Archive for January, 2011

Happy Birthday Chooch

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

blueclawsbirthdayOriginal BlueClaw Carlos Ruiz turns 32 today, so we’d like to wish him a Happy Birthday. Ruiz, as you know, was on our first roster, breaking camp with the first team in BlueClaws history and he caught the 2nd game in team history, April 6th, 2011 in Kannapolis.

Ruiz also caught the first no-hitter in BlueClaws history, a seven-inning game on April 12th of that year thrown by Keith Bucktrot. Bucktrot was perfect into the 6th (Lakewood made an error then) and he did not walk anyone or hit anyone as part of that no-hitter. Then-GM Ed Wade and about 30 other Phillies front office employees were in attendance.

In that game, Ruiz had 4 RBIs, which was a season-high for any BlueClaw and broken in 2002.

I remember talking to Greg Legg last year about Ruiz, right before he rehabbed with the BlueClaws. Legg manged him both in Lakewood in 2001 and later Reading in 2004.

Legg said he could always play defense, but they didn’t really know what kind of prospect he was until a few years later, when he blossomed with Reading. That year, also Ryan Howard’s break-out year, Ruiz hit 17 home runs in 349 at bats. He had hit 14 home runs total over the previous four years, in a combined, in 944 at bats.

Cesar Hernandez Makes Top 2Bs

Friday, January 21st, 2011

cesar-hernandezHere’s another one: Cesar Hernandez, likely Lakewood’s second baseman this year, was ranked by MLB.com as the 7th best 2B prospect in the minors. Hernanez played with Williamsport last year and after the season was placed on the Phillies 40-man roster. He didn’t make the top 10 in the system by Baseball America but will probably make the top 15.

7. Cesar Hernandez, Phillies: Hernandez made his United States debut in 2009 in the Gulf Coast League, but really jumped out with his All-Star performance in the short-season New York-Penn League last year. His 32 steals were good for second in the league and he was sixth in the batting race (.325). He should be a fun one to watch during his full-season debut with Lakewood in the South Atlantic League.

Hernandez is the youngest guy on the list and only one who hasn’t yet reached a full-season league.

d’Arnaud Makes Top Catchers

Friday, January 21st, 2011

We missed this among all of the other prospect lists from the last few days. Former BlueClaws C Travis d’Arnaud was ranked as the 9th best catcher in the minors as per MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo:

9. Travis d’Arnaud, Blue Jays: Catching depth is something every organization strives for, and the Blue Jays have some. Arencibia might be the guy for now, but d’Arnaud could eventually supplant him as the everyday catcher in Toronto. In his first season with the organization after coming over in the Roy Halladay deal, he missed a chunk of time with a back issue, but it’s not expected to be a long-term problem. He’s got a great arm and is very agile behind the plate. While his offensive numbers haven’t consistently stood out to date, he’s got good bat speed and a solid approach that should lead to good results. It might take him a couple of years, but he profiles to be a better all-around backstop than Arencibia in the future.

Note: Derek Norris, who was the All-South Atlantic League catcher last year, beat out d’Arnaud. Though d’Arnaud ranks ahead of him here.

The Yankees have three of the top 10 in Jesus Montero (1), Gary Sanchez (3 – who could be with Charleston this year, in Lakewood April 25-29), and Austin Romine (7).

Brown Makes Top OFs

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

A few days after Jonathan Singleton made the list as one of the top first base prospects in Minor League Baseball, 2008 BlueClaws OF Domonic Brown was named one of the top outfield prospects in Minor League Baseball by Jonathan Mayo on MLB.com.

3. Domonic Brown, Phillies: The Phillies might be saying publicly they’re not handing the right-field job to Brown this spring, but rest assured they’re hoping he wins it outright. He has all the makings of the prototypical right fielder, with outstanding raw power and a strong arm. Brown really started to tap into that power in 2010, but he’s more than just a home run threat — he should hit for average as well. He’s got good speed to boot, and his entire package reminds many of a young Darryl Strawberry.

