Sunday, April 27, 2014

Scott Carroll recalled to Chicago White Sox; Erik Johnson optioned to Charlotte Knights

By Seth Lakso, Charlotte Observer Correspondent

On Sunday the Chicago White Sox promoted Charlotte Knights RHP Scott Carroll. He’s scheduled to make his Major League debut for Chicago today against the Tampa Bay Rays and David Price. 

In another roster move, the White Sox have optioned RHP Erik Johnson to the Charlotte Knights.

Johnson entered the 2014 season as the White Sox No. 2 prospect, according to Baseball America. Following a strong Spring Training, the second-round pick in 2011, earned a spot in Chicago’s starting rotation.

However, he has struggled with his control as of late, walking 15 batters in 23 2.3 innings of work. In his most recent start, Johnson lasted just 1 2/3 innings, allowing four earned runs, while walking four.

"I think it's just something where I have to go down and refine my stuff and get it back to where it was, and hopefully come back up and help the team as best as I can," Johnson told

"They just said, 'You're going down to Charlotte,'" Johnson continued. "'You need to just get your stuff back and be who you are and just get back to what you know how to do.'

"No one expects to go down. I think it's definitely a privilege to be in the big leagues and it's a privilege to play here and you've got to bring it every day. Right now what I'm doing is not what gets results out there."

Carroll, 29, has been excellent this season with the Knights, posting a 3-1 record and a 1.57 ERA. He was named the International League’s Pitcher of the Week after not allowing an earned run in his first 19 innings of work this season.

"He's doing pretty good down in Triple-A," Sox manager Robin Ventura told "For us, it's 'give the guy a shot.'"

Carroll missed most of last season recovering from Tommy John surgery. Knights pitching coach Richard Dotson, credits the rehab work Carroll put in for the sinker-baller’s refined mechanics and success this season.

It's been a long road to the Majors for Carroll, who is by all accounts a high-character guy. His first pitch against the Rays is scheduled for 2:05 p.m. today. You can follow his start, HERE

Friday, April 25, 2014

Tommy Hanson shines in his BB&T BallPark Debut for the Charlotte Knights

By Seth Lakso, Charlotte Observer Correspondent

In one of the more anticipated pitching debuts at BB&T BallPark this season, Tommy Hanson didn’t disappoint.

The 6-foot-6-inch former Atlanta Braves ace, tossed five hitless innings on his way to a win for the Knights, who took three of four from the Durham Bulls with a 3-1 win in front of a crowd of 10,307 on Friday.

The win was the third in a row for Charlotte, which handed the Bulls (15-8) their first series defeat of the season.

After allowing four runs on four hits in four innings in his first start of the season six days ago in Gwinnett, Hanson (1-1, 4.00) was considerably sharper on Friday, striking out six Bulls, while walking three. He threw 74 pitches on the night, 44 for strikes.

“I felt good,” said Hanson, who was pulled from the game with his no-hitter still intact. “A lot better than the first (start). I commanded my pitches ok and just tried to keep them off balance. Besides the walks, I feel like it was a pretty good outing.”

The right-hander said that he struggled to locate his changeup, but that he otherwise had everything working on Friday.

“I hit a wall my last outing,” he said. “This one, I felt good. I could have kept going and that’s a positive sign. I’m going to try to just keep building on that.”

Hanson, 27, had spent the previous five seasons in the Major Leagues (four years in Atlanta and one in Anaheim). He entered 2009 as the No. 2 prospect in the game, according to Baseball America and went 11-4 with a 2.89 ERA in 21 games with the Braves.

However, a rash of arm injuries led to his velocity dipping in 2013, and after a disappointing spring with the Texas Rangers, he was released. Before signing a Minor League contract with the White Sox on April 8, Hanson had spent two weeks without an employer.

“I had two weeks off where I wasn’t really throwing to a catcher," he said. "I was just throwing against a fence and having my wife roll the balls back to me. So I’m just trying to build my arm-strength back up and keep working on my command.”

The Knights (9-13) got all the runs they’d need in the first inning thanks to a two-out three-run home run from Andy Wilkins, who beat up on the Bulls over the last three games to the tune of a .400 average (4 for 10) with two home runs, two doubles and eight RBIs.

Charlotte relievers Frank Francisco (2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K) and Mitchell Boggs (2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 1 K) were able to preserve the win for Hanson.

The Bulls first hit of the night came in the sixth inning, when Kevin Kiermaier led off with a single. However, in an attempt to stretch it into a double, Kiermaier was thrown out by Knights right fielder Denis Phipps.

The lone Durham run came on a two-out solo home run by Wilson Betemit in the top of the ninth off Boggs.

Friday’s sellout was the sixth of the season for the Knights. It took the number of fans to pass through BB&T BallPark’s gates to 106,058. The Knights entered the day leading the entire Minor Leagues in average attendance with an average of 9,575 per game.

It took the Knights until June 2 (29 games) to reach to 100,000 fans last season in Fort Mill, S.C.

“It was a great crowd,” said Hanson. “It’s been great, especially the last two nights. It’s fun to play when you’ve got some fans out there. It adds to your adrenaline a little bit.”

