Category Archives: Aaron Cunningham

The Jet, Willie, Seahawks, Hammel, World Cup & more

Here we go, in no particular order:

Dude can fly: James (The Jet) Jones is up to 14 steals (he’s been caught once) through Tuesday and considering he didn’t get his first one until May 1, that’s pretty impressive. Michael Saunders led the Seattle Mariners with 13 steals a year ago. Ichiro (438 steals during his time in Seattle), Jose Cruz (290) and Harold Reynolds (228) are Seattle’s all-time leaders in steals, but the M’s have never had a lot of speed guys. Willie Bloomquist (71) ranks No. 11 in steals in franchise history. Jones, if he’s as good as I think he might be, could pass Willie in the summer of 2015.

Speaking of Willie: The South Kitsap grad is hitting .278, and get this — the M’s are 18-7 when he starts (through Tuesday). That’s the stat that matters, right?

Sherm shuts up: Richard Sherman’s never been at a loss for worlds, but he reportedly isn’t speaking to the media, upset with the Seattle Times because the newspaper published the address of his new home. Got to side with Sherm on that one. Some things don’t need to be printed, and that’s one of ‘em.

Speaking of Seahawks: Sherman, Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson have all been nominated for ESPYs. 

World Cup fever: Portugal’s late goal in extra time against the U.S. in the World Cup was a punch to the gut, but it didn’t take long for me to get over the 2-2 tie. I’m really looking forward to see how Jurgen Klinsmann’s boys do against Germany on Thursday (9 a.m. ESPN). Klinsmann is a former German star, a legend in his country. He played on West Germany’s 1990 World Cup championship team and coached the 2006 German World Cup team. Germany is now coached by Joachim Lowe, a protege of Klinsmann. The U.S., which needs a tie to move on to the round of 16, has five players who grew up in Germany. This one promises to be emotional. I can’t wait.

Speaking of soccer: How ’bout those Pumas? Kitsap’s soccer club is 6-0-4 and has opened a seven-point lead in the Northwest Division of the PDL. Coach Andrew Chapman, the Olympic High grad who has turned Peninsula CC into an NWAACC power, seems to be making all of the right decisions. The Pumas are one of six unbeatens in the 64-team league. Kitsap won a national title in 2011, and it looks like the Pumas are going to make another serious run this summer.

BlueJackets bashing: Kitsap’s summer college baseball team, the BlueJackets, are off to a good start. Kitsap’s 8-5 and just a half-game back of Bellingham in the Western Division of the West Coast League (through Tuesday). They boast the No. 1 (Danny Woodruff, .453) and No. 3 (Alex Bush, .395, 2 HRs, 15 RBI) hitters. Woodruff’s an outfielder from Creighton who played in just seven games as a freshman. Bush is a 6-foot-6, 255-pound first baseman/DH who just graduated from high school in Turlock, California. He’s going to be a freshman at UC Santa Barbara. Kitsap’s second in hitting (.296 average) and eighth in pitching (5.46 ERA) in the 12-team wood-bat league.

Hammel report: Jason Hammel, the 2000 South Kitsap grad who is having a fine season (6-5, 2.99 ERA, 91 Ks, 20 BBs, 96.1 IP, 1.017 WHIP) for the Chicago Cubs, continues to be linked to the Mariners. This report says the Cubs and M’s have had serious talks, and that Chicago wants RHP Edwin Diaz, Seattle’s third-round pick in the 2012 draft, to be part of the package.

Minor league report: Brady Steiger (South Kitsap/WSU/Lewis-Clark St.) hit his first home run as a pro over the weekend. He plays for the Class A Staten Island Yankees. … Drew Vettlesen (Central Kitsap) wrapped up an eight-game rehab stint with the Auburn Doubledays. He was 4-for-4 on Friday and hit .318. The outfielder, who broke a bone in his hand when hit by a ball in April, is back with the Double-A Harrisburg (Pa.) Senators (Nationals) of the Eastern League. He was 2-for-3 with a stolen base on Tuesday. … Aaron Cunningham (South Kitsap/Everett CC) hitting .258 with no homers and 20 RBI for the Reno Aces (Diamondbacks) of the Pacific Coast League.

Back on the tee: Troy Kelly, the Central Kitsap grad whose 2013 golf season was derailed by a knee surgery after playing in just 10 PGA Tour events, is resuming his comeback. He played in four Web.com events earlier, but made just one cut and wasn’t satisfied with his game, so he returned to Tacoma to work on it. There might be some rust when he plays in this week’s Web.com tournament in Newburgh, Indiana. He’s using it as a tuneup for the PGA Tour’s Greenbrier Classic the following week in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Kelly’s got fond memories of Greenbrier, where he shot 6-under 63 in the third round in 2012 to get into contention. He closed with a 66 and wound up losing a playoff on the third hole to Ted Potter. Kelly plans to play four straight weeks. He’ll head to Illinois for the John Deere Classic in Illinois after the Greenbrier Classic before returning to Boise, Idaho, for another Web.com stop. … Kelly’s brother Ryan, his caddie, finished second in the Tacoma City Amateur over the weekend.

