Is this thing on?

A play-by-play guy trying to survive in a mid-major world

Archive for the month “July, 2011”

Heat from Hughes

Thursday night 26 year-old right pitcher Jared Hughes put his stamp on the 2011 season.  The hard throwing righty inherited two runners in scoring position with only one out in a 1 run game late against the Charlotte Knights.  Indians skipper Dean Treanor brought Hughes in to protect the lead for starter Garrett Olson.  “We needed outs and Hughes can get us a strikeout or a ground ball and for me it was an easy call to bring him in.”  The Indians lost the first two games in the series and in the 6th inning the games was on the line.  Hughes made it look easy sandwiching two strikeouts around an intentional walk and the Knights left the bases loaded sending the Indians to the win.  Where did Hughes come from and will he help the Pittsburgh Pirates this season?  His teammates think so.

1B Matt Hague has been a teammate with Hughes for several seasons.  “He was incredible tonight and he has incredible stuff.  It’s a legit 95 miles per hour sinker and he has to be on the Pirates radar.”  Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit is rehabbing with the Indians and he was able to catch Hughes for the first time in that critical 6th inning.  “That was impressive and he has some good (stuff), real good (stuff).  It’s like Mike Crotta, but it’s heavy and he pounded the bottom of the zone.  I liked it and it left an impression on me.” 

Hughes joined the Indians in early June after beginning the season as a starting pitcher for Double-A Altoona.  The Indians didn’t need a starter so they put Hughes into the bullpen and he immediately opened some eyes.  LHP Brian Burres was shocked the first time Hughes pitched in a game.  “I’m charting in the stands and his first few sinkers were 91 and 92 and then all of a sudden he pours a fastball in at 96.  Where did that come from?”  Well, Hughes where did that come from?  “I’ve always had that in my reserve, but didn’t use it as a starter.  My job as a starter was to go deep into games and out of the bullpen you can run on adrenaline and it’s a short stint.  I bring a lot of energy out to the mound.  I’m always pumped coming out of the ‘pen and my adrenaline level gives me a certain edge.” 

In 19 games for the Indians Hughes is 1-1 with a 2.31 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 23.1 innings of work.  Over 60% of the balls put in play against Hughes are on the ground and the young man picked a great year to make a splash in Triple-A.  This is his 6th year with the Pirates and Pittsburgh will have to protect him or he will be exposed in the Rule V draft.  Each of the past two seasons he has not been protected and been passed over in the Rule V.  19 appearances doesn’t guarantee a September call-up or even a spot on the 40 man roster, but if he isn’t protected come this December some team may be intrigued by the big right-hander who has 96 miles per hour in reserve.

Yours truly standing next to big man, photo by Ross Ohlendorf

WHAT WILL HAPPEN THIS YEAR?

The MLB trading deadline is fast approaching and for the past 5 seasons the deadline has always affected the Indianapolis Indians.  Beginning in 2006 when the Pirates traded Indians LHP Oliver Perez and promoted CF Chris Duffy.  The real shocker was back in 2007 when CF Rajai Davis was pulled in the middle of batting practice.  I remember Rajai slowly walking back to the dugout and he quietly said, “I think I’ve been traded.”  Where?  “I don’t know, but I was told to stop taking BP.”  Minutes later we found out he was heading to San Fransisco for veteran RHP Matt Morris.

The biggest deal was back in 2008 when the Pirates, Red Sox, and Dodgers made a deal that sent Jason Bay from Pittsburgh to Boston and Manny Ramirez from the Sox to Hollywood.  At the time the Indians were in Toledo and as the 4 o’clock deadline approached work spread in the clubhouse that Bay was heading to Tampa Bay for RHP Jeff Niemann and SS Reid Brignac.  I’ll be honest, I thought that was going to be a pretty good deal.  We had faced Niemann and he was pretty good and when healthy Brignac was the best SS in the IL.  Turns out, that was not the deal.  At the final minute the three team deal went through and while myself and the players tried to recall remember OF Brandon Moss & RHP Craig Hansen, 3B Neil Walker stewed in the dugout.  What I’ll remember the most from the ’08 trade was Walker’s reaction.  Less than two months earlier the Pirates drafted 3B Pedro Alvarez and now they acquired a player who plays that exact same position as Walker. Needless to say Walker was not a happy camper.  Two years later Walker switched positions for the third time in his career and is now Bucs everyday 2B.

