October 2012

Adventures in Pumpkin Carving

I love Halloween, it’s easily a top-five holiday in my book.  So when we came out with a customized RoughRiders Jack-O’Lantern stencil on the team website, I was totally ready to do our entire office a favor by making one for all to enjoy.  The only problem?  It’s been an embarrassingly long time since I’ve actually carved a pumpkin.  I enlisted the help of Alex Yocum-Beeman, our Graphic Design Coordinator and creator of the ‘Riders pumpkin stencil, to provide the critical support I would need to create a masterpiece.  Alex had just come off a weekend of pumpkin carving with her husband, so her skills were undeniably sharp, whereas mine were as dull as the scooper used to gut the seasonal fruit.  (And yes, I did have to look up if was actually a fruit.  It just doesn’t seem right for some reason.)

Our journey began with a trip to the pumpkin patch on Preston Road in Frisco.  The supply had been somewhat depleted, making attention to detail for the right pumpkin imperative.

I inspect potential pumpkins for the perfect specimen.

Outside of baseball season, fall is the best season.

Keeping watch over the precious pumpkins.

After countless minutes of searching (actually it was more like five), the lucky pumpkin was selected.

After checking with the stencil shape, we had a winner!

Believe it or not (and I couldn’t believe it), but we do not keep pumpkin carving tools on hand in the offices at Dr Pepper Ballpark.  So we had to drop a Lincoln at Walgreen’s for some state-of-the-art equipment.

With these tools, we now could be pumpkin masters of our domain.

Figuring our co-workers would not be too thrilled with the sights (and smells, more importantly) of carving a pumpkin, AYB and I opted to take our task outside into one of the picnic areas of the ballpark.

That’s the batting cage that the ‘Riders use in the background.

After cutting off the top and scraping around inside…

AYB digging in.

… it was time to pull out its guts.

Tasty.

Once we got the innards removed and the stencil taped on, the carving began.

AYB handing the rudimentary tools like a surgeon.

The pattern looks simple enough, but those holes in the “R’s” and the gap between them were a little tricky.

I opted to remove the areas outside the “R’s” while AYB took care of the more detailed work (appropriate for a graphic designer).

Once we got the bulk of the pattern cut, we cleaned up some of the details.

Coming together nicely.

Yummy.

After the carving was all done, we took it for a candlelit test-drive.

Spooky stuff.

In comparison with the real deal, our Jack-O’-Lantern acquits itself nicely.  A job well-done if I do say so myself.

Proudly on display in our administrative office lobby!

I’m not sure how many awards our humble little RoughRiders pumpkin will receive, but in the end it came out looking pretty good.  A big thanks to AYB for all of her important contributions.  If anyone out there is making a RoughRiders pumpkin themselves, shoot a photo and e-mail it to me at avispoli@ridersbaseball.com.

Happy Halloween everybody!

- Alex V.

Hurricane Sandy, Making a Name for Us

I have always taken an interest all things weather, going back to when I was a kid.  When I was in second grade I remember heading to the library and checking out a book about the different types of clouds.  I took great pride in pointing out the differences between stratocumulus and altostratus clouds and always enjoyed witnessing the events that coincided with the presence of the exciting cumulonimbus (i.e. thunderstorm) clouds.

Hurricanes in particular struck my fancy, going back to my memories of Hurricane Bob in 1991.  I remember eagerly anticipating a hurricane of my namesake coming along and hoping it would be particularly memorable.  Some 19 years later, we did experience “Hurricane Alex,” a weather event so utterly anonymous to me that I had no idea it even happened until I Googled it earlier this morning.  Apparently, Hurricane Alex was, according to Wikipedia, a rare June hurricane that formed in the early summer of 2010, was responsible for 51 deaths and $1.8 billion of damage.  In no way do I intend to completely trivialize the storm or disrespect those whose lives it affected, I simply missed the boat on any media hype or attention it was given.

While missing out on this event this disappoints the child in me (which, admittedly, still retains a disproportionately large part of my existence, for better or for worse), I feel that I have been given a second chance with Hurricane Sandy.  You see, Sandy has been a family  nickname for me going back as far as I can remember (it is derived from the “xander” part of my full name, Alexander).  With Sandy, we have gotten a week’s worth of buildup, front and center coverage from news networks (overshadowing the final week before the Presidential Election) and even special uniforms for the Pittsburgh Steelers to commemorate the occasion!

It’s been called Frankenstorm and the Storm of the Century.  It has essentially shut down the eastern seaboard and has gotten some of us to remember the theme song to the classic ’90s Nickelodeon television show “The Adventures of Pete & Pete:”

So for all of those other Sandy’s out there, we are finally getting the storm our name deserves.

Enjoy it, Sandy Koufax.

And Sandy Alomar, Jr.

You too, Sandy Alomar, Sr.

You’ll be safe underwater, Sandy Cheeks.

Don’t try to squeeze in nine holes, Sandy Lyle.

Be happy you’re back in the O.C. for this one, Sandy Cohen.

Don’t count on Flipper helping you out of the storm, Sandy Ricks.

- Alex V. (a.k.a. Sandy)

Catching up with… Steve Buechele (Part Two)

Steve Buechele sees big things in Jurickson Profar’s future. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders)

In part two of my discussion with RoughRiders manager Steve Buechele, we talk about Jurickson Profar, Chris McGuiness and his own future in the game.

Alex Vispoli: This past season you had the distinct pleasure of sending four guys directly to the big leagues, by passing Triple-A.  In your opinion, taking a look at those four guys (Justin Grimm, Wilmer Font, Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar), what do you think their ceilings are, how good can they get?

Steve Buechele: I don’t know, but I think they can all become great players.  To tab every one of them as a great player, well what happens down the road you just never know.  [Profar], he’s had so much talk about him and hype put on his shoulders, and the same with Mike Olt; I think they’re both going to be absolutely great Major Leaguers for a long time.  I think Wilmer Font has a chance to very very good.  And I think Justin Grimm, getting a taste and seeing what it’s like, I think he’ll be very good.   And I could say that about a lot of other guys who were on our team this year.  I think the fans and people around the Metroplex are going to find out that a pretty good number of kids who were on that team this year are going to be wearing a Rangers uniform.  If not a Rangers uniform, they’ll be wearing a big league uniform pretty soon.

AV: Chris McGuiness was named the co-Player of the Week – along with Houston’s Jon Singleton – for the first week of action in the Arizona Fall League.  I was pretty surprised by McGuiness’ season in that he was so productive.  He started off slowly but hit for a .268 average with 23 home runs and it seemed like he raised his game to another level when Olt – who had been hitting in front of him for most of the season – went up to the big leagues. Here he is carrying the label of an “elite prospect” by going out to Arizona and by having the season that he had.  He is known for being a pretty good defensive player as well.  Is he someone who surprised you a little bit considering that he missed most of 2011 with injury and when he did play the results were not great?

SB: I don’t think he surprised me.  I think what was key for him was that it was one of the first seasons where he went the full season injury-free.  He’s always had little nicks and knacks and injuries that have knocked him out here and there.  This year, for the most part, he was injury-free and played every day.  And he was a kid who you saw him just develop and grow into a much more confident run producer and a much more confident hitter.  I think maybe when Mike [Olt] got brought up, and I think even before that, you saw him develop and become a much more confident hitter as the season went on, certainly after the first half.  Early in the year he had so many opportunities to knock in runs and I think became frustrated with it.  It was just nice to see a kid at the Double-A level understand what it takes and what kind of hitter he needs to become to be a run producer.  It was just great to see him do that.  And he’s a great kid; to see that he was named “Player of the Week,” that’s not a surprise to me at all.

AV: With Profar, there’s so much hype around him and he had such a good season at 19 years old in Double-A, the youngest player in Double-A this year.  You probably don’t know the answer to this and Jon Daniels might not know the answer either, but how do the Rangers work him in to get a more regular role than what he had in the last month of the regular season, considering the two positions that he can play are pretty well spoken for at the moment?

SB: I don’t know, that’s not my call.  Do I think he’s a great utility player at the big league level if in fact they go with [Elvis] Andrus and [Ian] Kinsler [at shortstop and second base]?  Yeah, no doubt he is.  He would serve that role perfectly.  Could he play every day in the big leagues?  And my answer to that is yes too.  He’s only 19 years old and you can’t overlook that.  With Pro, what makes him so good is that he adjusts so quickly for a 19-year-old kid.  The adjustments he makes and as smart as he is, it’s well beyond his years.  I’ve said this a hundred times and you’ve heard it: very often you find kids that are afraid to fail.  And he’s one of the rare players that you see who is not afraid to be great.  I would be shocked if the Rangers don’t find some kind of role for him starting next season.

AV: I know you follow the Rangers very closely, I’m sure you were watching after our season ended.  But from your vantage point, what happened to that team over the last two weeks of the season and that one playoff game?

SB: You know what, I don’t know.  I’m not there, I watch it obviously just like everybody else.  I don’t know.  You hear their excuses and if you want to make excuses, to me it is kind of the result of what’s gone on the last two years.  The grind, the long years, players becoming tired, I don’t know.  I don’t think anyone has a definitive answer as to what happened.  I think at the end of the season it looked like a very sluggish team to me, the energy level wasn’t there.  What are the reasons for it?  I’m not going to sit here and try to make any kind of excuse for them, but if I had to give you an opinion I think it’s just a result of what’s gone on the last couple of years and I think they just ran out of gas.

AV: Yeah, an extra month of baseball for two straight years and I think almost everyone played in a career-high number of games which probably helped cause that.

Still a Ranger even after all these years.

SB: Yeah.

AV:You have been mentioned as a guy that folks think has what it takes to be a Major League manager.  Is that what you want eventually?

SB: Sure, I mean going back four years ago when I was asked to come back in the organization and be a part of it, managing was never on my radar screen.  Coaching or getting back in some form was in my mind.  But being a manager never was.  I’ve enjoyed it and I love it.  What other people say is what they say, I don’t care.  I’m happy with what I’m doing and hopefully someday I’ll get a chance to be on a big league staff again.

