Injuries mar Blazers in series.
It was the one thing that could not happen. The one thing Blazer fans have dread over the last eight years. The one thing no one ever spoke of. The biggest “what if” in New Milford. Yesterday, that “what if” became the biggest reality in Blazers history. Mr. All Star. Mr. CY. Mr. MVP. Mr. HOFer. Mr. 40 starts a year. Mr. All Everything. Mr. Dependable. Mr. Blazer himself, Clayton Kershaw pulled up lame during his warm ups and went to the training room. A MRI later confirmed the worst fear any Blazer fan could think of. Clayton Kershaw is going on the DL courtesy of a herniated disc in his lumbar spine. “This of course is a terrible blow to the franchise, but we are confident we are still a playoff caliber team,” stated NM GM Anthony Peburn. “Trainers have assured us that with an epidural steroid injection and rest he will only miss 5 starts this chapter. We will probably then have to ease him back into the rotation and that should give us a great chance to have him at full strength for the stretch run. ” “It just kinda grabbed me,” said Kershaw. “The pain was unlike anything I’ve felt before but I knew I couldn’t pitch through it.”
Because of this injury, Shane Greene will be asked to step in and fill Kershaw’s rotation spot. “I told Kersh I had some pretty big shoes to fill,” stated Greene. “But Kersh just smiled and told me the only shoes I have to fill are my own. That got me to calm down a bit.”
It has been years since Kershaw has not started 7 games in chapter one. It looks like he won’t start many in chapter 2, either, opening the door for a very good Salem team to make a run to the top of the division. “We will battle with who we have,” proclaimed Peburn. “I think we will be fine.”
Meanwhile, the Blazers, minus Kershaw, traveled to South Loop for the first time to face the Furies.
Game 1: Greene @ Maeda
Top 2, a Blazers take advantage of some wildness by Maeda as Castro draws a bases loaded walk to take a 1-0 lead.
Meanwhile, Greene does his best Kershaw impersonation going 5 innings and only giving up 4 H and a walk with 5 K’s and no ER.
Boshers and Bowman escaped a bases loaded jam getting PH Joyce to K to end the threat in the 6th. Devenski came on for the 7th and 8th for some very uneventful frames and Kimbrel closed out the 9th with 2 K’s as Blazers hold on for the 1-0 shutout win.
WP Greene (1-0)
LP Maeda (1-1)
S Kimbrel (3)
Game 2: Tanaka @ Nelson
Top 2, Blazers score 2 on a Tulo RBI double and Tanaka RBI single.
A 5th inning Carpenter HR made it 4-0 Blazers.
Bottom half, an Inciarte single put the Furies on the board for the first time 4-1.
Top 6, Tulo goes yard for a 6-1 lead.
Bottom 7, a Hicks solo shot pulled South Loop to 6-2.
Bottom 9, Calhoun HR’s to lead off the frame and Martinez then singles. Kimbrel got up as fast as he could and after allowing a one out walk to bring the tying run to the plate, he K’d that tying run twice to preserve the Blazer 6-3 win.
WP Tanaka (2-0)
LP Nelson (0-1)
S Kimbrel (4)
Game 3: Quintana @ Porcello
Furies furie all over Quintana early with two in the first courtesy of Cain and Calhoun RBI’s and one in the second on an Eduardo Nunez HR, but Blazers tie it in the second on a Tulo 3 run bomb.
Bottom 4, Porcello helps his own cause with a RBI double and a 4-3 lead.
Top 6, Saunders, who started the season 1 for 14 with 10 K’s ripped a RBI single to tie it. A Tulo single and Castro sac fly make it 6-4 Blazers.
Bottom 7, a VMart RBI IF single pull Furies to 6-5.
Top 9, Saunders with anther RBI single made it 7-5.
Bottom 9, I had a feeling Kimbrel was tired but he wasn’t red, so I went with him. After getting a groundout, he walked the next 2 to bring the winning run to the plate. He was visibly pissed when he was yanked from the game. Boshers came on to get Calhoun, and then Recker PH for Walters. NM counters with McGowan the righty killer but Recker wins the battle with a single plating 2 and tying the game at 7.
Top 12 with one out and runners on second and third, Tulo is IBB’d but Dietrich hits a ball deep enough to plate a run. 8-7 Blazers.
Bottom 12, Treinen comes on and after a 2 out walk, K’s Ramirez who was not only the last pitcher on the roster, but the only batter as well as Blazers win 8-7.
WP Cervenka (1-0)
LP Ramirez (0-1)
S Treinen (1)
Freeman and his Iron rating were lost for the rest of the series midway through this game.
Game 4: Moore @ Samardzija
Top 2, Saunders goes yard for a 1-0 Blazer lead and make it 4 games in a row scoring in the second inning.
