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Browsing Posts tagged Aaron Poreda

By Scott Barancik, editor

As baseball fans celebrate Opening Day, Jewish Baseball News is taking a look back at the 21 Jews who participated in MLB Spring Training this year.

Fifteen position players and six pitchers saw playing time, some as full-fledged team members, others as non-roster invitees, and several via short-term stints. Their stats are shown at the bottom; players who made their franchise’s Opening Day roster are shown in bold.

Following are some of the Spring’s top stories.

  • It will take a lot more for him to earn back some fans’ trust and affection, but Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun — fresh from a 65-game suspension for taking performance-enhancing drugs — dazzled, hitting .417 with nine RBIs and eight extra-base hits in 36 at-bats.
  • Ike Davis and Josh Satin both made the Mets’ Opening Day roster and will share First Base duties with Lucas Duda. But Davis — who squeaked by with a .241 average in Spring Training — is among the candidates to be sent down later this week to make room for Jon Niese.
  • Nate Freiman‘s 11 RBIs ranked eighth on the A’s, but it wasn’t enough to make the team’s Opening Day roster. Meanwhile, teammate Sam Fuld wowed his way onto the roster with four triples, 7 RBIs and a .348 on-base percentage.
  • With Boston’s Craig Breslow starting the season on the disabled list, Scott Feldman is the only Jewish pitcher to make an Opening Day roster. He also was the only Jewish starter during spring Training. As a group, Jewish pitchers went 1-and-5.
  • After missing much of the past three seasons with surgeries and injuries, former Boston Red Sox OF Ryan Kalish earned a spot on the Cubs’ Opening Day roster. Kalish hit .304 with 3 RBIs, stole 6 of 7 bases, and reached base 38.5% of the time.
  • Texas prospect Aaron Poreda earned some respect in his first MLB Spring Training since 2011. Poreda claimed one save in two chances, held opposing hitters to a .265 average, and walked just one batter over 8.1 innings.
  • Ian Kinsler, traded by Texas during the off-season for Detroit’s Cecil Fielder, outperformed “Big Daddy” with 3 HRs, 9 extra-based hits, 9 RBIs, a perfect 4-for-4 in stolen bases, a .300 average, and a .382 on-base percentage. Fielder matched Kinsler’s power (3 HRs, 9 extra-base hits, 10 RBIs) but hit .246 while striking out 16 times and drawing only two walks.
  • Ben Guez, a 27-year-old outfielder who spent part of the last four seasons with Detroit’s Triple-A club but has yet to be called up, made a brief but exciting splash in three Spring Training games. Against Toronto on 3/18/2014, Guez reached base all six times, going 3-for-3 with two doubles and three walks. His career MLB Spring Training average is a robust .529, along with a .692 on-base percentage.

 MLB Spring Training hitting, 2014

Team AB H 2B 3B HR RBI SB AVG OBP
Zach Borenstein LAA 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 NA 1.000
Ryan Braun MIL 36 15 5 0 3 9 0 .417 .500
Ike Davis NYM 29 7 2 0 2 7 0 .241 .313
Cody Decker SDP 10 3 1 0 1 4 0 .300 .417
Nate Freiman OAK 42 10 2 1 1 11 0 .238 .327
Sam Fuld OAK 59 16 1 4 1 7 1-1 .271 .348
Ben Guez DET 7 5 2 0 0 2 0-1 .714 .818
Ryan Kalish CHC 46 14 1 0 0 3 6-7 .304 .385
Ian Kinsler DET 60 18 5 1 3 9 4-4 .300 .382
Ryan Lavarnway BOS 38 11 1 0 2 5 0 .289 .357
Jake Lemmerman SDP 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .500
Joc Pederson LAD 38 7 1 0 3 6 0 .184 .311
Kevin Pillar TOR 33 5 1 1 0 4 0-1 .152 .176
Josh Satin NYM 50 13 2 0 1 4 0 .260 .333
Danny Valencia KCR 48 11 1 0 1 4 1-1 .229 .327

Notes: Zach Borenstein walked in his only plate appearance

MLB Spring Training pitching, 2014

Team W L ERA G IP H BB SO AVG WHIP
Jeremy Bleich NYY 0 0 9.00 1 1.0 2 0 0 .500 2.00
Scott Feldman HOU 0 2 5.40 4 16.2 21 2 14 .292 1.38
Aaron Poreda TEX 0 1 3.24 8 8.1 9 1 8 .265 1.20
Danny Rosenbaum WAS 0 1 2.70 3 3.1 3 2 2 .300 1.50
Jeff Urlaub OAK 1 1 8.10 4 3.1 4 2 1 .333 1.80
Josh Zeid HOU 0 0 4.15 7 8.2 12 4 12 .333 1.85

Notes: Aaron Poreda earned one save in two chances; Josh Zeid earned a save in his sole opportunity. Boston’s Craig Breslow did not play, due to injury

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By Scott Barancik, editor

Aaron Poreda, a 6-foot-6-inch pitcher whose rapid rise to the Majors was matched by a swift decline, has signed a minor-league deal with the Texas Rangers after a long layoff for “Tommy John” surgery.

Poreda, 27, told Jewish Baseball News that Texas was one of 8 to 10 teams that sent scouts to watch him work out at a recent showcase in Arizona. “An hour later, we get a call from John Daniels, the G.M. of the Texas Rangers. He said, ‘We’re very interested in Aaron. Don’t sign with any other team until you talk with us first,'” Poreda recalled. “I was on cloud nine.”

