Category: Roster

Chukars’ notebook: Chukars, Royals looking for speed

Chukars’ Angel Medina rounds third on his way to home after a hit by Nathan Eaton in the third inning as the Chukars take on the Helena Brewers at Melaleuca Field on Tuesday. John Roark/ jroark@postregister.com

By LUKE O’ROARK | @Loroark@postregister.com
@LukeORoark

In sports, speed wins. Or, it certainly helps win.

Ask Al Davis (I mean, if you can talk to the dead).

Ask Usain Bolt or any sprinter. Ask any dude who’s ever tried to tackle running backs Barry Sanders or Chris Johnson.

Heck, even ask the Kansas City Royals — who, despite being amidst a rebuild, are looking for speed, Chukars field manager Omar Ramirez said.

“That is the Kansas City Royal’s identity. Run, run, run, run, run,” Ramirez said July 4. “I like to run (the bases, put pressure on defenses). That’s the Royals’ identity. And personally, I’m that type of manager.”

The Chukars certainly embody that “speed-first” idea from the Royals’ higher management.

Idaho Falls leads the Pioneer League in stolen bases this summer with 69. The second-most? Grand Junction at …. 52.

With speedster Tyler James — who overwhelmingly leads the league in stolen bases with 26 — and Offerman Collado batting second, the Chukars are trying to put as much speed as possible on the bags. Even Nate Eaton, who bats third, has 10 stolen bases, tied for the fourth-most in the league.

Chukars’ Nick Hutchins heads to third on a ground hit as the Chukars take on the Ogden Raptors during opening day at Melaleuca Field on Friday, June 15, 2018. John Roark/ jroark@posteegister.com

On paper, it’s worked. The Chukars host one of the most prominent offenses in the Pioneer League — scoring the second most runs (295) with a league-leading on-base percentage of .390. Simply put, the Chukars get on base often (they’re first in hits with 452; hit the most doubles and triples; walk the second-most out of any team), steal, and can play relatively smart small ball.

“That is my game: get on base anyway I can whether it’s a walk, hit, error, bunt. And just try to score runs,” James said previously. “Try to get in scoring position for the guys that knock me in.”

While in the big leagues, the correlation with speed and winning has yet to field results for the Royals — at least not yet. The Royals are tied for 12th in stolen bases (49) — Whit Merrifield is tied for fourth with 22 stolen bases — and have nine of the fastest 150 players in the MLB, per the MLB’s Statcast Sprint Speed Leaderboard metrics.

They’re at the bottom of the AL Central with a 32-71 record.

Standings (as of Saturday morning and in order by second half records)

Pioneer League North

Helena Brewers (MIL) 19-21, 2-0

Billings Mustangs (CIN) 16-23, 1-0

Missoula Osprey (ARI) 19-20, 0-1

* Great Falls Voyagers (CWS) 22-18, 0-2

Pioneer League South

Grand Junction Rockies (COL) 22-19, 2-1

Idaho Falls Chukars (KC) 22-18, 1-1

Orem Owlz (LAA) 13-27, 1-1

* Ogden Raptors (LAD) 27-14, 1-2

* – Denotes first-half division winner

Increasing stock

Catcher Chase Vallot.

On rehab assignment, Vallot joined the Chukars in mid-July and brought a heavy bat late in the Chukars’ lineup. After batting an abysmal .101 in Wilmington, he’s now batting .263 for the Chukars including a 3 for 5 night Friday against Orem. He had three RBIs and a home run in the sixth inning. He also hit two doubles.

Decreasing stock

Third baseman Angel Medina.

While batting .246/.281/.361 for the Chukars in 14 games, Medina committed three errors during Friday’s loss (two fielding, one throwing). His nine errors is second-most on the team (shortstop Offerman Collado has 11) but Medina has committed more in a half the amount of games (Medina’s played 14 games; Collado’s played 28).

Recent transactions (from July 21 to July 28)

– None, though Kansas City Royals’ third baseman Mike Moustakas was recently traded from Kansas City to the Milwaukee Brewers for Brett Phillips and Jorge Lopez. Moustakas played for the Chukars in 2007 and was a pivotal piece for the Royals’ World Series team in 2015.

First half MVPs

Nate Eaton, Reed Rohlman and JC Cloney.

While names like Manny Olloque, Carlos Diaz and Kyle Isbel provided more offensive firepower in a shorter span, and eventually moved up in the Royals’ farming system, Eaton and Rohlman have been the most statistically consistent offensive batters for the Chukars.

Eaton — who’s played a variety of infield positions — has batted .355 and knocked in 24 RBIs (second most), two home runs (tied for third), eight triples (first) and 10 doubles (third) in 124 at-bats. He’s also shown promise fielding, showcasing solid arm strength.

Rohlman, who exclusively plays first base, has batted .348 from mostly the cleanup spot. He leads the team in hits (48), RBIs (38) and home runs (4), displaying solid power and contact at the plate. He’s done it all in 138 at-bats.

