Midland Notebook: April Winding Down

The season's first month is almost complete. April has been an uneven month for the Oakland A's Double-A affiliate, the Midland Rockhounds. The Rockhounds are still in the thick of the division race, however, hovering around the .500 mark. Edward Isaacs brings an update on the Rockhounds.

Stats good through Thursday, April 26, 2012

Team Overview

The first month of the 2012 season is almost in the books for the Midland Rockhounds. After beginning the season on the road, the team played two three-game series against the Arkansas Travelers and the Springfield Cardinals at Citibank Ballpark. The Rockhounds took two out of three from Arkansas and won one against the Cardinals.

Midland then hit the road again to face the San Antonio Missions and the Corpus Christi Hooks. The ‘Hounds ended their eight-game road trip with three wins versus San Antonio but only one against Corpus Christi. After Thursday's game, the team was .500 (10-10) and in third place in the Texas League South Division behind Frisco (12-8) and Corpus Christi (11-9).

Through 20 games, Midland has a .247 batting average, which is third-lowest in the Texas League. Their collective on-base percentage of .342, however, is the second-highest in the division. Runs have not been hard to come by as the ‘Hounds have scored 101 runs on the season (average of five per game), second only to the Hooks. The team is right with the rest of the division in the power department. The Rockhounds have whacked 15 home runs, 11 behind San Antonio (26) but only three behind the Hooks and RoughRiders (18), who are both second. The defense has been sloppy, with the team committing a total of 22 errors.

Midland pitchers have been good some days and have struggled on others. The team ERA before Friday was 4.11 through 173.0 innings pitched. The staff has allowed 93 runs (79 earned), the third-highest in the Texas League. Opponents have hit Rockhound pitchers particularly hard in the last two series. The Missions and Hooks averaged more than five runs per game against Midland during that span.

The ‘Hounds began an eight-game homestand Friday night with a 7-4 victory against San Antonio. The team will face the Missions three more times before playing a four-game series with Corpus Christi.

Comings and Goings

There have not been too many changes with the team's roster so far this year. Infielder Tyler Ladendorf was on the disabled list for a week after injuring his groin but has since returned to the active roster. His spot on the team was filled by infielder Michael Fabiaschi. Fabiaschi was sent to extended spring training after Ladendorf's activation. Pitcher Bruce Billings was called up to Triple-A Sacramento. His promotion left an open spot for left-handed pitcher Carlos Hernandez who was sent down from the River Cats.

Who's Hot

Anthony Aliotti and Shane Peterson are both hitting better than .300 to start the season. Aliotti is batting .340 in 14 games with an 860 OPS. He has reached base at a .400 mark. Peterson, in 20 games, has an average of .314 and is second on the team with a 969 OPS. He is also second on the team in slugging percentage (.514) and on-base percentage (.455). The Long Beach State graduate has driven in 12 runs and leads the Rockhounds with seven doubles. If Peterson can keep up this kind of production, he may find himself in Triple-A before long.

Over his last 10 games, Jeremy Barfield is hitting .350 (997 OPS) and has produced 14 hits. Five of those were doubles. He has recorded 11 RBIs, including an impressive six against Springfield on April 15. Barfield is currently leading Midland with a total of 15 RBIs.

Conner Crumbliss has four of the team's 11 stolen bases. He has been a reliable outfielder, committing no errors in 18 games. Crumbliss, Barfield and Michael Spina are providing most of the ‘Hounds' power. Going into Friday, they were tied for the team lead with three home runs apiece. Spina pulled ahead on Friday when he hit his fourth homer of the season, a grand slam.

Since recovering from his injury on April 19, Ladendorf is batting .350 in seven games while driving in five RBI. He went two-for-four Wednesday against the Hooks.

Aces A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily have been nothing short of magnificent in four starts apiece atop the Rockhounds' rotation. Griffin, a University of San Diego alum, was awarded the Texas League Pitcher of the Week honor on Monday, April 16 for his first two starts of the season. At one point he had a seven-inning hitless streak. Going into his start on Friday, Griffin was 1-0 with a 1.52 ERA which was the lowest among the Midland starters. He had allowed only four earned runs and one home run in 23.2 innings.

Straily has pitched 6.1 and 6.2 innings in his last two starts. He has given up a combined three earned runs in those two games and fanned an impressive 18 batters. He leads the entire pitching staff with 31 strikeouts. Both players could be on their way to Triple-A if they remain hot.

A.J. Huttenlocker, Jonathan Ortiz and James Simmons have all been shutting the door in relief recently. Huttenlocker, in his last five appearances, has pitched 4.0 innings, allowed one run and struck out four. Ortiz is credited with only a 1.23 ERA in seven games. Thursday at Corpus Christi, he threw 1.0 inning while giving up one hit and no runs. Simmons has allowed one run in his last 5.2 innings pitched. He relieved starter Gary Daley in San Antonio on April 21 in the bottom of the fifth and pitched 2.0 innings of hitless baseball.

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