Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Old News: Moss Honored, Gabbard Promoted

With Mr. Hyde apparently vanquished, Kason Gabbard has been promoted to AAA Pawtucket. 2006 was Gabbard's third go-round with Portland, and really he really hit his stride this year. After posting a 6.28 ERA over the second half of 2004, and a decidedly up-and-down performance last season, Gabbard was terrific this season. In 13 starts, Gabbard had a 9-2 record with a 2.57 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and 68/25 K/BB ratio in 73.2 innings pitched. He was leading the league in wins at the time of his promotion, 5th in WHIP and 10th in ERA. At 24, Gabbard really needs to be in AAA to make a play for the majors. He's got good stuff, and his issue is his command. When he's throwing strikes and getting ahead of batters he does well, but if not he gets hit hard.

With so many talented young pitchers ahead of him in the Red Sox system, many of whom are on the major league roster already, I don't see Gabbard making much of an impact in Boston. I think that the Red Sox hope that he can succeed at AAA and become a tradeable commodity at the deadline or following the season. I think that this would be best for Gabbard's major league hopes as well. Best of luck to another former Sea Dog.

Gabbard: Now Hyde-ing in Pawtucket

Also while I was away, Brandon Moss was named Eastern League player of the week for last week. Moss hit .448 (11/23) with four doubles, a triple, a home run, 5 RBI, 7 runs scored and an .870 slugging percentage. Moss' hot June has raised his batting line to 265/329/451-8-48 on the season. While his .780 OPS is pretty far down the line among EL leaders, Moss is second in the league with 23 doubles and tied for third with 48 RBI.

The Sea Dogs continue to chug along and, just past the midpoint of the season, remain in first by 5.5 games with a 46-28 record. After Portland finishes up with New Britain, they return home to face second-place Trenton.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Smith Struggles, but Wins

Chris Smith clearly did not have his best stuff Wednesday night, but he showed some mettle in working out of several jams and the Portland offense eventually kicked in for a 7-3 Sea Dogs victory. Smith cruised through the first inning with two strikeouts before loading the bases in the second. He escaped that jam by striking out the 8th and 9th batters in the lineup. Smith struggled through the next three innings, working without a good fastball, falling behind batters and allowing early baserunners, but getting the Defenders to swing at a lot of curveballs in the dirt. Smith struck out the final batter in both the third and fifth inning with runners in scoring position. Smith unexpectedly came out to pitch the sixth and set Connecticut down 1-2-3. His final stat line is misleadingly good: 6 innings, 7 hits, 2 runs, 2 walks and 8 strikeouts. It was a gutty performance from a guy who is battling with Kason Gabbard for the title of staff ace. Smith improved his record to 8-3 with a 2.32 ERA on the season.

The Sea Dogs couldn't get much going off Connecticut starter Gen0 Espineli. However the Defender lefty, who spent the entire season in the bullpen before last night's start, was lifted in the fifth innig following a Luis Jimenez triple, having thrown 65 pitches. Reliever Scott Munter provided no relief, as he immediately walked the bottom two batters in the Portland order to load the bases for Tyler Minges. Minges obliged with a bases-clearing double to give Portland the lead. Brandon Moss followed with a double of his own to knock in the fourth run. Following a Chad Spann strikeout, Munter looked to be out of the inning when Jeremy West hit a fly to left, however LF Alex Requeno inexplicable dropped the routine play, allowing Moss to score. Portland cruised from that point on.

