Chukars split back-and-forth doubleheader with Missoula

Missoula Osprey shortstop Isan Diaz tags out Idaho Falls Chukars shortstop Martin Gasparini at second base during the first game of a doubleheader Wednesday at Melaleuca Field. (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com)
Missoula Osprey shortstop Isan Diaz tags out Idaho Falls Chukars shortstop Martin Gasparini at second base during the first game of a doubleheader Wednesday at Melaleuca Field. (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com)

By VICTOR FLORES
vflores@postregister.com

Idaho Falls Chukars fans got their money’s worth Wednesday night at Melaleuca Field.

The Chukars played a doubleheader against the Missoula Osprey. Both games were scheduled to last seven innings. The first went nine. The second went seven, but it lasted nearly three hours.

The back-and-forth doubleheader on Potato Night ended with a doubleheader split for Idaho Falls. The Osprey took the first game 2-1. The Chukars took the second game 10-8.

The Osprey played as the home team in game one because the game was a makeup of Monday’s postponed game, which was in Missoula.

Carter Hope made the start, his second as a Chukar, and it was arguably the best performance by an Idaho Falls starter all season.

Hope went 5.0 scoreless innings on three hits, a walk and three strikeouts. He is the first Idaho Falls pitcher to not allow a run in a start this season.

Hope nearly lost his shutout multiple times. He forced two inning-ending double plays in the second and third innings, and escaped a one-out, runner on third jam in the sixth.

The Chukars broke a scoreless tie in the top of the sixth on an RBI single from second baseman DJ Burt.

Idaho Falls pitching kept the Osprey scoreless until the bottom of the seventh. Reliever Brian Bayliss got an out, but three singles in a row scored the tying run.

The game remained tied until the ninth. With Chukars’ left-hander Tripp Davis on the mound, pinch-hitter Luke Lowery drove a fastball over the left field wall. Chukar fans were graced with an odd scene — the opposing team celebrating a walk-off win at Melaleuca Field.

The Chukars took a 1-0 lead in the second game, as well. They also squandered that lead, falling behind 4-1 after the top of the third.

Idaho Falls cut that deficit to 4-3 after four.

The next inning was one of the Chukars’ best of the season.

Idaho Falls Chukars center fielder Cody Jones hits a foul during the first game of a doubleheader against the Missoula Osprey on Wednesday at Melaleuca Field. (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com)
Idaho Falls Chukars center fielder Cody Jones hits a foul during the first game of a doubleheader against the Missoula Osprey on Wednesday at Melaleuca Field. (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com)

Four straight Chukars walked off of Will Lowman and Matt Lees. Singles by Pedro Gonzalez and Marten Gasparini scored three more runs, and a triple by Brawlun Gomez made it 9-4. That hit broke Gomez’s hitless streak at 20 at-bats.

After the inning ended, Idaho Falls scored seven runs on five walks and five hits for a 10-4 lead.

The Osprey scored four in the top of the six and put two runners on in the seventh, but Matt Portland escaped to give Idaho Falls its first win in six games.

Idaho Falls’ 11 walks in game two marked a single game-season high.

Center fielder Cody Jones went 3 for 6 with two walks combined over the two games. The shortstop Gasparini went 2 for 5 with two walks and a triple, and second baseman Burt went 1 for 5 with three walks on the night.

The Chukars (8-19) and the Osprey (15-10) return to Melaleuca Field tonight at 7:15.

Chukars drop tight doubleheader to Missoula

Saturday’s Pioneer League game between the Idaho Falls Chukars and the Missoula Osprey was rained out, giving the Chukars their first night off of the season.

But the extra rest didn’t result in wins the next day.

The rained out game forced a Sunday doubleheader. Missoula won the first game 3-2 and the second 4-1 (each game lasted seven innings) at Allegiance Field to win the series.

After two scoreless innings in game one, the Osprey scored three combined runs in the third and fourth off of starting pitcher Todd Eaton (three earned runs on seven hits and a walk in 5.0 innings pitched) to take a 3-0 lead.

The Chukars answered with two runs in the top of the fifth on a RBI single by designated hitter Nick Dini (1 for 3) and an RBI double by third baseman Ryan Dale (1 for 2).

