Rangers Minor League Roundup – 5/5

Single-A Hickory starting pitcher Jerad Eickhoff struck out seven while hurling seven shutout innings on Saturday. Lone Star Dugout takes a look at all of the day's minor league action in the Texas Rangers' system, including a rundown of Eickhoff's strong start.

Feature Player: Jerad Eickhoff, RHP, Hickory

Hickory Crawdads starting pitcher Jerad Eickhoff worked seven innings for his second consecutive outing on Saturday. He hurled seven shutout frames while yielding five hits, walking one, and striking out seven.

Eickhoff was recently featured in a spring training notes piece from March 21:

Eickhoff, 21, was the Rangers' 15th-round pick last year out of Olney Central College. He posted a 2.37 ERA during his debut summer between the Arizona League and Spokane, logging 19 innings and allowing nine hits while walking four and striking out 22.

In his first outing of the spring, the 6-foot-4 Eickhoff threw his fastball between 92-94 mph. He topped out at 95-96 on occasion after signing last summer. Although his mechanics appear clean, he wasn't consistently getting on top of his arsenal. But when he did, the Indiana native was able to work low in the zone while mixing in a big-breaking curveball, an 85-87 mph cutter and a raw changeup.

Eickhoff's 72-74 mph curveball isn't mature, but it has good shape with lots of depth when he gets on top. The breaking pitch could potentially become at least a usable offering with some development.

Still a relatively unknown prospect, Eickhoff has continued to flash a good fastball with intriguing––but still somewhat underdeveloped––secondary stuff in the early going at Single-A Hickory.

Through six starts, he has a 2.94 earned-run average. In 33.2 innings, he's surrendered 26 hits, walked 10, and struck out 29.

Brad Lewis, special to LoneStarDugout.com, attended Eickhoff's start versus Kannapolis on Saturday and had the following to say:

"Eickhoff is a pretty good athlete. Still a thrower but he shows flashes of having solid stuff. He's spun a few good curveballs. His fastball has been mostly 92-93 mph, at 91 at times and topping at 94. It's a little flat on occasion but he's overpowering most of these hitters."

Lewis added, "His arm is fast. It's pretty easy velocity. It looks like his floor is a solid relief prospect with the potential to stick as a starter if his secondary stuff can keep developing."

AAA: Round Rock 1 – Memphis 5 (10 innings)
L - Green (0-1)
14-16, 4.0 GB

The Express went up against hard-throwing Cardinals prospect and Brownwood native Shelby Miller on Saturday evening. The 21-year-old turned in one of his best Triple-A performances, holding Round Rock to one run on five hits in 5.1 innings, walking three and striking out eight.

Left-hander Zach Jackson (4.11 ERA/.302 BAA) was even stronger, as he tossed 6.1 shutout frames. The Texas A&M product allowed four hits, walked two, and struck out five.

The clubs ended up going into extra innings, with Memphis plating four runs in the top of the 10th off Express reliever Sean Green.

Green, who began the season on a strong note, has scuffled in his last few outings. He surrendered four runs––three earned––on five hits and two walks in 1.1 innings.

Tanner Scheppers (2.57 ERA/.216 BAA) was saddled with a blown save while finishing out the eighth inning. After entering the game with two men on and two outs, he allowed a run-scoring single before ending the frame with a groundout.

Round Rock plated just one run on six total hits in the 10 innings.

In his first game since being traded from Cleveland on Friday, left fielder Ryan Spilborghs had two singles and a walk in four plate appearances. He also stole a pair of bases.

Catcher Luis Martinez (2/4, 2 2B) doubled twice while second baseman Yangervis Solarte (1/3, 2B, 2 BB) doubled once and walked twice.

Solarte extended his hitting streak to 16 games, the longest by an Express player this season and just two shy of Mark Saccomanno's 2008 franchise record.

Elio Sarmiento (0/4), Mike Bianucci (0/4) and Tom Mendonca (0/4) all went hitless and punched out three times apiece. Mendonca has now struck out eight times in 11 at-bats over his last three games.

Sarmiento played his first game in right field since June 25, 2010.

Player of the Game: LHP Zach Jackson
6.1 4 0 0 2 5 0 4.11

AA: Frisco 3 – Midland 2
W - Boscan (2-0)
SV - Ortiz (3)
HR - Beltre (5)
19-10, 2.0 GU

After falling behind in the top of the seventh inning, the ‘Riders came back against second-place Midland with two runs in the bottom of the frame to earn the victory.