  • Moss continues to swing the hot bat with two doubles last night. However his three strikeouts on the evening raise a red flag.
  • Another red flag is up for El Guapo Jr., who has been struggling a bit of late. I'm used to seeing Guapo throw 93-95 mph fastballs for strikes. However he struggled with control in his appearance last night, walking the bases loaded before escaping on a hard shot by Brian Busher that Moss was able to corral in deep right. Guapo's fastball was around 90. The few times he did dial it up to 93, the pitches were up and out of the zone. He's still new to pitching. Perhaps he's in an adjustment period, but I suspect that he has a tired arm.
  • Busher has had a terrific series so far, starting with his three hit effort on Monday. He had two more hits last night, including a home run, and is 6-11 in the three games.
  • Chad Spann was charged with a tough error in the second. He needed to keep his throw low enough so that Jimenez wouldn't lose it in the sun. Instead, it skipped past Li'l Papi for an error.
  • Defenders reliever Joe Bateman slings it sidearm, just like another Joe who used to patrol the youth league mounds of Western Maine about 25-30 years ago. Whatever happened to that guy? He had pretty good stuff!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Defenders top the Dogs

The Sea Dogs fell to the Connecticut Defenders 4-3 in Monday's series opener. The game was a lot closer than it needed to be, as Connecticut collected 11 hits (three by Brian Buscher) and three walks. However, the Defenders also hit into three double plays (one with the bases loaded) and had a man thrown out attempting to steal, all of which combined with a lack of timely hitting to keep the game close.

Portland started Luis Mendoza was making his second AA start of the year, and it began pretty well. Mendoza featured a 92 mph fastball to set up a sharp curve in striking out leadoff batter Clay Timpner. That was Mendoza's last strikeout, however. As the game progressed, his velocity levelled off in the 89-90 mph range and he was quite hittable. There were a few nice defensive plays behind him, the highlight being Tyler Minges' second inning strike from center field to first base to double off Tyler von Schell, who had been running on the pitch.

Defense also failed the Sea Dogs, as Dusty Brown's throw to third on a double steal skipped into the outfield, allowing Timpner to score the winning run in the 7th. Mendoza also handed Connecticut a run in the fourth by balking Brian Munhall to third base and allowing him to score on a wild pitch. The wild pitch was doubly troubling, as it also represented ball four issued to the number nine batter in the lineup.

  • Minges is similar to second baseman Scott Youngbauer, who came to Portland following Dustin Pedroia's promotion last summer. He hits for a good average, doesn't walk a lot, has some pop, and he can field his position. At 26, he's too old to expect much of a major league career at this stage, but he can definitely help a team like Portland. He hustles out every hit, and tonight his hustle contributed to two runs. Minges beat out a double play grounder in the 5th and scored on Brandon Moss' triple. By staying out of the DP, Minges also enabled Moss to score on Chad Spann's sacrifice fly.
  • Moss is continuing the hot hitting that he was showing during the last homestand. The right fielder has hit .341 over his last 25 games, which have included 9 multi hit outings (per the Sea Dogs game notes). It's a steep hill, however, as his average still stands at just .247 with a .311 OBP. Moss leads Portland with 7 homers and 42 RBI.
  • The Defenders play an agressive brand of baseball, with lots of stolen base attempts and hit-and-run opportunities. With half the team hitting close to .200, you do what you gotta do.
  • This was the first game at Hadlock with the fresh-back-from-a-strike minor league umps. I thought that the replacement umps did a fine job, but they weren't all that aggressive. I saw my first balk of the year called on Mendoza.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Dogs roam the grounds at Fenway

It was a big weekend at Fenway Park, as Portland fans got to see many former Sea Dogs in action for the parent Red Sox:

  • Jon Lester made his much-anticipated major league debut on Saturday. He wasn't terrific, but he held his own, allowing three runs on five hits in 4.1 innings, walking four and striking out four. It looked like Lester was overthrowing and he didn't have great command, but he also showed what a battler he is with a bases-loaded strikeout to end the second inning. He'll be around for awhile as David Wells continues his rehabilitation.
  • David Pauley didn't fare as well, allowing six runs on 12 hits in five innings against the Rangers on Sunday before being sent to Pawtucket to make way for Mike Timlin. The Sox knew that Pauley wasn't quite ready when they promoted him a couple of weeks ago, and he didn't disprove that. He'll be a good major league pitcher, but he needs to be able to put batters away and cut down on the hits (31 allowed in 16 innings pitched).
  • Craig Hansen made his 2006 debut on Friday night, surrendering a run on two hits in 2/3 of an inning before being sent back to Pawtucket to make room for Lester. Hansen combined with Jonathan Papelbon to blow the save before the Sox rallied back for the win.
  • Papelbon ended up with the victory in that game. He has been simply dominant this year, allowing only one run in 30.1 innings (0.30 ERA). He's allowed only 19 baserunners, and has an outstanding 31/4 K/BB ratio. The blown save on Fridy was Pap's first in 21 opportunities.
  • Manny Delcarmen collected his first big league win in relief in Sunday's opener. After a couple of shaky outings, Delcarmen has become an effective arm out of the pen. He's been scored upon in just one of his last seven outings (2 ER, 2.08 ERA).
  • Delcarmen's win came in relief of Josh Beckett, who was a Sea Dog when they were affiliated with the Marlins. Beckett has been shaky at times this year, especially recently. Though not as dominant as the Sox would like, he has a nice 7-3 record with a 5.26 ERA ans 62 K's in 75.1 innings pitched.
  • Another Marlin-related Sea Dog alum is starting shortstop Alex Gonzalez. Gonzalez has come as advertised - nifty defense, no offense. Gonzalez' line of 229/288/325-3-18 is actually a bit worse than I expected from him. Hopefully he can get his batting average up a bit and his OBP over .300. He's got a bit of pop in his bat, but I don't think he's in any danger of keeping Dustin Pedroia in AAA past this season.
  • Finally, Kevin Youkilis has been the starting first baseman for the Sox all season long. Youks is a member of the first Red Sox class to come through Portland, and he has shined in his first opportunity to play every day. Youks has always had good on-base skills, and they've really shined as he's posted a 319/438/505-7-29 batting line. Youks' 43 walks trail only Manny Ramirez for tops on the Red Sox. Youkilis is 5th in the league in walks and 4th in OBP. Plus, he's played some outstanding defense at first base, despite never having played the position as a professional. He's been better than expected, and a big part of the success of the 2006 Red Sox.

That's eight former Sea Dogs playing for the Sox over the weekend, five of whom were here last season (and two were here again this season). Abe Alvarez makes it nine former Dogs who have appeared in Sox games this year. The class of 2005 is also represented by the fine play of Hanley Ramirez, who is making a strong play for the NL Rookie of the Year award, and Cla Meredith, who collected his first major league win for the Padres last month. Meredith was sent west in the Doug Mirabelli trade earlier this season.

It's gratifying to see so many players make their way to the big leagues, and a reminder of the high quality of play that one can see at AA.

Another Sweep for the Sea Dogs

Rain? What rain? The Sea Dogs waited out a whole bunch of rain - rain that wiped out the final two games of the Altoona series, and delayed the start of the Erie series until 8:30 on Saturday night - to sweep the Erie Coincidences over the weekend. I was unable to go to any of the games (thank god - the Saturday doubleheader didn't finish until after 1:00 am), so I don't have a "from the ballpark" report today, but there are a few notes to share.

  • Kason Gabbard won the opener on Saturday, and now leads the EL with 7 wins. He's having a terrific season (7-2, 3.17), which will be even more important with David Pauley's return to Pawtucket.
  • Phil Seibel pitched another five-inning gem on Saturday, extending his string of shutout innings to 22.1, breaking Craig Hansen's short-lived team record. Seibel has lowered his ERA to 1.20, and he has an 0.80 WHIP in 45 innings pitched.
  • Gabe Kaplar began his rehab assignment over the weekend. He appeared in all three games, going 4-10 with three doubles and a triple. He'll play next at Pawtucket.
  • The Sea Dogs have now won nine games in a row as they hit the road. They have a 36-22 record and lead Trenton by seven games.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Sea Dogs outslug Altoona

