39 Days Till Opening Day

39 Days Till Opening Day

Opening Day on April 4th is 39 days away, and we help count it down by featuring Roger Kieschnick, who wore jersey number 39 in 2012.

Kieschnick was one of the key pieces in the Grizzlies lineup last season that helped the team jump out to its best start in team history.

The Texas Tech product, though, had his 2012 season halted when he injured his left shoulder on May 29th at Sacramento. The injury occurred on the final play of the night — a walk-off home run to give the River Cats the win.

Despite missing three months, Kieschnick led Fresno with 15 home runs. The left-handed slugger also added a batting line of .306/.376/.604 with 13 doubles, 4 triples, and 40 RBIs over 55 games.

Kieschnick returned for the final series of last season against Tacoma at Chukchansi Park, playing in all 4 games as the DH. He hit a solo homer on September 2nd.

The Grizzlies will take on the Tacoma Rainiers during their Opening Weekend series at Chukchansi Park from April 4-7.

41 Days Till Opening Day

41 Days Till Opening Day

Eli Whiteside, wearing jersey number 41 in 2012, helps us count down to Opening Day on April 4th.

Whiteside played for the Grizzlies in 2008, 2009, and 2012. The native of New Albany, Miss. batted .233 (109-for-468) with 25 doubles, 9 home runs, and 66 RBIs in a Grizzlies uniform over 143 games in his career.

The catcher was a member of the San Francisco Giants during the playoffs of their 2010 World Series run.

The Grizzlies’ 2013 Opening Day against the Tacoma Rainiers kicks off an 8-game homestand from April 4-11.

Classic Grizzlies

The final World Baseball Classic rosters were announced, and there are 12 former Fresno Grizzlies on 8 different teams participating in the international tournament.

The 12 past Grizzlies combine for 453 games played in a Fresno uniform during their careers, with Edgar Gonzalez leading the pack with 137 games. The total number of games played does not include Hensely Meulens’ time with the Grizzlies as he was Fresno’s hitting coach in 2009.

Special tip of the hat to Jason Grilli. The right-handed pitcher is an O.G. (Original Grizzly). Grilli played for Fresno during the Grizzlies’ inaugural season in 1998. He also pitched for the Grizzlies in 1999.

The first slate of WBC games start on March 2. The Championship Round will be held at AT&T Park in San Francisco from March 17-19.

If you need more primer for the WBC, check out team previews written by friend of the Grizzlies/Big League Stew blog writer Mike Oz.

The complete list of Grizzlies in the WBC can be found below. Years with the Grizzlies are in parentheses:

  • Clayton Tanner – Australia (2012)
  • Santiago Casilla – Dominican Republic (2010-11)
  • Jason Grilli – Italy (1998-99)
  • Tyler LaTorre – Italy (2011-12)
  • Horacio Ramirez – Mexico (2010)
  • Sergio Romo – Mexico (2008-09)
  • Edgar Gonzalez – Mexico (2011)
  • Hensley Meulens – Netherlands manager (2009)
  • Luis Figueroa – Puerto Rico (2007)
  • Andres Torres – Puerto Rico (2009, 2011)
  • Ryan Vogelsong – USA (2011-12)
  • Pablo Sandoval – Venezuela (2011-12)

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Gillaspie traded to White Sox

The San Francisco Giants announced on Friday they traded infielder Conor Gillaspie to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for pitcher Jeff Soptic.

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Gillaspie has spent most of the last 2 seasons with the Grizzlies, batting .289/.368/.447 with 25 home runs and 110 RBIs. Gillaspie led Fresno in walks with 66 in 2011.

The Wichita State product was selected 37th overall by the Giants in the 2008 Draft.

Soptic was drafted by the White Sox in the 3rd round of the 2011 Draft out of Johnson County (Kan.) Community College. The Leawood, Kansas native spent all of 2012 with Single-A Kannapolis, appearing in 27 games. He was 3-2 with a 5.40 ERA (26er, 43.1ip) and 36 strikeouts against 29 walks. He also had 16 wild pitches. Opponents batted .176 against Soptic last year.

The right-hander was rated as having the best fastball in the Chicago farm system by Baseball America prior to the 2012 season.

