End of season Ky. MLB storylines

Major League Baseball

Jon Rauch; Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Major League Baseball has just under two weeks left in its regular season and there are several Kentucky storylines worth watching. Check out a summary of those highlights below to tide you over until playoff baseball:

Postseason races

  • Lexington native Ben Revere, Louisville native Jon Rauch and their Minnesota Twins teammates clinched the AL Central title Tuesday.
  • Lexington native Austin Kearns and the New York Yankees are two and one-half games up in the AL East but should be safe as the Wild Card winner even if they are caught by the Rays in the division race.
  • Former UK right-handed pitcher Joe Blanton and the Philadelphia Phillies have a five game lead in the NL East over Atlanta with a magic number of six to clinch the division.
  • Left-handed reliever Jonny Venters, born in Pikeville, and the Braves are one game up on the Padres and three games up on the Rockies for the NL Wild Card.
  • Kentucky’s northerly neighbors the Cincinnati Reds, featuring a plethora of former Louisville Bats, boast an eight-game lead in the NL Central and a magic number of four.

Statistical achievements

  • Bowling Green native Corey Hart needs nine RBI to top 100 for the first time in his career. Hart needs two home runs to reach 30 on the season.
  • Florida Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla, born in Louisville, needs four RBI to reach 100 for the first time in his career and seven runs to reach 100 for the first time since 2007.
  • Venters is 15 strikeouts shy of 100 on the season and looks poised to finish 2010 with a sub-2.00 ERA. The lefty currently boasts a 1.74 mark.
  • Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman Mark Reynolds needs three home runs to reach 35 for the second time in his career.
  • Washington Nationals right-handed pitcher Tyler Clippard just topped the 100 strikeouts mark and reached 10 wins on the season.

Bats roster in flux for playoff run; Martinez still raking after promotion; Could Kearns stay in New York in 2011?

Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball

Austin Kearns; Photo by Scott Ableman via Flickr

Latest links from around Kentucky baseball for your Monday morning:

  • Michael Grant of the Courier-Journal reports possible September callups by the Cincinnati Reds could dramatically alter the Louisville Bats roster for the playoffs.
  • John Erardi of the Cincinnati Enquirer profiles Bats left-handed pitching Cuban phenom Aroldis Chapman and his adjustments to the U.S. game.
  • Dan Podheiser of NESN writes a playoff performance from Lexington native Austin Kearns could be a valuable boost to the outfielder’s career.
  • Kearns’ strong performance since being traded to the Yankees (he’s batting .351 with a home run in 13 games) has MLBTradeRumors wondering if he could be brought back to New York for 2011.
  • Bats outfielder Todd Frazier will have his eyes on the Little League World Series as his former New Jersey Little League team took the field in the Opening Round over the weekend.
  • Former Lexington Legends outfielder J. D. Martinez hasn’t stopped hitting since his midseason promotion to AA Corpus Christi. Martinez leads all of Minor League Baseball with 171 hits and ranks third in batting average at .353.

Zych receives top Cape honors; Heath names SAL player of week; Ijames disappointed by draft process

College Baseball, Minor League Baseball

Latest links from around Kentucky baseball:

  • University of Louisville right-handed pitcher Tony Zych was named to the All Cape Cod League Postseason Team and received the league award for best reliever and top professional prospect.
  • Lexington Legends catcher Ben Heath was named South Atlantic League player of the week after batting .533 with three home runs, 10 RBI and four runs scored last week.
  • UofL rising redshirt junior outfielder Stewart Ijames told Jim Pickens of the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer that based on where he was drafted he “basically had no choice but to return [to U of L].”
  • Michael Grant of the Courier-Journal reports Louisville Bats manager Rick Sweet says left-handed pitching Cuban phenom Aroldis Chapman is ready to help the Cincinnati Reds in their major league bullpen.
  • Jason Beck of MLB.com reports the Detroit Tigers have sent former UK first baseman Ryan Strieby for additional tests on his oft-injured left wrist to try to identify the cause of the reoccurring injury.

Black, Ijames, Davis, Rice among Kentucky draftees who turned down professional contracts

College Baseball, High School Baseball

Matt Rice bats for WKU: BluGrass Baseball photo

While Louisville native Zack Cox and Danville native Blake Perry signed professional contracts before Monday’s midnight draft signing deadline, 16 other Kentucky draftees did not and will head to college in the coming weeks. UK shortstop Taylor Black, UofL outfielder Stewart Ijames, WKU  right-handed pitcher Rye Davis, NKU left-handed pitcher David Middendorf and WKU catcher Matt Rice were the Kentucky collegians who elected to return to school rather than sign deals with their professional clubs. Lexington native Casey Lucchese, the Cubs’ 39th round pick, will return to the College of Charleston for his senior season in 2011.

