Monday, September 1, 2014

Game 144: Charlotte Knights vs. Gwinnett Braves

Here are the lineups:

Knights (63-80)
Jared Mitchell LF
Josh Richmond RF
Jordan Danks CF
Michael Taylor DH
Matt Tuiasosopo 1B
Matt Davidson 3B
Justin Jirschele SS
Dan Wagner 2B
Luis Sierra C
Pitching: RHP Andre Rienzo (1-4, 4.20 ERA)

Braves (64-77)
Todd Cunningham CF
Elmer Reyes SS
Christian Bethancourt DH
Brandon Boggs LF
Sean Kazmar 3B
Ozzie Martinez 2B
Steve Lerud C
Edward Salcedo RF
Joe Leonard 1B
Pitching: RHP Zach Stewart (7-4, 4.68 ERA)

Game time: 2:05 p.m.

TV/Radio: / ESPN 730

Notes: The Knights need a win today to finish the season .500 at home (35-36). ... This is Andre Rienzo's ninth start with Charlotte (10th appearance). ... The Knights have welcomed 678,167 fans through their gates this season (31 sellouts) -- the most in all of Minor League Baseball. ... In a weird coincidence, Zach Stewart will start today for the Braves. Nearly a year ago to the day, Stewart tossed eight shutout innings for Charlotte in its final game at Knights Stadium. 

On a personal note, I want to thank everyone for reading the Knights Insider Blog this season. It's been an honor and a pleasure covering the team. Any thoughts, questions or ideas for next season? please feel free to email me: 

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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Knights Sign Timothy “Eli” Shenise to One-Day Contract, Make-A-Wishcome true

Prior to the start of Sunday’s game, the Charlotte Knights held a press conference to announce the signing of 12-year-old Timothy “Eli” Shenise to a one-day contract.

Sunday’s announcement – which was made in front of members of the Pineville native’s family, friends, media, as well as Knights players and staff, was made possible with help from Make-A-Wish.

Eli, who handled questions from the media better than some professionals, is battling Burkitt’s Lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system. He has successfully completed two rounds of treatments and has two rounds to go.

Eli’s wish was simple – he wanted to become a Charlotte Knights player for a day.

That wish came true when Knights manager Joel Skinner, presented Shenise with a one-day contract.

“That was great,” Skinner said. “His day started at 3:00 p.m. when we brought him in and he signed his contract. He went out and took some groundballs. Originally, he was going to take them with (Andy) Wilkins, but he got called up, so (Justin) Jerschele jumped in and gave him some lessons.”

From there, Shenise went on to play catch with the Knights pitchers as they loosened up for the game, before taking his place next to Knights starter Chris Beck to toss out the game’s ceremonial first pitch.

“It just made me smile,” Beck said. “I have a little brother that’s 9 and his name is Eli, so I could only imagine what that kid’s going through. I mean, I need to worry about throwing a baseball and how many hits I give up, and that kid’s battling for his life.

“He stood on the mound and delivered a strike, and that chokes you up a little bit.” 

Knights players wore bright green ribbon wristbands during Sunday’s game, which stood for all forms of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Shenise and his father spent the rest of the game in the Knights dugout.

“He jumped in just like one of the guys,” Beck said. “For a teenage kid that just walked into a Triple-a locker room, he handled it well. You just see his positive attitude and if you give up a home run or something, when you see that, there’s no reason to hold your head down about anything.”  

Following the third inning of Sunday’s game, the BB&T scoreboard asked the crowd to “Guess Shenise’s home town.” – a spot that the Knights have run all season with almost every player on their roster.

Although Charlotte lost the game 6-0, reports were that Shenise never missed a pitch.

“Once the game started, he was locked in,” Skinner said. “It was, all in all, a great day.”

NotesMake-A-Wish® Central and Western North Carolina grants wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy. Since its inception in 1985, more than 3,500 local children have experienced a wish come true. For more information visit:

For more on Eli's day, check out Elizabeth Arriero's story in Monday's metro section of the Charlotte Observer. 

