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How they built Team Israel’s roster

By Sam Brief, Correspondent

In September’s qualifying round for the 2017 World Baseball Classic (WBC), Colorado Rockies prospect Scotty Burcham tallied a .455 batting average, the best on Team Israel and among the top 15 for all teams.

If not for Facebook, Burcham might never have swung a bat in Brooklyn.

Since anyone who is Jewish or has a Jewish parent, grandparent or spouse can play for Team Israel, volunteers like Alex Jacobs, a Houston Astros scout, were asked to help find such players. Jacobs often employed creative methods.

Jewish baseball fans didn't know that Colorado Rockies prospect <a href=

Scotty Burcham was Jewish until a volunteer scout for Team Israel 'discovered' him" width="300" height="290" srcset="http://www.jewishbaseballnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/burcham-300x290.jpg 300w, http://www.jewishbaseballnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/burcham-120x116.jpg 120w, http://www.jewishbaseballnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/burcham.jpg 381w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" /> Jewish baseball fans didn’t know Colorado Rockies prospect Scotty Burcham was Jewish until a volunteer scout for Team Israel ‘discovered’ him

“It’s Facebook stalking,” said Jacobs, who recently was named Team Israel’s director of player personnel. “I researched Scotty Burcham, and I found his Facebook. When I research these kids, I look for their parents, and I see if their parents have any Jewish in them. His mother was from New York, I believe. So I checked one box. Then, I looked at a picture of her and thought she looked kind of Jewish.

“So I called [Team Israel manager] Jerry Weinstein and said, ‘How about Scotty Burcham?’ And he said ‘Scotty Burcham? What do you have on him?’ And I’m like, ‘He plays shortstop. He’s Jewish. His mom looks like she’s Jewish.’ So Jerry called Scotty’s manager, and the manager asked Scotty if he was Jewish, and Scotty said, ‘Yeah, I am. Why do you ask?’ And the rest is history. He played really well for us.”

Burcham filled a gaping roster hole in the middle infield and helped Team Israel win the WBC qualifiers for the first time. Israel took down Great Britain and Brazil and then crushed Great Britain, 9-1, in the championship game, to advance to the March 2017 WBC games in Seoul, South Korea.

Houston Astros scout Alex Jacobs (left) and Los Angeles Dodgers scout Jonah Rosenthal (right) volunteered to help Team Israel build its roster for the World Baseball Classic

Houston Astros scout Alex Jacobs (left) and Los Angeles Dodgers scout Jonah Rosenthal (right) volunteered to help Team Israel build its roster for the World Baseball Classic

Israel’s 28-man roster in Brooklyn included former Major League Baseball players such as Ike Davis, Jason Marquis and Josh Satin, who skipped the final game to fly to California for the birth of his child. But Israel’s Law of Return made the roster-building process unlike any other, as the team would venture outside of the database of ballplayers already identified as Jewish.

The WBC’s rules state that a player can join a country’s team if he is eligible for citizenship within that country. Per Israel’s Law of Return, citizenship can be granted to anyone who has a Jewish parent, grandparent or spouse.

“We’re looking for ballplayers who can meet the Law of Return for the land of Israel and become Israeli citizens,” said Peter Kurz, the president of the Israeli Association of Baseball. “That’s a much wider interpretation than the actual Jewish law, which says that you have to have a Jewish mother in order to be considered as a Jew. We were able to make it a little broader.”

Kurz added that Paul Goldschmidt of the Arizona Diamondbacks, whose father is Jewish, doesn’t qualify since he is devoutly Christian.

“We don’t want people who don’t feel Jewish heritage,” Kurz said.

Volunteers like Houston’s Jacobs, Jonah Rosenthal of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Guy Stevens of the Kansas City Royals, and baseball veterans Adam Gladstone and Ty Eriksen uncovered some previously-unknown gems, such as Burcham. But MLB’s rules require proof of eligibility. That was Kurz’s job. Jacobs, Rosenthal and the others gave Kurz the names, Kurz reached out to the players and proved a Jewish connection, and Weinstein managed the team.

“I would get the emails or numbers of their parents, and in almost every case, the parents were totally thrilled that their sons would compete for Team Israel,” Kurz said. “They would send in their son’s Bar Mitzvah certificate, or a birth certificate or a bris certificate. In some cases, I would need a birth certificate of the father. And in other cases, I would have to go to a grandparent.”

It wasn’t always so straightforward. For one player, a tombstone with a Jewish star had to serve as proof.

“The father went to take a picture of his mother’s tombstone, and sent it to me,” Kurz said. “That was the most extreme.”

In between identifying Jewish players and providing proof of their eligibility to MLB officials, Team Israel had to secure each player’s commitment to play. Some former MLBers, like Davis and Marquis, were tougher gets.

“I called both those guys twenty-something times before I got a return call,” Weinstein said. “Marquis had basically retired in the middle of 2015, when he was playing with the Reds. But he pitched on an alumni team in the [National Baseball Congress] World Series in Wichita, and scouts told me he pitched pretty well. So that sparked my interest in him. … He said, ‘I’m gonna check with my wife,’ then he said, ‘I’ll do it.’ He was a great teammate, and a great pitcher on the team.

“Ike Davis got his release from the Yankees, so he was hanging loose, and the timing was just right.”

Team Israel began with a list of known Jewish players maintained by Jewish Baseball News and Jewish Sports Review. Because certain positions were underrepresented, particularly in the middle infield, Weinstein asked his volunteer scouts to find unknowns.

“A lot of what we did was scouring through systems, like college rosters, to find more,” said Rosenthal, the Dodgers scout. “It was an all-hands-on-deck approach. Some of these guys we hadn’t seen. But we weren’t dealing with the biggest demographic out there. Sometimes it involved calling scouts. Sometimes it involved digging for information.” Roughly half a dozen previously-unknown players were discovered as a result of these efforts.

In March, Team Israel will head to Seoul to face off against Chinese Taipei, South Korea and the Netherlands in Pool A of the WBC, where a total of 16 teams will compete for the title of world’s best.

Unlike the qualifiers, which took place during MLB’s regular season, the WBC will take place during the offseason. Kurz and Weinstein hope to add several Major Leaguers to Israel’s roster, including Joc Pederson (who played for Israel in the 2013 WBC qualifiers), Scott Feldman, Alex Bregman, Ian Kinsler, Ryan Braun, Sam Fuld, and more. Weinstein said Kansas City Royals 3B Mike Moustakas, who is married to a Jewish woman, would be eligible if not for a recent stint on the disabled list.

However the roster pans out, volunteers like Gladstone, Jacobs and Rosenthal hope Israel’s success on the international stage will boosts its popularity within the country, which has been a consistent goal. In early January, players will head to Israel for a team trip.

“When we got that final out in Brooklyn, to know the positives that it would do for growing the game in Israel is amazing,” Gladstone said. “It’s not only the money, but also the equipment and notoriety. You felt like you accomplished something. You had a very small part in growing the game of baseball, and for providing opportunities for young kids in Israel who maybe wouldn’t have that if we didn’t win a baseball game.”

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sam brief mugSam Brief is a sophomore at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, where he is a television reporter, radio producer, play-by-play man and writer. Follow him on Twitter @sambrief and feel free to shoot him an email at briefsam@gmail.com.

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Blake Gailen’s long road to Team Israel

By Rob Isbitts, correspondent

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbHBlake Gailen’s go-ahead home run this September helped propel Team Israel into the World Baseball Classic’s main tournament. It also introduced Jewish fans to a 31-year-old journeyman many didn’t know.

Gailen is hardly unknown in the baseball world. Like the Johnny Cash song goes, he’s been everywhere, man. Excluding his recent stint with Team Israel, the Los Angeles area native has played on at least 11 pro teams in three countries since graduating from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas with a communications degree in 2007.

Gailen is a baseball lifer. From the time he was crouched in front of the TV at age 3, telling his father he was “giving signs” while watching his home town Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series, his love of the game and playing it the right way has been his north star.

“I won’t stop playing baseball until I absolutely have to,” he said in a recent interview with Jewish Baseball News.

Gailen was not drafted by an MLB team out of college, but he knew he could play pro ball. His first stop was an independent-league team in Anderson, S.C., where the clubhouse had no air conditioning or showers. He’d routinely pass up the opportunity to hose himself down near the field, instead leaving the ballpark to shower at home.

Blake Gailen's 2-run shot in the final game of the 2016 WBC qualifiers put Israel in the lead for good (click to see video)

Blake Gailen’s 2-run shot in the final game of the 2016 WBC qualifiers put Israel in the lead for good (click for video)

The South Coast League soon folded. But Gailen — who led all players with a .368 average that season and even did a little pitching, going 2-2 with a 2.88 ERA — moved on, his sights set on finding an MLB-affiliated team open to an undersized outfielder (5’9”) with an oversized heart and batting average.

In a three-year stretch from 2009-2011, Gailen compiled legendary numbers on independent-league teams, hitting a combined .382, reaching base at a .467 clip, clubbing 20 home runs, and stealing 50 bases.

Not surprisingly, Major League teams noticed. Gailen got his first crack at affiliated ball when the Los Angeles Angels inked him mid-season in 2011 and assigned him to their Double-A team. Gailen underperformed, and over the next five years, the lefty experienced the familiar yo-yo that pro players often do, alternating between MLB affiliates at the Double-A and Triple-A levels and the independent Atlantic League, host to the most competitive pro baseball outside the MLB universe.

Nowhere has Gailen had a greater impact than with the Atlantic League’s Lancaster Barnstormers, an aptly-named team for an athlete who has traveled as far as Mexico and Venezuela for the chance to play. In 2012, he hit .338 with 22 home runs and 25 stolen bases for the Barnstormers, leading Baseball America to name Gailen its Independent League Player of the Year. During multiple stops in Lancaster, he has become a fan favorite, team leader, and mentor to younger players.

