Results tagged ‘ Mike Olt ’

A new Lowe for the Rangers

Maybe the weirdest baseball card a player has ever had?

Maybe the weirdest baseball card a player has ever had?

We interrupt today’s edition of “Nolan Ryan Talk” to bring you the latest development involving the guys who are actually on the field: last night the Rangers announced the signing of veteran pitcher Derek Lowe to a minor league deal.  Lowe split last year between the rotation and bullpen for the Indians and Yankees, going 9-11 with a 5.11 ERA and one save in 38 games, 21 starts.  The big sinkerballer has bounced around the last few seasons, but is best known for being one of the chief “idiots” on the 2004 World Series-winning Boston Red Sox, earning the clinching win in all three series that post-season.

While he’s not on the Rangers’ 40-man roster at the moment, you would have to think he’s a at least a decent bet to make the club out of spring training given his versatility, the team’s lack of experienced middle relievers, and the fact that the Rangers were facing the prospects of going into a season without a pitcher named “Lowe” for the first time in four years (Mark signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers last month).

As someone who grew up in the Boston area and remembers when Dan Duquette pulled off one of the greatest heists in big league history – trading Heathcliff Slocumb for Lowe and some guy named Jason Varitek – I have a special place in my heart for the Michigan native.  I watched him go back-and-forth from the starting rotation to the closer spot and have success in both positions, pitch a no-hitter in 2002 against the Devil Rays, and put a lot of Boston nightclub owners’ kids through college.

It’s a smart, low-risk move for the Rangers, who could benefit tremendously if Lowe can locate his sinker and be effective for a couple innings at a time when called upon (or even fill in as a starter).  If he doesn’t work out, he didn’t cost you much to begin with so there’s no obligation to keep him.  He should be a strong clubhouse presence as a player who has succeeded on the biggest stages and is known to be a good teammate.  And, at the very least, his acquisition has slowed down some of the Ryan talk that has become a distraction for the organization.

***

The Rangers won a 3-2 decision over the Cubs in Surprise yesterday and got some strong pitching from Robbie Ross (4 IP, 4 H, 1 R) and Alexi Ogando (3 IP, 6 K, 1 R).  Lance Berkman also homered as the team won its second straight Cactus League contest.

Jon Daniels has the power; Nolan Ryan has the love(Note: read around the “sign in” bubble to take in the article) Before we get to the on-the-field items, this Randy Galloway column is a must-read for fans interested in the Nolan Ryan story (i.e., pretty much all Rangers fans).  Galloway has been all over this story from the start and says that Daniels was actually offered the full CEO job that belonged to Ryan, in addition to the president title, back in November but turned it down.  More interesting stuff to chew on.

Berkman confident about health as Opening Day approaches Jeff Wilson has the Big Puma feeling good about his ability to be ready to go come March 31.

Rapid Reaction from Texas winRon Matejko’s fast facts on yesterday’s victory.

Robbie Ross continues to impressWith Perez out until May, the former RoughRiders lefty may have cast himself as the new favorite to take the fifth starter spot after yesterday’s outing.

Alexi Ogando rewards Ron Washington’s faithGiven the way his first two spring outings went, Ogando’s strong performance was maybe the most encouraging thing about yesterday’s game.

Derek Lowe gives club versatilityRichard Durrett gives his thoughts on the Lowe acquisition.

Astros should woo Nolan RyanESPN.com’s Johnette Howard argues that Jim Crane should be pulling out all the stops to swipe away the Rangers’ CEO.

Angels’ Hamilton primed for monster year — but holds no grudgesSome interesting nuggets on CBS.com’s Jon Heyman’s interview with former Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton, including Hamilton saying that Nolan Ryan wished that Texas hadn’t dragged its feet in the negotiations.

Rangers don’t plan to return Alexi Ogando – and maybe Robbie Ross – to bullpen (subscription only)Gerry Fraley thinks that the starting rotation is the final destination for both Ogando and Ross.

Ogando, Ross giving Rangers confidence in rotationT.R. Sullivan’s report on the two pitchers impressing Ron Washington yesterday.

Rangers press on despite Ryan’s uncertaintySullivan has plenty of quotes from Daniels on the Ryan story.

Olt, Martin pulled out of Rangers’ lineupSullivan’s notes column has injury updates on Mike Olt (tooth pain, not the Rory McIlroy type), Leonys Martin (hamstring), Kyle McClellan (shoulder), Tanner Scheppers (hamstring) and Yoshinori Tateyama (back).

