Matt Erickson: Post Game Interview 4/5/14

by Kevin Kimmes
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Cream City Cables: Well, it took tries, buy you guys picked your first win of the season. How does it feel?

Matt Erickson: It feels great. Anytime you can get a win it feels good. We did a nice job in those middle innings; 4th, 5th and 6th; of putting back crooked numbers in the 4th and the 5th and adding one in the 6th after they added one in the 5th. It was nice.

CCC: Speaking of the 4th and 5th inning; Ratterree, Brennan and Coulter each picked up a run in those innings. The 4, 5 and 6 hitters really came together today.

ME: The whole middle of the lineup and (Jose) Pena, you know he’s 2-3 with 2 RBIs, he had a big hit in one of those innings whether it was the 4th or the 5th, I can’t exactly remember, but there’s 7 hits from the middle of the lineup today and we needed it because we didn’t do much at the top where yesterday we set the table pretty good and were able to get some big hits. But, you’re right; 4, 5, 6, 7 collectively today did some damage.

CCC: Chris McFarland tacked on the 2nd Timber Rattlers home run of the season driving one out to deep center field. What were your thoughts on that?

ME: You know, Mac is a guy who had some really good offensive success two years ago in short season. Last year he came here and struggled a little bit at times but did show flashes of offensive production and an ability to drive the ball. If he’s a guy that can win some counts, he’s got some foot speed and he’s also able to drive the baseball into the gaps with a little bit of power and if he can solidify that 2 hole where he can be an on base guy and drive some runs in, that will be huge for us.

CCC: Today, the tandem of Astin and Archer got you through the full 9 (innings). What did you like about what you saw out there?

ME: I think we got away with some stuff early. Astin came out the first few innings and his fastball was elevated. They were getting a lot of good swings on his fastball. I think he did a nice job, especially in the 2nd inning, I believe it was 2nd and 3rd no outs, he used his breaking ball to get out of that situation and executed some really good pitches when he wasn’t having command of the bottom of the zone with his fastball. But, later in his appearance, the 4th and 5th inning, I think he did a better job of getting tilt and getting better control of the bottom of the zone, getting more ground balls and not as good of swings on his fastball, so that’s a good adjustment there.

Archer did a nice job of coming in and pounding the zone early. It got away from him a little bit in the 8th, our overall team defense was a little bit sloppy in the 8th, we had an error, a couple of wild pitches, a walk and another kicked ball, but we wound up making a play at second base to minimize that damage, but we were just able to finish.

CCC: With tomorrow being a double-header, any changes in preparation going into tomorrow’s games?

ME: No, I mean, similar schedule to today but it’s supposed to be a little bit nicer, a little bit warmer. We haven’t been on the field in the last 3 days, so we’re going to try and hit out on the field and take a BP, get our ground balls there and hopefully win a few games.

CCC: Thanks, Matt.

Kevin Kimmes is a regular contributor to creamcitycables.com and a former MLB Fan Cave Top 52 Finalist. You can follow him on Twitter at @kevinkimmes

Won’t Get Fooled Again: Rattlers Pick Up Win In Game 2 Of Season Opening Series

by Kevin Kimmes
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Mother Nature isn’t always a baseball fan. After a “wintery mix” lead to the cancellation of Friday night’s game, the Rattlers and Chiefs picked up Saturday afternoon where they left off on Opening Day.

The Chiefs struck first as Michael Schulze scored on an RBI triple from Carson Kelly. Any thoughts of celebration, however, were short lived.

The Rattlers would send up 8 batters in the 4th resulting in runs scored by Michael Ratterree, Taylor Brennan and Clint Coulter giving the Rattlers a 3-1 lead. The Chiefs would add another run in the 5th, only to again be shown up in the bottom of the inning by Ratterree, Brennan and Coulter who each scored their second runs of the game. Rattlers now lead 6-2.

“The whole middle of the lineup and (Jose) Pena, you know he’s 2-3 with 2 RBIs, he had a big hit…there’s 7 hits from the middle of the lineup today and we needed it because we didn’t do much at the top where yesterday we set the table pretty good,” Rattlers’ skipper Matt Erickson said in his post game interview.