Charlotte will now head to Rochester, N.Y., for four games against the Red Wings before hopping over to Buffalo, on May 1st for a four game set with the Bisons.

Final: Charlotte Knights 3, Durham Bulls 1

Final: Knights 3, Bulls 1 -- Wilson Betemit took Boggs deep with two outs and no one on in the ninth. That is all. Great BB&T BallPark debut for Tommy Hanson (5 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 6 K on 74 pitches). 

Thanks for reading. 

End of the 8th Knights 3, Bulls 0 -- Boggs worked around a two-out single by Ray Olmedo to retire the Bulls. 

The Knights went one-two-three in the bottom of the eighth. Following the first inning, Bulls pitching retired 21 of the final 23 Charlotte batters. 

End of the 7th: Knights 3, Bulls 0 -- Frank Francisco K'd two on his way to a one-two-three inning. The Bulls still have just one hit off Charlotte pitching tonight. RHP Mitchell Boggs is warming and will likely come in to pitch the top of the 8th. 

LHP Adam Liberatore relieved Romero and tossed a perfect bottom of the seventh.  

End of the 6th: Knights 3, Bulls 0 -- Kevin Kiermaier greeted Frank Francisco with a single to right, but got greedy and was thrown out by a mile trying to stretch it into a double by Denis Phipps. Francisco then retired the next two Bulls (K, F8). Kiermaier's hit was the first of the night for Durham.

Romero is likely done for the night. After the first inning he was excellent, allowing just one hit and one walk. His line stands at: 6 IP, 3 R (all earned), 3 H, 2 BB, 5 K (96 pitches).  

End of 5th: Knights 3, Bulls 0 -- Hanson retired the final eight batters he saw tonight. After a one-two-three fifth and 74 pitches it looks like he's done for the night. 

Tommy Hanson: 5 IP 0 H, 0R, 3 BB, 6 K (74 pitches, 44 strikes, 30 balls)

Romero allowed a two-out single to Hernandez, but that was all. 

End of the 4th: Knights 3, Bulls 0 -- Hanson turned in his best inning of the game, sending the Bulls down in order and fanning two. Romero continued to roll. 

End of 3rd: Knights 3, Bulls 0 -- Hanson struggled to locate his fastball in the third, walking two batters and issuing a wild pitch. However he managed to strike out Mikie Mahtook with runners on second and third and one out and then get Vince Belnome to pop out to end the inning. 

After struggling with all his pitches in the first inning, Romero looks to be settling in. He's now retired seven Knights in a row since Wilkins' home run. 

End of the 2nd: Knights 3, Bulls 0 -- Both Hanson and Romero tossed one-two-three innings, each getting two fly outs and one K.  

End of 1st: Knights 3, Bulls 0 -- Tommy Hanson struck out two in a scoreless inning. In the bottom half of the first, the Knights got a two-out three-run home run from Andy Wilkins. Wilkins over his last six games is now 6 for 21 with 2 HR, 10 RBI, and 4 runs scored. 


Knights (8-13)
Gorkys Hernandez CF
Carlos Sanchez 2B
Josh Phegley C
Matt Davidson 3B
Andy Wilkins DH
Denis Phipps RF
Dan Black 1B
Alex Liddi LF
Tyler Saladino SS
Pitching: RHP Tommy Hanson (0-1, 9.00)

Bulls (15-7)
Kevin Kiermaier CF
Mikie Mahtook LF
Vince Belnome DH
Wilson Betemit 1B
Jerry Sands RF
Cole Figueroa 3B
Ali Solis C
Hak-Ju Lee SS
Ray Olmedo 2B
Pitching: LHP Enny Romero (2-2, 4.43)

Game time: 7:05 p.m.

TV/Radio: MiLB.TV / ESPN 730

Stat of the Day: Through 10 home games the Knights have drawn 95,751 fans to Uptown’s BB&T Ballpark – the most by any Minor League team this season. The next highest attendance belongs to the Louisville Bats (74,119 in 11 games). It took the Knights 27 games last season – or until May 28th –  to hit the 90,000 mark in Fort Mill, S.C.

* The Knights (10,449) outdrew the Cleveland Indians last night (10,440.)

Notes: Tonight is Tommy Hanson’s first start at BB&T BallPark. He was signed by Chicago back on April 8 to a Minor League contract and assigned to Charlotte on April 19 after participating in extended spring training. … RHP Ryan Kussmaul, who tossed three innings in last night’s win, was transferred to the Winston-Salem (A+) roster to make room for LHP Charlie Leesman, who rejoined the Knights today from the White Sox. … The Knights are 6-1 this season when leading after six innings.

Knights Walkup Song of the Day: Andy Wilkins – This Is How We Roll, Florida Georgia Line 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Charlotte Knights hold on for 4-3 win over the Durham Bulls

By Seth Lakso, Charlotte Observer Correspondent

Off the bat, the fly ball looked like it could be trouble.

Knowing there was a runner on first and one out in the inning of a one-run game in the ninth, Knights second baseman Carlos Sanchez took off.

As the ball drifted towards the Knights’ bullpen, so too did Sanchez, who made the catch right on top of one of Charlotte’s exposed pitching mounds. Without a second of hesitation, Sanchez popped to his feet and fired to second to catch the runner trying to tag-up and end the game.

