Monday, July 28, 2008

Little Papi named Player of the Week

That's right, Connecticut's catcher Pablo Sandoval picked up the league's top weekly honor Monday after an outstanding seven-day stretch. What's even more amazing about the numbers below is that because of rain, Sandoval only played three games.

A .421 avg., 2 HR, 2 2B, 11 RBIs, 3 R and an .842 slugging percentage.

Simply incredible. Six of the RBIs came in an 18-6 win at Portland. The other 5 were from Saturday's come-from-behind win over New Britain at Dodd Stadium when Sandoval hit a grand slam and the game-tying single in the seventh.

In just 26 games with the Defenders, Little Papi has a .345 avg., 9 2B, 6 HR, 26 RBIs, 15 R and a .591 slugging percentage.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

What are the chances

that the starting pitcher for the Rock Cats today has the name Rainville? Fitting.

What isn't fitting is the tarp has come on and off the field at least three time since 11 this morning. Just cancel the game!!! All 50 fans here will live. There's a double header tomorrow at Binghamton -- a far more important series than this one -- and Defenders starter Joey Martinez can be saved for Game 1.

No, no, no. Let's play today says the team's front office. Please, for the sake of everyone (and my sanity) cancel the game. The radar at this moment is filled with blue, green, yellow and some red that is heading this way. But hey, we have all day, right?

Are the extra concession sales that important? I know things might be tight around Dodd Stadium, but that extra $200 in hot dogs means what exactly?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Answers, questions and hope

I talked to both Bien Figueroa and Dave Maroul tonight.

Bien said Maroul playing second or short is a product of two things. First, he wants better defense up the middle than what the team's been giving and hopes that maybe Maroul's athletic ability can help. To that, Maroul told me the Giants had him play the entire spring at second two years ago, so the position isn't entirely foreign. The first night he was there in Portland he said was weird, but he got used to it quickly.

Figueroa's other concern is that he has no other middle infielders and needs to be able to rest Kyle Haines and Olmo Rosario. Rosario from what I can tell is the player Figueroa is most concerned about defensively.

This is what makes no sense. Nate Bump went on the DL again today and there was no replacement. Brooks McNiven leaves Monday for Toronto to join up with Team Canada for the Olympics. By Monday there will be two open slots on the roster and no guarantee that they'll be filled or that a middle infielder will be one of the replacements when they do arrive.

As for Ben Snyder, he's been over matched but looked good for the most part tonight. He struck out five over four and then after letting two guys single to start the fifth, struck out the next two before drowning. I don't expect him to leave. What the rotation looks like right now in no particular order:


The crowd was fantastic. Announced -- and looked like -- 7,070. That's the largest I recall in a few years outside of the All-Star Game. What really impressed me was how after Pablo Sandoval (3-for-4, 5 RBI) finished talking to Matt Martinez on the field for the radio postgame, the fans behind the first base dugout cheered for him. Folks, if you don't realize we have something special in town in the form of Little Papi (trust me, don't go with Papisito -- it doesn't translate to what we think).

My worry with anyone getting their hopes up is that a vast majority of the tickets I was told by one Defenders employee on Friday was bought up by people there for the armed forces salute prior top the game (notice the camo jerseys). Charlie Dowd said that was not correct. either way, over 13,000 fans packed into Dodd Stadium the last two nights. Also, the team passed Harrisburg in league attendance.

I also want to mention the excellent hitting of Adam Witter this month. .318 and counting. He'll catch Joey tomorrow with Pablo likely to DH.

Maroul at second

I didn't ask last night, but will tonight. Why Dave Maroul is at second base is beyond me. At least he hasn't hurt the team tonight (yet). Ben Snyder has been sharp with five Ks through four and Pablo "Little Papi" Sandoval has a grand slam.

Video from the derby

Friday, July 25, 2008

HR derby

Prior to a few weeks ago I hadn't swung a bat in seven years. Back then, I stunk. After a few sessions, I was hitting better than I had before; more contact, more power. Sorry, power is a loose term as it applies to me.

I actually took some cuts today before heading to Dodd Stadium. It was a disappointing session. I should have done better. Some of it was nerves and some was just lack of skill.