Ohio high school right-handed pitcher Dace Kime, the Pirates’ eight-round pick, was the highest drafted Kentucky player to choose college and will attend the University of Louisville this fall. UofL signee Chad Green, an Illinois right-handed pitcher and Blue Jays 37th round pick, also will play for the Cards in 2011. (Update 8/23: This item has been updated to correct previous error about UofL signee Joel Bender, who did sign with Reds)

Mr. Kentucky Baseball and Western Hills High School infielder/right-handed pitcher J. T. Riddle, the Red Sox’ 35th round pick; Lexington Christian Academy outfielder Lucas Witt, the Dodgers’ 38th round pick; and Trinity High School left-handed pitcher Corey Littrell, the Nationals’ 42nd round pick, will each play for the University of Kentucky in 2011 rather than sign pro deals. UK out-of-state commitments Jonathan Bobea, a New York right-handed pitcher and Angles’ 19th round pick, and Matt Reida, an Indiana infielder and White Sox 47th round pick, will also suit up for the Cats in 2011.

Hopkinsville High School right-handed pitcher Justin Hageman, the first Kentucky high schooler selected in the 2010 draft as the Royals 32nd round pick, will follow through on his commitment to Western Kentucky University. Former Boone County High School outfielder Ronald Cotton, the White Sox’ 45th round pick, will play for the University of Cincinnati next season. In all 31 of 48 players with Kentucky ties selected in the 2010 draft have signed professional contracts as well as six non-drafted free agents. Former UK left-handed pitcher James Paxton, the Mariners’ fourth-round pick, has yet to sign a pro deal but wasn’t restricted by the Monday deadline as he pitched in independent ball in 2010.

Revere to miss rest of season with face injury; Ellis recalled to L. A.; Kearns happy with Yankees; Bats surging

Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball

Ben Revere; Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Latest links from around Kentucky baseball including a season-ending injury for one of the state’s top prospects:

  • La Velle E. Neal of the Minnesota Star Tribune reports Lexington Catholic alum and top Twins outfield prospect Ben Revere will miss the rest of the season with two orbital fractures near his right eye resulting from a hit-by-pitch to the face Tuesday.
  • Evan Drellich of MLB.com reports PLD alum A. J. Ellis has been recalled from AAA to the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he may receive somewhat regular playing time with Dodgers catcher Russell Martin slated to miss the rest of the season with a hamstring injury.
  • Gannett reporter Brian Heyman profiles Lexington native Austin Kearns, who says he is happy to be playing for the Yankees.
  • Michael Grant of the Courier-Journal writes during the Louisville Bats 11-game winning streak the team has “rocketed up the charts faster than Lady Gaga” and is in good position for a playoff berth.
  • Bats shortstop Zack Cozart sat down for a question-and-answer session with Jason Stella of the team’s’ media relations department.

Saturday Links: Austin Kearns trade breakdown

Major League Baseball

Austin Kearns; Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Reaction to the Friday trade of Lafayette High School alum Austin Kearns from the Cleveland Indians to the New York Yankees:

  • Kearns tells John Paul Morosi of MLB.com that this trade was easier for him that when he was traded from Cincinnati to Washington because his family could drive from Lexington Cincinnati to watch him play. About living in New York City, Kearns said, “I’m sure it’ll be a little different speed for me. But I’ll make the adjustment.”
  • Joel Sherman and Tim Bontemps of the New York Post report Kearns will serve as a right-handed bat off the bench. When a left-handed pitcher is starting Kearns will start in left field with Curtis Granderson moving to the bench.
  • Indians manager Manny Acta told James Hall of MLB.com of Kearns, “We wish him the best. I think this guy has paid his dues and he deserves to go to a contender at this time in his career and maybe a chance to win a ring.”
  • Yankees manager Joe Girardi told Bryan Hoch of MLB.com that Kearns’ veteran presence will be important for the Yankees, who have been counting on many youngsters in bench roles.

Indians trade Austin Kearns to Yankees

Major League Baseball

Austin Kearns; Photo by Scott Ableman via Flickr

For the second consecutive season a Kentuckian has been traded just before the MLB trade deadline. Multiple sources are reporting that Lexington native and Cleveland Indians outfielder Austin Kearns has been traded to the New York Yankees. The deal was first reported as close by John Heyman of Sports Illustrated via Twitter. Kearns is batting .268 with eight home runs and 42 RBI for Cleveland on the year.

The Lafayette High School alum has enjoyed somewhat of a career renaissance in 2010 after signing with the Indians on a minor league deal during the offseason. Kearns played in less than 90 games in each of the last two seasons for the Washington Nationals due to injury. Heyman later tweeted that the Yankees plan to use Kearns to balance out their left-handed heavy lineup off the bench. The Indians will receive a player to be named or cash in the deal.

