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Indians Indians Archive Around the Farm: Carolina Mudcats
Written by Al Ciammiachella

Al Ciammiachella

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Going a little different direction with Around the Farm today, as I'm going to focus primarily one one of the Indians affiliates, the high-A Carolina Mudcats. There will be a couple of quick notes at the end of the column highlighting some of the top performances in the rest of the system, but by and large we're going to look at the Mudcats here today. For the most part, I dislike living in the Washington DC area. The traffic sucks, the people are rude, housing prices are criminaly insane, it's 100 degrees with 110% humidity all sum it up, I miss Ohio and wish I was back there full-time. The one side benefit of living in Northern Virginia though, is that the Carolina League stretches as far northward as Woodbridge, VA so I actually get to see the Mudcats several times a season, something that is awfully difficult for Cleveland area fans to experience. So after taking in a doubleheader yesterday between the Mudcats and the Potomac Nationals, I figured I'd share some of my observations from before and after the games.

First off, the Mudcats are a shell of the team they were just a few weeks ago. It started when their leadoff hitter and CF (Tyler Holt) was promoted to AA Akron. Then their 5-hole hitter and RF Carlos Moncrief broke his hamate bone and had surgery to repair it, costing him the rest of the season. Next cleanup hitter and 1B Jesus Aguilar was promoted to AA Akron, as was RHP Cole Cook. Then their #2 hitter and LF, Bo Greenwell, suffered a shoulder injury on a check-swing last week, an injury that will require an MRI in Cleveland sometime in the near future. The only good news for Greenwell is that the injury is to his non-throwing shoulder, but it's a frustrating thing for Greenwell to deal with, especially since he was finally healthy and hitting again. Greenwell is a minor league free agent after this season, and it seems like forever ago that he was hitting .292 for high-A Kinston in 2010 and knocking on the door of AA Akron. Greenwell has never quite made it to Akron, as a rash of unfortunate injuries have sidelined him off and on for the past year and a half. Hopefully the shoulder injury isn't serious, as another surgery would be extremely frustrating for the 2007 6th round pick. He's still just 23, so it's not like he's THAT old yet, but if Greenwell has to begin another season in the Carolina League, it would have to be a disappointment for the talented outfielder.

Tony Wolters is a lot of fun to watch. From BP through the game, he just looks like he's having more fun than anyone else on the field. He takes his round of BP, then takes grounders from one of the coaches at whatever position he's playing that day (last night it was SS). Then he stays on the field for the 3rd round of BP, taking grounders that are hit from whoever is in the cage. When everyone else runs into the clubhouse for a little rest before the game, Wolters then gets on his knees and takes fungos from manager Edwin Rodriguez to work on his hands and quick reaction time. This is all before the game even begins. When it finally came time to actually play the games last night, Wolters led off game 1 with a triple to CF (his Carolina League-leading 8th on the season) and scored on a SAC fly. He showed impressive opposite-field power later in the game, lining a ball to the track in left-center that the Potomac CF made a great play on. He flashed the leather as well, making a great diving play on a liner up the middle that turned into a doubleplay, and also showed impressive range to his right, going deep in the hole to backhand a ball and make a strong jump-throw to nail a runner at 1B. Wolters had a rough start to this season, but has really come on to be one of the best players on the Mudcat roster this season.

Wolters' doubleplay partner also had a nice night, as 2B Ronny Rodriguez hit a deep HR to left field to move into 4th place in the Carolina League with 17 HR on the season. Rodriguez shows impressive power in BP, but still gets a little pull happy in game action from time to time. He also showcased his impressive defensive skills, ranging far to his left and diving in the OF grass for a groundball and throwing the runner out at 1B from his knees. This infield is a lot of fun to watch.

