With Salem leading 6-0 in the last of the second last night, Lynchburg’s Chris Garcia led off first base and Matt Weaver clubbed a deep fly to center. As he so often has done this year, Jackie Bradley, Jr. casually ranged back toward the wall, seemingly unsure as to whether he’d be able to make the play. Frankly, Jackie has a knack for making it appear like he doesn’t even know where the ball is sometimes.
Of course, he knew all along. He showed off his outrageous vertical leap at the 16-foot wall, jumping at the absolute perfect time, and to the amazement of even those who had seen it before and expected Jackie to come through, the ball found the sweet pocket of his glove. I wasn’t surprised that he made the catch, but the lack of shock did not make it any less spectacular.
But the play was not over. Remember the runner on first base? Garcia was about halfway to third when Bradley soared for the squeeze. Immediately after the catch, less than a second after landing with the ball, Jackie uncorked a mesmerizing, majestic throw. He did not wind up, he did not set his feet, he barely had hit the ground by the time the ball left his hands! And from the warning track in center field, he launched it over the head of first baseman Drew Hedman, who was standing on the base awaiting the conclusion of the presumably in the bag double play.
The ball hopped once in foul territory and bounced into the first row. E-8, it seemed, a startling turn of events after the superhuman catch and the Olympic throw. Garcia had never even made it all the way back to first base, but the umpires awarded him third, and he meandered to that station, taking a direct line route from the baseline between first and second. Yep, he never touched second base.
The Red Sox appealed to second, and the base umpire said he was safe. Billy McMillon stormed out of the Red Sox dugout, arguing that Garcia should be out. The applicable rule, we read after the fact, was Rule 7.05(i): The fact a runner is awarded a base or bases without liability to be put out does not relieve him of the responsibility to touch the base he is awarded and all intervening bases.”
The umpires conversed and overturned the initial decision, calling Garcia out! It ended the inning and it relieved Bradley of the throwing error because, technically, the baserunner never advanced to second and there was no reason to charge Bradley with the miscue.
Between the catch, the throw, and the aftermath (Lynchburg also vociferously argued the ultimate decision to no avail), it was a head-shaking, jawdropping sequence that just made you say WOW.
I wonder what’s gonna happen tonight…
May 31, 2012 6:05 PM Salem Red Sox (28-21) vs Lynchburg Hillcats (28-22) Game #50
Lynchburg City Stadium Lynchburg, VA Road Games #27
Probable Starters: RHP Brandon Workman (2-2, 4.15) vs RHP Gus Schlosser (6-2, 3.80)
Domination: Salem outscored Lynchburg 13-4 on Wednesday and did not allow an earned run in the final 10 innings of the double-dip. The pair of wins brought the Sox to 16-11 in May, the best record in the Carolina League this month. With 21 games remaining in the first half, the Red Sox trail the first-place Dash by just one game in the loss column and two games overall. Salem and Winston meet four more times in the half, with the Sox hosting the Dash for four games at LewisGale Field beginning on Monday, June 4.
First-Inning Fun: For the first time since May 17, the Salem Sox scored first in game two of Wednesday’s doubleheader, pounding Hillcats starter Ronan Pacheco for five runs in the opening frame. On the year, the Red Sox have outscored their opponents 42-21 in the first inning, and Salem has scored five or more runs in the first inning three different times. Prior to last night’s nightcap, however, the Sox had failed to score the first run in 11 consecutive games after plating the first tally 24 times in the first 47. Overall, the Red Sox have scored the first run slightly more than half the time, 25 times in 49 games.
Once in a Blue Moon: Jackie Bradley Jr.’s game one performance on Wednesday was disorienting. After all, it was just the third time all season that he failed to reach base in a ballgame. He went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts in game one, but quickly avenged himself with a hit and a walk in the nightcap. He also made a superhuman leaping catch at the wall in center to rob Lynchburg’s Chris Garcia of extra bases in the second inning of game two. Bradley’s .358 average is still tops in the league, as is his .484 on-base percentage.
Glass Joes: Over the course of the double-dip, the Hillcats hitters repeatedly went down like the first round character in the classic video game “Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out.” Matt Barnes whiffed eight in four innings, Ruben Flores struck out five in three, Drake Britton K’d seven in six, and Keith Couch added two more punchouts in the final frame of the day. All told, Salem hurlers struck out 22 Hillcats in 14 innings.
Depends on Your Perspective: By Matt Barnes’ outrageously high standards, Wednesday’s performance was a bit baffling, allowing three runs in six hits in four innings. But he still struck out two batters per frame and the Red Sox won 6-3. In five Carolina League starts, Barnes has gone 2-1 with a 1.93 ERA, with 36 strikeouts and three walks. Overall, in ten pro starts, Barnes is 4-1 with a 1.15 ERA, with 78 strikeouts and seven walks, having allowed just seven runs in 54.2 innings pitched. Barnes is next scheduled to pitch on Monday against Winston-Salem.
Dazzling Drake: For the first time in 36 career Carolina League outings, Drake Britton tossed six scoreless innings on Wednesday night. After only winning twice in his first 34 appearances in the CL, the lefthander has won back-to-back starts, the first time in his career that he has earned the win in consecutive outings.
Ryan Kalish is well aware that baseball careers are precious.
“I want to get back to the big leagues and prove I can do it again,” he says. “But for now, I’m just grateful that I’m able to play. You hear about guys’ careers and how injuries can shorten them, and obviously, mine’s one of them so far. You never know when your last game is gonna be.”
He reached the big leagues in 2010 at age 22 and became the youngest member of the Red Sox to belt a grand slam since Tony Conigliario did it in August of ’65. After undergoing two serious surgeries since his impressive rise through the Red Sox system, Kalish, now 24, feels fortunate to finally be back on the field, regardless of whether it is Fenway or LewisGale.
