Several former Idaho Falls Chukars picked up 2015 minor league awards from the Kansas City Royals.
Jonathan Dziedzic, who pitched for Idaho Falls’ Pioneer League championship team in 2014, won the Paul Splitorff Award given to the organization’s top minor league pitcher. Dziedzic went 10-7 with a 3.56 ERA in 27 appearances for the AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals and AAA Omaha.
Elier Hernandez, who spent 2012 and 2013 in Idaho Falls, won the Carlos Fortuna Award given to the player who is dedicated to improving his english, his work ethic and his conduct. Hernandez hit .268 with 26 doubles, six homers and 54 RBIs in 124 games in Wilmington (A) and Lexington (A).
Parker Morin, a 2012 Chukar, won the Mike Sweeney Award given to the player who best represents the organization on and off the field. Morin hit .309 with 10 doubles, four homers and 30 RBIs in 56 games for Northwest Arkansas.
Ryan O’Hearn, the 2014 Pioneer League MVP as a member of the Chukars, won the George Brett Hitter of the Year award given to the top position player in the organization. O’Hearn his .263 with 21 doubles, 27 homers and 77 RBIs in 127 games for Wilmington and Lexington.
Nonprofit/charitable opportunities at Melaleuca Field
The Idaho Falls Chukars will be offering several opportunities for nonprofit and charitable organizations to enjoy games for free this summer.
The Rocky Mountain Power Community Section will provide 20 seats for each home game to a local nonprofit or charitable organization. For information, call the Chukars at 522-8363.
The Fred Meyer Community Spotlight program will offer local nonprofit and charitable organizations to set up a table at the entrance to Melaleuca Field for direct fan interaction. There is no cost for the table. Call 522-8363 for information.
It didn’t take long for Mike Sweeney to return to the Kansas City Royals.
Sweeney, 43, spent 13 of his 16 MLB seasons in Kansas City, retiring in 2010. In February 2014, he was hired as a special assistant to baseball operations. In August, he’ll be inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame.
This week, Sweeney made his second trip to Idaho Falls in two years to help coach the Idaho Falls Chukars.
Royals’ baseball operations assistant for player development Chris Getz, hitting coordinator Bill Springman, pitching coordinator Larry Carter and baserunning, bunting and outfield coordinator Milt Thompson joined Sweeney in Idaho Falls this week.
The Post Register sat down with Sweeney on Friday to discuss his duties this week and the end of his playing career.
Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
His duties this week
“I’m here for three and a half days. I’m really here to help speed up the process for these young prospects to get from Idaho Falls to Kansas City. I’m here to teach them, encourage them, kick them in the rear, pat them on the back and hopefully use my experiences of 16 years in the major leagues and 20-plus years in professional baseball to make that process happen.”
Specific advice he’s given to the Chukars
“Some it is, ‘Try to slow the game down, have fun, enjoy the moment.’ Some of it’s more mechanical stuff, working on hitters in the cage, game awareness, telling DJ Burt, ‘Hey, you should’ve already had your helmet and spikes on in the eighth inning to pinch run. You’ve gotta be ready. Expect that.’ These guys are young, they don’t have the experience of guys like me. It’s our job to help teach them, and it’s a joy.”
The Chukars who have impressed him
“I really like (outfielder Amalani) Fukofuka. Last year I saw him play. He’s a young kid with a lot of talent, and he’s starting to believe and put it together. To see Roman Collins hit his first professional home run (Thursday) night, being a walkoff… I actually got a ball, doctored it up and presented it to him before stretch today. That’s my job. Put a smile on their faces. Help them remember these days because there are only about 4,000 people on the planet that can say they play minor league baseball today.”
