Archive for the '2011 BlueClaws' Category

#41

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

The Shore the Show club has a new member. 2011 BlueClaws RHP Lendy Castillo made his major league debut for the Cubs last night after getting selected in December’s Rule-5 Draft. Castillo, who was an infielder before being converted to a pitcher, had a 2.54 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 46 innings with the BlueClaws last year.

He’s also the fastest player ever to reach the big leagues from Lakewood, doing so in his team’s fourth game of the year after finishing the previous season with the BlueClaws. The previous record belonged to Mike Zagurski, who finished 2006 with the BlueClaws and made his big league debut on May 25, 2007.

Castillo gave up a run in 2/3 of an inning.

Congrats to Lendy and here is the full Shore to the Show list.

Castillo Makes Cubs; Primed for Debut

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

Lendy Castillo will likely become the fastest player ever to go From the Shore to the Show.

Posted today from the Chicago Tribune (bolded by me):

The Cubs claimed infielder Luis Valbuena off waivers from Toronto on Wednesday and will start the season with 11 pitchers.

Valbuena, a .226 career hitter who was signed by the Blue Jays last winter after playing with Cleveland, can play three infield positions and back up Starlin Castro at short.

The Cubs outrighted reliever Frankie De La Cruz, and will bring Shawn Camp, Rafael Dolis and Rule 5 pick Lendy Castillo into the season in the bullpen, joining Carlos Marmol, Kerry Wood and James Russell.

Castillo, a converted infielder, joined the BlueClaws in June of last year and had a 2.54 ERA with 46 Ks in 46 innings last year. Because his service time as an infielder (three years) counted with his two years of pitching, he was Rule-5 eligible and the Cubs took him.

Had he not made the team, he would have been offered back to the Phillies and the Phillies likely would have accepted him back.

The previous record for quickest to the big leagues from Lakewood was Mike Zagurski, who debuted with the Phillies on May 25th, 2007 after finishing 2006 with the BlueClaws. Castillo, if he pitches on Opening Day, would set an unbreakable record.

He won’t be the only Shore to the Show player to debut this week though, as 2008 BlueClaws SS Freddy Galvis will join that group when the Phillies play their first game tomorrow in Pittsburgh (at second base).

I’m posting this from the press box in Greenville where the BlueClaws just finished their final pre-season workout. As soon as BP finished, the skies opened up for 15 or 20 minutes and it is not a beautiful day again, and about 10 degrees cooler.

Two APP Videos

Saturday, March 24th, 2012

BlueClaws beat writer Tony Graham was in Clearwater earlier this week and taped a few videos for APP.com. He’ll have some articles up there through the start of the BlueClaws season and the APP preview. Follow along at his blog on APP.com here.

The first one is with potential 2012 BC outfielder Gauntlett Eldemire.

“I don’t know where I’m going to go, it’s out of my hands. The only thing I can control is coming out here and working hard every day,” he said.

And the second with 2011 BlueClaws LHP Jesse Biddle.

Biddle is very complimentary of the BlueClaws fans in the video, and notes that he’s working on the change-up, a pitch he called a “make or break pitch.”

Biddle, Morandini Coming to Winter Tour

Friday, January 13th, 2012

If you missed this on the main site, I thought I’d re-post here for those of you that read this blog through your G

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oogle RSS feeds (if you don’t but want to, you can sign up below).

We announced last week that new BlueClaws manager and former Phillies second baseman Mickey Morandini will be joining us on January 25th.

Then yesterday, we announced that 2011 BlueClaws LHP and top Phillies prospect Jesse Biddle will also be joining us.

Charlie Manuel and Ruben Amaro were in the original release. All the details can be found here. Hope to see you there.

The event is at Woodlake Country Club, $40/head. It’s a really fun night.

1-2 in 3 Organizations

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

oneinthreefullFormer BlueClaws are ranked 1-2 in three different organizations among the recent Baseball America prospect lists released over the last few weeks.