In the second game, Missoula scored two runs in the first inning on a solo home run from Isan Diaz and a triple from Austin Byler.

Chukars starting pitcher Brandon Thomas settled down after that inning, allowing three total runs (all earned) on five hits and a walk in five innings pitched.

Idaho Falls didn’t score until the top of the seventh inning. The Chukars offense mustered three hits, two by left fielder Roman Collins.

Outfielder Amalani Fukofuka went 1 for 3 with a double in each game to increase his hitting streak to 12 games, the longest in the Pioneer League this season.

Idaho Falls relief pitcher Stephen Milligan gave up one earned run in the second game, ending the bullpen’s 26-inning streak of not allowing an earned run.

Monday’s game between the Chukars and Missoula Osprey was rained out. Both teams will take their scheduled off day today and make up Monday’s game on Wednesday in Idaho Falls as part of a doubleheader, which begins at 5:30 p.m. (each game will last seven innings). Both teams were originally scheduled for a three-game series in Idaho Falls starting Wednesday.

Chukars notebook: Owlz’s new broadcaster has calmed the storm

By VICTOR FLORES
vflores@postregister.com

The Orem Owlz were left scrambling.

Their media director and road play-by-play broadcaster Joey Zanaboni resigned June 19, in light of the Owlz’s controversial announcement of their promotion “Caucasian Heritage Night.”

Zanaboni’s resignation left the Owlz, the Los Angeles Angels’ Rookie-level affiliate, without a road play-by-play voice for their upcoming road trip, which started June 22.

Orem’s front office frantically searched for a replacement. One of them was David Winkworth, whom the Owlz knew after he (unsuccessfully) applied to be their public address announcer years earlier. Winkworth had broadcasting experience, lived in the Salt Lake City area and was available for the rest of Orem’s season.

The Owlz hired him on June 21.

“I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from fans on social media and from the Owlz,” Winkworth said in a phone interview. “They said, ‘You’re doing a good job so far,’ and I’m really enjoying my time.”

Two days before “Caucasian Heritage Night” was announced, nine African-American people were shot and killed in a Charleston, S.C., church. Dylan Roof, a white man, has been charged with the murders.

According to Zanaboni, via Twitter, he warned the Owlz’s front office about the potential public outcry “Caucasian Heritage Night” would create. He resigned after the team went ahead with the announcement and the outcry arrived.

In a statement, the Owlz said their announcement of the event — scheduled for Aug. 10 — was ill-timed.

“We understand in light of recent tragic events that our intentions have been misconstrued,” the Owlz’s statement said, via the Salt Lake Tribune. “For that, we sincerely apologize.”

The Owlz quickly cancelled the event. Orem’s general manager Justo Vazquez declined to talk about the situation.

As Orem searched for Zanaboni’s replacement, Winkworth’s public address application put him on their radar. Lack of experience cost him the PA job. His resume has grown since.

Since 2012, the Utah Valley University alum has interned at ESPN 700 (a Salt Lake City sports radio station), hosted a sports podcast, helped produce a sports TV show for Salt Lake Community College and covered the Utah Grizzlies (an East Coast Hockey League team affiliated with the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks) for KSL.com, among other work.

That experience, along with his local residence and summer availability, made him a clear favorite for the Owlz over the four to five other candidates.

Vazquez has been impressed with Winkworth’s performance so far.

“He learned everything from scratch — the team, the players — so I think he’s done an admirable job,” Vazquez said in a phone interview.

Winkworth said he’s enjoyed his four weeks with the Owlz.

“I love just sitting there, talking sports,” he said. “It’s a good opportunity for me.”

Winkworth was in Idaho Falls on Fourth of July weekend for Orem’s three-game series against the Chukars. He’ll return two more times: from July 27-29 and August 5-6.

Winkworth is only guaranteed this job through the end of the season. If a more attractive opportunity opens up after the season, he’ll take it. But if he wants to return as Orem’s road play-by-play voice next year, he’ll have an advantage over other candidates.