Certainly, playing for Team Israel in the 2016 WBC qualifiers was a career highlight. Gailen learned about the team from Lancaster teammate and Team Israel veteran Charlie Cutler, and when he made the roster, it reunited him with former major leaguers Josh Satin and Ryan Lavarnway, who he had played with growing up in Southern California. “Josh Satin and I have been friends since we were kids. I attended his Bar Mitzvah,” Gailen said.

Gailen says his ability to achieve on the field despite many setbacks with MLB-affiliated teams is due to his mental approach. “I always had the thought process that when it comes to the Major Leagues, it is not about me. It’s about what the team needs,” he said. “I hit .400 with the Rockies in [minor-league] spring training one year, but they just didn’t have a spot for an outfielder because of decisions they made about promoting and demoting other players.”

That numbers game is a harsh reality for players in all pro sports, but Gailen has had a unique ability to push through. His admirers include many ex-Major Leaguers who have played alongside him in the Atlantic League and witnessed his raw talent and effort.

If Gailen has his way – and if we’re lucky — he’ll continue to play for years. Because as he says on his Twitter feed, he’s “Living the proverbial dream.”

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Rob Isbitts pitches in for Jewish Baseball News as contributing writer. The Founder and Chief Investment Strategist for Sungarden Investment Researchhe manages a mutual fund and private accounts, writes an investing column for MarketWatch.com, and has written two books on investing. Rob is a happily married father of three and lives in Weston, FL. He hopes to visit as many ballparks as he and his son can.

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By Sam Brief, Correspondent

Josh Satin forcefully flipped his blue New York Mets helmet to the ground, extended both of his arms outward, and jumped onto an ecstatic Scott Hairston.

The rest was lost in a sea of blue-and-white pinstriped uniforms—jubilant Mets teammates mobbing Satin, who just seconds before hit a pinch-hit, walk-off single against closer Sergio Romo and the defending world-champion San Francisco Giants.

Minutes later, a shaving cream pie welcomed him in the dugout. Satin was riding high. He finished the day with two hits, a sacrifice fly, and three RBIs.

“Pretty much everything that could have gone right was going right,” Satin said of his career-best 2013 campaign, in which he hit .360 over the first month of the season. “I got to play a lot, and I played great.”

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Two years earlier, Josh Satin stood uneasily on the Mets’ on-deck circle at Citi Field—about to make his major league debut in the bottom of the 8th inning against the Marlins.

“I thought I was going to pass out,” Satin said. “My heart was pounding so much. I didn’t know what to do. I’ll never forget how nervous I was.”

With two outs in the bottom of the 8th, shortstop Jose Reyes was at-bat with a full count. He flied out. Satin walked back to the dugout—his first MLB plate appearance would have to wait for another day. He would eventually single in his debut three days later—September 4, 2011—against the Nationals in Washington.

Satin’s pro baseball career began back in 2008, when he was selected by the Mets in the 6th round of the draft, and included stops with the Reds and Padres organizations as well. But in June of this year, he decided to retire because of debilitating symptoms from a concussion he suffered last year in a pop-fly collision with a teammate from the Louisville Bats, the Reds’ Triple-A affiliate.

The concussion cheated Satin of his ability to put bat to ball—the skill that elevated the infielder from high-school stardom to a prolific yet up-and-down college career at Cal-Berkeley to the major leagues.

“I just hadn’t been as good,” Satin said. “My depth perception was off. Balls that I would drive into right-center, I would all-of-a-sudden just tap. And I would be like, ‘What the heck was that? That never happens.’ And it happened over and over and over again.

“I felt like I wasn’t the same and I wasn’t going to be the same. … It’s hard enough to hit a little baseball when a guy is chucking it at you 95 miles an hour. But when you can’t really lock in on it like you used to, it makes it 20 times harder—maybe a thousand times harder.”

Satin was in-and-out during the rest of the 2015 season before deciding to take the year off, spending his time working with concussion therapists. He returned in 2016.

“I came back this year with San Diego hoping it would be different after the treatment,” Satin said. “And it wasn’t. So, basically, it was a choice of, ‘Do I want to wait this out again or do I want to start the rest of my life?’ And I chose to start the rest of my life.”

Satin announced his retirement on June 10 via Twitter, writing, “I have decided to retire from the game of baseball. Injuries especially head injuries diminished my skills and it’s time for me to move on.”

Josh Satin of Team Israel looks on from the bench during game one of the Qualifying Round of the World Baseball Classic against Team South Africa at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida, on Sep. 19, 2012 (Tom DiPace, Getty Images)

Josh Satin of Team Israel looks on from the bench during game one of the Qualifying Round of the World Baseball Classic against Team South Africa at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida, on Sep. 19, 2012 (Tom DiPace, Getty Images)

In spite of his retirement, Satin isn’t quite done with baseball. This September, he will represent Team Israel in the qualifying round of the fourth World Baseball Classic. Games will take place at MCU Park in Brooklyn, the same field where Satin got his start with the Mets organization for the Class-A Brooklyn Cyclones.

“It’s going to be full-circle for me,” Satin said. “I have great memories there. It’s where I started my professional career, and I’ll play my last game at that field. It’ll be nice to have gotten away from the game and come back in this kind of setting and have one last hurrah.”

Team Israel’s manager is Jerry Weinstein, who was the Colorado Rockies’ catching coach in 2013 and now works as the team’s director of player development.

“He will go full cycle,” Weinstein said. “That shows this is meant to be.”

Satin has never been to Israel, but he first played for Team Israel in the 2012 World Baseball Classic qualifiers, in which the team lost to Spain in the final round.

Weinstein, who preaches the World Baseball Classic as an opportunity to jumpstart baseball in Israel, commended Satin’s skillset.

“He’s an upper-level baseball player,” Weinstein said. “Even though he’s retired right now, he still has a skill level that’s better than most of the guys who will be on the team. And he occupied a position of need—there are very few Jewish infielders. We’re hoping he can play third base for us.”

Team Israel’s first qualification game is on September 22, which may pose an issue for Satin. He and his wife, Allyson, are expecting a baby girl on September 25. Of course, Satin is hopeful the dates don’t conflict. The opportunity to play with Team Israel—a chance given to Jewish players from any country—means baseball without the stress.

“No fans know this, but professional baseball is really, really stressful,” Satin said. “No matter who you are—no matter if you’re the worst guy in the minor leagues, or if you’re me or if you’re Mike Trout. It’s stressful. There’s expectations people have, and you want to set yourself up for your future. Every day is stressful.

“Playing for team Israel will be the first time in a long time where I will go and have some fun. I’m not playing for my future. I’m playing to enjoy myself and to help the team win. I’m excited about that.”

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sam brief mugSam Brief is a rising sophomore at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, where he is a television reporter, radio producer, play-by-play man and writer. Follow him on Twitter @sambrief and feel free to shoot him an email at briefsam@gmail.com.

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Minor-League Monday (June 6-12, 2016)

By Scott Barancik, Editor

Here they are, your minor-league updates from the week of June 6-12, 2016.

Jewish Baseball News Player of the Week

SS Alex Bregman (Astros/AA) hit .400, drove in 7 runs, and hit a walk-off HR last week. The second-year prospect ranks among Texas League leaders with a .314 average (2nd), 13 HRs (2nd/tied), 42 RBIs (1st/tied), .411 on-base percentage (1st), .596 slugging percentage (.596), and a walk-to-strikeout ratio of 1.35 (1st).

Other highlights

P Jared Lakind (Pirates/AA) upped his streak of scoreless relief appearances to 14. The 2013 draftee hasn’t allowed an earned run since April, a period during he has reduced his ERA from 4.63 to 1.65.

P Max Fried (Braves/A) tossed his second straight scoreless start, giving up 4 hits and 2 walks over 6 innings while striking out 9.

In his first games this season, OF Jake Thomas (Blue Jays/A) hit .435 (10-for-23) last week with 3 extra-base hits and 4 RBIs.

C Ryan Lavarnway (Blue Jays/AA) hit .389 last week with a home run, 2 doubles, 4 RBIs, and 3 walks.

LF Zach Borenstein (Diamondbacks/AAA) went 2-for-3 with 3 RBIs and 3 stolen bases on June 7. For the month of June, he’s hitting .455.

It seemed a bit surprising last week when the Cardinals promoted 2B Mason Katz to Double-A after he had gone 0-for-11 in High-A, but the 25-year-old responded by going 4-for-10 with a HR, double and 2 walks.

OF Kyle Ruchim (White Sox/A) made his minor-league debut last week. His first hit, a triple, came in his second game, on June 10.

Transactions

After ending the week going 7-for-7 on June 10-11, red-hot 1B Ike Davis (Rangers/AAA) signed with the New York Yankees today and was placed on the franchise’s 25-man roster.

Former major-leaguer and Team Israel alum Josh Satin voluntarily retired, citing the effects of repeated head injuries.

The Mets signed former major-leaguer and Team Israel alum Josh Zeid to a minor-league contract. Zeid, who worked exclusively out of the bullpen in the majors, performed beautifully in a start June 11 with the Double-A Binghamton Mets, pitching 6.2 scoreless innings.

Jason Richman (Cardinals) was assigned to extended spring training.

Injury updates

Adam Sonabend (Giants/A) came off the disabled list for one game — he went 1-for-2 with a walk on June 7 — but returned to the list on June 11.

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By Scott Barancik, Editor

Here they are, your minor-league updates from the week of May 23-29, 2016.

Jewish Baseball News Player of the Week

Jared Lakind (Pirates/AA) had a busy week, delivering four scoreless relief appearances to stretch his streak to 10. The 24-year-old gave up one hit and three walks while striking out five over a combined six innings. Lakind’s season ERA has shrunk to a slim 2.00.

Other highlights

Richard Bleier (Yankees/AAA) was called-up to the Majors for the first time in his nine-year professional career. Through May 29, he had not yet made his on-field debut.

LF Mike Meyers (Red Sox/High-A) knocked in four runs to boost his season total to 27, tying him for 11th in the Carolina League. His four triples rank fifth.