In 2009 the Indians were in Norfolk at the deadline and the Tribe watched two starting pitchers get traded away.  The first was LHP Tom Gorzelanny and I was there when he got the phone call.  The team had a day game and later that night a group of us went to dinner at Outback.  Near the end of dinner Gorzo’s phone rang and he was told that he was traded to the Cubs.  A week later he was pitching in Wrigley Field and Jose Ascanio was in an Indians uniform making his Pirates debut.  Two years later Indians fans would get to see the third player the Pirates received in that deal; Josh Harrison.

The day after Gorzelanny was traded RHP Ian Snell was shipped to Seattle.  I snapped this picture of Snell watching ESPN discuss the trade:

Ian Snell learns more about his '09 trade

In return the Indians received former 1st round pick Jeff Clement.  He arrived in Norfolk the next day and Clement made quite a debut hitting a home run to right field in his first at-bat and then hitting one out to left field in his second at -bat.  In 2010 the Indians again were in Norfolk, VA and once again the clubhouse was filled with players carrying bags without the Pirates logo.  Last year SS Pedro Ciriaco brought in his Arizona bag while RHP Joe Martinez and OF John Bowker brought their Giants bags into the clubhouse.

That’s five seasons and five significant moves within the Indians clubhouse.  Stick around and see what happens in the next 48 hours.

NEWS AND NOTES:

Ryan Doumit continues to rehab with the Indians.  The Pirates catcher landed on the DL back on May 30 and is expected to bus with the team to Gwinnett after tonight’s game.  The Pirates have mapped out a plan for Doumit and he is required to pinch-hit in at least one game before he can will be activated.  For Doumit this is the 3rd consecutive year he has rehabbed with the Indians and looks like the first time he will not play in the OF.  This years plan calls for him to only C and DH and he will likely be activated after the weekend.

RHP Ross Ohlendorf will start tonight for the Indians.  Like Doumit, Ross the Boss is rehabbing for the Pirates.  He pitched on 8.2 innings before landing on the Pirates disabled list on April 9th.  He is not expected to have a full 100 pitch count, but the last time out he was allowed to throw 60 pitches.  If he is able to pitch 5 or 6 innings then the Indians will use their bullpen the rest of the way.  However, if for some reason Ohlendorf has a short outing LHP Rudy Owens will be in the bullpen to pick him up.  Ohlendorf faces the Charlotte Knights tonight at 7:15 on Sportsradio 1260 WNDE.  You can listen out of the Indianapolis market on your iheartradio app.   

37 games remain for the Indians and they are 4.5 games out in the wild card race.  After tonight’s game with Charlotte the Indians will play 4 against the G-Braves.  The Indians are 4 games behind Gwinnett in the wild card race so they will have a chance to jump in the standings.

When Miggy Met Gorkys

Indianapolis Indians centerfielder Gorkys Hernandez is only 23 years old, but he is playing in his third organization.  There is no question he has the talents and abilities to become a long time big leaguer; how many players can say they have been invited to play in the MLB Futures game for three different organizations?  The question and perhaps the reason that the speedy and gifted Hernandez has bounced from Detroit to Atlanta to Pittsburgh is his attitude.  From time to time Gorkys Hernandez has thrown his bat, his helmet, argue with umpires, and generally act out in childish ways.  At times those acts overshadow his baseball abilities.

