Tag: Nick Andros

Chukars Notebook: Meibrys Viloria reflects on MVP season

Idaho Falls Chukars catcher Meibrys Viloria connects for a single during the Pioneer League-Northwest League All-Star game on Aug. 2 in Ogden, Utah. (Photo courtesy of Steve Thayer)
Idaho Falls Chukars catcher Meibrys Viloria connects for a single during the Pioneer League-Northwest League All-Star game on Aug. 2 in Ogden, Utah. (Photo courtesy of Steve Thayer)

Barring a major slump, the Pioneer League MVP was Meibrys Viloria’s to lose at the end of the first half.

Viloria, 19, tailed off a bit in the second half, but it didn’t cost him. The catcher became the third Idaho Falls Chukar since 2007 to win the Ralph Nelles Award. The league announced his MVP honor on Tuesday.

“I was working hard since spring training to right now, so I’m very excited,” Viloria said Thursday through I.F. bench coach Ramon Castro.

In the first 38 games, Viloria led the league in almost every major category: batting average (.457), on-base percentage (.504), slugging percentage (.793), hits (53), RBIs (36), doubles (15) and total bases (92). Most of those leads evaporated in the second half, but he still remained near the top.

His numbers look especially impressive compared to 2015. In 150 at-bats with Burlington last season, Viloria did not record single extra-base hit. He had 37 in 226 at-bats this season (28 doubles, three triples and six home runs).

“I’ve been working hard, working with Andre (David) in the cage every day, Viloria said. “That’s part of why I had a great season.”

Viloria still saw parts of his game that need improvement. Defense was his biggest weakness, he said, especially throwing outbase stealers. Viloria did, however, throw out 34 percent of all runners who tried to steal on him this season. That number would land him well within the top 10 of MLB catchers, and it was near the middle among regular Pioneer League catchers this season.

David, the Chukars’ hitting coach, said Viloria is mechanically sound as a hitter. One of the big things David worked on with Viloria was improving the position of his back elbow. That area has improved, David said, but there’s still room to grow.

David also praised Viloria’s hitting approach.

“When there were days that weren’t going well, which weren’t very many, he seemed to maintain a positive approach and knew that his plan and daily routine would carry him over into good things,” David said. “He understands what it takes on daily basis.”

DINI’S BUMPY ROAD TO I.F.

Nick Dini played 42 games for the Chukars last season. The catcher returned to I.F. for nine more this summer.

Dini, 23, began the 2016 season with Single-A Lexington, where he played one game. He moved up to Class A Advanced Wilmington for seven games, then returned to Lexington on June 30. In his first at-bat back on July 2, a pitch hit Dini in the hand, forcing him to exit the game. He later found out that his hand was broken, and he was placed on the 7-day disabled list.

Dini returned to action in the Arizona League on Aug. 16 and was moved up to I.F. on Aug. 22. He hit .378 with an .843 OPS in 39 plate appearances for the Chukars.

The constant shuffling and limited playing time this summer has frustrated Dini. But he put his struggles into perspective after seeing so many of his former teammates get released.

“Every opportunity you get, you’ve gotta take advantage of it,” Dini said. “The harsh reality is, if you don’t, you’ll be out of job. It sucks seeing guys go, but you understand that that’s part of it.”

STRAHM’S STRONG SEASON

Former Chukar Matt Strahm has thrived during his brief action with the Kansas City Royals this season. The left-handed pitcher owns a 0.54 ERA, 22 strikeouts and six walks in 16.2 innings pitched for the big league club this year.

Strahm, 24, was called up on July 31. He made his MLB debut that day and allowed one earned run in 0.1 inning against the Texas Rangers. He hasn’t allowed a run since.

Strahm made his professional debut with the Chukars in 2012. He returned to I.F. in 2014 after undergoing Tommy John surgery the year before, according to the Kansas City Star.

MLB.com’s most recent prospect rankings has Strahm at No. 4 in Kansas City’s system.

FOLLOW THE LEADERS

Multiple Chukars led the Pioneer League in various statistical categories this season. Here they are:

Batting average Meibrys Viloria (.376)

Doubles Viloria (28)

RBIs Viloria (55)

Stolen bases Nick Heath (36)

Errors Ricky Aracena (38)

Hits allowed Arnaldo Hernandez (99)

Walks issued Matt Portland (37)

THE “WHO’S HOT?” PLAYER OF THE YEAR

C Meibrys Viloria

Apologies to Joe Dudek, Nick Heath, Alex Luna, Yeison Melo, Manny Olloque and Luke Willis, but this honor clearly belongs to the MVP.

