The Bats Weekly Podcast: April 14

BatsWeeklyLogo2014 580x259 The Bats Weekly Podcast: April 14

The Bats Weekly Podcast is back for 2014. Co-hosts Chris Gehring and George Nunnelley introduce the show for the new season and look ahead to the upcoming week in Bats baseball. Recorded Monday, April 14.

Chien-Ming Wang brings international attention to Louisville

Baseball may be America’s pastime, but as more and more Asian players have come over to the United States to play professionally, it has grown into an obsession of sorts across the Pacific as well.

Japan has gotten most of the attention as a baseball-crazed nation thanks to the stars that they have sent to Major League Baseball. Yankee outfielder Ichiro Suzuki and Rangers ace Yu Darvish are just a couple of Japanese stars gracing Major League diamonds this season.

While Japan has earned its place as a powerful baseball nation ( it has won two World Baseball Classic titles and three Olympic medals), Taiwan has sent players to Major League Baseball as well. The most notable? Current Bats pitcher Chien-Ming Wang.

Wang has battled injury issues of late, but was once one of the game’s top pitchers. With the New York Yankees in 2006, he went 19-6 and finished second in the American League Cy Young Award voting behind Johan Santana. He would win 19 games again in 2007 before injuries took their toll. Nevertheless, Wang has pitched in the Major Leagues for part of each of the last ten seasons and remains a major figure in his native Taiwan.

Members of the Taiwanese media were in Louisville this weekend to keep tabs on Chien-Ming, and he was recently featured in the China Times. Pictures below show Wang in action during the Bats’ 12-4 victory over the Columbus Clippers on Thunder Day (Thunder Over Louisville fireworks also pictured). The drill using a towel in workouts was introduced to Wang by fellow Bats pitcher Chad Reineke.

BS1Aa413 580x978 Chien Ming Wang brings international attention to Louisville

BS1Aa412 580x977 Chien Ming Wang brings international attention to Louisville

BS1Aa414 580x977 Chien Ming Wang brings international attention to Louisville

 

 

 

 

Schmidt works out at Louisville Slugger Field

Schmidt Schmidt works out at Louisville Slugger Field

Nick Schmidt is eligible to come off the seven-day disabled list on Saturday (Paat Kelly – MiLB.com)

Louisville left-handed pitcher Nick Schmidt participated in a rehab workout prior to Lousiville’s home opener against the Columbus Clippers on Thursday night.

Schmidt, who was placed on the seven-day disable list with a left groin strain retro to April 5, long-tossed with left-handed pitcher David Holmberg before throwing about 20 pitches from the bullpen mound. He appeared to have been throwing about 80 percent of his full capability. The majority of his pitches were fastballs, but Schmidt also mixed in about five curveballs.

The former University of Arkansas Razorback was initially selected by the San Diego Padres with the 23rd overall pick of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. He spent the past two seasons in the Colorado Rockies organization but was signed by the Cincinnati Reds to a minor league contract in December.

The big left-hander is yet to make his Major League debut. He has a career 33-33 record with a 4.55 ERA in 128 minor league games, including 94 starts. Last season, with the Triple-A Colorado Springs Sky Sox, Schmidt went 5-3 with a 4.71 ERA while predominately appearing from the bullpen – made eight starts in 37 appearances.

Schmidt is eligible to come off the seven-day disabled list tomorrow, Saturday, April 12 as the Bats wrap up their five-game split series against the Columbus Clippers. First pitch at Louisville Slugger Field is scheduled for 2:05 p.m. ET.

First pitch strike key to pitching staff success

2013 Chad Rogers 1 by Pat Pfister First pitch strike key to pitching staff success

Chad Rogers has found great success out of the bullpen in throwing first pitch strikes. (Pat Pfister – pfoto.com)

The Bats have finished their first road trip of the season with a winning record of 3-2. During this road trip starting pitcher Jeff Francis earned International League Pitcher of the Week and rightfully so. On Opening Day he pitched six innings, allowed four hits, zero runs, zero walks and struck out six. Those numbers are worthy of an award alone, but why was he so successful? I believe I have the answer.