Coming Friday: I’ll be writing about “The Legend” later this week. That would be 83-year-old Buzz Edmonds, a three-time winner of the Kitsap Amateur, nine-time club champ at Kitsap Golf & Country Club and one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. I chatted with Buzz and some of his golfing buddies earlier this week. The story will publish Friday.

Nice sendoff: South Kitsap’s three-sport star Logan Knowles, who is headed to the Naval Academy to play baseball, wrapped up his high school career by going 2-for-4 with a home run, double and 4 RBI in the consolation game of the Washington State All-State Baseball Series in Yakima. His home run was the only one hit during the weekend.

Recommended reading: Charlie Pierce, who writes for Grantland,com, among other outlets, weighed in on the O’Bannon vs. NCAA trial that is going on. He writes:

” … If you are a college athlete, you must — willingly or unwillingly — help the NCAA and its member institutions keep faith with Coca-Cola. One of the ugly moral truths about all our sports is that athletes represent one of the categories of Americans who can be legally and publicly treated as commodities, and nowhere is that truth more obvious, and more ugly, than in college athletics, where the athletes are not only forbidden from profiting from their own commodification, but also required to help the institutions they represent to profit from it. Then they have to hear the people who profit most from the commodities who play ball for them tell a judge that they’re doing it only for the athlete’s own good. This trial is about the NCAA’s desire to maintain that arrangement forever. Unless you’re afflicted with a kind of moral myopia, this is no less than grotesque.”

 

Quick hits: OC volleyball advances to semis, Kitsap pros, Bree, Kellys, UW, Hawks & more

Some links and Friday thoughts:

Moving on: Olympic College’s historic volleyball season continues. The Rangers (43-4) beat Tacoma 3-1 at the NWAACC Championships earlier Friday and takes on host Mount Hood Friday at 6:30 p.m. in the semifinals. The match will be streamed live here. Blue Mountain and Highline are in the other semifinal in the double-elimination tournament. OC lost its first set, but roared back to win the next three against Tacoma, a team it beat six straight times during the regular season. Winner’s bracket finals are Saturday at 1:30 p.m. with the championship match Sunday at 3 p.m. All tournament games are being live streamed.

Fantasy time: It’s that time of year when baseball fans can starting dreaming about signing free agents and making trades to help their teams. If you’re a Seattle Mariners fan, wouldn’t it be cool if they could figure out a way to start the 2014 season with Jacob Ellsbury in center field and Sin-Shoo Choo in left and have them hit 1-2 in the order.

Ah, the Huskies: Washington’s 6-4 and the thought of a another 7-6 season has Husky fans howling to the moon. There’s even an @fireSark twitter account out there. That’s a little harsh. Washington’s continuing road struggles and and inability to beat good teams is frustrating. The move to the hurry-up spread offense seemed like a good move at the time, and it still does, but maybe we should have realized that it wasn’t going to be an overnight success. Sark and his staff had been recruiting linemen to play power football for four years, and now they need quick, athletic guys up front to make it work.

And Washington’s lack of depth on the defensive side of the ball has been glaring. When you’re running the quick-strike offense, your defense is going to be on the field a lot, and this Husky defense, as promising as it looked early on, has been very average of late. They’ve not been able to recruit a true pass rusher, an NFL-type defensive end and that has been a problem.

That said, the biggest reason for Washington’s mediocrity is their lack of discipline. The Huskies are the most penalized team in the country and Sarkisian’s teams are among the most penalized in Husky history. Take a look at this report by Steve Rudman of sportspressnw.com. The numbers don’t lie.

As disappointing as this season has been to date, Washington could still finish 9-4 by winning out and 9-4 is pretty good. If that’s how it plays out — Washington beats Oregon State (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2) on the road, beats Washington State at home (Friday, Nov. 27, 12:30 p.m., FOX) and wins  a bowl game — everybody should be happy.

Seahawks-Saints: Everybody is looking forward to the Nov. 30 MNF showdown at the Clink. The Seahawks (9-1) have a bye this week and the Saints (8-2) are coming off of a rather ho-hum 17-13 win at Atlanta. Seattle won at Atlanta, 33-10, dominating the Falcons in every part of the game. Drew Brees will be a challenge, and the Saints defense is one of the league’s best, but Seattle has been playing at another level the past two weeks. I don’t see any kind of a letdown coming for this, not on a Monday night with the nation watching. I’m looking forward to the matchup between New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham and Seahawks’ safety Cam Chancellor.