In 2009 the Pittsburgh Pirates sent All-Star CF Nate McLouth to the Atlanta Braves in return for three minor league players.  One of the players was Gorkys Hernandez and the 21 year-old was sent to Double-A Altoona.  During a game with the Curve an animated Hernandez complained to an umpire and then proceeded to toss things around in the dugout.  Miguel Perez was there and remembers the outburst.  “It was quite a show he put on that day, but in the end he was embarrassing himself.”  Miguel Perez was a catcher on the 2009 Altoona team and didn’t like the attitude of the new young centerfielder.  “Back in the clubhouse I sat down next to him and asked who are you?  Do you know where you are playing?”  Gorkys gave Miguel a confused look and said Double-A.  “Exactly, you are in Double-A.  You haven’t done anything in this game and there is no reason for you to act the way you do.  In the higher levels and the big leagues, guys don’t act like you.”  Miguel Perez has been playing pro ball since 2001 and since 2006 he has never played in more than 57 games, but he grew tired of watching a fellow Venezuela player hold him self back.  “It was the first time I had ever spoken to Gorkys and I told him that the only person who will keep him out of the big leagues is himself.  He can’t act like that and expect to succeed.  At the time I’m not sure if another player had ever talked to him like that.  I could tell he didn’t like it.” 

A couple of days later while shagging fly balls during batting practice the top prospect walked over to the back-up catcher.  “I wanted to know his story and where he has played and I found out that he played in the big leagues with the Reds.”  At one time Miguel Perez was a catching prospect with the Cincinnati Reds and made his debut in September of 2006.  He played in only 2 games and went 0-3.  It remains the only time he has played in the Major Leagues.  For Gorkys that was enough and soon the two of them became inseparable.  “Gorkys asked to be my roommate so we roomed on the road and we shared an apartment.  I didn’t walk over to him that day to find a friend, but to get him to act more professionally.” 

Miguel Perez photo by Bill Gentry

Perez played for the Indians during the 2009 and he has a very easy-going personality.  He is always upbeat and greets everybody with a smile.  I found it out of character for him to step up to a player like Gorkys and set him straight, turns out I was wrong.  “I guess most of the places I have been I have been looked as a leader.  Maybe it is because I’m a catcher, I don’t know, but I do my best to keep people accountable.”  Sounds like a leader to me and to Indians manager Dean Treanor.  “Miggy is great behind the plate.  What I like is the way he deals with pitchers and he can be a calming influence when things are not going your way.  Plus, I see that way he fits into our clubhouse.” 

The team was in Toledo Ohio when I first noticed the relationship between Miguel and Gorkys.  Gorkys has been with the Indians all season and for Miguel it was only his first week with the 2011 team.  The Indians bullpen melted down late in a 7-1 loss at Toledo and after my on the field interview I made my way through the Indians dugout and down the hallway.  The entire team walked int the clubhouse, but Gorkys waited for Miguel in the dugout as he gathered up his catching gear.  I was behind the two players as they walked from the dugout to a hallway that would lead them to the clubhouse.  In the hallway five kids in wheel chairs and their parents approached.  The kids were heading to the dugout and their parents were going to push them around the bases before other kids could run the bases.  They thought the team had completely passed by and the parents tried to turn the bulky wheelchairs so the two players could pass by.  Gorkys had his head down and walked by the kids when all of a sudden I heard Miguel “Gorkys, come here.”  The 23 year-old stopped and with the loss still stinging, turned and walked back towards the kids.  I watched Gorkys and Miguel kneel down, and let the kids wear their gloves and hold their bats.  Two parents covered their mouths and wiped away their tears.  Unfortunately not all of the kids could hold a bat or put on a glove so Miguel placed his catching mask on a kid and place his bat in another’s lap.  The only sound was the kids laughing and I’m not sure who had the bigger smiles; the kids or Miguel and Gorkys.  A very simple gesture gave the families a special memory.   After a minute, the two Indians were in the clubhouse and the kids took to the diamond. 

The two Venezuelans still room together and just the other day Miguel had to set Gorkys straight after he became frustrated.  “He can be frustrated, but not in the dugout where everyone can see him.  He’ll be ready for the big leagues when he begins to act like a big league player and that day will be very soon.  I mean do you see the way he plays centerfield?  He’s a unbelievable player and he’s my good friend.”  Even if their paths never crossed, Gorkys would be a prospect in Triple-A, but thanks to Miguel Perez he can shed the prospect tag and become a Major League player and person.

