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.

Jul 042011
 

The dark clouds that foretold the evening’s eventual outcome matched the first inning, as the Potomac Nationals fell behind early 3-0 and were losing 4-2 in the middle of the 5th when the rains came.

Danny Rosenbaum was obviously not sharp in the first inning. The leadoff batter smacked a triple off the glove of J.R. Higley in centerfield (Eury Perez was not in the lineup for the second straight game since being lifted during the top of the 7th on Friday night). A single after an infield popup plated the first run, and a pro-shop-fitted (lifted?) John Whittleman (the uniform back said “Sample”) slammed a two-run shot for an early 3-0 Blue Rocks lead.

Rosenbaum retired the next five batters before an infield single opened the third. A one-out double to right field two batters later set up runners on second and third but Sandy Leon picked off the runner at third and Rosenbaum struck out “Sample” to end the threat.

Potomac managed to scratch out a run in the bottom of the third on hit batsmen, an error, a sacrifice and a tapper to shortstop that Cutter Dykstra misread and attempted to take third. He managed to stay alive just long enough for the run to score, but the baseunning gaffe killed the rally.

In another recurring theme of the 2011 season — not stopping the opposing team in the next half-inning — Wilmington answered the Potomac tally with a leadoff double, a move-up flyout to deep center and a grounder to second that Jeff Kobernus couldn’t field cleanly while drawn in for the play at the plate.

Justin Bloxom led off the fourth with a double down the rightfield line and J.P. Ramirez sent him home with two outs with a seeing-eye single up the middle to pull back within two at 4-2 after four full.

Rosenbaum worked around a Francisco Soriano error that led off the fifth, but the real drama was in the skies beyond the third-base side as streaks of lightning were visible in the distance. Play was halted at 7:47 and the official decision to suspend play until today came approximately 30 minutes later.

It’s a 5 p.m. resumption, followed by a seven-inning game tonight. Evan Bronson or Marcos Frias are the two most likely candidates to take the hill when play resumes. Adam Olbrychowski (2-3, 4.76) is still listed as the starter for the second, regularly scheduled game.

FWIW, Sammy Solis was indeed in “the house,” tracking pitches as is the custom for starters two days before they start. His regular turn is also tomorrow.

Jul 032011
 

A 14-1 beatdown isn’t very common for the P-Nats. Being on the winning side of it is almost unusual. Throw in a decent rehab start, a few home runs, and you’ve got one of the more memorable evenings in a long time.

In front of an estimated reported crowd of 6,911, the Potomac Nationals gave the crowd a rousing victory and fireworks show before they even lit a match. Destin Hood, Francisco Soriano, and Brian Peacock all went deep, with Hood connecting for a two-run shot to right-center and three-run bomb to left as part of an 18-hit onslaught.

Every batter reached base, and every batter got a hit, with the homer-run hitters each going 3-for-5 and five batters getting multiple hits. Potomac did the bulk of its damage in the eighth, scoring seven runs on seven hits, with Peacock driving in all three of his runs on a home run (pictured above) and a two-out, two-run triple.

I suppose I’ve buried it as deep as I can, but Chien-Ming Wang pitched fairly well, albeit against a substandard lineup (the best hitter having a .259 GPA, league average is .236) going four scoreless innings and allowing one hit and two walks while striking out two.

Unlike most rehabbing pitchers, Wang used more than just his fastball and sinker, mixing in changeups and sliders. Early in the contest, he was hitting in the low-to-mid-80s but by the end of his outing he was in the upper 80s and low-90s. Wang allowed just one flyball to the outfield and got six of the twelve outs on groundballs, which is going to be key since it’s doubtful that he’ll ever return to throwing mid-90s heat*.

*As good a time as any to remind folks that I’m not a scout, I just play one on the web.

Mitchell Clegg and Neil Holland followed Wang on the mound, with Clegg getting knocked for four hits and a run in two innings and Holland working out of a bases-loaded-jam unscathed for two scoreless innings and properly getting credit for the win as the most effective reliever. Rob Wort Josjh Smoker pitched the ninth and got three outs with one walk.

The win brings Potomac back to .500 at 5-5 for the second half, but still one game back of first-half champ Frederick. Staff ace Danny Rosenbaum (4-3, 2.57) toes the slab for the P-Nats, opposed by the #14 Kansas City prospect (according to Basball America), 21-year-old Tim Melville (7-6, 4.23).

