Tag: Brandon Dulin

Chukars Notebook: Divergent first-half records


The first half of the Pioneer League baseball season will conclude in four days, and the Idaho Falls Chukars are tied for first place in the South Division. The Chukars have already won 20 games, a mark they didn’t reach last summer until August.

With 20 new players this season, I.F. was bound to play differently than last year’s team. But this much improvement is impossible to predict. Here are a few key areas of success for I.F. this half:

Deep lineup 

Alexis Rivera was one of the Pioneer League’s best hitters last season before moving up to Single-A Lexington (he was released this spring but signed a minor-league contract with the Los Angeles Angels). Josh Banuelos and Amalani Fukofuka painted the field with hits, as well, especially in the first half. The dropoff between those three and the rest of the lineup was Yellowstone Falls-esque.

Shortstop Marten Gasparini and second baseman D.J. Burt hovered around the Mendoza line. When right fielder Brawlun Gomez wasn’t hitting home runs, he was probably striking out. Third baseman Ryan Dale was never productive.

This year’s lineup is as deep as it relentless. I.F. has five wins this season when it trailed in the seventh inning or later, and that’s despite an error-prone defense and a shaky bullpen.

The bats are highlighted by catcher Meibrys Viloria, who transcends hyperbole. He leads the Pioneer League in five categories: batting average, on-base percentage, OPS, doubles and RBIs.

Viloria’s season has rendered many of his teammates underrated, namely third baseman Manny Olloque, right fielder Yeison Melo, outfielder Luke Willis and first baseman David Edwards.

Outfielder Tanner Stanley and first basemen Colton Frabasilio and Brandon Dulin were all promoted after each hitting over .300 in I.F. Newer starters like second baseman Jordan Ebert and outfielders Nick Heath and Rudy Martin have filled in admirably.

The only mediocre everyday hitters are Ricky Aracena and Angelo Castellano, and even the 5-foot-8 Aracena has trouble fitting into that category. The shortstop was hitting .282 with a .702 OPS through Friday.

The Chukars have already scored 274 runs (8.1 per game) this summer. They mustered 238 (6.3 per game) in the first half of 2015.

Improved pitching 

None of I.F.’s 2016 starters own ERAs worse than 7.00. Three I.F. starters had ERAs above 7.00 at this point last season, which led to more innings for a shaky bullpen. This year’s bullpen has been inconsistent, but manager Justin Gemoll has three arms with sub-4.00 ERAs at his disposal.

The biggest difference between these two staffs: strikes.

I.F. had issued 3.4 walks per game going into Saturday. Last year’s team averaged 3.8. Like nearly every 2015 pitching stat, that number was much higher in the first half.

Home comfort

The Chukars are 5-10 on the road this season, not far off from their 5-13 record away from home in the first half last season. The obvious key difference is at home.

I.F.’s home record this summer is 15-4, easily the best in the Pioneer League. The Chukars’ home run differential is plus-60, as well. The club went 8-12 at Melaleuca Field in first half last year, and they were outscored by 12 runs in those 20 games.


Cheslor Cuthbert moved up from Triple-A to the Kansas City Royals in May to fill-in for another former Chukar, Mike Moustakas. The All-Star third baseman is out for the season with a torn ACL, but Cuthbert has done his best to fix the broken hearts in Kansas City.

A 2-for-3 performance Saturday lifted Cuthbert’s batting average over .300 and his OPS over .800, the second time that’s happened in 63 games this season (the first time was in his fourth game).

Cuthbert’s progression has been linear. He hit .253 with a .601 OPS in May, .283 and .844 in June and .377 and .958 thus far in July. He also has nine home runs on the year.

Cuthbert played 14 games for I.F. in 2010 as a 17-year-old. He got a cup of coffee with Kansas City last season, when he hit .217 with a .650 OPS in 19 games.


The Royals haven’t initiated much movement with the Chukars roster the last two weeks. In fact, I.F. has undergone just two makeovers since July 5.

July 13: Chukars outfielder Tanner Stanley moves up to Lexington. Fellow outfielder Leland Clemmons is released. Second baseman Jordan Ebert, outfielder Rudy Martin and right-handed pitcher Paul Young are promoted from the Arizona League to I.F.

July 16: Double-A Northwest Arkansas activates left-hander Sam Selman from the 7-day disabled list, ending his rehab assignment with the Chukars.


RHP Andres Machado 

Machado had a 13.50 ERA after his first start. That number shriveled to 4.00 after Monday’s gem against Missoula.