THE “WHO’S NOT” PLAYER OF THE YEAR

LHP Nick Andros

Andros finished the season with a 9.20 ERA, 48 hits allowed, 31 strikeouts, 14 walks issued and seven home runs given up. On Monday at Orem, the Chukars had a 9-8 lead in the 10th inning when Andros entered the game. The Owlz scored two runs off Andros to walk off and eliminate I.F. from playoff contention.

Wild night: Chukars inch closer to first place with an 11-10 win over Ogden

Idaho Falls Chukars second baseman Jordan Ebert rounds third base in the first inning of the game aganist the Ogden Raptors on Tuesday night at Melaleuca Field. (Taylor Carpenter / tcarpenter@postregister.com)
Idaho Falls Chukars second baseman Jordan Ebert rounds third base in the first inning of the game aganist the Ogden Raptors on Tuesday night at Melaleuca Field. (Taylor Carpenter / tcarpenter@postregister.com)

The Idaho Falls Chukars and Ogden Raptors began Tuesday’s game in almost comedic fashion, peppering the first inning with errors and poorly located pitches.

The first inning ended with 11 unearned runs, a fitting start to a three-and-a-half-hour game (I.F.’s 18-7 win on Monday also lasted that long). The Chukars waded through the mess and prevailed 11-10 at Melaleuca Field. I.F. has now taken the first three games of the four-game series, and sits 2.5 games behind Grand Junction for first place in the Pioneer League South Division. Nine games remain.

Wild first inning

The the first inning began with an error from shortstop Ricky Aracena. The inning ended 45 minutes later.

The intervening minutes were filled with three additional errors, eight hits and 11 runs.

Ogden scored the first five of those runs thanks in large part to Aracena’s boot on a sharp ground ball. In fact, four of the Raptors’ runs came with two outs, and none of the runs against starter Matt Portland were earned.

Idaho Falls Chukars pitcher Matt Portland pitches during the first inning of the game aganist the Ogden Raptors on Tuesday night at Melaleuca Field. (Taylor Carpenter / tcarpenter@postregister.com)
Idaho Falls Chukars pitcher Matt Portland pitches during the first inning of the game against the Ogden Raptors on Tuesday night at Melaleuca Field. (Taylor Carpenter / tcarpenter@postregister.com)

But just because Portland’s ERA went down doesn’t mean he pitched well. The left-hander fell behind seven of the eight batters he faced, and 20 of his 41 pitches were balls. Aracena’s error and a couple of bloop singles turned a rough inning into a short outing. Portland was relieved by Nick Andros with two outs in the top of the first.

Portland’s final batter was Jordan Paroubeck, who hit a bloop double that resulted in a collision between second baseman Jordan Ebert and right fielder Nick Heath. Ebert was fine, but Heath was shaken up and left the game.

The Raptors helped the Chukars get back into the game in the bottom of the inning. With one out, Meibrys Viloria and Yeison Melo each reached on fielding errors by Ogden’s middle infield. Joe Dudek and Angelo Castellano followed with RBI hits, and Dudek scored on a wild pitch to cut the deficit to 5-4.

With two outs, Ebert doubled to drive in Castellano. Rudy Martin drove in Ebert with a single up the middle, and he nearly scored after center fielder DJ Peters allowed the ball to roll past him. Martin ended up on third base, where he was stranded to end the inning. The Chukars led 6-5.

Ogden finished the game with six errors.

Back-and-forth they go

The Raptors responded to the turbulent first with three runs in the second, and they increased the lead to 10-6 lead in the fifth. The Chukars scored two in the bottom half and had a good chance to tie it. But they couldn’t plate runners on second and third with no outs.

The Chukars promptly tied it up in the sixth inning, but they again left something on the table. With two outs and runners on first and second, Martin singled up the middle. Manny Olloque had an easy path home, but Ebert complicated matters by trying to reach third. Peters’ throw beat Ebert to the base, and the umpire ruled that he was tagged out before Olloque touched home plate. So the score remained 10-10.

