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International League Notebook

News & notes for the week of Monday, April 16

By John Wagner / MLB.com | April 23, 2007

Buffalo Bisons (Cleveland Indians)
THE WEEK IN REVIEW: The Bisons went 4-3 last week, marching to a lost-won beat after winning their first two games of the week. The Herd currently is 9-4 overall, good for first in the IL's North Division, one game better than second-place Rochester.

WHO'S HOT AND WHO'S NOT: OF Franklin Gutierrez has hit .344 in his last eight games, including a 9-for-18 streak to end the week. Gutierrez has scored eight runs in his last eight games. ... IFs Keith Ginter (.156) and Hector Luna (.219) have combined to bat just .194 in the team's last 10 contests.

GOOD PITCHING BEATS GOOD HITTING: The Bisons rank among the IL team leaders with a 2.84 ERA, and the Herd's pitching has been the key to the team's early success. Outside of the 13 runs given up in a loss to Ottawa April 11, Buffalo has not given up more than five runs in any of its other 12 games. In nine games the Bisons have allowed three runs or fewer and are 8-1 in those contests.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "I'm pretty close to where I was before I got hurt. It's taken that long. Last year I was kind of getting a feel for [pitching again]. I came into Spring Training this year feeling very good and very strong, and I've just taken it from there." -- Bisons LHP Jason Stanford told the Buffalo News. Stanford, who underwent "Tommy John" surgery on July 29, 2004, missed most of 2004 and virtually all of the 2005 season before returning to the Herd last year. This season he is 2-0 after having allowed just four walks and four hits while fanning 13 in 13 shutout innings.

Charlotte Knights (Chicago White Sox)
THE WEEK IN REVIEW: The Knights lost their first three games last week and were 1-4 for the week. The Knights' 6-9 record places them in a three-way tie for third in the IL's South Division, 3 1/2 games behind division pacesetter Richmond.

WHO'S HOT AND WHO'S NOT: IF Andy Gonzalez has hit .346 in his last seven games, including a 6-for-16 finish to the week. ... 1B Casey Rogowski batted just .158 in his last 10 games but has collected a home run, six RBI or three runs scored in that span. ... OF Kenny Kelly has hit just .200 in his last seven games and begins the week in a 1-for-11 funk.

THAT WAS THEN, THIS IS NOW: Last season 3B Josh Fields was the IL's Rookie of the Year, while LHP Heath Phillips was voted the league's top pitcher. But 2007 isn't going as well for Fields as 2006 did; he batted just .192 with a home run and four RBIs in his first 15 games. Phillips is pitching reasonably well -- he is 1-1 with a 3.06 ERA, a mark that does not put him among the league's top 10. Last season Phillips ranked second in the IL with a 2.96 ERA.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "They made defensive plays when they needed to. You have to go up to the plate and make something happen with your at-bats." -- Knights manager Marc Bombard told the Charlotte Observer after his team lost 4-1 to Columbus April 21. It wasn't bad enough that the Knights collected just three hits in the loss; any offense they had a chance to generate was negated by the four double plays they hit into.

Columbus Clippers (Washington Nationals)
THE WEEK IN REVIEW: The Clippers lost their first three games last week and were 3-5 overall for the week. That placed them fourth in the IL's West Division with a 5-10 record, 5 1/2 games behind first-place Indianapolis.

WHO'S HOT AND WHO'S NOT: 3B Tony Batista has hit .371 in his last 10 games with two homers, six RBIs and five runs scored. Batista has nine hits in his last 20 at-bats. ... As a team the Clippers have batted just .226 in their last 10 games with seven position players hitting .207 or lower.

REDDING'S RETURN: RHP Tim Redding was shelled in an April 16 start against Buffalo, allowing 10 hits and 12 runs in 1 2/3 innings. But he came back with only two days rest to pitch April 19 and was effective, throwing five scoreless innings before leaving in the sixth inning of a 5-4 victory over Durham. "You always want your pitcher to get right back in the game after they've had a bad outing because the more you sit and think about it, the more it drives you crazy," Clippers manager John Stearns told the Columbus Dispatch.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "(Kory Casto's) attitude is great coming down here. He wanted to come down here. He was struggling up there and not playing every day. He knows he's a young guy who needs 300 straight at-bats at this level to get himself ready to hit. I think he's going to get that. He's an exciting young player, the best hitting prospect in the Nationals' organization. The people in Columbus are going to love this kid." -- Clippers manager John Stearns told the Columbus Dispatch April 20 following Casto's demotion by the parent Nationals.

Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay Devil Rays)
THE WEEK IN REVIEW: The Bulls went 3-4 last week and are currently 7-10 overall. That places them in a three-way tie for second in the IL's South Division, 3 1/2 games behind division leader Richmond.