Goryks makes the catch, photo by Bill Gentry

HEAT WAVE:

A July heat wave has hit the midwest and Indianapolis is under a heat advisory.  Over the next few days the humidity will make it feel like 100-110 degrees.  It’s hot in the radio booth and in the stands, so how do the players do it?  Athletic Trainer Bryan Housand  knows the key is hydration.  “There are several ice towels in the dugout and they are for anyone who needs one.  Plus, we made sure the players are full of electrolytes.”  Gatorade has cornered the hydration market.  The Indians players will take a packet of Gatorade Electrolyte powder and mix it with a bottle of water.  That way when they sweat they are still keeping the nutrients they need.  “The whole key is to make sure they take the powder and just keep drinking fluids.” 

Steve Pearce is rehabbing with the Indians and was playing in Florida prior to joining the Tribe.  “Everyday is hot in Bradenton.  I don’t mind this heat and I can get used to this more than trying to adjust and play in 30 or 40 degree weather.”  Not only is Housand busy keeping the players hydrated, but he is dealing with two Pittsburgh Pirates.  Pearce and Pirates SS Ronny Cedeno are currently with the team and could be activated by the Pirates by the weekend.  This is the fifth season Pearce has worn an Indians uniform and according to him the first time in a while he’s been healthy.  “My off-season knee surgery was needed and I’m feeling great.  I’m ready when the Pirates need me and my job will be to help them win games and stay healthy.”  Pearce went on the Pirates DL May 29 with a partially torn right calf muscle.  Cedeno suffered a concussion while playing SS and was place on the new 7 day concussion disabled list.  He has been out for more than seven days, but says he is ready to rejoin the Pirates. 

On Sunday in Columbus 6 Indians players who saw action were on the Pirates opening day roster.  They were Pearce, Cedeno, John Bowker, Pedro Alvarez, Garrett Olson, and Josh Rodriguez.  While at the same time the Pirates had SEVEN players from the Indians opening day roster.  It is always the Triple-A teams job to prepare players for the big leagues and Dean and his staff have done just that.

Hope you can join us for the tonight’s broadcast.  The Indians are facing the Charlotte Knights, the White Sox Triple-A affiliate.  The Indians enter play Tuesday night 5 games out in the wild card race.  Pre-game coverage on SportsRadio 1260 am begins at 6:45 with LHP Rudy Owens delivering the first pitch at 7:05.

Back From the Break

The Indianapolis Indians entered the All-Star break with a walk-off HR from LF John Bowker and returned from the three-day break with a 1st inning HR from the same man.  The 2011 Indians will not fade from the playoff race and with 51 games to play are 3.5 games out in the wild card race and surging in the West Division. The club has won 4 straight games and is seeking a playoff berth for the first time since 2006.  There is still a lot of baseball to play and as Indians fans have learned over the years the team roster is very fluid and no one really knows who will be in the lineup next week, the next two weeks, or one month from now.  The only thing you can count on is this team will play all out and is a direct reflexion of the skipper Dean Treanor.  I’m ready for the ride and I’m sure you are too.

For the first time in 18 years the Pittsburgh Pirates are in a serious playoff race of their own and their season will have a direct effect on the Tribe.  The parent club is expecting the return of OF Jose Tabata, SS Ronny Cedeno, and INF Steve Pearce.  All three players are currently on the disabled list and when they are activated who comes back to Indianapolis?  Will the Pirates made a deal to acquire a player and in return will the Indians lose players?  Like I said there is a lot of baseball to be played and a lot of moves are expected by the time we wrap up July.

