The franchise-record winning streak is over, but the Akron Aeros still have a chance at contending for the Eastern League title again this season. The team is back at .500 after two straight losses on Sunday and Tuesday, but still right in the middle of the Western Division playoff race.
Hot pitching along with clutch hitting performances have been the key of late for manager Joel Skinner’s squad. The Aeros enter the 2010 season winners of five straight pennants in the EL and will need a miracle in order to add to their EL-record run of five consecutive seasons of 80 wins or more. Stay tuned below for more information on the club and several prospects in the Indians organization.
Last Week: 4-2
Current Record: 32-32, 3rd place (of six) in Eastern League’s Western Division
6/9 vs. New Hampshire – Aeros 2, Fisher Cats 0; WP Scott Barnes (2-5)
6/10 vs. New Hampshire – Aeros 4, Fisher Cats 3; WP Eric Berger (3-5)
6/11 vs. Portland – Aeros 4, Sea Dogs 3; WP Carlton Smith (1-1)
6/12 vs. Portland – Aeros 12, Sea Dogs 5; WP Paolo Espino (7-2)
6/13 vs. Portland – Sea Dogs 3, Aeros 0; LP Alex White (2-2)
6/15 at New Hampshire – Fisher Cats 6, Aeros 3; LP Scott Barnes (2-6)
Lots of roster moves this past week, starting with the promotion of 2B Jason Kipnis from Class A Kinston to take up the roster spot of departed Cord Phelps. The very next day, 1B Beau Mills went on the disabled list with an intercostal strain and RHP Carlton Smith returned from his two-week injury absence. After earning the win that night, Smith then received the promotion to Class AAA Columbus and the Aeros received recent waiver pick-up RHP Shane Lindsay from Class A Kinston. Lindsay made his Akron debut the other night and then finally, IF Adam Davis moved back to Kinston and 2009 seventh-round draft pick CF Jordan Henry came to Double-A for the first time.
OF: John Drennen, Tim Fedroff, Jerad Head, Jordan Henry, Matt McBride
IF: Cristo Arnal, Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Kipnis, Carlos Rivero
C: Damaso Espino, Miguel Perez
SP: Alex White, Scott Barnes, Eric Berger, Kelvin De La Cruz, Nick Hagadone/Paolo Espino
RP: Connor Graham, Chen-Chang Lee, Shane Lindsay, Bryan Price, Bryce Stowell, Steven Wright
DL: RHP Zach Putnam, 1B Beau Mills
* subject to change
Jovial Jason… The home run by 2B Jason Kipnis Tuesday night was his first in his brief Double-A career after earning the promotion from Class A Kinston last Thursday. The second baseman smacked 12 doubles and six home runs with the K-Tribe earlier this year and the Arizona State product now has a .302 batting average and a .381 on-base percentage in 86 career minor league games. The Cleveland Indians selected the 23-year-old Kipnis in the second round (63rd overall) of the June 2009 Draft.
Catch Me If You Can… Catcher Damaso Espino finished with three singles Tuesday, highlighting one of the most surprising developments over the past month for the Aeros. Both Espino and C Miguel Perez both joined the roster in early May as veterans with Double-A experience and have done very well so far. Perez appeared in 87 games for Altoona between 2008 and 2009 while Espino was the back-up to Eastern League MVP Carlos Santana last season. The production has been incredibly consistent this year as the two backstops have combined to hit .344 (44-128) in their 40 games played along with 13 multi-hit performances.
Rewarding the Rebel… The Aeros made a roster move Monday morning on the way to New Hampshire, as IF Adam Davis was transferred to Class A Kinston and CF Jordan Henry was received from the K-Tribe as well. Davis played in five games or Akron, including four straight starts at four different positions to end last home stand. Henry, Cleveland’s seven-round selection in the June 2009 Draft out of the University of Mississippi, ranked among the leaders in the Carolina League with a .333 batting average, 30 walks and 14 stolen bases. The 22-year-old center fielder will be wearing #17 in his Double-A debut.
