Results tagged ‘ Pacific Coast League ’

Monday, September 2nd: Cats & Hounds Win on Final Day while Ports & Snappers Fall in Regular Season Finales

A’s Farmhand Of The Day

Sacramento River Cats Outfielder Jake Goebbert (Home Run / 2 RBIs)

Sacramento River Cats Outfielder Jake Goebbert (Home Run / 2 RBIs)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Sacramento River Cats  9

Tacoma Rainiers               6

WP – Leon 5-3 / 4.42

HR – Goebbert (4), Norris (2)

2013 Houston Astros Photo Day

 

Farmhand Of The Game:

Outfielder Jake Goebbert

(Home Run / 2 RBIs)

 

RHP Arnold Leon had a rocky outing in the River Cats’ finale, allowing 4 runs on 9 hits over 5 innings, but he still ended up earning his 5th win on Monday, while RHP Brian Gordon picked up his 23rd save to establish a new single-season record for Sacramento. Outfielder Jake Goebbert hit a 2-run homer to tie the game in the 2nd inning, while catcher Derek Norris homered in the 9th. First Anthony Aliotti had 3 hits and drove in a run, and shortstop Addison Russell notched his first hit for the River Cats and ended his 3-game stint with Sacramento having gone 1 for 13 with 9 strikeouts. Meanwhile, the River Cats ended their season with a 79-65 record and the highest home attendance of any team in the Pacific Coast League with 607,329 fans having attended Raley Field this year.

Click here for more on Midland, Stockton, Beloit & Vermont…

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Catching Up With: The Sacramento River Cats

srDSC02040BThe Sacramento River Cats boast three Pacific Coast League All-Stars this season – outfielder Michael Choice, second baseman Grant Green and pitcher Sonny Gray. All are former 1st-round draft picks and all could soon be seeing time in Oakland, so you forward-looking A’s fans ought to get acquainted with them while you can. We took the opportunity to talk with all three of them, along with River Cats pitching coach Rick Rodriguez, while in Sacramento last week to see how things are shaping up for some of the A’s top prospects…

 

MICHAEL CHOICE

mcmichaelchoiceoaklandathleticsphotodaynwngr_fbjvxl3bThe A’s top pick in 2010, Choice struggled a bit last year with Midland. But he had a great spring and seems to have turned the corner this year in Sacramento. With Chris Young not likely to be retained by the A’s next season, Choice could be in line to see time in the A’s outfield next year…

AF:  You’ve been having a good year here in Sacramento, and you had a really good spring too. Did you have a little extra confidence, because it seems like you just came out the chute raring to go this year?

MC:  Just going back to the off-season, I spent a lot of time working in the off-season and getting myself ready for spring training. And all the hard work just paid off.

AF:  Was there anything you did different this off-season as opposed to the past?

MC:  Not too different. I had a little more time to get things going. The off-season before I went to the [Arizona] Fall League, the season before that there was instructs (instructional league). So there was a lot more time to kind of rest and get yourself into more of a routine that you’d like to get into. So basically I had a lot of time to get in the cage, especially in the winter when it’s cold.

AF:  So how did everyone treat you when you were in the big league camp this spring?

MC:  Yeah, everybody’s cool up there. For the most part, the A’s clubhouse is pretty young. There’s not too many older guys up there, so everybody’s real receptive to each other.

AF:  Was there anyone in particular who took you under their wing or took the time to show you the ropes a bit?

MC:  Not anybody in particular. But I spent a lot more time with most of the outfielders in camp. Coco, C.Y., Reddick, Seth Smith – those guys are the ones I talked to the most up there.

AF: Well, after the spring you had, you must have had a lot of confidence and been pretty eager to get things going.

MC:  Yeah, definitely. You’re always ready to get the season started because spring training gets long, especially once you go down to minor league camp. It’s the same thing everyday, and you’re just ready for some real games where it matters.

AF:  So what would you say has been the key to the success you’ve been having this year?

mc7111730cMC:  Just the experience of the game. The more games you play in, the more experience you get, the more you see guys, you just get into a routine of how to get better.

AF:  It seems like you’ve been taking a lot of walks and getting on base a lot this year. Is there anything different in your approach at the plate, or is there anything different in what you’re looking for or what you’re trying to do at the plate?

MC:  Not so much, just kind of basically picking up where I left off at the end of last year at Midland – just really trying to swing at good pitches, pitches I can handle that are more up in the zone and trying to leave the ones down alone.

AF:  And what about your basic swing and your mechanics, how much are you still tweaking that, or are things pretty much settled in now?

MC:  I mean, with hitting, you’re always tweaking something, but most of the time, it’s more mental than physical. At this point, I work on the physical stuff before the game, but once the game starts, it’s all mental and you’re more worried about what the pitcher has and how you’re going to be successful against him.

AF:  Now they’ve been having you spend a little time in left field and right field this year. So how is it different for you playing the corner positions rather than center field?

MC:  Corners are a little bit faster. You’ve got to read angles. Knowing the hitter’s important – which guys like to pull, which guys like to hit the ball opposite field. But it’s been going good so far, just getting my reps in during BP and making sure I can get good reads in the game.

AF:  So is there anything in particular that you’re currently focused on working on either in the field or at the plate, or is it now just a matter of going out everyday and trying to follow through on the approach that you’ve developed at this point?

MC:  You pretty much just hit the nail on the head right there. You know, everything I’ve done in preparation before the game, I just want that to play in the game.

AF:  When you left the big league camp in spring training, did Bob Melvin or anybody pat you on the back or let you know they appreciated what they saw from you in camp this year?

MC:  Yeah, you have those sit-down meetings before you get sent out, and they basically just said, “Keep working hard and knock the door down.”

 

GRANT GREEN

Oakland Athletics Photo DayThe A’s top pick in 2009, Green has been a man without a home in the field. He started out as a shortstop, then switched to the outfield, and even saw a little time at third base. But he finally seems to be settling in at second base this season. And with the middle infield the murkiest part of the A’s major league roster, many A’s fans are already clamoring for Green to get his shot…

AF:  You’ve been having a good year here, and things have been going well for you at the plate. So are there any particular adjustments you’ve made this season?

GG:  Nothing different really, just the same stuff we were working on last year.

AF:  And what was the key stuff you were working on last year?

