Tagged: ‘Topes blog

Reliever Loop Moves to Rotation

Isotopes left-handed reliever Derrick Loop will return to his independent-ball roots by taking over as the fifth starter in the ‘Topes pitching rotation. The pitcher boasts a starter’s record already, 6-2, while posting a 3.82 ERA through 37.2 innings of work. He is set to make his first start tonight against the Memphis Redbirds at 6:05 PM.

“I’m comfortable with my role right now, but if my role changes, I’ll embrace it,” Loop said earlier this year when asked how the team can utilize his talent. “I wouldn’t mind starting, I’m comfortable in that position too.”

Loop has appeared in 20 games out of the bullpen this season for Albuquerque. The Isotopes have typically used him in short spans of two to three frames, with his longest outing a 4.0 inning performance where he allowed four runs on seven hits. The lefty hurler currently owns the second lowest ERA of all ‘Topes relievers who have pitched at least eight innings, and his 37.2 frames of work are the second most among all Isotopes relievers.

Pitching Coach Glenn Dishman has been impressed with what’s he’s seen from the Albuquerque pitcher, noting how well Loop has taken advantage of his chances on the mound.

“I’m really proud of what he’s done this season,” said Dishman.  “He’s gotten his opportunity and he’s done well.”

The move sends previous starter, lefty Michael Antonini, to the bullpen to fill in as a mid-to-long innings reliever. The left-hander has struggled as a starter through the first half of the season, going 1-6 with a 5.43 ERA through 66.1 innings.  Antonini has allowed 14 home runs in 2012, tied for second-most in the circuit as of June 26. His final outing as a starter resulted in a loss with the hurler giving up five runs on seven hits, three of which left the yard.

Derrick Loop moves into the rotation

“Touching Base” with Brian Cavazos-Galvez

*Each homestand the ‘Topes Tattler will spotlight an individual on the Isotopes for the new segment, “Touching Base.” The blog will be checking in with various players and coaches to give fans an inside look at your 2012 ‘Topes. Make sure to keep checking back to see who is “touching base!”

We’re at about the time of the season when Brian Cavazos-Galvez get’s hot. I’m talking 3-for-4 hot. The kind of hot where a bunt back to the pitcher turns into a double. Opposing hurlers beware, it doesn’t matter what you throw him, if Cavazos-Galvez makes contact, he’s getting a base hit.

Shake your head in disbelief if you want, but his 23 hits in the last 45 at-bats don’t lie. That means, statistically speaking of course, if you flip a coin for Cavazos-Galvez to get a base knock, the results come out —

Heads, he gets a hit

Tails, he probably still gets a hit.

“So far, knock on wood, I started really slow and have pulled my way out from that,” Cavazos-Galvez said.

Pulling his way out refers to his slow starts, which have actually become a habitual occurrence to the outfielder. At the onset of each year, Cavazos-Galvez has struggled at the plate, putting his early batting average “in a hole.” The worst part is, after ruling out bad habits and mental blocks, Cavazos-Galvez isn’t even sure why he begins each season in a rut.

“Things just don’t quite go my way early in the season,” Cavazos-Galvez said with a shrug. “I’ve been having to pull myself out of a hole, and that’s hard mentally, but I think it’s good for my own confidence and the Dodgers confidence as well.”

The start of this season was when his early struggles took a turn for the worst. Cavazos-Galvez began the year with Double-A Chattanooga, but after hitting below the Mendoza line (.167) through 20 games, he was reassigned to high Single-A Rancho Cucamonga.

As the season picked up, so did his performance at the plate. The outfielder quickly found his stroke in California to hit at the .346 mark with three home runs. But he hadn’t really changed anything mechanically. His swing was still basically the same, yet now he was ripping the cover off the ball. So why the quick fix?

“In Chattanooga I didn’t feel bad or anything,” Cavazos-Galvez said. “But when I got to Rancho it cleared my head and was a fresh start. The whole change of scenery and mentality really helped me start over.”

And with the fresh start came his first call to Triple-A Albuquerque. Not necessarily a change of scenery for the hometown hero, but a new chance to prove himself to the parent club. A job, he says, that includes doing anything and everything required of him.

