Astros trade Fowler to Cubs for Valbuena, Straily

The Houston Astros traded CF Dexter Fowler to the Chicago Cubs today for a pair of former Midwest League players, INF Luis Valbuena and RHP Dan Straily.

Fowler played six seasons with the Colorado Rockies before spending 2014 with the Astros. He led the National League with 14 triples in 2010, and also posted double-digit totals for triples in 2009, 2011 and 2012.

Valbuena has played in the major leagues the past seven seasons. He made his MLB debut for the Seattle Mariners in 2008 and spent three seasons with the Cleveland Indians before joining the Cubs in 2012.

As a Mariners farmhand in 2006, Valbuena batted .286 with 3 HR, 38 RBI and 21 SB in 89 games with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. He also made a one-game rehab appearance with the Kane County Cougars in 2013, going 1-for-3 with a walk.

Luis Valbuena played for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in 2006. (Photo by Joel Dinda)

Luis Valbuena played for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in 2006. (Photo by Joel Dinda)

Straily pitched for the Cougars in 2010, going 10-7 with a 4.32 ERA and 149 strikeouts in 148 IP. He made his MLB debut for the Oakland Athletics in 2012. He pitched for the A’s until being traded to the Cubs last July.

RHP Dan Straily pitched for the Kane County Cougars in 2010. (Photo by Donnell Collins/The Beacon News)

RHP Dan Straily pitched for the Kane County Cougars in 2010. (Photo by Donnell Collins/The Beacon News)

Torres likely to start season in MWL

Jason McLeod, senior vice president of scouting and player development for the Cubs, said Sunday that prospect Gleyber Torres is likely to start the 2015 season with the South Bend Cubs.

Torres batted .297 with 2 HR, 33 RBI and 10 SB in 50 games split between two short-season teams last year. The Venezuelan shortstop turned 18 last month.

Posted in Kane County Cougars, Midwest League, South Bend Silver Hawks, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | Leave a comment

Two more ex-Midwest Leaguers suspended for drug violations

Two former Midwest League players were suspended today for violations of baseball’s drug policy. RHP Kameron Loe and OF Terrell Joyce each received a 50-game penalty after testing positive for a drug of abuse.

Loe went 4-3 with a 1.95 ERA, two saves, 94 strikeouts and 19 walks in 97 IP for the 2003 Clinton LumberKings. He made his major-league debut for the Texas Rangers in 2004. Currently a free agent, he also has pitched for the Milwaukee Brewers, Seattle Mariners, Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves.

Joyce also is a free agent. He played three seasons in the Houston Astros organization, including 2013 with the Quad Cities River Bandits. He batted .186 with 3 HR and 26 RBI in 72 games.

A third former Midwest Leaguer, 2013 South Bend Silver Hawks LHP Henry Garcia, was suspended 50 games for a drug violation earlier this week.

Posted in Clinton LumberKings, Midwest League, Quad Cities River Bandits, South Bend Silver Hawks | Leave a comment

Three Wednesday trades involved ex-Midwest Leaguers

Three trades made by MLB teams Wednesday involve former Midwest League players.

The Atlanta Braves traded C/LF Evan Gattis and RHP James Hoyt to the Houston Astros for RHP Mike Foltynewicz, 3B Rio Ruiz and RHP Andrew Thurman. Ruiz and Thurman played for the Quad Cities River Bandits, in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

Ruiz batted .260 with 12 HR, 63 RBI and 12 SB in 114 games with Quad Cities. He hit a solo homer in the decisive game of the 2013 Midwest League Championship Series, which was won by the River Bandits.

Thurman went 7-9 with a 5.38 ERA, one save, 107 strikeouts and 40 walks in 115.1 IP (26 games/20 starts) for the River Bandits.

Andrew Thurman on the mound for the Quad Cities River Bandits last year. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Andrew Thurman on the mound for the Quad Cities River Bandits last year. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

The Seattle Mariners traded former Clinton LumberKings RHP Lars Huijer to the Chicago Cubs for LHP Mike Kickham. Huijer, a Netherlands native, spent half the 2014 season with Clinton, going 4-5 with a 4.02 ERA, 44 strikeouts and 34 walks in 71.2 IP.

Lars Huijer pitches for the Clinton LumberKings as Justin Seager plays first base behind him. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Lars Huijer pitches for the Clinton LumberKings as Justin Seager plays first base behind him. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

The Oakland Athletics traded INF Yunel Escobar to the Washington Nationals for RHP Tyler Clippard, who saved 32 games for the Nationals in 2012. Clippard is the only reliever to appear in more than 70 games in each of the last five seasons (2010-2014).

Drafted by the New York Yankees in 2003, Clippard spent the 2004 season in the Midwest League. He went 10-10 with a 3.44 ERA, 145 strikeouts and 32 walks in 149 IP for the Battle Creek Yankees.

Oakland had acquired Escobar and utility player Ben Zobrist from the Tampa Bay Rays in a five-player trade earlier this month. The A’s gave up three former Midwest League players (catcher John Jaso, SS Daniel Robertson and OF Herschel Mack “Boog” Powell) in that trade, which I wrote about here.

