April 2011

A Tradition Unlike Any Other

It’s a baseball Sunday at Dr Pepper Ballpark, with Arkansas invading Frisco for game one of a three-game set. However, today is also the final day of the Masters, my personal favorite golf tournament of the season.

Rory McIlroy leads by four strokes going into today’s final round. But I have to give it up for the man who started in “last” place. Kyung-tae Kim entered the final round at 7-over. Think about that. He is barely two strokes above even par per round, and he is LAST.

Tough crowd. Tough tournament.

Today, the ‘Riders entertain the “last” place team in the Texas League. But they have a prospect who is first in all of minor league baseball according to many.

We talk Mike Trout and many other things in today’s Facts.

FRISCO FACTS:

  • The offensive story last night for the RoughRiders was the continued production from the heart of the order. Mike Bianucci doubled in a run in the fifth inning. The Frisco DH went 5-for-11 (.455) with three homers and five RBIs in the season-opening three-game series.
  • The big bop, however, came off the bat of third baseman Tommy Mendonca. One night after going to the opposite field for a two-run blast, Mendonca crushed one to the deepest part of the park–dead center. It hit off the batters eye beyond the wall. Aaron mentioned off the air yesterday that it was the furthest home run to center field he has seen. And he is in the top 8 in vision of all Texas League broadcasters.
  • The left-handed Mendonca has now hit three home runs in a Frisco uniform. The one that didn’t count came in Tuesday night’s exhibition, when he pulled one down the right field line. His two in the regular season have gone to left and to center.
  • In all, ten home runs were hit in the series, with six coming off Frisco bats. Nine of the 16 ‘Riders’ run came from the long ball. You think that’s a lot? Wait until I mention the Round Rock Express in a little bit. Wow.
  • Friday night, the RoughRiders bullpen retired 14 straight to give the bats a chance to rally. Yesterday, it was Springfield’s ‘pen that stole the show. The Cardinals’ threesome of Cory Rauschenberger, Brett Zawacki and Casey Mulligan set down the final 10 ‘Riders. In fact, the bullpen didn’t allow a hit.
  • Frisco starter Jake Brigham rebounded pretty nicely from a rough exhibition showing to toss five innings yesterday. The righty threw 84 pitches, a season-high for ‘Riders pitchers (Wilfredo Boscan and Martin Perez were both in the 70s). Brigham whiffed seven Cardinals, and he consistently hit in the mid-90s on a traditionally pretty accurate Dr Pepper Ballpark radar gun. He peaked at 97 mph on a few occasions.
  • Today, it’s Miguel De Los Santos’ turn in the rotation. The 10th best prospect in the Rangers farm system per Baseball America, De Los Santos skipped the high-A level to begin this season in Frisco. Against the best competition he had ever faced, the southpaw gave up just one run in three innings at Round Rock in Tuesday’s exhibition. He had to work in that outing (3 H, 2 BB, 5 LOB), but he minimized damage well.
  • Statistically, what makes De Los Santos so impressive is his strikeout rate. Last year in short-season Spokane and low-A Hickory, he rung up 112 batters in 70.1 innings. That’s 1.60 Ks per inning and 14.38 Ks per nine innings. 
  • It is impossible to preview this game and this series without mentioning Arkansas outfielder Mike Trout. Trout is the top-ranked prospect by MLB.com and ESPN.com in all of minor league baseball. Baseball America has the 19-year-old at number two, behind only Washington’s Bryce Harper. After an 0-for-6 start to his Double-A career, Trout broke out in last night’s loss to Midland. He went 2-for-4 with a pair of runs and a homer. But that home run was of the inside-the-park variety.
  • Trout is a career .340 hitter in his 178-game minor league career. He has 12 home runs (two inside-the-parkers), 85 RBIs and 70 stolen bases. And get this–he has scored 138 times! In other words, he scores in 77.5% of his games.
  • Finally, how about the Round Rock Express. The Express has hit 11 home runs in the first three games of the season, including six last night in the club’s 13-9 triumph over Iowa. Former RoughRider Chris Davis has four of those bombs, including three last night. Between the Cubs and the Express, 53 runs have been scored in the set. The series finale begins at 1 p.m.

