BY RYAN ABER
When I moved over to the RedHawks beat last summer, Matt Patterson, who had the beat, offered a great bit of wisdom. Matt said that the best part of the beat wasn’t the occasional big-time player or ex-player you’d get to meet but the day-to-day relationships that come from being in the press box. He was dead on.
None of those relationships meant more than getting to know Bob Hersom better. I’d known Bob and occasionally shared pleasantries before and after meetings but it wasn’t until I began covering the RedHawks that I really got to know who he was.
Bob Hersom, The Oklahoman’s longtime 89ers and RedHawks writer who had also spent plenty of time covering OU football and the Blazers over the years, died earlier this week of nonalcoholic cirrhosis of the liver. He was 64.
I asked a few of the others who’d regularly shared the press box with Bob to share their memories:
BY RYAN ABER
Locust Grove right-handed pitcher Adrian Houser, an OU signee, was the first state player to be selected in Tuesday’s second day of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
Houser went in the second round, No. 69 overall, to the Houston Astros.
“I’m pretty excited about it,” Houser said. “I’m not sure what will happen now. My advisor has a number in mind but I’m not even sure exactly what it is.”
Houser was the fourth state high pitcher taken, following the selections of Owasso’s Dylan Bundy, Broken Arrow’s Archie Bradley and Deer Creek’s Michael Fulmer on the draft’s first day.
“It’s pretty awesome (to be a part of this class),” Houser said. “Especially since me, Archie and Dylan used to play on the same team.”
Bundy, Bradley and Houser played together for a few years before reaching high school.
Houser was 9-1 with a 0.76 ERA in 62 innings pitched for the Class 4A state champions. He struck out 125.
At the plate, Houser hit .487 with eight home runs and 41 RBIs.
BY RYAN ABER
Just before he left the bullpen to head to the dugout in the middle of the tenth, RedHawks outfielder Drew Locke was stopped by relief pitcher Jose Valdez.
“Hit a home run,” Valdez said in Spanish.
Locke had to ask Valdez for a translation but came through minutes later, delivering a two-out, walk-off home run toward that same bullpen as the RedHawks won 4-3 in front of 2,951 at RedHawks Field at Bricktown.
“All you can do pinch hitting is try to do that,” Locke said. “I was just sitting on that pitch and got it.”
Locke was forced to the bullpen to catch for the relievers after backup catcher Robinson Cancel had to be pressed into action when starter Carlos Corporan broke his hand midway through the game.
Corporan is expected to be out 4-6 weeks after being hit with a bat on his throwing hand.
The RedHawks have won a season-high three in a row headed into Thursday’s series finale.
The team’s surge has been keyed by a different approach at the plate.
After struggling at the plate in their recent series in New Orleans, the RedHawks had a team meeting before the series against the Sounds to discuss a different approach.
RedHawks manager Tony DeFrancesco and hitting coach Keith Bodie are asking the hitters to take a more disciplined and patient approach.
It’s paying off so far.
After drawing seven walks in the three games ending Saturday, the RedHawks have now drawn 31 in their last four.
It goes beyond the walks.
“It gets us deeper into counts and forces pitchers to throw more pitches and hopefully get them out quicker,” DeFrancesco said. “It’s working for us right now.”
Nobody’s illustrating that shift more than outfielder Collin DeLome right now.
After going 4 for 5 in Wednesday’s win, DeLome is 6 for 9 at the plate in the last two games and drew three walks in the first game of the series Monday.
The change at the plate has taken DeLome out of his comfort zone but it’s paying off.
“I’m a first-ball, fastball hitter,” DeLome said. “But I’m changing that up and just looking for the pitch exactly where I want it and if it’s not there, I’m letting it go. I’m trying to be more disciplined at the plate with less than two strikes.”
The RedHawks trailed 3-2 entering the eighth but kept the game got singles by Koby Clemens and DeLome to start the inning and Tommy Manzella tied it with a fielder’s choice.
The RedHawks got a solid performance from their starting pitcher once again as Jordan Lyles allowed two runs in six innings, striking out nine.
The bullpen through four innings, allowing just three hits and one unearned win as Sergio Escalona picked up the win.