Machado didn’t allow a run or a walk in five innings against the Osprey. He gave up one hit and struck out four.

Machado’s stinginess doesn’t end there. He has allowed one earned run on 11 hits, one walk and 17 strikeouts in his last 14 innings pitched.


INF Angelo Castellano

Castellano’s batting average was as high as .280 on July 4. Since then he’s gone 12 for 56 (.214). He still has a solid OBP (.350 through Friday), but his patience has waned lately. And Castellano has only hit five extra-base hits all season, including none for home runs.

Chukars notebook: Controversy surrounds minor-league wages


A 300 percent pay raise how’s that for an incentive?

Three-hundred percent is the approximate raise a Triple-A baseball player would receive if he was called up to the MLB team’s 40-man roster, according to sports law attorney Jeff Blank. The wage gap is larger for players in the minor leagues’ lower levels; large enough to inspire a lawsuit.

Salaries for first-year players on the 40-man roster equalled $41,400 in 2015, according to Blank. First-year AAA players, meanwhile, made $2,150 a month. That rose to $2,400 for their second year and $2,700 for their third year.

First-year Double-A salaries are $1,700 a month with an additional $100 per month for subsequent seasons. Advanced Single-A salaries are $1,500 a month and low A’s are $1,300.

The seasons from Low A to AAA span seven months. Short-season teams like the Idaho Falls Chukars play from June to September, and their players make $1,150 per month.

All minor-leaguers get $25 in meal money per road day.

The federal poverty level for individuals is $11,880 in yearly income, which is higher than every minor-league salary below AAA.

The minor-league salaries listed above do not account for post-draft signing bonuses, and players often negotiate for higher salaries after their initial seven-year contract is up.

Two years ago, a lawsuit was filed against the MLB on behalf of 20 former minor-leaguers. The lawsuit, as Baseball America reported, “claims that major league teams have suppressed minor league player salaries in violation of federal and state labor laws, and calls for minor leaguers to be paid a salary that meets minimum wage requirements.” A judge ruled that the suit could be expanded to a class action, as Baseball America reported last year.

Congress recently proposed an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act that would prevent guaranteed minimum wage and overtime pay for minor-leaguers. The MLB released a statement in response to the legislation, which compared minor-leaguers to artists or musicians.

“For the overwhelming majority of individuals, being a Minor League Baseball player is not a career but a short-term seasonal apprenticeship in which the player either advances to the Major Leagues or pursues another career,” the statement read.

The MLB also argued that minor league clubs could not afford increased player costs. If the 2014 lawsuit succeeds, the MLB would likely share a chunk of its multi-billion dollar revenue with the minors. Retraction is another reality the MiLB would face.

For now, players have to reach Triple-A or the major leagues if they want to earn a living playing baseball.

Dozier makes Futures Game roster

This week, former Chukar Hunter Dozier was named to the 2016 MLB Futures Game roster.

Dozier, a shortstop for Triple-A Omaha, is one of two Kansas City Royals prospects on the Futures roster. The other is outfielder Jorge Bonifacio, who also plays for Omaha.

The Futures Game features 25 of the world’s best prospects against 25 of the U.S.’ best. It will be played at 5 p.m. July 10.

Dozier was the No. 8 overall pick in the 2013 MLB draft. He spent 54 games with the Chukars in 2013, hitting .303 with .912 OPS and seven home runs.

Roster moves

Here are all of the roster moves the Chukars have made since the beginning of the season:

June 17: Outfielder Nick Heath and catcher MJ Sanchez join I.F. Heath was a 16th-round pick in last month’s MLB draft, and Sanchez was selected in the 35th round.

June 22: Chukars first baseman Brandon Dulin is promoted to Single-A Lexington, where he had played until suffering an injury on April 12.

June 25: I.F. adds right-handed pitcher Jace Vines, who was selected in the fourth round of June’s draft. He is the highest 2016 pick on the Chukars roster as of July 2.

June 26: Right-handed pitchers Reid Redman (on a rehab assignment) and Sam Lewis are promoted to Lexington.

June 30: Left-handed pitcher Sam Selman moves up from the Arizona League to Idaho Falls, continuing his rehab assignment. Selman was named the Pioneer League Pitcher of the Year in 2012, when he played for the Chukars. He posted a 2.09 ERA with 89 strikeouts and 22 walks in 60.1 innings (12 starts) that season.