GG:  Just better plate discipline, better balance – that’s something we worked really hard on last year. I kind of had a good season and wanted to keep it going this year.

AF:  So are you waiting more for your pitch now?

GG:  Yeah, definitely not trying to get that pitcher’s pitch early and just waiting on mine.

AF:  It seems like you’ve been hitting an awful lot of doubles this year. Is that just due to waiting for the right pitch a little more?

GG:  Yeah, I’ve had a little bit more success hitting balls in the gap this year. I’ve always been the type of guy who’s had quite a few doubles. I think last year was the lowest amount of doubles I’ve had in a season. But it’s definitely just been a matter of getting my pitch and doing something with it.

AF:  Were you feeling pretty confident to start the year?

GG:  Yeah, then I hit a little valley here and there. I went on a couple of stretches that weren’t the best.

AF:  Well, it seems like you’re in one of your best stretches of the year right now. Are you just seeing the ball really well right now?

GG:  Yeah, I’m definitely just seeing the ball well. I’ve had a couple of at-bats where the ball’s fallen for me, and that kind of happens when you’re going well. So it’s been a combination of both.

AF:  Well, you’ve also been hitting them over the wall and in the gaps lately too, so that’s not just luck. (He would hit two home runs in the game later that night). But what about in the field? You’ve been playing second base for most of the season, and it’s a rarity for you to be at one spot most of the season. How do you feel about second base and how are things developing for you over there?

ggUSATSI_7112088_160320754_lowres-1024x682bGG:  I’m feeling good. I’m definitely feeling a lot more comfortable than I was at the beginning of the year. It’s almost becoming second nature now. So that’s definitely a good feeling – being able to worry about one position only. I’m still just doing the usual, just working on little stuff here and there – whether it’s turning two around the bag, because it’s just a different look from what I’m used to, or different feeds to second base. Those are really the main two things that we work on.

AF:  You’ve obviously spent plenty of time playing shortstop, so how does second base compare to shortstop for you? What’s different for you over there?

GG:  Definitely, the view off the bat is much different. But other than that, the only other thing I really see that’s different is the turns. Coming from short, you’re able to kind of read the play because everything’s in front of you – you see the ball, see the runner. When you’re at second base, it’s more of a reaction thing, more of a feel, that you know on certain balls you’ve got to get rid of it quick and on other balls you’ve got a little bit more time and you can stay in there.

AF:  And are you feeling more confident every day you’re out there at second?

GG:  Oh yeah, much more confident. Like you said, it’s a rarity that I’ve been able to stay at one position most of the year. So it’s definitely nice to be able to know when you come to the yard that not only are you going to be playing but the odds are you’re going to be at one position and you’re going to be able to work on that one position during BP.

AF:  So do you pay much attention to what’s going on with the big league club in Oakland and how they’re doing and how guys up there are playing?

GG:  Not really, other than the guys I’ve come to know through the system who’ve gotten called up. Other than that, it’s not the thing on my mind. I’m a River Cat right now, and that’s what I am. So until that call-up comes, I’m going to be here in Sacramento being a River Cat.

AF:  So do you live with any teammates here in Sacramento during the season?

GG: I’ve got an apartment just for the season with a couple of guys here – Ryan Ortiz and Paul Smyth have lived with me throughout the year.

AF:  And finally, after long avoiding Twitter, there now seems to be a Twitter account for you (@GreenieLocks8). Now was that created by Sonny Gray and Bruce Billings, or does that actually belong to you?

GG:  (Laughs) No, it is not mine. It’s something they have fun with. They definitely asked me if they could do it, and I said yes. It’s all fun. I’m not on the Twitter game, but more than likely, I’ll probably take it over at some point.

AF:  So you were somewhat complicit in this thing anyway.

GG:  Yeah, I told them as long as they didn’t get me in trouble, it was okay.

 

SONNY GRAY 

sghi-res-162663960_display_image2The A’s top pick in 2011, Gray had a lot to learn last year in his first full season at Midland. But he seems to have gotten over the hump this year at Sacramento and is clearly the A’s top pitching prospect, poised to pounce as soon as an opportunity pops up on the big league pitching staff. We had the chance to see his last start in Sacramento, where he allowed 4 runs in the 2nd inning but righted the ship and otherwise pitched flawlessly over 7 innings of work and walked away with a no-decision in a game the River Cats won. We talked to him in the Cats’ clubhouse after the game, along with Oakland Clubhouse’s Chris Biderman. Below are some selections from that post-game question-and-answer session…

Q:  I know you’ve been working on your changeup for quite a while. So where do you feel you’re at with the changeup right now?

SG:  I think it’s good. I think I threw 7 pitches in the 5th or 6th inning tonight, and I think I threw 5 changeups and got some early contact. So I’m very confident – I’ll throw it whenever, to righties or lefties. Tonight it got me out of the 2nd inning with the double play, and I got a lot of swings and groundballs and soft contact with it.

Q:  Do you feel a lot more confident throwing it this year than you would have at any point last year?

SG:  Oh, at any point in my whole career, in my whole life. It’s just something that finally got in my mind that it helps me and it makes me that much better of a pitcher.

Q:  How do you feel about your overall command?

SG:  I think it’s better than it’s been. It’s obviously something that you’re always going to work on. You’re always going to try to get better at that. But even tonight – I missed up in the zone a little bit in the 2nd inning and got hit – but other than that, it was a walk on a close pitch here, a walk on a close pitch there.

Q:  If you had that kind of 2nd inning in a start last year, you might not have been able to recover. How much different of a pitcher are you now than you were at this time last year?

sgsonnygray_large1bSG:  I’ve felt really comfortable on the mound this whole year. I had a little bump in the road in the 2nd inning, and last year I might not have been able to make the adjustment and tone it down a little bit and start throwing changeups and curveballs for strikes and making my fastball look a little better. You know, it’s kind of frustrating to give up 4 runs in the 2nd inning feeling as good as I felt tonight, but it’s also kind of rewarding to be able to still get 7 innings after throwing almost 40 pitches in 1 inning.

Q:  You took over the PCL lead in strikeouts tonight. Is that something you’re able to take some pride in?

SG:  I think strikeouts are never a bad thing because you can kind of shut down an inning. But I think I am striking more guys out this year than last year.

