What’s It Like to Be Traded? Kendal Volz Explains
July 31, 2011
Every minor leaguer knows that trades are a part of baseball, but even when the hype amps up near the July 31st deadline, the vast majority of guys will be staying put. The odds that you are actually moving somewhere else are very slim.
A rather ordinary Saturday bus ride from Salem to Lynchburg became a career-altering journey for Kendal Volz, however, when Salem skipper Bruce Crabbe told the righthanded reliever that he had been included in Boston’s trade with Kansas City. Volz, who led the Salem Sox with 31 appearances in 2011, joined infielder Yamaico Navarro in a package for Royals infielder Mike Aviles.
“It’s been kind of crazy,” said Volz on Saturday afternoon after learning the news. “Bruce called me up and told me I was involved in trade. It’s a mix of emotions that I’m going through. It’s kind of bittersweet, [with] the bond that you’ve made with these teammates and these coaches and the whole organization. They’ve done everything to help me develop, and it’s been an outstanding organization to be in. But I’m just excited to join the Royals and see where I go from there.”
At the time of the deal, Volz, 23, had a 2-3 record with two saves and a 3.33 ERA in 51.1 innings. Perhaps the most impressive statistical measure was his strikeout to walk ratio (56 Ks and 12 BB), third best among Carolina League relievers. Working as a reliever has added a few extra notches to his fastball velocity following 2010, when he went 6-5 with 3.71 ERA with Low-A Greenville, pitching primarily as a starter.
“My arm’s bounced back to where it was,” explained Volz. “That’s encouraging for me. It’s been a little frustrating the last couple years cause I know what I had in the tank. With shoulder programs that they put us through, the workouts and throwing program, and working with [Salem Pitching Coach] Kevin Walker and [Red Sox Minor League Pitching Coordinator] Ralph [Treuel] to fine-tune the mechanics really helped everything work out.
“Coming out of the bullpen, it’s definitely a different experience, but I enjoyed it. Plus, you get to hang down in the bullpen with a great group of guys for most of the game.”
Volz, a native of San Antonio-suberb Bulverde, TX, was drafted in the ninth round back in 2009 out of Baylor. He inked his first professional contract with the Red Sox despite knowing very little about Boston’s baseball tradition.
“I’d heard things about how they were such a classy organization,” said Volz. “Signing with them, I was excited, and they lived up to everything. It’s been a great experience, the past two and a half years. Now, moving on, it’s a little awkward and a mix of emotions. It’s bittersweet, like I said, but it’s a great thing.”
Unsurprisingly, he does not have a wide array of knowledge about the Royals organization, but he also realizes that a new team could lead to a quicker path to the next level. At the same time, Volz knows that his own work-ethic and ability to make pitches will be the determining factor in his progress.
“They have a young team, so that’s encouraging, being a younger guy and perhaps getting some earlier opportunities to move in that organization,” said Volz. “But at the end of the day it comes down to your performance and really focusing on what you can control, and that’s always just what you do on the mound. That’s what I gotta take with me over there and just build off that.”
Volz will join the Wilmington Blue Rocks in Delaware, one of the other seven teams in the Carolina League and a foe that Salem will face seven more times this season. Has he begun thinking about how he will get his former teammates out?
“Not yet,” said Volz, with a laugh. “But I should know how since I’ve seen them have about 300 at-bats so far. But that’ll be a different kind of experience playing your team that you’ve played 110 games with so far, or however many we’ve played.
“But if that happens, it’ll be fun.”
After scoring six unanswered runs in the final two innings to prevail 6-3 on Saturday night, the Salem Sox send Anthony Ranaudo to the mound in the series finale against Lynchburg on Sunday night. With a win, the Sox would complete their season series against the Hillcats with 14 victories in 20 games.
Hope you can join Kevin and I for the radio broadcast at 6:05 on NewsTalk 960 WFIR and at www.salemsox.com. My trade value is nonexistent, and Kevin has a full no-trade clause, so we can guarantee our presence on the airwaves this evening.
As always, you can e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Talk to you soon,
Thirty-six games remain in 2011, and after tonight’s action we’ll have exactly 25% of the season left.
I’m a big fan of the phrase “luck meets preparation,” but it’s also hard to imagine an unluckier team than the Salem Sox since May 8. As game note #2 reveals below, the Sox are 16-45 in tilts decided by three runs or less since starting the season 20-7 overall.
