The team has learned well how to adapt to changing conditions. They played two double headers, changed a day game to night, and had the biggest game of the season so far when they trounced Peoria 20-5 on Saturday night.
Today, I'm just going to make some observations about some of the players' on- and off-field performance. If life settles in as I hope it will this week, I hope to start my interview series next week.
First off, Tyrell Jenkins is the guy who gets the most questions from fans, asking me about him. For a big-bonus draftee, he has impressed me with his humble attitude on and off the field. Tyrell is one of the most well-spoken 19-year-old men I have ever met. He speaks very highly of his family and has taken a leadership role in the clubhouse. It's hard to talk about the right-hander without mentioning his game performance. Jenkins struggled a little early in the year, but in Monday's start he struck out ten in six innings. He hasn't even started to show us his full potential.
Hector Hernandez has been fairly streaky this year. When he's "on," he's VERY good. When he's "off," it seems to throw off the rest of the team, too. I've seen flashes of brilliant control when he shakes off a bad call or a bad inning so I think he's going to last a long time in this game.
We'll find out this week how much the team will miss Tyler Rahmatulla. He was hit in the head with a pitch on Sunday and placed on the DL. He was really a big part of the offense so it will be interesting to see who steps up to fill the hole in the batting order. I hope he'll be back soon.
Todd McInnis is also out on the DL after taking a line drive to his ear when he was pitching in Burlington this week. I talked to Quentin Eberhardt, team trainer, on Sunday and he assured me that Todd is alright - they are being cautious, but he's going to be fine. It's hard to imagine the nerve control that it will take the first time he throws a fastball again.
Virgil Hill is showing the most impressive improvement this year. He really struggled last year - I thought that most of his struggle was in his head. This year he is hitting for power and maintaining good plate control. It's good to see that he's found his groove.
Willy Paulino fell apart Monday afternoon after recording two outs in the seventh inning, allowing two hits, a walk, and then a grand slam in just 2/3 of an inning. I want to see better pitching from him than I've seen this year.
Kevin Jacob had a rough outing this week, too. It was easy to overlook it, though, since he allowed three runs when his club had an 18-run lead. Maybe he works better under pressure.
With the games I've been able to attend, I haven't had a chance to get down close to where I have a good "scouting" view of pitches so I can't comment on who is throwing what right now, but I hope to have more of that kind of information for you soon.
Another observation I made this week - at least six of the 25 players on the roster are here this summer without a car. They live close enough to the stadium to either walk or ride a bike to and from the park. I hope they have found the little grocery store that's downtown!
I was part of a group that fed the team a good home-cooked brunch this week. It's humbling to be reminded so vividly that most of them have extremely little extra cash. They were all very appreciative to have a meal made at home. Our group ranged in age from 3-75; I think the guys responded best to the kids who wanted to share their entire baseball knowledge with the players! If you live near a minor league park, even if it's not one of ours, be a blessing to a few guys and ask them home for dinner!
As always, every week this year I'm inviting you to let me know what you want to read here. Contact me on the insider's forum or send me a private message. I appreciate your input.
Thanks for reading!
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