Sunday, April 19, 2015

Mission Notes vs. Clearwater (17-29)

THE SERIES ... The Flying Tigers head to Clearwater and Bright House Field Friday-Sunday to kick off a six-day road trip. Friday and Saturday’s games are set for 6:30 pm starts while Sunday has a 1 pm first pitch. The first 2000 fans at Friday’s game with get a Finley Bobblehead (Finley is Clearwater’s mascot). Friday is also 70s Night with a post-game concert while its Star Wars and Fireworks on Saturday. 

LAST YEAR ... The 18 games between theses two clubs was a tale of two halves. The Flying Tigers won the first seven straight, including games of 13 and 11 innings, while the Threshers captured nine of the last 10 contests. Clearwater won five of the nine played at Bright House Field

THE FLYING TIGERS (2-6, 6th, 3.0 GB) ... Lakeland was shutout in three of four games of the Palm Beach series, marking the first time the Flying Tigers have been blanked three times in a series since 2010. In the one game they were not shutout, the Flying Tigers managed just one run, giving them one run scored in the last 38 innings. The sweep by the Cardinals left Lakeland winless in six home games this season (but the team is 2-0 on the road). The Flying Tigers batted .174 in the Thresher series (with 44 strikeouts) leaving Lakeland tied for last in the league with a .192 team batting average. The staff ERA of 4.13 is third highest.

THE THRESHERS (5-3, T-1st, 0.5 game lead) ... Clearwater fell 8-1 in the opening game of its series with Jupiter, but roared back to win the next three games including a 3-2 triumph in 11 innings last night. Andrew Pullin is third in the Florida State League with a .417 average while Andrew Knapp is 10th with a .343 mark. Pullin ranks fifth with a .481 on-base percentage while Knapp is tied for first with 12 hits so far. David Whitehead has the fourth lowest ERA (9.75) while Ulises Joaquin is tied for first with three saves. The Threshers’ team batting average of .252 is fifth best in the FSL while the staff ERA of 3.04 is sixth best. Clearwater has the league’s best defense (.988) with just four errors so far.

LAKELAND PROBABLE STARTERS
4/17 - RHP Tommy Collier (1-0, 0.00) ... Collier picked up a win in his 2015 season debut, tossing five shutout innings at Tampa on April 12. He struck out five and walked one in 5.0 innings and held the Yankees to one hit.  
4/18 - LHP Locke St. John (0-1, 7.20 ERA) ... St. John was tagged with the loss in his first outing on April 13, surrendering four runs  on five hits to Tampa. He also walked four while striking out just one Yankee batter.
4/19 – LHP Kevin Ziomek (0-2, 4.50) ... Ziomek (ZO-meck) is looking for his first “W” of the season after dropping his first two starts. On April 9, he struck out three in 5.0 innings and walked one while allowing the Yankees one earned run on three hits. On April 14, he struck out eight Palm Beach hitters, but gave up four earned runs on seven hits with one walk in a 5.0 inning stint.

ONE MAN JAMES GANG ... Jiwan James has a team-leading 10 hits and four runs scored with a team-best 16 total bases.

ENOUGH WITH THE RAIN ALREADY ... Lakeland fans sat thru a rain delay of 2:16 before getting Saturday’s game underway. Last night, the start of the game was delayed 49 minutes by rain, plus the game was stopped in the top of the third inning due to more rain. After a delay of 2:02 the game resumed at 10:10 pm with a total of 2:51 delays in the game. The game ended at 11:43 pm, some 5:13 after the scheduled start time of 6:30 pm. Ironically, Thursday’s game took just 2:22 which was the quickest game of the year.

TRIPLE-A REHAB ... Steven Moya, who began the season on the disabled list at Toledo, is rehabbing a plantar fasciitis injury in his foot. However, his comeback got off on the wrong foot, so to speak, as the rightfielder struck out in each of his four at bats Thursday.

FLYING HIGH ... Grayson Greiner has one hit in each of his last three games, going 3x12 (.250) during that span ... Jiwan James has hits in six of his last seven games and is 10x30 (.333) since going hitless opening night ... Jared Reaves has one hit in each of his four games played so far ... Ben Verlander has hits in the last two games and has collected one base hit in four of his six games played.

