• Sky Sox opponents talk about pitching at high altitude

    Tue, May 28, 2013 by Brent Briggeman with no comments

    It’s always fun to hear from players about the differences in playing – particularly pitching – at high altitude.

    On Monday, Fresno starting pitcher Shane Loux was extremely candid about throwing at the highest professional park in America.

    “It’s awful,” said Loux, who threw a complete-game three-hitter in an 8-1 victory. “I hate pitching here. I hate it. The old Colorado cutter. No matter how you hold it, it’s going to cut. It’s a disadvantage, but it’s an advantage because it has the late action.SO It’s kind of funny how it works here.”

    Loux had been here many times, so he knew what to expect. Tuesday marked the first time that touted prospect Mike Zunino had experienced it.

    He instantly saw the difference.

    “Balls move a little less,” Zunino said. “It’s drier too, so sometimes they would back up or just sort of dart on your. I saw it with breaking balls, it seemed like they were tougher to grab and take off.”

    When asked about the affect of the humidor – essentially a humidifier that the balls are stored in before being used – Loux noticed that, too.

    “Those balls feel hard and cold and slick,” Loux said. “They weren’t rubbed down very well, either. I very rarely use rosin, but I was pounding the rosin today because I need it for my grip.

    “It feels a little bigger. Maybe the moisture swells it a little bit.”

    Sox notes

    Glenallen Hill is 30-20 after 50 games as the Sky Sox manager. That places him third all-time after that time period for a first-time Sky Sox manager. The leader is Paul Zuvella (32-18 ) and Charlie Manuel (31-19). … Matt McBride has more home runs (10) than strikeouts this season (9).

  • Hustle wasn’t issue on play where Fresno scored from 2nd on wild pitch

    Sat, May 25, 2013 by Brent Briggeman with no comments

    Sky Sox catcher Lars Davis didn’t loaf after a wild pitch in the 10th inning that allowed Fresno’s Gary Brown to score all the way from second.

    Davis just got a late start on the ball because he didn’t know where it was.

    At the time, the run seemed huge as the Sky Sox had the middle of their order due up in the 10th and the play stretched the deficit from a manageable two to three.

    “Sometimes bad bounces happen,” Davis said. “Give credit where credit is due. Brown is fast and he’s a good baserunner. He saw that we didn’t know where the ball was and he kept coming. It hit a piece of equipment and we just kind of lost it.”

    Davis atoned for the misplay in the later half of the inning, when his two-run single extended the game that the Sky Sox eventually won in the 12th.

    Even if the play had been the result of a lackadaisical approach by Davis, Sky Sox manager Glenallen Hill said it was not a situation where he would have felt the need to do any scolding.

    “I’ve always believed that game experience is the greatest teacher,” Hill said. “When you have guys who care as much as those guys do, I tend to let the game experience be the first teacher.”

    Hill likened the play to a gaffe that allowed the Sky Sox to pull off a bizarre walkoff win when an Omaha catcher failed to touch the plate on an easy force play.

    “It’s just like that guy,” Hill said. “He’ll remember that play and he won’t do that again.”

  • Paulsen takes it easy, launches a pair of home runs for Sky Sox

    Fri, May 24, 2013 by Brent Briggeman with no comments

    If Ben Paulsen’s swing on a fourth-inning two-run home run looked particularly relaxed, well, it was by design.

    Paulsen entered Friday’s game in a 1-for-16 slump when he was given a bit of advice from manager Glenallen Hill and teammate Tommy Manzella.

    “They said, ‘Hey, you’ve got the juice in your bat. Just slow down and the ball will go out. You don’t have to do anything extra,’” Paulsen said. “When those guys tell you stuff, you listen. So I’ve been taking my time and kind of slowing down.”

    The left-handed hitting first baseman connected again two at-bats later, hitting one even farther to virtually the same spot just to he left of center field. He drove in three runs and scored four times as the Sky Sox beat Fresno 13-8 in the first game of an eight-day homestand.

    This recent stretch was the first rough patch in Triple-A for Paulsen, who spent two years in Double-A before opening this year buried on the roster behind corner infielders Nolan Arenado and Ryan Wheeler. He hit .396 in April despite sporadic opportunities before becoming a regular when first Wheeler and then Arenado was called up. Wheeler has since returned and has taken over third base while Paulsen has settled in at first. He was rolling along until last week, and Friday’s results indicate he may have corrected the problem.

    Paulsen is now hitting .299 with five home runs and 26 RBIs in 34 games.

  • Hot-hitting LeMahieu starts at third infield spot this homestand

    Mon, May 13, 2013 by Brent Briggeman with no comments

    DJ LeMahieu made his first start of the season at third base on Monday, handling a second-inning ground ball and starting a 5-4-3 double play that ended a jam in the ninth.

    LeMahieu had played exclusively at shortstop before this homestand, which has seen him start at second, short and now third.

    “I felt comfortable,” LeMahieu said Monday. “Didn’t really have that much hit to me, but I felt good.”

    LeMahieu, who went 2-for-5 and his now batting .360, is accustomed to this kind of versatility. His brief major league career includes 82 appearances at second, 20 at third and two each at shortstop and first base.