July 1: Kansas City moves outfielder Jose Sanchez from I.F. to its other Rookie ball team, the Burlington Royals. Fellow outfielder Leland Clemmons moves up from the Arizona League to the Chukars.

Who’s hot?

C Meibrys Viloria

Viloria has cooled down a bit, but his batting average is still a blistering .467 (as of press time), good for second in the Pioneer League. Going into Saturday, Viloria led the league in slugging percentage (.805) and doubles (nine).

Who’s not?

RHP Arnaldo Hernandez

In Tuesday’s start against Orem, Hernandez gave up eight earned runs on nine hits in three innings pitched. That performance raised his season ERA to 9.24 and his opponents’ batting average to .393. Hernandez does, however, have eight strikeouts against two walks in his three starts.

Chukars prevail 11-7 in back-and-forth slugfest against Orem

Idaho Falls' Meibrys Viloria slides into third base with a triple during Thursday's game at Melaleuca Field. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)
Idaho Falls’ Meibrys Viloria slides into third base with a triple during Thursday’s game at Melaleuca Field. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)

The Idaho Falls Chukars and Orem Owlz refused to go quietly Thursday night.

Idaho Falls prevailed 11-7, but the score masks the tense, back-and-forth nature of the game. The win gave the Chukars a 2-2 series split and a 4-2 homestand to start the season.

Eighth-inning heroics

No lead was safe Thursday night. After a back-and-forth first five innings, the Chukars scored twice in the sixth thanks to two errors and two wild pitches. The 7-4 lead was the biggest of the night up to that point, but Orem clawed back.

The Owlz scored once in the seventh, and first baseman Nick Flair singled with one out in the eighth. That hit brought up Juan Moreno, who hadn’t notched a home run in his five-year pro career. The shortstop ended that drought with a two-run blast to left field, tying the game at 7-7.

The Chukars quickly answered. Right fielder Yeison Melo doubled with one out in the bottom of the eighth, and first baseman Colton Frabasilio drove him in with a double into the left-center field gap. Two batters later, Meibrys Viloria hit a double down the right-field line. Second baseman David Edwards, in his first pro season, came up next also looking for his first home run. Sure enough, Edwards pounded an Ariel Ovando pitch over the left-field fence. It traveled 416 feet.

I.F. hitters have now hit three home runs this season. Brandon Dulin hit one of them, and he’s now in Lexington. The Kansas City Royals promoted the first baseman to the Legends on Wednesday after he hit .313 in four games with the Chukars.

Right-hander Reid Redman, who gave up the homer to Moreno, shut down the Owlz in the ninth to end the game.

Crooked numbers

The first inning was a poor indication of how the game would go.

Orem's Jordan Zimmerman makes it safely to second base as Idaho Falls' Ricky Aracena makes a throw to home during Thursday's game at Melaleuca Field. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)
Orem’s Jordan Zimmerman makes it safely to second base as Idaho Falls’ Ricky Aracena makes a throw to home during Thursday’s game at Melaleuca Field. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)

After the scoreless opening frame, each team scored at least one run from the second inning to the sixth. The Chukars scored in every inning but the first and the seventh, while Orem’s only scoreless innings were the first, sixth and ninth.

The Owlz and Chukars lost leads six separate times, as well.

Piling up the hits

Before the eighth inning, the Chukars had tallied 13 hits, which would have been their second-most in a game this season. I.F., of course, demolished four more hits in the eighth to finish with 17 on the night. The Chukars haven’t strung together that many hits in one game since Aug 30 of last season at home against Grand Junction. They finished with 18 hits in their 16-7 win.

Player of the game

Chukars first baseman Colton Frabasilio

Frabasilio might beg his coaches to let him play first base for the rest of the season.

After three starts as the designated hitter, Frabasilio started at first base and put up one of the best offensive performances of the Chukars’ young season. Frabasilio went 4 for 4 with three doubles, a walk, three runs scored and two RBIs.

Melo, Viloria and Jose Sanchez delivered three hits for I.F., as well. Viloria smashed two doubles and a triple while also drawing a walk.

Up next

The Chukars (4-2) begin their first road trip of the season Friday night at 6:30 against Grand Junction. Righty Igol Feliz is scheduled to get his second start.

Scary injury landed Brandon Dulin with the Chukars

Idaho Falls' Brandon Dulin takes the throw from pitcher Alex Luna during Tuesday's game at Melaleuca Field. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)
Idaho Falls’ Brandon Dulin takes the throw from pitcher Alex Luna during Tuesday’s game at Melaleuca Field. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)

Brandon Dulin should not be in Idaho Falls right now.