Here in Frisco, the ‘Riders and the Travs get underway at 4:05. Pre-game is at 3:35 along the RoughRiders Baseball Network. Enjoy!

- Brian

Tweeting Away

For some, Twitter is a great way to post news and notes on various subjects. Others use it to tell the world about their thoughts and feeling. And there are plenty of people who think it is just a really weird word.

Here with the RoughRiders, we are all over Twitter at http://twitter.com/ridersbaseball. There, you can find links to some of our game stories and blog posts, plus in-game updates for all 140 games. Feel free to send us a question on Twitter during the games, as well. We will try to answer as many as possible.

Unfortunately, I am the only one on the media relations/broadcasting staff who has a Twitter. (Quick shameless plug: http://twitter.com/BrianBoesch) But I am trying to convince Aaron and Reid to get on there as well.

After all, @RidersVoice is an available username for Aaron, and Reid’s favorite musical group (Tech N9ne) has one. I suspect they will come around soon.

Without further ado, here are today’s Facts.

FRISCO FACTS:

  • It’s easy to think back to the offensive surge from last night’s 7-6 comeback victory over Springfield. But those battle-back opportunities came about because of the RoughRiders’ stellar pitching down the stretch. The ‘Riders retired the final 14 Cardinals they faced. Adalberto Flores retired five in a row after allowing a run in the sixth, Mike Perconte set down six straight, and Mark Hamburger dealt a 1-2-3 10th.
  • Delving deeper into that stretch, only three Cardinals got the ball out of the infield, and five went down on strikes. All of this followed the first six innings, when Springfield scored in every frame but the first and had chances for more. During the span, they stranded eight runners, five of which were in scoring position when the inning ended.
  • The comeback had legs once Tommy Mendonca went to the opposite field for a two-run homer, his first at the Double-A level, to trim Frisco’s deficit to one in the eighth. Springfield turned to Ryan Kulik, a fellow left-hander, for a same-side match-up. Mendonca’s lefty/righty split was negligible last year in high-A Bakersfield (.253 v. LHP/.247 v. RHP). However, nine of his ten home runs came against right-handed hurlers.
  • If you spell it out by home runs per at bat, Mendonca went yard every 36 at bats against righties while hitting only one in 93 ABs versus lefties. Overall, that was just Mendonca’s second home run against lefties in 155 minor league at bats.
  • Mendonca was also the man who put down the bunt that eventually resulted in a throwing error and a Frisco win. It was a great bunt down the first base line, but it turned out to be much more meaningful for the ‘Riders. “When I was running, I saw the first baseman jump,” Mendonca said. “First time I’ve had a walk-off bunt. It was a great win. We pulled together.”
  • Manager Steve Buechele on the victory: “The guys battled hard. It was a good crowd, and it was a great win for us.”
  • All of this overshadowed the debut of the Rangers’ top prospect–lefty Martin Perez. Perez threw three innings, giving up five hits and two runs. In those three frames, Perez amassed 71 pitches, or 23.7 per inning. The pitch count was the reason Buechele lifted Perez after the third. He had to face 15 batters.
  • Another day, another juggle to the starting lineup. No surprise here with the season just underway. The top five stay the same (Osuna-Beltre-Butler-Bianucci-Mendonca), but Robbie Diaz gets his first start at catcher and in the six hole. Jose Ruiz is back in the lineup, hitting seventh like he did Thursday. David Paisano falls another two slots to eighth, with Davis Stoneburner rounding it out.
  • Jake Brigham gets the call today for the ‘Riders on the bump. Brigham struggled in his appearance in Sunday’s exhibition against Round Rock, surrendering six runs (five earned) on eight hits in two and two-thirds. This will be his Double-A debut.
  • There are three unbeaten teams in the Texas League so far. Frisco is tied with Midland at the top of the South. The RockHounds have pulled away from Arkansas in the first two games of their three-game set. And Tulsa paces all North clubs after a pair of one-run victories over Corpus Christi.
  • Congratulations to Northwest Arkansas outfielder Nick Van Stratten, who made ESPN SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays with a dazzling catch in left field during last night’s victory over San Antonio. The catch was the number three play on the countdown. 

