The Cleveland Fan on Facebook

The Cleveland Fan on Twitter
Indians Indians Archive Minor Happenings: Hodges Off To Hot Start
Written by Tony Lastoria

Tony Lastoria
A new name will be popping on to the radar of all Indians fans very soon.  And that name is Wes Hodges.  Hodges was the Indians second round pick out of Georgia Tech in the 2006 draft.  He currently plays third base for AA Akron and is off to a hot start with 4 HR and 15 RBI in the first week of the Aeros season.  Hodges is a guy the Indians could look to as soon as this season if they continue to get poor production from third base.  Tony talks about Hodges as well as all of the Indians minor league affiliates in this week's "Minor Happenings".

Minor Happenings"Minor Happenings" covers the important developments and news in the Indians farm system.  While most of the information in this report is from my own research and through interviews I have conducted with organizational personnel, some information in this report is collected and summarized from the various news outlets that cover each team.

This weekend, I will be in Eastlake, Ohio to catch Single-A Lake County in action and talk with a few players.  I am not sure who I will get to talk to as it is always hit and miss, but a few guys I have targetted are Matt Brown, Vinnie Pestano, and one of the starting pitchers.  Lake County is basically in my backyard (I live 10 minutes away), so I'll be seeing many of these guys throughout the season.  There are a lot of intriguing young players, particularly on the pitching staff, so I hope to be able to bring all their stories to all of you over the course of the season.

Last week I was in Woodbridge, Virgina and was able to see advanced Single-A Kinston in action and talk to several players.  On Tuesday, an article on left-hander Matt Meyer was posted and this weekend I will have a special edition of Minor Happenings recapping the conversations I had with right-handed pitchers Carlton Smith and Paolo Espino as well as utility player Jerad Head.

Indians Minor League Player Of The Week
(for games from April 10th through April 16th)

Wes Hodges (Third baseman - Akron)
.360 AVG (9-for-25), 2B, 3B, 3 HR, 12 RBI, BB, 6 K

Akron third baseman Wes Hodges is one of the few Indians hitters in the system off to a hot start this season.  After Hodges big week he is currently hitting .360 with 4 HR, 15 RBI, and a 1.117 OPS on the season in 12 games.  Hodges came through with a big Wes Hodgesgame on Tuesday night when he hit two home runs and piled up seven RBI, and his sixth inning grand slam was the deciding blow in a game Akron won 11-10.

Right now, Hodges is seeing the ball well and his fast start is good to see, especially considering that last year he got off to a slow start when he was only hitting .238 through May 10th.  Hodges slow start last year was mostly attributed to him not being 100% because of a stress fracture he suffered in 2006 which limited his strength in his lower half early last season.  As his strength returned last year, he finished the season strong and ended up hitting .288 with 15 homers and 71 RBIs for Kinston.  Hodges fast start is a result of better health as he now has full use of his legs and the power has returned to his lower half, and on top of that he has become better at recognizing pitches.

Hodges is a very disciplined hitter with great bat-to-ball ability, and has a nice line drive stroke with good power potential to all fields.  Last year, Baseball America tabbed Hodges as the best power prospect, the best defensive third baseman, and having the best tools in the Carolina League.  With absolutely nothing above him in Buffalo or Cleveland, Hodges has a clear path to the major leagues at first base and could debut in Cleveland sometime in 2009.

Honorable Mentions:

Ryan Morris (LHP - Lake County): 2-0, 0.00 ERA, 10.1 IP, 0 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 8 K
Matt Brown (OF - Lake County): .444 AVG (12-27), 5 R, 3 2B, HR, 8 RBI, 0 BB, 2 K, 1 SB
Heath Taylor (LHP - Kinston): 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 7.1 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 1 BB, 7 K
Carlos Rivero (SS - Kinston): .345 AVG (10-29), 1 R, 3 2B, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 0 BB, 6 K

Previous Winners:

4/3 to 4/9: Kelvin De La Cruz (LHP - Lake County)