AV: Is that something that you take an active role in trying to make it happen or is your philosophy “if it’s going to happen, just wait for it to happen”?

SB: I don’t know how active a role I can take in it.  I think I’m pretty loyal to the Rangers.  I’ve been a part of this organization for a long long long time going back to 1985 and always being a part of the organization, doing something for them in some extent and now I’m back in uniform.  There are certain loyalties that I have to the Rangers and the hope on my end is that at some point, some time I’ll be able to wear that Rangers uniform again.

My thanks to Steve Buechele for taking the time to talk with us.  Look out for more interviews with members of the 2012 RoughRiders throughout the off-season.

-          Alex

Catching up with… Steve Buechele (Part One)

Steve Buechele shakes hands with Springfield manager Mike Shildt on Opening Day at Dr Pepper Ballpark on April 12, 2012. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders)

Recently, I had the chance to speak with RoughRiders manager and former Rangers third baseman Steve Buechele.  We talked about the off-season, the playoffs and some of his players on the 2012 RoughRiders.  This is part one of our conversation with part two coming tomorrow.

 

Alex Vispoli: First of all, how has the off-season been treating you?

Steve Buechele: It’s always nice when you get away from the field and spend some time with the family and just do family stuff.  That’s what makes the off-season so special.

AV: It’s been about a month and a half since the season ended.  Are you still enjoying your time off or have you gotten to the point where you’re itching to get back to the game?

SB: Oh no, I’m happy to be away.  I think everybody looks forward to getting back to the game but you know, that there are still months to go and the time that you have to spend with your family and be away, it’s very precious.  Once you get back into baseball, that’s what takes up all your time.  I’m sure after the holidays and after Christmas when spring training comes close that’s when [we’ll all be looking forward to getting back to it].  It’s kind of like the swallows going back to Capistrano; you know you’re supposed to be somewhere, you get that itch and you want to get going.

AV: When does it all start up again for you?  The season begins in April, the Minor Leagues’ spring training begins in March; are you out there in Arizona come February?

SB: Yeah, the Rangers bring the Double-A and Triple-A staffs to big league camp. [At the moment, the Rangers have not announced their spring training schedule, but pitchers and catchers reported to Surprise, Arizona on February 22 this past year.]

AV: The way the 2012 season ended, going back to the Cardinals series, was there something missing from the performance or did Springfield just out-execute you guys?  How do you look back on that series?

SB: You know, when I look back at it we had a chance in Game 2 [in Springfield] with a four-run lead] and I think if you had to go back and do it all over again it’s one of those things where I wouldn’t do any thing differently.  I would have felt absolutely awesome knowing that I’ve got Grimm and Wolf coming in to get the last four outs.  But it’s the playoffs and it’s baseball and those kind of things happen.  I think [the Cardinals] played good and I think we played good.  They pitched well, we pitched well and they beat us.  I don’t think we did anything to lose the series.  I look back and I’m super-proud of my guys and the way we played.  Obviously we all wished we could have won the championship but to get there with the group that we had was awesome.

AV: You can even see in this ridiculous Major League Baseball postseason the fact that momentum seems to carry such weight and it seems like it’s even more difficult to stop when you have it on your side.  Especially when you’re at home like Springfield was in that Game 2.

SB: Well I think the momentum thing that you talk about, it probably applies more to that Corpus Christi series than anything else.  To me, looking back, winning one game in Corpus Christi may have been one of our best accomplishments of the year.  That’s a really tough place to play.  The fans came out for the playoffs.  Usually in the Minor Leagues stadiums are not full, they’re more toward the empty side.  But Corpus Christi’s ballpark was full, they had the rally towels and just the atmosphere that was there in that game… You’re thinking you’ve got to play three of them there and we’re going to have a tough time getting through this.  But to win that series [in three games] I think was a huge accomplishment for us.

AV: When you look back at the last game of the year, do you think about what could have been based on that controversial call that happened, down 2-0 in the eighth inning with Leury Garcia getting called out on the close play at first base and then Chris McGuiness then hitting the home run on the very next pitch?

SB: Yeah you can think about it.  But you know what?  Had Leury Garcia been called safe, they probably would have pitched McGuiness a little bit differently too.  Those are the things in baseball that, the way they happen and what ends up happening, you look at it in a very general way and think, “Oh gosh, that would have been a two-run homer.”  I guarantee you had Leury been called safe and been on first base they would have been careful to Chris McGuiness.  I’m not saying he wouldn’t have hit a home run, but I don’t look at as if that home run would have definitely happened to tie the game up.

AV: Looking at the season as a whole, you really seemed to enjoy this season and this group.  You spoke about it with me on plenty of occasions.  In your mind, what made the group of players as special as it was?

SB:I think it was such a new group and such a fresh group, a bunch of guys coming up from A-ball and making that jump.  It was a group of kids that was just raw for our level and learning and talented obviously, a very talented group.  But you just don’t know how the kids are going to adapt to moving up a level and facing that challenge.  Once you get to Double-A it’s a whole different ballgame as a lot of our kids found out.  I think what made it special for me was that it was just a great group of kids that came to the park everyday ready to play, wanting to learn.  And for the most part, they played their tails off and they played the game the right way.  They took their lumps, a lot of those kids, but I think they all got better and they understand what it’s going to take to move on.

Team chemistry was always high for the RoughRiders in 2012. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders)

AV: Talking to people inside and outside the organization and there seems to be an intentional strategy of getting good clubhouse guys who are obviously talented as well.  You saw how important that chemistry is at the big league level, the way the players interacted during the Rangers’ two World Series runs.  Do you think that element on this year’s ’Riders team is more of a coincidence or was this part of the plan with this particular group just now reaching this point on the Minor League ladder?

SB: I’m not sure, Alex.  I think when you draft and sign kids, to me, number one above ability is the makeup of the kid.  I think a lot of times that gets thrown in the background a little bit because of a kid’s ability and his talents and his skill level.  They wow you so much that, you know what, maybe you take a chance on the makeup of what kind of kid he is.  To me, that becomes first and foremost is what kind of kid he is.  How does he approach the game?  What does he do when he’s on the field?  How does he come to the ballpark everyday?  Is he ready to go?  How does he prepare?  Those are more important to me sometimes than a kid’s physical abilities.  And this was just a group of young kids that was raw, as I said, they had great talent.  But for the most part those guys came to the ballpark every day and they were ready to play.  What they did in the first half was, to me, very exceptional.

Coming tomorrow: We discuss Jurickson Profar’s future, what happened to the Rangers at the end of the season and his future in the game.

-          Alex

Season in Review: September

For Rangers fans, this shot might elicit bad memories as the Springfield Cardinals celebrate a Texas League championship at Frisco’s expense. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders)

The 2012 Frisco RoughRiders season was an unquestioned success.  The ’Riders won the first half South Division title, finished with an 80-60 record (good for the second-best overall mark in the Texas League) and advanced to the Texas League Championship Series before losing to the Springfield Cardinals.  Along the way, there were standout performances from big-time prospects, thrilling games and terrific storylines.  Before looking ahead to the 2013 season, we look back at a special 2012 campaign that proved to be a memorable one for the ’Riders.

SEPTEMBER

Record: 6-4 (2-1 in RS, 4-3 in playoffs)

Average: .263 (.265 in RS, .263 in playoffs)

Home Runs: 5 (1 in RS, 4 in playoffs)

ERA: 3.13 (3.54 in RS, 2.95 in playoffs)

Top Offensive Players: Jose Felix (.400-0-4, 2 2B, 3 R), Leury Garcia (.275-1-5, 2 2B, 5 R), Chris McGuiness (.278-1-8, 3 2B, 5 R, 6 BB), Tommy Mendonca (.278-1-6, 2B, 2 R)

Top Pitchers: Wilfredo Boscan (2 GS, 0-1, 2.61 ERA, 10.1 IP, 9 H, 3 ER, 6 BB, 8 K), Cody Buckel (2 GS, 0-1, 1.64 ERA, 11 IP, 11 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 14 K), Barret Loux (3 GS, 1-0, 2.77 ERA, 13 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 5 BB, 13 K), Nick Tepesch (3 GS, 1-0, 2.45 ERA, 18.1 IP, 10 H, 5 ER, 6 BB, 15 K)

Nick Tepesch was the ‘Riders’ most impressive pitcher in the postseason, tossing 13.1 scoreless innings, giving up 4 hits with 9 strikeouts. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders)

After five months, 140 games, 12 off-days and approximately 201.5 hours on a bus, the regular season was in the record books and the playoffs were set to begin.  The RoughRiders clinched a spot back in June after finishing the first half of the season with the best record in the Texas League.  Their opponent in the South Division Championship Series was Corpus Christi, which clinched the second half division title and finished with the best overall mark in the TL (81-59, one game better than Frisco).

As was expected, given their tightly-contested regular season series in late August, the SDCS games were all competitive and full of drama.  But in each contest, the RoughRiders were the team that made the plays they needed to and caught most of the breaks.  The result was an unexpected three-game sweep by Frisco of a team that many anticipated would win the league championship.

The ’Riders were high on momentum from the sweep, but inactivity may have stunted their chances of getting off to a quick start in the Texas League Championship Series.  While Frisco wrapped up its business in short order, the team had to wait to find out their final opponent as Springfield and Tulsa went to a decisive Game 5 of their series in the North Division.  After the Cardinals vanquished the Drillers at home, the ’Riders made the seven-hour bus ride to southwest Missouri.

What followed was (for the most part) a pitching-dominated series that turned in the eighth inning of Game 2 when Frisco failed to hold a big lead and Springfield headed to Texas up in the series 2-0.  Not even a pair of impressive Frisco pitching performances could inspire the RoughRiders’ quiet bats and the Cardinals won the series in four games.

TIMELINE:

September 1: Barret Loux works out of a first inning jam against Midland in his final start of the season, an intentionally abbreviated one-inning outing designed to get him some work before the playoffs.  Jose Felix’ three-run double sparks a six-run second inning and Frisco blows away the RockHounds 10-3.