– Alex

When a day off isn’t really a day off

Pitching for Team USA, Derek Holland allowed a run over three innings yesterday in an exhibition game against the White Sox. (Christian Peterson/Getty Images)

Pitching for Team USA, Derek Holland allowed a run over three innings yesterday in an exhibition game against the White Sox. (Christian Peterson/Getty Images)

There was no game for the Rangers yesterday but of course that does not mean things were slow in terms of news developments.  The big story continues to be the Nolan Ryan situation and we can expect things to remain that way until the big man speaks publicly on the matter.  So far, he has shown little interest in doing that for reasons only he knows.

I think I speak for most fans when I say that I hope that this reaches a conclusion that keeps Nolan Ryan and Jon Daniels’ top lieutenants with the organization.  That might be a pie-in-the-sky hope, but it’s no crime to dream of a happy ending in this case.  Sometimes, however, the band does end up breaking up.  It happened to the Beatles and it can happen here.

In my opinion, what the Rangers would like to avoid experiencing is what happened the Red Sox front office over the final years of the Theo Epstein era.  Epstein is a bit like Daniels in how he rose through the game to become a big league general manager.  Like Daniels, Epstein had a group of extremely talented people around him who eventually outgrew their roles (i.e., the Red Sox could not afford them or give ran out of ways to promote them) and moved on to other organizations.  Think of Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod as examples.  Their departures diluted the talent pool of the front office and as a result, the Red Sox stumbled through some mediocre drafts and disastrous free agency signings, leading to three straight seasons ending with no postseason in Boston.  Maybe voices like Hoyer and McLeod, had they been a part of those decisions, could have asked questions that weren’t being asked or proposed different solutions.

The Rangers ownership wants to make sure the Thad Levines and A.J. Prellers of the organization stay put to keep Daniels’ “dream team” of assistants together.  Daniels’ promotion to president clears the way for some future upward movement in the front office, making it more likely that the band stays together for a little longer and the Rangers continue their run of recent success.

So where does that leave Nolan Ryan?  We don’t really know, though there is plenty of speculation.  My belief is that we won’t know until Nolan himself determines how he would like to see this play out.  Until then, let’s hope this iteration of the Beatles keeps on rocking together.

On the subject of who has the power in the Rangers’ organizationEvan Grant says that nothing much will change with the organization despite the title changes.

Daniels on Nolan Ryan: ‘I don’t want him to leave’Some quotes from the Rangers’ GM/president, who was on ESPN Radio 103.3 yesterday.

If the always-sensible Nolan Ryan wants to win, it’s Texas Rangers or bustHighlights from Kevin Sherrington’s DMN column.

Daniels had ‘good conversation’ with Ryan over the weekend, says there’s ‘no issue’ between the twoMore Daniels quotes from another radio interview, this time with KRLD.

Why Rangers haven’t made move for Lohse, othersDaniels also took some time yesterday to touch on the potential acquisition of a new starting pitcher.

Team USA gets strong debut from HollandThere was a Ranger in action yesterday, as Derek Holland threw three innings for Team USA in a WBC tuneup vs. the White Sox.

Rangers’ top prospects can benefit from WBC absencesJeff Wilson has Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar looking to take advantage of their extended playing time with the big club while the WBC is in progress.

Rangers don’t need to panic and press the No. 5 buttonGil Lebreton says Texas can afford to be patient in finding a fifth starter.

Harrison hopes offseason pays off in ’13Matt Harrison says he’s not content with coasting off his first all-star season despite earning a big contract, writes Anthony Andro.

Inbox: Could injuries bring Lohse into picture?T.R. Sullivan answers fan questions in this week’s mailbag column.

– Alex

Elvis’ ink gives Profar a chance to shine

The detailed tattoo that kept Elvis Andrus out of the lineup yesterday.

The detailed tattoo that kept Elvis Andrus out of the lineup yesterday.

Things were progressing in a nice and dull manner out in Surprise until yesterday’s news that Elvis Andrus would be scratched from the Rangers’ spring training game against the Indians.  Missing the game itself wasn’t as noteworthy as was the reason why: his left arm was sore after spending nine hours on Wednesday getting a new tattoo, a memorial to his late father.  Publicly, the Rangers haven’t seemed too upset over the ink stink, which overshadowed their 10-0 win – the team’s first of the spring.  It also may have been a blessing in disguise for Jurickson Profar, who filled in for Andrus at shortstop and tripled in his first at bat off Zach McAllister (the same Zach McAllister who Profar took deep in his first major league at bat last September in Cleveland).   The whole “incident” won’t mean much in the long run – which is a good thing – but it certainly made for an eventful Thursday in the desert.  On to today’s links:

Andrus sits out due to sensitivity from new tattooA.J. Cassavell of MLB.com talks to Andrus and Ron Washington about the new tattoo and missing yesterday’s game.  There’s also some good notes about Derek Holland’s impressive performance, Mike Olt in the outfield and Robbie Ross feeling a little sore.

