffed it and Guzman broke for home.  SS Christian Lara grabbed the errant ball, threw home and got Guzman for two outs.  Jeff Dominguez flew to center for the 3rd out.

Now, Cibney Bello, he who somehow finished with a 3.94 ERA at Inland Empire last year despite 4.6 BB/9 and surrendering 19 HR in 153 IP. The low ERA is thanks in part to still being difficult to hit (137 Ks), but can be hit hard when he's off (which is frequent) and floating pitches just to get them in the zone.  He is a maddening talent who likely isn't ever getting past A ball if he can't throw strikes and stay out of jams.

So what better way to begin your second season in A+ ball than to surrender a leadoff double on a well hit flyball to Christian Lara, then another basehit to Bubba Bell on a well hit flyball?  Hey, at least they were strikes!  Zach Daeges put a charge in one but Michael Saunders got under it in LF for one out.  Aaron Bates smoked a liner that fortunately was low enough for Jesus Guzman to glove at 2B for two outs.  Then Bell walked Scott White to load the bases and HERE WE GO AGAIN.  Mark Wagner smoked a grounder through the hole into left to score Lara, 2-1, but Bubba Bell turned for home and Saunders gunned him down at the plate to end the inning.

The Mavs likely winded from the wild 1st, went quietly in the top 2nd.  In the bottom 2nd, Yahmed Yema's flyball found Josh Womack in center, Chris Turner's lined shot went right to Michael Saunders, and Chuck Jeroloman (huh who?) popped up to give Bello an unlikely 1-2-3 inning.

The Mavs got their legs back under them.  Casey Craig flew to center for one, but Michael Saunders smoked a grounder into left, and Jesus Guzman looped a flyball into center to put runners on 1st and 2nd.  Johan Limonta's grounder found the hole this time, as Saunders turned and made it home easily as Guzman took 3rd, 3-1.  Adam Moore put a charge in one to right, but Chris Turner caught it for two outs, as Guzman tagged up and came in to give the Mavs a 4-1 lead.  That should be good enough.

Except Jeff Dominguez hit another flyball that found grass, and Limonta took 2nd.  Chris Colton tagged a Rozier pitch and dropped it behind Chris Turner in right for a double, allowing Limonta and Dominguez to score, making it 6-1.  Jeff Flaig, productive about 17-20% of the time, absolutely hammered a Rozier pitch and sent it over the wall in left to make it 8-1!  You think that'll be enough for Cibney, Josh Womack?

The word 'Cibney' puts the fear of losing in Womack, and he smoked a ball to short so hard that Lara couldn't get him in time.  Casey Craig came back up and got it right the 2nd time, hitting a deep fly that came down between the LF wall and Bubba Bell to score Womack, 9-1.  TWO OUTS, SO WHAT?

Michael Rozier is done for the night, that's what.  Tim Cox relieved the loser that now sported a golden 7.41 ERA on the season.  Michael Saunders smoked a pitch through the hole into right to score Craig, 10-1.  Guzman comes up and it can't get any worse for Lancaster, right?

Cox hangs one over the plate and Guzman crushes it over the wall in left center to make it 12-1.  Johan Limonta felt so bad for the Jethawks that he went ahead and let Cox strike him out for the final out of the 3rd.  High Desert blows up for a 10, TEN RUN INNING.

Lancaster, shell shocked, goes down quietly in the bottom 3rd, groundout, K, groundout.   Tim Cox recorded two quick outs in the top 4th before Chris Colton's grounder found the hole into LF for a single.  Cox said, "Oh no, no more of that crap," and blew three strikes right by Jeff Flaig to end the top 4th.

Cibney led off the 4th by walking Aaron Bates.  Scott White hit a flyball that dropped into LF for a single.  Mark Wagner hit a flyball in front of the LF wall to score Bates and move White to 3rd on a double.  UH OHS... but Yahmed Yema popped up to the infield for one out.  Chris Turner took strike three for two outs.  Chuck Jeroloman put a charge in one, but Casey Craig got under it in RF for the 3rd out.  Whew.

Realizing how fickle 11 run leads can be with some guys on the mound, Josh Womack led off with a laser to right that allowed him to use his wheels and slide into 3rd with a triple.  Casey Craig put a charge in one, but Yahmed Yema was able to settle in and catch it close enough to coax Womack back to 3rd and keep him there.  All for naught, as Michael Saunders, who had yet to hit a home run this season.... UNTIL NOW, as he mashed a monster shot over the wall in right center to make it 14-1.  Jesus Guzman put a charge in one to try and join the party, except it came down into the glove of Yahmed Yema in CF for two outs.  And Johan Limonta grounded to 3rd for the last out of the top 5th.