“If he goes through the season, keeps improving and shows us something, he obviously has the experience, so he’ll have the upper hand on anyone going into next year,” Vazquez said.

Chukars’ transactions

After Idaho Falls’ 8-5 loss to Orem on July 5, three Chukars were promoted to the Single-A Lexington Legends, most notably Alexis Rivera.

The left-handed outfielder and first baseman still leads the Pioneer League in home runs (seven) and walks (17), despite leaving Idaho Falls a week ago. He also hit .362 in his 69 at-bats with the Chukars.

Idaho Falls also lost left-handed pitchers Eric Stout (3.38 ERA in 2.2 innings for the Chukars) and Brennan Henry (1.69 in 5.1).

Those three joined former Chukar infielder Luis Valenzuela, who transferred to Lexington on July 2. Valenzuela leads the Legends with a .375 batting average and a .974 on-base-plus-slugging-percentage (OPS) in 16 at-bats.

Rivera has gone 1 for 9 with a walk in his three games with Lexington. Henry, who transferred from Lexington to Idaho Falls on June 22, has a 3.95 ERA in 13.2 innings for the Legends. Stout’s ERA is 3.00 in 3.0 innings.

Right-handed pitcher Carter Hope moved up from the Arizona League Royals to the Chukars on July 5. He’s made one appearance (a start) for Idaho Falls, giving up two earned runs in 3.1 innings against Great Falls on Wednesday.

Former Chukars make All-Star team

Seven Kansas City Royals made this year’s American League All-Star team. Two are former Chukars — third baseman Mike Moustakas and catcher Salvador Perez.

Moustakas played 11 games for Idaho Falls as an 18-year-old in 2007, hitting .293.

Perez played 12 games for the Chukars in 2008 (at age 18) and 59 games in 2009. He hit over .300 both seasons.

Cuthbert’s short MLB stint

Former Chukar Cheslor Cuthbert made his major league debut for Kansas City on Tuesday. He lasted four games, all starts at third base, going 5 for 15 (.333) with a triple.

Cuthbert played 14 games for Idaho Falls in 2010 (at age 18), hitting .233.

Who’s hot?

The Chukars’ bullpen

Singling out one reliever would be unfair. Idaho Falls’ bullpen has not allowed an earned run in its last 25 innings pitched (it has allowed an unearned run). The starters, however, have allowed 24 earned runs in their last 23 innings.

Who’s not?

OF Brawlun Gomez

Gomez posted a .327 batting average and four home runs through his first 13 games. He has gone 1 for 20 with 11 strikeouts since, dropping his batting average to .253.

Saturday’s game rained out

Idaho Falls’ scheduled game at Missoula on Saturday was rained out. Both teams are scheduled to play a doubleheader today starting at 5 p.m. Both games will go seven innings, barring extra innings, and the second game will start 30 minutes after the first concludes.

Chukars shortstop Marten Gasparini adjusts to life away from Italy

Idaho Falls Chukars shortstop Marten Gasparini, 18, has committed 10 fielding errors this season, but people in the Kansas City Royals organization believe he has the tools to be a good fielder.  (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com)
Idaho Falls Chukars shortstop Marten Gasparini, 18, has committed 10 fielding errors this season, but people in the Kansas City Royals organization believe he has the tools to be a good fielder. (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com)

By VICTOR FLORES
vflores@postregister.com

Marten Gasparini yearned for some home cooking.

He had just moved away from home. His parents were excellent cooks. He could barely make pasta.

College freshmen can relate to Gasparini’s pain. They can’t relate to much else.

Gasparini was in Burlington, N.C., for the start of his professional baseball career — 4,500 miles away from his native Italy.

A year earlier, Gasparini signed a contract with the Kansas City Royals, about a month after his 16th birthday. His $1.3 million signing bonus is still the European amateur record.

The shortstop has been with the Idaho Falls Chukars (a Kansas City Rookie-level affiliate) this entire season. Gasparini, 18, has struggled 23 games in, but he’s confident he’ll turn it around. He’s confident his community back home will remember him for more than the $1.3 million.

“The community is really going to appreciate my actions the moment I get to the highest level,” Gasparini told the Post Register. “At the moment, big number or not, I’m still in the minor leagues.”

