Former Timber Rattlers shortstop Orlando Arcia checks in at #88:
Arcia’s advanced defensive skills are ready for higher levels now. He has outstanding range and soft hands to go along with a very strong arm. There is no question he will stay at the premium position long-term. Arcia continues to improve at the plate to the point where he’s no longer a glove-only type of middle infielder. He makes consistent contact, to all fields, rarely striking out. He even has a little extra-base pop coming from his very quick swing, which was on display particularly during his winter ball stint. He uses his speed to be a basestealing threat as well.
Good to see!
Alumni Birthdays for February 3:
Luis Figueroa (’98) – 38
Mike Marchiano (’98) – 40
Whitey Gluchoski (Manager, ’46 & ’47) – Would have been 92
Six more weeks of winter? Yes. That’s what Grover Groundhog taught me.
Alumni Birthdays for January 31:
Taylor Brennan (’14) – 23
Caleb Thielbar (’10) – 28
Fred McNair (’94) – 45
Lowell Schellhase (’41) – Would have been 95
Alumni Birthdays for February 1:
Bill Kostich (’93) – 44
Vernon Slater (’91) – 45
Earl Goodwin (’48) – Would have been 87
Alumni Birthdays for February 2:
Donny Langdon (’05) – 33
Steve Kokor (’66, ’67) – 68
Speaking of Grover Groundhog….
This week’s Flashback Friday is an article by Gordon McIntyre that appeared in the 1948 Appleton Papermakers program.
Bill Miller, who has dropped off some other cool things from Appleton Pro baseball’s history, brought a few more things this week. I’ll be going through those and sharing them from time to time.
Marquess Pfaff of WSCO had Matt Erickson on his show yesterday. Click this link to hear the interview.
Alumni Birthdays for January 29:
The contest to design the Timber Rattlers batting practice jersey is over and Alex Laedtke’s design is the winner.
“The design was inspired by the team’s nickname, which is seen in the snakeskin patterned side panels and a custom number font with fang-like styling to complement the Timber Rattlers wordmark logo,” said Laedtke. “I think this jersey gives the players a fresh, team-specific look that pushes beyond a standard batting practice uniform.”
Take a look!
Alumni Birthday for January 28:
Don Ruzek (’83) – 57
MLB Network is running their Face of MLB contest. There was a matchup of former Timber Rattlers on round one:
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) January 27, 2015
Ouch. The voting is already done and Adam Jones is into the second round:
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) January 27, 2015
There is another vote involving a former Rattler right now!
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) January 27, 2015
We won’t be staying out of this one….Go, King Felix!!!
There is one more Rattler alumni in the contest. Jonathan Lucroy has moved on to the second round with a first round win over Matt Kemp of the Padres. Lucroy’s second round opponent is Buster Posey of the Giants, who received a first round bye.
Alumni Birthdays for January 27:
Steve Preston (’89) – 48
Gil Villanueva (’86) – 51
Doug Adams (’66) – 72
Bill Pardon (’42) – Would have been 91
The Milwaukee Brewers held their On Deck event on Sunday afternoon. The Timber Rattlers had some representation:
There was alumni news from the event.
The Journal-Sentinel caught up with Jimmy Nelson (’11), who is ready to succeed in the Milwaukee rotation:
When the Milwaukee Brewers traded established starter Yovani Gallardo to Texas and committed to unproven Jimmy Nelson in their starting rotation for 2015, it was an admitted gamble.
Nelson’s goal is to prove it was smart money.
“I’m excited about it. I feel like I’m ready,” the 25-year-old right-hander said during a break Sunday at Brewers On Deck, the team’s annual fan festival in downtown Milwaukee.
What raised concerns among many fans about that move was the way Nelson struggled during his 2014 debut season. He went 2-9 with a 4.93 earned run average in 14 games (12 starts), eventually pitching his way out of the rotation as the Brewers faltered down the stretch.
It was a far cry from how Nelson performed at Class AAA Nashville before being summoned. In 17 outings there, he went 10-2 with a 1.46 ERA, striking out 114 hitters in 111 innings. Nelson was so impressive over that period he was named Pacific Coast League pitcher of the year despite missing most of the second half.
For Nelson, it was a matter of a lesson learned.
“The problem was when I got to the big leagues I got away from my game plan,” said Nelson. “The things I was doing to be successful, I got away from that when I got up here.
“I’ve got to learn from that and stick to what was working. I know why it happens. There’s no specific reason you can put a finger on. I just got away from the way I pitched in Triple-A.”
