Last minute draft prep

We at Pittsburgh Lumber Co. have been curiously silent when it comes to discussing tomorrow’s amateur draft, but the folks around MVN have been doing a great job of picking us up. MLB Draft University has provided top-notch pre-draft coverage, and I’m sure the recaps will prove to be just as useful. Today at The Pitch, four MVN writers weighed in with thoughts on how their teams might lean on Thursday. Here‘s what I...

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Johnson Feasts on Wings’ (Pitching, that is)

boxscore (photos by NancyZ)
Russ Johnson doubled -- photo by NancyZ
Indians’ 3B Russ Johnson (photo ) had two singles and an RBI double to lead the Tribe to a 4-3 victory over the Rochester Red Wings at Victory Field tonight. All three of Johnson’s hits came off Rochester starter Dave Gassner, and Johnson went 3 for 4 overall. Indians’ starter Bryan Bullington took the victory, his league-leading 9th win of the season.
The Indians’ batters reached base in all but one inning, and put up a total of 10 hits. Their first scoring came in the 3rd inning. With two outs, SS Brian Bixler (photo below ) slammed a double off the right field wall. DH Yurendell de Caster, in the lineup for the first time in several days, hit his second single of the night, a looper into center field, which scored the speedy Bixler.
Brian Bixler on the basepaths  -- photo by NancyZ
The Tribe added insurance runs in the 5th inning, courtesy of Johnson and his taste for Gassner’s pitching. C Einar Diaz led off the inning by being hit by a pitch. LF Nick Green struck out, and then SS Brian Bixler was walked on 4 straight pitches. Then Gassner repeated the cycle: Yurendell de Caster struck out looking, and 1B Jose Hernandez also walked, to load the bases. Russ Johnson came to the plate, and ran the count full, before smashing a bases-clearing double to center field. That brought in Diaz, Bixler, and Hernandez, giving the Indians 4 runs.
“I just wanted to put a good swing on the ball when the count became three and two”, said Johnson after the game. “He [Dave Gassner] threw a change-up over the middle of the plate and sometimes a miracle happens in front of the bat. I happened to find the right spot of the bat, and the right gap on the field.”
That inning was the last for Gassner. He threw 99 pitches in his 5 innings, giving up 7 hits and one walk, and striking out 5. Reliever Julio DePaula pitched the last two innings for the Red Wings, giving up 3 hits and a walk. The Tribe threatened in the 7th, but could not score. Nick Green walked, but was forced out at second when Brian Bixler ground into a fielder’s choice. Bixler stole second base, and moved to third on Jose Hernandez’s single. They were stranded on base, though, when Russ Johnson made his only out in the game, a sharp liner to center field.
Yurendell de Caster -- photo by NancyZ
The Indians also had two hits in the 8th inning, a double by CF Luis Matos and a single by 2B Luis Ordaz. That put runners on the corners with one out, and the Indians thinking that an insurance run would look good. But Einar Diaz ground into a double play to end the inning and the threat.
In addition to Johnson going 3 for 4 with 3 RBI’s, the Indians’ bats were led by 2 for 4 attacks by Yurendell de Caster (photo ) and Luis Matos. De Caster also had the other RBI for the Tribe. Four of the Indians hits were doubles: 2 by Matos, one by Johnson, and one by Bixler.
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(Photo: Russ Johnson and Einar Diaz check on Bryan Bullington, after a ball hit off his leg. )
Johnson and Diaz check on Bullington  -- photo by NancyZ