Since joining the Salem Sox on Saturday night in Frederick, Kalish has played three games, going 4-for-12 with three singles and a solo homer, stealing one base in two tries. He belted the bomb in the ninth inning of his first game back, an extremely satisfying shot that his parents were able to witness from the third row behind home plate.
“It was good, man,” said Kalish. “It was a really good feeling to have. It’s been a really long time since I hit one. It kinda gives you that feeling that you still got it, that you can still play this game. It’s been so long. It’s kind of scary when you’re out for that long to see what you used to have…It gave me some confidence that you’re doing all this work, it’s gonna pay off.”
Very little has gone according to script since he was named Red Sox Rookie of the Year in 2010. A year later, Kalish started in Triple-A, playing in 14 of Pawtucket’s first 15 games before he tore his labrum making a diving catch against Syracuse on April 21. The injury sidelined him for five weeks, which he spent rehabbing in Fort Myers, Florida. When he finally tried to play in a game at extended spring training, he hit a grounder to shortstop, ran to first, and as he puts it, “my neck went out on me.”
“I think it was a freak thing,” he said. “No complaints neck-wise, and one swing, running down the line, and there it was. I don’t understand it. That’s life.
“After that, it was a process of just trying to beat that without surgeries, and three months later, it was time to call it quits on the season and start taking care of my body surgically. I had a neck surgery in September and shoulder surgery in November, and after that, here I am after six and a half months of rehab after surgery, probably ten months from neck [surgery], and I’m first starting to play again. It’s been long, but it makes you feel grateful just that you’re alive.”
As someone who always played the game of baseball with a resolute confidence, the sobering thought of undergoing neck surgery was understandably startling. Like hitting a grand slam at Fenway Park, there is not much margin for error. But stepping in the batters’ box even in a pressure packed pennant race is nothing like experiencing serious surgery.
“Yea man, that was crazy,” said Kalish, softly, when asked if he was scared. “I didn’t know what to expect. It was scary. But the doctor that I picked was really, really, really good. And he’s a neurosurgeon, so he knows what he’s doing in small places. He reassured me that everything was gonna be fine. So it was scary, but at the same time, I had a lot of confidence in the guy.”
Kalish still looks like the big, strong kid he was when he played in Salem for 32 games in 2009. Listed at 6’0″, 213, his muscular frame evokes recollection of the prolific high school quarterback that he used to be. With that said, he admits that his body is still adjusting to aftermath of the medical procedures that monopolized his offseason.
“It’s crazy–I’m 24 years old and I have these aches and pains that I feel like I probably shouldn’t have for another 10 to 15 years. But when your body gets surgically repaired, it changes the whole biological status of your body. So your body’s getting used to different things. Getting used to anchors and sutures in your shoulder. It’s just a matter of time before I feel like your body adapts to it, but in the meantime you have aches and pains. But for the most part, so far, I feel good. Running good. Throwing is still something my mind is a little weary on, and hopefully it won’t be [much longer.]“
Kalish was scheduled to play center field for all nine innings on Tuesday night, but Salem’s game against Lynchburg was rained out. Despite only having 69 days of major league service time, he still fulfilled the tradition of buying a nice, expensive spread for all the other players and coaches. Everyone enjoyed steaks courtesy of Kalish as he packed his bags and prepared to head to Harrisburg, where he will join Double-A Portland on Wednesday. It will be just another step on his long journey back from two scary surgeries that forced him to reevaluate his perspectives on baseball.
“I think I’m just taking it day-by-day for now,” said Kalish. “There’s no timeline [on getting back to the big leagues.] Obviously, I want to be there tomorrow. Or, I want to be there yesterday, I guess is a better term. But I know this is a process. I need to get my game back, feel better, go through the ranks, work with the coaches that I’ve worked with in my past that know me, and hopefully get back to helping the Red Sox win.
“I love all those guys up there, and I miss them. So I want to go help them win.”
Listen to my entire interview with Ryan Kalish here.
Follow on Twitter @Evan Lepler or drop me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 29, 2012 7:05 PM Lynchburg Hillcats (28-20) vs. Salem Red Sox (26-21) Game #48
LewisGale Field Salem, VA Home Game #24
Probable Starters: RHP Aaron Northcraft (4-3, 3.86) vs RHP Matt Barnes (2-1, 1.13)
Skidding Sox: After routing Frederick by a lopsided 13-2 score on Friday night, the Red Sox have lost three straight games heading into Tuesday evening. It is just the second time this season that Salem has lost three in a row, joining a four-game losing streak in the first week of the year. The Red Sox are hoping that Matt Barnes can play the role of stopper in his 10th professional start. Barnes has a 4-1 record and a 0.71 ERA in his first nine starts between Greenville and Salem.
Well, They’ve All Been Close: While Salem has dropped three straight and six of the last ten, the Red Sox have been in every single game during this stretch and beyond. In fact, Salem’s last ten losses have all been by three runs or less. You have to go back to May 1, a 9-5 loss in Wilmington, to uncover the last time the Red Sox fell by more than three runs. In April, the Sox endured six losses by more than three runs. Overall, Salem has gone 18-14 in games decided by three runs or less. In games decided by two runs or less, the Sox are 16-9.
Fogerty’s Protagonist: In addition to playing center field about as well as it can be played, Jackie Bradley, Jr. continues to be an on-base machine for the Salem Red Sox. Bradley has reached in 38 of his last 39 games and 42 of 44 games played this year overall, all batting at the top of the lineup. His .368 average is 24 points better than the second best in the league, and his .493 OBP is superior by 37 points to the next best in the circuit. Bradley also leads the Carolina League runs and walks, while he’s second in hits and doubles and third in slugging percentage.
