Outrighted by the Phillies to Triple-A Lehigh Valley: LHP Cesar Jimenez, RHP J.C. Ramirez, and outfielders Roger Bernadina and Casper Wells.
Bernadina hit just .187 in 75 at bats for the Phillies after being acquired as a free agent on August 21st from the Nationals. He had hit just .178 for Washington in 2013 after hitting .291 in 2012. Casper Wells was acquired off the waiver wire from the White Sox on August 8th. He had just 1 hit in 24 at bats with the Phillies.
Jimenez was 4-2 3.12 in 66.1 innings with the Ironpigs in 2013. He threw just 17 innings for the Phillies and was 1-1 with a 3.71 ERA. J.C. Ramirez is still only 25 years old and was 4-2 4.71 with the Ironpigs last season. In his time with the Phillies he was 0-1 7.50 in 24 innings. He was one of the players acquired when the Phillies sent Cliff Lee to Seattle in December, 2009.
The Phillies currently have 30 players on their 40 man roster with another 6 on the 60 Day Disabled List (Adams, Horst, Kendrick, Lannan, Pettibone, Howard).
The UCLA Bruins baseball team had a dominant pitching staff in the 2010 season. Their pitching took them all the way to the final game of the College World Series where they dropped an 11 inning heart-breaker to the South Carolina Gamecocks by a 2-1 score. In 2011, two of the pitchers from that UCLA staff were selected first and third in the MLB draft. The first to go was Gerrit Cole, now in the starting rotation for the Pittsburgh Pirates and the winner of Game 2 in the 2013 NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals. With the third pick, the Arizona Diamondbacks selected Trevor Bauer from UCLA. In December, 2012 Bauer was traded to the Cleveland Indians in a blockbuster 3 team deal. Surprisingly, neither of those aces was the pitcher to start the 2010 College World Series Championship game for UCLA. That honor went to a 5’9″ left-hander by the name of Rob Rasmussen.
As a high school pitcher in Pasadena, California, Rasmussen compiled a 4 year record of 38-2 with a 1.04 ERA. In 248.2 career innings in his high school career, he allowed just 37 earned runs while racking up 492 strikeouts. His 12-0 record in his senior year earned him first team All-State and third team All-American honors. But, because he had already made a firm commitment to go to college, he wasn’t drafted until the Dodgers took a chance on him in the 27th round of the 2007 draft. As expected, he passed on the Dodgers offer and went to UCLA.
After an injury plagued 2008 season at UCLA he appeared in 18 games for the Bruins in 2009, 6 of those games as a starter. He was 4-2 with a high ERA of 6.75 but recorded 51 strikeouts in just 44.2 innings. He became the number 3 starter for UCLA in 2010 and started 19 games. He finished the season with an 11-3 record and a 2.72 ERA which was the fourth best ERA in the Pac-10. In 109.1 innings he recorded 128 strikeouts while walking just 35 batters. In game 3 of the NCAA Super Regionals, he threw a complete game 2-hit shutout while striking out 9 and walking just 1. That win over Cal State Fullerton sent UCLA to the College World Series for the first time since 1997. The Bruins advanced all the way to the College World Series championship game on June 29, 2010 where they dropped that heartbreaking 11 inning 2-1 pitcher’s duel to the University of South Carolina. Rob Rasmussen threw 6 scoreless innings while allowing 6 hits and striking out 5 in that game.
Rob Rasmussen was selected by the Florida Marlins in the 2nd round (73rd overall) of the 2010 draft. He signed with the Marlins in 2010 and played in the Marlins farm system until July of 2012 when he was traded to the Houston Astros in the deal that sent Carlos Lee from Houston to Miami. Then, in December of 2012 the Astros traded him to his hometown Dodgers in exchange for minor league right-handed pitcher John Ely. In 2013, at age 24, Rasmussen struggled at the AAA level in the Dodgers organization going 0-7 at Albuquerque. He pitched well at AA, finishing 3-4 2.55 with Chattanooga in the Southern League and, in 81.1 innings, he allowed just 60 hits and walked 28 while striking out 76 batters.
