Wichita News and Notes

RC's Kevin Agee was on hand in Springfield for the Wichita Wranglers' series vs. the Cardinals this week. The Wranglers dropped the rain-shortened series, two games to one, but several players did well. Today Kevin reports on the rehab start of Luke Hudson, the promotions of Billy Buckner and Carlos Rosa, and other miscellaneous news and notes from the series.

  • On Monday, the Wranglers used a strong start from left-hander Mike Connolly and a home run from Jorge Padilla to take a 6-1 victory over the Springfield Cardinals. Right-hander Greg Atencio finished the game with a flawless ninth inning, striking out Springfield's Juan Richardson on a nasty slider after setting him up with a hard fastball. Atencio, who left the Wranglers last year because of personal issues, has 10 strikeouts and a 2.25 ERA in 12 innings.

  • Starting pitcher Luke Hudson made his second successful rehab start for the Wichita Wranglers on Wednesday night, allowing only three hits and striking out seven in 4.1 innings against the Cardinals. Walking only one hitter, Hudson allowed just one earned run, which came on a fourth-inning solo homer by second baseman Jarrett Hoffpauir. After the game, he deemed his outing a success.

    Hudson pitched well in his rehab start with the Wranglers

    "I felt a lot stronger than I did just five days ago, so it was a step in the right direction," Hudson said. "Just a couple of sinkers were left flat, and I gave up a few hits on that pitch.

    "Tonight, that was the only pitch I wasn't completely happy with. Some were good, and some had good life on them, and others were flat. But other than that, I was pretty happy with it."

    Manager Tony Tijerina agreed.

    "It was good to see him," Tijerina said. "He was healthy, and we wanted to take him all the way to 70 pitches which we did. He struck out the last guy and finished strong. Dayton Moore was here, and he was real pleased."

    Clocked consistently in the upper-80 to the low-90 mph range, Hudson's sinker gave the Cardinals fits, as the 29-year-old right-hander induced six groundouts and zero fly outs. Hudson, who was on a pitch count of 70 according to manager Tony Tijerina, will next pitch for the Triple-A Omaha Royals against the Memphis Redbirds on Monday, April 30.

  • Right-hander Billy Buckner, ranked by Royals Corner as the organization's ninth-best prospect, relieved Hudson in the fifth inning after Hudson reached his pitch limit. After surrendering a game-tying home run to Springfield's Juan Richardson leading off the sixth inning, Buckner buckled down and retired eight of the next 11 men to come to the plate. One reached base because of third baseman Jace Brewer's throwing error and rehabbing outfielder Juan Encarnacion reached on a wild pitch on strike three.

    However, Buckner picked up the loss when outfielder Jon Jay hit a screaming line drive over the head of centerfielder Onil Joseph with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 9th inning. With the outing, however, Buckner lowered his ERA to 4.66 and improved his strikeout-to-walk ratio to 13-to-6. On Thursday, he was promoted to Omaha.

    Also on Thursday, Buckner's roster spot was filled when the Royals promoted right-handed pitcher Carlos Rosa to Double-A. Rosa, who was dominating the Single-A Carolina League with a 0.39 ERA in 23 innings for Wilmington, will likely relieve rehabbing left-hander John Bale on Saturday, April 28.

    Moving on up: Buckner (left) is heading for Triple-A, while Rosa will take his place in Wichita

  • Coming to the Royals organization after 16 seasons with the New York Mets, Tijerina is already noticing the nuances of the Double-A level.

    "It's the same game at every level, but there are different levels of development," Tijerina said. "You know, when you get to the Double-A, Triple-A level, guys have better knowledge of the game, and it's getting more into the mental game. You know, the matchups, facing better pitching every night, better lineups, and just getting [the players] through that.

    "At the lower levels, you're just pounding them with fundamentals and going through the basics a lot of the time."

    After being stocked last year with premier first-round picks like Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, and Mitch Maier, the Wranglers have more of a veteran construction in 2007, but Tijerina views that as a positive.

    "I think it's an experienced team; we have six position player free agents here who've all done well at the other places they've been," he said. "They're bringing that here to some of our younger talent, and they're helping them to understand how to succeed at these levels."

    Craig Brazell, who is hitting .323/.408/.613 with five home runs, is one of the minor league veterans leading the Wranglers this year

  • Highly-regarded lefty Danny Christensen made the start for Wichita on Thursday night and allowed one run in four innings, striking out four and walking three. His fastball velocity of 86-90 mph was less than impressive, but he did an excellent job keeping the Cardinals off-balance with his low-70s curveball and changeup. For the season, Christensen is averaging a strikeout an inning and has picked up two groundball outs for every fly ball out.

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