Moving Bradley to Right : If everything goes according to plan, Ryan Kalish will be in center field for the full nine innings tonight, wrapping up his four-game rehab stint with Salem. The 24-year-old outfielder has gone 4-for-12 in his first three games with Salem, jacking a solo homer on Saturday along with connecting for one single in each game. Back in ‘09, Kalish played 32 of Salem’s first 34 games, batting .304 (35-for-115) with five homers and 21 RBI. In 2010, Kalish hit 13 homers in 78 games between Portland and Pawtucket before getting the call to the big leagues on July 31. He hit the first of his five big league bombs came at Yankee Stadium on August 6, with his first Fenway dinger coming 11 days later, a grand slam off of Jered Weaver. His third major league homer was also a grand slam, blasted against Tampa Bay on September 6, 2010.
Appointment Viewing: With Matt Barnes on the mound tonight, Sox fans would be wise to take notice. Despite suffering his first professional loss in a 1-0 setback last Thursday night, the hardthrowing righthander has been dominant over the course of the season. He currently leads the minors with a 0.67 WHIP and his second with a 0.71 ERA. In nine starts, he has gone 4-1 with just four earned runs allowed over 50.2 innings pitches, with 70 strikeouts and six walks. His strikeout total is currently tied for fifth in the minors, and he’s the only man among the top 50 in punchouts who also has issued single digit walks.
Tonight, the Salem Sox will become the first Carolina League club to face Baltimore’s Strasburgian pitching prospect Dylan Bundy, who has excelled above and beyond even the wildest expectations through his first eight professional starts. Frederick is expecting a capacity crowd and the abundance of media may result in a couple poor saps that are assigned seats in the visiting radio booth. Sorry, folks.
With no further adieu, it is time to see whether or not you can decipher what Bundy facts are true and what are simply legends.
Fact #1: Bundy was initially cast to play “Al” on Married With Children, but could not commit to the rehearsal schedule because of his baseball training regimen. Reluctantly, the producers went with Ed O’Neill.
Fact #2: Bundy often slurps down broccoli and barley smoothies.
Fact #3: Bundy’s father is named “Denver.”
Fact #4: Bundy pitched 30 innings for Low-A Delmarva and did not allow a single earned run.
Fact #5: When he was in High School, Bundy sat at his kitchen table and taught five Kansas City Royals officials about how the muscles in the shoulder actually work.
Fact #6: When he was eight years old, his father (Denver?) had him and his older brother dig a hole on their 15-acre property, carry the dirt around the house on a wheelbarrow, and then refill the hole.
Fact #7: A video of 14-year-old Bundy repeatedly boxing a punching bag currently has over 57,000 views on YouTube.
Fact #8: Bundy recorded outs against Adrian Gonzalez and Jacoby Ellsbury in a Grapefruit League exhibition game this past March.
Fact #9: With part of his $6.25 million bonus that he signed last August, he purchased a 2011 Ford-F150 Platinum pickup truck.
Fact #10: Bundy uses unique telepathic powers to take over the mind of the umpire who is calling balls and strikes that day.
Bonus Fact: You can listen to Dylan Bundy’s first Carolina League start at 6 PM on www.salemsox.com and NewsTalk 960 AM and FM 107.3 WFIR.
Game notes are below, and the answers to the “Truth or Legend” quiz are underneath the last nugget.
Talk to you soon,
May 26, 2012 6:00 PM Salem Red Sox (26-18) vs Frederick Keys (16-27) Game #45
LewisGale Field Salem, VA Road Game #23
Probable Starters: RHP Brandon Workman (2-1, 3.52) vs RHP Dylan Bundy (1-0, 0.00 w/ Delmarva)
Frederick Phenomenon: After matching a season high with 13 runs on Friday, the at-bats will likely get a little tougher tonight as Salem encounters the overwhelming hype that arrives with Dylan Bundy, the fourth overall pick in last June’s draft who has not allowed a run in 30 innings so far as a pro. With 40 strikeouts and two walks in eight starts, Bundy progresses to the Advanced-A level, where he will be greeted by the top offense in the league.
Living In Extremes: One day after scoring no runs on just four hits, the Red Sox took out their frustration on the Keys pitching staff, scoring five times in the second, four times in the fourth, and twice more in the sixth and seventh innings. The Red Sox went a remarkable 6-for-7 with runners in scoring position, scoring seven of the 13 runs with two outs. Xander Bogaerts and Michael Almanzar both went deep, the first time since May 9 that Salem belted two homers in a game. The 11-run margin of victory was Salem’s best of the year.
Patient Jackie: With three more walks on Friday, Jackie Bradley, Jr. now has walked nine more times than the second-most in the Carolina League. His third three-walk game of the year gave him 37, while Lynchburg’s Chris Garcia has 28. Bradley’s on-base percentage now sits at .497, tops in the Carolina League and second in all of minor league baseball behind Reno’s Jake Elmore. Ironically, Bradley was the only member of Salem’s lineup to not record a hit on Friday. But three walks, a sac fly, and two RBI made it a productive night for the Carolina League’s leading hitter. Bradley has reached base in 35 of his last 36 games and 39 of 41 overall on the season.
May Marksmen: The Salem Sox went 12-10 in April despite a pitching staff that compiled a 4.90 ERA, second worst in the league. Thus far in May, the Red Sox arms have pitched to a 2.69 earned run average, second best in the league. In four starts this month, Drake Britton has a 2.75 ERA, Matt Barnes has a 1.13 ERA, and Ryan Pressly’s sits at 3.00. A trio of relievers—Jeremiah Bayer, Mike Olmsted, and Pete Ruiz—have a collective ERA of 0.00 in May, having not allowed any earned runs in an aggregate 29 innings pitched. Salem has gone 14-8 thus far in May, and with six games remaining is one victory shy of guaranteeing its second straight winning month of baseball.