Still sliding: Bremerton’s Bree Schaaf won a bronze medal at the North American Cup races in Calgary last weekend, and is competing at Park City, Utah, this weekend. Schaaf finished fifth at the 2010 Winter Olympics and after a year of rehabilitation following hip surgery, she   was fourth at the national selection races last month. Only the top three were picked to compete int he World Cup. The 2014 Olympic team will be announced on Jan. 19 and points collected in international competitions will play a role when the team is named.

“I of course planned on making the national team so it was a bit of a shock and a scramble to make self-funded North American Cup happen,” Schaaf said. “Despite the Games being a long shot now, I found support in a wonderful company out of Denver called Crescent Point. It was truly heartwarming that despite my candor regarding Olympic qualification chances that a company would still have faith and support me like this.”

Schaaf teamed with Tracey Stewart last week.

“This has been a North American Cup like no other,” Schaaf said. “We were fully staffed and felt fortunate to have such incredible coaches along with a team manager and sled tech. Special thanks to Tracey for pushing me and keeping the dream alive.”

Update: Schaaf finished fourth in today’s first race, behind two Americans (No. 1 Elana Meyers and No. 2 Jamie Gruebel but ahead of USA No. 3 driver Jazmine Fenalator, who was eighth). The second race is coming up and will be live streamed.

Kelly green scene: Congratulations are in order for Bob Kelly, father of pro golfer Troy Kelly. Bob recently beat his age, shooting a 66  at Meadowpark Golf Course in Tacoma. One of his other sons, Ryan, also had a hole-in-one at the West Richland Golf Course while winning his amateur division of the Tri-City Budweiser Open in Richland. As for Troy, he plans to play in five Web.com tournaments next year and he’s also exempt for 14 PGA Tour events. Kelly’s 2013 season was cut short because of knee surgery.

Baseball musings: Kansas City’s signing of Jason Vargas (4 years, $32 million) could be a good thing for free agent pitcher Jason Hammel. The Giants reportedly have interest in signing the 6-foot-6 right-hander, a South Kitsap grad. … Willie Bloomquist’s name has been thrown around as a possible utility infielder for the Reds, Red Sox and Dodgers. The free agent from Port Orchard would prefer to re-sign with Arizona, but sounds like that might he a long shot. Last time around the free agency trail, Bloomquist turned down more money from the Giants to sign with the Diamondbacks. … Bloomquist and Jason Ellison were among those attending the memorial service for their ex-high school coach, Elton Goodwin, last weekend. … In case you missed it, another former South Kitsap star, Aaron Cunningham, signed a minor-league deal with the Cubs. Did you know that Cunningham once sold his car to rapper Ice T? Yeah, for real. … Drew Vettleson, the former Central Kitsap star, is a No. 5 pick in this faketeams.com. fantasy draft. Check it out for their opinion about Vettleson’s upside. They project the left-handed hitting outfielder to be an above average player at the MLB level, hitting .280 with 20 home-run power during his peak years. Vettleson will likely start the 2014 season at Double-A. ... Brady Steiger, a South Kitsap grad and former Lewis-Clark State star who signed with the New York Yankees last summer, is available for private hitting lessons at the West Hills Vipers facility.

 

 

 

Links and thoughts on Ryan Kelly, Dawgs, Hawks, preps & updates on Kitsap baseball players

Bremerton’s Ryan Kelly found himself without a job when his brother — PGA Tour player Troy Kelly — had season-ending knee surgery earlier in the season.

Ryan, who caddied for his younger brother, returned to the Bremerton/Tacoma area and wound up playing in a lot of  the region’s top amateur tournaments. He’s won the Fircrest Amateur in Tacoma the weekend before last.

Here’s the story by Todd Milles of the Tacoma News Tribune.

Ryan played golf at Oregon State and played professionally for a while, but his career was stymied by a back injury. He regained his amateur status a few years ago.

The Huskies

Here’s some best-case, worst-case scenarios for the Huskies from Pac-12 football blogger Ted Miller at ESPN.com. Pretty funny stuff.

If his broken finger is OK, will Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins play against Boise State on Saturday? He ASJ was arrested (DUI) during the offseason, and coach Steve Sarkisian suspended him for spring football, but let him back for fall ball. Should Sark suspend him for the Boise State game? I think that’s the right thing to do, but I don’t think he will. A one-game suspension sends the right message and is more important than getting a win, not that the Huskies can’t win without ASJ. Michael Hartvigson is a quality backup.