One of the walking wounded Steve Pearce played for the Indians on Thursday night.  He was the DH going 1-5 with a long home run to left field.  “That swing felt great and for the most part I was comfortable at the plate tonight.”  The long time Indian was placed on the Pirates DL May 29 with a partial tear in his right calf.  Add the calf injury to the long line of ailments for the right-handed hitter.  “I had knee surgery last season and I’m telling you for first time in two years my knee feels great.  It was tough to play through and eventually I had to clean it up and I feel great.”  I have always liked Pearce because he is enthusiastic and is always trying to make himself better.  Rarely do you come across a player who tinkers with his swing as much as Pearce.  “I have to be comfortable at the plate and in a short time I’ve found a good comfort level at the plate”  During his first at-bat I noticed a chance in his batting stance.  “I changed my hands because I needed to relax at the plate.  I made the move at the beginning of the season because I was not playing everyday and I was having trouble finding the right set position for my hands.  My timing was off and I kept adjusting my hands to get them in the right starting position.  So I decided to flatten my bat and it allowed me to relax and I always found the right spot so I knew my hands were in the proper position for each pitch.”   

He does not know how long he will rehab with the Indians and I expect him to play a game or two at 1B and at 3B during his rehab.  “I’m here everyday and when they say times up then hopefully I’ll go to Pittsburgh.”  The Pirates minor league players have to show the full sock while Major League players usually don’t show any socks and have the bottom on their pants rest on the shoe tops.  Pearce conformed and showed his socks, but he wouldn’t give up his Pirates batting helmet.  “It’s the rule to show the socks right?  So I’ll do that, but no chance I’m wearing that double (ear) flapped helmet.” 

*****

Did you tune into the Triple-A All-Star game on Wednesday night?  Matt Hague was the IL’s starting 1B and the MLB Network decided to mic up “Chatty Matty.”  Not only did the network come up with a great idea, but they found the perfect player.  “I talk to everybody who comes over to first base.  I was loving the mic and they (MLB Network) told me it was great and to keep it up.  We should do it in Indy.”  Hague’s current teammates don’t think that is a good idea and knew that Hague would be a perfect candidate for the mic, but there was one problem.  I’ll let LHP Brian Burres explain, “he is constantly spitting.  pfft, pfft, pfft, hey man what’s up, pfft, pfft, you hit that ball well, pfft, pfft, can you see ok is there a pfft, pfft, glare?  pfft, pfft.  He was good, but enough with the seeds.” 

“Do I really do that?  Oh well, I was told it was gold and that’s good enough for me.”  Hague had a great time in the game won by the IL 3-0 and he enjoyed playing with players he competes against.  “It was cool to get to know (Columbus 2B Jason) Kipnis and (Louisville C Devon) Mesoraco.  We play them so much during the year and it’s cool to see that they are good dudes.”  Who was Hague’s favorite teammate during the All-Star game?  “Without a doubt it was (Erik) Kratz.  Kratzy, it nuts and so funny.  I would love to spend a season with him.  He knows a ton about the game and you could see that he was one of the leaders in the clubhouse.”  The former Indians C played in his third straight All-Star game representing Lehigh Valley on Wednesday night.

*****

While Matt and Dean spent the All-Star break in Salt Lake several players took advantage of the break to return home and relax.  After Sunday’s walk-off win several players dashed to the airport to catch flights home.  Some headed to California, Texas, Florida, and Chicago with a few deciding to stay and relax in Indy.  No matter what the plans were it is a time to recharge the battery.  Most of the players took their mind off of baseball and used the break as a physical and mental vacation.  As a matter of fact most of the player didn’t tune into the ML Home Run Derby or the MLB All-Star game.  Turns out, that is the last thing they want to pay attention to during the break.  Can’t blame them, they need the break and now it’s time to finish off the 2011 season in winning fashion.

Hope you can tune into the broadcasts this weekend.  The Indians and West Leading Columbus Clippers will play Friday night at 7:05, Saturday at 7:05, and Sunday evening at 5:05.  All the games are on SportsRadio 1260 AM, Indyindians.com, or the iheartradio app.  After the series with Columbus the team will head home for an 8 game homestand, their longest at home since the first week in June.  The Indians will play Charlotte for four and then square off with Rochester for four game.