We talked about the Phillies top ten prospects list awhile back with former BlueClaws in the one-through-four slots (Trevor May, Jesse Biddle, Sebastian Valle, and Jonathan Pettibone). May and Pettibone were in the BlueClaws 2010 championship rotation with Valle their catcher. Biddle, of course, was here this year. You can read more about those guys at the link.

The other two organizations where the BlueClaws go 1-2 are recent Phillies trading partners Houston and Toronto.

Houston (click here)
1. 1B Jonathan Singleton: Sent to Houston in the Hunter Pence trade in July, Singleton hit .290-14-77 with the BlueClaws in 2010, including a mammoth home run in his first at bat with the team, May 13th in Greenville. After the trade, Singleton was sent to Hi-A Lancaster (he was with Clearwater) and hit .333 with 4 HRs in 129 at bats. Baseball America says he is the best first base prospect in the minors.

2. RHP Jarred Cosart: Also in the Hunter Pence trade in July, Cosart went 7-3, 3.79 with Lakewood in 2010, pitching in the first half before an injury cost him the second half of the season. Cosart, unlike Singleton, was bumped straight up to Double-A Corpus Christi after the trade. He went 1-2, 4.79 in seven starts (though he did allow one earned run or less in five of those seven starts) and will likely go back there to open the 2012 campaign.

Toronto (click here)
1. C Travis d’Arnaud: He was traded to the Jays in the Roy Halladay in December of 2009. This year, he anchored the championship Eastern League Jays affiliate in New Hampshire, hitting .311-21-78 and was the league MVP. He hit 13 home runs and drove in 71 runs with the championship BlueClaws in 2009 under Dusty Wathan. d’Arnaud, who saw his brother Chase make his big league debut this year with Pittsburgh, is expected to go to Triple-A Las Vegas and could make his big league debut later in the season.

2. CF Anthony Gose: Gose has led his league in steals each of the last three years (including a franchise record 76 with the BlueClaws in 2009). This year, he was d’Arnaud’s teammate on the championship New Hampshire club. Gose stole 70 bases this year and hit 16 home runs, after hitting nine in his first three pro seasons. He’ll join d’Arnaud in Las Vegas this summer. He was actually sent to Houston in the Roy Oswalt deal in 2010 but was immediately flipped to Toronto for Brett Wallace. Toronto reportedly wanted him in the Halladay deal but the Phillies held onto him.

And that’s how you 1-2 in 3 organizations.

A few former BlueClaws (OF Michael Taylor and IF Adrian Cardenas) could appear on the Athletics top-ten list, which will be released on January 25th, though that list will not include the prospects the A’s have received this offseason in trading away Gio Gonzalez (Nationals), Andrew Bailey (Red Sox) and Trevor Cahill (Diamondbacks).

BlueClaws Year in Review

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

yearinreview2011We’ve done this the last two years and we’re doing it again this year…the annual BlueClaws Year in Review post. Click here for 2010 in review and click here for 2009 in review.

Sultan of Swat Award goes to 1B Jim Murphy, who hit 22 home runs this year to tie the franchise single-season home run record originally set in 2001 by Juan Richardson. In the process, Murphy also broke the franchise all-time home run record (the same 22 from Richardson) in May when he hit his 9th home run, adding onto the 14 he hit with Lakewood in 2009.

Will White Award goes to RHP David Buchanan. White, as you know, threw 75 complete games for the 1879 Cincinnati Reds (75! – he threw 680 innings). Buchanan, meanwhile, threw a complete game for the BlueClaws on May 7th in Charleston, becoming the first BlueClaws player to throw a nine-inning complete game since Carlos Monasterios in 2007.

Jack Chesbro Award goes to RHP Lisalberto Bonilla. Bonilla followed up Buchanan on July 6th by throwing nine shutout innings but was denied the win when the BlueClaws couldn’t score for him. Lakewood would win the game in the 10th inning but Bonilla would get a no-decision. We couldn’t give him the Will White Award because he didn’t get the win but he gets the Jack Chesbro Award – Chesbro threw a mere 48 complete games with the 1904 NY Highlanders, the most in an American League season.