Under the deal, Poreda will participate in the Rangers’ major-league spring training camp and fight for a spot on the team’s starting rotation. If Texas decides he needs a bit more polishing — it will have been two years since he last played competitively, for the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Double-A squad — he’ll start the season with the Rangers’ Triple-A team, the Round Rock Express. Either way, he’ll be accompanied by his wife of one year, Melissa.

An avid football player in high school, the northern California native was lightly recruited by college baseball teams before ending up at the University of San Francisco. Three years later, in 2007, he was a first-round draft pick of the Chicago White Sox. Two years after that, at the raw age of 22, he made his Major League debut.

But later that season, Chicago surprised Poreda by sending him and several others to the San Diego Padres for Jake Peavy. Before long, the fastball pitcher known for his control was walking batters left and right. “When I got traded is when the wheels started to come off,” he said. Part of the problem was mental. What Poreda didn’t know at the time was that the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his throwing elbow was starting to tear.

Fast forward to the 2012 season. After several attempts to heal his elbow without going under the knife, Poreda agreed to let noted surgeon Dr. James Andrews replace the torn ligament in his elbow with a tendon from his hamstring. Several months later, the Pirates released him. When no one picked him up, many fans — including this website — assumed Poreda had retired.

But in an interview with Jewish Baseball News, Poreda said he never gave up on his baseball career, and in fact has spent the 13 months since Tommy John surgery painstakingly returning to form, as well as adding a new pitch or two to his repertoire.

Below is an edited transcript.

JBN: You were a first-round draft pick in 2007. What do you think the Chicago White Sox saw in a young Aaron Poreda?

Poreda: Well, they saw a big, left-handed guy with a plus-plus fastball with depth and a lot of movement. A lot of people said I was a raw guy who could be molded into whatever they wanted. I saw myself as more polished. I didn’t have the change-up I have today, but I had a fastball, and I was able to get ahead with that and finish people with the slider, keep them off balance, and throw the change-up periodically when it was on. The rule of thumb, they say, for Major League starters is you need three pitches. Except for a couple of exceptions, like Randy Johnson and a couple others that had such a great fastball, they were able to get away with two. I was actually throwing a curveball back in college, it was just a fastball-curveball, but I probably threw 90-95 percent fastballs. I think they saw that upside to me, they saw a big, strong guy that threw hard and threw strikes, and they wanted to move me up quickly.

JBN: And your fastball at that point was topping out at what?

Poreda: When I got drafted, I topped out at 97 [mph].

JBN: You were picked in the first round. How much pressure did you feel to perform?

Poreda: Actually, it fueled my fire, it made me more focused. It was exciting, I’d never had that kind of publicity and the amount of scouts and the attention ever in my life. So it was a lot of fun…Once you cross the white line, it’s game time…You see the radar guns once or twice, and I might’ve pumped-up a little bit extra, but for the most part I just went out there and did my thing. My bread and butter was throwing into righties and away to lefties, and just going with a glove-high fastball in-in-in until they could hit it, and then once they proved they could hit it, start going outside, start mixing offspeed, and stuff like that.

JBN: How heavily recruited were you — or weren’t you — out of high school?

Poreda: There was a little interest, but not too much. Back in high school, I was throwing, in my senior year, mid-80s. And I loved playing football too, so growing up, through my senior year in high school, I actually wanted to be a professional football player. So instead of going to showcases and playing baseball year-round, I was playing football. I was a defensive lineman, offensive lineman, and tight end. I grew up playing quarterback, but I just didn’t think I was going to get the starting job. I actually regret not even trying out [in high school]…But I enjoy pitching a lot more than I did blocking. I loved the contact, I miss the contact and the physical exertion in football, but in the end, I like having the ball in my hand.

JBN: Did college football programs try to recruit you?

Poreda: I got some interest from UNR [University of Nevada-Reno]. We used to go up there during the summers, and they’d have a huge football camp with 10, 20 different high schools, so I won some tight-end awards up there. And if I would’ve pursued it, I probably would’ve gone there. But I had a lot more success in baseball, and my mom also didn’t think highly of me pursuing a career  in football.

JBN: You began in the minors in 2007, had a very good couple of years, made your Major League debut in 2009. And then midyear, the White Sox traded you and a few others to San Diego for Jake Peavy. How did you feel?

Poreda: I was actually a little disappointed that the White Sox let me go. When you get drafted, you think that they really think highly of you, and you can’t help but think about your future in Chicago, or whatever big-league team you’re with. So when you get traded, it feels like you really don’t mean much to the franchise. I found out, and a lot of people find out through their careers in professional baseball, that everyone can be traded, everyone can be cut, everyone can be used as a chess piece to better the organization. You can’t take it personally…

JBN: Did it prove to be a good move for you?

Poreda: Actually, when I got traded is when the wheels started to come off a little bit. It was hard for me to go back and forth from bullpen to starter …My fastball had too much cut and was almost uncontrollable, so my walks went up…and something wasn’t right. And the Padres really weren’t giving me any answers. They were just letting me struggle, and I really didn’t know which way was up. [Laughs] They called me up in September just as a formality, I think, to show the fans who they traded for…I didn’t do too bad there, but I was still wild. I wasn’t the same Aaron Poreda that worked his way up to the minors and was throwing all those innings and putting up all those numbers in minor-league ball.

JBN: Looking back, why do you think you began to have control problems? 

Poreda: I think my elbow was starting to get tight. And I didn’t even know it, but my body was compensating. It didn’t feel like it was hurt. But I stopped bending my elbow as much as I usually did, and I think the pressure of the big leagues and getting traded and all those variables mixed into it got my mechanics off. I really didn’t know how to fix it. I started trying to throw harder and harder, instead of using my whole body…For me, pitching-wise, I’m really smooth and nice and easy, and it looks like it’s effortless. Eventually, my elbow just gave out.