Finally, Cloney. The southpaw ace selected out of Arizona in the ninth round of last year’s draft has been the Chukars’ most consistent arm. He’s a perfect 7-0 on the season, allowing 40 hits in 43.1 innings pitched. His 2.28 ERA, 37 strikeouts and 1.06 WHIP are some of the team’s best.

Upcoming

Idaho Falls is on the road until Thursday, playing two games in Ogden and three games in Orem. The Chukars return home Thursday for a crucial four-game homestand with Grand Junction, which may have some Pioneer League playoff implications down the line.

Recap: Chukars-Owlz play late Friday at Melaleuca Field

Chukars’ Reed Rohlman rounds second base in the second inning as the Chukars take on the Orem Owlz at Melaleuca Field on Friday, July 27, 2018. John Roark/ jroark@postregister.com

By LUKE O’ROARK | @LukeORoark

Friday’s game between the Idaho Falls Chukars and Orem Owlz at Melaleuca Field finished past the Post Register’s deadline, with a 12-10 Owlz lead midway through the eighth inning.

A back-and-forth affair throughout, Friday’s game had six different lead changes, including home runs in the top of the sixth by Tim Millard followed by a two-run homer over the left field scoreboard by Chase Vallot to keep fans engaged late.

The Chukars originally held a four-run lead after the second frame, but that lead quickly vanished after the Owlz tied the game at the top of the third with four runs of their own. Idaho Falls took one more lead with an RBI from Hunter Strong in the bottom of the fifth to Orem shortstop Livan Soto.

That lead was short lived, though, as the Owlz took a three-run lead thanks to Millard’s home run over the center field wall — a lowpoint for the Chukars.

But, in good ol’ Pioneer League fashion, the Chukars responded with a home run of their own when Vallot hit a two-run home run over the video board in the left field.

Strong and Offerman Collado had solid nights at the plate. Strong — including his clutch RBI in the bottom of the fifth — went 2 for 4 with two RBIs as of midway through the eighth. Collado made the most of the No. 2 spot, hitting 3 for 5 with two doubles and two RBIs.

While offense was found often, pitching was not.

Up four runs in the top of the third, the Chukars eventually lost their lead due to poor command from starter Connor Mayes. In 2.2 innings pitched, Mayes allowed six runs (five earned) on five walks. He loaded the bases, and eventually allowed five earned runs on five walks.

Joe Ramirez relieved, working a clean 2.1 innings, but Friday’s game remained a deadlock thanks to two teams that combined for 23 hits as of the Post Register’s deadline.

Jaret Hellinger relieved deep into Friday’s game. He allowed six hits, five runs (four earned) while walking one and striking out two.

The Chukars had the chance to take the lead in the bottom of the seventh after Collado hit a solid double to center-right, but Jesus Antencio was called out on the chest-first slide home for the force out.

The Owlz then took a one-run lead following a Nonie Williams’ RBI-double over the glove of Eaton. Williams went 3 for 4 with three RBIs with two RBIs. Kiki Menendez then line drived to left field to score Millard later in the inning to give the Owlz a two-run lead.

Player(s) of the game

Offerman Collado. The Dominican Republican went 3 for 5 with two doubles Friday. He also hit in two RBIs.

Notables

– The Chukars are 10-12 when they commit at least one error. Their first was the top of the first after a fielding error from third baseman Angel Medina.

– The Owlz have been outscored by 114 runs this season — the most in the Pioneer League. They’ve also allowed the most home runs (54).

– Attendance was announced at 3,101, per the organization.

Upnext

The Chukars return to the road for five games (two at Ogden, three at Orem). The Chukars, who are 10-10 on the road this year, return to Melaleuca Field on Thursday.

Chukars’ notebook: Q+A with Chukars GM Kevin Greene

By LUKE O’ROARK | Loroark@postregister.com
@LukeORoark

In sports, consistency is a key ingredient to success.

Kevin Greene

The Chukars haven’t always been successful, sure, but every summer you’re going to see a consistent face walking around Melaleuca Field: Chukars general manager Kevin Greene.

The Post Register sat down with the Chukars’ GM earlier this summer to ask about Greene’s background, his management style, why he became involved with the Chukars and what the future holds for the Kansas City Royals’ affiliate. Some components of the interview, questions and answers have been cut for brevity.

Post Register: Kevin, what is the status of (the Idaho Falls Chukars) and, in terms of yourself, where you’re at personally?

Kevin Greene: “You know, this is my 35th year in baseball but I’m only 56. I started as intern back in 1984 for the Rochester Red Wings (minor league affiliate for the Minnesota Twins in Rochester, New York). Sometimes the grind gets to me a little bit. But I think I see myself not getting out of the game anytime in the next 5-to-10 years. I do see myself adjusting my schedule. I spent all morning and most of the early afternoon on a bucket lift 35 feet in the air and people look at me, like, ‘Why do you do that? You’re the general manager.’ Um, I like to do that, but, I won’t be doing that 10 years from now. I might be still working here as a GM but I might be saying, ‘Hey, I need two guys to go up on that lift’ or I might be hiring a company to go upon that lift. I won’t be doing it myself anymore.”