September 3: On the final day of the regular season, the ’Riders and ’Hounds play extra innings with Midland winning 2-1 in ten frames.  Frisco leaves 13 men on base and wave the white flag in the top of the tenth, putting outfielder Val Majewski on the mound to pitch.  He gives up a run on two hits in his second pitching appearance of the season.  The RoughRiders finish the regular season with an 80-60 record.

September 4: Cody Buckel is named the “Pitcher of the Week” for the Texas League in the final week of the regular season after a pair of terrific performances down the stretch: 2 GS, 10 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 16 K.

September 5 (SDCS Game 1): A matchup of Loux, the TL’s “Pitcher of the Year,” and Corpus Christi’s Paul Clemens (no relation to “The Rocket”) has little flow early, with both teams scoring single runs in the first and second innings.  [Side note: As a present to hitting coach Jason Hart on his 35th birthday, Engel Beltre promises a triple and a run scored to lead off the game; he would settle for a double and run in the first inning.]  The ’Riders gain the upper hand with three runs in the third with Jared Hoying and Guilder Rodriguez – starting at shortstop in the place of recently promoted Jurickson Profar – generating RBI hits.  In the middle innings, the Hooks creep back into the game with runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.  Tied at five in the ninth, Leury Garcia singles and barely scores from first base on a double by Chris McGuiness to send Frisco to a 6-5 walk-off win.

Leury Garcia’s legs and bat were major factors in Frisco’s SDCS win over Corpus Christi. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders)

September 6 (SDCS Game 2): Corpus Christi’s Rob Rasmussen outduels Wilfredo Boscan over the first two-thirds of the ballgame and delivers a 2-0 lead to his bullpen in the eighth inning.  The Hooks’ terrific relief duo of Kevin Chapman and Jason Stoffel, however, fails to protect the precious advantage.  In a replay of the previous night, Garcia reaches on an error and scores on a McGuiness double.  After a strikeout and a walk, Stoffel enters the game with Majewski pinch running at second base and Ryan Strausborger batting.  Strausborger follows with a base hit to right field to bring home Majewski and the tying run, sending Stoffel to just his third blown save of the year.  In the ninth inning, Rodriguez walks and gets to second on a sacrifice, but makes an ill-advised steal attempt of third base and is thrown out, seemingly ending the Frisco rally.  But two pitches later, Garcia stuns everyone in attendance by yanking a solo home run out to right to give the RoughRiders a 3-2 walk-off win.  It’s on to Corpus with a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five game series for the ’Riders.

September 7 (SDCS Game 3): With a raucous crowd of over five-thousand fans on hand at Whataburger Field, starters Nick Tepesch and Ross Seaton proceed to carve through the other team’s lineup.  Tepesch (7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 4 K on 83 pitches) is particularly dominant, retiring the first 14 men he faces and not allowing a ball to even leave the infield until a fly out in the fifth.  Frisco gets to Seaton in the sixth with McGuiness and Strausborger driving in Beltre and Garcia to put the ’Riders on top 2-0.  The Hooks’ chances with men on base in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings do not materialize into runs and Frisco salts it away with three more tallies in the ninth inning.  Ross Wolf records the final four outs for the save as the RoughRiders win the contest 5-0 and sweep the series in three games.  It’s on to the Texas League Championship Series with the opponent still not determined.

September 9: Springfield beats Tulsa 3-1 in Game 5 of the North Division Championship Series to earn the right to face Frisco for the Texas League’s top prize.  The Cardinals will host the first two games of the TLCS at Hammons Field in Missouri with Games 3 – 5 (if necessary) being played at Dr Pepper Ballpark.

September 11 (TLCS Game 1): Facing live pitching for the first time in four days, the RoughRiders’ bats look a little sluggish.  This problem is exacerbated by having to face hard-throwing Cardinals prospect Carlos Martinez for the first time in 2012.  Martinez (7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K) unleashes a dizzying supply of 100 mph fastballs – some as late as the seventh inning – and silences Frisco’s offense.  Meanwhile, Springfield scratches across a pair of runs against Buckel and then three more against the ’Riders bullpen to win 5-0.  Rangers catcher Mike Napoli (quad) joins Frisco on a rehab assignment and goes 0-for-2 with a strikeout and a hit-by-pitch.

September 12 (TLCS Game 2):Needing a win to avoid an 0-2 hole, the RoughRiders strike for two unearned runs against control artist Seth Maness and then double their lead on a two-run Napoli homer in the eighth.  After Tepesch (6.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 5 K) gives Frisco another impressive performance, the bullpen suffers a meltdown of epic proportions, changing the entire outlook of the series.  Pitching with a 4-0 lead in the eighth, Justin Grimm walks the leadoff man but sets down the next two batters to get the ’Riders to within four outs of a win.  But Grimm gives up a double and a walk to load the bases before the Wolf is summoned.  The normally rock steady closer also falters, giving up four consecutive base hits.  Adam Melker’s RBI single ties it and then Audry Perez’s two-run double gives the Cardinals a 6-4 lead.  Frisco goes on to lose by that score after Keith Butler strikes out the side in order in the ninth inning.  Springfield will head down to Frisco just one win away from a championship.

Barret Loux pitched a gem in Game 3 of the Texas League Championship Series to keep Frisco alive. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders)

September 14 (TLCS Game 3): During in the day, the RoughRiders and Rangers jointly announce that they have extended their Player Development Contract by four more years until 2018, meaning that the teams will remain affiliated for at least six more seasons.  Looking for an extension of the championship series, Frisco trots out Loux to the mound, needing a win to stave off elimination.  The former Texas A&M Aggie delivers a thunderous performance, yielding just one run on two hits with eight strikeouts over 6.1 innings.  The ’Riders efficiently put forth a run in the third inning, two in the fifth, one in the sixth and another in the seventh and win 5-1 to force a Game 4.  After starting the series 0-for-10, McGuiness drives home a run in the seventh inning with a double that is misplayed in the outfield and nearly scores; he is thrown out at home on the play.

September 15 (TLCS Game 4): The RoughRiders and Cardinals play a Saturday night thriller with situational pitching playing a major role.  Springfield blows a base loaded opportunity in the first inning against Boscan, but Frisco can’t take advantage of men in scoring position with no outs in the third or fifth with Scott Gorgen on the mound.  Gorgen, who lost a 1-0 decision to Grimm and the ’Riders on Opening Day of the regular season, strikes out seven batters over six scoreless innings before departing.  Meanwhile, the Cardinals score on a Greg Garcia RBI single after Boscan is chased in the fifth to take a 1-0 lead.  They tack on an important unearned run in the eighth inning after a steal and errors by McGuiness and Garcia get Mike O’Neill home from first base with two outs.  In the bottom of the frame, Garcia hits a slow grounder to third baseman Jermaine Curtis and appears to beat out the throw to first base but is called out by umpire Adam Schwarz.  After the ’Riders argue the botched call, McGuiness hits the very next pitch from Eric Fornataro over the wall in left field for a solo home run to cut the deficit to one.  Tommy Mendonca follows with a single and gets to second base on a fielder’s choice.  Hoying then singles to left and Mendonca, representing the tying run, is waved homeward but gets thrown out by Melker to keep Springfield in the lead.  Mendonca strains his hamstring while sprinting for the plate, ending his season.  In the ninth, Butler allows a two-out single but Beltre grounds out to end the game and the season.  The Cardinals take the game 2-1 and win their first-ever Texas League championship.  In an epilogue to the final chapter of a memorable season, Grimm and reliever Wilmer Font are promoted to the Rangers immediately following the game.  Four 2012 RoughRiders (Font, Grimm, Mike Olt & Profar) end up going to straight to the big leagues during the season, joining three other former Frisco players (Martin Perez, Robbie Ross and Joe Wieland) who made their Major League debuts this year.  In total, 108 players have donned RoughRiders uniforms and reached the highest level of professional baseball.

For everyone associated with the ’Riders, it was a memorable season filled with big-time prospects, tremendous performances and, above all, an excellent team.  To the players, coaches and fans, thanks for being part of a great ride.

-          Alex V.

Season in Review: August

With Mike Olt gone because of promotion, Chris McGuiness took up the slack and led Frisco’s offensive charge throughout the month of August. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders)

The 2012 Frisco RoughRiders season was an unquestioned success.  The ’Riders won the first half South Division title, finished with an 80-60 record (good for the second-best overall mark in the Texas League) and advanced to the Texas League Championship Series before losing to the Springfield Cardinals.  Along the way, there were standout performances from big-time prospects, thrilling games and terrific storylines.  Before looking ahead to the 2013 season, we look back at a special 2012 campaign that proved to be a memorable one for the ’Riders.

AUGUST

Record: 19-10 (1st of 8 TL teams)

Average: .269 (4th)

Home Runs: 19 (T-5th)

ERA: 3.31 (1st)

Top Offensive Players: Leury Garcia (.324-0-3, 2B, 3 3B, 9 R, 8-10 SB, .420/.426/.846), Chris McGuiness (.326-3-18, 8 2B, 14 R, .430/.505/.935), Jared Prince (.317-3-11, 4 2B, 11 R, .378/.476/.853)

Top Pitchers: Wilfredo Boscan (6 GS, 3-1, 2.73 ERA, 33 IP, 29 H, 31 K, 7 BB, 1.09 WHIP, .238 BAA), Cody Buckel (5 G, 4 GS, 3-0, 3.38 ERA, 26.2 IP, 23 H, 25 K, 8 BB), Wilmer Font (9 G, 1-0, 3.21 ERA, 1 SV, 14 IP, 9 H, 26 K, 7 BB, .180 BAA), Carlos Pimentel (7 G, 2 GS, 0-1, 0.50 ERA, 18 IP, 8 H, 20 K, 11 BB, 1.06 WHIP, .136 BAA), Ryan Rodebaugh (10 G, 1-2, 1.76 ERA, 2-2 SV, 15.1 IP, 11 H, 18 K, 2 BB, 0.85 WHIP, .204 BAA), Ross Wolf (12 G, 1-0, 3.00 ERA, 5-5 SV, 12 IP, 11 H, 11 K, BB, 1.00 WHIP)

Consistency is what made the RoughRiders so successful l in the season’s first two months.  Led by a very good pitching staff and an opportunistic offense, Frisco put together the best record in the Texas League over first half.  But that consistency abandoned the team for most of June and July and the ’Riders, though they had already qualified for the playoffs, looked like they would be due for an early exit.  Corpus Christi was leading the division and looked particularly strong against Frisco.  After some early season struggles, the Hooks won 11 of 14 games against the ’Riders in June and July.

