Luke Erickson

Luke Erickson is a season-ticket holder for the Potomac Nationals, but makes a point of seeing games in Hagerstown and Harrisburg at least once a summer. When the PNats are away on the weekend, Luke finds a minor-league game somewhere to watch, and generally attends 70-80 baseball games a year up across several states. A former sportswriter with newspapers in Massachusetts and Oregon, Luke lives in Western Fairfax County with his wife and two sons.

Apr 082012
 
Team Yesterday Today Probables (’11 #s at Level)
Syracuse Lost, 3-1 vs. Scranton/WB,
5:00 p.m.
John Lannan (10-13, 3.70 @ MLB) vs.
D.J. Mitchell (13-9, 3.18)
Harrisburg Won, 13-3 @ Bowie,
2:05 p.m.
Danny Rosenbaum (3-1, 2.29) vs.
Cole McCurry (4-0, 0.80)
Potomac Lost, 7-2 @ Lynchburg,
2:05 p.m.
Adam Olbrychowski (5-7, 4.16 @ A+) vs.
J.R. Graham (5-2, 1.72 @ Adv. Rk.)
Hagerstown Won, 4-3 vs. West Virginia,
1:05 p.m.
Kylin Turnbull (pro debut) vs.
Zach Fuesser (3-6, 3.74)

Syracuse 4 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre 0
• Maya (W, 1-0) 6IP, 4H, 0R, 0BB, 4K
• Bibens-Dirkx (SV, 1) 3IP, 2H, 0R, BB, 4K
• Moore 3-4, R, RBI
• Bynum 1-4, R, HR, BB, RBI
• Harper 1-3, BB, K

Yunesky Maya and Austin Bibens-Dirkx combined on a six-hit shutout while every Chief in the lineup got a hit, as the Chiefs won their first game, 4-0. Tyler Moore led the 11-hit effort with a 3-for-4 game, while Seth Bynum homered. Bryce Harper shifted to RF for the game, with Corey Brown manning CF.

Harrisburg 13 Bowie 3
• Mandel (ND) 5⅔ IP, 6H, 3R, 3ER, BB, K, HR
• Nelo 1⅔ 0H, 0R, BB, 3K
• Perez 3-6, R, RBI
• Johnson 2-5, R, 3B, 3RBI
• Lozada 2-5, 2R, 2RBI

My first in-person game of 2012 was a Saturday Afternoon In Bowie.

Lynchburg 7 Potomac 2
• Hansen (L, 0-1) 2IP, 5H, 4R, 3ER, 2BB, 0K, HR
• Applebee 3IP, 1H, 0R, BB, 3K
• Nicol 2-2, 2RBI
• Rendon 1-1, 2B, BB

The pain of losing a second straight game pales in comparison to the possibility of losing Anthony Rendon to a leg injury for an extended period of time. Multiple online reports are stating that it was his left leg (he has fractured his right ankle twice), but Nationals officials are mum on the severity. Rendon slipped after rounding third, attempting to score on a Justin Blxom single. He had doubled toe lead off the inning and was attempting to score with just one out. Sean Nicol filled in admirably, going 2-for-2 and driving in both Potomac runs. Bobby Hansen took the loss, giving up a pair of runs in the first two innings on five hits (one HR) and two walks.

Hagerstown 4 West Virginia 3
• Meyer (W, 1-0) 5IP, 2H, 0R, 0BB, 4K
• Barrett (SV, 1) 2IP, 0H, 0R, 0BB, 3K
• Skole 3-4, R, RBI
• Martinson 2-3, R, BB, RBI

Alex Meyer threw five shutout innings, allowing just two hits and no walks while fanning four to win his professional debut. Matt Skole and Jason Martinson combined for five of the Suns seven hits and each drove in a run. Hendry Jimenez made two costly errors in errors in the eighth, giving away the third Power run but also turned a double play to end the inning, helping Aaron Barrett notch his first save of the 2012 campaign.

Apr 072012
 


For the first 25 innings of the 2012 season, Harrisburg had a hard time scoring without the help of a rehabbing Washington National. With an eight-run eighth, the Senators erased the doubt about their offense en route to a 13-3 pounding of the Bowie Baysox.