Also:

  • Bryce Harper of the Nationals, the 2010 #1 overall pick, was #2 on this list. He is slated to be with Hagerstown, and thus in Lakewood from May 13-16. Lakewood will be in Hagerstown on April 15th for his first home game.
  • Reymond Fuentes, Greenville’s centerfielder in 2009, was ranked 8th. He is now with San Diego after being a part of the Adrian Gonzalez trade.
  • #5 Aaron Hicks and former BlueClaw Anthony Gose are good friends.

MLB’s top 50 prospects list comes out on Tuesday.

One More Video

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

Our buddy Steve Degler from Service Electric Cable interviewed Mark Parent at his introductory presser in Reading yesterday. A lot of footage you see here is from FirstEnergy Park last year when they came to visit.

More Parent Articles & Video

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

Mike Drago of the Reading Eagle has this article today on new Reading manager Mark Parent, who of course spent last year with the BlueClaws. He never played for Reading, or in Reading, coming up in the San Diego system, but Mark spent one day at FirstEnergy Stadium in 1998:

Parent was catching for the big club and was impressed with young left-hander Randy Wolf, who switched sides and pitched in a Philadelphia uniform that day.

“I can remember going over to (Phillies manager) Terry Francona saying, ‘Why is he in Double-A and not with us in Philly?’ ” Parent recalled Wednesday, during an introductory press conference at the Crowne Plaza Reading, Wyomissing. “He should’ve went on the road trip with us, the way we were going.”.

Here’s an article from Jeff Schuler in the Morning Call:

“I’ve been in the new stadium, I see the game, I listen to the rhetoric about players wanting … I mean, Cliff Lee, wanting to come to Philly? Back in the day, guys were trying to get out,” Parent said. “When I was playing, we were talking about getting rid of [Curt] Schilling all the time, instead of trying to add on to him. Not that Mr. Giles [former Phillies President Bill Giles] wasn’t doing a good job, but Mr. Montgomery has seemingly brought a lot of life to the organization.”

Here’s the video, courtesy of the Reading Phillies YouTube page.

Parent’s Intro to Reading

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

2010 BlueClaws manager Mark Parent was introduced today to the folks in Reading, where he will manage in 2010.

This comment will certainly resonate with BlueClaws fans:

“My guys will know I am here for them. I want them to get better, I want them to have all the success in the world. I managed in two other cities, other than Lakewood, I managed in Lancaster, Cal. and Chico in the Golden League, and we won everywhere — so I expect to win.”

Tommy Viola “Phils You In” at his blog with more from the presser.

Singleton Among Top 1B Prospects

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

This is from MLB.com’s great prospect writer Jonathan Mayo. He ranks the Top 10 prospects by position and Jonathan Singleton, with the BlueClaws in 2010, comes in 4th among 1st baseman.

4. Jonathan Singleton, Phillies: When he was drafted out of high school in 2009, Singleton was thought of as a project — more tools than anything. The Phillies had liked his bat, and it turned out to be very productive right out of the gate — as Singleton was named the South Atlantic League’s Most Outstanding Major League Prospect this past year. It looks like he will be able to hit for both average and plenty of power, especially as he matures. He could make a move to an outfield corner, so he won’t be blocked by Ryan Howard down the line.

Note the following: Of the 10 first baseman on the list, only #6 Christian Yelich of the Marlins finished the season in Lo-A. Yelich was drafted in the first round by Florida this year. Everyone else was older and at a higher level.

Also note, Singleton may be playing some LF this year with Clearwater (the Phillies are set at the 1B position, you may have heard). So we’ll look for him on another list next year.

Biddle Also Coming to Winter Tour

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

Phillies first round pick Jesse Biddle will join BlueClaws manager Chris Truby, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, and general manager Ruben Amaro at the January 26th Phillies Winter Tour at Woodlake Country Club in Lakewood.

Biddle, a Philadelphia native and the 27th overall pick in the 2010 draft, will likely be with the BlueClaws in 2011 and would be the sixth Phillies first round pick to play with the BlueClaws (Gavin Floyd, Cole Hamels, Greg Golson, Kyle Drabek, and Anthony Hewitt).