But in August, Frisco got back to the formula that made the squad so good in the first place: terrific pitching and just enough offense.  The ’Riders saw their rotation stabilize and bullpen bolstered with the additions of hard throwing right-handers Wilmer Font and Roman Mendez.  That helped offset the tremendous loss of Mike Olt, who was called up to the big leagues early in the month.

Olt, who was among the league leaders in most offensive categories at the time of his promotion, was replaced by Tommy Mendonca, who was not producing at Triple-A Round Rock but rediscovered his offensive game back in the Texas League.  Mendonca, Chris McGuiness, Leury Garcia, Jared Prince, Jared Hoying and Engel Beltre all took turns leading the offense in August.

As the team was primed for their playoff run, Frisco would be presented one more challenge by the end of the month with one last prominent player departing for the Majors.

TIMELINE:

August 1:Four roster moves are made before tonight’s game against Midland, most notably the addition of hard-throwing reliever Wilmer Font from Myrtle Beach.  With a temperature of 106 degrees in Frisco at first pitch, this is the hottest start time for a ’Riders game this season.  Frisco loses 6-5 in 12 innings despite Mike Olt’s Double-A leading 28th home run.  After the game, news breaks that Olt has been promoted to the Rangers, where he will remain for the rest of the year.  In 95 Texas League games, he hit .288 with 28 homers, 17 doubles, a triple and 82 RBI.

Tommy Mendonca salvaged his difficult 2012 season upon returning to Frisco early in the month. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders)

August 2: With Olt officially a Texas Ranger and the 106th RoughRiders player to make the Major Leagues, Frisco only manages two runs against RockHounds prospect Sonny Gray.  Midland, however, gets blanked by four Frisco pitchers in a combined three-hitter as the ’Riders win 2-0.  Mark Lowe finishes his rehab stint with Frisco by pitching two scoreless innings.  Tommy Mendonca, a ’Rider and TL All-Star in 2011, arrives from Triple-A Round Rock to play third base in Olt’s absence.

August 4: After four straight no-decisions, Barret Loux (6 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 2 K) wins for the 13th time in 2012 in a 6-1 victory at the Missions.  Eight of nine Frisco batters reach base at least twice and the win ensures that the RoughRiders will finish with a winning record against division bully San Antonio for the first time since 2008.

August 6: Jared Hoying blasts a first inning home run, but so too does San Antonio’s Nate Freiman, igniting a fierce Missions attack in a 12-4 ’Riders loss.  It clinches what will be the only series defeat of the month for the Frisco nine.

August 8: Chris McGuiness and Mendonca both crack two run home runs in the third inning at Tulsa, providing just enough offense in a 4-3 victory.

August 9: Former All-Star pitcher Lee Smith throws the ceremonial first pitch before Frisco’s game at Tulsa and seems to steal the “closer mojo” from ’Riders stopper Ross Wolf.  Frisco takes a 6-2 lead into the ninth inning before the Driller strike for three runs against Wolf and put the tying runner in scoring position.  The normally automatic Wolf settles down to strike out prospect third baseman Nolan Arenado and deliver the RoughRiders a stressful 6-5 win.

August 11: Nick Tepesch (6 IP, 9 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 4 K, balk) is a bit shaky, but the ’Riders string together 16 hits and homers from Jared Prince and Mendonca to beat Northwest Arkansas 10-3.

August 12: The ’Riders take a 2-0 lead into the seventh at the Naturals, but Northwest Arkansas ties it and then takes a two-run lead in the eighth inning.  Frisco, 0-43 when trailing after eight frames this season, shocks the Nats when McGuiness hits a grand slam off Brendan Lafferty and the ’Riders go on to win 6-4.  It is McGuiness’ second slam of the year and it starts a hot stretch that continues for the rest of the South Carolinian’s season.  In a strange statistical quirk, McGuiness has now homered in seven of the 14 games he has played on Sundays.

August 13:Again, the ’Riders blow a late lead at Northwest Arkansas but this time are unable to rally back in a 4-3 loss.  The game ends when former RoughRiders catcher Manny Pina throws out Ryan Strausborger trying to steal third base with Jurickson Profar, who had homered earlier in the contest, standing in the batter’s box.

Wilfredo Boscan quietly emerged as a reliable starting pitcher, posting a 2.73 ERA and a 31-7 K/BB ratio in August. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders)

August 15: The Rangers send electric reliever Roman Mendez (up from Myrtle) and utility man Guilder Rodriguez (down from Round Rock) to Frisco.  That night, Wilfredo Boscan (6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 K) pitches marvelously against Tulsa in a no-decision.  McGuiness’ two-run double triggers a three-run bottom of the eighth and Frisco pulls out a 4-2 victory.  It is his fifth game-winning base hit of 2012 (he will finish with six in total), the most on the team.

August 17: Behind a bloodlessly efficient Nick Tepesch (7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, BB, 5 K on just 78 pitches), Frisco silences the Drillers once again in a 5-1 win.  Nolan Arenado’s two-out, ninth inning solo home run off Mendez is the only thing that prevents a shutout as the ’Riders sweep Tulsa for the second time this season.

August 18: After playing 123 games, the RoughRiders are rained out for the first time all season with the Naturals in town.

August 19: Playing their first doubleheader of the year, the ’Riders dispose of Northwest Arkansas twice.  Mendonca hits two solo home runs in a 3-0 game one win while Alex Buchholz goes deep in game two, also won by Frisco 3-1.

August 20: Mendonca and Tepesch are named TL “Player” and “Pitcher of the Week,” respectively.  Frisco gets another dominant pitching performance from a starter, as Cody Buckel (6 IP, 5 H, R, 0 BB, 7 K) handcuffs the Naturals in a 6-1 win.  Prince, who has been heating up as the month goes on, swats a three-run home run – his 11th of the season – in the fifth inning as the RoughRiders finish their home stand with a perfect 6-0 record.

August 22: It is looking like a lost night for the ’Riders midway through their second game in San Antonio.  Frisco leaves eight men on base over the first four innings – including the bases loaded twice – and Loux yields five runs in the fourth after looking very good early.  Down 7-1 through five frames, the RoughRiders mount their biggest comeback of the season.  They score two runs in the sixth inning, three in the seventh and three more in the ninth to emerge with a 9-7 victory, the team’s eighth straight.  Hoying puts Frisco on top for the first time with a two-run double in the final frame.  The team bangs out a season-high 20 hits with Hoying (4-for-5, 2B, 5 RBI, 2 R), Profar (5-for-6, 2B, 2 R), Engel Beltre (3-for-5, RBI, 2R, SB, HBP), McGuiness (3-for-4, RBI, BB, HBP) and Strausborger (3-for-6) leading the way offensively.

August 23: Frisco’s season-best eight-game win streak ends with a 9-3 loss to the Missions.  Former RoughRiders pitcher Robbie Erlin (5 IP, 3 H, 2 R) gets the win.

August 25: The RoughRiders and RockHounds are rained out in Midland.  Meanwhile at Whataburger Field, Corpus Christi defeats San Antonio 5-2 to clinch a spot in the postseason, where they will face Frisco in the South Division Championship Series next month.

August 26: Frisco and Midland play a long doubleheader, which is swept by the RoughRiders.  Steve Buechele’s club takes game one by a 4-2 score.  The seven-inning contest takes two hours and 36 minutes while game two takes an even longer two hours and 50 minutes.  Frisco takes that game 11-4.  Hoying has six hits on the day while Strausborger provides a pair of triples.

August 27:A strange series comes to a strange end in another long game at Citibank Ballpark.  Midland ties it at 1-1 in the fourth inning and the score does not change for some time.  The game goes to extra innings and the ’Riders, out of pitchers after the doubleheader the day before, insert infielder Rodriguez into the game to pitch in the 11th.  To the amazement of his teammates, G-Rod throws a scoreless 11th and 12th innings with two strikeouts.  His magic runs out in the 13th inning when a walk and an Anthony Aliotti double send  the RockHounds to a 2-1 win in three hours and 44 minutes.

Before the season, most knew that Jurickson Profar would one day reach the big leagues. Few expected it to happen for him in 2012 as a 19-year-old. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders)

August 28: In a playoff preview, the ’Riders return home to face Corpus Christi and win a taut 2-1 affair.  Up by a run in the ninth inning, Frisco allows the Hooks to load the bases with one out before Ryan Rodebaugh slams the door shut with back-to-back strikeouts, ending the game.  In a foreshadowing of a future role, Profar enters the game late after starting on the bench.  He repeats this in each of the next two contests.

August 29: Strausborger triples twice and Buckel (5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K) handles the Hooks bats in a 3-0 Frisco win.  With Beltre’s triple the next day Frisco will finish the season with 59 three-baggers for the season, the most by any team in Minor League Baseball.

August 31: The RoughRiders play another tight game with the Hooks and lead 2-0 before Corpus Christi ties it up in the seventh against Justin Grimm, who is back from Round Rock to adjust to pitching out of the bullpen.  Zach Zaneski snaps the 2-2 tie with an RBI double in the bottom of the inning and then later scores to give Frisco the lead.  In the ninth, Wolf gives up a home run and puts the tying runner at first base, but escapes thanks to a game-ending double-play as the ’Riders win 4-3 and capture the series.  After the game, the Rangers announce that Profar will be called up to the Major Leagues the next day when big league rosters expand.

Coming next week: Our season in review series concludes with a look back at September and the playoffs.

-          Alex V.

Season in Review: July

Engel Beltre heated up in July and was key to the ‘Riders’ late-month turnaround. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders).

