Monday, July 31, 2017

Lookouts Deja Vu

Like an annoying neighbor that just won't go away and let you finish your yardwork, the Lookouts returned to derail the Biscuits winning streak. After sweeping the Smokies the Skitz are homestanding against the division leading Chattanooga who have seemed to have a mojo working against Montgomery.

Every year there is one division team that we see an extra time, this go around that team is Chattanooga. Of course.

Genesis Cabrera
After playing 21 innings the day before, the Lookouts used extras to down the Biscuits in game one of the series. Spoiling the nice work of starter Genesis Cabrera, the Lookies had some luck against the hometown bullpen. However its a much tougher Montgomery team that the Lookouts face this time around.

The Lookouts sit atop the standings, having won the first half and showing no signs of dropping out of the top spot in the second half.

The Biscuits have a firm grip on second place, offering them a playoff spot if they can hold it. Dispatching the Smokies helps the cause, leaving the Jackson Generals as the closest contender chasing Montgomery.

The last time Chattanooga visited Montgomery they swept the Biscuits out of the playoff race for the first half. However even another sweep by the first place Lookouts will leave the Biscuits in a tie for second and a fighting chance in the final weeks of the season.

If the Biscuits can avoid a sweep with even one win in the series, they will hold onto second place and its potential playoff spot.

Deja vu, Lookouts? Not this time.

Now healthy, pitcher Greg Harris has begun working out of the bullpen. To match his new role the hurler has a new look to match - sporting a "Rays-Hawk" on his return to Riverwalk Stadium.
Its a good look!

Franco does some of his best work from the pen
Also headed to the 'pen, Mike Franco, having topped his previous season high in innings pitched. Effective in his thirteen starts for Montgomery this season, a stint on the DL likely tipped the balance and sent him to the relief squad to limit his innings.

Only two Biscuit pitchers have faced more batters than Franco so far this summer.

Franco is no stranger to coming into games in late innings, of his 100+ games more than 80 are as a reliever. A quality arm in either role, the Biscuits now have two extra starters who have headed to the bullpen.

The Lookouts are undefeated in three extra inning games in the second half after being winless in their two extra inning contests in the first half.

The Biscuits team ERA against the Lookouts this season is a harsh 4.57, in contrast the Chattanooga pitchers have a tidy 3.20 ERA against the Skitz entering this series.

Michael Russell is the Biscuit who has had the most success against Lookouts pitchers, batting to a .306 clip.

Of the ten hitters in the Southern League with the most strikeouts, two are Lookouts. None are Biscuits, though Andrew Velasquez isn't too far off.

Chattanooga's Lamont Wade is second in the circuit in free passes with 64 bases on balls.

Montgomery's Joe McCarthy is third in walks, just four behind Wade and five behind the leader, JXN's Colin Walsh.

McCarthy shares the league lead in triples with Chattanooga's Nick Gordon (7). Mojo is also among the league leaders in Runs Scored, Hits, Batting Average and OPS.

Cade Gotta is third in the league in stolen bases with 22.

Kyle Bird has moved into second place in the Southern League with seven holds. Bird has become a steady arm for Brady Williams late in games.

Dalton Kelly
Can the Biscuits make the playoffs without a single player with 10+ home runs?

Dalton Kelly is the man most likely to break into double digit homers, his seven Biscuit bombs in just 27 games tie him with departed Grant Kay for the team lead.

Four players follow with six each, Ciuffo, Squid and the two Justins - O'Conner and Williams.

Kurtis Blow tosses first pitch
I asked about our promotional schedule for next year. In the past few years the Biscuits are among the first ones to release their promotions sked, usually in early August.

However we should not expect that to be the case this year, there will not be another "roll over" of the same old theme and fireworks dates. "This year we are really working on it" I was told by a well placed source, "maybe around January."

After the first thirty days of new ownership, there is a visible difference in how Biscuit baseball is being run. The attendance appears to have ticked up, fans curious to see if Lou & Crew have really made a change. So far, fans like what they see.

It can be guessed that the front office is at working putting together a top notch schedule with new promotions and appearances. Things seem to be moving in the right direction, though we won't know the full details until the winter.



JULY 31 1905
Yellow Fever shuts the Cotton States league, meaning no more baseball for teams in Mobile, Meridian, Vicksburg, Jackson Ms, Baton Rouge and Greenville.

JULY 31 1920
Montgomery Grey Sox
Knoxville, TN
"Montgomery Grey Sox 1, Knoxville Giants 3."

Montgomery, AL
"Montgomery's Grey Sox Leading League - Negro Ball Team Has Average of 746 Per Cent; Knoxville Giants Trailing With 694 Per Cent -

The Montgomery Grey Sox are leading the Negro Southern League by a safe margin and with the considerable strengthening of the team in the past week they should have little or no trouble in holding the lead until the end of the season.