Cibney showed more consistency with a 1-2-3 5th, popout groundout flyout.  Granted, he had a huge lead, but 5 innings of one run ball was more than expected.  High Desert calmed down and went quietly in the 6th.

Aaron Bates led off by drawing a walk.  Scott White stepped in and watched Cibney unload a wild pitch to move Bates to 2nd, as we have ACTIVITY IN THE BULLPEN.  Scott White hoped for a walk, but got strike three instead for one out.  Mark Wagner put one in the air and found grass in RF as Bates hustled over to 3rd.  Yahmed Yema smoked a grounder into RF to score Bates, make it 14-3 and move Wagner to 2nd... and time to pull Cibney Bello while he's ahead, not just literally but impressionally.  Jose Escalona came in to do his middle relief thing, and despite a throwing error by Johan Limonta on a double play ball, Escalona got out easily.

I want to say that this was all, and the Mavs got out with an absolute rout... except that Escalona came out for the bottom 7th and after striking out Lara, walked Bubba Bell.  Then he got Zach Daeges on strikes for two outs, but incidentally plunked Aaron Bates, surrendered a base hit to Scott White, then served Mark Wagner a meatball that he crushed over the left field wall for a grand slam.  Granted, it was still 14-7 and the Mavs would go on to post the easy win, but Jose Escalona's especially bad inning deserves note.

NEXT:  Back to the space park to begin a series with Stockton, and who knows what surprises await from High Desert's rotation, which these days is made up of five secret doors.  FUN FACT: My father had a good friend, Gene Caruso, whose eponymous son was an Indy League veteran pitcher.  Little Gene actually pitched for Stockton in the early 90's back when they were somebody else's affiliate (possibly the Brewers), and posted an ERA in the mid 4's with a K:BB ratio just over 1.  Yeah, not too strong of a prospect.  I was able to track his progress because the Las Vegas Review-Journal would post the stats for every local kid and UNLV grad playing minor league baseball, even if they were in the Indy Leagues.  His father would mention him when he came by to visit, and mentioned him getting significant looks in ST with various clubs... though it never did lead anywhere.  He never did find sustained success beyond the AA level, though he eventually made two consecutive Indy league All-Star teams in 1996 and 1997.  The Baseball Cube only has record of his final season, a last-gasp attempt to catch on with the Pirates in the late 90's, likely derailed by injury.  Funny thing: while I went to school with Old Gene's daughter Sharon and for all the times Old Gene came to visit us and we went to visit him... I never did meet Little Gene.  Was he a myth, my own Moonlight Graham?  Or am I overthinking this?  Likely the latter.

The only big leaguers I know of that Vegas ever produced were Marty Cordova, Mike MacDougal and some dude named Greg Maddux.

A:  Wisconsin 4, Great Lakes 2

Ricky Orta:  3 IP, 1 H, (1 R) 0 ER, 2 walks, 2 K, hit batter
Kyle Parker:  3.2 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, walk, 4 K, wild pitch
Natividad Dilone:  1.1 IP, walk
Andrew Barb:  1 IP, 2 K for the save!
Alex Meneses:  0-3, walk, K
Carlos Triunfel:  1-3, R, RBI, walk (.241)
Leury Bonilla:  0-4, 3 K (.287)
Carlos Peguero:  2-4, triple, RBI, K (.250)
Alex Liddi:  0-4, 2 K (.203)
Danny Santin:  0-3, sac fly RBI (.125)
Kuo Hui Lo:  1-3 (.182)
Gavin Dickey:  1-2, 2 R, walk, K (.217)

Ricky Orta has a lot of work to do if he's going to notably impress anyone enough to climb the organizational ladder.  Coming back from a minor injury, he got the start and gave the T-Rats 3 decent innings, ceding only an unearned run that spawned from a leadoff throwing error by Alex Meneses, irony of ironies, along with his 0 for 3 line today, given he was brought down in part to help lift the offense (along with his own struggling performance), and yet the rest of the offense has stepped up.

Fortunately, the run by the Loons only tied the game, as Carlos Peguero knocked in Phenom with two outs in the top 1st to put the T-Rats on the board (though Peguero got run down at 2nd in the process).

