8/4: Just One Thing

In an effort to write more than I have been, I decided to try at least putting together “Just One Thing” about each game I cover. It might be about a particular play, an at-bat, or a guy’s walk-up song. Whatever piques my interest that game. We’ll see how long this lasts.

Maybe it was only one inning against a strikeout-prone trio of Richmond batters. But then again perhaps reliever Kyle Barraclough is starting to figure things out if Sunday afternoon’s outing is any indication.

The 29-year-old right-hander struck out the side as he buzzed through the heart of the Richmond lineup needing only 13 pitches to punch out Jalen Miller, Jacob Heyward, and Zach Houchins.

After giving up a three-run homer to Justin Turner on July 26 and subsequently returning to Harrisburg, Barraclough worked two shutout innings with one walk and three strikeouts against Hartford on Thursday night. On Sunday, the 6-foot-3 reliever looked even sharper, and it was the way he challenged the Flying Squirrels in the strike zone.

“The stuff is there it’s just a matter of repeating his delivery and commanding the baseball,” Harrisburg pitching coach Michael Tejera said. “Today he repeated his delivery very well, and the direction was good. He was consistent. You can see the results.

“It’s something he’s been working on. He wasn’t getting too much rotation on it. That’s what happens when he gets in trouble, and his command suffers.”

Sunday could be the start of seeing Barraclough returning to the form that had the Nationals trade for him in the first place.

 

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8/2: Just One Thing

 

In an effort to write more than I have been, I decided to try at least putting together “Just One Thing” about each game I cover. It might be about a particular play, an at-bat, or a guy’s walk-up song. Whatever piques my interest that game. We’ll see how long this lasts.

The first two pitches Tyler Mapes delivered on Saturday night were both laced for doubles by Richmond’s Bryce Johnson and Ryan Howard. The next four Mapes tossed weren’t in the strike zone with the last one hitting Jalen Miller.

This wasn’t the start Mapes or anyone in the Senators’ dugout had hoped for entering the game.

The previous night, starter Kyle McGowin couldn’t get out of the fourth inning, and Jordan Mills’ injury taxed the bullpen to pick up the slack. The last thing they needed was a short outing by Mapes, and that’s where things looked like they were headed in a hurry.

The 28-year-old right-hander, however, worked out of the jam allowing only two first-inning runs when the Flying Squirrels’ rally could have put the Senators in a much bigger hole to start the game.

“I was a little worried,” manager Matt LeCroy said. “He did a nice job squashing the damage.”

After that, Mapes settled down and gave the Senators precisely what they needed on the night. He followed with seven shutout innings allowing only five more hits while striking out 10 in his outing.

“Honestly, I found something in my motion,” Mapes said of the adjustment after the first inning. “Something finally clicked in my mechanics. It’s been a while. When I felt that feeling again, I was able to pitch to my strengths.”

Thanks in no small part to Richmond’s hideous defense, Harrisburg exploded for ten combined runs in the third and fourth innings to coast to an 11-2 win. The margin of victory also allowed LeCroy to stick with Mapes through 91 pitches.

“That was huge for our bullpen,” the skipper said. “It allowed me to give some guys a day off.”

Mapes’ season so far has been inconsistent at best, but when the pitching staff needed him to come up large, he delivered in a big moment.

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8/1: Just One Thing

In an effort to write more than I have been, I decided to try at least putting together “Just One Thing” about each game I cover. It might be about a particular play, an at-bat, or a guy’s walk-up song. Whatever piques my interest that game. We’ll see how long this lasts.

After a leadoff single and a subsequent four-pitch walk in the fifth inning, Harrisburg Senators manager Matt LeCroy, pitching coach Michael Tejera, and trainer TD Swinford congregated around reliever Jordan Mills.

From the dugout, LeCroy saw Mills doing as he said, “some funky looking stretches that didn’t look normal.” The southpaw threw one more pitch, and that was enough to receive an audience.

After a brief conversation, the powers that be decide Mills’ night was done. LeCroy and Tejera huddled before signaling for the “tall guy” in the bullpen. That would be the 6-foot-4 right-hander Bryan Bonnell.

Because Mills left with an injury, Bonnell was granted as many warm-up pitches as he wanted. Rule 5.07 (b) states:

“If a sudden emergency causes a pitcher to be summoned into the game without any opportunity to warm up, the umpire-in-chief shall allow him as many pitches as the umpire deems necessary.”

It’s a rule we’re all pretty much familiar with. But it did get me pondering a couple of questions I hadn’t thought of before.

Since Bonnell came into the game stone-cold will the umpires allow him any time to loosen up that doesn’t involve throwing? Watch the relievers in the bullpen skipping and stretching before they even throw one pitch. Is Bonnell allowed three minutes of calisthenics, or is he pretty much expected to start throwing right away?