Run At Your Own Risk: Salem has dominated the baserunning game all season long, grabbing more bags than anyone else while also preventing the opponent from running. Christian Vazquez has thrown out 44.7% (17 of 38) of opposing base-stealers, far and away the best percentage in the league. In limited playing time, backup Carson Blair has actually thrown out three of six for a 50% clip, but he has not played enough games to qualify for the league leaders.
Success Against Everyone: If the Salem Sox can win tonight, they will have a .500 or better record against every other team in the league. The Sox were just 2-4 against Frederick entering the weekend, ironically owning their worst head-to-head mark against the league’s worst team.
Facts #1 and 10 are legends. The rest are true. Especially the bonus fact.
Greetings from Harry Grove Stadium here in Frederick, where it feels a little bit like Christmas Eve. Tonight features a member of Boston’s 40-man roster against an Orioles prospect who owns a sub-2.00 ERA, and yet it feels very much like an undercard to tomorrow’s Dylan Bundy extravaganza.
As our own Jackie Bradley, Jr. so eloquently put it, the legend is that Bundy once struck out a guy on two pitches.
The fourth overall pick in last year’s draft, Bundy allowed just 5 hits in 30 dominant innings with Low-A Delmarva and will make his Carolina League debut tomorrow against the Salem Sox. For the most part, I think our guys are eager to embrace the challenge.
The Keys are expecting overflow media and perhaps a record crowd for Saturday’s 6 PM contest. Wouldn’t it be cool if Brandon Workman and the Salem Sox stole the show?
I imagine the velocities will exceed the temperatures, but it is expected to reach the 90s here in Maryland this weekend.
Looking forward to having you along for the ride on NewsTalk 960 AM and FM 107.3 WFIR tonight at 7 PM, with the free stream also available on www.salemsox.com.
Clear eyes, full hearts, game notes below,
May 25, 2012 7:00 PM Salem Red Sox (25-18) vs Frederick Keys (16-26) Game #44
LewisGale Field Salem, VA Road Game #22
Probable Starters: LHP Drake Britton (1-5, 7.15) vs LHP Trent Howard (1-0, 1.80)
Not These Guys Again!: Salem arrives to Frederick with the best record in the Carolina League, having gone .500 or better against every other foe with one lone exception. The Sox have twice lost two out of three to the Keys, winning the first game of the season against Frederick before losing four straight prior to last Sunday’s 3-2 triumph. Ironically, the Keys sport the league’s worst overall record, having gone 4-2 against Salem and just 12-24 against everyone else.
Silent Sticks: For the third time this season and the second time in the past five games, the Red Sox were blanked on Thursday night against Winston-Salem. Although Salem finished 3-3 on its homestand, two of the losses were 1-0 shutouts. The Sox scored just 16 runs during the six-game sequence, with seven of those tallies coming in Wednesday afternoon’s 7-5 victory. Last weekend against the Keys, the Red Sox refrained from scoring a single run against Frederick starting pitching, as all three Keys starters went six scoreless.
Barely a Bump in the Road: Matt Barnes compiled just three strikeouts on Thursday night—a career low—still tossing his fourth straight quality start despite becoming the tough-luck loser and sustaining his first professional loss. He allowed one run on five hits in six innings, raising his ERA from 0.60 to 0.71, which now puts him second in minor league baseball. He remained first in WHIP, with a mark of 0.67 through nine professional starts. He’s third in the minors with 70 strikeouts, and he’s the only pitcher in the top 30 in punchouts who also has single-digit walks.
No Longer #1: After his 29-game on-base streak came to an end last Thursday, Jackie Bradley, Jr. was given a day off on Friday. Since then, Salem’s scintillating center fielder has begun a new streak, reaching base at least twice in each of his last five games. Bradley has gone 5-for-14 with six walks in the last five contests, bringing his on-base percentage for the season to .495. However, Reno’s Jake Elmore went 3-for-3 last night to bring his OBP to .497, dethroning Bradley from his perch at the top of the minors. Bradley has reached base in 34 of his last 35 games and 38 of 40 games this year. He has never been shut down at home, reaching base in all 20 tilts at LewisGale Field. At home, Bradley is batting .433 (29-for-67) with 18 walks, reaching base at a .549 clip.
He’s Due: Friday night will be Drake Britton’s eighth career start against the Keys, and one might say that his time has come to finally beat Frederick. In seven starts against the Orioles affiliate, Britton is 0-7 with an ERA of 12.12. The southpaw tossed five scoreless against the Keys last weekend at LewisGale Field, but was charged with four runs in the sixth inning and suffered the setback last Friday. Over his last five starts overall, Britton has compiled an ERA of 3.32.
Heating Up: After recording multiple hits just once in his first 20 games, Drew Hedman has connected on two hits in each of his past two games. In the past two contests, Hedman has gone 4-for-6 with a double, a homer, three RBI, a sac fly, and a walk.
When he was in college, Shannon Wilkerson was known as “Superman.” Now, he’ll be known as a Sea Dog.
Late last night, Wilkerson got the call that every minor leaguer hopes for, telling him he would be relying on adrenaline the next day. Up before 6 AM this morning to catch a plane to Maine, Wilkerson will likely be running on fumes as he takes the diamond at Hadlock Field tonight. But any minor leaguer would absolutely be eager to enjoy the satisfying feeling of promotion fatigue.
As the broadcaster in Salem, Wilkerson’s promotion is bittersweet for me. Obviously, I’m thrilled for him and his family. He is definitely an under-the-radar prospect that mainstream Red Sox fans don’t know yet, but will know soon. On the flip side, I will miss watching him play. Over the course of 2011 and 2012, Wilkerson played exactly 140 games with the Salem Sox, one complete season, becoming a fan favorite for all the right reasons.
