Results tagged ‘ Michael Liberto ’

Number 50 Never Felt So Good

When I started the Burlington Royals blog a few months ago, I did not have any crazy expectations for it. But, I came across the monthly rankings with MLBlogs, and I was pleasantly surprised that this blog was on the list for most read MLB Pro Blogs. It is 50th, eight spots behind David Ortiz’s blog, which is pretty cool.

For that, I can only thank all of the people who have been loyal readers and polite supporters. The most important thing that the blog does is get information out, and I think that we did that on a very regular basis during Burlington’s first playoff push since 1993.

As promised, here is an end-of-season edition of the Bullets as I type from Athens, Ohio.

BURLINGTON BULLETS:

  • First off, congratulations to the Johnson City Cardinals, the 2010 Appalachian League Champions. Mike Shildt’s crew swept division rival Elizabethton in the title set after ousting the Royals in the semifinals. This is the Cardinals’ first title since 1976, when the club began its affiliation with St. Louis with back-to-back Appy League titles in ’75 and ’76.
  • This year, the postseason structure worked out perfectly with regards to records and home field advantage, with both the Twins and Cardinals playing for the crown after owning the two best marks in the regular season. But there is no guarantee that it will continue with the current structure. That’s the gamble and the excitement with a four-team playoff. Also, Johnson City had the best record, but the team had home field in the championship series simply because it was the westernmost team in that set. Next year, the easternmost team will get games two and three at home.
  • When speaking with President Lee Landers, it seemed like he loved the set-up as it currently stands. While there is some push for a set-up that matches up the two division qualifiers together in round 1, Landers wants to create fresh battles in the playoffs. The biggest argument to the current arrangement, from what I heard, is the money involved in traveling as much as four and a half hours instead of keeping round one within the divisions.
  • For more from Landers, make sure to check out my interview with the Appy League President on the B-Royals Audio Highlights page. We will have the final rewind of the season, along with a few other interviews, up on the page in a day or two. There have been a few technical issues on my end, which is why it is taking longer than usual. I will also have a full-season rewind available sometime soon, so stay tuned for that.
  • After Burlington’s elimination in the postseason, three Royals had the chance to play a few extra games in the Pioneer League with the Idaho Falls Chukars. Infielder Michael Liberto, who has also been with both Burlingtons and Surprise so far this season, is 5-for-9 (.556) with two RBIs in two games. Reliever Robbie Penny, who finished the Appy League season as the Royals’ closer, went three and two-thirds innings of scoreless relief for a victory in his only appearance as a Chukar Saturday. And fellow righty Cole Lohden gave up three runs in an inning and a third in his first effort Sunday. The Chukars finish up their season with three more games at Casper Tuesday through Thursday.
  • The Royals are one of two clubs in the Kansas City organization to make it to the postseason. The Northwest Arkansas Naturals, KC’s Double-A affiliate, will take on Springfield in the first round of the Texas League playoffs after the club won the second half Northern Division crown. The Naturals have never won the TL title.
  • I have had many requests to list where I will be in the near future, so here goes. I am now a senior at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. I am the sports director of WXTQ-FM/WATH-AM Radio. I have a talk show called “The Sports Fan,” which airs weeknights on 970 WATH at 6:06 p.m. each weeknight. You can access the podcast here. Plus, I do some high school football and basketball on WXTQ each Friday night. The way to listen live is on this site (just look on the right side for all of the online feeds). With any other questions, you know the drill: shoot me an e-mail at burlingtonroyalsradio@gmail.com.

Thanks so much for making the blog #50. Enjoy the rest of the minor league playoffs and the stretch run in the big leagues!

- Brian

The Worth of an “Easy Drive”

I never fully understood the contrast between an “easy drive” and a “hard drive” until today. Being led by my GPS, I took off from Burlington for Johnson City this morning without knowing where the computer-generated directions would lead me.

There were no problems, but I only traveled on a highway for about an hour and a half before taking tipsy-turny roads the rest of the way (another two hours). By the time I arrived at Howard Johnson Field, I was sick of driving.

Burlington is hoping that they don’t have to make the final bus ride of the season tonight, as the Royals face elimination in East Tennessee. But, there is no doubt that the Royals have a “hard drive” to the Appalachian League Championship Series after dropping Game 1 last night.

Without further ado, here are the Bullets on a gorgeous day from Johnson City.

