Season Underway

Wow. Finally getting a moment to update the blog. It’s been awhile. Things always get crazy in the 2-3 weeks leading up to a season. Most of us in minor league ball are still working on corporate and/or group sales related things in addition to trying to get ready for the games, so the blog had to take a back seat for a little bit.

Not sure how many of you have made it to a game on the opening homestand. So far it’s been a page right out of the movie Groundhog Day.

The Missions won on opening night, 7-1. They lost a 13-inning game the next night, 2-1. Then they won 7-1 and lost yesterday 2-1. I suppose we can just file away a 7-1 win tonight.

The big story so far has been the superb starting pitching by the Missions. Donn Roach, Jose De Paula, Burch Smith, and Matt Andriese have combined for 21 scoreless innings to start the year. I know that they say pitchers are usually a little ahead of hitters early in the season, but…..

ImageRoach has quickly put himself on the radar after coming over from the Angels in the Ernesto Frieri trade last season. He has a turbo sinker that induces a ton of worm killers.

De Paula looked pretty sharp in his first start, especially considering that he missed all of last year due to visa issues, which revealed that he was actually a year older than reported.

Smith was really impressive. The Texan out of the U. of Oklahoma is going to be a fast riser in the Padres organization. He regularly hits the mid to upper 90’s and also gets his fair share of ground balls.

Andriese was the Cal League’s ERA champ last year, finishing with an ERA of more than a run less than the league average! He’s the pride of UC Riverside.

We’ll see if newcomer Wilfredo Boscan can keep that string of pearls intact when he takes to the hill tonight. Boscan spent all of last year with Frisco in the Texas League as a Rangers minor leaguer. He was acquired this past December in the Triple A phase of the Rule V draft. Wilfredo is taking the place of Adys Portillo in the rotation. Portillo has some soreness in the upper part of his right tricep. Not sure when he might be making his ’13 debut.

This Missions pitching staff would appear to potentially be one of the deepest and strongest that the team has had in awhile, and they’ve had some pretty good staffs over the years. Should  keep them in the hunt for most of the games. You can never have too much pitching, right?

The homestand wraps up tonight and tomorrow. The club will travel to Tulsa, OK and Springfield, MO starting Thursday night.

I’ll try to post a few updates over the next week or so. I’ll have 10 hours to kill on the bus this Wednesday. Hope to see you at The Wolff sometime soon!

 

Workhorse Hurlers

Greetings to all. I haven’t posted in awhile but there wasn’t a whole lot going on–until now. With spring training underway and games set to start over this weekend, there is certainly no shortage of baseball news these days.

I saw an article on the MLB website this morning that caught my eye regarding today’s workhorse pitchers. It got me thinking (again) how much the game has changed in a relatively short period of time.

It wasn’t that long ago that a top starting pitcher would average at least 8 innings a start. Tony LaRussa was the manager most people credit with introducing the defined specialist reliever role, where you had a set closer, a specific setup man for that closer, and a couple of guys who would basically setup the setup man.

In reality, you can probably trace the beginning of the specialist role back to Sparky Anderson’s Big Red Machine of the 1970’s. There was a reason Sparky had the nickname of Captain Hook. Image

In 1975, the first of back-to-back world series titles won by the Reds, Gary Nolan led the entire staff in innings with just 210.2 innings, a solid number by today’s standards, but Nolan’s innings total fell nearly 120 innings shy of the MLB leader, Catfish Hunter, and was nearly 70 innings shy of cracking the top-10 for the season. By comparison, those 210.2 innings would have finished just barely outside of the top-10 last season.

Sparky did that by design, because he knew had a deep bullpen and he believed that by basically reducing the game to a six inning game (while the starter was in the game), he had a greater chance to beat you by bringing in fresh arms to finish off the last few innings.Case in point–Will McEnaney and Pedro Borbon finished in the top-5 in MLB in games pitched that year and the Reds had four relievers who each averaged better than 1.5 IP per outing, including Rawly Eastwick and Clay Carroll. ImageCompare that to today’s standards where closers and setup men basically throw one inning per outing, sometimes less than that. You certainly can’t argue with a team that won 108 games and the title. Of course, it didn’t hurt that Sparky had one of most prolific offenses in at least the last half of the century.