The 2010 NLDS with the Philadelphia Phillies
“My last at-bat in the big leagues was against (Cincinnati Reds reliever) Aroldis Chapman in the playoffs. First pitch: 103 (miles per hour). Second pitch: 103. Third pitch: 102. Thankfully, I got a nice line drive into left field for a base hit. I finished my career the right way.” (This was the only postseason plate appearance in Sweeney’s career)
On facing Chapman
“No once throws the ball like him. It’s a different level. You don’t see it. The only time you might see it is if you go to the batting cage, crank up the pitching machine as fast it will go and stand 30 feet away from the machine. That’s the only time you’re going to see something that fast.”
On his final MLB game: Game 6 of the 2010 NLCS against the San Francisco Giants
“I felt the spirit of God inside of me saying, ‘Hey, this is it. You just played your last game.’ I put my head down. The Giants are running out on the mound, cheering and celebrating. I feel a tap on my shoulder. I look up and it’s (Giants reliever) Jeremy Affeldt. He goes, ‘Hey man, I just came over to tell you I love you and congratulations.’ It shocked me. He was a 21 year-old kid in the big leagues when he came up. I was a veteran, and I mentored him. Really neat. That was my last moment in the big leagues, and one I’ll never forget.”
BUTLER RETURNS TO I.F.
Oakland Athletics first baseman/designated hitter Billy Butler spent this week’s MLB All-Star break in Idaho Falls.
Butler played 74 games for the Chukars as an 18-year-old in 2004, batting a Pioneer League-best .373.
But Butler’s ties to Idaho Falls go deeper than the Chukars. He met his wife, Katie Hansen, in 2004. Hansen, a Skyline High School graduate, worked at the hotel where Butler lived while playing for Idaho Falls.
Butler was called up to Kansas City in 2007, but Idaho Falls was still embedded in his mind. He lived there in the offseasons from 2007 to 2011.
Butler, 29, now lives in Arizona.
Other than meeting Katie, Butler’s favorite memory in Idaho Falls was when the 2004 Chukars clinched their first Pioneer League playoff spot since 2000.
“I made lifelong friends on that team,” Butler told the Post Register Saturday.
CHUKARS’ ROSTER MOVES THIS WEEK
July 15: Right-handed pitchers Brooks Pounders (Pittburgh’s 2009 second round MLB draft pick) and Josh Staumont (Kansas City’s 2015 second round pick) were promoted from the Arizona League Royals to Idaho Falls. Pounders, who pitched 15 innings for the Chukars last season, made one start for Idaho Falls this week on a rehab assignment.
July 16: Kansas City released left-handed pitcher Carlos Herrera (organization decision). Herrera, 22, posted a 9.45 ERA with 10 walks and eight strikeouts in 20 innings for Idaho Falls this season. The San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic native was picked up as an undrafted free agent in 2012.
RHP Derek Gordon
Gordon has pitched 10.1 combined innings in his last two starts, giving up one earned run and striking out seven in each outing. His ERA has fallen from 5.65 to 4.01 in that span.
SS Marten Gasparini
Gasparini has three hits in his last 20 at-bats (he’s drawn two walks in that span, as well). Gasparini’s season batting average is .218, and he leads the Pioneer League with 46 strikeouts
A win’s a win, especially for the struggling Idaho Falls Chukars. But no one in pinstripes wanted to see another poor pitching performance, even in victory.
Led by starting pitcher Derek Gordon, the Chukars (6-13) got a 4-2 win over the first-place Orem Owlz (13-6) on Monday at Melaleuca Field, preventing an Owlz sweep.
“You could tell pre-game, there was a different feeling in the clubhouse,” said Gordon, the younger brother of Kansas City Royals’ All-Star Alex Gordon. “When you go out with the feeling that you’re going to win, it’s tough to lose.”
Before Monday, a Chukars pitcher had gone 5.2 innings or more only three times this season.
Gordon made that four.
Gordon, who lasted
5.2 innings on June 26 against Grand Junction, gave up two hits Monday in his fourth start of the season. The right-hander gave up two runs (one earned) on three walks and seven strikeouts. That’s the most strikeouts by any Idaho Falls pitcher in a single game this season.
