April 2014

Lotzkar hopes to re-establish himself with RoughRiders

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The Texas Rangers are willing to do whatever it takes to win. It’s clear that the organization has put emphasis on turning over every rock to find talent capable of propelling the club to higher levels, and that comes with having a certain attitude. This “low-risk and high-reward” mindset is responsible for finding players who are motivated to win and are ready to prove doubters wrong. One of those players is right-handed pitcher Kyle Lotzkar.

Lotzkar, 24, was selected by the Reds in the supplemental first round (53rd overall) in the June 2007 first-year player draft. He was rated as the 13th-best prospect in the Gulf Coast League and in 2008 he was rated by Baseball America as the sixth-best prospect in the Reds organization. The 2009 season delivered bad luck for the six-foot, five-inch Delta, British Columbia native, as he missed the entire campaign with a stress fracture in his pitching elbow. He rebounded in 2010 by combining to finish 3-1 with a 2.03 ERA in ten starts and two relief appearances in the Rookie Arizona League and at Billings, holding his opponents to a .182 average. Injuries again plagued Lotzkar as he found himself back on the disabled list in 2011 and 2012.

Through everything, he says it’s been wonderful to be welcomed into the Rangers’ organization and that a fresh start has been key for his return to success. On moving on to this new opportunity Lotzkar says, “I have no bad things to say about the Reds. They gave me plenty of opportunities to make it to the big leagues. They drafted me and put me on the 40-man roster, sent me to big league camp two times…I just couldn’t stay healthy. I think a fresh start was a big part of it and I get along with a lot of the staff and the players here as well, it’s been a refreshing change.”

Lotzkar credits changing his routine and delivery for his return to health and hopes to keep a positive trend going as he continues his road to the majors.  “I haven’t felt this healthy in a long time. They asked me about what my program was and about if I had a routine, we went over the strength stuff and the rehab stuff, and they added some things to the routine. I had to change the way I threw, specifically my arm action, and in the offseason I do a lot of drills to correct that.”

The righty also knows that pure velocity isn’t enough to get by in the major leagues and hinted that throwing more correctly located two-seam fastballs can add to his success. “I went to the Futures Game in 2012 and everyone there was throwing 100. I realized all those guys were throwing 100 but they were throwing straight,” Lotzkar said. “At the end of the day, the elite level hitters can time rocket ships.  They’ll time anything so you need to have something that’s going to miss the barrel a little bit.”

These are the adjustments that Lotzkar is making to regain the control he seeks and that can ultimately put his career back on track. The Rangers understand his potential and have invested in that, with the hope that they can restore the luster on this onetime can’t-miss prospect.

-Cameron Varnau

‘Riders on the Record – Bullpen Edition

‘Riders on the Record is a weekly rundown of the pregame interviews recorded by broadcasters Alex Vispoli and Chris Vosters with RoughRiders players and coaches and occasionally a special guest. You can find all previous editions by clicking here.

The RoughRiders have shown no signs of a hangover in the aftermath of their ten-game win streak, which set a new franchise watermark. The Corpus Christi Hooks ended the run on Easter Sunday, but Frisco still finished the week 4-3 and have not lost a series since a doubleheader sweep at the bats of the Arkansas Travelers on April 7.

The offense has certainly provided its share of highlights. As of April 27, Frisco has belted more home runs (23), which trails only the Pensacola Blue Wahoos in the Southern League for the most in Double-A. Yet, the team bats a paltry .227 remains stuck in seventh place in the Texas League. The ‘Riders have scored runs when necessary, but outside of Ryan Rua, most of the batters in the order have yet to find their swing.

On the flip side, the pitching has been second-to-none even with the departure of Nick Martinez to the big league rotation. The staff has posted four shutouts already this season and the collective 2.74 ERA is the sixth-lowest in all of Minor League Baseball. Over a 13-game stretch the relievers allowed a paucity of runs (4), posted a 0.80 ERA and held opponents to a .140 batting average.

