Results tagged ‘ Justin Grimm ’

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: 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.

Catching up with… Mike Olt

Mike Olt was an All-Star third baseman for the RoughRiders before he was promoted to the Majors on August 2.

Occasionally throughout the off-season we will spend some time catching up with former RoughRiders.  In this edition, we hear from Rangers rookie Mike Olt, who spent most of the 2012 season in Frisco.  A Mid-Season and Postseason Texas League All-Star, Olt played in 95 games for the RoughRiders, hitting .288 with 28 home runs and 82 RBI.  He was called up directly to the Texas Rangers on August 2 but has been hampered by a foot injury in most of his time as a big leaguer.  ‘Riders broadcaster Alex Vispoli caught up with Mike at a recent Rangers home game to reflect on making the Majors and his time with Frisco.

Alex Vispoli: When you found out you were going up, was that a surprise for you or were you expecting it?

Mike Olt: No, it was definitely a surprise.  It was weird how in those last couple of days they were trying to do some [different] things with me, especially playing first base on back-to-back days.  But really going into the office I thought they were going to talk to me about what my plan was because the trade deadline was over, what they wanted me to shoot for.  I knew I was ready, and then when they were able to say I was getting the call up, it was quite the feeling.

AV: I know Frisco manager Steve Buechele has had creative ways of telling guys that they are being promoted, the one with Justin Grimm comes to mind.  If I remember correctly, he was telling you the route to get down to Round Rock?

MO: Yeah, he said to pack my car up and try and head out early to go to Round Rock and he kept the story going the whole time, he probably talked about for five minutes just to stay focused and keep doing what I’m doing, don’t change anything.  And then, just when I’m leaving he’s like “make sure you’re in Arlington in time for C.J. Wilson.”  So that was good, that’s something I’ll never forget.

AV: What are the emotions you’re feeling at that point, where’s your heart at that moment?

MO: Oh, I couldn’t talk.  And that’s the first time in my life I probably couldn’t talk.  I was just really excited.  You always hear stories about [getting promoted to the big leagues]; I have some buddies that got called up and they tell you what their feelings are and you can understand where they’re coming from, but when you feel that [yourself] then you really understand what it’s like, you just get goose bumps.  It’s everything you’ve worked for.

AV: Just in terms of the roller coaster for you, I remember talking to you the week or so leading up to the trading deadline and we weren’t really sure what was going to happen.  You were trusting whatever the plan was and I guess the plan all along was to get you right up there after the trade deadline.  Looking back on it the whole range of emotions must have made it both a little fun and at the time a little stressful.

MO: It was, but I did my best to block it all out.  And I always said I was definitely able to block it out but there were times when I just wanted to know what was going on.  When it was all over with that was definitely relieving, but I definitely did know that I was in a good situation either way so that helped.

AV: You had a base hit in your first Major League at bat.  What’s going through your head when you step into the batter’s box in a big league game for the first time and then you connect on that base hit?  Hitter’s always talk about getting that first hit early in a game to take some stress off the rest of the way and that you got a hit in your first-ever at bat must have been a weight off of your shoulders.

MO: I was nervous during the day but when it got to game time and I got out there and walked into the box it really felt like just another at bat.  I tried to make it as close to normal as I could.  Obviously facing C.J. Wilson it’s tougher to stay within your approach against a guy like that.  But I wasn’t nervous which helped me stay [within myself] and not try to do too much so that helped.

AV:Have you had a moment yet where you’ve taken a step back and said to yourself “Wow, I’m in the big leagues.”?  Have you had a “welcome to the big leagues” type of moment that you can remember where all of a sudden you realize that you’re not in the Texas League any more?

Olt gets a high five from Rangers manager Ron Washington after his walk-off pinch hit RBI single against the Tigers on August 11.

MO: That happened the first day, even with just the crowd.  It’s a totally different feeling when you have 45,000 fans cheering for you, that’s a great feeling.  And then in my second at bat I hit a ball up in the hole and a guy makes a “Top Play” on it.  I get back to the dugout and that was a time where it was like “welcome to the big leagues.”  That usually doesn’t get caught in Double-A.

AV: Unless it’s [Jurickson] Profar, right?

MO: Right [laughs].  No, I would have taken care of him if he caught it.

AV: Has it been nice to see four guys [Wilmer Font, Justin Grimm, Jurickson Profar and Robbie Ross] that you played with in the Minors on the big league roster now with you?  Guys that you came up playing with, to play alongside them has that been a fun experience for you?