A Garcia RBI single in the 4th made it 2-0 Blazers.
Top 5 a Grandy Man solo shot and Garcia bases loaded walk make it 4-0 Blazers.
Bottom 6, VMart and Calhoun go back to back to cut the Blazer lead in half, 4-2.
Bottom 9, Devenski on for the tired Kimbral and gets the Furies in order as Blazers get the sweep and 6th Blazer save in 6 wins for the Blazers.
WP Moore (1-1)
LP Samardzija (1-2)
S Devenski (1)
Blazers hold a one game lead over Salem in the McGowan Division.
After a one year hiatus, the tradition continues.
Game 1: Strasburg @ Kershaw
The very first play of the season for the storied NM defense is an error on a foul pop fly by Tulo.
Top 4, after a Carpenter error, Werth goes yard for a 2-0 Tipper lead.
A Miggy RBI double made it 3-0 in the 5th.
Bottom 7, Freeman goes yard to pull New Milford to 3-1.
Bottom 8, with 2 outs, Betts with an RBI single and Freeman with a 2 RBI double off of lefty Montgomery and Kimbral comes on in the 9th for his first save as Salem wastes Stras’s gem (7 IP, 3H, 1 R, 2BB, 9 K) in a Blazer 4-3 win.
WP Devenski (1-0)
LP Mongomery (0-1)
S Kimbrel (1)
Game 2: Matz @ Tanaka
Tanaka goes 7 strong with 1 ER and is backed by a McCann HR, Matz run scoring balk, and Freeman RBI double as Kimbrel gets save #2 in a Blazer 3-1 win.,
WP Tanaka (1-0)
LP Matz (0-1)
S Kimbrel (2)
Game 3: Gray @ Quintana
Up 4-1 in the 7th on the strength of a Grandy solo shot and Betts 3 run bomb, Blazers pen implodes to the tune of 10 runs in the last 3 innings as Salem wins a laugher 11-4.
WP Montgomery (1-10
LP Bowman (0-1)
Game 4: Guerra @ Moore
Moore is good with 2 ER in 5 IP but Guerra dominates with 0 ER and 3 H in 6 IP. JC Ramirez knocked in 2 for Salem in a 3-1 Salem win and series split.
WP Guerra (1-0)
LP Moore (0-1)
S Solis (1)
As usual, the New Milford Blazers farm system won’t excite prospect pundits but is chock full of gamer type baseball players and pitching, pitching and pitching. “We do a fantastic job with pitching development,” boasts GM Anthony Peburn. “For some reason, we can’t develop top hitting prospects but we keep churning out heady, gamer types that seem to exceed expectations.” This year is no different.
The AAA Hartford Illuminati is lead by a solid starting rotation headed by Blazer #2 prospect and 1M bonus baby Yohander Mendez. Mendez is a 21 year old left hander with TOR stuff and has the #2 pitch in the system with his devastating change up. He is backed by #10 prospect Chih-Wei Hu. The 23 year old had the greatest assortment of pitches in the system in a fastball, slider, curve, change, and palmball. Righty Dinelson Lamet is a 24 year old with above average fastball, slider and change. Lamet is the #11 ranked prospect in the system. The #4 starter at AAA is the #15 ranked prospect in righty Nick Kingham. Kingham has a fastball, curve and change arsenal with very good control. Rounding out the AAA rotation is #17 prospect Austin Voth. Voth is a 24 year old righty with a solid fastball, slider, curve and change package. All 5 starters have the potential to reach the Blazers roster next season, which is good as the reliable Jose Quintana is set to hit free agency. “Any one of those guys can step up and contribute,” said Peburn. The closer is Dan Altavilla. Altavilla (#8) has a 98 MPH fastball and the third best pitch in the system with his double plus slider.
The hitters are lead by the catching tandem of Garrett Stubbs (#6) and Bruce Maxwell (#7). Both left handed hitters, it is hoped that as least one will be ready for the show next year as Jason Castro is a free agent. “Stubbs is an intriguing guy,” said Peburn. “He is small, but is a great receiver, excellent defensively, and can be an average hitter. Maxwell has a little more polish and pop, and because of this, he may get a cup of coffee with the big club this year. If Castro gets hurt, Bruce will get the call.”
The OF is lead by #9 prospect Anthony Santander. The 21 year old switch hitter has 70 power but will need to work on his defense if he is to stay in the OF. #14 prospect JaCoby Jones is a great athlete who has played SS and 3B, but is now in CF where his D projects as plus.