The double play was the highlight of the night for Charlotte, who handed the Durham Bulls their second straight loss in front of a record crowd of 10, 449 at BB&T Ballpark on Thursday.

“I saw him make a catch on the mound, a nice kind of over-the-shoulder type of play, and then throw a strike to second,” said Knights manager Joel Skinner.

“You know, he was throwing from the mound, so he must have gotten out front and made a nice pitch,” joked Skinner. “No, it was a nice play; it really was.”

For the second night in a row the Knights had to piece together a game from a pitching standpoint, with the night’s scheduled starter, Scott Carroll, put on hold in case he’s needed with the Chicago White Sox later this week.

And for the second night in a row, the pen was up to the task, holding Durham – who entered the night first in the International League in runs scored (105) and hits (198) – to just three runs on four hits.

Ryan Kussmaul started for the first time in his professional career and tossed 40 pitches over three innings. His only blemish was a solo home run he allowed to Wilson Betemit in the second inning.

Frank De Los Santos (W, 1-0, 0.00) followed up Kussmaul with three scoreless innings of his own, striking out four. Donnie Veal then tossed a scoreless inning before losing his command in the eighth and being charged with two runs following three straight walks to start the inning.

David Purcey then came on to toss the game’s final two innings and record his second save of the season.

“They’ve done a great job,” said Skinner of his relievers, who have held Durham to just four runs on 12 hits in 18 innings over the last 48 hours. “Tonight, obviously, we ran into a strike-throwing problem there, but Purcey was able to persevere and he got through that and the play Sanchez made was a nice way to finish the game.”

The Knights took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on an RBI double by Andy Wilkins and added three more runs in the sixth on an error, a wild pitch, and a sacrifice fly by Wilkins (1 for 3).

Through 10 home games the Knights have drawn 95,751 fans to Uptown’s BB&T Ballpark – the most by any Minor League team this season. The next highest attendance belongs to the Louisville Bats (74,119 in 11 games).

It took the Knights 27 games last season – or until May 28th –  to hit the 90,000 mark in Fort Mill, S.C.

Charlotte improved to 3-6 against the Bulls this season. The two teams will conclude their four-game series on Friday when former Atlanta Braves ace Tommy Hanson (0-1, 9.00) takes on Durham southpaw Enny Romero (2-2, 4.43). 

Notes: Knights manager Joel Skinner said that Scott Carroll didn't pitch because: "He’s on hold. He got bumped. At this level, sometimes you need to have guys available for the Major Leagues, so that’s how that worked tonight. Nothing has been done or anything, but again, they held him back and that’s all I can say about it." ... LHP Charlie Leesman is expected to rejoin the Knights sometime tomorrow and could be available to pitch should the game go into extras. ... Friday will be Tommy Hanson's (0-1, 9.00 ERA) BB&T Ballpark debut. He lasted just four innings in his first start with the Knights. Skinner said that he will be on a pitch count. ... Catcher Josh Phegley sat for the third straight game, but was available to pinch-hit. "He’s been available the whole time," said Skinner. "It’s not a DL situation. He’ll play (Friday). He could have played today, but holding him back one more day was my decision."     

Final: Charlotte Knights 4, Durham Bulls 3

By Seth Lakso, Charlotte Observer Correspondent

Final: Knights 4, Bulls 3 -- With one out and a Durham runner on first, Carlos Sanchez made a highlight-reel catch heading towards the Charlotte bullpen. He then bounced back to his feet and doubled off runner as he attempted to tag and advance to second.

End of 8: Knights 4, Bulls 3 -- The Bulls sent eight batters to the plate and pushed two runs across in the top of the eighth without the benefit of a hit. Donnie Veal walked the first three batters of the inning before being replaced by David Purcey.

Runs scored on a Purcey wild pitch and a fielder's choice. Tyler Saladino made a nice play on a broken-bat grounder up the middle to end the inning.

In the bottom half of the inning, Jared Mitchell walked and stole second, but was stranded there.

Tonight's attendance was announced at: 10,449 (a new sellout and a new BB&T Ballpark record)

End of 7: Knights 4, Bulls 1 -- Donnie Veal hit the first batter he faced, but recovered to strikeout two in a scoreless frame. The Knights then went down in order. 

End of 6: Knights 4, Bulls 1 -- Charlotte got to Matt Andriese for three more runs in the sixth. Andriese hit Jared Mitchell to begin the inning. Following a single by Gorkys Hernandez, Carlos Sanchez laid down a perfect bunt. Andriese's throw to first was wild and it allowed Mitchell to score and left Hernandez on third and Sanchez on second with no outs. 

Andy Wilkins picked up his second RBI of the night with a sacrifice fly to center. Sanchez then came in to score on a wild pitch. 

Frank De Los Santos is done for the night. He tosses three scoreless innings (one hit) and struck out four. Donnie Veal is coming on to pitch for the Knights. 

End of 5: Knights 1, Bulls 1 -- Frank De Los Santos, who pitched in 26 games for the Bulls last season, worked around a one-out Ray Olmedo single to hold Durham scoreless, while Matt Andriese put together another one-two-three inning. He's now retired seven Knights in a row. 