If you flash forward a year later, you’ll again find no Reds pitcher in the top-10 in innings in the NL, as they captured their second straight world title. Gary Nolan again led the staff with 239 innings and was one of only two Cincinnati hurlers to log 200 or more frames. Meanwhile, Eastwick and BorbonImage both finished with more than 100 innings in relief. The Dodgers, who finished second to the Reds in the NL West in 1976, had four starters log at least 200 innings. In fact, the Reds of ’75-’76 had a total of 55 complete games while the entire National League averaged 36.5 CG per team over those two years.

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been more than 30 years since any major league pitcher hit the 300 inning mark, when Steve Carlton finished with 304 innings en route to a 24-9 season. It’s been nearly 10 years since the majors last had a pitcher finish with even 260+ innings, when Roy Halladay logged 266 innings in 2003.

Like it or not, the game has changed and will continue to evolve just like in almost every other sport, but it’s still the greatest game on earth in my humble opinion

 

Padres Top 10 Prospects

This has always been one of my favorite times of the year because, among other things, it’s when Baseball America comes out with its Top-10 Prospect list for each organization. O.K., they actually start publishing the list in the fall and start wrapping up just before spring training. It wasn’t until today that BA revealed its 2013 Padres Top-10 list, and former Missions are well represented.

Pitcher Casey Kelly tops the chart this year after making his big league debut last season. Interestingly enough, Kelly wasn’t necessarily considered to be the highlight piece of the deal that sent Adrian Gonzalez from San Diego to Boston. That would have been Anthony Rizzo, who fizzled in his brief trial with the Padres in 2011 and was then shipped to the Cubs in the Andrew Cashner deal. Image

Kelly was an all-star and an 11-game winner for the TL champion Missions in 2011 and made three rehab starts in the River City last year.

Jedd Gyorko is rated #3 on the list. Along with former Mission Nate Freiman (now an Astro), he is one of two minor league hitters to have knocked in at least 100 runs in each of the last two seasons.

OF Rymer Liriano is the #5-rated prospect. ImageLiriano joined the Missions late last season and after a sluggish start, had a very productive final month. There’s a good chance that we’ll see him back in SA to start 2013.

Rounding out the top-10 are Joe Wieland (8), Adys Portillo (9), and Robbie Erlin (10).

Wieland had Tommy John surgery last July and won’t be ready to join the Padres until sometime in the second half of this season. Missions fans might recall that Joe no-hit the Missions in 2011 just days before the trade that sent him from the Rangers to the Padres.

Portillo tore up the low-A Midwest League last year, earning a promotion to San Antonio. Like many who make that initial jump to Double-A, Adys struggled in a number of his starts, due mainly to command issues. There’s no question he has a legit big league arm and frame. He’ll almost certainly be among those on the Missions opening day roster this year.

Erlin has a very good chance of making the big league club out of spring training. If not for an elbow injury that cost him three months last year, he likely would have already made his debut in a Padres uniform.

Missions and the World Baseball Classic

BeltreKing FelixAs many of you know, the World Baseball Classic will be taking place this spring. As a result, spring training will be extended to accommodate the tournament.
For those who haven’t seen or heard, several former Missions will be representing their respective countries.
Major League all-star and gold glove winner, Adam Jones, will be one of the outfielders on the USA team. Jones is coming off a career-high 32-homer performance for the Orioles last year. Jones spent a half season in the River City back in 2005.
Team Australia will feature a pair of former Missions in pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith and outfielder Chris Snelling. The former hasn’t appeared in the bigs since 2010 with the Mariners. He spent all last year with the Cubs Triple-A club in Iowa. He spent parts of 2005 and 2006 with San Antonio. Snelling’s last major league appearance was in 2008 with the Phillies and he hasn’t played professionally since 2009, his career having been sidelined by numerous injuries.
Pitcher Mark Hardy, who spent some time with the Missions last year and in 2010, will represent his native Canada.
Arguably the biggest name among former Missions position players in the tournament, all-star Adrian Beltre will suit up for the Dominican squad.Beltre has knocked in at least 100 runs in each of the last three seasons for Texas and Boston.
Catcher Ali Solis, now in the Pirates organization, will play for Mexico along with former big leaguer Karim Garcia. Garcia hasn’t played in the major leagues since 2004 and some of you may have a hard time remembering him from his days as a Mission, as he appeared in only 35 games in 1996.
The American League’s Cy Young winner from 2010, Felix Hernandez, will likely be the ace for the Venezuelan club.
The first round of the WBC begins on March 2 and the championship round takes place at AT&T Park in San Francisco March 17-19