SS Alex Bregman (Astros/AA) added two HRs, two doubles, three walks and six RBIs last week while striking out just once. The 22-year-old phenom’s slugging percentage (.652) and OPS (1.077) rank second among all minor-leaguers, and his walk-to-strikeout ratio (1.54) ranks fifth.

C Garrett Stubbs (Astros/High-A) continued tearing up the ball, hitting .400 with a home run, two doubles, three walks, and four RBIs. For the season, the 23-year-old USC alum is hitting .292 with 5 HRs, 23 RBIs, 8 stolen bases, and a .394 on-base percentage in just 106 at-bats.

In just his second game back after a month on the disabled list, C Maxx Tissenbaum (Marlins/A) went hit a grand-slam home run.

CF Rhett Wiseman (Nationals/A) hit .357 with a home run, two doubles, and three RBIs.

LF Zach Borenstein (Diamondbacks/AAA) hit .333 with a home run, triple, two doubles, and four RBIs. His walk/strikeout ratio was a little lopsided, with eight whiffs and zero bases on balls.

Cincinnati Reds starter Jon Moscot was dominant in his third rehab game, pitching six shutout innings and striking out four batters while yielding four hits and no walks. He is scheduled to start tomorrow’s Reds game against the Rockies (May 31).

Reliever R.C. Orlan (Nationals/High-A) was busy too, earning two saves in three appearances. His three scoreless outings extended his streak to eight in a row. For the year, Orlan is 1-0 with a 1.27 ERA, six saves in seven opportunities, and is holding opposing batters to a .113 average and just 0.89 walks/hits per inning.

Also nailing four scoreless appearances was P Jason Richman (Rangers/High-A), who yielded four hits and a walk over a total of five innings while striking out five.

P Scott Effross (Cubs/A) was perfect in each of two relief appearances, striking out three batters over as many innings. The 22-year-old hasn’t yielded an earned run in eight straight outings.

Transactions

Former major-leaguer Ryan Lavarnway signed a minor-league deal with the Blue Jays and logged three games with the franchise’s Double-A team.

Former Athletics prospect Jeff Urlaub has joined the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the independent Atlantic League.

The Padres assigned former major-leaguer Josh Satin (AAA) to extended spring training.

Injury updates

Cleveland Indians prospect Rob Kaminsky (AA) remains on the disabled list.

Cincinnati Reds prospect Zack Weiss (AA) remains on the disabled list.

Birthdays

Astros prospect Garrett Stubbs (High-A) turned 23 on May 26.

Red Sox prospect Zach Kapstein (A-short season) turned 24 on May 28.

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By Scott Barancik, Editor

Here they are, your minor-league updates from the week of May 2-8, 2016.

Highlights

After getting only one hit in his first 22 at-bats, former major leaguer Ike Davis (AAA/Rangers) went 3-for-5 with two doubles and five RBIs on May 2. Davis has reached base in his last six games and had one or more hits in five of them, raising his average to a respectable .257.

OF Zach Borenstein‘s 15 RBIs rank third on the Reno Aces (AAA/Diamondbacks), and he’s accumulated them in just 80 at-bats.

OF Mike Meyers (High-A/Red Sox) went 3-for-5 on May 8, stroking his second HR of the season and stealing his fourth base.

Brad Goldberg (AAA/White Sox) kept opponents scoreless in both relief appearances, yielding a total of two hits and no walks over three innings while striking out two. His overall ERA between AA and AAA ball this season is 2.19.

After tearing the ball apart in AAA, Ryan Kalish was called up by the Cubs and made his season debut May 3.

C Garrett Stubbs (High-A/Astros) has been on fire since returning from the disabled list May 5. In three games last week, he went 5-for-12 (.417) with a double, home run, 3 walks, 4 RBIs, and stolen base. He’s been spectacular behind the plate, throwing out 7 of 10 attempted base stealers with no errors.

CF Rhett Wiseman (A/Nationals) has a 5-game hitting streak and has raised his average to .223. On May 5, he went 4-for-5 with a triple and an RBI.

Jeremy Bleich (AA/Phillies) held batters scoreless in all three relief appearances last week, yielding four hits and two walks over five innings while striking out four.

Richard Bleier (AAA/Yankees) was dominant in his second start of the season May 5, a 7-inning gem in which he gave up six hits, a walk, and one earned run while striking out four.

Former major leaguer Ryan Lavarnway (AAA/Braves) has hit safely in nine of his last 10 games, raising his average to .275 with 7 doubles and 8 RBIs.

Scott Effross (A/Cubs) held opponents scoreless in two relief appearances, yielding one hit and two walks over three innings while striking out six.

Robert Orlan (High-A/Nationals) has earned saves in three of his last four appearances, including a one-inning stint May 8 that trimmed his ERA to 1.88, his opponents’ batting average to .109, and his walks/hits per innings to 1.05.

Transactions

  • Former major leaguer Nate Freiman has signed a minor-league contract with the Boston Red Sox and will suit up with the franchise’s Double-A club, the Portland Sea Dogs. After being released by the Washington Nationals’ Triple-A club last month, Freiman played six games for the independent Long Island Ducks, hitting .381 with two HRs and four RBIs.
  • White Sox prospect Alex Katz was reassigned to extended spring training.

Injury updates

  • Astros #1 prospect Alex Bregman (AA) returned from the disabled list on May 5. For the week, he was 3-for-13 (.231) with four walks and two strikeouts. He hit two doubles on May 6.
  • Former major leaguer Josh Satin is off the disabled list and has played five games with the El Paso Chihuahuas (AAA/Padres).
  • Marlins prospect Maxx Tissenbaum (A) has been placed on the 7-day disabled list retroactive to 4/27/2016.

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Justin Klipp: independent-league pitcher

http://www.wichitawingnuts.com/justinklipp.htmlBy Zev Ben Avigdor, correspondent

One reason we love baseball is because baseball players have great stories. Often those tales make us fans of particular players, regardless of their statistical accomplishments or which uniforms they wear.

Here is one of them, a story of setbacks and adversity, of failure and loss of confidence, and ultimately of perseverance and mastering the mental side of baseball.

Justin Klipp has always been a smart, thoughtful guy. His high GPA and SAT scores attracted the attention of Dartmouth and Harvard, and he was recruited to play baseball in the Ivy League. Instead, the California native chose to make himself more visible as a ballplayer by attending a more traditional baseball school. He played first at Cuesta College, where the Texas Rangers noticed and drafted him in 2004. He subsequently transferred to Cal State Fullerton, the national baseball powerhouse made famous by legendary former coach Augie Garrido. After Klipp’s successes at Fullerton, he was drafted in the 22nd round by the Chicago White Sox, in 2007.

Klipp, 30, has yet to play for a Major League organization, however. During spring training in 2008, he broke his back. Although he was assigned to Chicago’s “Single-A” team, he could not make his first start. He broke his back again in January 2009 and underwent surgery. Doctors said he would not be able to pitch again, but Klipp fought back, worked diligently, and returned to baseball. At first he played in an amateur men’s league in Texas. By 2013, he was playing professional baseball as a member of the Edinburg (TX) Roadrunners in the independent United League. After two weeks in Edinburg, he was picked up by the Wichita Wingnuts of the independent American Association. He pitched two seasons in Wichita, compiling records of 8-3 (3.88 ERA) and 7-3 (3.92 ERA).

This August, while he was in his second season with Wichita, Justin Klipp spoke with Jewish Baseball News. Shortly after, Klipp was traded to the Saint Paul Saints, where he finished out the 2014 season. Following is an edited version of the interview.

JBN: Tell me about your Jewish background.

Klipp: I went to a Jewish preschool, which influenced me in a good way from a young age. And we celebrated family holidays, like Passover and Rosh Hashanah. We’d go to friends’ houses. Very community based. Where I grew up in Calabasas — a lot of Jewish people there. And Hanukah. I got to celebrate Hanukah and Christmas growing up.

JBN: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?

Klipp: I like Hanukah. Just lighting the candles and singing every night, and it lasts eight days. I didn’t like having to fast on Yom Kippur. I never fasted. Passover, I remember eating peanut butter and jelly on matzah. All the kids would have it.

I had some back issues my freshman year in college and always just had poor posture. It eventually caught up with me and ended up stress-fracturing twice in less than a year.

JBN: You said you grew up with a lot of Jewish kids.

Klipp: Definitely. I would say a conservative estimate would be about 50% of the people I went to school with — junior high and high school — were Jewish.

JBN: Did any of them play baseball with you?

Klipp: I’ve known Josh Satin since I was two years old. We grew up going to play groups and stuff like that. We went to the same middle school. Played PONY League Ball, all the way up, and we were close. Still good friends. Aaron Lowenstein, he made it to double-A. He’s actually one of my best friends. I’m going to his wedding in the Fall. Cody Decker was a little younger than me. I think I played against him — when I was a senior, I want to say. He might have been a sophomore. There’s a lot of guys in the area. Jeff Kaplan I played with in college. He went to [Cal State] Fullerton with me. And then last year with Andrew Aizenstadt here on the Wingnuts.

JBN: Did you play with Ryan Braun in high school?

Klipp: No, he was a little bit older. I mean, Derek Kinzler, you probably don’t know him. He was in the Rockies’ organization. He also played in the Can-Am League. He’s actually really good friends with Ryan Braun. They grew up together and so I hung out with Braun a couple of times, but that was all.

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Justin Klipp" src="http://www.jewishbaseballnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/photo-from-justin-klipp-300x225.jpeg" width="300" height="225" srcset="http://www.jewishbaseballnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/photo-from-justin-klipp-300x225.jpeg 300w, http://www.jewishbaseballnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/photo-from-justin-klipp-150x112.jpeg 150w, http://www.jewishbaseballnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/photo-from-justin-klipp-900x675.jpeg 900w, http://www.jewishbaseballnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/photo-from-justin-klipp.jpeg 960w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" /> Justin Klipp pitching for the Wichita Wingnuts

JBN: Was Ryan Lavarnway from Los Angeles?

Klipp: Yeah. So those were really my closest friends that I’ve had that were Jews in baseball.

