Rarity in the California League

Last Friday (April 25), a rarity happened in the California League, when San Jose shut out the 66ers, Stockton shut out the Quakes and Visalia shut out Modesto.

So I asked MLB.com when was the last time three shutouts happened on the same day in the hitter-friendly Cal League?

The answer is April 21, 2006. On that day, the Quakes shut out Modesto, San Jose shut out Lake Elsinore and Visalia shut out Stockton.

Conger’s night at the Epicenter

It was a great idea at the time, but when plans didn’t quite work out perfectly, the Quakes made the best of a tough situation.

In the off-season, they had planned on a Korean-American night. The occasion was that the Quakes were expected to have catcher Hank Conger on the roster. Conger, a second-generation Korean, is reported to be the first Korean-American to be drafted in baseball. And to top it off, Conger is from Southern California (Huntington Beach High School), and was a first-round draft pick and is the Angels’ No. 4 prospect.

But Conger injured his shoulder in spring training and has not played yet this season. So the Quakes got permission to fly him in for last Saturday’s game. Conger signed autographs (which he couldn’t have done if he was playing) and there was Korean food and dance at the game.

“It was important that I be here,” Conger said. “I get a lot of letters from people saying that I inspire them.”

As of Saturday, Conger hadn’t caught in any extended spring training games, but he had served as designated hitter. There is no timetable for his return, but it might not be until the second half before he joins the Quakes.

“It’s great to come here and see what this is like,” he said.

Well done by everybody to make sure it worked out.

Quakes’ uniform seniority

It was interesting to watch what transpired when John Lackey came to the Quakes for a rehabilitation assignment earlier this week.

First of all, Lackey wears No. 41 with the Angels, but was wearing No. 39 for the Quakes instead because catcher Alberto Rosario is wearing No. 41. Sometimes, a player will give up his uniform for the major leaguer of his own volition or in some sort of a trade.

“I don’t know if his uniform would’ve fit me anyway,” Lackey said. “So I’m fine with 39.”

Lackey is listed at 6-foot-6, 245 pounds, while Rosario is 6-foot, 165.

It was interesting to notice that Lackey’s name was on the back of the uniform for his first Quakes start on Thursday. However, outfielder Rian Kiniry, who joined the Quakes more than a week ago while they were on the road, was still waiting for his name on the back of his home jersey. Certainly, Kiniry has been in uniform every day, but it still shows who is the most important when a big-leaguer comes to town.

Not on the roster, but Conger comes to town

Last off-season, the Quakes and Hank Conger’s family came up with a great idea: a Korean-American night at the Epicenter.

After all, Conger is the first-ever Korean-American baseball player drafted (first round in 2006), and is from Orange County. And the catcher, ranked as the Angels’ No. 4-prospect, was expected to be with the Quakes for the beginning of the 2008 season.

But Conger, a catcher, suffered a labrum (shoulder) injury in spring training, and remains in extended spring training. Nonetheless, Saturday night against Stockton, Korean-American night will continue. There will be Korean food, some sort of special Korean dance, and Conger will be there, too.

Conger accepted the Quakes invitation to be there anyway, and the Angels approved the Quakes offer to fly in Conger just for the game from the Angels’ complex in Tempe, Ariz.

Conger will be signing autographs at the ballpark during the game before he returns to Arizona. He is still likely at least another month away from joining the Quakes.

Lackey, Quakes, lack win

The results might have been mixed on the field, but the bottom line was that Angels right-hander John Lackey felt good in his first rehabilitation assignment for the Quakes at the Epicenter on Thursday night.

The presence of Lackey wasn’t enough, as Bakersfield downed the Quakes 6-4 before 5,225 fans. It was the ninth loss in the last 10 games for the Quakes (7-14).

Lackey threw 40 pitches, 29 for strikes in the two-inning appearance as in his return from a strained triceps muscle he suffered during spring training. He struck out five of the nine batters he faced and walked none.

He did allow three hits, including a home run to right field by Bakersfield third baseman John Whittleman on a 3-1fastball, leading off the second inning.

“It was a fastball,” Lackey said. “He wouldn’t have hit my breaking ball.”

Lackey said there were plenty of positive signs with Thursday’s performance, during which he threw all of his pitches.

“When I first was injured, throwing my changeup was tough,” he said. “But it felt good tonight. … My stuff was fine.”

He admitted that how he feels today is important in his recovery.

The next step for Lackey is to pitch again for the Quakes on Tuesday at Lancaster, likely with a pitch limit of 55 pitches, during which he’d like to throw more changeups. He is also scheduled to make a third rehabilitation start for the Quakes on May 4 at the Epicenter.

“I need to build up my endurance. I need to get stretched out,” he said. “That will be a big step.”

He said he did not know how hard he threw but that his velocity was down.

Lackey’s appearance Thursday was his first in the California League since he went 6-6 with a 3.40 ERA in 15 starts in 2000 for Lake Elsinore, then an Angels affiliate. It’s also the first rehabilitation appearance for Lackey in his career since making his major league debut in 2002.

“It feels like spring training, with the size of the ball park and the size of the crowd,” he said.

Lackey left the game trailing 1-0 but the Quakes immediately rallied to take a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the second, including a home run by Drew Toussaint. Sean O’Sullivan (2-2), the Quakes’ originally scheduled starter, pitched well for four innings, but not for five.

“He pitched well,” Quakes manager Ever Magallanes said. “He had a 3-2 pitch that looked like a strike, but loaded the bases.”

Marcus Lemon then delivered a three-run triple in the five-run seventh as Bakersfield took a 6-2 lead.