Director's Cuts

Indians Farm Director Ross Atkins was in Akron this week taking in the action at Canal Park.  This week he offered up thoughts on some players on the Akron roster as well in Lake County:Ross Atkins

On Wes Hodges:  "Well, on [Tuesday] he had seven RBI, a game-winning grand slam home run, and drove in a couple with a great at bat with a single up the middle and he is playing a great third base.  They talk about the transition to Double-A being a tough one, but sometimes with really, really good high ceiling players you see it being an easier transition than even just the transition to pro ball because they start to see more strikes and there is a tighter strike zone especially with position players, and I think this is what we are seeing with Wes.  There is always development to be done, routines to be tightened up and areas players can improve upon.  And in Wes' case he is very professional and is very committed, but just learning what a good routine is and sticking to that.  That takes away from the focus of all the derailers and all the distractions and off the field pressures that come in addition to that 84 MPH slider.  So, with Wes it is always about getting him to focus on the process and stay committed to that.  And, in this case not get too high.  Not think 'okay, I'm done, I'm ready'.  He can still be a better baserunner and defender, and the pitching is only going to get better."

On David Huff:  "It is just always different for every guy, but he is absolutely where he should be.  After competing and dominating at a very high level in college and then having a good show in Kinston and performing well in the Arizona Fall League, he is now showing what he has done to make adjustments with his body and his committment to professionalism, with repeating his delivery and now commanding really three average pitches.  He absolutely belongs at a level where the hitters can tell him what adjustments he needs to make.  At this point we feel good about him being in Double-A and we will reassess that after five or six starts if need be.  He will certainly be there at least for that duration."

On the Lake County team: "There's a high ceiling on this team's young pitchers, across the board. While there are no bashers among the position players, no potential Travis Hafners, a lot of guys will put the ball in play and force the issue with speed."

On Kelvin De La Cruz:  "Kelvin has youth, size, leverage, arm strength and projects to command his fastball, slider and changeup. He has a high ceiling.  He's also passionate about baseball and is doing a good job making the cultural transition from the Dominican Republic."

Columbus Bound?

Over the weekend, the Indians all but made it official that they will be moving their Triple-A affiliate out of Buffalo, NY and to Columbus, OH in 2009.  Both the Indians and Buffalo agreed to postpone discussions of an extension of their player development contract until after the season.  What makes this newsworthy is during their 14-year affiliation with Buffalo which started back in 1995, the Indians have always announced player development contract extensions with Buffalo on their opening day.  That was not Huntington Parkthe case this year, as before their home opener on Friday Indians GM Mark Shapiro stated in a press conference back in Cleveland that they would table talks of an extension until after the season.

At this point, the only reason why a move to Columbus has not been made official is because major league teams are not permitted to negotiate with new potential minor league affiliates until September when the minor league season has been completed.  Also, while there is talk of behind closed door handshakes between the Indians and Columbus officials, the Indians also want to pay their due diligence in assessing all options before leaving or extending with Buffalo.  The Indians love their relationship with Buffalo and Buffalo wants to extend the relationship, but really the only reason the Indians are considering leaving is because the Columbus affiliation opened up when the Yankees left there after 2006.  They would probably not leave Buffalo for any other opportunity, and this is a unique situation that just fell into their lap.

Before the Indians pursue solidifying their agreement with Buffalo or explore going to Columbus, they want to assess the situation in both areas.  Columbus would be an hour closer to Cleveland than Buffalo, and the new state of the art Huntington Ballpark in downtown Columbus will offer up a much better facility than Buffalo's 20-year old Dunn Tire Park.  Columbus would also go after the Indians hard for obvious reasons as they feel the Indians would also be a natural fit, especially since the Cincinnati Reds are not an option after they extended their player development contact with Louisville over a year ago.