His Carolina League numbers were impressive enough. He hit .274 (132-for-482) in 140 games with 11 homers and 54 RBI, stealing 29 bases in 32 attempts. Obviously, when you look at just his 2012 stats (.329, 1, 15 w/ 16 SB in 38 g), they jump off the page a little bit more. Wilkerson admitted how big a difference playing every day has made this year, as opposed to his role as a fourth outfielder for much of the 2011 season.
But while the numbers stand out, the thing I’ll miss most about Wilkerson is his attitude. He is the epitome of a “gamer,” a guy who always plays hard and has a knack for coming through at the right time. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anybody run the bases harder than he consistently has throughout the past month and a half, repeatedly turning singles into doubles.
Sea Dogs fans will enjoy watching this Hall-of-Famer as mush as Salem fans have.
Best of luck in Double-A, Shannon!
Minor league baseball is a constantly revolving door, and Shannon Wilkerson’s departure coincides with the home debut of phenom Matt Barnes. The righthander with a ‘wow’ fastball and eye-popping numbers is ready to make his first home start since April 8, and the fans at LewisGale Field are eager to see one of the most prized prospects in Red Sox Nation.
More details are below in today’s game notes. A thousand points to any reader who identifies the band whose songs are featured in the headlines.
Broadcast begins at 7:03 on NewsTalk 960 AM and FM 107.3 WFIR. Talk to you soon!
May 24, 2012 7:05 PM Winston-Salem Dash (24-19) vs Salem Red Sox (25-17) Game #43
LewisGale Field Salem, VA Home Game #22
Probable Starters: RHP Matt Heidenreich (3-1, 3.78) vs RHP Matt Barnes (2-0, 1.00)
Manifest Destiny: With back-to-back wins over Winston and three straight victories overall, the Salem Sox enter Thursday’s action with the top record in the Carolina League and a game and a half lead over the Dash in the Southern Division. For the first time all season, the Sox are alone in first for back-to-back days, and Salem is guaranteed to be at the top of the pack heading into the weekend regardless of this evening’s result.
Either Way: In each of Salem’s last three games, all wins, the Sox failed to scored first. In fact, Salem’s foe has scored first in all five games in the current homestand, but the Sox have gone 3-2 despite falling behind early. Over the course of the season, Salem has typically been the squad to get on the board first, doing so 24 times in the first 37 games before this recent five-game stretch. The Sox are 18-6 when scoring first and 7-11 when the opponent plates the game’s first run.
Homecoming King: For the first time since April 8, Matt Barnes will take the mound wearing his white trousers. The righthander from UConn is off to a superhuman start, but each of his last seven outings have occurred on the road. Barnes, the 19th overall pick in last June’s draft, will take the diamond for his debut at LewisGale Field as the Minor League Baseball leader in ERA (0.60) and WHIP (0.65). His remarkable 67 strikeouts is 3rd in the minors, and with only six walks, his strikeout to walk ratio is better than anyone else in the top 50 in strikeouts in the minors. Barnes has retired 43 of 45 leadoff hitters he has faced in his eight starts, the first five of which came for Greenville in the South Atlantic League.
One Man Wrecking Machine: After his 29-game on-base streak came to an end last Thursday, Jackie Bradley, Jr. was given a day off on Friday. Since then, Salem’s scintillating center fielder has begun a new streak, reaching base at least twice in each of his last four games. Bradley has gone 4-for-11 with six walks in the last four contests, bringing his on-base percentage for the season to .495, tops in all of minor league baseball. Bradley has reached base in 33 of his last 34 games and 37 of 39 games this year. He has never been shut down at home, reaching base in all 19 tilts at LewisGale Field. At home, Bradley is batting .438 (28-for-64) with 18 walks, reaching base at a .552 clip.
So Long: The Salem Sox snapped a seven-game homerless drought on Wednesday when Drew Hedman took Steve McCray deep in the seventh inning. The solo blast was Hedman’s 11th career dinger, his second this year and his fifth in the Carolina League. Although Salem has just 19 homers, fewest in the league, the Sox possess the circuit’s top batting average (.282). Salem’s also #1 in doubles (100).
All the Way Up to Heaven: In this instance, Portland is heaven for Shannon Wilkerson, who earned a promotion to Double-A after going 2-for-3 with a walk on Wednesday. In 38 games this year, Wilkerson hit .329 (46-for-140) with one homer and 15 RBI. He leads the league with 16 stolen bases in 16 tries.
May 23, 2012 11:00 AM Winston-Salem Dash (24-18) vs Salem Red Sox (24-17) Game #42
LewisGale Field Salem, VA Home Game #21
Probable Starters: RHP Ryan Buch (2-4, 5.15) vs RHP Ryan Pressly (3-1, 5.95)
Brunchtime Baseball: For the second time in two weeks, the Salem Sox will host a Wednesday morning affair at LewisGale Field. On May 9 against Potomac, the Sox earned a pair of wins over the Nationals, prevailing by an aggregate score of 16-2 in the resumption of the previous day’s suspended game as well as the regularly scheduled contest. Salem enters the morning action ahead of Winston by a half game in the Southern Division following Tuesday’s 3-1 victory.
Stingy Sox: In the past 13 games, Salem has permitted just 38 total runs, less than three per contest. In May overall, the Red Sox pitching staff has compiled a 2.74 ERA, second best in the league behind Myrtle Beach (2.40). This comes after the Sox registered a 5.36 ERA in April, worst in the league at the time. Six different men have started the last six games for the Red Sox, and five of the six have delivered “quality starts.” Over the past six contests, Salem starters have pitched to a 1.96 ERA (8 ER/36.2 IP).
