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Rookies, returnees, retirees and renegades

By Scott Barancik, editor

Spring Training has only just begun, but there’s plenty going on in the baseball world.

  • Tyler Kolodny didn’t give up on sports when the Baltimore Orioles released him after six seasons in the minors. He just picked a new one. Although the 6-foot-5-inch, 245-pound Kolodny had never played football at any level, he arranged a tryout last year at Pierce College, earned a starting spot at tight end, and ended up being named all-conference after scoring 5 touchdowns on 392 yards receiving. Now the 26-year-old is joining the University of Memphis team as a sophomore. “Tyler is an athletic savant,” Pierce offensive coordinator Jason Sabolic told the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. “If he decides he’s gonna go be a downhill skier, he’ll be the best downhill skier and he’ll practice until he makes the Olympics.”
  • Former minor-league pitcher Jason Knapp is making a comeback. A one-time Top 100 prospect who’s been out of baseball since 2010 due to a pair of shoulder surgeries, the 23-year-old flame-thrower has signed a minor-league contract with the Texas Rangers. The 6-foot-5-inch Knapp struck out an average of 12 batters per 9 innings over his three minor-league seasons up through Single-A.
  • Ohio State recruit Brad Goldberg has only one minor-league season under his belt, but some people believe he could make the Majors as early as 2014. The 6-foot-4-inch Goldberg — who turned 24 on Friday — posted a 1.54 ERA last season, with 49 strikeouts over 35 innings of relief, and will begin this season as a minor-league starter. “Just a hard-nosed, mature kid, with a really good, aggressive approach to everything he did,” Chicago White Sox assistant scouting director Nick Hostetler recently told “I loved the power arm, the big strong body and the competitiveness.”
  • Ryan Lavarnway is learning how to play first base (see articles one, two). The 26-year-old has played nothing but catcher and DH since the Boston Red Sox drafted him in 2008, but according to MLB Trade rumors, “Boston is so deep at catcher at both the Triple-A and Major League levels, Lavarnway‘s only chance at continued playing time may be as a Triple-A first baseman.” The club reportedly hopes a change of pace will reignite his bat, which has suffered from a power outage.
  • Despite going 9-5 with the San Diego Padres last season, Jason Marquis remains a free agent. The key reason is uncertainty: Marquis underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow last July and will need much of the 2014 season to recover. At 35, whether he will be able to return to form is an open question.
  • Former Houston Astros and Colorado Rockies pitcher Jason Hirsh has opened the Jason Hirsh Pitching Academy in Denver, CO. In addition to coaching and training young hurlers, the 32-year-old still likes to play competitively. Hirsh started one game last year with the independent Amarillo Sox, and the independent Denver Browns claim to have signed the 6-foot-8-inch righthander for the 2014 season.
  • The Milwaukee Brewers are moving Ryan Braun from his traditional spot in left field to right field to make room for second-year player Khris Davis, who hit a remarkable 11 HRs and 10 doubles in just 137 at-bats last season. The 30-year-old Braun hasn’t played since his suspension, in July.

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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, 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, 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 Saturday (8/28/2010):

  • LF Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers went 2/4 with two doubles and scored the winning run in an 11-inning, 8-7 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. The 2007 NL Rookie of the Year is hitting .395 in August after batting just .200 in July. For the season, Braun is batting .295 with 18 HRs and 77 RBIs.
  • Just off the disabled list, SP Jason Hirsh of the “AAA” Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees pitched two scoreless innings in a 2-1 victory over the Buffalo Bisons. The 6’8″ right-hander removed himself from the game after feeling shoulder pain resume.
  • C Charlie Cutler of the “AA” Springfield Cardinals (St. Louis Cardinals) went 3/4 with an RBI single and scored a run in a 10-5 victory over the Arkansas Travelers. The 24-year-old San Francisco native hit .292 with the “A-advanced” Palm Beach Cardinals earlier this season but has struggled in “AA” ball, where he is hitting .214.
  • 1B Nate Freiman of the “A” Fort Wayne TinCaps (San Diego Padres) hit an RBI double and drew a walk in a 3-2 win over the Bowling Green Hot Rods. The victory clinched the TinCaps’ second consecutive trip to the playoffs. A 6’7″ native of Wellesley, Mass., Freiman leads the TinCaps in doubles (36), HRs (14/tie) and RBIs (74/tie).
  • RF David Rubinstein of the “A” West Virginia Power (Pittsburgh Pirates) went 2/4 with an RBI single in a 7-4 loss to the Augusta GreenJackets. An 11th-round pick in the 2008 amateur draft, Rubinstein ranks 2nd among Power players in batting average (.286), doubles (34) and stolen bases (21), and is 4th in on-base percentage (.346) and slugging percentage (.406).
  • Playing in the DH slot, 1B Mike Schwartz of the rookie-league Bristol White Sox (Chicago White Sox) went 1/4 with a two-run single in a 9-6 win over the Pulaski Mariners. A 2010 draftee with an uncanny ability to draw walks — he leads the Sox with 26 in just 105 at-bats — Schwartz is batting .248 with an on-base percentage of .423.



