Tag: Amalani Fukofuka

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.

Missoula hits late home run to beat I.F. 7-5

By Luke O’Roark | Post Register | @Lukeoroark
A Francis Martinez home run changed Monday’s game completely.
Martinez smacked a Damon Olds’ pitch over Melaleuca’s center field wall, breaking a tie and giving Missoula a 7-5 win over Idaho Falls at Melaleuca Field.

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 Osprey’s record extends to 15-13. The Chukars fall to 12-16.
“They’ve been competing all year,” Chukars manager Justin Gemoll said. “We just came up a little short tonight on one pitch.”
Before Martinez hit a home run in the top of the eighth, Monday’s back-and-forth affair saw three lead changes and the Chukars-Osprey’s offenses almost mimic the other.
Missoula had seven hits and two errors. Idaho Falls had 10 hits and two errors. The only real difference was Martinez’s home run.
“There’s a lot of good hitters, especially in this league,” Amalani Fukofuka said after Monday’s game. “The ball flies. You just got to keep playing.”
It took just two batters to get the first run of the game: Ernie De La Trinidad hit an RBI-triple to set the pace early and go up 3-0.
Logan Gray hit an RBI-triple in the bottom of the second to get the Chukars on the board. Jake Wakamatsu added a run when his right-field long ball hit the top of a Melaleuca’s back wall. The double scored Gray to cut into Missoula’s lead, 3-2.
The Chukars then took the lead with two runs in the bottom of the third, 4-3.
The Osprey responded with two runs of their own in the top of the fifth. Finally, the Chukars tied the game in the bottom of the seventh when Robby Rinn scored Fukofuka for the second time Monday. Back-and-forth the bout continued.
That was until Martinez blasted a home run over the center wall, quieting Melaleuca and giving the Osprey’s their second win of the four-game series.
The Chukars’ attempted to rally, but Abraham Almonte closed the door. He finished with one strikeout, no hits or runs allowed and a save in two innings pitched.
“I like the way they compete,” Gemoll said. “We’re striving for consistency on all three facets of the game: pitching, hitting and defense.”

What’s important:

In a back-and-forth game Monday night, Missoula hit a late home run to beat Idaho Falls.

Players of the game:

Amalani Fukofuka and Robby Rinn. Fukofuka went 2 for 3 and had two runs. Rinn went 2 for 4 and had two RBIs.

Quotable:

“The more you play, the more that happens. So, it’s not a big surprise. It’s not like it’s a playoff game. We play everyday.” — outfielder Amalani Fukofuka after being asked aboutMonday’s late home run.

Notables:

• Attendance was announced as a season-high 3,223.

• The Chukars are 1-2 when tied after the seventh inning. They are 5-11 when an opponent hits a home run.

• Fukofuka had his 11th multi-hit game this season. Rinn’s two RBIs give him 26 on the season.

Upnext:

Idaho Falls returns home Tuesday to conclude a seven-game home stand against Missoula. First pitch is at 7:15 p.m.

Sunday’s game:

The Chukars shutout the Osprey 6-0 in front of 1,412 fans at Melaleuca Field Sunday.

Julio Pinto (2-4) controlled the Ospreys, striking out 11 batters and allowing just six hits just a day after Missoula hit five home runs off the Chukars’ bullpen.

On the offensive end, Chukars’ outfielder Jonathan McCray went 2 for 4 and hit his fourth home run of the season to help Idaho Falls win its third game in five days.

Tyler Straub also went 2 for 4 and hit a 415-foot home run in the 8th inning — his third this season.

Osprey bombard Chukars with five dingers

By Luke O’Roark | Post Register | @Lukeoroark
If you missed the MLB home run derby, it’s O.K. There were plenty of home runs Saturday evening at Melaleuca Field.

Missoula bombarded Idaho Falls with five home runs en route to a 15-11 slugfest win. The win pushes the Osprey to 14-12. The Chukars fall to 11-15 on the season.

Every inning between the first and seventh frames had runs scored, until Chukars Michael Silva held off the Osprey’s hot bats.

But by the time Silva came in, the damage had already been done.

Missoula scored all of its runs between innings two through six, blasting Chukars starting pitcher David McKay for 11 earned runs and four home runs in five innings pitched.

“If you look at the scoreboard, they scored, we scored,” Hudgins said. “So we didn’t give up. We battled back.”