JULY 31 1941
Montgomery beats first place Mobile in the ninth inning on a homer by pitcher John Gaddy followed by a three run homer by Quimby, scoring five to win 8-3.

JULY 31 1965 
Longest Game In Rebels History

The Columbus Confederate Yankees and Montgomery Rebels tie with 6 runs apiece in 19 innings. When the game is called at 1:23am, after five hours and twenty three minutes it is listed among the leagues longest games and is the latest ending game in Rebels history.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Biscuits Host Wahoos, What to Look For

The Biscuits open a five game set against the Pensacola Blue Wahoos. The Biscuits are essentially fighting for second in the North Division, now just a game behind the Smokies who are in that second place - a spot that could become a playoff ticket.

The Wahoos have already earned their playoff berth, winning the first half in the South Division. Now they sit comfortably in the third spot and are just biding their time until the postseason. They are a talented team full of prospects and veteran coaching.


The Wahoos are loaded on top shelf potential. A tough series is ahead for the Biscuits, who need to keep pace with the Smokies over the next six weeks or so.

The Biscuits lead the league in average, the Wahoos are last. Look for the Biscuits to out-hit the Wahoos and continue to be aggressive on the basepaths.

Pitching is the Pensacola strength, nobody allows fewer hits or runs than the Wahoos. Look for the Biscuits to have trouble getting guys across the plate. However, a couple of the P'cola starters have been promoted in recent weeks, leaving the Wahoo's a little short at times.

And not just the Wahoo starters doing well, the fish bullpen has been solid by league standards. Leading in saves and second in Holds, the Wahoo relief corp is usually steady at the end of games.

The Reds top prospect, Nick Senzel highlights what is essentially an organizational All-Star squad.

Also appearing among the cast of Cinci hopefuls in the top 30 are #4 prospect Aristedes Aquino, second baseman Shed Long is listed at 13, 16th is pitcher Rookie Davis, #18 prospect Nick Longhi is on the DL, #19 Keury Mella, #23 Blake Trahan, #25 Calten Daal (DL) and #26 Gavin LaValley.

Whoa, I told you they were loaded!
Of the many names on that list, perhaps the standout is the one that doesn't stand out. Diminutive Shed Long doesn't have the look most people expect from ballplayers, but do not let that fool you. My scouts tell me that Long "looks like the batboy but has plenty of pop" as well as being a solid glove man.

Not on that list is pitcher Deck McGuire. He is currently fourth in the league in ERA, but two of the guys he is behind are no longer in the league. The other two were also Wahoos, Tyler Mahle is now in Louisville and Luis Castillo is pitching for the Reds. Look for Deck McGuire to challenge Biscuit hitters and rack up strikeouts in game three.

Look for former Biscuit and Rule 5 Big Leaguer Tyler Goeddel. As a Biscuit in 2015 he had a three homer game at Riverwalk and was selected in the Rule 5 draft and spent all of 2016 as a Philadelphia Phillie.

Now with the Reds, Tyler returns to Montgomery for the first time since being selected by the Phils.

And if that ain't enough, there is also Gabby Guerrero - nephew of the great Vladimir Guerrero. The two look very similar at the plate, with bare hands and long legs. When I tweeted the pic I took of Gabby to Vlad, even he agreed "Looks the same!"

While Gabby doesn't quite have his uncles power, the Wahoo Guerrero did win the Southern league Home Run Derby. He also has an excellent throwing arm in right field, much like his famous uncle.

If you haven't seen a game in a couple months, you might not recognize the names on the roster. The Biscuits are getting reinforcements now in droves, pitcher Drew Smith and first baseman Jake Cronenworth. Perhaps the Skitz are gearing up for a serious playoff run.

Cronenworth earned his promotion by leading the Stone Crabs in walks and swatting a steady .268 average from the left side. Primarily a first baseman, he will likely share time at the first sack with Dalton Kelly, with both also getting into the lineup as DH. Thats assuming there hasn't been an injury we don't yet know about!

Drew Smith provides solid relief, coming over from the Tigers organization earlier this year. Smith hasn't allowed an earned run since the start of June, a span of twelve appearances. That may not hold out all year, but it is just the kind of hurler the Biscuits need.

The current rotation is likely
Cabrera, Fierro, Mujica, Darnell and Adkins.

Chris Kirsch
Former Biscuit Chris Kirsch made one rehab appearance for the GCL Rays. Kirsch is working his way back from hip labrum surgery. He said it is possible he could come back as a reliever, but hopes to move up to Durham without a stop in Montgomery. Kirsch is the only pitcher to win a playoff game while wearing a Biscuits uniform since 2008, a span of nearly ten seasons.

Another former Biscuit, Jamie Schultz, was sent to the Stone Crabs as he works his way back into form. Schultz set the Biscuits single season strikeout record in 2015 with 168. Jamie has been in five games this year at three different levels and could be in line for a stint with Montgomery at some point soon.