JBN: What do you like best about being Jewish?

Klipp: Maybe just that it’s different. There’s not as many Jews. And I do like the community, and it’s always nice when I go back home, because I’m still close with a lot of people I grew up with, from high school and that’s just — I love my family. We’re really family-oriented. Jews are really family-oriented, and I like that a lot.

JBN: It must be hard, to have your family back in LA and you’re here.

Klipp: It sucks.

JBN: Israel had a team in the World Baseball Classic. They’re going to have one again in 2016. Your father is Jewish, so you’re eligible. Would you play?

Klipp: Yeah, I would. If I’m still playing professionally, I would love to have the opportunity to go play. Any opportunity to play in the World Baseball Classic, playing with the best guys in the world, would be amazing. I would definitely love to go play for the Jewish — uh, for the Israeli team.

JBN: For “the Jewish team.”

Klipp: For the Jewish team [laughs].

JBN: How did you start playing baseball?

Klipp: Playing tee ball. I was the kind of kid who was athletic growing up, so I tried a bunch of sports. Soccer — the day of tryouts, I told my mom, I’m like, “Mom, I don’t want to do this. Too much running around on the field for no reason.” I was five. So I did tee ball, basketball. I took karate. I did art lessons growing up. I always loved baseball, since I was young. I had a bunch of ups and downs. Baseball is a sport where, obviously, it has a lot to do with confidence, and I had times when I lost confidence playing and it didn’t become fun, but I was always drawn back to it, just because I love playing and I loved the guys growing up.

JBN: Your back has been a problem. What happened?

Klipp: It was a long time coming. I had some back issues my freshman year in college and always just had poor posture. It eventually caught up with me and ended up stress-fracturing twice in less than a year.

JBN: You had surgery in 2009.

Klipp: Yeah, January 2009. It was the Spring of 2011 that I started playing in a men’s league again.

JBN: And then in 2013 you got recruited to play independent league baseball?

Klipp: No, I actually went and tried out for [the independent Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks], I got a spring training invite to Fargo in 2012. Didn’t make the team. I got cut in spring training. I wasn’t quite ready. Actually, to be honest, I don’t think I got a fair shot. They gave me one inning, and I didn’t give up a run. I gave up one infield hit. And a strikeout.

JBN: Sounds like they already had their minds made up.

Klipp: Yeah, they probably had their minds made up. I was just an extra guy — didn’t get a fair shot. It’ll be nice, because tomorrow will my first time pitching against them, since I didn’t get to pitch against them last year and so far not this year. [NOTE: Klipp and the Wichita Wingnuts beat Fargo 7-4 the next day. He scattered 7 hits over five innings, yielding one run and striking out five.]

JBN: Is that in the back of your mind, to say, “I told you so”?

Klipp: Just a little bit, a little bit of shove it in his face. But to be fair, I’m not the same pitcher now as I was two years ago. But, yeah, it’ll kind of be there.

JBN: How did you end up in Austin, Texas?

Klipp: After my back surgery, I was kind of lost, and I just needed a little adventure. I needed to get out of L.A. for a while, and Austin was somewhere I always found intriguing. I always wanted to go to UT.

It’s more about the team in independent ball, it’s more about winning, not as much about developing guys. They don’t really care too much in organized ball if you win or lose; they just want their prospects to get better so they can keep moving them up and getting them ready for the big leagues.

JBN: In your blog, you wrote something about being in Austin and attending classes at UT.

Klipp: I was going to, but I didn’t. That fell through. That was if I was — I thought I was going to be done [with baseball]. At the time I was writing the blog, I thought I was done playing. I had no idea, and that was my plan, to go [to UT]. I was coaching tournament ball. Then I played in a Texas winter league. It’s a league where you pay to play for a month. You pay them, and they help you get picked up…The United League takes a lot of guys out of this winter league. So you go down there — you pay to get on a team. Obviously, you have to be good enough; they’re not going to take everyone. I signed with Edinburg after that, the Roadrunners. Ozzie Canseco was my manager down there. That was interesting, to say the least. Guys would go across the border to play for the cartels. The cartels would put on these men’s league games, and they bet a lot of money on these games, so they would bring ringers from over [the border]. We had a couple guys from the team go over there to play, and after the game, they’d have a trash bag full of money, and they would hand you anywhere from $600 to $1000 for a single game. That was the incentive. It was a month’s pay, right there, in one game, on a Sunday, so you’d have guys shoot across the border and make some money. It was scary. I thought about doing it, but then I left. I pitched really well there, and I got picked up by Wichita three weeks into the season. I had three starts under my belt, and then I came to Wichita. That was how I got here.

JBN: For readers who may not understand the distinction, how would you explain the difference between affiliated ball and independent ball?

Klipp: Not much difference between Minor League double-A and this league. I’d say it’s between high-A and double-A — that would be about the equivalent. Most of the guys here in this league have double-A time and above. There’s not much difference, except it’s more about the team in independent ball, it’s more about winning, not as much about developing guys. They don’t really care too much in organized ball if you win or lose; they just want their prospects to get better so they can keep moving them up and getting them ready for the big leagues. It’s a lot more fun [in independent ball], I would say, especially talking to guys who have been up in the higher levels of organized ball. They love it here, and that’s part of why they’re still playing, too. They can’t let go of that, and it’s that chance to play for love of the game and for that team camaraderie and to win a championship. But as far as difference — there’s not so much difference, [except for] the mentality — it’s about winning. They don’t care if you’re a pitcher and you throw 85, if you’re getting guys out, you’re going to have a job. It doesn’t necessarily work like that if you’re in organized baseball. They don’t care if you throw 95 on our team [Wichita] and walk a bunch of guys and are struggling to find your command. They don’t want anyone like that. They want a guy who comes in, throws strikes, and gets outs — especially our team, very defense-oriented.

JBN: What do you like best about baseball that makes it different from the other sports you played?

Klipp: Baseball has taught me so much over the years. It’s incredible how much influence it’s had on my life and made me the person, the man I am today. I was really influenced, in college especially. Really, it turned me into a man and made me confident, and it taught me a lot of skills that I will take later, once I retire — and if I don’t decide to coach or stay and do something in baseball afterward — and [I] go into in the business world, a lot of skills I learned on the baseball field, such as confidence and taking things one thing at a time and being in the moment and just life lessons that I’ve learned over the years. The biggest thing is confidence, and that’s what I try to instill in all my kids that I teach during the off-season. That’s why their parents really appreciate what I do. Whether little Johnny gets that much better in baseball, they really like the values I instill, and the kids look up to me…It’s always good for a kid to have someone to look up to, other than your parents, outside your family, and that you can talk to and have a relationship with. I think it’s really important.

The big thing that I had to learn was staying in the moment and not thinking about my last at bat that was bad or my last bad outing or that last pitch that I threw that the guy hit 500 feet. 

JBN: You said that those lessons then extend outside baseball.

Klipp: Yeah, I see it. When I grew up, I wasn’t that confident a kid. I had a lot of self-esteem issues growing up, as most kids do. In this game, you have to have confidence. And there’s a fine line between being cocky and having confidence, which I always tell my guys. And that’s what my dad always harped on me, growing up: You never have to tell anyone how good you are, you go and you show them on the field. He always taught me to be humble. That would be the biggest thing, confidence. And also just being in the moment and not letting things that you can’t control affect you. You can’t control what the umpire does, you can’t control if your fielder makes an error. I see a lot of kids — if you’re pitching and your second baseman makes an error, and you turn around and throw your hands up and show bad body language and show up your fielder, which in turn makes them feel even worse than they already feel for making an error. You control what you can control. And it’s the same thing in life. You can’t control what other people do and let that affect you. And the big thing that I had to learn was staying in the moment and not thinking about my last at bat that was bad or my last bad outing or that last pitch that I threw that the guy hit 500 feet. You have to move on, and that’s another great life lesson, that people are so caught up in the past and the future that they’re not going to live in the now and enjoy what’s going on right in front of them. I enjoy working with kids on that, on getting them to lock in, on teaching kids to be able to focus their mind on whatever it is and then be able to space out. You have to have that time, what our sports psychologist called the six seconds of focus: when you step into your circle and you’re ready, because that’s just about the time it takes from the time the pitcher toes the rubber and delivers the pitch — then space out.

JBN:What would you want the readers of Jewish Baseball News to know about you? Something that’s important to you.

Klipp: I’ve started [writing] a book. A working title is “I’m the Man.” It’s from when I had this nine-year-old team, and we had a kid who was a really skilled player. You saw him, and it was like, “Dang, this kid’s really got some talent.” But he didn’t have confidence, he just wasn’t confident — at all.

JBN: Even though he was so much better than the other kids.

Klipp: That’s the thing. He didn’t realize it. And I guess that was the same thing for me growing up. I didn’t realize how — I knew I was better, but I just didn’t have the confidence that I should have had. After one game, when he had a tough game at the plate and just didn’t do well, I called to him, “Matty, come here. What’s going on, bud?” And he was just sitting there, not really giving me an answer, and I told him, “You need to say, ‘I’m the man,’ out loud. You need to tell me, right now, ‘I’m the man.’” Most kids can’t say it. This is a thing I do with a lot of kids to help build their confidence, because they just can’t say it out loud. If you don’t have self-esteem, you can’t say out loud and with conviction, “I’m the man” and “I can do this” or whatever else you want to replace for that. So he started softly, [in a whisper] “I’m the man,” and I said, “No! Say it louder!” I just got in his face. People were around — it was just outside, in a little league facility, and people were watching me and looking at me like I’m crazy. He just said again [still softly] “I’m the man,” and I was, “No, louder.” And he slowly built up, louder, and he kept saying, “I’m the man,” and we keep going back and forth, and all of sudden tears started coming out of his eyes, because he just had so many emotions going on, he didn’t know what to do to deal with them all, he had no idea — and all of a sudden, he just fired off [yelling], “I’m the man,” loud, at the top [of his lungs], with conviction, and he was breathing [hard] and you could just see the transformation right there, just getting him to say that at the top of his lungs. At that point, everyone was looking at us and going, “Oh my God, what is this?” At the next game, which was later that day, because it was a tournament, I had coaches coming up to tell me, “Who’s your catcher? Your catcher is the best catcher I’ve ever seen.” He made a huge transformation. The other parents — and his mom — they thought it was just something special. And then one of the team moms made shirts with “I’m the man” on the back, and our whole team motto was, “I’m the man,” and that just became our thing. And we ended up winning our first tournament a few tournaments after that. It was a special team, special to do that.

