Inside the Wranglers' clubhouse

RC's Kevin Agee was on hand this week as the Wichita Wranglers split a four-game series with the Springfield Cardinals. Today Kevin reports on his conversations with Alex Gordon, Tyler Lumsden, and Adam Donachie, and he provides his take on Zack Greinke's latest start.

Long after the party began and the clubhouse air became saturated with the smell of champagne, somebody yelled out, "Where's Greinke?! Get Greinke in here!" Zack Greinke, clad in a Wranglers t-shirt and a pair of shorts, was taking care of some business in the hallway outside the team's clubhouse in Springfield Mo., apparently not wanting much to do with the team's division championship celebration after Sunday night's clinching victory over the Springfield Cardinals. His teammates, however, wouldn't have it.

A flood of Wranglers players stormed out the door and into the joining hallway, surrounding Greinke, who sheepishly grinned and tried to duck away from the inevitable. However, his efforts proved to be fruitless, as the 22-year-old was picked up by his teammates and, like a conquering hero, was carried in and promptly drenched by the guys who have had his back in 2006.

Overall, it's been a season full of new experiences for Greinke, who on Tuesday night made his first start in Springfield since dominating the Cardinals on July 3, a complete game in which he allowed a run on two hits and racked up 12 strikeouts. However, the new experience that night was only new because Greinke hadn't seen it in quite awhile: adversity.

After being spotted a one-run lead on Donnie Murphy's solo homer, Greinke was immediately in a jam, as Shaun Boyd's fly ball double to center and Mike McCoy's bunt single put runners on the corners for Nick Stavinoha, who promptly deposited a subsequent pitch in the left field bullpen for a three-run homer. Two walks and two singles later in the inning produced two more runs, and Greinke headed back to the dugout down by a 5-1 score.

So how would he deal with being knocked around a little for the first time in about a month? Undeterred, Greinke went back to the mound and proceeded to retire 15 of the next 17 hitters he faced before being taken out of the game after the sixth inning. His stuff – a fastball ranging from 87-93 mph and his typical assortment of offspeed pitches – looked fine the entire night, and after issuing two walks in that disastrous first inning, his control and command markedly improved, as he walked just one batter against four strikeouts the rest of the way.

Whether or not Greinke gets called up to Kansas City in September will depend greatly on how far the Wranglers go in the Texas League playoffs. However, there's little question now that he's probably ready for his second taste of the big leagues, as he kept his focus and made the proper adjustments after being hit around pretty hard before he even had one out in the first inning.

  • Although several contributed to Wichita's two wins in the four-game set, nobody caused the Cardinals more grief than second baseman Donnie Murphy. Mired in a frustrating season in which he's hit just .249/.302/.431 in 350 at-bats, Murphy hit rockets all over the yard all series long, torching Springfield pitching for three home runs – including the game-winner on Monday night – eight RBI, six runs scored, and nine hits in 19 at-bats. It was a series reminiscent of 2005 when he posted an .885 OPS for Wichita.

    Murphy hit three home runs vs. Springfield this week

    The series continued Murphy's torrid pace in August, as he's hit .356 with a .689 slugging percentage so far in the Texas League regular season's last full month of action. It's an encouraging trend, as the 23-year-old second baseman has quite a bit to prove to the Royals organization that has reportedly soured on him as a prospect.

    With Ruben Gotay in New York and Mark Grudzielanek under contract for the next season, cracking the big leagues next season will be tough, but it's entirely possible that 2006 was just one of those bad years players experience every now and then. Murphy's a talented hitter, and he may end up forcing the Royals' hand sometime in 2007.

  • Recently moved up from Class-A High Desert, 22-year-old catcher Adam Donachie has had a difficult time adjusting to Texas League pitching. Despite showing a good eye and drawing 18 walks in 85 at-bats, Donachie's hitting just .165 with only four extra-base hits, but the native of Florida knows what adjustments he needs to make to improve his game at the plate.

    "In Single-A, I was more of a free swinger, and I've learned up here I've gotta be patient and can't chase a lot of pitches," Donachie said. "Also, just because you're ahead in the count doesn't mean [the pitcher's] gonna serve up a fastball or anything like that, so you've still gotta be aware of pitches and just look to go the other way most of the time."

    Donachie's been struggling a bit since his promotion

    While hitting has been difficult and perhaps at times frustrating, Donachie's had a better time behind the dish, catching Wichita's pitching staff.

    "Here, it's easier catching these guys because they know what they're doing, what they need to do, and how they need to get people out. For me, I'm just learning off of them," Donachie said. "They're teaching me as much as they can. I'm just starting to get the hang of it and getting to know most of the pitchers and what they like to do in certain situations."

  • One of the pitchers Donachie's getting to know is lefty Tyler Lumsden, who was recently obtained from the Chicago White Sox along with pitcher Daniel Cortes in exchange for Mike MacDougal. Lumsden started Saturday night's game and picked up a no-decision, allowing three runs in 5 2/3 innings of work.

    Lumsden was the key acquisition in the MacDougal trade earlier this summer

    Lumsden has an impressive fastball for a southpaw, as his heater regularly registered in the low-90s on the stadium radar gun. For the first couple of innings, Lumsden did an excellent job of throwing that fastball down-and-away on the outside corner for first-pitch strikes, helping him retire the first six Cardinals who came to bat in order.

    After escaping a jam in the bottom of the third, thanks to right fielder Brett Groves throwing out Shaun Boyd at the plate for the final out, Lumsden gave up three runs in the fourth on three hits and two walks, one of which forced him a tally. Walks have been a problem for the Clemson grad, who's now issued 19 free passes in only 29.1 innings for the Wranglers.

    "What I was doing the first couple of innings I got away from a little bit, but I made it through. I don't know [what the problem is], Lumsden said. "I may be getting a little tired, but I feel great. I have been walking guys a little bit, but I just need to get back to my gameplan and get ahead of hitters.

    "I've just gotta work on getting out of jams, and I think it'll help me in the long-run if I just throw that strike one."

    Lumsden, who primarily throws a fastball, curveball, and changeup, is looking forward to pitching for all the marbles in postseason.

    "I definitely want to step it up. You know, this is a great ball team, and coming over here to a first-place team, they come to win ballgames. Every time out, I want to put us in a situation where we have a chance to win the game," Lumsden said. "I'm going to just go out there and pitch my game, and I think we'll be fine with the batting lineup we have on this team."

  • On Wednesday, third baseman Alex Gordon was named the Texas League's Player of the Year for 2006, which is quite the feat for a player getting his first exposure to full-season minor league ball just one year after playing collegiately. Gordon credited his time in the Big XII and the Arizona Fall League for getting him ready to play this season.

    "[The Big XII] is such a good conference, and you face a lot of draft picks who're in this league or in High-A or something like that, so I think the college competition prepared me pretty well," Gordon explained. "[The AFL helped me] not just to adjust, but to know what to expect coming to Double-A, because that's where most of those guys were going."

    Gordon was named Texas League Player of the Year earlier this week

    As for the hitting approach that's led him to a season OPS of well over 1.000? Is there a secret that Gordon uses to have so much success?

    "It's just see the ball, hit the ball, really. I just go up to the plate, ya know, and I think I have a pretty good idea of where the strike zone is, and I just see the ball and I just hit it."

    It's that easy.

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