The first pitch of an at bat is the most important one in my opinion. As a pitcher you want to start out ahead of the hitter so you have an advantage. Francis did that extremely well and he was successful because of it. On Opening Day in Toledo, Francis faced 21 hitters, and 16 of them were down 0-1 after the first pitch of the at bat. Out of the 16 that saw a first pitch strike, only two of them were able to get a hit.

In Francis’ second start yesterday in Columbus, he faced 24 hitters total, starting 17 of them out with strike one. Of those 17, three were able to reach base due to a base hit. Combined in his two starts he is 33 of 45 in first pitch strikes.

It isn’t only Francis, the rest of the pitching staff is finding success throwing a first pitch strike as well. The pitching staff as a whole, has started out hitters with a first pitch strike 61% of the time, or 117 out of 191. Out of those 61% of hitters, 74% end up as an out. What is even more astonishing is that out of those 61%, only 0.26% ended up being walked. The pitching staff has done an excellent job of not only getting ahead, but staying ahead.

This statistic is extremely important for the bullpen. The last thing you want to do coming out of the bullpen is get behind hitters and put them into hitters counts. One name that sticks out is Chad Rogers. Rogers has faced 20 batters in four and two-thirds innings pitched, starting 14 of them out with strike one, with only five of them getting a base hit. In his most recent appearance in Columbus on Tuesday he faced six hitters starting each one with a strike. He has had tough luck early on, but if he continues to get ahead of hitters with a strike on the first pitch, he will find success.

In the first five games of 2014 the pitching staff has given up 15 earned runs, and only five of them came after starting the batter with an 0-1 count. That just means that when the pitching starts to fall apart it is because they are falling behind in the count. The key to success for the pitching staff over the course of the season will be the first pitch strike and if they can continue to attack the zone early, they will find success as they have during the first road trip of the season.

 

 

 

Bats return to Louisville Slugger Field for home opener

Opening Night bkswd95b htqpdmyc Bats return to Louisville Slugger Field for home opener

The Louisville Bats play the Columbus Clippers at 6:35 p.m. ET to kick off the team’s 15th season at Louisville Slugger Field.

Your Louisville Bats return home today to face the Columbus Clippers in their home opener at 6:35 p.m. ET. It will mark the 15th season the Bats have made their home at the downtown Louisville Slugger Field.

With a five-game road trip and 3-2 record already in the books, the Bats are off to a respectable start.

The club took the first two games in Toledo, Ohio, behind a stellar pitching performance from southpaw Jeff Franics on Friday, April 4 – he was named IL Pitcher of the Week for his efforts – and clutch, 13th-inning hitting by center fielder Ryan LaMarre on Saturday, April 5. However, the team couldn’t complete the sweep against the IL West division foe Mud Hens, Triple-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, and dropped the final game, 6-3.

The Bats then traveled approximately 146 miles south to Columbus, Ohio, for what was planned to be a six-game split series with the Columbus Clippers, Triple-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. However, a rain out on Monday night changed the plans and the teams were forced to only play two games at Huntington Park. The Clippers won the first game 6-5 behind the hot hitting of first baseman Jesus Aguilar, who hit two home runs and drove in five runs on the evening. Bats infielder Ruben Gotay also had a good night from the plate and hit two home runs of his own, one from each side of the plate. Francis took the mound again in Wednesday’s late morning game and earned his second win of the season, aided by the recently resigned infielder Chris Nelson’s grand slam in the seventh inning as the Bats trailed 1-0.

In the first two starts of the season, Francis’ pitching line is as follows: 2-0, 0.75 ERA, 12 IP, 10 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 12 SO. His two wins and 12 strikeouts are tied for the IL lead on the young season and his 12 innings pitched ranks tied for second.

