Branch Rickey uttered one of the most famous sayings about baseball when he stated, “Baseball is a game of inches.” If this is true, then one cannot measure such qualities as heart, hustle, and extra effort. These ingredients can make it difficult to defend against as an opposing team. The scouting report may indicate one game plan. That can be executed to a tee, but the end result: Tim Locastro head first dives safely into first base on an infield single to win the game for the Drillers in extra innings. Not many other players in the Texas League would have been safe on that play.
Just glancing at the Tulsa Drillers stat page every now and again will not tell you the whole story on Tim Locastro. The Bomber Alum is tied for 4th in Runs Scored in the Texas League with 33. He has been an outstanding leadoff hitter for the Drillers, Locastro is 10th in the league with 53 hits. He is in the top 10 in 2B’s (Tied 5th with 12), 3B’s (Tied 3rd with 3), and SB’s (Tied 6th with 7). Of course, if you know Tim Locastro at all, he will do whatever it takes to win, he has been HBP 9 times already this season. He is on pace to “take one for the team” roughly 22 times.
In addition to providing as a stellar and steady leadoff hitter, Locastro has served many roles in the field as well. Recently, I asked him about how tough it is for him to play short stop, second base and center field. “It hasn’t been that difficult, I have gotten to the point where my role is to be able to play a bunch of different positions. I am ready to play everyday, where ever I am needed.” The Dodgers Front Office have placed a large value upon utility and players being able to have multiple roles within the team, with this in mind, Tim Locastro fits that mold. How many gloves does a player like that need to carry at a time. “I have 4 total gloves that are ready to go. I have my infield glove, my outfield glove, a back up infield glove. Then I have a first base glove if I’m needed at first. Always gotta be prepared!” With that sentiment in mind, would you be willing to put on the catcher’s gear or get on the pitcher’s mound? “I would definitely give both catching and pitching a try if I was needed there. I think with some practice I could find a way to catch, although it might not be pretty. The same goes for pitching; I wouldn’t throw hard, but I’d try some funky wind ups to try to mess with the hitter to get them out.” Anything to be on that field, helping his team to victory.
Tim Locastro is playing excellent baseball for the Dodgers Double AA affiliate. For those who may wonder about the mindset of this young man, look no further than his response to this query: Are you playing at the level you expect out of yourself? “I’m never satisfied with my level of play, always looking to get better and do better. I feel like I should hit a thousand and never get out, but baseballs a tough game and it’s a game of adjustments. Hopefully we can start winning more games here in the coming weeks and we can get hot as a team and make a playoff push for the first half.” He is a terminator when it comes to beating the other team, relentless. Great news for the Drillers now and the Dodgers in the future!
Spitzbarth Dominates California League, Earns Promotion
Shea Spitzbarth really impressive spring carried over into the first part of the season in Rancho. That led to his promotion to AA yesterday. The right handed closer from Staten Island was as near to untouchable as a closer in the minor leagues can be. He converted all six of his save opportunities for the Quakes, along with striking out 27 California League batters in 15.2 innings. In those innings, Spitzbarth surrendered just 9 hits and walked 5 batters. Only one runner scored versus the red headed, righty reliever while in Rancho Cucamonga. In Visalia (5/12/17), the former Molloy Lion struck out the side on 12 pitches in domineering fashion. The Rawhide batters were behind on his fastball, which in comparison to the curve, must have appeared 10 MPH faster. His promotion to Tulsa became official yesterday, and escalated quickly. He was pressed into action immediately for two shutout innings against Springfield. Spitzbarth has pitched all season in single A, as pitcher who did not belong there. Showing he was ready to move up. Congratulations to Shea Spitzbarth!
A Closer’s Mentality
To finish another team off in the 9th inning takes a certain personality, a mix of intensity, confidence and nasty stuff. Chatting with Shea regarding his curveball, he stated; “I think I’m one of those kids who started throwing it when you weren’t supposed to start in little league.”Full Interview with Spitzbarth Shea has the right DNA needed for the job. His role for the Drillers is undefined. The Dodgers AA affiliate have been a “closer by committee” bullpen this season. Whatever his role, however long his chance to pitch, you can be sure he will be locked in, focused and dropping hammers (curveballs, in baseball jargon) on Texas League batters while he has his occasion.