WHO'S HOT AND WHO'S NOT: Durham catchers Raul Casanova (.318) and Shawn Riggans (.444) have combined to bat a robust .375 in the team's last 10 contests with four homers, eight RBIs and seven runs. ... OF Chris Richard has batted just .161 in his last nine contests and begins this week in a 1-for-17 skid.

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES: Last season Durham led the IL in errors with 198, almost 70 more than the next-worst defensive team, and the Bulls' .965 fielding percentage was easily the worst in the league. This season Durham played errorless ball in 10 of its first 16 games and has a .976 fielding percentage.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "We've got a good pitching staff and a really good group of guys. Most of these kids won a championship at (Double-A) Montgomery last season, so they know how to win. They've done something together as a team at the Double-A level, so they believe we can win a championship again this year." -- Bulls' SS Jorge Velandia told the Durham Herald-Sun. Velandia was a mid- and postseason IL All-Star last year who has played in the Governors' Cup playoffs in 2005 (Indianapolis) and 2006 (Charlotte).

Indianapolis Indians (Pittsburgh Pirates)
THE WEEK IN REVIEW: The Indians won their first five games last week before losing the last one. That 5-1 record improved their record to 10-4 overall, good for first in the IL's West Division, three games in front of second-place Toledo.

WHO'S HOT AND WHO'S NOT: OF Rajai Davis has hit .333 in his last 10 games with seven RBIs and five runs scored. ... Veterans Chris Aguila (.192) and Russ Johnson (.185) have combined to bat just .189 in the team's last 10 contests.

DOUMIT DOES IT: C Ryan Doumit has swung a hot bat for the Indians, collecting hits in each of his last nine games. He has had more than one hit in seven of those nine contests, raising his season batting average from .250 to .465 in that span. In his last 10 games he had hit three homers and collected 15 RBIs and 12 runs scored. Doumit leads the IL in batting average and RBIs (15) and is tied for fifth with three home runs.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "It just wasn't our night. The guys in the Richmond clubhouse are getting paid, too. You have to give them some credit." -- Indians manager Trent Jewett told the Indianapolis Star April 21 after his team saw a five-game win streak come to an end with a 2-1 loss at Richmond.

Louisville Bats (Cincinnati Reds)
THE WEEK IN REVIEW: The Bats lost five of their six games last week, including the last three in a row, to fall 7-8 overall. That places the Bats third in the IL's West Division, 3 1/2 games behind first-place Indianapolis.

WHO'S HOT AND WHO'S NOT: IF Mark Bellhorn has batted .321 in his last eight games with a home run, six RBIs and five runs scored. ... IF Aaron Herr has hit .306 in his last 10 contests with a homer, five RBIs and six runs. ... Six different position players have hit below the Mendoza Line in the Bats' last 10 contests, including IF Earl Snyder (.185), OF Bubba Crosby (.050) and 1B Joey Votto (.100).

FEAST OR FAMINE: The Bats have struggled on offense, ranking near the bottom of the IL with a .227 batting average. But Louisville has pitched well, ranking among the league's best with a 3.21 ERA. While the offense has done better at home -- the Bats have scored just 17 runs in six road games while hitting better (.244 to .200) -- the pitching staff has fared better on the road. At home the pitchers have a 3.84 ERA; that mark drops to 2.22 on the road.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "It was really fun going through that (Spring Training) experience. It was kind of frustrating at times, not really understanding the hype and expectation that everybody had, because I didn't have any. I was just going out to play. Now that the season has started, all of that stuff has gone into the background, and you just go out and try to win games." -- Bats RHP Homer Bailey told the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Norfolk Tides (Baltimore Orioles)
THE WEEK THAT WAS: The Tides lost their first four games last week but won the last two. That 2-4 record moves their record to 5-8 overall, tied for third in the IL's South Division and 3 1/2 games behind first-place Richmond.

WHO'S HOT AND WHO'S NOT: 3B Mike Cervenak has hit .447 in his last nine games with three homers, six RBIs and eight runs scored. Cervenak has 10 hits in his last 18 at-bats. ... C J.R. House has batted .368 in his last 10 contests with five RBI and five runs. ... C Eli Whiteside has hit just .143 in his last eight games. ... OF Ruddy Yan has batted just .103 in his last eight games and begins this week in a 1-for-13 slump.

SAPPING THEIR POWER: The Tides scored six runs on five hits in the sixth inning of a game at Louisville April 20. Norfolk collected a grand slam by Eider Torres and scored five of the runs with two outs. Shortly after that rally there was a 51-minute power outage at Louisville Slugger Field.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "It seems every time we grab a lead, we give it right back the next inning. In four of our losses we've done just that. "--Tides manager Gary Allenson told the Virginian-Pilot. The most-recent instance came April 17 against Indianapolis; The Tides saw a 3-2 lead evaporate with a five-run Indians seventh that resulted in a 7-5 loss.