The Quakes rallied for two run in the eighth on a two-run homer by Anthony Norman and had the tying runs in scoring position.

But Clayton Hamilton (second save) got Toussaint to ground out and struck out Brian Walker to end the threat. He retired the Quakes in order in the ninth.

“I liked the way we battled tonight,” Magallanes said.

Bad road trip for Quakes

It doesn’t get much worse than the current Quakes road trip.

After losing Saturday 21-7 at Stockton, — yes, that’s a baseball score and not a football score — the Quakes are 0-6 on a seven-game road trip. After starting the season 6-5, they’re now 6-11 and tied with the 66ers for last place in the South Division.

In case you were wondering, the 21 runs allowed Saturday is not a team record. The Quakes allowed 25 runs in a loss to Stockton at the Epicenter on August 1, 1993, the team’s first in Rancho Cucamonga.

So if you’re wondering if the Quakes hit rock bottom, they haven’t yet. They still had four more runs to go on Saturday.

66ers make the right call

It’s the position the official scorer dreads. The 66ers were throwing a no-hitter in the ninth inning on Saturday, when Maverick infielder Carlos Triunfel hit a rocket to the backhand side of Sixers first baseman Eduardo Perez with one out in the ninth inning. It deflected off the heel of his glove and bounced into center field.

Official scorer Ross French immediately flashed hit on the scoreboard. It was met with boos, but it was the right call.

De Jon Watson, the Dodgers assistant general manager for player development, who was in town watching the game, asked Sixers officials to change the call. They didn’t. Of course it’s difficult and looks shady to change a call after a game, so suddenly it’s a no-hitter. But if it was the wrong call, it should have been changed.

It was not the wrong call. It would’ve taken extraordinary effort for Perez to make the play. As French said, “no one wanted to see a no-hitter more than me.” But he made the right call and it was good to see the Sixers front office didn’t succumb to the pressure. I didn’t think they would.

 

Blankets pack ‘em in for 66ers game

The 66ers had a crowd of 5,010 for a Dodgers 50th anniversary blanket giveaway on Saturday, the same one given away at Dodger Stadium recently. Sixers broadcaster Mike Saeger said the line outside was one of the “top three” longest lines he’d seen since Arrowhead Credit Union Park opened. The 2,000 blankets given away were gone within 15 minutes of the gates opening. About 100 blankets went to season ticket holders at the season ticket holder’s gate that opened 15 minutes before the main gate.

66ers game suspended after the 15th inning

Monday came and went, and the 66ers were still looking to pick up their first win of the season. But they hadn’t lost for the fifth time yet, either.

The Sixers game against Lancaster at Arrowhead Credit Union Park on Monday was suspended at 11:50 p.m., as the teams were about to start the top of the 16th inning in a bizarre set of circumstances. The 3-3 game will be resumed at the point of interruption at 6 p.m. today (Tuesday) prior to the regularly scheduled 7:05 p.m. game between the same teams.

Lancaster led the game 3-0 entering the bottom of the ninth when pinchhitter Matt Berezay hit a three-run double that tied the score and sent the game into extra innings.

By the 16th inning, the Sixers had used all the regular pitchers they wanted to use (Paul Koss was available, but they wanted him available for Tuesday’s game). So first baseman Eduardo Perez began warming to pitch to the 16th inning. By that point, the umpires were discussing whether they should continue the game, along with Sixers manager John Valentin and JetHawks manager Chad Epperson.

The game appeared to still be on, but then Valentin decided to make a pitching change before the inning even started.

“He wasn’t throwing strikes,” Valentin said. “I wanted a guy who would throw strikes.”

So, shortstop Bridger Hunt began warming up instead. By this point, Sixers general manager Loren Foxx appeared on the field and gave the plate umpire a cell phone, presumably talking to league president Joe Gagliardi. After a brief discussion with both managers, the umpires waved the game off and it was suspended. 

“The bottom line is, we didn’t want to do anything to hurt the kids,” Valentin said. “It’s only the fifth game of the year.”

The bizarre element at the end of the game continued in the lockerrom afterward. After the game, Lancaster shortstop Christian Lara was introduced to his new team. Yup, the team right down the hall, the Sixers. Lara, who did not play in Monday’s game, is expected to officially join the Sixers Tuesday. He was traded in a Dodgers-Red Sox deal. Valentin said he didn’t know who the Dodgers traded, but it wasn’t anyone from the Sixers. Regardless, a Sixers roster move will have to be made to make room for Lara. It is not known whether Lara could play for the Sixers in the resumption of the suspended game.

By the way, the 16-inning-and-counting game is believed to be the longest game for a San Bernardino team since May 12-13, 1995 when the San Bernardino Spirit defeated host San Jose, 1-0 in 21 innings.

Opening night at the Epicenter

Random thoughts in the first inning of the Quakes home opener at the Epicenter on a Monday

–It’s much better than a normal Monday crowd, but small for a home opener. The Quakes will be rewarded for accepting a Monday home opener by getting two more home weekend series this year than they have on the road.

–Fireworks were set off from the outfield warning track before the game. I’ve never seen that done before, but it seemed to go off without a hitch and looked pretty cool. However, the game didn’t start until 7:15 in part because the fireworks crew had to get their equipment off the field.

–Mavericks first baseman Johan Limonta has lost a lot of weight. Limonta, who played for the Mavericks last year and the 66ers at the end of the 2006 season, lost a reported 25 pounds in the off-season. It’s just a little less than the 30 pounds 66ers third baseman Josh Bell did during that time, but still very impressive. The 6-foot, 205-pound Limonta also made a diving stop of a Mark Trumbo grounder behind the first base bag in the first inning, the lost weight no doubt helping.