43 Days Till Opening Day

43 Days Till Opening Day

Hector Sanchez wore #43 for the Grizzlies in 2011 when the catcher made his Triple-A debut. The Venezuelan (pictured above with Nick Noonan) played in 46 games with the Grizzlies in ’11, batting .261 with 26 RBIs.

Sanchez also played for the Grizzlies in 2012 on MLB Rehab assignment.

He is one of the 17 of the 25 Giants on the 2012 World Series roster who has also played for the Grizzlies in their careers.

Opening Day is April 4th at Chukchansi Park.

Linden re-signs with Giants for 2013

According to Baseball America, OF/1B Todd Linden has signed a minor league contract with the San Francisco Giants. The contract doesn’t include an invitation to big league Spring Training.

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Linden led the Grizzlies in walks and strikeouts in 2012 (Don Davis/dadphoto.com)

The 2013 season will be Linden’s second consecutive season with the Giants organization as he spent all of 2012 with Fresno. The 12-year veteran also played in the Dominican Winter League this past offseason, batting .256 (23-for-90) with 7 home runs and 13 RBIs over 29 games with Estrellas de Oriente. The 7 homers were tied for the third-most in the league. He also carried a .393 OBP and .522 SLG with Estrellas.

Last season, Linden moved atop the Grizzlies’ all-time leader board in several offensive categories, including hits (563), home runs (83), and RBIs (310). The native of Edmonds, WA has played in 558 games over six seasons with the Grizzlies since 2002.

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Linden’s veteran presence in the Grizzlies clubhouse helped younger players such as Charlie Culberson transition to Triple-A and even the Majors (Don Davis/dadphoto.com)

For most – if not all – players, a career in the minors is undesirable. Linden probably has that same mindset, but he never let it show with the Grizzlies in 2012. He was a professional all year, helping Fresno finish with a winning record and mentoring up-and-coming players as they knock on the Major League door.

45 Days Till Opening Day

45 Days Till Opening Day

Dan Runzler has pitched for both the Grizzlies and the San Francisco Giants in each of the last four seasons. The southpaw wore jersey number 45 in 2011.

The Grizzlies begin their 2013 season on April 4th at Chukchansi Park.

Presidents With The Grizzlies – or at least Presidential last names

Today is Presidents’ Day, or officially known as Washington’s Birthday. For some, it’s that second Monday they have off in February. In reality, though, it is a day that honors the 44 Presidents of the United States. The day was first celebrated as a federal holiday on the birthday of George Washington in the 1880s.

Thank the Uniform Monday Holiday Bill from 1968, though, for the Monday off. The bill moved a number of federal holidays to Mondays so workers had some long weekends.

To help get you through your day off – and in honor Presidents’ Day – here is a list of former Fresno Grizzlies who share a surname with past POTUS (or is it POTUSi?).

 

Tyler

Josh Tyler (1998, 2000-01)

Shares name with the 10th US President, John Tyler (1841-45)

Tyler was a utility player for the Grizzlies during their inaugural season in 1998 and again later in 2000 and 2001. Tyler even made three appearances for the Grizzlies as pitcher over the 2000 and 2001 seasons. He allowed three runs over four innings in the three games. In fact, during the 2000 season, Tyler played every position except shortstop. His last professional season was with Fresno in 2001. He batted .287 in 77 games with the Grizzlies in 2001, but he carried a .404 batting average in August, his final month in pro baseball.

John Tyler could be viewed as utility player for the United States government. Tyler manned many different positions, including state legislator, governor, US representative, US Senator, Vice President, and then, of course, President. Tyler was the first person to succeed as President of the United States due to the death of the incumbent as William Henry Harrison died of pneumonia while in office.

 

Johnson

Brian Johnson (1998)

Mike Johnson (2003)

Share name with 17th US President Andrew Johnson (1865-69) and 36th US President Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-69).

Two Presidents had the last names Johnson as did two former Grizzlies. First up is Brian Johnson. The catcher appeared in five games with Fresno on MLB Rehab. He had two home runs in his short time with the Grizzlies, including one of his homers being a part of back-to-back-to-back home runs to begin the fourth inning on August 4th. Among Giants fans (and Dodgers fans for that matter), Brian Johnson is remembered for this.