The Osprey worked McKay early, hitting into the left gaps twice before a Francis Martinez two RBI-double gave them a 2-0 lead in the top of the second.

Robby Rinn and Tyler Straub would respond, crossing home plate after the Chukars notched three hits in the bottom of the frame.

Joey Rose answered those runs with a dinger over center field to give the Osprey the lead, 4-2.

But then, the floodgates really opened in the top of the fourth. It began when Chukars’ Chris Hudgins committed his second error to allow an Osprey run, after Missoula stole two bases. The Opsrey then hit their second home run of the game after Keshawn Lynch blasted a 2-0 pitch off McKay to go up 8-2.

The Chukars scored three runs in the bottom of the inning, blowing the game into an offensive onslaught — seriously. Freddy Fermin hit a line drive that knocked Missoula pitcher Jimmy Johnson’s glove off his hand. He would recover and get Fermin out at first, but the Chukars were able to get three runners home (McCray, Rinn and Straub).

But the Osprey kept smashing home runs, hitting two in the bottom of the fifth.

“We put up a four-spot in the eighth inning, so we didn’t give up,” Hudgins said. “We battled back.”

Amalani Fukofuka and Jonathan McCray notched RBI to cut into Missoula’s 11-5 lead. But their efforts to negate Missoula’s hot hitting was negated.

The Chukars garnered four runs in the bottom of the eighth, but came up short in the bottom of the ninth.

What’s important:

After holding Helena in check Thursday and Friday, Idaho Falls allowed Missoula to hit five home runs Saturday night at Melalaueca Field.

Player(s) of the game:

Fermin (Via Chukars media)

Chris Hudgins, Freddy Fermin and Michael Silva. Hudgins went 3 for 5 at-bat, hitting one RBI and crossing home once. Fermin went 2 for 4 and three RBIs. Silva, one of the Chukars’ strongest relievers, struck out two batters and didn’t allow a single hit in three innings pitched.

Quotable:

“I feel like we try to do way much. Guys are going up there trying to hit 500-foot home runs sometimes and, unfortunately, that’s not how the game works. Now we’re getting them on, getting them (home) and we’re doing that well.” — catcher Chris Hudgins on how the team’s offense has improved as of late.

Notables:

– Vance Vizcaino, one of the Chukars’ best players, was called up to Lexington Saturday morning. Vizcaino batted a .287 in 22 games for the Chukars. He was second on the team for runs scored (17), fourth in hits (25), tied for second in RBIs (16) and registered a hit in eight-straight games at one point this season.

– Saturday was the first meeting this year between Idaho Falls and Missoula.

– Freddy Fermin hit a line drive in the bottom of the fourth that knocked Missoula pitcher Jimmy Johnson’s glove off his left hand. He would recover and throw Fermin out at first.

– Missoula entered Saturday’s game ranked second to last in the Pioneer League in home runs (17).

– Broken bat update: two were snapped Saturday.

Up next:

The Chukars return home Sunday to play game two of a four-game series against Missoula. First pitch is at 4 p.m.

Five home runs down Chukars at Melaleuca

By Luke O’Roark | Loroark@postregister.com
Grand Junction just couldn’t stop hitting home runs during its sixth meeting with Idaho Falls Monday at Melalueca Field.
The Rockies beat the Chukars, 9-4, behind five home runs to end their five-game losing streak. The loss pushes the Chukars to 1-3 at home.
It was back-to-back Rockies’ home runs that gave them a five-run lead, and sent Chukars fans home early.
In the top of the ninth, Grand Junction’s Chad Spanberger hit a two-run home run to extend its already 6-4 lead. Then, Ramon Marcelino hit a home run over the center field wall the next pitch. The back-to-back hits doomed Idaho Falls late (4-4).

Robby Rinn (via Chukars Media)