Bullpen Brilliance: While the starters have been stingy lately, the bullpen has been perfect in the last three games. Since Saturday night, Red Sox relievers have tossed nine scoreless innings with just two hits allowed and ten strikeouts. Add in a scoreless ninth from Marco Duarte on Friday and the Sox bullpen has dealt ten consecutive shutout innings since Manny Rivera allowed Michael Mosby’s two-run homer in the eighth on Friday night. While the closers for Carolina, Lynchburg, and Winston are tied for second in the league with seven saves, Mike Olmsted stands alone with 10 saves for Salem. Olmsted has not allowed an earned run in 14 of his 15 appearances, shutting down his foe in each of his past 12 outings spanning his last 14 innings pitched.
Friends With 50: Salem takes the field on Wednesday with the top two hitters in the League on its roster. Jackie Bradley, Jr. sits heads and shoulders above the rest with a .370 clip, while Travis Shaw resides at .245 in the two-spot. Interestingly, both Bradley and Shaw possess exactly 50 base hits, tied for third in the league. Bradley is #1 in on-base percentage, runs scored, and walks, while Shaw is third in on-base percentage, second in doubles, and tied-for fourth in total bases. With 44 hits, Shannon Wilkerson has the next highest total on the team.
There’s No Place Like Home: For Jackie Bradley, Jr., LewisGale Field has been a haven of production. He had reached base in all 18 home games he has played in, batting .450 (27-for-60) with a .561 OBP at Salem Memorial Ballpark so far this year. In addition to his 27 hits, he also has walked 17 times in 18 home games, recording 10 extra-base hits and 13 RBI.
LOB City: Bizarrely, through 41 games, the Red Sox have almost always stranded more baserunners than their opponents. The Sox have left fewer men on base in only nine of 41 contests. Tuesday night was the 26th time that Salem has left more runners aboard, while the Sox and their foe have been even in men left six times.
It sounds a little bit like an MLB Network Promotion, but it’s actually Salem’s schedule situation for the next four weeks.
First pitch is less than an hour away, so check out these appetizer nuggets below.
May 22, 2012 7:05 PM Winston-Salem Dash (24-17) vs Salem Red Sox (23-17) Game #41
LewisGale Field Salem, VA Home Game #20
Probable Starters: RHP Jon Bachanov (4-0, 3.24) vs RHP Miguel Celestino (2-1, 3.82)
And Down The Stretch They Come!: After enjoying a day of rest on Monday, the Salem Sox return to the diamond on Tuesday night to begin a stretch of 30 games in a 27 day stretch to finish the first half. While all four teams in the Carolina League’s Southern Division are within three games of first place, the Dash and Sox are together at the top, even in the loss column and separated by just a half game overall.
Seventh-Inning Success: Crazy as this may seem, the Sox have not scored a run in the first six innings since last Wednesday in Carolina. In the past four games, the Red Sox have scored just eight runs, seven of which have been scored in the seventh inning. The lone run outside of the seventh came in the eighth inning last Thursday. On the year, the seventh frame features Salem’s second-largest positive run differential in a particular inning. The Sox have outscored opponents 28-20 in the seventh. Surprisingly, this pales in comparison to Salem’s first-inning prowess. The Sox have dominated foes to the tune of 35-13 in the first. The Sox have scored first in 24 of their 40 games, despite Frederick striking first in each of this past weekend’s tilts at LewisGale Field.
Saving Grace: Salem Sox closer Mike Olmsted picked up his league-leading ninth save on Sunday, striking in three and permitting just one baserunner in a scoreless ninth inning against Frederick. The hardthrowing righty has been one of the Rocks of Salem’s pen, as he has not allowed any earned runs in 13 of his 14 outings. His 1.13 ERA would be #1 in the league if he had accumulated enough innings to qualify. Among relievers, Olmsted is allowing the fewest baserunners per nine innings, having allowed just 12 in 16 frames, an average of 6.75 per nine. Opponents have hit just .158 against Olmsted, while he is striking out 12.37 batters per nine innings, both of those marks currently ranking him fifth among CL relievers.
Offense, Anyone?: Salem and Winston enter this week’s series with the top two team batting averages in the league, both residing well above the circuit’s “average” average of .253. The Dash sit at .282, while the Sox are close behind at .281. Winston only has 12 more hits than Salem, but the Dash have 21 more home runs, part of the reason that Winston has scored 232 runs, 27 more than anyone else in the league and 37 more than the Red Sox. With that said, the Sox have been the superior baserunning squad, as Salem has swiped 69 bases compared to Winston’s 36. Interestingly, both clubs have been caught exactly 17 times.
LOB City: Bizarrely, through 40 games, the Red Sox have almost always stranded more baserunners than their opponents. The Sox have left fewer men on base in only nine of 40 contests. Sunday night was the 25th time that Salem has left more runners aboard, while the Sox and their foe have been even in men left six times. On the year, Salem has the second most hits and the second most walks in the league.
Good afternoon from a sunshine-splashed LewisGale Field, where the Salem Sox hope to avoid being swept for the first time this season today. Two Frederick hurlers, righty Mike Wright and lefty Trent Howard, have each spun six scoreless innings the past two nights, limiting Salem to just three runs on ten hits in the two games. Here’s hoping that the Sox offense awakens and punishes Keys righty Kyle Simon at 4:05.