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Mudcat starter Jordan Cooper threw 5 shoutout innings in game one, allowing 5 hits while walking one and striking out 3. Cooper was dominant, and the hits off of him were pretty cheap for the most part. He located extremely well in the zone, and he and catcher Dwight Childs were on the same page all night. I don't think I saw Cooper shake off Childs even once in all 5 innings. He's been one of the most consistent pitchers on the Mudcats staff this season, and in 73 1/3 IP since a rough April, he's posted a 3.43 ERA out of the bullpen and in the rotation. Cooper looked strong in the 5th last night, and looked like he could have thrown about 15 innings against that Potomac lineup without allowing a run.

Speaking of Dwight Childs, the Mudcats coaching staff has completely revamped the catcher's swing. He used to have a pronounced leg kick, and his hands would start very high and forward, almost over his head. He's eliminated the leg kick entirely, and is loading his hands from much lower and further back. It's a big change to make midseason, and he's clearly not totally comfortable with the new swing just yet. The swing is not effecting his defense though, as he made a spectacular play to throw out the only Nationals runner foolish enough to run on him. He slid to his right to backhand a pitch in the dirt, then popped up and nailed a runner stealing 2nd despite the bad pitch and the fact that the runner had a pretty good jump. It was an amazing throw, as I thought he had no chance to gun down the runner once the pitch hit the dirt. Childs isn't going to appear on anyone's Indians top-10 list this offseason, but he's a valuable guy who does all of the little things right and has a much bigger impact on the game than just his triple-slash line. Pitchers in the system love throwing to him, and he does a fantastic job with his advance scouting to have a plan to attack opposing hitters. He's a tireless worker and a leader on the field, and is a great guy to have in the organization.

2B-turned-LF Todd Hankins had a nice game last night, driving in a run with a double off the LF wall, and also throwing out a runner trying to take 2B on a hard grounder down the LF line. The Hammer also has the coolest glove on the team, a flashy red-white-blue job that worked quite well when he made a leaping catch into the LF wall later in the game. He looks pretty comfortable on the grass for a guy who was primarily an infielder prior to this season.

Mudcats manager Edwin Rodriguez has decided to make this Saturday's game in Carolina "Toole Time" Saturday, in honor of uber-utilityman Justin Toole. Toole has played 1B, 2B, SS, 3B and LF already this season, and has appeared in games for Carolina, Akron and Columbus. To celebrate his remarkable versatility, the Mudcats are going to have Toole play every position on the field for one inning on Saturday, catching the 8th and pitching the 9th innings. He's also going to be in the broadcast booth for the pre-game show, and will take the lineup cards out to the umpires before the game. It's a nice way to feature a guy who does absolutely everything the organization asks of him all season long, and is really the consummate professional and a leader on and off the field.

If you ever happen to run into pitching coach Scott Erickson, call him Scott. Not coach. Just trust me on that one.

So now a couple of quick highlights from elsewhere on the farm last night:

Dorssys Paulino, SS-MVS: 1-3, R, K. Call it a successful NYPL debut for Paulino, although he did make an error at SS. It's rare for a 17-year old to play in the NYPL, as it's filled mostly with college draftees 3-5 years older than Paulino. so this will really be a challenge for the young infielder.

LeVon Washington, CF-AZL: 3-3, 2 RBI, R. Wash is back not only in the lineup but also running down balls in the outfield, which is a great sign.

Hector Rondon, SP-AZL: IP, K, BB. Rember him? Rondon is still just 24 years old, and is working back from Tommy John surgery. He's thrown just 35 2/3 innings since the beginning of the 2010 season.

Francisco Lindor, SS-LCC: 2-4, 2B, 2 RBI, BB. Nice night for Lindor, as his 2-out, 2-run double in the 8th broke open a close game to give the Captains a victory.

Luigi Rodriguez, DH-LCC: 2-3, 3B, 2B, 2 RBI, BB, R. Full stat sheet for Rodriguez, who has now driven in 47 runs for the Captains this season.

Jesus Aguilar, 1B-AKR: 2-4, 2B, RBI, R, K. Aguilar is 5-27 with AA Akron, with 3 doubles and 5 RBI.

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