The Major League Trade Deadline has passed, faces continue to come and go at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium and the season begins to move into its home stretch.
Every day, members of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats continue on a path they will hope leads to the big leagues. It’s August 7, 2018 and here’s what’s been going on lately on that path 400 miles to Toronto.
Tuesday, July 31 – New Hampshire 11, Richmond 5
Wednesday, Aug. 1 – New Hampshire 14, Richmond 3
Thursday, Aug. 2 – Richmond 20, New Hampshire 8
Friday, Aug. 3 – Postponed to Saturday, Aug. 4
Saturday, Aug. 4 – Game 1: New Hampshire 7, Erie 2. Game 2: Erie 8, New Hampshire 1
Sunday, Aug. 5 – New Hampshire 7, Erie 6
If there is one universal truth about minor league rosters, it’s that they are constantly in flux. But that truth is particularly evident recently as major league clubs throw in prospects as bargaining chips in the last-minute deals before the trade deadline.
The Blue Jays were sellers at the deadline and perhaps their biggest move sent Roberto Osuna to Houston for righthanders David Paulino, Ken Giles and Hector Perez.
Paulino and Giles are unlikely to see action in Manchester, but the 22-year-old Perez has joined the club and is likely to be part of the rotation for the foreseeable future.
During his four games this season at Double-A Corpus Christi, Perez held batters to just a .197 batting average, giving up six earned runs in 16 2/3 innings on the mound.
The other new pitcher moving onto the Fisher Cats’ roster is Corey Copping, coming as part of a deal that sent reliever John Axford to the Dodgers.
Like Perez, Copping arrives from the Texas League, having spent the majority of this year and last year with the Tulsa Drillers, making 79 appearances with Tulsa over the past two campaigns.
Both new pitchers made their Fisher Cat debuts on opposite ends of Saturday’s doubleheader against Erie.
Copping struck out two and retired the other batter he faced in the early win of that doubleheader and Perez was the loser in the latter game, striking out seven in five innings of work.
The other major addition to the Fisher Cats’ roster coming from the recent trading frenzy has been Forest Wall, a byproduct of the deal that sent Seunghwan Oh to Colorado.
Wall’s been with the club for a little over a week now, and he’s become a versatile tool for Fisher Cats Manager John Schneider, bouncing from the top of the lineup into the power slots as needed.
With the promotion of Jonathan Davis, Schneider expects to platoon the leadoff role. Bo Bichette and Jon Berti are likely to see significant time at the top of the lineup, but Wall’s also a part of that mix, shifting as needed depending on the situation.
“(Wall) can really run, and with the lineup the way it is now, we can play matchups, righty/lefty, a little bit,” said Schneider. “More times than not, he’ll be toward the top of the order, but when you have so many guys swinging, it’s nice to be able to move guys around a little bit.”
Outside of the new faces, the biggest recent topic has been New Hampshire’s pitching, which continues to undulate between superlative and atrocious.
A perfect example comes from Dusty Issacs. On Aug. 2, Issacs gave up more runs in the ninth against Richmond (than the Fisher Cats gave up during the entirety of their four-game series against Hartford last week.
It stands to note, that performance probably isn’t indicative of Issacs’ ability either. He hadn’t given up an earned run in his prior eight relief appearances.
But even though that talent may occasionally not shine through, Schneider is pleased overall with the recent work from his staff.
“I probably jinxed them the other day (before Richmond). I told the guys before the guys before the game how proud I was of them, with the starters doing their thing and the relievers keeping us in games,” he said.
Fisher Cats of the Week
Batter: Jon Berti – On the strength of Sunday’s walk-off inside-the-park homer alone, Berti gets this award, even though he had a decent week on top of that miraculous moment.
Between Richmond and Erie, Berti hit .294 with five runs scored and a pair of stolen bases, getting a break for one half of Saturday’s doubleheader
Starting Pitcher: Jon Harris – If there’s one pitching performance likely to be remembered from the Richmond series, it was the franchise record setting 20-run Thursday debacle, which is unfortunate given the gem submitted by Harris a day earlier.
Harris has improved significantly since a difficult 2017 campaign, and even on the bad days he generally can be relied upon to give the bullpen some rest.
Relief Pitcher – (tie) Travis Bergen and Kirby Snead – Bergen’s New Hampshire’s official closer at this point, but numbers both guys submitted (around two innings pitched, no earned runs) topped the ‘Cats bullpen efforts this week.
Snead is slowly working his way back to a stretch of nearly two months here and in Dunedin where he was next to unhittable.
Around the Horn
The Fisher Cats welcomed back ultimate utility man Gunnar Heidt from Buffalo late last week. Heidt’s played every position for New Hampshire this year except for pitcher and catcher and given the ongoing trend in professional baseball to trot position players onto the mound during blowouts, he might get a chance there too.
Behind the plate though, New Hampshire’s set with the platoon of Max Pentecost and Patrick Cantwell. Cantwell returned from a brief disabled list stint, with third-string catcher Ryan Hissey heading to the DL over the weekend.
The Fisher Cats are set to begin a series in Maryland today with the Bowie Bay Sox, followed by a rematch with Richmond over the weekend.