Grant Hill Award goes to RHP Ryan Duke (figure it out). Duke joined the BlueClaws in late July as a 25th round pick from Oklahoma earlier in the year. He had six saves and gave up just two earned runs in 15 innings with Lakewood as part of a great debut season.

Bob Nieman Award for 3B Drew Hillman. Nieman homered in his first two at bats for the Red Sox in 1951. Hillman, who joined the BlueClaws on August 18th, had a two run HR and an RBI double in his first BlueClaws game, a win over Greensboro in front of the largest crowd of the season and 5th largest crowd in team history – 9,503.

Mike Munchak Award for Greg Legg. Munchak, the coach of the Tennessee Titans, was drafted by the organization, then the Houston Oilers, in 1982 and has been with the team since, as a player (a Hall of Famer), assistant coach, and now the head coach. Legger, meanwhile, has been with the Phillies for the same time period as a player, coach and manager. He was honored by the Phillies and the BlueClaws this year.

Nice Knowing You Award to OF Domingo Santana. Santana was named, on August 16th, as the player-to-be-named later in the deal that brought Hunter Pence to the Phillies. He joined Lexington, still in the South Atlantic League, in the Astros organization and hit .382-5-21 in just 17 games with the Legends.

Garden State Award for best New Jersey BlueClaw to OF Bill Rice. Rice, who is from Sewell, NJ and went to Washington Township HS, joined the BlueClaws in late July and hit .293 with eight stolen bases while playing a very good LF. After starting 4-20 while playing sporadically, he finished 32-103.

Laser Award to 3B Maikel Franco. Franco hit a home run off #2 overall pick Jameson Taillon that left the park in about 1.5 seconds. 95 mph fastball on the outer half and Franco just turned it around and out quickly in a most impressive home run. Franco will likely be Lakewood’s starting 3B on Opening Day this year.

Willie Mays Hayes Award for OF Anthony Hewitt. Hewitt had 36 stolen bases in 41 attempts this year. He ranked 2nd in the league in steals.

O Canada Award for best Canadian goes to LHP Jay Johnson. “JJ,” a side-arming lefty, played for Canada in the Pan-Am Games this past off-season and after signing with the Phillies in spring training, he had a 2.94 ERA with 49 strikeouts in 49 innings with Lakewood this year. He had an inauspicious debut, walking all for hitters he faced, but turned into one of Lakewood’s most valuable relievers.

Experienced Traveler Award to LHP Austin Wright. An 8th round pick from Ole Miss, Wright was flying from Williamsport to Philly to Salisbury (MD) to make his BlueClaws debut the next night when his Philly to Salisbury flight was canceled. He ended up meeting a baseball fan and fellow stranded traveler who rented a car and drove down to Salisbury. Wright gave up a run in six innings the next night and won his first start. He would go on to finish with a 2.67 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 33.2 innings with the BlueClaws.

Attendance Boost Award goes to Nationals OF Bryce Harper. Playing with Hagerstown, Harper made his FirstEnergy Park debut on May 13th and 8,215 fans came out to see him. The next day, in front of over 7,000, he homered to account for the only scoring in a 1-0 Suns win. The BlueClaws were also in Hagerstown for Harper’s home debut in April which brought out 6,500 fans to a stadium that comfortably holds about 4,900. And it was 45 degrees. With 30 mph winds.

Former Shortstop Award to RHP Lendy Castillo, who was converted to the mound last year. This year with the BlueClaws, he went 4-2, 2.54 and got picked by the Cubs in the Rule 5 Draft. If he makes the team, he could well be the 40th BlueClaw to go From the Shore to the Show.

Rolling Stones ‘Start Me Up’ Award to LHP Mario Hollands, who threw five shutout innings on Opening Night in a 2-0 win over Kannapolis. As it worked out, the BlueClaws did not allow a run over the first 24 innings of the season, but ended up 1-1. How does that work? In game two, after 15 scoreless innings, Kannapolis put two on the board in the 16th and won 2-0.