Players of the day

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS –The best performances of Thurs., July 29, 2010:

  • New York Mets 1B Ike Davis smashed a three-run home run in a 4-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals (see video). Davis, a rookie, is tied for the team lead in home runs (15) and ranked second in RBIs (52).
  • “AAA” Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees SP Jason Hirsh pitched six scoreless innings in a 7-1 victory over the Norfolk Tides. The 28-year-old right-hander gave up just two hits and three walks while striking out six, improving his record to 6-7 with a 4.22 ERA.



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)


  • 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)



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


Minor-league roundup

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — The latest news on minor-league players:

  • Trenton Thunder (AA/New York Yankees) SP Jeremy Bleich is out for the season with a shoulder injury. Bleich finished the season with a 3-2 record and 4.79 ERA, holding opposing batters to a .236 average.
  • Springfield Cardinals (AA/St. Louis Cardinals) SP David Kopp continues to enjoy a strong season, with a 6-1 record, 3.00 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 57 innings. He’s scheduled to pitch game two of today’s (6/6/2010) doubleheader against the San Antonio Missions. Kopp, a 6’3″, 205 lb. right-hander from Margate, Fla., is one of three Jews in the St. Louis Cardinals’ farm system, along with C Charles Cutler (AA) and CF James Rapoport (AAA).
  • Florida International University sophomore Garrett Wittels extended his astounding hitting streak to 56 games Saturday in a season-ending loss to Dartmouth. According to the Associated Press:

Wittels hit an RBI double in the top of the first inning, leaving him two games shy of the Division I record set by Oklahoma State’s Robin Ventura in 1987. Wittels’ attempt to break the mark will resume next season. He went 3-for-5 and finished the season with a .417 average and a school-record 100 hits.

  • Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees (AAA/New York Yankees) SP Jason Hirsh is in a slump. Hirsh, a 6’8″, 250-pound right-hander from Burbank, Calif., won four straight at one point but hasn’t recorded a victory since May 13.

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JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — The latest info on Jews with bats:

  • New York Mets 1B Ike Davis, brought up from AAA two weeks after the 2010 season began, is now batting cleanup. The move to 4th in the batting order paid off for the Mets on Thursday (5/20/2010) as Davis went 3-for-5 with 2 doubles and three runs scored.
  • Davis was one of four Jewish players with multi-hit games Thursday (5/20/2010). Joining him were Tampa Bay Rays RF Gabe Kapler (2-for-2), Texas Rangers 2B Ian Kinsler (2-for-5), and Boston Red Sox 1B Kevin Youkilis (2-for4 with 1 HR and 4 RBIs).
  • According to this article, Youkilis is on pace to have his best month ever at the plate. So far this May, he leads the majors in batting average (.411), on-base percentage (.585), slugging percentage (.786), and OPS (1.371).
  • The Boston Red Sox dropped RP Scott Schoeneweis from the team’s roster Wednesday (5/19/2010). Schoeneweis, a last-minute addition to the Opening Day squad, had an unimpressive 7.90 ERA this season, allowing 19 hits in 13 innings. The Red Sox have not said yet whether they will trade Schoeneweis, release him, or place him on waivers.
  • Florida International University sophomore Garrett Wittels continued his record-setting streak Thursday by getting a hit in his 46th straight game, part of FIU’s 12-4 victory against Florida Atlantic University. Wittels needs one more game to tie Phil Stephenson for second on the all-time list at 47 games.
  • AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees SP Jason Hirsh had his four-game winning streak broken Tuesday (5/18/2010) in a 3-0 loss to the Indianapolis Indians. On the bright side, Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader columnist Dave Konopki praised Hirsh this week, saying “it would be great to see him wearing pinstripes while standing on the mound at Yankee Stadium.”
  • AAA Memphis Redbirds CF James Rapoport is on a tear since being called up from AA. After 11 games with the Redbirds — a St. Louis Cardinals affiliate — the 24-year-old is batting .378 with a .440 on-base percentage. Yesterday (5/20/2010) he went 4-for-6 in a 13-3 victory over the Sacramento River Cats.
  • Milwaukee Brewers LF Adam Stern hasn’t made the most of his brief return to the bigs. In four games since being called up from AAA, the 30-year-old Canadian is 0-for-6 with two strikeouts.
  • Texas Rangers SP Scott Feldman earned his first victory since April 11 with a 13-7 victory over the Baltimore Orioles. It wasn’t his finest hour: Feldman gave up a career-high 12 hits in six innings.
  • In other struggling-Jewish-pitcher news, Chicago Cubs RP John Grabow continued his shaky 2010 in a 5-4 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. Grabow gave up 1 hit, two walks and the winning run in 2/3 inning. Grabow’s 8.44 ERA is second-worst in the National League, and he’s reportedly “testing the patience of manager Lou Piniella, who continues to give him the ball in crucial late-inning situations.”