Luckily for the Chukars, the lineup stayed hot in the seventh. Luke Willis singled and reached second on an error to open the inning. Aracena bunted him over, and Viloria drove him in with a sacrifice fly to left field.

Cole Way pitched 3.1 scoreless innings out of the bullpen, and Richard Lovelady earned his fourth save with a scoreless ninth.

Player of the game

Chukars first baseman Joe Dudek

Dudek’s hot streak continued on Tuesday, when he went 3 for 5 with a double and a solo home run. Dudek is now 10 for 19 (.526) with three home runs and three doubles in his last six games.

Up next

The Chukars (35-32 overall, 13-16 second half) will try to sweep the Raptors (32-35, 15-14) at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday. Righty Alex Luna (2.62 ERA) will make his first start for I.F. since he strained his oblique on July 26 (he’s made two relief appearances in the last week).

Chukars end their road trip with an 8-0 loss to Orem

Cepin
Cepin

The sliver of progress the Idaho Falls Chukars made on Wednesday was negated on Thursday.

Orem cruised past the Chukars 8-0 Thursday to split the two-games series in Utah. Pioneer League South Division leader Grand Junction, meanwhile, pounded Ogden 12-3. So I.F. gave back the game it gained Thursday, and it sits 5.5 games out of first place with 14 games to play.

The Chukars have now been shut out two times this season.

Open and shut

The 8-0 score exaggerated the distance between I.F. and Orem on Thursday. The Owlz led 3-0 going into the eighth inning, when they scored five runs to put it away. And their pitching staff was hardly untouchable.

The Chukars tallied eight hits, three walks and one hit-by-pitch on the night. They couldn’t, however, string the baserunners together or hit one over the outfielders’ heads.

All eight hits were singles, and only three runners reached scoring position. I.F.’s hitters went 0 for 3 with runners in scoring position, dropping them to 3 for 24 (.125) in those situations the last four games. The Chukars also left nine runners on base Thursday.

First baseman Joe Dudek was one of the few bright spots, going 2 for 2 with two walks. Dudek, who hit the decisive homer Wednesday, is batting .297 with a .916 OPS in 64 at-bats with the Chukars.

Another solid start wasted

In the 12 games before Thursday’s, only one of I.F.’s pitchers (Igol Feliz on Sunday) had allowed more than three runs in a start. Reinaldo Cepin extended that streak to 13 with five serviceable innings against the Owlz. The left-hander allowed three earned runs, seven hits and two walks while striking out two.

But Cepin had no chance to avoid the loss. The lineup never seriously threatened to close the gap, and the bullpen struggled. Nick Andros relieved Cepin and allowed four earned runs in two innings. Enmanuel Camacho allowed one earned run in his inning of work.

Player of the game

Owlz right fielder John Schukneckt

Schukneckt entered Thursday’s game with two home runs in 135 at-bats on the season. On Thursday, he hit two bombs in consecutive at-bats. The first was a solo shot in the bottom of the third that opened the scoring. His second was a two-run blast in the fifth to give Orem a 3-0 lead.

Schukneckt finished 2 for 5.

Up next

The Chukars (31-31 overall, 9-15 second half) and Owlz (33-29, 11-13) begin another two-game set on Friday at Melaleuca Field. I.F righty Arnaldo Hernandez (5.53 ERA) will get the start against lefty Nate Bertness (3.64). First pitch is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.

Mustangs hand the Chukars another ugly loss

Dale
Dale

Even hits yielded negative results for the Idaho Falls Chukars on Tuesday night.

With two outs and a runner on in the bottom of the ninth, Chukars first baseman Ryan Dale looped a hit down the right field line. Dale tried to stretch it into a double and give I.F. a whiff of hope. Billings’ Jose Siri squashed the rally by throwing Dale out at second base.

Dale’s out sealed a 7-2 win for the Billings Mustangs at Melaleuca Field. I.F.’s second-half record fell to 5-11, the worst in the Pioneer League.

“We’re more concerned, at this level, not necessarily with the wins and losses,” Chukars manager Justin Gemoll said. “The more consistent they can get with their preparation, their concentration, their attitude, all that kind of stuff, that’s what will translate into the games.”

Billings erupts in the eighth 

The Chukars trailed 2-1 heading into the top of the eighth inning. The way their lineup has hit the Mustangs, the deficit felt larger.