Berkman looks like usual self in first spring at-batCassavell has a look at Lance Berkman’s spring debut, which included a hit, a walk and two runs scored out of the leadoff spot.

Lance Berkman doesn’t show rust in debutMore on Berkman, from Ron Matejko of ESPNDallas.com.

Holland leaves for WBC on high noteThe Rangers lefty tossed four scoreless innings yesterday against Cleveland and now leaves to pitch for Team USA at the World Baseball Classic.

Gerry Fraley on Mike Olt in the outfield, a new addition that won’t play but will be useful for the Rangers, and Lance Berkman

Spring break: Rhode Islander trying to catch on with Rangers – Jeff Beliveau is trying to become the first player from the Ocean State to suit up for the Rangers, per Drew Davison.

‘Tattoo soreness’ and other significant developments in the Rangers’ camp – Randy Galloway gives his thoughts on the news of the day and Lance Berkman.

– Alex

Rangers Links (Don’t Panic Edition)

It's a little too early to start feeling like this about the Rangers' spring training.

It’s a little too early to start feeling like this about the Rangers’ spring training.

Repeat after me: the games don’t count.  It’s reassuring to remind yourself of that every time you see results like yesterday.  Or the day before.  Or any of these spring training games.  It’s only natural to have at least a small amount of concern that the Rangers have yet to put anything other than a bagel in the “W” column, especially given that wins were a rarity over the final few weeks of last season.

(By the way, did you notice the only other team that has yet to post a spring training victory?  They play their regular season home games at Angel Stadium of Anaheim, to give you a hint.)

To get worked up over early spring training results is a quixotic endeavor, given the relative rust on the players and the individual tasks they set for themselves  that may give way to garish performances.  A pitcher’s goal in a spring training game may simply be to throw his fastball for strikes, results be damned.  Maybe a hitter is working on a new aspect to his swing.  Maybe a player simply isn’t ready for the season at this point in late February.  I don’t have problems with any of that.  When spring training is over and the battles for the number five starter, utility infielder and regular centerfielder are over, I’m willing to bet (like many others) that the Rangers will have a unit that will be very competitive for a playoff spot in the American League West.  Until then, practice your anti-Kevin McCallister face.

Rangers’ Ron Washington says prospect Mike Olt trying too hardGerry Fraley has the Rangers skipper saying Mike Olt should not put so much pressure on himself to perform.

Hamilton on Michael Young & the Rangers It seems like everyone has an opinion on how things went/ended with Michael Young on the Rangers, including Josh Hamilton.

Despite villainous reputation, Rangers’ A.J. Pierzynski a winner, ex-mates sayFraley writes about the Rangers’ new catcher, who won a World Series with Chicago in 2005 (subscribers only).

Alexi Ogando’s continuing struggles could throw wrench in rotation plansWith most of the focus on the Rangers’ fifth starter competition, everyone is kind of assuming Ogando will step in and be the guy he was a few years ago as a starter.  Might not work out quite so smooth, based on early returns.

Rangers not about to ignore Ogando’s early strugglesJust because the results don’t count doesn’t mean that Ron Washington is paying no attention to Ogando’s troubles, writes Drew Davison.

Rangers’ survivors say change is goodRandy Galloway says that the holdovers from a tumultuous off-season are still confident that this club can win a World Series.

Leonys Martin staking claim to CF jobA trio of stories today from Ron Matejko, who is filling in for new ESPN Radio host Richard Durrett.  The first has Leonys Martin starting to emerge as a favorite for a more regular role with the Rangers.

Alexi Ogando still working out some kinksOgando and Washington talk about the right-hander’s struggles.

Robbie Ross aiming for last rotation spotThe 2011 RoughRider talks about his desire to join the Rangers’ rotation.

Burns stepping forward in Rangers’ bullpenT.R. Sullivan has Washington giving some kind words to bullpen-hopeful Corey Burns.