“They caught a fews balls real good late in the game and the lead before (the Chukars did),” Robby Rinn said. “We’ve done it to them before and they got us back.”
The five home runs were the most the Chukars had surrendered all season. They only let up seven runs in their first seven games this season.
Grand Junction (2-6) began Monday’s game similar to Sunday’s: with a two-run lead.
Ryan Vilade hit a home run to left field to score him and Pedro Gonzalez. Shael Mendoza notched an RBI after a shot to right field scored Javier Guevara in the third.
The Chukars scratched the 3-0 deficit with RBIs from Ricky Aracena, Amalani Fukofuka and Rinn. Rinn’s RBI pushed his total to 15 — a team-high this season.
Fukofuka would break the stalemate in the bottom of the fifth with a RBI-single to left field — scoring Dalton Griffin — and giving Idaho Falls a 4-3 lead.
Grand Junction’s Nic Motley hit a home run to tie it at 4-4. It wasn’t the last one Chukars pitchers Janser Lara and Jeremy Gwinn would see fly over Melaleuca’s back wall, either.
Marcelino added another home run in the top of the eighth to give Grand Junction a 5-4 lead. It was a prelude to what would happen a inning later.
“The ball kind of flies in this league,” pitcher Michael Silva said. “When we played them, we had a bunch of home runs at their place to start of the season. They were just swinging early and they caught a lot of fastballs and it just elevated them.”

What’s important:

Similar to Saturday’s loss to Orem, Idaho Falls made solid contact with the ball Monday — it just couldn’t capitalize on it. The Rockies five home runs were the difference makers.

Players of the game:

Ricky Aracena and Robby Rinn. Two of the Chukars’ most consistent hitters continued to be consistent Monday. Aracena went 2-for-4 at the plate on the night. Rinn went 1-for-4 and an RBI.

Ricky Aracena (via Chukars Media)

Quote of the game:

“The ball kind of flies in this league. When we played them, we had a bunch of home runs at their place to start of the season. They were just swinging early and they caught a lot of fastballs and it just elevated them.” — pitcher Michael Silva

Notables:

A fan caught a foul ball with a purse during the second inning.
Robby Rinn hit his 15th RBI this season during the third frame — four more than the second-best, Amalani Fukofuka (11).
Rain hit Melaleuca Field during the fourth frame, causing some fans to scatter away from their seats and others to put sweaters above the head. The rain lasted less than a minute.

Up next:

Idaho Falls (4-4) plays Grand Junction (2-6) Tuesday at Melaleuca Field. First pitch is at 7:15 p.m. It’s the fifth game of a six-game homestand.

Sunday’s game:

Idaho Falls beat Grand Junction 13-4 Sunday at Melaleuca Field.
Chukars infielder Tyler Straub lead the way for Idaho Falls, hitting 3-for-5 at bat and notching three RBIs. He also hit his first career home run during the second inning.
First baseman Robby Rinn and catcher Darrell Miller Jr. also had notable performances Sunday. Rinn went 2-for-5 at the plate and knocked in two runs. Miller went 2-for-4 and had three RBIs. Miller has registered atleast two hits and two RBIs in all three games he’s played for the Chukars.
After surrendering two runs in the top of the first, Idaho Falls scored 11 unanswered runs in seven frames to earn its first home win of the season.
The win pushed the Chukars to 4-3 on the season. All four of their wins have come against the Rockies.

Chukars blast Rockies late, 15-5

By Luke O’Roark | Post Register
In an early back-and-forth game, the Chukars beat the Grand Junction Rockies 15-5 Wednesday night at Suplizio Field to advance to 2-1 on the year.
It was Roby Rinn who finally blew open the game for the Chukars. 
Rinn hit a 2-run home run to help the Chukars garner six runs in the top of the eighth inning. The Chukars would take a 11-5 lead thanks to Rinn’s second home run of the season.
From there, Janser Lara would shut the door on the Rockies: he struck out eight batters and only allowed two hits in 4 2/3 innings pitched. His eight strikeouts were a team-high this season.
The Chukars added on four runs in the top of the ninth behind one double-RBI, two single-RBIs and a Tyler Straub forceout.
The Rockies (1-2) only registered six hits in the loss, a far cry from their 23 hits Tuesday night. They only had three RBIs during Wednesday night’s loss.
Before Rinn’s home run, though, the Chukars offense was fairly inconsistent. Three runs in the fifth inning gave them their third lead of the game and Jeremy Gwinn’s command on the mound began to slip.
The Chukars couldn’t score a run in the sixth or seventh frame.
But Rinn came to the plate and smacked the ball to right field, giving the Chukars the lead and securing the win for Idaho Falls — which plays Grand Junction again tonight at 6:40 p.m.

Players of the game

Amalani Fukofuka, Roby Rinn and Janser Lara.
Fukofuka went 3-for-5 Wednesday at Grand Junction, hitting his third home run in three games. He had three home runs his entire 2015 campaign with the Chukars.