Leadoff hitter Engel Beltre (.259/.296/.491) was the offensive star of the game for Frisco, going 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBI. He had the go-ahead––and eventual game-winning––single in the seventh.

Beltre now has five round-trippers in 28 contests after hitting only one in 118 games last season.

On the mound, starting pitcher Jake Brigham (3.11 ERA/.221 BAA) allowed one run on four hits in six innings. He struck out five without issuing a walk.

Brigham, who threw 63 of his 89 pitches for a strike, is throwing more strikes (64.6 percent versus 60.1 percent) than last season through his first six starts of 2012. He's worked at least six innings in five of the six outings, yielding only 30 hits with 10 walks and 34 strikeouts in 37.2 innings.

Centerfielder Ryan Strausborger (1/3, 2B) hit his second double while Jurickson Profar (1/4), Val Majewski (1/3) and Zach Zaneski (1/3) all singled.

Profar extended his hitting streak to 16 games.

Venezuelan right-hander Wilfredo Boscan earned the victory despite working just two-thirds of an inning in relief. He walked one and struck out two.

Joe Ortiz (2.02 ERA/.235 BAA) retired the game's final five hitters––getting two strikeouts and three groundouts––to earn his third save. The diminutive southpaw has struck out 12 and walked one in 13.1 Double-A innings.

Player of the Game: RHP Jake Brigham
6.0 4 1 1 0 5 1 3.11

A+: Myrtle Beach 3 – (@) Lynchburg 4
L - Reyes (0-1)
15-13, 2.0 GB

Hot-hitting left fielder Jared Hoying (.324/.400/.493) singled three times in four at-bats on Saturday. The 22-year-old recently missed a week due to injury, but he is 10-for-20 with four doubles and a home run in five games since returning.

Pelicans starter Nick Tepesch (3.62 ERA/.264 BAA) was able to limit the damage to three runs in five innings despite surrendering nine hits, including four doubles. He struck out three and didn't walk a batter.

Speedy leadoff man Teodoro Martinez raised his batting average to .284 with two singles in three official at-bats. He also laid down a sacrifice bunt.

Edwin Garcia (2/3, 2B), Jake Skole (1/2, BB) and Vin DiFazio (1/4) had the team's other hits.

Although he didn't get a knock, third baseman Christian Villanueva drove home a pair of runs.

Former Rangers prospect Tim Smith, who was recently signed to a minor league deal by Atlanta, went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts out of the cleanup spot. Smith was released by Kansas City in spring training.

Righty reliever Joe Van Meter (1.50 ERA/.177 BAA) fanned two in two scoreless innings, working around a hit and a walk.

The Hillcats won the game in walkoff fashion against left-hander Jimmy Reyes on a walkoff fielder's choice. Myrtle Beach wasn't able to turn the potentially inning-ending double play in the bottom of the ninth.

Although Smith went hitless in the game for Lynchburg, it was his fielder's choice that ended the game.

Player of the Game: LF Jared Hoying
4 0 3 0 0 0 0 0 .324

A: Hickory 6 – (@) Kannapolis 0
W - Eickhoff (4-2)
HR - Cone (5)
17-11, 3.0 GB

One day after being swept away by the first-place Greensboro Grasshoppers, Hickory turned in an all-around dominant effort on Saturday.

Jerad Eickhoff (2.94 ERA/.211 BAA) hurled seven shutout innings, scattering five hits while walking one and striking out seven. Working seven innings for his second consecutive start, Eickhoff finished Saturday's outing strong by retiring 11 of the final 12 hitters he faced.

In 33.2 innings this season, the 6-foot-4 starter has allowed 26 hits, walked 10, and struck out 29.

DH Zach Cone (.233/.273/.437), who has cooled after a hot start, was 2-for-5 with a three-run homer––his fifth long ball of the season.

In his last 10 games, Cone is just 7-for-42 (.167) while drawing one walk and striking out 14 times.

Third baseman Hanser Alberto (2/4, 2 2B, BB) doubled twice and walked while Luis Sardinas (2/5, 2B) and Rougned Odor (2/4, 2B) both doubled once.

The 19-year-old Alberto now has a .340/.381/.456 slash line through 25 games.

Pitching in his first game outside of the complex league, tall righty Shawn Blackwell finished off the victory with two shutout innings. He struck out three and induced three groundouts while allowing one hit.

Player of the Game: RHP Jerad Eickhoff
7.0 5 0 0 1 7 0 2.94

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