MLB.com Top 20 Padres Prospects

MLB.com Top 20 Padres Prospects

Rymer Liriano tops the list year on MLB. Ten of the top 20 have donned a Missions uniform. click on the link above

Fan Survey

Under Construction

It’ll be 10 weeks from tomorrow that the Missions open the 2013 season. While the first shout of “play ball” is still a little ways off, there’s plenty going on at the Wolff in preparation. Our season ticket holders will be happy to know that all the green seats in the lower and upper portions of the seating bowl are being replaced, as you can see from the photos.

The project was long overdue, as the old seats were originals from when the stadium opened in 1994. Speaking of which, we hope all of you make it out to at least a few games this season to help celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Wolff. There will be plenty of great promotional nights. Last year’s replica jersey giveaway series was so popular that we’re doing it again. There will be another four replica jersey nights but each one will feature the name and number of a former Mission who played here in the Wolff era. Fans got to select the top four via an online contest late last year.

In addition, Cap Night is back!! We haven’t done one since I’ve been here. There won’t be just one, either. We’ll have a Cap Night series, totaling three different Missions caps in April, May, and then July.

On July 26, the Missions will be giving away T-shirts to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Wolff Stadium. Add to that the always popular Used Car Night and Shirt Off the Players Back Night, and you’ve got a pretty dynamic Friday night promotional schedule to go along with the post game fireworks each Saturday.

Our team website, http://www.samissions.com, will also be undergoing a makeover in the very near future. The layout should be easier to follow. I saw a template of what it will look like and I think you’ll agree once it’s up and running. Keep an eye open for that.

Finally, since this season will mark the 20th anniversary at The Wolff, we’d love to hear from our fans. Feel free to share some of your favorite memories over the past 19 seasons.

Cheers for now…..Mike

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It’s Almost Here

Missions players 2

Can we let the countdown officially begin? Major League spring training is less than a month away and that means the first pitch of the San Antonio Missions 2013 season is right around the corner. Just a little more than 10 weeks away from that first whiff of freshly cut grass, the smell of freshly popped popcorn and hotdogs in the air, and of course the sweet sound of wood meeting a ball. The Missions kick things off on April 4 at home against the Tulsa Drillers. Once again, all 140 games can be heard live on AM 680 KKYX or on the Internet through http://www.samissions.com.

This season will also be a first of sorts. It will be the first time in 26 years that Texas League Hall-of-Famer Roy Acuff will not take his usual spot behind the mic. My broadcast partner for the previous three seasons, Roy is living the life of retirement, though I suspect he’ll be somewhat of a regular at The Wolff this year.

I’m going to try and keep all of our fans and followers up-to-date with everything Missions through this blog, as well as anything relevant as it pertains to our parent club, the San Diego Padres. My initial idea is to keep it updated daily, though with the rigorous travel schedule of the TL, that might not always be possible.

Spring training should be very intriguing, as several former Missions will be in big league camp and a few of them have a better-than-average shot of making the big club to start the season, most notably Jedd Gyorko and Robbie Erlin.

Don’t forget, the Padres play the Rangers in a pair of exhibition games at the Alamodome at the end of March. You can get more info on that at www.bigleagueweekend.com. That should be a terrific time for all.

That’s about it for today but keep checking in, especially once we get into spring training.

–Mike–