Jul 022011
 

A five-run sixth, bookended by solo shots in the first and ninth, was the undoing of the Potomac Nationals in a 7-2 loss on Friday night.

This was the beatdown I was fearing in yesterday’s gamer, but for five innings the pessimism was unfounded as middle infielders Francisco Soriano and Jeff Kobernus were sensational on defense, combining for one double play and Soriano turning a cross-the-bag 6-B-3 beauty to keep the P-Nats in the game.

The wheels came off in the sixth for Potomac, the reversion that was mean as Winston-Salem sent 10 men up and had the first six reach base — the first four against starter Cameron Selik, who was charged with five runs in five-plus innings. Marcos Frias let in both runs he inherited with a long triple to rightcenter, misplayed momentarily by rightfielder J.R. Higley, a matter that only affected whether it would be a double or a triple as both runners easily crossed the plate.

Unfortunately, the Dash’s Joe Serafin had the P-Nats offbalance for most of the night with his bender and just-accurate-enough heater. The southpaw had seven K’s in earning his first win of the year, going seven-plus innings with the bullpen coughing up both runs.

To recap the scoring in the bottom of the eighth: Cutter Dykstra drew a leadoff walk, Brian Peacock, who had inexplicably replaced Eury Perez (Higley went to CF, Peacock to RF) in the top of the seventh, got a Texas-league bloop to short right field to put runners on first and second. Soriano chopped a single that bounded over the third baseman into short left to send in Dykstra. After a strikeout and flyout, Justin Bloxom capped the inning with an RBI single, the throw home getting past the catcher to set up Steve Souza with runners on second and third, but after battling for several pitches, he, too struck out to end the inning.

Winston-Salem’s Andy Wilkins completed the game’s scoring with a LONG home run to right field, easily clearing the multiple levels of signage and probably landing deep into the parking lot.

The loss dropped Potomac to 4-5 for the second half, a game off the pace currently set by Frederick. Chien-Mien Wang takes the hill tonight in a rehab start, with Mitchell Clegg (not Danny Rosenbaum) the first man out of the ‘pen, an indication perhaps that Wang will have a higher pitch count than the 50 he was allotted in Hagerstown.

Jul 012011
 

Our weekly look at the leaders, trailers, and outliers in the Washington Nationals minor leagues.

SYRACUSE 33-45, 5th place I.L. North, 12 games behind

Good Ross Detwiler 3-1, 2.45 ERA, 1.06WHIP in June
Bad Jeff Frazier .182/.248/.311 in 68G
Interesting Jesus Valdez .286/.333/.441 in 43G

HARRISBURG 45-32, 1st place E.L. West Division, 4 games ahead

Good Bill Rhinehart .294 GPA, .894OPS
Bad Erik Davis 30BB in 62⅔ IP
Interesting Shairon Martis 5-3, 2.37ERA in last 10 starts

POTOMAC 4-4, T1st place C.L. North Division, 1 game ahead (33-44, overall)

Good Danny Rosenbaum 2-0, 1.63 ERA, 1.08WHIP in June
Bad Eury Perez .243/.254/.288 in June; .333/.337/.409 in May
Interesting Sandy Leon .307/.350/.387 in June; .165/.214/.203 in May

HAGERSTOWN 5-3, T1st place Sally League Northern Division, 1 game ahead (45-33 overall)

Good Kevin Keyes .306, 7HR, 16RBI in June
Bad Ben Graham 2-2, 5.54ERA, 1.69WHIP in June
Interesting Cole Leonida .385OBP in 27G as backup C

AUBURN 8-6, T2nd place, Pinckney Division, New York-Penn League, 2 games behind

Good Ryan Demmin 3-0, 1.69ERA, 0.94WHIP in three starts
Bad Rick Hughes .154/.195/.231 in 9G
Interesting Hendry Jimenez, Russell Moldenhauer, Matt Skole – each with an 11G hit streak

GCL NATIONALS 5-4, T2nd place, GCL East, ½ game back

Good Nathan Karns 3G – 9┼ IP, 2H, 0R, 3BB, 14K
Bad Pedro Severino .087/.125/.130 in 23AB
Interesting Wander Ramos .314/.415/.714 in 35AB

DSL NATIONALS 12-16, 6th place, Boca Chica South Division of Dominican Summer League, 6½ games behind

Good Gilberto Mendez (Age 18) 2-0, 1.88ERA, 1.25WHIP, 24K in 24IP
Bad Wilman Rodriguez (Age 19) .132/.277/.170 in 53AB
Interesting Ivan Pineyro (Age 19) 38K in 27⅔ IP
Jul 012011
 

Don’t look now, but Potomac is starting to play some pretty good baseball.