Jose Vaquedano is looking for a nickname. His up-and-down performance is reminiscent of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Unfortunately for Jose, the Sea Dogs already have a Jekyll-and-Hyde pitcher in the name of Kason Gabbard. Regardless, Vaquedano made a push to wrestle the title away from the suddenly-pretty-consistant Mr. Gabbard by following last Thursday's pretty good outing with a pretty bad one Tuesday night. Vaquedano gave up seven hits and six walks and hit a batter in just 2.1 innings against the Curve, but he somehow managed to allow just six runs and avoid the loss. That's because the suddenly-potent Sea Dogs lineup smashed 13 hits of their own, including three home runs (Altoona batters also had three, including a grand salami by Ray Sadler).

Lucky for the Sea Dogs, Altoona starter Matt Peterson was no better. The Dogs knocked him out in the fourth after he allowed seven runs. Despite his poor performance, Peterson didn't collect the loss either. That honor went to Jon Albaladejo, who helped cap Portland's seven-run fourth by surrendering a three-run blast to Little Papi that gave Portland a 10-8 lead. From there the Dogs cruised to a 13-8 victory.

Spann, Durbin and Jiminez celebrate Li'l Papi's three-run blast


  • The weather was nice, which is fortunate for me, because it doesn't look like they'll be playing any baseball, at least not any dry baseball, for a while now.
  • Altoona features three former Sea Dogs, OF/DH Brett Roneberg (shown batting below) and pitchers Blaine Neal and James Johnson. Despite being a former Red Sock, Neal was here when the Sea Dogs were affiliated with the Marlins. And it's clear to see why Mr. Neal is back down to AA after time in the bigs - he's really wild. He nailed Tyler Minges in the head with a fastball (thank goodness for helmets) in the 6th. Minges left the game, but is reportedly OK.

  • Curve prospect Craig Stansberry failed to impress, going 0-5 with three K's and committing an error that led to two unearned runs. Least impressive was his following three Vaquedano walks and a HBP that led to a first-inning run, by swinging at three straight offerings for the inning-ending K.
  • This game illustrates how poor an indicator of performance that Win/loss records are. Devern Hansack pitched three terrific shutout innings in relief, but the win went to Jonathan Searles, who allowed two runs in 1.2 innings, but who was the pitcher of record when Jiminez went deep. Likewise, Peterson probably deserved the L for Altoona.
  • The Curve are named after the Horseshoe Curve, a railroad feature near Altoona that is also an historic landmark.
  • The entertainment, if you want to call it that, is a person named Christopher who has four life-sized puppets attached to him. They are all dressed up like the Village People and dance around to disco music. It is an abomination, but apparently he gets paid to do this. Give me Slugger any day of the week!

Christopher and friends.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Sea Dogs Receive Awards

Last week was a successful one for the Sea Dogs, and two of their players were rewarded for their efforts. Chad Spann and Phil Seibel received Eastern League Player and Pitcher of the week honors, respectively. Spann hit .481 (13-27) for the week, with three doubles, a triple and a home run. He scored 8 runs and drove in 7. Seibel made two starts for a total of 10 shutout innings in running his scoreless streak to 17.1 consecutive innings. Seibel, along with Kason Gabbard and Chris Smith, helped limit the Connecticut Defenders to one run in sweeping a three-game set over the weekend, much to the dismay of a fellow blogger. Portland now leads the EL East by five games over Connecticut and New Britain.

The Altoona Curve come to town this week. They are currently in second place, 1/2 game out of first in the EL South, but they are doing it with a bunch of minor league veterens. Only three members of the current roster warrant inclusion on John Sickels' list, and they all rate at C+, which is hardly a sure thing.