And while this has made for many excruciatingly frustrating “what-if?” wonderings on post-game bus-rides, it also suggests that this team is very close to going on a pretty good tear. Entering Saturday night’s contest, Salem only trails first-place Winston-Salem by five games in the Southern Division second-half chase. The time for the turnaround, if it’s going to transpire, is now. Down five with 36 left is nothing. Down six and half with 25 left would be a good bit more substantial. Hopefully, Salem can earn their 13th win in 19 meetings with Lynchburg tonight.
And hopefully you can join us for the journey. Kevin Burke and I will have the call from City Stadium at 6:05 tonight on NewsTalk 960 WFIR and on www.salemsox.com.
Talk to you soon,
P.S. Predict how many RBI Dan Butler will have in tonight’s game by leaving a comment, and you could win an extraordinary Salem Red Sox Price Pack Experience Extravaganza!
July 30, 2011 6:05 PM Salem Red Sox(45-58, 14-20) vs Lynchburg Hillcats(42-62, 12-22) Game #104
Lynchburg City Stadium Lynchburg, VA Road Game #53
Probable Starters: LHP Drake Britton (1-10, 7.17) vs RHP David Hale (2-4, 3.75)
Late-Game Drama: Friday night’s 8-7 loss was the fourth straight game that Salem was tied with its foe at some point in the seventh inning, but three of those four tilts have concluded as one-run losses. The opener in Lynchburg unfolded as a carbon copy of the finale in Frederick, with the home team scoring the winning run with two outs in the bottom of the eighth. For the entire 2011 season, Salem is winless in 45 tries when trailing after eight innings.
Ones That Got Away: Believe it or not, on May 8, Salem had a 12-3 record in games decided by three runs or less. At 20-7 overall, the Sox were the best club in the Carolina League, largely thanks to their timely execution and good fortune in these nailbiters. Alas, since that date, the luck has drastically turned. All four of the defeats on the current road trip have come by slim margins. The Red Sox are 28-44 in games decided by three runs or less for the season, meaning that they are 16-45 in these close calls since May 8. Incredibly, despite sitting at 13 games below .500, the Salem Sox have outscored their opponents 442-440 for the season, a product of their 10-4 record in games decided by six runs or more.
Butler’s Brilliance: For Salem Sox backstop Dan Butler, playing Lynchburg has led to unparalleled production in 2011. Currently second in the circuit with 66 RBI, more than 36% percent of his RBI production has come against the Hillcats. With four more driven home on Friday night, Butler now has 24 RBI against Salem’s Route 460 rival, along with four homers and six doubles. Overall, Butler is batting .288 vs. the Hillcats, with a .425 on-base percentage and a .593 slugging percentage. His OBP and slugging numbers against Lynchburg would be tops in the league if they were sustained against everyone.
Monthly Matters: With two more days remaining in July, the Red Sox need 11 runs to match their greatest scoring month of the season. The Sox scored 131 runs in April and currently sit at 120 in July. Salem scored below 100 in both May and June, months in which the Sox won just nine games each. After a 7-3 start to July, the Sox are just 4-12 in the last 16 games.
Pressly The Impressive: Salem starter Ryan Pressly issued walks to the first three batters he faced on Thursday afternoon, then mowed down 14 of the next 15 to complete five scoreless, hitless innings. Remarkably, it was the third time in his career that he had tossed at least four no-hit innings. In his fourth professional appearance with the GCL Red Sox on July 8, 2008, he dealt four hitless frames in relief against the GCL Orioles, earning the victory. He dominated again on May 16, 2010 with the Greenville Drive, striking out eight over five no-hit innings in relief of Kendal Volz against the Lexington Legends, an Astros affiliate. In his four year professional career, he has pitched five or more scoreless innings on eight different occasions, including three times for Salem in 2011. His performance on Thursday trimmed his ERA to 4.28 and gave him seven straight outings that have lasted at least five innings.
It’s a great day to be at the beach, but I’ll have to settle for Salem Red Sox Baseball and Beach Boys’ themed game notes…
Hope you’re tolerating the heat and appreciating that it’s better than shoveling snow…
Salem and Lynchburg kick off the middle-matchup of their series in about 90 minutes, with the Sox gunning for their third win in a row! Below, your pregame primer of minutiae… Enjoy!
