Vancouver Notebook: C's Looking To Make Push

VANCOUVER - The Boys of Summer are back at Nat Bailey Stadium, after 40+ games to open the Northwest League season. It took seven series, 32 games, and 20 losses for the Vancouver Canadians to get on a winning track, but after going 9-4 over two and a half series, the C's are back in the hunt for the Northwest League playoffs.

There are no 2009 draft picks from rounds 1-5 on the current Vancouver squad, with Ryan Ortiz being the highest picked Canadian at Round 6. However, one draft pick who was not necessarily expected to do much is Conner Crumbliss, a 5'8'' 2B/OF from Emporia State University, a Division II school.

Crumbliss is putting up an MVP-like season, hitting .329, with a .463 OBP, mostly due to his league-leading 38 walks, and the fact that he's only struck out 17 times.

The 'Pocket Knife' as he has been dubbed by Canadians broadcaster Rob Fai for his utility-like style and the fact he can walk, hit, steal and just overall dominate the opposition. He leads the league in walks and OBP, while ranking in the top-5 for average and runs scored (33).

On top of that, Crumbliss is in the top-10 for triples (3), stolen bases (10) and OPS (908). If Vancouver can get back into the pennant race (nine games back as of August 6th), we're looking at a potential MVP candidate.

DH Kent Walton and 3B Ryne Jernigan are two players having stellar seasons, in a quieter way than Crumbliss. Their OBP is more than .100 behind Crumbliss' and they don't have an average above .303. However, they have been extremely productive in their own right.

Walton's 53 hits put him 3rd in the league, to go along with his league-leading 16 doubles, 75 total bases (9th place) and 27 RBI (8th place).

A returning Canadian, Jernigan is looking for a promotion to Kane County, as the 24-year old makes a statement day-in, day-out for the Canadians.

Moving to the OF, Myrio Richard, brother of current Stockton Port Michael Richard, is quietly piecing together a season reminiscent of his brother's 2007 season with the C's.

Myrio only has two extra-base hits out of 27 overall, but there is nothing bad you can say about his play. His defense is flawless, and while he doesn't have the speed Michael does, his bat more than makes up for it.

In CF, Tyreace House, last year's 6th round pick, rebounded from a brutal June to put together the best mark on the team in July. House hit .400 over 20 games in July, raising the average that stood at .094 after June.

House has nine stolen bases, but has been caught six times, and like last year in the AZL when he picked up only one extra-base hit (double), House is still looking for his first in 2009.

Jose Crisostomo struggled over the last three weeks after getting off to a hot start early on in the season. Jose is all speed, but has a good bat for the gap, and has an eye for what to go after and what to lay off of. If anything, the 20-year-old needs to utilize the bunt more often.

Rashun Dixon, at .194, holds the worst average on the team, but for an 18-year-old prospect who has a world of potential, that's to be expected. Dixon has a big strikezone, and has been getting the bad side of most calls, so his 54 strikeouts aren't a good indication of how he's been playing.

Returning to the infield, Anthony Aliotti has been an everyday 1B for the C's, hitting .270 with 18 RBI and 19 walks. Aliotti has three doubles and is one of the more consistent bats in Vancouver's lineup.

Michael Gilmartin has suffered a recent injury, that has kept him out of the lineup for a week, but his .264 average accompanies 16 walks. The SS has six errors, but Wofford College's own will have a position to come back to when he returns from injury.

Wilfredo Sosa has been filling-in for Gilmartin, batting .212 over that stretch. Sosa has two HR this year, one at home and one in Boise, both of them absolute bombs.

Behind the plate, it's been Gabriel Ortiz and Ryan (not related) Ortiz manning the catching position, but Rodney Rutherford has still managed 31 at-bats in limited action.

Gabriel, who has played as high as Double-A Midland this year, is batting .213, while Ryan, the 6th round pick, is at .212. Identical or what? The similarities don't stop there, as Gabriel has 18 strikeouts, compared to Ryan's 19. However, while the younger Ortiz (Ryan) has 22 walks (2nd on the team), while Gabriel has only 1.

Ryan has three HRs, two in one game in Everett, and one opposite field blast in Boise, as his stock continues to rise for the A's brass, the longer the season goes.

On the hill the five remaining starters have been nothing but dominant lately, dating back to Daniel Straily's outing on August 2nd.

Straily is 2-2 this year with a 5.00 ERA, as he went from bullpen to rotation in a matter of weeks. His most recent outing in Boise was a five-inning, two-hit performance, making way for the bullpen to finish off the win. He fanned six in that game, and averages almost a strikeout per inning.

