By Bob Wirz, Independent Baseball Insider
If converted catcher Junior Guerra can continue to harness the number of walks he issues it would not be a shock to see him wearing a Chicago White Sox uniform even though at age 30 he only reached Triple-A (Charlotte) for the first time recently.
The Venezuelan native got his first true pitching opportunities at Wichita for the 2011 and 2013 seasons when he was a combined 18-7 with an earned run average of 3.33 despite allowing 130 walks in 251.1 innings. Guerra started this season at Class AA Birmingham (2-3, 2.29) when he struck out 26 in 19.2 innings. That won a promotion one step below the majors where the 5-foot-11 hurler has been a solid 3.33 for five starts despite an 0-3 record, and he has struck out 37 in only 27 innings although the walks have moved back up a bit to 15.
In other American Association alumni news, former El Paso hurler Marcel Prado has won all three of his decisions while posting a 2.03 ERA as a reliever for Baltimore’s Class AA farm club (Bowie). The New York Yankees sent reliever Chris Martin (Grand Prairie) to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre once he came off the disabled list with this explanation: “We want to get him back on a roll, then we’ll go from there”, manager Joe Girardi told LoHud.com. “At the end (before the elbow tendinitis) it was a little bit of a struggle for him.” Martin posted a 3.55 ERA in 12.2 innings and several impressive outings with the Yankees.
Saints Have Not Really Done It All –At Least Until Now
St. Paul seemingly had done it all in its first 22 years of Independent Baseball, winning championships, setting attendance records and sending well over 100 players back to affiliated leagues, including 18 who have gotten to the major leagues.
But the Saints are breaking new ground. They have never started a season with 10 victories in their first 11 games, and it has been rare for them to run off a six-game road winning streak or to build a five-game divisional lead this early in the year. If they can take two more victories in Grand Prairie to finish off their longest road trip of the entire season at 8-1 their feet may not touch the ground regardless of the mode of travel as they cover the 954 miles and get back to new CHS Field to start a home stand Friday night.
George Tsamis’s crew has won in a variety of ways, as one might expect, but it would be difficult to imagine a more imposing offense. The Saints are hitting .300 with a team on-base percentage of .378 and have scored 81 runs–nearly 7.4 per game–paced by first baseman Ian Gac’s league-leading numbers of a .538 average (21-for-39) and 15 runs batted in. Surprisingly, he has not even found his power stroke, homering only once after blasting 27 for Lincoln last season. Switch-hitting outfielder Mike Kvasnicka is next among four regulars topping .300 with a .413 average.
Pitching has been solid, as well, ranking third best in the 13-team league at a striking 2.63 earned run average and holding opposing hitters to a collective .220 average. Dustin Crenshaw became the first hurler to win three times when he lowered his ERA to 1.28 Monday night, with a stinginess all around in his 21 innings in which he has walked only one and allowed a mere 14 hits. Only defending champion Wichita (1.95) and Winnipeg (2.55) have better team ERAs.
Previously the chief spokesman for 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 as well as writing his blog, www.IndyBaseballChatter.com.