Finally, the journey to the major leagues for Rob Rasmussen took another surprising turn when on August 31st of this year, his hometown Dodgers shipped him to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for veteran Michael Young. With the 2013 minor league season coming to a close, Rasmussen has yet to pitch his first game in the Phillies organization. He will likely begin the 2014 season as a member of the Reading Fightin’ Phils but it would not be a surprise if his journey takes him to the Lehigh Valley Ironpigs sometime during the upcoming season. But the fact that such a young and talented left-handed pitcher has changed teams 4 times in 4 seasons can certainly raise some questions regarding the reason for all the changes. Was he really in such high demand that 4 teams insisted he be included in trades? Or did all those teams get a good look at him and decide he wasn’t what they expected? I prefer to take a positive approach and assume that the reason he has been traded so often is because there is a high demand for a pitcher with his abilities. Hopefully the Philadelphia Phillies will turn out to be the final destination for Rob Rasmussen.
The Indianapolis Indians won the International League West Division with a record of 80-64. When they visited the Lehigh Valley to play the Ironpigs from May 2 to May 5, three of their starting pitchers were Francisco Liriano, Charlie Morton, and Gerrit Cole. While neither of those pitchers suffered a loss in that series, the Ironpigs won all 3 of the games they started. On May 3, Charlie Morton started and threw 3 hitless innings. The Ironpigs eventually won the game by a 7-1 score. On May 4, Gerrit Cole allowed 2 runs in 6 innings but the Ironpigs won that game in 13 innings by a 3-2 score when Leandro Castro drove home Cody Overbeck with the game winning run. Then on May 5, the Ironpigs faced Francisco Liriano. He allowed 4 runs in 5 innings but the Ironpigs managed another walk-off victory when Leandro Castro singled home Cesar Hernandez in the bottom of the 9th for a 5-4 Lehigh Valley victory.
Today, all three of those Indianapolis pitchers are in the starting rotation for the NL Central leading Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates currently have a record of 80-57. Liriano (15-6 2.57), Morton (7-3 3.00) and Cole (6-7 3.80) have combined to start 50 games for Pittsburgh and have a combined record of 28-16. So, 35% of the 80 wins by the Pittsburgh Pirates this year have come from the 3 guys who faced the Lehigh Valley Ironpigs in a 4 game series in early May. Pretty remarkable that the Ironpigs won all 3 of the games started by Morton, Cole and Liriano.
2013 was supposed to be the year the young arms in the Phillies farm system arrived in AAA. It was supposed to be a sneak peak into the Phillies future. But things never seem to go as planned. With Jonathan Pettibone and Tyler Cloyd being summoned to Philadelphia and Adam Morgan going on the DL, the young and promising starting rotation for the 2013 Ironpigs was suddenly in need of replacements. It was with little fanfare that the Philadelphia Phillies signed left-handed pitcher Greg Smith to a free agent contract on May 6, 2013. Smith had been signed by the Toronto Blue Jays in December but he never pitched in a major league or minor league game for them.
Nobody knew what to expect from the 29 year old left hander, in fact, nobody knew anything about this Greg Smith guy. He was a 5th round draft pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2005 out of LSU and made it to the major leagues 3 years later. His 8-18 career record didn’t open any eyes but the Phillies needed arms to fill a minor league pitching staff and Greg Smith was a pitcher looking for a job.
When Greg Smith was a senior in high school, he allowed just 1 earned run in 60 innings pitched. His 9-0 record and 0.12 ERA earned him the title “Mr. Baseball” in the state of Louisiana for the 2002 season. He became a standout pitcher at LSU and in 2005 became a team ace. He won 10 games for the Tigers that year and won 7 of his last 8 starts. During that stretch he threw 28.2 consecutive scoreless innings. He was the first LSU pitcher to throw back to back shutouts since Ben McDonald did it in 1989 (McDonald went on to be the overall 1st pick in the 1989 draft). Smith made the All Southeast Conference 1st Team in 2005 and was a 3rd Team All-American.