Chris Beck finishes the season strong in Knights loss to Gwinnett

After a season full of steps forward, Chris Beck – the White Sox’ ninth-ranked prospect – wasn’t going to let his year come to an end on a low note.

On Sunday, the 2012 second-round draft pick held the Gwinnett Braves scoreless on four hits over five innings in an eventual 6-0 Knights loss in front of 10,574 at BB&T BallPark.

Three pitches into the game, Beck – who was activated off the disabled list earlier in the day – had already recorded his first strikeout and set the tone for an outing worth remembering.

“Easily the best command I’ve had all year, especially with my breaking stuff,” said Beck, who struck out a season-high six. “I’ve got to give some credit to (Knights pitcher) Taylor Thompson. He has this sneaky jump to the plate and I thought about doing that and worked on extending my stride and was able to keep the ball down in the zone with everything. It worked out well.”

The right-hander came in off his worst showing of the season: a 2/3’s of an inning effort in Gwinnett on Aug. 20, where he allowed five runs on four hits and four walks before being lifted due to back spasms.

Beck, who made his seventh start for the Knights (63-80) after beginning the year with Class AA Birmingham, flashed the Braves (64-77) a 95-mile-per-hour fastball, a changeup at 82 with good arm-side fade, and his signature power slider.

After allowing a hit in each of the first two innings, the 6-foot-3-inch, 225-pound 23-year-old found his rhythm in the third, striking out the side on 13 pitches.

Beck made it four Ks in a row when he got Braves’ No. 3 hitter and second-ranked prospect, Christian Bethancourt (2-for-4, 2 RBI), swinging on a slider to open the fourth. 

“Last Sunday of the season and there was no reason to hold anything back,” said Beck, who finished the year 1-3 with a 4.05 ERA in Class AAA. “I really needed to redeem myself after my last start and to go into the offseason with some momentum. The last (start) is easily forgettable after this one.”

Charlotte was without its top power threat in Andy Wilkins, who was called up by the White Sox earlier in the day, and it showed as Gwinnett starter Terry Doyle (4-4) held the depleted lineup scoreless on three hits over seven-plus innings. 

Jarrett Casey (1-3) allowed four runs (three earned) in 1 and 2/3 innings of relief to take the loss.

Asked what his immediate future might hold, Beck paused.

“No clue and I’m kind of good with that for right now,” he said. “Whatever the White Sox want to do, that’s their decision. Hopefully, my performance now and in the future can sway their mind one way over another, but there’s a plan there higher than I can reach with my mental capacity and I’m just going to leave it at that.”

Notes: The Knights will conclude their inaugural season in Uptown Charlotte Monday against the Braves. First pitch is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. … Sunday’s crowd of 10,574 was the largest in BB&T BallPark history.

Game 143: Chris Beck and Charlotte Knights take on Gwinnett Braves

Here are the lineups:

Knights (63-79)
Jared Mitchell RF
Marcus Semien 3B
Josh Phegley C
Jordan Danks CF
Michael Taylor LF
Matt Tuiasosopo 1B
Matt Davidson DH
Justin Jirschele SS
Dan Wagner 2B
Pitching: RHP Chris Beck (1-3, 4.76 ERA)

Braves (63-77)
Jose Constanza LF
Todd Cunningham CF
Christian Bethancourt C
Joey Terdoslavich 1B
Sean Kazmar 2B
Brandon Boggs RF
Donnie Murphy 3B
Ozzie Martinez SS
Edward Salcedo DH
Pitching: RHP Terry Doyle (3-4, 3.33 ERA)

Game time: 7:05 p.m.