Offensively, the Bats have been led by fourth-year outfielder Felix Perez and newcomer Gotay. The two currently rank 14th and 17th, respectively, with .385 and .364 batting averages, respectively. Gotay is currently 8-for-22 on the season with one double, three home runs, five RBI and 18 total bases. His three home runs are tied for third in the IL and his 18 total bases are tied for fourth.

Tonight, the two teams will play the third of the 21 scheduled matchups for the season. Louisville’s Josh Smith (1-0,0.00) will face Columbus’ Josh Tomlin (0-1, 6.00).

The game will also mark the first of a nine-game Bats homestand. For a list of news and highlights regarding giveaways, promotions, etc., click here.

Reds activate Mesoraco, make corresponding roster moves

MEZ Reds activate Mesoraco, make corresponding roster moves

Catcher Devin Mesoraco was activated from the 15-day disabled list on Monday. (USA Today Sports)

Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco has been activated from the 15-day disabled list and is set to join the Reds as they take on the St. Louis Cardinals this afternoon. The 25-year-old catcher missed the latter part of spring training with an oblique injury. He appeared in three games with the Double-A Blue Wahoos this weekend and failed to record a hit in five at-bats. Despite Mesoraco’s return, manager Bryan Price will stick with Brayan Pena to catch starter Tony Cingrani in today’s game.

Consequently, 23-year-old catcher Tucker Barnhart has been optioned to Triple-A Louisville. Barnhart, who made the Reds out of Spring Training due to Mesoraco’s injury, made his Major League debut on Thursday against the Cardinals. In three games, including two starts behind the plate, Barnhart went 2-for-8. He will not be active for tonight’s game against the Columbus Clippers because a corresponding roster move has yet to be made.

Additionally, The Reds have resigned infielder Chris Nelson and assigned him to Louisville after previously releasing him on Saturday, March 29. To make room for Nelson, left-handed pitcher Nick Schmidt has been added to the seven-day disabled list retro to April 5 with a groin strain.

Everything you need to know about Columbus

Huntington Park 580x355 Everything you need to know about Columbus

The Bats are still on the road in Ohio to kick off the week, but tonight they’ll be a little bit closer to home. Following Sunday’s loss in the series finale in Toledo (Louisville won the series 2-1), the good guys headed 146 miles south to Columbus, where they will start a six-game split series with the Clippers.

Tonight’s first pitch at Huntington Park is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. and will feature Louisville’s David Holmberg against Columbus’ Travis Banwart.  The rest of the probable pitchers for the series through Thursday are listed below. The Clippers come to Louisville for a three-game set starting Thursday night at Slugger Field.

Tue. 4/8 – RHP Mat Latos (ML Rehab) vs. LHP T.J. House
Wed. 4/9 – LHP Jeff Francis vs RHP Trevor Bauer
Thurs. 4/10 – RHP Tim Crabbe vs. RHP Josh Tomlin

Here’s everything you need to know about the Clippers and Columbus, Ohio:

The Veterans

The Clippers host a number of both veteran players and prospects as they head into the 2014 season. The first of three notable veterans is catcher Luke Carlin. The Maryland native jumped around between Columbus and Cleveland from 2010-12 and departed last year as he spent the season with the Pacific League Salt Lake Bees – Triple-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Carlin returns for his fourth season with the Clippers and although catcher Roberto Perez may receive the majority of the duties behind the plate, Carlin looks to contribute whenever possible. In the season-opening series against the Indianapolis Indians, Carlin appeared in one game and recorded one hit in three at-bats.

Pitcher Josh Tomlin is the second veteran headliner on this year’s club. The organization’s 19th round selection in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft returns for his second consecutive season and third season overall with the Clippers. From 2011-12, Tomlin pitcher in 47 games for the big league Indians and recorded a 17-15 record, but underwent Tommy John surgery to repair his right elbow following the 2012 campaign. He returned last year and emerged all the way from Rookie ball to appearing in a Major League game. During Saturday’s 4-0 loss to the Indianapolis Indians, Tomlin pitched six innings and allowed four runs on five hits to go along with three walks and four strikeouts.