Of course, now, I may have just guaranteed a beatdown for tonight, and maybe it’s just two games against a lesser team, but things seem better.

Start with Paul Demny, who went seven full innings for the second time this season, didn’t walk a batter (also second time) and struck out a season-high eight batters. The first two innings were a high-wire act — an error, a hit batsman in the first, a two-out double by Austin Yount (son of Larry, not Robin) in the second. That’s nine batters faced, and a conservative estimate of at least 40 pitches.

But reading over the scorebook — no secret: that’s my Calgon — Demny both settled down and settled in. He retired the leadoff batter in four of the next five innings. Yes, he gave up two more doubles, but followed each with strikeout, and then retired the last nine in a row.

Much like Cameron Selik has been having success with an inside slider underneath the right-handed batter’s hands, Demny has begun to master the backdoor breaking ball to lefties. These are the little adjustments that make following the minors so much fun.

Flipping over the book, we’re seeing the offense hit double digits in the hit column for the fourth straight game. They’ve won three of those games. For this team, scoring first is a good sign. A better sign: putting up a goose egg in the top half of the next inning. Wednesday night, they failed twice to do that. Last night, they failed just once.

Two-out scoring is also nice, and two of the four runs came with two outs: Justin Bloxom’s RBI single in the first. Francisco Soriano’s RBI single in the 6th. But there’s still room for improvement, with a 3-for-13 night with RISP and nine runners left on.

Steve Souza led the attack with a 2-for-3 night, including a long double in the 6th that might have been out of some parks (but not Yellowstone), while J.P. Ramirez was close behind with a 2-for-4 effort, driving in Souza with an opposite-field double, as was Soriano (2-for-4, RBI).

Josh Smoker was greeted with a home run to start the eighth, but struck out the next two batters before issuing a walk that ended his night. Hector Nelo got out of the eighth with a groundout and nailed down the win with three outs in the ninth for his sixth save.

Selik is on the bump tonight as the P-Nats go for their second sweep of the season, opposed by the Dash lefty Joe Serafin. Tomorrow night, Chien-Mien Wang makes his second rehab start, with Danny Rosenbaum the first man out of the ‘pen.

Jun 302011
 

Perhaps now Tom Milone is starting to get the attention he deserves, as one of our favorites here will be representing Syracuse in the 2011 International League All-Star Game in Salt Lake City on July 13.

The 24-year-old southpaw currently sports a 6-5, 3.41 ERA in 14 starts and leads the league in strikeouts. For folks more interested in new-school numbers, Milone leads the league in FIP (2.15, ahead of Julio Teheran), second to Teheran in WHIP, the lowest walk rate (0.50/9IP), and sports a 19:1 K/BB ratio.

Milone was the 2010 pitcher of the year for the Washington Nationals farm system and came into the season as the #16 prospect in the 2011 Baseball America Top 30 rankings. He’s been recently featured by John Sickels as the Prospect of the Day.

Last, but not least, Milone was the first prospect that I scouted for this site when it was founded by Jordan Tuwiner of Orioles-Nation.com. He’s a favorite of mine because he’s not the blow-it-by-you thrower, but a pitcher who just gets guys out and has sensational control (that 2.14BB/9 is the worst year of his career; his career average is 1.43). And FWIW, not too shabby a hitter, either (.333BA this season, .233 career).

Jun 302011
 

In a see-saw battle, Destin Hood delivered the walkoff hit with a single to left to give Potomac a 4-3 win in 10 innings to kick off the first homestand of the second half.

Batting ninth, Eury Perez drew a leadoff walk in the tenth and went to third on a Francisco Soriano double to set up the gamewinner. Winston-Salem elected not to walk Jeff Kobernus, pulling the infield in instead. Kobernus grounded to second, the ball ricocheting off the Dash infielder’s chest momentarily but he recovered to throw out his Potomac counterpart. Hood, the team leader in OBP, worked the count to 2-1 before pulling the ball into left to send Perez home for the gamewinner.