“I can do a little bit of everything and I think that’s the biggest thing I can give to the organization,” Cavazos-Galvez said. “I feel that I’m doing a bunch of little things that can be put together and allow me to showcase myself.”

Showcasing himself is really going to be the most challenging aspect of the outfielder’s season. With a stacked outfield in Los Angeles, plus great prospects here in Albuquerque, separating himself might mean elevating his game to a whole new level. Even with his .376 average on the year.

But to Cavazos-Galvez, the numbers only tell part of the story. He said his call to the big leagues can be largely based on the amount of his success with each job he’s given. Whether it’s leading off, driving in runs from the bottom of the order, playing defense or even coming off the bench, as long as he’s excels in his daily job, he says everything will work itself out in the end.

“You just need to be focused on your job for the team, and if you do your job in every situation, they (coaches) are going to see that. It doesn’t matter if you hit .200 or .400 as long as you’re good at THAT job.”

That’s not to say he isn’t a team player though. Above all, Cavazos-Galvez acknowledged that his number one job will always be “helping his team win wherever he goes.” Well, playing here in Albuquerque really means there’s only one other place for him to go.

“It definitely would be a little bitter sweet to leave here for the Dodgers,” Cavazos-Galvez said. “It’s been special to be in Albuquerque and be a professional at something I love to do… but I’d take Los Angeles every day.”

Sometimes all it takes is a change of scenery.

‘Topes outfielder Brian Cavazos-Galvez

Roster Returning to Form

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.

Scott Van Slyke is a key piece returning to the ‘Topes roster (Photo: Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers)

“Touching Base” with Alex Castellanos

*Each homestand the ‘Topes Tattler will spotlight an individual on the Isotopes for the new segment, “Touching Base.” The blog will be checking in with various players and coaches to give fans an inside look at your 2012 ‘Topes. Make sure to keep checking back to see who is “touching base!”

In a season that’s seen a handful of guys leave the ‘Topes, it feels good to have one back.

Especially when it’s Alex Castellanos.

Almost exactly a month to the day (April 24) since the utility fielder went on the DL with a left hamstring strain, Castellanos says everything is back 100 percent and he’s ready to suit up for the Isotopes.

“It feels good,” says Castellanos of his hamstring. “I’m still a little bit scared to push it, but I’ll get over it after I start playing a couple games.”

If anyone should be scared it’s opposing pitching.  Before the injury, Castellanos ranked in the tops of nearly every offensive category including runs scored, triples, extra-base hits, total bases, walks, torn-up pitching charts, slugging percentage and opponent’s headaches.

He even led the PCL in hit by pitches (wonder if there’s a correlation).

When asked about what he’s looking to do in his return, Castellanos said, “Just right where I left off, just doing what I was doing.”

Better get the record books ready.

While on the Disabled List, Castellanos was slowly rehabbing his way back to Albuquerque in Extended Spring Training. His routine in Glendale AZ. was a little different than everyday professional baseball, and he said that all the down time can really wear on your mental composure.

“That whole month was tough,” says Castellanos. “Especially (when) I wake up early in the morning, get my stuff done, and then I have the whole day just to think.”

Think about what exactly?

What pose to strike after a clutch base hit? How fast to jog around the bases after a home run? What walk-up song really says Alex Castellanos is back?

Anything else in Extended Spring Training?

“I played about 10 games down there, got a couple at-bats, got a couple hits,” says Castellanos.  “I think I hit a couple home runs, stuff like that.”

Jeez. How fast can we get this guy back in the box?

Unfortunately it’s unlikely that he’ll have a perfectly smooth transition back to Triple-A. Injuries like his can have a nagging, lingering effect, and it’s not something the infielder can just forget.

“I don’t really feel it (the injury),” says Castellanos. “But I’m just kind of scared to leg it out and have something happen. Just over time it’s going to have to get out of my head.”

Luckily he won’t have as much time to think about it anymore. With Castellanos penciled in the lineup tonight, the first time since April 24, he definitely has more important things on his mind.

“I want to get my timing back, see pitches, just things like that,” he says. “I’m just going to work my way up, little by little.”

“I just want to get back to the way I was playing.”

No need to think twice about that.

‘Topes infielder, Alex Castellanos