The genesis of the big inning was somewhat unexpected. Twice before the 8-9 batters had gone down meekly (three groundouts and a strikeout), so the natural presumption was that the Sens would be trying to win against the Bowie closer, particularly with 28-year-old veteran Pedro Viola on the mound.

Instead, Jeff Howell doubled, Josh Johnson tripled to get the tie, and Eury Perez served up an opposite-field single to take a 4-3 lead.

Jeff Kobernus followed with his second safety — that’s three straight multiple-hit games — and stole his fourth base before Jesus Valdez walked. Five batters faced, none retired for Viola.

Sean Gleason was brought in to face Destin Hood (pictured above), a familiar face for the Senator LF as Gleason was Frederick Keys closer for most of the 2011 campaign. He greeted him with a first-pitch, wall-ball double to left-center to break the game open and end an oh-for-the season (10 ABs) dry spell.

All told, 13 batters came up in the inning, seven of them hit safely (Perez singled twice) while the Baysox committed two errors.

Hector Nelo came on to pitch the 8th and was lights out, striking out two looking on 94-96 mph heaters — including Bowie’s star shortstop Manny Machado (4 putouts, 8 assists).

And then things got unnecessarily ugly in the top of the 9th. The first two batters were dismissed easily, but then Tim Pahuta ripped a double to right field. With first base open, Bowie’s Scott Wolf, a 29-year-old journeyman, apparently decided to pay back Chris Rahl with a fastball to the back. The 28-year-old Rahl had homered against Wolf on Thursday night. Pahuta, also 28, started barking at Wolf who came down off the mound to exchange words.

The benches and bullpens emptied but no punches were thrown and nobody was ejected. Harrisburg tacked on three more runs with a one-run Lozada single, a Howell walk, and a two-run single by Johnson before Perez grounded out to (you guessed it) Machado.

Like the top of the inning, Nelo retired the first two batters and got to a 2-0 count before sailing the third pitch about a foot over/behind former National farmhand Edgardo Baez’s noggin. Umpire Kiff Kinkead (really) wasted no time in sending Nelo and Harrisburg manager Matt LeCroy to the showers.

Marcos Frias couldn’t retire Baez (the walk charged to Nelo), and gave up a sharp single to left before striking out Bowie’s Travis Adair to end the game.

The eight-run rally made a winner out of Pat McCoy, who struck out two of the four batters he faced, and gave starter Jeff Mandel a no-decision. Mandel had not started a game since July 2010, but retired the first eight batters he faced and tossed five shutout innings before coughing up a three-run homer with two outs off the right-field pole.

Rick Ankiel went 2-for-2 in his rehab start, taking a hanging curve out in the first inning for a solo shot and hitting the right-field wall and trotting to first in the fourth.

With the win, Harrisburg improves to 2-1 on the season and finishes up the four-game set tomorrow afternoon. Danny Rosenbaum is slated to make his 2012 debut against Cole McCurry for Bowie.

Apr 072012
 
Team Yesterday Today Probable Pitchers
Syracuse Lost, 3-1 vs. Scranton/WB,
4:00 p.m.
Yunesky Maya (4-9, 5.00) vs.
Manny Banuelos (2-2, 4.19)
Harrisburg Won, 5-2 @ Bowie,
2:05 p.m.
Jeff Mandel (0-0, 2.25) vs.
Jacob Pettit (7-0, 1.62 @ A+)
Potomac Lost, 9-3 @ Lynchburg,
6:05 p.m.
Bobby Hansen (5-1, 4.10 @ A) vs.
Ronan Pacheco (5-9, 5.00 @ A)
Hagerstown Lost, 5-3 vs. West Virginia,
7:05 p.m.
Alex Meyer (pro debut) vs.
Matt Benedict (5-3, 3.79 @ SS-A)

Rochester 3 Syracuse 1
• Roark (L, 0-1) 6IP, 3H, 1R, 1ER, 3BB, 3K
• Severino ⅔ IP, 0H, 0R, 0BB, 1K, 2-0 IR-S
• Brown 3-4, R, 3B,
• Bynum 2-4, 2B, RBI
• Moore 0-4, 2K, 2GIDP

The clutch hit eluded the Syracuse batters, as they stranded seven runners and hit into three double plays as the Chiefs dropped their second straight, 3-1. Tanner Roark turned in six strong innings in his AAA debut, allowing just a run on three hits and three walks. Corey Brown went 3-for-4 and scored the only run as he tripled and Seth Bynum doubled with two outs in the 8th. Bryce Harper went 0-for-3 in his first three ABs against LHP Scott Diamond before singling to lead off the 9th.