Indians’ starter Bryan Bullington had another excellent outing. He scattered 6 hits and 2 walks over 6 innings, while striking out 5 Red Wings’ batters. He was assisted by some strong infield work behind him. In the third inning, SS Brian Bixler dove to snatch a ground ball by Rochester SS Alexi Castilla that was about to go into the outfield. He popped up to his knees and fired to first in time to get Castilla out. A bobbled ball in the 5th inning, off the bat of CF Denard Span proved to be a dramatic play. Span grounded the ball to Jose Hernandez, who was playing a short way off first base. The ball bounced from his glove, hit his foot, and bounced behind Hernandez. Hernandez quickly located the ball and got to it to pick it up, as pitcher Bryan Bullington realized that Hernandez was having trouble and ran over to cover first base. The throw from Hernandez to Bullington was just in time to get Span.
Bullington gave up only 3 runs, all in the 6th inning. Rochester’s 2B Matt Tolbert led off the inning with a rising homer to the right field berm. The next batter, DH Doug Deeds, walked on 4 straight pitches. A line drive out to center field by LF Garrett Jones accounted for the first out. Then 1B Glenn Williams smashed another homer to right field, a bit to the left and deeper than Tolbert’s, to bring in 2 more runs. C Matthew LeCroy came up next, and grounded a single up the middle. Bullington got out of the inning without further damage, when RF Trent Oeltjen grounded into a dramatic double play, Bixler to Ordaz to Hernandez. Bullington did have a small scare in the 4th inning. 1B Glenn Williams hit the first pitch he saw right back at Bullington. The ball bounced off Bullington’s leg and towards second base. Trainer Jose Ministral came out to check on him, but Bullington was laughing and said that he was fine. He took one warm-up pitch to be sure, and then he went back to pitching — and struck out C Matthew LeCroy and got RF Trent Oeltjen to end the inning.
Masumi Kuwata  -- photo by NancyZ
The Indians used three relievers to finish the game after Bullington exited: Jesse Chavez pitched the 7th, Masumi Kuwata handled the 8th, and Dan Kolb ended the game by taking care of the 9th. Each of them pitched one scoreless inning, and each gave up one lone hit. Chavez struck out two, and Kuwata struck out one and got two fly ball outs. Kuwata threw 13 pitches, all of them strikes. Because he was varying his pitch speed so much, the Rochester batters seemed to be a bit bewildered. Russ Johnson, in his post-game interview, had an explanation: “It is extremely tough for a hitter to adjust from an 87 mph fastball to a 68 mph curveball, because there is so much deception involved. It’s going to be tough for hitters to adjust if Masumi keeps throwing like he did.”
Indians’ hitting gem of the game: Russ Johnson’s hit attack, two singles and a double in four at-bats, with three RBIs. He also had two hits yesterday, when he went 2 for 4. “I’ve been trying to find my stroke all year long, and I finally found it tonight”, said Johnson. “When you find that stroke, you want to ride the wave as long as you can. Sooner or later, the wave is going to crash on the beach and you’ll have to swim back out to find another one.”
Indians’ defensive gem of the game: The Brian Bixler to Luis Ordaz to Jose Hernandez double play in the 6th inning. It was a tricky double play to turn, and it ended the Red Wings’ rally.
NOTES:
The newest Pittsburgh Pirate, Rajai Davis, was in the Pirates’ starting line-up tonight, playing centerfield. He led off the game with a walk, and then went 0 for 3, with two fly outs and a ground ball that became a double play.
With Davis’s roster spot vacated, INF Chris Truby was activated off the DL.
Einar Diaz’s 9 game hitting streak ended tonight, as he went 0 for 3, and was hit by a pitch.
Brian Bixler has a 6 game hitting streak. His stolen base tonight was his 12th in 12 attempts.
The Indians have stolen third base 20 times this season.
Don’t forget to vote for your Indians for spots on the International League All Star Game! Go to www.milb.com or www.indyindians.com and click on the spot to vote.
Go Tribe!

