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RubberDucks Notebook: Roberts is evolving as a pitcher

RubberDucks Notebook: Roberts is evolving as a pitcher
Photo credit: Brittany Chay
June 12, 2014
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The Akron RubberDucks won a series at New Britain, taking two out of three from the Rock Cats. The team then lost two out of three to the Senators in Harrisburg. Akron has now dropped three in a row to Binghamton and 6 of its last 10 games. The team is now clinging to just a half-game lead over second place Richmond (37-26) in the Eastern League Western Division.

Player Feature: Will Roberts

RubberDucks Notebook 6-11-14: Will Roberts by Dav1ess31 on Mixcloud

The Virginia Cavaliers recently punched their ticket to Omaha and are headed to the college world series. The “Hoos” are surely making some noise in the baseball world, and a fellow alumnus has begun to make a name for himself in the minor leagues as well.

It has been an interesting season for Will Roberts to say the least. The 2011 MLB June Amateur Draft fifth-rounder is in his second year with the RubberDucks. In 12 starts, Roberts has posted a 5-7 record with a 4.02 ERA. This is slightly better than, yet very similar to his first 12 starts with the team last season, where he was 5-6 with a 4.90 ERA. When I asked him about how much of a difference a year’s experience makes, he replied that he’s been more prepared, “You just kind of pick up stuff on hitters and figure out how you want to attack a guy. I’d say all of my pitches have gotten better since this time last year and I feel like if I keep that up, that’s what I need to do to progress.”

He has had six total quality starts thus far, and has been especially solid in his last two starts, going for 12.2 IP and allowing just four earned runs on nine hits. He’s struck out twelve and walked only three batters, holding his opponents to a .205 batting average at the plate.

“It’s just progressing throughout the year, just trying to get better from start-to-start,” Roberts said.

When I asked the right-hander about the key to his recent success, he said it has been about catching batters off-guard, “I’ve been trying to keep the hitters off-balance and trying to stay unpredictable, and so far its been working.”

Manager David Wallace thinks Will’s done a great job, “He’s been attacking the zone. I think his curveball’s really been developing into a pretty dangerous pitch for him.”

Roberts told me that he hasn’t really worked on anything new as far as pitches go, but he has been refining each one, “Each week I’ll try to pick up something new that someone else on the team is doing or something one of the other pitchers is doing, and just try it out in the bullpen.”

He added that its impossible to stop learning as a pitcher, “You’re always constantly evolving. I feel like if I just tried to keep doing the same thing over and over I’d keep getting the same results, so I’m not doing anything radical but I’m making minor adjustments here and there that have started to make a difference.”

Roberts also did not forget to credit his team’s league-leading defense, “We’ve got great arms in the outfield, we’ve got tons of range in the outfield and infield, and we’ve got great catchers, I love throwing to all of them.”

“It’s a lot of fun playing with this team and hopefully we can keep on winning.”

If Roberts can maintain his consistency and go deep into games, then he will achieve his goal.

Who’s Hot

Tyler NaquinCF

8 G, 32 AB, .500 BA, .500 OBP, .781 SLG, 1.281 OPS, 16 H, 4 RBI, 8 R, 1 3B, 2 HR, 2 SB

Do I need to say anymore about Tyler Naquin? Hot is an understatement to describe the kind of month he is having so far. In his 14-game hitting streak dating back to May 29th, the center fielder’s average is .475 with two home runs (one inside-the-park), two triples, a double, and eight RBI.

Skipper Dave Wallace believes it’s been about his plate discipline, “It’s more about the pitches he’s swinging at, he’s not chasing balls out of the zone and getting good pitches to hit and putting the barrel on it.”

Ollie LintonOF

5 G, 13 AB, .308 BA, .357 OBP, .385 SLG, .742 OPS, 4 H, 2 RBI, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 SB, 1 BB

The former member of the Diamondbacks’ farm system has adjusted well to the Eastern League fairly quickly. The team is going to need Linton to produce consistently with Bryson Myles out of action with a torn meniscus. Linton’s best game last week came on June 9th where he went 2-for-2 with a double and two RBI.

Francisco LindorSS

7 G, 30 AB, .308 BA, .400 OBP, .308 SLG, .708 OPS, 8 H, 3 RBI, 6 R, 4 SB, 4 BB

The future Tribe shortstop had a good week, highlighted by eight hits in 30 at-bats. The most impressive statistic, however, was his four stolen bases, where he ranks fifth overall in the Eastern League with 17 total.

Who’s Not

Adam MillerRHP

2 G, 1 L, 2.2 IP, 20.25 ERA 6 R, 6 ER, 6 H, 2 HR, 1 BB, 4 SO

What in the world happened to Adam Miller? After his dynamite start to the season, the former Indians first-rounder has done a complete 180 and hasn’t looked like himself. Before May 31st, Miller had an ERA of 0.79 on five hits and had struck out seven, giving up no home runs in 11.1 IP.

Since then, Miller has given up eight earned runs in 4.2 IP, where he’s blown a save and given up a walk-off homer in New Britain. He’s allowed three home runs in three games, posting an ERA of 15.43.