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},

Rinn hit a 2-run home run to put Wednesday’s game away and give the Chukars their second win of the season. Rinn was perfect (5-for-5) on the night.
Lara had one of the Chukars’ best pitching performances during the early season. Once he relieved for Gwinn, the Chukars were in control. His eight strikeouts is a team-high for the Chukars.

Up next

The Chukars (2-1) return tonight to Suplizio Field for the final game of a four-game series against Grand Junction (1-2). First pitch is at 6:40 p.m. The Chukars will be home Friday for their home-opener against Orem.

Chukars beat Rockies in extra innings

By Luke O’Roark | Post Register
The Idaho Falls Chukars can thank Freddy Fermin for their 1-0 start to the season.
Fermin hit a two-RBI triple in the top of the 10th inning Monday and the Chukars survived another Grand Junction rally to earn an 8-7 win over the Rockies to kick off the 2017 season at Suplizio Field in Grand Junction, Colo.
The Chukars held on after Fermin’s heroics, as reliever Michael Silva allowed a run but got two groundouts before striking out former Chukar Jordan Ebert with the tying run on third base.
The Chukars’ offense seemed potent early Monday, building a 6-4 lead after the sixth frame. They bombarded Rockies’ starter Justin Valdespina for 12 hits and five earned runs.
Then, Grand Junction’s Jorge Oviedo came to the mound. And Idaho Falls fell apart late.
Oviedo shut out the Chukars in the seventh, eighth and ninth, striking out five batters without surrendering a hit.
On the other end, Chukars’ Cody Nesbit’s command on the mound was steady until he hit a batter with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. The Rockies went on to tie the game on Pedro Gonzalez’s two-run single, forcing extra innings.
That set things up for Fermin, who finished 2 for 4 with two RBIs.
The win pushes the Chukars’ season-opening record to 3-3 over the previous six years.

What’s important

The Chukars’ offense is going to be good (again) this summer.
Idaho Falls registered 12 hits in six innings before Oviedo shut the door. Despite Oviedo’s dominance, the Chukars’ offense has plenty of hitting options including Fukofuka, Logan Gray, Vance Vizcaino and Jonathan McCray. The Chukars also have plenty of speed. Idaho Falls led the Pioneer League in stolen bases last season (132), and stole three bases (one from Fukofuka, two from Vizcaino) Monday.

Players of the game

Freddy Fermin and Amalani Fukofuka. Fermin’s late-game heroics should not be understated. The Chukars had registered a hit in three innings up to that point and were facing a potential loss with two outs.
During Saturday’s media day, Fukofuka said he wanted to improve his swing and rebuild his confidence. Whatever he did, it worked Monday against the Rockies.
Fukofuka hit a two-run home run to center field during the top of the third and finished 2 for 5.

Up next

The Chukars (1-0) return tonight to Suplizio Field for Game 2 of a four-game series against Grand Junction (0-1). First pitch is at 6:40 p.m. The Chukars play 22-straight games before their first day off (July 11).

Fukofuka looks to return to MVP-like form during second stint with Chukars

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},

By Luke O’Roark | Post Register
Amalani Fukofuka was a bit earnest coming out of the Chukars’ bullpen Saturday.
He, along with the rest of the team, had just taken official team portraits during media day. They had an exhibition game that night against the Idaho Falls Bandits — an American Legion Baseball team of local high schoolers. Melaleuca Field was supposed to be lax.
But Fukofuka, the former Chukars MVP is back — focused and ready to be a leader in his second stint in Idaho Falls.
“I remember a lot,” Fukofuka said. “(2015) was one of my favorite years I played. I love the people. I love the area. I’m excited to play.”
Fukofuka returns to Idaho Falls in search of the confidence that made him a fan favorite two seasons ago with the Chukars. He’s serious about returning to top form.
During his first go-around at Melaleuca, Fukofuka tallied 95 hits, 38 RBIs and three home runs in 280 plate appearances. He batted .339 in 67 games.
But he struggled last summer with the Lexington Legends, the next stop in the Kansas City Royals’ minor league system. His batting average dipped to .200 in 110 games with the Legends. He struck out 136 times. He had just 110 total bases in 2016, a drop from his 140 total bases a year prior with the Chukars (he also did it in 43 less games).
“I was striking out a lot in Lexington,” Fukofuka said. “So, I’m making a few adjustments to my swing. Here’s the place to do it, adjust, so I can get back up there.”
Chukars’ manager Justin Gemoll said Fukofuka started to put more pressure on himself during his tenure with the Legends and got “out of his game plan”.