Unranked Washington is a 3.5-point favorite to beat No. 19 Boise State, mostly because they’ll be playing at home in front of a fired-up crowd at remodeled Husky Stadium. The game should go down to the wire, just as it did during the Las Vegas Bowl when the Broncos held on for a 28-26 win. Boise State was a 4.5-point underdog in that game. I think this is truly a tossup game. If Washington wins, it’ll be a great start to their season. If the Huskies lose, die-hard fans shouldn’t lose a lot of sleep over it because Boise will likely be as good as anybody Washington plays outside of Oregon and Stanford.

The Seahawks

Richard Sherman’s been pretty quiet of late. By design perhaps? Still waiting for his second column for SI.com’s MMQB. If you missed his first one, here it is.

Sherman and the Seahawks’ defense are getting their due, however. This story in SI.com rates Seattle’s ‘D’ as the best in the NFL.

Don’t know if there’s a team in the NFL with a better situation at running back than the Seahawks. All-Pro Marshawn Lynch, second-year backup Robert Turbin, and rookie Christine Michael, first-team All-Preseason, give the Hawks some serious giddy-up in the backfield. Lynch has run for 2,794 yards and 23 touchdowns his last two seasons with the Seahawks. He’s also caught 53 passes in that time. Lynch is 27 and pretty durable. Does he have three more All-Pro quality seasons left? If he does, and the Seahawks can win a Super Bowl or at least get to one, will Lynch have done enough to warrant Hall of Fame consideration? He’d be around 10,000 yards with 75-80 touchdowns. Here’s a look at the career NFL rushing leaders (Hall of Fames are noted).

The NFL

It’s Tuel Time in Buffalo. Yep, Jeff Tuel, free-agent quarterback from Washington State, is going to start Week 1 for the Bills against the New England Patriots. Can you name the other WSU quarterback who made it to the NFL? Give up? In alphabetical order: Drew Bledsoe, Alex Brink, Ryan Leaf, Timm Rosenbach and Mark Rypien.

Preps

According to the Spokesman Review, Boise State and Mississippi State are among the colleges that have already offered scholarships to quarterback Brett Rypien of Shadle Park High School in Spokane. Rypien’s coming off a record-breaking sophomore year in which he threw for  3,179 yards in nine games, completing 62.5 percent of his passes. He’s also had offers from Washington State, Idaho and Colorado State. His uncle is Mark Rypien, also a Shadle Park grad and a former WSU star who was a Super Bowl MVP during his career with the Washington Redskins.

Here’s a list of offers and commits from football players in the state of Washington who are in the class of 2014.

Baseball

Oregon senior-to-be Tyler Baumgartner, the former Central Kitsap star, hit .402 in eight games for NWAACC USA at the World Baseball Challenge at Prince George, British Columbia. Baumgartner, an outfielder, had two hits in the bronze medal game, won 9-7 by NWAACC USA over Chinese Taipei. The team was comprised of current and former NWAACC players.

Baumgartner’s cousin, Drew Vettleson, a third-year pro with the Charlotte Stone Crabs (Rays), had a four-hit game (4-for-6 with a double, RBI and two runs scored) on Aug. 25 against Jupiter, Fla., in the Advanced Class A Florida State League. Vettleson’s had some clutch hits lately, including a game-winning RBI single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth in a game last week. He’s hitting .283 (.340 on-base, .397 slugging percentage) with five triples, four home runs and 61 RBI.

Aaron Cunningham of the Triple-A Round Rock Express (Rangers) was 3-for-5 with two homers, five RBI and four runs scored on Aug. 21 at Nashville. Cunningham, an SK grad who was drafted following his freshman year at Everett CC, has hit .389 with three homers over his last 10 games. The outfielder has had five multi-hit games in that stretch. He’s hitting .255 with 10 homers and 48 RBI. He’s got a .338 on-base percentage, .415 slugging percentage.

South Kitsap grad and former Lewis-Clark State star Brady Steiger is hitting .245 for the Gulf Coast Yankees, a rookie-league team, but he has an impressive .420 on-base percentage after 16 games and 53 at bats. He’s walked 12 times.

South Kitsap grads Willie Bloomquist (Diamondbacks) and Jason Hammel (Orioles) remain on the DL, but are close to returning. Hammel’s scheduled to pitch in a Double-A game on Thursday. He went on the DL with tightness in his forearm. Bloomquist, an infielder who’s been out with a hand injury, could be back on the big-league roster this week. He’s been playing rehab games with Arizona’s team in the Arizona rookie league.

Kitsapers in the pros: DL comes calling; Vettleson’s average on the rise

July wasn’t a good month for three of Kitsap’s professional baseball players.

Willie Bloomquist (Diamondbacks), Jason Hammel (Orioles) and Todd Linden (Triple-A Fresno/Giants) all found their way to the disabled list.

