May 27, 2009 — As is the case every year, there are a couple of interns in the office, and this season they are Sam Miller and Heather Harrison. Among their multitude of responsibilities, they’ve been tasked with writing coach/player features, and posting Beeswax blog entries. And you know what? They’re pretty good! If you think about it, the blogosphere is a boon for young writers. In the good old days of print, it would have be a rather expensive experiment and thus the privilege of a byline would be given to senior writers. It’s a whole new world now. Good luck you two.
One blog post caught my notice, “Tracking Former Bees in 2009.” Ballpark regular Anna asked about a few players not on the list, which got me curious. Among the players who were in Salt Lake last season, here’s who I found:
-Jeff Kennard is playing for the Cincinnati Reds organizations, currently with the Triple-A Lousiville Bats in the International League.
-Alex Serrano is playing in the Mexican Leagues for the Guerreros de Oaxaca (Oaxaca Warriors).
-Chris Walker was invited to the Phillies’ spring training and released. He’s currently in independent ball with the Camden Riversharks.
Henry Bonilla, Giancarlo Alvarado, and Dee Brown, are playing for the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes of the the Florida Marlins organization. Dee also runs a baseball camp with his pals, Olympian Brian Barden and retired Rockies OF Choo Freeman.
-Kasey Olenberger is playing for the Florida Marlins, currently with the Double-A Jacksonville Suns. Note the initials added to his cap. Nice Oley!
-Nick Green was placed on waivers when the Angels signed Bobby Abreu. He was picked up by the Milwaukee Brewers of the National League and assigned to the Triple-A Nashville Sounds, where he is working on bunting, as well as pitching.
-Corey Smith is playing for the Kansas City Royals organization, currently with the Double-A Northwest Arkansas Naturals.
-Nathan Haynes (from the 2007 Bees) signed a minor league contract with the Texas Rangers, however he doesn’t show up in any of the minor league stats (AAA, AA, A, Arizona). Hope he’s healthy.
-Jordan Czarniecki started the season with the independent leagues Bridgeport Bluefish, was released a couple of weeks ago, and just yesterday was picked up by another indy league team, the Gary Southshore Railcats.
-Adam Morrissey was listed on the provisional roster for Australia’s National Team during the World Baseball Classic, although he didn’t play. Currently, he doesn’t show up anywhere, not Indy Ball or Mexican Leagues.
-If you’d like to find a former Bees player, or better yet, if you have an update to share, please post a comment to let us know. . .Your friend in baseball.
May 27th, 2009
March 29, 2009 — Looking out the window, it’s hard to imagine opening day at Franklin Covey Ballpark is just around the corner. The guys hardly need extra incentives from yours truly, however, it probably wouldn’t hurt to offer this reminder.
Anaheim, last April . . .
Tempe, last week. . .
and Salt Lake City, today. . .
Gee, I hope someone warned the Rancho guys to pack their long underwear. Well, having spread good cheer all around, I suppose it’s time to switch topics.
With the first home game mere days away (um, weather permitting), I thought it would fun to run through an update on our big-league hopefuls. Maybe even make a few guesses about who we’ll see here in April. There have been quite a few roster shake-ups for the Angels since last October, with spots opening up at 1B, starting rotation and bullpen most notably. The rest of the positions—middle infield, 3B, C and outfield—look to be jammed two-to-three men deep.
The biggest news, of course, is Kendry Morales seems to have turned the corner into becoming a bona fide big-leaguer. Thus far in spring training, he’s produced .397 BA in 63 AB, with 3 HR and 42 TB. Enhorabuena y buenas suerte to the quiet man from Fomento, Cuba.
This ought to make things plenty interesting back here in SLC. Faithful Bees followers will remember Freddy Sandoval and Matt Brown taking turns at the two corners last season. Speaking of Brown, he’s been white-scorching-hot this spring—.513 BA in 39 AB, with 2 HR, 32 TB, 6BB and 7 SO. (Making me look like a forecasting genius, BTW. Thanks Brownie!) The parent club has kept him in big league camp for most of the spring, playing him at 3B and 1B to give him more opportunities to play, however he’s got a tough line-up to crack in L.A. Thus, with a forlorn heart, BeesGal predicts her fave corner infielder will be back in Salt Lake to start the season.