July 22, 2011 7:05 PM Lynchburg Hillcats (39-58, 9-18) Salem Red Sox (43-53, 12-15) Game #97
LewisGale Field Salem, VA Home Game #50
Probable Starters: RHP Aaron Shafer (3-2, 2.45) vs RHP Ryan Pressly (5-9, 4.45)
Catch A Wave: With the temperatures creeping towards triple digits, the Red Sox are trying to stay hot with the weather. After dropping seven straight, Salem has won two in a row, collecting 20 hits in the past two nights in wins over Frederick and Lynchburg. In Thursday’s 7-1 triumph over the Hillcats, Salem crushed a pair of two-run homers, the first two blasts the Sox have had in a week. Previously, Miles Head’s two-run homer on Thursday, July 14 was the last ball to leave the yard for Salem. While the Sox sit at 12-15 in the second half, in last place in the Southern Division, they only trail first-place Kinston by four games in a chase for the second half crown.
Good Vibrations: All season long, Bryce Brentz has proven to be one of the top sluggers in the Red Sox organization. After a 10-game stretch without a homer, Brentz blasted a two-run shot in the last of the fourth on Thursday, surging Salem to an advantage it would not relinquish. The round-tripper was Brentz’ 10th with Salem, most on the team this year, and his 21st overall, second-most in the Sox system, trailing only former Salem catcher Ryan Lavarnway, who belted his 26th homer yesterday. Brentz hit 11 bombs in 170 at-bats over 40 games with Greenville. Since being promoted to the Carolina League on May 21, he has launched 10 dingers in 122 at-bats, a rate unmatched by anyone in the circuit.
Good Timin’: Red Sox outfielder Shannon Wilkerson connected on a fifth-inning double on Thursday night, one of his two hits in the ballgame, to extend his consecutive games on-base streak to 18. During the streak, the Red Sox outfielder is hitting .304, with an OBP of .351. Only Reynaldo Rodriguez, who reached base in 21 straight games in April and May and has since been promoted to Portland, has a longer on-base streak on Salem this season. Wilkerson, who celebrated his 23rd birthday on Wednesday, has hits in 13 of his last 14 games, raising his season average from .210 to .238.
God Only Knows: Despite being 10 games under .500 for the full season, the Salem Sox are one of just three teams in the Carolina League with a positive run differential. The Red Sox, plagued by 40 losses of three runs or less, have the second fewest wins in the league this season. But Salem is 10-4 in games decided by six runs or more, outscoring foes 417-409 in 2011.
Fun, Fun, Fun: It’s not supposed to be this easy. But since arriving from Greenville, Salem righthander Chris Martin has been nearly flawless while dominating Carolina League hitters. After going 4-0 with a 2.17 ERA with the Drive, Martin has not yet allowed a run in 18 and a third innings with the Salem Sox. For the full season, Martin is 4-0 with a 1.33 ERA with four saves, having allowed just seven earned runs in 47.1 innings pitched. His results speak for themselves, but their significance becomes even greater when you consider that Martin was out of baseball for the previous four years after injuring his labrum in junior college. He returned to baseball with the independent Grand Prairie AirHogs in July of 2010, while the Red Sox signed him during spring training this past March.
Can we abolish the win-loss record?
No, I’m not asking to stop keeping track of team victories and defeats–though, with the Salem Sox currently losers of seven straight, that is tempting as well. I’d prefer if we no longer introduced a starting pitcher by saying he is 10-6 or 5-10 or 1-4. Particularly in minor league baseball, win-loss records are rarely indicative of someone’s success.
Through eight starts with Salem in 2009, Casey Kelly was 1-4. Anthony Ranaudo, who will make his ninth start (but just his third at LewisGale Field) tonight, is also 1-4 through eight.
Certainly, Ranaudo has room for impovement, having pitched to a 4.47 ERA thus far in a Salem jersey. But even that four and a half number is deceptive and does not entirely represent the majority of his work.
Digest this nugget: Ranaudo has allowed 22 earned runs in 44.1 innings. Half of those 22 runs have come in his final fraction of a frame, aggregating over five of his eight starts. Obviously, Ranaudo needs to do a better job at finishing his outings and one cannot simply exempt these runs from his overall performance. But at the same time, he’s very close to having an ERA much closer to two and a half than four and a half.