Chukars manager Justin Gemoll talks to reporters during the 2017 Chukars Media Day on Saturday afternoon.
Taylor Carpenter / tcarpenter@postregister.com, 6/17/2017, Lens 125, ISO 200, FStop {fstop}, Shutter 1/640, Aperature {aperature},

“He’s got all the tools,” Gemoll said. “Just getting back to trusting himself and relaxing a little bit.”
A return to Melaleuca could help the 21-year-old. Change can be a good thing. And Fukofuka has the right attitude and characteristics to turn it around, Gemoll said.
“He’s very responsible and he does what he needs to do,” Gemoll said. “Professional athletes, a lot of the dedication, confidence, is behind closed doors and fans don’t always see that. But it’s how you take care of yourself off the field, how hard you workout in the gym, what you’re eating.
(Fukofuka) checks all those boxes.”
Idaho Falls provides a second-chance for Fukofuka. For others, it provides a new beginning.
Jake Wakamatsu, son of Royals’ bench coach Don, broke his right hand a year ago. He only played three games for the Royals’ Arizona League team.
Wakamatsu has had a journey of his own: he was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays out of high school in the 48th round. He decided to attend Arizona State. But after recruiting scandals hovered around ASU in 2011-2012, he transferred to Arizona Christian University. Then, he broke his throwing hand.
He said he just wants to see the field again after a year hiatus. Now healthy, Wakamatsu has a chance to build up his repertoire and advance up through the Royals’ minor system.
“Anytime I get on the field, just play my hardest,” Wakamatsu said. “And just see how it goes. Try to keep moving up.”

Chukars announce opening-day roster

By Luke O’Roark | Post Register
The Idaho Falls Chukars announced its 2017 opening-day roster around 11:40 a.m. Thursday.
Twenty-four players will suit up in Chukars uniforms for the start of the season — including fan favorite and 2015 all-star outfielder Amalani Fukofuka, per Chukars media spokesman Logan Ratick. Fukofuka registered 95 hits, 53 runs and 38 RBIs on a .339 batting average over 67 games during his 2015 campaign with the Chukars. He spent all of 2016 with the Lexington Legends.

Amalani Fukofuka

Other former Chukars players set to return to Melaleuca Field are shortstop Ricky Aracena and pitcher Julio Pinto, who appeared in two games in 2015.
Sixteen of Idaho Falls’ players are free agents, according to the roster released to local media Thursday. Eight of them are draft picks from the 2013, 2015 and ‘16 draft classes. Fukofuka is the highest-drafted player (fifth round in 2013).
An interesting flair: 11 Chukars have international roots (seven are from the Dominican Republic; four are from Venezuela). The Chukars also don’t have any left-handed pitchers currently on their roster (the Royals drafted 15 left-handed pitchers in this year’s draft).
The Chukars have one college player, Darrell Miller Jr. from UCLA, who is the nephew of NBA Hall of Famer Reggie Miller. His father, Darrell Sr., runs the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif., and played five season with the Los Angeles Angels.
Miller Jr. isn’t the only Chukar with a genealogy filled with professional athletes.
Jake Wakamatsu is the son of Royals’ bench coach Don Wakamatsu. Jake was previously drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 48th round of the 2011 MLB draft. His brother, Luke, was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in 2015.

Justin Gemoll

Idaho Falls has five returning coaches on its staff. Manager Justin Gemoll returns for his third year guiding the Chukars. He’s led Idaho Falls to a 78-74 record (.513 winning percentage) in two season. He played for the Omaha Royals (Triple-A Royals affiliate) in 2005.
The Chukars play an exhibition game against the American Legion Baseball Idaho Falls Bandits at 7:15 p.m. Saturday at Melaleuca Field. Idaho Falls’ season officially starts Monday at Grand Junction. Its home opener is June 23 against Orem.
The complete roster is below (player, B/T, year acquired, hometown, previous team):

Pitchers (12):

