New Britain had an unscheduled night off Monday, and maybe that was a good thing. At 18-12, the Rock Cats are just 1.5 games out of first place in their division, but are 5-5 over their last 10 games, and had lost 2 of 3 to the Portland Sea Dogs over the weekend before Monday evening's contest against the Binghamton Mets was rained out. So it's a good time to take notice of a few things.
First, player movement. If you haven't read it here or elsewhere, Joe Benson, Twins outfield prospect who started the season in AAA after playing last September for the Twins, is a Rock Cat once again. His offensive line at Rochester wasn't where it needs to be. Benson played very well last season in New Britain, so hopefully he can get his swing back. Also, capable shortstop Pedro Florimon was promoted to Rochester to take the place of new Twin Brian Dozier. Great news for him. His defense was very sound at New Britain, and I hope that he can keep swinging the bat well in Rochester.
Second, it was announced a couple days ago that top pitching prospect Alex Wimmers has a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL), located in his elbow. This is definitely not good news. What was first an elbow strain has now been diagnosed as a "very slight tear." No surgery is scheduled right now, as the Twins are going to wait and see if the injury can be rehabbed. Unfortunately, though, Tommy John surgery is a common result for pitchers suffering this type of injury. Wimmers, having made just one start this season back in the first part of April, could use some good luck, but it's tough to be optimistic about this variety of injury.
Finally, let's talk offense. For the first few weeks of the season, it seemed like the Rock Cats were scoring runs in bunches -- like 5, 6 or 7 runs a game. There was timely hitting, and plenty of power. As the weather has warmed, however, the bats have cooled. After the Rock Cats' 3-1 loss to Portland on Sunday, a good pitching battle during which the team had 7 hits but was 1-8 with runners in scoring position, manager Jeff Smith stated the following: "We had chances once again. Our bats are very poor with runners in scoring position. We're getting a lot of hits, what I call meaningless hits without any guys on base. We need to transfer those over and have better intensity with guys in scoring position." Does that sound familiar, Twins fans? Unlike with the Twins, however, New Britain's pitching has kept them in most games. New Rock Cat starter BJ Hermsen took the loss on Sunday, but had a quality start (3 runs in 6 and 1/3 innings). If the Rock Cats are going to continue their offensive success, some players are going to need to step up in crucial spots.
I'll finish this morning with a few current slash lines for some of the players that you probably are keeping tabs on:
Aaron Hicks: .278/.355/.444, 4 HR, 4 2B, 17 RBIs
Deibinson Romero: .276/.358/.457, 3 HR, 8 2B, 18 RBIs
Chris Herrmann: .236/.283/.396, 3 HR, 8 2B, 11 RBIs