BURLINGTON BULLETS:

  • Last night’s series opener, with Johnson City winning 8-4, was in the Cardinals’ control throughout. By the end of the night, Johnson City had its highest run total against the Royals this season. But, if you throw out the offensive exploits of Cody Stanley (2 HRs, 3 RBIs), Burlington simply had one bad inning–the four-run first. Still, skipper Nelson Liriano said the team believes it can battle back. “I see everyone loose and happy,” Liriano said. “They know they have to come in strong and have a good game tonight.”
  • Burlington led the game in some important offensive categories, such as hits (11-10) and knocks with men in scoring position (4-3). And throw out those two Stanley long balls, and Johnson City did not have any other extra base hits. Again, this is trying to sugarcoat a convincing loss, but there are some positive signs.
  • Speaking of Stanley, the All-Star catcher in this league, his big postseason opener should not be a surprise. Stanley finished the regular season 13-for-33 (.394) with seven RBIs in the last eight contests.
  • A little bigger surprise may have been the effort of Michael Liberto, Burlington’s starting shortstop. Liberto’s last ten games (5-for-34, .147) were not nearly as good as his first nine in the Appalachian League (9-for-29, .310), but he went 3-for-5 and was Burlington’s only offensive spark plug until the ninth. “It’s definitely a confidence booster,” Liberto said. “I went into that slump, and that happens.”
  • So, Burlington will throw the weight of an entire season on the shoulders of right-hander Willian Avinazar. Avinazar has been terrific this season (6-3, 2.63 ERA), but he struggled mightily against these Cardinals in his only previous meeting with Burlington’s current postseason foe. Avinazar gave up five runs on seven hits in only three and a third frames July 26 at Burlington Athletic Stadium. But, Avinazar has been incredible in his three road starts (which is an odd development, as ten of his 13 starts were at home), boasting an ERA of 0.53 in 17 innings. “He’s a good work horse,” Liberto said. “Hopefully we can just ride on his performance, and hopefully the bats can come alive.”
  • The Royals have four pitchers eligible tonight: Avinazar, Robbie Penny, Claudio Bavera and Jake Ramsey. Liriano said Penny, this club’s best reliever right now, will most likely be the first one out of the ‘pen. Penny’s last appearance brought with it the playoff-spot-clinching save at Danville Monday night. The righty worked three shutout innings at Legion Field that evening.
  • Ryan Jenkins will not play tonight after tweaking his ankle running to first in the fourth inning last night. Liriano says the catcher will be fine, but he will go with Drew Robertson behind the plate and Edul Escobar as the designated hitter. Jenkins is eligible to come off the bench.
  • Speaking of Escobar, he has posted three straight multi-hit games, and the birthday boy (he turns 20 today) has a modest four-game hitting streak going. “He’s hot,” Liriano said. “Gotta stick with him.”
  • On the other side of the Appy League bracket, Elizabethton used a three-run eighth inning to take down Pulaski in the opener of that series. So, the Mariners will need two straight wins to prolong that series. If both Johnson City and Elizabethton win again today, the Twins will host the Cardinals in Game 1 of the title set tomorrow.
  • Speaking of the postseason, I had a chance to chat with Appalachian League President Lee Landers last night after his visit to Burlington Athletic Stadium for the first postseason contest in central North Carolina since ’93. He likes what the new four-team structure did for the league in 2010. “Our athletes themselves had something to play for,” Landers said. “It has caused a lot more excitement, especially among the players.”
  • Landers also spoke with me about the end of Bluefield’s connection with the Baltimore organization after 53 seasons. “The day they made the announcement, I had a big league club take a look at the facility,” Landers said. “I guarantee we’ll have a club in Bluefield next year, so we’re OK. I expect an announcement sooner rather than later. We’ve got too good of history and too nice of a ballpark with a great city to have it go dark.”
  • You can hear much more from Landers today during the Pre-Game Show brought to you by Best Western, which begins at a special time of 6:30 p.m. on burlingtonroyals.com.
  • Good luck to the Omaha Royals, Kansas City’s Triple-A affiliate, as they play the final home game at Rosenblatt Stadium tonight against Round Rock at 8 p.m. EST. Rosenblatt held its final College World Series two months ago.
  • Counting the college season with the Ohio University Bobcats and the Appy League season with the B-Royals, this will be my 92nd baseball broadcast of 2010. I’m not going to lie, I really want to see ‘cast number 93. Either way, it has been a blast. If the Royals do fall tonight, I will have an end-of-season blog at some point this weekend. With a victory, the Bullets will be back again tomorrow.

Hear from the L-trio of Landers, Liriano and Liberto at 6:30 tonight. As always, shoot us an e-mail at burlingtonroyalsradio@gmail.com. Enjoy the broadcast!

