Clayton Blackburn: pitching with a purpose

San Jose’s Clayton Blackburn has been on a lot of fans’ radar recently. The 20-year-old righty, known for an overpowering curveball, was recently named the California League Pitcher of the Week.

Clayton Blackburn tells you to deal with it. (Jen Mac Ramos)

Clayton Blackburn tells you to deal with it. (Jen Mac Ramos)

For Blackburn, a rough start to the second half has only lead to adjustments — ones that have helped him in his outings. His first start in the second half was at Stockton’s Banner Island Ballpark, a very hitter-friendly place, lasting only 3.2 innings and giving up eight runs, of which only six were earned. After working with San Jose’s pitching coach, Mike Couchee, Blackburn has been pitching at least six innings in his outings.

“I’d say they put a big focus on pitching [in San Jose],” Blackburn said. “They’re really focusing on us developing as guys that can pitch in tough places.” Continue reading

Catching Up With The Minors – The Halfway Point

Full-season minor league teams play about 140 games each season, and the teams just passed the halfway point – 70 games – last week, so I thought it’d be good to check in with each team and see how the season is going, both in terms of wins and losses and player development. We’re only talking full-season affiliates here, so short season Salem-Keizer and rookie-level Arizona won’t be discussed.

All stats and records through Sunday, June 24th. Continue reading

Kyle Crick returns from the disabled list

On Friday night, San Jose Giants starter Kyle Crick made his first start after nearly two months on the disabled list.

Kyle Crick pitches against the Stockton Ports. (Jen Mac Ramos)

Kyle Crick pitches against the Stockton Ports. (Jen Mac Ramos)

Though his pitch count was limited, he struck out 10 in four innings of work, walking three and only giving up three hits.

“It felt good,” Crick said of his outing. “Had a good command for the zone.”

Crick’s last start before his stint on the DL was Apr. 18 before being sidelined with an oblique injury.

After his Jun. 21 start, Crick said that his oblique was okay and that his arm was fresh.

The radar gun at Banner Island Ballpark had read his fastball velocity touching the mid-90s at times, with his curveball being at around 78 MPH.

“I felt it was on,” Crick said. “I had it down in the zone, didn’t leave too many up. As long as I can do that, I can get some people out.”

Though his first start back was a success, improvement doesn’t stop there for the top prospect. Crick said he feels that he can always get better with his pitches, namely a changeup he has been working on since last year. Continue reading

San Jose Giants clinch First Half Division Championship

San Jose clinches. (Jen Mac Ramos)

San Jose clinches. (Jen Mac Ramos)

San Jose Giants at Visalia Rawhide started out with an Eric Surkamp rehab start.

I’m trying to think of more things to say about Surkamp’s start, but it was hard to really focus when you’re sitting behind home plate in the first row of the grandstand level, right where there’s a walkway and people wouldn’t sit down. I could tell that Surkamp will still need some more time rehabbing, since his 3 1/3 innings of work is the longest he’s gone since returning to pitching.

In terms of control and velocity? I can’t tell you a thing. I couldn’t see a radar anywhere in the ballpark — unless I were to look at the radar guns that were being used for charting pitches — so that, in itself, was kinda tough.

The San Jose Giants eventually got the win in 10 innings, when Visalia’s Sean Jamieson couldn’t get a grounder that took a bad hop, allowing Chris Lofton to score. All-Star Josh Osich closed the game out, ensuring the first-half division championship for the Giants.

And I do not want to hear another cowbell again.

Tales From a Giant: Ty Blach

Ty Blach, the San Francisco Giants’ fifth round pick in 2012, kicked off his first full year in pro ball with the San Jose Giants, San Francisco’s high-A affiliate. The strike-throwing lefty has been experiencing success, posting a 2.73 ERA and 2.21 FIP in nine games started.

In 52.2 innings pitched, Blach has struck out 48 and only given up five walks. Having good control and throwing strikes has been a key to his success.

“One of the things I always pride myself on is throwing a lot of strikes and getting ahead of hitters,” Blach said. “It just comes from executing strike one and executing every pitch one at a time.”