With Boston, Pawtucket, and Portland all playing this afternoon, I hope you’ll consider joining me on the radio at 7:05 to check in on Ranaudo, Bryce Brentz, Kolbrin Vitek, and the rest of the Salem Sox. We’re live just after 7 PM on NewsTalk 960 WFIR in the Roanoke Valley and streaming internationally on salemsox.com and milb.com.
Shoot me an e-mail at email@example.com if you’re listening and I’ll likely give you an appreciative shout-out!
Thanks for reading,
P.S. Enjoy today’s game notes…
July 21, 2011 7:05 PM Frederick Keys (57-37, 16-9) Salem Red Sox (41-53, 10-15) Game #95
LewisGale Field Salem, VA Home Game #48
Probable Starters: LHP Nathan Moreau (10-6, 3.80) vs RHP Anthony Ranaudo (1-4, 4.47)
Unpleasant Memories: For the second time in 2011, the Salem Red Sox are mired in a seven-game losing streak. But if history repeats itself, the Red Sox will snap the skid tonight and win three of the next four overall. After losing seven straight at home from May 13-19, the Sox took two out of three in Winston and then prevailed in the opener in Myrtle Beach on May 24. Since the Sox returned to the Roanoke Valley in 2009, the longest losing streak is eight, which occurred from July 25 through August 1 in 2009. Five members of the Salem roster during that skid have been to the major leagues in the past two years: Robert Coello, Luis Exposito, Daniel Nava, Anthony Rizzo, and Kyle Weiland, who started for Boston yesterday.
Mercy: The Sox need to figure out Frederick, and fast. After winning three of the first five meetings of the season against the Keys, the Red Sox have been owned by their fellow American League East-affiliate. Since May 27, the Keys have won all ten meetings against the Sox, the longest ever streak of Frederick over Salem. Seven of the ten losses have been by three runs or less. The Sox and Keys are in game four of a stretch in which they play one another eight times in 11 days. The two clubs will reunited for a four-game series in Frederick, beginning this coming Monday.
Happy Birthday, Shannon: Salem center-fielder Shannon Wilkerson celebrates his 23rd birthday on Wednesday, one day removed from the conclusion of his 11-game hitting streak. While Wilkerson went 0-2 with a walk on Tuesday night, he was able to extend his consecutive games on base streak to 16, which is currently tied for the third-longest active streak in the league and the second longest for any Salem Sock in 2011. Only Reynaldo Rodriguez, who reached base in 21 straight games from April 12 to May 2, has a longer streak than Wilkerson, who’s hitting .286 in his last 16 games.
Feliz Cumpleaños, Jorge: Salem left-fielder Jorge Padron, two years senior to Wilkerson, also celebrates his birthday on Wednesday. On the eve of his 25th, Padron bagged his fourth three-hit game with Salem. The performance raised his average to .312 in 19 games since joining the squad on June 29.
The Bayou Bengal’s Ready for Another Bulldog: For his second straight start, Salem righty Anthony Ranaudo, who pitched three years at LSU, will square off against a former Georgia Bulldog. Last Friday, it was Myrtle Beach’s Justin Grimm, while tonight Ranaudo faces Frederick’s Nathan Moreau, who tossed a no-hitter at LewisGale Field in his Carolina League debut on June 30, 2010.
Rock Star Reliever: Salem righthander Chris Martin, who shares a name with the lead singer of Coldplay, continues to make a name for himself by dominating Carolina League hitters. After going 4-0 with a 2.17 ERA in Greenville, Martin has not yet allowed a run in 14 and a third innings with the Salem Sox. For the full season, Martin is 4-0 with a 1.45 ERA with three saves, having allowed just seven earned runs in 43.1 innings pitched.
By Evan Lepler
July 14, 2011
Red Sox fans are the most knowledgeable in baseball, but it is doubtful that many, if any, have heard of Chris Martin. That is understandable, for most scouting services fail to comb through appliance warehouses in Arlington, Texas, in search of guys who can throw baseballs 95 miles per hour. But Martin, a 6’7” righty who effortlessly throws mid-90s heat, stands on the verge of completing the unprecedented transition: A little more than a year ago, he was the really tall guy in the appliance store; now, he is the most underrated prospect in the Boston Red Sox organization.
“It was not fun at all,” says Martin, the 25-year-old Texan, about his time working in the warehouse near his home. “I stocked, I got customers their appliances, I loaded them up, I installed them. That’s pretty much it… I didn’t think I’d ever play again.”