Mike Johnson spent parts of five seasons in the Majors (1997-2001) with the Baltimore Orioles and Montreal Expos. He was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 17th round of the 1993 Draft. The native of Edmonton spent all of the 2003 season with Fresno, making 30 appearances (including four starts) and going 4-3 with a 3.72 ERA. Mike Johnson closed out his career pitching in Korea and independent leagues, including his hometown club Edmonton in 2007, 2009, and 2010.

Andrew and Lyndon were Presidential relievers as both took over as President due to their predecessors’ assassinations.

Lyndon has a more direct tie to the game of baseball: he played in high school.

 

Wilson

Brian Wilson (2005-07)

Shares name with Woodrow Wilson, 28th President (1913-21)

Brian Wilson’s time with the Grizzlies was pre-beard; some fans might not be able to recognize the tenure in more ways than one. Wilson was a standard arm out of the bullpen in his first season with Fresno in 2005, making nine appearances and going 1-1 with a 3.97 ERA and no saves. In 2006 and 2007, however, Wilson’s role as a closer began to take shape as he saved 18 games for the Grizzlies over the two seasons.

Woodrow Wilson is recognized for being a leader of the Progressive Movement, helping see legislation pass such as Federal Reserve Act, the Clayton Antitrust Act, Federal Farm Loan Act, and an income tax. While Brian isn’t necessarily a leader in baseball’s progressivism, his actions are seen as newer to the traditional ways of baseball (i.e. The Beard).

 

Ford

Darren Ford (2011)

Shares name with Gerald Ford, 38th President (1974-77)

These two Fords can be known for one thing: quickness. Darren was 10-for-10 in stolen base opportunities with the Grizzlies in 2011. He primarily served as pinch runner for the Giants in 2010 and 2011 due to his speed on the base paths.

Gerald’s time in office can be described as quick in that his 895-day presidency is the shortest of all US Presidents who did not die in office.

The two also share the bond of football. Gerald was star linebacker and center for the University of Michigan’s national championship teams in 1932 and 1933. Darren, meanwhile, was a standout in football as well as baseball – and track – at Vineland High School. Darren received his fair share of college letters for football, baseball, and track.

 

Bush

Evan Bush (2006)

Shares name with George H.W. Bush, 41st President (1989-93) and George W. Bush, 43rd President (2001-09).

The father-and-son presidential duo has direct ties to baseball. George H.W. played for the Yale baseball team and participated in the first two College World Series. George W. was part owner of the Texas Rangers, serving as managing general partner for five years.

Evan Bush was one-and-done when he came to his baseball career. After being drafted by the Giants in 2006 out of Alabama, Bush played in 32 games with Short-Season Salem-Keizer. He played in three games for the Grizzlies that same season as a late-season replacement while other Grizzlies were summoned to San Francisco for a round of September call-ups.

Evan Bush quit pro baseball after one season in 2006. Since, he has been a collegiate coach, earning top junior college and top assistant coach honors from the Alabama Baseball Coaches Association. He is currently an assistant baseball coach at the University of Alabama-Huntsville. Prior to UAH, Evan coached for three seasons at Bevill State Community College in Fayette, Alabama.

Baseball Season Is Ready To Get Underway In Fresno

The 52nd Anniversary Hot Stove Gala may have faced a last-minute change, but the evening itself went off without a hitch.

The Hot Stove Gala benefits the Fresno Grizzlies Community Fund (GCF), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that spearheads efforts to assist, reward, and support worthwhile causes throughout the Central San Joaquin Valley.

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In addition to the dinner, the event includes raffle prizes and a silent auction to help raise money for the GCF. Through just the raffle and silent auction, over $7,000 was raised.

The money raised helps the GCF’s many community programs, such as Wild About Reading, Junior Grizzlies, and Farm Grown. The support for the GCF by fans each year helps it impact lives for the better all over the Central Valley.

As with previous Hot Stove Galas, one of the highlights of the night is the Q & A session with the guest speakers. The 52nd Anniversary Hot Stove Gala featured San Francisco Giants bullpen coach Mark Gardner, Grizzlies manager Bob Mariano, Detroit Tigers pitcher Doug Fister, and Giants pitcher George Kontos.

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Each of the guest speakers had a tie to the Fresno area. Gardner was raised in Fresno, attending Clovis High School, Fresno City College, and Fresno State before ascending to a 13-year career in the Majors. Fister is also a local product as the Merced native attended Merced Junior College and Fresno State.