In the 6th Chris McFarland would show off his power crushing a shot to deep center for his 1st homerun of the season. Gnaf T Rattler had the following to say about the hit:

@TratsGnaf: Home run by @TimberRattlers Chris McFarland to dead center, 402 feet #WISvPEO #tratnation #gnaffacts

The Chiefs would fight back adding 2 more runs in the 8th, but it wouldn’t be enough as the Rattlers would add a run of their own in the bottom of the inning to bring the final score to 8-4 and evening the 4 games series at 1-1. Rattlers’ starter Barrett Astin (1-0) would pick up his first win of the season with his tandem partner, Tristan Archer picking up the save.

“I think we got away with some stuff early. Astin came out the first few innings and his fastball was elevated. They were getting a lot of good swings on his fastball. I think he did a nice job, especially in the 2nd inning, I believe it was 2nd and 3rd no outs, he used his breaking ball to get out of that situation and executed some really good pitches when he wasn’t having command of the bottom of the zone with his fastball. But, later in his appearance, the 4th and 5th inning, I think he did a better job of getting tilt and getting better control of the bottom of the zone, getting more ground balls and not as good of swings on his fastball, so that’s a good adjustment there.”

“Archer did a nice job of coming in and pounding the zone early. It got away from him a little bit in the 8th, our overall team defense was a little bit sloppy in the 8th, we had an error, a couple of wild pitches, a walk and another kicked ball, but we wound up making a play at second base to minimize that damage, but we were just able to finish.”

The series wraps up tomorrow with a double-header set to begin at 1:05 pm. Former Brewer (and current Hall of Famer) Rollie Fingers will be on hand to throw out the ceremonial 1st pitch.

Kevin Kimmes is a regular contributor to creamcitycables.com and a former MLB Fan Cave Top 52 Finalist. You can follow him on Twitter at @kevinkimmes.

Timber Rattlers Pre-Game Notes for 4/5/2014

by Kevin Kimmes
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Heading out to the ballpark this afternoon? Here’s a few notes to make you the smartest guy in your section.

- It’s Deja Vu All Over Again: For the 2nd consecutive season Timber Rattlers’ catcher Clint Coulter went yard on Opening Day. Coulter’s homer came in his final at bat of the night during the 9th inning on Thursday night.

- A Strong Start: Despite the loss on Thursday night (Peoria won 8-4), Timber Rattlers’ starter Taylor Williams had a solid first outing of the season. In five shoutout innings, Williams struck out seven while only walking one. The 7 strikeouts set a new professional single game record for Williams.

- Hazy Shade of Winter: Mother Nature just wouldn’t cooperate on Friday night leading to cancellation of Game 2 of this 4 game homestand. The cancelled game will be made up as part of a double-header scheduled for tomorrow afternoon.

- Playing Both Sides: Rattlers’ lead off hitter Omar Garcia showed skills on both sides of the ball on Thursday night recording 3 hits and laying out for an amazing diving catch in the 3rd inning.

Can’t make it out to the game today? You can still catch all the action on 1280 WNAM.

Kevin Kimmes is a regular contributor to creamcitycables.com and a former MLB Fan Cave Top 52 Finalist. You can follow him on Twitter at @kevinkimmes.

Rattled: Peoria Brutalizes Wisconsin on Opening Day Despite Dazzling Effort by Williams

by Kevin Kimmes
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33 degrees. It’s not exactly what most folks would consider to be ideal baseball weather, but when you are playing spring ball in the Midwest League these things can pretty much be expected.

Today is Opening Day for the MiLB (Minor League Baseball for the uninitiated) and in Appleton, WI the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers are facing the Peoria Chiefs to start the season for the 6th time since 1995. While the brave souls in the seats are sparse, I’m told that the club level overhead is packed to near capacity. As I said before, it is 33 degrees at game time.