Bloomquist was hit by pitch in late June, and after X-rays were initially negative, a CT scan revealed that he broke two bones in his hand. He was put on the DL, retroactive to June 28, in early July and was expected to miss anywhere from 6-8 weeks. He missed the first two months of the season with an oblique strain. The infielder has a .292/.342/.347 slash line in 22 games this season. The Port Orchard native, 35, will be a free agent at the end of the 2013 season.

Hammel, a right-hand pitcher and, like Bloomquist, is a South Kitsap grad. He was put on the 15-day DL earlier this week with a right flexor mass strain, and was scheduled to undergo an MRI on Friday. Hammel said he was experiencing tightness and soreness in his right arm, particularly when he throws a slider. The injury has likely effected him as he hasn’t pitched well lately allowing 12 runs and 26 hits over his last 17 1/3 innings. He struck out eight and walked 11 in that stretch. Hammel (7-8, 5.20 ERA, 21 starts, 123 innings) has lost six straight decisions. Hammel, 30, will be a free agent at the end of the season.

“He’s been managing it pretty well, but just want to see if we can get it resolved in the DL period,” Baltimore manager Buck Showalter told the Baltimore Sun. “To be on the safe side, I think they’re trying to set up an MRI to see if we’re dealing with something that we don’t think we’re dealing with.”

Linden, who turned 33 in June 30, was put on the disabled list by the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies on July 24. The Central Kitsap grad, who started his college career at Washington and ended it at LSU, started the season on the DL and never got untracked this season, hitting .204. He has 48 strikeouts in 134 at bats.This could be the end of the dream for Linden, the 41st overall pick in the 2001 draft by the San Francisco Giants. Linden spent parts of five seasons in the majors with the Giants, last in 2007. He also played 85 games with Miami in ’07. His major league numbers: .234 average, 8 homers, 36 RBIs, 502 at bats. He appeared in 270 games.

A look at Kitsap’s other pros: Drew Vettleson (Class A Charlotte Stone Crabs/Tampa Rays); Aaron Cunningham (Triple-A Round Rock Express/Rangers) and Brady Steiger (Rookie League Gulf Coast Yankees):

It’s taken a while, but Vettleson has his average up to .281 after a third straight 2-for-5 game on Thursday. The former first-round pick (42nd overall) from Central Kitsap grad struggled in the Advanced Class A Florida State League out of the gate. He hit .191 in April for the Charlotte Stone Crabs, but he found his stroke. Vettleson hit .326 in April, .296 in June and .308 in July. He’s had two hits in seven of his last 10 games (he’s 15-for-44, .341 over that stretch). The right-fielder leads the team in his (105), is second in RBIs (48) and has a .331 on-base percentage and .401 slugging percentage. He hits .304 vs. right-handers, .225 vs. lefties. He’s rated the Rays’ No. 10 overall prospect and top outfield prospect, according to MLB.com. Follow his progress here.

Cunningham, another SK grad, is hitting .244 for Round Rock after hitting just .173 in 21 July games. Some of his at-bats were given to Manny Ramirez, who is hitting .266 over 21 games since he signed with the Rangers. Cunningham is 8-for-35 (.229) over his last 10 games and has 6 home runs and 33 RBIs on the season. The right-fielder has 10 stolen bases in 12 attempts and a .335 on-base/.382 slugging percentage. Follow his progress here.

Steiger just started his pro career, signing a free-agent deal with the Yankees this summer. He was playing for the Seattle Studs at the time, but decided to skip his senior season at Lewis-Clark State to play professionally. The third baseman/first baseman/DH, a South Kitsap grad, was 1-for-5 with a single in his July 3 debut, and he is playing as I type this right now. He struck out in his first at bat Friday against the Pirates. Follow his progress here. 

Local players have big impact on BlueJackets’ victory & more stuff

It was nice to see the Kitsap BlueJackets get off the snide on Friday. They broke a seven-game losing streak with a 2-1 win over the Corvallis Knights in front of the home fans and local players had a lot to do with it.

In the top of the ninth, with the scored tied 1-1, Corvallis had a runner on first with two out when Cody Lenahan doubled to left-center. I was standing down the left-field line and it looked like the Corvallis runner was going to score from first, but Kitsap center fielder Dan Jewett, a North Kitsap grad who is playing at Nebraska Omaha, cut the ball off and wheeled and made a strong, quick, low throw. First baseman Daniel Orr, a Kingston grad who was instrumental in helping Everett CC win an NWAACC Championship this year, field the throw on a hop between third base and the pitching mound and in one motion turned and threw to catcher alex McKeon, who got the tag down just ahead of the runner. It was one of the best defensive plays you’ll ever see.

