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Middling Back to the Nat

On Monday I wrote that the schedule-makers weren’t very kind to the C’s to start the second half of the Northwest League campaign. If the Canadians ‘could just hold serve through the end of July’ they would be set up nicely with nineteen of their final twenty-nine at the Nat. After a four and four road trip, the C’s have a chance to finish July on a high. So, if a .500 road trip is the definition of ‘holding serve’ than why do I feel disappointed?

Vancouver lies a game back of Everett in the second half standings, which, of course means they are leading the ‘next best record’ standing, three games up on Spokane. So ya, things aren’t all that bad. But, as is usually the case, I’ll find something to complain about. For the recent road trip, it was games six and seven.

Game six saw the C’s erase a six-one deficit, on Jeremy Gabryszwski‘s one poor start of the season, with a seven run sixth inning, only to see that lead dissipate over the next two innings. The next night saw a three-one lead evaporate as Justin James gave up four in the eighth.

The bullpen has been an issue this season, but the gutting part of these two was that it was the normally reliable Matt Johnson and James who gave up the runs. Hold on to those two leads and the C’s are in a bit better shape.

Ah well, still plenty of games to go

L.B. Dantzler did his part during the recent road trip. The University of South Carolina product had eleven hits over the eight games with two doubles and four home runs. He now leads the league in doubles, home runs, slugging percentage, and total bases. With Jordan Leyland heading up to Lansing, a lot of the offensive burden falls on Dantzler’s shoulders. So far he seems to be holding up fine.

Unfortunately he left Wednesday’s game early after being hit in the foot by a 95 mile per hour fastball. If he’s forced to miss significant time, there’ll be a serious power vacuum in the C’s lineup. For now, all we are hearing is bruised foot, he would have been re-evaluated this morning. Fingers crossed nothing is broken.

Wednesday saw Alonzo Gonzalez making his first start for Vancouver. Since his July 13th demotion from Lansing, the big left-hander has made four appearances out of the ‘pen. In that very small sample size he has put up excellent numbers with a 9.64 K/9, 10.00 K/BB, and 1.70 FIP.

After charting his start, I’m not sure that his long term future won’t be back in the bullpen. Through the first two innings he was consistently touching 93 on the gun, hitting 95 occasionally. He worked mainly off his fastball with the odd change mixed in. Unfortunately at 85/86 his offspeed offerings don’t really give him much separation.

When the Hops hitters made contact it was loud. Gonzalez would have been happy with the range of his outfielders.

In the third, the wheels fell of a bit. After striking out leadoff hitter Ty Linton with a low fastball, Alonzo proceeded to walk the next two hitters on eight pitches before putting in an effort and throwing eight to Ryan Gebhardt before walking him as well. The Californian didn’t seem to be finishing his pitches, especially from the stretch, leaving them low and away to the right-handers. Part of the issues were physical as Gonzalez had been on a fourty-five pitch count since arriving in Vancouver. He started the inning on thirty-seven pitches and noticeably tired as that total increased.

His velocity was dropping as well, with his fastball more in the 90 to 91 range. He was throwing his change up more by this point, with his fastball starting to wane, the gap between the two got very narrow. If he’s only going to be a two pitch pitcher, he won’t last long as a starter, and he’ll need more separation between the two of them.

I spoke to pitching coach Jim Czajkowski (heretofore known in these pages as Big Jim, if you’ve seen him before, you’ll know why) after the game. He confirmed that the third inning struggles were mechanical with Gonzalez missing his fastball to the arm side. When discussing the changeup, Big Jim was unhappy with its use on the night. He explained that Alonzo holds on to his change longer, getting good depth and movement on the pitch. A side benefit though, is that it helps to get his fastball motion back on track if he is using it effectively.

Discussing the depth on the changeup also made it clear how difficult it is to see the downward movement on breaking balls from the pressbox. I asked Czajkowski if Gonzalez threw any other pitches (see my two pitch diatribe above) and he said there were a few sliders mixed in. Either they were very bad or I just couldn’t see the movement they generated.

Notes From the Pressbox:

The pressbox rose in unison willing out Shaun Valeriote‘s second inning shot to left. The kid from Guelph is still hitless this year, but he gave it a ride, just died a death on the track.

His second at bat elicited more groans as just after giving an 0-2 pitch a ride just foul to right field, he struck out on a curve in the dirt.

This was a terrible game from the C’s. With the Hops short of their three leading hitters (according to OPS) either injured or not allowed into Canada (great strategy from the C’s) Vancouver kicked the ball around all night, giving up four unearned runs on four errors.

They also padded their league leading left on base total with eleven stranded.

To make room for the Canadian content that arrived this past week both Eric Brown and Colton Turner were promoted to Lansing. I’ll make a full post out of the Lansing rotation at some point, but now, good luck fellas.

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