The Modesto Nuts were rained out three times in two days last week. Modesto wasn't the only California League team to have its parade rained on, but missing four games out of the first 20 isn't the best way to start a season.
The Nuts tried to play two on April 21 to make up for the previous day's rainout. That plan failed when the precipitation persisted, forcing a makeup of the makeup game, to be managed with doubleheaders in May and June.
The outlook wasn't entirely gloomy, however. Right-hander Ethan Hollingsworth worked between the raindrops, pitching his scheduled start on April 19 and taking his next turn on April 26. That was nice for the Nuts since Hollingsworth is in a groove, leading the league with 25 strikeouts. He's also tops among starting pitchers with a 3-1 record and 1.04 ERA, having allowed just one earned run over his last 21 innings while issuing one walk in his first four starts. Hollingsworth won his third straight start on Monday in Bakersfield.
"The bullpen is not getting the work that they're used to, pitching every other day or sometimes every day," he said, referring to the weather and explaining how it can throw off various patterns and rhythms. "Starters have to throw an extra bullpen session in between starts ... throwing and running schedules [change]."
Hollingsworth said the rain and the disruptions it causes are things pitchers have to work around.
"It doesn't happen that much in the California League," he said. "I pitched here a month and a half last year and there wasn't a cloud in the sky."
Modesto will start long relievers in the nightcaps of the seven-inning makeup doubleheaders.
"If you were to start two starters on the same day, then one of those starters would only be on four days' rest for his next start," Hollingsworth pointed out.
He has confidence in the staff's ability in those games.
"Our starters have been awesome at going deep into games and utilizing their pitch counts," he said.
As for leading the league in strikeouts and ERA, Hollingsworth said it's as much about the hitters as it is about his own efforts.
"Hitters aren't really comfortable yet. It's the beginning of the season," he said. "I've been able to go in and throw strikes. I'm not getting the quick outs or even the quick hits. Batters are hitting a lot of foul balls. I'm able to get ahead and stay ahead most of the time."
When Colorado traded right-hander Connor Graham to Cleveland last July, it opened a spot in the Nuts' rotation for Hollingsworth. Before joining Modesto, he threw 86 2/3 innings in 15 starts for Asheville in the Class A South Atlantic League.
"I had no expectations of advancing this year," he said. "This is where I thought I'd be. I'm happy to still be playing. It's like I'm continuing last year's season. I figure if you pitch one full year in a season and move up after that, you're on the right track."
Big weekend on the road: Inland Empire OF Kyle Russell was named the league's Player of the Week after going 10-for-28 with two homers and seven RBIs. Russell demolished Visalia pitching over the weekend with seven hits, including three doubles. The 2009 Midwest League MVP leads the 66ers with a .362 average.
Brief, but good: Rawhide RHP Josh Collmenter won Pitcher of the Week honors for his five-inning shutout over Inland Empire on April 24. He allowed one hit and one walk, striking out nine. The 24-year-old is 2-0 with 21 strikeouts in three starts.
Look at this streak: San Jose OF Juan Perez extended his hitting streak to 10 games on Monday when he led off the game against Stockton with a towering home run to left field. He is batting .405 with nine RBIs since April 13 and has put together five multi-hit games during the streak.
Pick this pair of hitters: Rancho Cucamonga 1B Gabe Jacobo is on an RBI streak, knocking in six runs over his last four games. He leads the league with 17 RBIs, one more than teammate Roberto Lopez. Lopez and Nuts C Jordan Pacheco are tied for second with 16 RBIs.