So we’re tied going to the bottom of the ninth. Orr, who was 2-for-4 in the game and has signed to play at Corbin College in Oregon, singled with no outs to put runners on first and second, and following an error that loaded the bases, third baseman Vince Sablan, a South Kitsap product who will be a sophomore at Olympic College next year, lofted a deep fly to left to drive in the game-winning run. Oh, yeah, pitcher Ryan Taylor, a Utah player who just finished his sophomore season at Olympic, got the win with two innings of scoreless relief.

Kitsap hosts Corvallis again Saturday (6:35 p.m.) and Sunday (1:05 p.m.), and has a makeup home doubleheader with Bellingham on Monday (3:35 p.m. start) at Gene Lobe Fields at the Fairgrounds. Bring your sunscreen. It’s supposed to get into the 90s on Monday.

Corvallis is expected to start Colin Feldtman on the mound Saturday. Feldtman’s a Bainbridge native and University of Portland pitcher who played the last two summers with the BlueJackets. He’ s 0-1 with a 4.56 ERA after four starts.

The Jackets annual Fireworks Night is Friday, July 5 with a special 7:35 p.m. start vs. Wenatchee. And Kitsap’s hosting a Christmas in July on On Saturday, July 6. Bring an unwrapped toy, which will go to Toys 4 Tots, to get into the game for free A nonperishable food item will get a coupon for a free hot dog and a drink at the concession stand.

Did you see those BlueJackets’ television ads on ROOT TV during the Mariners’ games? At least the ownership group is trying to get fans in the stands.

ALSO

The Northwest Pro Rodeo Association is holding its annual Thunderbird Rodeo Benefit this weekend at Thunderbird Stadium at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds & Events Center. Performances are Saturday (7:30 p.m.) and Sunday (1:30 p.m.).

After his hot start, Willie Bloomquist has cooled off at the plate for the Diamondbacks. The South Kitsap grad is 5-for-32 (.152) over his last 10 games and his average has dipped to .292 for the 22 games he’s played in since coming off the DL.

Drew Vettleson, the Central Kitsap grad playing for the Charlotte Stone Crabs of the Class A Florida State League, has a nine-game hitting streak and has boosted his average to a season-high .270. The Tampa Rays prospect was hitting .193 after April before he started to get untracked. The outfielder has four home runs, five triples and 35 RBI, which is second on the squad.

Outfielder Aaron Cunningham, a South Kitsap grad playing at Triple-A Round Rock for Texas, has hit .316 in his last 10 games and is hitting .264 for the season. Seven of his last 12 hits have been for extra bases (5 doubles, 1 triple, 1 HR)

There’s a bunch of links about M’s shortstop Brad Miller in this post by Rainiers’ broadcaster Mike Curto.

 

Kitsapers in the pros: Cunningham, Vettleson heating up in minors

Aaron Cunningham and Drew Vettleson, a couple of minor-league outfielders, appear to have gotten untracked after slow starts.

Cunningham, from South Kitsap and Everett CC, is playing for the  Round Rock Express, Texas Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate that plays in the Pacific Coast League. He has hit .302 (13 for 43) with six RBI over his last 10 games going into Monday night’s game at Tucson. He was 4 for  6 with a home run at Las Vegas on May 10. Cunningham, now hitting No. 5 in the order, is hitting .272 for the season with a .373 on-base percentage and .395 slugging percentage.

Vettleson, an outfielder from Central Kitsap, is hitting .308 (12 for 39) over the his last 10 games for the Charlotte Stone Crabs of the advanced Class A Florida State League. Vettleson was 2 for 4 with an RBI double on Monday and has hit two homers in that stretch to boost his average to .233. He’s now batting No. 3 for the Stone Crabs after  seeing his average flirt with the Mendoza Line for most of April. He’s got a .270 on-base percentage and .380 slugging percentage.

Todd Linden, another Central Kitsap grad, fouled a ball off his right foot on April 20, suffering a deep bone bruise, and he remains on the Fresno Grizzlies’ disabled list. Linden, who was hitting .286 after just 35 at bats, is targeting a mid- to late-June return, according to the Grizzlies.

At the major league level, shortstop Willie Bloomquist remains on the Arizona Diamondback’s disabled list with a strained oblique. The South Kitsap grad pulled it prior to the start of the season and recently had a small setback in extended spring training.

Bloomquist was shut down for a couple of days before resuming hitting a week ago.

“We just kind of slowed him down a little big,” Arizona manager Kirk Gibson told MLB.com. “It’s not like he totally reinjured it, it just wasn’t as good as it needed to be to start playing in games.”