GROUNDED ... Javier Betancourt is 2x19 (.105) his last five games ... Bobby Borchering went 1x4 in the opening game of the season, but has gone 0x21 since ... Dominic Ficociello has three hits in his last 18 at bats (.167) ... Francisco Martinez is 2x22 (.090) the last six games ... Curt Powell began the season going 7x15 (.467) the first four games, but was held hitless in three at bats in each of the last two outings ... Raph Rhymes is 1x10 (.100) his last three games.

EIGHT IN THE EIGHTH ... The Flying Tigers have scored just 14 runs this season, eight of which have come in the eighth inning.

THE SKIPPER (thru 4/16) ... Manager Dave Huppert, a member of the 2012 FSL Hall of Fame Class, is back for a 28th season as a minor league manager. He is the winningest active manager in the minors and ranks 18th all-time with 1,873 career wins (1,873-1,743). He is in his fifth season with Lakeland and has a 265-281 record with the club, including a FSL championship in 2012.

MLB CONNECTIONS ... Clearwater pitcher Mark Leiter is the son of former Major Leaguer Mark Leiter who played 10 seasons in the big leagues, including the 1991-93 seasons with Detroit. Threshers second baseman Jesmuel Valentin is the son of 16-year MLB veteran Jose Valentin.

UP NEXT ... Lakeland continues on the road with a three-game set at Brevard County. Games one and two are Monday and Tuesday at 6:35 pm with the finale being a 10:30 am Education Day game at Space Coast Stadium.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Mission Notes vs. Tampa (April 9-12)

THE SERIES ... As has been the case the last 13 seasons, Lakeland opens its 2015 campaign against the Tampa Yankees. The season lid-lifter is Thursday at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland at 6:30 pm with game two in Tampa at 7 pm. Game three returns to Lakeland for a 6 pm game while the series concludes at George Steinbrenner Field on Sunday at 5 pm.

2014 SEASON SERIES ... The two teams split their 20 games in 2014. Lakeland won eight of the first 12 meetings while Tampa came back to take six of the last eight games. The two clubs also split the 10 games played in their own respective home parks as well.

HOME OPENERS ... This marks the 13th consecutive season Lakeland has faced Tampa to open the season. The two clubs have split their last 12 season openers with Tampa shutting out Lakeland in the opener in 2014. Lakeland is 8-7 in the first game of the year since 2000. Last season, Lakeland drew 1,039 fans to the first home game of the year while in 2009, the home opener was witnessed by 2,224 fans – the largest first crowd in the last 11 seasons.

A LOOK AT THE SCHEDULE ... Lakeland will play 13 home games in April; 10 in May; 17 in June; 12 in July; 16 in August; and 2 in September. The Flying Tigers will have one six-game homestand in April and will play just three home games in the first 14 days of May. Lakeland will have nine home games over a ten-day span from June 2-11 and then will not play at home again until June 22 when then play eight of the final nine days of the month at Joker Marchant Stadium. In July, Lakeland makes an eight-game road trip to Palm Beach and Fort Myers while there are two six-game homestands in August. Lakeland will host morning games on April 28, May 6, and June 30.

START TIMES ... Friday night home games are no longer sponsored by 7-11 so game times will shift back to the normal weekday start time of 6:30 pm. Saturday games are still at 6 pm while Sunday’s are at 1 pm. The Fourth of July game will begin at 5 pm.

BY THE DRAFT ... 2014 Picks: Grayson Greiner (3rd Round); Locke St. John (32nd) ... 2013 Picks: Kevin Ziomek (2nd); Calvin Drummond (6th); Zac Reininger (8th); Dominic Ficociello (12th); Ben Verlander (14th); Raph Rhymes (15th); Jonathan Maciel (18th); Curt Powell (21st) ... 2012 Picks: Joe Rogers (5th); Julio Felix (12th); Jared Reaves (25th); Matt Davenport (34th); Ryan Longstreth (40th) ... 2011 Picks: Ismael Salgado (16th); Tommy Collier (22nd); Montreal Robertson (29th) ... 2010 Picks: Brennan Smith (33rd) ... Non-Drafted Free Agents: Drew Longley (2012); Javier Betancourt (2011); Confesor Lara (2010); Free Agents: Bobby Borchering (2015), Jiwan James (2015); Trade: Francisco Martinez (2013 via Seattle).

