Midland Notebook: Rockhounds Start Strong

The Midland Rockhounds have been the best team in the Texas League through the first 10 games of the season. We take a closer look at the Oakland A's Double-A affiliate inside…

Overview
The Midland Rockhounds are off to a roaring start to their 2008 season. The team started the year 8-0 before finally losing a game on Saturday to Springfield. Midland found itself back in the win column on Sunday, however, and the Rockhounds sit at 9-1 through the first 10 games of the year. Through Sunday, Midland was in first place in the Texas League's Southern Division with a one and a half game lead over Frisco.

Offense
The Rockhounds are currently leading the Texas League in runs scored (62), team OPS (833) and homeruns (11). This is despite the fact that Midland has been without the services for much of the season of three players who were expected to be offensive leaders for the Rockhounds in 2008: Javier Herrera (who is still rehabbing a hamstring problem at extended spring training), Danny Putnam (who was promoted to Triple-A after Jeff Fiorentino went on the DL with a broken nose; Putnam is batting .286 with two homers and an 891 OPS for the River Cats) and Nick Blasi (who was promoted to Triple-A just before the start of the season after being listed on the preliminary Rockhounds' Opening Day roster).

Who's Hot
Jesus Guzman: There is arguably no hotter hitter in all of minor league baseball than Guzman, who was signed by the A's as a minor league free agent during the off-season. The former Mariners farmhand has 23 hits in his first 43 at-bats (.535 BA) and he has two homers and 14 RBI through 10 games. His OPS sits at a robust 1321 and he is reaching base at a .553 clip. Guzman has appeared in seven games at third base and two games at second. He can also play shortstop, although he hasn't been asked to play there yet this season.

Jon Zeringue: Zeringue likely would have started the season as the Rockhounds' fourth outfielder had it not been for the injury to Herrera and the promotions of Putnam and Blasi. Instead, Zeringue has been one of the Rockhounds' best hitters. He leads the team with three homers and is batting .300 through 10 games. Zeringue was a second-round pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2004. He stalled out at Double-A with Arizona, but he has fared better at Double-A thus far with the A's. Zeringue hit 13 homers in only 56 games for High-A Stockton last season and he hit seven homers during spring training, so he has the power to put up big homer totals in the Texas League this season.

Myron Leslie: After hitting a disappointing five homeruns in 108 games for Midland last season, Leslie has already clubbed two homers for the Rockhounds in 2008. The rangy corner outfielder/infielder is batting .286 with an 800 OPS through the first 10 games of the season. The versatile Leslie has helped the Rockhounds deal with early season injuries by appearing in games at third and in the outfield.

Cliff Pennington: The power hasn't been there yet for the A's 2004 first-round pick, but Pennington is getting on-base at a .451 clip to start the year. Pennington has 13 walks in his first 10 games and he has stolen two bases. He has appeared in seven games at shortstop and three games at second.

Mike Massaro: After spending the last two seasons with Low-A Kane County, Massaro was expected to start the year with High-A Stockton. The promotion of Blasi just before the start of the season allowed Massaro to jump to Double-A and he has held his own thus far. In seven games, the centerfielder has hit .292 with a .370 OBP. He has scored five runs and has stolen a base.

Adam Klein: Klein, like Massaro, was not expected to see time at the Double-A level at the start of the season. In fact, Klein began the year at extended spring training. The former Cal-State, Los Angeles star was the A's minor league stolen base leader last season when he stole 33 bases for the A's Rookie League team. He has appeared in only three games thus far for Midland, but his speed has already been a factor. Klein has scored five runs and he has reached base eight times with four hits and four walks in nine official at-bats. He had yet to strike-out through Sunday.

Casey Myers: The Rockhounds' hitting coach is also the team's back-up catcher and occasional DH. Myers has been leading by example in the early going, collecting four hits and three walks in his first nine official at-bats. He has a homer, four RBIs and two doubles.

Who's Not
Anthony Recker: Recker struggled offensively during the second half of the 2007 season for Midland and that has continued thus far into 2008. Recker has six hits in his first 32 at-bats to go along with 15 strike-outs and only two walks. One good sign for Recker is that three of his six hits have gone for extra-bases.