In case you missed it, here are some features from earlier this week that are worth reading:
Three Reasons Why Pete Ruiz is Looking Like a Prospect Again (from Wednesday)
Shannon Wilkerson’s Every Day, Hall of Fame Approach (from Thursday)
When the Sox were in Zebulon, Tim Britton of the Providence Journal visited the team and chatted with numerous players, leading to a bunch of very interesting content:
Game notes are below, and thebroadcast begins at 4:03 on NewsTalk 960 AM and FM 107.3 WFIR and online at www.salemsox.com…
May 20, 2012 4:05 PM Frederick Keys (14-24) vs Salem Red Sox (22-17) Game #40
LewisGale Field Salem, VA Home Game #19
Probable Starters: RHP Kyle Simon (1-6, 5.05) vs RHP Brandon Workman (2-1, 3.65)
First Time for Everything: While Saturday night was the second time this year that Salem had been shut out, it was the first time that the Sox had lost while holding their foe to three runs or less. The Red Sox had been 14-0 when their opponent had scored less than four runs, but the Keys prevailed 1-0 on Saturday behind the left arm of Trent Howard and the one big fifth inning swing from Aaron Baker. Both of Salem’s shutouts have come against Frederick.
Where are the Runs? Ever since scoring eight runs in seven innings in the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader in Carolina, the Salem offense has struggled to put runs on the board. Including Saturday’s 1-0 shutout, the Sox have mustered just 11 runs in the last five games, with nearly half of those coming in Wednesday’s 5-4 win. The Sox still share the league’s best full-season batting average at .283, but Salem has hit just .235 in the past five games. In the previous five games, the Sox had batted .324 with 30 runs scored. Salem has gone 2-3 in the last five despite the pitching staff recording a 2.79 ERA during the recent stretch.
More Chances Leads to Missed Opportunities: Bizarrely, through 39 games, the Red Sox have almost always stranded more baserunners than their opponents. The Sox have left fewer men on base in only nine of 39 contests. Saturday night was the 24th time that Salem has left more runners aboard, while the Sox and their foe have been even in men left six times. On the year, Salem has the second most hits and the second most walks in the league.
Three Out of Six: A trio of Salem Sox enter Sunday’s action among the top half-dozen hitters the league. Jackie Bradley, Jr. (.366) and Travis Shaw (.350) are first and second, respectively, while Shannon Wilkerson is sixth (.331). Bradley also leads the league in runs scored, walks, sac flies, and on-base percentage, while Wilkerson is #1 in stolen bases in the circuit.
Slumping Sox: While a bunch of Sox reside near the top of numerous statistical categories, the reality of baseball dictates that some others are in the midst of struggles. Christian Vazquez is 0-for-7 in the series against the Keys and batting just .170 (9-for-53) in May after a .286 April. Sean Coyle has just three hits in his last 20 at-bats after hitting in eight straight games from May 5 through May 15. Inauspiciously, Coyle shares the league lead with 49 strikeouts, tied at the top with Carolina’s Carlos Moncrief and Winston’s Trayce Thompson. Meanwhile, Michael Almanzar has gone 0-for-10 in his last three games, dropping his average from .288 to .264.
Working on Sunday: Righthander Brandon Workman is poised to make his 32nd career start this afternoon against Frederick, his first ever appearance against an Orioles affiliate. Workman is coming off his shortest outing of the season, lasting just three and two-thirds innings in Tuesday’s second-half of the doubleheader with Carolina. In five starts this year, opponents are batting just .231 against Workman, with leadoff hitters batting only .192.
I wrote this post on June 15, 2010. Hope you enjoy re-reading it as much as I did:
We’re about 48 hours removed from one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen in sports. I hope you agree that Daniel Nava’s grand slam is up there in the pantheon of coolest sports moments, even if you didn’t realize it at the time. We’re talking about a kid who was, and still is, relatively, a shrimp. He has joked that he was a high school student that couldn’t go with friends to an amusement park because he was not tall enough to experience most rides. He batted ninth on his high school team. In his first two years at Santa Clara, he was still too small and was reduced to ‘managing’ the baseball team, a tireless job that included doing the nightly laundry for the rest of the players.
And the story goes on. Forced to attend junior college because his family could no longer afford tuition for Santa Clara, Nava finally cherished a true baseball playing opportunity. He hasn’t let one slip by since.
He led his team with a .400 average at San Mateo Junior College and received a scholarship to Santa Clara, where he led the league in hitting as senior. Someone else did the laundry.
He went undrafted, which means 30 teams passed on him at least 50 times each. Bet they feel silly now. Although he almost could not even get a job in independent ball; after he was cut by the Chico Outlaws of the Golden Baseball League, they called him back a week later and said he could come back. One of the other outfielder’s had gotten married and a spot was open. Love is bliss.
He led that independent league in hitting and was named MVP as his team won the pennant. What does he do with that Golden Baseball League Championship ring? Nothing, he never got one.
But the Red Sox did purchase his rights. Clearly they saw potential in the young man. Actually, they had never seen him play, but they saw his name on Baseball America’s list of top Indy ball prospects and signed him for a buck. Literally, one dollar.
As Nava made his climb up the Red Sox minor league ladder, most of this improbable tale was reported in local stories and regurgitated throughout solo radio broadcasts, mostly heard by just friends, families, and a few loyal diehards. With one swing on Saturday, Nava completed the remarkable journey, not just into the big leagues, but into baseball history.
After watching USA Soccer’s 1-1 win (according to the tabloids) over England, I arrived at Frederick’s Harry Grove Stadium on Saturday afternoon and quickly fired up my computer, hoping to catch Nava’s first at-bat. For whatever reason, my internet explorer decided to fritz, so when I restarted the mlb.com gametracker, I had just missed his at-bat live. Almost simultaneously, the gametracker loaded and my cell phone started buzzing like a vuvuzela. Nava was 1-1 with four RBI.
As Dave O’Brien exclaimed, “You’ve got to be kidding me!”
“Can you believe it?” asked Joe Castiglione.
