Rangers Minor League Roundup – 4/19

The Double-A Frisco and Single-A Hickory pitching staffs turned in low-hit performances on Thursday in the Texas Rangers' system. Lone Star Dugout has the complete recap of the day's minor league action, including scouting notes on Myrtle Beach right-hander Randy Henry.

Feature Player: Randy Henry, RHP, Myrtle Beach

For some background information on Henry––in addition to an interview from spring training–-check out the story at this link.

When the Rangers acquired Henry from Baltimore in the Taylor Teagarden trade this past offseason, the initial plan––as he mentions in the above interview––was to prepare him as a starting pitcher for the 2012 campaign.

As it turned out, the Myrtle Beach club is overflowing with starters. Seven of the team's hurlers had their innings stretched out as starting pitchers during spring training. Henry was left as one of the odd men out––at least for the time being. Although the 21-year-old is currently working out of the bullpen, the Rangers may choose to put him in a starting role when a rotation spot opens.

The 6-foot-3, 190-pound prospect has both the body and four-pitch repertoire of a starting pitcher. While injury issues had limited Henry's innings early in his professional career, he said that he finished the 2011 campaign healthy and is ready for a full workload this year.

Henry's first five appearances with High-A Myrtle Beach have been solid. In eight innings, he has surrendered just one earned run on five hits, walking three and striking out four. He's also inducing more than 1.6 groundouts per flyout.

During his first outing in spring training, Henry fanned all three batters he faced while throwing 11 of his 14 pitches for strikes. His stuff and command were certainly a bit sharper than they will be on most days, but it provided a good glimpse of his potential.

In that game, Henry attacked the lower portion of the strike zone while flashing a lively 90-93 mph fastball, an upper-80s cutter, an 83-84 mph slider, and an 84-86 mph changeup. Perhaps most impressive was that Henry's change showed promise, with late dive and tumble, despite the fact that he rarely threw it out of the bullpen last season.

As the Oklahoma native mentioned in the interview, he worked mostly off his fastball while also mixing in sliders and cutters as a reliever last season. He was also developing a curveball during side sessions this spring.

In an April 16 appearance against Winston-Salem, Henry induced three groundouts while throwing his fastball between 91-94 mph. That's about where he worked last season, touching a slight tick higher on occasion.

The former Orioles prospect has a strong frame and throws strikes (eight walks in 52.2 innings between Low- and High-A last season) with a solid repertoire. Even if Henry's above-average fastball-slider combination ultimately ends up in the bullpen, it makes sense for the Rangers to develop him as a starting pitcher for the time being. Either way, he should be pitching with Double-A Frisco before season's end.

AAA: Round Rock 2 – Omaha 7
L - Jackson (0-2)
5-10, 6.0 GB

Going up against Royals left-handed pitching prospect Mike Montgomery on Thursday, the Express managed only two runs on five hits in suffering their second consecutive loss to Omaha.

Round Rock starting pitcher Zach Jackson needed 93 pitches to get through 4.2 innings. The veteran lefty allowed seven runs––five earned––on six hits and four walks. He struck out seven but also surrendered three home runs.

After giving up a career-high 21 home runs in 152 innings last season, Jackson has allowed five round-trippers in his first three starts (16 innings) this year.

The Express bats weren't able to get much going against Montgomery. Right fielder Joey Butler, who was 1-for-4 with a double, had the club's lone extra-base hit.

Julio Borbon (1/3, BB) and Matt Kata (1/3, BB) each singled and walked while Yangervis Solarte (1/3) had a base knock with a run batted in.

Tom Mendonca, who has been playing at third base, got his first action behind the plate of the regular season. He didn't commit an error or allow a passed ball. Omaha speedster Jarrod Dyson did steal successfully against him, though that's not exactly rare––Dyson swiped 49 in 52 tries between Triple-A and the majors last season.

At the plate, Mendonca was 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts, dropping his average to .224 through 13 games.

Despite playing in the normally hitter-friendly environment of Dell Diamond, Round Rock's offense is hitting a cumulative .248/.329/.370 in 15 games this year. The team hit .289/.358/.468 in 2011.

After beginning his season with three rocky starts, right-hander Mark Hamburger moved back to the bullpen on Thursday. His first relief appearance was solid, as he permitted one run in 2.2 innings, working around three hits and a walk. He also struck out three.

Ben Snyder gave up a pair of singles in an otherwise clean 1.2-inning appearance. The southpaw threw 17 of his 21 pitches for strikes.

Left-hander Michael Kirkman will take Hamburger's rotation spot. He began the regular season in the bullpen but will get the starting nod in Friday's series finale against the Storm Chasers.

Player of the Game: RHP Mark Hamburger
2.2 3 0 0 1 3 0 11.77

AA: Frisco 10 – (@) Corpus Christi 0
W - Loux (3-0)
HR - McGuiness (3), Olt (3)
9-4, 2.0 GU

The RoughRiders turned in their most dominating effort of the young season, cruising to a 10-0 series-opening victory at Corpus Christi.