Following Straily's outing was tough, but Julio Ramos lived up to expectations, pitching his best performance of his career, going eight strong, giving up four hits and no earned runs on a walk and eight strikeouts. Ramos improved to 2-5 after Monday night, but in all of his five losses, he has given up seven runs over 23 innings, striking out 19. Two of said outings were ones where he failed to allow an earned run.

At least the dominant starts were over right? Wrong. Returning Canadian Ronny Morla turned in his best start as a pro as well, with a no-hitter through 5.2. With Jorge Arrioja warming up in the bullpen, the Canadians brass decided to give Morla one more batter in the 6th, to get out of the inning, but it turned out to be costly for Morla's stats as he gave up a hit to his final batter. Morla fanned 12 over 5.2, and now has 38 strikeouts in 34 innings. Last year's NWL K leader is back in contention for that title, now in 9th place.

Wednesday night was the fourth dominant start in as many games for Vancouver, with another Dominican, Jonathan Joseph, turning in a phenomenal outing. Joseph has been nothing but great for the C's since being moved to the rotation on July 24th, giving up three earned over 11.2 innings, with three strikeouts.

Joseph gave up seven hits and a walk on Wednesday, but only one earned run was added to his stats, to go along with three Yakima batters who went down on strikes.

Opening Day Stater Joselito Adames takes the mound Thursday night in an attempt to win the 5-game set against Arizona-affiliate Yakima, and no one needs to rebound more than Adames, after giving up seven earned in two innings Saturday night. The 20-year-old has given up 13 earned in 11 innings over his last three starts, yet has a 4.42 ERA at Nat Bailey this season, compared to the 7.36 ERA that follows him on the road.

Out of the pen, the newly appointed closer Paul Smyth holds the best ERA on the team, and in the league, at 0.00. On Wednesday night, in a tied game in the 9th, Smyth had the bases loaded with one out, but picked up two key outs to keep the game tied at 2. The side-armer, out of the University of Kansas, has a 24.2 inning scoreless streak as a professional, with 30 strikeouts and 14 runners reaching base (11 hits, three walks). He has yet to allow a run in 25 innings in general, having picked up a lineout against North Carolina on May 31st in his last outing with the Jayhawks. The last runner to score against Smyth? Dustin Ackley, the second overall pick in this year's draft.

While 2006 pick Kyle Christensen hasn't played since July 7th, 8th rounder Robert Gilliam has been a force to be reckoned with since arriving in Vancouver along with Max Peterson in early-July. Gilliam has a 2-0 record with a 3.38 ERA, and Peterson has a 4.15 ERA in five appearances.

Bo Schultz throws submarine, and has a 3.65 ERA after a rough start to the season. Schultz has the most appearances out of any C's pitcher, 16, and is a favorite in late-game situations.

Nathan Long, out of UT-Arlington, is 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA, having been roughed up on three occasions, but other than that has been solid.

Connor Hoehn, a 12th rounder of the 2009 draft, has allowed a pair of runs over five innings, but the hard-throwing Hoehn is just getting his feet wet in front of the Nat Bailey faithful.

Huston Street's brother, Juston, out of Texas, has been like Schultz this season, a favorite out of the pen in late-game situations. Street averages a K per inning, and has given up just eight runs in 18.2 this season.

Jorge Arrioja and Ricardo Penalba have both had their struggles this season, with Arrioja, in limited action, giving up 10 runs in 17.2. Penalba, the Panama native, has been lights out since being relegated to bullpen duties on July 11th, with a 2.57 ERA in 9 games as a reliever, compared to the 7.80 ERA as a starter.

The Canadians are nine back of division-leader and powerhouse Salem-Keizer, but with six games remaining against the Volcanoes, the C's still have opportunities to redeem themselves for the 2-4 homestand against Salem in early July.

Everett is only two behind Salem, and the six games remaining between the C's and Aquasox will do a lot for the West standings, in a three-team race for the finish.

The Eugene Emeralds, San Diego Padres affiliate, are last in the division and are the only team in the league Vancouver has yet to face. That's great news for Vancouver because in 12 games against the Emeralds they will definitely have chances to beat the 'lower tier' team.

What's been the turning point for the Canadians season? July 23rd, being down 8-2 against Spokane at home, the C's scored 2 in the 6th, but were still down four going into the 8th. Eleven batters came to the plate that inning, as Vancouver participated in a comeback that will be remembered for years. Six runs plated in that 8th inning, allowing that game to have its own title: "Spokane Indians hand over a six-pack to Vancouver Canadians."

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