This week we welcome Daniel Bibona, LHP, to the team. Roberto Espinoza is getting well acquainted with the airports between Moline and Batavia as he has made another return trip to New York. Ivan Castro came off the DL and Jason Novak went on it.
The Bandits are 4-2 this week with a day off last Tuesday. They start a four-game home stand Tuesday, August 3 against the Clinton Lumber Kings. It's always fun to watch these two teams play. Their parks are just 35 miles apart and, although the rivalry between teams and fans is friendly, it can get intense.
As a follow up to last week's games, Shelby Miller had his best outing in his career last week in Dayton. He went seven full innings allowing only three hits and getting five K's. He beat Homer Bailey of the Cincinatti Reds who was on a rehab assignment with the Dragons. I know that I have been critical of Shelby's performances this year so I wanted to find out for myself what changed. I asked him if the Cards had extended his pitch count or if he was just getting more efficient with his throws. He said, "I threw 87 pitches that night. I really feel like I'm bringing everything together and it's working for me. I feel good, my arm is strong. It's looking good." I've always been impressed by this young man's self-confidence; it has never been out of place with him.
The team continued its struggles against Kane County. That is the only team in the league that can claim a winning record against the Bandits this season. In Wednesday's game Joe Kelly was amazing. His fastball is in the 97-99 mph range now. Thursday Eric Fornataro struggled against the Cougars who were not going to have two bad games in a row. He only lasted 3 2/3 innings and gave up four ER. This was very atypical for the big righty. He is up again for Tuesday's game in the rotation. Mike Blazek is proving over and over that he deserves an upward move as a mid-reliever. On Friday, I don't know what happened but from the first pitch, Jorge Rondon looked like he should have taken the night off. He gave up five ER in 1 2/3 innings. The Bandits couldn't recover after that. They looked better in Cedar Rapids over the weekend, earning a three-game sweep. Aaron Terry got a save on Saturday and a win in the Monday matinee. Shelby Miller picked up the Sunday afternoon win with a Blazek save.
At the plate, Frederick Parejo is really coming alive. He has seven home runs - most of which have come in the last couple of weeks. Matt Adams remains a monster at the plate with 16 round trips on the season, and an OPS of .885 in 366 at bats. Luis Mateo doesn't look like a real power hitter but his speed has given him four triples this year. I think it's interesting to note that even though he got promoted several weeks ago, Niko Vasquez still leads the team in walks - a big turnaround from last year.
This is normally the time of year that we see a lot of roster moves as the Cardinals sign this year's draft class and make room for them. I'm not entirely displeased that we aren't seeing those moves as much this year. I think it's better for the players to develop themselves as a team and it's better for the fans to have a feeling that their favorite player is going to be at the park the next time the fan gets to a game. As the Bandits make their way to the post-season, it's good to see that they are playing like they have to win even though their bracket spot is already secured. It will be great as a fan if I get to see them make it past the first round of the playoffs in several years. This is the time of the year that the team starts counting days and looking forward to going home, but we really want a League championship this year!
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