Draft Update: 18 Kentucky draftees have yet to sign

College Baseball, High School Baseball, Major League Baseball

Zack Cox; University of Arkansas photo

We’re just over three weeks from the Aug. 16 deadline for Major League teams to sign their non-college senior draft picks, so I thought we’d look at the remaining Kentucky draftees who have yet to sign. Remember over-slot deals aren’t announced until the deadline so some of these players may have agreed to deals that haven’t been announced yet:

  • 3B — Zack Cox — Louisville (University of Arkansas) — 1st Round — St. Louis Cardinals
  • LHP — James Paxton — University of Kentucky (Ind. League) — 4th Round — Seattle Mariners
  • RHP — Blake Perry — Danville (Pendleton Academy, Fla.) — 6th Round — Arizona Diamondbacks
  • RHP — Dace Kime — Ohio HS (University of Louisville Signee) — 8th Round — Pittsburgh Pirates
  • LHP — Joel Bender — Ohio HS (UofL Signee) — 27th Round — Cincinnati Reds
  • SS — Taylor Black — University of Kentucky — 28th Round — St. Louis Cardinals
  • OF — Stewart Ijames — UofL — 29th Round — New York Yankees
  • RHP — Justin Hageman — Hopkinsville High School — 32nd Round — Kansas City Royals
  • SS — J. T. Riddle — Western Hills High School — 35th Round — Boston Red Sox
  • RHP — Rye Davis — Western Kentucky University — 36th Round — Cleveland Indians
  • RHP — Chad Green — Illinois HS (UofL Signee) — 37th Round — Toronto Blue Jays
  • OF — Lucas Witt — Lexington Christian Academy — 38th Round — Los Angeles Dodgers
  • RHP — Casey Lucchese — Lexington (College of Charleston) — 39th Round — Chicago Cubs
  • LHP — Corey Littrell — Louisville Trinity — 42nd Round — Washington Nationals
  • LHP — David Middendorf — Northern Kentucky University — 44th Round — New York Yankees
  • OF — Ronald Cotton — Boone County High School — 45th Round — Chicago White Sox
  • INF — Matt Reida — Indiana HS (UK Signee) — 47th Round — Chicago White Sox
  • C — Matt Rice — WKU — 50th Round — New York Yankees

Rice has already gone on record with his intentions to return to WKU for his senior season, but the final destinations for the other players are at least relatively uncertain. It’s probably safe to assume most of the high schoolers drafted in the later rounds will follow through on their college commitments, barring a team paying way over the slot recommendation to sign them.

Burns concentrating on Cape season; Ijames named Cape Cod player of week; Red Sox, Yankees want Downs

College Baseball, Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball

Scott Downs; Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Updates and links from around Kentucky baseball:

  • Brewster Whitecaps General Manager Ned Monthie responded to BluGrass Baseball‘s request for an interview with former University of Kentucky infielder Andy Burns, who recently left the program, by saying, “Andy wants to concentrate on the current season and won’t make any statements at this time.”
  • University of Louisville rising redshirt junior outfielder Stewart Ijames was named the Cape Cod League player of the week after batting .423 with a home run and eight RBI for Yarmouth-Dennis.
  • Ed Price of AOL Fanhouse reports both the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have targeted Louisville native and former UK left-handed pitcher Scott Downs as a possible trade deadline acquisition. Price notes Cincinnati may also have interest in Downs.
  • Yesterday we reported former Eastern Kentucky University left-handed pitcher and Colorado Rockies prospect Christian Friedrich was hit on his pitching elbow by a line drive while pitching for AA Tulsa. Barry Lewis of the Tulsa World has a full recap of the incident with quotes from Tulsa manager Ron Gideon.
  • Jason Stella of the Louisville Bats media relations department writes former Major League outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. has been a valuable mid-season acquisition for the Bats.
  • Jim Callis of Baseball America profiles recently promoted Lexington Legends outfielder J. D. Martinez in his latest “Ask BA” column.

Langfels signs with Rockies; Rice to return to WKU

College Baseball, Major League Baseball

Jayson Langfels; EKU photo

Eastern Kentucky University junior third baseman Jayson Langfels has signed a professional contract with the Colorado Rockies as the team’s 16th round selection in the 2010 MLB amateur players draft. Langfels will forgo his senior season at EKU and will likely report to short season ball later this summer. The Lafayette High School alum batted .353 with 16 home runs, 61 runs scored and 52 RBI in 2010. As a sophomore, Langfels led the Ohio Valley Conference with a .441 batting average with 12 home runs and 72 RBI.

Western Kentucky University junior catcher Matt Rice will not sign with the New York Yankees after being selected with the last pick in the 2010 draft. Rice, who boasts a 4.0 grade point average in Mechanical Engineering and is in the running to become WKU’s first Rhode’s Scholar, batted .369 with 10 home runs, 65 RBI and 51 runs scored in 2010. Rice told MLB.com “I definitely have an interest in playing professionally. Hopefully next year, something would work out.” (Read more)