I do that a lot with my clients. They can’t say it, they can’t say it like they mean it. I tell them, “You have to go home and look in the mirror and be able to look at yourself and have that confidence to be able to say that.” That’s the one thing I would say is the most important thing that I’ve taken away from this: in life, the ability to be confident and not cocky. Most of the confident kids, it seems like, growing up, are the ones that are bullies. They act — but they’re probably not — confident. Kids are learning how to be confident. That’s part of growing up. Life is tough. It’s tough out there. It’s not easy. You’re very innocent when you grow up. You have no idea what the real world is going to be like when you get out there, and if you don’t have these skills — being confident, staying in the moment, thinking positive…A lot of it is positive thinking, which really affected me. I would always go to the negative, because I’m a perfectionist. Augie Garrido — I read it in his book [Life Is Yours to Win: Lessons Forged from the Purpose, Passion, and Magic of Baseball] — he tells his team, the first day of practice, that he has four rules, and the third rule is that you will strive for perfection, but you will fail. You learn from those failures, you pick yourself back up, basically you get back on the horse, and you keep doing it, again and again: “When you fail, recognize the message that’s in the failure and be motivated to get better. And then to do your best again and again until you find the solution.” You keep striving for perfection, but you have to understand you’re going to fail. Your expectation level has to be realistic. And that’s the thing: I see a lot of kids who are perfectionists, and that’s how I was growing up — I was a perfectionist. But it wasn’t in check. My expectation level was to always be perfect, and when I did fail, everything would just come crashing down. That was the biggest thing, growing up.

JBN: When was the turning point?

Klipp: When I went to [Cal State] Fullerton, they taught me all this stuff. I quit in the middle of my sophomore year, from losing my confidence. I got drafted my freshman year, by the Rangers. Then my sophomore year, I didn’t have a great start, wasn’t throwing quite as hard. I was working out too much, I was trying too hard. I was trying to get better, to be so much better than the season before. It’s a long story. It came crashing down. If you read the blog, a lot of it is in there. I literally quit in the middle of playoffs my sophomore year. I ripped up my jerseys and put them on my coach’s car — that’s how bad it got. I was fortunate enough to go to the Northwoods League and play in Minnesota — Alexandria — and that’s where I fell back in love with the game. And then I was lucky enough to have an agent who gave me the opportunity to throw a bullpen in front of the Fullerton coach, and they invited me to walk on for January workouts. January workouts are intense, 12 hours a day, every day except Sundays for 23 days. I had to earn a spot there, and that was one of my biggest accomplishments. Against all odds, I was going into one of the top programs in the country, in the middle of their toughest time. They made you run two miles in under 14 minutes, and I didn’t make it. I was one of the few guys that didn’t. I was not a good runner then, not a long distance runner. That’s when I broke down. I got shin splints that turned into stress fractures, both my junior and senior years. So you could say I don’t run [long distances] anymore. But I made the team and actually became the right handed set-up guy for a while until I stress fractured my shin and kind of fell off. But they taught me. At first I was like, “What is all this they’re talking about? What is this six seconds of focus and all this psychology?” It took me a little time to buy into it, but once I did — and especially going into my senior year when I really bought into it — I saw the difference of how it transformed me as a person and as a baseball player. I took a class with Ken Ravizza that fall. He teaches at Fullerton. He used to work with Walter Payton, back in the day, and with U.S. Olympians and the Anaheim Angels. Now he gets flown around to different big leaguers to work one-on-one with them. Evan Longoria does one-on-one sessions with him. He’s a great guy. He influenced my life, as well as our whole coaching staff, and in particular Rick Vanderhook. He was the assistant coach at the time. He’s now the head coach. He’s tough. He’s like an army sergeant, and it took me a while, but he really built my confidence, like you wouldn’t believe. His philosophy — the team philosophy — was, if you can deal with the wrath of “Hooky” you can deal with anything out on the field. That’s what they wanted. It took me a while, but once I could accept the ‘wrath of Hooky,’ I had made the transformation.

My senior year, our team had a falling off, and we barely made the playoffs. The whole year I pitched in relief. I had a stress fracture in my left shin, and I couldn’t go more than four innings, or else I would have been the Sunday starter [one of the top three starting pitchers on a college team but not the ace, who is typically the Friday starter]. We didn’t really have a third starter that year, just a bunch of freshmen that kept rotating in and out — there was no set guy — and I didn’t get to pitch in the first two, first-round playoff games out of the bullpen, because I wasn’t needed. At the time, I had an ulcer in my stomach, because of all the pain pills I had to take to pitch, for my shin, and I had a ten-minute tape job — the tape job was like a cast — before each game. I had to walk around in a boot when I wasn’t playing. The next day after I would pitch, I couldn’t even walk, I was limping around — it was that bad.

Guys would go across the border to play for the cartels. The cartels would put on these men’s league games, and they bet a lot of money on these games, so they would bring ringers from over [the border]…After the game, they’d have a trash bag full of money.

JBN: How did you find the strength to pitch?

Klipp: That’s the mentality that they taught me. I fell apart my junior year, and that kind of helped, too, because I had experienced it, so that my senior year I knew how to deal with it. So Hooky got on me on the bus after the game, and I was, at that point, pretty fed up. I was pretty upset, because I didn’t get to pitch those two games, and I felt like, “What was going on?” They hadn’t announced the third starter yet, and Hooky got on my case about going from the bullpen to the dugout to get food. And I just yelled back at him, “Hooky. I got an ulcer because of all the pills that I take to pitch for you, so I have to eat.” I kind of went off on him on the bus, in front of everyone. And he yelled, “Klipper, get off the effing bus right now!” We got there, and he just wore me out, and I wore him out. And he loved it. He loves when you can get to the point where you can [yell back at him]. He’ll break you down, like you won’t believe; he broke me down like I was a wild stallion. And the next morning, I woke up and was all pissed off. I was sitting in my chair, slumped down, and they made an announcement, “Starting pitcher today — Klipper.” I made my first start of the year, and we won. We actually beat Fresno State — half of the guys on that team were on the team that won the College World Series the following year. It was a tough game. That day, while I was sitting there in the stands, getting mentally prepared, I saw Tanner Scheppers, who now plays in the big leagues for the Rangers, get hit in the head by a come-backer. Line drive. And I was in the stands, watching, trying to get ready. It was bad. I was sitting there, watching, waiting for the inning to end. I had my headphones in, listening to music, trying to get ready, mentally ready, and I had to witness this, but I couldn’t think about that. So the first thing, I went out, and I was really nervous. First game ever I’m on national television, and I’m pitching, first start of the year. I walked the first batter of the game, but then settled in. I gave up that run, and I gave up one more hit that inning. I got back to the dugout, and Hooky was, “What the bleep are you doing walking the first batter,” and he got in my face. You have to understand, he’s this short, penguin-looking guy, and he has this voice. I said, “Hooky, get the bleep out of my face. I got this.” I can’t say the rest of it out loud, because obviously it was — but basically I yelled back at him, and he said, “Yeah, alright Klipper,” and he smacked me on the butt, and he said, “You got it.” He knew. And the next four innings, I went out and didn’t give up a run. I gave up two more hits, but that was all. We won the game and went to the next round and ended up going to the College World Series after that. I didn’t get to pitch, though. I was supposed to start the third game, but we went two and out. Heartbreakers. We actually played against [UC] Irvine and [Aaron] Lowenstein in that game, which was a pretty cool experience, playing against my best friend. It was a 13-inning, five hour-and-45-minute game, longest game in College World Series history. If we win, I pitch the next game, and if not, we go home. We ended up losing, and I didn’t get to pitch in the College World Series.

JBN: How did Aaron play?

Klipp: He did well. He’s one of the best defensive catchers I’ve ever seen. [Note: Aaron Lowenstein played from 2008-2011 in the San Francisco Giants’ organization, where he threw out an impressive 42 percent of all attempted base-stealers. Like Klipp, Lowenstein had to deal with setbacks — in his case, multiple concussions that prematurely ended his promising career.] 

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“Zev Ben Avigdor” is the pen name of a university scholar who writes for Jewish Baseball News. Click here to see more of his interviews.

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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

For some Jewish baseball fans, Yom Kippur isn’t just the holiest day on the calendar. It’s also a litmus test of a ballplayer’s commitment to Judaism.

That’s not so true here at Jewish Baseball News, a secular website that holds no grudge against a ballplayer for choosing to swing a bat during the High Holidays (although we take pride when a player like Sandy Koufax or Shawn Green elects to pray rather than play).

Some players find ways to bridge the gap. Consider reliever Craig Breslow, who told Boston’s Jewish Journal:

“In previous years, I have participated in online Passover seders and High Holy Day services, and have fasted as best as I could, even on game days. ‘Typically, I try to observe the holidays in a way that is meaningful to me and indicative of my commitment to Judaism, but also honors and acknowledges the commitment that I have made to my teammates.”

So without further ado, here’s a breakdown of who played last night, and who didn’t.

Played

Six Jewish major leaguers played last night, and five of them emerged victorious:

  1. Nate Freiman, Oakland A’s.Went 1-for-2. Result: defeated the Texas Rangers.
  2. Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers. Went 0-for-2 but drew three walks, drove in a run, and scored 2 more. Result: lost to the Oakland A’s.
  3. Danny Valencia, Baltimore Orioles. Went 1-for-4 with an RBI single. Result: defeated the Toronto Blue Jays.
  4. Craig Breslow, Boston Red Sox. Of the three batters faced, struck out one, walked another, and gave up a two-run double, leading to a blown save. Result: defeated the New York Yankees.
  5. Josh Zeid, Houston Astros. Pitched a scoreless 8th inning, giving up a walk and a hit but no runs, and earning a hold. Result: defeated the Los Angeles Angels.
  6. Sam Fuld, Tampa Bay Rays. Was brought in as a defensive replacement in the 9th inning. Result: defeated the Minnesota Twins.