Sandoval has a mere handful of Tempe at-bats, since he dressed for Team Mexico in the recently completed World Baseball Classic. Mexico played six games total, making it to the quarter-finals. Sandoval played well, appearing in four games and finishing with the third highest batting average for Team Mexico. His .357 BA was mere fractions of a percent behind Jorge Cantu’s .360 BA.
Looking over the non-roster invitees, I spotted some familiar names from 2008: Brad Coon, Peter “Wheels” Bourjos, Ben Johnson (our “switch-hitting, triples-running” catcher), Flint Wipke, Alberto Rosario, Adam Pavkovich, and of course, Matt “Boon & Crocket” Wilhite. I also was happy to note a couple names from minor league camp: Gary Patchett and Coby Smith.
And lest readers think I’ve left out some important names, these “2008 Bees” are on the 40-man roster and at camp in 2009: Terry Evans, Brandon Wood, Sean Rodriguez, Bobby Wilson, Ryan Budde, Jason Bulger, Rafael Rodriguez, Shane Loux, Dustin Moseley, Nick Adenhart, Kevin Jepsen, Rich Thompson and Anthony Ortega.
The latest news is Lackey, Santana and Escobar are likely to start the season on the DL. Loux, Moseley and Adenhart have been playing musical chairs for a starting spot all spring and it looks as though for now, all three will be heading to Anaheim when camp breaks. The big question is who gets bumped when Escobar, currently scheduled to return to work first, returns to the starting rotation around early May. Loux and Moseley have the advantage of more big-league experience, as well as the ability to pitch from the bullpen. Also, I believe they are both out of options, which means we risk losing them to waivers if sent down. With these factors in mind, most likely the first starting pitcher to get sent down will be the youngster Adenhart. Barring, of course, some catastrophic collapse by the other two contenders.
So who’s left to start for Salt Lake on opening day? The Salt Lake Bees website has posted a poll with five potential starters: Loux, Adenhart, Green, Ortega and Austen. Nick Green is gone, picked up from waivers by the Milwaukee Brewers and scheduled to start 2009 in Triple-A. Ortega arrived at spring camp with a sore forearm and has seen little action. In a radical departure from policy, BeesGal scrambles into the armchair manager seat to predict our 2009 Opening Day starting pitcher will be David Austen. I’ll pause a moment to let the snickers die down before pointing out that Austen is hardly a “last-man-standing” pick. After a couple of injuries during the regular season last year, he had a phenomenal season in Winter Ball, finishing with a 1.98 ERA in 63.2 IP with 38 SO and only 8 BB.
There’s been some healthy competition this spring for big-league bullpen spots as well. The departure of Bootcheck, O’Day and Rodriguez over the off-season opened up a few relief spots. Fuentes was acquired this winter as the Angels’ free-agent closer, with Arredondo being groomed as closer-heir-apparent. Shields and Oliver will no doubt be Team Consistency, same as always. Speier is a bit of a question mark. He struggled at the start of camp however seems to be coming around of late. Nonetheless, most likely he’d have to suffer a complete melt-down to end up here. So the battle to stick with the big league bullpen looks to be winding down to Bulger and Jepsen. It’s a coin flip between these two.
Sean Rodriguez, you might remember, spent most of August and September 2008 with the Angels. He’s swinging the bat much better this spring, .302 in 43 AB with 4 BB and most importantly, only 4 SO. With Kendrick, Izturis and Aybar healthy, he’s likely to open in Salt Lake, although I suspect he’ll be racking up the frequent flier miles, as needed, just like last season. No matter. We should be grateful for whatever at-bats we can get from him in a Bees uniform. Bobby Wilson is in a similar situation, on the cusp of breaking into the big leagues. He’ll probably get to visit LA a couple of times this summer, but with Napoli’s shoulder pain-free throughout camp, it’s unlikely Wilson will be wearing red and white to start the season.
As for Brandon Wood. . .ah Woody, what to do about the talented infielder with the big bat? He seems to have at last found his “authentic swing” and is showing his power potential. Reading Lyle Spencer’s blog, the Angels have been playing him at shortstop, along with 3B. Hard to believe he’ll end up spending his third-straight spring in Salt Lake. Except, . . .there’s no place to field him in Anaheim. Hmmmm, I think this one’s a toss-up as well. For his sake, there’s no developmental reason for Wood to come back down to Triple-A.