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Johnson Feasts on Wings’ (Pitching, that is)

boxscore (photos by NancyZ)
Russ Johnson doubled -- photo by NancyZ
Indians’ 3B Russ Johnson (photo ) had two singles and an RBI double to lead the Tribe to a 4-3 victory over the Rochester Red Wings at Victory Field tonight. All three of Johnson’s hits came off Rochester starter Dave Gassner, and Johnson went 3 for 4 overall. Indians’ starter Bryan Bullington took the victory, his league-leading 9th win of the season.
The Indians’ batters reached base in all but one inning, and put up a total of 10 hits. Their first scoring came in the 3rd inning. With two outs, SS Brian Bixler (photo below ) slammed a double off the right field wall. DH Yurendell de Caster, in the lineup for the first time in several days, hit his second single of the night, a looper into center field, which scored the speedy Bixler.
Brian Bixler on the basepaths  -- photo by NancyZ
The Tribe added insurance runs in the 5th inning, courtesy of Johnson and his taste for Gassner’s pitching. C Einar Diaz led off the inning by being hit by a pitch. LF Nick Green struck out, and then SS Brian Bixler was walked on 4 straight pitches. Then Gassner repeated the cycle: Yurendell de Caster struck out looking, and 1B Jose Hernandez also walked, to load the bases. Russ Johnson came to the plate, and ran the count full, before smashing a bases-clearing double to center field. That brought in Diaz, Bixler, and Hernandez, giving the Indians 4 runs.
“I just wanted to put a good swing on the ball when the count became three and two”, said Johnson after the game. “He [Dave Gassner] threw a change-up over the middle of the plate and sometimes a miracle happens in front of the bat. I happened to find the right spot of the bat, and the right gap on the field.”
That inning was the last for Gassner. He threw 99 pitches in his 5 innings, giving up 7 hits and one walk, and striking out 5. Reliever Julio DePaula pitched the last two innings for the Red Wings, giving up 3 hits and a walk. The Tribe threatened in the 7th, but could not score. Nick Green walked, but was forced out at second when Brian Bixler ground into a fielder’s choice. Bixler stole second base, and moved to third on Jose Hernandez’s single. They were stranded on base, though, when Russ Johnson made his only out in the game, a sharp liner to center field.
Yurendell de Caster -- photo by NancyZ
The Indians also had two hits in the 8th inning, a double by CF Luis Matos and a single by 2B Luis Ordaz. That put runners on the corners with one out, and the Indians thinking that an insurance run would look good. But Einar Diaz ground into a double play to end the inning and the threat.
In addition to Johnson going 3 for 4 with 3 RBI’s, the Indians’ bats were led by 2 for 4 attacks by Yurendell de Caster (photo ) and Luis Matos. De Caster also had the other RBI for the Tribe. Four of the Indians hits were doubles: 2 by Matos, one by Johnson, and one by Bixler.
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(Photo: Russ Johnson and Einar Diaz check on Bryan Bullington, after a ball hit off his leg. )
Johnson and Diaz check on Bullington  -- photo by NancyZ
Indians’ starter Bryan Bullington had another excellent outing. He scattered 6 hits and 2 walks over 6 innings, while striking out 5 Red Wings’ batters. He was assisted by some strong infield work behind him. In the third inning, SS Brian Bixler dove to snatch a ground ball by Rochester SS Alexi Castilla that was about to go into the outfield. He popped up to his knees and fired to first in time to get Castilla out. A bobbled ball in the 5th inning, off the bat of CF Denard Span proved to be a dramatic play. Span grounded the ball to Jose Hernandez, who was playing a short way off first base. The ball bounced from his glove, hit his foot, and bounced behind Hernandez. Hernandez quickly located the ball and got to it to pick it up, as pitcher Bryan Bullington realized that Hernandez was having trouble and ran over to cover first base. The throw from Hernandez to Bullington was just in time to get Span.
Bullington gave up only 3 runs, all in the 6th inning. Rochester’s 2B Matt Tolbert led off the inning with a rising homer to the right field berm. The next batter, DH Doug Deeds, walked on 4 straight pitches. A line drive out to center field by LF Garrett Jones accounted for the first out. Then 1B Glenn Williams smashed another homer to right field, a bit to the left and deeper than Tolbert’s, to bring in 2 more runs. C Matthew LeCroy came up next, and grounded a single up the middle. Bullington got out of the inning without further damage, when RF Trent Oeltjen grounded into a dramatic double play, Bixler to Ordaz to Hernandez. Bullington did have a small scare in the 4th inning. 1B Glenn Williams hit the first pitch he saw right back at Bullington. The ball bounced off Bullington’s leg and towards second base. Trainer Jose Ministral came out to check on him, but Bullington was laughing and said that he was fine. He took one warm-up pitch to be sure, and then he went back to pitching — and struck out C Matthew LeCroy and got RF Trent Oeltjen to end the inning.
Masumi Kuwata  -- photo by NancyZ
The Indians used three relievers to finish the game after Bullington exited: Jesse Chavez pitched the 7th, Masumi Kuwata handled the 8th, and Dan Kolb ended the game by taking care of the 9th. Each of them pitched one scoreless inning, and each gave up one lone hit. Chavez struck out two, and Kuwata struck out one and got two fly ball outs. Kuwata threw 13 pitches, all of them strikes. Because he was varying his pitch speed so much, the Rochester batters seemed to be a bit bewildered. Russ Johnson, in his post-game interview, had an explanation: “It is extremely tough for a hitter to adjust from an 87 mph fastball to a 68 mph curveball, because there is so much deception involved. It’s going to be tough for hitters to adjust if Masumi keeps throwing like he did.”
Indians’ hitting gem of the game: Russ Johnson’s hit attack, two singles and a double in four at-bats, with three RBIs. He also had two hits yesterday, when he went 2 for 4. “I’ve been trying to find my stroke all year long, and I finally found it tonight”, said Johnson. “When you find that stroke, you want to ride the wave as long as you can. Sooner or later, the wave is going to crash on the beach and you’ll have to swim back out to find another one.”
Indians’ defensive gem of the game: The Brian Bixler to Luis Ordaz to Jose Hernandez double play in the 6th inning. It was a tricky double play to turn, and it ended the Red Wings’ rally.
NOTES:
The newest Pittsburgh Pirate, Rajai Davis, was in the Pirates’ starting line-up tonight, playing centerfield. He led off the game with a walk, and then went 0 for 3, with two fly outs and a ground ball that became a double play.
With Davis’s roster spot vacated, INF Chris Truby was activated off the DL.
Einar Diaz’s 9 game hitting streak ended tonight, as he went 0 for 3, and was hit by a pitch.
Brian Bixler has a 6 game hitting streak. His stolen base tonight was his 12th in 12 attempts.
The Indians have stolen third base 20 times this season.
Don’t forget to vote for your Indians for spots on the International League All Star Game! Go to www.milb.com or www.indyindians.com and click on the spot to vote.
Go Tribe!