JBN: Did you have anyone you could turn to for help?

Poreda: For the remainder of that year, I didn’t. There was a Triple-A guy, and I talked to Buddy Black, the G.M. with the Padres, and they didn’t have really have any answers for me. So I ended up going back to my old high-school coach, who had really taught me to be mechanically sound…He helped me to straighten out my fastball and get a little more accurate. But once the season started, I saw the same cut and the same kind of uncontrollable pitching that I was never accustomed to. And that snowballed, and it just ended up giving me the yips. So I was tentative to throw because I didn’t trust my body, and I was probably at the lowest point of my career, so much so that I contemplated giving it up. I was not myself.

JBN: You ended the 2009 season on the Major League roster, but 2010 was a different story.

Poreda: They brought me down to Double-A, in the bullpen. I was a long-relief, mop-up guy. I still was putting up pretty good numbers, but the walks were still up. I was pitching my butt off, trying to do everything I could to keep throwing strikes and have some success…I was doing a little bit better, but still, there was no consistency. They really just put me in the back of the pack, and I got innings when the score was just out of control, whether we were losing by 10 runs, up by 10 runs…

JBN: Is that when you realized there was something wrong with your elbow?

Poreda: It wasn’t until I was with the Pirates [in 2012] that I really started to figure out my body and everything I was doing wrong. And by the time I did that, my arm was already falling off, and I knew it was just a matter of time until it gave out.

JBN: Did you opt for Tommy John surgery right away?

Poreda: No. They said it was a partial tear and there was a chance I could recover from it without surgery…so I rehabbed [the elbow] for a couple months and got all the way back to the mound, and when I really started to let it go, it was too painful. So I went back to the doctor…It’ll be almost two years since I’ll have pitched competitively going into next year’s Spring Training, because there’s five or six months of trying to rehab without surgery, then I get the surgery, then it’s another 13 months post-op. I’m ready to get back.

JBN: Was there any doubt in your mind that you’d resume playing baseball?

Poreda: I was 100% determined. I knew that I had a really good chance going into it, and I’d seen a lot of guys a lot smaller than me come back. I’ve always thought that I was a big guy, that my body would bend but never break. I was confident in my work ethic and my rehab and the trainers that were helping me out…But sometimes, you do question it, because you keep on pushing the envelope and you get to a certain plateau and your arm gets sore and it just continues to stay sore, and you can’t really push through to the next barrier. And then you give it some time off and some rest and take some anti-inflammatories and get stretched out a little bit more and just be patient, and eventually you break through that barrier and get to the next barrier…

JBN: Recently you and your agent invited Major League scouts to watch you work out in Arizona. Was there a good turnout?

Poreda: There were probably 8 to 10 different teams there.

JBN: And the team that showed the most interest was the Texas Rangers.

Poreda: Yeah. They were pretty interested before the workout, and then after the workout, their scout stayed a bit longer to talk to us and ask me questions about my rehab…So we knew they were very interested. And then, an hour later, we get a call from John Daniels, the G.M. of the Texas Rangers. He said, “We’re very interested in Aaron. Don’t sign with any other team until you talk with us first.” And my agent was telling me it’s very unusual for a G.M. to call — especially on a Saturday afternoon when he’s hanging out with his kids — to talk business about a potential minor-league guy that’s coming back from Tommy John surgery.

JBN: That must’ve felt incredibly good.

Poreda: I was on cloud nine…I was originally thinking that I might be able to sign with a Bay Area team. I thought that’d be really cool, because [I’m from the area]…The Giants showed a little bit of interest, and they said, “You might be able to be a bullpen guy, we’re not sure if we’ll give you a big-league invite,” and yadda yadda. And Texas was saying, “We see him as a starter, we’re gonna let him compete for a job, we see him up with Texas next year, and we’re really excited, and we want him”…My whole career, I’ve followed the advice my parents gave me, which was, “Go with the team that wants you the most.”

JBN: So you’re going to be with the Major League squad for spring training, and hopefully you’ll stick on with the team, but if they decide you need a little bit more polishing, they’ll send you to Triple-A for a while?

Poreda: That’s what I’m expecting.

JBN: When you pitched for the scouts, how did your arsenal of pitches differ from when you were drafted?

Poreda: I basically was hoping to put on the same workout that they saw 4 or 5 years ago. But this time I had a good change-up, and it really was just to show them I’m a completely different guy from what you’ve seen the last couple of years, with the cut to the fastball and the erratic location and the velocity going down…I wanted to show them I was strong, healthy, poised, and that I can handle the pressure of a bunch of scouts watching me and being back up in the big leagues. So location and accuracy was the most important, and right from the get-go, I was throwing strikes, I was keeping the ball low — which is very important for the scouts — and my offspeed was working as well. My change-up and slider command could still get a little better, especially the slider…but I only started throwing that the past month or so, because it puts a lot more strain on your elbow than a fastball. So that’s one of the things in my rehab process that I’m still working on overcoming. I’m not 100% yet. I’m still critiquing some of the small details.

JBN: Were any family members at the showcase?

Poreda: My wife was there…She could tell as soon as I walked up next to her that I had done well because I had a huge smile on my face. This is only the first step to accomplishing my goal of being a big league starter. Now I need to compete when it counts.

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Danny Valencia (mlb.com)

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Nate Freiman (mlb.com)

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By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

A flurry of roster moves is taking place as Spring Training player evaluations near an end.