It is in this vein we present the latest edition of ‘Riders on the Record. Pitching is the focus with Matt West, Jimmy Reyes and Kyle Lotzkar featured as well as catcher Patrick Cantwell. This week’s rundown includes two episodes of “Sunday with the Skipper,” Alex Vispoli’s weekly chat with field manager Jason Wood. Chris Grayson rounds out the slate with an extended, but insightful discussion. Enjoy!

Jason Wood and Alex Vispoli touch on the ‘Riders ten-game win streak on the Easter edition of “Sunday with the Skipper.”

 

Outfielder Chris Grayson takes pride in the energy he brings to ballgames. The Louisiana native is excited to play about four hours from his home town. A lefty batter, Chris is working on his opposite field power at the plate. Hear how Chris stays sharp physically and mentally on the days he is out of the lineup.

 

In his own words, Matt West says he “sees red” when he steps on the mound. One of the more expressive arms out of the bullpen, Matt transitioned to the mound as a member of the Rangers organization before the 2011 season. His confidence has never wavered, even in the face of injuries and a Tommy John operation.

 

Jimmy Reyes threw four straight scoreless outings and retired 15-of-17 batters faced over that span. He passes the long Texas League bus trips playing “Clash of Clans” and will raid you unless you’re careful.

 

Patrick Cantwell is the battery mate of many pitchers on the RoughRiders’ staff. “Patches” talks about catching Luke Jackson on April 21 when the righty took a perfect game into the sixth inning.

 

Kyle Lotzkar is another pitcher in search of an injury-free campaign. Along with Edwar Cabrera, the ‘Riders are trying to stretch Lotzkar’s work load into that of a starting hurler. Kyle shares some of the lessons he has learned in rehab with Alex Vispoli.

 

‘Riders on the Record concludes the way it began. The most recent episode of “Sunday with the Skipper” covers a tense moment in Saturday’s game with Corpus Christi and the hot hitting of Ryan Rua.

 

As always, thanks for tuning in.

-Chris V.

RoughRiders ride their way to 10 consecutive victories

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A winning streak. Fans love them. Players love them. Jason Wood and his coaching staff love them even more. This RoughRiders club has been organized in such fashion to where Wood and his players know they have a chance to win every night, but over the course of the franchise-record ten game winning streak, the team simply refused to lose. It’s difficult to explain how and why a winning streak happens because, well, it just happens. It happens with preparation, focus and a consistent approach while at the plate and playing the field. Let’s take a look at how the streak came to be and propelled Frisco to the top of the division standings.

April 8, 2014: Arkansas (2) @ Frisco (4)

The game that kicked things off. It was Matt Harrison’s first start after the opening day rain-out where he was only able to throw 42 pitches of his desired 60, and the Rangers’ hurler was ready to put a nice outing together. Harrison pitched 4 2/3 innings, gave up one run on three hits and struck out three. The final game of the home stand was an efficient one and it sent the club on the road with momentum.

April 10, 2014: Frisco (11) @ NW Arkansas (7)

Frisco used the long ball to open up the road trip by hitting four two-run homers in one game. Drew Robinson, Jordan Brown, Ryan Rua and Trever Adams each hit their first home run of the season and each bomb occurred with one man on base. That’s eight runs on four total pitches if you’re counting at home. The ‘Riders went 4-8 with runners in scoring position and only stranded two.

April 11, 2014: Frisco (2) @ NW Arkansas (1)

Game two of the series turned out to be a pitchers duel and was a polar-opposite outing from the previous evening at Arvest Ballpark. Nick Martinez pitched five strong innings by only giving up one run on five hits and the ‘Riders could only give him one run of support. In the top of the ninth with Adams on third, Jake Skole hit a sacrifice fly to score what would be the game-winning run. This was a gritty road win to make it two straight.

April 12, 2014: Frisco (15) @ NW Arkansas (2)

The RoughRiders used the long ball once again to stun the Naturals. Rougned Odor hit two home runs in the game (one was a two-run shot), Jake Smolinski hit a solo homer in the eighth and Brown hit a two-run dinger in the ninth. The club tallied 35 total bases on 17 hits and went 8-15 with runners in scoring position.