Billings filled the gap between perception and reality by scoring five runs in the top of the eighth inning. Four hits, two walks and two errors led to the five runs, which all came against Enmanuel Cammacho.

Unlike the Mustangs, the Chukars struggled with runners in scoring position, going 1 for 9 on the night. The Mustangs’ four pitchers allowed nine hits, one walk and two earned runs while striking out 12.

Billings has held the Chukars to 2.6 runs per game, peaking at five runs on Monday night.

Errors persist

I.F.’s Jace Vines made one of his best starts of the season, allowing one earned run on three hits, three walks and three strikeouts in five innings. Richard Lovelady and Nick Andros combined to toss 3.1 scoreless innings out of the bullpen. Cammacho pitched better than his line suggests.

And yet, the Mustangs won handily. Defensive miscues were a big reason why.

An error by I.F. shortstop Ricky Aracena (his league-leading 28th) led to Billings’ go-ahead run in the fifth. David Edwards overthrew Dale on a double play attempt in the top of the eighth. An accurate, on-time throw would have ended the inning with Billings up 3-1.

The Chukars committed four total errors Tuesday , giving them 10 the last two games. They’ve now piled up 124 errors on the season, good for nearly 20 percent of the league’s total. I.F. has more than twice as many as the Mustangs, whose 56 errors are a league-low.

“Some of (the errors) are a result of being too aggressive, where we’re trying to be too quick and we get ahead of ourselves,” Gemoll said. “We don’t want to take the aggressiveness away from them. We love the aggressiveness. At the same time, control it a little bit.”

Player of the game 

Mustangs right fielder Jose Siri 

Siri went 2 for 5 with his ninth home run of the season, a 421-foot solo shot to kick off Billings’ eighth inning rally .

Up next 

The Mustangs (34-19 overall, 11-4 second half) will go for the series win over the Chukars (27-27, 5-11) at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday at Melaleuca Field. I.F. lefty Reinaldo Cepin (3.76 ERA) is schedule to start against righty Moises Nova (5.40 ERA).

 

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.

Chukars start second half with 7-6 comeback win over Grand Junction

Idaho Falls' Angelo Castellano tags second base and makes the throw to first in time for a double-play during Thursday night's game at Melaleuca Field. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)
Idaho Falls’ Angelo Castellano tags second base and makes the throw to first in time for a double-play during Thursday night’s game at Melaleuca Field. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)

The Idaho Falls Chukars came agonizingly close to earning a Pioneer League South first-half title Wednesday. Now, they’ll have to outlast Ogden and Grand Junction for 38 more games to make it back to the playoffs.

I.F. took one step toward that prize Thursday with a 7-6 win over Grand Junction at Melaleuca Field. The Chukars erased another late three-run deficit, similar to Wednesday’s game at Missoula but in reverse of the crushing one-run loss.

Comeback trail

The Chukars went up 3-0 after the second inning, but that three-run lead slowly turned into a three-run deficit. After three strong innings, I.F. starting pitcher Matt Portland struggled to find the strike zone. He threw 37 balls against 40 strikes, walked five batters and allowed five earned runs in 3.2 innings pitched.

But the Chukars don’t stay silent with the bats at home games. In their first 19 contests at Melaleuca Field, their lowest offensive output was four runs. They scored fewer than six runs in only four home games, as well. The Chukars kept that category stagnant again Thursday.

I.F. hit three singles and drew a walk in the sixth inning, but the Rockies did just as much to blow the lead. First baseman Hunter Melton made a throwing error, and pitcher Lorenz Ozuna threw two wild pitches that each led to runs. The second tied the game.

Another error placed Chukars on first and second with no outs in the bottom of the eighth. Jordan Ebert took advantage, driving in Luke Willis with a single to put I.F. up 7-6.

Grand Junction got a runner to third in the top of the ninth against Nick Andros, but the left-hander got a flyout to centerfield to end it.

One-run discrepancy

In the first half, the Chukars went a measly 5-11 in games decided by one run. But the bulk of that losing came on the road. They went 1-9 in one-run games away from Melaleuca Field.

It’s hard to chalk up those struggles to anything but bad luck, mostly because one-run game performance is so random (at least for MLB teams). The Chukars also improved to 5-2 in one-run games at home following Thursday’s win. Their overall home record is now 16-4.