If Kevin Kiermaier needs a rehab game or two this week, perhaps he could do it with the Biscuits. Durham and Port Charlotte are on the road this week. Just sayin.

Monday, July 17, 2017

TreeFiddy, Biscuits Get New Guys, Team Notes

The Biscuits are hovering around the .500 mark for the second half, which would be good for first place in the other division. But alas, the North Division is less forgiving and playing even ball only gets the Skitz to third place.

The second half is easily defined for Montgomery - playoffs only require beating two teams. If Montgomery can edge the Smokies and Generals they can make the postseason.

With the Lookouts having clinched the first half and the Barons firmly entrenched in the basement, only the Gens and Smokies are left between the Biscuits and a third straight playoff opportunity.

It's certainly not an impossible task for this talented squad.

The Big Club finally sent help for the Biscuits, particularly the rotation. With injuries to an already short pitching staff, new hurlers had to be gotten. Fifteen different pitchers have started games for Montgomery already this season.

There are several new Biscuits on the roster. New guys pitching are Genesis Cabrera, Mike Broadway, Hunter Adkins and Logan Darnell. On the batting side, Dalton Kelly has arrived.

Rhp Mike Broadway
Mike Broadway is a veteran reliever to help bolster the back end of the bullpen. Pitching for the Giants organization the past few years, Broadway has 25 MLB games under his belt and should be pitching in triple-A.

When Broadway comes in to pitch, the stadium organist plays "New York New York".

RHP Hunter Adkins
Hunter Adkins is no stranger, having pitched against Montgomery as a member of the Jacksonville Suns last year. He brings a career era of 4.83 and a 7w-19L record to the Biscuits staff.

In his three starts for Montgomery he has held the opposition to just one one run twice, reaching the fifth inning just once. What he does provide is innings, having tallied over 100 IP in each of his last two seasons, which the Biscuits sorely need help with.

Logan Darnell is having a great time in the Southern League. Signed out of indie ball to lighten the workload and provide aforementioned innings, Darnell has two wins in his three starts, sandwiched around one clunker. Darnell has started in over 130 minor league games and sports a nice 3.79 career ERA.

Darnell offers Montgomery a quality arm, Montgomery offers Darnell a second chance to make the big leagues. Logan made four starts and a few bullpen appearances for the Twins in 2014.

Genesis Cabrera
Also fairly new to the team is starting pitcher Genesis Cabrera.

I was screaming for this kid to get promoted earlier this season, so far he has made four starts and won three. Pitching at least six innings in each effort, the young lefthander has a bright future and is showing he belongs in the Rays plans long term.

Dalton Kelly
Dalton Kelly is the new first baseman, slugging a cool .699 in his first twenty games. Kelly earned his promotion from the Stone Crabs and hasn't missed a beat since joining the Biscuits. 

Kellys arrival pushes the versatile Joe McCarthy into left field.

Justin O'Conner hasn't appeared in a game since June 30th. Is he on the DL? Probably, but the League and team websites don't show it.

Granden Goetzman hasn't appeared in a game since June 14th. During the last homestand I asked him how he was progressing but he felt he wasn't quite ready to ramp up his activity yet. Hopefully he is feeling better by the time the team gets home mid-week.

Greg Harris and Benton Moss might also be on the DL, but again, the internet doesn't know it. However the Biscuits have added players, so a roster spot has to be open somehow. Harris and Moss's injuries don't seem to be major, usual mid-season soreness, but enough to keep them from pitching for a few weeks and necessitating a series of moves to shore up the staff.

As predicted, Mike Franco has issues with the second half and has hit the DL. The Skitz most dependable starter in the first half, his 71.1 Innings Pitched for Montgomery is exactly the number he tossed in all of last year.

Going into the season I asked about his innings limit and team coaches were skeptical that it would be a problem, but after one quick stint in Durham he was returned to Montgomery and was placed on the disabled list.

How bout those D-Bulls I asked.
"They have six starters and like, eleven relievers in Durham," I was told. "That's why we have never won the first half!"

Usually thats the kind of thing I hear from fans at the park, disgruntled over the Biscuits being left short handed. Sometimes its from a team employee, an usher or vendor who has as much blood and sweat and tears invested in the Biscuits as anyone. Occasionally its from a well placed source, a media member or executive type, someone who can't be named but shares the same frustrations from watching every game.

But this time it was coming from a Biscuits player. He was honestly annoyed the team was in first place with ten games left in the first half but left shorthanded and ultimately missed an early playoff spot.

It's no secret that the Bulls get any individual Biscuit who has success, particularly pitchers. The Rays pride themselves on their pitching and like to see guys move up quickly. However, leaving the Biscuits club to rot on the vine has left everyone wondering what logic is behind letting Montgomery suffer without a full roster when they have a chance to succeed as a team.

That this club is still treading water is a testament to their fortitude. However playing shorthanded all summer has left Bradys Boys wondering if the reinforcements are too little, too late.