End of 4: Knights 1, Bulls 1 -- Frank De Los Santos struck out two on his way to a one-two-three inning. Matt Andriese then sent the Knights down in order for the second time tonight. 

End of 3: Knights 1, Bulls 1 -- Nothing doing for either team. Mike Fontenot doubled with one out but was stranded at second. Gorkys Hernandez worked a one-out walk, but was erased on a Carlos Sanchez double-play ball. 

Ryan Kussmaul is done after 40 pitches. He allowed two hits, one run and walked a batter. All-in-all, not bad for a last minute start. LHP Frank De Los Santos is coming on to start the fourth. 

End of 2: Knights 1, Bulls 1 -- Wilson Betemit greeted Ryan Kussmaul with a solo home run to begin the second. The Knights then went one-two-three. 

End of 1: Knights 1, Bulls 0 -- Ryan Kussmaul, who started today in place of Scott Carroll, sent the Bulls down in order. In the bottom half of the inning, Gorky Hernadez got a bit greedy trying to stretch a leadoff double down the right field line into a triple and was thrown out. However, the Knights still managed to score when Andy Wilkins doubled in Carlos Sanchez from first. 

Over his last five games, Wilkins is 5 for 18 (.278) with two doubles, two home runs and six runs knocked in. 

Knights (7-13)
Gorkys Hernandez CF
Carlos Sanchez 2B
Andy Wilkins 1B
Matt Davidson 3B
Dan Black DH
Hector Gimenez C
Blake Tekotte RF
Tyler Saladino SS
Jared Mitchell LF
Pitching: RHP Ryan Kussmaul (0-2, 6.97)

Bulls (15-6)
Mike Fontenot 2B
Justin Christian LF
Cole Figueroa SS
Wilson Betemit DH
Jerry Sands RF
Vince Belnome 1B
Mikie Mahtook CF
Ray Olmedo 3B
Eddy Rodriguez C

Pitching: RHP Matt Andriese (1-1, 3.79)

Game time: 7:05 

TV/Radio: MiLB.TV / ESPN 730

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Chicago White Sox option LHP Charlie Leesman back to Charlotte Knights

By Seth Lakso, Charlotte Observer Correspondent

According to reports out of Chicago, the White Sox have optioned LHP Charlie Leesman back to the Charlotte Knights to make room on the roster for second baseman Gordon Beckham, who has been rehabbing with the Double-A Birmingham Barons.

Leesman made one start for the White Sox and lasted just 2 2/3 innings, allowing nine hits and six runs, while striking out just one. The 27-year-old only walked one batter, but was consistently up in the zone and the Detroit Tigers made him pay.

In three starts this season with the Knights, Leesman (0-2, 1.59) has allowed five runs (three earned). However, in those starts, he’s received just six total runs of support from the Charlotte bats.

Charlotte Knights snap slide at eight games with 9-1 win over Durham Bulls

By Seth Lakso, Charlotte Observer Correspondent

The Charlotte Knights had watched their record go from a game above .500 to seven games below over the course of an eight-game losing streak that began on April 14th.

With each loss, you could feel the pressure building. In Fort Mill, S.C., they could fly under the radar. Here, in Charlotte, people were beginning to talk.

Wednesday was about putting all that to bed.

The Knights entered the game with a collective batting average of .213. They opted to skip their morning batting practice and instead wound up taking it off of Durham Bulls starter Nate Karns, on their way to a 9-1 win in front of a crowd of 9,574 at BB&T Ballpark.

The game’s first pitch came at t 11:12 a.m.; by 11:30, Charlotte had a 5-0 lead. By noon, they were up eight.

It had been 14 games since the Knights had scored more than six runs in a game. Three batters in, they had three runs on the board, thanks to Andy Wilkins’ second home run in four games.

Three batters later, Alex Liddi (1 for 5, 2 RBI) connected on a two-run shot to cap the first inning scoring and set the tone for Charlotte’s starter, Deunte Heath, who tossed five scoreless innings to record his first win of the season.

“We came out and scored quick,” said Wilkins, who finished the afternoon 2 for 5 with three runs batted in. “When you lose eight games in a row, any kind of early offensive push is good. (Heath) did a great job out there today too. I think it was just a good overall win.”  

In the second inning, Charlotte continued to tee off on Karns -- who lasted just the two frames and fell to 2-2 on the season -- for three more runs.

Jared Mitchell led off the inning with a triple and came in to score on a sacrifice fly.

After a walk and an error put runners on first and second, Hector Gimenez (1 for 3, 2 RBI, 2 BB) cleared the bases with a double.

By the end of the fourth inning, where Tyler Saladino picked up an RBI with a bases-loaded walk, the Knights had already set a season-high in runs scored with nine.

Every Charlotte starter reached base at least once via a walk or a hit. A feat made more impressive, considering both the starting third baseman, Matt Davidson, and starting catcher, Josh Phegley, were given the day off.

Heath allowed just two hits over his five innings of work and managed to toss just 49 pitches, before giving way to former New York Mets closer Frank Francisco, who made his Knights debut.

Francisco allowed a run on a walk, a hit, and an error. He threw 14 pitches -- all fastballs -- and looked out of place trying to cover first on an attempted 3-6-1 double play, but called the appearance a success following the game.