Both teams had close calls in the 3rd.  In the top half, Kuo Hui Lo led off lining a single to right, then took 3rd on a passed ball and wild pitch.  But Josh Wall struck out Gavin Dickey, struck out Alex Meneses and got Phenom to ground out, escaping unscathed.  In the bottom 3rd, Bridger Hunt led off with a double and Adolfo Gonzalez bunted him to 3rd for one out before Matt Berezay got plunked to put runners at the corners.  Orta got Eduardo Perez on strikes for two outs as Berezay stole 2nd, and got David Sutherland to ground to 2nd to end the threat.

Kyle Parker relieved Orta in the 4th and did an even better job shutting the Loons down through the middle innings.  Interesting top 5th, as Kalian Sams reached on a one out blooped single, but with two outs, got thrown out trying to steal second!  That had to be a missed hit and run.  No manager in his right mind sends Kalian Sams on a steal with two outs.

... unless maybe you wanted speedy Gavin Dickey's hot bat leading off the top 6th.  Dickey hit a blooper into center for a base hit to lead off the top 6th.  Alex Meneses tapped back to the pitcher Josh Wall, who threw to 2nd YIKES AND AWAY, giving Dickey 3rd as Meneses headed over to 2nd.  Triunfel grounded to short, and SS Francisco Lizarraga threw him out for one, but Dickey scored to FINALLY break the impasse and give the T-Rats a 2-1 lead as Meneses moved over to 3rd.  Leury Bonilla, cooling off after a hot start, grounded to 3rd for two outs (the only ball he put in play: he K'd 3 times), and that was it for Josh Wall, who ceded to Garrett White.  Carlos Peguero popped up to end the inning.

The Loons went quietly in the bottom 6th against Kyle Parker, and the T-Rats couldn't get going in the top 7th against Garrett White.  The Loons sensed the momentum shift and struck.  With one out in the bottom 7th, Trayvon Robinson smoked a grounded down the RF line for a double.  Parker uncorked a wild pitch and Robinson took 3rd.  Hunt, however, couldn't get a piece of strike three for one out.  Adolfo Gonzalez smoked a grounder to 2B and Meneses couldn't manage a play, allowing Robinson to score and tie it at 2.  Matt Berezay smoked a grounder into RF for a base hit, and that was it for Kyle Parker, who save for this rally had held the fort for 3.2 IP.  Natividad Dilone came in to play stopped, and walked Eduardo Perez to load the bases.  But David Sutherland killed another rally with a grounder to 2nd, where Meneses flipped it to Phenom at 2nd to end the 7th.

With one out in the top 8th, Gavin Dickey drew a walk on Garrett White, then stole 2nd with Meneses at the plate.  Meneses grounded to 2nd for one out as Dickey moved to 3rd.  Triunfel came to the plate and catcher Kenley Jensen passed his 2nd ball of the day, allowing Dickey to come in and give the T-Rats another lead, 3-2.  Phenom drew a walk but Leury Bonilla (remember what I said earlier) went down swinging to end the frame.

Kenley Jensen was due up in the bottom 8th but got yanked for pinch hitter Carlos Santana and his caravanserai.  Supernatural sadly grounded out to 1st to end a 1-2-3 inning for Dilone, but stayed in to catch.  Serenaded by Santana's seductive guitar, Carlos Peguero led off the top 9th with a blast to the wall in center for a triple.  Peguero, the DH, was pulled for pinch runner Greg Halman, held out of the lineup today.  Alex Liddi grounded to 3rd, where Josh Bell checked Halman and threw out Liddi for one out.  Danny Santin put a charge in one, which was caught in center by Trayvon Robinson, but Halman tagged up and scored to make it 4-2.  Kalian Sams went down on strikes to end the frame, and for the 2nd night in a row, it was up to closer Andrew Barb to lock this ballgame down.  Two punchouts and a harmless flyout later, Barb locked down the T-Rats 4th win in 5 games.  BREAK UP THE T-RATS!

NEXT:  Nathan Adcock goes in Great Lakes at 4 pm PDT.