Truthfully, I was looking forward to today but became nervous this morning. It wasn't the type of nerves I had when I proposed to my wife, to give a point of reference. I was nervous that I'd make a fool of myself. Reality is that everyone is supposed to look foolish. Except if you can hit one 275 feet or better. Can I hit a ball that far? Yes. Will I is a question I don't know.

My goal all along has been make contact. Then as the field filled in, it was make contact and beat Norwich Mayor Ben Lathrop. He, I've been informed by Defenders jack-of-all-trades Johnny Gill, has withdrawn, as did Kevin Nathan of NBC. That means I'm in trouble.

Lee Elci is here, so is UConn football coach Randy Edsall. Both of whom should rake. Defenders pitching coach shold be a wild card in all this. So should Ch. 8's John Pierson, who has taken cuts with the derby's pitcher, Andy Baylock, throwing to him.

Where do I fall? If I get hot and don't swing at pitches too far above my waist, I may get a couple. If I lose my nerve or become over anxious, well, it'll be a quick 10 outs.

Down goes Papi! Down goes Papi!

This is Garrett Broshuis' take on his striking out Big Papi David Ortiz this week, as seen in the latest Sporting News (click the image to enlarge).

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


I have been debating what I wanted to blog about: David Ortiz or what I consider the worst mangerial move this season. I'll touch both subjects, just one will come later tonight.

What's really perplexing is the decision to play Dave Maroul at shortstop. I'd like to tell you what Bien Figueroa was thinking short of injury forcing his hand, but I can't. Even if I tried my best to find non-injury logic I just couldn't rationalize my thoughts.

The answer is that Bien Figueroa is simply trying Maroul at different positions. Tonight he is at secnd with Haines at short and Olmo Rosario in left field.

Here's the "logic": It's easily the most important series of the season and the Defenders choose to play a poor defensive player on consecutive days at positions that he should be worse at than the ones he's supposed to be good at.

Decisons like these are why the team won't catch Portland -- or Binghamton. If this was a matter of needing another middle infielder after Jake Wald was promoted last week, tell the Giants you need help. Don't put square pegs into round holes when they don't fit.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A couple of notes

Former Defender Geno Espineli was called up to the majors today. Unfortunately for him, it means he will not pitch in the Olympics. No player on a major league 40-man roster is eligible.

Also, the two players the Gianst received from the Bewers in today's Ray Durham trade will probably not play for the defenders. One is a single-A outfielder hitting .230. The other is in Triple-A and a left-handed pitcher with a high ERA. He may come here to help ease some of the load on the pen. I still don't imagine it happening, however, especially if Nate Bump comes off the DL any time soon.

Friday, July 18, 2008

If you were wondering

why Kelvin Pichardo pitcher just 1/3 of an inning Thursday night, the answer isn't because he's hurt. He's fine. My guess is with the all-star break, Bien Figueroa was trying to get as many guys into the game for the sake of work.

Many of you have asked about Chris Begg, he was released from San Jose this week. This seems to have more to do with Begg being part of Canada's Olympic team. His participation was an issue in the past, so it probably was again. In light of Begg's recent efforts to battle back from injury, the Giants probably insisted he stay with San Jose through August.

Also, no roster move yet to fill the last spot just yet.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Because it's more fun

to have to face rehabbing big leaguers, the Defenders get some more over the next week. They've already faced Chris Duffy and Moises Alou, now they go up against Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez, one of my favorites, and then next week Big Papi David Ortiz.

I got a feeling Little Papi Pablo Sandoval is going to rough up El Duque.

All-Star standouts

First I want to thank my friend Dan Hickling for covering the EL All-Star Game for the Bulletin. He did a great job.

Also, check out my team report card in Thursday's papers.

Getting back to the all-star game, Joey Martinez earned the win with two scoreless innings. He was also named Pitcher of the Game. Justin Hedrick pitched a shutout inning, Olmo Rosario had two hits, including a double, and scored a run, and Kyle Haines helped turn two impressive double plays. Congrats to those four Defenders.

On another topic, I don't know how many of you have seen the Bulletin's new design. With it comes a daily segment where fans speak out. Normally, we will take comments from comments in our blogs. Don't worry, we don't use your real names, just your alias. If you want to see your screen name in print, be sure to leave comments (keep it clean and on topic).