    “This has been part of his plan all year,” manager Glenallen Hill said of LeMahieu’s first game at third. “He’s a player that can play all over the field. We want to increase his opportunities to play in the big leagues. The more spots he can play the better.”

    LeMahieu had a 20-game hitting streak that was snapped on Sunday.

  • More on Blackmon’s promotion

    Sat, May 11, 2013 by Brent Briggeman with no comments

    The Rockies called up Charlie Blackmon on Saturday, as he’ll take the place of the injured Michael Cuddyer.

    Blackmon was batting .336 and slugging .545 for the Sky Sox and had driven in 21 runs in 31 games. His 23 walks were nearly double that of Tyler Colvin (12), who was second on the team.

    The Rockies had three logical choices in replacing Cuddyer without messing with the 40-man roster. The other options would have been Tyler Colvin or Ryan Wheeler, who wouldn’t have been eligible to return for anything other than an injury since he was optioned to the minors less than 10 days ago – but since this was an injury case, he could have gone.

    The Rockies also could have made a roster change and gone with Corey Dickerson, but that would likely have caused someone to be released.

    Sky Sox manager Glenallen Hill said he had input in the Blackmon promotion.

    “I think Charlie has been our best hitter all year,” Hill said. “He brings a lot of weapons. He can run, he can work an at bat, he’ll take a walk, he’ll give you a good at bat with runners in scoring position. He’s been very consistent all year. And he’s a great defender.”

    Hill said Blackmon’s cool demeanor was fully on display when he informed the outfielder he would be returning to the major leagues for the third consecutive season.

    “Let’s just say he was CB - Charlie Blackmon,” Hill said. “He’s just Steady Eddie. Hello. OK. Sounds good. 

    “That’s what makes him good.”

  • Volstad’s experience with Florida’s rain helped him on Thursday

    Thu, May 9, 2013 by Brent Briggeman with no comments

    When Chris Volstad woke up Thursday, it was raining. He had just sat through a four-hour delay the day before, so it would have been understandable if he would have had difficulty slipping into his typical pre-start routine.

    Instead, he threw five scoreless innings.

    Luckly, being in Florida so many years I was used to that. We’d have rain delays 10 minutes before a game would start, five-minute delays in the third inning or whatever, so you just learn how to keep your body loose.

    “Now, the 11 o’clock start time was a little weird. I’m not used to that.”

    Volstad, who appeared in four games with the Rockies in April, was making just his second appearance – and first start – at Security Service Field.

    He said the wind helped him, as it provided some extra movement at a place where altitude prevents much movement. But primarily he knows this is a stadium where he must focus on location to have positive results, as the swing-and-miss pitches might not be there.

    He said he was sent to Triple-A to build his innings back up to be ready as a starter, but he’s not sure where he’ll fit in with the Rockies or a different organization as he looks to break back through.

    “I really don’t know,” said Volstad, who has thrown 701 2/3 innings in the majors. “I’m just taking every start, trying to improve and show them something.”

  • Sox notes: Chatwood’s shutout was a true rarity

    Wed, May 8, 2013 by Brent Briggeman with no comments

    How rare was Tyler Chatwood’s shutout? Consider this, since the Sky Sox last had a pitcher throw a complete-game shutout at home there have been 24 no-hitters in the major leagues.

    Yes, it’s that rare.

    The last Sky Sox pitcher to accomplish the feat at Security Service Field was Cory Vance, who blanked Memphis on Aug. 15, 2003. The last Sky Sox pitcher to throw a nine-inning shutout on the road was Sun Woo Kim, who beat Fresno 11-0 on July 8, 2006.

    Brandon Hynick threw a perfect game for the Sky Sox on June 30, 2009, but that game went just seven innings as part of a doubleheader.

    This is believed to be the first time ever that the Sky Sox and Rockies have thrown home shutouts on the same day and this is the first time the Sky Sox have ever shut out the Iowa Cubs, who they have played every season since 1998.

    Again, it was rare.

     

    Concentration

    It wasn’t surprising that Chatwood would come out firing (he touched 95 on the stadium radar gun in the first inning), but considering his recent demotion it was impressive that he was able to keep his concentration as sharp as he did throughout.

    “I think you’ve still got to stay focused,” said Chatwood, explaining what it’s like to throw on a night when pitch location is so crisp. “Those guys, they can swing it a little bit. You relax a little and, especially in this park, it can be 5-2, 5-3 before you know it.”

    It didn’t hurt that the innings went so fast. He threw fewer than 10 pitches four innings. Considering he was allowed eight warm-up pitches before every inning, he nearly threw as many warm-up pitches (72) as he threw regular pitches (89).

     

    Cook to start

    Aaron Cook will start on Wednesday after being bumped back a day to allow for Chatwood’s start.

    The Cook start is one to watch, as the veteran signed with Colorado’s organization with the understanding that he could opt out after a month. Cook hasn’t pitched particularly well, or at least the results haven’t been positive (0-3 in five starts with a 7.40 ERA).

    With the Rockies recently signing Roy Oswalt, who presumably takes the veteran-in-waiting spot at Triple-A, it’s wholly conceivable that Cook could ask for his release or be altogether cut if his results don’t turn around soon.

    It’s therefore possible that Cook’s last game with his original organization could come at any point.