“We’re more relaxed now,” DeFrancesco said. “We’re settling in and doing the things we need to do to win.”
BY RYAN ABER
At OneOK Field in Tulsa for the RedHawks’ exhibition game against the Drillers.
Douglas Arguello, who pitched the Double-A Corpus Christi last season and will be in the RedHawks rotation, will start and is expected to pitch about 6 innings today. Gustavo Chacin and Jose Valdez are also expected to throw.
Here’s the RedHawks lineup:
J.B. Shuck, CF
Anderson Hernandez, 2B
Brian Bogusevic, LF
Brian Dopirak, DH
Drew Locke, RF
Tommy Manzanella, SS
Koby Clemens, 1B
Carlos Corporan, C
Oswaldo Navarro, 3B
And the Drillers:
Tim Wheeler, CF
Hector Gomez, SS
Ben Paulsen, 1B
Darin Holcomb, 3B
Wilin Rosario, C
Scott Beerer, LF
Thomas Field, 2B
Mike Daniel, RF
Cory Riordan, P
BY RYAN ABER
Warming up to start the third, Houston starter J.A. Happ felt a twinge in his right side.
Happ pitched through the inning, retiring the side in order before leaving the game before the fourth.
Happ suffered a strained right oblique that throws into question whether he’ll be able to start Sunday in Philadelphia.
“I’m sort of delirious with frustration right now,” Happ said.
Happ went 6-4 with a 3.40 ERA last season,, splitting time between Philadelphia and Houston.
The 28-year-old suffered an intercostal strain in 2009 which kept him out three weeks.
“I don’t plan on doing that again,” Happ said. “My goal is still to start Sunday but my body, it’ll tell me.”
Happ said he held back in the third after feeling the initial pull before it tightened up between innings.
“I was being tentative,” Happ said. “It’s on my right side so it’s kind of where your strength is. I wasn’t pushing it too hard there. I got through that inning. I just think it’s a good thing I came out at that point without doing more damage to it.”
Happ, who was acquired in the deal last year that sent Roy Oswalt to Philadelphia, said the chilly weather wasn’t too blame.
“I don’t think that was a factor,” he said.
BY RYAN ABER
Here’s the lineups for tonight’s game between the RedHawks and the Houston Astros:
Michael Bourn LF
Angel Sanchez SS
Hunter Pence RF
Carlos Lee CF
Brett Wallace 1B
Bill Hall 2B
Joe Inglett DH
Chris Johnson 3B
Humberto Quintero C
J.A. Happ P
Jose Vallejo 2B
Jonathan Gaston DH
Brian Bogusevic RF
Brian Dopirak 1B
Drew Locke lF
Robinson Cancel C
David Flores 3B
Collin Delome CF
Wladimir Sutil SS
Cesar Carrillo P
BY RYAN ABER
It’s cold and rain remains a possibility for tonight but I’ve arrived at Bricktown Ballpark, RedHawks Field, RedHawks Field at Bricktown or whatever it’s being called now.
Here’s a look at the most noticeable differences from last year:
BY RYAN ABER
Jordan Lyles couldn’t have done much more in Spring Training to earn a spot in the big leagues with Houston.
In five appearances for the Astros, Lyles threw 13 2/3 innings, with a 1.98 ERA, allowing 11 hits and walking two while striking out 9.
But being just 20 years old and having struggled in his six-game stint at Triple-A Round Rock last season, the Astros chose to give the fifth spot to Nelson Figueroa and give Lyles some more time to develop with the RedHawks.
Figueroa has a 3.86 ERA over 14 innings this spring. But the 36-year-old has plenty of experience in the majors.
It isn’t likely going to be a long stint for Lyles in Oklahoma City, though. Sending him down not only gives Lyles a chance to prove himself during the regular season against Triple-A competition but helps Houston control Lyles’ rights for an additional season. That’s a precious commodity for a team with a renewed emphasis on building from within. As Houston works to restore what was a depleted minor-league stock, it’s no surprise that they’d gives Lyles some time in Triple-A, especially since Figueroa has had a solid spring.
“I think I opened some eyes this spring,” Lyles told MLB.com’s Bryan McTaggart. “I know they haven’t seen me before, but now they have. Whenever they need a guy to go out there on the mound for them during the season, maybe I’m first in line.”