Martin’s baseball career had been cut short by injury and missed opportunity. He was drafted by the Tigers out of high school in 2004 and by the Rockies after his first year at McLennan Community College in 2005, but never signed a professional contract. As a sophomore, he suffered from a minor fraying of his labrum, a condition that necessitated surgery, seemingly derailing his chances to ever capitalize on his massive raw potential.
“I hung it up,” he said. “It was a pretty rough time. But I had family and friends that were on my side and got me back in the game.”
He turned to a local men’s league to reenter the baseball realm. A friend had been bugging him to give it a try, so he showed up, pitched one inning, threw nine fastballs, and struck out the side. Immediately, he knew that he could pursue a higher level of competition.
He saw an ad in the local paper for tryouts with the nearby independent ballclub, the Grand Prairie AirHogs, of the American Association. Even though the season was already half over, Martin gave it a shot and inked his first professional baseball contract, which was worth $800 a month, a significant pay cut relative to his job in the warehouse. Managed by former major league infielder Pete Incaviglia, Martin went 4-0 with a 1.96 ERA in 13 games for the AirHogs, flashing command and velocity that were uncommon attributes for such an unknown .
“I had no idea how hard I was gonna throw,” said Martin. “It was a lot of fun, something that got my feet wet in professional ball. I feel like it was pretty decent talent and it got me ready for affiliated ball.”
But a pathway that veered toward the Boston Red Sox organization was never a given. After compiling the sterling numbers, Martin returned to the appliance warehouse for the fall, unsure whether an opportunity would present itself. He worked, and he waited.
Baseball scouts are naturally skeptical. They hear many tall tales of mythical fastballs, only to arrive at a country schoolyard and witness far less zip than they had been initially led to believe. When Red Sox pro scout Jaymie Bane first was called about Martin, that common skepticism surfaced.
“Pete [Incaviglia] called me and said ‘you need to see this guy,’” explained Bane. “He said he came at the halfway point of last year and he was throwing 94-95. We hear that a lot, by the way.
“He basically goes, ‘Jaymie, I want you to sign this kid. I don’t want anyone else to sign him. I trust you to do what you guys will do with him the right way.”
Bane responded by saying that the Red Sox had a workout coming up in Fort Myers, and Martin was welcome to attend if he could afford the trip. Believing in himself, Martin paid for his own plane ticket and journeyed to the Red Sox minor league complex in Florida.
“It was nervewracking,” Martin recalls. “I didn’t know what to expect, but I kinda went out there and did the best that I could…They pulled me in the office after I threw and said they would give me a shot in spring training, and I guess I did well in spring training so they signed me at the end.”
As you might expect, the Red Sox did their homework on Martin before inviting him to try out.
“The research was done before we brought him to Florida,” said Bane. “We talked to the high school coach, talked to the junior college coach, talked to the summer coach, talked to everyone we could find who knew the kid. What’s going on? Why is this kid with such a good arm just sitting there? And everything checked out.
“He was a little bit green [when we saw him throw for the first time], but he had never pitched in front of scouts and player development people. We made a couple of suggestions to him about his mechanics and he did them and kept repeating them and kept getting better as spring training went on.”
Two weeks before his 25th birthday, Martin made his Red Sox organizational debut with the Low-A Greenville Drive, tossing two and two-thirds hitless innings out of the bullpen and earned the victory. Five days later, he dealt four shutout frames out of the pen, surrendering just one hit, to improve to 2-0. On June 24, he made his first start, blanking Lexington for six dominant innings and making it clear he was once again superior to his league.
Martin was promoted to Salem on June 29, still very much an unknown despite his solid numbers in the South Atlantic League. After all, as a 25-year-old pitcher, most of his opponents were far younger than he at that level.
But in just a few weeks in the Advanced-A circuit, Martin has shattered any expectations that even the most optimistic speculator might have had. Through five appearances in the Carolina League, Martin has pitched 11.2 innings without allowing a single run, striking out seven and only walking one, and routinely touching 96 miles per hour on the radar gun. The fans, his teammates, his coaches, and most of all, the opposing hitters have been blown away.
“I’m speechless to a point,” says Salem Manager Bruce Crabbe, “because this guy came from a tryout camp and is, knock-on-wood, head and shoulders above what we’ve seen here in this league as far as stuff goes, presence on the mound, and the way he pitches. He pitches with a downhill plane, pounds the strike zone with above-average stuff, and he’s as poised as can be for multiple-inning stints.