Did not play, for one reason or another 

Four major leaguers didn’t play last night even though their teams did, and three of the teams won anyway. With the exception of Baltimore’s Scott Feldman, Baylawsuits doesn’t know whether it was the players’ decision not to play or their managers’.

  1. Scott Feldman, Baltimore Orioles. A member of the team’s starting rotation, he’d pitched 2 days earlier. Result: defeated the Toronto Blue Jays.
  2. Ryan Lavarnway, Boston Red Sox. A back-up catcher, he hasn’t played since Sept. 7. Result: defeated the New York Yankees.
  3. Kevin Pillar, Toronto Blue Jays. A back-up outfielder, he’d started seven of his team’s past 10 games and played part of one other. Result: lost to the Baltimore Orioles.
  4. Josh Satin, New York Mets. A versatile infielder, he’d started six of his team’s past 10 games and played parts of two others. Result: defeated the Miami Marlins.

Unable to play

Four players were on the disabled list, and one was on suspension for violating baseball’s anti-drug policy.

  1. Ike Davis, New York Mets. On disabled list.
  2. Ryan Kalish, Boston Red Sox. On disabled list.
  3. Jason Marquis, San Diego Padres. On disabled list.
  4. Kevin Youkilis, New York Yankees. On disabled list.
  5. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers. Suspended.

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Ike Davis after hitting a run-scoring infield single Friday (MLB.com)

By Scott Barancik, editor

After a 21-game sojourn in the minors to regain his sweet swing, Ike Davis returned to the New York Mets’ lineup with a vengeance Friday (7/5/2013), going 3-for-5 with 2 RBIs and a walk in a 12-5 win over the Milwaukee Brewers (box score).

According to ESPN.comDavis had arrived at the Mets’ clubhouse in Milwaukee yelling “Shalom, everybody!” as teammates hugged him.

Even better Friday was the news that Josh Satin, a Triple-A call-up who hit .353 while subbing for Davis at first base, would stay on the Mets’ roster rather than go back down to the minors. Manager Terry Collins said he would consider giving Satin playing time not only at first base but second base, third base, and in the outfield.

“We just sat here today and looked at his numbers against left-handed pitching,” Collins told ESPN.com. “Boy, they’re pretty stinkin’ good (10-for-24). We’ve got to get him in there.”

Davis was equally complimentary of Satin. “I was really happy when they called him up when I went down,” he said. “I wouldn’t ask for a better person. I love Josh. And I’m excited that he’s done well and has proven that he can play here, because he can. He rakes every year.”

Davis hit .293 during his stint with the Las Vegas 51s and had a .424 on-base percentage. He had 7 HRs, 7 doubles, and 13 RBIs in 92 at-bats.

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The online version of Tuesday's NYTimes article

The online version of Tuesday’s NYTimes article

By Scott Barancik, editor

Josh Satin, called up from Triple-A last month to sub for struggling first baseman (and fellow Jew) Ike Davis, has 7 doubles, a .390 batting average, and an eye-popping .510 on-base percentage in 41 at-bats since then. He’s reached base in 13 straight games, including three in which he had just one plate appearance, and is hitting .400 with runners in scoring position.

But today the 28-year-old rookie has something even newer to write home about: his first New York Times profile (click here to see it).

Zach Schonbrun’s article portrays Satin‘s recent rise to prominence as unlikely. One minor-league team after another had tried to correct the 6-foot-2-inch Californian’s “unorthodox batting mechanics” and the “cartoonish way he timed every pitch, as if he were hitting in a slow-pitch softball home run derby.” Many “failed to envision Satin as anything but too old, too slow, too unconventional to be part of the Mets’ future.”

So far, Satin seems to be proving his doubters wrong, although he says they were right about one thing: the need to speed his timing. The UC-Berkeley alum made the adjustment after a “cameo” appearance with the Mets in September 2011.

Although he has played first base exclusively in this stint with the Mets, Satin has substantial minor-league experience at second base and shortstop. That may give New York further reason to keep him around when Ike Davis returns.

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By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

Here are highlights from minor-league games played on Saturday, April 13:

  • Max Fried, a 19-year-old starter ranked the San Diego Padres’ No. 2 prospect by MLB.com, earned his first professional win, and in dominant fashion. Fried pitched 5 scoreless innings for the Fort Wayne TinCaps (Single-A), giving up just 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out eight (see article and box score). Chosen 7th overall in the 2012 amateur draft — for which he received a $3-million bonus — the 6’4″ Californian walked the first batter of the game but then picked him off first base. Providing support was Jewish teammate and roommate Maxx Tissenbaum, who drove in a run with a sacrifice fly and drew his Midwest League-leading 10th walk of the season. (Click here to see Tissenbaum‘s excellent blog.)
  • Double-A players Jack Marder and Jake Lemmerman both hit their first HRs of the 2013 season. Marder, a Seattle Mariners prospect who went 2/4 and added a walk, was Jewish Baseball News’ 2012 minor-league rookie of the year. Lemmerman plays shortstop for the St. Louis Cardinals’ organization.
  • Red-hot New York Mets prospect Josh Satin had a perfect day at the plate, going 2/2 with a home run, 3 RBIs, and 3 walks for the Las Vegas 51s (Triple-A). Satin is hitting .474 (3rd highest in the Pacific Coast League) with 4 HRs (1st/tie), 12 RBIs (3rd/tie), 12 runs (2nd/tie), a .545 on-base percentage (3rd/tie), and an on-base plus slugging of 1.440 (3rd).
  • Baltimore Orioles prospect (and former Major Leaguer) Danny Valencia went 3/4 and drove in a run, raising his batting average to .333. Valencia plays third base for the Norfolk Tides (Triple-A).
  • In his second start of the 2013 season, Tampa Bay Rays prospect Sean Bierman earned his second consecutive shutout. Bierman gave up five singles and no walks while striking out four batters for the Bowling Green Hot Rods (Single-A).

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Minor-league highlights (April 8, 2013)

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By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

Here are highlights from minor-league games played on Monday, April 8:

  • Toronto Blue Jays prospect Kevin Pillar, the 2012 Midwest League MVP, went 1/4 with a single, two walks, one RBI and a run scored (box score). Pillar plays for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
  • New York Mets prospect Josh Satin extended his torrid April pace, going 3/4 with a double, an RBI, and a run scored (box score). Satin, who plays for the Las Vegas 51s (AAA), is hitting .476 with one HR, two doubles, and 4 RBIs in 21 at-bats.
  • San Diego Padres prospect Maxx Tissenbaum didn’t get any hits, but he didn’t get any outs, either. Playing for the Fort Wayne Tin Caps (A), Tissenbaum walked four times and scored once (box score).
  • St. Louis Cardinals prospect Corey Baker still hasn’t allowed a run this season. In his third relief appearance for the Peoria Chiefs (A), Baker gave up two singles over two innings while striking out four and walking none (box score).
  • Danny Rosenbaum‘s first Triple-A start was a success. The Washington Nationals prospect pitched five shutout innings for the Syracuse Chiefs, yielding 4 singles and 2 walks while striking out two (box score).

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By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

Here are highlights from minor-league games played on Sunday, April 7:

  • Joc Pederson, ranked the Los Angeles Dodgers’ #4 prospect by Baseball America, went a combined 3-for-7 with two HRs, a double, and 3 RBIs. Pederson is an outfielder with the Chattanooga Lookouts (AA).
  • New York Mets prospect Josh Satin went 2-for-4 with a double to raise his average to .412. Satin plays for the Las Vegas 51s (AAA).
  • In his first start of the 2013 season, Tampa Bay Rays prospect Sean Bierman pitched 5 innings of one-hit ball. Bierman plays for the Bowling Green Hot Rods (A).
  • Seattle Mariners prospect David Colvin pitched two and 1/3 perfect innings. Colvin plays for the High Desert Mavericks (High-A).

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By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

With the regular season now underway, we’re taking a quick look back at how Jewish players performed in spring training.

The sheer number who played was impressive: a total of at least 24 Jews — 18 position players and six pitchers — got on the field for at least one MLB game this spring.

BATTING

Collectively,  position players hit .255 with 14 HRs and 64 RBIs in 384 at-bats (see table below). Several stood out:

  • Kevin Youkilis had an eye-popping debut with the New York Yankees. He led all Jewish players (as well as all Yankees) with 6 HRs, 6 doubles and 14 RBIs in just 50 at-bats, along with an .800 slugging percentage and a 1.139 OPS (on-base plus slugging).
  • New York Mets prospect Josh Satin made the most of his 16 plate appearances, cobbling together 3 singles, 2 doubles, 5 walks, and 3 RBIs to amass a .455 batting average and .647 on-base percentage.
  • Ike Davis, another Met, showed great poise at the plate, hitting .327 with 4 doubles, 1 HR, and 4 RBIs. Davis’s 9 walks boosted his on-base percentage to a healthy .431.
  • Danny Valencia lost his fight for a spot on the Baltimore Orioles’ opening-day roster but made a good impression on his new team, hitting .323 with 1 HR, 4 RBIs, and a .417 on-base percentage.
  • Maxx Tissenbaum, a 21-year-old San Diego Padres prospect with one minor-league season under his belt, knocked in 3 runs in just 4 at-bats.
  • St. Louis Cardinals prospect Adam Ehrlich walked in both of his plate appearances, St. Louis Cardinals prospect Charlie Cutler singled in his only appearance of the spring, and San Diego Padres prospect Cody Decker went 3-for-6 with a double.