BACK FOR AN ENCORE ... The following players have played in past years for the Flying Tigers – Pitchers: Tommy Collier (2013 & 2014); Matt Davenport (2013); Calvin Drummond (2014); Julio Felix (2012);  Ryan Longstreth (2014); Montreal Robertson (2013); Joe Roberts (2013); Brennan Smith (2013 & 2014); and Locke St. John (2014). Catcher: Drew Longley (2013 & 2014). Infielders: Francisco Martinez (2008, 2010, & 2013); Curt Powell (2014); Jared Reaves (2013 & 2014).

SAFE AT HOME ... Joe Rogers played his prep ball at Winter Haven High School and his college career at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. Catcher Drew Longley played college ball at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

ROSTER TRIVIA ... Outfielder Ben Verlander is the brother of Detroit pitcher Justin Verlander ... The tallest Flying Tiger is pitcher Matt Davenport who is a lofty 6’8” ... Pitcher Jonathan Maciel and catcher Drew Longley will make a formidable battery with each topping the scales at 225 ... Javier Betancourt is the baby of the bunch as he is just 19 years old while Longely is the elder statesman of the group at 25 years of age ... You won’t find a left-handed hitter (outside of pitchers), but your will find three switch-hitters in Bobby Borchering, Dominic Ficociello, and Jiwan James

2014 WRAP ... Lakeland finished 62-75 last season. The squad battled in the first half, finishing with a 42-25 record to place second, 3.0 games behind Dunedin. The second half was a different story as the team turned in the worst second half in franchise history at 20-50.

THE SKIPPER ... Manager Dave Huppert, a member of the 2012 FSL Hall of Fame Class, is back for a 28th season as a minor league manager. He is the active winningest manager in the minors and ranks 18th all-time with 1,871 career wins (1,871-1,737). Huppert, who has a 263-275 record with the Flying Tigers, stepped aside as manager on June 28, 2014 for medical reasons and missed most of the rest of the season recovering. In 2012, he led Lakeland to the Florida State League Championship to record his fourth overall championship and his third in the FSL. He also led the 2001 Brevard County (Brewers) to a co-championship while his 2007 Clearwater (Phillies) squad won the crown outright. In addition, he coached the Lakewood Blue Claws (Phillies) to the 2006 South Atlantic League title.

NEW PITCHING AND HITTING COACHES ... Jorge Cordova takes over as Lakeland’s pitching coach, replacing Mike Maroth, who is now at Toledo. Cordova is in his 10th season in the organization and was the pitching coach for the GCL Tigers in 2014. He pitched for eight seasons in the minors with the Yankees (1996), Marlins (1998-2000), Reds (2000-2002) and Tigers (2003-2004) ... Nelson Santovenia joins the club as the hitting coach, replacing long-time coach Larry Herndon, who had spent 10 years with Lakeland. Santovenia was the West Michigan hitting coach in 2014 and spent two seasons in the GCL. Prior to joining the organization, he was a high school coach winning back-to-back Class 4A state titles at Archbishop McCarthy High in Florida. A first-round draft pick by Montreal in 1982 out of the University of Miami, Santovenia played seven seasons in the majors for the Expos (1987-1991), White Sox (1992) and Royals (1993).

FSL CHANGE ... The Daytona franchise is now an affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds and has been rebranded as the Daytona Tortugas. 

IN MEMORIAM ... Longtime Florida State League President Chuck Murphy passed away in February at the age of 83. Murphy, who had served as the general manager for the Daytona Beach Islanders from 1984-85, became the league’s president in 1990. Under Murphy, FSL attendance surpassed 1 million fans in the 2006 season and continued to climb. The league attracted a record 1,296,962 fans in 2011 and surpassed 1.2 million again last season. Ken Carson, the FSL executive vice president since 2011, is the new league president. Carson had served as the GM for the Dunedin Blue Jays from 1986-2006. He is a member of the Minor League Baseball Board of Trustees.