Montgomery Biscuits Notebook: April

The Montgomery Biscuits went 10-15 in April and are only ahead of the Mississippi Braves (9-16) in the Southern League's South Division. Part of the problem has been the team's inability to consistently hit but the main concern is the team's pitching staff. The Biscuits carry the highest ERA in the league, have walked the most batters and have struck out the least in the league.

The streak continues…

The Biscuits ended their April schedule by getting swept in a five-game series against the Birmingham Barons, but in the process, third baseman Cole Figueroa extended a streak of a more positive variety.

Figueroa walked three times in the series finale on April 29, a 5-3 defeat, to mark the 27th consecutive game, dating back to last season, that he has reached base safely. It is the fourth longest streak in team history. Justin Ruggiano had a 28-game streak on- base streak in 2006, John Jaso experienced his 31-gamer a year later and Evan Longoria holds the record with a 37-game on-base streak in 2007.

Figueroa has opened the season with a .419 on-base percentage and leads the team with runs scored as well, 19. His success can be attributed to an adjusted approach with two strikes, according to Figueroa and hitting instructor Ozzie Timmons.

"His mindset just says ‘I don't want to strike out.' It may not look good but the more he can battle, the better it becomes," Timmons said. "He comes every day and gets his work in. I never have to look for him. And that's the same thing for Henry too."

Timmons mentioned first baseman Henry Wrigley, who hit six home runs and drove in 19 runs in the month. Wrigley has also walked 12 times, more than half of his 2011 total, a season where he saw 468 at-bats.

Despite the fast starts of Figueroa and Wrigley, the Biscuits are one of the lesser hitting teams in the Southern League so far. Their .239 team batting average is good for eighth in a league of 10. Shortstop Hak-Ju Lee and second baseman Tyler Bortnick — who hit first and second in the lineup — hit just .248 and .179, respectively, to open the season. Lee has turned it on as of late though, and has it .333, 14-42, over his last 10 games.

"Early on they were throwing him [Lee] a lot of off-speed pitches and he was chasing them," Timmons said. "Now he has made the adjustment and decided he is going to hit his pitch and not their pitch."

First in walks, last in K's

The Biscuits team ERA of 5.01 is not only the worst in the league, but it is a full run higher than the mark of the second worst team, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos.

The only starting pitcher on the staff with an ERA below 4.00 is right-hander Shane Dyer, who sports a 3.43 in 21 innings of work. Dyer and RHP Joe Cruz are the only Biscuits starters with two wins.

"Dyer has good stuff and he's a smart pitcher. He knows what to throw and he knows when he wants to throw it," said catcher Mark Thomas. "He never looks like he is overmatched."

The team ended the first month of the season with the fewest strikeouts, 155, and the most walks, 111, in the Southern League.

The eighth-best prospect in the organization, Alex Colome, has not pitched for the team since he suffered an oblique injury in the fourth inning of a start on April 11. He could return during the team's next home series, according to manager Billy Gardner, which starts May 11.

Due up

The Biscuits will open their May schedule on the road with a five-game series against the Tennessee Smokies (11-14), who feature right-hander Trey Mcnut. Mcnut has allowed only one earned run in four starts this year.

Afterward, Montgomery will travel to play the Chattanooga Lookouts (11-14), before coming home on May 11 for a set against the Jacksonville Suns (14-11).

Will Sammon is the Montgomery Biscuits beat writer for Rays Digest. You can follow him on Twitter at @WillSammon.


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