Final hitting stats, 2013 MLB Spring Training

 TEAMGABHHRRBIAVGOBP
Ryan BraunMIL1023636.261.357
Charlie CutlerSTL111001.0001.000
Ike DavisNYM21551815.327.431
Cody DeckerSD26300.500.500
Adam EhrlichSTL30000-1.000
Nate Freiman*HOU/OAK25541319.241.268
Sam FuldTB820514.250.286
Adam GreenbergBAL21000.000.000
Ben GuezDET11000.000.000
Ian KinslerTEX24631419.222.292
Ryan LavarnwayBOS1644606.136.188
Jake LemmermanSTL11000.000.000
Joc PedersonLAD710101.100.182
Kevin PillarTOR79100.111.111
Josh SatinNYM1211503.455.647
Maxx TissenbaumSD44103.250.400
Danny ValenciaBAL17311014.323.417
Kevin YoukilisNYY185014614.280.339
* Now with Oakland A's
Source: Jewish Baseball News collection of data from MLB.com, baseball-reference.com, and cbssports.com.

 

PITCHING

Among the six Jewish pitchers who played in at least one spring training game (see below), these ones stood out:

  • Houston Astros prospect Josh Zeid went 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA in six relief appearances, held opposing players to a .235 batting average, and drew 3.33 times as many groundouts as flyouts.
  • San Diego Padres veteran Jason Marquis went 1-1 with a 3.74 ERA in six starts and held opponents to a .239 batting average.
  • Toronto Blue Jays prospect Michael Schwimer earned a 3.00 ERA in three relief appearances and limited opposing teams to a .182 batting average.
  • Scott Feldman stood out for less desirable reasons. The newly-minted Chicago Cub went 0-3 with an 11.25 ERA, gave up nearly 2 hits per inning, yielded 7 HRs, and got lit up by opposing batters to the tune of a .396 average.

Final pitching stats, 2013 MLB Spring Training

  TEAMWLERAGIPHBBSO
1Jeremy BleichNYY000.0010.1000
2Scott FeldmanCHC0311.25620.038617
3Jason MarquisSD113.74621.2211515
4Danny Rosenbaum*COL214.5068.0930
5Michael SchwimerTOR003.0033.0224
6Josh ZeidHOU101.5066.0442
* Now with Washington Nationals
Source: Jewish Baseball News collection of data from MLB.com, baseball-reference.com, and cbssports.com.

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It’s here: Team Israel reveals its roster

By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

The long wait to see which players will represent Israel at World Baseball Classic qualifiers this week is over.

Team Israel’s 28-man roster (see below) includes two former Major Leaguers (player/coaches Shawn Green and Gabe Kapler), three Israelis, and 23 minor-leaguers. Because the MLB season is still underway, no current Major Leaguers are on the roster. Also missing are a number of Triple-A and even Double-A players whose teams wanted them around as potential call-ups later this month.

The double-elimination tournament takes place Sept. 19-23 in Jupiter, Fla., and pits Israel against teams from France, Spain, and South Africa. Whoever prevails will earn a spot in the main World Basic Classic competition, in November 2013. If Israel wins, the team it fields in 2013 likely will include a number of Major Leaguers (such as Kevin Youkilis, who already has committed to play) and Triple-A players.

Additional commentary on this week’s roster is shown below the table.

Team Israel: Roster for the WBC qualifying tourney
No.PlayerPos.AgeHometownMinor-league teamParent club
27COLVIN, DavidRHP23Mill Valley, CAClinton LumberKings (A)Seattle Mariners
34KAPLAN, JeffRHP27Dana Point, CABinghamton Mets (AA)New York Mets
36KOPP, DavidRHP26Coral Springs, FLErie SeaWolves (AA)Detroit Tigers
16LEICHMAN, AlonRHP23Kibbutz Gezer, IsraelN.A.N.A.
22LIPETZ, ShlomoRHP33Tel Aviv, IsraelN.A.N.A.
10LORIN, BrettRHP25Laguna Niguel, CAMobile Bay Bears (AA)Arizona Diamondbacks
21PERLMAN, MaxRHP24Jupiter, FLStockton Ports (A+)Oakland A's
(-)ROTHEM, DanRHP35Tel Aviv, IsraelN.A.N.A.
26SCHUMER, JustinRHP24Houston, TXSan Jose Giants (A+)San Francisco Giants
28ZEID, JoshRHP25New Haven, CTCorpus Christi Hooks (AA)Houston Astros
14BERGER, EricLHP26Goldsboro, NCColumbus Clippers (AAA)Cleveland Indians
35BLEIER, RichardLHP25Davie, FLFrisco Roughriders (AA)Texas Rangers
17GOULD, JeremyLHP24Buffalo Grove, ILSavannah Sand Gnats (A)New York Mets
29URLAUB, JeffLHP25Scottsdale, AZStockton Ports (A+)Oakland A's
37CUTLER, CharlieC26San Fransico, CAAltoona Curve (AA)Pittsburgh Pirates
3MARDER, JackC/IF22Calabasas, CAHigh Desert Mavericks (A+)Seattle Mariners
19RICKLES, NickC22Ft. Lauderdale, FLBurlington Bees (A+)Oakland A's
6DECKER, Cody1B25Santa Monica, CASan Antonio Missions (AA)San Diego Padres
25FREIMAN, Nate1B25Wellesley, MASan Antonio Missions (AA)San Diego Padres
9ORLOFF, Ben2B25Simi Valley, CACorpus Christi Hooks (AA)Houston Astros
2SATIN, Josh2B27Hidden Hills, CABuffalo Bisons (AAA)New York Mets
33HAERTHER, Casey3B24West Hills, CAArkansas Travelers (AA)Los Angeles Angels
7LEMMERMAN, JakeSS23Coronoa del Mar, CAChattanooga Lookouts (AA)Los Angeles Dodgers
15GREEN, ShawnOF39Des Plaines, ILN.A.N.A.
24GUEZ, BenOF25Houston, TXToledo Mud Hens (AAA)Detroit Tigers
18KAPLER, GabeOF37Hollywood, CAN.A.N.A.
31PEDERSON, JocOF20Palo Ato, CARancho Cucamonga Quakes (A+)Los Angeles Dodgers
23WIDLANSKY, RobbieOF/3B27Plantation, FLBowie Baysox (AA)Baltimore Orioles

Here are some other facts and observations on Team Israel’s roster for the qualifiers:

  • Of the 23 minor leaguers on the roster, three ended the 2012 season with a Triple-A team, 12 at the Double-A level, six at A-advanced, and two with a Single-A team.
  • Adam Greenberg, a former Major Leaguer who is trying to mount a comeback, was invited to Jupiter for tryouts but is not on the roster.
  • Josh Satin, who played briefly for the New York Mets in 2011 and 2012, is the only player with MLB experience.
  • The youngest player on the roster is 20-year-old outfielder Joc Pederson, who is ranked the Los Angeles Dodgers’ No. 3 prospect by MLB.com. The oldest player is 39-year-old Shawn Green, whose 15-year MLB career included five seasons with the Dodgers and ended with the New York Mets in 2007. Green’s 328 career HRs are second only to Hank Greenberg’s 331 among Jewish ballplayers.
  • Israeli player Alon Leichman plays for Cypress College, a community college in California.
  • During the qualifiers for the 2012 European Championship, Israeli pitcher Shlomo Lipetz was masterful, giving up just one earned run over 16-and-a-third innings while striking out 18 and walking three.
  • Three players on Team Israel are 6-foot-7-inches tall: pitchers Brett Lorin and Max Perlman, and 1B Nate Freiman. At 5-foot-8-inches, Alon Leichman is the shortest.
  • Nate Freiman and Cody Decker, teammates on the San Antonio Missions (AA), finished 2nd and 3rd in HRs this season among Texas League players.

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Good news Monday (8/13/2012)

By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

Mondays bite. But you can bite back:

  • Scott Feldman‘s winning streak ended Friday (8/10/2012) with a 6-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers, but what a streak it was. After losing his first six decisions of the season and amassing a 6.50 ERA, the 6-foot-6-inch Texas Ranger won the next six with a 2.81 ERA.
  • Jason Marquis took a no-hitter into the 7th inning Saturday (8/11/2012) in a 5-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates (see video). The 33-year-old San Diego Padre ended up with a 2-hit, complete-game shutout and has won five of his last six starts. Interestingly, the resurgent Marquis matched the Pirates’ offensive output by going 2-for-4 at the plate. His .276 batting average is third best this season among MLB pitchers with at least 20 at-bats.
  • Jeremy Schaffer, picked by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 18th round of this year’s amateur draft, already is putting up big numbers. The 22-year-old first baseman out of Tulane University leads the Appalachian rookie league with 41 RBIs in just 179 at-bats.
  • The Kevin Youkilis trade just got a little worse for the Boston Red Sox. Not only has Youk been hitting the ball a ton for the Chicago White Sox — since arriving in late June, he’s hit .252 with 10 HRs, 29 RBIs, a .371 on-base percentage, and an .875 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) in 139 at-bats — but his successor at third base, rookie phenom Will Middlebrooks, just suffered a season-ending wrist injury. Coincidence of the day? Middlebrooks’ temporary replacement is recently-acquired 3B Danny Valencia.
  • On Sunday (8/12/2012), Houston Astros prospect Ben Orloff celebrated his recent promotion to the Corpus Christi Hooks (AA) with a 5-for-5 performance. The 25-year-old shortstop doubled, tripled, and drove in 4 runs en route to a 20-9 thrashing of the Springfield Cardinals.
  • Four in one month? That’s how many Jews the Boston Red Sox recently added to their roster. The quartet included Valencia (see above), reliever Craig Breslow, C Ryan Lavarnway, and LF Ryan Kalish, who has since returned to AAA.
  • Just weeks after putting together a 3-HR game, Joc Pederson powered the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (A-advanced) to an 11-9 win over the Modesto Nuts. Pederson — ranked the Los Angeles Dodgers’ No.3 prospect by MLB.com — went 3-for-5 with a HR, two doubles, and 5 RBIs.
  • Keep a close eye on Jack Marder. Already ranked the Seattle Mariners’ No. 15 prospect in just his second year of pro ball, the High Desert Mavericks (A-advanced) catcher is batting .363 with 10 HRs, 24 doubles (including three on 7/31/2012), 4 triples, 55 RBIs, 16 stolen bases, and an OPS of 1.019 in only 273 at-bats. Marder is hitting a blistering .413 with runners in scoring position and recently added second base and the outfield to his fielding repertoire. It’s a shame that he may have too few at-bats to qualify for the California League batting crown.
  • As Jewish Baseball News correspondent Zev Ben Avigdor points out on his minor-league Twitter feed, New York Mets prospect Josh Satin is on fire. The 27-year-old first baseman has hit .444 (16-for-36) in the past 10 games, with 2 HRs, six doubles, 4 walks, and 10 RBIs.
  • Next season will mark the 40th anniversary of MLB’s designated hitter rule, and first-ever DH Ron Blomberg already is getting some love for his historic role.
  • Sam Fuld loves going horizontal for fly balls, but the Tampa Bay Ray won’t be leaping tall buildings anytime soon. “Super Sam” told the Tampa Bay Times he’s scared of heights, “mainly bridges, tops of buildings, mountains.” He also revealed his favorite television show (Seinfeld) and said he has a “man crush” on actor Matt Damon — another diminutive but athletic Ivy Leaguer.

