Sacramento Notebook: Winning Continues

With another win on Tuesday night, the Sacramento River Cats moved to 18 games over the .500 mark. Despite enduring a record-setting number of transactions, the River Cats have played consistent, high quality baseball this season. We spoke with River Cats' manager Tony DeFrancesco about his team on Sunday.

As of this weekend, the Sacramento River Cats had made an incredible 147 transactions this season. First baseman Daric Barton is the only River Cat to have been on the active roster for the entire season. Despite the revolving door, Sacramento is in a great position to make the playoffs. On Tuesday, the River Cats won their sixth straight game to move to 61-43 on the season – six games ahead of second-place Fresno.

Sacramento manager Tony DeFrancesco has already won one Manager of the Year award with the River Cats, but this might just be his best managerial job to date. At times this season, the River Cats have had to compete with a bullpen made-up primarily of pitchers called-up as injury replacements from Single-A. In addition, he has had to deal with the loss of players such as Jason Windsor, Brad Halsey, Antonio Perez, Kevin Melillo, Jason Stokes, Landon Powell, Brian Stavisky and Danny Putnam for extended periods due to injury, and the loss of players such as Kurt Suzuki, Colby Lewis, Shane Komine, Donnie Murphy, Dallas Braden, J.J. Furmaniak, Connor Robertson, Andrew Brown, Ron Flores and Santiago Casilla for stretches due to promotions to the big leagues.

DeFrancesco sees the positive attitude of his team as a big factor in their success this season.

"Every year is special when you have a chance to go to the playoffs, but make-up wise, this team is probably the most fun I've had managing. They are a good group, they play hard and they are all really loose. I don't think anything is going to faze these guys," DeFrancesco said.

Going into the final six weeks of the season, the River Cats might finally be getting some reinforcements for the stretch run. Lewis and Komine have returned from Oakland to rejoin the River Cats' starting rotation. Lewis threw five perfect innings on Sunday in his first outing back with the River Cats and Komine is scheduled to pitch on Wednesday in Memphis. In addition, Stavisky, Melillo and Perez have begun rehab programs and are on the comeback trail.

"They are all starting to take groundballs and stuff like that. Perez is a little ahead of the rest of them [in his rehab]. Melillo had some problems with his wrist, so he is probably going to be out the longest of the three. But I think we are looking at two weeks when we get all of those guys back," DeFrancesco said.

"We've got a nice little going here and the returning players should help. It can create a few problems, though, because we have a full roster here right now and we'll have to make some adjustments at that point."

One player who will not be returning this season is Powell, who is out for the year with a torn ACL. Powell joined the team from Double-A Midland in June and was off to a great start for the River Cats, batting .294 with three homers in 17 at-bats when he was injured.

"Powell was here the other day. He has a big old splint on his knee. It is probably going to be an eight month rehab for him," DeFrancesco said.

"If everything is accelerated, hopefully we'll see him in spring training. He looked great up here. He had lost a lot of weight, he showed good mobility and he showed some power. Everything was happening for Landon and unfortunately he had another set-back."

One plus has been the addition of right-hander Mike Madsen to the rotation. He moved his record to 3-0 on Tuesday by pitching eight strong innings in the River Cats' 8-2 win over Memphis. Madsen has a 3.99 ERA in 29.1 Triple-A innings.

"Madsen is a guy with a great arm and good composure right now. Once he establishes his fastball command, he has some great off-speed pitches," DeFrancesco said.

"He has a great overhand curveball. I think it is going to take him some time to get used to this level and to make some adjustments, but he has been throwing well."

DeFrancesco pointed to Jorge Piedra as another solid recent addition to the club. Piedra was signed as a free agent out of the Independent Leagues in June and he has been a big contributor ever since. In 36 games for the River Cats, he has hit .361 with 32 RBI.

"He is a good veteran hitter and he can play some defense out in the outfield. He has fit in well here," DeFrancesco said.

The River Cats will put their six-game winning streak on the line on Wednesday in Memphis. Sacramento will then play two more in Memphis before playing four in Nashville. They return to Sacramento on August 1 for a seven-game homestand.

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