Allyson Foutty/IBI

'Ducks Notebook: Cameron Hill Climbing Up the Relief Pitching Ladder

While rain continues to be a menace for the RubberDucks no matter where they go, but they have done some good things this week when they have been on the field. The IBI's Jake Dungan recaps this week's highlights for Akron.

Mother nature has not been a friend to the Akron RubberDucks so far in 2017 as they have had as many postponements, suspended games and doubleheaders as anyone. Even a scheduled twin bill in Binghamton this week to make up for a previous weather postponement was rained out. What they did in the games that were played, though, was go 3-2 with impressive pitching performances from the likes of Julian Merryweather, Nick Pasquale and Luis Lugo, while in the bullpen Cameron Hill continues to be a steadying force in the late innings.

Here's what happened this week with the RubberDucks...

Week In Review

  • 5/9 - Trenton 8, Akron 0: Ramirez (W, 4-0), Brown (L, 0-2)
  • 5/10 - Trenton 2, Akron 4: Pasquale (W, 2-2), German (L, 1-4), Speer (S, 2)
  • 5/11 - Akron 1, Binghamton 0: Lugo (W, 2-1), Conlon (L, 3-2), Holland (S, 1)
  • 5/12 - Akron 5, Binghamton 1: Merryweather (W, 3-2), Hand (L, 1-1)
  • 5/13 - *Game 1* Akron vs. Binghamton suspended (Rain)
  • 5/13 - *Game 2* Akron vs. Binghamton postponed (Rain)
  • 5/14 - Akron vs. Binghamton postponed (Rain)
  • 5/15 - Richmond 3, Akron 1: Suarez (W, 3-3), Brown (L, 0-3), Cyr (S, 3)

Player of the Week

Cameron Hill, RP

Last Week: 1 G, 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R/ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 0 HR, 0.00 ERA

Season to Date: 8 G, 1-1, 19.2 IP, 13 H, 7 R, 4 ER, 7 BB, 12 K, 0 HR, 1.83 ERA

While he only appeared in one game this week, it was just the latest installment in what has been an impressive run of dominance for the right-hander this season as he has gone 1-1 with a 1.83 ERA in eight appearances. In that span, the 22-year-old has allowed just four earned runs on 13 hits while walking seven and fanning 12. He has been especially locked in of late firing four consecutive scoreless appearances allowing only six hits and a walk while fanning eight over 12.1 innings.

"Probably the biggest adjustment I've made from the beginning of the season to now is strikes," Hill said, "Quality strikes, getting ahead of guys, not falling behind, being able to use my pitches in better counts... On that end of things, that's probably where I've improved the most from the first couple outings. Just getting ahead of guys, throwing strikes and being efficient in the zone."

What stands out most about Hill's game is his ability to pitch multiple innings regularly. In fact, the Oklahoma native is averaging over two innings per appearance as he has pitched more than one frame in all eight appearances thus far and logged as many as four innings in an appearance.

"The mentality's always the same," explained Hill, "It's always an aggressive mindset. I go out there and compete every time, 110%. There's never a day where I let up.'

Now Hill may not have the kind of lights-out stuff or otherworldly strikeout numbers, but his consistent effectiveness throughout his career has quickly turned him into one of the more intriguing relief pitching prospects in the system. So far in three-plus minor league seasons, the right-hander has not posted an ERA over 2.51 at any level. How exactly he figures into the Indians' future bullpen will be something to keep an eye on over the next couple years.

Who's Hot

Julian Merryweather, SP

Last Week: 1 GS, 1-0, 6 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 K, 0 HR, 0.00 ERA

Season to Date: 7 GS, 3-2, 37.1 IP, 27 H, 14 R, 12 ER, 27 H, 8 BB, 40 K, 2 HR, 2.89 ERA

Merryweather has been the undisputed ace of this RubberDucks staff from the start of the season. Well, after a bit of a subpar outing in his start prior to this week, the right-hander got right back down to business with arguably his most dominant outing of the year pitching six two-hit innings while allowing only one unearned run and fanning 10, marking his first career game with double-digit strikeouts.

Eric Stamets, SS

Last Week: 3 G, 10 AB, 0 R, 5 H, 0 HR, 1 2B, 0 RBI, 0 BB, 4 K, .500 BA

Season to Date (Akron and Columbus): 24 G, 68 AB, 7 R, 14 H, 0 HR, 3 2B, 1 3B, 3 RBI, 10 BB, 25 K, 2 SB, 0 CS, .182 BA

With the injuries and roster shakeup in Cleveland, Stamets was sent back to Columbus to take the place of Erik Gonzalez, who was promoted to Cleveland. This time around, though, he will be in the midst of a hot streak as he has hit an even .500 this week for Akron and is currently riding an eight-game hit streak. The 25-year-old has also hit his first home run of the season, but it is yet to become official as Game 1 of last Saturday's doubleheader was suspended mid-game.