The 2012 Frisco RoughRiders season was an unquestioned success.  The ’Riders won the first half South Division title, finished with an 80-60 record (good for the second-best overall mark in the Texas League) and advanced to the Texas League Championship Series before losing to the Springfield Cardinals.  Along the way, there were standout performances from big-time prospects, thrilling games and terrific storylines.  Before looking ahead to the 2013 season, we look back at a special 2012 campaign that proved to be a memorable one for the ’Riders.

JULY

Record: 16-14 (T-3rd of 8 TL teams)

Average: .263 (3rd)

Home Runs: 33 (1st)

ERA: 4.41 (6th)

Top Offensive Players: Engel Beltre (.308-6-15, 4 2B, 6 3B, 25 R, 12-14 SB, .352/.592/.943), Leury Garcia (.300-1-10, 4 2B, 2 3B, 22 R, 11-12 SB), Jared Hoying (.288-3-10, 3 2B, 3B, 21 R, 3-4 SB), Ryan Strausborger (.287-2-12, 4 2B, 3B, 17 R, 6-6 SB)

Top Pitchers: Barret Loux (5 GS, 1-1, 2.63 ERA, 24 IP, 17 H, 1.04 WHIP, .200 BAA), Nick Tepesch (6 G, 5 GS, 3-1, 2.82 ERA, 38.1 IP, 36 H, 24 K, 9 BB), Ross Wolf (6 G, 2-0, 0.00 ERA, 8 IP, 5 H, 0.88 WHIP, .179 BAA)

After a difficult month of June, the RoughRiders ran hot and cold throughout July.  A look at the monthly numbers above seems to suggest a team playing mediocre baseball throughout the month, but in reality Frisco rapidly swung from one polar opposite to another a few times.

The ’Riders started the month the way they finished the previous one, with a pair of losses to tie its longest losing streak of the season (four).  However, the team then proceeded to rip off six straight wins for its longest winning streak in 2012.  That momentum did not last long, because Frisco then lost 11 of its next 15 to drop into last place in the second half division standings.  The boomerang reversed direction one more time though when the ’Riders won six out of seven to finish the month.

One of the reasons for the instability was the tumultuous nature of the starting pitching staff at the time.  At one point, the ’Riders had three starters dealing with health-related workload restrictions while at the same time were stretching reliever Wilfredo Boscan into a starter’s role and dealing with the growing pains of hurlers recently promoted from Myrtle Beach.

July featured the additional drama of the end-of-month trading deadline and with it came persistent rumors involving the Rangers and several Frisco players.  Mike Olt was the RoughRider most frequently mentioned in trade talks by the media, but by the end of the month it was a different player who ended up changing organizations via a trade.

Frisco’s performance somewhat mirrored the parent club, as the Rangers slogged their way through the middle of the season at the big league level as well.  There was additional crossover with three Texas players rehabbing in RoughRiders uniforms with varying degrees of success.

TIMELINE:

Frisco may have struggled to start July, but at least athletic trainer Carlos Olivas (left) and strength & conditioning coach Eric McMahon were looking good. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders)

July 2:The struggling ’Riders take one on the chin in their series opener at Arkansas.  Frisco brings a 6-2 lead into the ninth inning but gives up five runs in the bottom of the frame – the last three coming on a Roberto Lopez three-run homer off of Ryan Rodebaugh – and lose 7-6.  The form of the loss is especially tough to swallow, considering that the Travelers at the time had the second-fewest homers of any team in the “High Minors” (Double-A and Triple A).  The loss knocks Frisco out of first place overall in the South Division for the first time all season as Corpus Christi takes over as the team with the best record.

July 3: Barret Loux and the RoughRiders rebound in a 5-1 win over the Travs.  Loux, who had lost for the first time all year in his previous start, allows just an unearned run and two hits over seven superb innings to improve to 11-1 in 2012.

July 4: Chris McGuiness supplies the Independence Day fireworks with his 17th home run of the season in Frisco’s 8-0 win over Arkansas.  Cody Buckel shows what made him the best pitcher in the Carolina League in his third Texas League outing, giving up just one hit in six scoreless innings.

July 5: Baseball America releases its revised “Top 50 Prospects” list and the ’Riders are well-represented.  Jurickson Profar comes in at number two (behind Baltimore’s Dylan Bundy) while Mike Olt (11) and Cody Buckel (41) also make the list.

July 7: Frisco finishes off a three-game sweep of Springfield with a 5-2 win at Dr Pepper Ballpark.  The sweep comes just days after the Cardinals swept the ’Riders up in Missouri.  While the win is welcomed, the game features a lack of star power as stud prospects from both sides (Olt and Profar of Frisco; Oscar Taveras and Kolten Wong of Springfield) are in Kansas City for the All-Star Futures Game.

July 8: The Futures Game is played at the Royals’ Kauffman Stadium and Profar makes an early splash, homering for the World team in the first inning off former Northwest Arkansas Natural Jake Odorizzi.  Profar adds a single and goes 2-for-3 while Olt – playing for the U.S. squad – goes 1-for-5 with an RBI.  That night, their ’Riders teammates run their season-best win streak to six games with a 5-4 win against the Travelers.  McGuiness hits a walk-off solo home run in the tenth inning, the first walk-off home run of his baseball life.  Leury Garcia goes 3-for-5 in the contest with an RBI and three of Frisco’s six steals.

July 9: Justin Grimm returns from his three-outing stint with the Rangers for a brief, three-inning start against Arkansas.  After he departs in a scoreless game, Buckel pitches well but surrenders a solo home run to former RoughRiders infielder (and the team’s all-time hits leader) Renny Osuna in the seventh inning.  That proves to be enough for Johnny Hellweg (8 SHO IP) who dominates and leads the Travelers to a 1-0 win to snap Frisco’s six-game win streak.  Hellweg hits Olt on the wrist with a fastball in the third inning and the ’Riders’ third baseman misses the next week with a bruise.

July 12: Frisco goes on the road to Corpus Christi and looks to be in control with a 4-0 lead and two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning.  But Carlos Pimentel and Zach Osborne allow four runs in the frame, including a three-run double by Austin Wates to send the game to extra innings.  The ’Riders hold leads of one and two runs in the tenth and 11th innings, respectively, but both times the Hooks come back.  Wates cements his role as hero with a three-run walk-off home run off Tim Murphy to send Corpus to an improbable 8-7 win and the Whataburger Field crowd (at least, what’s left after a mass exodus in the middle of the ninth inning) into delirium.  Garcia’s big night (4-for-5, 3 R, 3 SB) for Frisco is wasted.

July 13: The ’Riders allow five home runs and lose 12-2 to Corpus Christi.  However, the win is costly to the Hooks as star shortstop Jonathan Villar breaks his hand punching a dugout wall after striking out in the eighth inning and does not play for the rest of the regular season.  Profar plays third base for the first time in his career with Olt still out of the lineup.

July 15: Jarred Cosart and two relievers one-hit Frisco as the ’Riders fall 5-2 to the Hooks.  Wates hits another home run as Profar’s RBI triple in the sixth inning is the team’s only base knock.

July 16: Rangers right-hander Neftali Feliz begins his rehab assignment from a sore elbow with the RoughRiders at Dr Pepper Ballpark.  Feliz, who pitched for Frisco in 2008, strikes out four and allows an unearned run to San Antonio in two innings.  The ’Riders lose 7-4 and Feliz makes two more starts for Round Rock before the Rangers announce he will undergo “Tommy John” surgery and be lost for the year.

Rangers 1B/OF Mitch Moreland returned to his old home ballpark for a three-game rehab stint. Pitchers Neftali Feliz and Mark Lowe also rehabbed in Frisco in July. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders)

July 17: After a disastrous outing by Neil Ramirez (2.1 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 2 BB, HR), Osborne comes in to pitch in relief and does no better, allowing six runs on five hits and a walk without retiring a Missions batter.  Frisco falls 12-4 despite home runs from Olt and Engel Beltre.  Beltre (3-for-5) begins a scorching last half of the month; he will hit .375 with four doubles, four triples, five home runs, seven RBI, 18 runs scored and five steals over the last two weeks of July.

July 18: The Rangers name Olt their “Minor League Player of the Month” for June.  It is the second straight month that Texas has bestowed the honor on the former UConn Husky.

July 19: Trying to win two straight games for the first time in 11 days, the ’Riders blow an early 5-1 lead and allow the tying run to score in the ninth inning for San Antonio.  The Missions score five runs in the 11th and hold off Frisco for a 12-10 victory.  The RoughRiders have lost seven of their last ten games after their six-game win streak.

July 22: A day after getting shut out on just three hits, Frisco’s offense remains anemic against Corpus Christi’s Jose Cisnero, scoring one run on five hits in a 3-1 defeat.  The team’s losing streak hits four games and the squad has lost four consecutive series.

July 23: Beltre is named the Texas League “Player of the Week” for his offensive re-emergence.  He backs up the honor that night by going 3-for-4 with three runs scored, two steals and a walk in the ’Riders’ cathartic 11-3 win over Corpus.  Jake Brigham pitches very well, allowing one run on four hits over seven innings.

July 26: The ’Riders beat Midland 6-0 behind a masterful Nick Tepesch (8 IP, 5 H, 0 R).  The team wins two in a row for the first time in 16 games and snaps its four-series losing streak.

July 27: Frisco receives Rangers 1B/OF Mitch Moreland (hamstring) on a rehab assignment.  The former RoughRider makes his presence felt immediately against San Antonio, going 3-for-4 with two doubles, an RBI, four runs scored and a hit-by-pitch.  The ’Riders smoke the Missions 14-4 with assistance from Garcia and Olt, who both homer.

July 28: The big league rehabbers keep flowing into Dr Pepper Ballpark as reliever Mark Lowe (intercostal strain) joins the ’Riders to begin a rehab assignment.  His stint is not as successful as Moreland’s however, as he gives up a game-tying home run in the eighth inning, only to see McGuiness win the game for Frisco with a walk-off solo home run in the ninth to down the Missions 2-1.  Brigham (6 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 5 K) pitches well but gets a no-decision in what ends up being his final appearance as a RoughRider.