Q:  Is that because of the refinement of your secondary pitches?

SG:  I think so. I think I’m getting a lot of swings on my breaking ball, and that’s probably because my fastball’s a little bit better this year and I’m throwing my breaking ball noticeably better this year than I did last year. I don’t know if it’s the weather here that allows you to do that. In Midland, it’s a little bit tough, but I have noticed that my breaking pitches have been better.

Q:  Was it kind of cool to face a guy like Eric Chavez who’s been in the big leagues for as long as he has, or was that even on your mind at all?

SG:  No, it wasn’t on my mind really. I didn’t really know.

Q:  Is there anything in particular you’re focused on working on right now now that you’re feeling confident in the changeup a little more?

SG:  The only thing I’m doing every time out is just trying to make pitches and get as many outs as possible. There’s not one thing that I would say I’m getting lectured on. It’s just trying to get outs every time you get out there.

Q:  So at this point, it’s just a matter of executing the game plan and doing everything you know you need to do.

SG:  Yeah, right.

 

RICK RODRIGUEZ

rrRick+Rodriguez+Oakland+Athletics+Photo+Day+ou52Cdqaojrl4Rick Rodriguez is the long-time River Cats pitching coach, though he also served a brief stint as the A’s bullpen coach last season. He’s had a hand in developing many of the A’s most talented young pitchers, and is now entrusted with guiding Sonny Gray’s glide path to the majors…

AF:  So I wanted to talk to you primarily about Sonny Gray. Obviously he’s had a really good season and he kind of looks like he’s gotten over the hump. So, as his pitching coach here this year, can you define from your perspective what he’s been doing right this season?

RR:  Yeah, this is really the first year I’ve ever worked with him. I remember him from spring training last year. And just going by the little bit I saw last year compared to this year, it’s like night and day. His command of his fastball has gotten a lot better. His changeup has gotten a lot better. He’s getting more confidence in it – he can throw it pretty much anytime now. His curveball has always been nasty. And he’s learning how to pitch. He’s learning that you just can’t pump fastballs in there all the time. So he’s using that changeup. He’s learning to pitch back and forth and learning how to use that changeup when he’s behind in the count.

AF:  It certainly seems like his outings have been a lot more efficient. He’s throwing far fewer pitches, he’s not walking a lot of guys. So what’s the source of that newfound efficiency?

RR:  I think it’s just more confidence. Coming into this level, he’s seeing that he can compete and dominate this league. And hopefully for however long he’s here, he can continue to do that and then when he goes to the big leagues he’ll have all the confidence in the world.

AF:  Now what about his third pitch – the changeup? I know that’s something the organization’s been working on with him for a while now. So how’s that been developing?

RR:  Yeah, I give him credit. He’s working hard in the bullpen on it. That’s part of his routine – he works it in. He knows you do X amount of fastballs here, okay now we’re going to do the changeup. He’s limiting the use of his breaking ball in his side work – he’s working primarily fastball/changeup. And I think that’s translated into the success he’s having right now.

AF:  And I’m assuming that his command has improved as well, that he’s putting pitches where he wants to more frequently.

RR:  Yeah, more frequently – there’s always room for improvement. And every once in a while, just like anybody else, all of a sudden the fastball command gets off track and then gets back on track. But his command has gotten a lot better.

AF:  Is there any one particular thing that you’re trying to work on with him right now?

sg389140_10151492122053224_169388681_n2RR:  You know, I keep talking to him – we preach first-pitch strikes. So we’re always working on first-pitch strikes. But in addition to that, once you get 0-1, hey let’s get 0-2. Instead of throwing a ball, let’s go 0-2 and start really putting those guys in a defensive mode. And I think he’s starting to understand that – he’s trying. It’s a learning process, and he’s still very young, so he’s still learning how to do all that.

AF:  So you’d really like to make him even more aggressive right off the bat.

RR:  Yeah, he’s got all the talent in the world. And like I said, he’s very young and he’s still working on some things, but he’s going to be a good one.

AF:  Well, at this point, he’s the next prospect in line if anything should happen. So what do you think he still needs to do to be in a position to be a successful major league pitcher?

RR:  His mound presence is very good. His emotional presence is very good in the dugout. I think that’s a big plus for him – I think he’s learned that. The one thing I think he probably needs to do is the execution of his pitches probably needs to be a little bit more consistent – meaning if the catcher’s going fastball down and away to a right-handed hitter, I want him to hit that fastball down and away or miss down and away, not for it to come back over the plate. And just like with anybody else, you get in little ruts and sometimes the ball does come back over. And with Sonny, he’s learning, if that ball does come back over, what to do to get it where he wants it. And I think if he can improve on that, he’s going to be tough.

AF:  Is there anyone else on your staff here you’ve seen show a lot of improvement this year?

RR:  Well, I had Scribner when I was the bullpen coach in Oakland last year. But down here, his control has gotten so much better. His curveball has gotten to the point where he can throw it pretty much at any time wherever he wants. And he’s doing very well both against left-handed hitters and right-handed hitters. Brian Gordon has come on very, very strong. He’s learned to command the strike zone with all his pitches. He tightened up his slider, which I think helped. Pedro Figueroa worked on some mechanical things and now his fastball command has gotten much better. His slider’s gotten a little bit sharper. So guys are still working, trying to get better, trying to iron out some stuff. But those three guys have come in and improved tremendously.

AF:  So you think Scribner is a dramatically improved pitcher from what you saw of him in Oakland last year?

RR:  Yeah, from what I saw of him in Oakland and from what I see now. Again, it’s about executing. But if he can just keep executing in Oakland the way he is here, he’s going to be fine.

 

Find out more about the A’s top prospects. Get the inside scoop on Choice, Green and Gray from their manager, Sacramento River Cats skipper Steve Scarsone, here.

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Be sure to like A’s Farm’s page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @AthleticsFarm. You can also get our exclusive weekly A’s minor league recap e-mailed to you free by signing up here.

Catching Up With: A’s Prospect Sonny Gray

by James Ham / A’s Farm Correspondent

sghi-res-162663960_display_image2Rumors broke last week that the Oakland A’s 2011 1st-round draft pick Sonny Gray might be in line to make his major league debut if Jarrod Parker couldn’t make his scheduled start. It turned out to be a false alarm, but Parker, Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily better bring their A-game, because Gray is coming.