Catch all of the play-by-play action tonight at 6:35, as the RoughRiders aim for their first series sweep since June 25-28 of 2010 at Corpus Christi. As always, you can listen online here. Enjoy!

- Brian

The B-List

I’m a huge fan of the letter “B.” After all, that’s the first letter of my first and last name. In the season opener last night, the letter “B” was huge for the RoughRiders. Consider this:

*Mike Bianucci, Engel Beltre and Joey Butler had six of the ‘Riders seven hits.
*Bianucci and Butler hit a combined total of three home runs.
*Wilfredo Boscan and Beau Jones earned a win and a hold, respectively.

On the flip side, Springfield had only one player with a first or last name that starts with a “B” appear in last night’s game. Brett Zawacki tossed a scoreless inning of relief.

It’s all about the B’s. There will be plenty of B’s in today’s Facts.

FRISCO FACTS:

  • That was quite a Double-A debut for Mike Bianucci. In his first at-bat, the designated hitter clubbed a pitch that was low and a little outside over the Dr Pepper Patio in left-center. I don’t have the best set of eyes in the world, but, in my opinion, that ball went 400+ feet. In the seventh, Bianucci hit another blast more toward center field.
  • The two pitches that Bianucci hit were not in the typical “wheelhouse” of your normal player, but that’s just fine with him. “They were down in the zone, but those are pitches that I like,” Bianucci said. “I can get my hands extended on them pretty easily…those are my pitches.”
  • To put this day into perspective, go back to last year. A RoughRider drove in 3 or more runs 18 times last year. Only five times did someone surpass Bianucci’s run-producing effort. “It’s not what you are expecting,” Bianucci said about his big day. “I had a lot of adrenaline going last night, and I tried to just calm myself down and put good swings on the ball and I think I did last night.”
  • In the minors, lineup changes are always fun to watch, especially early in the season. To no one’s surprise, the 2-5 hitters for Frisco (Beltre, Butler, Bianucci, Mendonca) will remain intact. Renny Osuna will get the start at second and will lead off. David Paisano, who hit in the one-hole yesterday, falls down to sixth. Jonathan Greene gets the start at first base in place of Jose Ruiz, and he will hit seventh. The Felix-Rodriguez combo at 8 and 9 is back in place tonight.
  • I have to include a Fact on Wilfredo Boscan, the RoughRiders’ starter from last night. Boscan, in the lid-lifter of his Double-A career, gave up two runs over five innings for the victory. The only two tallies came on solo home runs, one of which hit the yellow padding of the wall in right-center and bounced over. He has never made an in-season jump in the minor leagues, so, if history holds true, fans in Frisco should get familiar with Boscan.
  • All eyes will be on tonight’s starting pitcher–Martin Perez. Perez is back in Frisco after a 5-8 season in 2010. The Rangers’ top prospect posted a 5.96 ERA. No minor league pitcher will ever be the prototypical “work horse,” but Perez did not get deep into outings last year even in the context of a minor league hurler. He averaged 4.15 innings per outing in ’10. But manager Steve Buechele has said on multiple occasions that Perez pitched better than he ever has during spring training, and ’11 is a chance for Perez to showcase that improvement.
  • Not a good day for former ‘Rider Michael Kirkman. The 2010 Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year gave up 10 runs on 10 hits in three and a third innings in Triple-A Round Rock’s 12-9 loss to Iowa last night.
  • On the flip side, how about the low-A debuts of a pair of top-10 Rangers’ prospects. Infielder Jurickson Profar, the number two prospect according to Baseball America, homered to left in his first at-bat for Hickory. Later in that first inning, outfielder Jake Skole, number nine on Baseball America’s list, hit a three-run double in his first full-season AB. That was all the offense Hickory needed in a 4-2 triumph over Asheville.
  • Good luck to the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, the newest Texas high-A affiliate, as they open the Carolina League slate tonight at home against the Wilmington Blue Rocks.
  • Finally, tonight is the first fireworks display of the season here at Dr Pepper Ballpark. There will be 16 shows this season!

Join us on the Network at 6:35 this evening for more from Mike Bianucci and a preview of game two of the series. It’s Springfield and Frisco. Enjoy!