Mariano and Kontos, meanwhile, were with the Grizzlies in 2012. Mariano guided the team to a 74-70 record – the franchise’s only fifth winning season in its 15-year history. Kontos spent the first two months of the season with the Grizzlies before his promotion to the Giants, where he became a strong asset in the World Series-winning bullpen.

The guest speakers took part in nearly an hour-long Q & A session, which was hosted by the evening’s master of ceremonies Paul Loeffler. Plenty of great stories were shared by the four guest speakers, including Mariano’s expectations for the 2013 Grizzlies, Fister’s over-the-top focus when he is on the mound, and Kontos’ thoughts on how he went from a late trade acquisition prior to Opening Day to becoming a World Series champion.

Kontos was a late substitution for previously announced guest Ryan Vogelsong. Vogelsong was dealing with an eye infection on Thursday, and everybody felt it was best he didn’t make the trip.

There were awards presented during the night as well. Niko Pacheco (Bullard HS) and Rachel Rodriguez (Central HS) were presented with the Gus Zernial Male and Female Athlete of the Year award, respectively. Jay Pruess and his Kerman High School baseball team garnered the Coach of the Year and Team of the Year awards. Gardner was surprised with the 2013 Al Radka Award, which is given to an individual who helps the community through the game of baseball.

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The Fresno Grizzlies want to thank everyone who attended the Gala as well as the guest speakers for helping make the night memorable. Now, it is time to start the baseball season!

Who’s Next – Top Prospects Ranked

MLB.com and Baseball America released their respective 2013 Top Prospect lists for the San Francisco Giants organizations.

The MLB.com version is for the Top 100 prospects in all of baseball. Two Giants cracked the list: RHP Kyle Crick at #86 and OF Gary Brown at #100. This is the first time Crick made the MLB.com list while Brown was #48 for the 2012 version.

Baseball America, meanwhile, has been rolling out their organizational top prospects for each farm system over the last few weeks. January 30th was the Giants’ turn. Beat writer Andy Baggarly filed this year’s list as he has done in years past.

Crick was the top choice for the Baseball America list. Brown was fourth. While Crick is not considered to appear in Triple-A this season, many project Brown to possibly start the season with Fresno or at least make a stop with the Grizzlies some time in 2013.

Brown played all of 2012 with Double-A Richmond. He struggled early on with the Flying Squirrels, hitting .227 through his first 23 games, but he rebounded with a strong May and June to finish with a .279 batting average. He also played in the Arizona Fall League this offseason.

Three Fresno Grizzlies from 2012 were in the Top 10 Prospect List: Heath Hembree (#7), Francisco Peguero (#8), and Roger Kieschnick (#9).

Hembree is coming off his first pro season at Triple-A. He tied for the team lead with the Grizzlies in saves with 15 despite missing a month-and-a-half with an arm injury. Before he went on the disabled list, Hembree was elected to the PCL mid-season All-Star team.

Peguero parlayed his first Triple-A season into his Major League debut last August. Peguero had a team-best 10 triples for Fresno last season, which are tied for the second-most ever by a Grizzlies hitter in a single season. The outfielder made his big league debut on August 25th and played in a total of 17 games for the Giants.

Peguero was rated as having the best outfield arm in the Giants system by Baseball America once again. Here’s proof of that distinction. Yeah, we think he deserves it.

Kieschnick also made his Triple-A debut in 2012. He missed three months due to a left shoulder injury, but still managed to pace the Grizzlies in home runs with 15. Here is video evidence of power.

Kieschnick went down with the injury on May 31st, when he was batting .319. He appeared in four games as a designated hitter in the final series of the season from August 31-September 3, hitting a home run in the penultimate game.

Another name to watch for on the possible 2013 Grizzlies roster is Michael Kickham. The left-handed pitcher was placed fifth on Baseball America’s Top 10 list. The Missouri State product made 27 starts over 28 games for Double-A Richmond in 2012, going 11-10 with a 3.05 ERA. He had 137 strikeouts and 75 walks in 150.2 innings pitched.

He has quickly risen through the Giants system – he skipped High-A San Jose – and he may earn a shot at Triple-A in 2013 based on his career projection thus far. Kickham is rated as having the best slider in the Giants system according to Baseball America, a lethal pitch for a southpaw. The 24-year-old was selected by the Giants in the sixth round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft.

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