Stats are listed below for the recent college graduate. This season is young and he has only pitched in 12 games (1 in Tulsa 11 in Rancho) thus far. His career stats include a 2.22 ERA in 77 innings worked. He has 116 strike outs in those innings and has converted a perfect 15 of 15 save opportunities. Spitzbarth has been stingy in his career, allowing opposing hitters a .194 batting average against him. His career WHIP is an astonishingly low 0.91. Keep in mind, he has pitched 13 games (7 in ’15, 6 in ’16) for the Ogden Raptors of the hitter friendly Pioneer League in Rookie ball. These are impressive numbers for a potential future closer. Looking forward to seeing Shea rise through the system and into Los Angeles in the near future!
Adrian Gonzalez and Logan Forsythe were tuning up to return to Los Angeles, and fans flocked to see them up close in Rancho Cucamonga. Neither player was a significant factor in the outcome of the game. Most importantly, both players were healthy after the game. Gonzalez went 0 – 2 with 2 walks, while Forsythe went 0 – 4 with 2 strike outs. Getting the rust out, getting timing back. Adrian Gonzalez talked about how he felt after game. He assured reporters that he felt good in the press conference after the Quakes victory. Logan Forsythe began his initial rehab assignment last week, but after tweaking his hamstring, he re-started the journey in Rancho tonight. Pre Game BP
Yadier Alvarez vs Joey Lucchesi
Yadier Alvarez did not have his best stuff tonight, evidenced by his 4 free passes to opposing hitters. He did battle through and limit the scoring damage to just two runs. Alvarez, with his free and easy motion, sometimes does not locate his pitches down in the zone. That is when trouble can arise for most pitchers, Alvarez is no exception. In the 2nd inning, Alvarez walked the leadoff batter. He then allowed an infield single off of Adrian Gonzalez’s glove. Carlos Belen drove a double over Yusniel Diaz’s head in centerfield to plate two runs. He reached his apparent pitch limit (74) by the 4th inning when Manager Drew Saylor went to his bullpen.
Garrett Kennedy Comes Up Clutch
Storm starting pitcher Joey Lucchesi worked at a methodical pace in his four innings of work. His “human rain delay” tendencies stem from his painfully slow start to his delivery in which he places his hands high above his head and slowly comes down. Slowly. Real Slow. It is no surprise when one reads that a critical error occurred behind Lucchesi. This is the result of putting your defense to sleep, reaction times on routine plays are diminished. A tailor made double pay ball was completely whiffed on by Storm 2B Peter Van Gansen , and the Quakes tied the ball game. The game remained tied until Catcher Garrett Kennedy turned on a fastball and sent it over the right center field wall. Kennedy’s first home run of the season. Chat with Garrett Kennedy
That made the score 3 – 2 Quakes. They would later tack on one more when Storm pitcher Thomas Dorminy threw away a pick off attempt to first base, allowing Luke Raley to score.
Dominant Relief Work
Chris Powell came in to work with two out in the top of the 4th inning. He was “lights out” in his last performance in Visalia on Friday night. He was equally impressive at Rancho as he began his night by striking out Auston Bousfield looking, to end the inning. The Bronco alum calmed the Storm of Lake Elsinore in the 5th, setting them down in order. Powell came out firing to start the 6th inning when he was greeted with a stellar bunt by Miguel Del Castro. The Quakes right handed hurler pounced on the bunt that seemed to be perfectly placed down the third base line. He made the play close with an absolute bullet of a throw to Adrian Gonzalez at 1B. The play was called safe. A questionable call, but no question as to the fielding abilities of the son of former Dodger reliever Dennis Powell. Chris did not waver, he struck out the next batter Javier Guerra and then induced a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning. Manager Drew Saylor sent his reliever back out to work the 7th and Powell worked another 1, 2, 3 inning. Chris Powell, who recently returned to Rancho after his promotion to Tulsa, has taken his game to a next level. To further illustrate his dominance tonight, Powell needed only 28 (21 strikes)pitches to get his 10 outs. By comparison, the Storm starting pitcher Joey Lucchesi needed 86 pitches to record his 12 outs. Lake Elsinore’s only hit off Powell was a bunt single that many believe was a blown call by the base umpire. Interview from last Friday with Chris.