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Cota Era Coming to an End?

The Pirates have designated Humberto Cota for assignment and brought up Rajai Davis. Cota has 10 days to clear waivers. If he does, he can choose to accept an assignment to Indianapolis. I believe that he’ll wind up in Indy because I can’t imagine another team wanting him. Consider: 1. Cota is 28 2. His career OPS+ is 65 3. He isn’t wanted on the ML roster of a team that hasn’t had a winning record since 1992...

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McLeary Keeps the Knights Dry after Rain Delay

boxscore (photos by NancyZ)
Marty McLeary  -- photo by NancyZ
The Indianapolis Indians waited nearly 2 hours before they could start playing, but it was worth the wait, as the Indians beat the Charlotte Knights last night at Victory Field, by a score of 4-1. The weather radar was showing approaching storms, so the tarp was left on the field, and everyone waited… and waited…. The rain did come, though not very much or very hard for most of the 1 hour and 52 minutes. There was about 10 minutes of heavier rain, then it slowed and stopped, and the sun came out and the skies cleared. The ball game finally got started just before 9 pm.
Indians’ starter Marty McLeary (photo ) pitched 5 shutout innings before giving up only one lone run to the Knights in the 6th inning. He scattered 5 hits and two walks over those 6 innings, and struck out 5. McLeary got his 4th win of the season, pushing his record to 4-1, and dropping his ERA to 2.55.
McLeary pitched two perfect innings in the 1st and 2nd. The Knights threatened in the 3rd, when LF Casey Rogowski led off with a walk, and C Wiki Gonzalez grounded a single up the middle, just out of reach of the diving Tribe SS Brian Bixler. RF Kenny Kelly’s fielder’s choice grounder to third forced out Gonzalez at second, but allowed Rogowski to move to third. That’s as far as he got, though. 2B Jason Bourgeois hit a line drive to Tribe 2B Luis Ordaz, which Ordaz stabbed out of the air for the second out. Ordaz then took a few steps to second, to double off Kelly for the third out.
Juan Perez  -- photo by NancyZ
The Knights finally got on the board in the 6th inning. Kenny Kelly led off with a walk, and moved to second on a ground ball single to left field by Bourgeois. SS Tomas Perez slapped a grounder to the right side of second base, which Tribe 2B Luis Ordaz scooped and flipped to SS Brian Bixler, and Bixler fired on to first for the double play. Kelly was able to move to third on the double play, and then he scored when 3B Josh Fields singled into left field.
Reliever Juan Perez (photo ) entered the game in relief of McLeary, to pitch the last three innings. He faced only 10 batters, one over the minimum, to get the save. Perez threw perfect innings in the 7th and 8th, including back-to-back strike outs to finish the 7th. In the 9th, he gave up one single, a grounder up the left field line. Tribe 3B Russ Johnson went back and to his right, and dove to catch the ball deep behind third base, and keep the ball from going into left field. Fields outran Johnson’s throw to first, for an infield hit. Fields was left stranded, as Perez got the next two batters to ground out to end the game.