MO: Yeah, definitely.  It always helps to have guys that you’ve played with and that you’re comfortable with.  Especially because it’s a good group of young guys mixed with the good group of older guys.  The veteran guys really show us the way and they make it really easy for us up here.  Some of the other guys from other teams that I talk to, for them it’s a little of a different atmosphere.  Not once when you’re here do the veteran guys make you feel like a rookie, so that also helps.

AV: How tough has it been just with the fact that you haven’t been able to get on the field in being a rookie and also with the injuries?  Unfortunately you’ve had plenty of practice overcoming the minor injuries, but it’s still an adjustment.

MO: No, this isn’t the way I want to start my career with something as small as plantar fasciitis.  I don’t even know how I got it; I don’t know how it happened or why it had to happen in the first four days of my big league career.  But I was still able to get a lot out of [the experience here] while I was hurt and on the bench.  I’ve learned a ton and I’m excited to take what I’ve learned and incorporate it with how I go about my business and improve.

AV: How proud were you of your Frisco teammates, following them from afar and seeing what they accomplished without you and without Profar?

MO: I watched every step of the way and I kept in contact with a bunch of the guys.  I knew they didn’t need Profar or myself to win it; they had a great team and great pitching, timely hitting and that’s what we were going to need and we got it for the most part but came up a little short.  So that’s tough but it was a great year and I have a lot of good memories there.

- Alex

The Journey From Frisco to MLB

Justin Grimm pitching for Frisco. (Alex Yocum-Beeman)

Last night Justin Grimm started for the RoughRiders for the first time since his major league debut. He was promoted to the Texas Rangers from Frisco on June 13. He said he was excited to get the call, especially with his family in town.

“They (my family) did not believe me at first. There were just like are you kidding because I was joking with them the night before,” Grimm said. “They were like oh my gosh. He’s calling his agent. He’s serious.”

The news of his call-up came so quickly that not all of his family was able to make the game.

“My brother couldn’t make it because he was the best man in one of his friend’s weddings,” Grimm said. “We didn’t have time to round up my grandparents and aunts and uncles up to come but the debut was so last minute I told them not to worry about it because there will be other games.”

After RoughRiders’ manager Steve Buechele told Grimm he was being promoted, Grimm made the 36-mile drive to Arlington.

“I went to Arlington after cleaning out my locker here,” Grimm said. “I threw a bullpen as soon as I got there because I was supposed to pitch Saturday so I was going to have an extra two days in between starts.”

For two days Grimm sat in the Rangers’ dugout mentally preparing for his big night.

“I kind of pictured myself doing good things out there for those two days,” Grimm said. “I was telling myself that I could do it.”

On June 16, Grimm made his major league debut pitching against the Houston Astros. He said the reality of pitching in the big leagues sank in while he was warming up.

“I got goose bumps warming up because as I was walking out to stretch you could hear claps and fans saying things like ‘Let’s go Grimm’ and ‘You got this,’” Grimm said. “Just hearing them hollering your name while I was throwing gave me goose bumps.”

Despite the nerves on the inside, Grimm said the biggest challenge for him in his debut was keeping control of his emotions during the game.

“You know the biggest thing was emotionally keeping it in and not getting too over amped,” Grimm said. “That’s the thing with baseball. You have to stay even keeled. Things are never as good as they seem and they are never as bad as they seem.”

He credits catcher Mike Napoli for helping him stay composed on the mound.

“Napoli kept me in that game. If I made a bad pitch or something he would let me know when we got back to the dugout like ‘hey get that over just a little bit if they were to swing at it, something like that,’” Grimm said.

The Rangers outlasted the Astros that games giving Grimm his first career major league win. To top it off, his mom, dad, and sister were there to witness it.

After the game, Grimm went out to dinner with his family, his agent, Robbie Ross and his wife before heading home for the night. He said the reality of that night didn’t hit him until he got home.

“I got in the hotel room after the game against Houston like wow I just got a win in the big leagues. It was unbelievable,” Grimm said. “People ask me how it was and if it’s everything I thought it would be and I have the same answer. It’s more. It’s a dream come true.”

During Grimm’s debut, Frisco players were rooting for him from Dr Pepper Ballpark.

“They told me that they were sitting here in the clubhouse because we had an early game or something,” Grimm said. “They were watching it like through the third inning like yeah, let’s go, that’s five in a row because I think I had struck out like five in a row or something and they said they were all getting pretty pumped so that was pretty cool.”

Grimm started last night against the Arkansas Travelers and is expected to join Triple-A Round Rock at the end of the week. When asked how it felt making his last start in Frisco, Grimm said it was awesome.