Here is an article on Biddle from July by Frank Fitzpatrick in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“They say they like all four of my pitches – fastball, curve, slider, change-up,” Biddle said. “They want me to focus on fastball, slider, change-up, and mainly to throw fastballs for strikes. They want me to get ahead with it, and then I may have an opportunity to strike them out with the slider.

“But right now it’s not about striking people out. It’s about pitching to contact, learning how to pitch. . . . They’re going to take their time with me. As a first-round pick and a high school guy, they need to make sure they protect me and get me acclimated to the system. I’m a quick learner.”

Here is a Winter Tour order form, or call Amy at 732-901-7000 ext 172.

The Power of Twitter Hashtags

Monday, January 17th, 2011

Some of you may use Twitter and have seen the “hashtag” used on Tweets.

Last week, we linked to the PhoulBallz.com story on Phillipe Aumont in which Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. said “We don’t judge (his) abilities necessarily by performance, but (instead) by progress and he’s still a young kid. Prospects sometimes take a long time. The pudding has not been made yet, so it’s really a matter of time for (him) to continue to develop. We still believe in him to be a fine prospect.”

We also put this on Twitter using the hashtag “dessert” for no particular reason except the link between desserts and pudding.

So later in the day, I see that the @BlueClaws were used in a “Dessert Diary” posting by someone I had never heard of. I click the link, and what do you know, featured among stories about Karen’s Blueberry Bananna Smoothie, Tres Leche Cake, Salted Pumpkin Caramels, and White Chocolate Raspberry Cheescake is Aumont Headed Back to Bullpen.

See below, and click to enlarge. I love Twitter.

dessert-diary-aumont

Getting the Band Back Together

Monday, January 17th, 2011

mattairTravis Mattair, Anthony Gose and Travis d’Arnaud were all teammates on the 2009 South Atlantic League Champion BlueClaws. Two are now in different organizations from different trades. d’Arnaud was sent to Toronto in the Roy Halladay deal in December, 2009. Gose was sent to Houston in the Roy Oswalt trade in July and then immediately flipped to Toronto, where he was re-united with d’Arnaud.

Mattair, meanwhile, took 2010 off, to try his hand at college basketball. He’s now back in baseball, and has begun a cross-country trip from his Kennewick, Washington home to Clearwater (2,933 miles, the quickest way, but they’re sight-seeing), where he will open Spring Training with the Phillies and live with Gose and d’Arnaud.

He’s detailing his trip to Jay Floyd at PhoulBallz.com:

We are going and going, with minimal stops, till our teeth our floating to even go to the bathroom. We’re trying to get to each destination as fast as we can. Each of us are driving 350-400 miles each, and then we switch. We’re trying to get down to Clearwater as fast as we can so I can get my stuff moved in to Anthony Gose’s place, where Travis d’Arnaud will be staying as well, and then I’m going to show Eric around Clearwater and then we’ll hit Miami. Eric’s never been to Florida, so it should be a good time seeing everything down there.

Click here to read the full posting and be sure to follow along.

Gose and d’Aruand should both be with Double-A New Hampshire this year. They’ll be in Trenton and Reading from April 29 – May 5, Trenton again June 27- 29 and August 29 – September 1.

Amaro on Pudding, Aumont

Friday, January 14th, 2011

They’re actually related. Who knew?

Jay over at PhoulBallz.com caught up with Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. who talked about Phillippe Aumont, who came to Philly in the Cliff Lee deal.

“We don’t judge (his) abilities necessarily by performance, but (instead) by progress and he’s still a young kid. Prospects sometimes take a long time. The pudding has not been made yet, so it’s really a matter of time for (him) to continue to develop. We still believe in him to be a fine prospect.”

He said he’ll go into the bullpen full-time in 2011. While they tried to make him a starter, grooming a reliever with a big arm is certainly a good thing in a system that includes Jarred Cosart, Trevor May and Brody Colvin, all young starters, among their top five prospects.

Click here to read the full article.