- Brian

Motion Picture Movement

First off, happy Opening Day! The streak of 208 straight days without RoughRiders baseball is over. This is Brian Boesch, the number two broadcaster this season with the ‘Riders. Aaron Goldsmith and I are pumped to bring you all of the play-by-play action of the 2011 lid-lifter tonight.

We also want to bring you news and notes in the online forum, and that’s what this blog is slated to do. When I post, I will always try to kick off the post with a funny story or an outlandish statistic. In other words, I’ll provide something unique before getting into the news and notes, which I will call “Frisco Facts.”

The first blog preface is a great story from Monday’s media day. Among other things, the ‘Riders’ players had to pose for “motion head shots.” When you come out to Dr Pepper Ballpark, you will see these “motion pictures” at times on ‘Rider Vision (the video board in left field). It’s really a neat feature that has been around for a few years.

While getting players in order for the photographers, I went up to Chris Mobley. It was his turn, but he wasn’t with the team anymore.

He had just been promoted to Triple-A Round Rock.

“I can still do one for you, if you really want,” Mobley said.

That may have been the plausible thing to do because of the dynamic nature of the minors. But hey, I didn’t want to say, “Yea, sure. You may get called back down.” That wouldn’t be a good omen for the personable hurler.

There are still plenty of ‘Riders here. Let’s get our first edition of the “Frisco Facts” going:

FRISCO FACTS:

  • The RoughRiders have announced their rotation for the start of the season. Wilfredo Boscan will start this evening in the season opener. Boscan pitched one scoreless inning in the exhibition against Round Rock Sunday afternoon. Behind Boscan, Martin Perez and Jake Brigham will pitch against Springfield Friday and Saturday, respectively. Perez dealt three scoreless frames in that Sunday exhibition, while Brigham picked up the loss (2.2 IP, 6 R, 5 ER).
  • The number four and five starters are Miguel De Los Santos and Carlos Pimentel. De Los Santos allowed a run and three hits in three innings Tuesday night at Round Rock. Despite walking five, Pimentel was the winning pitcher in the ‘Riders’ 4-3 triumph at Round Rock Tuesday. He did not allow a tally and stranded three in scoring position.
  • The 24-man roster is set, and the ‘Riders have six of the top 30 Rangers prospects according to Baseball America. Perez (1), OF Engel Beltre (5), De Los Santos (10), RHP Fabio Castillo (23), C Jose Felix (26), and Brigham (30) all start the season here in North Texas. Castillo will start the season on the disabled list. The reliever is still not 100 percent after breaking his foot. He did pitch in both exhibitions (2.0 IP, 4 R, 3 ER).
  • Also starting on the DL for the RoughRiders are catcher Elio Sarmiento and infielder Erik Morrison.
  • At the Triple-A level, former RoughRider Tanner Scheppers was placed on the DL with a lower back injury. That move prompted Mobley’s promotion that I mentioned above. Scheppers went 1-3 with a 4.84 ERA between Frisco and Oklahoma City a year ago.
  • The Cardinals’ rotation for this season-opening set has been announced, too. Scott Schneider will toe the rubber tonight, with Nick Additon and Kevin Thomas to follow.
  • It was great meeting and chatting with Jason Cole of LoneStarDugout.com down at Round Rock Tuesday night. Cole will be alongside Aaron Goldsmith for all 10 of our television broadcasts this season on TXA 21. You can see the full TV schedule here. Cole’s web site is one of the premier Rangers sites online, so check it out.
  • Two of the Rangers’ other three full-season affiliates start their seasons tonight as well. Triple-A Round Rock entertains the Iowa Cubs at 7:05, and Hickory hosts the Asheville Tourists at 6:00. Myrtle Beach will kick off its campaign tomorrow night against the Wilmington Blue Rocks.
  • One note from the big leagues. Texas just wrapped up a perfect homestand, sweeping the Red Sox and Mariners. The Rangers became the first team since the 1998 Indians to win their first six games following a trip to the World Series. That Cleveland team never fell out of first place in its division and made it all the way to the ALCS.

Aaron and I take the air at 6:35 for the RoughRiders Pre-Game Show presented by Tye Williams Financial Services. First pitch is set for shortly after 7 from Dr Pepper Ballpark. Catch all of our games on 1630 KKGM or online here. Enjoy the broadcast, the game and the season!

- Brian

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