Berkman ready for first Cactus League actionSullivan’s notes column touches on Lance Berkman’s expected spring debut this afternoon, Ogando and injury updates for Engel Beltre & Craig Gentry.

– Alex

Rangers Spring Training Links – 2/27/2013

Things haven't been too graceful for Geovanny Soto and the Rangers this spring. (Photo credit to Louis Deluca/Dallas Morning News)

Things haven’t been too graceful for Geovanny Soto and the Rangers this spring. (Photo credit to Louis Deluca/Dallas Morning News)

Yesterday the White Sox jumped out to a 12-0 lead and beat up the Rangers 14-8 to drop Texas to 0-4 in Cactus League play.  The good news?  These games (of course) don’t count for much of anything and, by all accounts, Yu Darvish looked fantastic in his two innings of work.  As for 2012 RoughRiders pitcher Cody Buckel?  He had a tough afternoon, throwing just 10 of his 31 pitches for strikes and yielding six runs (four earned) with five walks while retiring just one batter.  Here are today’s links:

Why veteran Jeff Baker could have edge on Mike Olt for spot on Texas Rangers’ benchEvan Grant says the journeyman’s experience riding the pine might end up getting him a big league job.

Texas Rangers roster predictions, V2.0From a couple days ago, but worth a look as Grant handicaps the 25-man roster.

Same old Josh? Ex-Ranger Hamilton swings at first pitch, goes 0-for-3 in Angels debutIf you’re interested, Josh Hamilton did not set the world on fire in his first game of the spring with Los Angels.

With year under his belt, Texas Rangers’ Darvish already looking like Yu 2.0For subscribers only, Gerry Fraley thought highly of the Japanese right-hander’s debut outing.

Cody Buckel survivesJeff Wilson reports that, despite yesterday’s flameout, Cody Buckel was not incinerated from planet Earth altogether.  He also notes that Engel Beltre might not be playing for Spain in the WBC after all.

Rangers catcher feels nothing (yet) vs. old teamWilson writes about A.J. Pierzynski facing the White Sox for the first time as a Ranger yesterday.

Yu Darvish impresses in spring debutAnother glowing report on Darvish, this time from Ron Matejko.

Darvish off to strong start in second springMatt Mosley writes that things are bit calmer this spring for the now more seasoned Darvish.

Plenty of arms to choose from for RangersNeeding to almost completely rebuilt their bullpen, Anthony Andros says that the Rangers have a diverse group of options available to fill out the open spots.

Rangers prepared to round out rotation in houseDon’t look for Kyle Lohse to come walking through that door, writes T.R. Sullivan.

Berkman may make Rangers debut ThursdaySullivan has injury updates on Lance Berkman, Colby Lewis and the two Beltres, Adrian and Engel.

 – Alex

Reviewing the MiLB.com Rangers All-Stars (part 1)

Earlier today MiLB.com released its 2012 Rangers Organization All-Star Team and the RoughRiders were well-represented with six players named to the squad, more than any other team in the farm system (Round Rock, which ironically finished with the worst record of all the full-season teams, was second with five).  So how did MiLB.com do with their picks?  Let’s take a look at the catching and infield positions.

CATCHER

TRACY PROFFITT | URASTAR IMAGES - Kellin Deglan (15) - Hickory Crawdads

(Tracy Proffitt)

MiLB.com’s pick: Kellin Deglan, Hickory (92 G, .234-12-41, 25 2B, 2 3B, 46 R, .310 OBP, .438 SLG, .748 OPS, 7 E, 12 PB, 38% CS)

My pick:  Deglan

Production-wise, it’s not a stellar crop to choose from but a case could be made for either one of Frisco’s catchers (Jose Felix and Zach Zaneski) and for Myrtle Beach’s Tomas Telis.  Felix was arguably the best defensive catcher in the Texas League and made strides offensively while Zaneski’s batting average was over .300 for most of the year and got better behind the plate as the season went on.  Telis’ offensive numbers, when observed through the hitter-unfriendly Carolina League prism, were actually fairly comparable to Deglan’s.  For me, the difference came down to the numbers that were actually there, and the former first round pick Deglan swatted 12 home runs with 25 doubles, both impressive figures for a 20-year old catcher.  It may all be a moot point in the long run, as Jorge Alfaro, who caught just 29 games, is probably the best prospect of the bunch.  His lack of time behind the dish hurt him in this exercise, however.