“I just went out there to work on some new pitches that I had learned,” Grimm said. “One from Jeff that I had actually started throwing at the big league level that I saw was really successful with some of those guys and I started throwing a slider a little bit. That’s just a work-in-progress. It’s not really good right now but it’s coming along good and I think it’s going to be a good pitch for the future. Looking to go up to Triple-A and just turn it around, get some hitters out.”

Through continued hard work and practice, Grimm hopes to make it back up to the big league level soon.

“I would like to get there realistically in September when they expand rosters,” Grimm said. “I want to get up there for the playoffs, maybe come out of the bullpen, whatever they need me to do.”

Grimm is tentatively scheduled to pitch for Triple-A Round Rock on Saturday.

Story by Jarah Wright

A Fan’s Perspective

Two weeks ago, we were talking to Justin Grimm at Dr Pepper Ballpark interviewing him for a ‘Riders blog post. Last night, we were at the Ballpark in Arlington watching him make his second start with the Texas Rangers.

This was a whole new thing for us, being a fan.

Usually, we are at the ballpark around noon to start pre-game preparations. During the game, we work on statistics and rarely get to actually experience the game and see our guys play.

Our seats gave us a prime view of the field.

Last night we were able to go to Arlington after a few hours of work. After some pre-game preparations before our night off began, me, Michael and Alex, our graphic design coordinator & photographer, were able to leave and started the 36-mile journey to Arlington. We got to the ballpark and began the arduous task that every fan faces, parking. We found a good lot by the convention center and walked to first base. We quickly found our seats and stayed put to watch former RoughRiders pitcher Justin Grimm take the mound.

It was pretty cool to see Grimm on the big board at the Ballpark in Arlington.

That was definitely a different experience for Michael and I to see someone we got to know as a player and a person now pitching in a major league ballpark.

We had predicted before the game that a bat might be thrown.

As the Rangers headed into the bottom of the first, we headed out into the concourse to grab some grub. There are lots of choices at the ballpark but we went with some fan favorites — a hamburger, hot dog and cheese fries. We settled back in our seats just as left fielder Josh Hamilton was up to bat and we were not disappointed. There were two thrown bats and one of them landed about ten rows in front of us. We were quickly distracted from Hamilton’s at-bat as two guys sat down in front of us with the now legendary “Boomstick” two-foot-long hot dog. Over the course of three innings, that hot dog was gone.

Another fun feature is the fact that the ballpark is close to the airport. So like people in the Superman movies, we looked up at the sky not to find a bird, but a plane. The game progressed as the Rangers took on the Detroit Tigers. We talked about Prince Fielder and then Alex and Michael decided to hunt down some ice cream.

They came back and it turns out they got ice cream and decided to add some things into it to come up with a tasty ice cream concoction. I passed, and waited to snag a Lemon Chill in the sixth inning. It’s always fun to watch the vendors. I have to give kudos to the water guy whose strap broke while he was carrying it up the stairs. He did a graceful bow, fixed it, and continued on his merry way.

We spied a friend up above in the press box.

We discovered another Frisco friend around the seventh inning. We used our camera to zoom in on the press box and saw Larry Bump who works with Michael and I in the press box at Dr Pepper Ballpark. He is also a freelance writer which is why he was at the game. We texted him telling him we could see him. He then picked up a pair of binoculars and looked for us while we waved as hard as we could. It was funny because a foul ball was hit in our direction in the eighth inning and he texted us saying we should have caught the ball that landed two rows behind us.

Grimm focuses on the plate as Prince Fielder steps into the box.

The Rangers ended up losing to the Tigers 8-2. However, watching someone we got to know in Frisco pitch in his second Major League start while not having to work made the night special.

Photos and story by Jarah Wright

Justin Grimm Makes Big-League Debut With Rangers

Tonight former RoughRiders’ starter Justin Grimm will be making his major league debut pitching in front of a sold-out crowd at the Ballpark in Arlington. It’s his first start in the big league rotation that includes Yu Darvish, Scott Feldman, Matt Harrison, and Colby Lewis.

Grimm led the Texas League with the lowest ERA at 1.87 and also set the record for the lowest ERA among Frisco pitchers with at least 10 starts in a single season. He was also named a Texas-League All-Star after posting a record of eight wins and three losses in 11 starts.

Pitching in 77 innings, Grimm only allowed 65 hits, 16 earned runs and three home runs while striking out 67 and walking 14. After tallying up such numbers, Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels told MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan that Grimm was their best option with so many starters on the DL.

“We looked at all our options, the guys on the ballclub and the guys down below, and felt Justin was most ready to step in and help us win a game,” Daniels said.

