Alex Castellanos is back tonight. And Scott Van Slyke. And Jerry Sands.
Hey, even Josh Fields, Luis Cruz, Trent Oeltjen, Matt Angle and Tim Federowicz are here too. It’s like a seven-game winning streak ‘Topes reunion. But instead of trading stories about how good they used to be, they’re going to make new ones about how good they actually are.
“The nucleus of our club looks pretty close to what he had at the start of the season right now, and that’s a good thing,” Isotopes Manager Lorenzo Bundy said.
You don’t say.
That was the team that had six different guys batting over .300. Actually, that was the team that, as a whole, was hitting almost .300 (.289). They ranked second in home runs (20), third in RBI (111) and third in runs (119). They ate Powerbars for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
And now they’re back, and presumably, better than ever. With three of the everyday starters having seen time with the Dodgers already, PLUS a lineup that features the scorching hot Brian Cavazos-Galvez, the ‘Topes shouldn’t have any problems in the near future.
Except maybe fitting everyone into the lineup.
“That’s the time when your managerial skills come in as far as spreading time around,” Bundy said. “But at this level you don’t know who is going to be here one day and gone the next.”
Well, while they are here, I plan on thoroughly enjoying each and every day they crank up the bats. I plan on soaking in every box score that could easily belong to a football game: 7-3, 14-6, 21-0… A little too far? I think not.
“Obviously having everyone back here makes us strong again in a sense,” Isotopes Hitting Coach John Valentin said. “We hope to get back on a roll like we did early in the year and get back to first place.”
Go ahead and put us back on the fast track for the top rung. In the last week or so, the ‘Topes have moved from four and a half games back of first, to only one and a half. During the streak, as the big leaguers have begun to slowly trickle back to Albuquerque, the Isotopes have scored 10 or more runs in three of the four most recent victories.
“We’ve swung the bat really, really well the last few nights,” Valentin said. “Hopefully it’s a good sign that we’re going to start to get hot with the bats and help our pitching out.”
Oh yeah. I nearly forgot about the guys out on the mound for us, who, arguably, have been the biggest cause for the improved play. Between starters Fernando Nieve, Will Savage, Stephen Fife and John Ely, none of the hurlers have allowed more than four runs in their previous starts at home. And yes, that includes the rarefied air of Isotopes Park, which is not especially known for aiding pitching.
“We’ve been getting really good pitching, and that’s been a key point,” Valentin said.
Whatever you want to attribute our hot streak to lately, winning six of the last eight, it’s been vintage ‘Topes. Hitting. Scoring. Winning. It’s all coming together, much like the core of this season’s starting roster. However, the trick is going to be not chasing first place, just taking care of business day by day at the yard.
“We try not to look two or three days down the road, we just go for the day,” Bundy said. “I try to keep the guys focused on the moment and whatever happens tomorrow we’ll deal with it when we get there.”
He’s right. Who knows, maybe we’ll even get Elian Herrera back —
And have some real roster issues.
It may take more than a two-run homerun during a Spring Training game to prove it, but Dodgers prospect Scott Van Slyke seems ready to take the final steps towards making his own name in the majors.
Son of former All-Star outfielder Andy Van Slyke, Scott has steadily (albeit slowly) been progressing through the Los Angeles Dodgers farm system since being drafted out of high school in 2005. The outfielder tore through Double-A ball with Chattanooga last season, blasting 20 home runs with a .427 OBP en route to being named the Dodgers Minor League Player of the Year.
But while Double-A accolades are nice, Major League All-Star appearances are better. And who else to tell it better than his own father, Andy, who admits his continuous insights may have an adverse affect on his son.
“I probably do overload him, to be honest with you,” Andy Van Slyke told Scout.com “It’s like a lot of information in life. You keep what’s useful and spit out the rest. Hopefully, he’s wise enough to use all of it.”
Whatever amount of information Scott has been using, it seems to be working. Prior to his breakout season last year, Van Slyke made a brief appearance with the Isotopes in 2010, collecting 11 hits in 12 games. He was selected to the California League post-season All-Star Team in 2009, and became the first player in San Bernardino professional baseball history to collect at least 40 doubles (42), 20 home runs (23) and 100 RBI.
“It’s a game of percentages,” said Scott in 2008 after batting a dismal .148 with no home runs and seven RBI in 22 games with Single-A Great Lakes. “There’s a rollover factor; when the year ends, there’s always a new draft next year, and 30 more kids are going to come in.”
Andy Van Slyke also noted the ongoing pressure added by each year’s new crop of baseball prospects, advising Scott that although his plate-approach has improved since his earlier years, raw talent alone isn’t enough to become a big league star.
“You can have the most perfect swing, but if you’re not licking your chops, it’s irrelevant,” Andy Van Slyke said. “You have to want to be at the plate in that (clutch) situation. And you’d better not be looking to the on-deck circle.”
We call this “tough love.”
All pressures aside, Scott Van Slyke has finally put himself in a position to make his regular-season Major League debut. After an impressive outing in the Dodgers Spring Training opener, Double-A accolades seem like a thing of the past. With a strong performance through the rest of the spring and a “hunger” to succeed at the plate, Van Slyke might finally begin to meet expectations.
For both his father and the Dodgers organization.