Two of the players are the keystone combination of Craig Stansberry (2B) and Javier Guzman (SS). Thus far on the season, the two (both 23 years old) have hit like middle infielders. Stansberry shows a bit more power and patience, coming in at 236/324/415-7-22 with 7 steals. Guzman's line, 236/272/316-2-15, screams "I better play good defense." Alas, Guzman leads the team with 15 errors, not that this is the strongest indicator of defensive performance.

The other prospect is RHP Chad Blackwell, who missed the first two month of the season and has appeared in two games, allowing three runs in three innings pitched. Blackwell is just 22 years old, so he certainly has time to develop.

Also on the Altoona roster is former Sea Dog Brett Roneberg. The 2004 Sea Dogs MVP (278-17-77) and now a part time outfielder for the Curve, Roneberg is also one of their top hitters, batting 313/365/447-5-25 in 38 games.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Bloggers at the Ballpark

Bloggers of the world (two of them anyway) united at Hadlock Field on Thursday afternoon for an afternoon of baseball and cameraderie in the swealtery noontime heat. Fellow Maine-based blogger Wisdom Weasel, his "Little Bruva," Bruva's wife and daughter joined me and Ms. SeaBlog in checking out the new rightfield Pavilion seats. By all accounts, Weasel did get married over the weekend, but the blushing bride wasn't feeling up to the trip to Portland on this particular afternoon. Also missing was another local blogger, who had some lame excuse about a College World Series to attend.

(Weasel, his little bruva, littler neice, little friend Ms. SeaBlog, and little Sister-in-law, enjoy the view).

I have mostly great things to say about the Pavilion seats. For one thing, the view from rightfield is terrific (though balls to deep right disappear from the view). For another, the seatfront tables are extremely convenient for keeping one's food, camera, binoculars and scorebook off the lap and at an easy arms reach. Weasel would call the tables "outstanding." There is also more leg- and elbow-room than in the grandstands.

As for negatives, I understand that the "queue" for the concessions can be quite long (and on this particular day was referred to as "Middle School Hell." Also, the chairs, tables, rails, stairs - all are made of aluminum. I'm sure this is fine for night games. On a muggy 87-degree afternoon, it begins to resemble a solar oven. The heat was too much for some of our fair-skinned friends from across the pond.

View of the full house from right field.

Those of you who are familiar with Wisdom Weasel know that he is a very funny man whose wit ranges from silly to ascerbic. I spent perhaps too much time with my scorebook and not enough time with my notebook, but we were treated to a few nuggets on the afternoon:

  • On Ms. SB's noting all of the disco music played between innings and at bats: "It's like it's Pride Day at the ballpark."
  • A comparison of American Football and Rugby inspired the observation that "Aussie rules football is basically a bunch of men with speedos and mullets colliding into one another."
  • Weasel's version of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame," which we won't repeat here.

He also noted that a pile of aluminum probably isn't the place you want to be during a thunderstorm, and when one rolled toward the park in the 8th inning we decided to skedaddle. The umpires halted play in the middle of the 8th, and though the delay was short we had already committed to calling it a day.

As for the game itself, it turned into a slugfest, as the teams combined for 27 hits in a 10-5 Portland victory. Top Yankee prospect Philip Hughes took the mound for Trenton. He was pretty good for the first four innings, then got knocked about in the 5th and 6th, finishing with eight hits and six runs allowed in five innings pitched. He did manage to strike out six batters. The bullpen didn't fare any better as the Dogs scored two runs in each of the last four innings that they batted. Jeremy West led a balanced attack with four hits and three RBI, Tyler Minges had three hits, and Chris Durbin and Dusty Brown both had two hits, Brown's both being doubles. Jose Vaquedano was much more impressive than he was last Sunday. Vaquedano cruised through a perfect first three innings before having a bumpy, three-run fourth. He settled down again to finish with just the three runs allowed on four hits and two walks through 5.2 IP, impressively striking out 8 Thunders in the process. The other highlight on the afternoon was Little Papi, aka "wheels", stealing second base following a fourth inning single.