Gasparini saw the 1999 baseball movie “For Love of the Game” around the age of 8. Before that, he knew hardly anything about baseball. Shortly after, Gasparini’s father bought him a baseball bat, and Gasparini discovered a club baseball team near his hometown of Alture.

Baseball isn’t a huge sport in Italy, but its relative obscurity helped attract Gasparini.

“Not from a hipster point of view, but yeah, it was something different,” Gasparini said. “As a 10-year-old, I wanted to do something new. It was a breath of fresh air.”

All of these factors led him to embrace America’s pastime.

Seven Italian-born players have played Major League Baseball, according to Baseball-Reference. One of them, Alex Liddi, currently plays for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, Kansas City’s Double-A affiliate.

But Alex Maestri, an Italian pitcher formerly in the Chicago Cubs organization, was more responsible for Gasparini’s path.

Maestri once played for the Italian Baseball Academy. A 13-year-old Gasparini learned this and got in touch with then-Cubs scout Bill Holmberg, who is currently the Academy’s director.

“As soon as I saw him at 13, I knew we had a chance to create a superior player if we could work with him for a couple years,” Holmberg told Baseball America in 2013.

At 14, Gasparini joined the Academy, and he quickly caught the eyes of major league scouts.

Before he signed his contract with the Royals, some MLB scouts considered him the best European prospect they had ever seen, according to Baseball America. His MLB contract reflected that.

Gasparini’s $1.3 million signing bonus shattered the previous European record of $800,000, given to German outfielder Max Kepler by the Minnesota Twins.

“I did not expect anything like that coming,” Gasparini said. “People go crazy about it, but I try not to think about it. I try to take care of my family — my brother, my sister, my dad, my mom. What I earned is for them.”

The money helped ease his transition to the United States, despite Gasparini’s inability to cook much more than pasta and chicken (“Not pasta with chicken, though. [Italians] don’t do that,” he said). The Academy helped Gasparini learn English, and he was fluent by the age of 16.

“The excitement to be here as a professional baseball player overcame the fear of being in a new country,” Gasparini said.

The 6-foot, 165-pound Gasparini hit .191/.225/.250 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) in 68 at-bats with Burlington last year, but his slash line skyrocketed to .455/.500/.727 in 11 at-bats with the Chukars last summer.

Gasparini, ranked Kansas City’s 20th best prospect by FanGraphs.com before the season, has hit .233/.295/.349 with Idaho Falls this season (through Thursday).

But Gasparini’s slow start doesn’t concern his organization.

Royals’ senior coordinator for player development John Wathan is impressed with Gasparini’s speed and defensive tools (strong arm, good instincts), despite 12 fielding errors this season.

“He’ll be a good player one day,” Wathan said.

Idaho Falls hitting coach Andre David is encouraged by Gasparini’s development, namely with hitting fastballs and breaking balls. However, David said Gasparini needs to lay off tough pitches more often (Gasparini has 35 strikeouts, tied for the most in the Pioneer League) and get less down on himself after a bad performance.

The soft-spoken Gasparini said he’s more comfortable two seasons into his professional career. His accent is hardly noticeable, especially when he utilizes his vast English vocabulary. And the baseball struggles don’t worry him. He’s 18, and like David, he believes he’s developing.

Gasparini still misses his parents’ home cooking, though.

“I kinda got spoiled in Italy,” Gasparini said. “But that’s such a minor thing. It says a lot about how comfortable I am here in the United States.”

Clarification (7/11/15): This story has been updated to reflect that Gasparini was ranked the 20th best prospect by FanGraphs.com in the Kansas City organization.

Chukars squander early lead, fall 8-3 to Missoula

The Idaho Falls Chukars’ 2-0 first inning lead disappeared in a flash, and they couldn’t recover, falling 8-3 to the Missoula Osprey at Ogren Park on Friday night.

The Chukars (7-16) have now lost 9 of their last 12 games.

Idaho Falls came out firing, executing a double steal with right fielder Amalani Fukofuka and center fielder Cody Jones that allowed Jones to score. First baseman Josh Banuelos drove in Fukofuka shortly after the steal.