A move of the Indians Triple-A affiliate into the parent club's home state would be a coup, as they could tap into the Columbus market which is the largest city in Ohio and the state capital.  This could be huge in any efforts to expand their two year old cable network SportsTime Ohio into that market.  SportsTime Ohio has been interested in minor league broadcasts in the past by airing a few Buffalo Bisons games and also agreeing with the Single-A Lake County Captains to air ten games last year.  A move to Columbus may enhance the possibility to add minor league game programming because it may be in more demand, and also it could give the network a chance to add other Columbus area programming for professional sports teams like the NHL Columbus Bluejackets, the World Soccer League's Columbus Crew and even some Ohio State Buckeye programming.

While everything seems to favor a move, the one stumbling block could be how the Indians assess the Columbus front office personnel and staff.  Buffalo treats the Indians players well, and the communication between both the Indians and Buffalo is near perfect.  So, the Indians need to see if that would still be the case in Columbus before the scales tip completely in favor of a move to Columbus.  If the Indians do leave, the two likely options to move into Buffalo next year would be the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets as they have contracts that expire after this season and are not expected to renew them.

Next year is setting up for a lot of change with the Indians.  They are moving their spring training operations from Winter Haven, FL to Goodyear, AZ.  In conjunction with that they will be moving their rookie level team out of the Gulf Coast League and into the Arizona League.  And, on top of all this, they could be moving their Triple-A affiliate from Buffalo, NY to Columbus, OH.  That is a lot of change in one year.  This is a situation that will remain unanswered until September, but at this point based on everything the Indians have said and done publicly along with some comments coming from a few people behind closed doors, it is all but certain they will be in Columbus next year.

Frustration Mounts For Francisco

Buffalo outfielder Ben Francisco is off to a very slow start, hitting only .204 with 0 HR, 2 RBI and a .556 OPS through 13 games.  After winning the team MVP award in Buffalo the last two seasons and winning the International League batting title last year, andBen Francisco then following that up with a great showing in spring training this year hitting .362 with 3 HR, 9 RBI, and a 1.021 OPS, Francisco still ended up back in Buffalo to start the season.  Meanwhile, Jason Michaels is still somehow employed by the Cleveland Indians.

Francisco was understandably disappointed to not make the Indians opening day roster, and it has shown early on.  He has struckout three times in each of the last two games, and he now has a team high 17 strikeouts in 49 at bats.  This is not the kind of hitter he is, and clearly shows how much he is pressing.  He has been getting some extra work in with coaches, with the main focus to get him to relax and stay within himself, but so far nothing has worked.  At this point there is not much else to do except hope he catches a spark and it gets him going.

Francisco's troubles and frustration bring to light a problem with the organization at the moment.  In the last few years, the Indians have sent some of their big league ready prospects in a return trip to Buffalo because they opted to sign or keep an over-the-hill veteran.  This is clearly something that has to stop, as it is frustrating the players and also is creating a ridiculous logjam in the upper levels of the system.  Players like Francisco should be on a major league roster, there just is no excuse for it.  And this problem not only is in Buffalo, but is shared throughout the system all the way down to Kinston.  A lot of players are being forced to repeat a level because the Triple-A and major league team is loaded with a bunch of retread veterans trying to hang onto their baseball careers.  The Indians fascination with depth has certainly reached the overkill stage.

Indians Running Out Of Time With Aubrey

First baseman Michael Aubrey is as healthy as he has ever been.  This year marks his sixth year in the Indians player development system, and in his five previous seasons he has yet to make it through injury free.  Aubrey is also in his final option year, which Michael Aubreymeans next year when the Indians finish spring training Aubrey will have to either be on the Indians opening day 25-man roster or he will have to be put on waivers before he could be sent to the minors.  If he is still a productive hitter at that time, a team would likely claim him.

With his option clock about to expire and him currently in good health, to some it may be a mystery why the Indians chose to start Aubrey in Akron where he is now playing at for the fourth straight season.  Aubrey has been injured a lot of his time in Akron, but when healthy he has proven to be an effective hitter as shown by his .301 career batting average, 39 home runs and 178 RBI in 243 games coming into this season.  In any case, from the Indians point of view, they are not too worried about whether Aubrey is in Akron or Buffalo.  They believe Aubrey can play in the big leagues right now and will hit at Buffalo or Akron, but their number one goal for him right now is to prove he can stay healthy.