Robin Ventura Award for 3B Travis Mattair. This was an easy one. On July 4th, Mattair hit what appeared to be a walk-off grand slam to beat Hagerstown in the bottom of the 9th. He ran around the bases, threw his helmet off and jumped into the pile. However, the umpires ruled that the ball did not clear the wall as we thought (everyone thought the ball had hit a picnic table on the other side of the fence before bouncing back). Since it was a tie game, only one run was needed, and one run counted, for a true “Grand Slam Single.”

Rollie Fingers Award for best Moustache goes to 1B Jim Murphy. This was tweeted to us:

cheering on and appreciating Jim Murphy and his awesome mustache! &
Here is a picture. And finally…
PETA Award goes to this unnamed Hagerstown player who threw water on one of our horses coming down the stretch of the Preakness preview race, Mucho Macho Man. Mucho Macho Man, incidentally, for those that care about such things, is on the comeback trail.

Checking In With Colby Shreve

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

shreveblog1We had a chance to catch up with 2010-11 BlueClaws RHP Colby Shreve earlier this week for a new interview in which he talks about his time in Lakewood, his time in the Arizona Fall League this year, his plans for the offseason, and much more.

Shreve, a 6th round pick in 2008, missed that year and 2009 after having elbow surgery, but joined the BlueClaws in April of 2010. He stayed the duration of that year and settled into a relief role with the BlueClaws in 2011 before an August promotion to Clearwater.

On Arizona Fall League: It was good. It was a bit humbling, as you have the best minor league hitters down there but it was a good experience to know what it takes to play at the AA or AAA level. I met a lot of new guys from different organizations and see how the Red Sox or Angels or Nationals run their organizations.

What was the biggest thing you took out of your experience there? For whatever reason, when I got down there, maybe it was subconsciously, I started walking a lot of guys. A lot more than I usually did. During the year my K/BB ratio was pretty good but it fell off down there. Throwing strikes is #1 on the to-do list. Half of my earned runs reached base on walks. It was a hard lesson on what not to do. You fall behind those guys, at 2-0, 2-1, they’re going to mash it somewhere.

What was the call-up to Clearwater from Lakewood like? It went real good. I got up there, and the hitters were a little more disciplined and if you throw it over the plate it will get hit harder but it wasn’t as big a jump as I thought it would be. Towards the end, I gave up a few earned runs but I felt good about how I pitched down there.

What do you plan on doing throwing-wise in the off-season? I think they want us to throw about five or six bullpen sessions. It’s worked very well for me in the past. I’ll start tossing at the end of the month. They have a really good off-season program for us. We’ll progress in the bullpens and go down 5 or 6 in.

Do you have any goals as you head into the 2012 season? I never want to go in expecting to go somewhere. We have a ton of really talented guys and a lot are right on the edge. Where you end up when the season starts depends on how you go into spring training and how you play there.

Favorite experience with Lakewood? Definitely winning the title last year, that was a lot of fun. We had a great team too, a lot of great guys.

Shreve also mentioned his AFL teammate, Bryce Harper. Both are from the Las Vegas area and worked out with the same physical therapist in the last offseason.

Catching Up With David Buchanan

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

buchananblogWe had a chance to speak recently with 2011 BlueClaws RHP David Buchanan, who began the year with Lakewood, started the All-Star Game, and was promoted to Clearwater in July.

Previously: Catching Up With Jesse Biddle.

Buchanan, a 7th round pick in 2010 from Georgia State University, went 11-5, 3.38 with the BlueClaws this year and then finished up 3-2, 3.70 in six starts with Clearwater.

“Overall, I think I had a good year,” Buchanan said. “I learned a lot, had a lot of fun, faced some good hitters and saw a lot of different things I can take into next year.”

He noted that “I had some success, I failed, and I experienced a lot.” Buchanan had a 1.97 ERA through May but had an ERA over seven over his next eight starts.  It was a start in Greenville on July 14th where he felt his season turned around.

