Wong leads Durham to Triple-A championship title

Kean Wong played for the Bowling Green Hot Rods in 2014, and was a Midwest League All-Star that year. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Former Bowling Green Hot Rods second baseman Kean Wong went 3-for-4 with a grand slam and a double to lead the Durham Bulls to a 5-3 win over the Memphis Redbirds in this year’s Triple-A National Championship Game.

Wong provided an unexpected source of power at the plate for Durham, considering he has only 13 home runs in 488 career regular-season minor-league games. His more-expected contributions in the game came in the form of a pair of defensive gems, both made in the late innings.

The Bulls are a Tampa Bay Rays affiliate, as are the Hot Rods. Wong played for Bowling Green in 2014, batting .306 with 2 HR, 24 RBI and 13 SB in 106 games. His batting average was second in the Midwest League that year, behind MWL MVP Wynton Bernard, who hit .323 for the West Michigan Whitecaps.

Wong batted .265 with 5 HR, 44 RBI and 14 SB in 105 games with the Bulls during the 2017 regular season. Bernard played in Triple-A this year, too, batting .254 with 2 HR, 14 RBI and 13 SB in 82 games with the Sacramento River Cats, a San Francisco Giants affiliate.

The Redbirds are a St. Louis Cardinals affiliate. Wong is the younger brother of Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong, who played in the Midwest League in 2011. The older Wong batted .335 with 5 HR, 25 RBI and 9 SB in 47 regular-season games with the Quad Cities River Bandits, and was still with the team when it won the MWL championship title that year.

Posted in 2011 Playoffs, 2014 All-Star Game, Bowling Green Hot Rods, Durham Bulls, International League, Memphis Redbirds, Midwest League, Pacific Coast League, Quad Cities River Bandits, Sacramento River Cats, West Michigan Whitecaps | Leave a comment

Burlington Bees pitcher traded to Tigers

Elvin Rodriguez made three starts for the Burlington Bees at the end of the 2017 season. (Photo by Steve Cirinna)

The Los Angeles Angels announced Friday that they are sending RHP Elvin Rodriguez to the Detroit Tigers as the player to be named later in the Aug. 31 trade involving outfielder Justin Upton and RHP Grayson Long.

Rodriguez ended the 2017 season with the Burlington Bees. In his three Midwest League starts, he went 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA (seven earned runs in 14 innings), 12 strikeouts and three walks. He also made 11 starts for the rookie-level Orem Owlz this year, going 5-1 with a 2.50 ERA, 49 strikeouts and 11 walks in 54 innings, earning him the Pioneer League Pitcher of the Year award.

The Dominican hurler likely will return to the Midwest League to start the 2018 season, in which case he would pitch for the West Michigan Whitecaps. He will turn 20 less than a week before the MWL season begins.

MLB Pipeline had Rodriguez ranked as the No. 22 prospect in the Angels organization prior to the trade’s completion. MiLB.com said this about him:

The 6-foot-3, 160-pound right-hander throws a fastball that sits in the high 80s with late life, and his command is far ahead of most teenage pitchers. He combines a repeatable delivery with good feel for his curveball and change-up, but will need to get stronger to reach his full potential.

Upton and Long also are former Midwest Leaguers, which I wrote about here at the time of the trade.

Posted in Burlington Bees, Midwest League, Orem Owlz, Pioneer League, West Michigan Whitecaps | Leave a comment

Former Lugnut nearly no-hits White Sox

Detroit Tigers catcher Bryan Holaday congratulates Matt Boyd after the left-handed pitcher one-hit the Chicago White Sox on Sunday. (Photo by Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports)

Former Lansing Lugnuts lefty Matt Boyd nearly no-hit the Chicago White Sox, giving up only one hit with two outs in the 9th inning of the Detroit Tigers’ 12-0 win Sunday afternoon.

Tim Anderson broke up the no-no with a double that made him only the second White Sox baserunner of the game. The first one was Rob Brantly (2010-11 West Michigan Whitecaps), who drew a walk with two outs in the 3rd inning.

Despite losing the no-hitter, the game surely was a pick-me-up for Boyd, who has struggled this season. He is 6-10 with a 5.33 ERA, 99 strikeouts and 48 walks in 123.1 innings (24 games/23 starts) for the Tigers this year.