What a Relief… The Akron bullpen has been tremendous recently despite the two runs allowed in the seventh inning Tuesday. Aeros relievers have led a pitching revival by posting a 2.08 ERA over the past 31 games with a 2.6 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a 1.22 WHIP. RHP Bryce Stowell has yet to allow a run in 14 innings pitched since his promotion on May 20th, RHP Omar Aguilar has a 1.56 ERA in the seventh and eighth innings combined and RHP Connor Graham has permitted just one earned run in his 10 appearances as a reliever. Following a doubleheader May 12th at Reading, the bullpen had a 5.18 ERA for the season.
– The Aeros bullpen currently has a 2.08 ERA in the past 31 team games dating back to May 14th. In the first 33 games of the season, the bullpen had a rough 5.18 ERA for the year as the entire pitching staff struggled to find any sort of consistency.
– The Akron roster currently features nine players selected in the first two rounds of the MLB Draft along with three players selected by the Indians in 2009. OF John Drennen (’05 1st round), OF Matt McBride (’06 2nd round), 1B Beau Mills (’07 1st round), RHP Steven Wright (’07 2nd round), 3B Lonnie Chisenhall (’08 1st round), RHP Alex White (’09 1st round), 2B Jason Kipnis (’09 2nd round) and CF Jordan Henry (’09 7th round) were all drafted by Cleveland while the Boston Red Sox originally selected both LHP Nick Hagadone (’07 1st round) and RHP Bryan Price (’08 1st round).
– Former Detroit Lions cornerback Lem Barney will be the National Pro Football Hall of Fame’s representative at Canal Park on Sunday, June 27th. The Hall of Fame has had several notable stars appear in Akron over the years and Barney will throw out the first pitch as well as hold two autograph sessions before and during the contest that afternoon.
– The Aeros announced Monday as well that all remaining buyout nights for the rest of the season will feature FREE tickets for all fans. You can pick up any number of FREE vouchers at your local Applebee’s (6/22), Key Bank (7/5) and Ritzman Pharmacy (7/26) for an upcoming game at Canal Park.
When not busy writing about the Cleveland Cavs, Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal caught a few games at Canal Park last week. He first wrote about SS Carlos Rivero’s batting stance and then had a nice story about the revitalized pitching staff.
LHP Eric Berger has been tremendous recently, and after bringing a no-hitter into the sixth inning during his most recent start, had an opportunity to speak with John Parker of MiLB.com. Check out his article about Berger’s solid past few outings.
And finally, Aeros radio broadcaster Jim Clark has been with the team since the early days back in Canton and continues to travel on the majority of the road trips. This article here from Craig Marks of the West Side Leader talks about Clark’s many stories from the Canal Park press box on Education Days.
Into the Canal:
Just by looking at the Aeros roster, you can tell that things are a lot different in 2010 than in previous seasons. The promotions of 2009 draftees White, Kipnis and Henry have come faster than any trio of top prospects in many years. In fact, it’s the first time Cleveland moved three players selected in the first seven rounds this fast for extended playing time in Double-A since the franchise moved to Akron in 1997.
What this means is that fans may witness an entirely new playoff experience at Canal Park. While in previous years, players like Todd Betts, Scott Pratt, Tyler Minges and Jerad Head shined in the September spotlight, highly regarded prospects will now be up and down throughout the Akron roster with the chance to lead the team to another championship.
Between those three youngsters and prospects like Hagadone, Price, Chisenhall, Mills, Graham and others, this team is about as loaded as ever right now. The lineup is intimidating and by all means, that 12-game winning streak was not a fluke. I’m not going to go out on a limb and say the Aeros will win 80 games this season, but earning a wild card spot is all that is necessary for an unprecedented potential fourth championship in eight years.
(Photo above via Kevin Pataky/MiLB.com)