Burlington set the first-half pace in the Midwest League, and it was a torrid one as Aaron Nieckula's squad won the Western Division going away with a 45-25 record. Six players were selected to last week's MWL All-Star Game in Davenport, Iowa, including starting pitcher Blake Hassebrock and 2010 second-round pick Yordy Cabrera.
The Bees made headlines with a fearsome pitching rotation early in the year, but just as newsworthy is what they've managed to do since starters A.J. Griffin and Jacob Brown departed for Stockton. Burlington continues to lead the league with a team ERA of 2.97 and rates second in WHIP at 1.17. The Bees staff has recorded eight shutouts this season to tie for first in the MWL.
With a corps of pitchers that has kept them in many games, the Bees' offense is manufacturing just enough runs to be successful. Burlington ranks seventh in the league with 326 runs scored, ninth in on-base percentage (.323) and 10th in average (.241).
The Bees wrap up a six-game home-stand Saturday night against Peoria, and will head out on the road for a brief three-game trip to Cedar Rapids.
Comings and Goings for the Month of June
The first of what's sure to be more additions from the draft class of 2011, fifth-round selection Beau Taylor was added to the Burlington roster earlier this week. The former Central Florida catcher hit .118 (2-17) in just four games for Vermont prior to his call-up. Taylor will look to take advantage of the early opportunity in full-season ball afforded him by the injury to John Nester and demotion of Daniel Petitti.
The Rockledge, Florida, native put together a 26-game hitting streak earlier this season that tied the school record. He was named to the Johnny Bench Award Watch List and hit .354, committing just one error in 61 games.
Burlington made some other injury-related moves in June, losing outfielder Tyreace House (6/30), pitcher Matt Thomson (6/21) and outfielder Jose Rivero (6/15) to the disabled list. Rivero was reinstated in place of House on Thursady. Outfielder Jose Crisotomo was activated from the DL on June 15th.
Rivero has struggled since coming over from the Seattle organization, hitting just .200 with two homers and 15 RBIs through 47 games. House hasn't fared much better and had posted a .165 average and 15 stolen bases as an everyday player.
Thomson had been on the comeback trail from a slight labrum tear that abruptly ended his 2010 campaign. In a pair of two-inning stints with the Bees, the 6-4 right-hander allowed three runs on seven hits while striking out five. The A's have sent last year's 12th-round pick to Arizona to continue his rehab.
Crisotomo has played a part-time role in the outfield for Burlington and is hitting .222 through his first eight games of the 2011 season.
Three more pitchers have been added to the roster since mid-June, including starter Sean Murphy and reliever Max Peterson from extended spring training, and reliever Drew Tyson from short-season Vermont.
Murphy, a 33rd-round selection last year, has yet to find his groove in three starts for the Bees. He has allowed 12 runs on 13 hits over his first 10 2/3 innings. He made one cameo appearance in Stockton earlier in the season and allowed one run on six hits over six innings to get the victory.
A 17th-round pick in the '10 draft, Tyson has pitched well in the Burlington pen. The 6-5 right-hander has a 3.28 ERA though 24 2/3 innings. He has allowed just one earned run and struck out seven batters in his last 9 1/3 innings.
After spending all of last season in the Kane County bullpen, Peterson has found a home in Burlington this year. In four relief appearances spanning nine innings, he has allowed just one earned run and struck out 12. Oakland's 18th-round pick in '09 has rebounded well after a rocky start to the season in Stockton.
Finally healthy after a DL stint that cost him most of the first seven weeks of the season, A.J. Kirby-Jones is the Bees' hottest hitter heading into July. A ninth-round selection in 2010, he has hit safely in nine of his past 10 games and owned a .366 batting average in 24 games last month. The first-baseman hit six home runs and drove in 15 runs while compiling an impressive 1136 OPS. His three-run homer in the seventh inning on Thursday night proved to be the difference in a 4-2 victory over Peoria.
After a slow month of April, first baseman Josh Whitaker has rebounded well and enters July as the team's leader in average (.297) and slugging (.490) and OPS (848). A 25th-round selection last year, he followed up a stellar May with a .293 batting average in June. He continues to force his way into a lineup that includes higher-drafted corner infielders Tony Thompson and Kirby-Jones.
A former Big 12 triple-crown winner at Kansas, Thompson began the year on a tear for Burlington. But a concussion suffered during a freak accident in batting practice helped contribute to a .237 batting average in May. The A's sixth-round selection last summer has rounded back into form, hitting .325 and posting a 948 OPS in June. In addition to hitting four home runs, Thompson compiled a .423 on-base percentage thanks to 14 walks.
It would have been impossible for Hassebrock to replicate an early-season run of allowing no earned runs in 22.1 April innings. But the 2010 eighth-round selection out of UNC-Greensboro continues to impress as the Bees' number one starter. In four June starts, Hassebrock posted a 2.25 ERA with 17 strike-outs in 24 innings. However, he continues to be plagued by bad defense and lost two of three decisions last month. One of six Bees All-Stars, Hassebrock struck out two batters in a scoreless fourth inning to pick up the victory for the West Squad.