Brian Bixler scores -- photo by NancyZ
As the Knights were having this dry spell, the Indians continued the timely hitting they’ve been doing for the past several days. The Charlotte Knights’ starter, left-hander Heath Phillips, who hails from Evansville, Indiana, was on the mound. Phillips was the International League Pitcher of the Year for 2006, and is known to have a very good pickoff move to first base. SS Brian Bixler (photo ) didn’t bother stopping at first base in his first at-bat. He got the Indians started in the first inning with a homer to left field, his second homer in two days.
“I hit a change-up. I was able to get a ball up in the zone. I was fortunate to make contact and it worked out in my favor”, said Bixler after the game.
The Indians added two more in the second inning. 3B Russ Johnson led off by rifling a liner into the right-center field alley. He advanced to third base when CF Luis Matos doubled on a fly ball that bounced off the top of the wall in deep left field. C Einar Diaz (photo below ) grounded a double up the third base line into left field, to score both Johnson and Matos, and put the Tribe up by 3 runs. Einar Diaz then stole third base for the second time in two days, but he was stranded there as DH David Parrish flied out to end the inning.
Einar Diaz -- photo by NancyZ
The Indians threatened again in the 4th inning, on Russ Johnson’s and Einar Diaz’s second hits of the game, but they were not able to push any runs across. In the 7th inning, the Tribe put up an insurance run. Luis Matos laid down a perfect bunt along the third base line for his second hit of the night. He went to second on Diaz’s ground out deep to the shortstop, and moved to third when DH David Parrish flied out to left field. LF Nick Green’s bloop RBI single into left-center field scored Matos.
Phillips took the loss for Charlotte, pitching 7 innings, and giving up 4 runs on 8 hits and one walk. Reliever Shaun Babula pitched the 9th inning, giving up one hit but no runs.
Russ Johnson, Luis Matos, and Einar Diaz each had two hits for the Tribe. Nick Green, Brian Bixler, and Jose Hernandez all had one hit apiece.
Luis Ordaz  --  photo by NancyZ
Tribe hitting gem of the game: Einar Diaz’s 2-RBI double up the third base line in the second inning, to give the Indians the go-ahead run.
Tribe fielding gem of the game: The Luis Ordaz-to-Brian Bixler-to-Jose Hernandez double play in the 6th inning. It was a well-hit ball by Tomas Perez, and a difficult stop for Ordaz (photo ) to make, and then a difficult pivot by Bixler, as Jason Bourgeois was bearing down on him at second base. Hernandez made a big stretch to catch the ball just in time.
“It was a big play”, said Bixler. “Marty [McLeary] made a good pitch. He got the ground ball, and we just did the extra work behind him. The credit goes to him — he got the ground ball to Luis [Ordaz], and it’s fortunate we were able to do that.”
NOTES:
Rajai Davis safe at second -- photo by NancyZ
It became clear why Rajai Davis was a late scratch from the starting line-up: it was announced in the middle of the game that he had been called up to the Pirates. Davis leaves with a 21-game hitting streak intact, and a league-leading 27 stolen bases.
Einar Diaz lengthened his hitting streak to 9 games, his season’s best. He also has 4 stolen bases in 5 attempts.
Inf Yurendell de Caster’s back is feeling much better, and he should be ready to resume play soon.
Vote for your Indians to be on the International League All-Star team! Fan votes will count for 1/3 of the total vote. Media votes will also count for 1/3, and team managers, coaches, and general managers will have a 1/3 vote. You may vote a maximum of 25 times between now and June 22nd.
vote here
Go Tribe!

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Game #58 at Washington

RFK Stadium | 7:05 | Chacon vs. Mike Bacsik | Box It looked as if the Pirates were trying to lose this one. Ugly wins still count the same as 10-0 blowouts, though, so I couldn’t care less. Raise the Jolly Roger! Chacon wasn’t great, but he out-pitched Bacsik. Damaso Marte, Jonah Bayliss and John Grabow left something to be desired, but they weren’t flat-out terrible. Salomon Torres and Matt Capps were perfect in the...

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