Midland Notebook: 'Hounds Battling

Before running into the offensive juggernaut that is the 2011 San Antonio Missions, the Midland Rockhounds were sitting pretty atop the Texas League's Southern Division. The 'Hounds are now a game behind San Antonio for first, but are still off to a strong start to the 2011 campaign. We have news and notes from the last week of action for the 'Hounds.

Team Overview

On Thursday, the Midland Rockhounds opened an eight-game homestand with a four-game series against the second-place San Antonio Missions. The Missions came to town as the Texas League's top offensive club and they quickly showed the Citibank Ballpark faithful why in taking three of four from the hometown 'Hounds. The Missions scored 38 runs in four games, including 21 in a rout on Saturday night, to move a game ahead of the Rockhounds in the Texas League's Southern Division.

Despite the rough beginning to their eight-game homestand, Midland is off to a good start in their efforts to reach the Texas League playoffs. Through 16 games, the Rockhounds are 9-7. Their team OPS of 787 is third-best in the league. The Rockhounds rank second in walks with 74, third in OBP with a .350 mark, third in homers with 18 and third in runs scored with 84.

The pitching staff is also off to a solid start. The Midland team ERA of 4.56 ranks fourth, but they are only .04 runs off the second-place staff's mark. Midland hurlers lead the league in strike-outs with 145, although they are second in walks with 62. Their team WHIP of 1.48 is fourth-best in the league.

Midland continues its homestand on Monday with the start of a four-game series against the Corpus Christi Hooks. The Rockhounds will then travel on Friday to San Antonio for a rematch with the Missions.

Comings and Goings for the Week of April 18

The Rockhounds lost one of their top hitters over the weekend with the promotion of first-baseman/outfielder Shane Peterson. Peterson had spent all of the 2010 and part of the 2009 seasons with the 'Hounds.

Peterson, the 2008 second round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals, was batting .278 with an 854 OPS in 14 games before his promotion to the River Cats. Peterson had walked 10 times against seven strike-outs. Since his promotion to Sacramento, Peterson is 0-for-6 in two games, but he has walked three times and scored a run. He replaced 2009 Texas League MVP Chris Carter on the Sacramento roster. Carter landed on the DL with sprained right thumb.

Peterson was replaced on the Rockhounds' roster by outfielder Kent Walton, who was promoted from High-A Stockton. Walton made his Midland debut on Sunday and went 2-for-3 with two doubles. Earlier in the week, Walton hit for the cycle for the Ports and he was batting .317 with an 884 OPS in 11 games for Stockton before the promotion. Walton was a 23rd round pick by the A's out of BYU in 2009. He was a collegiate teammate of current Midland third-baseman Stephen Parker.

Who's Hot

First-baseman Michael Spina has been one of the Texas League's top hitters since the start of the season. Through Sunday, he was tied for third in the league in homeruns with five and was fifth in OPS with an 1140 mark. Over his last five games, Spina has driven-in eight runs, homered three times and walked five times. He has 11 walks against seven strike-out on the season.

Outfielder Jeremy Barfield got off to a slow start, but he has more than made up for it. In 15 games, he is batting .314 with a 985 OPS. He has a six-game hitting streak and two homers, a triple, six RBIs and six walks over those six games. Barfield has 10 walks against eight strike-outs in 15 games this season. He has reached base in all 15 games.

Outfielder Jermaine Mitchell is also putting up impressive numbers early in the season. He has walked a team-leading 14 times in only 16 games and he has a 954 OPS. He is six for his last 10 with a double, a triple, two homers and five RBIs. Earlier this season, Mitchell had a nine-game hitting streak.

After a sizzling start to the season, third-baseman Stephen Parker had a five-game stretch during which he had only one hit in 19 at-bats. Since not playing on April 19th, Parker has re-discovered his swing. Over his last five games, he is batting .438 with four RBIs and two walks. He has an 804 OPS on the season.

Left-handed starter Carlos Hernandez has won his first three starts of the season. He allowed four runs in five innings in his last start, which was his worst of the year. In his previous two outings, he had allowed only two runs on seven hits in 11.2 innings. For the season, Hernandez has a 3.24 ERA and 16 strike-outs against five walks in 16.2 innings.

Right-handed reliever Neil Wagner has 16 strike-outs in only 11 innings pitched this season. He has walked only three and has a 3.27 ERA. In his last two outings, Wagner has struck-out eight and walked only two in four shut-out innings.

Right-hander Jonathan Ortiz had one poor outing on April 19th, but has otherwise pitched very well in his first season as a member of the A's organization. The reliever has 12 strike-outs and only three walks in 10.1 innings. He has a 2.61 ERA. Ortiz saved 21 games and struck-out 62 against 11 walks in 54.2 innings for the High-A Tampa Yankees last season.

Hard-throwing right-hander Fautino De Los Santos has only thrown six innings thus far this season, but he has already struck-out 11 batters. De Los Santos has also walked four, but he had a no-walk outing in his last appearance on Saturday. De Los Santos has also allowed only three hits and one run and he has two saves.

Left-hander Trey Barham's command has been uncharacteristically shaky at times, but he hasn't let it hurt him yet. The reliever has a 0.84 ERA and two wins in eight appearances this season. In 10.2 innings, he has allowed only three hits and one run. He has walked seven, but has struck-out nine.

Sidearming right-hander Paul Smyth has been having similar command issues. After walking only 21 all of last season (77.2 innings), Smyth has already walked seven in only 9.2 innings. He has struck-out 14, however, and has a 3.72 ERA.

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