AA:  West Tenn 9, Mississippi 5

Doug FISTER:  6 IP, 6 H, 4 ER (HR), 2 walks, 4 K, wild pitch
Mumba Rivera:  2 IP, 1 H, (1 R) 0 ER, 3 K
Kam Mickolio:  1 IP, 1 H, walk, 2 K
Brent Johnson:  4-5, 3 R, walk (.297)
Chris Minaker:  3-6, 2 R (.235)
Jeff Frazier:  1-5, R (.220)
Prentice Redman:  0-1, sac fly RBI, 2 R, 3 walks! (.322)
Matt Tuiasosopo:  1-2, R, 2 RBI, walk (.336)
Charlton Jimerson:  0-4, walk, 2 K
Rene Rivera:  0-4, walk, K (.200)
Luis Valbuena:  0-4, walk, K (.185)

It was an improvement, but Dougie Fistball still had some struggles in his six innings, namely the 2nd, where with one out, back to back groundballs found the hole.  Chris Minaker at short took a grounder and made a dubious play, chasing and tagging the lead runner for two outs instead of trying to turn the 6-4-3 double play that would've ended the inning.  Mark Jurich came to the plate and then blasted his first home run of the season over the right field wall to make it 3-1 AA Braves.  A leadoff lined single in the 4th and wild pitch allowed Mark Jurich to double in the runner and make it 4-1.  Aside from those two bad innings, FISTER pitched pretty well and definitely improved on his previous outings.

The bad news was that the DIAMOND JAXX now trailed 4-1 in the 5th.  Brent Johnson led off the 5th with a lined single, and Chris Minaker's grounder to 2nd got misplayed to keep everyone safe.  Jeff Frazier lined a single to right to score Johnson and move Minaker to 3rd, cutting the lead to 4-2.  Prentice Redman, drawing walks and getting pitched around all day, lifted a flyball to center that was caught for one out, but Minaker tagged up and scored to cut the lead to 4-3.  Tui's liner was snagged on a nice grab by SS Brent Lillibridge for two outs.  Charlton Jimerson worked the count and drew a walk, but Erick Monzon grounded to 3rd and 3B Diory Hernandez stepped on the bag to end the frame.

FISTER put the AA Braves down in order in the bottom 5th.  The DIAMOND JAXX loaded the bases with one out in the top 6th on new pitcher Charlie Morton, but Jeff Frazier grounded into the 6-4-3 inning ending double play.  Nice work, PTBNL.

FISTER again worked a 1-2-3 inning in the bottom 6th.  Prentice Redman led off the 6th by drawing another walk.  Tui bunted him ahead to 2nd for one out.  Charlton Jimerson watched strike three for two outs.  Erick Monzon, ice cold since the day he came back, smoked a grounder up the middle into center to score Redman, Monzon taking 2nd as CF Carl Loanderthal tried and failed to gun down Redman at home.  4-4 TIE BALLGAME!!  Rene Rivera, who drew a walk him last time walk... drew strike three this time around to end the frame.

FISTER called it a night and the overworked Mumba Rivera came in to work the 7th.  Mark Jurich, the FISTER Killer, grounded to short and Chris Minaker muffed it to put him on.  JC Holt bunted him to 2nd for one out.  Brent Lillibridge lined a single to right that only got Jurich to 3rd.  Brandon Jones came up, and Mumba Rivera threw to 1st except he threw YIKES AND AWAY, allowing Jurich to score to make it 5-4 Braves as Lillibridge took 2nd.  Rivera turned on the jets, got Jones to pop up for two outs and mowed down Matt Esquivel on strikes to end the inning.

Michael Nix relieved Charlie Morton and wished he hadn't.  Sure, Luis Valbuena grounded to 1st for one out, but Brent Johnson's grounder to 3rd wasn't playable, and Chris Minaker blooped a single to right to put two men on.  Jeff Frazier tried to ground into another inning-ending GIDP, but SS Brent Lillibridge threw YIKES AND AWAY, allowing Johnson to score and TIE THE BALLGAME while Minaker took 3rd and Frazier, thanking his lucky stars, took 2nd.  Michael Nix went ahead and put Prentice Redman on, to get to Tui.

No, I'm serious.  Michael Nix intentionally walked the bases loaded... to get to Tui.

And Tui lined a single to right to score Minaker and Frazier, 7-5 West Tenn and I'm laughing just typing this.  Redman and Tui took an extra base as RF Matt Esquivel misplayed the base hit.  Michael Nix was immediately pulled for Brad Nelson.  I'm not sure what the thinking was there.  Maybe it was the pitcher's idea... who knows.  Anyway, Brad Nelson got Charlton Jimerson swinging for strike three.  Erick Monzon tapped back to the pitcher, who threw YIKES AND AWAY to allow Redman and Tui to score, making it 9-5 as Monzon took 2nd.  Nelson must have thrown that one to the vendors.  Rene Rivera flew out to center for the 3rd out, and there would be nothing resembling a comeback from the AA Braves, who BTW committed 5 errors in this game.