The Idaho Falls Chukars first baseman proved last season that was he was too good for Rookie ball, and the Kansas City Royals promoted him to Single-A Lexington this spring. He continued to hit well.

But since April 12, Dulin has played just four games, all with the Chukars. The reason: a freak injury on one of the most routine plays in baseball.

Dulin, 23, started at first base for Lexington in the second half of a doubleheader against the Augusta GreenJackets on April 12 in Lexington, Ky. Dulin walked in his first plate appearance and singled in his second, raising his slash line to .364/.417/.818 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) in three games with the Legends.

After the fourth-inning single, Dulin was forced out at second base on a fielder’s choice. He slid feet-first into second base on the play, something he’d done hundreds of times before. As Dulin stood up, pain shot up his back and neck.

Dulin stayed in the game for two more innings but asked his coaches to take him out in the seventh. He was having trouble moving and even breathing.

“They were really worried about me as soon as I was like, ‘Hey, I can’t play,’ because it’s just not like me to pull myself out of the game,” Dulin said.

In the locker room after the game, Dulin fainted for a brief second. That’s when the Legends’ training staff knew something was seriously wrong, so Dulin was rushed to the hospital. In hindsight, Dulin fears what might have happened if he didn’t pass out, or if the training staff wasn’t around.

“I could’ve just went to sleep not feeling good ‘I’m just gonna sleep it off’ and it could’ve been really bad,” Dulin said.

Dulin discovered he had hemothorax, a type of internal bleeding between the chest wall and the lung. It caused his lung to collapse, and it kept him in intensive care for nine days.

Dulin’s parents, Jason and Lisa, flew from their Baker, Mont., home to Lexington after they heard about their son’s condition.The three returned to Whitaker Bank Ballpark after leaving the hospital.

“We walked in and his trainer was like, ‘I literally thought I’d never see you walk through these doors again,’ Lisa said. “‘I thought you were dying that night.’ It was pretty scary.”

Dulin rehabilitated in Kansas City (his hometown) before heading to Arizona for more rehab. The Royals then assigned him to I.F., where he finished the 2015 season. Dulin hit .286/.290/.321 in seven games for the Chukars last year after posting .280/.360/.516 line in 59 games for Burlington. He was batting .385/.429/.615 going into Tuesday’s game, and he hit home run against Ogden on Saturday.

“It wasn’t about baseball, it was his health. That’s all we were concerned about,” said Jason, who watched Saturday’s game with Lisa and other family and friends. “Seeing him out playing and hitting a home run tonight, it makes you feel good that he’s healthy and he’s able to play.”

Dulin is not sure how long he’ll remain in I.F., although his early success points to an exit sooner rather than later. He has steep path to Kansas City, but even after his scary injury, Dulin remains focused on playing in his home city.

“You keep playing as hard as you can and put yourself in position to get that call,” Dulin said. “I believe that I have a good shot.”

Owlz hand Chukars first loss of 2016 season


The Idaho Falls Chukars dropped their first game of the 2016 season, falling 8-5 to the Orem Owlz in front of a crowd of 2,346 fans Monday night at Melaleuca Field.

The Chukars gave up four runs in the top of the first inning and never recovered, though the they made it close late.

Tough start

Idaho Falls was rarely challenged in its season-opening two-game sweep of Ogden, but that changed quickly Monday. The Owlz loaded the bases with one out (single, hit by pitch and a single by former BYU standout Brennon Lund) before Torres roped a double to left-center that made its way to the wall, scoring all three baserunners. Torres then came around on an error by first baseman Brandon Dulin to make it 4-0.

The Chukars cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the first on an RBI single from Dulin and an RBI fielder’s choice from David Edwards, but that was as close as Idaho Falls would get.

Orem scored single runs in the second, third and fourth off Idaho Falls starter Andres Machado (four innings, nine hits, six earned runs, one strikeout) and another on Nick Flair’s homer off Jason Freeman to lead off the fifth.

Big arms

Orem’s four pitchers looked like they belonged in a huddle rather than on the mound Monday.

The Owlz opened with 6-foot-5, 224-pound right-hander Crusito Mieses, who allowed two runs on seven hits while striking out four in five innings. He was followed by 6-4, 250-pound lefty Ariel Ovando, who worked a perfect sixth inning. Next up was 6-5, 240-pound righty Blake Smith, who allowed a run on a hit with one walk and one strikeout in one inning.