Have any good news about Jewish athletes? Send it to sbarancik@jewishbaseballnews.com.

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Good news Monday (7/2/2012)

By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

Get ready to kvell, brothers and sisters. It’s Good news Monday!

  • San Diego Padres prospect Nate Freiman won the Texas League Home Run Derby last Thursday (6/28/2012). A 6’7″ first baseman with the San Antonio Missions (AA), Freiman’s first swing of the contest reportedly was “the sweetest.” He launched a shot that not only struck the scoreboard but hit the “i” in “Freiman.”
  • Talk about cleaning up your own mess. When Augusta GreenJackets (A) reliever Andrew Berger entered Friday’s (6/29/2012) game against the Savannah Sand Gnats in the 7th inning, he promptly gave up a single and double. But the 24-year-old San Francisco Giants prospect didn’t lose hope. Instead, Berger struck out the side, knocked down the Sand Gnats in order the following inning (one of them by strikeout), and struck out the side again in the 9th.
  • Texas Rangers reliever Scott Feldman and his wife hosted a softball game at Rangers Ballpark yesterday (7/1/2012) for  injured soldiers. The couple previously has hosted families of deployed soldiers as well as patients from a local veterans’ hospital.
  • Baseball fans voted two Jewish players into next week’s All-Star game. Texas Rangers 2B Ian Kinsler, who also played in 2008 and 2010, will be the back-up to New York Yankees 2B Robinson Cano on the A.L. squad. On the opposing team, Milwaukee Brewers LF Ryan Braun was chosen for the 5th consecutive year, this time as a reserve player.
  • Today is the deadline for Team Israel to turn in its 50-player roster for the World Baseball Classic qualifiers in September. According to a person involved in the process, the roster includes players who have committed to play (including player/coaches Shawn Green and Gabe Kapler) as well as players who the team wants who have not yet committed.
  • Boston Red Sox prospect Ryan Lavarnway had a heck of a June. A catcher with the Pawtucket Red Sox (AAA), the Yale University alum erupted with a .405 batting average, 4 HRs, 18 RBIs, 10 doubles, a .469 on-base percentage, and an OPS (on-base plus slugging) of 1.136.
  • New York Mets prospect Josh Satin probably wishes he could play against the Durham Bulls every day of the season. As Jewish Baseball News writer Zev Ben Avigdor pointed out in his Twitter feed, the Buffalo Bisons (AAA) first baseman was on fire during a recent 4-game series against the Bulls, going 10-for-14 with 2 HRs, 4 RBIs and 4 walks.
  • When Tampa Bay Rays OF Sam Fuld had surgery on his right wrist during Spring Training, doctors predicted he wouldn’t return to the lineup before August. But after taking batting practice Friday (6/29/2012), his first time doing so since March, Fuld was optomistic. “I think we can be looking at the end of this homestand,” he said.
  • New York Yankees prospect Jeremy Bleich, who hadn’t pitched a shoulder injury sidelined him in 2010, is back. In three short appearances with the rookie-league GCL Yankees, the 25-year-old Stanford alum is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA. Bleich has given up 3 hits and one walk in 5-and-2/3 innings while striking out 7.
  • In case you missed it, here is a clip of President Barack Obama, a Chicago native, teasing Boston Red Sox fans for trading Kevin Youkilis to the Chicago White Sox. Judging from the boos, the joke was too soon.

Have any good news about Jewish athletes? Send it to sbarancik@jewishbaseballnews.com.

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By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

And now, mid-week updates from the world of baseball.

Kalish, Lavarnway blast Pawtucket Red Sox to victory

Boston Red Sox prospects Ryan Kalish and Ryan Lavarnway provided a one-two punch Tuesday (6/4/2012) to power the Pawtucket Red Sox (AAA) to a 13-2 drubbing of the Indianapolis Indians.

In his first appearance at Pawtucket since beginning a rehab stint with the Salem Red Sox (High-A) last month, Kalish reached base all 5 times Tuesday. The 24-year-old outfielder started off by crushing a HR (see video) and finished the game with a single, three walks, 3 RBIs, and a stolen base. Kalish is hitting .348 with 2 HRs, 4 RBIs, and a .500 on-base percentage since returning to play from neck and shoulder surgery.

Not to be outdoneTuesday, Lavarnway went 4-for-5 with a HR (see video), double, two singles, and 3 RBIs. The 24-year-old catcher has been on fire lately, hitting .432 with 2 HRs and 9 RBIs over his past 10 games. For the season he is hitting .301 with 4 HRs, 21 RBIs, and an on-base percentage of .389.

Both players have had cups of coffee in Boston and expect to be called-up at some point this season.

Satin returns to New York

Josh Satin, a New York Mets prospect who batted .200 during a September call-up last season, made his 2012 MLB debut with a pinch-hit appearance Tuesday (6/4/2012).

The 27-year-old second baseman struck out with two men on base in the 8th inning of a 7-6 loss to the Washington Nationals. Satin was hitting .274 with the Buffalo Bisons (AAA) when he was recalled to replace outfielder Mike Baxter, who injured himself making a phenomenal catch that helped preserve P Johan Santana’s recent no-hitter.

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By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

In 2010, the year Jewish Baseball News debuted, MLB’s Opening Day rosters included 10 Jewish players. In 2011 there were nine.

This season? Only seven. It’s enough to make an M.O.T. cry in his $9 ballpark beer.

Thanks to injuries (Sam Fuld, Ryan Kalish), flips of a coin (Ryan LavarnwayMichael Schwimer), a veteran’s departure (John Grabow), and a freak family accident (Jason Marquis), the number of Jewish players on Opening Day rosters will be the lowest in years.

The seven are:

  1. Ryan Braun (LF), Milwaukee Brewers
  2. Craig Breslow (P), Arizona Diamondbacks
  3. Ike Davis (1B), New York Mets
  4. Scott Feldman (P), Texas Rangers
  5. Ian Kinsler (2B), Texas Rangers
  6. Kevin Youkilis (3B/1B), Boston Red Sox
  7. Danny Valencia (3B), Minnesota Twins
More players are likely to be called in later this season, however. They include:
  1. Josh Satin (IF), New York Mets. After getting his first 25 MLB at-bats at the end of 2011, Satin was invited this season to Spring Training, where he batted a respectable .259 with a .323 on-base percentage. When he’ll come back: definitely in September, possibly sooner if the injury-prone Mets lose an infielder.
  2. Jason Marquis (P), Minnesota Twins. Marquis was slotted to be the Twins’ fifth starter on Opening Day. But when his 7-year-old daughter was seriously injured two weeks ago in a bicycle accident, he admirably chose to go home and care for her. Now back after 9 days, the Twins sent him down to the minors for a tune-up. When he’ll come back: as long as he doesn’t screw up badly in the minors, Marquis should be back before the end of the month.
  3. Ryan Lavarnway (C), Boston Red Sox. Lavarnway is a far better hitter than Boston’s #2 catcher, Kelly Shoppach. Take this year’s Spring Training, where Lavarnway outhit .him .429 to .258. Now he just needs to prove he can catch half as well as Shoppach. When he’ll be back: if Shoppach and his teammates fail to produce at the plate, Lavarnway could return before the All-Star break.
  4. Sam Fuld (CF/LF), Tampa Bay Rays. Fuld underwent surgery this week after reinjuring his right wrist. The Rays won’t miss his bat, but they will miss his fielding prowess, baserunning skill, and crowd-pleasing hustle. When he’ll be back: Early reports say Fuld’s likely to be out 4-5 months, meaning an August or September return. A lot will depend on not only on the speed of his recovery but how well rookie outfielder Stephen Vogt and veteran outfielder Luke Scott perform in their Rays debuts.
  5. Michael Schwimer (P), Philadelphia Phillies. A September call-up last season, Schwimer went 1-0 in Spring Training with a 3.86 ERA, one save, five strikeouts, and just one walk in 4-and-two-thirds innings. When he’ll be back: Definitely by September, if not sooner. Schwimer’s misfortune is that the Phillies have an abundance of strong relievers.
  6. Ryan Kalish (RF), Boston Red Sox. After neck surgery in September and shoulder surgery in November, Kalish is starting 2012 on the 60-day disabled list. When he’ll be back: Probably September, but only if he performs well in the minors after completing rehab.
  7.  Brett Lorin (P), Arizona Diamondbacks. For someone who hasn’t even reached AA, Lorin had a remarkable Spring Training, holding opposing batters to a .194 average and going 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA, 7 strikeouts, and one walk across 9 innings. When he’ll be back: MLB teams are loathe to call-up players who lack AAA experience. But if Lorin performs as well with the Mobile BayBears (AA) as he did this Spring, a September taste is possible.

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