Daniel Wright left the Cincinnati Reds Spring Training to pitch in the Pensacola Blue Wahoos bullpen, after starting 27 games with the Double-A affiliate the year before.
But Wright, a 10th round selection in 2013, stayed positive. All he did was give up one run in 20 innings, including pitching 16.2 scoreless innings before getting called up to the Triple-A Louisville Bats. His scoreless inning streak for the Blue Wahoos included two spot starts in which Wright gave up no runs and just three hits over 11 innings.
On Tuesday, May 24 — 20 days after he last pitched for Pensacola — Wright found himself making his Major League debut in Los Angeles against the Dodgers. Wright, a former Memphis high school and Arkansas State standout, threw 87 pitches in 5.1 innings, allowing seven hits, four runs, three earned, one walk and he struck out four.
“In spring training, on the minor-league side of things they told me there were going to be opportunities,” Wright said. “We just needed to take advantage of them. That’s what’s my mindset’s been.”
Cincinnati manager Bryan Price reviewed Wright’s first big league start this way: “He seems to have some polish. His numbers in the minor leagues are off the charts as far as batting average against, on-base percentage and slugging. I hope that it translates here.”
Meanwhile, pitching in front of his wife, sister and parents, Wright started the game by giving up three consecutive singles to Chase Utley, Corey Seager and Justin Turner and the Dodgers took a 1-0 lead. However, Wright settled down and retired nine of the following 10 hitters, including a strikeout of Dodgers slugger Adrian Gonzalez to start the stretch. The Dodgers were ahead, 3-2, when Wright departed the game.
“Overall, I battled,” Wright said about his debut. “Got through five, wish I could have gone a little bit longer. It’s good to get my feet wet.”
The Blue Wahoos are 2-0 this homestand against the Shuckers, but tonight is the game everyone should come and watch.
Taking the mound is a pair of top prospects in each of their respective farm systems. RHP Rookie Davis (2-1, 0.78 ERA) is the Reds No. 12 prospect while LHP Josh Hader (0-0, 0.78) is the Brewers No. 4 prospect.
Davis leads the Southern League in WHIP and sits in second in ERA (tied with Hader). The righty allowed one run on four hits and five strikeouts in seven innings of work against Biloxi earlier this season.
Hader has allowed just two earned runs in 23 IP this year. In his only appearance against the Blue Wahoos this season, Hader tossed four hitless innings while striking out seven.
Tickets are still available for this matchup and can be purchased at BlueWahoos.com or by calling the box office at 934-8444.
- Maryjane Gardner/Media and Public Relations Manager
Cincinnati Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton jammed his left thumb and missed Wednesday’s game. The recurring thumb injury on his non-throwing hand was first injured when he made his first career home run-robbing catch against St. Louis slugger Matt Carpenter in an April 15 game. Hamilton used the wall to elevate and steal the homer.
The thumb injury comes at a bad time for Hamilton, who was just getting hot at the plate. In the last six games, he was 6-19 (.316) with two doubles, one RBI and a stolen base. In 23 games this season, the 25-year-old speedster is hitting .215 with one homer, five RBIs and five stolen bases.
In his first two full seasons with the Reds, Hamilton stole 56 bases in 2014 in 152 games and stole 57 bases last year in 114 games. The former Blue Wahoos player owns the professional baseball single-season record with 155 stolen bases in 2012.