Roster moves

The Chukars added a pair of first-year players on Wednesday left-handed pitcher Richard Lovelady and infielder Joe Dudek.

Lovelady was drafted in the 10th round of June’s MLB draft out of Kennesaw State University. He pitched 10.1 relief innings for the Arizona League Royals earlier this summer, posting a 1.74 ERA with 14 strikeouts and two walks.

Dudek was an undrafted free agent out of the University of North Carolina. He transferred to the University of Kentucky prior to the 2016 season but did not play for the Wildcats because of NCAA transfer rules.

Up next

The Chukars (23-16, 1-0 second half) and Rockies (16-23, 0-1) return to Melaleuca Field on Friday at 7:15 p.m. Arnaldo Hernandez (6.09 ERA) will get the start for I.F.

Rookie Matt Thaiss helps Owlz defeat Chukars 7-4

Idaho Falls' Manny Olloque makes the tag at third on Orem's Brennon Lund during Tuesday's game at Melaleuca Field. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)
Idaho Falls’ Manny Olloque makes the tag at third on Orem’s Brennon Lund during Tuesday’s game at Melaleuca Field. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)

Idaho Falls Chukars manager Justin Gemoll did not watch the game-winning home run clear the fence. Instead, he listened to Chukars broadcaster John Balginy describe it.

Orem’s Matt Thaiss hit the game-winner, a three-run moonshoot to right field in the top of the ninth inning that broke a 4-4 tie. Gemoll had been ejected three innings earlier and was relegated to the clubhouse.

The Owlz held on in the bottom of the ninth to complete a 7-4 win Tuesday night at Melaleuca Field. Orem (3-1) has won three in a row, including the first two of their four-game series against I.F. (2-2).

Thaiss as nice

Thaiss had quite the professional debut.

The 21-year-old was selected with the 16th overall pick in the MLB draft a week and a half ago and played first base Tuesday, even though he primarily played catcher as a junior at the University of Virginia. The inexperience at first base showed against the Chukars. He missed a foul pop fly, failed to corral a pickoff throw and made a wayward throw to second base on another pickoff play.

Thaiss made up for the defensive miscues with his bat.

Thaiss doubled in the first and eighth innings. With left-hander Nick Andros on the mound, I.F. chose to intentionally walk righty Jahmai Jones (a 2015 second-round pick) in the ninth inning to put runners on first and second base for Thaiss.

“That’s just reading the situation of the game and playing the matchup,” Gemoll said.

Thaiss made the Chukars pay by bombing the first pitch just left of the foul pole. Right fielder Tanner Stanley could only watch as it sailed over the fence.

Gemoll gets tossed

With two outs in the top of the sixth inning, Owlz right fielder Troy Montgomery attempted to bunt for a single. The base umpire called him out on a close play at first base, and the Chukars filed into the dugout as Orem manager Dave Stapleton argued the call. The umpires then convened and reversed the call, ruling Montgomery safe.

Gemoll came storming out of the dugout to argue with the home plate umpire.

“With a guy at first base like that, the home plate guy’s got to watch the baserunner,” Gemoll said. “When you call him out, you call him out. If he’s watching first base and the other guy’s got the call, then there’s nobody watching the baserunner. So that was my point. You can’t have your eyes in both places at the same time. Not with a runner on.”

After about 20 seconds of heated debate, the umpire ejected Gemoll. It was Gemoll’s first ejection in his managerial career, which started last season with the Chukars.

Olloque breaks through

Chukars third baseman Manny Olloque earned his first hit as a Chukar in style, lining a double down the left-field line in the first inning that scored two runs and tied the game at 2-2. He also hit a single in the eighth inning to finish 2 for 4.

Player of the game

Orem first baseman Matt Thaiss

Thaiss knows how to make an entrance.

Orem’s Troy Montgomery and I.F.’s Luke Willis each had three hits (all singles), and I.F.’s Nick Heath (1 for 4) hit his first professional home run in the bottom of the sixth inning. The solo blast tied the game at 4-4.

Up next

I.F. sends left-hander Matt Portland to the mound, and Orem starts righty Austin Robichaux on Wednesday at Melaleuca Field. First pitch is 7:15 p.m.

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.