But Missoula came charging back, scoring once in the first and two in the second on a throwing error by Marten Gasparini.

The Osprey never trailed after the second.

The struggles for Chukars’ starting pitcher Dylan Sons reached their boiling point in the bottom of the third, when he allowed a three-run home run to Matt Jones and a two-run home run to Nic Coffman.

In his three innings of work, Sons gave up all eight runs (seven earned) on eight hits, two walks and zero strikeouts. His season ERA is now 9.67, second-worst on the team behind Thursday’s starter Hunter Haynes (11.50 ERA).

After scoring once in the sixth, the Chukars loaded the bases with one out in the ninth. But back-to-back strikeouts by shortstop Gasparini (1 for 5 with a double) and Fukofuka (1 for 5 with four strikeouts) ended the threat and summed up Idaho Falls’ night at the plate.

The Chukars struck out 13 times and left nine runners on base.

Chukars catcher Kyle Pollock (1 for 4) said fatigue from their now-seven game road trip might be setting in.

“Maybe more mentally than physically,” Pollock said, via Chukars’ broadcaster Alex Cohen. “On these long road trips, it gets pretty easy to forget where your home is.”

Jones went 1 for 3 with two walks, Banuelos went 2 for 4 and designated hitter Nick Dini went 1 for 3 with a double and a walk. Fukofuka extended his hitting streak to 10 games, tying Alexis Rivera (now with Lexington Legends) for the longest hit streak by a Chukar this season.

Idaho Falls relievers Cruz Guevara and Alberto Rodriguez pitched five scoreless innings. The Chukars’ bullpen has now gone 25 straight innings without allowing an earned run.

The Chukars and the Osprey (12-9) return to Ogren Park tonight at 7:05.

Chukars roar back but fall to Great Falls 9-8

The Idaho Falls Chukars went into Thursday’s rubber match with the Great Falls Voyagers looking to accomplish a season first — a series victory.

The Chukars made it interesting at the end, but they dropped their sixth straight series with a 9-8 loss to Great Falls at Centene Stadium.

Idaho Falls starting pitcher Hunter Haynes struggled again, giving up nine runs (four earned) in 2.2 innings pitched. The Chukars’ defense stoked the flames, committing two errors in Great Falls’ five-run third inning.

Great Falls led 9-0 after that inning.

Haynes has given up at least four earned runs in each of his five starts this season. His ERA ballooned to 11.50 after Thursday’s start, in which he allowed nine hits, two home runs and three walks with two strikeouts.

After the third inning, the Chukars’ pitching was superb. Left-handed relievers Matt Portland and Ian Thompkins combined to pitch 5.1 scoreless frames on two hits, one walk and a strikeout.

Idaho Falls’ bats were silenced for six innings, but they made some noise in the final three.

The Chukars (7-15) scored four runs in the seventh, highlighted by a three-run home run from designated hitter Nick Dini (his first home run of the season).

Down 9-4 in the ninth, Idaho Falls loaded the bases with one out. A wild pitch, a hit batter and another wild pitch allowed three runs to score. A fourth run scored on a Roman Collins groundout, cutting Great Falls’ lead to 9-8.

But with two outs and DJ Burt at third, centerfielder Amalani Fukofuka flied out to center.

First baseman Josh Banuelos went 2 for 4 with two doubles and a run scored. Dini and shortstop Marten Gasparini each went 1 for 3 with a walk.

“It was good to see the fight in the team, not giving up and putting together good at-bats late in the game when the game seemed out of reach,” Dini said, via Chukars’ broadcaster Alex Cohen.

The Chukars travel to Missoula to face the Osprey for a four-game series starting tonight. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m.

Chukars snap five-game skip with 8-2 win over Great Falls

Every Idaho Falls batter reached base, the pitching was superb and the Chukars ran wild in their 8-2 road win over the Great Falls Voyagers (10-7) on Wednesday night at Centene Stadium at Legion Park.

The win snapped a five-game losing streak for the Chukars (7-14) and tied the three-game series at 1-1.

