Minor League Roundup – 4/7

Frisco cleanup hitter Mike Bianucci belted a pair of homers in his Double-A debut while the Single-A Hickory pitching staff combined for 16 punchouts in a 4-2 victory. Lone Star Dugout takes a look at Thursday's minor league opening day action.

AAA: Round Rock 9 – Iowa 12
L - Kirkman (0-1)
HR - Cruz (1), Davis (1), German (1)
0-1, 1.0 GB

Reigning Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year Michael Kirkman worked a strong first inning, running his fastball up to 95 mph and logging a pair of strikeouts.

Unfortunately, Kirkman wasn't able to carry that success through the remainder of his outing. The southpaw was knocked around over the subsequent innings, and he ended up surrendering 10 runs on 10 hits in 3.1 innings. He walked two and struck out three.

Kirkman's velocity was fine through the outing, as he sat in the 92-93 mph range and touched 94 with some consistency. He also got down to 91 at times. However, his fastball command just wasn't there. He missed over the plate too often, and a seemingly locked in Iowa lineup made him pay.

Opposite of Kirkman, former Rangers first-round pick Thomas Diamond threw 84 pitches in four innings, giving up two runs. He walked three and fanned five.

Big veteran right-hander Seth McClung, who gave up a run in two innings of relief work, worked mostly between 94-96 mph with his fastball. He was sitting in the low-90s during much of spring training.

Zach Phillips punched out a couple of batters in a perfect 12-pitch ninth inning.

Although there were some troubles on the mound, the Round Rock offense came storming back late in the contest.

Leadoff hitter and second baseman Esteban German was 2-for-4 with a double, a two-run homer, and a base on balls.

Third baseman Chris Davis (2/5, HR) and shortstop Luis Cruz (1/5, HR) also added solo long balls.

Chad Tracy (1/5, 2B), Brad Nelson (1/4, 2B) and Taylor Teagarden (1/3, 2B, BB) all doubled once.

The Express got solid performances from speedy outfielders Craig Gentry and Endy Chavez. Both played their usual excellent defense on Thursday, but they also contributed at the plate. Gentry had a single and two walks in four plate appearances. Chavez was 2-for-5 with a double, an RBI, and a pair of stolen bases.

Player of the Game: 2B Esteban German
4 2 2 1 1 2 1 1 .500

AA: Frisco 6 – Springfield 2
W - Boscan (1-0)
HR - Bianucci (1, 2), Butler (1)
1-0, 0.0 GU

Cleanup hitter and DH Mike Bianucci batted just .258/.309/.433 at High-A Bakersfield last season, but he didn't show any signs of struggle in his Double-A debut.

The 24-year-old Auburn product helped power the ‘Riders to an opening-day victory, going 2-for-3 with a pair of home runs and three RBI.

Right fielder Joey Butler added a round-tripper of his own, belting a two-run shot in the bottom of the fifth. He also had a single and a base on balls in four trips.

Engel Beltre went 2-for-4 with a single, a triple, and a stolen base. The club's other steals came from Butler and second baseman Davis Stoneburner.

Making his first Double-A start, 21-year-old righty Wilfredo Boscan held his own and pitched well enough to earn the victory. The Venezuelan hurler permitted two runs on five hits in five innings, walking one and striking out three. Both of his runs surrendered came on solo homers. He threw 72 pitches.

Frisco got excellent, efficient bullpen work from Beau Jones and Justin Miller. Jones worked around two singles for a couple of scoreless innings, throwing 20 of his 26 pitches for strikes.

Miller threw 15 strikes against only four balls in going six up, six down with a pair of strikeouts to finish out the victory. The Fresno State product was recently profiled in this story, as he earned a Double-A roster spot in spring training by showing the improved command that was on display in Thursday's game.

Other Double-A debut performances included left fielder David Paisano (0/4, BB) and third baseman Tom Mendonca (1/4, 2 K). First baseman Jose Ruiz was 0-for-3 with a walk.

Player of the Game: DH Mike Bianucci
3 2 2 0 2 3 1 0 .667

A+: Myrtle Beach – OFF
0-0, 0.0 GU

The Pelicans will open the regular season at home against Wilmington on Friday night at 7:05 p.m. Eastern. Rangers prospect Neil Ramirez is slated to go against Royals righty Tim Melville.

A: Hickory 4 – Asheville 2
W - Melo (1-0)
SV - Rodebaugh (1)
HR - Profar (1)
1-0, 0.0 GU

Of the 13 players to appear for the Crawdads in Thursday night's season opener, only righty Carlos Melo (one relief appearance) had ever played a game with Hickory.

Despite the relative inexperience, the club cruised to a 4-2 victory behind a 16-strikeout performance from the pitching staff.

Fireballing righty Roman Mendez set the tone with six strikeouts in four innings of work, yielding a run on three hits. He walked two, plunked one, and uncorked a pair of wild pitches.

Carlos Melo, who is expected to be the club's number five starter, came on in relief and gave up a run on three hits in 1.2 innings. He struck out three.

Righty Nick Tepesch followed with his official pro debut. The University of Missouri product faced five batters, getting four outs (including three strikeouts) and allowing one hit but no runs. Texas signed the 22-year-old Tepesch to a reported $400,000 bonus after selecting him in the 14th round of last year's MLB Draft.

Ryan Rodebaugh, the club's 15th-round pick in last summer's draft, closed out the game with a pair of scoreless frames. He gave up two singles, walked none, and struck out four. All four strikeouts came consecutively between the eighth and the first out of the ninth.

Hickory's pitching staff got some early support from the young, prospect-laden lineup. As the Crawdads' second batter of the season, shortstop Jurickson Profar (batting right-handed) laced a solo home run over the left field fence. He was 1-for-3 overall, reaching on a hit-by pitch and stealing third base.

Centerfielder Jake Skole contributed to the four-run first-inning outburst with a bases-clearing three-RBI double. Skole was thrown out trying for third by former Clemson quarterback (turned Rockies prospect) Kyle Parker. The two-bagger would be Skole's lone hit in three trips.

In fact, the Crawdads didn't score past the first inning, but they were still able to pick up the victory. Cleanup hitter and first baseman Andrew Clark led the way with a pair of singles in four at-bats. He also stole a base.

Switch-hitting DH Tomas Telis went 0-for-2 with two walks––his club's only free passes of the night. The 19-year-old entered the evening with just 10 walks in 90 state-side contests.

Young prospects Christian Villanueva (0/4, 3 K's) and Kellin Deglan (0/3, 2 K's) had rough full-season debuts.

Player of the Game: CF Jake Skole
3 0 1 1 0 3 0 1 .333

Subscribe to LoneStarDugout.com today! Only $79.95 brings you one full year of Total Access Pass and all premium content on LoneStarDugout.com, Scout™ Player and Roster Database (including the 'Hot News' at the top of the site), Breaking News and Information, Total Access to all Scout.com Websites, and Player Pages, detailing the progress and careers of players from high school, the minors, and the pro ranks.

Sample the LoneStarDugout.com Total Access Pass™ at no risk for 7 days, then pay only $7.95 or $21.95. If you want to save 2 months off the monthly subscription price, simply choose the annual LoneStarDugout.com Total Access Pass™ at $79.95.

Future Rangers Top Stories