Although he had always been a starter, when he arrived with the Ironpigs, it wasn’t immediately clear if he was going to be a starter or a middle innings guy in the bullpen. He also spent some time as a starter at Reading before settling in with the Ironpigs. Although he was just 1-1 with a 5.29 ERA as a relief pitcher, Greg Smith has now made 11 starts for the Ironpigs and is 7-1 with a 1.68 ERA in those 11 starts. Factor in his relief appearances and his record with the Ironpigs is 8-2 2.43. He has walked just 9 batters in over 64 innings as a starter and has allowed just 3 home runs. His only loss came August 5 at Charlotte when he allowed 5 earned runs in just 3.1 innings. It has been his only start in which he allowed more than 2 earned runs.
With Ethan Martin now pitching for the Phillies I think it’s safe to say that Greg Smith has become the ace of the Lehigh Valley Ironpigs pitching staff. Not too shabby for a guy nobody heard of when he was signed back on May 6. At a time of the season when every game is important, Greg Smith has been a godsend.
With Joe Savery joining the Phillies this week and Tyler Cloyd set to replace Roy Halladay in the Phillies starting rotation on Friday, the Ironpigs needed some pitching help. On Tuesday the Phillies signed 27 year old left-handed pitcher Bobby Bramhall and assigned him to AAA.
Bramhall actually pitched at Coca-Cola Park earlier this year when he was a member of the Syracuse Chiefs. On April 13th he entered a game in the 7th inning and threw a perfect inning, retiring Cesar Hernandez, Cody Asche and Darin Ruf on groundballs. It was a game the Ironpigs won 6-0 behind the pitching of Adam Morgan.
Bramhall was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2007 out of Rice University where he was a teammate of Joe Savery, the guy he is replacing on the Ironpigs roster. Like Savery, Bramhall is considered a good hitting pitcher, playing several games in the outfield and at DH while in college. He has occasionally been used as a starting pitcher but he has been most effective facing left handed hitters coming out of the bullpen.
After missing the entire 2011 season due to Tommy John surgery, he pitched primarily for AA Jacksonville in the Southern League where he was 1-2 3.23 in 28 games. In 61 innings pitched he allowed 50 hits, walked just 18 and struck out 61 batters. It shouldn’t take too long until he sees his first action with the Ironpigs.
Here’s a good story from the Rice Owls official website:
The Lehigh Valley Ironpigs had a taste of the Indianapolis Indians last week and came away with 3 losses and just 1 win. The month of April came to an end with Indianapolis as the only team in the International League to reach the 20 win mark. Their 20-7 record tops the Durham Bulls, leaders of the South Division with an 18-8 record and the North leading Buffalo Bisons at 17-7.
But if you think the Ironpigs saw the best that the Indianapolis Indians have to offer, you have another thing coming because on Friday night the Indians will be dishing out 240 pounds of Cole at Coca-Cola Park. In the June, 2011 Major League player draft, the Pittsburgh Pirates had the first pick and selected 6’4″ 240 pound right-handed pitcher Gerrit Cole from UCLA. Cole almost went unsigned but just 15 minutes before the August 15, 2011 signing deadline, an $8 million bonus was enough to get him to put his name on a Pirates contract.
While at UCLA, Cole combined with current Cleveland prospect Trevor Bauer to form the best 1-2 pitching combination in college baseball. In 2010 Cole was 11-4 at UCLA while Bauer was 12-3 leading UCLA to a 51-17 record, best in school history. After Cole was selected number 1 in the 2011 draft, Trevor Bauer was selected two picks later. Bauer has already pitched in the majors, starting 4 games with Arizona in 2012. He was then involved in a big off-season trade that brought him to Cleveland where he just made his 2nd start of 2013, beating the Phillies Wednesday night. Meanwhile, Gerrit Cole is still waiting to make his big league debut.