The IF is led by SS Erik Gonzalez (#13). A true SS with a plus arm, the right handed hitter may be better suited for a utility role a la Greg Garcia. The 2B is Chad Pinder (#16). The righty is like Gonzalez where a utility role is possible but is going to develop at 2B. Both are aggressive hitters and don’t walk much, which is not the Blazer philosophy at the plate. 2B Max Schrock (#18) embodies what the Blazers get out of their hitting prospects. His simple, consistent, left handed swing and steady glove could make a sneaky starting 2B at the big league level.
The A ball Nestle Quik are also led by pitching. Anchoring the rotation is Mr 105 MPH himself Michael Kopech. The #1 prospect in the system has a double plus fastball which is the best pitch in the system and sits at 98 deep into games, flashes a plus slider and developing change. The #2 starter is the #3 prospect in draft day steal Max Fried. The lefty was originally drafted by the Blazers and traded for Matt Carpenter. “When we saw he was dropped by Southern Cal last year, he immediately went to the top of our board,” explaind Peburn. 18 year old Jose Albertos (#5) gives the Blazers 3 potential aces in the rotation. He has a 98 MPH fastball, plus curve and solid average change PLUS good control. “He’s a long way off, but he can be a REALLY good one,” said Peburn. Tomohiro Anraku (#12) is the #4 starter. Like Albertos, he is a long way off but has killer stuff. The #5 starter is lefty Kodi Medieros (#19). Medieros is an enigma and will be given one more year to show the stuff that made him a first round pick by the Blazers a few years back.
The hitters are lead by all-everything 2B Luis Urias. The #4 prospect in the system is an excellent defensive 2B, walks way more than he K’s and can square any pitch. “He tracks pitches better than any 19 year old I’ve ever seen,” said Peburn. “He squares up on double plus heat AND double plus off speed stuff. He can tell you what the pitch is coming out of the pitchers hand. Very impressive eye.”
As always, the future is bright in New Milford.
In an odd trade with two OL playoff hopefuls, the Blazers reached a deal with the Infidels.
New Milford sends Dan Descalso, who lost his roster spot with the acquisition of Kinsler, along with Richard Bleier and Ramiro Pena to Ravenswood for Bruce Maxwell, Dustin McGowan and Charlie Morton.
“Descalso was expendable,” explained NM GM Anthony Peburn. “Skiz had a need for a bat so we offered him up for two 5ooK picks and a 100K pick. That also allowed us to spend 1M on Mendez. Maxwell is the C that we covet. A left handed batter, he may get a cup of coffee this year and will hopefully take over for Castro when he departs next year. McGowan fills in the 80 innings we are missing on the cheap, and Morton is a flier for next year to hopefully step in for Quintana.”
We wish Descalso the best, but he is going from one playoff contender to another, so he is happy. We hope Pena’s and Bleier’s brief stay in New Milly was a good one.
New Milford AP
As New Milford GM Anthony Peburn approached the podium, he seemed to have more swagger than usual. It was a Ric Flair kind a swagger.
“It’s a GREAT day for the Blazers,” he said.
“Could that auction have gone any better for the Blazers?” asked Norm Cummings of the New Milford Spectrum.
“Norm, it was a hell of an auction for us,” replied Peburn. “We made the gaffe with two first basemen, but corrected it. We wanted Freeman, Kinsler and either Grandy or Cain. Sure, we also wanted one of the closers, but we wound up with the next best thing. When you add a #3, #4, and #5 hitter to your line up AND a closer, it’s a pretty good feeling. The addition of Kinsler cost someone his job, who won’t be named right now as the trade is pending and Niewuenhuis just lost his job to Grandy. Grandy is the type of hitter who will do well in our park. He K’s a lot but he will drive in a ton of runs for us.”
“How did the trade for Kimbrel take shape?” asked Marty Bailstock of the Hartford Courant.
“Well, Marty, Chicago showed the most interest, so we tried to work solely with them. We had a few teams kicking the tires but didn’t want to commit to anything as they were also trying to win bids for first basemen in the auction. He initially offered his own 5M pick which we rejected as he was to pick right before us if we had the money to do so. We were talking about a multiple pick deal with a 3M rounder included when he acquired the 5M pick from South Loop. We figured 5 picks into round 3 should get us one of the guys we wanted and it panned out.”
“You still seem about 100 innings short and your next pick is in the 1M round. What are you going to do about that?” asked Sam Dickwad of the Salem Times.
“Sam, it’s only less than 100 innings. We will be fine. As of right now, we can slide Devenski into the starter role to make up for Kershaw and pretty much not lose a beat, as he is just like Kershaw and better than anyone else’s #1 starter. We also have a trade to be completed so we will be fine. Hell, if we had to start YOU once a chapter we can still win 100 games.”
“Predictions for the season?” asked Cummings.