The final veteran contributor is outfielder Matt Carson. The former New York Yankee prospect arrived in Columbus prior to last season and wound up leading the team with a .252 batting average accompanied by 14 home runs and 49 RBI. Carson also appeared in 20 games with the Indians during the season and recorded an impressive seven hits in 11 at-bats. He continued his hot streak over to the early part of this season and recorded four hits in nine at-bats in the club’s season-opening series against Indianapolis. Carson is a career .263 hitter with 167 home runs and 642 RBI in 13 seasons at the minor league level. He has also gained big league experience during four separate stints – two with Oakland (2009-10), one with Minnesota (2012) and one with Cleveland (2013).

The Prospects

RHP Trevor Bauer headlines the group of prospects with the Clippers this season. Originally acquired by the Cleveland Indians (the Clippers’ parent club)  in a trade with the Diamondbacks that included the Cincinnati Reds, Bauer made his debut with the Tribe last season. He went 1-2 in four starts in Cleveland with an ERA of 5.29. However, this season, his first start with Columbus proved why he’s so high on the Indians’ list (#3 on the organizational rankings). In six innings of work last Friday, he struck out nine while allowing only one run on a pair of hits and two walks. His matchup with Jeff Francis on Wednesday could be fun to watch.

Coming in at #8 on the Indians prospect rankings is second baseman Jose Ramirez. Ramirez rose quickly through the Indians minor league levels and made his Major League debut with the team last season as a September call-up. In 15 games with Cleveland he went 4-for-12 (.333) at the plate, and this season he is 4-for-16 (.250) at the plate in Columbus with an RBI and a double.

The third-best Indians prospect in Columbus is OF Carlos Moncrief, who entered 2014 as the 10th-best prospect. Moncrief spent last season with Double-A Akron, where he had a breakout year at the plate. In 129 games with the Aeros (now the RubberDucks), Moncrief hit a solid .284 with 17 homers, 75 RBIs and 15 stolen bases. This season is a big opportunity for the 25-year-old to make an impact in the Cleveland chain.

The Ballpark

Name: Huntington Park

Opened: 2009

Capacity: 10,100

Dimensions: LF – 325’   CF – 400′ RF – 318’

Ballpark fact: Huntington Park has also hosted a couple of big name concerts in the Dave Matthews Band (2010) and REO Speedwagon (2012).

Best Promotion while Bats are in town: Dime a Dog night. You can guess what that probably means, and if you want to go eat a lot of 10-cent hot dogs, hurry to Columbus and cheer on the Bats tonight.

The City

Columbus may very well be one of our early favorites for “Everything you need to know”, and it’s not just because they serve 10 cent hot dogs. For one, it’s the capital city of the state of Ohio. Another plus is that it’s home to The Ohio State University, which produced the voice of the Bats, Matt Andrews. Columbus is also home to the Columbus Blue Jackets (NHL) and the Columbus Crew (MLS). In the corporate world, it’s home to headquarters of Nationwide Insurance and Wendy’s (you know, the place with the awesome hamburgers).
Famous folks from C-Bus include Jack Nicklaus, Nick Swisher, Archie Griffin, Bow Wow, R.L. Stine and more.

That will do it for the second edition of “Everything you need to know”. We will be back next weekend when the Bats head to Indianapolis. Before that, make sure you have your tickets for the opening home stand of 2014 at Louisville Slugger Field. Tickets are still available for Thursday’s Opening Night and Thunder Over Louisville.

* All stats are accurate heading into play on April 4. All prospect rankings are according to MLB.com.

 

Everything you need to know about Toledo

Mud Hens 580x254 Everything you need to know about Toledo

Louisville Bats baseball is finally here.

The Bats open the 2014 season today up north in the Buckeye State when they face off against a familiar foe in the Toledo Mud Hens. Last season, the Mud Ducks were in Louisville for opening night and Tony Cingrani’s stellar outing led to a 4-3 Bats victory.