Second-year Frisco pitcher Jake Brigham was traded just before the deadline to the Cubs in exchange for big league catcher Geovany Soto. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders)

July 29:Frisco captures its fifth straight win with a 9-5 victory over San Antonio.  Beltre triples and homers while Ryan Strausborger hits a double and his fourth long ball of the season.  Moreland goes 1-for-5 to finish his rehab assignment with a .308 average (4-for-13).

July 30: For the second consecutive week, Beltre is named the TL “Player of the Week,” joining Corpus Christi’s Brandon Barnes and San Antonio’s Cody Decker as the only players to accomplish the feat in back-to-back weeks.  That night, Lowe allows a three-run home run to the Missions’ Edinson Rincon in the sixth inning and Frisco loses 4-2 to see their five-game win streak snapped.  During the game, news breaks that Brigham has been traded to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Major League catcher Geovany Soto.  Brigham is called down from the stands (where he had been charting pitches) in the middle of the game and is informed of the deal by Rangers pitching coordinator Danny Clark in the dugout bathroom.

July 31: The trading deadline comes and goes with Brigham being the only RoughRider that gets dealt despite many rumors that Olt or, to a lesser extent, Profar might be on the move.  The re-focused RoughRiders finish July with a 5-1 win versus Midland as Tepesch (6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, BB, 7 K) again outclasses the RockHounds bats.

Coming tomorrow: A look back at the month of August.

-          Alex V.

Season in Review: June

On June 15, the ‘Riders celebrated clinching a spot in the playoffs for the seventh time in ten seasons. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders)

The 2012 Frisco RoughRiders season was an unquestioned success.  The ’Riders won the first half South Division title, finished with an 80-60 record (good for the second-best overall mark in the Texas League) and advanced to the Texas League Championship Series before losing to the Springfield Cardinals.  Along the way, there were standout performances from big-time prospects, thrilling games and terrific storylines.  Before looking ahead to the 2013 season, we look back at a special 2012 campaign that proved to be a memorable one for the ’Riders.

JUNE

Record: 11-16 (6th of 8 TL teams)

Average: .244 (6th)

Home Runs: 26 (2nd)

ERA: 5.20 (8th)

Top Offensive Players: Mike Olt (.325-10-24, 3 2B, 17 R, .438/.738/1.175), Chris McGuiness (.274-8-16, 5 2B, 14 R, .365/.619/.984), Jose Felix (.294-3-9, 2 2B, 5 R), Jurickson Profar (.290-2-12, 4 2B, 3B, 15 R, 2-3 SB)

Top Pitchers: Ryan Rodebaugh (8 G, 1-1, 0.69 ERA, 1-1 SV, 13 IP, 7 H, 18 K, 1.08 WHIP, .159 BAA), Carlos Pimentel (7 G, 1 GS, 2-0, 1.88 ERA, 14.1 IP, 10 H, 17 K, .204 BAA), Joseph Ortiz (9 G, 1-1, 2.79 ERA, 1-2 SV, 9.2 IP ,7 H, 0.93 WHIP, .200 BAA), Justin Grimm (2 GS, 0-0, 1.93 ERA, 14 IP, 11 H, 10 K, 2 BB, 0.93 WHIP, .216 BAA)

June was a month to remember and a month to forget at the same time for the Frisco nine.  On one hand, the ’Riders experienced the high of clinching a spot in the postseason, an extreme power surge by Mike Olt, a direct promotion to the big leagues of Justin Grimm and the sight of a former Major League All-Star wearing a Frisco uniform.  On the other hand, however, the team’s 11-16 record was by far its worst of the season and Steve Buechele’s club was hurt by sudden roster turnover, a sluggish offense and underwhelming pitching.

Roy Oswalt started on June 12 for the ‘Riders in a game that lasted nearly five hours. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders)

No doubt about it, June was eventful for reasons both good and bad.  To paraphrase Buechele, it was evident that the RoughRiders, after two months of stellar play, were coming back to the pack as many players were forced to make their first true adjustments since joining the Texas League.  The letdown factor after securing a playoff spot was evident and the relative inexperience of the team allowed the funk to permeate longer than it probably should have.

Still, the ’Riders were in an enviable position after finishing the first half with the best record in the Texas League.   Frisco and Tulsa earned the right to play a little more relaxed in the second half, knowing that they were the only two teams guaranteed to keep playing after Labor Day.

TIMELINE:

June 1: After ripping off ten straight wins to begin the season, Barret Loux gets his first no-decision of the year.  He and future 2012 big leaguer Edwar Cabrera of Tulsa pitched to a 3-3 stalemate before Ryan Strausborger sent Frisco to a 4-3 walk-off victory with an RBI single in the ninth inning.  The win secured the ’Riders’ first series sweep of the season.  In the game, Mike Olt goes 3-for-4 with two home runs, three RBI and three runs scored.

June 2: Frisco loses 10-5 to Northwest Arkansas in ten innings after the Naturals victimize Wilfredo Boscan and Zach Osborne in the extra frame.  Olt goes 3-for-3 with two more home runs, four RBI and two walks while Jurickson Profar extends his on-base streak to 50 straight games with a single and a walk.

June 3: In a 10-3 loss to the Naturals, Olt makes it three straight games with two home runs with a pair of solo shots.  In this three-game stretch, he increases his season homer total from 11 to 17, the most in the Texas League.  Over his last 11 games, Olt is hitting .489 with eight home runs and 19 RBI.  In the same game, Profar goes 0-for-4 and fails to reach base for the first time since April 6 (the second game of the season), ending his 50-game on-base streak.  The streak would endure as the longest of its kind in Major or Minor League Baseball in 2012.

June 4: Profar is honored by the Texas League as its “TOPPS Player of the Month” for May while Olt is named the TL “Player of the Week” for his recent offensive heroics.  That night, Frisco is swept for the first time this season in a 3-1 loss to Northwest Arkansas.  In a reminder of the tenuous nature of the profession, ’Riders reliever Corey Young is released by the Rangers organization.  Two days later, bullpen-mate Trevor Hurley is released as well.

June 8:The RoughRiders rebound from getting swept by winning their third in a row at San Antonio by a 5-2 final score.  Zach Zaneski goes 2-for-4 with his first career triple to extend his season-best hitting streak to 14 games and raise his batting average to .346 (it was .188 through his first nine games).  The triple was Frisco’s 32nd of the season, the most by any team in professional baseball.  The win shrinks the ’Riders’ magic number for a playoff berth to seven.

Legendary pitcher Greg Maddux and Zach Zaneski share a moment during one of Maddux’s visits to Frisco this season. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders)

June 11: The Rangers name Olt their “Minor League Player of the Month” for May, but the night belongs to fellow corner infielder Chris McGuiness, who hits a grand slam in a 10-1 win over Midland.  McGuiness had just hit a three-run home run the night before.  The offense supports a dazzling Chad Bell (6.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K), whose performance was personally observed by pitching great and Rangers special assistant to the general manager Greg Maddux.  The future Hall of Famer calls Bell’s performance one of the greatest he has ever witnessed by a Minor Leaguer.

June 12: Roy Oswalt, recently signed by Texas, continues his road back to the big leagues with a start for the RoughRiders against the RockHounds.  Oswalt (3.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, BB, 3 K, WP) looks rusty, but so do both teams’ bats as the game progresses.  The contest goes 14 innings before Jose Felix wins it with a walk-off single to send Frisco to a 5-4 victory.  The four-hour, 47-minute affair ends nine minutes before midnight and is easily the longest game of the season.  Complicating matters, the two teams must play an 11 a.m. game the next day.  Midland easily wins that game 10-2.

June 14: On the day the All-Star Game rosters are announced, Justin Grimm is shocked to learn that he will be promoted directly to the Rangers in two days and make his Major League debut in a start against the Astros.  That night, Frisco beats Corpus Christi 4-3 to whittle its magic number to one with five games remaining in the first half.

June 15: Ryan Strausborger’s RBI fielder’s choice in the eighth inning snaps a tie game and the ’Riders win 3-2 over the Hooks to clinch a spot in the Texas League playoffs for the seventh time in ten years.  Nick Tepesch, just promoted to take Grimm’s recently vacated spot in the rotation, allows just two runs over seven innings in his Double-A debut.

June 16: While the ’Riders meekly fall to Jose Cisnero (two-hit complete game shutout) and the Hooks 5-0, Grimm wins in his first-ever big league game down the road in Arlington.  Playing in front of a sellout crowd that includes former President George W. Bush, Frisco’s Opening Day starter allows three runs on six hits with no walks and seven strikeouts over six innings as the Rangers beat Houston 8-3.

June 17: Facing a shortage of pitching, Steve Buechele is forced to turn to a pair of position players to pitch the 11th inning against Corpus Christi.  With the game tied at five, outfielder Val Majewski and infielder Guilder Rodriguez combine to allow nine runs on eight hits, a walk and a hit batter.  The Hooks prevail 14-5.

June 19: Frisco beats Midland 5-1 to finish the first half with a 41-29 record, the best mark in the TL.  The ’Riders benefit from six RockHounds errors and a good game from Majewski (2-for-4, double, RBI) on his 31st birthday.  Brad Hawpe, who played the first two months of the season for Frisco while recovering from elbow surgery, requests and his granted his release by the Rangers.

Fortunately, Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar are better hitters than they are dancers. Both had big months in June. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders)

June 21: Over a three-day period, the ’Riders experience a flurry of roster moves.  Gone from the active roster are: LHP Bell (promoted to Round Rock), RHP Fabio Castillo (disabled list), LHP Tim Murphy (disabled list), LHP Joseph Ortiz (Round Rock) and IF Rodriguez (Round Rock).  Frisco receives: LHP Richard Bleier (off the disabled list), RHP Cody Buckel (up from Myrtle Beach), OF Jared Hoying (Myrtle Beach), RHP Neil Ramirez (down from Round Rock) and RHP Ross Wolf (Round Rock).