The Oakland A’s picked up Nate Freiman on Saturday (3/23/2013) after the Houston Astros put him on waivers. The 26-year-old first baseman, who dominated opposing pitchers during Team Israel’s World Baseball Classic bid last year, hit .278 for Houston during Spring Training, with 1 HR, two doubles, no walks and 7 whiffs in 36 at-bats.

According to MLB.com, the A’s are considering Freiman for a potential platoon job at first base. Acquired by the Astros in the Rule 5 postseason draft, the 6-foot-8, 250-pounder hit .298 with 24 HRs and 105 RBIs  for the San Diego Padres’ double-A team in 2012.

As Jewish Baseball News contributor Zev Ben Avigdor points out in his minor-league Twitter feed, Freiman joins a franchise rich in Jewish players, including pitchers Max Perlman and Jeff Urlaub and catcher Nick Rickles.

Danny Valencia‘s bid to start the 2013 season on the Baltimore Orioles’ roster ended Thursday (3/21/2013) when he was reassigned to the Norfolk Tides, the franchise’s triple-A team. The move came despite a strong Spring in which the 28-year-old third baseman hit .323 with 1 HR and 4 RBIs in 31 at-bats and had a .417 on-base percentage. He hit a game-winning HR in Tuesday’s (3/19/2013) 8-7 win over the Boston Red Sox.

According to the Baltimore Sun:

The 28-year-old Valencia entered camp as a possible right-handed designated hitter because of his .316/.359/.472 career batting line against right-handed pitching. He also competed for a utility infield spot this spring, playing both third base and first base.

The Sun also noted that during the offseason, Valencia‘s name “appeared on a list tied to a Miami-area anti-aging clinic that is being investigated by MLB for supplying major league players with performance-enhancing drugs. Valencia addressed the report on the first day of camp, denying that he’s ever used PEDs.”

Pittsburgh Pirates prospect (and one-time Major Leaguer) Aaron Poreda was released earlier this month by the club’s double-A team, the Altoona Curve. The 26-year-old hurler started three games for the Curve in 2012, going 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA. Poreda played briefly in 2009 for the San Diego Padres and the Chicago White Sox.

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Aaron Poreda

Charlie Cutler

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — True to their name, the Pittsburgh Pirates plundered two Jewish minor-leaguers on the cheap in the recent Rule 5 draft.

One target was St. Louis Cardinals prospect Charlie Cutler. In 2011, the 25-year-old catcher hit a team-high .333 with the Springfield Cardinals (AA) and .404 with runners in scoring position, inspiring Jewish Baseball News to name him its Minor-League Comeback Player of the Year.

The Pirates also picked up reliever Aaron Poreda from the San Diego Padres. Also 25, Poreda has some major-league experience, having played for both the Chicago White Sox and the Padres in 2009, but has never lived up to his potential. In 2011 he went 4-3 with a 5.43 ERA for the Tucson Padres (AAA).

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Our 2011 Spring Training Awards

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — At least 19 Jews got playing time during Spring Training 2011, including five pitchers and 14 position players.

Here are our awards honoring the best, worst, and most surprising performances:

Best All-Around Offense: Ian Kinsler. The Texas Rangers 2B didn’t look like the same player who sat out nearly 100 games last season with injuries. Kinsler, 28, led all Jewish batters with 7 doubles, 5 HRs, 13 RBIs (tied), and a .389 on-base percentage. Although Jewish batters as a group struck out way more than they walked (94 vs. 41), Kinsler was one of just two players who didn’t, matching his 5 Ks with 5 BBs.

Best All-Around Offense (runner-up): Ryan Braun. The Milwaukee Brewers LF batted only 40 times, but that didn’t stop him from hitting 4 HRs, driving in 11 runs, and leading all Jews with 15 runs scored, a .325 batting average, .700 slugging percentage, and 1.072 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage).

Best All-Around Offense (honorable mention): Ike Davis. The New York Mets 1B pretty much matched the productivity of his 2010 rookie season, hitting .273 with 3 HRs, 13 RBIs (tied/1st), and a .344 on-base percentage.

Breakout offense: Sam Fuld. At 29, you can’t quite call the Tampa Bay Rays CF an up-and-comer. But Fuld made the most of what turned out to be his best chance in years to make an opening-day roster, hitting .277 with 1 HR, 5 extra-base hits, 8 RBIs, and 4 stolen bases. And he got his wish: a seat on the Rays’ bench.

Most disappointing offense: Kevin Youkilis. Whatever you chalk it up to — bad thumb, the distraction of switching from 1B to 3B, etc. — the Boston Red Sox stalwart, normally an on-base machine, struggled at the plate this Spring. Youk hit  just .175 with no HRs, 4 RBIs, a Jew-high 15 strikeouts, and just 4 walks. Teammate Ryan Kalish was a close second in this category, hitting .235 with 0 HRs and one lonely RBI.

Weirdest stats: Ben Guez. The Detroit Tigers CF has yet to play a regular-season MLB game and saw only limited playing time in Spring Training, getting 12 plate appearances and 7 at-bats. But oh, what Guez did with them. The 24-year-old singled twice, doubled once, and walked five times, good enough for a .429 batting average and .667 on-base percentage.

Nicest surprise: John Grabow. After a dismal 2010 in which he went 1-3 with a 7.36 ERA and “held” opposing batters to a .321 average, the Chicago Cubs reliever must have grown tired of being Public Enemy #1 in the Windy City. How else can you explain Grabow’s 2.57 ERA in Spring Training? A close second to Grabow in this awards category is Washington Nationals starter Jason Marquis, who went 2-9 with a 6.60 ERA in an injury-plagued 2010 season but finished Spring Training with a 1-1 record and a 4.02 ERA.