TV/Radio: / ESPN 730 / WNOW 1030 AM (Spanish)

Today's roster moves: LHP Eric Surkamp optioned to Charlotte (Report TDB) ... INF Andy Wilkins had contract purchased by Chicago ... LHP Scott Snodgress had contract purchased by Chicago ... OF Moises Sierra completed MLB rehab assignment, activated by Chicago ... RHP Chris Bassett optioned to Charlotte (Report TBD) ... INF Luis Sierra activated off DL ... RHP Chris Beck activated off DL ... RHP Miguel Chalas acquired via trade with Baltimore Orioles, assigned to Charlotte.  

Monday, August 25, 2014

Knights use four-run eighth inning to complete sweep of Tides

There was no walk-off magic for the Charlotte Knights on Monday.

Instead, they took care of things in the eighth inning.

After receiving a walk-off home run from Josh Richmond in the 11th inning on Saturday and a send-them-home single from Michael Taylor in the ninth on Sunday, it was an infield-single off the bat of Jared Mitchell in the eighth that led Charlotte to a 6-4 win over the Norfolk Tides.

Although not as exciting a finish as the crowds at BB&T BallPark had seen the past two nights, Monday’s eighth inning – which began with the Knights trailing 4-2 – was still one to watch for the 9,697 on hand.

Marcus Semien (2-for-3) got things started with a leadoff single and then came around to score on the very next pitch when Josh Phegley connected on his 23rd home run of the season.

“I knew (Norfolk pitcher Ryan Webb (0-2)) was kind of a sinker-slider guy and I didn’t see him starting me off with a slider in my first AB against him,” Phegley said. “So I was just trying to see something hard, middle-in, and he threw it right in there and I got the barrel to it.” 

The Knights (62-76) weren’t done scoring there.

Following singles by Andy Wilkins (2-for-4) and Matt Davidson (1-for-3), Matt Tuiasosopo walked to load the bases with one out.

After a fielder’s choice, Mitchell stepped into the batter’s box and recorded one of the shortest singles of his season, squibbing a ball that at first looked like it was heading foul down the first-base line.

“First off, that was a horrible swing I put on it,” Mitchell said. “I started down the line thinking it’d be fair and then on the first bounce it took off to the right, so I slowed up, and then the next bounce it came right back toward the field and I knew I had to start running."

The throw from Webb to first base got away, allowing two runs to score. 

“We kind of just got lucky right there,” Mitchell said. “Sometimes that’s how the ball rolls for you.” 

With Knights regularly scheduled starter, Chris Beck, on the disabled list, Daniel McCutchen combined with Matt Zaleski to hold the Tides (61-75) to three runs (two earned) on nine hits over seven innings. 

Jarrett Casey (1-2) then came on to toss the final two innings to record his first Class-AAA win and complete a four-game sweep of Norfolk for the Knights, who will now head to Norfolk for two more against the Tides.

“You just try to create opportunities for each other and that’s what the guys have been doing lately,” Knights manager Joel Skinner said. “When you win games late, usually it’s because the pitching gives you a chance – and that’s what happened tonight.”

NOTES: Chicago outfielder Moises Sierra, who is currently on the DL (left oblique), began his MLB rehab assignment with the Knights and went 2-for-5 with a run scored and a stolen base. ... Prior to Monday’s game, the White Sox optioned Jordan Danks back to Charlotte. Danks hit .289 in 12 games with a home run and four runs batted in during his recent stint with the White Sox.

Game 138: Charlotte Knights vs. Norfolk Tides

Here are the lineups:

Knights (61-76)
Jared Mitchell CF
Moises Sierra RF
Marcus Semien SS
Josh Phegley C
Andy Wilkins 1B
Michael Taylor DH
Matt Davidson 3B
Matt Tuiasosopo LF
Dan Wagner 2B
Pitching: RHP Daniel McCutchen (0-1, 10.18)

Tides (61-74)
Julio Borbon CF
Quintin Berry LF
Dariel Alvarez RF
Steve Clevenger C
Jimmy Paredes 3B
Christian Walker 1B
Jemile Weeks 2B
Henry Urrutia DH
Ivan De Jesus SS
Pitching: LHP Chris Jones (7-8, 3.80 ERA)

Game time: 7:05 p.m.