According to the transactions page, Evans, Sandoval, Ortega and Rafael Rodriguez have been optioned to Salt Lake. Pavkovich, Coon, Bourjos and Johnson have been sent to minor league camp, which leads me to suspect we’ll be seeing them here in April as well. And of course we’ll be getting some players from Single-A and Double-A. Well, with all these names and numbers, I’m sure to have forgotten someone important. If so, my apologies for the oversight.
Hey, look! I just caught a glimpse of blue skies outside. Bye for now!
March 29th, 2009
March 08, 2009 — It was a one-line report among the transactions page that caught my eye last Sunday, March 01:
CHICAGO CUBS-Agreed to terms with INF Corey Koskie on a minor league contract.
In less than 15 words, I found myself swept away to my first season of watching the Salt Lake franchise. The year was 1998. The youngest player on the team back then was A.J. Pierzynski, a fresh-faced 21-year old with an even fresher lip. After spending most of the season in a Double-A New Britain Rock Cats uniform, Torii Hunter flashed through town for a couple dozen games before earning his one-way plane ride to the big leagues. Speedy in speech and sprint, Chris Latham stole 29 bases. Scott Stahoviak hit for the cycle. Benj Sampson and Travis Baptist broke into the Twins bullpen that year. It was the summer of Jeff Harris and his 8 wins and 3 saves in 18 closing opportunities. Harris became a BeesGal fave after I realized he spent every Sunday sitting at the player’s autograph table and signed autographs before and after every game, win or lose.
Up in the Twin Cities, Tom Kelly ruled with an iron hand and more than occasionally, a concrete noggin. The following season, for example, T.K. would keep David Ortiz down at Triple-A for nearly the entire season, proclaiming to the Minnesota press that Ortiz wasn’t major league material. Back then, Gardy was still an infield coach. Trainer Rick McSwane and pitching coach Rick Anderson were still minor leaguers. I remember Skipper Phil Roof leaving his starting pitcher in a game to work himself out of a jam, . . .during the playoffs.
And I remember Corey Koskie. Big bat and fearless glove at 3rd base. He’d throw himself in the path of the ball to get his glove on it. I suppose it helped he was a two-sport athlete through college—corner infielder and hockey goalie. Ouch. Talk about being a puck, er, . . .I mean baseball magnet. What he did best was swing the bat. That year he racked up 105 RBIs (14 short of the PCL lead) and 26 HRs. The following year he made the parent team out of spring training and stayed up with the Twins for six seasons.
After that, he went to Toronto for a season, then Milwaukee. It was in 2006, with the Brew Crew, that Koskie took an awkward backwards fall trying to field an infield pop-up. He lost his balance and fell heavily on the back of his neck. He didn’t black out. As it later turns out, though, he did give himself a concussion. In the two years that followed, he suffered from after-effects that included vertigo, nausea, blurred vision, headaches, and memory loss. He couldn’t play baseball, obviously, and there were times he couldn’t even play with his kids.
Anyone who’s suffered a whiplash injury, say from an automobile accident, knows it can take years to recover. And some never do. It’s an “invisible” injury—elusive to diagnose for doctors, difficult to appreciate for the unaffected and maddeningly frustrating for the sufferer. In fact, post-concussion syndrome, as the injury is called, is not recognized by the military as a “physical injury” and thus is not eligible for the Purple Heart medal. Koskie has become an active voice in creating greater awareness and understanding of post-concussion syndrome, wryly labeling his own gauntlet run, “If I Only Had a Cast.”
So when I read that one-liner in the transaction pages, my heart skipped a beat. On the same day, Koskie made the roster of Team Canada for the World Baseball Classic. In an exhibition game against the Toronto Blue Jays, Koskie was in the starting lineup as the DH. And how did he fare in his first game after two years of absence?
It’s only one game. Koskie’s subsequent appearances have been as a pinch hitter, inserted partway into the game. Four at-bats over three exhibition games mean little when compared against a full season of potentially several hundred trips to the plate. Nonetheless, it’s a start. . .Bye for now!
March 8th, 2009