Harrisburg 5 Bowie 2
• Demny (ND) 4IP, 5H, 0R, 3BB, 3K
• Lehman (SV, 1) 1IP, 2H, 0R, 0BB, 0K
• Kobernus 2-5, R, SB
• Perez 2-5, R, SB, RBI
• Rahl 1-2, RBI

Rick Ankiel and Michael Morse both homered in a 5-2 win over the Baysox. Eury Perez and Jeff Kobernus both went 2-for-5 with a steal, but the clutch hit was few and far between as the Sens were just 2-for-12 with RISP. Paul Demny labored through four innings, throwing 84 pitches. Erik Davis got the win in relief but was touched for a two-run HR. For the second game in row, Chris Rahl got an RBI in the 9th, giving Pat Lehman plenty of cushion for his first save of the year.

Lynchburg 9, Potomac 3

• Winters (L, 0-1) 5IP, 6H, 5R, 5ER, BB, 4K, 2HR
• Freitas 1-3, R, HR, 3RBI, SF
• Rendon 1-3, R, 3B, BB

A three-run 5th by the Hillcats, with three extra-base hits (double, homer, triple) busted open a 2-1 game as Lynchburg pounded Potomac, 9-3 in the season opener. David Freitas drove in all three P-Nat runs, hitting a sac fly in the 4th, an RBI groundout in the 7th, and a solo shot in the 9th. Anthony Rendon tripled and scored in his regular-season debut. Kyle Winters took the loss, allowing five runs on six hits (including two home runs) over five innings while walking one and striking out four.

West Virginia 5 Hagerstown 3
• Dupra (L, 0-1) 3⅓ IP, 6H, 4R, 3ER, 2BB, 2K
• Karns 4IP, 2H, 1R, 1ER, 6K
• Goodwin 0-1, 4BB, SB
• Skole 0-3, 2BB, RBI
• Ramirez 0-3, BB, RBI

Hagerstown had more errors than hits… or runs, losing to West Virginia, 5-3. The Suns actually led the game 3-0 early, scoring twice in the first and once in the second without a base hit or an error as the Power throwers walked five, hit a batter, and unleashed three wild pitches in the first two innings. The Suns would draw 10 walks overall (four by leadoff man Brian Goodwin), but with just two bases-empty singles in the 6th and 8th, Hagerstown would lay eight goose eggs on the scoreboard the rest of the way. Starter Brian Dupra got knocked from the box in the fourth as the Power scored three times to take a 4-3 lead. Todd Simko stranded two runners and gave way to Nathan Karns, who gave up a run over the last four innings but struck out six and walked none — the only pitcher to do so on either team.
UPDATE: My man in Hagerstown wrote about the first inning in “A night with Nuke..Err Stetson Allie”

Apr 062012
 
Team Yesterday Today Probable Pitchers
Syracuse Lost, 7-4 vs. Rochester,
4:05 p.m.
Tanner Roark (9-9, 4.69 @ AA) vs.
Scott Diamond (4-14, 5.56)
Harrisburg Lost, 4-2 @ Bowie,
7:05 p.m.
Paul Demny (10-10, 4.32 @ A+) vs.
Robert Bundy (1-3, 9.60)
Potomac OFF DAY @ Lynchburg,
6:05 p.m.
Kyle Winters (8-3, 4.10 @ A-) vs.
Gus Schlosser (2-0, 1.82 @ A-)
Hagerstown Won, 11-9 vs. West Virginia,
7:05 p.m.
Brian Dupra (4-4, 3.46 @ A-) vs.
Stetson Allie (0-2, 6.58 @ A-)