Randy Acevedo RHP/FA ‘15/Pimentel, Dominican Republic/DSL Royals
Jose De Leon RHP/FA ‘15/Bahrahona, Domionican Republic/DSL Royals
Emmanuel Estevez RHP/FA ‘15/Dajabon, Dominican Republic/DSL Royals
Jeremy Gwinn RHP/12th Rd. ‘16/Woodland Park, CO/AZL Royals
Garrett Harris RHP/FA’16/College Station, TX/AZL Royals
Janser Lara RHP/FA ‘15/San Cristobal, Dominican Republic/DSL Royals
Christopher Marte RHP/FA ‘15/Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic/DSL Royals
David McKay RHP/ 14th Rd. ‘16/Melbourne, FL/Lexington Legends
Cody Nesbit RHP/22 Rd. ‘16/La Porte, TX/AZL Royals
Julio Pinto RHP/FA ‘12/ Guacara, Venezuela/Lexington Legends
Michael Silva RHP/FA ‘16/Valencia, CA/Burlington Royals
Andres Sotillet RHP/FA ‘15/Cumana, Venezuela/DSL Royals

Catchers (2):

Freddy Fermin R/R/FA ‘15/Puerto Ordaz, Venezuela/DSL Royals
Darrell Miller Jr. R/R/FA ‘17/Fullerton, CA/UCLA Bruins

Infielders (7):

Ricky Aracena R/R/FA ‘14/San Francisco de Macoris, Dominican Republic/Lexington Legends
Offerman Collado R/L/FA ‘15/Santiago, Dominican Republic/AZL Royal
Logan Gray R/R/13th Rd. ‘16/Leawood, KS/Burlington Royals
Jonathan McCray S/R/24th Rd. ‘15/Riverside CA/Wilmington Blue Rocks
Robby Rinn L/L/ 25th Rd. ‘16/Warwick, RI/AZL Royals
Tyler Straub R/R/FA ‘16/Alberquerque, NM/Burlington Royals
Jake Wakamatsu L/R/FA ‘16/Keller, TX/AZL Royals

Outfielders (3):

Amalani Fukofuka R/R/5th Rd. ‘13/Hayward, CA/Lexington Legends
Christian Vasquez L/L/FA ‘13/ Barquisimeto, Venezuela/Burlington Royals
Vance Vizcaino L/R/11th Rd. ‘16/Wake Forest, NC/ Burlington Royals

Coaching staff:

Justin Gemoll/Manager/San Jose, CA/Idaho Falls Chukars
Jeff Suppan/ Pitching coach/ Los Angeles/Idaho Falls Chukars
Damon Hollins/Hitting coach/Vallejo, CA/Lexington Legends
Ramon Castro/Bench coach/Valencia, Venezuela/Idaho Falls Chukars
Justin Kemp/Trainer/Spearfish, SD/Idaho Falls Chukars
Jesse White/Strength and conditioning/Globe, AZ/Idaho Falls Chukars

Chukars Notebook: Q&A with recently released Josh Banuelos

Josh Banuelos slides into third base during the bottom of the first inning of the Idaho Falls Chukars’ 2015 season opener against the Grand Junction Rockies at Melaleuca Field. (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com)
Josh Banuelos slides into third base during the bottom of the first inning of the Idaho Falls Chukars’ 2015 season opener against the Grand Junction Rockies at Melaleuca Field. (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com)

Less than a year after a successful season with the Idaho Falls Chukars, the Kansas City Royals released Josh Banuelos from his minor-league contract.

Banuelos, a 28th-round pick in the 2014 MLB draft, played nine games for Single-A Lexington and 26 for Advanced Single-A Wilmington this season. Overall, he hit .194 with a .614 OPS.

Banuelos, 24, played for the Mexican League’s Tijuana Toros for about a month after his release. The first baseman returned to his hometown of Hanford, Calif., last week.

Banuelos recently discussed his release and his three-year professional career.

(Note: this Q&A has been edited for clarity and length)

Is your baseball career over?

“As of right now, I told myself I’m done with baseball. I was actually gonna go back to the college I got drafted out of [Fresno Pacific] and try to coach there, be an undergrad assistant, and have them pay for my college so I can finish my degree (in sociology, plus a minor and criminology).”

“I’m still gonna be training as if I’m gonna go back, but as of right now, something dramatic has to happen.”

Have you talked to any MLB clubs since being released?

“When I got released, I got a couple of phone calls. They said they were interested. But it came at a tough time with the draft just happening. There wasn’t a lot of space for me at the time. That’s why I want to be prepared and train if I was to play again, just in case I do get that phone call.”

You were a Pioneer League All-Star and finished the season hitting .357 last year with the Chukars. Did any part of you think you’d get released a year later?