Some may say that because first baseman Jordan Brown is in Buffalo, it is keeping Aubrey back in Akron.  But that is not completely true, as the real player at Buffalo who is holding Aubrey back a level is first baseman and designated hitter Ryan Mulhern.  At some point this season, if Aubrey continues to stay healthy, the Indians will look to move him to Buffalo to get him at least a few Triple-A at bats and geared for a possible major league callup.  When that happens, it will be interesting to see what the Indians do with Brown and Mulhern.  Both Brown and Mulhern have experience playing in the outfield, so it is possible one (or both) could get more playing time out there to make room for Aubrey at first base or designated hitter.

Crowe To The DL, Head Activated

Akron outfielder Trevor Crowe was placed on the disabled list last Thursday retroactive to 4/6 with back tightness, and outfielder Stephen Head was called up from extended spring training to replace him on the roster.  After playing in Akron's first two games,Stephen Head Crowe had missed four straight games before the Indians decided to place him on the disabled list.  The back had been bothering him since spring training, and a report from the Akron Beacon Journal mentioned he may be out a few weeks with a bulging disk.

Head joins the team from extended spring training where he continued to rehab from offseason surgery to his right labrum.  Head is a converted first baseman who was moved to right field halfway through the season last year, and he will continue to play exclusively in the outfield for Akron.  This is his second stint in Akron, although he played in just 26 games with Akron last year hitting .276 with 3 HR and 18 RBI.

Head actually hurt his right shoulder last July when he was hit by a pitch.  The force from the beaning ended up jarring his shoulder where he ended up tearing the labrum in his right shoulder area.  It was not a complete tear and it was to his non-throwing shoulder so he was able to play through it the last two months of the season.  More impressively, at the same time he made the transition from first base to right field and handled the move well even though he was injured.  As soon as the season ended, Head had surgery on the shoulder and spent the rest of the offseason and spring training rehabbing it.  Head got a late start in spring training as he did not start hitting until the last two weeks of camp, so he was kept behind in extended spring training to continue getting his shoulder ready for game action.

Lofgren's Slide Continues

Akron ace left-hander Chuck Lofgren is off to an inauspicious start this season.  Coming into this season as the top left-hander in the Indians farm system and repeating at Akron it was expected Lofgren would show much improvement over his solid but not Chuck Lofgrenspectacular season last season at Akron when he went 12-7 with a 4.37 ERA.  That said, through three starts he has struggled.  A lot.

After surrendering four runs on seven hits and three walks in just 3.2 innings on Tuesday night, in three starts this year Lofgren is now 0-1 with a 6.92 ERA.  Opposing hitters are hitting .370 off him and he is averaging almost seven walks per nine innings.  This was not the kind of performance the Indians expected out of the gates from their prized lefty, so after the game on Tuesday night Lofgren was summoned into manager Mike Sarbaugh's office for a short closed door meeting.  The prognosis on Lofgren at the moment is he is fine physically, but he has been putting too much pressure on himself.

Lofgren is still only 22-years old and has a lot of room for growth.  However, after a sensational breakout season in 2006 at Kinston when he went 17-5 with a 2.32 ERA, he has been on a slow slide and has shown little improvement.  The learning curve last year seemed to start to slope downward and so far this year it has crashed and hit rock bottom.  The main goal right now will be getting his fastball command back as he has been all over the place.  If he cannot locate his fastball, the other pitches in his arsenal become virtually non-existent and ineffective.

Some may even say Lofgren is suffering from the disappointment of not starting the season in Triple-A Buffalo, although he knew going into spring training that he was most likely heading back to Akron to start the season.  So, he had more than enough time to focus and accept it and work on what he needs to do to improve so he can move up to Buffalo sometime this season.

Huffin And Puffin

It has been a mixed bag as far as results go for Akron left-hander David Huff so far in his Double-A debut this season.  Huff struggled in his first two starts going 4.0 innings and allowing three runs on five hits and two walks in his first start, and then in his second David Huffstart going just 4.2 innings and allowing four runs on six hits and no walks.  Huff came back strong in his third start last night and put up a very good effort and attacked hitters going five shutout innings and allowing three hits and two walks while striking out eight.