Worst surprise: Craig Breslow. Arguably the only Jewish MLB pitcher who didn’t embarrass himself last year, the Oakland A’s reliever went 4-4 in 2010 with a 3.01 ERA, holding opposing batters to a meek .194 batting average. But Breslow had an awful spring, with an 11.25 ERA and an opposing-hitters batting average of, believe it or not, .500. The saving grace? We’re only talking about 5 appearances and 4 innings pitched, not a lot to go on. Still, the Freaky Friday switcheroo Breslow and Grabow did this Spring has got us mighty confused.

Here are the final 2011 Spring Training stats for position players:

TEAM POS AB R 2B HR RBI AVG OBP
James Rapoport STL CF 1 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000
Ben Guez DET CF 7 0 1 0 0 .429 .667
Ryan Lavarnway BOS CF 9 1 1 1 3 .333 .333
Josh Satin NYM 2B 6 1 0 1 2 .333 .333
Ryan Braun MIL LF 40 15 3 4 11 .325 .372
Danny Valencia MIN 3B 65 6 6 1 8 .308 .333
Ian Kinsler TEX 2B 63 14 7 5 13 .302 .389
Sam Fuld TB CF 47 9 3 1 8 .277 .333
Ike Davis NYM 1B 55 5 4 3 13 .273 .344
Gabe Kapler LAD RF 45 6 3 1 7 .244 .277
Ryan Kalish TB LF 51 4 2 0 1 .235 .316
Jake Lemmerman LAD SS 5 1 1 0 0 .200 .200
Kevin Youkilis BOS 3B 57 3 2 0 4 .175 .238
Jason Kipnis CLE 2B 18 3 0 1 2 .167 .250
TOTAL 469 68 33 18 72 .269

And the final 2011 stats for pitchers:

TEAM W L ERA G IP H BB SO
John Grabow CHC 0 0 2.57 7 7.0 8 3 4
Jason Marquis WSH 1 1 4.02 4 15.2 15 6 9
Aaron Poreda SD 0 1 6.75 3 2.2 2 5 1
Michael Schwimer PHI 0 0 7.20 4 5.0 5 2 4
Craig Breslow OAK 0 0 11.25 5 4.0 9 2 2
TOTAL 1 2 5.35

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TEAM W L ERA G IP H BB SO
John Grabow CHC 0 0 2.57 7 7 8 3 4
Jason Marquis WSH 1 1 4.02 4 15.2 15 6 9
Aaron Poreda SD 0 1 6.75 3 2.2 2 5 1
Michael Schwimer PHI 0 0 7.20 4 5 5 2 4
Craig Breslow OAK 0 0 11.25 5 4 9 2 2
TOTAL 1 2 5.35
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JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Spring Training 2011 is just two weeks old. Many players are still shedding their off-season rust. But a couple Jewish players are already tearing the stitching off the ball.

Texas Rangers 2B Ian Kinsler, who was hobbled by injuries last season, leads all MLB players with 4 HRs, is tied for second with 7 RBIs, and is batting .444 (8/18). Figure in walks, and he has a nifty on-base percentage of .545.

Also hitting well is Minnesota Twins 3B Danny Valencia. After finishing 3rd in voting for the A.L. Rookie of the Year award last year, Valencia is batting .500 (6/12) with 3 RBIs and is tied for the A.L. lead in doubles, with four.

Here is how all Jewish position players were doing through Mon., March 7:

 

TEAM
AB H HR RBI BB AVG OBP
Danny Valencia
MIN
12 6 0 3 1 .500 .538
Ian Kinsler
TEX
18 8 4 7 3 .444 .545
Ryan Braun
MIL
11 3 1 2 1 .273 .333
Ike Davis NYM 12 3 1 3 4 .250 .438
Ben Guez
DET
4 1 0 0 3 .250 .571
Gabe Kapler
LAD
15 3 0 1 0 .200 .200
Kevin Youkilis
BOS
13 2 0 1 1 .154 .214
Jason Kipnis
CLE
13 2 1 2 2 .154 .267
Ryan Kalish
TB
16 2 0 0 2 .125 .222
Sam Fuld
TB
9 1 0 0 0 .111 .111
Ryan Lavarnway
BOS
4 0 0 0 0 .000 .000
Jake Lemmerman
LAD
1 0 0 0 0 .000 .000

Among pitchers, Washington Nationals starter Jason Marquis followed up a difficult 2010 with a strong spring-training outing, giving up just 1 hit over 3 innings in his only game played so far. Here’s how all Jewish pitchers were doing through March 7:

 

TEAM
W L ERA G IP H BB SO
Jason Marquis
WSH
0 0 0.00 1 3 1 0 1
Aaron Poreda
SD
0 0 5.40 2 1.2 0 4 1
Michael Schwimer
PHI
0 0 13.50 2 2 4 0 1
John Grabow
CHC
0 0 18.00 1 1 3 0 1
Craig Breslow
OAK
Scott Feldman TEX
Jason Hirsh NYY
David Kopp STL

To track Jewish players in Spring Training, visit Jewish Baseball News for our daily box score.