“Heck no. When it happened, everyone was so surprised. I got so many texts from the guys: ‘Are you serious? How could they do that after the year you just put up?’ There are guys who haven’t really shown anything. I don’t want to talk bad about anyone. They’re all my friends still. But after the year I put up, how could that happen?”

Who broke the news to you about your release?

“It was Charlie Corbell, the High A pitching coach. We just got back from a road trip. We were going to start the all-star break. He pulled me into the office and was like, ‘Sorry, we’ve gotta release you.’

What else did he and the Royals tell you?

“They said that the organization is going a different way. I didn’t really get what it meant.”

“I kinda figured it was going to happen sooner or later. I wasn’t really getting a lot of chances. I got left in extended spring training again. I didn’t break with a full-season team this year. Right then and there, I knew that it wasn’t my time. Then went to Low A, and I kinda sat on the bench there. I got bumped up to High-A, and I kinda sat on the bench there, too.”

So you were expecting to get released?

“I wasn’t really expecting it, it was more of a relief off my shoulders. It was a relief because I was debating, ‘Should I ask for my release? What should I do? I don’t want to be a quitter, so I’ll stick it out.’

Did the Royals give you specific reasons for releasing you?

“(Assistant general manager J.J. Picollo) kinda explained to me in spring training why I was left off the roster. He told me, ‘It comes down to money. Other guys have a lot more money than you.’ Which I told him I understood: ‘You have a business to run. I have no regrets and no hate toward the Royals. You guys gave me an opportunity, the dream of my lifetime, to come play with you guys.’ To this day, I don’t hate them or anything. I have nothing but love for the Royals organization.”

If your career is in fact over, what will you miss the most about affiliated ball?

“Just being around the guys. You create that bond with them. For instance, (Amalani Fukofuka) and I were real close last year in Idaho. This was our third year on a team together. You create bonds with people who you care about so much. A lot of these guys are going to be at your wedding one day.”

FORMER CHUKARS HONORED

Former Chukars Cheslor Cuthbert and Danny Duffy were named the Kansas City Royals player and pitcher of the month, respectively.

For the month of July, Cuthbert hit .340 with a .862 OPS and two home runs in 102 plate appearances. The third baseman played 14 games for I.F. in 2010 at the age of 17.

Duffy pitched 34 innings in five starts last month. The left-hander had a 3.18 ERA, allowed 31 hits, walked six and struck out 31. Those numbers don’t even include Monday’s start, one of the best by any MLB pitcher this season. Duffy pitched eight scoreless innings against Tampa Bay, allowing one hit and one walk while striking out 16 Rays.

Duffy made two starts for the Chukars in 2010 as a 21-year-old.

WHO’S HOT?

2B Jordan Ebert

Ebert has been hot since he joined the Chukars in late June. Through Friday, he was batting .349 with an .842 OPS in 66 at-bats for I.F. Last Sunday, Ebert went 4 for 4 with his first home run of the season.

WHO’S NOT?

OF Rudy Martin

Martin’s batting average reached .350 and his OPS was .935 on July 21. Heading into Saturday, those figured dropped to .224 and .658. Martin had gone 4 for 39 (.103) with one extra-base hit in his eight games since July 21.

Chukars Notebook: A heartbreaking end to a strong first half

Bayliss
Bayliss

In the ninth inning of the final game of the first half, the Idaho Falls Chukars didn’t know what their audience did: the Orem Owlz had lost.

Orem’s loss to Billings gave the Chukars an opening. If they came back to beat Missoula, they’d be the Pioneer League South Division first half champions.

As Orem’s game was concluding, the Chukars staged a comeback. A 4-1 deficit turned into a 4-4 tie, and it was feet away from a 5-4 lead. Angelo Castellano hit a double high off the wall to tie it up.

I.F.’s joy soon turned into anguish. Jacy Cave hit a walkoff home run off Brian Bayliss to put a disappointing end to an otherwise successful first half for the Chukars.

“It was a tough loss, especially when the game’s over and you find out that Orem lost,” Idaho Falls manager Justin Gemoll said. “Still, (we) accomplished a lot. I think a lot of our losses were by one or two runs. A lot of close games. With those close games, it just makes you focus on doing the little things right because a bunch of little things add up to a win.”

In some ways, Bayliss symbolized I.F.’s strong first half and its dispiriting end. Bayliss is a Pioneer League All-Star. The right-hander finished the first half with a 2.87 ERA, 13 strikeouts and three unintentional walks. Cave’s home run was one negative moment in a half full of positive ones.