Brewers.com has news that Jim Henderson (’09) and Tyler Thornburg( ’11) are aiming for Opening Day to return from injury:
Thornburg, who has avoided Tommy John surgery for a compromised ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, is already throwing bullpen sessions. Henderson, who underwent surgery to “clean up” bone spurs and tissue damage in his right shoulder, is scheduled to throw his first proper bullpen session on Tuesday. If that goes well, he will repeat the exercise on Friday.
“I can probably give you a better answer in maybe two to three weeks, but the rehab’s gone well,” said Henderson, who was penciled in as Brewers closer before experiencing shoulder weakness last spring. “I feel strong. I’ve had no problems, no setbacks. I pushed it as far as I could go last year, trying to come back and rehab, so that I could be ready this year.”
Asked whether his Opening Day goal was realistic, Henderson said, “Yep, 100 percent. We’re going to get 10 bullpens in here before Spring Training, and then you’ve got all of Spring Training as well. …
Personally, I am excited for the new Barrel Man mascot and T-Shirt!!!!
— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) January 25, 2015
Alumni Birthdays for January 24:
Tyler Wagner (’13) – 24
Joseph DeLuise (’64) – 69
Sandy Valdespino (’58) – 76
Ed Lewee (Manager, 1910) – Would be 142
Alumni Birthdays for January 25:
Eric Arnett (’10, ’11) – 27
Jimmy Maness (’66) – 70
Alumni Birthdays for January 26:
Josh Prince (’09) – 27
Ryan Rowland-Smith (’02, ’03) – 32
Mike Pazik (Coach, ’82) – 65
This USA Today article is from last Wednesday, but I just found it. And since three of their four Brewers prospects to watch have been Timber Rattlers within the last two seasons, I thought it was relevant enough to share here.
They name Tyrone Taylor (’13), Orlando Arica (’13), Clint Coulter (’13, ’14), and Taylor Jungmann.
Here is a quick taste of what they say about the three former Rattlers:
[T]he center fielder has shown all the qualities needed to be a leadoff hitter as he’s risen through the minor leagues, despite being among the younger players at each level. Taylor, 21 this month, spent most of last season at High Class-A Brevard County (Fla.), where he hit .278/.331/.396 with 22 stolen bases.
Arcia, 20, is an excellent defender who hit .289 with a .346 on-base percentage and 31 stolen bases last season at High Class-A Brevard County. A natural shortstop, Arcia performed equally well defensively while learning second base last season.
He tied for the Midwest League home run title and had a league-best .930 OPS on his way to becoming the organization’s Minor League Player of the Year. He split his time almost evenly between catcher and designated hitter in 2014, but at age 21 he should have ample time to transition to the outfield, where he played exclusively in the Arizona Fall League.
Alumni Birthdays for January 23:
Brandon Moorhead (’03, ’04) – 35
Cornelio Garcia (’86) – 50
The Milwaukee Brewers have announced the signing of Dontrelle Willis to a minor league deal heading into Spring Training of 2015.
The one-time pitching phenom, who hasn’t appeared in the major leagues since 2011, signed a minor-league deal Wednesday with the Brewers with an invitation to their spring camp.
“You never know,” said Melvin, who has been looking for left-handed relief help. “You give guys another chance and sometimes they come through for you. He has kept himself in shape and continues to work at it.”
Melvin has tried reclamation projects in the past. Some worked out (Gabe Kapler), some didn’t (Bobby Crosby, Kelvim Escobar). The way he sees it, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
“I know some other clubs gave him a shot and it didn’t work out,” Melvin said. “Sometimes, things change and work out differently. There might be something that clicks.”
Willis, 33, was a sensation as a young pitcher, going 14-6 with a 3.30 earned run average for the World Series champion Florida Marlins in 2003 to earn National League Rookie of the Year honors. In 2005, he went 22-10 for the Marlins and is still their only 20-game winner.
I saw that and just couldn’t believe that it had been almost THIRTEEN years since Willis was in the Midwest League and – it seemed – made it his personal mission to crush the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.
Flashback to 2002: The Kane County Cougars were in their final season as the Midwest League affiliate of the Florida Marlins and Willis was listed by Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook (2002) as the #21 prospect in the Chicago Cubs organization. Willis had joined the Marlins on March 27, 2002 in a trade with the Cubs. (Antonio ALfonseca & Matt Clement to the Cubs. Willis, Julian Tavarez, Ryan Jorgenson, and Jose Cuteo to the Marlins).
Just over two weeks later – April 13 at Kane County, Willis made his first start against the Timber Rattlers (a Seattle affiliate at the time). I missed that game due to the Green Bay Gamblers being in the USHL playoffs in Des Moines on that day. But, I heard about his performance – 7IP, 3H, 1R, 0ER, BB, 2K – in a no decision.