June 22: Corpus Christi thumps Frisco 13-7 despite three solo home runs from McGuiness, a new career-high.  After getting hit hard in a no-decision by the Hooks in his last outing, Loux (3+ IP, 8 H, 9 R, 8 ER, BB, 4 K, BK) cannot escape his first loss of the season this time.  It is his first defeat in exactly 11 months; he last lost in 2011 to Frederick while pitching in the Carolina League.  Buechele is ejected for the only time all season in the middle of the third inning while Profar is tossed in the ninth.

June 24: The ’Riders lose their season-high fourth straight game in a 3-2 defeat to the Hooks.  In a matchup of terrific pitching prospects, Corpus Christi’s Jarred Cosart (6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, K) outduels Buckel (4 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 3 K), who is making his first Double-A start.

June 25: Ramirez (6 IP, 2 H, R, 3 BB, 6 K) makes his first start since coming down from Triple-A Round Rock and looks sharp in a 4-1 ’Riders victory over the Hooks.  The result takes Frisco into the All-Star break on a winning note.

June 28: The North Division bests the South 3-1 in the Texas League All-Star Game at Tulsa’s ONEOK Field.  Nine Frisco players were named to the South Division team: Bell, Engel Beltre, Jake Brigham, Grimm, Loux, Olt, Carlos Pimentel, Profar and Zaneski.

June 30: The ’Riders look listless in Springfield, losing their second straight game 11-6.  Tepesch and Miguel De Los Santos combine to allow five home runs in the route.

Coming tomorrow: A look back at the month of July.

-          Alex V.

Season in Review: May

Carlos Pimentel and the RoughRiders wore Pink for a series in May to raise awareness for the fight against breast cancer. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders)

The 2012 Frisco RoughRiders season was an unquestioned success.  The ’Riders won the first half South Division title, finished with an 80-60 record (good for the second-best overall mark in the Texas League) and advanced to the Texas League Championship Series before losing to the Springfield Cardinals.  Along the way, there were standout performances from big-time prospects, thrilling games and terrific storylines.  Before looking ahead to the 2013 season, we look back at a special 2012 campaign that proved to be a memorable one for the ’Riders.

MAY

Record: 17-11 (T-1st of 8 TL teams)

Average: .268 (2nd)

Home Runs: 24 (3rd)

ERA: 3.27 (2nd)

Top Offensive Players: Mike Olt (.333-5-23, 7 2B, 16 R, .437/.556/.993, 3-3 SB), Jurickson Profar (.322-3-14, 9 2B, 2 3B, 21 R, .385/.513/.898, 3-5 SB), Zach Zaneski (.429-1-8), 3 2B, 7 R, .489/.571/1.061)

Top Pitchers: Chad Bell (7 G, 3 GS, 1-0, 0.69 ERA, 1-1 SV, 0.62 WHIP, .131 BAA), Justin Grimm (6 GS, 4-2, 2.08 ERA, 34.2 IP, 30 K, 6 BB), Joseph Ortiz (10 G, 0-1, 1.74 ERA, 2-3 SV, 10.1 IP, 8 H, 13 K ,3 BB, 1.06 WHIP, .211 BAA), Ross Wolf (9 G, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 13.2 IP, 9 H, 0 R, 16 K, 3 BB, 3.75 GO/AO, 0.88 WHIP, .188 BAA)

After a solid opening month, the RoughRiders continued their steady ascent in the Texas League in May.  Frisco held at least a share of first place in the TL South for every day in April and claimed sole possession of the division lead for all of May as well.  The ’Riders began the month by winning seven of their first nine games and held a season-best five-game lead over Midland in the division by May 12.

It wasn’t until Frisco’s first trip to west Texas in the middle of the month that Steve Buechele’s squad lost a second series for the season.  The ’Riders first foray to Citibank Ballpark, home of the RockHounds, proved to be a frustrating experience.  Midland walked off with a win in the first game before Frisco rallied the next day to win by one run.  Big innings hurt the RoughRiders in each of the next two games, as the ’Hounds had six-run and five-run innings in the next two games respectively to win the series.  Frisco responded by winning eight of the final 12 games of the month to steady the ship and tie for the best record in the league during the month.

Jurickson Profar authored a 29-game hitting streak that ended in May. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders)

The team’s success coincided with a remarkable period of roster stability, a rarity in this age of baseball.  Frisco benefitted from the Rangers’ relative health and between April 29 and May 23, there were no roster moves made.  That changed later in the month when the ’Riders suffered their first true loss in the game of musical chairs that is in-season player movement.  Closer Johan Yan, who was leading the Texas League with ten saves, was promoted to Triple-A Round Rock on May 25 where he would remain for the rest of the season.  Yan’s worth was evident in that the team was 12-3 in games decided by one run while he was a RoughRider.

During May, the team continued to get excellent work from Justin Grimm, wins from Barret Loux (5-0, but his ERA in the month rose to 4.71), terrific relief from the likes of Joseph Ortiz, Fabio Castillo, Trevor Hurley and Yan, and solid production from newly converted reliever Chad Bell.  The lefty from Tennessee, who arrived in late April from Myrtle Beach, impressed in the bullpen enough to earn a starting role.  In both functions, he combined to post a 0.69 ERA and kept hitters off-guard by working all parts of the strike zone with his deceptive delivery.

Offensively, Mike Olt began to hit his stride offensively, raising his season batting average by 44 points and hitting five home runs with 23 RBI.  His teammate on the left side of the infield continued to improve as well.  Jurickson Profar continued a hit streak and on-base streak that began in April deep into May.  Profar ended up hitting in 29 straight games from April 19 – May 19, tied for the second-longest hit streak in either Major or Minor League Baseball this past season, and he reached base in every game he played over the month.  Meanwhile, backup catcher Zach Zaneski earned himself more playing time by continuing to produce offensively every time he was given the opportunity.

With a four-game lead in the division and just two more weeks left until the end of the season’s first half, another trip to the postseason was looking like a stronger possibility by the day for the RoughRiders.

TIMELINE:

May 1: Tim Murphy and two relievers combine on a 2-0 shutout effort at San Antonio.  The Frisco pitchers outduel former RoughRider Robbie Erlin, who allows two runs in eight innings.  Erlin was part of the Mike Adams trade in July of 2011and was a member of the ’Riders when the deal was made.

May 5: The ’Riders host the RockHounds on Cinco de Mayo in the first game between the top two teams in the South Division.  Trailing by a run in the seventh inning, Frisco strikes for two tallies in the bottom of the frame to win 3-2.  Joseph Ortiz tosses 1.2 perfect innings for the save while Jurickson Profar extends his hitting streak to 16 games with a third inning single.

May 7: In a matchup of two players that would soon be in the big leagues, Justin Grimm (6 IP, 3 H, R, BB, 5 K) tops A.J. Griffin (6 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 3 K) as the ’Riders beat Midland 4-2.  Frisco scores three runs in the decisive fifth inning, capped by Ryan Strausborger’s second home run of the season.

May 8: The RoughRiders beat up another future Major League hurler, Dan Straily (5.1 IP, 7 H, 5 R, BB, 6 K), in a 9-3 win to capture the series victory.  Later that day, Grimm is named the Rangers’ “Minor League Pitcher of the Month” for April.

May 10: Frisco wallops Corpus Christi 10-2 in the first game of a series in south Texas.  Profar runs his hit streak to 20 games with a 2-for-6 effort while Barret Loux (5.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 6 K) improves to 7-0 on the season.  The true star is Brad Hawpe, who goes 4 for 5 with a double, one run batted in and three runs scored in the game.  After the game Hawpe moves into second place in the Texas League in both batting average (.338) and on-base percentage (.455) but struggles moving forward.

May 14: After splitting their series in Corpus, the ’Riders pay their first visit to Midland and go on to lose in walk-off fashion for the first time in 2012.  After Chris McGuiness was robbed of an RBI single on a line drive back to the pitcher to end the top of the ninth inning, Shane Peterson wins it for the RockHounds with a bases-loaded RBI hit off Ortiz to give Midland a 6-5 victory.

Closer Johan Yan bedeviled Texas League hitters, converting ten saves in 11 chances before a promotion. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders)

May 15:Johan Yan enters the ninth inning with a 5-3 lead over Midland but commits an error, gives up a run and loads the bases with one out.  He gets out of the jam thanks to a spectacular stop and glove flip by second baseman Guilder Rodriguez that starts a game-ending 4-6-3 double play.  Frisco wins 5-4 as Loux becomes the Minors’ first eight-game winner.

May 18: On the heels of their second series defeat of the season, the ’Riders look worn down against former big leaguer and San Antonio Mission Josh Geer, who takes a no-hitter into the eighth inning.  Jared Prince breaks it up with a double to start off the frame, but Frisco goes on to lose 5-2.  Profar narrowly extends his hitting streak to 28 games by tripling in his final at bat in the ninth inning.

May 19: A night after nearly being no-hit, the ’Riders come close to no-hitting San Antonio in a 13-0 victory.  Chad Bell (4 IP), Carlos Pimentel (3 IP) and Corey Young (0.2 IP) combine to get to within four outs of the no-no but Young allows a double to Jeudy Valdez with two outs in the frame to spoil the bid.  Profar wastes no time in moving his hit streak to 29 games, the longest in the Minors at that point, with a first inning double.  Mike Olt closes the affair with a two-run home run in the eighth inning, his ninth of the season.

May 20: Profar fails to get a base hit in a game for the first time since April 17, ending his 29-game hitting streak in a 2-1 Frisco win over the Missions.  By the end of the season, the streak would be tied for the second-longest in Major or Minor League Baseball in 2012.  Profar does work a walk in the fourth inning to push his consecutive games on-base streak to 39.

May 21: Yan blows his first career save by giving up two runs in the ninth inning to San Antonio.  He had been 25-for-25 in save opportunities since he converted from playing infield before today.  His offense, with some help from a fortuitous Jonathan Galvez error, picks him up by scoring a pair of runs in the bottom of the ninth inning en route to a 6-5 win.

May 23 – 25: Division leaders Frisco and Tulsa play for the first time at the Drillers’ ONEOK Field.  Tulsa wins two of three games to claim the series victory, in part thanks to a walk-off wild pitch uncorked by Wilfredo Boscan in the series finale.