“I was going through a tough stretch. I’d get to the 2nd inning, give up a few hits and someone squares one up, and suddenly it’s a four-run inning. For some reason that 2nd inning was killing my whole start. That game, I calmed myself down, got a big ground ball and got out of the inning.”

Buchanan, who grew up in Peachtree City, GA, outside Atlanta, had 15 friends and family members at that start (about three hours from home), just as he did in Charleston, SC on May 7th, when he became the first BlueClaws pitcher in four years (Carlos Monasterios) to throw a nine inning complete game.

A week later, he faced Greenville again, allowing one run over seven strong innings to earn the win (Brad Ligde pitched a scoreless 8th and Ryan Duke the 9th). Buchanan came back with eight shutout innings on July 25th in what would be his final start as a BlueClaw. Two weeks after his turning point start in Greenville, he was a Thresher.

“I was ecstatic. I was looking forward to that all year,” he said. “I got caught up a bit in that and had a few bad outings but I let it all go and said whatever happens, happens and started to pitch my game again. It’s only the first step of many but I was ecstatic to go up there.”

On the transition, he said that “I wasn’t nervous because I knew that wouldn’t help me but the biggest thing was to go there and be confident. I still need to realize that me being the pitcher, I had the advantage.”

Asked what he took most out of his season, he said “You have to remember that no matter what level you’re at, you can still get hitters out. A lot of times we get caught up pitching to the hitter’s name or their place in the order. When big leaguers came down to rehab, you expect them to go 4-4 with 4 home runs, but anybody can get anybody out. No matter who you’re facing, stay within yourself and pitch to your strengths.”

This has been an exciting few days for Buchanan, as his new favorite team, the Phillies (obviously) are now a win away from a spot in the NLCS. It’s been a little tougher on some family members, Georgia natives, after the way their hometown Braves saw their season end last week.

David went to all three games in Atlanta last week between the Braves and the Phillies with his sister Sarah and her boyfriend James. David says he was wearing red, but admitted that “Two years ago, I would have been rooting for the Braves.”

Sally League Top 20 With Two BlueClaws

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

biddlesantanafullBaseball America released their annual look at the top 20 prospects in the South Atlantic League and two BlueClaws are featured: #6 Jesse Biddle and #18 Domingo Santana (traded to Houston).

Click here for the full list from Baseball America.

Biddle, who we interviewed here last week, went 7-8, 2.98 but had the best ERA in the league (1.97) during the second half of the season. Biddle, a first round pick in 2010, was relatively happy with his year.

“I think it went alright. It didn’t start out too well but I guess I am moderately happy with my second half…There are a lot of things I need to work on like command of the fastball and change-up, picking off runners, fielding and other things that will make you a better pitcher. I got a lot better but I know I need to keep getting better and I’m excited for that chance.”

Santana split the year between Lakewood and Lexington, where he went in August after the July 29th trade that brought the Phillies Hunter Pence (Santana was the player-to-be-named-later). He hit .287-12-53 on the season, but .382-5-21 in just 17 games with Lexington.

He opened 2010 with Lakewood as a 17 year old, the youngest player, by more than a full year, in BlueClaws history and returned to Lakewood for 2011.

Bryce Harper – Manny Machado – Jurickson Profar – Jameson Taillon – Christian Yelich went 1-2-3-4-5, which seems about right, though the BlueClaws never saw Machado (injured).

There are two players on this list who were drafted out of college (#12 Kyle Parker of Asheville, a 1st round pick from Clemson and #16 Bryce Brentz of Greenville, a supplemental first-round pick from Middle Tennessee State).

Here are last year’s rankings when the BlueClaws had 6 out of 20 and 4 out of 8.

Jim Murphy: Fundraising Machine

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

jimmurphyblogAs part of the annual Home Runs for Heroes program, OceanFirst Foundation (charity of OceanFirst Bank) donates $1,000 to a local-military based charity for every BlueClaws home run hit at FirstEnergy Park.