PR: What’s made you stay (with the Chukars) … I know you’re originally from New York.

KG: When I moved out here, I thought I was on a three-year plan to do a little bit of resume building, like a lot of people that come out here, but then you find out: not only is it a really good town to raise your family in — and you like all the atmosphere of the Jackson Hole, Yellowstone, rivers, mountains, all that — but you also find out, you know, if you find somebody that you connect with that you work for. Having that special relationship with your boss. That’s made this a special job for me. My boss, Dave Elmore, who’s owned this team since 1986, he comes out a few times a year. He lets us do our thing. I send him the reports and as long everything is to his satisfaction, he lets us run the team. And that is so important. When I worked in Rochester, we were micromanaged in Rochester. And it was tough, it was very tough. … Here, having one boss, who knows the business and knows how to manage, he allows us to take the reins and run with it.

PR: I’ve seen inside the office and I certainly understand, what it seems like, that “laissez-faire” kind of approach.

KG: It is. I’m not going to ask someone to go out and clean a bathroom right now if I’m not willing to do it myself. I went out and raked the warning track for a couple of hours. It’s what we do.

PR: Where does that management style stem from? Where does it come from?

KG: When I worked in Rochester, even though we had board oversight, when they were letting us do our thing, the staff all worked like the way we do here. I felt like we all worked on the same level and it was communicative and we all had each other’s back. And if an intern asks me, ‘Hey, Kevin, can you help me with his,’ I don’t say, ‘I’m the GM, you’re the intern’ and I don’t help him. It doesn’t work that way. We all work together, and that’s what I’ve always tried to preach and I’ve always said: I’ve worked with people that have been difficult, and I hope I never get that way.

PR: So, when did that management style start?

KG: When I moved out here in ‘93. Maybe I was a little staunched, thinking that’s how you were supposed to be, but I loosened up. We had a really small staff, and we all got along great. So, that’s what I like. I like a small staff where we can all trust each other to get their job done and if there’s an issue, we can work it out together.

PR: Because it seems like most, some businesses use that management model where it’s a “top-down”. I’m guessing you don’t believe in that (model)?

KG: You know, as long as we get our work done, it doesn’t matter (what it looks like). I’m dressed a slob right now, I’ll admit that. But I’m not going to come in here with a suit on and just point at banners and say, ‘Hey, get those hanged. I expect them to be done in 40 minutes.’ How are the people who work for me going to respect me, or want to work for me, for very long? I think that’s part of the reason I’m able to keep quality people here — people, maybe, trying to climb through minor league baseball. Quality people have stayed longer than they should have and I think it’s because they really like the atmosphere.

PR: It seems like year in and year out there’s some change, but you’ve stayed.

KG: Yeah, I’m the one constant, I guess. I think Paul Henderson is a constant. He’s from Idaho Falls and I hope when I step down I can turn the reins over to him and let him have a nice, long run at it.

PR: Any goals left for you? You mentioned 30-plus years in the business…anything that still drives you?

KG: You know, I would love to win more rings. Love to win more championships. Those are the highlights of what we do here. Some of the most memorable things in baseball are going to playoff games and rushing the field and knowing you get to start designing a ring the next week. That’s always a lot of fun. I like the camaraderie. One day I was in the winter meetings, it was after dinner and I was at a sports bar, with a lot of baseball people, and I looked around and said, ‘My gosh, I know more people here than I don’t know.’ At that point, I felt like I was a part of it.

PR: It was interesting, you mentioned earlier the feeling of winning and the playoff atmosphere, but I feel like that juxtaposes, at times, with the attitude of the club/minors. You know, ‘these kids are learning’, ‘winning may not be everything’. Any thoughts on that juxtaposition? You obviously want a viable, winning organization, but there’s also that attitude of ‘Hey, these kids are learning.’

KG: It is. This is player development. Every player out here with the ultimate goal of helping the Kansas City Royals make it back to the World Series and win one, that’s what the goal is. Along the way, it would be great if the Royals won at the Idaho Falls level, they win at the Lexington level, they win at Omaha. That’s great. It helps these kids know how to win, winning baseball players, as they are being prepared for the major leagues. We’re just fortunate as a small town with the opportunity to watch future major leaguers perform at this level in this little ballpark. I think it’s special for a town this size.

Standings (through Friday’s games)

Pioneer League North

Great Falls Voyagers (CWS) 21-13

Missoula Osprey (ARI) 17-17

Helena Brewers (MIL) 16-18

Billings Mustangs (CIN) 13-21

Pioneer League South

Ogden Raptors (LAD) 23-11

Idaho Falls Chukars (KC) 19-15

Grand Junction Rockies (COL) 17-17

Orem Owlz (LAA) 10-24

Increasing stock

Reed Rohlman.

The Chukars’ first baseman has batted 11 for 21 during the previous five games including an impressive 4 for 5 day at the plate against Missoula. He’s batting .357 with an OPS of 1.017.

Decreasing stock

Jonathan Bowlan.