Barret Loux, Carlos Pimentel and Corey Young combined to limit the Hooks to just three hits in the shutout performance. The bats plated the 10 runs on 13 hits, including three extra-base knocks.

Starter Barret Loux twirled five innings of one-hit, shutout ball while walking two and striking out a season-high eight batters. The lone hit was an infield single in the fourth inning.

Loux threw 51 of his 81 pitches for strikes in the start. After walking two batters in the first inning, he settled down to retire 13 of the final 14 he faced.

The 23-year-old has the following line in three Double-A starts––15.2 ip, 15 h, 2 r, 6 bb, 15 k. He's also inducing 1.25 groundouts per flyout thus far.

First baseman Chris McGuiness (.231/.333/.487) continued his recent power surge at the plate by going 2-for-5 with a double, a home run, and four RBI. The 24-year-old has now gone deep in each of his last three contests.

McGuiness is coming off a disappointing and injury-plagued season at High-A Myrtle Beach last year, in which he belted only two home runs and hit .214/.320/.296 in 53 games.

Slugging third baseman Mike Olt (.239/.327/.500) went 2-for-3 with a home run and two walks in his five plate appearances.

Olt, McGuiness, Jurickson Profar, and Engel Beltre are all tied for the Frisco team lead with three jacks.

Brad Hawpe (2/5), Leury Garcia (2/4) and Jose Felix (2/4) singled two times apiece.

Left fielder Ryan Strausborger had a rough night at the dish, as he went 0-for-5 with four punchouts.

Reliever Carlos Pimentel (0.00 ERA/.091 BAA in 10.1 innings) continued his excellent pitching by working three innings of one-hit, shutout ball behind Loux. He fanned three and walked one.

Pimentel, 22, has surrendered just three hits in 10.1 scoreless innings this season, striking out 16.

Corey Young worked around a double in a blank ninth inning to preserve the blowout victory.

Player of the Game: RHP Barret Loux
5.0 1 0 0 2 8 0 1.15

A+: Myrtle Beach 7 – (@) Carolina 6
W - R. Henry (2-0)
HR - Herrera (1), Skole (1)
7-6, 0.0 GU

The Pelicans fell behind in the bottom of the eighth inning but came storming back to win the game with a two-run rally in the top of the ninth.

Leadoff hitter Odubel Herrera (.255/.291/.353) put Myrtle Beach back on top for good with his one-out solo home run in the ninth. It came just after right fielder Josh Richmond had scored on a wild pitch.

Herrera went 1-for-4 with a sacrifice fly on the night while Richmond was 2-for-3 with a free pass.

Pelicans starter Nick Tepesch (3.52 ERA/.233 BAA) pitched into the sixth inning, working his way in and out of jams in a couple frames. The tall righty allowed three runs on six hits in 5.2 innings, striking out five without issuing a walk. He threw 79 pitches, including 55 strikes.

Zach Osborne struck out three and walked a batter in 1.1 scoreless innings.

Although lefty Jimmy Reyes ran into trouble in the eighth inning by surrendering three runs (two earned) while recording just one out, righty Randy Henry entered and shut the door with 1.2 shutout frames to earn the victory.

Scuffling centerfielder Jake Skole (.175/.313/.275) helped give the Pelicans an early lead with his solo home run––his first in High-A––in the third inning. Skole was 1-for-4.

Third baseman Yefry Castillo singled three times in five trips, raising his average to .273.

Player of the Game: DH Odubel Herrera
4 1 1 0 1 2 0 0 .255

A: Hickory 7 – (@) Savannah 1
W - Eickhoff (2-1)
SV - Perez (1)
9-5, 0.5 GB

Not to be outdone by Frisco's three-hit performance at Corpus Christi, two Crawdads hurlers dealt a two-hitter against Savannah on Thursday.

Big right-hander Jerad Eickhoff (3.68 ERA/.182 BAA) tossed five innings and yielded one run on two hits. The 21-year-old walked two, plunked two, and struck out three.

In his first three full-season starts, Eickhoff has 13 strikeouts and four walks in 14.2 innings.

Santo Perez moved into a piggyback role with Eickhoff after surrendering 11 runs in eight innings over his first two starts. Pitching in relief on Thursday, the 23-year-old was much more effective. He hurled four hitless innings without allowing a run while walking two and striking out four.

The two-through-six hitters in the Hickory batting order combined for 11 hits in the victory.

Shortstop Hanser Alberto (.370/.400/.500) went 3-for-4 with a triple and a free pass. The 19-year-old is 17-for-46 (.370) with four doubles, a triple, three walks, and four strikeouts. He has also stolen three bases without being caught.

Second baseman Rougned Odor (2/4, 3B, BB) and left fielder Chris Grayson (1/3, 3B, 2 BB) also tripled and walked. Odor's average is up to .302 while Grayson's actually fell to .409.

Jordan Akins added three knocks in five trips. Zach Cone singled twice in his five at-bats.

After getting out to a slow start, Akins is 11-for-32 (.344) with a double and two round-trippers over his last nine games. He celebrated his 20th birthday on Thursday.

Player of the Game: RHP Santo Perez
4.0 0 0 0 2 4 0 8.25

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