This year, $25,000 was donated, $11,000 thanks to home runs by Jim Murphy. Four of those were in the second inning, meaning he raised $4,000 for VetGroup of the $7,000 they earned through the program.

There was a check presentation at the ballpark yesterday and here is the full story.

“When our young men and women leave to serve their country, they leave families behind here in the States. We support those organizations that help those families and we support those organizations that help our soldiers when they come home,” said OceanFirst Bank President Vito Nardelli.

How the Program Works
Each of the nine organizations participating in the program is paired up with an inning in the game. If a BlueClaws player homers in the first inning, then said organization (in this case Catholic Charities) gets $1,000, so on and so forth.

Navy-Marine Relief Earle had the 9th inning plus extras, and the lone home run was courtesy of Anthony Hewitt on May 1st.

American Recreational Military Services had the 5th inning, and they received $1,000 despite no BlueClaws home runs in that frame. For those that listen to BlueClaws games on the radio, that is the Asbury Park Press 5th inning, so we can assign all blame to BlueClaws beat writer Tony Graham.

Home Runs for Heroes has now raised $79,000 over its three year existence for these nine military-based non-profit organizations. Thanks to OceanFirst for their fine support.

UPDATE: Murphy also hit seven HRs at home in 2009, meaning he has accounted for $18,000 raised through this program of the $79,000!

Biddle Talks Season, Instructional League

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

biddleblog52011 BlueClaws LHP Jesse Biddle is among the group of Phillies prospects who reported to Clearwater on Monday for the start of the Florida Instructional League, his second year in the FIL. The Instructional League is in some ways a “second spring training” and learning opportunity for some of the younger players in the system, like Biddle, who said last week that he learned the most last fall not on the field, but in his hotel room.

“I sat there in the room charting Roy Halladay’s no-hitter (against the Reds),” he said. “I would get the velocities off the tv and note fastballs, first pitch strikes, change-up strikes, and other stuff but the whole emphasis for me was on change-ups.”

He would chart the games, at the urging of Phillies minor league pitching coordinator Gorm Heimueller, just like he would if he was sitting in the stands in the days leading up to a regular season start, only this time he was doing it from his hotel room and had television commentary rather than live, cheering fans.

“We also did a lot of video stuff, putting 10 guys in a room and breaking down our deliveries,” he said. “As much as you’re playing another month after the previous seven, it’s a lot different.”

When Jesse came to the Phillies Winter Tour stop in Lakewood before the season, he said he wanted to focus on his change-up during spring training and into the season. How’d he do?

“I think it got a lot better and that was the biggest thing I got better at. I could throw it in different counts, for strikes, locating it pretty well,” he said. “I’ve watched enough of Cole Hamels to know how effective a good change-up can be, not comparing myself at all to him, but watching him really made me realize that was something I really needed to work on.”

Biddle started slow, and had a 7.16 ERA in April this year, but from May on through, he had an ERA of just 2.39, second best in the league, and in the second half, he had the league’s best ERA at 1.91.

(more…)

Underway in the Instructional League

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Forgot to pass this along yesterday but if you were looking for the rosters for the upcoming Florida Instructional League, Larry Shenk from the Phillies (read his blog here) sent these over.

Coordinators: Mike Compton, field; Gorman Heimueller, pitching; Steve Henderson, hitting; Doug Mansolino, infield.

Staff: Mickey Morandini, manager; Frank Cacciatore, hitting; Carlos Arroyo, pitching; Les Lancaster, pitching; Mark Parent, instructor; Dusty Wathan, instructor and Brett Gross, video rep

Pitchers: Gabriel Arias, Jesse Biddle, James Birmingham, Lisalberto Bonilla, Ranfi Casimiro, Lendy Castillo, Brody Colvin, J. Dygestile-Therrien, Percival Garner, Ken Giles, Steven Inch, Ulises Joaquin, Jay Johnson, Colin Kleven, Ervis Manzanillo, Lino Martinez, Adam Morgan, Hector Neris, Ramon Oviedo, J. C. Ramirez, Yacksel Rios, Braden Shull, Ethan Stewart, Joshua Warner, Austin Wright.