Ty Barkell, a 6-3, 225-pound righty, closed it out despite giving up two runs on two hits and four strikeouts in two innings.

All four Orem pitchers touched at least 90 on the radar gun.

Big hitters

Brandon Dulin and Meibrys Viloria had big nights for the Chukars in defeat, combining for five hits and two runs. Dulin, who homered Saturday, went 2 for 4 with a run to increase his season average to .385. And Viloria went 3 for 4 with two doubles and a run scored.

The Chukars finished with 10 hits.

Player of the game

Owlz third baseman Franklin Torres

The 19-year-old from Maracay, Venezuela, had a night, going 3 for 5 with a double, two runs scored and three RBIs. His three-run double in Orem’s four-run first set the tone, and he added two singles. Torres made two throwing errors, but he also made two tough plays in the field.

Up next

The Chukars and Owlz return to Melaleuca Field on Tuesday in the second game of the four-game series. First pitch is 7:15 p.m. Nate Bertness is scheduled to start for Orem while Alex Luna is set to take the mound for Idaho Falls.

Everyone contributes in Chukars’ 7-2 win over Ogden


The Idaho Falls Chukars continued their strong start to the 2016 season with a 7-2 win over Ogden on Saturday at Melaleuca Field.

The win netted the Chukars a two-game series sweep. I.F.’s pitching staff continued to prevent runs, and the entire lineup contributed, most notably center fielder Nick Heath.

Memorable debut

Heath’s baseball future was in question as recent as last Saturday. He didn’t know which MLB team would draft him or which round he’d be taken in.

A week later, Heath started in center field and batted eighth in the Chukars’ lineup. The 22-year-old, selected by Kansas City in the 16th round of last week’s draft, played a key role in the 7-2 win.

“Good to get the nerves out of the way,” said Heath, who arrived in Idaho Falls on Friday.

The speedy Heath narrowly avoided hitting into a double play in his first at-bat, and his right shoe fell off as he beat out the throw to first base.

Heath earned his first professional hit in his second at-bat, lining a single up the middle that hit pitcher Miguel Urena in the side (Urena appeared to be fine and remained in the game).

“The second at-bat, I was just as nervous as my first one,” Heath said. “I got on base, took a deep breath, relaxed and got after it the rest of the night.”

Heath went 2 for 4 and scored a run.

Remaining stingy

I.F. allowed 16 runs in each of its first two games last season, both at home against Grand Junction. The Chukars and Raptors combined to score 19 runs in this weekend’s two-game series, and Ogden scored only four of them.

The pitchers’ key on Friday was attacking the strike zone. Arnaldo Hernandez, Alex Luna and Reid Redman combined to throw 111 pitches in the 8-2 win. They threw 83 strikes and didn’t walk a single batter.

Chukars pitchers allowed five walks Saturday but just six hits. Starter Igol Feliz issued three bases on balls, but he escaped multiple jams thanks to his hard fastball (it topped out at 95 miles per hour), impressive off-speed pitches and good defense behind him.

Deep lineup

The Chukars compiled 24 total hits in their two wins over Ogden this weekend, and every hitter reached base at least once.

In game one, only shortstop Ricky Aracena and third baseman Manny Olloque didn’t record hits, but both walked (Aracena once, Ollqoue twice). Aracena went 2 for 4 with a walk in game two, and Olloque walked once. Of the 11 I.F. batters to get plate appearance these first two games, Olloque is the only one without a hit.

Aracena, Heath, Yeison Melo, Meibrys Viloria and Colton Frabasilio each recorded two hits on Saturday, and Tanner Stanley went 3 for 5. Stanley is now 4 for 8 with a walk.

Player of the game

Chukars first baseman Brandon Dulin

Dulin had only one hit Saturday night, but it was the loudest.

The 23-year-old came up with two outs and a runner on in the bottom of the first inning. With his parents Jason and Lisa Dulin in attendance, the left-hander crushed the first pitch toward the scoreboard in left-center field. The ball traveled over the wall at 404 feet, per the Chukars’ in-stadium stat system, to give I.F. a 2-0 lead.

It was the first and only home run hit at Melaleuca Field in this young season. Dulin now has 20 home runs in his pro career, which started in 2013.

In addition to the big fly, Dulin played solid defense all night.