“I just hope I’m not jinxing him because it’s unbelievable what I’ve seen so far.”
Bane has not seen Martin pitch in person for Salem, but from reading the reports and witnessing the results, amazed does not begin to describe the feeling of astonishment.
“He’s never pitched professionally before, so it’s very surprising,” explains Bane. “Not surprising because of the stuff he has. It’s surprising because he’s never done it before, and he’s doing it in High-A, having pitched a little bit in junior college, men’s league, and a quarter to half a season independent ball, and now straight into High-A. I don’t care what his age is, his experience level is not 25 years old.”
Salem starter Ryan Pressly grew up in the same area in Texas, but had never met Martin until he joined the club in late June. Like the rest of teammates, Pressly has been overwhelmed at times by Martin’s ability.
“I never saw him in spring training,” said Pressly. “I do know that when I saw him throw in the bullpen, it definitely caught my eye. I was like, ‘wow, this guy is pretty good.’ When he took the mound and was sitting 94-96 with movement, it definitely raises a few eyebrows.”
One of the reasons Martin was initially directed to the Red Sox organization by Incaviglia was based on Boston’s success with players who have spent time in independent leagues. Bane also signed Robert Coello, who transformed from a catcher to a pitcher and made six appearances with Boston last season. Could Martin become the second independent ball pitcher signed by Bane to make the big leagues?
“He’s got a really good arm,” said Bane. “He’s just gonna have to keep going through and moving up the ladder and proving himself at every level.
“It’s a really neat story, and he’s a neat kid too.”
The closer he gets to the big leagues, the more and more fans will begin to realize how improbable a journey Martin has traveled. When he was in Greenville, one individual approached him and asked if he could write the book on his story.
“I think he was joking,” says Martin, with a chuckle.
If he makes it to Fenway, that book could be a New England bestseller.
July 10, 2011 4:05 PM Winston-Salem Dash (40-46, 8-8) vs Salem Red Sox (39-46, 8-8) Game #86
LewisGale Field Salem VA Home Game #43
Probable Starters: RHP Jake Petricka (0-2, 3.68) vs LHP Chris Hernandez (7-5, 3.01)
Bronze Blowout: With so many close games in the past couple months, you have to go all the way back to April to find a Salem victory by as wide a margin as Saturday night’s 9-1 score. For the entire season, last night’s contest ranked third in the largest triumph category for the Sox, only topped by April 18 and April 27. On the 18th, the Red Sox clobbered the Hillcats 16-5 at City Stadium behind seven Dan Butler RBI, one of his pair of seven-RBI games against the Hillcats. On the 27th, the Sox dominated the K-Tribe 16-6 at City Stadium in the opening game of a doubleheader, scoring 10 runs in the second inning alone to improve to 12-4 on the season. Saturday’s eight-run romp over Winston earns the bronze medal in dominant wins, with Salem scoring in five of their eight offensive innings.
Pistol Pete: Red Sox righthander Pete Ruiz authored his fourth quality start of the season on Saturday, second on the squad only to Ryan Pressly, who has five quality starts on the year. Ruiz stands out because of his dominance against Winston-Salem (2-0 w/ a 2.45 ERA in four starts vs the Dash) and his remarkable ability to keep the ball in the yard. Ruiz has faced 348 batters this season and not served up a single long ball. Only three other Carolina League pitchers have faced over 100 batters and not allowed a homer this season, with no one reaching close to the same stratosphere as Ruiz. Myrtle Beach’s Justin Grimm has not yielded a homer in 183 batters, the second-most that someone has faced without allowing a bomb. Wilmington’s Brendan Lafferty has faced 163 and Winston’s Matt Wickswat has seen 119 without giving up dingers.
Back to .500: Following an 0-5 start the second half, the Salem Sox have run off eight wins in the last 11 games to even the record at 8-8 heading into Sunday’s action. The Red Sox have hit .274 (102-for-372) as a team in the last 11 games, scoring 57 runs, an average of 5.2 per contest. The pitching staff has allowed only 37 earned runs in the last 11 games, nearly a third of which came on July 2 when the Salem arms surrendered 12 earned runs in the 12-10, 10-inning loss in Winston-Salem. Overall, Salem has pitched to a 3.38 ERA in the past 11 contests, a figure that shrinks to 2.53 if you omit the 12-run explosion for the Dash offense eight days ago. Since that game, Salem has won four straight over Winston-Salem and now has a 6-5 record against the Dash on the season.