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Red, White and Geno

Former Defenders pitcher Geno Espinelli was named to the United States' Olympic squad set to compete in Beijing next month. Congrats to Geno!!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Bye-bye Waldo

Jake Wald has returned to Triple-A Fresno and Pitcher Paul Oseguera was activated from the DL. For Jake's sake, I hope he doesn't come back unless its for a Stache and Hawk concert.

Since Fresno needed a shortstop and the Defenders do not, my guess is Travis Denker will return to the Defenders on Thursday.

Why the long faces?

The night the lights went out in Norwich

Just when you thought it was safe to come back to the ballpark, the lighting bacnks in left and center fields, as well as one of the banks over teh first base seats.

You might recall there were lighting issues earlier in the season. Toss in one working computer at the box office and unfinished bathrooms, and Dodd Stadium is starting to resemble a money pit. Now if the seats only fell apart when sat in and the fun would really begin.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Stepping up

While people stay away from Dodd Stadium in droves, the Connecticut Defenders continue to step up for the community.

Today the team welcomed a group of roughly 20 blind fans, upgraded them to a suite and set up a computer so that the fans can listen to the internet broadcast as there is no radio for today's game.

No Alou

Moises Alou is not playing for the Binghamton Mets today, nor is he present at Dodd Stadium. Alou left last night's game early due to a strained left hamstring and is expected to undergo an MRI exam in New York today.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Everything is going right

Winning 11 of 13 games seemed as much fairy tale as wishful thinking a month ago. Even the most die-hard Defenders fan would have likely said that sort of success is a stretch. Here we are, however, July 9 and that is exactly what the Defenders have done.

Not to junx them, but with another game versus the Mets tomorrow morning and four with the woeful New Hampshire squad starting Friday, Connecticut could be 16 of 18 going into the all-star hiatus.

What's more is the lineup looks dangerous. There's some power and there are some guys who are great for contact or situations. Let's not forget the ability to run bases.

Of course, the pitching is still what makes this team click. Adam Cowart, who has been up and down, was clearly up Wednesday. I came away impressed with his make up as he got a dangerous Moises Alou to ground out weakly with the bases loaded in the fifth inning.

Ronnie Ray and Josh Sharpless did their parts in relief.

What really caught my attention came after the game. Manager Bien Figueroa said he has his eyes on a four-game set at Portland 12 days from now. That takes some brass when you are 2-8 against the Sea Dogs. But he has every reason to be confident. No longer are the Defenders two hot hitters three or four spots apart in the lineup. Right now, names like Haines, Sandoval, Rohlinger, Wald, Martinez-Esteve, Witter and Richardson are doing damage.

There may actually be postseason play at Dodd this season and based on the sparse crowds the past two nights, no one cares.

FYI: Nate Bump will miss his scheduled start tomorrow because of a sore right shoulder. He will likely not be pushed back a day, but start his next time through, which would be the first game back from the break. A little rest should do him good.

After the split

Following up on a recent comment about last night's doubleheader...

I understand the logic of playing Witter at catcher in Game 2 and Sandoval at first, but I agree with Hondo in saying I don't like it. Not because Witter shouldn't hit. In fact, why not play Witter at first, but because Sandoval has demonstrated a better arm. The other part of the equation -- which I don't know -- is maybe Brooks McNiven and Sandoval haven't gotten on the same page yet. I need to go back and see if Sandoval has caught McNiven since he arrived here two weeks ago.

What I do agree with is Sandoval getting to rest his knees here and there. If the Defenders truly climb back into the playoff race, then down the stretch Sandoval will be behind the plate every game. It's really not the unusual, no matter the situation, for two different catchers to start doubleheaders. At the end of the day, I can't take exception to the move. Yes, Witter's throwing error proved costly as it let the game's only run to get to third base, but the lineup also failed to produce and is as much at fault as Witter's throw.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Alou playing for Mets

Two weeks ago Felipe Alou was here for the Giants, today his son, Moises, is in the lineup on a rehab start for the Mets. Don't expect too much from him: The Mets' Nick Evans was called up to New York and I expect Alou to join him there after the opener.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Goings as of late

Yes, it's true that Andy Pappas recently left the Defenders. Andy was well-liked by all. And even if Andy made someone upset, they couldn't stay upset with him more than a second. He is truly one of the nicest, most genuine people you could find.