Ottawa Lynx (Philadelphia Phillies)
THE WEEK IN REVIEW: The Lynx won four of the five games they played last week to improve to 6-6 overall. That places Ottawa third in the IL's North Division, 2 1/2 games behind division pace-setter Buffalo.

WHO'S HOT AND WHO'S NOT: 1B Gary Burnham has hit .444 in his last eight games with four RBI and six runs scored. ... C Jason Jaramillo has batted .400 in his last seven contests and begins this week on an 8-for-16 streak. ... C Chris Coste has hit just .219 in his last nine games and begins the week in a 3-for-14 funk.

PAGING DOCTOR LONGBALL: Through their first 12 games the Lynx have yet to hit a single home run. That hasn't prevented Ottawa from scoring 68 runs in that span -- an average of 5.7 runs per game. Last season Philadelphia's top Triple-A team, playing in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, ranked 12th in the 14-team IL with just 83 home runs.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "The goal is to play above .500 at home and play .500 on the road. If we can win three out of four at home every time, we'll take that. All in all, we've been playing well, but we just didn't get the hits (last night). We'll just keep going after it each day." --Lynx manager John Russell told the Ottawa Citizen April 20 after his missed out on a sweep of Charlotte by losing the final game of a four-game series.

Pawtucket Red Sox (Boston Red Sox)
THE WEEK IN REVIEW: The PawSox went 2-3 last week and are currently 7-8 overall. Pawtucket is tied with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Syracuse for third in the IL's North Division, three games in back of division leader Buffalo.

WHO'S HOT AND WHO'S NOT: OF David Murphy has hit .310 in his last nine games. ... 2B Joe McEwing has batted .333 in his last 10 contests. ... 1B Jeff Bailey has hit .146 in his last 10 games and begins this week in a 2-for-18 skid.

HARD HEADED: RHP Mike Burns was hit in the right cheek by a hard one-hop grounder April 19 versus Rochester. Burns stayed in the game and finished out the inning before having his cheek examined by a doctor, where he learned he had suffered a fracture to his cheekbone. "(Burns) is a tough kid, I'll tell you that -- A lot tougher than me," PawSox manager Ron Johnson told the Providence Journal.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "I've been fortunate enough to play a lot of positions in my career. I've been in a lot of different situations playing-wise, so I feel like I can adapt to a lot of different situations. At this point in my career (my strengths are) being able to switch hit, play a lot of different positions, and the good Lord blessed me with good health so I can still run." -- PawSox IF-OF Bobby Scales told the Providence Journal. Last season Scales played in 105 games for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and saw action at first, second and third base as well as left field.

Richmond Braves (Atlanta Braves)
THE WEEK IN REVIEW: The R-Braves went 4-2 last week to improve to 8-4 overall. That mark is good for first in the IL's South Division, 3 1/2 games in front of the other three teams in the division.

WHO'S HOT AND WHO'S NOT: SS Yunel Escobar has hit .341 in his last 10 games with six RBIs and six runs scored. ... IF Willie Harris has batted .400 in his last nine contests with nine runs scored. ... R-Braves catchers Iker Franco (.133) and Corky Miller (.167) have combined to bat just .152 in the team's last 10 contests.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "Always expect the unexpected when I'm running the bases. I was playing the cards, and the cards came out right. Even if he dropped the ball, I was going to score." -- R-Braves SS Yunel Escobar told the Richmond Times-Dispatch through interpreter Carlos Mendez April 19. Escobar, on second base in the eighth inning against Louisville, scored the game's tying run by scoring from second base on a fly ball to deep right against Louisville. Richmond eventually claimed a 3-2 victory in 11 innings.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK, PART TWO: "It just goes to show you the way our lineup is built that speed really wins ballgames. The way we run the bases, I'm pretty sure [the two-run sacrifice fly will] happen again somewhere during the season." -- R-Braves IF Willie Harris told the Richmond Times-Dispatch after Escobar's daring baserunning play April 19.

Rochester Red Wings (Minnesota Twins)
THE WEEK IN REVIEW: The Red Wings won three of the four games they were able to play last week. Rochester is currently 6-3 overall, good for second in the IL's North Division, one game in back of first-place Buffalo.

WHO'S HOT AND WHO'S NOT: 1B Garrett Jones has hit .333 in his last 10 games with a home run, 10 RBI and four runs. ... C Matthew LeCroy has batted just .147 in his last nine contests and begins the week in a 2-for-15 funk.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "We're going to consider the first 10 days our winter training. We had Spring Training in Florida, now we've had winter training here." -- Red Wings General Manager Dan Mason told the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. The Red Wings saw four games lost to the weather in its opening homestand, including three games lost from the home attendance schedule. The Rochester front office sponsored "Opening Day II" when the team returned from a road trip on April 21.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK, PART TWO: "The starting pitching is unreal. It's three-up, three-down and then we get to hit." -- Red Wings OF Trent Oeltjen told the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle April 21. In the Red Wings' first 10 games the starters have a 1.20 ERA, having walked 16 while fanning 49. The leaders including RHPs Kevin Slowey (2-0, 0.00 ERA), Jeremy Cummings (1-0, 0.82) and Scott Baker (1-0, 1.69).

