Monday Minors Recap Week 7

With the recent track record of this post, maybe I should be happy I’m getting this done on Tuesday. I could change the name of the article, but “Tuesday Minors Recap” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Kannapolis Intimidators, A-ball (17-26)

Previously discussed in MMR, the Intimidators came into the week with generally competitive play save for one 0-6 week that was still weighing down their whole overall record. Unfortunately, the Intimidators now have two terrible weeks bogging down their record as they managed only a pair of W’s en route to a 2-6 showing. Swept in Greensboro, dropping 3 of 4 at home against Lexington, and splitting a doubleheader in Hickory – the 1st 2 of 4 games in 2 days – made for an uninspiring result. The pitching was, in general, very poor for the week. Until the doubleheader against Hickory, the Intimidators managed to keep their opponents under 7 runs just 1 time and allowed 48 total runs over 8 games.

It is incredibly ironic that in such a poor week for pitching, the Intimidators had one man recognized for his excellent hurling. 2011 Pioneer League Pitcher of the Year Blair Walters was named South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Week after his excellent start in Thursday’s 5-0 win over Lexington. Walters took a no-hitter into the 6th inning, retired 14 straight Legends at one point, and finished with 9 K’s, no walks, and only 1 hit allowed in 7 innings. After a slightly slow start to the season, Walters has been heating up, allowing just 5 earned runs over 23.2 innings in his last 4 starts. That adds up to a 1.90 ERA and comes along with 23 K’s and just 5 walks in that time. For the season, Walters’ ERA is down to 2.84 and the lefty has 47 K’s in 44.1 innings and has walked just 11. Walters seems to have not missed a bit – and perhaps even improved – as he’s adjusted to the higher level of competition in full season ball, and is proving his time with the Voyagers was no fluke.

Kannapolis pulled a pair of roster moves in the last week, and both are very interesting. Yesterday, second-year Intimidators outfielder Collin Kuhn – hitting just .172 on the season and getting very little playing time – decided to end his time in professional baseball and retire. Kuhn finishes his professional career with a .224 batting average and a .368 OBP in 86 games.

To fill Kuhn’s spot on the roster, the Intimidators received righty reliever J.R. Ballinger from nearby Winston-Salem. Ballinger made the short trip to Hickory, pitched in yesterday’s doubleheader – he got two quick and easy outs before leaving – then was immediately sent back to the Dash. A quick and odd trip for Mr. Ballinger.

Other than Ballinger’s short A-ball sojourn, David Herbek replaced Collin Kuhn on the Intimidators roster as he was removed from the DL and placed back on the active roster. Herbek has fought some nagging injuries this year and is struggling a bit offensively with a .247 batting average. That said, with all the pitching problems in Kannapolis right now, the Intimidators will probably appreciate having the comfort of their regular shortstop behind them.

The Intimidators play another doubleheader in Hickory today before getting a travel day on Wednesday. On Thursday, they start a 4-game set in West Virginia against the Power.

Winston-Salem Dash, High A-ball (24-17)

After all their great play, it’s pretty surprising to see the Dash have a mediocre week, but even great teams stumble now and again. The Dash lost 3 of 4 against Myrtle Beach before taking 2 of 3 against the Lynchburg Hillcats. The 3-4 week leaves the Dash with just a .5 game lead over the Salem Red Sox.

The Dash got great pitching in all 3 of their wins. In a 4-0 7-inning win over Myrtle Beach on Tuesday, Jon Bachanov threw 6 shutout innings while striking out 9 and allowing only 2 hits. Bachanov started the year in the Dash bullpen before being moved into the rotation for his last two appearances. He didn’t fare well in his first start – though he came away with a no decision behind good offensive support – but his second was obviously sterling and earned him his 4th win of the season. Bachanov is a perfect 4-0 with a 3.24 ERA for the year and has a 26/8 K/BB ratio in 25 innings.