This season on The Bats Signal, we will bring you previews of upcoming road series that feature the opponent, their ballpark and their city. It’s great to know the players on the diamond opposite the Bats, and we’ll be sure to dive in to that end. With that said, you never know when you’ll need to know the fun facts, which we’ll try to include as well.

So, without further ado, here’s the first “Everything you need to know” of the season, featuring the Toledo Mud Hens and Toledo, Ohio.

The Veterans

Toledo has a host of familiar faces that fans in the International League may recognize. The first is Mike Hessman, who was a Louisville Bat in 2013. The Bats will certainly miss his power (25 home runs last season) and veteran leadership in the clubhouse, but Hessman returns to Toledo after spending five seasons there earlier in his career. We can’t speak for Toledo, but he seems to be their version of Louisville’s Corky Miller.

Jordan Lennerton  returns to the Hens for a second season after being a Futures Game selection and an IL mid-season All-Star in 2013. He hit .278 with 17 homers for Toledo last season, sporting an on-base percentage of .382.

On the mound, Major League veteran reliever Nate Robertson joins the Mud Hens’ bullpen. He hasn’t seen big league action since 2010 when he pitched for the Florida Marlins. Last season, he went 4-4 with a 3.04 ERA with Triple-A Round Rock in the Texas Rangers organization.

The Prospects

LHP Robbie Ray headlines the list of prospects that will play for Toledo this season. Listed as the No. 2 prospect in the Detroit organization, Ray came over to the Tigers in the deal that sent Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals in December. He was 5-2 with a 3.72 ERA with Double-A Harrisburg last season, and 2014 will be the first Triple-A season of his career.

Likely to be behind the plate to handle the catching duties will be catcher James McCann, the No. 9 prospect on the Tigers’ list. Like many catchers, his better-than-average defense is what makes him a top prospect, but he hasn’t been bad at the plate either. McCann hit .277 with Double-A Erie last season, and scouts say that his bat could be close to average by the time he’s ready to make the jump to the Major Leagues.

Second baseman Hernan Perez comes in at No. 10 in the Detroit organization, but already made his Major League debut in 2012 as a 21-year-old. Last season, he appeared in 34 games for the Tigers and hit for a .197 average. In the minors, however, he hit a combined .301 in 103 games with Erie and Toledo and stole 28 bases.

The Ballpark

Name: Fifth Third Field

Opened: 2002

Capacity: 8,943

Dimensions: LF – 320′ CF – 412′ RF – 315′

Ballpark fact: The “Fifth Third Field Fanatic Freeze Sundae” was named ‘Best Concession Item’ by MiLB.com in 2013

The City

Toledo is the origin of multiple large glass companies in the United States like Owens Corning and Libbey Glass. It’s no surprise, then, that the city’s nickname is the Glass City. The University of Toledo Rockets football team even plays in the Glass Bowl. The city is also home to Tony Packo’s Cafe, a restaurant that was made famous by Toledo native Jamie Farr on the hit television show M*A*S*H. Other notable natives of Toledo are actress Katie Holmes and platinum-selling R&B artist Lyfe Jennings.

First pitch in Toledo is scheduled for 4 p.m. as LHP Jeff Francis takes the mound for the Bats against Mud Hens LHP Kyle Lobstein. You can find full game information by clicking on the “game notes” tab at the top of the blog. We’ll be back with information on the Bats’ next road stop, Columbus, Ohio, on Monday.

OBSERVATIONS | Bats hold two preseason workouts

BCW 8252 OBSERVATIONS | Bats hold two preseason workouts

The Louisville Bats held their first team workout of 2014 on Tuesday evening. The event was open to season ticket holders. (C. Michael Stewart)

The Louisville Bats returned home and held their first preseason workout of the season on Tuesday evening followed by another team workout on Wednesday afternoon — the first being open to season tickets holders and the second being open to the media.

Thus far, this club seems like a relaxed, easy-going group — a lot of smiling faces and a lot of joking, particularly with infielders Mike Costanzo and Kristopher Negron.

