Friday, August 22, 2014

Jared Mitchell continues remarkable turnaround; helps Knights roll over Tides

Through 53 games this season, Jared Mitchell was lost.

“I was actually seeing the ball really well, but I was so bad with my timing that once I made the decision to swing, everything was off, everything was out of whack and didn’t play,” said Mitchell.

Through June 14th, the 25-year-old was batting just .199 and had struck out in exactly half of his at-bats (78 of 156).

The following day, word came that he'd been reassigned to Class AA Birmingham.

There, the former White Sox No. 1 prospect rediscovered his timing and rhythm at the plate, and he's returned to Charlotte looking more like the player Chicago thought it was getting with its first-round pick in 2009.

At no time was the change in Mitchell more apparent than in his first at-bat in Friday’s 7-1 Knights win over the Norfolk Tides in front a sold-out crowd of 10,448 at BB&T BallPark.

Mitchell worked the count full against Tides’ starter Tyler Wilson and then fouled off four consecutive pitches before taking a slider inside for ball four.
The 10-pitch at-bat – one he likely wouldn’t have been able to put up back in June – set the tone for the Knights to take a lead in the first inning that they would never relinquish.

“The improved timing has cleaned up my bat path,” he said. “When I’m on time, I don’t need to rush to get to pitches, so I’m able to see pitches deeper, so it’s helped that way.”  

Wilson – clearly frustrated that he’d lost Mitchell – started the Knights’ next batter, Marcus Semien, off with two straight balls, before running the count full.

This time, wanting to avoid back-to-back walks, he came with a fastball over the heart of the plate and the result was a 350-foot home run that sent fans scattering as it landed at the base of the grassy hill in left field.

“It means a lot when the leadoff guy makes the pitcher work like that,” Semien said of Mitchell’s at-bat. “(Wilson) didn’t have as good of command right after that. He didn’t want to walk me so he threw me a fastball and I was ready to hit it.”  

Mitchell would go on to finish the night 1-for-3 with two walks, a stolen base and three runs scored. The hit – a single to lead off the third inning – extended his current hitting streak to a season-high seven games.

He did not strikeout.

In 19 games since his return to Charlotte, Mitchell's hit .312 (25-for-80) with three home runs, 13 runs scored, 12 RBIs and 21 strikeouts.

“No one wants to go down a level, but I saw it as another opportunity,” Mitchell said. “You’d rather be doing that than being sent somewhere else. For me, it was another chance to get things figured out and iron things out and get going on the right path.”  

In 111 games split between Birmingham and the Knights this season, Mitchell has raised his average to .262 (103-for-393), with 18 home runs, 68 runs scored, 46 RBIs and 15 stolen bases.

“I’ve known Mitchell’s had the ability the whole time,” Semien said. “He’s just putting things together now and having good at-bats. As long as he keeps it up, we’ll be good.”

Game 135: Charlotte Knights vs. Norfolk Tides

Here are the lineups:

Knights (58-76)
Jared Mitchell CF
Marcus Semien SS
Josh Phegley C
Michael Taylor RF
Andy Wilkins 1B
Matt Tuiasosopo DH
Matt Davidson 3B
Josh Richmond LF
Justin Jirschele 2B
Pitching: RHP Bobby Doran (4-1, 6.03)

Tides (61-71)
Julio Borbon CF
Quintin Berry LF
Dariel Alvarez RF
Steve Clevenger C
Jimmy Paredes 3B
Christian Walker 1B
Henry Urrutia DH
Ivan De Jesus SS
Steve Lobardozzi 2B
Pitching: RHP Tyler Wilson (3-1, 2.96 ERA)

Game time: 7:05 p.m.

TV/Radio: / ESPN 730

Series Probables: 

Saturday, 7:05 PM 
CHA -- RHP Chien-Ming Wang (12-8, 4.21) 
NOR -- RHP Steve Johnson (0-1, 7.39) 

Sunday, 5:05 PM 
CHA -- LHP Carlos Rodon (0-0, 3.00)
NOR -- RHP Josh Stinson (5-4, 5.33) 

Monday, 7:05 PM 
CHA -- RHP Chris Beck (1-3, 4.76) 
NOR -- LHP Chris Jones (7-8, 3.80)

Notes: This is the eighth of nine series between the Knights and Tides this season. Charlotte has gone 8-9 against Norfolk. ... Carlos Sanchez, who hit .293 with Charlotte in 110 games this season has been promoted to Chicago and is in the White Sox starting lineup tonight, playing second base and hitting second. ... Sanchez took the roster spot of Gordon Beckham, who has been traded to the LA Angels for a player to be named later. ... Taking Sanchez' place on the Knights roster is Concord NC native Dan Wagner. The 2006 South Rowan High School graduate was hitting .203 in 80 games with Class AA Birmingham this season. ... White Sox CF Adam Eaton (oblique) is set to begin a MLB rehab assignment with the Knights starting on Saturday. 