Bowlan — the Royals’ second round pick this previous draft — holds a 1-1 record with a 4.71 ERA. He’s struck out 13 in 21 innings pitched, and gave up seven earned runs in a 12-0 loss to Missoula on July 14.

Recent transactions (from July 5 to July 21)

– Outfielder Kyle Isbel was promoted to the Lexington Legends on July 19.

– Outfielder Hunter Strong was assigned to the Chukars from the Burlington Royals on July 17.

– Right-handed pitcher Christopher Marte was released on July 13.

– Wilmington Blue Rocks sent catcher Chase Vallot on a rehab assignment to Idaho Falls on July 10.

– Third baseman Angel Medina was assigned to the Chukars from Burlington on July 7.

Upcoming

Idaho Falls finishes its seven-game road trip Tuesday at Missoula before starting a three-game home series against Orem Wednesday at Melaleuca Field. First pitch is 7:15 p.m.

Chukars notebook: Some split on new MiLB extra innings changes

Chukars’ Tyler James is called out at third as the Chukars take on Grand Junction Rockies at Melaleuca Field on Thursday, June 28, 2018. John Roark/ jroark@postregister.com

By LUKE O’ROARK | Loroark@postregister.com
@LukeORoark

When the Idaho Falls Chukars and Grand Junction Rockies went to extra innings Friday at Melaleuca Field, Chukars fans saw something they probably haven’t seen: a free base runner starting on second at the start of every extra inning.

In March, the National Association of Professional Baseball incorporated a new rule regarding extra innings: if a minor league game goes to extra innings, both teams start with a base runner on second at the beginning of inning. The base runner at second is the inning’s leadoff hitter and is statistically counted as runner who’s reaching on an error (for purposes of determining earned runs), but no errors shall be charged.

This new policy was seen at Melaleuca Field for the first time Friday in the Chukars’ 7-6 12-inning win.

Chukars manager Omar Ramirez said the new rule doesn’t change their offensive gameplan much. Before Kyle Isbel ended the game with an RBI single to left field, both teams utilized small ball tactics. While the rule isn’t necessarily new to the minor league system — Ramirez said the Arizona League utilized the rule last summer — he was supportive of the new overhaul, as it saves team’s pitching and has the potential to keep players healthy.

“It depends on the hitter. Are we bunting or not?” said Ramirez when asked if strategies change due to the new rule. “Like, we’re not going to bunt when (Reed Rohlman) came to bat. Because he can get a double, hit it. With (Offerman Collado) or (Tyler James) we can bunt it. It depends on the hitter.”

“Let’s see how long it stays,” Ramirez added.

Chukars’ Nick Hutchins heads to third on a ground hit as the Chukars take on the Ogden Raptors during opening day at Melaleuca Field on Friday, June 15, 2018. John Roark/ jroark@posteegister.com

The policy was created to try to keep players healthy, as well as speed up minor league games. The average time of a nine-inning game in the minor leagues was two hours, 45 minutes in 2016 and 2:29 last year, according to ESPN.

Friday’s game, while anecdotal, finished in three hours, 58 minutes.

“We believe these changes to extra innings will enhance the fans’ enjoyment of the game and will become something that the fans will look forward to on nights where the game is tied late in the contest,” NAPBL president Pat O’Conner said in a March 14 report from ESPN. “Player safety has been an area of growing concern for our partners at the Major League Baseball level, and the impact that lengthy extra innings games has on pitchers, position players and an entire organization was something that needed to be addressed.”

Chukars’ designated hitter Nate Eaton said he was unaware of the rule change until Friday.

“I honestly didn’t know (about the new rule) until they said that I was the base runner when I went out there,” said Eaton, who finished 4 for 5 at the plate with two doubles. “I probably haven’t had that since I was 12-years-old. I mean, I don’t agree with the rule because I don’t think it should be easier to score runs quicker. If the game is going that long, it’s going that long for a reason and that’s because good baseball is being played, or bad baseball is being played on one side.”

Eaton said the game could be just as prolonged due to how offensive-orientated minor league games are.

“Oh yes, because you could easily score off a bunt and then a hit or sacrifice fly. Or go 0-0, just like we did there, and it keeps going,” Eaton said.

Standings (as of June 30th)

Pioneer League North

Great Falls Voyagers (CWS) 8-6

Helena Brewers (MIL) 8-6

Missoula Osprey (ARI) 7-6

Billings Mustangs (CIN) 4-9

Pioneer League South

Idaho Falls Chukars (KC) 10-5

Ogden Raptors (LAD) 9-6

Grand Junction Rockies (COL) 6-9

Orem Owlz (LAA) 5-10

Increasing stock

J.C. Cloney, Kyle Isbel and Jose Caraballo.

After his batting average hit a lowly .111 on June 19, Caraballo has garnered a hit in eight-straight games for Idaho Falls. He’s gone 12-35 at the plate since his hitting streak started.

For Cloney, the 2017 ninth-round pick out of Castaic, Cali., has molded into the Chukars’ ace. The reliable southpaw is 3-0 with an ERA of 1.35. He’s struck 21 batters out — including 11 during his first start — and has allowed three earned runs on 14 hits.