Most of the players on the Opening Day roster have never faced these kinds of conditions before, a fact that Clint Coulter expounded upon:

“…we have a lot of guys who hadn’t played in anything like this and then also this is their first full season, first time they’ve really played in front of a crowd like we’ve got here.”

The Rattlers manage to strike first blood in the 3rd inning after Rafael Neda singles and is driven home on a triple by Omar Garcia. Garcia, who made a spectacular diving grab in the top half of the inning, brought his A-game with him showing skills on both offense and defense.

Wisconsin starter Taylor Williams was dazzling on the mound for the Rattlers striking out 7 in 5 innings of work. “I just tried to go out there and command my fastball, command my zone, and give the defense behind me a chance to make plays,” Taylor said post game.

“Dominant,” was how Rattlers skipper Matt Erickson described Williams performance. “He was pounding the zone early and obviously he was putting away people too. He gave us a great chance early in that ballgame to win that game.”

However, the tides began to turn when the ball was turned over to Williams’ tandem partner, Tyler Alexander.

In the 6th Alexander would yield a run, tying the game at 1. The Rattlers would take the lead back in the bottom of the inning (2-1), but that lead would be short lived.

The top of the 7th would become what can only be described as a massacre. Alexander would load the bases with only 1 out leading to his removal. His replacement, Chris Razo, would fair no better. By the time the dust cleared the Chiefs had batted around and the Rattlers found themselves on the losing end of a 7-2 score.

Wisconsin would battle back in the bottom of the 7th when a Michael Ratterree triple would be driven home on a sacrifice fly to deep center by Taylor Brennan. It would be the only run for the Rattlers in the inning, it’s relevance erased when the Chiefs would tally yet another run in the top of the 8th bringing the score to 8-3.

A Clint Coulter homerun in the bottom of the 9th would bring the score to 8-4, however it would be all the offense the Rattlers could muster.

The Rattlers return to action Friday night at 6:35 PM for game 2 of this 4 game Opening Week matchup.

Kevin Kimmes is a regular contributor to creamcitycables.com and a former MLB Fan Cave Top 52 Finalist. You can follow him on Twitter at @kevinkimmes.

Timber Rattlers 2014 Opening Day Pre-Game Notes

by Kevin Kimmes
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Tonight, the Timber Rattlers kick off the 2014 season at home against the Peoria Chiefs. Here’s what you need to know if you are heading out to the ballpark tonight (game time is set for 6:35 PM).

- Back for his 4th season as the skipper of the Timber Rattlers, Matt Erickson (204-209) is just 12 wins shy of passing Gary Thurman (215-198) for the most wins by a Wisconsin manager in franchise history.

- 6 former Rattlers have made the 2014 Opening Day roster. They are: pitchers Preston Gainey, Harvey Martin and Chris Razo; catchers Clint Coulter and Rafael Neda; and infielder Chris McFarland.

- The Brewers made 2 roster moves in order to reach tonight’s 25-player limit. Those moves find Rodolfo Fernandez (P) and Paul Eshleman (C) placed on the disabled list.

- If tonight’s matchup seems like ” It’s deja vu all over again”, that’s because it is. Tonight marks the 6th time these two teams have faced off to start a Midwest League season. Wisconsin holds a 3-2 advantage in the previous 5 matchups.

- The all time series between Wisconsin and Peoria (which dates back to 1995) finds the Rattlers in the drivers seat. The Rattlers are 148-142, with a 69-84 record here at Neuroscience Group Field.

- This year marks the Chiefs 2nd season as an affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. The Chiefs had the Rattlers number in 2013 winning 11 of their 17 head to head contests.

Can’t make it out to the game tonight, you can still catch all the action on TWC Sports WI, 1280 WNAM, and on MiLB.TV.

Kevin Kimmes is a regular contributor to creamcitycables.com and a former MLB Fan Cave Top 52 Finalist. You can follow him on Twitter at @kevinkimmes.