Tony Gonsolin worked an effective two innings of relief to earn his first save as a member of the Quakes. Tony had one save for the Loons at Midland earlier this season. Tony worked around a couple of walks to retire the Storm without any serious threats from the offense. Gonsolin shut the door on another home victory for the Quakes. Rancho’s overall record moves to 22 – 17. First place in the California League’s South Division.
Manager Jeremy Rodriguez has been raving about his Dominican born outfielder since the skipper arrived to Camelback Ranch for spring training. ST Chat with Manager Jeremy Rodriguez. When asked about the players that impressed him the most, the skipper gave Carlos Rincon and Keibert Ruiz (the young catcher with the Loons) as his first answers. Before the spring of 2017, the number of Dodgers fans who were aware of Rincon could be measured with a microscope. After an excellent spring and start of the season, more and more fans are hearing of his exploits. Carlos Rincon has 8 HR’s and 20 RBI’s while hitting .299 so far in 2017 (As of 5/10/17) for the Great Lakes Loons.
Hot Start, Consistent Since
It has been cold in the Midwest League to start the 2017 season, as it is every season. Carlos Rincon is making it look as though he enjoys playing in the cold. He is off and running in the early part of the campaign. Especially on his 8th HR, an inside the park variety round tripper. Highly Ranked in the Dodgers organization, he is #24 overall prospect in the system. We conducted the rare interview with the slugger and his Manager, acting as the translator. In the midst of our conversation, Jeremy Rodriguez said this about Rincon; “He is a different animal. He has lots of abilities, lots of big league abilities. He brings excitement to everything he does, whether on the field, or even in the clubhouse.” Strong praise from the Manager of the Great Lakes Loons.
Interview with Carlos Rincon
1. Who introduced you to the game of baseball, and who taught you how to play?
Answer: ” I saw other kids playing and it was something I just picked up. I was self taught, until the age of 14 when I went to the baseball academy. Then I had a hitting coach.”
3. How tough is the transition (or adjustment) to the Midwest League?
Answer: “Weather, the weather has been tough. It has been cold here.” He said with a chuckle. Then changed his tone for the next part of his answer. “The pitchers have more of a game plan in this league. They change speeds more often and at any time in the count. Also the umpires are much more consistent in the Midwest League.”
4. On May 3rd you had a walk off 2 run HR against Burlington; Take us through the at-bat and what went through your mind as you rounded the bases?
Answer: “I was just trying to get a good pitch and drive something in the gap. There was a runner on, so I was just trying to drive him home. I was full of excitement as I rounded the bases. It was the first walk off home run I can remember hitting.”
5. I advised him to be careful with this question; What is it like to play for Manager Jeremy Rodriguez?
Answer: “He gives me a lot of confidence. I know I have to be ready to play everyday because he expects that of me and of everyone on the team.”
Carlos Rincon has Dodger fans full of confidence for the future. To listen to his Manager’s assessment of his young talent, and to see him play, there is no wonder he has moved up in the rankings (Top 30 Dodgers prospects) from last season to this season. A right handed, power hitting multi-tool player, waiting and developing in the low class A level is exciting. He will need to spend time, refining his craft and becoming the star so many believe he will be. So we will be patient, and wait for his arrival to the Dodgers, if he hits left handed pitching as well as his idol does, he will be worth the wait. Until that time, the Midwest League will be a bit more exciting with Carlos Rincon it in. Fans in Midland, consider your time with Rincon as a gift, he could be in Rancho Cucamonga (High Class A) before you know it!
In an inning that saw the Drillers only collect two hits, they had their best run producing frame of the young season. The Cardinals defensive did help, they committed three errors in the 8th inning alone. There was also a wild pitch and 4 walks that set the boys from Tulsa up for the large offensive outburst.