“I felt more comfortable on the mound tonight than I have this season,” Gordon said. “I was locating my pitches all night.”
Stephen Milligan arguably pitched better than Gordon in his 3.1 relief innings. The left-hander gave up zero runs on two hits, a walk and three strikeouts.
At the plate, center fielder Cody Jones continued his hot start. Jones, who joined Idaho Falls on Saturday after a week in Arizona, went 3 for 4 with two doubles and two RBIs on Monday. He’s now 7 for 13 in three games.
Catcher Pedro Gonzalez went 3 for 4 with a double, and Jeckson Flores went 2 for 3.
Other than their 2-0 loss to Grand Junction on June 26, this was the Chukars’ lowest-scoring game of the season.
“They’re going to need to learn to play in these types of games,” Chukars manager Justin Gemoll said. “So, it’s good for us to have a close game every once in a while.”
The Chukars travel to Great Falls for a three-game series starting tonight at 7.
On Sunday, the Chukars fell behind 5-0 after four innings and never recovered in an 8-5 loss to Orem.
Starting pitcher Dylan Sons went 5 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on seven hits, two walks and five strikeouts.
1-2-3 hitters Cody Jones, DJ Burt and Josh Banuelos each went 2 for 4 with a walk, with Banuelos adding three RBIs.
Three Chukars were promoted to Single-A Lexington after Sunday’s 8-5 loss to Orem — outfielder/first baseman Alexis Rivera and left-handed pitchers Brennan Henry and Eric Stout.
Rivera played for Idaho Falls for parts of each of the last three seasons. He exited Idaho Falls with a .362 batting average and Pioneer League-highs in home runs (seven) and walks (17) in 69 at-bats.
Henry transferred from Lexington to Idaho Falls on June 22. He made four relief appearances for the Chukars, posting a 1.69 ERA in 5.1 innings.
Stout joined the Chukars on June 29 and made one start, giving up three runs (one earned) on five strikeouts and no walks.
“We’re trying to develop players and get them better so we can push them up the system,” Gemoll said. “For us as coaches, we’re real happy anytime that happens.”
These three players will join former Chukars’ infielder Luis Valenzuela, who moved from Idaho Falls to Lexington on July 2.
Former Chukar joins Royals
On Monday, the Kansas City Royals called former Chukar Cheslor Cuthbert. The infielder replaced fellow former Chukar Mike Moustakas, who was placed on the family emergency/bereavement list after leaving the team Sunday for a family emergency, according to the Kansas City Star.
Cuthbert, 22, played one season for the Chukars as a 17-year-old in 2010. The infielder played 14 games for Idaho Falls, hitting .233 with two home runs in 64 plate appearances.
Cuthbert (.256 in 76 games for Triple-A Omaha this season) was set to make his MLB debut Monday against the Tampa Bay Rays starting at third base and batting eighth, but the game was postponed due to tornado warnings.
Kansas City Royals closer Greg Holland (2007 Chukar) was named a replacement Sunday for the MLB All-Star Game.
Holland and Baltimore pitcher Chris Tillman were selected as replacements for Detroit pitcher Justin Verlander and Seattle pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma, who both started Sunday. Under baseball’s labor contract, pitchers who start the Sunday before the All-Star game may opt out of the All-Star Game.
Of all the snubs on the American League’s All-Star roster, Kansas City Royals closer Greg Holland (2007 Chukar) could be the largest.
The 27-year-old’s season has arguably been the best for closers in baseball. He’s converted 22 of 24 saves, owns a 1.80 ERA and leads all of baseball with an average of 15.43 strikeouts per nine innings. And in advanced metrics, he leads all Major League relievers with a 1.32 FIP, a metric that measures what a pitcher’s ERA would have been assuming a league average defense.
He’s been even better lately.