Mitch Brown, RP

Last Week: 2 G, 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R/ER, 0 H, 0 BB, 5 K, 0 HR, 0.00 ERA

Season to Date: 8 G, 0-1, 11 IP, 8 H, 4 R/ER, 8 BB, 14 K, 0 HR, 3.27 ERA

Command has been an issue for Mitch Brown all of his career, both as a starter and as a reliever. It hasn't been a problem over his last three appearances, though, as the right-hander has pitched 5.2 innings without walking a batter in that three-game span. Last Friday's may have been the 23-year-old's finest work since moving to the bullpen pitching two perfect innings while fanning five of the six batters he faced.

Luis Lugo, SP

Last Week: 1 GS, 1-0, 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R/ER, 5 BB, 3 K, 0 HR, 0.00 ERA

Season to Date: 6 GS, 2-1, 28.1 IP, 17 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 15 BB, 19 K, 3 HR, 1.91 ERA

The top three in Akron's rotation has been a force to be reckoned with all year long as Julian Merryweather, Nick Pasquale and Luis Lugo seem to turn in quality performances almost every night. Lugo was particularly effective last week pitching six innings of one-hit ball in Binghamton to earn his second win of the year. The young southpaw did allow five walks, however, as free passes have been an issue for him all season with 15 up against only 19 strikeouts in 28.1 innings thus far.

Who's Not

Todd Hankins, INF-OF

Last Week: 3 G, 22 AB, 0 R, 11 H, 0 RBI, 0 BB, 4 K, 1 CS, .182 BA

Season to Date: 21 G, 74 AB, 3 R, 12 H, 1 HR, 2 2B, 5 RBI, 3 BB, 25 K, 1 SB, 1 CS, .162 BA

Hankins still has not been able to get it going at the plate with any consistency as he continues to bat well below the Mendoza Line while striking out 25 times in 74 at-bats so far. And even when he has gotten on base, he hasn't done much with his running game as he has just one steal on two attempts after swiping 21 bases last year.

Mark Mathias, 3B

Last Week: 4 G, 13 AB, 1 R, 1 H, 1 RBI, 0 BB, 7 K, .077 BA

Season to Date: 8 G, 26 AB, 2 R, 3 H, 1 2B, 3 RBI, 0 BB, 13 K, 1 SB, 0 CS, .115 BA

Mathias's late start to the season appears to be taking its toll early as the young infielder has only three hits through 26 at-bats while striking out 13 times. After dislocating his shoulder in spring training, Mathias was held back from starting his campaign until May 1st. He's only eight games in, though, so it's too soon to draw any definite conclusions from his slow start.

Dorssys Paulino, LF

Last Week: 4 G, 14 AB, 1 R, 1 H, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 6 K, .071 BA

Season to Date: 28 G, 94 AB, 13 R, 21 H, 3 HR, 2 2B, 1 3B, 13 RBI, 15 BB, 26 K, 2 SB, 1 CS, .223 BA

After a solid first month of the season where he batted .262 with three homers and 12 RBI's in 18 April games, Paulino has seen his bat go cold in the month of May hitting just .152 with no extra-base hits and one RBI over 10 games so far. His strikeout-to-walk ratio has also taken a hit soaring to 2.5 over his 1.5 mark last month.

Transactions

-  5/12: C Juan De La Cruz transferred to Akron from Lake County.

-  5/12: RHP Argenis Angulo transferred to Akron from Lynchburg.

-  5/12: LHP Luis Lugo placed on the temporarily inactive list.

-  5/12: C Francisco Mejia placed on the 7-day disabled list.

-  5/12: CF Greg Allen placed on the 7-day disabled list. 

-  5/12: OF Luigi Rodriguez activated from the 7-day disabled list.

-  5/14: SS Eric Stamets transferred to Columbus from Akron.

Coming Up...

Before heading back out on the road, the 'Ducks will wrap up this brief three-game homestand with two more contests against Richmond as Nick Pasquale and Luis Lugo are set to toe the rubber. After an off-day on Thursday, the team will open up a three-game set against Hartford followed by four games versus the Curve in Altoona.

Jake Dungan is the Managing Editor for IBI and a podcast host on the Smoke Signals Network. Email him at jdungan@indiansbaseballinsider.com or follow him on Twitter @JakeDBaseball.


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