Mudcats Notebook: Lee handling transition to bullpen well
It was a difficult week for the Carolina Mudcats, as the team went just 1-5, closing the week on a five-game skid. The lone victory came via a rout over Salem before dropping the last five games in the week, including a double header sweep by Potomac.
With the difficult week, the team fell to 21-23 in the second half and 2.5 games behind Winston Salem in the Carolina League’s Southern Division. The Mudcats will look to get back on the right track this week with a series at Frederick, before facing Myrtle Beach in back-to-back series.
Player Spotlight: Jacob Lee
Not everyone can be a starter, and Mudcats right hander Jacob Lee was forced to learn that the hard way.
After starting 19 of the 27 professional games he played in prior to this season, Lee was asked to move to the bullpen, in part due to an elbow injury.
Even though his elbow is fully healed, he said it was still a major adjustment to working out of the bullpen.
“At first, it was a little bit of a struggle, getting loose and getting into the mindset,” Lee said.
Since making the difficult adjustment, Mudcats pitching coach Steve Karsay has been an incredible help to him while making the transition.
“Karsay’s done a great job with it for me,” Lee said. “He made the transition in the big leagues so he’s been able to help me and some other guys that have been making the transition now a lot smoother.”
Karsay is a big proponent of making sure every pitcher’s fastball is where it needs to be before introducing a breaking ball, and Lee echoed that, saying he had to learn how to get it going in a shorter warm-up period than as a starter.
“Coming out of the bullpen, I need to make sure my fastball is working for me and my breaking ball,” Lee explained. “That’s the biggest thing he’s taught me, is in eight-ten pitches in the bullpen and another eight on the mound, how to use those to be in control right from the first hitter.”
The numbers show that Karsay’s experiences have helped Lee make the transition. After struggling to an 0-5 record with a 6.10 ERA in 11 starts last season, Lee is 2-0 with just a 2.79 ERA in 33 appearances this season.
“Getting the fastball command is the place to start,” he said.
It would be easy to think it would be a blow to someone’s ego when they were asked to pitch out of the bullpen, but Lee has taken it in stride.
“As long as I still have an opportunity to pitch, I’m excited,” he explained. “It’s a different role, but I’m just glad they’ve given me the opportunity to go to the bullpen and pitch back here in Carolina.”
While the opportunity is still there for him to work his way back into a starting role, Lee said the opportunity to pitch is all that matters to him.
“Whether I work my way back into a starters spot, we’ll see, but I’m just glad they’re giving me the opportunity to throw out of the pen and giving me the chance,” Lee said.
Player of the Week
Jerrud Sabourin (1B/LF): 7-16, 3 R, 2 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 2 BB, 2 K
Sabourin has been tearing it up offensively in recent games. After hitting for the cycle last week, Sabourin followed that performance up with a solid week at the plate. He cracked his fourth home run of the year, and scored three runs at Salem on Wednesday. To top it off, Sabourin led the team in RBIs in a week the team desperately needed someone to drive in runs.
Yhoxian Medina (SS): 6-24, 3 R, 3 RBI, 3 K, 1 SB
His numbers might not look like much, but Medina is quietly becoming a solid leadoff man for the Mudcats. When he gets on base, he figures out a way to score. To be more successful, he needs to get on base at a higher rate, but you can’t deny the improvements Medina has made this season.
Benny Suarez (RHP): 5.2 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 4 K, 0 BB
Suarez has become one of the Mudcats most reliable bullpen arms as the season has worn on, which is something every team needs. If a pitcher is able to come in every few days and get the team through a couple of innings and not give up anything, he will have a job. Suarez is working his way to that with the Mudcats.
Todd Hankins (OF): 4-21, 5 R, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 8 K, 1 SB
A position change in the middle of the season is hard on anyone, but Hankins is making the transition as seamless as possible. Playing spectacular defense in center field, the change seemed to take his attention away from the plate, but that has slowly started to come back around. He is still striking out at a high rate, but if you can score almost every time you get on base, you’re obviously doing something right.
On the Hook
Cole Sulser (RHP): 2 GS, 1-1, 10.2 IP, 15 H, 9 ER, 3 BB, 5 K
In two starts this week, Sulser gave up nine runs in less than 11 innings. As I have previously written, Sulser generally works well for the majority of a start, but has one bad inning where most of the damage is done. That was what happened in both starts this week. He needs to stop over thinking while he is on the mound, and just go out and pitch.
DJ Brown (RHP): 1 GS, 0-1, 1.2 IP, 7 H, 7 ER, 2 BB, 1 K
Brown had a disastrous start where he was unable to get out of the second inning and gave up seven runs. While he has had a solid season as he transitioned into a starting role, this was one of his worst performances of the year. In order to progress, Brown needs to limit outings like this and learn how to work deeper into games than the five or six innings he generally works.
James Roberts (3B): 3-19, 1 R, 3 BB, 4 K
If you just look at Roberts’ stat line for the week, you could assume he didn’t really do much at the plate. That assumption would be correct as he finished with more strikeouts than hits and didn’t manage an extra-base hit or RBI on the week.
Fish on the Line
Right-hander Michael Peoples was added to the disabled list with a general illness, but is expected back in just a few days. He is currently the only player on the Mudcats disabled list.
Fish Swimming Around
Right hander Luis DeJesus was received from Mahoning Valley to fill Peoples’ roster spot in the only roster move of the week.
Zachary is a senior at NC State where he is majoring in communication-media, with minors in journalism and theatre. You can follow him on Twitter @RealZachFrancis.