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TEAM
AB H HR RBI BB AVG OBP
Danny Valencia
MIN
12 6 0 3 1 .500 .538
Ian Kinsler
TEX
18 8 4 7 3 .444 .545
Ryan Braun
MIL
11 3 1 2 1 .273 .333
Ike Davis NYM 12 3 1 3 4 .250 .438
Ben Guez
DET
4 1 0 0 3 .250 .571
Gabe Kapler
LAD
15 3 0 1 0 .200 .200
Kevin Youkilis
BOS
13 2 0 1 1 .154 .214
Jason Kipnis
CLE
13 2 1 2 2 .154 .267
Ryan Kalish
TB
16 2 0 0 2 .125 .222
Sam Fuld
TB
9 1 0 0 0 .111 .111
Ryan Lavarnway
BOS
4 0 0 0 0 .000 .000
Jake Lemmerman
LAD
1 0 0 0 0 .000 .000
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JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — The number of Jewish minor-leaguers who will be attending a Major-League spring training this year has reached nine.

According to MLB.com, the invitees include:

  1. Sam Fuld (Tampa Bay Rays)
  2. Ben Guez (Detroit Tigers)
  3. Jason Hirsh (New York Yankees)
  4. Gabe Kapler (Los Angeles Dodgers)
  5. Jason Kipnis (Cleveland Indians)
  6. David Kopp (St. Louis Cardinals)
  7. Ryan Lavarnway (Boston Red Sox)
  8. Aaron Poreda (San Diego Padres)
  9. Michael Schwimer (Philadelphia Phillies)

Jewish Baseball News will maintain a running list of these and other spring-training invitees through the end of March on our home page.

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JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — So far, at least four Jewish minor-leaguers have been invited to attend Major League spring training camps in 2011.

According to MLB team web sites, four ballplayers have been identified as “non-roster invitees” — that is, they have been invited to attend spring training even though they are not on their team’s 40-man roster. They include:

  • CF Ben Guez, 23 (Detroit Tigers). Guez hit a combined .249 for 3 minor-league teams in 2010, including the “AAA” Toledo Mud Hens. He had 10 HRs, 43 RBIs, a .341 on-base percentage, and 14 stolen bases. Guez also played in the Arizona Fall League, which MLB teams typically reserve for their top minor-league prospects.
  • SP Jason Hirsh, 28 (New York Yankees). A 6’8″ right hander, Hirsh went 9-7 with the “AAA” Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees in 2010, racking up a 3.90 ERA and a strong strikeout-to-walk ratio of 95/39. He played in the MLB from 2006-08, pitching both for the Houston Astros and Colorado Rockies.
  • 2B Jason Kipnis, 23 (Cleveland Indians). The Indians’ minor-league player of the year in 2010, Kipnis hit a combined .307 for the club’s “AA” and “A-advanced” teams, with 16 HRs, 74 RBIs, a .386 OBP, .492 SLG, and 9 stolen bases. Called up to “AAA” for the post-season, he went 10/22, hit for the cycle once, and fell a single short of hitting for the cycle the following game. Also played in the Arizona Fall League, where he was among the league leaders in several batting categories.
  • SP Michael Schwimer, 24 (Philadelphia Phillies). Another 6’8″ right hander, Schwimer went a combined 7-5 with the Phillies’ “AAA” and “AA” teams in 2010, with a 2.85 ERA and an impressive 76 strikeouts in just 60 innings.

According to MLB.com, two additional Jewish minor leaguers have been added to their respective MLB team’s 40-man roster. Whether or not this means they’ll be attending spring training is unclear. They are:

  • SP David Kopp, 25 (St. Louis Cardinals). Kopp had a rough time with the Cards’ “AAA” team in 2010 (he went 0-5 with a 8.63 ERA) but finished the season strong with the “AA” squad, where he went 12-4 with a 3.05 ERA.
  • RP Aaron Poreda, 24 (San Diego Padres). The 6’6″ left hander, who pitched well during a brief major-league stint with the Padres in 2009, went a combined 1-2 with the team’s “AAA” and “AA” squads in 2010, along with a 3.83 ERA and an opponent batting average of just .176. Poreda gave up just one HR in 54 innings but had a weak strikeout-to-walk ratio of 47/64.

Thanks to Jewish Baseball News reader Michael Lebowitz for the tips about Guez and Kipnis.

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JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Here are your Players of the Day for Monday (9/6/2010):

In season-ending minor league games yesterday:

  • RP Aaron Poreda of the “AAA” Portland Beavers (San Diego Padres) pitched 2 scoreless innings and gave up one walk in a 6-5 win over the Las Vegas 51s. The 6’6″ lefty, who was 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA in a 14-game stint with the Padres last year, struggled after being promoted from “AA” ball earlier this season. Poreda was 1-1 with a 4.97 ERA for the Beavers and gave up 38 walks in 29 innings.
  • C Ryan Lavarnway of the “AA” Portland Sea Dogs (Boston Red Sox) hit an RBI single in a 7-4 win over the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. In a season split between Portland and the “A-Advanced” Salem Red Sox, Lavarnway hit a combined .288 with 22 HRs, 102 RBIs, a .393 on-base percentage, and .489 slugging percentage. His 102 RBIs were tops among Red Sox farm hands.
  • 1B Casey Haerther of the “A” Cedar Rapids Kernels (Los Angeles Angels) went 2/4 with an RBI single, a double, and a walk in a 6-5 win over the Beloit Snappers. A 5th-round pick in the 2009 amateur draft (171st overall), Haerther ranked 2nd on the Kernels in doubles (26) and RBIs (74/tie) and finished 3rd in batting average (.307) and HRs (8/tie). He also had 10 stolen bases.
  • RF David Rubinstein of the “A” West Virginia Power (Pittsburgh Pirates) went 2/5 with a double and an RBI single in a 7-4 win over the Hagerstown Suns. An 11th-round pick in the 2008 amateur draft, Rubinstein led the Power in doubles (36/tie), ranked 2nd  in batting average (.288) and stolen bases (22), and placed 4th in on-base percentage (.348) and slugging percentage (.410).
  • SP Brett Lorin, David Rubinstein’s teammate on the “A” West Virginia Power (Pittsburgh Pirates), pitched 4 scoreless innings and struck out two against the Suns. A 6’7″ righty who was promoted to “A” ball midseason, Lorin finished the year with a combined 2-3 record, 4.62 ERA, 42 strikeouts, and 12 walks in 48 2/3 innings.