Rochester 7 Syracuse 4
• Atkins (L, 0-1) 5IP, 4H, 1R, 0ER, 5BB, 6K
• VanAllen 1IP, 4H, 5R, 5ER, 2BB, 0K, HR
• Harper 2-4, 2B, SB, K
• Paul 1-3, 2B, BB, 2RBI

Bryce Harper did not disappoint in his AAA debut, singling, doubling, and stealing a base while playing error-free CF, but the Syracuse firemen were torched for six runs, including five runs in the 7th as the Chiefs fell to the Redwings, 7-4. Starter Mitch Atkins struggled with his control, but managed to give up just one unearned run over five innings despite issuing five free passes. The Chiefs plated all four runs in the 7th, aided by an error for the first run, an RBI single by Seth Bynum for the second tally, and a two-run double by Xavier Paul to finish the scoring.

Bowie 4 Harrisburg 2
• Gilliam (L, 0-1) 5IP, 6H, 3R, 3ER, 3BB, 4k, HR
• Frias 1IP, 0H, 0R, 0BB, 1K
• Kobernus 2-4, 2SB
• Johnson 1-2, R, 2B, BB

Despite having both Michael Morse and Rick Ankiel in the lineup on rehab assignments, the Harrisburg Senators could only muster six hits and fell to the Bowie Baysox, 4-2. Jeff Kobernus led the Sens with four bases: two singles, and two swipes of second. The MLBers were a combined 0-for-5 with a walk and two strikeouts. As a team, Harrisburg went just 1-for-8 with RISP and left six runners on base.

Hagerstown 11 West Virginia 9
• Estevez (ND) 4IP, 9H, 6R, 6ER, 0BB, 3K, 0HR
• Meza (W, 1-0) 2IP, 3H, 0R, BB, K
• Kreis (SV, 1) 1IP, 2H, 0R, 0BB, 0K
• Goodwin 2-4, 2R, HR, BB, 4RBI, OF assist at 3B
• Skole 2-5, 2B, 3RBI

It was a slugfest at the Muni, with the Suns putting up three crooked numbers and 16 hits total, shorting the West Virginia Power, 11-9. Brian Goodwin led the hit parade with a 2-for-4 night, including a two-run homer in the three-run sixth that tied the game at 9-9. He also gunned down a runner at third. Wirkin “For The Weekend” couldn’t hold an early 6-1 lead, giving up runs in three of his four innings pitched. Christian Meza got the win in relief while Alex Kreis pitched around two singles in the ninth to earn the save.

Apr 052012
 

Filing from the remote office in Chicopee, MA… it’s the day we’ve all been waiting for: Opening Day!

Three of the four full-season affiliates start up today, with Syracuse hosting Rochester this afternoon, Harrisburg visiting Bowie, and Hagerstown hosting West Virginia.

Team Today’s Game Pitching Matchup (’11 Stats at Level)
Syracuse vs. Rochester,
2:00 p.m.
Mitch Atkins (3-7, 5.44) vs.
P.J. Walters (8-7, 5.17)
Harrisburg @ Bowie,
7:05 p.m.
Robert Gilliam (12-7, 5.04 in Cal. Lg.) vs. TBD
Hagerstown vs. West Virginia,
7:05 p.m.
Wirkin Estevez (6-3, 4.01 in NYPL) vs.
Nicholas Kingham (6-2, 2.15 in in NYPL)

A reminder from last year: The order in which the starters begin is not an indication of #1, #2, etc. but how the organization wants to align starters in the minors when it comes time for promotions. This is even more important to keep in mind with the notable names in XST. I think a look at the first starters illustrates this point.

Mitch Atkins is the listed starter for Syracuse per MiLB.com, as many of may have heard that John Lannan was supposed to start but has been shifted from today to Sunday. Robert Gilliam, a.k.a. the Other Guy We Got From Oakland, is scheduled for Harrisburg. Wirkin “For The Weekend” Estevez is slated for Hagerstown. Kyle Winters appears to be getting the assignment for Potomac tomorrow night.

None of these guys would be considered the ace of the staff in the traditional sense. But this isn’t “Spahn and Sain and pray for rain,” either. We all like results, but the goal is getting the work in and making progress. Some guys are going to be on pitch counts, for example, so keep that in mind before asking why did so-and-so only go five innings.