With no tv in the Frederick press box, I hurried to the visitor’s clubhouse, hoping to see a replay and share the moment. Perhaps a dozen guys were already in there watching, all with glazed expressions of excitement. Quickly, the FOX production team allowed us to relive the impact. First pitch, Boom!
Over the next 10-15 minutes, guys who missed it live trickled back into the clubhouse, some aware of what had happened, others who were not. Over and over again, I saw looks of disbelief, amazement, and happiness. I can’t say for sure if other guys had tears of joy welling up in their ducts, but I know I did. At the very least, everyone was giddy about what we had just seen.
Of course, as always happens in a baseball clubhouse, the jokes began. One player said that he was going to stay up all night voting for Nava to make the All-Star team. Another suggested that Nava was now the frontrunner for AL Rookie of the Year.
Underlying everything was the simple fact that EVERYONE liked this guy, and the energy the moment created was unlike anything I’ve seen in a clubhouse setting. Guys were truly overjoyed at Nava’s success.
Perhaps because of the goofy grins of satisfaction, Salem rocked Frederick on Saturday night 8-1. Right as the game was starting, Nava connected on another extra-base hit, a double, and finished the game 2-4. He went 2-4 again at Fenway Park on Sunday, cracking another double and driving in another run. Two games: 4-8 (.500), 2 doubles, 1 homer, 5 RBI. In the big leagues. For the Boston Red Sox.
Of course, there’s the Salem connection. Nava played 29 games for the Salem Sox in 2009, hitting .339 with one homer (a game-tying two-run blast with two outs in the ninth in Lynchburg–Salem won the game in 15 innings). His 29 games played spanned nearly two months in June through August, part of which was spent on the DL with a muscle strain. Even after he got completely healthy, it was sometimes tough for him to break into the lineup, for he lacked ‘prospect’ status and other guys needed their ABs. But when he played, he produced. And when he was promoted to double-A, he raked in Portland as well.
At 27 years old, it is imperfect to call him a kid. But regardless of age, height, background, or previous standing, Nava has ascended to the Show with a youthful exuberance that could keep him there for a good while. Hitting .300 or better would not hurt either.
He’s leading off for Terry Francona’s club tonight. At the top of the lineup card, he’s taller than he’s ever been.
Back in the big leagues, Nava will face Joe Blanton tonight for the first time since that special day at Fenway. Traditionally, when Nava squares off against Blanton in the big leagues, the Salem Sox are facing Frederick. Indeed, that is the plan tonight, as the Sox and Keys meet for the second game of their weekend series here in the Roanoke Valley.
Hope you’ll join me just after 6 PM on NewsTalk 960 AM and FM 107.3 WFIR in the Valley or online at www.salemsox.com.
Consider today’s notes (below) a mid-afternoon snack…
Talk to you soon,
May 19, 2012 7:05 PM Frederick Keys (13-24) vs Salem Red Sox (22-16) Game #39
LewisGale Field Salem, VA Home Game #18
Probable Starters: LHP Trent Howard (0-0, 4.50) vs RHP Keith Couch (4-2, 4.14)
Looking for Someone Other than Mr. Wright: Frederick’s struggles subsided with Mike Wright on the mound, with the young righthander dealing six scoreless innings against Salem for the second time this season on Friday night. The Keys improved to 6-2 in games started by Wright, while Frederick has gone just 7-22 in their other 29 contests. The only time that Salem was shutout this year was April 8 in Frederick, a game started by Wright.
Drake’s Downfall: Salem southpaw Drake Britton matched Wright through five scoreless innings, but a leadoff walk in the sixth inning was the beginning of the end for him. After retiring 15 of the first 17 he faced with seven strikeouts, four of the last six guys that Britton battled wound up reaching base, knocking him out of the action with two outs and two on in the fifth. Salem trailed 2-zip upon his departure, but both inherited runners came around to score, serving Britton with four earned runs in five and two-thirds innings. He matched a season high with eighth punchouts, two shy of his career high of 10, achieved on September 2, 1010 in the South Atlantic League.
They Come in Threes: Shannon Wilkerson’s third triple of the season drove in three runs on Friday night. Wilkerson is one of five Carolina Leaguers with three triples, one shy of Tyler Holt’s total of four, most in the circuit. As a team, the Red Sox and Mudcats share the league lead with 11 triples. Salem also leads the league with 92 doubles, but the Sox rank last with 18 homers, fewest among the eight clubs. Salem’s .286 team average is #1 in the league.
Jacobs Creek: Salem outfielder Brandon Jacobs has found a groove in May, batting .377 this month after hitting .262 in April. With seven hits in 13 at-bats over his last three games, Jacobs has brought his season average to .307. He has collected at least one in eight of his past nine games and 13 of his last 15 contests. Jacobs’ best moments have come with ducks on the pond, as he is batting .358 with runners on base compared to .232 with the sacks empty. With runners aboard and two outs, Jacobs is batting .375, while he’s hitting .400 with runners in scoring position and two outs.
All Good Things Must Come to An End: For the first time since April 11, Jackie Bradley, Jr. played a game and failed to reach base on Thursday night in Zebulon. Bradley went 0-for-4, striking out twice, to snap his streak of consecutive games on base at 29. In the life of the streak, Bradley hit .417 (45-for-108) with 17 extra-base hits and 22 walks for an OBP of .514. Only Kevin Nolan of the Dunedin Blue Jays has recorded a longer streak at the Advanced-A level this year, reaching base in 34 straight games in the Florida State League. Despite his 0-for-4 night, Bradley’s .485 OBP for the year still tops all of minor league baseball. He has reached base in 33 of his 35 games played so far this season. Bradley got Friday off.
Tight Triumphs: With Thursday’s 2-0 win over Carolina, Salem improved to 13-4 in games decided by two runs or less. The Sox have gone 4-1 in one-run games and 9-3 in two-run games.