“The good thing today was that I was able to locate my fastball, you know, and make the hitter hit the ball on the ground,” said Francisco, who joined the team late Tuesday night from extended spring training in Arizona. “That’s what’s most important. My fastball was working really good, so I didn’t see the need to go to my other pitches.”

Asked where he's at physically, Francisco responded: "It’s my second game. I’ve got to be tested first, like have a long inning, and see how much gas I have in the tank. For me, I did good today."  

The win snapped a five-game losing streak to Durham, who the Knights will play again on Thursday and Friday, before heading out on an eight-game road trip.

“Everything in this game seems to be a little bit contagious from a confidence standpoint,” said Knights manager Joel Skinner. “You try to feed off each other. When guys are doing well, other guys usually start to chip in and that’s how it starts. Today was a good sign.”

Notes: Josh Phegely missed the game because of what Knights coach Joel Skinner termed, "a sore leg."
"It’s nothing big," continued Skinner. "We’re just being pertinent and taking care of the situation. We'll see how he does, but he’s feeling better." ... Asked about Matt Davidson's day off, Skinner replied: "When you have these 11 o’clock games, you try to pick a guy that maybe could use the time off and today I thought would be a good day for him to have a day off." Over his last 10 games, the 23-year-old is hitting .086 (3 for 35) with one home run and 19 strikeouts. ... The Knights improved to 2-6 against the Bulls this season. ... The road-loss was Durham's second this season. ... For a link to Jeff Siner's photos from the game, CLICK HERE

Final: Charlotte Knights 9, Durham Bulls 1

Final: Knights 9, Bulls 1 -- Javy Guerra sent the Bulls down in order to finish this one off. The win snapped a season-high eight-game losing streak for the Knights. The nine runs scored, was the most by Charlotte in any game this season (previous high was eight). Deunte Heath (1-0) tossed five scoreless innings and allowed two hits to record his first win of the season.  

The Knights knocked Bulls starter Nate Karns out after two innings of work. He allowed eight runs (seven earned) on six hits and three walks. The Bulls made two errors behind him. Every Charlotte batter reached base via a walk or hit at least once. Andy Wilkins and Alex Liddi each homered in the first inning.

Bottom 8th: Knights 9, Bulls 1 -- Hector Gimenez drew the Knights' eight walk of the game, but was stranded at first. Charlotte has not gone down in order once this game.

Top 8th: Knights 9, Bulls 1 -- A clean inning for Javy Guerra, who allowed a leadoff single, but then induced a 4-6-3 double-play ball off the bat of Ray Olmedo.

Bottom 7th: Knights 9, Bulls 1 -- The Knights stranded two. Carlos Sanchez is now 2 for 2 on the day with a walk and two runs scored. Javy Guerra on to pitch for Charlotte.

This afternoon's official attendance came in at: 9,574.

Top 7th: Knights 9, Bulls 1 -- Taylor Thompson allowed three hits, but managed to get out of the inning without surrendering a run. A strong throw from CF Gorkys Hernandez held Wilson Betemit at third with one out.

Bottom 6th: Knights 9, Bulls 1 -- One-two-three inning for Juan Sandoval. Taylor Thompson coming on to pitch for Charlotte.

Top 6th: Knights 9, Bulls 1 -- Frank Francisco allowed a run on a walk, a hit and an error. He threw 14 pitches (10 for strikes) and looked real out of place trying to cover first on an attempted 3-6-1 double-play.

Bottom 5th: Knights 9, Bulls 0 -- Andy Wilkins (2 for 3, HR) doubled with two outs, but was stranded there. Here's comes Frank Francisco to make his Charlotte Knights debut.

Top 5th: Knights 9, Bulls 0 -- Deunte Heath's likely done for the night with Frank Francisco now warming in the Knights bullpen. He was excellent today, retiring the final eight batters he faced.

Heath's line: 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB (49 pitches).

Bottom 4th: Knights 9, Bulls 0 -- This video about sums up the inning...


Tyler Saladino walked to force in the Knights' ninth run of the game. The free pass was the third of the inning issued by the Bulls.  

Top 4th: Knights 8, Bulls 0 -- Deunte Heath has now retired nine of the last 10 Durham batters. He's at 41 pitches through four innings of work. Doing exactly what the Knights needed him to do today.

Bottom 3rd: Knights 8, Bulls 0 -- RHP Doug Mathis came on in relief of Nate Karns (2 IP, 6 H, 8 R (7 ER), 2 BB, 3 K, 2 HR) and managed to hold the Knights scoreless.

Top 3rd: Knights 8, Bulls 0 -- Deunte Heath worked around a Mike Fontenot double to leadoff the inning.

Heath's pitch count: 29.

Bottom 2nd: Knights 8, Bulls 0 -- The Knights continued to hit Nate Karns hard in the second. Jared Mitchell led off the inning with a triple to the gap in right center and came home on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Gorkys Hernandez.

After a walk and an error put runners on first and second, Hector Gimenez cleared the bases with a double. Eight runs ties the Knights' season-high for runs in a game.

Top 2nd: Knights 5, Bulls 0 -- Three up and three down for Deunte Heath. The right-hander's thrown 15 pitches through two innings of work. He's expected to toss somewhere between 50 and 75 pitches today.

