Wichita Report: Wranglers Brave the Cold

RC was on hand for the Wichita Wranglers' doubleheader on Saturday vs. the Corpus Christi Hooks. The Wranglers split the twin bill by trading 5-1 victories, with Luke Hochevar taking the loss in game one. Game two featured Danny Christensen's first Double-A start, and a three-run homer by Adam Greenberg sealed the Wranglers' first win of the season. Check out RC's game notes inside.

Below are some notes from RC's trip to Wichita:

  • Luke Hochevar on Saturday afternoon braved the 30 degree temperature to make his 2007 debut, but he was roughed up a bit in his outing. Hochevar battled his control and a tiny strike zone while allowing five runs on four walks and seven hits. He did strike out five batters in his 4.1 innings pitched, but the cold weather didn't seem to do him any favors.

    "I've pitched in some cold games, but never in the thirties," said Hochevar, who identified the game as the coldest in which he's ever pitched. "It was pretty cold, but then again, regardless of the weather or whatever else is going on, I've got to go out and execute pitches and get hitters out and give us a chance to win."

    Another interesting note is that Hochevar is throwing his slider again this season

    To prepare for the cold, Hochevar went through a more extensive pregame warm-up, in an attempt to get his blood flowing. During the game, he wasn't throwing quite as hard as he was last year, topping out in the low-90s, but that's likely attributable to the cold weather and the early season start. Still, when his command was on, his secondary pitches looked good. Despite the seven hits allowed, the Hooks didn't get many good swings off of him.

    "He just had a couple balls that got up and he got hit a little bit," said catcher Adam Donachie. "But other than that, he looked great, and everything was sharp. He just couldn't catch a break today, and that was about it."

    Hochevar wasn't overly concerned about his lackluster outing after the game, nor does he seem likely to dwell on it.

    "As a whole, we played well as a team," said Hochevar. "We came back in the second game and got a good win. Overall, it's a good day. We bounced back, swung the bats well, and put some runs on the board."

  • In the second game, Danny Christensen took the mound for the Wranglers, and he wasted little time recording his first Double-A strikeout. In fact, Christensen struck out the first two batters he faced, the second coming on a dandy change-up. However, he then hung a 73 mph curveball to the Hooks' Todd Self, who launched it over the wall for a 1-0 lead. After a broken bat single and a base hit up the middle, Christensen struck out Neil Sellers on a fastball to retire the side.

    The solo home run was the only run the Hooks would get, as Christensen settled in and scattered three hits over his remaining three innings. He had excellent command of his fastball, working both sides of the plate, and his changeup kept the Hooks off balance very effectively.

    Christensen looked good in his Double-A debut

    "It felt pretty good," said Christensen when RC asked him about his start. "It was cold and I knew guys didn't want to swing, so I threw a lot of fastballs. Since I was throwing strikes, it was kind of easy. I hung a curveball, and that was really the only thing that hurt me."

    Christensen was on a 75-pitch count, so he left after just four innings. However, he looked like he was in midseason form, working his fastball anywhere from 84-88 mph, and he maintained his velocity through his outing. His changeup, which he threw between 78-80 mph, showed excellent movement. Indeed, the only thing that wasn't working for him was his curveball. After surrendering the home run to Self, he threw only one more curve during his outing. Of course, he didn't need it, and his final line of 4.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 5 K, and 0 BB marks an excellent Double-A debut.

    To read our full interview with Christensen, click here

  • RC caught up with outfielder Chris Lubanski both before and after the games on Saturday. In fact, as a testament to his solid work ethic, Lubanski was taking extra batting practice in the freezing cold shortly before game one. He played in both games, serving as the DH in game one and the left fielder in game two, and he hit the ball hard all day. In game two, Lubanski launched a line drive home run to right field, and even though that was his only hit of the day, he looked very comfortable at the plate. Lubanski has always been something of a slow starter, but hopefully he'll get off to a strong start this April.

    Lubanski is making the best of his return to Wichita

    We asked Lubanski if he was disappointed that he had to return to Double-A, and he responded very positively. He said that it didn't come as a big surprise to him, since he saw it coming with all of the Royals' outfield depth in the majors and upper minors, and that he's just focusing on having consistently good at bats. After seeing him on Saturday, we wouldn't be surprised if he did just that.

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