(Alex Yocum-Beeman/Frisco RoughRiders)

FIRST BASE

MiLB.com’s pick:  Chris McGuiness, Frisco (123 G, .268-23-77, 25 2B, 65 R, .366 OBP, .474 SLG, .840 OPS, 7 E)

My Pick: McGuiness

One of the newest members of the Indians organization, McGuiness had a terrific bounce back season with the ’Riders, giving Texas League hurlers a reason to throw hittable pitches to Mike Olt, who batted before the former Citadel star in Steve Buechele’s lineup.  McGuiness established career-highs in home runs, doubles, runs batted in and runs scored while saving numerous throwing errors with excellent glove work at first base.  Other fine seasons to consider for this spot belonged to the Round Rock combo of Mike Bianucci and Brad Nelson, Myrtle’s Brett Nicholas and the AZL Rangers’ Ronald Guzman.

SECOND BASE

MiLB.com’s pick: Yangervis Solarte, Round Rock (130 G, .288-11-54, 28 2B, 69 R, 3-4 SB, .340 OBP, .405 SLG, .745 OPS, 11 E at position)

TRACY PROFFITT | HICKORY CRAWDADS - #2 Rougned Odor

(Tracy Proffitt)

My pick: Rougned Odor, Hickory (109 G, .259-10-47, 23 2B, 4 3B, 60 R, 19-29 SB, .313 OBP, .400 SLG, .714 OPS, 10 E at position)

My first disagreement with MiLB.com comes at the second base position.  Solarte’s first season with the Rangers organization was also his first at the Triple-A level.  It was his finest season to date in home runs, RBI and runs scored, but while I tend to give a little extra credit to offensive players in the Carolina League, I have to take some away from Pacific Coast Leaguers.  Why?  The circuit dramatically favors hitters in most years and 2012 was no exception.  The PCL batting average and OPS for this past season were .278 and .775, respectively (the International League, by comparison, was .257 and .717).  Solarte should certainly be congratulated for a fine season, but the 18-year-old Odor (he turns 19 this February) put up similar numbers in a less offensively-generous league while ranking among the best defensive second basemen in the South Atlantic League.  His numbers did fall off in the second half of the year, but that is often the case for players in their first full season of professional ball.  Added Frisco first name bonus: I’m looking forward to seeing Rougned playing for the RoughRiders, perhaps by the end of next season.  Other second basemen whose seasons were worthy of note included Frisco’s Leury Garcia, Myrtle’s Odubel Herrera, Spokane’s Cam Schiller and the AZL Rangers’ Janluis Castro.  So yeah, the Rangers are pretty well-stocked at this position.

THIRD BASE

Olt

(Alex Yocum-Beeman/Frisco RoughRiders)

MiLB.com’s pick: Mike Olt, Frisco/Texas (MiLB numbers: 95 G, .288-28-82, 17 2B, 3B, 65 R, 4-4 SB, .398 OBP, .579 SLG, .977 OPS, 11 E at position)

My pick: Olt

No brainer here, as a case could be made for Olt being the best third baseman in Minor League Baseball in 2012.  After missing a good chunk of the previous season with a broken collarbone, the former UConn Husky was a one-man wrecking crew in Frisco.  He looked capable of hitting the most home runs by a Texas Leaguer in more than a decade before the Rangers called him up to the big leagues in early August.   He was slowed by a foot injury that he suffered just days into reaching Arlington, but that will likely become just a footnote in an otherwise solid big league career.  While Olt was clearly the best at the hot corner for the Rangers, it would be remiss of me to not mention Joey Gallo, who spent time with both short-season clubs.  The supplemental first rounder from this past June snapped Cody Decker’s AZL home run record with 18 long balls (he added four more with Spokane) while hitting .293 with a 1.169 OPS for the baby Rangers.  Christian Villanueva, who spent most of 2012 with Myrtle before being traded to the Cubs, Hickory’s Drew Robinson and Spokane’s Ryan Rua also had noteworthy seasons.