The Drillers came to the plate in the bottom of the 8th inning trailing the Redbirds 3 – 1. Former Boston Red Sox set up man, Daniel Bard came in throwing side arm gas up to 94 MPH. He retired the first man he faced, pinch hitter Wynston Sawyer, on a ground ball to the hole between third base and short stop. The pesky Tim Locastro worked a walk with one out to get it all started for Tulsa. After a failed bunt attempt by Tyler Holt, the Cardinals catcher threw a strike right back to his pitcher, Daniel Bard. Only problem, Bard was not looking. He took a fastball off the top of the head and was visibly shaken. He continued to pitch, but he was not right. His balance was gone and his vision for the strike zone seemed blurred. He walked Holt and Farmer in consecutive at bats. He was not even close to the strike zone. Springfield replaced Bard with RHP Blake McKnight to face the hot hitting Edwin Rios.
Edwin Rios came into today’s game tied for the Texas League lead in runs batted in with 26. The left handed hitting 3B has been among the team leaders in runs, home runs, batting average and RBI’s thus far in the 2017 campaign. The exact hitter Manager Ryan Garko and fans of the Drillers would want stepping to the plate in the bases loaded situation.
Edwin Rios got one of the few hits in the 8th inning, but he made it count. Although only credited with the one RBI, (E-9) two runs did score on the bases loaded line drive single to right field. After another walk (K. Garlick) and then two more errors. Johan Mieses grounds out. Then Wyston Sawyer comes to the plate once again in the inning. He entered in the 8th as a pinch hitter. He made his second chance count, Sawyer launched a 3-run HR to the opposite field, over the 4 foot high wall in right field. This blast made the score 9 – 3 and pretty much finished the Cardinals for today.
Great job by starter Colt Hynes and by the bullpen today. Colt went 4 innings and allowed just the 2 runs. Hynes was followed by Chris Powell, son of former Dodgers pitcher Dennis Powell. He pitched two solid relief innings, but did surrender one run. Corey Copping came in to pitch the 7th and 8th innings and was in command and dominated the Springfield batters. The 8th inning could not have looked any different from the top to the bottom halves. Copping threw strikes, stayed ahead of the batters and finished them off in a timely fashion. As opposed to the Cardinals, and the fiasco that was the bottom half of inning 8 to follow; complete with walks and defensive blunders. Copping earned the victory for the team. He looked sharp and confident. Great sign for the Drillers and the entire Dodgers family! Karch Kowalczyk finished the game up for the Drillers with a perfect 9th to end a strong team performance.
Layne Somsen is perhaps not the answer most would have given to the question. However, he is the answer for the pitcher with the most innings thrown, yet to allow an earned run. In the early 2017 season, from a statistical standpoint, the righty reliever is the best pitcher in the Dodgers system. Somsen, who made his MLB debut nearly one year ago (May 14, 2016) for the Cincinnati Reds, has pitched in his first 9 games of this season, 14.2 innings, without yielding an earned run. Layne Somsen has always had a low earned run average in his minor league career (2.57). The Yankton South Dakota native had a bump in the road last season with Oklahoma City, his uncharacteristically high ERA and WHIP in 6 games indicated a problem. He was placed on the disabled list for the rest of the 2016 campaign.
The Dodgers of Oklahoma City have a bullpen that some MLB teams would love to have. Layne Somsen is a name that is sometimes overlooked among the bunch of bigger, more flashy names. Somsen, obviously over his injuries of a year ago, has been one of the most consistent relievers in all of baseball to this point in 2017. It has not been easy. Baseball, particularly in the PCL, never is. The Jackrabbit Alum has had his share of walks (6) and hits (9) allowed, he has worked out of jams and had many chances to keep the opposing hitters from driving in runs.
If Layne Somsen continues his assault on opposing batters in the PCL, we may see him and his tenacious spirit on the mound in Los Angeles well before the September call ups. Lots of injuries and stuff would need to happen, certainly not wishing that upon any MLB team. It would be nice to see Layne helping the Dodgers bullpen this year, in Oklahoma and in Los Angeles. For fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers, its a comfort to know that dependable relievers like Somsen are only a flight away.