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees (New York Yankees)
THE WEEK THAT WAS: The Yankees won their first two games last week, then lost their last four in a row to fall to 7-8 overall. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre is tied with Pawtucket and Syracuse for third in the IL's North Division, three games behind first-place Buffalo.

WHO'S HOT AND WHO'S NOT: OF Shelley Duncan has hit .275 in his last 10 games with three homers, six RBIs and four runs scored. ... 1B Eric Duncan has batted just .211 in his last six contests. ... OF Kevin Reese has hit just .146 in his last 10 games.

BIG APPLE BASAK: After spending his career in the New York Mets system, IF Chris Basak signed with the Mets' cross-town rivals, the New York Yankees. Basak, one of the Yankees' final cuts in Spring Training, has played well for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Basak hit .273 with a homer, six RBIs and six runs scored in his first 15 games for the Triple-A Yankees.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "You'd have to have a crystal ball to see that. We had a rough start defensively after a quick start offensively. All you can do is turn the page and come out (the next day) and look for a better game." -- Yankees manager Dave Miley told the Scranton Times-Tribune April 21. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre scored three runs in the top of the first at Ottawa, only to see the Lynx scored six runs in the bottom of the first in a 17-4 Ottawa victory.

Syracuse Chiefs (Toronto Blue Jays)
THE WEEK IN REVIEW: The Chiefs sandwiched losses around a three-game win streak to go 3-2 last week. They are currently 7-8 overall, tied for third in the IL's North Division, three games behind first-place Buffalo.

WHO'S HOT AND WHO'S NOT: OF Mike Vento has hit .409 in his last six games with six runs scored. ... The Chiefs have slugged 12 home runs in their last 10 games, led by two apiece by C Sal Fasano, OF John-Ford Griffin, IF John Hattig and IF Ryan Roberts. ... OF Chad Mottola has batted just .207 in his last eight games.

AGAINST ALL ODDS: With the potential game-winning run on second base in the 14th inning of the Chiefs' home game with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre April 19, SS Ray Olmedo lined a ball just foul down the right-field line. Two pitches later Olmedo slapped a hard grounder down the third-base line -- again, just foul. "After the first one, I'm thinking, 'The odds aren't good (of Olmedo getting a hit),' Then he hit it (foul) again, and I felt, maybe the odds are getting better," Chiefs manager Doug Davis told the Syracuse Post-Standard. Davis turned out to be a prophet as Olmedo lined the next pitch for a game-winning single to give the Chiefs a 4-3 victory.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "It kind of surprised me. When I hit it, I didn't think I got it. I didn't think it was going to go. And then I realized it was out, and I was like, 'Oh, wait. We won.'" -- Chiefs C Curtis Thigpen told the Syracuse Post-Standard April 20. Thigpen's walk-off two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh gave the Chiefs a 3-2 victory over Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and a sweep of a doubleheader over the Yankees.

Toledo Mud Hens (Detroit Tigers)
THE WEEK IN REVIEW: The Mud Hens went 4-3 last week and are currently 8-8 overall. That's good for second in the IL's West Division, three games behind first-place Indianapolis.

WHO'S HOT AND WHO'S NOT: OF Timo Perez has a hit in all 15 games he has played this season. Perez has batted .341 in his last 10 games with eight runs scored. ... While 3B Mike Hessman has batted just .161 in his last 10 games he has collected two homers and eight RBI. ... OF Brent Clevlen has hit just .243 in his last 10 games and begins this week in a 4-for-21 funk.

SWINGING AND MISSING: RHP Virgil Vasquez has been racking up the strikeouts in his first four starts. While Vasquez struck out only one in his second start, that's been the exception: Vasquez fanned eight in his first start, then followed that with nine K's in his third start and a career-high 10 at Durham April 21. Vasquez, who is 2-2 with a 3.48 ERA, leads the IL with 28 whiffs.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "I was just trying to get that guy off third, no matter how it got done. Whether it was a sac fly or one on the ground. I felt really confident when I stepped into the box, and I got a good pitch to hit. This year my mindset's been completely different when I step in the box. I have a great deal of confidence when I get in there." -- Mud Hens 3B Mike Hessman told the (Toledo) Blade after slamming a pinch-hit three-run homer in Toledo's 3-1 victory over Buffalo April 19. Last season Hessman hit 24 home runs but batted just .165; this season he is hitting .214 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 16 games.