Independent Baseball Chatter – by Bob Wirz
6-foot-6 Ryan Bollinger, who pitched at St. Paul and Winnipeg four years ago, had a memorable debut in the New York Yankees farm system Tuesday, allowing only a solo home run and three other hits in five innings of one-run work as Scranton/Wilkes-Barre dropped a 3-2 decision to Columbus. He walked two and struck out five.
The Yankees signed Bollinger as a free agent during the offseason after he played in Germany last summer and was among league leaders in various categories, including victories, in Australia during the winter. The 27-year-old has spent four seasons in Independent leagues, never pitching above Class A in an affiliated league until this week.
Photo: Aigles de Trois-Rivières
Ichiro Urges Mann to Continue to Pitch Inside
While veteran lefthander Brandon Mann still awaits his first regular-season major league opportunity as he nears his 34th birthday (May 16), the onetime Fargo starter was in the news this week all because Chicago Cubs star Kris Bryant had gotten a dreaded beaning from a 96-mile-per-hour fastball.
Chicago Sun-Times writer Satchel Price did some research about the history of such beanings, which can lead to players fighting prolonged health issues. He came up with the incident in spring training last month when Mann, a non-roster player in the Texas Rangers’ camp, beaned future Hall of Fame outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, who is back with Seattle this season and was so fortunate he passed concussion protocol and did not miss Opening Day.
“He (Suzuki) was just like, ‘I’m totally, totally fine,'” Mann said the future Hall of Famer told him. “And he was just like, through his interpreter, ‘I don’t want you to let this affect your pitching. You keep pitching inside.’ I appreciated that.”
Mann is off to a great start with Triple-A Round Rock, and with Texas already facing a beleaguered bullpen this could be his season to break through to the majors. The Tacoma, Wash., native has allowed only two hits in 7.2 scoreless innings spread over seven outings and has struck out nine. He had a power-pitching season in the American Association in 2015, making 22 appearances (21 starts) with the RedHawks, going 7-10 with a 4.07 earned run average and striking out 157 hitters in 143.2 innings.
Meanwhile, Bryant is not yet back in the Cubs’ lineup, missing a Cleveland series which was to end Wednesday. “I think he’s fine,” manager Joe Maddon told MLB.com, while adding “he just has to work through some things.” One can only hope it is that easy.
Others in the News
Elsewhere among former American Association players, onetime Laredo slugger Balbino Fuenmayor, now playing for a Mexican League team in the same city, got his hitting streak up to 16 games and one day after it was broken he was a triple shy of hitting for the cycle while going 4-for-5 with three RBI and two runs.
Former Lincoln southpaw Casey Crosby made his season debut, saving the second game of a doubleheader with a scoreless inning for Minnesota’s top farm club in Rochester, N.Y., protecting a 2-1 advantage. Crosby, 29, gave up an infield hit, then set down three consecutive Gwinnett (Atlanta) hitters, fanning the last one.
Onetime Fargo right-hander Zach Prendergast was Pitcher of the Week for St. Louis’s club in Peoria, Ill., when he both started and relieved. He did not allow any runs in five innings, giving up only two hits and striking out half a dozen. He got a save in the relief outing, and the 22-year-old now has seven scoreless innings for the season.
Previously the chief spokesman for Baseball Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth, Bob Wirz has been writing extensively about Independent Baseball since 2003. He is a frequent contributor to this site, has a blog, www.IndyBaseballChatter.com, and a book about his life, “The Passion of Baseball”, is available at Amazon.com for books or Kindle readers, or for autographed copies at www.WirzandAssociates.com.