Up next

The Chukars get Father’s Day off and return to Melaleuca Field on Monday to begin a four-game series against the Orem Owlz. Right-hander Andres Machado is scheduled to start on the mound for I.F.

Chukars begin their season on the right foot with an 8-2 win over Ogden

Idaho Falls Chukars first baseman Brandon Dulin narrowly misses the opportunity to tag out Gersel Pitre, of the Ogden Raptors, during the top of the second inning Friday at Melaleuca Field. (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com)
Idaho Falls Chukars first baseman Brandon Dulin narrowly misses the opportunity to tag out Gersel Pitre, of the Ogden Raptors, during the top of the second inning Friday at Melaleuca Field. (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com)

David Edwards wasn’t about to let his first professional hit turn into an out.

The Idaho Falls Chukars’ designated hitter came up in the bottom of the eighth inning with two outs and two on. Edwards laced a line drive to the right of Ogden second baseman Carlos Aquino, who slid and snagged the ball after one hop.

“I was running as hard as I could,” Edwards said. “I had to get my first hit out of the way.”

The 23-year-old beat Aquino’s throw by a step.

For Edwards, the hit was a relief. For the Chukars, it was the perfect way to cap a successful season-opening win.

I.F. handled the Raptors 8-2 on Friday night in front of 3,160 fans at Melaleuca Field. The win especially pleased the Chukars’ coaches, who watched their team start last season on the opposite foot.

“It sets a tone for us,” Chukars manager Justin Gemoll said.

The Chukars had a better offensive performance in last year’s season opener, scoring 10 runs against Grand Junction. The problem was they allowed 16 runs. They gave up the same scoring total in game two, and 11 Rockies scored in the third game. I.F. turned its season around in the second half, but the 0-3 start was an omen in a rocky first half.

Arnaldo Hernandez dashed those memories with a dominant, efficient five-inning start Friday. He allowed one earned run on three hits, no walks and five strikeouts. Of his 56 pitches, 44 were strikes.

“His fastball command was really good early, to both sides of the plate,” Gemoll said. “He was mixing in his changeup and his breaking ball very well. He was a bulldog.”

Alex Luna added two scoreless innings, and Reid Redman allowed one earned run in two frames to close it out.

Idaho Falls Chukars shortstop Ricky Aracena fumbles an infield grounder during Friday's game against the Ogden Raptors at Melaleuca Field. (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com)
Idaho Falls Chukars shortstop Ricky Aracena fumbles an infield grounder during Friday’s game against the Ogden Raptors at Melaleuca Field. (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com)

The three I.F. pitchers didn’t allow a walk, while their batters drew nine. Left fielder Luke Willis led the base-on-balls brigade by walking twice, and he hit two singles to begin his season with a perfect on-base percentage.

“There’s great chemistry between all the guys, on and off the field,” Willis said. “That might not be so common in other places, but it’s definitely here.”

First baseman Brandon Dulin added two singles and a walk in five plate appearances.

Edwards was nowhere near the top of the Chukars’ hitting leaderboard Friday, going 1 for 5 with no walks, no runs scored and no RBIs. But he’ll cherish the career-opening hit, especially considering how murky his future looked a year ago.

Edwards graduated from Loyola Marymount two springs ago but went undrafted due to a shoulder surgery following his senior season, when he hit .316 with six home runs. Some major league teams feared he tore his labrum, Edwards said, which is one of the most concerning injuries a baseball player can have.

But Edwards’ rehab went smoothly, and he remained on the Kansas City Royals’ radar. In February, Kansas City signed him.

“I knew I’d have a shot because of my success in college,” Edwards said. “I knew someone would give me a chance, and I’m glad the Royals did.”

Roster moves

The Chukars added a pair of 2016 draft picks to their roster Friday, outfielder Nick Heath and catcher MJ Sanchez.

Heath, 22, was selected in the 16th round out of Northwestern State University. Sanchez, 21, was taken in the 35th round out of Cal Baptist University.

The Chukars now have 29 players.

Chukars open season without any 2016 draft picks

Idaho Falls Chukars pitching coach Jeff Suppan, right, watches right-hander Reid Redman on Tuesday night at the team’s first workout at Melaleuca Field. The Chukars’ season gets underway with an exhibition game against the Idaho Falls Bandits Thursday night. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)
Idaho Falls Chukars pitching coach Jeff Suppan, right, watches right-hander Reid Redman on Tuesday night at the team’s first workout at Melaleuca Field. The Chukars’ season gets underway with an exhibition game against the Idaho Falls Bandits Thursday night. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)

Baked into the Idaho Falls Chukars’ 2016 opening day roster was a piece of history.