Schrenk and Team to “Fight the Floods”

Friday, January 14th, 2011

schrenk-canberraBlueClaws pitching coach Steve Schrenk is spending his winter (summer) in Australia managing the Canberra Calvary in the Australian Baseball League.

Canberra, located about 175 miles southwest of Sydney, in the southeast portion of Australia, has not been affected by the flooding in Queensland, a few hundred miles to the north.

But Schrenk’s team will play a “Fight the Floods” charity game on Sunday to help raise money for flood victims.

“The situation in Queensland is horrible,” Head Coach Steve Schrenk said.

“Our guys wanted to do something and we thought holding a game like this would be the best way to help raise money for the cause.

“The series in Brisbane was officially postponed late yesterday and the ACT Government has been great in helping us organise something at such short notice.

Schrenk said the proposed ‘All Star’ team will be competitive and eager to put up on a good show against the men in orange.

“There will be an interesting mix in this ‘All Star’ team,” Schrenk said.

“I think we’ll see a few ACT Academy of Sport kids out there. Some of the younger guys will be treating this as a try-out for the 2011 Cavalry squad so it will be an exciting game to watch.

“Last weekend we saw an average crowd of 1,300 Cavalry fans at each of our games. We hope to get the same numbers this week so we can raise a sizeable amount for the people of Queensland.”

Former BlueClaws like Kevin Jordan (coach), Alan Schoenberger,  Drew Naylor and Joel Naughton all live in the affected area, but fortunately they are fine because they live on high ground.

Fans can donate to the relief efforts online by clicking here.

Darin Ruf Checks In

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

darin-rufOn his last game as a BlueClaw, May 12th, Darin Ruf went 5-5 in Greenville and was promoted to Clearwater  right after the game. He finished the season with the Threshers and we spoke to Ruf for a few minutes earlier as he gets ready for the 2011 season.

5-5 isn’t that bad of a way to go out?
That was an awesome way to go out. To go 5-5, you’re already pumped up, and then to get called in the manager’s office and promoted that night, it was probably the most special day of my career so far.

How as Clearwater different for you than Lakewood was?
It was a little bit different, but not a whole lot. It was more the culture and atmosphere I guess. The trips aren’t as far, so you’re a little more rested for each game. The crowds aren’t as big. You really have to find your inner drive, and you can’t get carried by the atmosphere like you can in Lakewood. It was certainly a little bit of a jump talent-wise, but the atmosphere and the culture was a bit different too.

What did you learn as a player?
It showed me I needed to focus on as a hitter, but I also know that you can’t strictly focus on your weaknesses. Sometimes if you do that, you forget about playing to your strengths. Ultimately, you have to hit the ball when it’s in the zone. If you’re too busy focusing on some weakness that you have, you won’t hit that well.

For me, I did go into a slump and KJ (hitting coach Kevin Jordan) pointed out exactly what I was doing wrong. I was too focused on the inside pitch and ignored the outer half and driving the ball to right-center, which is my strength.

Goals for 2011?
I would love to play in Clearwater again, but hopefully I get a shot in Double-A this year. That would be my ultimate goal, but of course I know nothing is going to be handed to me. I’ll have to prove in the spring that I belong there, and if I do get the chance, I want to be ready to take advantage of it.

What have you been doing in the off-season?
I got a little part time job doing some customer service that keeps me busy, and I get the baseball stuff in during the morning or after work. Taking some swings, things of that nature. It’s worked out perfect for me.

It’s cold in Nebraska, so all of your work has to be inside, correct?
Yes, but we do get to face some live pitching, at a place called UBA. It’s been up for a few years, it’s real nice, huge indoor baseball facility. We have some guys from Omaha like Pat Venditte, who throws with both arms, he throws live every other day.

Does he switch it up on you mid-AB in a live BP session?
He does, definitely (laughing). It’s all good, it’s fun, just getting some work in.

Ruf, a 20th round pick in 2009 out of Creighton, hit .330-4-17 in 32 games with the BlueClaws. He was sent to Clearwater (.277-5-50 in 97 games) on the day Jonathan Singleton was promoted to Lakewood and Matt Rizzotti was sent from Clearwater to Reading.