What a year it has been so far for the Rochester Red Wings. They've gone from a near-laughingstock to a dark horse in the International League Wild Card race and it's not even the All-Star Break yet.
Allow me to elaborate: The Red Wings started the season 2-11. Even with all of the cliches about how long a season is, starting with a 2-11 record is enough to make one want to declare the season over early and start wondering if Miguel Sano will start in Rochester in 2014 or if he'd make the Twins out of Spring Training.
Funny thing happened though: the Red Wings got good. They've gone 41-34 since the 2-11 start, and have for the past week or two been hovering around .500, never able to get above it but not falling too far behind it either.
That said, those first thirteen games aren't going to disappear, and as a large result of them, the Wings are a distant 4th place in the IL North, 10.5 games back of the Pawtucket Red Sox. And, what do you know, the night of July 4th was the first of a four-game series against the Red Sox.
And, more or less, the 4th couldn't have gone better for the Red Wings, as they won 6-2. Some notable events and players:
Pedro Hernandez pitched well, going six innings and giving up two earned runs on six hits, including a solo home run by Red Sox catcher Dan Butler in the 3rd. He was replaced by Aaron Thompson, who pitched three innings of shutout relief, although it got a little iffy in the 9th, when the Red Sox got two men on. Overall, the Red Wings looked good on the mound.
But, more importantly, it's safe to say that, after a brief slump, the Red Wings offense has awoken. After 10-run explosion in Buffalo on the 3rd, the Wings scored six last night. Two players in particular stood out:
First off, there's Chris Colabello. He may not have done well in his initial cup of coffee with the Twins, but he certainly doesn't belong in AAA. He's crushing opposing pitching to the tune of .359/.434/.662, and had a RBI double last night. Every time he stepped to the plate, the more knowledgeable (i.e. not just there for the fireworks) fans in the crowd was paying total attention. That he got on base just twice last night (on the double and a seemingly intentional unintentional walk) is irrelevant: he is a force simply due to the fact he is present in the lineup. He needs and deserves another shot in the big leagues, and if the Twins do anything with Justin Morneau by the trade deadline, I have to think he'll get that shot.
The second player who stood out yesterday was Drew Butera. Yes, that Drew Butera. He was the only Wing with two hits, and he had a key 2-run homer in the 3rd inning. And it was a no-doubt-about-it bomb of a homer, gone the moment it hit the bat. And, least you do not believe that Drew Butera hit a home run, here he is rounding third in his home run trot (that's Will Middlebrooks in the background):
Butera is now hitting .275 on the year, although admittedly he's only played in 16 games because of his DL stint. I'd say maybe the Twins should call him up, but, well, the sample size is far too small to declare that Butera has made some sort of breakthrough. It's way, way, too early.
Some other things:
Antoan Richardson is fast. One inning, he stole both second and third during the course of a single at-bat.
- Jeff Clement has 13 HRs but a .214 average. In other words, he's in Rochester to hit the occasional dinger.
- And something for those of you who follow the Red Sox: Jackie Bradley Jr. went 0-4 with a walk and a strikeout, and his strikeout probably got the biggest cheer of the night. Not because it was anything personal... simply because it meant everybody got free taco coupons.
So, there you go, the latest from AAA.
(Dan Glickman's baseball writings can usually be found at the Baseball Continuum blog.)