• Rockies 2008 first-round lefthander Christian Friedrich rebounded from a dismal May 25 start (10 runs, seven hits in 1 2/3 innings) to turn in his finest effort of the season for Tulsa. His game score jumped 63 points, from 10 to 73, in limiting Frisco to one run on just two hits over seven innings. The 23-year-old notched five strikeouts against one walk and recorded 11 of 13 in-play outs on groundballs.
• Double-A Tulsa center fielder Tim Wheeler (Rockies) went 3-for-5 to raise his average to .337. The leadoff hitter improbably leads the Texas League with 14 homers and 45 RBIs despite not collecting any of either in a weekend series at Frisco.
Courtesy of Matt Eddy (Baseball America)
So far in 2011 the Tulsa Drillers are 23-19 in Texas League Play. Though through their last ten games the team is 4-6, the Drillers still own a half-game lead in the Northern Division over Northwest Arkansas. And they own a two and a half game lead over the Arkansas Travelers.
The starting pitching has certainly been a strength so far in the season with Juan Nicasio, Christian Friedrich, and Rob Scahill all pitching great in their last outing. Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Aaron Cook will be on the mound for the Drillers Monday as he is making his third rehab start with the team and looking to build on his last two outings.
Not only has the pitching been great so far, the bats are starting to heat up. Scott Beerer is hitting .345 over his last ten games, with two home runs and five runs batted in. Thomas Field is also starting to turn his season around as well. Field has put together what is easily his best ten game stretch as a Tulsa Driller. He is hitting .313 with ten hits, one home run, eight runs batted in, four runs in his last ten games.
Here are the questions for the week Drillville:
- Who do you predict will make the Texas League All-Star team from the Drillers in 2011?
- What has been your most memorable game so far in 2011?
- With only a few players back from the 2010 team. Who do you believe is the Drillville’s new favorite player?
- If given a choice of the two. Would you prefer original double-bubble or apple flavored dubble-bubble?
His manager saw the potential. This year, Tulsa Drillers outfielder Tim Wheeler is showing it for everyone.
Wheeler, a first-round pick of the Rockies in 2009, is thriving in his Double-A debut. After hitting no higher than .256 in his first two professional seasons, Wheeler entered Tuesday’s action hitting .326 with a team-high 12 home runs and 35 RBIs out of the leadoff spot.
“I’ve just done a good job of keeping the same swing day in and day out,” Wheeler said. “And when I do have a bad day, I’m going back out the next day with the same swing and not changing something, just really trying to use my hands and not changing a whole lot.”
Wheeler’s early-season power surge puts him on a pace to become the first Texas Leaguer to hit 40 homers in a season since 1964 (Brandon Berger,Wichita). Whether Wheeler can maintain his current output remains to be seen, of course, but he’s showing the potential that Drillers manager Duane Espy witnessed first-hand as his hitting coach with Modesto in 2010.
“It’s been pretty special what he’s done, but I’m not surprised, because I saw what he was capable of last year,” said Espy, the veteran coach and manager in his 42nd professional season.
After the Rockies drafted Wheeler out of Sacramento State, he hit .256 with five home runs, 35 RBIs and 60 strikeouts in 68 games at Short Season Tri-City. He skipped Class A to start last season at Class A Advanced Modesto and batted .249 in 129 games with 12 homers, 63 RBIs and 114 strikeouts.
“At times it was frustrating, but it was just part of the process,” Wheeler said. “I wasn’t ready to play in the big leagues last year. You never know when that’s going to happen, but it was a lot of learning. It made me a better player, and this year I’m showing that.”
Though the strikeouts piled up and the average stayed, well, average, Wheeler showed the work ethic and commitment to winning that helped lead Modesto to the California League playoffs.
“I just try to make myself better every day, whether it be defense, hitting, base running and just being a good teammate, helping the team win really,” Wheeler said. “We got to the semis in the postseason last year, and we did a good job.”
Espy pointed out that Modesto’s 56-year-old John Thurman Field, with its deep power alleys and 400-foot center-field fence, was not always conducive to the power Wheeler has shown this year. But also, Espy noted, Wheeler is the type of player to give up outs in favor of runs.
“You had a guy on third and the infield back, he’d hit a ground ball to second and drive him in,” Espy said. “You could tell he was that type of guy. You could tell that was important. That creates a .250 instead of a .275 or .280 batting average, making outs for the team, but certainly he was a big part of us winning.”
The Drillers will be off on Wednesday due to travel reasons. They will begin a five game series against the Travelers on Thursday when they will play a doubleheader. Starting the first game will be Josh Sullivan and Joey Williamson will be taking the mound for the second game, both of which are scheduled for 7 innings.
Afterwards the Drillers will begin their first eight game homestand of the 2011 season. With four games against the Northwest Arkansas Naturals followed by four more games against Springfield.
The Monday Morning Manager will typically consist of open-ended questions for the Drillville faithful to answer. The questions are for fans to comment on, so we are visibly able to gauge their opinion on not only the baseball team but promotions, ONEOK Field, and everything else that is Tulsa Drillers.
- With MLB All-Star Balloting now available. Who on the Drillers is worthy of a Texas League All-Star appearance?
- The Drillers currently sit in first place at 18-12. Can you see them clinching the division in the first part of the season this year?
- What team would you consider the main rival of the Drillers? Why?