From the category of “guys we wish were Jewish”:

  • Rookie LF Ryan Kalish of the Boston Red Sox went 2/3 with a grand-slam HR an a walk in a 12-5 drubbing of the (beloved) Tampa Bay Rays. It was the 22-year-old’s 3rd HR and second grand-slam since his MLB debut on July 31. As Jewish Baseball News recently reported, Kalish has a Jewish father but was raised Catholic.

And now, your Jewish Star of the Day:

  • 2B Jason Kipnis of the “AA” Akron Aeros (Cleveland Indians) hit a solo HR and a 2-run single in a 9-2 victory over the Erie SeaWolves. In a season split between the Aeros and the “A+” Kinston Indians, the 23-year-old Arizona State recruit finished the season with a combined batting average of .307, 16 HRs, 74 RBIs, a .386 on-base percentage, and .492 slugging percentage.

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Mid-season minor-league leaders

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Midway through the 2010 season, Jewish minor leaguers are performing well. The 20 Jewish pitchers have a collective won-loss record of 59-52, a 3.85 ERA and a 2.17 strikeout-to-walk ratio through games played July 14. The 28 position players have a combined batting average of .274 and a walk-to-strikeout ratio of .503, according to Jewish Baseball News calculations.

A list of category leaders and laggards is shown below. But first, a few clarifications:

  • Players marked with an asterisk have played in two or more leagues this season, and the statistics shown reflect their collective performance across all leagues. The team shown is the players’ current one.
  • Calling David Kopp the winningest pitcher is slightly misleading. Kopp assembled an 8-1 record and 3.08 ERA with the “AA” Springfield Cardinals before being called up to the “AAA” Memphis Redbirds. In his first four games in Memphis, Kopp went 0-4 with a 7.53 ERA.
  • Jake Lemmerman, a shortstop from Duke University and the top Jewish pick in the 2010 amateur draft, is tearing up the Rookie Pioneer League. Through 20 games with the Ogden Raptors, Lemmerman was batting .358 and had a .506 slugging percentage.

Now, your category leaders.

Position players

  • Highest batting average(100+ at-bats) : Casey Haerther, “A” Cedar Rapids Kernels (.319)
  • Lowest batting average (100+ at-bats) : Jake Wald, “AA”  Mobile BayBears (.175)
  • Most home runs: Ryan Lavarnway, “A+” Salem Red Sox (14)
  • Most triples: Sam Fuld, “AAA” Iowa Cubs (4)
  • Most doubles: Nathan Freiman, “A” Fort Wayne TinCaps (29)
  • Most RBIs: Ryan Lavarnway, “A+” Salem Red Sox (63)
  • Most walks: Ryan Lavarnway, “A+” Salem Red Sox (44)
  • Most strikeouts: Nathan Frieman, “A” Fort Wayne TinCaps (76)
  • Best walk/strikeout ratio: Sam Fuld, “AAA” Iowa Cubs (1.25)
  • Worst walk/strikeout ratio: David Rubinstein, “A” West Virginia Power (.31)
  • Highest on-base percentage: Joshua Satin, “AA” Binghamton Mets (.403)
  • Highest slugging percentage: Ryan Lavarnway, “A+” Salem Red Sox (.487)
  • Highest OPS (OBP+slugging): Ryan Lavarnway, “A+” Salem Red Sox (.879)
  • Most stolen bases: David Rubinstein, “A” West Virginia Power (13)

Pitchers

  • Most victories: David Kopp*, “AAA” Memphis Redbirds (8)
  • Most losses: Jason Hirsh, “AAA” Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees; Richard Bleier, “AA” Frisco RoughRiders (6)
  • Best win-loss record: Michael Schlact*, “A+” Bakersfield Blaze (3-0)
  • Best ERA (at least 25 innings): Dylan Axelrod*, “A+” Birmingham Barons (2.367); Daniel Rosenbaum, “A” Hagertown Suns (2.363)
  • Worst ERA (at least 25 innings): Scot Drucker, “AAA” Toledo Mud Hens (5.56)
  • Most strikeouts: Daniel Rosenbaum, “A” Hagertown Suns (85)
  • Most walks: Aaron Poreda*, “AAA” Portland Beavers; Eric Berger, “AA” Akron Aeros; David Kopp*, “AAA” Memphis Redbirds (39)
  • Best strikeout/walk ratio (20+ innings): Dylan Axelrod*, “A” Birmingham Barons (5.2)
  • Worst strikeout/walk ratio (20+ innings): Aaron Poreda*, “AAA” Portland Beavers (0.9)

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Monsters of the Mound

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS —  “Exceedingly tall” is not a common stereotype of the Jewish people. But nobody told the Monsters of the Mound.

Of the 19 Jews currently pitching in baseball’s minor leagues, eight are at least 6-foot 5-inches tall, six are at least 6-foot-6, and five are 6-foot-7 or taller. Closest to the upper-deck are Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees (AAA) starter Jason Hirsh and Reading Phillies (AA) reliever Michael Schwimer, both 6-foot-8. The average height of all 19 pitchers is just under 6-foot-4, according to an analysis by Jewish Baseball News.