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O.”BP (.585 — a mark that is 100 points better than any other player in the game), slugging (.786) and OPS (1.371).

Morning Roundup

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — The latest developments among Jews with bats:

  • Jason Hirsh, starting pitcher for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees (AAA), continued his  turnaround Thursday (5/13/2010) with a 7-3 victory against the Columbus Clippers. A 6’8″, 250-pound former major leaguer who began the season with three consecutive losses, Hirsh pitched six innings against Columbus, giving up three earned runs on five hits and one walk while striking out four. The fourth straight win improved his 2010 record to 4-and-3.
  • The St. Louis Cardinals recently promoted CF James Rapoport to their AAA squad. In six games with the Memphis Redbirds, Rapoport has had three multi-hit games and is hitting .296.
  • SP Stephen Strasburg, the Washington Nationals’ No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 draft, continued his remarkable first season in the minors Wednesday (5/12/2010) with a 6-inning, no-hit outing for the Syracuse Chiefs (AAA). Strasburg, who is not Jewish, may have dominated media coverage of the game, but teammate Josh Whitesell helped seal the Chief’s 4-1 victory over the Norfolk Tides with a three-run triple in the 5th inning.
  • Florida International University standout Garrett Wittels reportedly is headed to Alaska this summer. According to this article, Wittels — currently enjoying a 43-game hitting streak at FIU — will play for the Peninsula Oilers of the Alaska Baseball League, a six-team summer league. Peninsula is based in Kenai, Alaska.
  • Washington Nationals SP Jason Marquis had surgery on his elbow Friday (5/14/2010). Marquis, who had bone chips in the elbow, is expected to begin rehab immediately and begin making minor-league rehab appearances in four to six weeks.

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Who’ll the majors call up next?

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — New York Mets 1B Ike Davis was the first Jewish player called up from AAA this season. Who will be the second?

You’d have to know a lot more about MLB depth charts than I do to make a truly educated guess. Being psychic helps, too; unexpected injuries often are the catalyst for calling up a player. (Mets 1B Daniel Murphy’s injury helped bring Ike Davis to Queens, for example.)

But player performance obviously matters, too. Here’s how AAA Jews are doing through Wednesday’s (5/5/2010) games:

  • Scot Drucker, 27, relief pitcher with the Toledo Mud Hens (Detroit Tigers). Has a 2-and-1 record with 1 save, 9 walks, 13 strikeouts and a 1.83 ERA.
  • Sam Fuld, 28, left fielder with the Iowa Cubs (Chicago Cubs). Batting .179 with 1 RBI and a .333 on-base percentage.
  • Ben Guez, 23, center fielder with the Toledo Mud Hens (Detroit Tigers). Batting .128 with 2 RBIs and a .244 OBP.
  • Jason Hirsh, 28, starting pitcher with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees (New York Yankees). Has a 2-and-3 record with 12 walks, 17 strikeouts and a 3.06 ERA.
  • Adam Stern, 30, left fielder with the Nashville Sounds (Milwaukee Brewers). Batting .227 with 1 RBI and a .292 OBP.
  • Josh Whitesell, 28, first baseman with the Syracuse Chiefs (Washington Nationals). Batting .253 with four homers, 18 RBIs and a .377 OBP.

As a whole, Jews aren’t exactly tearing up AAA. The player closest to being on a hot streak these days is Hirsh, a former Houston Astro and Colorado Rockie who has pitched two consecutive one-hitters, including this near no-hitter.

I hadn’t noticed until today, but AAA is a little less Jewish these days. The Columbus Clippers (San Francisco Giants) released left fielder Brian Horwitz, 30, in late April.

— Scott Barancik


JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Jason Hirsh hasn’t pitched in the major leagues since 2008. He lost his first three games of the 2010 season with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, the New York Yankees’ AAA team.

His fourth game of the year was a different story. Hirsh, a towering right-hander who stands 6’8″ and weighs 250 pounds, threw 7-and-2/3rds innings of no-hit ball Tuesday (4/27/10) before giving up a solo home run on the way to a 2-1 victory over the Louisville Bats.

According to, Hirsh was’s AAA Pitcher of the Year in 2006 with a 13-and-2 record and 2.10 ERA. But his three seasons in the bigs (2006-08) were less than stellar. He amassed an 8-and-11 overall record and 5.32 ERA with the Houston Astros and Colorado Rockies before Colorado sold him to the Yankees in July 2009.

Tuesday’s game raises hopes that Hirsh will may yet mount a comeback.

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