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Micah Johnson done for season

A lingering left hamstring issue has shelved White Sox No. 4 prospect Micah Johnson for the remainder of this season, according to comments White Sox general Manager Rick Hahn made to on Wednesday.

The Charlotte Knights second baseman felt pain in the front of his left knee during a swing this past Saturday that was later traced back to a hamstring issue by team doctors in Chicago.

"It turned out that even though the pain was from the front of the leg, it was actually related to the same hamstring strain, so we've elected to shut him down," Hahn told "He's done for the season. We're going to give the strain 4-6 weeks to heal, and we expect he should be 100 percent and go into next season without restriction."

Johnson hit .294 this season with five home runs, 44 runs batted in and 22 stolen bases over stints in Class AA Birmingham and Class AAA Charlotte.

The 22 steals (on 35 attempts) over 102 games are the fewest Johnson has posted in a season since he swiped 19 in 69 games in 2012. The 23-year-old led the minor leagues in 2013 with 84 steals.

"I do feel the hamstring injury took away a little bit of the explosiveness of his speed,” Hahn told “He's been fighting through it. He wanted to continue to fight through it. He did not want to be shut down and felt he could play through it, but we just thought it would be more prudent to allow the thing a chance to heal and put it completely behind him."

For his part, Johnson took to twitter on Tuesday night writing: 
He would later add: 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

UNC Charlotte standout Tyler Barnette, now with Knights, has arm worth watching

Lost in the madness that’s been Carlos Rodon’s promotion and subsequent debut with the Charlotte Knights has been the arrival of another talented local arm in uptown Charlotte.

While Rodon led the N.C. State Wolfpack to a College World Series and went on to be selected by the White Sox third overall in this year’s Major League Draft, Tyler Barnette – a 14th round selection in the 2013 draft out of UNC Charlotte – has taken a slightly different path.

“I wish there had been a camera on me so I could have seen my face,” Barnette said when asked what it was like to get the news he’d been promoted from Class A Kannapolis to the Knights this past Sunday.

Intimidators’ manager “Pete Rose Jr. called me in the office and just said, ‘Hey, you’re going to Charlotte,’” Barnett continued. “I was very shocked, but it was a good time.”

A native of Hickory, NC, Barnette, 22, was 2-8 with one save and a 5.08 ERA for the Intimidators in 25 games (11 starts) this season. However, since transitioning to the bullpen, Barnett had posted a 1.51 ERA in 14 appearances (35.2 IP) with 29 strikeouts.

“I feel like I’ve had more success because in relief you just go out there and throw what you’ve got and give it 100 percent every time for a couple innings and then you’re good,” said Barnette, whose fastball was clocked as high a 96 mph in his Knights debut in Durham on Sunday.

Scouts had already rated the young right-hander’s slider as a plus pitch and it’s only played up since his added velocity.

“There were definitely some butterflies on Sunday,” said Barnette, who tossed two perfect innings of relief with one strikeout in Durham. “But if you don’t have butterflies in this game you shouldn’t be playing it. It’s definitely a good thing and I was very excited.”

Prior to being drafted, Barnett compiled an 18-8 record with a 3.37 ERA in three seasons for the Charlotte 49ers. In 2011, he was named Atlantic-10 Freshman of the Year after tying for second in the conference with nine wins and finishing third with a 2.29 ERA.

Not surprisingly, Barnette’s phone has been buzzing with ticket requests almost non-stop since the news of his promotion. He’s expecting a cheering section of 40-plus at BB&T BallPark this weekend when the Knights return to town to host Norfolk.

“I feel like it’s going to beneficial for me,” said Barnette when asked if the large crowd would mean added pressure. “I’m going to have a lot of people supporting me and a lot of people wanting me to do well, so I have that on my side. I don’t think it’s going to add any pressure at all.”   

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Carlos Rodon performs well, despite bout of wildness, in Charlotte Knights debut

Prior to his Knights debut on Tuesday, Carlos Rodon paused outside of BB&T BallPark just long enough to snap a few photographs.

He likes to grab a shot of each new stadium he plays in.

Two hours later, a sold-out crowd of 10,287 watched – and snapped its own photos – as the 6-foot-4-inch 21-year-old trotted to the pitcher’s mound to make his Class AAA debut in an eventual 10-5 Knights loss to Gwinnett.

Rodon held the Braves to one run on one hit in what was – without doubt – the most scrutinized, analyzed, and talked about three innings in the history of Charlotte’s newest Uptown attraction.

Rodon both walked and struck out three on 55 pitches, before being removed from the game five pitches short of his White Sox-mandated pitch count.

Moments after a first inning in which Rodon recorded two swinging strikeouts, .GIFs (computer talk for short videos played on a loop) of the left-hander’s slider running in on Elmer Reyes’ feet -- as the Braves’ shortstop waved at it helplessly – were making their rounds on the web.

“(Rodon) competed well and that’s the one thing you’re watching,” Knights manager Joel Skinner said. “It didn’t seem like anything looked uncomfortable to him at all. He just went about his business.”

