Connecticut Team Report | May 8

The Lincecum effect trickles down to Connecticut this week as their top starter is moved into Fresno's rotation, replacing arguably the best pitching prospect in the game. What effects will that have on the second-best pitching team in the Eastern League?

Team Record: 10-14 (3-3 on the week)

Standing: Fifth in the Northern Division

Chris Begg had a 21-inning scoreless streak going in Double-A, but surely did not mind risking that streak for another chance to prove himself at Fresno. As far as Begg leaving the rotation, his veteran presence will be missed, but there are many pitchers dying for the chance to get on the mound at Dodd, most of whom will succeed. As far as who takes Begg's spot in the rotation, junk-baller Geno Espinelli will hold it down for now, but the greater question is who assumes the role of ace for Connecticut?

The answer to that rhetorical is Nick Pereira. Begg and Pereira started out the year in similar fashion. They both pitched in Fresno the previous year with results that left coaches yearning for more. They both assumed they would start 2007 in the Fresno rotation because of the time they spent there the previous year, but were both left back in Connecticut (for further development in Pereira's case).

Pereira has a chance to be better than Begg has ever been in Connecticut. He has a better fastball and an "out" pitch. Begg tried to induce ground outs, while Pereira would rather miss bats. His hits per nine innings is at 6.57, while Begg's was around 9.00 during his tenure in Connecticut. The strikeouts per nine innings rate for Pereira is currently 6.57, but last year in San Jose it was close to 9.00, so there is reason to expect improvement. With a two-hitter thrown in his first start as "ace" this week, expect good things down the road.

The Defenders welcomed back Mark Minicozzi this week from a previous injury, and he is a welcome addition as he allows manager Dave Machemer to have better flexibility at the top of his lineup. The best spot for Minicozzi would be the No. 2 hole to help move runners over and put the ball in play, but he has to show he is completely healed before he can be counted on 100 percent in that spot.

The Defenders desperately need someone to step up and fill the top two spots because John Bowker definitely does not belong there. He leads the team in slugging percentage and is tied for the team lead in RBI, while batting mostly leadoff or second the past few weeks. With the bottom of the order hitting the way it is, you would figure Bowker would get more RBI chances hitting No. 4 or No. 5 in the lineup.

The offense as a whole has been playing well recently, with Horwitz and Klink having seven-game hitting streaks, Ishikawa having a few multi-hit games, and Pat Dobson coming out of nowhere to have two four-hit games from the leadoff spot this past week. Eddy Martinez-Esteve has been hitting decently, but he has sat out the last two games after being pulled for a pinch-runner last Friday, so we'll see how that develops.

Apparently leading the Eastern League in stolen bases is not enough to keep your job as Alex Requena was demoted this week. That will happen when you hit .164 in 55 at-bats and do not hit for power. It will serve him better, though, as he will get consistent at-bats in the lower levels to help him find his swing, therefore helping him get on base more and utilize his speed. He has 10 stolen bases. Taking his spot on the roster will be Trey Webb. Who better to replace someone with a .164 than someone with a .000 average? It has been documented how "well" Webb has played during his first 29 at-bats for the Defenders. Surely it was a move made for positional reasons.

Player of the Week: John Bowker

Bowker hit .346 on the week while slugging a team- high .615 and driving in six runs. He has been a constant all season in the lineup, along with Brian Horwitz, contributing with his bat while other usually reliable hitters have been struggling. This column would like to see a Horwitz, Bowker, Martinez-Esteve, and Ishikawa batting order for the No. 3-6 spots instituted sometime in the near future, as it should maximize Bowker's value. It would give him plenty of opportunities to drive in runs and he would be protected with Martinez-Esteve hitting behind him.

Stat of the Week: 16

This is the number of hits the team had on Sunday, which qualifies as the most the Defenders have had in a game this year to date. They managed to score 12 runs in the win against Reading, which is also a season-high. Hopefully this is a sign that the league-worst hitting squad is finally starting to turn it around.

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