NEXT:  Joe Woerman as they go again Mississippi at 5:05 pm PDT.

AAA:  Round Rock 10, Tacoma 8

Jim Parque:  4.2 IP, 7 H, 5 ER (HR), 3 walk, 4 K
Renee Cortez:  0.1 IP, 2 H, 1 ER
Byron Embry:  2.1 IP, 3 H, 4 ER (HR), 2 walk, 4 K, wild pitch.  Not good.
Andrew Fiorenza:  0.2 IP, 2 K, new arrival!
Adam Jones:  1-4, solo HR, K (.295)
Rob Johnson:  4-5, 2 doubles, 2 R, K (.252)
WLAD:  0-5, RBI groundout, 2 K (.320)
Mike Morse:  0-3, R, 2 walks (.309)
Bryan LaHair:  1-4, R, RBI, walk, K (.219)
Jon Nelson:  1-5, solo HR, K (.244)
Jeff Clement (DH):  4-4, 2 doubles, 3 run HR, 2 R, walk (.231)
Oswaldo Navarro:  1-3, RBI, walk, K (.180)

What an exciting day for Mariner affiliates yesterday.  Okay, first of all, the lines above confirm that Oswaldo Navarro still has his job and that Prettyman was just getting a test run at 3B yesterday.

Just as you were starting to forget about him, Adam Jones led off the game with a solo shot to center to make it 1-0.  Rob Johnson got on with a grounder, stole 2nd and took 3rd when the catcher's throw went YIKES AND AWAY.  Bryan LaHair knocked him in to make it 2-0.

Jeff Clement led off the 2nd with a lined double to right.  Brant Ust grounded him ahead for one out, and Oswaldo singled up the middle to score him and make it 3-0.

Jim Parque was alright... for 4 innings, only allowing a couple runs (one on a solo shot from an old friend, Cody Ransom!), and then melted down, failing to finish the 5th, which ended with Round Rock leading 5-3 after the Rainiers had led 3-2.  Also, Byron Embry came crashing down to Earth, and when someone as big as Byron Embry falls that far, you better hope the stadium is retrofitted, but anyway, Renee Cortez left one pitch into the six due to 'not feeling well', Embry came in and allowed a leadoff double in the 6th to score (granted, on a sac bunt and a sac fly), but recovered... until the disastrous bottom 8th.

At this point, the Rainiers had snuck back to within 6-5 by the middle 8th.  Rob Johnson had led off the 7th with a double, took 3rd on a wild pitch, then took advantage of a slow tapper from WLAD to score, making it 6-4.  Then in the top 8th, Jon Nelson of all people leads off with a solo shot to left to make it 6-5.  Jeff Clement followed with a double to center, but somehow, despite moving him to 3rd, the Rainiers couldn't get him across.

Now Embry pitched a scoreless 7th but was clearly wild, walking a batter and uncorking a wild pitch, but also netting a couple Ks and a groundout.  Eric Bruntlett led off the bottom 8th with a lined single to center.  Mark Saccomanno lined a single to right that WLAD got back in quickly to keep runners at the corners.  Saccomanno, not a base stealer, went for 2nd and stole his 1st bag of the season.  Embry got Barry Wesson on strikes for one out, but walked Jesse Garcia to load the bases for Mike Rodriguez, who had 0 home runs on the season... before blasting an Embry pitch over the wall in right center field for a grand slam, his first HR of the year, to make it 10-5 Express.

Brooks Conrad came to the plate and throughout this, Embry was having trouble finding the zone.  Embry threw a pitch behind Conrad and umpire Darren Hyman figured he was headhunting so he tossed the T-Bone.  Embry insisted it wasn't intentional but no dice, and the way he was pitching, it was probably best they get him out of there anyway.  Andrew Fiorenza, the reliever who arrived yesterday along with Ron Prettyman, came in to relieve Embry and struck out both batters he faced to end the inning.

With the game far from reach, WLAD went down swinging, but Mike Morse drew a walk.  Bryan LaHair drew a walk.  Jon Nelson went down swinging for two outs, but Jeff Clement took Miguel Asencio deep to right center to make it 10-8.  However, the Rainiers still needed two runs to tie and, after a coaching visit, Asencio got Brant Ust to ground to 2nd to end the ballgame.

NEXT:  Jake Woods with a mystifying tan in Round Rock at 5:05 pm PDT.

I need a drink after recapping all that.  Geez.