Cal notes: Storm's Kral takes advantage

Padres prospect thrives while filling in for injured Hedges

By George Alfano / Special to | May 15, 2013 6:00 AM ET

If there's anything Lake Elsinore's Robert Kral learned while playing at three Minor League levels in 2012, it is to be patient and take advantage of opportunities when they are presented.

Kral, a catcher from Randolph, N.J., who attended the College of Charleston, put on a show May 10 when he hit a homer and two doubles against Zack Greinke, the Dodgers right-hander who was making a rehab start for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes.

"To be honest, I really felt good that night," said Kral, who earned All-State honors in baseball and ice hockey at Randolph High School. "I got in good hitter's counts and saw some good pitches."

Greinke said his fastball was sharp, but Kral didn't bite at anything outside the strike zone.

"I threw him three strikes and they were all down the middle," said Greinke, the 2009 American League Cy Young Award winner who signed a six-year, $147 million contract with the Dodgers last December. "[Kral] did what he was supposed to do."

Kral slugged another homer, but Lake Elsinore wasted a five-run lead as Rancho Cucamonga rallied for a 14-12 victory.

The 24-year-old leads the Storm with seven home runs and a .347 batting average. His 1.220 OPS would lead the California League if he had enough plate appearances to qualify. He's showing a good batting eye, drawing 18 walks while striking out only 13 times.

When the season started, Kral was slated to be the backup to Austin Hedges,'s No. 4 catching prospect. But Hedges, a 2001 second-round pick, has had problems with his ankle and his hand and has been on the disabled list since May 3.

"It really stinks that he [Hedges] got injured," said Kral, who has some firsthand experience with pain.

In college in 2010, he suffered a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. He continued to play because he was still able to hit but could not throw well. Kral had a redshirt season because he didn't play as a freshman and was eligible for the 2010 Draft. Despite the injury, the Reds took him in the 16th round.

"The injury set me back in the first Draft year," Kral recalled. "I felt better as a junior, but my throwing was no more than 70 percent of full strength. There was no pop on the ball."

Kral said he fell into some bad habits while injured and his goal is to be a stronger defender.

"I want to improve every aspect of my defensive game," he added. "The knock on me is that I don't have a strong arm, but before the injury that was one of my chief assets."

In brief

That elusive win: Edwin Escobar, a Venezuelan left-hander pitching for the San Jose Giants, has some impressive statistics but still hasn't earned a win. He has 44 strikeouts over 29 2/3 innings while walking nine and allowing just one home run. His first decision was a loss on May 13 against High Desert. Escobar is the Giants' No. 10 prospect.

A no-hitter? Where? JetHawks pitchers Kyle Hallock and Luis Cruz combined to pitch a no-hitter against Stockton on May 12. Lancaster is notable for being extremely difficult for pitchers. Hallock pitched five innings to earn the win and Cruz worked the final four frames. Perhaps even more remarkable is the fact that the JetHawks totaled two hits.

Giving nothing for Mother's Day: California League pitchers were not in a generous mood on May 12. Of the five games played, four were shutouts, while Inland Empire shut down Visalia, 3-1.

Rehab assignments: In addition to Greinke, several other Major Leaguers performed in the Cal League this week. Assigned to Rancho Cucamonga by the Dodgers, Scott Elbert struck out two and set Lake Elsinore down in order during his lone inning on May 10. D-backs outfielder Adam Eaton joined Visalia for three games and Angels reliever Ryan Madson earned a save for Inland Empire on May 13.

George Alfano is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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