The 23-year old right-hander out of Vanderbilt is now 4-1 with a 2.19 ERA in his 6 starts at Triple-A Sacramento this season. More importantly, in his last 3 starts, he’s been lighting the Pacific Coast League on fire, allowing just 2 runs in 21 innings while striking out 19 over that stretch.

“Being in my second year and understanding professional baseball a little bit better and being able to get in a little bit better routine, it’s something that I’m feeling a lot more comfortable and a lot more confident this year than I did early last year,” Gray told Athletics Farm last week.

In just his third season in professional baseball, Gray is turning heads with his array of pitches. He throws both a two-seam and four-seam fastball, as well as a curveball and a changeup.

“(My) fast ball command has gotten a lot better, and that’s something we’ve been working on,” Gray said. “Not only fastball command, (but) throwing it. You know, starting the two-seam where I want it for a strike and a ball. That’s just something that’s come with a little more experience and a little more routine. The changeup is getting better, I’m really confident in that right now. It’s gotten me out of big jams already this year. And the curveball is still there.”

After posting a complete game victory last week and facing just two batters in a game that was called due to rain earlier this week, Gray pitched a gem on Saturday night. In 6 innings of action, he struck out 8 and gave up only 3 hits. While it’s still early, he seems to be getting better every time out.

The A’s farm system has become a factory for major league starting pitching and Gray looks to be the next big prospect ready to make the jump.

“As soon as I got drafted by Oakland, I knew the accomplishments in pitching that this organization has been a part of in the history of baseball,” Gray said. “(It’s) a great pitching organization (with) a lot of good people around us that we can learn from.”

Like Michael Choice, the Athletics will give Gray as much time as he needs in Sacramento, but don’t be shocked if he is the first one to get the call this year if one of the A’s starters begins to stumble.

 

 

James Ham is known for his work covering the Sacramento Kings for Cowbell Kingdom. You can follow him on Twitter at @James_Ham.

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Be sure to like A’s Farm’s page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @AthleticsFarm to keep up with all the news down on the farm!

Wednesday, April 17th: Peters Pitches Ports to Win while Okajima Takes the Loss for Cats

 

A’s Farmhand Of The Day

Stockton Ports’ Pitcher Tanner Peters (6 IP / 3 H / 1 ER / 0 BB / 6 K / Win)

Stockton Ports’ Pitcher Tanner Peters   (6 IP / 3 H / 1 ER / 0 BB / 6 K / Win)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Sacramento River Cats  2

Las Vegas 51s                  3

LP – Okajima 0-1 / 6.35

HR – Montz (2)

jt1153506b

 

Farmhand Of The Game:

Pitcher Justin Thomas

(6 1/3 IP / 6 H / 2 ER / 2 BB / 5 K)

 

Starter Justin Thomas had a solid outing for Sacramento, allowing 2 runs while striking out 5 over 6 1/3 innings on work. LHP Hideki Okajima came in in the bottom of the 8th inning with the game tied and ended up giving up the winning run with 1 out in the 9th to take the loss. Catcher Luke Montz homered, doubled and walked twice for the River Cats.

 

CALIFORNIA LEAGUE  (High-A)

Stockton Ports  7

San Jose Giants  2

WP – Peters 2-0 / 3.71

tpIQ514123533b

 

Farmhand Of The Game:

Pitcher Tanner Peters

(6 IP / 3 H / 1 ER / 0 BB / 6 K / Win)

 

RHP Tanner Peters had his best start of the season for Stockton, allowing just 1 run on 3 hits while walking none and striking out 6 to pick up his 2nd win. Outfielder Josh Whitaker, who’s been heating up lately after a slow start, had a pair of doubles and drove in 3 runs. Outfielder Dusty Robinson and shortstop Addison Russell also doubled, and hot-hitting first baseman Max Muncy had 2 hits, scored twice and drove in a run. Adam Rosales played second base and went 1 for 3 in his first rehab start with Stockton.

 

MIDWEST LEAGUE  (Class-A)

Kane County

Beloit Snappers

(POSTPONED)

 

Thursday’s Games:

Sacramento @ Las Vegas – 7:05pm PT

Midland @ San Antonio – 5:05pm PT / 7:05pm CT

Modesto @ Stockton – 7:05pm PT

Beloit @ Burlington – 4:30pm PT / 6:30pm CT

 

 

Be sure to like A’s Farm’s page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @AthleticsFarm to keep up with all the news down on the farm!

Getting To Know: A’s Top Pitching Prospect Dan Straily

dsstraily-dan324-year-old right-hander Dan Straily is generally considered to be the A’s top young pitching prospect heading into 2013 – and he earned that distinction on our own Top 10 Prospect List as well. But he wasn’t always quite so high on everyone’s radar. The Oregon native was drafted in the 24th round by the A’s back in 2009 out of Marshall University in West Virginia. And his numbers in the A’s system didn’t immediately open any eyes. But what did happen was that he just seemed to get better and better every step of the way. Rather than being challenged by each new level, each time the bar was raised, his performance seemed to kick up a notch.

Last year, after not even being invited to major league camp, Straily started the season at Double-A Midland, where he might have been expected to spend most of the year toiling away in the Texas League. But a funny thing happened, he started striking out batters at a rate of 11.4 per 9 innings while maintaining a 4.7/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and an ERA of 3.38. About halfway through the season, the 6’2” right-hander was promoted to Triple-A Sacramento in the more hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, where he proceeded to strike out hitters at a similar rate while notching an even more impressive ERA of 2.02. Straily finally got the call to Oakland late in the season where he went 2-1 in 7 starts while posting a 3.89 ERA in the heat of the A’s playoff run.

Conventional wisdom has it that there are currently five starters ahead of Straily on the A’s depth chart – Brett Anderson, Jarrod Parker, Tom Milone, Bartolo Colon and A.J. Griffin. And in a recent press conference, A’s assistant general manager David Forst referred to Griffin and Straily as the team’s 5th and 6th starters. Of course, spring training’s barely underway and anything can happen. But we do know that Bartolo Colon will be unable to make his first start of the season while he completes his suspension, which could very well mean that Straily will be in line for a start with the A’s the first week of the season no matter how everything else shakes out.