Catchers: Francisco Diaz, Logan Moore, Chase Numata, Cameron Rupp, Robert Stumpo.

Infielders: Cody Ashe, Albert Cartwright, Edgar Dugan, Maikel Franco, Gustavo Gonzalez, Tyler Grene, Cesar Hernandez, Harold Martinez, Roman Quinn, Brock Stassi, Alejandro Villalobos, Mitch Walding.

Outfielders Aaron Altherr, Zach Collier, Gauntlett Eldemire, Tyson Gillies, Larry Greene, Kyrell Hudson, Jonathan Knight, Brian Pointer, Carlos Tocci, Jiandido Tromp.

Bold means they played here this year.

Gillies missed the year with an injury and is tuning up for the Arizona Fall League. Jay Johnson will probably leave early to play for Team Canada. Tocci is a 16 year old from Venezuela who just signed for nice money.

Players reported yesterday. Games start on Monday and go through October 15th – Monday through Friday at 1 and Saturday at 10.

Jay Johnson to Pitch for Team Canada

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

LHP Jay Johnson, who had five saves and a 2.94 ERA with the BlueClaws this year, will pitch for Team Canada in the upcoming IBAF World Cup and Pan-Am Games according to this article on the Canadian Baseball Network.

The IBAF World Cup will take place in Panama City from October 2-15 and the Pan-Am Games are in Guadalajara between October 19-26.

“JJ,” as he was called, is a side-armer from Sussex Corner, New Brunswick in Canada.

Here is a Get to Know piece we did in June on Johnson, who had previously been drafted by both the Orioles and Blue Jays but never signed. He tried out in Arizona for the Phillies in March and signed then, joining the BlueClaws in late-April.

In his first game, he faced four hitters, walked all four, and was removed, an inauspicious debut.

“I was excited, but I didn’t feel the ball that well for some reason. I don’t think I even got a two-strike count,” he joked about it months later.

He threw a scoreless inning the next day and from there was one of Lakewood’s most valuable relief pitchers.

Johnson played a little hockey but didn’t have easy access to a rink, and with an older brother that played baseball, that became his favorite sport. He went to a junior college in Canada and then Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas.

“That was prairies too but just not as many dust storms as West Texas in Lubbock,” he said.

After Texas Tech, with no place to play professionally at the time, he helped his father, a fisherman, on the water while working out to get ready.

Team Canada, we’ll note, is managed by Ernie Whitt, Phillies roving catching instructor. He also managed the team in both World Baseball Classics and the 2004 Olympics.

Good luck to Jay and Ernie.

A Thank You Letter From Chris Truby

Monday, September 5th, 2011

BlueClaws manager Chris Truby wanted to write this thank you letter to all BlueClaws fans out there for their great support here in 2011.

BlueClaws fans,

I just wanted to write this as a thank you to all of the great fans in Lakewood that we saw at the park this year.

Our players, coaches, our friends and our families are very grateful for all of the support we received throughout the year from the fans and the BlueClaws front office. I’ve been in professional baseball for almost 20 years and this is truly right there with any place I’ve ever played or coached.

The support that the fans gave to our team was phenomenal, from those cold nasty days in April right through the last game of the year on a perfect August evening.

Getting off the bus tired and then having 7,000 fans and a great ballpark atmosphere that night is not something that every player gets to experience in their minor league careers. I told our players throughout the season to be sure to enjoy that and remember it as they continue up the ladder.

I had a wonderful time this summer here in Lakewood, and as I said earlier, this was one of my most enjoyable seasons in baseball. I hope to see you again, whether it be in spring training or again here in 2012.

Thanks again for a great summer and thanks for your tremendous support.

See you at the ballpark,

Chris Truby

Manager, Lakewood BlueClaws