Baserunning Brilliance: It has taken just 85 games for the 2011 Salem Sox to steal more bases than either Salem squad thieved in each of the past two seasons. Zach Gentile’s swipe in the third inning on Saturday night gave Salem 94 steals for the year, bettering the inaugural edition of the Salem Sox, who bagged 93 steals in 2009. Last year, the Red Sox only stole 89 bases in the entire season. Only Potomac has achieved more stolen bases than Salem in the circuit thus far in 2011, and the Red Sox are the only Carolina League squad with five players possessing double-digit swipes. Peter Hissey leads the team with 20, while Derrik Gibson and Jeremy Hazelbaker each own 12. Shannon Wilkerson and Kolbrin Vitek have ten apiece and are a combined 20-for-21 in stolen base attempts.
Happy Fourth of July! Hope your holiday is relaxing and safe!
On America’s 235th birthday, allow me a quick sentence or two to thank you for all your support throughout the season. For all of the avid listeners to those of you who casually check out the blog or occassionally read the tweets, it is hard to express how grateful I am for the legions of Red Sox fans who care so much about their team and the farm system.
Meanwhile, a severe weather warning has been implemented for excessive thunder in North Carolina, a result of Bryce Brentz swinging a baseball bat as powerfully as anyone else in minor league baseball at the moment. Brentz has homered eight times in just 68 Carolina League at-bats, and he has gone yard five times in his last 28 at-bats. Dash pitchers can search for umbrellas, but the storm of power continues to gain momentum. Throw strikes to Brentz at your own risk…
Pete Ruiz looks to build on his best performance of the season in tonight’s tilt against Winston-Salem, a 7:05 start from BB&T Ballpark. Kevin and I will have the call for ya, beginning just after 7:00 PM on NewsTalk 960 WFIR and salemsox.com.
Happy Independence Day from your broadcaster and friend,
P.S. Hope you enjoy today’s game notes.
July 4, 2011 7:05 PM Salem Red Sox (35-45, 4-7) vs Winston-Salem Dash (38-42, 6-4) Game #81
BB&T Ballpark Winston-Salem, NC Road Game #42
Probable Starters: RHP Pete Ruiz (4-3, 3.90) vs LHP Brad Furnish (0-0, –)
Timelier Than Paul Revere: The Red Sox are coming! The Red Sox are coming! For just the fourth time in 80 games, the Salem Sox brought first-rate clutch hitting to the ballpark on Sunday night, going 5-for-9 with runners in scoring position in the 7-4 victory over Winston-Salem. Previously, Salem had batted above .500 with runners in scoring position only three times, none since May 31. Salem with 4-for-7 in clutch situations on May 31 in a 12-10 loss to Lynchburg. Before that, the Sox delivered seven hits in 11 at-bats with runners in scoring position in their 16-6 win over Kinston on April 27. Additionally, on the opening weekend of the season, Salem went 4-for-6 in the second game of its Sunday doubleheader vs. Frederick, with one of those four hits being Vladimir Frias’ walk-off single that scored Shannon Wilkerson from third, giving the Sox their first win of 2011. For the entire season, Salem’s hitting .261 with runners in scoring position, third in the league behind Myrtle Beach and Wilmington.
Jefferson Would Be Proud: Much like the primary author of the U.S. Constitution, Bryce Brentz continues to routinely knock it out of the park. Last night, the Salem slugger went deep for the fourth time in the last five games and the fifth time in the last seven. His three-run bomb in the fifth inning surged Salem to a comfortable four-run lead and proved to be the difference in the 7-4 triumph. When Brentz was promoted to the Advanced-A level, he joined Salem in Winston and bopped homers in each of his first two games. After a three week absence with a wrist injury, Brentz’ pop has returned to Winston, as he has now homered once in all four games he has played at BB&T Ballpark. The 22-year old from Knoxville has hit in seven straight games, a stretch in which he is hitting .357 (10-for-28), with five homers and nine RBI.