Of course, if any of the A’s other five starters should open the season without a clean bill of health, then Straily would definitely be well-positioned to stick around for a while after that first start. But if Straily does end up starting the season back at Sacramento, then he would definitely be one of the A’s top two pitching prospects at Triple-A, along with former 1st-round draft pick Sonny Gray, hoping to be the first called when a warm arm is needed.

One thing’s for certain, whenever the A’s call, Straily will be ready. He’s clearly a student of the game who appreciates the fine art of pitching and is hungry for the opportunity to continue practicing it at the highest level. For now, all he can do is focus on making the most of his opportunities this spring in Arizona where, when he’s not working hard in the A’s camp, he’s hanging out at the temporary home he shares with his wife Amanda and their new puppy, along with fellow A’s pitcher Tom Milone and his fiancée, and A’s catcher Derek Norris. It’s a full house, and a house full of young guys working to establish their place in the major leagues with a team that typically gives young players like them plenty of opportunities to do so. We talked to Straily this week just after he’d returned home from his fourth day ever in big league camp…

 

AF:  Can you tell me a little bit about your basic repertoire of pitches you’re working with right now?

DS:  Fastball command this year has been my biggest thing coming into the season. I noticed last year at the end of the year when I got tired, that was the first thing to go. So I’m making sure that’s dialed in. But fastball, changeup, slider and curveball are what I have to offer.

AF:  What’s been your big strikeout pitch?

DS:  It was really everything. There were some games it was the fastball. Sometimes it was the changeup. Sometimes it was just sliders. Whatever’s going for me that night – whatever happens to be the most “on” pitch. When you have four pitches, you’re going to have one off-speed pitch that’s going to stand out more than the others every night. It tends to be the slider. And then last year it seemed that the changeup was really kind of the equalizer, because guys had to think about that, and then they’d get the slider – or they’d think about the slider, and then they’d get the changeup. That’s my game. I don’t tend to fall into too many patterns. I just mix speeds and try to hit spots.

AF:  Well, that’s good a thing because if you do fall into too many patterns, guys will start to figure that out and take advantage of it.

dsf8TRLGK5bDS:  Absolutely.

AF:  Last year you had a really dominant season in the minor leagues, in Double-A and Triple-A, and that performance really put you on people’s radar. Was there anything it particular that really clicked for you last year?

DS:  For me, mostly it was just the consistency. Every game, I kind of knew what I was going to get – my fastball command was consistent, changeup movement was consistent, slider was consistent. It was just everything you look for. You notice there’s not a whole big difference in terms of stuff from minor league guys, major league guys – the stuff is pretty much the same – it’s just the level of consistency. You know, each guy’s going to be different. For me, it was just finding the consistency of my delivery, and my stuff was there all the way through last year. I remember early on, I had a rough game in Double-A and they just reiterated to me, “You know, you’re not judged game to game – you’re judged over the course of the year.” And it starts to take that pressure off from trying to be perfect every single pitch to just going out there and trusting yourself and being confident in yourself. You’re going to give up home runs, you’re going to give up singles – it’s going to happen. But also the mental game, I was able to take that to a whole new level – talking with (Midland pitching coach) Don Schulze and (Sacramento pitching coach) Scott Emerson last year and just trusting myself and trusting the adjustments that we were making on the side. It wasn’t that I was a completely different pitcher, it’s that I was finally the complete pitcher that I am capable of being. I saw flashes of good changeups before, flashes of good fastball command, and then finally it all hit together.

AF:  So it was really just a matter of integrating everything and just putting it all together consistently as opposed to doing something new or having some big revelation.

DS:  Yeah, I never felt like I really did anything different. It’s not like anything really changed. I didn’t change my mechanics. I didn’t change anything else. It’s like I told some reporters last year when they called about all the strikeouts, I said, “I’m not doing anything different. They’re just missing them this year.” It’s more than that obviously. I learned how to set up hitters a lot better. I learned how to recognize swings. And I started paying attention more to what guys are trying to do and different things like that.

AF:  It sounds like it was really all about just gaining command of all your pitches and then being able to execute what you wanted when you wanted. Am I right?

DS:  Absolutely. Being able to trust myself, full count, bases loaded, throwing a changeup. Throwing changeups in counts when I normally wouldn’t throw them. Throwing that 0-2 fastball inside instead of just throwing a nasty slider because I know they’re going to swing and miss at it. Don Schulze came up to me one day in Double-A and just said, “You know what? No one’s going to care what you did in Double-A after you’ve been pitching in the big leagues for years. So don’t focus so much on your results today. Go out there and work on your fastball and your changeup today. Work on fastball command and throw your changeup. You have to develop your changeup if you want to be in the major leagues.” And I’d heard that so many times. It’s not like he was the first one to tell me that. But I just heard it so many times that it finally clicked. And I finally understood what he was trying to say. And he just happened to be the one who said it when I finally understood it. Yeah, no one’s going to care what I did in Double-A. Obviously, if you do bad, you’re not going to stay around. You have to be successful, but no one’s going to care about your success there. They just want to know that you can do it at the next level, and then at the next level.

AF:  So at that point you just started to develop the confidence to throw whatever you needed to throw whenever you needed to throw it?

DS:  Yeah, absolutely, like I used to only throw changeups to lefties and sliders to righties. And I finally just gained the confidence in my pitches, and the consistency and the command. You know, I can throw any pitch to anybody at any time. It’s really just trusting yourself, and that was something that I was really able to learn how to do last year.

dsHG2gG83y3AF:  You mentioned your pitching coach at Midland, Don Schulze. Was anyone else key in contributing to your success last season?

DS:  Well, Scott Emerson was really big on scouting reports and helping me learn how to prepare for a game. In Double-A, you don’t get a chance to really see a scouting report until you see a team once – you have to make your own. And in Triple-A, it’s a little better, a little more advanced. You see guys more often, guys have been around Triple-A for a few more years. So that was the first time I was ever introduced to scouting reports. So when I did get called up, it was a little easier for me to just go in there and read it and know what I was looking for and know how my stuff played into the scouting reports. It’s just a whole other part of the game I didn’t even realize really existed. So he was really big on that side of things for me.

AF:  Can you tell me a little more about the differences between the various levels you were at last year -  between Double-A and Triple-A, and then between Triple-A and the majors? Were there any specific things that you had to adjust to at each level?