- Brian

He’s Super Strong

A paragraph of congratulations is in order for Burlington strength and conditioning coach Steve Gamma, who was named the Appalachian League Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year. Each of the ten strength coaches in the league vote for the honor. Gamma is in his first season in the Royals organization. He will head to the California University of Pennsylvania for graduate work in exercise science.

Gamma has worked extremely hard to keep the players here in Burlington in great shape, and he is very deserving of the honor. In honor of “Stevie G,” here are today’s Bullets:

BURLINGTON BULLETS:

  • What a difference between 2009 and 2010 in so many ways for the Burlington Royals. Burlington manager Nelson Liriano knew what to expect last year with his team–he wasn’t given a great club. This year, Liriano was told the team was significantly better. And obviously, it has been true. Last night’s 6-3 win at Danville pushed the Royals past their ’09 win plateau of 24. In head-to-head match-ups, Burlington has outplayed the defending champion Danville Braves, a club that took all but one of its 11 games with the Royals. Burlington is 4-2 against the rivals to the north. 
  • Liriano smiled when I mentioned yesterday’s game, one of Burlington’s most complete efforts of the year. “It’s always good winning against the good teams,” Liriano said. “You build more confidence when the players know they can beat any team.”
  • A big reason the Royals beat a good team last night was new B-Royal infielder Michael Liberto’s three-run triple in the third. He got that shot after Danville elected to intentionally walk Luis Piterson. The 5’7″ product has had it happen before, and he uses it as motivation. “People look at me as a short guy who can’t hit it out of the infield,” Liberto said. “I just take it personally and try to do whatever I can to get a hit.”
  • The term “momentum” is thrown around all the time in sports. Liberto, though, is realistic when discussing the possible ramifications of the Royals’ offensive surge last night. “Baseball’s a weird game,” Liberto said. “One game you’ll get 13 hits. The next game you’ll get two. It’s just how it is. Hopefully we just keep this steady approach.”
  • Jon Keck worked into the sixth inning for the first time this season. While he did run into some trouble, he got some help from Michael Giovenco (more on him in a moment) and picked up his second straight win. A few starts ago, Liriano noticed that Keck was working very quickly and told him to slow down a bit in between pitches. “I saw that last night and I reminded him a couple of times,” Liriano said. “That’s big for him. He has talent. He has a good arm, and he showed that.”
  • Now to Giovenco, who has seemed to find a role in the Royals’ bullpen. The righty has been dominant in his last two efforts out of the ‘pen. He has scattered just two hits in five and a third frames, with all but two of those innings coming last night at Danville. “He threw really well,” Liriano said. “He continued to improve after he has become the long reliever. If he continues that way, he will be fine because he has a good arm.”
  • Adrian Martinez (knee) is still waiting for a decision on his health. Liriano said the team will wait until Saturday at the latest to determine his availability for the rest of the season. So, Liberto will remain the team’s shortstop. And should anything happen to Liberto, the back-up shortstop would be Ryan Stovall, who played some there during extended spring training. Stovall has played every infield position except for short during the Appalachian League slate.
  • Still no word on which B-Royals will be heading to Arizona for the Instructional League this fall. That information should reach the team in the next few days according to Liriano. Once I hear about it, I will get it up on the blog.
  • Burlington’s struggles against the Bristol White Sox are continuing to look more and more understandable as the Sox continue to roll. Bristol has won five in a row and ten of its last 15 dating back to the first of the month.
  • Former Royal reliever Ryan Wood debuted with Kansas City’s low-A affiliate, the Burlington Bees, last night. The righty allowed two runs in an inning and a third during the Bees’ 9-2 loss at home to Quad Cities last night.
  • Check out this long but incredible piece on the realities of minor league baseball from Mike Ashmore of the Trenton Thunder (the Yankees’ Double-A affiliate). It takes you inside the less-than-glamorous aspects of minor league baseball, and there are many. Special thanks to fellow broadcaster Adam Amin for the tweet about it.
  • Tomorrow is the club’s final day off in 2010, and the Blog will take a respite as well. Then, it’s a 13-day push for the playoffs. Buckle up, folks. It’s going to be fun to watch Burlington try to get to the playoffs for the first time since 1993.

Our pre-game coverage of Danville and Burlington begins at 6:45 with the Pre-Game Show brought to you by Best Western. As always, you can e-mail into the broadcast at burlingtonroyalsradio@gmail.com. Enjoy the broadcast!

- Brian

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