- Duwayne Escobedo/BlueWahoos.com
Wednesday, May 4 6:30 pm
RHP Adrian Houser (1-2, 7.20) vs RHP Sal Romano (0-1, 4.09)
Thursday, May 5 6:30 pm
RHP Jorge Ortega (0-1, 1.19) vs RHP Jacjson Stephens (1-2, 5.09)
Friday, May 6 6:30 pm LHP
Josh Hader (0-0, 0.78) vs RHP Rookie Davis (2-1, 0.78)
Saturday, May 7 6:30 pm
RHP Javi Salas (2-1, 3.00) vs RHP Nick Travieso (1-1, 4.50)
Sunday, May 8 3:00 pm
LHP Wei-Chung Wang (2-1, 2.83) vs LHP Amir Garrett (2-2, 1.52)
Tonight’s Game: Series No. 2 with the Shuckers kicks off tonight with a match up between top prospects. For the Shuckers, #20 Brewers prospect Adrian Houser will make his fifth start of the year. On the season, Houser has struggled to makes outs with runners on base (Opp BA: .448) and with RISP (Opp BA: .500). In his last start against Tennessee, Houser tallied his first win of the year (5.0 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO). For Pensacola, #9 Reds prospect Sal Romano hopes to bounce back from his first loss of the season in his last start against Birmingham. Romano gave up four runs on four hits (two homers) in six innings of work, which was his longest outing of the season. Romano is a power pitcher, whose fastball has touched 99 MPH. This season he has focused on improving his honing his secondary pitches, like the curve which he has struggled to keep in the strikezone in previous years.
First Time Around: In their first series with the Shuckers this season, the Wahoos were beaten soundly in Biloxi four games to one. Shuckers pitchers got the better of the Wahoos batters in all but game one, in which the Wahoos managed to put up five runs on nine hits. The next four games after that Pensacola was held to a total of 18 hits. Even more staggering, the Wahoos went 5-31 with RISP over the five game series, the fewest opportunities with RISP in a series this season. Beau Amaral (6-18, R, HR, 3B , 3 RBI) and Sebastian Elizalde (3-8, 2 R) were the only Wahoos in the series to hit above .250. As a team they hit a dismal .168 during the series. Wahoos pitchers did a fine job in Biloxi, as they have consistently done all season. They kept the Shuckers to a .222 batting average and only allowed 15 runs in five games, while also tossing a shutout in game one (thanks to a big performance by Daniel Wright).
- Maryjane Gardner/Media & Public Relations Manager
Every story on Los Angeles Dodgers’ ace Clayton Kershaw’s sixth inning meltdown Tuesday when he gave up five consecutive hits and five runs focuses on Miami Marlins’ star Giancarlo Stanton hitting a three-run home run.
But it was 2012 Pensacola Blue Wahoos shortstop Miguel Rojas who hit a pinch-hit double with one out who started the rally. It was the second hit in the game off the dominant Kershaw and Rojas came around to score when Martin Prado singled him in.
In 10 pitches in that one inning, Kershaw lost his shutout and the lead. His earned-run average leaped from 1.29 to 2.50.
Rojas, a 27-year-old Venezuela native, broke camp on the opening day roster for the first time with the Marlins this year. The eight-year minor leaguer replaced injured starting shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria at the end of last season and didn’t commit an error in the first 25 games and ended up hitting .282 in 60 games.
So far this season with the Marlins, Rojas, who can play all four infield positions, has played in 12 games and has hit .235.
Tucker Barnhart, who played for the Blue Wahoos in 2012 and 2013, laced a walk-off single to right field Wednesday, April 20, to give the Cincinnati Reds a wild 6-5 win against the Colorado Rockies.
Before he could reach second base, Barnhart was mobbed by his teammates.
In his first full season with the Reds after playing parts of the 2014 and 2015 seasons with the big league team, Barnhart set up his ninth inning heroics with his arm. Long known for his golden glove at catcher, the 25-year-old fielded a wild pitch off the back wall and without hesitation recovered to nab Rockies’ Mark Reynolds at third base to end a potential go-ahead run in the eighth inning.
“That’s how we drew it up, I guess,” Barnhart joked with the media after the win.
Barnhart, who was 2-4 with a run scored and two RBIs against Colorado, also had a two-out double in the seventh inning that put the Reds up by two runs, 4-2. He’s batting .348/.423/.391 in seven games this year as a backup catcher for the 8-7 Reds.
