Leblebijian, Dawson named MWL players of the week

Lansing Lugnuts infielder Jason Leblebijian is the new Midwest League offensive player of the week. (Photo by Kyle Castle)

Lansing Lugnuts infielder Jason Leblebijian was named the Midwest League offensive player of the week for the period of July 20-26. (Photo by Kyle Castle)

Infielder Jason Leblebijian and LHP Shane Dawson respectively were named the Midwest League offensive player and pitcher of the week for the period of July 20-26. Both play for the Lansing Lugnuts.

Leblebijian batted .400 (12-for-30) with four doubles, one homer, 11 runs batted in, six runs scored, two walks, and three stolen bases in his last seven games. On Friday he went 5-for-6 with two doubles, a home run, six runs batted in, two runs scored, and a stolen base in Lansing’s 18-1 win over the Dayton Dragons.

This is the second time Leblebijian was named the MWL offensive player of the week this year. (The other time was for the period of June 15-21.) He is batting .288 with 7 HR, 32 RBI and 7 SB in 44 games with the Lugnuts this season. He batted .171 in 20 games with the High-A Dunedin Blue Jays earlier this year.

This is the fourth season Leblebijian has spent time with the Lugnuts (12 games in 2012, 50 games in 2013, 100 games in 2014, 44 games in 2015). In 206 MWL games, he is batting .252 with 12 HR, 93 RBI and 19 SB.

Dawson made one start during the specified period — the same game when Leblebijian drove in six runs against the Dragons. Dawson was stellar, striking out 10 while limiting Dayton batters to two hits and one walk in six scoreless innings. Overall this season he is 12-4 with a 2.85 ERA, 91 strikeouts and 23 walks in 94.2 innings (17 appearances/15 starts).

Dawson pitched for the Lugnuts last season, too. He went 3-5 with a 3.38 ERA, 46 strikeouts and 24 walks in 56 innings (14 appearances/10 starts).

Posted in Dayton Dragons, Dunedin Blue Jays, Florida State League, Lansing Lugnuts, Midwest League | Leave a comment

Hall of Fame moments: Marichal joins Pedro onstage; Smoltz mentions Lansing

Pedro Martínez (left) and Juan Marichal hold the flag of the Dominican Republic during Sunday's Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony. (Photo by Milo Stewart, Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame)

Pedro Martínez (left) and Juan Marichal hold the flag of the Dominican Republic during Sunday’s Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony. (Photo by Milo Stewart, Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame)

There were a few moments during this year’s Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony worth mentioning here because of their connection to the Midwest League.

John Smoltz made several references to Lansing, Mich., where his family moved from suburban Detroit before the future Hall-of-Famer started fifth grade. He still lived there when the Tigers drafted him in 1985. (You can read about his Michigan sports career in this Lansing State Journal story.) Lansing became a Midwest League city in 1996, when the Lugnuts played their first season.

Smoltz also mentioned former Atlanta Braves teammate Greg Maddux, who last year became the seventh former Midwest Leaguer to be inducted into the Hall of Fame as a player. Maddux went 13-9 with a 3.19 ERA, 125 strikeouts and 52 walks in 186 IP for the 1985 Peoria Chiefs.

Pedro Martinez punctuated his memorable speech by holding a Dominican Republic flag with fellow countryman and Hall-of-Fame pitcher Juan Marichal. In addition to being the first Dominican player enshrined in Cooperstown (in 1983), Marichal also was the first former Midwest Leaguer inducted into the Hall of Fame as a player.

Marichal’s first season as a professional ballplayer was spent in the Midwest League, which he dominated. The Dominican Dandy went 21-8 with a 1.87 ERA, 246 strikeouts and 50 walks in 245 IP for the 1958 Michigan City White Caps.

Craig Biggio and Randy Johnson also were inducted into the Hall of Fame this year.

Posted in Baseball Hall of Fame, Lansing Lugnuts, Midwest League, Peoria Chiefs | Leave a comment

Peoria pitcher Pearce sets new Midwest League record

Peoria Chiefs RHP Matt Pearce set a new Midwest League record Sunday for consecutive innings pitched without walking a batter.(Photo by Allison Rhoades/Peoria Chiefs)

Peoria Chiefs RHP Matt Pearce set a new Midwest League record Sunday for consecutive innings pitched without walking a batter. (Photo by Allison Rhoades/Peoria Chiefs)

Peoria Chiefs RHP Matt Pearce broke a 42-year-old Midwest League record Sunday when he didn’t allow a walk in his eight scoreless innings of work against the Kane County Cougars.

The St. Louis Cardinals prospect has not walked a batter in his last 46.1 innings. That beats the old MWL record of 45 consecutive innings without a walk, set by Danville Warriors RHP Bill Castro from June 29-August 12, 1973.

Pearce hasn’t walked a batter since June 8 at Lansing. That game arguably was his last bad outing, having given up seven runs to the Lugnuts in 4.1 innings. In his next start he gave up three runs (four earned) in seven innings, but didn’t give up more than two earned runs in any of his next six starts.

Overall this season, Pearce is 7-9 with a 2.85 ERA, 70 strikeouts and 17 walks in 101 innings. His next start probably will be against the Beloit Snappers next weekend.