The story I was told was Andy decided to move on, that minor league baseball wasn't for him. I am sure there is more to it than that, and when I find out more, I'll let you know. I also know that there was a recent event at a game that may have soured Andy on working for the Defenders.

Whether or not the team is now looking for another box office manager to replace Justine, who replaced Tony, I cannot confirm. Again, I'll let you know what I find.

Let's also keep this in proper context. Two resignations, firings, defections or whatever the situations may, within roughly a week doesn't mean the sky is falling. The Defenders were here before Justine and Andy and they will be for the near future. There could have been policy changes, career opportunities, family obligations or simple burn out (life in minor league baseball has never been glamorous).

I also want to address something that was being spread on another blog. That is the Defenders are assured or nearly assured of remaining a Giants affiliate beyond this season.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, two Eastern League teams have had their PDC's extended, but there are several teams that have not: Milwaukee, Florida, Minnesota, N.Y. Yankees, Cincinnati, L.A. Dodgers, Arizona, Seattle, L.A. Angels, San Diego and Kansas City.

Unless relationships fall apart between now and October, the Yankees and Twins will extend with Trenton and New Britain, respectively. The Yankees historically do not like to handle PDCs in-season. Based on the proximity of affiliates and location of the major league team, don't expect The Dodgers, Angels, Diamondbacks, Mariners, angels or Padres to come into Dodd Stadium next season. That leaves The Reds (highly unlikely), Kansas City (also highly unlikely), Milwaukee, Florida or the return of the Giants.

The situation is more complicated if the Atlanta Braves' new Triple-A stadium is ready for next season. The move opens up the Richmond, Va., market, which both the Eastern and Southern Leagues want. Detroit would love to move its Erie team to Richmond. If that happens, could the Defenders move to Erie? Possibly, but I doubt it. But what if the Giants moved their affiliate to Richmond, which draws it significantly closer to Single-A Augusta? Maybe Detroit pops down into Norwich. This whole situation is speculative at best.

My point, which I began getting away from, is that the Giants are not guaranteed to return here. I have heard the Giants want out and that they also admitted internally the poor shape of their farm system makes them an unattractive option for other markets. That said, they may re-sign with Norwich out of need for a Double-A home. I have also heard that both Milwaukee and Florida have interest in coming here.

Keep this in mind: Exclude teams who don't negotiate in-season, and the teams that have yet to extended PDCs are the teams that aren't completely sold on where they are. Part of this is negotiating -- teams use one city against the other as leverage. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

Bump earns nod

Defenders starter Nate Bump was named the Eastern League's Pitcher of the Week today. Bump was untouched over 12 1/3 innings last week, earning a 2-0 mark. It has been a season of regular improvement for Bump, who spent the past two seasons out of baseball. He is 4-3 with a 3.06 ERA. Bump's success is a big reason Connecticut has pulled itself to a .500 record (won 8 of last 9 games).

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Music mates

If you want to know what former Defender Derin McMains has been up to or to learn more about his and Jake Wald's musical exploits as Stache and Hawk, check out today's Norwich Bulletin.

I know some of you heard their first album, Cabin Fever, when it was released last year. The new album, Down on the Farm, is even better and certainly worth a listen. You can hear 30 second sound bites on iTunes, where you can also purchase the entire album or just individual songs.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Sandoval honored

Defenders catcher Pablo Sandoval was added to the Futures Game, part of All-Star Weekend in New York. He will compete on the World team.

Your all-stars are...

pitchers Joey Martinez and Justin Hedrick, along with infielders Olmo Rosario and Kyle Haines.

The Eastern League rosters are very balanced. Unlike in past years where there were some inordinate numbers from some teams, no team has more than five at present and none fewer than three.

It's worth mentioning that former Norwich Navigator Jeff Nettles -- now with Bowie -- made the Southern Division squad.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Sayanora, Matos

It came a week later than I expected, but Defenders closer Osiris Matos was called up to the big leagues Tuesday. Congratulations and good luck!

No word on who will fill his roster spot.