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Akron Air Raid: Aeros Head to Break, Gear-up for Harper & First-Place Harrisburg

July 12, 2011
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(Juan Diaz - Photo Credit: Lianna Holub)
The Akron Aeros were finally able to turn the tables on the Erie SeaWolves as the club from the Rubber City took three out of four to head into the All-Star break on a high note. Overall it was a successful week for the Aeros, as they took three of four from both Erie and Altoona. 

Unfortunately all that effort did was put distance between themselves (and the rest of the pack) from Erie and Altoona, who are both now under .500 and 10 or more games back. The seven game deficit still remains as Harrisburg continues to blaze a trail at the All-Star Break.

Luckily for the Aeros, they get their opportunity to chip into that lead and prove if they are for real. Not only do they have seven more games against the two teams they just beat, they've got four games against those aforementioned Harrisburg Senators. And reinforcements are on their way, for both squads.

The Indians will promote Drew Pomeranz to Akron and he'll join the team after the break. He'll likely be met with a stiff challenge, as his Future's Game teammate, Bryce Harper has joined the first place Senators. It should be a highly anticipated matchup between the two super-prospects if Pomeranz pitches this weekend against Harrisburg.

Latest Landings: @ Altoona (3-1), Vs Erie (3-1),
Future Itinerary: All-Star Break, @ Harrisburg (4), Vs Altoona (3), @ Erie (4)
As it Stands: Akron is currently in fourth place in the Eastern League Western Division and 7 games back of first place.

On the Mound

Something needs to be said about Matt Packer's ability to give the Aeros some quality innings. He isn't having the sharpest season, but he leads the Aeros in innings pitched and even if things go south, he still manages to keep his team in the game and at least save the bullpen. Packer did it again this week, only picked up a win in the process, and tossed seven strong innings of ball, giving up two runs off seven hits and a walk.

He's only 3-8 this season with a 5.71 ERA, but he's tossed a complete game and even despite missing a little bit of time, leads the team in innings.

Packer wasn't the only starter to pick up a win though. Joe Gardner won Monday against Erie and Kelvin De La Cruz went five innings, giving up a pair of runs off four hits and two walks to earn his fifth win. De La Cruz continues to show signs of inconsistency, after walking no one and striking out eight in his previous start, but giving up five runs. 

Austin Adams is also battling a little inconsistency with six more walks against Erie on Friday. Adams will have games where he strikes out six and walk one and then follow it up with games where he walks six and strikes out three, like against Erie. He needs to find a groove and settling his control on a night-to-night basis, but he's still been a success this season, despite the 5-8 record.

T.J. McFarland took a no-decision and only went five innings in his other start last week, giving up four runs off  five hits and three walks, but he earned Eastern League Pitcher of the Week honors for his previous week of work against Bowie.

This past week's lines:

TJ McFarland
ND, 5 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 5 K

Matt Packer
W, 7 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 5 K

Joe Gardner
L, 6 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 6 K
W, 5.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 5 K

Kelvin De La Cruz
W, 5 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 1 K

Austin Adams
ND, 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 6 BB, 3 K

From the 'Pen

You think Cory Burns was upset about not making the All-Star Game or what? We'll never really know, but he pitched like it and then when he did get named, he pitched just like he made the All-Star team. Burns notched four saves in the past eight games against Erie and Altoona. He completed five scoreless innings of baseball without walking a hitter and he struck out four hitters. 

Other stars of the bullpen include Eric Berger and Tyler Sturdevant, who both picked up wins in relief appearances. Berger pitched two-plus innings, striking out six hitters and giving up one hit while Sturdevant was the workhorse this week, going nearly six innings of relief work while not surrendering a run. He struck out eight and walked just one.

Bryan Price struggled, taking one of the two Aeros' losses and both he and Matt Langwell combined to give up seven earned runs in nine innings of relief.

Relievers for this past week:

Eric Berger
W, 2.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 6 K

Cory Burns
4 SV, 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K

Paolo Espino
4 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 2 K

Matt Langwell
5.1 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 4 K

Adam Miller
3 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 0 K

Bryan Price
L, 3.2 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 3 K

Tyler Sturdevant
W, 5.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 K

Swinging Sticks

What can you say about the replacements? Raul Padron, Michel Hernandez, and Ben Copeland, all free agent signings at the end of June have come in and made an impact for the Aeros. They aren't prospects, probably will continue to be minor league journeyman and probably all won't be with the Indians next year. But if they are making statements for jobs next year in some capacity, whether it's as a reserve for Akron or Columbus, they're certainly making strong cases.