There’s something magical about a sunset at a Blue Wahoos game.
Around the third inning, the sun tosses its bright rays onto the buildings behind left field, painting them brilliantly white. Then pink streaks blend into the cerulean sky, scattered brush strokes from an invisible hand. Soon, the sky darkens into a deep purple, reflecting across the bay. You can watch a sunset from a million different places, but when it does, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.
This parcel of land was neglected, ignored and forgotten just a decade ago. Today, Blue Wahoos Stadium is the crown jewel of the Southern League and the centerpiece of downtown Pensacola. It is incredible to fathom how far our city has come in my lifetime.
When I wrote the first post on this blog in 2013, I had just turned 17 years old. I was barely old enough to drive, not yet old enough to vote and I still can’t drink most of what is served at the stadium. After witnessing the Wahoos’ inaugural season from the seats, I found myself in a press box for the first time. I’ll admit I was a bit starstruck. For every piece I wrote that first year, there were another two I missed.
But just as failure is a necessary process in player development, the growing pains were important for me as well. Every game was an opportunity to learn and improve as a writer. I’m embarrassed to read the long-winded paragraphs of my earlier pieces, but I’m especially proud of the work I’ve produced in the past year. I’ve gone to spring training, covered an All-Star Game and interviewed both a general manager and Hall of Famer as a representative of the Wahoos.
More than anything, this blog empowered me to find my voice. You hear the same question from every new teacher from kindergarten through your senior year of high school: What do you want to be when you grow up? Sitting among future doctors, lawyers and engineers, a career in sports seemed like wishful thinking. But years later, watching the Wahoos with 5,038 of my closest friends and searching for stories worth telling, I never felt out of place.
This is my last post for Hook, Line and Sinker. I will be covering the Southern League this season as part of Baseball Prospectus’ prospect team, as well as contributing to RedsMinorLeagues.com. My position allowed me to study the game like never before and I’m looking forward to watching the game from a scouting perspective while writing more about player development. I’m handing the blog off to the media relations team and I’m confident they will uphold the high standard of coverage you’ve come to expect every day.
I’d like to thank the Pensacola Blue Wahoos for giving me the chance to start my career and pursue my dream. It has been an honor to serve as your beat writer for three seasons. Additional thanks are in order, to…
Quint Studer, a friend of 10 years and my most vocal supporter. I can’t imagine where Pensacola would be without his vision. He put his faith in a young writer, and I am forever grateful for the opportunity.
The late “Detroit” Bob Brewis, the Wahoos’ scoreboard operator who was like another grandfather to me. More than 60 years my senior, our conversations were a constant and powerful reminder of how baseball brings people together.
Tommy Thrall, a master storyteller and a play-by-play voice worthy of the major leagues. I appreciate your professionalism, trust and advice.
The members of the press: among others, Dan Shugart, Steve Nissim and Bill Vilona. Thanks for treating me as an equal and showing me the ropes.
Chris Harris, Brandon Liebhaber, Kyle Tait and the other Southern League broadcasters for building my baseball vocabulary and sharing the inside scoop.
The greater Cincinnati media: Doug Gray, Lance McAlister, C. Trent Rosecrans and Mark Sheldon. Thanks for taking the time to answer all my questions, even the dumb ones.
Lisa Braun, Jeff Graupe and Jamie Ramsey for welcoming me into the Reds family.
Delino DeShields, Pat Kelly, Alex Pelaez, Jeff Fassero and Tom Brown for sharing their field and their time.
The countless players who have welcomed me, remembered me and helped me understand the game better.
And the fans and readers who read my posts and passed them on. None of this would have been possible without you.
It’s Robert Stephenson time!