April 14, 2014: Frisco (5) @ Arkansas (4)

Following the sweep of the Naturals, the club focused its attention on the Arkansas Travelers. The two teams were scheduled to open the series on Sunday afternoon but rain forced a double-header with two seven-inning contests on Monday. The scoring began quickly in game one as both teams scored one run in the first. Harrison made his second rehab start of the spring and pitched 3 1/3 innings allowing two earned runs on six hits. The game was tied in the sixth when a pair of singles and a walk loaded the bags. Smolinski and Robinson drew back-to-back walks to score Patrick Cantwell and Luis Sardinas, and the RoughRiders held on for the 5-4 win after the Travs scored one run in the bottom of the sixth.

April 14, 2014: Frisco (2) @ Arkansas (1)

This was game two of the double-header and featured Jerad Eickhoff opposing Mark Sappington. Arkansas drew first blood in the first on an Alex Yarbrough sacrifice fly scoring Kyle Hudson. The ‘Riders weren’t shaken and answered quickly by loading the bases for Tomas Telis in the second. Telis hit a two RBI line drive double and Frisco pulled ahead. Those would be the only runs of the game and the win was Frisco’s third one-run game of the winning streak.

April 15, 2014: Frisco (3) @ Arkansas (0)

The RoughRiders were looking to finish the road trip on a high note and they did just that. Brown hit a two-run homer in the first, Sardinas singled in the second to score Adams, and the ‘Riders cruised to a 3-0 shutout. Luke Jackson pitched six innings of three-hit baseball and struck out eight, which sent the club back to Frisco with the winning streak at seven.

April 17, 2014: Corpus Christi (2) @ Frisco (3)

Frisco welcomed the Corpus Christi Hooks to town for the first of a four-game set and did so in exciting fashion. It was a 2-2 game in the ninth when Adams got things started with a lead off single to right. Rua was hit by a pitch and Telis bunted the runners over to set the situation for Skole. The ‘Rider hero answered the bell again and sent a pitch right back up the middle. In doing so Skole sent everyone home with a walk-off win to keep the streak alive and open the home stand with an exclamation point.

April 18, 2014: Corpus Christi (3) @ Frisco (4)

Game two of the series didn’t see much action until Corpus’ big sixth inning. Joe Sclafani led off the action with a triple to deep center and scored on Andrew Aplin’s line-drive single to right. Aplin later scored on Preston Tucker’s fly ball to right field. The Hooks extended the lead to 3-0 on Nolan Fontana’s sacrifice bunt scoring Tucker. Frisco quickly answered on a lead off homer hit by Robinson to make it 3-1 and a two-run Skole homer to tie it at three. Cantwell scored the go-ahead run on a fielding error by first baseman M.P. Cokinos and that proved to be enough for the RoughRiders as they tied the club-record win streak at nine games.

April 19, 2014: Corpus Christi (0) @ Frisco (6)

We’ve arrived at game ten of the record. Ranger All-Star hurler Matt Harrison took the mound for Frisco in what was his final tune up start before being recalled to join Texas. He did it in style. Harrison tossed eight shutout innings and gave up five hits while striking out five. He seemed to set the tone for the rest of the game as Frisco scored four runs for him in the first inning. The ‘Riders tacked on two more in the fifth on a Robinson two-run homer to right field.

Frisco would lose to Corpus 7-5 in the fourth and final game of the series, which ended the club-record ten game winning streak. It was quite the ride for your ‘Riders and they did it with power, stellar pitching and tight defense; and they had fun while they were at it.

Writing to you from the corner of Hicks & Diamond Drive,

Cameron Varnau

‘Riders on the Record – Riding into the Record Book

Welcome back to the first full edition of ‘Riders on the Record in 2014.  ‘Riders on the Record is a weekly rundown of the pregame interviews recorded by broadcasters Alex Vispoli and Chris Vosters with RoughRiders players and coaches and occasionally a special guest. You can find all previous editions by clicking here.

It’s an exciting time to be a ‘Riders fan. After a 1-4 start, the team has won ten straight since April 8 and paces the Texas League with an 11-4 mark overall. The RoughRiders have won in a variety of ways, from doubleheaders in the cold to slug fests, walk-offs and late-inning rallies.