Idaho Falls’ initial roster features zero players selected in the most recent MLB draft, the first time that’s happened since the team became a Kansas City Royals’ affiliate in 2004, according the Chukars general manager Kevin Greene.

Timing contributed heaviest to I.F.’s unique group of 27 players, who graced Melaleuca Field for their first workout Tuesday night. But the current roster will change throughout the season, and some of the 2016 draftees will likely don Chukars uniforms this summer.

“It’s not like we’re getting rejects or anything,” Greene said. “There are players here who have earned the right to come back into this organization for second or third years.”

The Chukars’ previous 11 seasons as a Kansas City affiliate started at least seven days after the MLB draft concluded. That week-plus gave the Royals time to sign their draftees, put them through the post-draft process and assign them to their respective minor league teams.

This year was different. The draft ended on Saturday, a mere five days before the Chukars’ exhibition game against the Idaho Falls Bandits. Kansas City’s other Rookie-level team, the Burlington Royals, doesn’t begin its season until next week. Same goes for the Arizona League Royals, Kansas City’s third short-season team. So the most logical decision for Kansas City’s front office was to assign its recently signed rookies to Burlington and Arizona.

The Idaho Falls Chukars held their first workout at Melaleuca Field on Tuesday night. The team has an exhibition game on Thursday night against the Idaho Falls Bandits and will begin Pioneer League play on Friday. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)
The Idaho Falls Chukars held their first workout at Melaleuca Field on Tuesday night. The team has an exhibition game on Thursday night against the Idaho Falls Bandits and will begin Pioneer League play on Friday. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)

“It takes time to get those players signed and get them into the organization and just go through the process of preparing them for the season,” said Ronnie Richardson, Kansas City’s director of minor league operations. “They’re drafted on the 11th. To expect them to be (in I.F.) playing games on the 16th is not quite realistic.”

Richardson said Kansas City has to evaluate its recent draft class before it can decide to send any of those 40 players to I.F. But Greene was confident that his team would receive some 2016 draftees this season, and sooner than later. Either way, he and Chukars manager Justin Gemoll are pleased with the current roster.

“I’m happy because all of these guys were in extended (spring training),” Gemoll said. “They’re familiar with each other. It’s just a matter of keeping it going.”

The Chukars have seven players who finished last season in I.F. pitchers Nick Andros, Brian Bayliss, Arnaldo Hernandez, Drew Milligan and Matt Portland, and infielders Ryan Dale and Brandon Dulin. I.F. was also the last stop for right-hander Sam Lewis, only in 2014.

David Edwards is the lone true rookie on the team. The former Loyola Marymount infileder was signed as a free agent in February.

Fifteen of I.F.’s 27 players were undrafted free agents. The highest draft pick in the group is right-hander Alex Luna, who the Royals took in the 10th round of the 2015 draft.

The Chukars will take the field on Wednesday at 5 p.m. for media day and hold their second team workout at 7 p.m. It is open to the public.

The Chukars face the Bandits at 7:15 p.m. on Thursday and host the Ogden Raptors on Friday at the same time to begin their season. I.F. lost to the Missoula Osprey in the Pioneer League Championship last season.

2016 Chukars opening day roster

LHP Nicholas Andrus
SS Ricky Aracena
RHP Brian Bayliss
LHP Enmanuel Camacho
3B Angelo Castellano
LHP Reinaldo Cepin
3B Ryan Dale
1B Brandon Dulin
2B David Edwards
RHP Igol Feliz
LHP Christian Flecha
C Colton Frabasilio
RHP Jason Freeman
RHP Arnaldo Hernandez
RHP Sam Lewis
RHP Alex Luna
RHP Andres Machado
OF Yeison Melo
LHP Drew Milligan
3B Manny Olloque
LHP Matt Portland
RHP Reid Redman
OF Jose Sanchez
OF Tanner Stanley
C Meibrys Viloria
LHP Cole Way
OF Luke Willis

Correction (6/15): An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated when David Edwards was signed as a free agent. That has been corrected.

Dini’s hit in extras sends Chukars to Pioneer League championship

The second-half magic continued in the postseason for the Idaho Falls Chukars.