Short Stories

It has been a week since my last blog post and for that I’m truly sorry.  A few of my blog ideas fizzled with some recent moves and injuries.  So I’ve decided to bang away on the laptop and share with you some stories from this past week. 

Brad Lincoln:  The 26-year-old right-handedpitcher is scheduled to start tonight for the Indians tonight at Louisville Slugger Field.  His last start was Saturday night from D.C. in game two of a double-header between the Pirates and Nationals.  Lincoln was told that he would be making that start several days before and made the trip with the Indians to Syracuse.  The day before the start he flew from Syracuse to Washington DC.  “I couldn’t go to the park on Friday because I wasn’t added to the roster so I just hung out in the hotel.  Then on gameday I showed up at 3 and stayed in the clubhouse during game one.”  Lincoln performed well allowing only 2 runs in 6 innings and was in line for the win, but the Pirates bullpen lost the lead and the game.  “Sure I wanted the win, but more importantly I didn’t want to stop their momentum.  They (Pirates) are winning and it was my job to step in keep the train rolling.”  It was Lincoln’s first game this season with the Pirates after making 9 starts for them in 2010.  “First of all the atmosphere up there was incredible and a complete turn around from last season.  Even after the loss the guys were upbeat and Clint (Pirates manager Clint Hurdle) was walking around the clubhouse having fun and chatting it up.  It definitely makes me want to get back up there and contribute.” 

For Lincoln the start felt like the Tribe facing the Nationals.  “I had Eric Fryer catching, Chase (d’Arnaud) was a short, Jay-Hay (Josh Harrison) was at third and (Alex) Presley was in left field.  It was crazy to have so many Indy teammates on the diamond, but at the same time pretty cool to know that they are helping the Pirates win.”  After the start Lincoln went back to his hotel and prepared for Sunday.  “I wore my suit to the park because it was a travel day and when I saw Chris Leroux in the clubhouse I knew that I was heading back to Indy.”  Leroux was added from the Indians roster and Lincoln was on a direct flight from DC to Indianapolis.  “I got back into Indy at about 3:00 pm and my 24 our stop over in the big leagues was complete.”

Cesar Valdez:  The Pittsburgh Pirates traded the Indians right-handed reliever earlier this week to the Florida Marlins.  Why?  Wasn’t he doing really well for the Tribe?  Yes, he was; Valdez was the May player of the month and had pitched in 34 of the Indians first 82 games going 1-1 with 5 saves and a 3.86ERA.  However, as it is often the case, numbers do not tell you the entire story.  The trade was more for Valdez than anything else.  He had grown frustrated with seeing other pitchers get the call to Pittsburgh while he pitched at a high level.  The frustrated Valdez was not helping the Indians (8 runs in his last 4 appearances) and although it was hard for Dean Treanor to do, he told his reliable right-hander that he was going to Triple-A New Orleans.  “I counted on him so many times, but this will be a fresh start and it gives him a chance to get to the big leagues.  It didn’t look like that chance was going to happen here so he was moved to another team.”  It was a trade to benefit the player and leaves the Indians with a hole in the bullpen.

Jordy Mercer:  Mercer joined the Indians on Tuesday June 28th from Double-A Altoona.  He is a slick fielding shortstop who was drafted in 2008 out of Oklahoma State.  Mercer and 1B Matt Hague are close friends and based on the first few days a lot of the current Indians like Jordy.  I made the mistake of asking a certain question to Jordy.  Actually the question wasn’t the problem, the timing was the problem.  While the visitors dugout before batting practice I asked Jordy if his first name is short for anything.  “Nope, it just Jordy.  It’s not short for Jordan or anything like that, I guess my parents liked the name.”  Simple enough right?  Well, then his teammates chimed in…”Jordy Joe!”  “Hey Jordy let Scotty know it’s short for Jordy Joe.”  Turns out Jordy’s middle name is Joe and thanks to the timing of my question his Indians teammates preceded to call him Jordy Joe for the rest of batting practice and my guess is throughout most of that night’s game.  “Hey, Jordy, sorry about that man.”  “It’s ok, I’m used to it from these clowns.”   