With so many injuries Daniels added there isn’t a time frame for how long Grimm will remain in the rotation.

“Right now, Justin is one of our five starters,” Daniels said. “It may be one start or more. There are no guarantees. If he pitches well, the way things have gone with injuries the past few weeks, you never know.”

Grimm told MLB.com’s Christian Corona how he found out about the promotion saying Steve Buechele called him into his office to tell him he had been named a Texas League All-Star before telling him the big news.

“He said, ‘Have your parents left yet?’ I said, ‘No. I’m waiting to say goodbye,” Grimm said. “He goes, ‘Good. While you’re at it, you can get them a ticket to Arlington’s game tonight. Because you’re going to pitch Saturday.’”

Grimm said it’s a moment that will be ingrained in his mind for a long time to come.

“My jaw kind of dropped, my heart started beating fast, and my knees started shaking. But that’s good. I want that feeling. It’s a feeling I’m never going to forget.”

Former ‘Riders pitcher and current Texas Rangers’ pitcher Robbie Ross told ESPNDAllas.com’s Clint Foster that he’s happy for Grimm.

“I’m fired up for him,” Ross said. “It’s going to be sweet. I hope he can come in here and enjoy it and not let any pressure get to him. I’m just excited for him.”

Story and video by Jarah Wright

Our All-Star Picks

In the Texas League, each team is allowed an all-star ballot for the lead broadcaster and a beat writer for their team. With the all-star team lineups being announced today, we decided to pick who we think will make the cut.

Michael Damman

Texas League North:

Catcher-Lars Davis, Tulsa Drillers

First Baseman- Johnny Whittleman, Northwest Arkansas Naturals

Second Baseman- Kolten Wong, Springfield Cardinals

Third Baseman- Nolan Arenado, Tulsa Drillers

Shortstop- Josh Rutledge, Tulsa Drillers

Outfielder- Oscar Taveras, Springfield Cardinals

Outfielder- Wil Myers, Northwest Arkansas Naturals

Outfielder- Carlo Testa, Northwest Arkansas Naturals

Designated Hitter- Ben Paulsen, Tulsa Drillers

Starting Pitcher- Trevor Rosenthal, Springfield Cardinals

Reliever- Steven Geltz, Arkansas Travelers

Texas League South:

Catcher- Ali Solis, San Antonio Missions

First Baseman- Jonathan Singleton, Corpus Christi Hooks

Second Baseman- Jose Martinez, Corpus Christi Hooks

Third Baseman- Mike Olt, Frisco RoughRiders

Shortstop- Jurickson Profar, Frisco RoughRiders

Outfielder- Jeremy Barfield, Midland RockHounds

Outfielder- Brandon Barnes, Corpus Christi Hooks

Outfielder- Cody Decker, San Antonio Missions

Designated Hitter- Nathan Freiman, San Antonio Missions

Starting Pitcher- Justin Grimm, Frisco RoughRiders

Reliever- Jason Stoffel, Corpus Christi Hooks

Jarah Wright

Texas League North:

Catcher- Lars Davis, Tulsa Drillers

First Baseman-  Johnny Whilttleman, Northwest Arkansas Naturals

Second Baseman- Ryan Mount, Arkansas Travelers

Third Baseman- Nolan Arenado, Tulsa Drillers

Shortstop- Christian Colon, Northwest Arkansas Naturals

Outfielder- Oscar Taveras, Springfield Cardinals

Outfielder- Carlo Testa, Northwest Arkansas Naturals

Outfielder- Nick Van Stratten, Northwest Arkansas Naturals

Designated Hitter- Ben Paulsen, Tulsa Drillers

Starting Pitcher- Trevor Rosenthal, Springfield Cardinals

Reliever- Ryan Dennick, Northwest Arkansas Naturals

Texas League South:

Catcher- Zach Zaneski, Frisco RoughRiders

First Baseman- Jonathan Singleton, Corpus Christi Hooks

Second Baseman- Jonathan Galvez, San Antonio Missions

Third Baseman- Mike Olt, Frisco RoughRiders

Shortstop- Jurickson Profar, Frisco RoughRiders

Outfielder- Jeremy Barfield, Midland RockHounds

Outfielder- Engel Beltre, Frisco RoughRiders

Outfielder- Reymond Fuentes, San Antonio Missions

Designated Hitter- Nathan Freiman, San Antonio Missions

Starting Pitcher- Dan Straily, Midland RockHounds

Reliever- Ross Seaton, Corpus Christi Hooks

The All-Star teams will be announced today at 4 p.m. We will announced who made the cut on our Facebook and Twitter later today.

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