DS:  One of the biggest things between Double-A and Triple-A would honestly have to be the travel. You think it’s going to be great – no more riding buses, you’re going to be flying. But it’s not the kind of hours you’d expect. You’re not flying chartered airplanes – you’re flying the first flight out each morning and then having to play that night at 7:30. It’s a grind. And I wasn’t even there a whole season, so I can’t imagine what it’s like to be there for a whole year. But in terms of the actual play, a big difference is you notice guys start having approaches – not so much just one type of hitter. Guys aren’t just a power hitter, guys aren’t just an average hitter. You start getting more complete hitters. And then you get into some of these Triple-A PCL parks where the ball just flies.

AF:  In terms of pitching, were there any adjustments you had to make when you finally got called up to the big leagues towards the end of the year?

DS:  Not really. When I got called up, I was running on empty basically. But it was really good to figure out how to pitch when you feel like you just can’t get enough rest at the end. But then the day of your game comes up, you’re jacked up and you’re ready to go because you’re pitching in the major leagues that night. But you just get out there and don’t really see the names on the back of the jersey, you just see the scouting report and you see the game plan in your head of how you’re going to pitch certain guys and that’s really kind of what it boils down to. Obviously the media has built up certain players and their numbers speak for themselves but, as a pitcher, you don’t really see it that way, you just see the game plan and the scouting reports.

AF:  You must have ended up pitching more innings last year than you had at any other time in your pro career.

DS:  I threw 140+ innings my first year, then the next year I threw like 160, then in 2012 I threw 191. So I’ve had a steady upward climb.

AF:  Towards the end of the year, you must have been aware that you’d thrown a lot of pitches over the course of the year.

DS:  Yeah, at the end of the year, I was maybe just putting too much pressure on myself. But I definitely feel like, coming to camp now, it’s a whole different world to come in here and be a part of it from day one instead of just showing up in the middle of a playoff race and having to meet guys and be a part of a team at that point because you don’t know anybody there.

AF:  Well, it must have been interesting to join the A’s late last year, with all that energy and excitement in a playoff run, and just step into the middle of all that.

DS:  That was pretty cool. As a minor league player, you’re not so much noticing what they’re doing at the major league level. You’re more focused on your task at hand and your job and what’s going on at your level. So I didn’t even know about ‘The Bernie’ or anything like that. People don’t realize that you’re not focused on the big leagues when you’re in Double-A. You’re focused on what you’re doing to get yourself better. So it’s cool to get up there and actually learn about all the cool stuff that’s going on up there and just the fans’ energy that they’re bringing every night. The first night, my debut was in front of like 32,000 people on a Friday night in Oakland. And it was just a lot of fun to make your debut in that atmosphere.

dsDan+Straily+Seattle+Mariners+v+Oakland+Athletics+nroAWrXWO0ql2AF:  Last year with the A’s, you made 7 starts, won a couple of games, pitched well. But the one trouble spot was the long ball. You gave up 11 home runs. Have you had a chance to reflect on that and how you might be able to adapt to keep guys from being able to square up the ball like that?

DS:  Yeah, I just did a terrible job of mixing up speeds. I kind of got away from my game and just let everything kind of speed up on me. And I was able to get home and kind of reflect on that and realize the game didn’t change at all, I’m the one who changed. It was frustrating, I can’t say it wasn’t. To be honest, it came up today in the clubhouse when I was talking with a reporter. They pointed out that I gave up 17 runs on the year (for Oakland), and I think 14 or 15 came via the home run. And I said, “Well, if I can figure out how to stop giving up home runs, I’ll be good to go!” But for me, it was just a lot of left-handers I’d fall behind in counts and leave the fastball out over the middle of the plate. And that’s what good hitters are supposed to do – if you fall behind and put a fastball right over the middle, they’re supposed to hit home runs. So it was kind of my own doing. But that’s not me – that was a fluke. Obviously, it happened – we all saw it. But that’s not who I am as a pitcher. And it won’t be like that again. It was embarrassing as a player. I remember the last time I threw against the Mariners, I gave up 3 hits – 2 of them home runs. It was very frustrating, to be pitching so well and then to throw a ball right over the middle – home run. I just didn’t do a good job of hitting spots.

AF:  Well, I know no pitcher likes to be standing out there on the mound and have to turn around and watch one sailing over the fence.

DS:  Yeah, and the weird thing was I think nine of them were in day games. And I have no idea why. I’ve pitched in plenty of day games and been perfectly fine.

AF:  This is your first year in the big league camp, right?

DS:  My first day of big league camp was Tuesday.

AF:  So is there anyone around you’ve known for a while that you’re particularly friendly with who it’s just good to have around in camp?

DS:  Well, my roommate’s Tom Milone. And you can’t get much more of an even-keeled type of guy than that. So it’s been good just to have him around everyday. Him, me and Derek Norris are all living together. It’s good – we’ve got a catcher and a couple of pitchers.

AF:  How’s your relationship with A’s pitching coach Curt Young? You probably never got to spend that much time with him in spring before, but now I’d imagine you’re a lot more prominent on his radar.

DS:  You know, he’s got a tough job. There are thirty pitchers or so here in camp. The only time I actually get to see him is when I’m pitching off a mound. I’m excited to hopefully be with him for a whole year – that’s the goal. From everything I heard, he’s just a great resource, which I saw last year when I was up – everything from holding the runners to pitch selection to how to take care of yourself. The guy’s been around the game so long he’s an amazing pitching coach.

AF:  So is there anything in particular you’re working on or focused on this spring?

DS:  I’m just focused on trying to make the team right now. I don’t get the luxury of working on something at this point. What I came with is what I have to go to battle with for the year. I’m sure, for some veterans, it’s more about getting ready for the season. Well I’m getting ready for the season as well, but I’m also fighting for a job. There’s only so many jobs available out there and more than enough guys to fill those positions. The last couple years I’ve had a little better idea of where I was going because it was pretty well laid out. But there’s no more room to go up anymore, so just trying to stay there is the hardest part.

AF:  Well, I guess it’s pretty clear what the goal is now anyway.

dsdan-straily-landov2DS:  But the thing is, as much as you want to be there, if you’re not there, you can’t let it get you down because there’s a whole season ahead either way. So I keep telling people when they ask where I see myself going this year, I say, “That’s not up to me. That’s up to the front office.” My job’s to go out there and pitch, whether that’s in Sacramento, that’s in Midland or that’s in Oakland. It doesn’t matter – wherever they tell me to go, that’s where I’m going to be.