Blach tries not to get ahead of himself and believes that as long as he throws the strikes, the outs will come. Continue reading

San Jose Giants fail to imitate San Francisco Giants

On a night where the San Francisco Giants win on a walkoff fashion against the Los Angeles Dodgers about 50 miles north, the San Jose Giants couldn’t say they did the same against the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, the Dodgers’ High-A affiliate.

A warm night at Municipal Stadium — perfect for comical baseball. (Jen Mac Ramos)

A warm night at Municipal Stadium — perfect for comical baseball. (Jen Mac Ramos)

To say that the game began smoothly would be irony. Base hits and errors littered the field through the first three innings with the Giants on defense. Though only two of the runs were charged to San Jose starter Adalberto Mejia, they quickly trailed the Quakes and weren’t able to recover. Continue reading

San Jose Giants Act Like Big Giants, Get 1-0 Win

Fresh off Lennay Kakua night, Municipal Stadium was ready for another night — or late afternoon, in this case — of baseball.

(Flickr/daver6sf)

(Flickr/daver6sf)

Ty Blach took the mound for the San Jose Giants. Blach isn’t necessarily on the the radar for most top prospect lists, but he was impressive in this outing. Continue reading

Giants Minor League Preview

Today is Opening Day for all of the Giants’ full-season minor league affiliates, so I wanted to run through the rosters of each of the teams and highlight a few players to watch on each team. The four full-season affiliates are: AAA Fresno Grizzlies, AA Richmond Flying Squirrels, high-A San Jose Giants, A Augusta Greenjackets. We’ll start with Fresno.

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Chukchansi Park in Fresno, CAFresno Grizzlies:

Last year’s record: 74-70, 3rd in South Division

Manager: Bob Mariano

Roster: Click here.

Players to watch: P Chris Heston, P Mike Kickham, P Heath Hembree, OF Gary Brown, OF Francisco Peguero, OF Roger Kieschnick Continue reading

Giants Prospect Watch: Chris Heston

Chris Heston entered many people’s radars following a standout year in Double-A Richmond last season and in High-A San Jose the season before. This year, he’s starting in Triple-A Fresno, where he will have to prove that he’s ready for the bigs.

Chris Heston pitches against the Lancaster JetHawks on Jul. 30, 2011. (Photos by Lauren Chinn/@sfgiantsgirl)

Chris Heston pitches against the Lancaster JetHawks on Jul. 30, 2011. (Photos by Lauren Chinn/@sfgiantsgirl)

Baseball Prospectus’ 2013 Prospect Handbook lists Heston as the Giants’ 17th best prospect in the organization. Richmond is known as a pitcher’s park, so the transition to Fresno’s Chukchansi Park, a notorious hitter’s park in a hitter’s league, will help determine Heston’s status as a prospect. Heston is also on the Giants’ 40-man roster.

Heston put up decent numbers in San Jose and his numbers only improved in Richmond. Continue reading

Minor League Roundup

The minor league season started today! Or, rather, last night.

Augusta GreenJackets (A): The GreenJackets lost to the Greenville Drive, 12-6. Justin Schumer was the losing pitcher, going 3 2/3 innings and giving up 9 earned runs.

San Jose Giants (A+): The “Little Giants” defeated the Lake Elsinore Storm by the score of 4-0. Top prospect Gary Brown went 1-for-3 with 2 runs scored, a stolen base, and a sacrifice hit in his high-A debut. Starting pitcher Kelvin Marte went 5 1/3 innings and only giving up 2 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 4.

Richmond Flying Squirrels (AA): The Flying Squirrels beat the New Britain Rock Cats, 6-4. Starter Daryl Maday lasted 4 2/3 innings, allowing 4 earned runs. Osiris Matos earned the win in relief after the offense scored enough runs to get Maday off the hook. Jason Stoffel earned the save for Richmond after pitching a scoreless inning. Top prospect Charlie Culberson went 3-for-5 with a double and an RBI.

Fresno Grizzlies (AAA): Ryan Vogelsong took the mound for Fresno in their home opener. He went 5 2/3 innings, allowing 1 earned run and striking out 9. The offense exploded in the bottom of the 8th, where the Grizzlies scored 9 runs. The inning was capped by a grand slam by outfielder Darren Ford. The Grizzlies beat the Las Vegas 51’s by the final score of 11-1.