Since blowing his last save May 6, Holland has converted 15 straight saves. He’s posted a 0.78 ERA, walked four and struck out 41 in that 23-inning stretch. But Holland isn’t taking the snub too hard.
“It just didn’t happen,” he told the Kansas City Star. “There were a lot of guys who didn’t make it who were deserving too. So you’ve just got to move on.
The Kansas City Royals called up former Chukar Everett Teaford on Saturday.
The left-handed reliever rejoins the big league club after pitching for the Royals in 2011 and 2012. In 44 Major League appearances, the 2006 Chukar owns a 4.27 ERA and has struck out 63 in 105 1/3 innings.
Teaford joins the Royals as it shuffles its pitching staff after starter Wade Davis left for maternity leave Thursday. Kansas City originally called up Donnie Joseph. But it exchanged Joseph for Teaford on Saturday.
Teaford has spent all of 2013 with the Triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers, posting a 2.88 ERA in 23 appearances (nine) starts. He struck out 60 and walked 23 in 59 1/3 innings.
Teaford’s call-up gives the Royals six former Chukars on their roster. He joins closer Greg Holland (2007), catcher Salvador Perez (2008-09), first baseman Eric Hosmer (2008), third baseman Mike Moustakas (2007) and Billy Butler (2004).
Kansas City Royals designated hitter Billy Butler (2004 Chukar) tied Bo Jackson with the 10th most home runs in Royals history June 28. The homer against the Minnesota Twins was the 109th of Butler’s career with the Royals, tying him with Jackson in the club’s history.
…First baseman Eric Hosmer (2008 Chukar) earned the Kansas City Royals’ player of the month award for June. After hitting one home run the first two months of the season, Hosmer jacked six homers in June while hitting .303 and driving in 17 runs. He is hitting .359 in the seventh inning or later, third best in the American League. Continue reading “Ex-Chukar update, July 7”→
The Kansas City Royals reinstated left-handed pitcher Danny Duffy (2010 Chukar) from the 60-day disabled list Tuesday and he threw five shutout innings for the Royals’ Triple-A affiliate, the Omaha Storm Chasers, later in the day. He had made three previous rehab starts while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Duffy made 20 starts for Kansas City in 2011 and six starts for the Royals in 2012 before his injury.
… Right-handed pitcher Santiago Garrido (2009-10 Chukar) threw one scoreless inning for the North Division All-Stars on Tuesday in the Texas League All-Star Game. Garrido was the second pitcher of the night for the North Division and induced a ground ball, a fly ball and a lineout in nine pitches during a perfect inning.
Kansas City Royals designated hitter Billy Butler (2004 Chukar) is further working himself into Kansas City culture with his own barbecue sauce.
The Billy’s Hit it a TON Barbecue sauce launched in April through Zarda’s, a local restaurant chain, and was available on Kansas City-area grocery store shelves. All profits from the sauce benefit Butler’s Hit-It-A-Ton charity, which he started with his wife, Katie, an Idaho Falls native, to raise food for needy families in Kansas City.
The sauce started as a limited-time promotion. But its popularity skyrocketed when it found its way into the Royals dugout June 5. The Royals ended an 11-game home losing streak that night and promptly won seven of eight, bestowing the sauce the moniker “Rally Sauce” in the Royals clubhouse and earning it mention on the local game broadcasts.
It took 10 years. But former Idaho Falls Chukar Ed Lucas finally got his call to the big leagues Wednesday.
The Miami Marlins purchased the contract of the 31-year-old infielder and called him up after the Marlins designated Nick Green for assignment. He wore No. 59 and remained on the bench Wednesday in the first Major League game of his career as the Marlins hosted the Tampa Bay Rays.
Lucas started his professional career as shortstop for the Idaho Falls Chukar in 2004, hitting .312. The career .278 hitter was hitting .304 this spring for the Marlins Triple-A affiliate in New Orleans before the call-up.