[10:53] Quick 9th inning for Frontz, and the Biscuits win game 1 of the series, 12-2. They set a season-high for runs scored, but the big story is Hellickson's potential injury. Desmond Jennings continued to hit, officially going 2 for 3 with a triple and three runs batted in.
Final thoughts on Laaser: It's tough to judge anyone on one game, including broadcasters, particularly one that turned into a blowout. Still, I thought Laaser did a good job, getting a lot of information about the players out there. I was surprised a little bit by how much he know about Birmingham; chalk it up to research and seeing Tyler Flowers on a daily basis last year with Myrtle Beach. He seems relaxed and casual in the booth, an approach I like to hear. He gave the top prospects(Jennings, Flowers, etc) their due but didn't center the broadcast on him. All in all an enjoyable listen, and we thank Jon for taking the time to answer some questions for us.
Here's hoping for some good news on Hellickson.
[10:44] Neal Frontz relieves Chris Mason and promptly walked the leadoff hitter, but got some help when Cortez, Anderson, and Hughes combined on a nifty double play. Frontz got Retherford to end the inning and keep the Biscuits ahead 9-2.
Okay, the Farmer's Insurance Question answer comes in the 8th inning, so I jumped the gun looking it up. Either way, I was off by 5 steals. Anyway, Fernando Cortez greeted Matt Long, making his AA debut, with a gap double, and Cesar Suarez reached when he was hit by a pitch. Drew Anderson walked to load the bases for Desmond Jennings, who added another RBI with his second sac fly of the night. Chaves followed with an RBI single, and after a Hughes flyout, Spring drove home another run with a single. Rashad Eldridge was retired to end the inning; 3 runs scored and the Biscuits are up 12-2 after 8.
RaysProspects: Who's the most impressive player you've seen play against the Biscuits this year? Along those lines, are there any prospects either lower in the Rays system(like Tim Beckham) or elsewhere in the Southern League you're looking forward to seeing?
Jon Laaser: Unfortunately, it was probably Carlos Triunfel, the 19-year old shortstop from the Mariners organization who broke his leg in the first series of the season. It was unbelievable to me how physically advanced he is at that age. We faced the top-pitching prospect from the Marlins organization (Sean West), and he didn’t blow me away. I’m looking forward to seeing Birmingham, and all their talent, including Tyler Flowers who was with me in Myrtle Beach last year. I am also eager to see how Mississippi will be with basically our entire slate of position players from Myrtle Beach last year.
[10:22] Mason stayed in and pitched a scoreless inning, although he did walk Flowers and threw a wild pitch allowing him to advance. No harm, no foul and the Biscuits still lead 5-2.
Fernando Cortez led off with a single for the Biscuits and Cesar Suarez followed with one his own on a hit and run to make it 1st and 3rd with nobody out. Drew Anderson made it pay with a triple to right field to stretch the lead to 7-2. Desmond Jennings hit a sac fly to make it 8-2 and the Biscuits threw up another run with a Hughes double, a wild pitch, a walk, and an RBI single from Rashad Eldridge. 9-2 Biscuits after 7 innings.
RaysProspects: The bullpen has been somewhat shaky, but Calvin Medlock, Eduardo Morlan, and in more limited time, Ryan Reid have all looked decent or better. What are your quick thoughts on those three?
Jon Laaser: Medlock has made it look easy. He never seems to be under duress of any kind, and has used three pitches as out pitches. He has shown great command, and you can definitely tell this isn’t his first rodeo at this level so-to-speak.
Morlan has been dominant since a shaky first time out. Like Medlock, he appears at ease in any situation. He has six scoreless outings in a row including last night, five of which have been two-inning outings.
We haven’t seen too much of Reid as of yet, but in limited glimpses he hasn’t shown any signs of being slowed down due to the elbow, and I think that is what everybody is most concerned with at the moment.
[9:59] Change of the battery as Chris Mason comes on in relief and Matt Spring relieves Shawn Riggans behind the plate.
Mason allowed a 1-out walk, but got a potential double-play ball off the bat of Retherford. But Drew Anderson botched the catch and the next hitter reached on an infield single to load the bases with 1 out. John Shelby battled Mason for a long at-bat before getting another ground ball. Fernando Cortez touched 3rd base and then made it an unconventional double-play when Retherford was called for runner interference, keeping Birmingham off the board.
Rhyne Hughes led off the inning with a walk, but Harrell got the next three hitters to keep it at 5-2 after 6 innings.
[9:33] I have to admit, I'm a fan of the music being played coming back from commercial breaks. Still no word from Laaser, who doesn't expect one to come until after the game.