I spoke with a number of players prior to and during Tuesday’s workout and the consensus seems to be this team has gotten along very well dating back to Spring Training in Goodyear, Ariz.

Here are a few specific things that have stood out to me after two team workouts:

- Mike Wilson’s bat will likely serve a big role in replacing that of the departed Mike Hessman. Wilson looks like he should be playing linebacker in the NFL and can hit the ball…FAR. After two days of batting practice, he has hit about six balls that have reached the concourse beyond the left-field seats or the grass lawn over the left-center field fence. He puts on quite the show.

- Felix Rerez, though, has been arguably the most consistent hitter through two days of batting practice. It’s line drive after line drive for the fourth-year outfielder. Not to mention, he’s put his fair share of dents on top of the right-field patio roof. His smooth swing from the left side of the plate is fun to watch.

- Outfielders Jason Bourgeois and Ryan LaMarre seem to be your do-it-all players at the plate. Both exhibit a little bit of pop, both do a nice job of hitting the ball to the opposite field, both seem to be fundamentally sound. Unfortunately, both have been taking the majority of their reps at center field. Will we see them in the lineup at the same time?

- Pitchers Chien-Ming Wang, Chad Reineke, Josh Smith and Chad Rogers have all thrown a couple of rounds of live batting practice with the hitters going through game-like scenarios. Tim Crabbe, Jeff Francis, Jose Diaz, Pedro Villarreal among others throwing bullpens on the side.

- I haven’t seen too much defensively other than some basic infield/outfield drills, but Max Ramirez, who is listed as a catcher, has been taking the reps at first base with Neftali Soto beginning the season in Cincinnati. Everyone else has been staying in their respective positions for the most part. The lone exceptions: Kristopher Negron and Bourgeois have been roaming around both the infield and outfield.

- Overall, the roster seems to be a good blend of both young and veteran players with 14 guys under the age of 30 and the remaining 11 players 30 years or older. Additionally, 16 players on the current 25-man roster have some kind of Major League experience.

The Bats leave town this afternoon and will travel to Toledo, Ohio for their opening game matchup against the Mud Hens at 4 p.m. ET on Friday. Jeff Francis will take the mound for the Bats and face Toledo’s Kyle Lobstein. The team will return to Louisville on Thursday, April 10 for the home opener against the Columbus Clippers at 6:35 p.m. ET.

For a 2014 Louisville Bats roster, click here.

For a sneak peek into what the season may hold for the Bats, click here.

And for a look at some swings from Wednesday’s batting practice, click here.

MLB.com names Reds top 20 prospects

stephenson MLB.com names Reds top 20 prospects

Robert Stephenson is the Cincinnati Reds new top prospect, according to MLB.com. (Paul Sancy/AP)

MLB.com has been naming each organizations’ top prospects heading into the 2014 season for the past month or so. On Wednesday, the Cincinnati Reds became the latest and last organization to have its top 20 prospects announced.

The list is dominated by 14 pitchers but also includes five outfielders and one catcher.

1. Robert Stephenson – RHP
2. Billy Hamilton – OF
3. Phil Ervin – OF
4. Jesse Winker – OF
5. Michael Lorenzen – RHP
6. Carlos Contreras – RHP
7. David Holmberg – LHP
8. Nicholas Travieso – RHP
9. Yorman Rodriguez – OF
10. Ismael Guillon – LHP
11. Daniel Corcino – RHP
12. Tucker Barnhart – C
13. Ben Lively – RHP
14. Jeremy Kivel – RHP
15. Sal Romano – RHP
16. Jackson Stephens – RHP
17. Chad Rogers – RHP
18. Junior Arias – OF
19. Jacob Constante – LHP
20. Amir Garrett – LHP

Click here in order to navigate to the 2014 prospect watch and see the complete list of top prospects as well as a short biography and scouting report on each player. You never know, with the way some of the big league players have been going down as of late, you may see some of these young stars playing at Louisville Slugger Field and/or  Great American Ball Park before you know it.