With a dominating performance on April 19 from Matt Harrison, the ‘Riders stamped their collective name in team annals with their tenth straight victory. It is the first time in program history the RoughRiders have ripped off ten in a row. The previous mark was nine consecutive set from July 28-Aug. 6, 2006.

Here are a few more notables about the historic run:

  • Five one-run victories
  • Outscored opponents 55-22
  • Outhit opponents 79-56
  • 13 home runs and 3 multi-home run games
  • Six road wins, two series sweeps, one doubleheader sweep
  • Four comeback wins
  • 1.99 team ERA

This week’s ‘Riders on the Record features some of the best interviews during the streak. Happy Easter and enjoy!

 

Jason Wood – The second episode of “Sunday with the Skipper” comes four wins into Frisco’s streak and immediately after a sweep of the Northwest Arkansas Naturals.

 

Matt Harrison – The Texas Rangers All-Star pitcher is back in Frisco where he pitched as a regular in 2008. The southpaw has made three appearances with the ‘Riders this season and none as impressive as his last on April 19. Harrison tossed eight shutout innings and allowed just three hits with five strikeouts. This interview aired on the RoughRiders Pregame Show on April 8 before Harrison’s start against the Arkansas Travelers.

 

Nick Martinez – Alex Vispoli catches up with Nick on the heels of his Major League debut with the Texas Rangers, perhaps a harbinger of things to come for the right-hander.

 

Drew Robinson – Drew celebrates a birthday today (April 20). With his dad in the stands from Las Vegas, Drew belted home runs in consecutive games. Both were towering shots to right field. His solo home run on April 18 came in the seventh inning with the ‘Riders down 3-0. The ‘Riders rallied to knock off the Corpus Christi Hooks 4-3.

 

Ryan Rua – No has exemplified the ‘Riders resurgence at the plate better than Ryan, who seems to have regained the form he displayed in Hickory last season.

 

As always, thanks for tuning in,

-Chris V.

 

 

One home stand late and two posts off the mark…a belated introduction

Baseball players thrive on rhythm and routine both on and off the diamond. The RoughRiders’ first home stand consisted of two rain-outs (including one on Opening Day), two doubleheaders and six games squished into a four-day span. Two of the games featured rehab appearances by big league hurler (and former RoughRider) Matt Harrison. The ‘Riders played three games in a 24-hour period from April 7-8. Simply put, neither rhythm nor routine were present during the first week of the season.

Fortunately, in a regular season that encompasses five months and 140 games, repetition is almost inevitable. The RoughRiders seem to have found at least a semblance of it in the Natural State on their first road trip of the season. The ‘Riders swept the Northwest Arkansas Naturals in three games, but their first game against the Arkansas Travelers was, as you may have guessed, rained out.

Regardless, back at the corner of Hicks & Diamond Drive, I too, have begun to settle into the ebb and flow of the baseball season. I couldn’t be happier, either. As Alex Vispoli’s Broadcasting & Media Relations Assistant, I am excited to help bring you RoughRiders baseball this summer. You can hear me on the air with Alex during every home game and on pregame/postgame coverage while the team is on the road. I look forward to the journey with the ‘Riders this season and I hope we can learn more about this team and the game of baseball together.

As Alex progressively introduced me to the staff at Dr Pepper Ballpark over the course of my first month in town, I consistently heard the phrase, “Welcome aboard.” My effort to reciprocate this friendly Texas welcome appears before your eyes now, regrettably late by one home stand and two blog posts. This is the 502nd post on the ‘Riders Insider Blog and I realize now I had a subconscious desire to publish the 500th. Alas, my dreams of attaining ‘Riders Insider immortality have been dashed (or at the very least, altered).

In an effort to amend my tardiness, I have included some worthwhile links. ‘Riders on the Record returns below as Alex Vispoli sits down on Opening Day with new ‘Riders skipper, Jason Wood. I also encourage you to listen to the first RoughRiders Roundtable of the season on the Dallas Sports Network with Alex, myself, and the usually uninformed Michael Tepid. Many thanks to Ted Price for his work on the production end.

Click here to listen to the 13th edition of RoughRiders Roundtable.

I am genuinely thrilled to climb on the saddle with the RoughRiders in 2014. Here’s to a great ride.

-Chris Vosters

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