The Quakes took on the San Jose Giants in a morning weekday game at the Epicenter in Rancho. Starting for the Dodgers single A affiliate is Walker Buehler, the 1st round draft pick in 2015 from Vanderbilt. Buehler has made three starts so far this season, he has pitched 3 innings in each start. Entering todays game he had not allowed an earned run and had recorded 15 K’s in his 9 innings of work. The San Jose Giants will counter with RHP Jake McCasland who is 0-1 with a 4.85 ERA.
Drew Saylor’s club has a five game winning streak entering today and have been perfect so far at home. The Quakes are 8 – 0 (before game) at the Epicenter in Rancho Cucamonga. They look to continue that streak this afternoon against the Giants. Will Smith looks to extend his hot hitting. Will was the California League Player of the Week last week, as he hit safely in all seven games played.
Buehler and the Pen
Walker Buehler started off the morning looking sharp and throwing hard. Jalen Miller hit a lazy grounder to shortstop. Buehler then struck out the next Giants batter, Ryan Howard. Walker finished the inning easily enough by inducing a weak liner to Drew Jackson at short. The hard throwing right hander used only fastballs in the first frame. Walker Buehler struck out the first two batters in the second inning before getting Jose Vizcaino Jr. to ground out softly to Brandon Montgomery at 3B. The second was a breeze for the Quakes righty, he mixed in a couple of breaking balls in the top of the second. Walker worked quickly today, and for the most part, stayed ahead of Giants hitters. To leadoff the third inning, Giants catcher Matt Winn crushed a triple off the wall in right field. The next batter got sawed off on a sharp inside fastball, still the ball grounded past the mound and Buehler gave up his first run of 2017 as Winn came home. Buehler got a pitch in on leadoff hitter Jalen Miller’s hands and he lined softly to 2B to end the 3rd. Ryan Howard led off the 4th with a pop out to 1B. Then an uncharacteristic sequence from Buehler, as he walked the DH Bryan Reynolds on 4 pitches. Then Walker walked LF Gio Brusa. Then, the next batter, Buehler struck out Jonah Arenado the last batter he would face. That would be the day for Walker Buehler as Manager Drew Saylor went to Wes Helsabeck to get out of the situation. Walker Buehler exits with runners at 1st and 2nd and two out in the top of the 4th. He had thrown 53 pitches and 35 strikes.
Wes Helsabeck comes in with 1st and 2nd, two out to face Jose Vizcaino Jr. and he struck him out of three pitches to escape the jam. Vizcaino Jr. had to have been looking for something other than the 0 – 2 fastball. He watched strike three go by and Helsabeck did his job. The entire bullpen did for that matter. Helsabeck threw two more effective innings to pick up the victory today. Alex Hermeling came in and worked a perfect frame and had a strike out along the way. Hermeling with the hold, and passed the ball to Shea Spitzbarth. Shea worked two innings to earn his 5th save of the young season. The Giants did not go without a fight in the 9th. Spitzbarth was tough as nails, and although one run did score, he shut the door with a strikeout of Jalen Miller for a final score of 3 – 2. Quakes win!
Luke Raley got the Quakes offense started early. He led off the 2nd inning with a stand up double. Ibandel Isabel moved Raley over to 3B with a deep fly to center, that was nearly misplayed by Fargas. Zach McKinstry with ground ball for an RBI, scoring Raley to make it 1 – 0 Quakes. Third inning, Drew Jackson draws a lead off walk. Jackson got caught stealing in what appeared to be a busted hit and run. Will Smith eventually struck out swinging. Then with two out D.J.Peters crushed a HR over the left center 432′ wall. It was a bomb on a 1-2 pitch, a fastball. 2 – 1 Quakes. Bottom 6th, Garrett Kennedy with, what turned out to be the game winning RBI, on a double that scored Ibandel Isabel and made the game 3 – 1 at that time. This was a team victory, offense, defensive and pitching. One more at home, then the Quakes go back on the road and head out to Lancaster to face the Jethawks for a three game set.