Boyd briefly pitched for the Lugnuts in 2013, when he was a Blue Jays farmhand. He went 0-1 with a 0.64 ERA, 12 strikeouts and one walk in 14 innings (five games/three starts). Toronto traded him to Detroit in a four-player deal involving LHP David Price in late July 2015.

Posted in Lansing Lugnuts, Midwest League, West Michigan Whitecaps | Leave a comment

River Bandits win third Midwest League title in seven years

Quad Cities River Bandits catcher Chuckie Robinson had four hits and three RBI in Saturday’s game. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

The Quad Cities River Bandits beat the Fort Wayne TinCaps 12-2 Saturday to complete their sweep of the Midwest League Championship Series.

It is their third Midwest League title in the last seven years, and the team’s seventh league championship overall.

Chuckie Robinson led the River Bandits offense by going 4-for-5 with a home run, a double, and three runs batted in. Troy Sieber, Abraham Toro-Hernandez and Kristian Trompiz each drove in two runs for Quad Cities.

Jack Suwinski drove in both TinCaps runs with a two-run double in the top of the 7th inning.

River Bandits starter Ronel Blanco struck out 10 while allowing only four hits and no walks in 6.2 innings. His counterpart, TinCaps starter Adrian Morejon, gave up six runs on five hits and three walks in 1.2 innings.

Ronel Blanco pitching

Quad Cities River Bandits RHP Ronel Blanco (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Posted in 2017 Playoffs, Fort Wayne TinCaps, Midwest League, Quad Cities River Bandits | Leave a comment

Bandits shut out TinCaps to move within a win of MWL title

Quad Cities River Bandits manager Russ Steinhorn (left) and first baseman Troy Sieber share a laugh during a break in the action Thursday.

The Quad Cities River Bandits beat the Fort Wayne TinCaps 5-0 Thursday, using a combination of great pitching and timely hitting to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five Midwest League Championship Series.

After winning the first two games on the road, the River Bandits are in good position to win the championship in front of their home crowd, as the series now moves to Modern Woodmen Park for the remainder of the set.

The TinCaps would have to win three straight games on the road to be crowned league champions. That’s not impossible, but their offense has struggled against the River Bandits’ pitching staff in this series. In Game 2 they were handcuffed by Quad Cities starter Patrick Sandoval (6 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K) and reliever Salvador Montano (3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K).

Quad Cities River Bandits LHP Patrick Sandoval

The only TinCaps hitter who made consistent contact throughout the game was 17-year-old shortstop Gabriel Arias, who hit two doubles and a triple. His leadoff double in the bottom of the 7th inning prompted River Bandits manager Russ Steinhorn to take Sandoval out of the game.

Fort Wayne TinCaps shortstop Gabriel Arias

Offense was a different story for the River Bandits. Five of the nine players in their starting lineup had two hits, and only one of the other four (Chuckie Robinson, who homered in Game 1) didn’t reach base. Five different players each drove in a run, including Chas McCormick, who has six RBI this postseason.

Quad Cities River Bandits centerfielder Chas McCormick

Rehabbing Houston Astros third baseman Colin Moran continued to deliver for the River Bandits as their designated hitter batting in the No. 2 hole. He went 2-for-4 with a walk and an RBI in Thursday’s game.

(A couple of stray observations about Moran: He’s been wearing a logo-less batting helmet — perhaps his Astros helmet with the logo taken off for his rehab assignment — and he seems to always be touching his beard when he’s on base, except when he crouches down into his ready-to-run stance.)

Colin Moran, wearing a logo-less helmet, touches his beard while at second base during Thursday’s game.

Game 3 of the Midwest League Championship Series is scheduled to begin at 6:35 p.m. CT Saturday. LHP Adrian Morejon is expected to start for the TinCaps. The River Bandits will announce their starting pitcher later.

Bonus photo!

The TinCaps gave away drawstring bags adorned with the team’s “25 seasons” logo. Win or lose, playing in the championship series is a pretty good way to celebrate the anniversary. So is setting a new franchise record for attendance, as 419,128 fans went to Parkview Field for 70 regular-season and four postseason games this year.

*All photos by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler

Posted in 2017 Playoffs, Fort Wayne TinCaps, Midwest League, Quad Cities River Bandits | Leave a comment