Brian Snyder: Snyder has been getting on-base at a decent clip (.340 OBP), but he is hitting only .225 through his first 40 at-bats of the year. The A's 2003 first round pick does have four extra-base hits, including a homer and he has driven-in six. Snyder has shown increased defensive versatility in 2008, appearing in two games at first base, as well as two games at third. He added second base as a position in 2007.

Pitching
The Midland pitching staff might not have been as heavily touted as the staffs for Stockton and Sacramento to start the season, but the Rockhounds' hurlers have been strong to start the year. Midland leads the Texas League by a hefty margin in ERA with a 2.53 mark. Rockhounds' pitchers have allowed only 74 hits in 89 innings and they boast a team 1.13 WHIP.

Who's Hot
Mike Madsen: Madsen breezed through the Texas League in 2007 and he is repeating his success in the league in 2008. The right-hander is 2-0 to start the year. He has allowed three earned runs in his first 12 innings on seven hits and three walks. Madsen has struck-out six and has gone six innings in each of his first two outings.

Vince Mazzaro: Mazzaro was inconsistent for High-A Stockton in 2007, but he has put together two strong outings in a row for Midland to start the 2008 campaign. Like Madsen, Mazzaro has gone six innings in each of his first two starts. He has allowed 11 hits and has walked two while allowing three earned runs. Mazzaro has struck-out only four, but he has worked efficiently, keeping his pitch count down by relying on his defense.

Ryan Webb: Webb was hit around during his first tour of the Texas League last season. In his first outing in Double-A in 2008, Webb exorcized some of those demons by pitching five strong innings and earning the win in a relief appearance. He will make his first official start on Monday. Webb allowed only two hits and two walks in those five innings while striking out two and keeping the ball on the ground. He has been throwing hard thus far this season, topping out at 96 MPH, a good four miles per hour harder than he topped out at last season.

Andrew Bailey: After throwing six shut-out innings in his first Double-A start, Bailey struggled during his second outing for the Rockhounds, allowing four runs in five innings. Still, through two starts, Bailey has allowed only 11 base-runners in 11 innings and he has nine strike-outs. The right-hander struck-out 150 batters in 125 innings last season.

James Simmons: According to A's Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman, Simmons is on a strict pitch count early this season while he builds up arm strength. That pitch count has limited Simmons to three innings in each of his first two starts. He has looked good in those limited innings, however, allowing only one run on eight hits and one walk in six innings. Simmons has struck-out six.

Jay Marshall: Marshall spent all last season in the major leagues with Oakland, but the A's sent him down to the minor leagues this season so that he could work on his secondary offerings. He has been effective thus far in 2008 for Midland, not allowing a run in 6.1 relief innings. He has allowed only four hits and has struck-out six while not walking a batter. Lefties are batting .222 versus Marshall, while righties have hit only .154. Marshall allowed righties to hit .299 off of him with the A's last season.

Jose Rojas: Rojas has made four appearances out of the bullpen thus far and he has one win and one save to show for it. He has yet to allow a run in 5.2 innings and he has struck-out six while walking three and allowing two hits.

Justin Dowdy: Dowdy spent last season playing independent league baseball. He was signed by the A's last September and he is off to a good start this season. Dowdy has appeared in four games and he hasn't allowed a run in 3.1 innings. He has given up three hits and one walk while striking out three.

Who's Not
Danny Borrell: Borrell had a decent first start for Midland, allowing two runs in five innings and earning the win. However, he was roughed up in his second appearance, allowing four runs in two innings to take the loss. The lefty has walked six in seven innings against five strike-outs. He posted a 2.80 ERA in 64.1 innings for Midland last season.

Scott Tyler: Tyler has made four relief appearance thus far and he has had two good outings and two poor outings. In the two good outings, Tyler has not allowed a run in three innings of work with two strike-outs, no walks and three hits allowed. In the two poor outings, the right-hander has allowed four runs in two innings on three hits and four walks.

Recent Roster Moves
* Outfielder Adam Klein was added to the Midland roster this past week to replace Danny Putnam.

* Reliever Jesus Silva was promoted to Triple-A Sacramento and reliever Patrick Currin was promoted to Midland from High-A Stockton. Currin earned the win for Midland in his first Double-A outing on Sunday.


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