Because of the late signing in 2011, Gerrit Cole didn’t make his minor league debut until the 2011 Arizona Fall League and then he began 2012 at Class A Bradenton where he went 5-1 2.55 before being promoted to AA Altoona in the Eastern League. He went 3-6 2.90 in AA and finished the 2012 season with 1 start in Indianapolis. He has made 5 starts with Indianapolis in 2012 and is currently 2-1 with a 2.31 ERA, but he has walked 15 in 23.1 innings which is a bit surprising because last year he walked just 45 in 132 innings. The scouting reports say he has a fastball that can reach 98 mph which goes well with a good hard slider. His curveball and changeup aren’t quite in the same category as his power pitches but they are improving. Besides being the number 1 prospect in the Pirates organization, he is also rated the 9th best prospect in all of baseball according to mlb.com and 7th best by Baseball America. If he continues to pitch well it won’t be long until he makes his first start with the Pirates, but, on Friday night he’ll be matched up against Tyler Cloyd in the Lehigh Valley. He’ll become the first pitcher who was selected first in the MLB Draft to start a game at Coca-Cola Park since Kris Benson pitched for the Ironpigs in 2008 and Bryan Bullington started a game for the Buffalo Bisons on August 11, 2008, coincidentally against Benson. Cole, Benson and Bullington were all drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Game 1 of the 4 game series on Thursday with the Indianapolis Indians is Dance Team Night and the game begins at 7:05. Fireworks will follow the 7:05 game on Friday night while the 6:35 game on Saturday is Hispanic Heritage Night in celebration of Cinco de Mayo. The first 3,000 adults 21 and older will receive a free Ironpigs Margarita glass courtesy of Metro PCS. The series finale on Sunday is at 1:35 and the first 3,000 adults 18 and older will receive an Ironpigs baseball cap courtesy of the National MS Society. It looks like it’s going to be a nice spring weekend so come out and cheer for the Ironpigs.
Beginning Saturday evening, the Louisville Bats will be the opponents of the Lehigh Valley Ironpigs in 8 of their next 12 games. Much of the success of the Louisville Bats this year has to be credited to their pitching staff which has the 2nd best team ERA in the International League. But, the Bats currently have the worst hitting team in the International League with their team batting average at .201, just barely above the Mendoza line. Outfielder Felix Perez (.275) is the only player hitting over .240 with old friend Jason Donald next at .238. Louisville has scored the fewest runs, they have the fewest hits, the fewest RBI’s, the lowest on base percentage and the lowest slugging percentage in the league. However, even with the poor team offensive numbers, they can score runs in other ways, mainly because of one man.
At the top of their batting order is 22 year old switch hitting outfielder Billy Hamilton, the #1 prospect in the Cincinnati Reds organization. In case you don’t know him, Billy Hamilton was the 2nd round draft pick (57th overall) of the Cincinnati Reds in the 2009 player draft. He began last season playing in the California League where he hit .323 and stole an amazing 104 bases in just 82 games. But he didn’t stop there. He was promoted to the AA Southern League where he played in 50 more games. In those 50 games he hit .286 and stole an additional 51 bases giving him a 2012 stolen base total of 155 in 132 games. Everyone has heard the baseball phrase, “a walk is as good as a hit”, but in the case of Billy Hamilton, quite often a walk will turn into a triple because he is going to run and he is going to run often.
It could be advantageous to the Ironpigs that they are facing Louisville while they are in the midst of a team hitting slump. The lack of hitting has also affected Billy Hamilton as he is hitting just .213 in 75 at bats this year, but even with the low average he still has stolen 14 bases in 15 attempts this year which easily tops the International League in both categories.
I have mixed feeling going into the upcoming 8 games against Louisville. As an Ironpigs fan I always want to see our team win. But at the same time, as a baseball fan, I want to see Billy Hamilton run. Maybe we can win and throw him out a few times when he tries to steal. That would be perfect.