SHORTSTOP

 

MiLB.com’s pick: Jurickson Profar, Frisco/Texas (MiLB numbers: 126 G, .281-14-62, 26 2B, 7 3B, 76 R, 16-20 SB, .368 OBP, .452 SLG, .820 OPS, 22 E at position)

My pick: Profar

Profar

(Alex Yocum-Beeman/Frisco RoughRiders)

Again, you can’t shoot too many holes in picking Profar, hailed by many as the best prospect in the game at the moment.  From his preternatural ability to work a count to his off-the-charts makeup, there isn’t much to say about the 19-year-old Curacaoian (my favorite learned word of 2012) that hasn’t already been said.  So how about this observation, for kicks and giggles:

First game of full season ball: Home run in his first at bat of the year for Hickory vs. Asheville on April 7, 2011

First hit at Double-A: Home run at Arkansas to deepest part of the ballpark on April 8, 2012

First at bat in 2012 XM Futures All-Star Game: Home run off top pitching prospect Jake Odorizzi in first inning

First MLB at bat: Home run at Cleveland on September 2, 2012

The man knows how to make an entrance, doesn’t he?  With apologies to Allen Iverson, not to be forgotten at the shortstop position is Hanser “The Answer” Alberto, who put together a strong campaign between the two Single-A stops on the Minor League ladder.

Coming tomorrow: My thoughts on the outfield and pitching All-Star choices.

–          Alex V.

Your Early November Fall Ball Update

Chris McGuiness has earned praise while playing for the Surprise Saguaros of the Arizona Fall League.

The regular season ended two months ago, but there is still baseball being played all over the world.  Many fall and winter leagues have been playing for several weeks, and plenty of former and future RoughRiders are in action.  Here’s an update on some familiar names and ones that will become familiar to ’Riders fans in just a few months.

Note: For a variety of reasons, many of these off-season leagues tend to dramatically favor strong offensive numbers, especially in the Arizona Fall League.  So you should take some of the impressive offensive numbers (and poor pitching stats, for that matter) with a grain of salt.

ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE (Surprise Saguaros)

1B Chris McGuiness: The former Citadel star, who enjoyed a productive 2012 in Frisco, has played in a team-high 19 games for the Saguaros, hitting .314 with a triple-slash of .410/.543/.952.  He’s tied for the AFL lead with four home runs and 20 RBI.  He’s hit four doubles and has as many walks (11) as he does strikeouts.  He was named the co-Player of the Week in the AFL in week one, sharing the honor with former Corpus Christi Hooks first baseman Jon Singleton.  He was also the only Rangers farmhand named to the AFL Rising Stars Game, going 0-for-2 with a pair of fly outs.

SS Hanser Alberto: The recently minted 20-year-old split 2012 between the Rangers’ two Single-A affiliates in Hickory and Myrtle Beach and could very easily break camp in spring training as a RoughRider.  He’s currently third in the AFL in batting average with a .360 clip in 14 games to go along with a double, two triples and six RBI.  While he has stolen three bases, he’s also been caught four times (he was 24-for-31 in steals during the regular season).

SS Luis Sardinas: Another young middle infielder, the 19-year-old Venezuelan is batting .316 with a home run, two doubles and four runs batted in through nine games.  He played this past season for Hickory and would seem to be a candidate to reach Frisco at some point in 2013 unless things bottom out for him in Myrtle Beach.

C Kellin Deglan:The former first round pick (22nd overall in 2010) out of Canada struggled at the plate for Hickory this past season and things have continued for him out in Arizona.  In eight games, he is batting .172 with no extra-base hits, one RBI and four runs scored.  He is only 20-years-old and has never played above Single-A, so don’t push the panic button just yet.

Ryan Rodebaugh is one member of the Rangers contingent playing for Surprise. (Alex Yocum-Beeman)

RHP Ryan Rodebaugh: After struggling with an oblique injury that sidelined him for more than a month early in the season, the former Kennesaw State Owl put together a very good campaign in his first season at the Double-A level.  In eight AFL games, “Rodey” is 0-1 with a 3.09 ERA, 11 strikeouts and four walks in 11.2 innings.  Since allowing four runs through his first three appearances, he has thrown seven straight scoreless frames.

RHP Joe Van Meter: It was a short stint in the AFL for Van Meter, who was shut down with a sore right shoulder after two starts.  He had given up four runs on nine hits and four walks with four strikeouts in six innings.  The former two-way star at VCU spent most of the season with Myrtle Beach but made three appearances in a RoughRiders uniform in the second half.

RHP Ben Henry: Henry replaced Van Meter on the Saguaros roster and has appeared in three games.  He owns a 10.50 ERA (7 ER in 6 IP) with four strikeouts and seven walks in six innings.  He spent most of this past season with Myrtle Beach, but missed the last month of the year due to injury.

RHP Ben Rowen: A likely closer candidate for the RoughRiders next season, Rowen won a MiLBY Award for the best reliever in Minor League Baseball this past season while pitching for the Pelicans.  In the AFL, he has thrown in 11 games and has posted a 4.22 ERA in 10.2 innings.  The submariner has eight strikeouts and four walks with a .195 opponents’ batting average.