Mann got a strikeout to start the frame, but Beckham doubled, Flowers singled, and Brandon Allen hit a sac fly to cut the lead to 4-2. Mann got Viciedo to ground out to end the inning and likely end three solid relief innings for Mann as Chris Mason is warming in the bullpen.
Was typing and I think I missed the Farmer's Insurance Question answer(how many SBs do the Biscuits have), so I'll just look it up: 30 steals, 5 higher than my guess of 25. I guess Desmond swiping a few in the doubleheader yesterday helped.
Meanwhile, after two quick outs, Jennings tripled to right field. He's now 2-3 on the night and 8 for his last 11. After a near-wild pitch on ball 1, Jennings scores two pitches later on one that got passed the Barons catcher. 5-1 Biscuits as Chaves grounds out to end the inning.
RaysProspects: How did Jason Isringhausen look in his rehab assignment with the Biscuits?
Jon Laaser: He looks good for the most part. We haven’t seen him do too much, relieving in the middle of games and throwing fairly non-descript innings. He looked much sharper in his first outing than in his second when he got some great defense behind him to put up a scoreless inning. But he came back the next night and looked very solid again. Like I said, not a lot to go off, but his fastball velocity seems to be where he would want it, and he has gone off-speed for outs when needed. He is definitely a bit heavier than I think most will remember from when they saw him last, unless they have been down to Port Charlotte.
[9:17] Mann allows a leadoff walk but doesn't let the runner get any further, retiring the next three hitters to maintain the Biscuits' 4-1 edge.
Stacy Long has some information regarding Hellickson, but still nothing official: "Trainer Lee Slagle was up the tunnel and walked down to the dugout before reporting something to pitching coach Neil Allen and Rays pitching coordinator Dick Bosman. Slagle also called or e-mailed someone from his Blackberry. The Rays have some big brass here, but they're still in their seats: assistant general manager Gerry Hunsicker, farm director Mitch Lukevics and field coordinator Jim Hoff."
Meanwhile, Lucas Harrell struck out Eldridge and Hall before getting Cortez to ground out to complete the 1-2-3 inning. 4-1 Biscuits after 4
RaysProspects: You were a part of "Awful Night" with the Altoona Curve. How did you get roped into that one? And what's your favorite promotion you've seen or taken part in?
Jon Laaser: I got roped into Awful Night with the aide of some late-night brain-storming if you know what I mean. That’s where most great promotional ideas are born I’ve discovered. Sadly, Brandon Chaves and Jason Bowers were both on that team and got to witness the “Laaser Light Show,” so I won’t be living it down anytime soon.
In Myrtle Beach, we did Motorboatin’ Night, which we billed as a night for boaters, but with obvious tie-ins to the movie “Old School.” That has been one of my favorites, along with St. Paul’s Salute to the Love Boat, which occurred coincidently enough after a few of the Minnesota Vikings had been in the news on a similar matter.
[9:04] Bad news: Jeremy Hellickson out after just 2 innings. No news yet but obviously I'll post anything I hear. Brandon Mann replaces him.
Mann allowed a leadoff double before rebounding to get two quick outs, but then he walked the next two to load the bases for Dayan Viciedo. Mann avoided any damage with a big strikeout to preserve the 4-1 lead.
Still nothing on Hellickson as rain begins to fall with the Biscuits batting in the 3rd inning. One thing I like about Laaser is how he's aware of player's prospect statuses, often giving their latest ranking by BaseballAmerica, but he doesn't center the broadcast around the top guys(save Hellickson's injury, a potentially big piece of news), which is an easy trap to fall into.
Farmer's Insurance Question Of The Night: How many stolen bases do the Biscuits have on the year? My answer, which will be embarrassingly inaccurate given I just looked at SB totals the other day: 25 steals.
Anyway, the Biscuits go quietly in the 3rd, getting a baserunner wiped out by a caught stealing. Shawn Riggans grounded out in his second AB of the night.
RaysProspects: Desmond Jennings would probably be a top-tier prospect if not for injuries. What do you think of him, and is there anybody you'd compare him to?
Jon Laaser: My immediate reaction is Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates, who I saw everyday in 2007. They are both so fluid in center field and Jennings may actually be better at reading the ball off the bat. He takes great routes on even better jumps, and sometimes I think people underestimate him defensively because he makes tough plays look so routine. At the plate, his pitch recognition and strike zone discipline have startled me at the beginning of the season. He has handled the first round of adjustments from the league with ease, and just when I though he wouldn’t have much pop, he launched two bombs at home in the Mobile series. When you throw in the fact that he has an outstanding attitude and laid-back personality, the Rays are probably going to have a decision in center at some point in the next couple of years.