And speaking of throwing, must warm-up pitches be from the mound? I remember Trevor Bauer in his UCLA days used to go behind the mound and get a couple of crow-hop throws in before he stepped up to the rubber. But the rule doesn’t explicitly say one way or another, so I’m left to wonder.

Maybe it’s just my mind wandering almost two hours into a game while it’s still just the fifth inning.

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7/30: Just One Thing

In an effort to write more than I have been, I decided to try at least putting together “Just One Thing” about each game I cover. It might be about a particular play, an at-bat, or a guy’s walk-up song. Whatever piques my interest that game. We’ll see how long this lasts.

Entering Tuesday night’s game against the Hartford Yard Goats, the Harrisburg Senators ranked dead last in the Eastern League in throwing runners out on the base paths. Through the season’s first 106 games, Harrisburg has caught a league-low 25 runners while allowing 74 successful stolen bases.

But as Tuesday night pointed out, the fault in those numbers can’t be laid entirely at the feet of catchers Tres Barrera and Spencer Kieboom.

Senators’ starting pitcher Kevin McGowan couldn’t have cared less about the runners that reached base. In the first three innings, Hartford ran roughshod to the tune of five stolen bases in as many attempts. The jumps the Yard Goats got off of McGowan made it nearly impossible for Barrera to have a fighting chance.

I say nearly because in the fourth inning Barrera threw out Nelson Molina at second base despite the Hartford second baseman getting a walking lead off of first base. It took a quick transfer, a quicker release, and a perfect throw to cut down Molina.

After the game, Senators’ manager Matt LeCroy said it was the first time the Senators’ staff had seen the 27-year-old right-hander pitch. The skipper knows they’ll have to work on McGowan paying attention to the baserunners and his times to home to give his catchers a chance.

It’s easy to look at the overall numbers and worry about that aspect of the catching corps. But as Tuesday showed that would be unfair to the men behind the plate.

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The Team of the 2010s: Utility Player

Over 11 weeks we’ll be running polls to determine the Harrisburg Senators’ Team of the 2010s. When we’re done, we’ll have starters for every position on the field including a designated hitter, utility player, right-handed and left-handed starter, and reliever.

Did a player turn into a MLB superstar? Or maybe he was a legend on City Island? Or just maybe he was your favorite because he was a better person than a player? Or you just loved his walk-up songs? How you make your selection is solely up to you.

Mondays we will post that week’s poll and Fridays we will announce the winner. You can only vote once a day, but that means you get five opportunities to stuff the ballot box.

 

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The Team of the 2010s: OF Brian Goodwin

Photo courtesy Will Bentzel / Harrisburg Senators

Brian Goodwin (2012-13, 2015, 2018) – .236/.324/.375, 282 G, 161 R, 103 RBI, 44 2B, 16 3B, 24 HR, 38 SB)

About halfway through Goodwin’s 2013 season, I think I finally figured out the outfielder. His whole time in Harrisburg over the previous two seasons I had thought of Goodwin as a leadoff hitter and all the expectations that come from that.

That was my mistake.

Gone was my frustration with his lack of bunting for base hits. Gone was my frustration with his poor leads and propensity for getting picked off. Despite the speed, I fooled myself into thinking of Goodwin in that role with the Senators. Just look at what he was able to do batting in the 2-hole behind Billy Burns in the batting order when Goodwin posted a .872 OPS with nine extra-base hits and 13 walks.

Double-A proved to be a big learning curve for Goodwin. The Nationals had the highly regarded prospect jump from Hagerstown to Harrisburg skipping Potomac in the process. He struggled at the plate and on routes to fly balls, but he drew walks from the leadoff spot and he has surprising pop in his bat.

At times, it appears Goodwin was patient for the sake of being patient or just waiting for his perfect pitch. Which is great thing if he can gain leverage in the count against the pitcher, but if he falls behind it was a huge uphill battle for the outfielder.

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The Team of the 2010s: OF Chris Rahl

Photo courtesy Will Bentzel / Harrisburg Senators

Chris Rahl (2011-12) – .285/.336/.439, 209 G, 107 R, 103 RBI, 42 2B, 12 3B, 17 HR, 51 SB)

Chris Rahl is one of those guys that every team needs to be successful. He’s a professional player who does everything well as witness by his run production and stolen base totals hitting from every spot in the lineup.

For two straight seasons, Rahl was passed over for promotion to Triple-A when he had better numbers. If I was him, I would have been more than a little frustrated but Rahl remained ever the professional and went about his business as usual.

Despite being hampered by the plantar fasciitis that eventually required season-ending surgery, Rahl was the Senators most consistent player in 2011 and 2012. Rahl’s versatility also came into play as he played significant time at all three outfield positions.

During his selection to the 2012 Eastern League All-Star Game, Rahl also won the unique Home Run Derby when his big hit during his two-minute round was a shot to dead center worth a whopping 100 points when it ricocheted off the crane sitting beyond the outfield wall. It was an advantage that no hitter after Rahl could repeat and it secured the victory for the Senators’ outfielder.

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