Tim Wood:  On June 9th the Indians closer was promoted to Pittsburgh.  Woody was taking his 96 miles per hour fastball and 90 mph slider to the big leagues whle leaving behind a 2.96 ERA and the second most saves in the International League.  Wood pitch in 13 games with the Pirates suffering 3 losses and return the to Tribe on July 2nd.  “It was a great experience and they gave me every opportunity to succeed.  I did OK in my first few games, but I understand the move to send me back to Indy.  I pitched in 13 games in a short amount of time and you love that as a pitcher because they trust you enough to run you out there that many times.  I just have to do well here and hopefully I will get another chance to help them win.”  Dean is not sure how he will use the righty out of the bullpen.  Prior to leaving for Pittsburgh he was the Indians closer, but he may move into long relief so that he can better help the parent club down the stretch.  There are times when a manager has to adjust to the needs of the big club.  If the Pirates was middle relief work out of Wood, then that will be his role with the Indians. 

Steven Jackson:  Jackson pitched for the Tribe in 2009 and 2010 making a few appearances with the Pirates.  “After the season the Pirates didn’t want me back so I went into the off-season as a free agent and I couldn’t find a job.  I was starting to worry and was going to begin looking for a normal job until the Dodgers signed me to a deal in March.”  The Dodgers wanted Jackson to start and he accepted that role and a spot in AA Chattanooga.  “I didn’t have a problem with starting and went to Double-A to prove that I was a team guy.  After two starts there I moved up to AAA Albuquerque and made two more starts.”  After his second start in AAA he developed an issue with the tip of the middle finger on his pitching hand.  “It didn’t hurt, but it was causing me problems.”  The Dodgers were financially strapped and whenever a cut was made it was with a veteran to save some money.  So instead of hold on to Jackson he was released and packed up his truck for the drive from New Mexico to his home in Tennessee.  “Now I figure I’m done and have to find a new career when the Reds call and ask if I would like to pitch in Louisville.  Um, yeah, so I change directions and headed to Kentucky.”  Jackson pitched in 10 games for the Bats and then sensed that something was going to happen to him once again.  “The Reds were going to make some moves and we figured that most of the moves would affect our bullpen.  I figured I was going back to Double-A, but then Sweet (Louisville manager Rick Sweet) told me I was traded the Pirates and I was heading to Indy.  I couldn’t believe it.  I was back with the Pirates and back in Indy.”  Jackson has been a great addition to the clubhouse and the struggles this season have given his a new perspective on the game.  “I’m glad I have a job and it’s a good thing I’m back here because I’ve had success here and don’t have to prove anything.  If I stay within myself I can have good outings and help this team win.” 

One final thing about Jackson he doesn’t greet me with the usual “good afternoon” or “what’s up”, but rather with “Hey, is this thing on?”  He likes to poke fun at the blog and now he has most of the clubhouse asking me “is this thing on?”  Well, it was not on for a week and I’m sorry about that, but it’s back with a few short stories.  Hope you enjoyed them and have a great weekend.

How to Make an All-Star Nervous

Indianapolis Indians 1B Matt Hague finished the month of June in style.  Thursday afternoon he was named to the Triple-A All-Star game and hours later the 25-year-old was a perfect 3-3 driving in the Tribe’s first two runs and scoring the final run in their 3-0 win over Syracuse.  “There has been a lot of adrenaline today.  After talking with my family for most of the day I had to get back up emotionally for the game.  It’s been a long day, but a great day.”  Hague will join manager Dean Treanor at the All-Star game in Salt Lake and it provides his family with a unique opportunity.  Hague is orginally from Washtington and spends his off seasons in Seattle.  “My family just watches online and because I have always been on the east coast they have never watched me play in person.  They work all the time and it’s tough to get away so I’m hoping that they can get to the game in Salt Lake.  I’d love to have them there and it’s pretty cool if an All-Star game is the first game they see.” 