Baltimore pitcher Jason Hammel has had some rocky outings, but he’s 5-1 with a 4.93 ERA and on pace for a 21-4 season. The Orioles have won six of his eight starts. The South Kitsap grad lasted just four innings in his last start, and got a no decision after allowing eight hits and six unearned runs at Minnesota on Friday. Hammel has 32 strikeouts and 18 walks in 45.2 innings. The right-hander has been getting some serious run support by his teammates.

Kitsapers in the pros: SK grad Hammel faces M’s Tuesday night

With Willie Bloomquist on the disabled list in Arizona, Baltimore pitcher Jason Hammel is the only player with Kitsap ties now playing in the major leagues.

The Orioles’ right-hander, a 2000 grad of South Kitsap, will make his sixth start of the season Tuesday against the suddenly-hot Mariners at Safeco Field.

Hammel is 3-1 with a 3.82 ERA. He started on opening day and is considered the ace of the Orioles’ staff. He’s lasted at least six innings in all of his starts and is 3-0 with a 2.50 on the road this season.

Hammel is 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA in three career starts against the Mariners.

Rookie Brandon Mauer (2-1, 1.89 in his last three starts) will be on the hill for Seattle.

As for Bloomquist, the veteran utility player started the season the DL with a right oblique pull. He’s been playing some games at the Diamondbacks’ training site in Scottsdale, but there’s no word on when he’ll be activated. “He’s getting better, but he has a ways to go,” manager Kirk Gibson said last week.

In the minors:

Aaron Cunningham, another SK grad, is playing for Round Rock, a Triple-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers. He’s 8-f0r-34 in his last 10 games (.235) and hitting .239 overall for the Express, who are based just outside of Austin, Texas. The outfielder has one home run and 6 RBI. He was a sixth-round pick of the Chicago White Sox in 2005. He’s got 452 at bats in the big leagues, playing with Oakland (2008-09), San Diego (2010-11) and Cleveland (2012).

Todd Linden, a 32-year-0ld CK grad, is on the 7-day disabled list at Fresno. When he’s played, he’s been used at first base and as a DH. He sat a lot early as the Giants wanted to get Brent Pill a lot of at bats as Pill was coming off an injury. Linden’s hitting .286 in just 35 at bats with one home run. I asked a minor-league instructor this spring if Linden has a chance to get back to the big-league Giants, and he said it was possible, but only as a left-handed hitter. Linden’s been a switch-hitter is entire career. He’s currently hitting .320 as a lefty and .200 from the right side. He was the 41st overall pick in the 2001 MLB draft.

Drew Vettleson is off to a tough start for the Charlotte Stone Crabs, an advanced Class A club in the Florida State League. The outfielder from Central Kitsap, Tampa’s 10th-best prospect according to MLB.com, is hitting .136 in his last 10 games (6-for-44) and .202 for the season with a .220 on-base percentage. He was the 42nd overall pick in the 2010 draft.

Vettleson to start season with Class A Charlotte Biscuits

Drew Vettleson, coming off an MVP season at Low A Bowling Green (Ky.) will start the season with the High A Charlotte Biscuits (N.C.). The Central Kitsap grad, a right fielder, made a start for the major league Tampa Rays this spring.

Vettleson, 21, is rated the 10th-best prospect in the Rays’ organization by mlb.com.

Also, former South Kitsap standout Aaron Cunningham will open the season with the Round Rock Express, the Texas Rangers’ Triple-A club. Round Rock’s part of the Austin metropolitan area. Cunningham’s goal, of course, is to get back to the majors, where he’s played parts of the last five seasons. The outfielder, who turns 27 on April 27, spent most of last season with the Cleveland Indians and signed a minor-league contract with Texas in the offseason.

Rangers release former NK/WSU star Jared Prince

Got caught by surprise when I showed up in Surprise, Ariz., Tuesday morning. Was looking to get together with North Kitsap grad Jared Prince and South Kitsap grad Aaron Cunningham, a couple of outfielders in camp with the Texas Rangers.

Talked to Prince Monday night and he sounded upbeat. Said he thought he’d be with the Rangers’ Double-A squad at Camelback Ranch for a game against the White Sox.

As I waited for players to file into the bus for the ride to the game, Cunningham strolled by. We exchanged greetings, and when I told him I hoped to get together with him and Prince in the next day or two, he told me Prince had been let go in the morning.

Tough deal for the 26-year-old. The former NK and Washington State star is one of the good guys you like to pull for and he’ll bounce back. As his former manager Steve Buechele told me, “Whatever he ends up doing, he’s going to be successful at.”