Of the 28 sellouts at BB&T this season, none had come on a Tuesday prior to the arrival of Rodon, who has plenty of fans in the area, having led Holly Springs High to a North Carolina state championship before attending N.C. State.

Rodon led the Wolfpack to a College World Series before being drafted third overall by the White Sox this past June.

Since turning professional, Rodon has been fast-tracked, making two appearances with Rookie Arizona before joining High-A Winston Salem, where he made his way into four games (two starts).

Rodon then skipped Class AA all together to join the Knights, following a similar developmental path to that of 2010 first-round selection Chris Sale, who – like Rodon – appeared in four games in Winston-Salem before leapfrogging Class AA to join Charlotte.

Sale would go on to join the White Sox in September of that season.

“I’m just trying to get better and make my stuff better,” said Rodon -- who had a 1.86 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 9 2/3 innings with the Dash -- when asked about how aggressively Chicago has moved him through its system. “They challenge everyone in this organization. I’m not the only one.”

In his second inning of work, Rodon worked around a one-out walk to post a scoreless frame, before a bout of wildness in his final inning.

After two walks and a single loaded the bases with one out, Rodon managed the damage by inducing a sacrifice fly to right and an inning-ending pop to shortstop.  

“I felt good,” he said. “I struggled with the fastball command, but tried to make some adjustments. It was good to get my feet wet.

“Guys are more patient; they’re going to see what you have,” he continued. “Those first couple at-bats, they were taking pitches and trying to see the slider, see the changeup, and see the fastball and I noticed that.”

As Rodon walked off the mound following the third inning, 2,000 Jordan Danks bobbleheads, Tuesday’s Knights’ promotion, fittingly nodded their approval.

Having gone from pitching for the Wolfpack at the beginning of this season to one step away from the Major Leagues, its good that Rodon is taking the time to take pictures. When he looks back, it’s all going to be a blur. 

Game 132: Carlos Rodon starts for the Charlotte Knights vs. Gwinnett Braves

Here are the lineups:

Knights (58-73)
Jared Mitchell CF
Carlos Sanchez 2B
Marcus Semien SS
Josh Phegley C
Andy Wilkins 1B
Michael Taylor RF
Matt Davidson 3B
Matt Tuiasosopo DH
Josh Richmond LF
Pitching: LHP Carlos Rodon (First Class AAA Start)

Braves (56-73)
Jose Constanza LF
Elmer Reyes SS
Donnie Murphy 3B
Joey Terdoslavich RF
Sean Kazmar 2B
Brandon Boggs CF
Joe Leonard 1B
Edward Salcedo DH
Jose Yepez C
Pitching: RHP Kanekoa Texiera (3-4, 4.69 ERA)

Game time: 7:05 p.m.

TV/Radio: / ESPN 730

Notes: NC State star and No. 3 overall pick in this year's MLB Draft, Carlos Rodon, will make his Charlotte debut tonight. Hearing that the White Sox are hoping to see three-to-four innings of work from the 21-year-old left hander. 

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Game 131: Charlotte Knights vs. Gwinnett Braves

Here are the lineups:

Knights (57-73)
Jared Mitchell CF
Carlos Sanchez 2B
Marcus Semien SS
Michael Taylor RF
Andy Wilkins 1B
Matt Tuiasosopo DH
Matt Davidson 3B
Miguel Gonzalez C
Josh Richmond LF
Pitching: RHP Chien-Ming Wang (11-8, 4.22 ERA)

Braves (56-72)
Jose Constanza LF
Elmer Reyes SS
Donnie Murphy 3B
Joey Terdoslavich 1B
Sean Kazmar DH
Brandon Boggs CF
Ozzie Martinez 2B
Steve Lerud C
Edward Salcedo RF
Pitching: RHP Shea Simmons (MLR) followed by RHP Aaron Northcraft (0-6, 5.94 ERA)

Game time: 7:05 p.m.

TV/Radio: / ESPN 730

Notes: Today marks Chien-Ming Wang's seventh start with the Knights. He's gone 3-3 with a 6.19 ERA. ... Former UNC Charlotte standout Tyler Barnette tossed two perfect innings with a strikeout in his Knights debut on Sunday. A former starter, now turned reliever, Barnette touched 96 mph with his fastball. ... NC State star and No. 3 overall pick in this year's MLB Draft, Carlos Rodon, will make his Charlotte debut tomorrow. Hearing that the White Sox are hoping to see three-to-four innings of work from the 21-year-old left hander. ... According to White Sox Director of Player Development Nick Capra, Tyler Saladino's Tommy John surgery went well and the infielder has begun the rehabbing process. ... Matt Zaleski (74) passed Charlie Haeger (73) for most starts in Knights' history on Sunday. ... Josh Phegley is out of the lineup today and getting x-rays on his foot after taking a foul ball off it last night. ... Micah Johnson is in Chicago having his knee looked at. 

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