Quick Notes From Timber Rattlers’ Media Day

by Kevin Kimmes
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Here are some quick notes from today’s media day:

- The 2014 Timber Rattlers are shaping up to be one of the youngest teams in the Matt Erickson era. The youngest player, David Denson, was born 1/17/95 (19 years old). The elder statesman of the group is 25 year old Lance Roenicke (born 6/8/1988), son of Brewers skipper Ron Roenicke.

- While on the topic of Lance Roenicke, this year Lance will be taking on the role of player/coach with a focus on coaching 1st base. However, if you ask him, it sounds like it will be 100% coaching as his playing days are most likely a thing of the past:

“…it’ll be pretty much entirely coaching unless, I mean, we have guys dropping down with the flu or something like that. Hopefully I’ll just be staying out there at 1st base and working with guys as far as leads and all that goes. As far as my playing career goes, that’s behind me right now.”

- Rattlers’ skipper Matt Erickson announced that Taylor Williams will be the Rattlers’ Opening Day starter when they kick off the season on Thursday night at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium. Williams, a 4th round selection for the Brewers in the 2013 draft, spent his 2013 season with Milwaukee’s Rookie League affiliate Helena. When asked about his feelings regarding the forecast for Thursday night’s opener, Williams had the following to say:

“…I’m pretty used to the cold weather. I’m from the northwest. I played a little bit of college ball in Ohio so the cold weather, I don’t think it’s going to effect me too much. I’m not too worried about it.”

- One 2014 Rattler made a name for himself this past weekend in Milwaukee’s scrimmage against the Kansas City Royals. That player is Michael Ratterree.

In Saturday’s Spring Training finale, Ratterree was given an opportunity to bat in the 7th and took full advantage, homering to center.

“It felt amazing. Honestly, when I was running around the bases it felt like a dream, it didn’t feel real. It was just awesome, running into the dugout, getting high fives from everybody. It was just an unreal experience for me.”

- Returning to the Rattlers this season is catcher Clint Coulter. Coulter, who began the season in Appleton in 2013 before being moved down to Rookie level Helena, is taking it all in stride:

“You know, you never want to get demoted, but I didn’t take it as a demotion. I was really privileged to be up here. There’s not a lot of high school catchers that get a chance at full season ball their 1st year.”

The Timber Rattlers kick off the 2014 season this Thursday evening when they take on the Peoria Chiefs at 6:35 pm in game 1 of a 4 game home stand. Home stand highlights will include bobble head give aways on both Thursday and Saturday as well as a special appearance by Hall of Fame closer Rollie Fingers on Sunday afternoon.

Kevin Kimmes is a regular contributor to creamcitycables.com and a former MLB Fan Cave Top 52 Finalist. You can follow him on Twitter at @kevinkimmes.

K-Rod takes over as closer “for now”

By Nathan Petrashek

K-Rod-mulls-legal-action-against-former-agents-3O1144NF-x-largeAn Opening Day win is always fun, but this one came with a twist:  the Brewers, nursing a 2-0 lead in the ninth, called upon Francisco Rodriguez, not Jim Henderson, to secure the handshake.  K-Rod managed to do so, despite an eight-pitch at bat by the first batter, Chris Johnson.

Ron Roenicke made the change official after the game, telling reporters he wasn’t pleased with Henderson’s spring:

To be fair, Henderson’s spring wasn’t anything special, as he accumulated a 6.00 ERA over 9 innings with 7 strikeouts and 5 walks (1.56 WHIP).  Still, for a front office who justified jettisoning Juan Francisco by citing the general meaninglessness of spring statistics, the move is odd.

Henderson pitched 60 innings of 2.70 ERA ball in 2013, notching 28 saves and a hefty 75 strikeouts.  He may have had a little luck on his side (3.58 FIP), and struggled against lefties (.786 OPS).  Henderson was developing a change to counter that split and help keep left-handed batters from sitting on his 95 mph fastball.

K-Rod has plenty of closing experience but is a long way removed from his 62-save season in 2008.  He’s been a favorite of the Brewers front office though, and has had three separate stints with the team in as many years. Rodriguez even briefly took over the closer’s role last season, earning 10 saves as the Brewers looked to shop him (successfully) at the deadline.