TV/Radio: / ESPN 730

Notes: Chicago outfielder Moises Sierra, who is currently on the DL (left oblique), is set to begin his MLB rehab assignment with the Knights tonight. ... Also on Monday, the White Sox optioned Jordan Danks back to the Knights. Danks hit .289 in 12 games with a home run and four runs batted in during his recent stint with the White Sox.  ... Chicago is off today, Adam Eaton (who is eligible to come off the DL) will likely take Danks' place on the Sox roster. ...  Eaton concluded his MLB rehab assignment with Charlotte on Sunday (although he has not officially been activated). He went 3-for-10 with a double, two runs scored, a stolen base and a RBI in two games. ... Marcus Semien has homered in three-straight games and is hitting .500 (9-for-18) over his last five, with three HR, six RBIs and four runs scored. ... With a win tonight, Charlotte would complete a four-game sweep of the Tides. The Knights have won back-to-back games on walk-off hits.  

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Carlos Rodon dominant in second Class AAA start; Knights walk off on Tides

Carlos Rodon is running out of opportunities to show the White Sox a reason not to call him up when rosters expand in September.

Considered by many to be one of the most major league-ready arms in this year’s draft, Rodon, 21, has not disappointed. 

The former NC State Wolfpack star and No. 3 overall pick allowed one run on one hit over four innings, while striking out a career-high eight in an 8-7 Charlotte Knights walk-off win over the Norfolk Tides in front of 9,328 at BB&T BallPark on Sunday.

After struggling with his fastball control over the first two innings, Rodon settled in to strike out five of the final six batters he faced.   

“I felt good,” said Rodon, who threw 73 pitches (47 strikes). “I had better command (as the start went on). I struggled a little bit early, but I made an adjustment and it ended up working well.”

Rodon’s final pitch of the night was a fastball away that left Tides shortstop Ivan De Jesus shaking his head as he walked back to the dugout.

“After the second, I just tried (to focus on) staying in my arm slot and trusting my stuff,” Rodon said. “(My last pitch of the game) was just nice and easy. I knew it was my last, so I gathered myself and it was smooth and came out good.”

In two starts with Charlotte (7 IP), Rodon has allowed two hits, two runs, and struck out 11. Of his 128 pitches, 72 have been strikes.

With the game tied 7-7 in the eighth inning, the Tides ran out of available pitchers and turned to infielder Alexi Casilla, who worked around a leadoff single to toss a clean frame. 

Casilla lacked the same luck in the ninth.  

A night after striking out in a bases-loaded situation where a fly ball would have won the game for Charlotte, Michael Taylor came up with the bases loaded again and, this time, came through with a walk-off single that landed on the warning track in center.

“I had an opportunity (Saturday) to win the game and it didn’t work out,” Taylor said. “It’s nice to get it (again) the next day and kind of close the book on the last 24 hours or so.”  

Asked his thoughts on Rodon, Taylor – who has been in professional baseball since 2007 – offered high praise.

“(Rodon’s) been as advertised and I think he’s got great stuff,” he said. “To me, he looks a lot like (San Francisco Giants starter) Madison Bumgarner. I faced him in his first start in Double-A back in 2009 and they look similar -- except (Rodon’s) probably got a better slider.

“That would be one heck of a major league pitcher if that’s who he ends up being.”

Assuming he's kept on normal rest, Rodon would be in line to start again on August 30 in Gwinnett with a goal of making it through five innings.

From there, his future is up to the White Sox.

Notes: Adam Eaton (MLB rehab) finished Sunday’s game 1-for-5 with a RBI single, a stolen base and a run scored. In two games with the Knights, the White Sox centerfielder has gone 3-for-10 with a double, a RBI and two runs scored. … Marcus Semien, Jared Mitchell, Matt Davidson and Josh Phegley each homered in the game for the Knights. ... Semien has now homered in three consecutive games.