With the Reds recalling their top pitching prospect from Louisville Monday, seven former Wahoos will open the season in the Major Leagues, more than twice the number on Opening Day rosters in 2015. Didi Gregorius begins his second season as the Yankees’ shortstop while infielder Miguel Rojas breaks camp with the Marlins for the first time. The Reds are carrying five Wahoos — Stephenson, relief pitchers Tony Cingrani and Keyvius Sampson, catcher Tucker Barnhart and outfielder Billy Hamilton — with another four on the disabled list. See the breakdown on the Spring Training page.
Daniel Murphy is putting together an impressive postseason streak, homering in five straight playoff games for the New York Mets. But for Wahoos fans, the feat is nothing new.
— Salvatore Romano (@salromano14) October 21, 2015
In fact, two Wahoos matched Murphy’s efforts, albeit on a smaller stage. Kyle Skipworth rattled off a five-game streak from July 10 to 16, including six home runs in seven games. In all, Skipworth homered seven times in a 10-game stretch and earned Southern League Player of the Week honors.
Winker’s streak from Aug. 11 to 15 propelled the Wahoos to a 17-13 month in their bid for a Southern League playoff appearance. For his efforts, Winker was named the Southern League Player of the Week as well as the Southern League-MiLB Player of the Month for August.
Winker’s fifth home run was nominated for a MiLBY Award, one of four categories in the year-end online contest in which the Wahoos are represented. Beau Amaral and Zack Weiss are Top Play and Top Relief Pitcher candidates, respectively, while Skipworth and Pat Kelly are in the running for Best Blooper. You can find the full voting guide here.
The Arizona Fall League is in full swing for seven Reds prospects, including a handful of Wahoos.
Pitchers Stephen Johnson, Layne Somsen, Nick Travieso and Zack Weiss are joined by catcher Chad Wallach, infielder Alex Blandino and outfielder Phillip Ervin as Cincinnati’s representatives in the offseason circuit. Additional players from the Braves, Orioles, Padres and Mariners organizations comprise the Peoria Javelinas.
The group includes four of MLB.com’s top 30 Reds prospects and five players with Double-A service time. According to director of player development Jeff Graupe, the Reds take a number of variables into account when selecting players.
“Selecting players for the Fall League can be a tricky proposition,” Graupe said. “The pool of options is limited by fatigue, injury and simply the ability to compete in such a high-level environment. I believe we have chosen quality candidates this season and look forward to their continued development this fall.”
In the event of injury, the Fall League gives players a chance to make up for lost time. Travieso missed most of the Florida State League second half after being hit by a line drive, while Somsen lost two months to a fractured toe.
Much like they did with Raisel Iglesias last fall, the Reds will get a longer look at Johnson in Arizona. Acquired from San Francisco in exchange for Marlon Byrd, Johnson tossed 8.2 scoreless innings in six appearances. Wallach is finishing his first season in the Reds organization, and a fall campaign could answer questions as to whether his long-term future is behind the plate or at first base.
A trio of Wahoos — Blandino, Ervin and Weiss — have an opportunity to carry their success into the Fall League. Before his visit to Pensacola, Reds general manager Walt Jocketty met with owner Bob Castellini and his staff to craft roster projections for the franchise’s near future. Ervin’s invitation suggests that the team may be aggressive in promoting him, contingent on a successful fall.
“We’re kind of looking at some projections on players and what our team’s going to look like in the next two, three and five years,” Jocketty said in August. “We’re trying to determine when they might be ready. We’ve got both [Winker and Ervin], plus Waldrop. We’re going to start needing some outfielders the next couple of years.”
MLB.com estimates that 58 percent of Fall League alumni reach the Major Leagues. Since 2012, notable Wahoos to play in Arizona include Tucker Barnhart, Didi Gregorius, Billy Hamilton and Michael Lorenzen. In 2014, Winker led full-time players with a .338 average and .999 OPS while ranking second in on-base percentage (.440) and slugging percentage (.559).
Billings Mustangs pitching coach Derrin Ebert is one of five coaches on the Javelinas’ staff. Former Major League catcher Rod Barajas will manage the team.