News & Notes starts back up tomorrow, and perhaps this afternoon we’ll find out the last of the spring releases.

Apr 042012
 

The last of the four full-season rosters is out (H/T to Ben Meyers of the Auburn Citizen for heads-up), as the Syracuse Chiefs have released the initial roster for the 2012 campaign.

Aside from the presence of John Lannan, there were a few minor surprises:

…Chris McConnell was promoted from Harrisburg after two grueling days on paper for the Sens.
…Tanner Roark, who repeated AA in both ’10 and ’11, made it to AAA for the first time.
…”OG” favorites Erik Arnesen, Hassan Pena, and Cory VanAllen not only made the cut, but got the bump.
…Some kid named B. Harper is listed as a CF

The rundown (watchlisters in bold, 40-man guys in italics):

PITCHERS
Erik Arnesen
Mitch Atkins
Austin Bibens-Dirkx
Zach Duke
John Lannan
Rafael Martin
Yunesky Maya
Hassan Pena
Ryan Perry
Tanner Roark
Atahualpa Severino
Cory VanAllen
Josh Wilkie

CATCHERS
Carlos Maldonado
Jhonatan Solano

INFIELDERS
Seth Bynum
Jarret Hoffpauir
Chris McConnell
Tyler Moore
Carlos Rivero
Mark Teahen

OUTFIELDERS
Corey Brown
Bryce Harper
Jason Michaels
Xavier Paul

Starting on the DL are Mike Schultz, Waldis Joaquin, Jeff Fulchino and Adam Carr.

For the second year in a row, there are multiple pitchers that would have been in Washington in years past. The Chiefs continue to get older, which is also consistent with how contenders use their AAA teams (e.g. Lehigh Valley for Philadelphia position players, Pawtucket for Boston pitchers). Of course, the Mets are also among the oldest in IL for those two categories, so it may not necessarily be a function of contention (*rimshot!*).

As stated from day one, I know all eyes are on the team’s 19-year-old, but I’m not going to make him the focus of the daily News & Notes unless he actually, you know, does particularly well or particularly poorly — just everyone else (except maybe in the tags, can’t hurt with the ads, right?).

This isn’t a bad-looking roster on paper and it might make for a decent summer for the folks in upstate New York after all.

Apr 042012
 

As you might expect, Anthony Rendon, headlines the 2012 Potomac Nationals roster — particularly since it’s been four years since a first rounder from the previous year started the season for the P-Nats. Joining the sixth pick on the active roster will be seven watchlist players, including the #14 Baseball America prospect, Michael Taylor.

Perhaps more notably, there are eight players on the Potomac DL — how long they stay there (and who they will replace) will be the subject of bitching and moaning debate for the next several hours, if not days or weeks (watchlist in bold): LHPs Matt Purke and Robbie Ray; Cs Sam Palace and Beau Seabury; IFs Zach Walters, Rick Hague, and Steven Souza and OF J.R. Higley.

Here’s the rundown on the active roster:

PITCHERS
Paul Applebee
Ryan Demmin
Wilson Eusebio
Matt Grace
Bobby Hansen
Trevor Holder
Neil Holland
Adam Olbrychowski
Cameron Selik
Josh Smoker
Matt Swyenberg
Rob Wort
Kyle Winters

CATCHERS
David Freitas
James Skelton

INFIELDERS
Justin Bloxom
Blake Kelso
Sean Nicol
Anthony Rendon
Adrian Sanchez
Francisco Soriano

OUTFIELDERS
Chris Curran
Kevin Keyes
Wade Moore
Randolph Oduber
Michael Taylor

An interesting blend of last year’s P-Nats and Suns. On paper there should be enough offense to erase any doubts about the pitching, which will also be a curious case of who starts and for how long, as there are just two “pure starters” (Grace, Winters) and four “pure relievers” (Smoker, Eusebio, Wort, and Holland) and a whole bunch of guys that have done both.

As the estimable Brian Oliver noted on Twitter, the duo of Michael Taylor and Anthony Rendon should be an especially exciting combo, if in fact, they bat leadoff and second (as they ought to, with Bloxom batting third and Keyes hitting cleanup).