It has certainly been a learning process for Huff at Double-A so far as one of the early problems he has encountered is finishing hitters off.  Many times he has had hitters down in the count 0-2 or 1-2, but often gave up a hit in that count or let them battle back to work a hit or walk.  He has been throwing too many pitches to hitters and giving them too many opportunities to see his stuff.  The Indians would like to see Huff shore up his approach in this regard and be more aggressive in going right after hitters and let them get themselves out.  He needs to pitch to his strengths and not try to be so fine with his pitches.

Huff is a strike-thrower who has excellent command of his pitches.  His fastball consistently clocks in at 88-91 MPH, and his changeup is a plus pitch and ranked one of the best in the country coming into the draft.  While he does not overpower hitters, he has unbelievable confidence in his fastball, and commands it well working it to both sides of the plate and to the corners on all four quadrants.  He has the best fastball command in the entire system, and is a very polished pitcher.

Laffey Looking Strong

In three starts so far in Buffalo, Laffey has been brilliant in two of them and bad in the other.  His most recent start on Monday was Aaron LaffeyLaffey at his best as he went eight innings and allowed two runs on three hits and two walks while striking out six.  Once again, Laffey showcased the command and intelligence that makes him such an effective pitcher.  He had his entire three pitch mix working for him, and he mixed up the speed and location of all his pitches well all night.  He worked his slurvy breaking ball and sinker in and out all night, and kept the hitters honest by throwing his fastball in on their hands to the inside part of the plate so they could not dive into pitches out over the plate.

Laffey actually took a one-hit shutout into the eighth inning before tiring and allowing a two-run home run with two outs in the inning.  Laffey finished the night throwing 99 pitches, and recorded 13 of his 24 outs via the groundball.  In three starts, Laffey is now 2-1 with a 4.00 ERA and in 18 innings has allowed 20 hits and four walks while striking out 13.  He also has a 2.31 groundball to fly ball ratio.

Slocum If You Got ‘Em

Buffalo right-hander Brian Slocum is off to a good start in Buffalo.  In his last start on Saturday, Slocum gotBrian Slocum the win throwing five no-hit innings allowing no runs and one walk while striking out three.  On the season, in two starts Slocum is 1-0 with a 2.79 ERA.  The win was Slocum's first victory since April 29, 2007.

Slocum is once again battling back and recovering from an injury.  Over the years he has had a hard time staying healthy as he had a sore shoulder in 2001, bicep tendonitis in 2002, a ganglion cyst in his right wrist and a blister on his throwing hand in 2005, an elbow injury in 2006, and last year was sidelined with irritation in his elbow in May and never returned.

Slocum is healthy and ready to resume his role as a swing guy for the Indians this year. He has shown the versatility to where he can be a swing guy in that he can fill a need in the bullpen or as a starter when needed by the Indians in the future.  While he will not be an impact player by any means, the Indians appear to have faith that if a rash of injuries befalls the Indians starting rotation or bullpen that Slocum could step in and adequately fill the void.

Air Jordan

Jordan BrownFirst baseman Jordan Brown's Triple-A debut is off to a solid start.  In 14 games, he is hitting .291 with 0 HR, 8 RBI, and a .721 OPS.  Brown has been bothered by a little inconsistency where he has been all or nothing as he has seven multi-hit games, but has also taken the collar in seven games.  While the power has not shown itself yet (5 XBH), his outstanding approach at the plate has already been on display hitting the ball to all fields and he has only struck out six times while walking four times in 55 at bats.

Brown is one of the hardest workers in the system as he is not gifted with great physical abilities, but his outstanding work ethic and intelligence as a hitter more than make up for it.  While he is an accomplished hitter, Brown knows he has others areas in need of improvement.  One area in particular is with base-running where he is already improving at Buffalo reading pitchers and getting better jumps on the bases.  Another area is learning to understand and identify the way opposing pitchers are pitching to him and he has adapted well by keeping balls in the middle of the field.