“100 wins, first place, 3 games over Salem. Keep in mind, this Salem team is the best one Glander has put on the field in a long time. It is WAY better than that team he over-hyped a few years ago. This one is the real deal and a World Series contender. It will be neck and neck, but I think landing a third top bat to upgrade in CF AND a closer gives us the edge. We’ll just have to play 160 games and see how it shakes out.”
After landing 2 of the top bats in the 2017 FA auction, New Milford made a shocking move landing perhaps the top hitting FA in 1B Freddy Freeman on the third night of the auction.
New Milford GM Anthony Peburn was all smiles as he approached the podium for the press conference. (With a wink and double finger guns), “It’s a great night ain’t it, gentlemen?”
“That’s a tremendous signing,” started Norm Cummings of the New Milford Spectrum. “Was this part of your master plan?”
“Norm, our plan was to sign 2 top hitters,” explained Peburn. “Not only did we get 2 top hitters, we got 2 top hitters who play EX defense. Putting 4-5 EX defenders on the field, plus an EX arm from your catcher will save quite a few runs over the 160 game season. Kinsler and Freeman were our top targets. I know Cano seemed like a slam dunk with our history, but the decreased cost, increased defensive value and better balance to our line up made Kinsler our man. Having 3 EX’s on the right side of our infield should neutralize opposing left handed hitters in our park. Advantage; us.”
“But what the hell are you going to do with TWO first basemen? This is Doyle 2.0,” exclaimed Sam Dickwad of the Salem Times.
“My dear Sam, you really have no clue, do you?” asked Peburn. “While this may be SIMILAR to the Doyle fiasco of last year, this is actually very different. Last year Doyle had NO pitching and blew his entire cap on two first basemen, both with type H contracts. We have pretty much a full roster and can trade Santana if the situation presents itself. Have you ever heard of having ‘too much hitting?’ You know why you have never heard of that? It’s because there is on such thing. Yes it is true that we have more bats than roster spots, but that is a great problem to have. Judging by the trade interest in Santana over the last 24 hours, we feel that when the auction is over and the music stops, two teams will be left standing without a seat. If we come to a trade agreement with one of those teams, great. If we don’t, then we have an awesome bench bat that we will GLADLY make room for. If that is the case then Kim goes to AAA and either Garcia or Descalso gets traded. Probably Garcia based on the off season interest. We will see how this plays out.”
“Do you regret the Santana signing now that you have Freeman?” asked Cummings.
“Not really, Norm,” replied Peburn. “Yes, if I had a Delorean I’d go back in time, let Chicago win the Santana bid, save 7M to plunder in this auction and an extra 4 M for the next 2 years on Freeman’s contract, but this is the price you pay to compete. It’s not easy putting a division winner on the field every year. You take some gambles. You win some, you lose some. You just can’t be afraid to take the gambles in the first place. We really think this situation is going to work out either way.”
“What are you going to do with that whopping 6.7 M left?” asked Mitch Halbum of the Washington Tribune.
“Well, Mitchy, that’s a secret. He have our eyes on a few guys. Some to help us now, some with future potential, and some with a combination of both. We’ll see where the chips fall.”
“Do you think this puts you up there with the Los Altos’s and Salem’s of the world?” asked Mel Kiper Jr of ESPN.
“Mel, I have no idea why you are here, but thanks for covering us. We always think we are up there with the very best. 2017 will be a blood bath in the McGowan division like it always is. Salem is good this year. Really good. So is Los Altos. And don’t sleep on Ravenswood. Bear Country could be amazing with a little more pitching. We’ll just see. We think we are as good as we always are, which pretty much assures us a trip to the OLCS. Hopefully this is the year we don’t get our asses kicked in that round. Thanks for coming, folks. Probably going to hold one more press conference before all the FA’s are signed.”
On Day 2 of the 2017 BDBL auction, New Milford made a HUGE splash adding two middle of the order bats for a combined 10.5 million.
Ian Kinsler is the new Blazer second baseman for a 5.5 salary. He forms a dynamic middle of the diamond duo with Tulo with both having EX ratings in the field.
Carlos Santana is the new first baseman, shifting Carpenter to 3B. At only 5 million, both are bargains for this year.
“Carlos and Ian are middle of the order type bats,” explains GM Anthony Peburn. “Carlos is kinda like Teixeira was last year, but now we have that production for a full year. This also balances out our line up, as sometimes being too lefty heavy has hurt us.”
With the new additions, New Milford has a roster crunch as either Kim or Dietrich will not be on the 25 man roster. A trade is very possible.
With almost 20 million still to spend, the Blazers look to add another impact player. “If no one wants to spend money this auction, we will spend it for them,” winked Peburn.