Knuckleballer Frank Viola III, son of former MLB pitcher Frank Viola, was impressive Monday in his Midwest League debut as a knuckleballer.
V3 was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in 2004 and last pitched for them in 2007. He was a relief pitcher for his hometown St. Paul Saints in 2010, and that appeared to be the end of the road for him — until he hooked up with Toronto Blue Jays pitcher R.A. Dickey in 2012. He worked with Dickey and former MLB pitcher Tim Wakefield to develop a knuckleball, and did well enough to earn a contract with the Blue Jays.
Fast forward to Monday, when Viola made his debut in the Blue Jays system. He pitched four scoreless innings for the Lansing Lugnuts in their 9-1 win over the Great Lakes Loons. He gave up three hits, issued four walks, struck out four and hit one batter.
Another son of a former major-leaguer, Dickie Joe Thon, went 4-for-4 with a double, a triple and a RBI for the Lugnuts. Chaz Frank went 3-for-5 with 3 RBI. D.J. Davis and L.B. Dantzler each drove in a pair of runs.
In other Lugnuts news Monday, the Lansing City Council officially approved a $10.5 million renovation plan for Cooley Law School Stadium. According to the Lugnuts, the renovations will include a new high-definition video board, a 360-degree concourse that will allow fans to walk around the entire ballpark, new picnic venues, a new kids playground area, team clubhouse upgrades, refurbished seating (replacing all aluminum benches), a new playing surface, renovated suites, installation of energy-efficient lighting and windows, and a new special event facility to allow for all-season use of the ballpark.
The extensive stadium renovation will be part of a larger project that will incorporate a private mixed-use development just beyond the ballpark’s outfield walls. The estimated cost of that part of the project is more than $12 million, giving the overall renovation project a price tag of about $22.5 million.
Cougars win pitchers duel at home
Monday’s pitching matchup between Kane County Cougars RHP Jen-Ho Tseng and Cedar Rapids Kernels RHP Kohl Stewart lived up to its billing as a pitchers duel, and they weren’t the only hurlers involved.
It was Tseng’s first start since being activated off the disabled list, so he went only three innings, but he gave up only one run on two hits and no walks. He struck out three batters. Three other Cougars pitchers — LHP Michael Heesch, RHP James Pugliese and RHP Tyler Bremer — combined to shut down the Kernels for the next six innings, giving up only one hit and two walks while striking out 11 batters. Heesch got the win.
Stewart was the hard-luck loser. He gave up only one earned run (two runs total) on two hits, two walks and a hit batsman. He struck out two batters. RHP Jared Wilson pitched two perfect innings in relief of Stewart.
Chicago Cubs OF Ryan Sweeney, a Cedar Rapids native, made a rehab start for the Cougars against the Kernels. He went 0-for-2 with a walk in his three plate appearances.