Posted in 2013 Playoffs, Clinton LumberKings, Midwest League, Quad Cities River Bandits | Leave a comment

Former Silver Hawks pitcher suspended 50 games

LHP Henry Garcia (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

LHP Henry Garcia (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Former South Bend Silver Hawks LHP Enrique “Henry” Garcia was suspended 50 games Tuesday after testing positive for a banned substance a second time.

Garcia was released by the Arizona Diamondbacks last month. He currently is unsigned, so his suspension won’t take effect until he signs with another MLB team.

Garcia pitched well for the 2013 Silver Hawks, going 7-2 with a 2.25 ERA, 63 strikeouts and 10 walks in 60 innings pitched out of the bullpen. He didn’t look as good in 2014 when he went 5-3 with a 5.23 ERA, 46 strikeouts and 23 walks in 72.1 IP for the High-A Visalia Rawhide.

Posted in California League, Midwest League, South Bend Silver Hawks, Visalia Rawhide | Leave a comment

Brewers announce Timber Rattlers coaching staff

Timber Rattlers manager Matt Erickson talks to Brewers prospect Johnny Davis at third base during a game last May. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Timber Rattlers manager Matt Erickson (left) talks to Brewers prospect Johnny Davis at third base during a game last May. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

The Milwaukee Brewers announced today that Matt Erickson will return for a fifth season as manager of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers this year.

The Appleton native has been with the team since serving as its hitting coach in 2009. Since becoming manager in 2011, Erickson has a 276-276 record in the regular season, two playoff appearances (2012 and 2014), and a Midwest League championship title (2012).

Erickson played in four games for the 2004 Brewers and 11 seasons in the minor leagues, including a season in the Midwest League. He batted .324 with 4 HR, 64 RBI and 17 SB in 124 games with the 1998 Kane County Cougars.

Also returning to the Timber Rattlers is Chuckie Caufield, who has been the team’s hitting coach since last year. He played six seasons in the Brewers system, from 2006 to 2011.

New to the Timber Rattlers — but not to the Midwest League — is pitching coach Gary Lucas. He spent the past 15 years as a pitching coach in the Minnesota Twins organization, most recently for the Fort Myers Miracle of the Florida State League. The Timber Rattlers will be the fourth Midwest League team for which Lucas is pitching coach. The others were the Quad City River Bandits (2000-2004), Beloit Snappers (2005, 2008-2012) and Cedar Rapids Kernels (2013).

Lucas pitched eight seasons in the major leagues, for the San Diego Padres, Montreal Expos and California Angels. The left-hander posted a 3.01 ERA in 669 innings, mostly in relief.

Posted in 2012 Playoffs, 2014 Playoffs, Beloit Snappers, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Florida State League, Fort Myers Miracle, Kane County Cougars, Midwest League, Quad Cities River Bandits, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | Leave a comment

Loons announce 2015 coaching staff

The Los Angeles Dodgers announced today that former MLB catcher Bill Haselman will return as manager of the Great Lakes Loons this year.

Haselman will be at the helm of the Loons for his second consecutive season after managing three years in the California League. He gets new hitting and pitching coaches in former big-leaguers Jay Gibbons and Glenn Dishman, respectively.

Gibbons played nine seasons in the major leagues — seven with the Baltimore Orioles and two with the Dodgers. Overall the outfielder/first baseman hit .260 with 127 HR and 427 RBI in 840 games.

Dishman pitched 135.1 innings in the major leagues, for the San Diego Padres, Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies. He has been a coach in the Dodgers organization since 2004, and was the Loons’ pitching coach in 2007.

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

Steinmann to manage LumberKings again this year

Clinton LumberKings manager Scott Steinmann (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Clinton LumberKings manager Scott Steinmann (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

The Seattle Mariners announced today that Scott Steinmann will manage the Clinton LumberKings again this year.

It will be Steinmann’s third season at the helm of the LumberKings. He led them to a 61-77 record in 2014 and a 69-68 record in 2009. On May 7 last year, his LumberKings team earned national media coverage by overcoming a 16-run deficit to beat the Burlington Bees 20-17 in 12 innings.

Steinmann previously managed in the Midwest League in 2005, when he led the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers to a 76-63 regular-season record and the Midwest League Championship Series. (The Timber Rattlers lost to the South Bend Silver Hawks in five games.) New Tampa Bay Rays infielder Asdrubal Cabrera was on that team; he batted .318 with 4 HR and 30 RBI in 51 games.

Steinmann also played for the Timber Rattlers, in 1997. He batted .213 with 20 RBI in 72 games. He primarily played catcher and first base, but in one game he played all nine positions.

Cibney Bello also returns to the LumberKings this year, for a second season as Clinton’s pitching coach. He pitched for the 2005 Timber Rattlers (managed by Steinmann), going 4-4 with a 5.02 ERA, one save, and 75 strikeouts in 95 IP.

Former major-leaguer Mike Kinkade will return to Clinton for a second stint as the LumberKings’ hitting coach. He previously was Clinton’s hitting coach in 2013.

Kinkade played 222 games in the major leagues and spent 11 seasons playing in the minor leagues, including 1996 with the Beloit Snappers. He batted .304 with 15 HR, 100 RBI and 23 SB in 135 games with the Snappers, who were affiliated with the Milwaukee Brewers at that time.

Posted in Beloit Snappers, Burlington Bees, Clinton LumberKings, Midwest League, South Bend Silver Hawks, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | Leave a comment