Bottom 1st: Knights 5, Bulls 0 -- Picture perfect start to the game for the Knights offense. Gorkys Hernandez and Carlos Sanchez each singled and then came in to score on a three-run blast by Andy Wilkins.

After Hector Gimenez grounded out, Dan Black worked a walk and got to take his time rounding the rest of the bases when Alex Liddi sent one over everything in left to put the Knights up 5-0. Charlotte entered the day with just eight first-inning runs scored all season.

Top 1st: Knights 0, Bulls 0 -- Kevin Kiermaier led off the game with a single, but was quickly doubled up when Ray Olmedo lined out to Carlos Sanchez at second. After taking a 3-2 walk, Justin Christian was caught stealing to end the inning. 


Knights (6-13)
Gorkys Hernandez CF
Carlos Sanchez 2B
Andy Wilkins DH
Hector Gimenez C
Dan Black 1B
Alex Liddi 3B
Blake Tekotte RF
Tyler Saladino SS
Jared Mitchell LF
Pitching: RHP Deunte Heath (0-0, 2.45)

Bulls (15-5)
Kevin Kiermaier CF
Ray Olmedo 3B
Justin Christian LF
Wilson Betemit DH
Jerry Sands 1B
Mikie Mahtook RF
Mike Fontenot 2B
Ali Solis C
Hak-ju Lee SS
Pitching: RHP Nate Karns (2-1, 5.59)

Game time: 11:05 a.m.

TV/Radio: MiLB.TV / ESPN 730

Stat of the Day: Among payers currently in the International League, Tyler Saladino ranks fourth with a .359 batting average. If you take him out of the Knights’ lineup, the team is hitting just .196 on the season (.213 with).

Notes: Deunte Heath is making his first start of the season for the Knights. LHP Charlie Leesman was today’s scheduled starter, but he was called up to the White Sox on Monday. He started for Chicago on Tuesday against Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers and allowed six runs on nine hits in 2 2/3 innings of work. …  Tuesday was Tyler Saladino’s first career two home run game. … Former Mets closer Frank Francisco is expected to make his Knights debut. He arrived in Charlotte at 10 p.m. on Tuesday. … Third baseman Matt Davidson is not in the starting lineup for the first time this season. Over his last 10 games, the 23-year-old is hitting .086 (3 for 35) with one home run and 19 strikeouts. … Catcher Josh Phegley is out for the second straight game. … Charlotte has lost its last eight games. They last lost nine in a row in 2005 from April 11-20.

Knights Walkup Song of the Day: Carlos Sanchez – Feel This Moment, Pitbull  

Rowe's first pitch on Tuesday meant more than you might think

This took me a little while to get to, but I think it’s a story Knights – and Charlotte O’s fans – would appreciate.

When Tommy Rowe got the invitation to come to BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte for the O’s reunion, he had no idea what he was getting into.

Two days before the reunion, he began the drive from New York to the Queen City with his wife, Nicole, and two kids, Alex and Jordan.  

I’ll try to let Rowe tell the rest…

“I can’t even begin to describe it,” said Rowe, who was a member of the O’s from 1979-1980 and again in 1982.. “It was what should have been a 10 and a half hour trip, but it probably wound up taking about 15 or 16 hours.

“It was literally 1:00 in the morning on a dark road (in Virginia) and my wife is in excruciating pain. Unbearable. She couldn’t take it anymore. I started saying, ‘Can you make it to Charlotte?’ Because I know they have big hospitals there, but she couldn’t.”

At the time, Rowe believed his wife was suffering from her fourth bout of pancreatitis in the past three months.

“At that point, I just picked up my phone and looked up the nearest hospital and pulled off the highway,” he said. “We then got lost, because it wasn’t where it said it was. (Nicole) was crying and I’ve got my two little kids, who are seven and 11 years old in the back, trying to sleep.

“Finally, we find an ER and I get her inside and I’m running back and forth between my two kids and her. Eventually, she told me to go and take the kids and get them to Charlotte and into bed.”

So that’s what Rowe did. Meanwhile, Nicole, after being stabilized, was transferred to Carolina’s Medical Center in Charlotte.

“There she had emergency surgery,” continued Rowe. “We have, unfortunately, been to every major hospital in New York, and (CMC Main) ranks right up there with any of them. There were the most incredible, friendly, people there and they might have actually found something that was being overlooked before. They might have helped save her life.”

Of course, Nicole wound up missing the Charlotte O’s reunion while she recovered in the hospital and was heartbroken.

Upon hearing about Rowe’s situation, the Charlotte Knights offered to do something special for the family.

“The Knights gave us a personal tour and then invited me to throw out the first pitch (Tuesday),” said Rowe. “I can’t thank them enough; they’ve made this trip, something special for my wife, because now she feels like she’s a part of it. She’s so happy. She was devastated she missed all the reunion festivities.”

Rowe said that seeing his old teammates and the Crockett family was an incredible help.
“I got to the hotel and was there with everyone to take the shuttle over to (BB&T Ballpark), but my head was half there,” he said. “At that point, (Nicole) was still in Virginia in a hospital and we didn’t know what was going on.