Padron has been the hottest of the bunch, going 8-for-24 over the past eight games with nine RBI. He hit the only home run that wasn't hit by Beau Mills and hit three doubles with six runs scored. Not bad for a part-time first baseman/catcher.

Hernandez has continued to slug, knocking in three runs with three doubles and Copeland was 9-for-30 with three doubles of his own and five RBI. he also scored five runs.

A big reason for the Aeros winning though has been the offense as a whole and it just hasn't been those three free agents. All-Stars Juan Diaz and Chun Chen have really found their strokes. Chen was 7-for-18 with a double, a triple and two runs scored, while Juan Diaz knocked in five runs and scored five more. The Aeros as a whole have been a double machine, with even the likes of Tyler Cannon (3) and Cristo Arnal (2) getting into the action.

The offense right now really revolves around Beau Mills though. The former first round pick has rediscovered himself this season since missing the start of the year. He hit his sixth and seventh home runs this past week and as of late seems to be walking a little more. You can't argue with a .338 on-base percentage and in just 53 games, he's knocked in 38 runs. Definitely a revitalization campaign going on for Mills.

The hitting lines:

Cristo Arnal
5-17, 2 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K

Tyler Cannon
4-18, 3 2B, 3 R, 2 RBI, 4 BB, 4 K

Chun Chen
7-18, 1 2B, 1 3B, 2 R, 1 RBI, 3 R, 3 K

Ben Copeland
9-30, 3 2B, 5 RBI, 5 R, 1 BB, 5 K

Juan Diaz
10-32, 3 2B, 5 RBI, 5 R, 1 BB, 8 K

Jordan Henry
2-22, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K

Michel Hernandez
6-14, 3 2B, 3 RBI, 3 R, 1 BB

Beau Mills
9- 30, 3 R, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 3 BB, 3 K

Raul Padron
8-24, 1 HR, 3 2B, 9 RBI, 6 R, 2 BB, 3 K

Karexon Sanchez
3-23, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 10 K

Nick Weglarz
5-23, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 4 R, 4 BB, 7 K

Additional Notes

With June completed, this is how the Aeros broke down in the first three months of the season:

April: 11-12
May: 14-16
June 15-12

They are currently 7-4 in the month of July. 

Juan Diaz leads the team in games started, having started 83 games, with 80 of them coming at shortstop. 

Who will the Aeros oust out of the rotation to make room for Drew Pomeranz? Will they be ousting someone or will there be a promotion? Keep note that Scott Barnes in Columbus just went down with an injury and Jeanmar Gomez could be headed to Cleveland as a replacement to Mitch Talbot, a spot-starter for Fausto Carmona as he may not be quite ready, or a spot-starter for the upcoming double-header.

So there may be a need in Columbus for some starting pitching. No one in the Aeros' rotation is really in-line for such a call and pushing someone like De La Cruz may impact his development. They could end up giving Espino a much-deserved promotion to fill the gap and move someone in the rotation to the pen, or alternate starts. 

John Drennen Returns From Suspension

As expected, John Drennen returned from his 50-game suspension this weekend after testing positive for a banned substance under baseball's drug policy a few months ago. Suspension aside, I'm sure the Aeros are glad to have him back on the field and to have his bat back in the offense.

Drennen has played in three games since his return, but is still searching for his first hit. He's gone 0-for-10 with a run scored, two walks, and three strikeouts.

It may take some time for Drennen to find his timing and get his swing ironed out. He missed nearly two months of action and wasn't allowed to play any form of organized baseball, so he surely has some rust from the layoff.

To make room for Drennen on the active roster, Kyle Bellows was placed on the disabled list. The third baseman suffered a strain to his right hamstring. He had been hitting .209 with a home run and 25 RBI.

All Stars

Austin Adams, Juan Diaz, and catcher Chun Chen  will all be joined by another Aeros' All-Star. A wrong was righted this past week when Cory Burns was added to the Eastern League's Western squad, and rightfully so. The Western pitching staff suffered several losses, including Harrisburg's Brad Peacock and Richmond's Erik Surkamp. 

Burns has now made an All-Star game three year's running, having been selected to the Carolina League and New York-Penn League All-Star teams the past two seasons. He just notched his Eastern League-leading 25th save on Monday. Burns also leads the Eastern League in games appeared in and among all relievers with at least 25 appearances, he ranks third win WHIP.

Transaction Report

July 5: OF Donnie Webb sent to Columbus
IF Tyler Cannon received from Kinston
July 8: OF John Drennen activated from Restricted List
IF Kyle Bellows placed on Disabled List

Nino covers the Akron Aeros season-long here at the IPI. He has his own blog at The Tribe Daily and you can follow him on Twitter @TheTribeDaily.

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