Even though it’s alarming, Wallace believes his reliever will be okay, “I think the game of baseball is just getting to him, it happens to the best pitchers in the game.”

Cody AndersonRHP

2 GS, 1 ND, 1 L, 9 IP, 8.00 ERA, 8 R, 8 ER, 13 H, 3 HR, 1 BB, 8 SO

Usually when Cody Anderson has a bad game, it’s a mechanics issue. In Game 1 of Tuesday night’s double-header, Anderson was shelled and knocked out early. He only pitched three innings and allowed eight earned runs on 10 hits.

Wallace said the issue was leaving pitches up, “His balls were thigh high instead of at the knees. They were catching too much of the plate.”

“He’ll learn from this, I fully expect him to bounce back,” Wally added.

This isn’t the first time Cody’s imploded, as he had a very similar outing in early May where he allowed 10 earned runs on 10 hits in 2.2 IP.

Joseph ColonRHP

1 GS, 1 L, 3.1 IP, 13.50 ERA, 7 R, 5 ER, 8 H, 2 BB, 3 SO

After being named both Eastern League Player of the Week and Indians Minor League Player of the Week, Joe Colon did not follow up his awards on a positive note. The right-hander was knocked out early against Harrisburg, allowing five earned runs on eight hits, boosting his ERA from 2.37 to 2.91 in just one game.

Promoted/Demoted

Duke von SchamannRHP

2 GS, 2 W, 12 IP, 4.50 ERA, 6 R, 6 ER, 10 H, 2 HR, 4 BB, 3 SO

In a spot start for Columbus on June 4th, von Schamman pitched five innings and gave up four earned runs on six hits. His performance was good enough for the Clippers win.

Duke returned to Akron on June 9th and looked great, pitching seven innings allowing just two earned runs and four hits in a winning effort.

New Arrivals

Nick Swisher1B/OF

2 G, 6 AB, .500 BA, .500 OBP, .833 SLG, 1.333 OPS, 3 H, 2 RBI, 2 2B, 1 K

(WARNING: EXPLICIT LANGUAGE)

The founding father of BrOhio came into Akron for a short stint with the RubberDucks on assignment to rehab his hyperextended left knee. In Game 1 of Tuesday’s double-header, Swisher struck out on four pitches and lined out to shortstop.

“First at-bat it felt like that pitcher was about a hundred feet away, I didn’t know what was going on, but it was nice, kind of backed up on that second ball a little bit and put a good swing on it, so right now everything feels good.”

Wallace believes that Swisher's been a great influence on his team, "He's been very encouraging to our guys."

Swisher's second game was much better as he went 3-for-4 with two doubles and a single with two RBI.

Matt PackerLHP

2 G, 2 GS, 1 W, 1 L, 9.1 IP, 8.68 ERA, 9 R, 9 ER, 12 H, 1 HR, 4 BB, 7 SO

A fan favorite and the all-time wins leader at Akron, Packer was assigned from extended spring training on June 4th. In his first action this season, Packer threw for five innings, gave up four earned runs and struck out five. His second start (Game 2 of Tuesday night’s double-header) didn’t go as well as his first, as he gave up five earned runs on six hits in 4.1 IP.

It was announced Wednesday that Packer had been placed on the 7-day DL.

Anthony GallasOF

1 G, 5 AB, .200 BA, .200 OBP, .200 SLG, .400 OPS, 1 H

The team announced the Carolina League All-Star's promotion late Wednesday afternoon. Gallas hit .276 with eight home runs, 21 doubles, and 31 RBI in 58 games for the Mudcats. Gallas is a familiar face as he is returning to Akron for a second stint with the ballclub (his first in 2011). The 26-year-old outfielder is an alum of Strongsville High School and Kent State University.

In his first game Wednesday night, Gallas singled and struck out twice.

Returning from Injury

Jake LoweryC

5 G, 15 AB, .053 BA, .217 OBP, .105 SLG, .323 OPS, 1 H, 1 RBI, 9 K, 4 BB

Jake Lowery was activated from Akron’s DL on June 5th. The catcher has certainly struggled to get back into a groove as he has just one hit (an RBI double Wednesday night) and has struck out nine times since his return.

Injured

Bryson MylesOF

Myles was placed on the 7-day DL with a torn right meniscus on June 9th. The talented outfielder is expected to miss 4-6 weeks with the injury. This is an unfortunate situation for the talented outfielder, as he was having a great season in his first year at Akron.

Charlie ValerioC

Charlie Valerio was also placed on the 7-day DL with a sprained right ankle.

Matt Packer, LHP

Who’s Next

The RubberDucks (39-27) will play two more games against Binghamton (35-30) at home before welcoming in the Eastern League-best Portland Sea Dogs into Canal Park for a three-game weekend series.

Spencer Davies is a student at the University of Akron studying Sports Management with a minor concentrating in Mass Communication. He has interned for the Cleveland Indians minor league affiliate Akron RubberDucks, IMG College, and has shadowed Fox Sports Ohio's Sam Amico. He is currently an on-air sports personality at WZIP-FM and works for the Akron Beacon Journal. Follow Spencer on Twitter @SpinDavies.

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