I don’t know what they’re feeding these guys, but it’s working.

The Monsters have more in common than height or faith. Of the eight pitchers, seven are right-handed, and six are starters. Portland Beavers (AAA) reliever Aaron Poreda, a 6-foot-6 Californian who spent part of the 2009 season with the Chicago White Sox and San Diego Padres, is the lone lefty.

Pitchers needn’t be tall to excel, of course. Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax, the greatest Jewish starter of all time, stood 6-foot-2. Of the five Jewish pitchers playing Major League Baseball this year, four are 6-foot-2 or shorter, and only one – 6-foot-6 Texas Rangers starter Scott Feldman – is a Monster.

But striking out stereotypes is the height of fun.

(To see tables showing the 19 pitchers and their stats, check out this news release.)

— Scott Barancik

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Monday Roundup: Lots o’ good news

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Here are the latest developments among Jewish professional baseball players:

MLB

  • Boston Red Sox 1B Kevin Youkilis is having a remarkable season. After 68 games, the “Greek god of walks” is hitting home runs and RBIs at the same pace he did last year, walking more, and striking out less. Far less. Consider this: in 136 games last season, Youk struck out 62 percent more often than he walked (125 strikeouts vs. 77 walks). In 2010, he has walked more times (47) than he has struck out (41). “It’s freakish,” Red Sox first-base coach Ron Johnson told the Providence Journal. “It’s really fun to watch. Where he’s come from and where he is now, to lower his strikeout totals and still have the power and drive in the runs and hit over .300, he’s up there with those superstar guys.” Alas, Youkilis probably won’t appear in next month’s All-Star Game. In fan voting through today, he is ranked a distant 4th among American League shortstops.
  • Since inserting rookie 1B Ike Davis into the cleanup spot on May 19, the New York Mets have gone 20-9 after a 19-21 start.
  • After serving as the ace of the Texas Rangers’ pitching squad in 2009, SP Scott Feldman got off to a disappointing start this season. But he’s begun to right himself lately. In his past four starts, Feldman has won three games, amassed a 3.70 ERA, struck out 19 in 26.67 innings and walked just nine. Feldman pitches tonight (6/21/2010) against the Houston Astros.
  • Los Angeles Dodgers C Brad Ausmus, 41, had only four at-bats this season before suffering a back injury that required surgery. But Ausmus — who had never before been on the disabled list — has begun taking batting practice with his teammates and recently caught his first bullpen session.
  • Tampa Bay Rays RF Gabe Kapler went on the disabled list June 12 after straining his right hip flexor.
  • For the third time this season, the Milwaukee Brewers called OF Adam Stern up from the AAA Nashville Sounds and then sent him back down. The 30-year-old’s initial call-up was a major accomplishment, given that he hadn’t had a major-league at-bat in four years. But Stern went hitless in eight at-bats during his stints with the Brewers this season.

Minors

  • The San Diego Padres promoted SP Aaron Poreda to the Portland Beavers, the franchise’s AAA squad. Since arriving, Poreda has pitched 7.33 scoreless innings in four appearances and struck out seven batters. The 23-year-old spent part of last season in the majors, pitching for both the Chicago White Sox and the Padres.
  • Springfield Cardinals SP David Kopp (AA/St. Louis Cardinals) has been named a Texas League All-Star. Kopp, 24, leads the league with an 8-1 record and has an 3.08 ERA. According to the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader:

For Kopp, the selection culminates a terrific first half in which he has re-claimed his prospect tag. Kopp underwent a pair of shoulder surgeries in 2008 and 2009, and reached Double-A late last season with little hype. He walked 11 and struck out six in five starts. This year, his line features 45 strikeouts in 69 innings as the right-hander has gone on the attack with a low-90s fastball. The pitch shields his sharp, tight slider from over-use, and managers and scouts are beginning to think of Kopp not in terms of a Double-A pitcher but one with the stuff to reach the majors.

  • Reading Phillies RP Michael Schwimer (AA/Philadelphia Phillies) is 5-3 this season and has struck out an impressive 47 batters in 34.67 innings, more than triple the number of batters he has walked (14). “He has good stuff, but he has been a little inconsistent,” Philadelphia Phillies assistant general manager Chuck Lamar told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “He may get a shot by the end of the year to move up to triple-A.”
  • The New York Mets recently promoted 2B Joshua Satin to the AA Binghamton Mets. Since arriving, the 25-year-old has hit .320 in six games.
  • Likewise, the Cleveland Indians moved 2B Jason Kipnis up to its AA squad, the Akron Aeros. Kipnis wasted no time making his mark. After eight games with the Aeros, he is batting .355 with two home runs, three doubles, and an OPS of 1.090.
  • Corpus Christi Hooks C Jonathan Fixler (AA/Houston Astros) didn’t take it easy on Frisco RoughRiders SP (and fellow Jew) Richard Bleier this weekend. Fixler, 24, went 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs during a 7-1 thrashing of the RoughRiders on Sunday (6/20/2010). Bleier gave up 7 runs and 13 hits in seven innings, and his record fell to 3-6.
  • The St. Louis Cardinals demoted C Charlie Cutler to its A-advanced farm team, the Palm Beach Cardinals. Cutler had batted just .205 with six RBIs for the AA Springfield Cardinals. But he’s batting .350 after six games with Palm Beach.
  • OF Ben Guez took an even bigger fall recently. The Detroit Tigers franchise sent him down from AAA Toledo, where he hit .273 with five RBIs in 66 at-bats, to the Lakeland Flying Tigers (A-advanced).

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