Prince hit .234 with 12 homers at Double-A Frisco a year ago. The former Pac-10 Freshman of the Year and All-American from WSU was drafted in the 34th round by the Rangers in 2009 and had moved from rookie league to low high, high A and Double A. His numbers weren’t the greatest, but he impressed everybody with his demeanor and the way he played the game. If he’s a higher draft choice, the Rangers would have made room for him, but they didn’t have a lot of money invested in a guy who also had the talent, in my opinion, to be a starting quarterback in the Pac-12. Here’s his complete minor-league stats.

He got into three major league spring training games for Texas this year, going hitless in two at bats. He played against the Mariners in a game that was televised in the Northwest.

It was 73 degrees and overcast when we headed out of the place we’re renting down here around 8:45 a.m.. When we returned, after catching a few innings of the Rangers-White Sox Triple-A game, it was 87 and sweat was starting to trickle everywhere, if you know what I mean.

Cunningham, by the way, played left and batted No. 2 for the Rangers’ AAA club. He struck out and ground out in the two at-bats we saw.

It looks like Cunningham’s locked in to be a starter for Texas’ Triple-A club at Round Rock, Texas. But sometimes this game will throw some curve balls at you that you weren’t expecting. Like the one Prince got today.

I hope to talk to Prince before he gets out of town. He’ll likely be the subject of my regular Thursday column. I hope to write about Cunningham next week.

And if you missed the monthly Q&A I’m now doing (it runs the last Monday of each month), here’s the conversation I had with Mike Curto, broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers. He’s another one of the really nice guys in baseball.

A few NCAA thoughts from the road

Left Bremerton on Sunday, and it already seems like we’ve been gone three weeks. From B-town to Reno to Las Vegas, the road trip has taken us to Flagstaff, Ariz. Next stop: The Grand Canyon. Then it’s off to Arizona for some  sun and baseball.

Followed the NCAA Tournament on the radio for most of the day, wondering if Gonzaga was going to hold off Southern. Southern? Can you imagine the heat the Zags would have taken if they’d lost to a No. 16?

When B.F. Goodrich invented rubber galoshes in 1923 in Akron, Ohio, they featured a new invention called the zipper. Hence, that’s how Akron came to be known as the Zips. And those are the things you google while on the road with a couple of buddies. Maybe the Zips were wearing galoshes on Thursday during an 88-42 loss to Virginia Commonwealth? Or maybe VCU is that good? If a No. 11 seed is ever going to win the tournament, this might be the one. “Organized chaos,” is how one of TV’s talking heads described VCU.

Cal, Oregon and Arizona all win on Thursday? Who saw that coming? The Pac-12 hasn’t gotten much respect in recent years, but maybe this is the year they will earn some R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

This just in: No. 14 Harvard KO’s No, 3 seed New Mexico in the West, 68-62. The Ivy Leaguers weren’t suppose to be here this year after losing two co-captains after a grade scandal.  Next up for the Crimson is Arizona. Upsets like this are what make this tournament so great. Look at your bracket. I bet it just got busted.

This just in: Syracuse leads Montana 72-28. Do you think the Grizzlies are happy they made the tournament?

My column this week was about the Odds of March. The next one will be about spring training.

Quick hits

Former Central Kitsap football coach Paul Stoffel, who was an assistant at West High when I played, is living in Prescott, Ariz., and we will get together on Saturday. Stoffel’s granddaughter, Kristin Stoffel, is a freshman basketball player at Seattle University.

Miami comes from 27-points back in the third quarter to beat Cleveland and extend its NBA winning streak to 24 games. This, two days after overcoming a 17-point deficit in a victory over Boston. Oh, yeah, both games were on the road. The Heat won three straight in four days to cap a 5-0 road trip. Enough about this nonsense about LeBron James not being in Michael Jordan’s league. When Jordan left the Bulls to play pro baseball, Chicago still managed to get back to the NBA Finals the next year. When James left Cleveland, which had become one of the league’s elite teams, the Cavs suddenly became the worst team in basketball.

Nate Roberts, a senior from Central Kitsap, is finishing up his four-year baseball career at Seattle University and coach Donny Herrel calls the middle infielder the “perfect program guy.”

Nice to see Olympic College’s baseball team is off to a good start. The Rangers are 9-4. It’s still a shame that Kitsap County officials won’t let the Rangers volunteer their time to work on the field at the fairgrounds. OC’s willing to work on the field before and after practices. Unless something’s changed in the last week, the county is only allowing the college to practice 10 times on the field. OC’s played several of its home games at the Regional Athletic Complex in Lacey.

South Kitsap grad Aaron Cunningham is hitting .276 for the Texas Rangers this spring and is still in the running for a backup outfield position. North Kitsap grad Jared Prince has appeared in three spring games for the Rangers and is hitless in two at bats. It’s possible both Kitsap products could start the season at Triple-A Round Rock, which plays in the Pacific Coast League.