On Saturday, three Idaho Falls players were promoted to Single-A Lexington, including one of the Pioneer League’s best hitters, Alexis Rivera (he still leads the Pioneer League with seven home runs and 17 walks). The other two were left-handed pitchers Eric Stout and Brennan Henry, who both had ERAs well under 4.00.

But Saturday, the Chukars also added a player— right-handed pitcher Carter Hope, who was promoted from the Arizona League Royals to Idaho Falls.

On Wednesday, Hope made his Chukars’ debut in a starting role, and he thrived.

Hope went 3.1 innings, allowing two runs (both earned) on five hits, a walk and a strikeout.

The relievers were even better. Left-hander Tripp Davis went 3.2 scoreless, hitless innings, hitting one and striking out four. Brian Bayliss finished the game with two scoreless, hitless innings on a walk and a strikeout.

Shortstop Marten Gasparini, who was hitting .196 in the 10 games going into Wednesday, went 2 for 4 with two doubles, a walk and an RBI.

Catcher Nick Dini upped his season average to .379 by going 2 for 4, and he added a walk and two RBIs. Second baseman Jeckson Flores and third baseman Ryan Dale each went 2 for 4 with a walk.

The only Chukar batter who didn’t get a hit was Brawlun Gomez (0 for 4 with a walk).

The Chukars also stole a season-high eight bases, led by Flores with three and Gasparini with two.

The rubber match of the series between Idaho Falls (7-14) and Great Falls (10-7) starts tonight at 7.

Chukars held to five hits in 7-3 loss at Great Falls

At Great Falls, Mont., the Great Falls Voyagers overcame five errors to hand the Idaho Falls Chukars a 7-3 loss in the first game of a three-game series Tuesday at Centene Stadium.

The Voyagers (10-6) outhit the Chukars 12-5, getting a big game from Johan Cruz (4 for 5, double, RBI, run) and Victor Velasquez (1 for 4, two-run homer).

The Chukars were the first on the scoreboard, taking a 2-0 lead after the first inning with Cody Jones scoring off an Amalani Fukofuka double and Roman Collins bringing home Fukofuka with an single.

The Voyagers erased the deficit with three runs in the bottom of the second. Joxelier Garcia hit a two-out double to score Ryan Jones and Velasquez jacked a two-run homer in the next at-bat to put Great Falls ahead 3-2.

Great Falls scored three more runs in the bottom of the fourth. Cruz drove in Frank Califano with a double and Dante Flores scored Cruz with an RBI single in the next at-bat to extend the lead to 6-2.

The Voyagers kept the Chukars at bat until the top of the eighth, when Danny Dopico replaced Ryan Hinchley. Marten Gasparini hit a double and Kyle Pollock hit a double in the next at-bat to score Gasparini to cut the deficit to 6-3.

A walk, an error and a single set up a Dante Flores sacrifice fly that scored Califano in the bottom of the eighth to make it 7-3 Great Falls.

D.J. Burt reached on a fielding error by Flores and Amalani Fukofuka walked with two outs in the top of the ninth for the Chukars, but Pedro Gonzalez struck out to end the game.

Fukofuka went 2 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored to lead the Chukars (6-14) and Pollock went 1 for 3 with a double and an RBI. Chukars starting pitcher Todd Eaton took the loss, giving up six runs on nine hits while walking one and striking out two in 3.1 innings.

First pitch for game two of the series is 7 p.m. tonight.

Strong pitching lifts Chukars 4-2 over Orem

By VICTOR FLORES
vflores@postregister.com

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.

They didn’t.

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.

Gordon.
Gordon.

“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.”

Milligan
Milligan

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.

Sunday’s loss

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.

Roster shakeup

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.

Chukars Notebook: Q&A with Royals senior coordinator for player development John Wathan

By VICTOR FLORES
vflores@postregister.com

Few people have more knowledge of the Kansas City Royals’ organization than John Wathan.

Wathan, 65, is a Royals’ senior coordinator for player development. Wathan has been in Idaho Falls this week to evaluate the Chukars, along with director of minor league operations Ronnie Richardson, fellow senior coordinator for player development Chino Cadahia and Rafael Belliard, an infield coordinator and advisor to the general manager.