AF:  I think everyone realizes the value of pitching depth at this point. I mean, the A’s used ten different starting pitchers last year. So wherever you are, if you’ve got a good arm and are pitching well, there’s a good chance you’ll end up in that rotation at some point one way or another.

DS:  Yep, that’s what you’ve to remember either way.

AF:  Well, it sounds like you’re just working on staying focused on your game, maximizing what you’ve got, and trying to continue making as good an impression as possible.

DS:  Yeah, and so far from what I’ve felt, I just think it’s going to be a repeat and a little bit better from last year. You know, get a little bit better each year, throw a little bit harder each year, come into camp with a little better idea of how to be physically ready and mentally ready. I learned so much last year in every aspect of the game. And I’m just ready to go this year. I’m excited.

AF:  Onward and upward!

DS:  That’s right!

 

*     *     *

 

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Sunday, September 9th: River Cats Drop Game #5 Playoff Finale to Reno

 

A’s Farmhand Of The Day

Sacramento River Cats DH Kila Ka’aihue (2 Doubles / 2 RBIs)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE (TRIPLE-A)

PCL Playoffs Round 1 – Game #5

Sacramento River Cats  4

Reno Aces                       7

(LP – Merkin Valdez)

 

Farmhand Of The Game:

Designated Hitter Kila Ka’aihue

(2 Doubles / 2 RBIs)

 

 

Worth Noting: Designated hitter Kila Ka’aihue was the big hitting star for Sacramento in Game #5 on Sunday, doubling twice and driving in a pair of runs for the River Cats. Top pitching prospect Sonny Gray got the Game #5 start and held Reno scoreless over the first 4 innings. Sacramento held a 3-0 lead heading into the bottom of the 5th inning, when Gray surrendered 3 runs to allow Reno to tie the game. The former 1st-round draft pick exited after allowing 3 runs on 8 hits and striking out 5 in 6 innings of work. He was followed by right-hander Merkin Valdez, who allowed 4 runs in the 7th inning, which proved to be enough for Reno to clinch the series and end Sacramento’s season on Sunday. The River Cats finished the 2012 regular season with a PCL-best record of 86-58.

 

 

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Saturday, September 8th: River Cats Send Series to Game 5 Finale after Barton’s Bomb in 10th

 

A’s Farmhand Of The Day

Sacramento River Cats first baseman Daric Barton (Game-Winning Home Run)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE (TRIPLE-A)

PCL Playoffs Round 1 – Game #4

Sacramento River Cats  4

Reno Aces                       3

(WP – Jeremy Accardo)

 

Farmhand Of The Game:

First baseman Daric Barton

(Game-Winning Home Run)

 

 

Worth Noting: Sacramento won Game #4 of their best-of-five playoff series in a cliff-hanger on Saturday. Catcher Blake Lalli, acquired from the Cubs in the Anthony Recker deal, hit a 3-run homer in the 2nd inning to give the River Cats the lead. Starter Brad Peacock allowed 2 runs on 3 hits in 5 innings of work, and right-hander Arnold Leon surrendered 1 run in 2 innings of relief to tie the game at 3-3 in the 7th. The game remained tied until first baseman Daric Barton led off the top of the 10th inning by blasting a home run over the right field wall to provide the decisive blow for the River Cats. Right-hander Jeremy Accardo picked up the win with 3 scoreless innings in relief. The rubber game of the series will take place Sunday afternoon at Reno.

 

Sunday’s Game:

Sacramento @ Reno – 1:05pm PT (PCL Playoffs Round 1 – Game #5)

 

 

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Friday, September 7th: Bees Swatted out of Playoffs while River Cats Drop Game 3 Despite Taylor’s 2 HRs

 

A’s Farmhand Of The Day

Sacramento River Cats outfielder Michael Taylor (3 for 4 / 2 Home Runs / 2 RBIs / 3 Runs)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE (TRIPLE-A)

PCL Playoffs Round 1 – Game #3

Sacramento River Cats  7

Reno Aces                      11

(LP – Rich Thompson)

 

Farmhand Of The Game:

Outfielder Michael Taylor

(3 for 4 / 2 Home Runs / 2 RBIs / 3 Runs)

 

 

Worth Noting: Sacramento lost Game #3 of their best-of-five playoff series in a heartbreaker on Friday night. The River Cats grabbed the lead in the 2nd inning, lost the lead in the 4th, tied the game in the top of the 6th, fell behind again in the bottom of the 6th, tied the game again in the top of the 8th, and finally lost the lead for good in the bottom of the 8th. Starter Travis Banwart was pressed into service when scheduled starter Dan Straily was recalled by the A’s to fill injured starter Brandon McCarthy’s spot in the big league rotation. Unfortunately, Banwart had a tough time of it, allowing 6 runs on 7 hits in 3 1/3 innings of work. Outfielder Jermaine Mitchell homered in the top of the 3rd inning to put Sacramento up 2-0. By the time the 4th inning was through though, the River Cats were down 6-2. But thanks to back-to-back home runs from designated hitter Kila Ka’aihue and Michael Taylor and a triple from first baseman Daric Barton and an RBI single from catcher Jason Jaramillo, the Cats came back to tie the game in the top of the 6th. Right-hander James Simmons then surrendered a run in the bottom of the 6th to hand the lead back to Reno. Michael Taylor then hit his 2nd home run of the game in the top of the 8th to tie the game again. Right-hander Rich Thompson came on for the River Cats in the bottom of the 8th and, after getting 2 outs, then gave up 4 runs to Reno to secure their victory in Game #3. The River Cats now need to win the final two games in Reno on Saturday and Sunday to win the series.