The Melting Pot of America’s Pastime: Baseball is often a reflection of society, with numerous people from different cultures and backgrounds working and contributing to a larger ideal. In the past week, Salem received two new internationally-born players that have quickly made a positive impact on the Sox’ quest for victories. Infielder Alex Valdez, a native of Santo Domingo in the Dominican, had hit in five straight games for Salem, going 6-for-18 (.333) with four RBI and three stolen bases. Meanwhile, Jorge Padron, a native of Cuba who now resides in Cancun, Mexico, mustered three hits, including two doubles, on Sunday night, raising his average from .167 to .261 (6-for-23). Impressively, four of Padron’s six hits have come against left-handed pitching.
On This Day We Remember: America’s 235th birthday brings baseball and fireworks, and Salem hopes to replicate its offensive performance from July 4, 2010 in tonight’s contest. Last year, Salem received five multi-hit performances in a 10-4 thrashing of Myrtle Beach. Will Middlebrooks drove in three runs, while Peter Hissey and Ryan Lavarnway each contributed two RBIs. Two years ago, in the inaugural season of Salem Sox baseball, Salem fell 3-2 in Myrtle Beach on Independence day, a game that included three players who are in the major leagues two years later: Salem’s Yamaico Navarro and Anthony Rizzo and Myrtle’s Craig Kimbrel.
Bad news: NBA Lockout
Good news: NBA Jam remains one of the greatest video games ever
Best news: Salem has won three straight, prompting NBA Jam-themed game notes… ENJOY!
July 1, 2011 7:05 PM Salem Red Sox (34-43, 3-5) vs Wilmington Blue Rocks (39-38, 3-5) Game #78
Frawley Stadium Wilmington, DE Road Game #39
Probable Starters: RHP Ryan Pressly (4-7, 4.54) vs LHP Justin Marks (3-5, 4.97)
They’re On Fire!: In old school NBA Jam parlance, three straight wins qualifies the Red Sox to revel in their hotness until the opponent delivers a counter-punch to snap the streak. Salem began the second half with five consecutive losses, but the Sox have rebounded with three straight wins, in which they’ve outscored their foes 14-3. It’s Salem’s first three-game winning streak since May 5, 6, and 7, when the Sox beat the Pelicans three in a row at LewisGale Field to reach 20-7 on the season. With a win tonight, Salem can earn its first series sweep since April 18-20, when the Sox banged out 42 hits in three victories over the Lynchburg Hillcats.
Boom Shaka-Laka!: After a short slump following his return from a wrist injury, right-fielder Bryce Brentz has quickly reasserted himself as one of the top power prospects in the Boston organization. Brentz has bopped homers in each of the last two games and three in the last five tilts overall. The past two nights, Brentz pounded two dingers and two more shots that likely would have been bombs in three-quarters of the Carolina League parks, but unfortunately not in Wilmington’s Frawley Stadium. Even still, Brentz is 4-8 with a double, two homers, and four RBI in the two Red Sox wins in Delaware to finish June. On the season, the former Middle Tennessee State slugger has 17 round-trippers and 47 RBI in 54 games between Greenville and Salem.
They’re Heating Up!: The Red Sox may only be hitting .257 (36-for-140) over the past four games, but Salem’s offense appears to be finding a groove that hasn’t been felt since April. The Red Sox have at least eight hits in each of the past four games, the first time since April 23-27 that Salem has delivered eight or more knocks in four straight. Salem still hit a league-worst .226 in June, a month in which the Sox finished 9-18.
KaBoom: Reliever Kendal Volz delivered an overwhelming haymaker to the Blue Rocks in the late innings on Wednesday, striking out five Rocks consecutively to help guide Salem to victory. Volz induced a pair of fly-outs to left-field before beginning his quintet of Ks, striking out a pair to the end the seventh before whiffing the side in the eighth. The five punchouts were a season high, but not a career best, for Volz. In 2010, the righthander struck out five or more six different times, including a season-high of seven on May 16 in Lexington.
Overtime Performance: On Wednesday night, Salem starter Pete Ruiz became the first Red Sox hurler to complete seven innings in 2011. The righthander rebounded from his shortest outing of the year when he went just two and two-thirds on June 24, dealing seven scoreless to pick up his fourth win of the season. It was the second time in Ruiz’ career that he tossed seven scoreless innings, along with July 27, 2010 in Rome, Georgia. On that day, Ruiz dealt a complete-game gem in a doubleheader contest against the Braves, one of just two CG’s that Greenville accomplished in 2010 (Yeiper Castillo, May 4, 1-0 loss in rain-shortened game).