As with Isbel, he’s batted .372 since joining the Chukars on June 19. He went 3 for 6 Friday night and gave the Chukars their third-straight win after hitting in Tyler James with an RBI single to left field in the bottom of the 12th.

Decreasing stock

Tyler Gray. In his first two starts with the Chukars, Gray owns a 15.88 ERA. He’s allowed 10 earned runs on 11 hits in 5.2 innings of work. He’s struck out seven and walked two.

Recent transactions (from June 24 to June 30)

– Left-handed pitcher Derrick Adams was assigned to Idaho Falls from Burlington on June 28.

– Right-handed pitcher Daniel Duarte was loaned to Idaho Falls from Tigres de Quintana Roo on June 30.

– Second baseman Carlos Diaz was assigned to Idaho Falls from the AZL Royals on June 30.

– Idaho Falls released left-handed pitcher Michael Messier on June 30. Messier was with the Chukars for 18 days (June 12).

– Idaho Falls released left-handed pitcher Joey Markus on June 30. Markus was with the Chukars for 18 days (June 12).

Upcoming

Idaho Falls is amidst a four-game away series at Ogden. The Chukars will be back Wednesday, July 4, to host Orem for three games. First pitch Wednesday is 4:30 p.m.

Rockies close the door on Chukars late

By LUKE O’ROARK | @LukeORoark
Loroark@postregister.com

Not many quick, close games happen in the Pioneer League.

Chukars’ Jose Caraballo and Jose Marquez round the bases as the Chukars take on the Ogden Raptors during opening day at Melaleuca Field on Friday, June 15, 2018. John Roark/ jroark@posteegister.com

But a quick, close game is exactly what 2,869 Melaleuca Field attendees got Tuesday night.

The Grand Junction Rockies beat the Chukars 4-2 thanks to a three-run seventh inning and holding the Chukars scoreless in the final five frames.

The only stat most fans need to know after Tuesday: Idaho Falls is 0-5 when trailing after the eighth this season.

And indeed, the Chukars trailed after the Rockies scored three runs in the top of the seventh to take a two-run lead.

Down 4-2, the Chukars attempted to rally after a Jesus Atencio double in the bottom of the ninth got him to third and Andres Martin reached second after being walked.

But on a 2-2 count, with two outs, Alexander Martinez closed the doors on the hometown bird, striking out Offerman Collado.

Originally up 2-1, a throwing error by Collado, a Reese Berberet home run and a Cristopher Navarro RBI single to third was all Grand Junction need to get back into Tuesday’s game and hand the Chukars their fifth loss of the season.

The Chukars scored first Tuesday, as Tyler James reached home after Kyle Isbel grounded into a double play. The Chukars then scored another run in the bottom of the fourth thanks to a Nate Eaton ground out that scored first baseman Reed Rohlman.

Domingo Pena (1-1) took the loss, giving up three runs (one earned) on four hits while walking two and striking out four in 4.2 innings. Eris Filpo took the win, allowing two runs (both earned) on seven hits while walking three and striking out three in six innings.

Player(s) of the game

Offerman Collado. The shortstop was the Chukars’ most consistent at-bat Tuesday night. He went 3 for 5 at the plate. He did, however, have one throwing error and struck out during the last at-bat of the game.

Notables

– Jose Caraballo’s hit streak has reached six games. Jesus Atencio’s hitting streak has now reached five games.

– Rockies’ Cristopher Navarro was hit in the hand in the top of the ninth, but the play was called foul tip. Navarro was eventually walked.

– The Chukars’ offense has been sluggish as of late, scoring just three runs in the previous two games.

Upnext

The Chukars (7-5) host the Rockies today at Melaleuca Field. First pitch is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.

Chukars’ notebook: Olloque, fast start for Chukars

Chukars’ Nick Hutchins heads to third on a ground hit as the Chukars take on the Ogden Raptors during opening day at Melaleuca Field on Friday, June 15, 2018. John Roark/ jroark@posteegister.com

By LUKE O’ROARK | Loroark@postregister.com
@LukeORoark

You better get to Melalueca Field quick: some of the Chukars’ best are moving up rather quickly.

After Manny Olloque blasted two home runs against Ogden, he was recently bumped up to Lexington.

At Chukars media day earlier in the month, he mentioned the difficulty of moving up and down and around the country for minor league ball.

“You definitely have to have to have faith that’s for sure,” Olloque said on June 13. “You just gotta trust the process and can’t look to far ahead of that. Just play everyday and try not to worry too much about the other little things. … I got caught up with it this year, you know, but I’ve been staying strong with it and just having fun.”

Despite playing in triple-A Omaha for nine games earlier in the year, Olloque came back down to the rookie-A level, bring some experience and early season offense to Melaleuca Field. Chukars manager Omar Ramirez said Olloque wasn’t going to be held up in triple-A for too long — he was called up as an emergency call, per Ramirez — but it was clear from Chukars’ opening day that Olloque wouldn’t be in Idaho Falls for too long either.

He batted .474 in 19 at-bats, knocking in nine RBIs, two home runs, a triple and two doubles. One of his two home runs was a grand slam.