When Castro set the previous record of 45 consecutive innings pitched with walking a batter, he did it in his second season with the Danville Warriors. In his first season (1972), he went 10-9 with a 3.04 ERA, 17 saves, 66 strikeouts and 26 walks in 74 innings (45 relief appearances). In his second season (1973), he went 11-4 with a 1.82 ERA, 12 saves, 104 strikeouts and 24 walks in 114 innings (46 appearances/one start).

Castro made his major-league debut for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1974. He spent seven years of his decade as a major-leaguer with the Brewers, one year with the New York Yankees, and two years with the Kansas City Royals.

Posted in Beloit Snappers, Kane County Cougars, Lansing Lugnuts, Midwest League, Peoria Chiefs | Leave a comment

Former Loons pitcher Zach Lee makes MLB debut

Former Great Lakes Loons pitcher Zach Lee made his major-league debut for the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday. Unfortunately for him, it did not go well.

The right-hander lasted only 4.2 innings in the start, giving up seven runs on 11 hits and one walk. He struck out three batters.

The New York Mets won the game, 15-2.

Lee was the Dodgers’ first-round draft pick in 2010. Baseball America listed him at No. 13 among Dodgers prospects in its preseason rankings.

He pitched for the Loons in 2011, going 9-6 with a 3.47 ERA, 91 strikeouts and 32 walks in 109 innings.

Posted in Great Lakes Loons, Midwest League | Leave a comment

Reds trade Cueto to Royals

The Cincinnati Reds traded RHP Johnny Cueto to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for three left-handed pitching prospects Sunday.

Cueto finished second in voting for the National League Cy Young Award last season, when he went 20-9 with a 2.25 ERA, 242 strikeouts and 65 walks in 243.2 innings. He pitched for the Dayton Dragons in 2006, going 8-1 with a 2.59 ERA, 82 strikeouts and 15 walks in 76.1 innings (14 starts). He also made two rehab starts for the Dragons in 2013, earning a win and striking out eight while walking none in eight innings.

The Reds received Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb and Cody Reed in the trade. Lamb is the only one who pitched in the Midwest League, going 2-3 with a 1.58 ERA, 43 strikeouts and 17 walks in 40 innings (eight starts) for the 2010 Burlington Bees.

Posted in Burlington Bees, Dayton Dragons, Midwest League | Leave a comment

Rehabbing Cardinals pitcher helps Chiefs no-hit LumberKings

Rehabbing St. Louis Cardinals LHP Jaime Garcia pitched five hitless innings for the Peoria Chiefs on Thursday. (Photo courtesy of the Peoria Chiefs)

Rehabbing St. Louis Cardinals LHP Jaime Garcia pitched five hitless innings for the Peoria Chiefs on Thursday. (Photo courtesy of the Peoria Chiefs)

Rehabbing St. Louis Cardinals left-hander Jaime Garcia struck out six batters while pitching the first five innings of the Peoria Chiefs’ no-hitter over the Clinton LumberKings on Thursday.

James Alfonso was the only Clinton batter to reach base, taking first after Garcia hit him with a pitch in the 3rd inning.

Relievers Steven Sabatino and Cody Schumacher pitched the final four innings to preserve the no-hitter and secure Peoria’s 2-0 win. The game was scoreless until the bottom of the 8th inning, when Andrew Sohn scored the first run on a wild pitch and Oscar Mercado drove in the second run with a RBI single.

The no-hitter is the second in the Midwest League this season — three Clinton pitchers combined to no-hit the Cedar Rapids Kernels on May 1 — and is the first Peoria no-no since Austin Kirk no-hit the LumberKings on July 4, 2011. (I was at the Kirk no-hitter, which you can read about here.)

Posted in Cedar Rapids Kernels, Clinton LumberKings, Midwest League, Peoria Chiefs | Leave a comment

Godley shuts down Brewers, earns win in MLB debut

Zack Godley (right) and Oscar Hernandez celebrate a double play during the 3rd inning of Godley's MLB debut Thursday. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

Zack Godley (right) and Oscar Hernandez celebrate a double play during the 3rd inning of Godley’s MLB debut Thursday. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

Former Kane County Cougars pitcher Zack Godley struck out seven batters in six shutout innings on his way to winning his major-league debut Thursday night.

The 25-year-old righty held the Milwaukee Brewers to four hits without walking anyone. He got plenty of run support from his fellow Arizona Diamondbacks, who won the game 8-3.

His seven strikeouts tied the Diamondbacks record for strikeouts in a pitcher’s first MLB appearance, originally set by Max Scherzer in a relief outing in 2008. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Godley is the first pitcher in the modern era (since 1900) to throw at least six scoreless innings with no walks and seven or more strikeouts in his MLB debut.

Godley made 11 relief appearances for the 2014 Cougars, finishing nine games and earning seven saves while posting a 1.80 ERA with 25 strikeouts and seven walks in 15 innings. The Diamondbacks converted him to a starter this season after acquiring him from the Chicago Cubs last December.

Posted in Kane County Cougars, Midwest League | Leave a comment