Fresno Team Report | May 28

It's not unusual for Fresno to see a lot of player turnover, considering their position as a Triple-A team. But maybe just for once, two additions to the team may help Fresno's performance rather than take away from it.

Record: 25-26 (.490), Third Place in the PCL Pacific South Division; 4 1/2 games behind first-place Sacramento, and 2 games behind second-place Tucson.

As usual, the bus station between Fresno and San Francisco seems to be a rotating door for players to come and go, as the San Francisco Giants will take the best of the bunch away from Fresno. Fresno fans have gotten a little blasé about the relationship, convinced it will only hurt the team.

But this month, two moves may help the team.

It started with what was the seemingly inevitable send-down of Lance Niekro, whose performance in San Francisco earned him a trip that eventually took him through waivers and back to Fresno. Niekro has traditionally done well in Fresno, and his stint since arriving in the Central Valley a couple of weeks ago has been no exception. He's been hot coming through this past weekend, going 7-for-13 with a double and a home run.

Then there is Brian Horwitz, who arrived from Connecticut last week. Horwitz has been red-hot, going 10-for-21 (including a 4-for-4 game with two doubles), and has a .500 on-base percentage so far in Fresno. Horwitz, of course, has seemed to be able to hit wherever he plays. He had been hitting .309 in the hitter-unfriendly Eastern League before his promotion, and is doing nothing to dispel the notion.

These moves came at the expense of Fred Lewis, Daniel Ortmeier, and Tyler Von Schell. All three were batting in the .260's, and Lewis and Ortmeier were doing fairly well overall, but had been hot and cold at times. Lewis and Ortmeier, of course, went to the majors, while Von Schell has moved to San Jose.

Horwitz, in particular, has some shoes to fill. He's always been known as a great contact hitter with few ancillary skills like speed or power, but Horwitz has been much more consistent than Ortmeier and Lewis have been. Although Horwitz has been put at the back of the order, he could become a big part of the Fresno run-scoring machine, and a welcome addition at that.

Niekro, however, is a clear improvement over Von Schell, and truthfully will be competing more with Chad Santos (batting .253 and slugging .444) and Scott McClain (.batting .250 and slugging .403) for playing time, and he could get the lion's share of it.

By adding them with some regular performers like Clay Timpner and Nate Schierholtz in the outfield, and solid performers in the middle infield like Luis Figueroa, William Bergolla, and Tomas De La Rosa, Fresno could have some makings of a better offense. Being just 4 1/2 games behind division-leader Sacramento, they have room to move up. Fresno is already third in the PCL in runs scored as of Saturday, with 266, and is only two behind the leader Las Vegas. Surprisingly, Fresno is also second in team ERA with a 3.72 mark -- although the team's significantly weaker without Tim Lincecum.

This isn't to say there might not be more changes coming. With rumors that Giants second baseman Ray Durham might go on the DL, the Giants may consider calling up Tomas De La Rosa to be the utility infielder.

Roster Moves: Brian Horwitz was promoted from Connecticut as a delayed reaction to the major league promotions of Fred Lewis and Dan Ortmeier. That has helped the outfield depth at Fresno, and regular third baseman Justin Leone has also been filling in at the corners in the outfield. The team has lost reliever Ricardo Rincon for the season to an elbow injury.

Player of the Week: Brian Horwitz

Seeing a pattern here? In six games, he's batting .476 with a .500 on-base percentage and a .619 slugging percentage. This is after he batting .309 in 35 games in Connecticut, where he had five doubles and two home runs.

By The Numbers: 5-2

That is the Grizzlies record against the Salt Lake Bees this season, with one more game coming on Monday. That's the most wins that Fresno has against any team this season. As the Grizzlies jockey for position, they need every win they can get. They won't get another shot at the Utah team until they have eight games over two series in August, near the end of the year.

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