Chukars’ J.C. Cloney pitches in the third inning as the Chukars take on the Ogden Raptors during opening day at Melaleuca Field on Friday, June 15, 2018. John Roark/ jroark@posteegister.com

“I’ve learned to humble myself,” Olloque said. “I know this game isn’t going to last forever, and I know there’s more to (life) than baseball. Just having a closer relationship with God lets me stuff in different perspective. Just try to be not too high, not too low, just even keel.”

“Manny is a good hitter,” said Ramirez after the Chukars’ opening day win. “Manny has always been a good hitter and he’s going to be a good help for the team.”

Even with Olloque gone, though, the Chukars still have a plethora of solid contact hitters. They’re batting .332 through eight games — the highest in the Pioneer League — as of June 23.

Kansas City Royals’ third-round pick Kyle Isbel has been sharp his first few games with the rookie-A affiliate. He’s batting .500. Offerman Collado, Julio Gonzalez, Nick Hutchins and Andres Martin should be steady hands at the plate this summer.

Collado and Gonzalez, in their second stints in Idaho Falls, are batting .368 and .364, respectively. Hutchins has batted .321 in a team-high 28 at-bats. He is tied for first in doubles (3) alongside Isbel and first baseman Reed Rohlman.

While only suiting up for three games thus far, Martin’s small sample size is promising. He’s gone 5 for 11 and knocked in two RBIs. He’s truck out once and walked once.

In terms of pitching, the Chukars’ have vastly improved from a year ago. A year ago, the Chukars were one of the worst — if not, the worst — pitching club in the Pioneer League. Now, they’re among the top.

Of course, minor league teams change rapidly and it’s early in the season, but the Chukars currently rank one of the better rotations and bullpens in the league.

The team’s ERA is 4.43 (second-best in the Pioneer) with their WHIP at 1.35 (tied for second best).

JC Cloney (2-0) is molding into a reliable ace, giving up just 10 hits and three earned runs in 13 innings pitched. He’s struck out 16 and has a WHIP of 0.77. Domingo Pena (1-0) looked sharp in his one appearance thus far. He holds a 1.80 ERA with a 0.80 WHIP.

Again, it’s early. But the Chukars have solid pieces to be excited about if you follow the Royals’ farming system.

“I think it will be a strong group of pitchers and I think that they’re going to be learning just like everybody else will be learning,” Chukars’ pitching coach Jeff Suppan said prior to the season starting.

Standings

Pioneer League North

Helena Brewers (MIL) 4-2

Missoula Osprey (ARI) 3-2

Great Falls Voyagers (CWS) 3-4

Billings Mustangs (CIN) 2-4

Pioneer League South

Idaho Falls Chukars (KC) 6-2

Grand Junction Rockies (COL) 4-4

Ogden Raptors (LAD) 3-5

Orem Owlz (LAA) 3-5

Increasing stock

Kyle Isbel. Since joining the Chukars on June 18, Isbel has proved to be a reliable at-bat for Idaho Falls. In the past five games, the third-round pick has batted 10 for 20 (.500) with seven RBIs, three doubles and seven runs. He’s struck oout twice.

Decreasing stock

Jose Caraballo. Since June 15, Caraballo went 6 for 27 (.222) at the plate including a four-game stretch where the 21-year-old went 0 for 14. His slump could be ending shortly, though, as he’s registered back-t0-back two-hit games at Grand Junction.

Recent transactions (from June 18 to June 23)

– Right-handed pitcher Joe Ramirez assigned to Idaho Falls from DSL Royals2.

– Left-handed pitcher Marcelo Martinez assigned to Idaho Falls from DSL Royals2.

– Catcher Jesus Atencio assigned to Idaho Falls from Burlington Royals.

– Catcher Nathan Easton assigned to Idaho Falls.

– Right-handed pitcher Dillon Drabble assigned to Idaho Falls from Burlington Royals.

– Shortstop Kyle Krasser assigned to Idaho Falls.

– Right-handed pitcher Jon Heasley assigned to Idaho Fals.

– Right-handed pitcher Tyler Gray assigned to Idaho Falls

– Right-handed pitcher Jonathan Bowlan assistned to Idaho Falls Chukars.

– Centerfielder Isaiah Smith assigned to Idaho Falls from AZL Royals.

Upcoming

The Chukars play at Orem until Monday before hosting Grand Junction for a four-game homestand starting Tuesday. First pitch is 7:15 p.m. at Melaleuca Field.

Chukars announce 2018 coaching staff

By Luke O’Roark | Post Register | @LukeORoark
A familiar face will be back with the Idaho Falls Chukars this summer.

The Chukars, an advanced rookie-level affiliate of the Kansas City Royals, announced Omar Ramirez will manage the team in 2018, returning to Idaho Falls after spending three season with Burlington and Lexington.

Idaho Falls Chukars pitching coach Jeff Suppan, right, watches right-hander Reid Redman on June 14 at the team’s first workout at Melaleuca Field.(Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)

Ramirez takes over for now former Chukars manager Justin Gemoll, who will join Grand Canyon Baseball as a volunteer assistant coach for the Lopes’ 2018 season.