“Everyone was there for me,” Rowe continued. “They offered to watch the kids, they went to see Nicole for me. Between that and what the Charlotte Knights have done for me, it’s just been unbelievable.”

During his playing days, Rowe was famous for his curveball. It was difficult to tell if that's what he threw out on Tuesday. Either way, it was one of the more impressive tosses BB&T Ballpark has seen. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Charlotte Knights drop eighth straight, despite two home runs from Tyler Saladino

By Seth Lakso, Charlotte Observer Correspondent

They say the game of baseball isn't played on paper, but on Tuesday, it certainly stuck to the script. 

The Durham Bulls arrived at Charlotte’s BB&T Ballpark having won eight of their last 10 and boasting a pitching staff that entered the day leading the International League in strikeouts (204).

The Knights, on the other hand, returned home losers of seven in a row, with the league’s worse batting average (.209) in tow, as well as the most strikeouts (188).

The result was exactly what you’d expect given those numbers, as Charlotte fell for the eighth-straight time, 8-4, in front of a crowd of 8,751 at BB&T Ballpark.

Tyler Saladino (3 for 4) finished with two home runs and all four of the Knights (6-13) RBIs, while Durham pitching posted 14 Ks.

“It’s a long season,” said Saladino, who likened the losing streak to a 9-20 month of August he went through with Double-A Birmingham last season. “If things aren’t going your way, (losses) can come in bunches and have a bit of a snowball effect from time to time. But it only takes a couple things to get going and then, the next thing you know, the questions can be turned around the other way.”

The Bulls (15-5) biggest blow of the game came in the third inning, when Justin Christian launched a three-run home run to put them up 3-0. Saladino’s first home run in the seventh cut the Bulls lead to 4-3, but veteran reliever Mitchell Boggs, allowed four runs over two innings of work to end any comeback ideas. 

The loss was Charlotte’s fifth straight against Durham, and dropped the team to 1-6 against its in-state foe this season. The eight-game losing streak is the franchise’s longest since another eight-game drought in 2010 (4/18-4/25).  

Dylan Axelrod (1-2, 4.71) took the loss for the Knights, tossing five innings of seven-hit, four-run (three earned) ball. He walked three, hit a batter, and struck out one.

Opposite Axelrod, Merrill Kelly (4-0, 1.50) was able to pick up his fourth win of this season and second against the Knights. Kelly lasted six innings. He allowed one run and struck out seven. 

“Obviously, we’ve had a real bad week from the standpoint of wins and losses,” said Knights manager Joel Skinner. “It’s eight in a row now, but you know, that’s baseball. You fix that by going out and winning some ballgames.”

The Knights haven't been helped by the rash of injuries that has hit their parent club, the Chicago White Sox. As of Tuesday, five players who began the season with Charlotte were with the White Sox, including outfielder Jordan Danks and starters Andre Rienzo and Charlie Leesman (who was scheduled to start on Wednesday).  

In seven games this season, the Bulls have now outscored the Knights, 44-20. The two teams will play again today at 11 a.m. with Deunte Heath scheduled to start opposite Durham’s Nathan Karns.

“It’s baseball,” said Saladino. “There’s ups and downs. You’ve just got to try and stay as consistent as you can. That’s what everyone’s trying to do. That’s our focus, trying to get back on and get some stuff going our way and try to win some ball games.”

Final: Charlotte Knights 4, Durham Bulls 8

By Seth Lakso, Charlotte Observer Correspondent

Final: Knights 4, Bulls 8 --
 Tyler Saladino capped off an impressive night at the plate with his second home run. He finished the game 3 for 4 with all four Knights' RBIs. Charlotte has now dropped eight in a row.

See you guys tomorrow. Thanks for reading.

Top 9th: Knights 3, Bulls 8 -- Mitchell Boggs, whose ERA now sits at 12.10, was touched up for two more runs.

Bottom 8th: Knights 3, Bulls 6 -- Brad Boxberger sent the Knights down one-two-three.

Top 8th: Knights 3, Bulls 6 -- As quick as Tyler Saladino's two-run shot gave got the Knights to within a run, Mitchell Boggs managed to give the runs back. He began the inning by hitting Vince Belnome and then allowed back-to-back RBI doubles, the first of which threw up chalk when it landed just fair down the right field line.

Bottom 7th: Knights 3, Bulls 4 -- The Knights were happy to see Merrill Kelly go. They greeted Geitz with back-to-back hits, the second of which was a two-run shot to left by Tyler Saladino, who now has all three of Charlotte's RBIs tonight. Geitz then recovered to strikeout the side.

After two hitless innings of work, LHP David Purcey (three Ks, one BB) looks to be done for the night.

Top 7th: Knights 1, Bulls 4 -- Another strong inning for David Purcey, who sent the Bulls down one-two-three.

That's the nights for Merrill Kelly: 6 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 7 K (91 pitches). RHP Steve Geitz on to pitch for Durham.

Bottom 6th: Knights 1, Bulls 4 -- Nothing doing for Charlotte. Matt Davidson (0 for 3), Andy Wilkins  (0 for 3) and Dan Black (2 for 3) went down in order.

Top 6th: Knights 1, Bulls 4 -- A nice inning for David Purcey, who struck out two.