“It’s baseball. It happens,” Bayliss said. “You’ve got another half season, and you just have to move on.”

The Chukars haven’t won a first half title since 2007, and they went a league-worst 13-25 in the first half of 2015. Bayliss was on last year’s team, and the playoff race this week didn’t feel new to him. It felt like the second half of last year, when the Chukars won the South Division.

The biggest goal for Gemoll and company, of course, is to develop their players. The coaching staff wants all 29 players to improve, wins and losses be damned to some extent.

Not every aspect of development is mechanical. Close games and tight playoff races can also prepare the players for the next level, even if Pioneer League contests feel light years away from the World Series.

“To get to that next level, you’ve gotta be a little bit sharper up top,” Gemoll said. “That’s what the good big league players do.”

One positive from finishing second in the first half title chase: the second half has stakes. The Chukars have another playoff race to look forward to.

LUNA’S STATUS

Chukars starting pitcher Alex Luna strained his left oblique Tuesday at Missoula. The injury will force Luna to miss Tuesday’s All-Star game, but neither he nor Justin Gemoll expect him to miss much time. Luna isn’t exactly sure when he’ll be back, but he hopes to throw again by Tuesday.

Luna leads I.F. with 42 strikeouts, and he’s issued seven walks in 40 innings pitched. The right-hander also leads all Pioneer League starters with a 2.48 ERA.

MONDESI CALLED UP

Kansas City called up former Chukar Raul Mondesi on Tuesday. The 21-year-old has started at second base the previous five games for the Royals and has gone 6 for 17 (.353) at the plate. He recorded his first MLB hit Wednesday, a bunt single against the Los Angeles Angels.

Mondesi, widely considered the Royals’ top prospect, was added to Kansas City’s 2015 World Series roster and made one plate appearance in Game 3. He started this season in Double-A Northwest Arkansas but was suspended 50 games in May after testing positive for Clenbuterol, a performance-enhancing drug. He returned to Advanced Single-A Wilmington on June 25, moved up to Northwest Arkansas on July 4 and ascended to Triple-A Omaha on July 9.

Mondesi played for the Chukars in 2012 at the age of 16. He hit .290 with a .733 OPS in 232 plate appearances.

FORMER CHUKARS LITTER TOP 30 LIST

MLB.com released its updated overall and team prospect lists this week. The Royals’ new top 30 looks similar to their preseason list, but several players have moved around.

Below are the former and current Chukars who made the Royals’ list:

1. SS/2B Raul Mondesi (preseason: No. 1) Was a Chukar in 2012; No. 54 on MLB.com’s top 100 list

2. 3B/OF Hunter Dozier (preseason: No. 15) Chukar in 2013

4. LHP Matt Strahm (preseason: No. 10) Chukar in 2012, 2014

6. RHP Kyle Zimmer (preseason: No. 2) Chukar in 2014

8. 1B/OF Ryan O’Hearn (preseason: No. 13) Chukar in 2014

9. RHP Alec Mills (preseason: No. 15) Chukar in 2012, 2014

10. RHP Jake Junis (preseason: unranked) Chukar in 2013

11. RHP Josh Staumont (preseason: 18) Chukar in 2015

14. SS Marten Gasparini (preseason: 8) Chukar in 2014, 2015

23. RHP Brooks Pounders (preseason: 29) Chukar in 2014, 2015

24. LHP Eric Skoglund (preseason: 28) Chukar in 2014

29. SS Ricky Aracena (preseason: 26) Current Chukar

30. 2B/SS Corey Toups (preseason: unranked) Chukar in 2014

Former Chukars who dropped out of the top 30: OF Amalani Fukofuka (preseason: 20; Chukar in 2015), OF Brandon Downs (preseason: 24; Chukar in 2014)

WHO’S HOT (FIRST HALF)?

C Meibrys Viloria

Alex Luna, Manny Olloque, Yeison Melo and others had excellent halves, but Viloria is the indisputable choice for this award. In the first 38 games, Viloria led the Pioneer League in batting average (.457), on-base percentage (.504), slugging percentage (.793), hits (53), RBIs (36), doubles (15) and total bases (92).

WHO’S NOT (FIRST HALF)?

LHP Nick Andros

Andros finished the first half with a 10.80 ERA in 13.1 innings pitched. He allowed 27 hits, seven walks (11 strikeouts) and a team-high six home runs.