Martin's Bullpen Returns Positive So Far

Right-hander J.D. Martin is currently undergoing a transition from the starting rotation to theJD Martin bullpen in Akron.  While he still prefers to be a starter, so far he has taken to the new bullpen role well as in four appearances he is 2-1 with a 3.72 ERA and in 9.2 innings has allowed eight hits and two walks while striking out seven.

Martin has battled various arm injuries throughout his minor league career, the biggest injury being the an ulnar collateral ligament tear that resulted in Tommy John surgery in 2005.  With Martin, it has always been about his health as his stuff is very good with a fastball that sits around 90 MPH and an unbelievable 12-6 curveball that is one of the best in the entire Indians system.  He also has excellent makeup, competes well, and is aggressive on the mound, so a bullpen role would seem to suit him nicely.  For now, the move to the bullpen is a short-term decision by the Indians as they try to protect Martin from injury, but if he continues to pitch well he could find a permanent home there.

Who Is This Guy?

While the bats in Cleveland and Buffalo have been most silent so far this season, no one's bat is hotter than infielder Andy Gonzalez.  He ranks in the top three in the International League in virtually every offensive category and was a minor league free agent signing by the Indians in the offseason.  He impressed with a nice spring by hitting .250 and led the Indians in home runs (5) and RBI (17).  He has not skipped a beat since starting the season in Buffalo as to date he is hitting .353 with 2 HR, 9 RBI and a 1.140 OPS.

If Gonzalez keeps this up, he will have to get serious consideration for a callup to Cleveland to fill a bench utility role.  He is a right-handed hitter who has a good approach at the plate, and he is extremely versatile.  Last year with the White Sox he hit only .185 in 67 games, but he played every position in the infield and outfield.  In Buffalo, he has been rotating between third base, shortstop and left field.

Affiliate Notebook

Buffalo BisonsBuffalo Notes (5-9, 4th place):  Infielder Andy Gonzalez was placed on the temporary inactive list earlier in the week so he could go home to Puerto Rico for the birth of a child, and catcher David Wallace was summoned from extended spring training to fill his roster spot in his absence. ... Outfielder Ben Francisco collected his first stolen base of the season the other night, which was the 49th steal of his Buffalo career good for 7th most in Buffalo modern day history.  In his career, Francisco has a .333 average in 115 games in Dunn Tire Park, which is just one point behind Kevin Young (.334) for the highest batting average in the 21-year history of the park. ... Left-hander Aaron Laffey's Buffalo winning streak come to an end last week.  Dating back to last year, Laffey had won ten consecutive decisions with Buffalo before losing to Richmond and allowing six runs in five innings. ... After going 0-4 in the season opener, infielder Danny Sandoval has collected at least one hit in his last nine games and on the season is hitting .270 with 0 HR, 2 RBI and a .614 OPS.  In 2005, Sandoval was the International League's batting champion with a .331 average with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. ... Second baseman Josh Barfield hit .344 on Buffalo's eight-game road trip to start the season, but since then he is just 2-for-21 and has gone hitless in his last 14 at-bats. ... Outfielder Brad Snyder is hitting .190 with 2 HR, 5 RBI and a .636 OPS.