Evan Bronson took the hill in place of the expected Trevor Holder on three days’ rest from his last outing, a relief appearance on Saturday in Kinston in which he surrendered six hits over two innings and faced 14 batters. It was his sixth start in 13 games, as Bronson has pinballed between long relief starting since making three consecutive starts in early May.

Suffice it to say, it was a bit of a surprise to see him take the mound in the top of the seventh after Potomac had taken the lead in the bottom of the sixth. It was not a surprise to see a tired pitcher give back a 3-2 lead with a leadoff home run. Perhaps Potomac had just played back-to-back extra-inning games, but with a fresh arm in the bullpen, the expected move was for a reliever to come in and start building the bridge to the ninth.

Bronson would recover from the circle clout to get the next three out (hey, that rhymes) but would miss the chance to get the win.

Offensively, Potomac would grind out 11 hits, with Justin Bloxom, Sandy Leon, and J.P. Ramirez each going 2-for-4 while Steve Souza and Justino Cuevas both rapped RBI doubles. Souza’s shot to the warning track in left-center would open up the scoring in the second while Cuevas’s tomahawked shot down the left field line gave the P-Nats the aforementioned 3-2 lead.

The whispers were true: Neil Holland came on in the top of the 8th and announced his presence with authority. Not with a 95-mph heater, but by striking out the first three batters he faced with his unusual, not-quite-sidearm delivery that had Winston-Salem batters baffled. He would go two innings and retire all six batters he faced.

Rob Wort pitched the 10th and got the win, aided by a spectacular catch from Perez in deep left-center to open the frame and running dash to the LF line by Ramirez before Kobernus got a routine grounder to end it.

The win puts Potomac at 3-4 for the second half, tied for first place with Frederick and Wilmington, with Paul Demny set to take the hill against Jacob Petricka, who’s making his High-A debut.

Jun 292011
 

With multiple sources reporting that J.C. Romero has been signed and will report to Syracuse, here’s a look at recent transactions that have occurred since our last update.

SYRACUSE
• OF Rick Ankiel assigned from GCL Nationals
• LHP Lee Hyde transferred to Inactive List
• LHP J.C. Romero assigned from Washington Nationals

POTOMAC
• RHP Neil Holland assigned from the Hagerstown Suns

• RHP Trevor Holder placed on 7-Day DL
• IF Jose Lozada placed on 7-Day DL

AUBURN
• C Miguel Perez traded to Indianapolis Indians
• RHP Gregory Holt assigned to Doubledays

There have been multiple whispers about a Suns pitcher being promoted to Potomac, but I have yet to get an official confirmation. With a home game tonight, I’ll be on the watch for an unfamiliar face and/or uniform number in the ‘pen. As always, if I learn anything before I leave tonight or see anything overnight, I’ll post an update in this space.

UPDATE: As first identified in our comments, Neil Holland was indeed the pitcher moved from the Hagerstown to the Potomac roster. Of course, no corresponding moves were listed on MiLB.com, which has been par for the course this season.

UPDATE #2: The shoes have dropped for the P-Nats, as Jose Lozada and Trevor Holder were placed on the 7-Day DL. The two moves leave the Potomac roster at 24, which is one short of the Carolina league limit. Eighth-round pick Gregory Holt was assigned to the Auburn Doubledays, which is at 29, one short of the NYPL limit.

Jun 292011
 

Rosters for the 2011 Eastern League All-Star Team were announced today and five Harrisburg Senators made the squad:

• RHP Erik Arnesen

• RHP Brad Peacock

• 1B Tyler Moore

• OF-1B Bill Rhinehart

• OF Archie Gilbert

The 2011 E.L. All Star Game will be held at the home stadium of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats on July 13th. Peacock was also named to the Futures Game that will be held on July 10th at the home stadium of the Arizona Diamondbacks. It is believed to be the first All Star team honors for for all but Archie Gilbert, who Arnesen, Peacock and Moore. Archie Gilbert was named to 2010 Southern League All-Star Game for Midland, while Rhinehart was a 2008 Sally League All-Star for Hagerstown.

Jun 262011
 

It’s been a busy couple of days for transactions, as the Harrisburg Senators announced this morning the following moves:

• IF Adam Fox transferred from Syracuse
• IF Tim Pahuta activated from 7-Day DL
• IF Alex Valdez released

In the DSL, Juan De Los Santos was activated from the Restricted List (recent IFA signing, not on suspension for PEDs).