Ramirez previously managed the Chukars from 2012 to 2014 and was a part of the Chukars’ 2013 Pioneer League championship team.

“We welcome back Omar Ramirez, the manager who brought us our last championship in 2013,” Chukars’ President and general manager Kevin Greene said in a press release. “He along with a great supporting coaching staff of Jeff and Damon should make for a fun season of baseball in Idaho Falls.”

Joining Ramirez in 2018 will be pitching coach Jeff Suppan and hitting coach Damon Hollins, both who were a part of the Cuhkars’ 2017 staff. Suppan returns for his fourth year in Idaho Falls and brings 17 years of Major league experience.

For Hollins, he returns for his eighth season within the Kansas City Royals organization, the press release states. Hollins will also serve as an assistant outfield, base running and bunting coordinator.

Justin Kemp will also return to the Chukars as the team’s head athletic trainer in 2018. It will be his third season with the Chukars.

Idaho Falls’ opening day is set for June 15. The Chukars will host the Ogden Raptors at Melaleuca Field, as first pitch is slated for 7:15 p.m.

Five Chukars’ players participate in annual All-Star game Tuesday

By Luke O’Roark | Post Register | @Lukeoroark

Some Chukars are enjoying a nice, three-days off from baseball.

Others are having a little fun in Hillsboro, Ore.

Chukars outfiielderAmalani Fukofuka (8) poses for a portrait during the 2017 Chukars Media Day on Saturday afternoon. The Chukars opening game is this Monday at Grand Junction Rockies.
Taylor Carpenter / tcarpenter@postregister.com, 6/17/2017, Lens 30, ISO 200, FStop {fstop}, Shutter 1/250, Aperature {aperature},

Five Chukars participated in this year’s annual Pioneer League All-Star game Tuesday, which pitted the best players from the Pioneer League against the Class A Short Season Northwest League, at Ron Tonkin Field.

The game began at 8 p.m. (MT), as the Northwest League led the Pioneer League 5-4 prior to the Post Register’s deadline Tuesday.

The Pioneer League took an early 4-0 lead after Dallas Carroll singled to left field to score I.F.’s Robby Rinn and Grand Junction’s Ryan Vilade.

After a Shael Mendoza’s single-RBI to right field, Chukars’ right fielder Amalani Fukofuka scored Mendoza (Grand Junction) with a shot to center field to extend the Pioneer League’s lead.

Fukofuka finished the night 1 for 2 with an RBI and a strikeout at the plate. He also had two stolen bases. Darrell Miller Jr. (who is batting .453//500/.616 in 20 games this season) finished the night 0 for 2.

Rinn — the Pioneer League’s RBI leader (38) — was 1 for 3 at the plate by the Post Register’s deadline. He also had one run.

Most of the Northwest League’s damage came against Chukars pitcer, Holden Capps. Capps allowed four earned runs on four hits in 0.2 innings pitched Tuesday night. He finished with a 54.00 ERA.

The Chukars’ Janser Lara, though, looked a bit sharper on the mound. He allowed just one hit in one inning pitched. He did have a wild pitch.

The Pioneer League had six hits and no errors by the bottom of the seventh. The Northwest League had seven hits and no errors.

The Chukars’ regular season continues Thursday at Great Falls’ Centene Stadium. First pitch is at 7 p.m.

Chukars’ notebook: Just like the rest of the MLB, Chukars’ games can go long

By Luke O’Roark | Post Register | @Lukeoroark
Editors note: Every Sunday, Luke O’Roark will break down the Chukars, the Pioneer League, and give some insight on what’s going on inside the Kansas City affiliate.

Fans enjoy witnessing a Chukars’ win, but, it may take them a while to see one.
Friday the Chukars beat the Brewers easily, 13-1, in… three hours and 38 minutes. It wasn’t even the longest game of the season — that was Idaho Falls’ 13-10 win over Grand Junction on June 22.
It took four (!) hours.
For context: MLB games took about two hours and 56 minutes in 2015, according to a Fox Sports report. The average time increased to three hours and 26 seconds in 2016, per ESPN.
Intriguingly, MLB games are taking longer today than a they were decade ago, according to research from Baseball Reference.com.
“It’s tough,” Vance Vizcaino said of how long some games go. “We’ve got good opponents and our pitchers throw well and they throw strikes. And when we face good hitters, they’ll get hits.”
Still, the Chukars are trending around three hours a game in 2017.
In the month of July (so far), the average Chukars’ game takes two hours and 58 minutes. Eight of the Chukars’ 19 games took three hours or longer.

(FILE) Idaho Falls’ Julio Gonzales makes the throw to first base after getting the force-out on Missoula’s Dominic Miroglio at second base during Monday night’s game at Melaleuca Field. The double play ended the sixth inning.