May 26: The ’Riders score five runs in the bottom of the first inning off Northwest Arkansas’ Chris Dwyer, but the lead is short-lived as Loux surrenders five runs as well in the bottom of the frame.  The big righty settles down to pitch six innings as the offense provides four more runs in a 9-6 win.  Loux improves to 10-0 in his first ten starts of the season, setting a new Frisco record for most consecutive victories.

May 27: Hawpe, mired in a slump, goes 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in what proves to be his last game of the season, one the ’Riders lose 9-5 to the Naturals.  Since his four-hit game on May 10, the former Major League All-Star has hit .130 (6-for-46) with no extra-base hits and one RBI.

May 28: Memorial Day becomes truly memorable for one RoughRider as Val Majewski and Alex Buchholz combine on back-to-back solo home runs off Northwest Arkansas’ Noel Arguelles in a game Frisco wins 9-6.  It was Majewski’s first and only home run of the season; he goes 3-for-5 with another RBI and run scored for the day.

May 31: Frisco closes out the month of May with a 10-4 win at home over Tulsa.  After a few days off, Hawpe goes on the disabled list with elbow fatigue (he had “Tommy John” surgery on his left elbow the previous August).  Three weeks later he is granted his release by the Rangers organization and does not play again in 2012.

 

Coming tomorrow: A look back at the month of June.

-          Alex V.

Season in Review: April

Jose Felix and an umpiring crew observe the singing of the National Anthem before a RoughRiders game.

The 2012 Frisco RoughRiders season was an unquestioned success.  The ’Riders won the first half South Division title, finished with an 80-60 record (good for the second-best overall mark in the Texas League) and advanced to the Texas League Championship Series before losing to the Springfield Cardinals.  Along the way, there were standout performances from big-time prospects, thrilling games and terrific storylines.  Before looking ahead to the 2013 season, we look back at a special 2012 campaign that proved to be a memorable one for the ’Riders. (All photos by Alex Yocum-Beeman/Frisco RoughRiders)

APRIL

Record: 15-9 (2nd of 8 TL teams)

Average: .263 (3rd)

Home Runs: 26 (2nd)

ERA: 3.08 (2nd)

Top Offensive Players: Brad Hawpe (.321-3-8, .459/.554/1.013), Leury Garcia (.309-0-2, 2 2B, 3 3B)

Top Pitchers: Justin Grimm (5 GS, 4-1, 1.59 ERA, 28.1 IP, 27 K, 6 BB, .194 BAA), Barret Loux (5 GS, 5-0, 1.63 ERA, 27.2 IP, 28 K, 8 BB), Carlos Pimentel (6 G, 2 GS, 2-1, 1/1 SV, 1.35 ERA, 20 IP, 24 K, .174 BAA), Johan Yan (10 G, 0.87 ERA, 5/5 SV, .158 BAA)

High expectations can be a two-edged sword.  On one hand, they can elevate preexisting senses of hope and confidence.  A baseball team from which a lot is expected can thrive on the positive mojo and can achieve success.  Conversely, that hype has the ability to crush a team under the weight of those expectations and it underperforms.  Even if a team doesn’t collapse, the odds of it failing the live up to high expectations are much greater than actually meeting them.

Justin Grimm put himself on track for a breakout 2012 with a dominant April.

Enter the 2012 Frisco RoughRiders.  With Frisco previously fielding playoff teams in six of the nine previous seasons, the expectations were already there for another successful season.  But on top of that, Baseball America tabbed the RoughRiders as the third-most talented roster of players among all 120 full-season Minor League squads.  The respected industry publication cited the presence of big-time infield prospects Jurickson Profar (number one on BA’s list of top Texas Rangers prospects), Mike Olt (three) and Leury Garcia (11) as well as pitchers Justin Grimm (15), Barret Loux (20) and Miguel De Los Santos (29).  Throw in the toolsy, but mercurial Engel Beltre and 2011 Carolina League All-Stars Jared Prince, Ryan Strausborger and Zach Zaneski and it’s easy to see why Baseball America had its eye on the ’Riders.

But talented Minor League squads filled with prospects do not always translate into good teams.  More often than not, it seems that rosters made up of older players with years of experience in their respective leagues have the most success and win championships.

The RoughRiders bucked those odds and finished April with the second-best record in the Texas League through a balanced combination of fantastic pitching and steady offense.  From out of the gate, the team’s pitching staff was dominant.  Justin Grimm anchored a rotation that anchored five intriguing prospects while the bullpen featured hard throwers aplenty.  While the offense got off to a slow start (13 runs in the first five games), it rebounded nicely and proved to be the most dynamic in the TL.

TIMELINE:

Rangers infielders Ian Kinsler & Elvis Andrus returned to their old home ballpark for an exhibition game with the RoughRiders on April 4.

April 4: Before the regular season begins, the RoughRiders host the parent club Texas Rangers in an exhibition game.  Making the occasion even more interesting, prized Japanese import Yu Darvish makes the start for Ron Washington’s club in his first pitching appearance in his new home market.  Darvish does not disappoint, tossing four scoreless innings with two hits and two walks allowed to go along with five strikeouts as the Major Leaguers best the ’Riders 6-1.

April 5: The RoughRiders begin the regular season in Missouri with a 1-0 win over the Springfield Cardinals.  Frisco’s only run scores on a Jose Felix sacrifice fly while Justin Grimm (5.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, BB, 10 K) is brilliant in his Double-A debut.

April 6: Frisco falls 4-1 to the Cardinals with the team’s only run coming on Mike Olt’s first home run of the season.  Earlier in the day the Rangers re-sign long-time big league outfielder and Westlake, Texas native Brad Hawpe and assign him to Frisco.  Hawpe underwent “Tommy John” surgery while playing for the Padres in August of 2011.

April 7: In what was the first of many, Barret Loux earns his first win of the season in a 6-1 victory over Springfield in the series finale.  Loux works out of trouble in nearly every inning (six hits and two walks) but does not allow a run over five frames.  Hawpe leads the way by going 3-for-4 with a home run in his first at bat.  He finishes a triple shy of the cycle with two runs scored and two RBI.

April 8: The ’Riders continue their season-opening road trip with an extra-innings 3-2 win on Easter Sunday at Arkansas.  Felix hits a soft single to left-center field in the 11th inning that scores Engel Beltre from second base to win it.  Jurickson Profar snaps his 0-for-13 start to the season by hitting a first pitch home run in the fifth inning to the deepest park of Dickey-Stephens Park.

April 14: In a showcase of two of the best position player prospects in the Minors, both Profar and Springfield’s Oscar Taveras hit first inning solo home runs in a game the RoughRiders eventually win 6-2.  Profar officially puts his first week struggles (2 for 26 to begin 2012) to bed with a 3-for-4 night at the plate.

April 16: Frisco beats Arkansas 2-1 behind another excellent performance by Grimm (6.1 IP, H, 0 R, BB, 5 K) for its fourth straight victory.  The win not only clinches the team’s fourth straight series victory to start the season, but it also moves Steve Buechele into the top spot for most wins ever by a Frisco manager.  Buechele’s 155th win as the ’Riders’ skipper gives him one more than Tim Ireland, who managed the team in its first two years of existence and in 2004 won Frisco’s only Texas League championship.

April 19 – 22: After winning 10-0 at Corpus Christi in their first divisional game of the season, the ’Riders see their pitching get torched for 22 runs over the next three games en route to losing their first series of the season.

April 24: Following trips to the disabled list by starter Miguel De Los Santos and reliever Ryan Rodebaugh, Chad Bell is promoted to Frisco from Advanced-A Myrtle Beach.  An under-the-radar prospect, Bell does not take long to impress, at first in relief and eventually as a starting pitcher.  That night Olt hits his fifth home run and Profar triples in a 7-2 Frisco win over San Antonio.

April 25:The ’Riders score three first inning runs off San Antonio’s Hayden Beard but cannot hold the advantage as the Missions come back to tie the game by the third.  After Bell surrenders a go-ahead home run in the top of the ninth inning, Frisco ties it on Hawpe’s two-out RBI double in the bottom of the inning to send the game to extra innings.  However in the 11th, Jeudy Valdez burns Corey Young for an RBI single to send San Antonio to a 6-5 win in three hours and 23 minutes.

Brad Hawpe’s comeback from elbow surgery got off to a great start as his bat provided the ‘Riders a big boost in the season’s first month.

April 26: After Fabio Castillo blows a ninth inning save, the ’Riders and Missions go to extras for the second straight night and take their time to settle things.  The game goes to the 13th inning when Guilder Rodriguez strokes a base hit to center field to score Chris McGuiness and send Frisco to a 6-5 win, its first walk-off victory of the year.  The game takes four hours and 26 minutes to complete.  Earlier in the contest, Leury Garcia pulls up lame at first base running out a bunt and is eventually placed on the disabled list where he will remain for nearly a month because of a right hip flexor.

April 27: Grimm (6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, BB, 9 K) rebounds from his first poor outing of the season to outclass the Hooks’ Jarred Cosart in a 12-0 ’Riders romp.  Chris McGuiness crushes a three-run home run – his fifth of the season – in a six-run fifth inning.  Bell throws three perfect innings (4 K) for the save.

April 29: Loux strikes out eight batters and allows two runs over six innings as the ’Riders blast Corpus 10-3.  The former Texas A&M Aggie ends May tied for the MiLB lead in wins at 5-0 with a 1.63 ERA.  Six Frisco players have multi-hit games, including Profar (2-for-5), who extends his hit streak to 11 games.

April 30: Despite allowing four runs over the first two innings, Jake Brigham gets bailed out by his offense in a 9-4 Frisco victory over the Hooks.  Zach Zaneski, who entered the game hitting .167 (116 points below his career average) with two extra-base hits, drilled two home runs while Alex Buchholz homered and tripled to pace the offense.  The triple was Frisco’s 17th of the year, the most by any professional team through the season’s first month.

Coming tomorrow: A look back at the month of May.

-          Alex V.

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