Wathan has spent 39 years with Kansas City. He played all 10 of his MLB seasons with the Royals, managed them for four years and worked in the team’s front office for a quarter century.

Wathan sat down with the Post Register on Thursday to discuss his job duties this weekend and overall.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

What does your role entail?

“I do a little bit of instruction. I used to do baserunning and bunting a lot, so I occasionally do that. More than that, I’m an evaluator. I go around to all seven clubs (affiliated with Kansas City) and evaluate all the pitching and the position players.”

Are you looking for anything specific this week in Idaho Falls?

“Nothing specifically. I’m just evaluating everything they do, from a hitting standpoint to defense to baserunning to pitching.”

How long do you spend watching each affiliate?

“I usually see every team five games, so I can see the whole starting rotation. Maybe I’ll see all of the bullpen, see all the guys play, position-wise. It’s enough time to make an evaluation.”

From the spring until the fall, are you traveling from team to team?

“I get home some. I live in Kansas City. I’ll be home for a few days, then head out again. I get home Monday, and I’ll leave Kansas City Thursday to Wilmington. I’ve seen (Double-A affiliate) Northwest Arkansas twice already. I usually see each team twice, with the exception of short-season clubs. This one, I’ll just see once.”

Civic Stadium

On Monday, Civic Stadium in Eugene, Ore., was engulfed in flames and declared a total loss by Eugene Springfield Fire Chief Randy Groves. Four juvenile boys were charged with second degree arson.

The baseball stadium has been unused since 2009, but before that, its history was rich. It opened in 1938, and in 1969, it became the home of the short-season Class A Eugene Emeralds, a Chicago Cubs affiliate since 2014.

The Emeralds, who moved to PK Park in 2010, are owned by Dave Elmore. The owner of Elmore Sports Group owns six other minor league baseball teams, including the Chukars.

Elmore, who has owned the Emeralds for more than 30 years, remembers how much the fans would intermingle around Civic’s concessions. He heard stories of fathers and sons bonding at the stadium, and people meeting their future spouses there.

“It was kind of a magical thing, and I think it was for a lot of people for a lot of years,” Elmore said in a phone interview Saturday. “I’m hoping that out of this will come a new desire and mission on the part of the community to rebuild it.”

The nonprofit Eugene Civic Alliance, which purchased Civic Stadium in April, vowed to build a sports complex where the stadium once stood, according to the Eugene Register-Guard.

Who’s hot?

OF/1B Alexis Rivera

Rivera has gone hitless in one game this season — an 0 for 4 performance against Ogden on June 24. He’s hit .368 in his last 10 games, one of which was Idaho Falls’ 25-2 win over Grand Junction on June 28. Rivera reached base in all seven plate appearances that game. Rivera leads the Pioneer League in home runs (7), RBIs (25) and walks (16).

Who’s not?

LHP Hunter Haynes

In four starts, Haynes has given up 25 runs (19 earned) on 27 hits and 10 walks in 15.1 innings pitched. He owns a 11.15 ERA, the second-worst among Chukars pitchers (reliever Brian Bayliss has a 12.71 ERA).

Roster moves

Here is a timeline of the Chukars’ roster moves so far this season:

June 21: Outfielder Riley King (a Helena, Mont., native who was selected in the 24th round of the 2013 MLB draft out of Carroll College) transfers to the Rookie-level Riley King.

June 22: Left-handed pitcher Brennan Henry (17th round, 2014 draft, Bellevue University) transfers from the Single-A Lexington Legends to Idaho Falls.

June 23: Idaho Falls adds left-handed pitcher Nick Green (10th round, 2014 draft, Utah) to its active roster.

June 29: The Chukars add left-handed pitcher Eric Stout (13th round, 2014 draft, Butler University) to their active roster.

July 2: Infielder Luis Valenzuela transfers to Lexington. Valenzuela hit .486 in 35 at-bats for the Chukars this season. The Chukars also add Arizona League infielder Logan Nottebrok (undrafted) to their active roster.

July 4: Idaho Falls adds outfielder Cody Jones (6th round, 2015 draft, TCU) to active roster from extended spring.