Jake Petricka got good results on Friday as he went 6 innings and allowed only 1 run. The righty allowed only 3 hits but also walked 4 while racking up 6 K’s. The former 2nd round pick has a 4.50 ERA in 7 Dash starts, but he is developing something of a control problem. With 17 BB’s in 36 High-A innings and 7 BB’s in his lone AA start, Petricka’s 24 walks in 41 innings are already approaching the 39 walks he handed out last year in 113.1 innings. Over half of Petricka’s 2011 came in Winston-Salem, so he hasn’t been moved up aggressively enough to count for the shaky command. Petricka’s 41 K’s are still a great mark and keep him on the prospect radar, but he’s going to have to throw more strikes to avoid getting off track.

Winston-Salem starts a big 3-game series in Salem with the 2nd place Red Sox tonight before moving along to visit the Carolina Mudcats for 3.

Birmingham Barons, AA (22-23)

A rough week for the Barons as they dropped their final game in Pensacola before returning to Birmingham and losing 4 of 5 to the Montgomery Biscuits. The Barons now sit square in the middle of the Southern League’s Northern Division and are 5 games behind the streaking Jackson Generals.

Last week, Matt Wickswat’s trip to the 7-day DL was discussed, and I even speculated a bit about any connection between Wickswat’s very poor 10.20 ERA and whatever sent him to the DL. Whatever Wickswat’s problem was, it seems to not be too catastrophic as he has already been called back from the DL. He hasn’t pitched since returning to the active roster, so his early performance will have to be watched carefully. Wickswat has walked 23 hitters in 15 innings and simply won’t be permitted to continue struggling to this degree.

Jose Quintana has returned to Birmingham after his short stint with the parent club, and he’s generally picked up right where he left off. The Colombian lefty has 3 starts since returning to the minors and has allowed just 3 earned runs in 13.1 innings. Quintana has also picked up 15 K’s while walking only 3 and allowing 11 hits in that time. Quintana holds a 2.77 ERA with a 41/14 K/BB ratio in 48.2 AA innings this year, and the White Sox clearly like what the southpaw can offer a big-league club. After performing well in Chicago – he allowed only 1 hit and no runs in 5.2 innings – he’s one to keep an eye on as he appears to be squarely on Chicago’s radar.

The Barons have a pair of off-days this week that bookend a 5-game trip to play the Huntsville Stars. On Monday, they return home to host the Chattanooga Lookouts.

Charlotte Knights, AAA (23-22)

A hot start to the week followed by a pair of losses to Durham brought the Knights a 4-3 record for the week, which was a strong showing considering it was a week out of Charlotte and on the road. The Knights took down Norfolk 3 games out of 4 and won game one against the Bulls before dropping games on Sunday and Monday.

The Knights only saw a pair of roster changes this week as a DL swap happened on Sunday. Third Baseman Kyle Shelton was added to the 7-day DL while Dallas McPherson was placed back on the active roster. McPherson, previously mentioned in this space as flashing some cheap pop to the major league management, missed nearly a month of time and has seen his numbers fall off pace. With no hits in his last 19 at bats, McPherson has seen his batting average slip to .250, and those 7 doubles a 2 homers don’t look nearly as impressive with his slugging percentage sitting at .441.

The injury and slide may have cost him a major opportunity: White Sox everyday third baseman Brent Morel has struggled mightily on the season – he has a .420 OPS in 35 games – and has a hurt back. GM Kenny Williams must have decided he needed new options, and when veteran journeyman 2B Orlando Hudson was released by the San Diego Padres, Williams pounced. Hudson, it appears, will be asked to play third for the first time in his career and back up Gordon Beckham at second. Hudson is 34, has been declining for several years, and was totally unsuccessful offensively this season with a .577 OPS with the Padres. McPherson may be able to get his numbers up over the next few weeks while Hudson continues to struggle and wears out his welcome with the Sox, but it’s tough to say McPherson may not have missed a tailor-made opportunity to win a spot on a major league roster.

The Knights finish up their series in Durham this afternoon before heading home on Wednesday to start a series with Lehigh Valley. The series starts on Thursday with the completion of a suspended game from last month and ultimately lasts through Sunday and totals 5 games.

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