Nick Dini hit an RBI single in the top of the 10th inning, Jacob Bodner tossed a perfect bottom of the 10th and the Chukars beat the Orem Owlz 4-3 in the decisive third game of the Pioneer League South Division playoff series Friday at Brent Brown Ballpark in Orem, Utah.


The win sends Idaho Falls into the championship series for the second time in three years. Game 1 of the series is scheduled for 4 p.m. Sunday against North Division champion Missoula at Melaleuca Field. Idaho Falls went 3-4 against the Osprey this year, losing four straight in Montana before taking the next three games at Melaleuca.

Friday’s game was close throughout, with neither team holding more than a one-run lead.

Orem, which won the first-half South Division title, grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first on a one-out double by David Fletcher and an RBI single from Jeff Boehm.

Idaho Falls answered in the third when Jose Martinez singled with one out, moved to second on a groundout and scored on D.J. Burt’s triple to center field. The hit extended Burt’s on-base streak to 57 games.

The Chukars grabbed a 2-1 lead in the fourth when Josh Banuelos led off with a single, moved to second on Marten Gasparini’s single and scored on Roman Collins’ two-out single to center.

Orem came back to tie it in the fifth on a leadoff walk and stolen base from Fletcher and a single from Boehm. The Owlz went back ahead in the seventh when Kenny Towns belted a one-out double to score Brandon Sanger.


Pioneer League RBI leader Banuelos tied the game back up, smacking the first pitch he saw over the fence in right leading off the eighth.

Tripp Davis got out of a jam in the bottom of the ninth, striking out Jared Walsh with runners on first and third.

Idaho Falls took advantage of the chance when Brandon Dulin reached on a wild-pitch strikeout with one out. He was replaced by Rudy Martin, who stole second. After Gasparini struck out, Dini smacked a line-drive single to center to score Martin with the go-ahead run.

Bodner, a late-season call-up making just his third appearance for the Chukars, pitched a 1-2-3 10th to begin the celebration.

The Chukars’ bullpen was lights out, allowing just an unearned run in five innings on three hits and two walks while striking out three. Banuelos had a big night, going 3 for 5 with two runs scored and an RBI while Dini and Collins each went 2 for 5 with an RBI.

Chukars surrender three-run lead in eighth, lose 6-5 to Orem

The Idaho Falls Chukars held a three-run lead with six outs remaining. Then they led by one with two outs.

If they preserved the lead, they’d be headed to the Pioneer League championship.

Now they’re heading to an elimination game.

The Orem Owlz clawed back from a 5-2 eighth-inning deficit and earned a 6-5 walkoff win in game two of the Pioneer League South Division championship series Thursday at Orem, Utah. Tonight’s game in Orem will determine who advances to the championship.

After three scoreless innings, the Chukars took control of the game in the fourth.

First baseman Josh Banuelos (1 for 4) drove in second baseman D.J. Burt with a two-out double. The next batter was designated hitter Brandon Dulin, who bombed a two-run home run for a 3-0 lead.

Orem’s designated hitter Jared Walsh answered, hitting solo home runs in the fourth and sixth innings to cut I.F.’s lead to 3-2.

But the Chukars extended the lead back to three in the top of the eighth. Right fielder Amalani Fukofuka (1 for 4) hit an RBI double, and he scored two batters later on a single from Dulin (2 for 4).

I.F.’s bullpen woes began with Matt Ditman, who loaded the bases with no outs to start the bottom of the eighth. Orem scored one run on a groundout, and another came in on an error from shortstop Marten Gasparini. Ditman suddenly had a one-run lead to work with, and the bases were loaded with one out, but he escaped the threat.

Brian Bayliss recorded the first out of the ninth inning, but he subsequently walked first baseman Jeff Boehm. The next batter was center fielder Jared Foster, who drove Boehm in with a double. Bayliss walked the next two batters, bringing up catcher Angel Genao. He grounded to Burt, but the Chukars couldn’t complete the double play, and the Owlz forced another game.

Chukars starter Bryan Brickhouse gave up one run (earned) on four hits, a walk and three strikeouts in his four innings of work.

Julio Pinto gets the start tonight for the Chukars in their playoff rubber-match at Orem. First pitch is scheduled for 6:15.

In the North Division, Missoula knotted up its series with Billings after a 7-5 win Thursday night.

Royals honor Fukofuka, Gordon

On Thursday, the Kansas City Royals announced their players and pitchers of the year for each minor league affiliate. Fukofuka was named I.F.’s player of the year, and Derek Gordon was named its pitcher of the year.