Midland Notebook: 'Hounds Struggling

It has been a rough first three-plus months for the Oakland A's Double-A affiliate in 2011. As of Wednesday, Midland was in last place in their division and looking to get back on-track in hopes of a second-half push to the playoffs.

Team Overview

It was a disappointing first half for the Midland Rockhounds, who finished 27-43 and 22 games out of first place. The ‘Hounds haven't seen a huge improvement thus far in the second half. Through Wednesday, Midland was 7-11 and six games behind division-leader San Antonio.

Midland's struggles this season are somewhat surprising given that the roster is comprised mainly of players from the 2010 Stockton Ports' squad that won the second-half division title and went to the post-season.

Pitching has been the main reason for Midland's struggles thus far this season. The staff is currently last in the Texas League in team ERA with a 5.40 mark. They are second in the league in walks allowed and first in hits allowed. Over their last 10 games, the ‘Hounds are 2-8 and their pitching staff has given up 66 earned runs in 86 innings pitched (6.90 ERA).

Offensively, Midland is ranked fourth in the league in team OPS, which puts them in the top half of the league. They are second in the league in OBP with a .351 mark, although their top offensive performer, Jermaine Mitchell, was promoted to Triple-A at the start of July.

Midland just completed a 1-5 roadtrip to Northwest Arkansas and Springfield and return home on Thursday to take on division-leader San Antonio for a four-game set.

Comings and Goings

The Rockhounds lost centerfielder Jermaine Mitchell to a promotion to Triple-A Sacramento on July 1. Mitchell was a candidate for Texas League MVP if he had stayed with Midland for more of the season. In 74 games with the ‘Hounds, he hit .355 with a 1042 OPS. Mitchell reached double-digits in doubles (15), triples (13) and homeruns (10) and walked 54 times for a .453 OBP. In eight games with Sacramento, he has hit safely in all but one and has scored eight runs while swiping six bases in seven chances.

It will be hard to replace Mitchell's presence in the Midland line-up, but catcher Ryan Ortiz, promoted from High-A Stockton in early July, and infielder Wes Timmons and outfielder/first baseman Shane Peterson, sent down from Triple-A Sacramento, will give the team some additional fire-power. Ortiz replaced catcher Petey Paramore on the Midland roster. Paramore was sent down to High-A Stockton.

The pitching staff has received a few much needed reinforcements lately. Right-hander A.J. Griffin was promoted from High-A Stockton on the same day that Ortiz was promoted. Griffin had a 3.12 ERA in six starts with the Ports after posting a 1.56 ERA in eight starts for Low-A Burlington. In two outings for Midland, Griffin has allowed seven runs in 11.1 innings pitched with seven strike-outs and two walks.

Reliever Andrew Carignan was the third Ports' player to be promoted to Midland. He returns to Midland three seasons after saving 24 games for the ‘Hounds in 2008. He has allowed three runs in three innings but has struck-out six for Midland thus far.

At the tail-end of June, the ‘Hounds lost closer Neil Wagner and his 100 MPH fastball to a promotion to Sacramento, but gained hard-throwing righty Brett Hunter from Stockton. Midland also lost reliever Mickey Storey, who was traded to the Houston Astros for cash considerations.

Veteran Yadel Marti was also added to the Midland staff recently. Marti has spent the majority of the season with Triple-A Sacramento, but was sent to Stockton for a brief stint before joining Midland. The former member of the Cuban national team had a 4.92 ERA in 82.1 innings for the River Cats and threw two scoreless innings for Stockton before joining Midland. He has yet to debut for Midland.

Another veteran, Joe Bateman, was also added to the Midland roster from Sacramento. Bateman, a non-roster invitee to big league spring training this year, had a 5.40 ERA with Sacramento in 43.1 innings. The 31-year-old allowed three runs in his debut with Midland but has tossed four scoreless innings since then.

In early June, the A's signed former major leaguer Jason Bergmann to a minor league deal and added him to the Midland roster. The right-hander has made eight starts for Midland and has a 7.20 ERA in 40 innings, although he did allow only one earned run over 7.1 innings in his last outing.

Anthony Capra, who was on the Midland Opening Day roster, was sent back to the A's minor league complex to work on his mechanics and some issues with his delivery. The left-hander left Midland with a 6.30 ERA and 36 walks in 65.2 innings.

Who's Hot

Outfielder Jeremy Barfield struggled badly in June but he has picked up the pace considerably in July. In 10 games, he is batting .382 with two homers and nine walks. He didn't homer in May or June and his nine walks are already more than he had in all of May or June.

First baseman Michael Spina has also seen a July resurgence. After batting only .200 in June, Spina is hitting .389 in nine July games. Ryan Ortiz has been a force since joining Midland. In seven games, he is batting .318 with two homers and six runs scored. Infielder Wes Timmons has a .292 average with two homers and six RBIs in six games since joining the ‘Hounds.

Shortstop Grant Green left the team briefly to participate in the MLB All-Star Futures Game and Green was named the Futures Game MVP after collecting two RBI doubles. That performance hasn't carried over since he returned to Midland, as he has gone 0-for-8 in two games. Green is batting .270 with a .372 OBP overall in July for Midland, however.

Outfielder Matt Sulentic has cooled some in July, but he was red-hot in June, batting .358 with an 861 OPS for the month. He is hitting .286 overall for the season.

Starter Gary Daley, Jr. is pitching well for Midland. In June, the right-hander had a 1.86 ERA in six starts (38.2 innings). He struck-out 32 in 38.2 innings. His ERA is 3.20 in 10 starts for the ‘Hounds this season.

Before he was promoted to Sacramento, Wagner was Midland's best reliever in June. He saved four games in four chances and allowed one run in 10.1 innings. Wagner struck-out 16 and walked four.

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