Last season, Lyles was a combined 7-12 with a 3.57 ERA between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Round Rock. He was 0-3 with a 5.40 ERA after moving up to Round Rock. He earned Astros’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year honors.
Now, Lyles gives the RedHawks their first big-time prospect of the Astros era. Houston is the team’s Triple-A affiliate after a nearly 30-year affiliation between Texas and Oklahoma City ended after last season.
Lyles is the consensus top prospect in Houston’s system and ranked No. 31 on MLB.com’s Top 50 prospects list.
BY RYAN ABER
The RedHawks’ 2011 schedule will begin on the road, will once again feature a July 4 home game and will include one scheduled doubleheader.
Game times will be announced later.
After opening with an eight-game road trip, the RedHawks will open the home portion of their schedule April 15 against Albuquerque.
It won’t take long before the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate makes their first visiting appearance in nearly 30 years in the city.
Round Rock will play a pair of series at AT&T Bricktown Ballpark, the first coming April 19-22 and the second May 31-June 3.
The last two seasons, the RedHawks’ scheduled Fourth of July games have been rained out. They’ll get another chance next year with Iowa starting a series here on that night.
The schedule also features the RedHawks’ first trip to North County, the expected home of the team formerly known as the Portland Beavers.
The Padres’ Triple-A affiliate is expected to share a park with the Class-A Lake Elsinore Storm.
See the complete schedule after the jump
BY RYAN ABER
Not in Memphis for tonight’s playoff opener but some notes before tonight’s 7:05 Game 1 against the Redbirds at AutoZone Park.
RedHawks (RH Guillermo Moscoso, 7-7, 5.18) at Memphis (RH Brandon Dickson, 11-8, 3.23)
-The best-of-five series opens tonight, with Game 2 back in Memphis on Thursday. The series shifts back to Oklahoma City for Game 3 on Friday and games 4 and 5 (if necessary) on Saturday and Sunday.
-Tacoma and Sacramento open the Pacific Coast League’s Pacific Conference Series tonight in Sacramento.
-Memphis won the season series 9-7, winning 8 of the last nine games between the teams.
-The Redbirds won the division on the second tiebreaker, divisional record, after tying Iowa on record and on head-to-head record.
-The RedHawks finished the regular season on a 4-11 slide.
-The RedHawks qualified for the playoffs for the sixth time in 13 seasons since moving to AT&T Bricktown Ballpark and changing their name to the RedHawks. Bobby Jones has managed all but one of those (Greg Biagini took the RedHawks to the playoffs in 1999). Jones-led teams have made the playoffs in 2002, 2004, 2005, 2008 and this year.
-Guillermo Moscoso was 1-0 with a 2.00 in a pair of starts against Memphis this season. He pitched 9 innings, walking four and striking out eight. He didn’t get a decision in a 7-0 win at Memphis on April 16, then earned a win in a 12-4 win over the Redbirds on April 26.
-Mark Prior will be available out of the bullpen in the series after making his RedHawks debut Sunday.
“It felt good,” Prior said after his one-inning performance. “I wasn’t as crisp as I was the last couple times I pitched for Orange County but I haven’t thrown in a week. I’m looking forward to throwing again.”
-The RedHawks tied for the lead on April 14 and never fell behind, holding at least a share of the division lead for the final 146 days of the season. Their biggest lead was 5.5 games.
-Hernan Iribarren was among the PCL leaders in hitting after Aug. 5, batting .378 in the season’s final month. His average rose from .240 to .275 during the apan.
Thursday: RedHawks (RH Brandon McCarthy, 4-2, 3.36) at Memphis (RH P.J. Walters, 8-5, 3.81), KTOK-AM 1000
Friday: Memphis (RH Lance Lynn, 13-10, 4.77) at RedHawks (RH Doug Mathis, 5-7, 5.66), KKY-FM 96.1
Saturday: Memphis (LH Evan MacLane, 8-7, 4.45) at RedHawks (LH Michael Ballard, 6-8, 5.09), KTOK-AM 1000
Sunday: Memphis (TBA) at RedHawks (TBA), Fox Sports AM 1340