The Chukars’ 12 games in June took even longer: three hours and 16 minutes. Nine of their 12 games went past the three-hour mark.
Considering the Chukars’ normal start time at home (7:15 p.m.), most games don’t finish until 10-10:30 p.m.
The quickest Chukars game this year was Tuesday’s 6-1 win against Missoula at two hours and 18 minutes.
“I mean, this game, it was 15-11 so that kind of explains (why it went long) a little bit,” Chukars catcher Chris Hudgins said on July 15. “I don’t know, really. We have extra time in between innings where we’re doing some stuff, entertaining the crowd so that could be a big part of it, but it could also depend on the tempo of the game.”
The justification behind why baseball games — whether at Melaleuca Field or the Kansas City Royals’s Kauffman Stadium — take so long? It depends on who you ask.
The length of baseball games has, historically, been longer than its major sports contemporaries because of pitches, time in between innings and the natural structure of the sport.
The MLB has tried to implement new rules in order to speed up the game. But baseball games are still about the same length of a “Lord of the Rings” movie.
“I wish I knew the answer,” Chukars’ manager Justin Gemoll said after Idaho Falls’ home opener. “Maybe an earlier start time would get us done earlier. We had a long day last night. We left (Grand Junction) around midnight and rolled in here around 8:30 in the morning, so quick turnaround.”
The Chukars are the only Pioneer League team to start home games at 7:15 during Monday through Saturday. Other teams start anywhere from 6:05 p.m. (Billings) to 7 p.m. (Ogden).
Pitcher David McKay said he actually enjoys the later starts.
“It’s not bad,” he said. “You get to sleep in.”
Secondly, the Pioneer League is also a developmental level for the MLB’s farming system. Players are trying different pitches and perfecting different components of their respective games.
With errors and mistakes being made, games have the potential to go longer because of more batters, pitches and chances for games to be extended. Vin Scully told the Boston Globe in a 2013 article that even minuscule changes, like Velcro, have added time to baseball games.

(FILE) Chukars infielder Offerman Collado (1) runs to second base during a regular season game against the Brewers on Wednesday night at Melaluca Field.

Other theories include the amount of promotions before first pitches and between innings.
“I don’t know,” pitcher Michael Silva said. “It’s just the game of baseball. Every game can be different and it happens everyday.”

Chukars transactions (as of July 18-22)

– The Chukars received outfielder Travis Jones from the Burlington Royals on July 19. Idaho Falls is Jones’ third destination this year. He played seven games for Burlington and nine games in the Arizona League before arriving in Idaho Falls.

Around the Pioneer League

With the first half of the regular season coming to a close, Orem leads the league at 23-8. Ogden is second in the Pioneer League South division (behind the Owlz) at 17-14. Grand Junction is third at 15-15. Idaho Falls is in fourth at 14-17.

In the North division, Billings (15-15) is only 0.5 games ahead of Missoula (15-16) atop of the standings. Helena is third (14-17), as Great Falls has the worst record in the league at 10-21.

Chukars best Osprey behind Capps, strong pitching

Capps (via Central Oklahoma Athletics)

By Luke O’Roark | Post Register | @Lukeoroark
Whatever Chukars’ pitcher Holden Capps did during Tuesday’s pregame at Melaleuca Field, he should keep doing it.
Capps, along with the Chukars bullpen, shut down the Osprey Tuesday evening, 6-1, to finish Idaho Fall’s seven-game home stand. The Chukars’ Tuesday night win means they split their four-game series with the Osprey, 2-2, and push their record to 13-16 on the season. Missoula falls to 15-14.
The Chukars almost registered their third shutout out all season (it would’ve also been their second in three days), but a Francis Martinez home run in the top of the ninth ruined the Chukars’ potential shut out.
It was the second time that dang Martinez caused problems for the Chukars.
Still, Tuesday’s win showcased one of the Chukars’ best pitching performances all season.
From the opening frame, it was all Capps (1-0) — the Royals’ 8th round pick in the 2017 draft. He struck out four batters, walked one and allowed just four hits in five innings pitched. He has yet to allow a single run in his two games pitched in the Pioneer League.
Jeremy Gwinn provided relief for Capps, striking out three batters, allowing six hits and a home run for his second save of the season.
On offense, Robby Rinn, Cristhian Vasquez and Amalani Fukofuka helped Idaho Falls to its fourth win in seven games. The three combined for five hits, three triples, and four RBIs.

What’s important:

The Chukars’ pitching controlled Tuesday’s game, winning 6-1 and splitting their series with the Osprey 2-2.

Player(s) of the game:

Holden Capps and Robby Rinn. Capps was dominant on the mound, not allowing a run in his second start on the mound for Idaho Falls. Rinn went 2 for 4, one being a two-RBI triple.

Notables:

– Robby Rinn has now registered two hits in four of his previous five games.

– Amalani Fukofuka has had five RBIs in the past four games.

– Capps, the Royals’ 2017 8th round pick, pitched five scoreless innings for the second time this season. His first start came on July 13 against Helena.

– Tuesday was the Chukars’ shortest game all season: two hours and 18 minutes.

Up next:

The Chukars earn their second day off this season on Wednesday. They will travel to Helena Thursday start a seven-game road trip.