Photo by Bill Gentry

Recent promotions of INF Chase d’Arnaud and OF Alex Presley changed the face of the All-Star game.  Presley led all outfielders in votes and would have been a slam dunk for the game.  d’Arnaud finished 2nd in fan voting at SS and had an outside shot at making the team.  Both players were ineligible for the All-Star team because they are currently playing everyday for the Pittsburgh Pirates and their rise to the big leagues is fueling Matt Hague.  For the first time in three years the player movement in Triple-A has separated Hague, d’Arnaud, Presley, and Josh Harrision.  “It’s weird not having them in the locker room and I’m trying to get where they are.  They keep texting me and telling me how great it is in the big leagues.  It’s encouraging because they are telling me I can play up there and believe me, I’m trying.” 

Matt Hague is on the verge of the big leagues thanks to his record-setting June.  Hague batted .402 for the month finishing the final 13 games with a .529 average.  His 43 June hits are the most in a single month since the Pirates and Indians starting working together in 2005.  Hague’s .449 on-base percentage is one of highest for a single month and his .645 slugging percentage places him in the top three for a single month.  “I know how good the numbers have been and the key has been to avoid the rollercoaster and stay consistent.  I don’t want to give away any at-bats and that not an easy thing to do.  I’ve learned just how important each at-bat is and my focus has been on the current at-bat and current pitching sequence.”  In June, Matt Hague had 43 hits in 107 at-bats with only 8 strikeouts and not only are the fans noticing, but so is the skipper of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“Clint Hurdle gave me a call to congratulate me on the All-Star game.  I don’t know how many big league coaches would take the time to call a minor leaguer and it meant a lot to me.”  I asked Dean Treanor how many Major League managers would call to congratulate a minor league player.  “Not many, you could count them on one hand.  It’s a classy move by Clint and gives you an idea what kind of guy he is and why guys respond to him.”  When Hurdle first called Matt it went to his voicemail.  “I missed his call and I couldn’t believe he left me a voicemail.  When I called him back he was in his office with Neil Walker and they were shouting congrats to me over the speaker phone.  Then Clint told me to keep playing the way I have been because they are aware of what I’m doing.  He gave me a shot of confidence and I can’t tell you how cool it was to talk to him.”  Hague has never met Hurdle and as the phone was ringing he couldn’t contain his nerves.  “I’m not joking, I was sweating when I called him back.  C’mon this is the manager of the Pirates and I’m just calling his cell phone.  I was so nervous, but he was calm and cool and told me that I’m a good player.”

Did Matt Hague just complete the best month ever for an Indian since the Pirates relationship started in 2005? 

Matt Hague, June 2011 (ranking based on hitters with at least 70 at-bats)

Batting average .402:  1st

On-Base % .449:  Tied for 3rd (1st Steve Peace .474 April 2010, 79AB)

Slugging % .645:  3rd (1st Ronny Paulino .784 June 2005 74 AB)

Hits 43: 1st passing Rajai Davis who had 40 hits in May 2007

“I’m really focused in on making each at-bat count and I’m aware that my friends are in the big leagues and I’m in Indianapolis.  Watching guys go up and hear from them about how great it is in Pittsburgh has giving me a new focus.  In the lower levels you expect to spend an entire season at that level, but I’m finding out here your goal is to get to the big leagues as quickly as you can.”  For now, Matt Hague is the first baseman for the Indians and in my opinion he just completed the best month ever for a Pirates minor league player in Indianapolis.  If he continues on this tear Hague’s parents may bypass Salt Lake and watch their son play as a pro in a Major League city.

Photo by Bill Gentry

Entering Friday night game at Syracuse Hague has hit safely in 12 of his last 13 games batting .529 (27-41).  An incredible 27 hits in his last 13 games and he takes a 6 game hitting streak into the game.   

*****

Hope you can join us for Friday’s broadcast.  First pitch from Syracuse will be at 7:00 on SportsRadio 1260 WNDE.

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