LHP Jimmy Reyes: The former Elon Phoenix has been the most impressive Rangers pitcher in the AFL this year.  Reyes, who spent all of 2012 in Myrtle Beach and finished Nick Tepesch’s May no-hitter, has yielded just two unearned runs on six hits in seven appearances (10 IP) with no walks and seven strikeouts.  He also picked up a win in his first AFL game on October 10.

MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE

C Jose Felix: The RoughRiders’ catcher in each of the past three seasons is playing for the Algodoneros de Guasave (or, the Guasave Cotton Growers for those who are a little rusty on their Español).  After showing solid improvement at the plate for the ’Riders in 2012, he has looked good with Guasave, hitting .407 with three doubles and seven RBI in ten games and a triple-slash line of .393/.519/.911.  And yes, Felix’s OBP is lower than his batting average, as he has not walked yet this off-season.  He walked a ludicrous five times in 306 plate appearances during the regular season.

OF Joey Butler: The former RoughRider (2010 & 2011) is suiting up for the Venados de Mazatlán (Mazatlán Deer; yes, teams in the Mexican Pacific League have silly names.  We should feature them on a blog post soon) after a very solid 2012 campaign with Triple-A Round Rock.  Butler has struggled, however, for Mazatlán, hitting .228 with four doubles, a homer and five RBI in 17 games.

DOMINICAN WINTER LEAGUE

TIGRES DEL LICEY (LICEY TIGERS)

LHP Chad Bell: The Knoxville lefty made Frisco the middle stop on his three-team climb this past season (starting in Myrtle and ending in Round Rock).  He has been hit hard by DWL opposition, going 0-1 with a 7.45 ERA in five games (three starts) with eight strikeouts and three walks in 9.2 innings.

3B Mike Olt: Frisco’s big-bopper in 2012 became a Ranger in early August when the big club called him up directly from the Texas League.  Although his two injury-plagued months in the big leagues were underwhelming, he is still considered a big-time corner infield prospect.  In ten games for Licey, Olt is hitting .286 with four doubles, one home run, five RBI and a triple-slash of .474/.536/1.009.  His fine DWL performance was interrupted when he was hit in the head by a pitch on November 3 and he has yet to play since.

SS Jurickson Profar: Über-prospect Profar recently joined Licey, but has yet to play in a game.  He spent nearly the entire 2012 season in Frisco until the Rangers called him up to the Major League squad when rosters expanded in September.

A ‘Rider in 2011, Leonys Martin has played well in the Dominican Republic this fall. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders)

OF Engel Beltre: When he is not promoting proper recycling techniques, Beltre has been lighting up the DWL just like he did the Texas League at times this past season.  The four-season RoughRiders centerfielder is batting .381 in 15 games for Licey with a double, five  triples, ten RBI, 13 runs scored and a triple-slash of .435/.643/1.078.  He leads the league in average, triples and OPS and is second in OBP and slugging.

OF Leonys Martin: The 2011 RoughRider split this past season

between Round Rock and the Rangers and, like Beltre, has been a solid performer in the DWL.  In 17 games, he is batting .288 with four doubles, a triple, two home runs, 14 RBI and 14 runs scored.

GIGANTES DEL CIBAO (CIBAO GIANTS)

IF LEURY GARCIA: The only Rangers farmhand on Ciboa, Garcia has looked pretty similar to the player he was in Frisco this past season.  In 16 games he is batting .273 with four doubles, a triple, two home runs (he had three for the ’Riders in 2012, including the playoffs), six RBI and seven runs scored.  Garcia is a strong candidate to begin next season with Round Rock.

ESTRELLAS DE ORIENTE (EASTERN STARS)

LHP Ben Snyder: After spending parts of 2010 and 2011 with Frisco, Snyder pitched for Round Rock during the 2012 season.  In five games (three starts) for Oriente, he is 2-1 with a 2.40 ERA, six strikeouts and ten walks in 15 innings.

AGUILAS CIBAENAS (EAGLES OF CIBAO)

RHP Johan Yan: Frisco’s closer for the first two months of 2012, Yan struggled after his promotion to Triple-A (5.03 ERA).  He has performed a bit better in winter ball, going 1-0 with a 4.26 ERA in eight games.  The submarine pitcher has posted an impressive 12-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 6:1 groundout/flyout ratio in 6.1 innings.