 

MIDWEST LEAGUE (CLASS-A)

Midwest League Playoffs Round 1 – Game #3

Burlington Bees                0

Wisconsin Timber Rattlers  3

(LP – Drew Granier)

 

Farmhand Of The Game:

Pitcher Drew Granier

(6 IP / 2 ER / 6 K)

 

 

Worth Noting: The Bees’ bats didn’t put up much of a fight in dropping the final game of their first-round best-of-three Midwest League playoff series on Friday night. Burlington managed just 4 hits on the night and failed to score for the second time in the 3-game series. Starter Drew Granier made a noble effort, allowing just 2 earned runs on back-to-back solo shots in the 4th inning, and 1 unearned run after a 2-out error by shortstop Addison Russell allowed another run to score in the 5th. In 6 innings of work, Granier allowed just 3 hits, 1 walk and struck out 6 in his final appearance of the season.

 

Saturday’s Game:

Sacramento @ Reno – 7:05pm PT (PCL Playoffs Round 1 – Game #4)

 

 

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Thursday, September 6th: Chavez & Weeks Lead Cats to Game 2 Victory while Defense Lets Cole Down in Bees Loss

 

A’s Farmhand Of The Day

Sacramento River Cats pitcher Jesse Chavez (8 IP / 0 ER / 10 K / Win)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE (TRIPLE-A)

PCL Playoffs Round 1 – Game #2

Reno Aces                       0

Sacramento River Cats  1

(WP – Jesse Chavez)

 

Farmhand Of The Game:

Pitcher Jesse Chavez

(8 IP / 0 ER / 10 K / Win)

 

 

Worth Noting: Game #2 of this series was another tight pitchers’ duel. With the River Cats down a game in the best-of-five series, 29-year-old right-hander Jesse Chavez, whom the A’s acquired from Toronto last month for cash, came through in a big way, striking out 10 over 8 scoreless innings to earn the win. Right-hander Jeremy Accardo tossed 1 scoreless inning in relief to pick up the save. Second baseman Jemile Weeks had the big blast of the night when he homered in the bottom of the 3rd inning to provide the only run of the game for either team. The River Cats now head to Reno for Game #3 of the series on Friday night.

 

MIDWEST LEAGUE (CLASS-A)

Midwest League Playoffs Round 1 – Game #2

Burlington Bees                0

Wisconsin Timber Rattlers  4

(LP – A.J. Cole)

 

Farmhand Of The Game:

Pitcher A.J. Cole

(4 IP / 1 ER / 5 K)

 

 

Worth Noting: A dropped foul popup by first baseman Max Muncy in the 1st inning opened the door for 3 unearned runs to score with 2 outs. Starter A.J. Cole allowed just 1 earned run and struck out 5 in 4 innings of work before giving way to relievers Nate Eppley and David Mota who held Wisconsin scoreless the rest of the way. Burlington’s lineup managed only 3 hits in the game, courtesy of third baseman Wade Kirkland and outfielders Aaron Shipman and John Wooten. The decisive game in the best-of-three series takes place Friday night at Wisconsin.

 

Friday’s Games:

Sacramento @ Reno – 7:05pm PT (PCL Playoffs Round 1 – Game #3)

(Straily vs. Brewer)

Burlington @ Wisconsin – 6:35pm CT (Midwest League Playoffs Round 1 – Game #3)

(Granier vs. Goforth)

 

 

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Wednesday, September 5th: Peters Pitches Bees to Victory, Cats Lose Despite Billings’ Best Efforts and Ynoa Helps Vermont Win Final Match

A’s Farmhand Of The Day

Burlington Bees pitcher Tanner Peters (7 IP / 0 ER / 6 K / Win)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE (TRIPLE-A)

PCL Playoffs Round 1 – Game #1

Reno Aces                       2

Sacramento River Cats  1

(LP – Bruce Billings)

 

Farmhand Of The Game:

Pitcher Bruce Billings

(6 IP / 0 ER / 10 K)

 

 

Worth Noting: The key play of the opening game of the PCL playoffs for Sacramento was Grant Green’s fielding error at third base in the top of the 3rd inning which ultimately led to 2 unearned runs for Reno. Otherwise, starter Bruce Billings was brilliant, allowing no earned runs and striking out 10 over 6 innings of work, but the right-hander still ended up taking the loss on Wednesday. Outfielder Michael Taylor had 2 of Sacramento’s 5 hits, walked and scored the River Cats’ only run of the game. Sacramento will take on Reno again in Game #2 of the best-of-five series at Raley Field in Sacramento on Thursday.

 

MIDWEST LEAGUE (CLASS-A)

Midwest League Playoffs Round 1 – Game #1

Wisconsin Timber Rattlers  0

Burlington Bees                4

(WP – Tanner Peters)

 

Farmhand Of The Game:

Pitcher Tanner Peters

(7 IP / 0 ER / 6 K / Win)

 

 

Worth Noting: Starter Tanner Peters, who didn’t join Burlington till midway through the season, was the big star for the Bees in the first game of their playoff series against Wisconsin. The 22-year-old right-hander allowed just 2 hits and struck out 6 over 7 scoreless innings to earn the win. Outfielder Bobby Crocker had the big blow of the game with a 2-run homer in the bottom of the 2nd inning, while this year’s 5th-round draft pick, first baseman Max Muncy, had 2 hits, including a double, and drove in a run for the Bees. Burlington will take on Wisconsin again in Game #2 of the best-of-three series at Wisconsin on Thursday.

 

NEW YORK-PENN LEAGUE (CLASS-A SHORT-SEASON)

Aberdeen IronBirds          0

Vermont Lake Monsters  4

(WP – Streich 4-1 / 2.60)

 

Farmhand Of The Game:

Pitcher Michael Ynoa

(3 IP / 0 ER / 4 K)

 

 

Worth Noting: Starter Michael Ynoa had perhaps his best outing yet for Vermont, allowing just 2 hits while walking none and striking out 4 over 3 scoreless innings on Wednesday. This year’s 6th-round draft pick, right-hander Seth Streich, followed up with 3 more scoreless innings to earn his 4th win. Second baseman Chris Bostick doubled in a run, while first baseman Matt Olson singled in a run and walked twice in Vermont’s final game of the NY-Penn League season. The team ended the year with a record of 33-43.

 

Thursday’s Games:

Reno @ Sacramento – 7:05pm PT (PCL Playoffs Round 1 – Game #2)

(Cabrera vs. Chavez)

Burlington @ Wisconsin – 6:35pm CT (Midwest League Playoffs Round 1 – Game #2)

(Cole vs. Pierce)

 

 

Be sure to like A’s Farm’s page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @AthleticsFarm to keep up with all the news down on the farm!

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