Bottom 5th: Knights 1, Bulls 4 -- Carlos Sanchez (1 for 2) singled with two outs, but was stranded at first. Jared Mitchell began the inning with a strikeout. He has now fanned 23 times in 41at bats this season (56 percent of the time). He works counts well, but seems to lack any kind of plan with two-strikes.

That's also the night for Axelrod: 5 IP, 7 H, 4 R (3 ER), 3 BB, 1 K, 1 HBP (98 pitches). LHP David Purcey is now on the mound.

Top 5th: Knights 1, Bulls 4 -- Axelrod worked around another miscue behind him when Blake Tekotte played a Wilson Betemit single into a leadoff double.

Bottom 4th: Knights 1, Bulls 4 -- The Knights had some fun with two outs. Dan Black (2 for 2) hit a line drive off Merrill Kelly for a single and advanced to second on a single by Blake Tekotte. Tyler Saladino then knocked in Black with a single down the right field line, but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double to end the inning.

Top 4th: Knights 0, Bulls 4 -- Knights defense didn't do Axelrod any favors. With one out, Matt Davidson couldn't handle a ball off the bat of Mikie Mahtook cleanly. Following a single and a pop out, Dan Black misplayed a goundball to first and allowed Mahtook to put the Bulls up four.

Bottom 3rd: Knights 0, Bulls 3 -- Following a one-out double to left by Gorkys Hernanded (2 for 2), the Knights fell to 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position when Carlos Sanchez lined out to right and Hector Gimenez Kd for the second time in two ABs.

Fun note: The Bulls are 12-0 this season when scoring first.

Top 3rd: Knights 0, Bulls 3 -- Axelrod got Mike Fontenot to pop to second and then came apart. The trouble began when he plunked the light-hitting Eddy Rodriguez (.115). Kevin Kiermaier then laced a double to right and Justin Christian followed with a three-run shot off the Piedmont Natural Gas awning in left.

Axe then walked Cole Figueroa, prompting a trip to the mound by Knights pitching coach Richard Dotson. Two pitches later, Hector Gimenez helped out his battery mate by picking off Figueroa. Following a walk to Wilson Betemit, Jerry Sands grounded out to second to end the inning.

Axelrod has now thrown 58 pitches (31 strikes).

Bottom 2nd: Knights 0, Bulls 0 -- Merrill Kelly worked around a one-out single by Dan Black to keep the Knights off the scoreboard. Kelly now has four K's through two innings. He's thrown 34 pitches.

Top 2nd: Knights 0, Bulls 0 --  Three up and three down for Axelrod, who struck out Mikie Mahtook to end the inning.

Bottom 1st: Knights 0, Bulls 0 -- Gorkys Hernandez led off the inning with a single. Carlos Sanchez sacrificed him to second. Hector Gimenez (swinging) and Matt Davidson (looking) then both K'd.

Top 1st: Knights 0, Bulls 0 -- Dylan Axelrod worked around two hits in the inning thanks to a fine throw from right fielder Blake Takotte that cut down Justin Christian as he tried to go first-to-third on a single by Cole Figueroa.


Knights (6-12)
Gorkys Hernandez CF
Carlos Sanchez 2B
Hector Gimenez C
Matt Davidson 3B
Andy Wilkins 1B
Dan Black DH
Blake Tekotte RF
Tyler Saladino SS
Jared Mitchell LF
Pitching: RHP Dylan Axelrod (1-1, 4.50)

Bulls (14-5)
Kevin Kiermaier CF
Justin Christian LF
Cole Figueroa SS
Wilson Betemit 1B
Jerry Sands DH
Vince Belnome 3B
Mikie Mahtook RF
Mike Fontenot 2B
Eddy Rodriguez C
Pitching: RHP Merrill Kelly (3-0, 1.50)

Game time: 7:05 p.m.

TV/Radio: MiLB.TV / ESPN 730

Stat of the Day: Through seven games, the Knights are averaging 9,568 fans (66,977 total). It took 20 games last season to get to 69,464.

Notes: This will be RHP Dylan Axelrod's fourth start of the season. He entered 2014 with the lowest ERA in Knights franchise history (2.58). After 16.0 IP this season, he now owns a 2.73 ERA. ... LHP Charlie Leesman, who was scheduled to start for the Knights on Wednesday, has been recalled to the Chicago White Sox. His roster spot has been filled by former Mets closer Frank Francisco, who will likely make his Knights debut on Wednesday. ... Charlotte is yet to announce a starter for Wednesday's game. As of right now, it appears that it will be a patchwork game by the bullpen, with several guys being counted on to throw multiple innings. ... With a win tonight the Knights would snap a season-high seven-game losing streak. They have not won a game since April 13. ... After hitting two doubles in Monday's loss to Gwinnett, Knights catcher Josh Phegley has been given the day off by Charlotte manager Joel Skinner. ... Bulls starter, Merrill Kelly (3-0) began the season in the bullpen, but transitioned into a starter when the need arose. This will be his third start of the season. The right-hander's first win of the season came against the Knights on April 7. ... The Knights have lost four straight games to the Bulls this season and five of six overall.    

Knights Walkup Song of the Day: Tyler Saladino Double Bubble Trouble, M.I.A.