[8:43] Hellickson's control wasn't quite the same in the 2nd as it was the 1st. He allowed two deep flyouts to begin the inning, then with 2 outs David Cook speared a clean single and was driven home by a Stefan Gartrell double. He recovered to strike out C.J. Retherford on a slider, but the Biscuits are down 1-0.
It's the Alabama Cattleman's Association Beef Of The Order! Nothing says beef of the order like Riggans, Eldridge, and Hall, right? At any rate, Riggans opened up the inning with an infield single and Eldridge doubled to set up J.T. Hall. Maybe there's something to the Beef Of The Order.
The Biscuits take the lead on an infield single and an error. Hall grounded one to Beckham, who made a diving stop. He tried to throw out Eldridge going to third and threw it away, allowing him to scoot home.
Montgomery got another break with Fernando Cortez hitting. He flew out, Hall tagged and went to third, and then scored when the throw to the infield was just kind of... not caught properly. Cesar Suarez grounded out for the second out before Drew Anderson doubled down the third base line, giving Jennings an RBI chance. Yet another error(a wild pitch) sent Anderson to third, and allowed him to score when Jennings beat out an infield single. Jennings was caught stealing, but the Biscuits took advantage of some... questionable Barons defense to take a 4-1 lead.
RaysProspects: Despite some great numbers, Jeremy Hellickson hasn't really been looked at as a top prospect. What have you seen from him that's impressed you? Anything you think needs work?
Jon Laaser: I’ve seen him take tremendous strides in areas where I think people felt he needed to in the past, which may be why he hasn’t been regarded as a top-prospect type. I have been particularly impressed with his willingness to pitch inside with his fastball, and challenge hitters regardless of count. To this point (four starts) he has been able to work in the lower half of the zone and hasn’t pitched to much contact. I don’t see much that needs a lot of work, but it is still too early due to pitch count how he will handle the third time through the order when you really have to start mixing it up. All in all, I have been extremely impressed with his tempo and repertoire.
[8:19] Useful piece of information from the pre-game lineups: Riggans is slated to catch 5 innings tonight, so he'll get 2 or 3 at-bats.
Very good start for Hellickson, getting a flyout and two strikeouts. He's pounding the strike zone with his fastball and using the breaking ball later in counts. He got both Gordon Beckham and Tyler Flowers swinging on change-ups, a great sign.
Desmond Jennings didn't lift the bat to lead things off for the Biscuits, going down on three called strikes. Chaves and Hughes couldn't get anything going as each pitcher works a scoreless 1st. Initial impressions on Laaser: Solid so far, peppering you with information. No dead air at all, which is furthered by each pitcher working quickly so far.
RaysProspects: Aside from calling the games, what kinds of things do you do for the Biscuits?
Jon Laaser: As with a lot of radio broadcasters, I handle our media department, ranging from arranging media requests for players and staff to coordinating daily game notes, stat packs and lineups. I handle all of our roster movement and correspondence with other teams and also oversee the official scoring and our new gameday stringers.
I am also responsible for all team related content on our website Biscuitsbaseball.com, including daily game stories and roster maintenance. Prior to the season, I wrote and designed the 2009 Biscuits Media Guide and also assisted in the marketing department.
[7:56]Biscuits broadcaster Jon Laaser answered a few questions for the site. Tonight I'll be liveblogging the game(updates after each inning) but also focusing on Laaser and the broadcast, while giving his answers. It's a good night for it, with Jeremy Hellickson starting, Shawn Riggans in the lineup on rehab, and a talented Birmingham team(including 2008 1st-rounder Gordon Beckham, Cuban signee Dayan Viciedo, and highly-regarded Tyler Flowers) in Riverwalk Stadium.
RaysProspects: First, how about a little background? How many years have you been broadcasting, and for which teams?
Jon Laaser: This is my seventh season calling games and fifth in professional baseball. Prior to joining the Biscuits I served as the Director of Broadcasting and Communications for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Advanced-A – Atlanta Braves) in 2008, Assistant Director of Broadcasting and Communications for the Altoona Curve (Double-A – Pittsburgh Pirates) in 2007, Director of Broadcasting for the Yakima Bears (Short-A – Arizona Diamondbacks) in 2006, Radio Broadcaster for the St. Paul Saints (Independent – Northern) in 2005 and the Director of Broadcasting for the St. Cloud River Bats (Summer Collegiate – Northwoods) in 2003-04.
Outside of Baseball, I am currently the lead broadcaster for Charleston Southern University (Charleston, SC) football and men’s basketball. I began my broadcasting career with KFAN radio in Minneapolis, MN, covering the Vikings, Twins, Timberwolves, Wild and University of Minnesota. I spent four years there from 2002 – 2006.