The first time I got a chance to see Willis in person was on May 7 at Fox Cities Stadium. It was the first game of a doubleheader and it was….eye-opening. Willis pitched a 7-inning, complete-game, shutout in an 8-0 Kane County victory. He took a no-hitter into the sixth inning. Dan Floyd singled to start the frame to break up the no-hitter. The Rattlers would collect four hits that day – singles by Floyd, Shin-Soo Choo, and Jason Rainey and a double by Jerry Amador. Willis walked two and had just one strikeout, but picked up the win to run his record to 3-0.
The final matchup between the Rattlers and Willis was set for June 23 at Kane County. To put this in context, the Rattlers finished the first half of the season with a 30-39 record. They would open the second half of the season at Kane County. The Cougars were – somehow – just 29-40 in the first half. Both teams were looking to get a good start to the second half.
June 23 was a Sunday afternoon and it was the fourth game of the four-game series. The Rattlers had lost the first three games of the series and were trying to avoid the sweep. Kane County scored six times in the second inning off Emiliano Fruto to give Willis a 6-0 lead.
Wisconsin scored their first earned runs off Willis in the top of the third inning with an RBI double by Floyd and an RBI grounder from Choo. They Rattlers would get another run off Willis in the sixth when Greg Dobbs doubled and scored on a single by Jason Van Meetren. That would make the score 7-3. Kane County would win 10-3.
Willis went seven innings again in this game and allowed six hits with two walks and four strikeouts.
His totals in three starts against Wisconsin:
21IP, 13H, 4R, 3ER, 5BB, 7K, 2-0 with a 1.29ERA.
The Rattlers would go on to lose their first eight games of the second half with an eventual record of 2-20 in the first 22 games of the second half of the 2002 season.
Just under a year after his last start against the Timber Rattlers, Willis was pitching for the Marlins in the Major Leagues.
Alumni Birthdays for January 22:
Tyrone Taylor (’13) – 21
BROCK! Kjeldgaard (’09) – 29
Shawn Nottingham (’05) – 30
Dave Leonhard (’63) – 74
After yesterday’s post, I went back to December and found three more transactions involving former Timber Rattlers.
Alex Liddi (’06, ’07, ’08) is now in the Kansas City Royals system.
Adding depth at third base and a potential platoon partner for Mike Moustakas in the form of right-handed former prospect Alex Liddi, the Royals unwittingly added a player whose personal and prospect history are both shrouded in mystery. In his age-21 season, Liddi crushed PCL pitching while playing for the Tacoma Rainiers. Playing half his games in a park that favored pitchers over right-handed batters, Liddi still managed a .259/.332/.488 split with 30 dongs hung in 138 minor-league games. Of course, Liddi whiffed at alarming rates in his September 2011 cup of coffee, and after a brief return to form following a June demotion to Tacoma, Liddi’s K-rates settle in over 30% at pretty much every stop between then and now.
Nathan Adcock (’07, ’08) signed with the Cincinnati Reds organization.
A Kentucky native, Adcock, 26, has the most major league experience of the three players signed, appearing in 43 games over parts of three seasons with the Royals and Rangers. Pitching primarily out of the bullpen, Adcock has gone 1-4 with a 3.86 ERA and 1.48 WHIP. Adcock missed the first two months of the 2014 season, but pitched fairly effectively after his return. In 18 games at Triple-A Round Rock, Adcock went 1-0 with a 2.95 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. He saw time with the Rangers as well, going 0-0 with a 4.50 ERA and 1.60 WHIP in seven appearances. He saw his strikeout numbers increase from a career rate of 6.6 to 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings between Triple-A and the Rangers.
Rene Rivera (’03) was traded by the San Diego Padres to the Tampa Bay Rays.
What team isn’t enhanced by a strong catcher? The Rays have had trouble developing catchers within their developmental system throughout recent years, so trades have been their way to try to find solutions at the position. The duo of Hanigan and Jose Molina underwhelmed last season, so Tampa Bay hopes it’s stronger at catcher with Rivera and John Jaso, who was acquired in the trade that sent Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar to the Oakland Athletics.
Rivera’s ability to throw out potential base stealers is especially promising. Molina only caught 14 potential base stealers last season as opposed to allowing 38 stolen bases. Hanigan, meanwhile, threw out just eight potential base stealers but allowed 30 stolen bases.
Alumni Birthdays for January 21:
Shawn Zarraga (’09) – 28
Colin Ryan (’90) – 48
Bill Eveline (’86) – 49
Gary Peters (’87) – 50
Scott Kershaw (’86) – 51
Jose Galvez (’75) – 60