2009 RoughRiders pitcher Jose Diaz is pitching in La Romana, DR with 2011-12 ‘Rider Fabio Castillo. (James Garner/RoughRiders)

TOROS DEL ESTE (BULLS OF THE EAST)

RHP Fabio Castillo: Castillo split 2012 between Frisco and Round Rock after spending the previous two seasons as a RoughRider.  He has been good in limited action with los Toros, allowing just an unearned run on three hits in 4.1 innings over six appearances.  He has two walks and two strikeouts while pitching for his hometown (La Romana) club.

RHP Jose Diaz: The portly Diaz, who pitched for Frisco in 2009, spent 2012 with Indianapolis (Pittsburgh) of the Triple-A International League.  In ten games for los Toros, he is 1-1 with a 2.79 ERA, 12 strikeouts, one walk and seven hits allowed in 9.2 innings.

LEONES DEL ESCOGIDO (LIONS OF THE CHOSEN ONE)

RHP Carlos Pimentel: Pimentel seemed to be effectively wild or wildly effective at points this season for the ’Riders, but not so effective for los Leones.  In six games (one start), he owns a 10.57 ERA (9 ER, 7.2 IP) with a .343 opponents’ batting average.  Still, with his solid year in Frisco he would seem to be a good bet to begin next season with Round Rock.

PUERTO RICAN WINTER LEAGUE

LEONES DE PONCE (PONCE LIONS)

The Puerto Rican League just began play on November 8.  The Rangers farmhands on Ponce include OF Mike Bianucci (’Riders 2011), C Jorge Alfaro, C Kevin Torres, 1B/OF Brandon Snyder, LHP Tim Murphy (’Riders 2010, 2012), LHP Alexander Claudio, RHP Alex De La Cruz, RHP Jon Edwards (’Riders 2012) and RHP Angelo Leclerc.

VENEZUELAN WINTER LEAGUE

AGUILAS DE ZULIA (ZULIA EAGLES)

RHP Wilfredo Boscan: The RoughRiders’ 2011 Opening Day starter, Boscan spent the first half of 2012 pitching in relief for Frisco before performing very well as a starter in the second half of the season.  He has continued that success for Zulia, going 0-1 with a 0.81 ERA in five starts.  He has struck out 15 and walked six batters in 22.1 innings while opponents are hitting .228 off of him.  The 23-year-old will likely start next season as a RoughRider once again.

TIBURONES DE LA GUAIRA (LA GUAIRA SHARKS)

LHP Joseph Ortiz: Affectionately nicknamed “Mini-Me,” the 5’7” Ortiz put together a superb 2012 season between Frisco and Round Rock.  With La Guaira, he is 0-2 in 12 games with a 3.48 ERA, eight strikeouts and three walks in 10.1 innings and batters are hitting .200 against him.  He will challenge for a spot in the Rangers bullpen during spring training.

RHP Jose Mavare: The 22-year-old Barquisimeto native spent 2012 with Hickory pitching out of the bullpen and could be a candidate to reach Frisco in the second half of next season.  He has been hit hard in the VWL, allowing five runs on eight hits in six innings with five walks and six strikeouts.

NAVEGANTES DEL MAGALLANES (MAGELLAN’S NAVIGATORS)

RHP Randol Rojas: Rojas split 2012 between the Single-A affiliates, spending most of his time with Myrtle Beach.  He has yet to appear in a game for los Navegantes.

LEONES DEL CARACAS (CARACAS LIONS)

Guilder Rodriguez is playing in his native Venezuela in the off-season. (Alex Yocum-Beeman/RoughRiders)

RHP Wilmer Font: The hulking right-hander’s first season coming off Tommy John surgery was a resounding success.  Font spent most of the season with the Pelicans before joining the RoughRiders in August, dazzling the Texas League with a blazing fastball and then earning a promotion to the Rangers in mid-September.  He has not pitched yet for Caracas.

RHP Richard Alvarez: After pitching for Spokane for most the season, Alvarez made one appearance out of the bullpen for Hickory.  Like Font, he has not yet thrown for Caracas.

CARDENALES DE LARA (LARA CARDINALS)

IF Guilder Rodriguez: The longtime Minor League veteran Rodriguez was recently re-signed by the Rangers and may be back in Frisco for a fifth consecutive year in 2013.  In 15 games for Lara, G-Rod is batting .147 with two RBI and a pair of runs scored.

–          Alex V.

Catching up with… Steve Buechele (Part Two)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still a Ranger even after all these years.

SB: Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

–          Alex

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.

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