The P-Nats begin the season on Friday with three games in Lynchburg, an off day on Monday, then three games in Myrtle Beach before the home opener next Friday, the 13th.

Apr 032012
 

Okay, so it’s not Bryce Harper, but the second of the four full-season rosters to be announced ain’t too shabby. In terms of the watchlist, that’s 15 of the remaining 65 players. In terms of the draft, it’s nine 2011 picks.

Naturally, expectations will be high for this group, as they’re the bulk of the 2011 Auburn Doubledays — winners of the N.Y.-Penn League’s Pinckney Division and runners-up for the championship.

As noted earlier today, the “pushdown” continues with OF J.P. Ramirez and IF Cutter Dykstra dropping down from Potomac and five others repeating from last season.

Without further ado…

PITCHERS
Aaron Barrett
Brian Dupra
Wirkin Estevez
Taylor Hill
Greg Holt
Nathan Karns
Alex Kreis
Bobby Lucas
Christopher McKenzie
Alex Meyer
Christian Meza
Todd Simko
Kylin Turnbull

CATCHERS
Cole Leonida
Adrian Nieto

INFIELDERS
Cutter Dykstra
Jason Martinson
Justin Miller
Brett Newsome
Bryce Ortega
Matt Skole

OUTFIELDERS
Brian Goodwin
Angelbirth Montilla
Caleb Ramsey
J.P. Ramirez

According to the press release on the team site, the starting five will be Meyer, McKenzie, Estevez, Dupra, and Turnbull, which, if true, could signal the predicted conversion of Karns to closer.

The presence of 1Bs Miller and Newsome is most likely a sign that Skole will remain at third base, with Martinson and Ortega likely to fill the middle infield.

Caleb Ramsey, Brian Goodwin and Angel Montilla are most likely to man the OF from LF to CF to RF, respectively, but it will be interesting to see how the Ramirez and Dykstra are used defensively, if at all; both were often used at DH in Potomac.

Finally, the catching tandem of Nieto and Leonida are both back, and both likely to return to their last-season roles of starting and backup catcher.

Hagerstown opens at home with a four-game set against the West Virginia, followed by a three-game series against the Lexington Legends.

Apr 032012
 

It’s another trip to New England to visit family, but a short one — leaving today, back on Friday.

The plan is to update the site in the evenings, cheap motel WiFi willing. I know this is horrible timing in terms of the “roster rollout,” but I think last night’s missive is a clue that folks will need to adjust their expectations.

It appears that lot of players are going to start ’12 where they left off in ’11, and it would not surprise me if the “Auburn” roster (a.k.a. Extended Spring Training) is going to be nearly full. We’ll know more when the next batch of released players hits the streets.

Enjoy this afternoon’s tuneup against the Red Sox. “News & Notes” returns on Thursday.

Apr 022012
 

The official release is not yet in hand, but with some help (H/T Geoff Morrow of the Patriot News), we’ve cobbled together a preliminary list of the 2012 Harrisburg Senators, which will feature quite a few of our 2012 Watchlist.

There are more than 25 names here, so a couple of them will be on the roster but on the DL, which we’ll learn in the coming days (watchlist players in bold).

PITCHERS
Michael Ballard
Erik Davis
Paul Demny
Marcos Frias
Christian Garcia
Robert Gilliam
Danny Rosenbaum
Pat Lehman
Jeff Mandel
Pat McCoy
Hector Nelo
Kevin Pucetas
Joe Testa

CATCHERS
Jeff Howell
Devin Ivany
Sandy Leon

INFIELDERS
Josh Johnson
Stephen King
Jeff Kobernus
Jose Lozada
Manny Mayorson
Chris McConnell
Tim Pahuta

OUTFIELDERS
Destin Hood
Eury Perez
Chris Rahl
Jesus Valdez

A lot of familiar names, no? By my count, 12 of these 27 played for Harrisburg at some point last season. This roster very much reminds me of the Potomac rosters of a few years ago, where there’s very little in-between — either a prospect or a veteran. But with eight watchlist players, this is going to be one of the most interesting teams to watch this season.

Harrisburg opens up the 2012 campaign on the road in Bowie this Thursday for a four-game set, with night games on Thursday and Friday and day games on Saturday and Sunday.