Akron AerosAkron Aeros (5-7, 4th place):  Shortstop Josh Rodriguez is off to a slow start, but has picked it up of late.  After starting the season 1-for-21 he is 7-for-26 in his last six games and is now hitting .170 with 1 HR, 3 RBI, and a .491 OPS on the year.  Rodriguez has also gotten some time in at second base. ... When Indians reliever Joe Borowski went on the disabled list, it caused a series of moves that affected several levels in the minors.  Right-handed reliever Bubbie Buzachero was promoted to Buffalo to replace right-hander Tom Mastny who was called up to Cleveland, and right-hander Scott Roehl was activated from extended spring training to take Buzachero's place on the roster. ... Outfielder Stephen Head missed yesterday's game and is listed as day-to-day with a sore right wrist that he jammed sliding into third base on Tuesday. ... On Monday, first baseman Michael Aubrey's nine-game hitting streak came to an end.  On the season he is hitting .275 with 2 HR, 10 RBI, and a .819 OPS. ... Catcher Chris Gimenez is only hitting .238 (5-21) with 1 HR and 1 RBI, but he has a .926 OPS because of 11 walks (only five strikeouts) on the season already. ... First baseman Matt Whitney is hitting .319 (15-47) with 2 HR, 5 RBI and a .926 OPS. ... Outfielder Jose Constanza is struggling out of the gates and hitting only .089 (4-45) with 0 HR, 4 RBI, and a .301 OPS.

Kinston IndiansKinston Notes (2-7, 4th place):  The K-Tribe is off to an unusually slow April start as the last four Aprils they have busted out of the gates.  They have had winning records in each of the last four Aprils (2004 15-4, 2005 13-8, 2006 15-7, 2007 13-8), parlaying that into Southern Division first half titles in each of the last four seasons. ... Potomac's sweep of Kinston over the weekend was the first time Kinston had been swept in the first half of a Carolina League season in more than five seasons.  Kinston had not even lost three games in a row in April in the last five years. ... Left-hander Matt Meyer has been placed on the disabled list with a sore shoulder, and left-hander Dan Cevette has been activated from extended spring training to fill his spot. ... Right-hander Paolo Espino had a debut to forget on Friday as he gave up ten runs in 4.1 innings.  Espino bounced back last night to go five innings and allow only two runs on four hits while walking one and striking out six. ... Outfielder John Drennen had five walks on Monday night, and the Kinston team had 11 walks in total.  It was the second time this season Kinston has racked up double digit walks in a game, and they currently rank second in the league in walks with 53. ... K-Tribe sluggers Carlos Rivero, Beau Mills and Jared Goedert are off to great starts.  Rivero is hitting .385 with 0 HR, 8 RBI, and an .888 OPS, Mills is hitting .300 with 1 HR, 6 RBI and a .930 OPS, and Goedert is hitting .359 with 0 HR, 6 RBI and a .826 OPS. ... The Hardball Times recently did a nice analysis piece on Kinston outfielder Nick Weglarz's swing (the video they used is mine by the way)  ... Former Indians outfield prospect Mike Butia has signed with the Washington Wild Things of the independent Frontier League.

Lake County CaptainsLake County Captains (8-5, 2nd place):  In a doubleheader on Saturday, Lake County was shutout in both games and only mustered a total of nine hits in the two games.  Lake County followed the disappointing showing with their best offensive output of the season on Sunday when they erupted for a season high nine runs on fourteen hits. ... Last Thursday, left-hander Ryan Morris threw 5.1 innings of shutout baseball and only allowed two hits and no walks while striking out four.  On the season, Morris is now 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA in three starts. ... Right-handers Mike Pontius and Dallas Cawiezell have been dominating in the early going out of the bullpen as neither has allowed a run.  Pontius has thrown 9.1 shutout innings and only allowed four hits and four walks while striking out ten, and Cawiezell has thrown 8.1 shutout innings and allowed only five hits and two walks while striking out four. ... The Captains as a team are only hitting .241, good for eighth in the South Atlantic League (SAL).  They have only hit two home runs (last in the SAL), but have a 3.13 team ERA (5th in the SAL). ... On Tuesday, left-hander Kelvin De La Cruz showed he is human after all when he suffered his first loss of the season going 4.2 innings and allowing five runs on five hits, walking five and striking out two.  On the season he is 1-1 with a 3.68 ERA. ... Outfielder Matt Brown is having a potential breakout campaign so far, hitting .383 with 1 HR, 12 RBI, and a .974 OPS in 13 games. ... Shortstop Mark Thompson is 1 for his last 32, and on the year is hitting .065 with 0 HR, 6 RBI, and a .257 OPS.

Photos courtesy of Carl Kline

The TCF Forums