Hudson Valley Notebook: Dixon Coming Around

Inside this week's Renegades notebook, we examine Deshun Dixon's sudden emergence as an offensive threat, the newest Renegade and look at highly-touted 19-year-old Taylor Guerrieri's return to the rotation.

The Hudson Valley Renegades have struggled for the first time this season, going 2-5 in the past week. Their record has fallen to 11-10 on the season. The week started with a sweep at the hands of the first- place Brooklyn Cyclones before the ‘Gades went on the road to Vermont and Auburn, taking two out of five games. Jeff Ames is scheduled to start tonight for the series finale in Auburn. The Renegades will return home on Wednesday to start a six-game homestand, hosting the Batavia Muckdogs and the Mahoning Valley Scrappers.

Dixon turning it around

DeShun Dixon, the Rays' 10th overall selection in the 2010 draft out of Jackson, Miss., struggled mightily to start the season in Hudson Valley. He was among the worst-hitting regular starters on the team, with an average of .182 in June.

However, in the last few games, Dixon's bat has shown signs of life. Preceded by a stretch of five games without a hit, in the last four games Dixon has eight hits in 15 at-bats with a double and a stolen base.

"It's good to see him coming around, swinging the bat and getting some hits," manager Jared Sandberg said. "He made an outstanding play in right-center field, a full-out dive, the other day. That was fun to watch."

His offensive numbers for July are considerably better they were in June, as the outfielder is hitting .333/.407/.375 since the turn of the calendar. He also has not hit above .220 in a year in the lower levels of the minors, but it seems that Dixon has figured something out at the plate.

"He's slowing things down a little bit," Sandberg said. "By slowing down his actions in the batter's box, it's allowing him to see the ball a little better. I think early on he was trying to put too much pressure on himself."

Waiting on a Champion

The newest member of the Hudson Valley Renegades, outfielder Joey Rickard, is fresh off a College World Series Championship with his college team, the Arizona Wildcats. Rickard is with the team but has not played yet, because Sandberg said that they are waiting for Rickard's contract to clear with the comissioner's office so he can play.

"When that happens, he'll get in the lineup at center field," Sandberg said.

Rickard played center field and hit in the leadoff spot for the Wildcats, hitting .320/.397/.413 and leading the team with 18 stolen bases.

He will join an already crowded outfield for the Renegades, where Joel Caminero, Deshun Dixon and Marty Gantt have split equal time at center field (seven games each) this season.

Guerrieri back on track

Rays fans could breathe a collective sigh of relief on Sunday when 19-year-old pitcher Taylor Guerrieri, the Rays' first pick of the 2011 draft, took the hill again after missing two starts. Being held to a three inning/45 pitch limit, Guerrieri pitched the first three innings against the Auburn Doubledays, surrendering two hits, no runs and striking out two.

"Again, we were acting on caution. He had some stiffness, a little bit of soreness before that start. He's back on track now. We'll build him back up slowly to his normal five innings/75 pitches."

Reinaldo Lopez moved from the bullpen to make two starts in Guerrieri's place, and Sandberg liked what he saw from the 21-year-old Venezuelan. In Lopez' two starts, he pitched nine innings, giving up three runs (one earned) on nine hits, striking out eight and only walking one.

"He did a very nice job for us," Sandberg said. "We were looking for some innings out of him, and the other day he gobbled up many innings. He attacked the zone with all of his pitches, got a bunch of ground balls, he did a great job."

Eric Vander Voort is the Hudson Valley beat writer for Rays Digest. You can follow him on Twitter at @ecvandervoort.


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