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Akron Air Raid: Chilly Opener and AA Debuts

April 12, 2011
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Cory Burns - Photo Credit: Lianna Holub
The Akron Aeros began their season in the friendly confines of Canal Park last Thursday. They ushered in a new purple polka-doted pigeon as a new mascot via helicopter and debuted an new menu of outrageous foods. But on the field, where it was cold, the Aeros gave a sneak peak of what their season may be like. Low-scoring games involving an Akron team that may struggle to score runs on some nights.

There will be nights that the Aeros hit though and most nights, they should be in the game due to their pitching staff, which showed bright flashes of brilliance in the first five games of the season.

Latest Landings: Binghamton (2-2)
Future Itinerary: Altoona (3), @Reading (4), @Bowie (3), Reading (3)
As it Stands: Akron currently shares second place with two other teams in the Western Division.

On the Mound

A successful debut for Austin Adams in the Akron rotation on Sunday against Binghamton. Adams tossed six shutout frames, giving up just two hits and striking out a pair with one walks. Adams compiled a 2.49 ERA between Lake County and Kinston in 2010 and was 6-1 with a 1.53 ERA and 51 strikeouts with Kinston.

Also making his Double-A level debut was Joe Gardner. On Saturday, Gardner picked up the win despite giving up three runs. Gardner was shaky in six innings, giving up five hits while walking four and striking out three.Garnder ended the 2010 season walking four or more hitters in three out of the last four games, but not giving up more than one earned run in each contest.

Starting the opener was the familiar face of Kelvin De La Cruz, who went five innings giving up just one run and walking four. De La Cruz only went five, likely due to the pinch count he built up walking four hitters and striking out seven. De La Cruz had bouts with his control, but was locked in early on, striking out the side in the second inning. He did give up just one run however.

The surprising sensation of 2010 was Matt Packer and he started 2011 off in a big way. Packer was tremendous through the first five innings in his first game against Altoona on Monday. Then the sixth inning hit a wall and he gave up a four-spot. Packer couldn't escape the inning, but the Aeros did win the game in the end.

From the 'Pen

Cory Burns has been on absolute fire in his three save opportunities. In addition to throwing the three scoreless frames, he's struck out all but three hitters he's faced. He struck out the side in his first two saves and two in his latest against Altoona. He's allowed two base-runners and all but one out has been recorded via the punchout.

Nick Hagadone seems to be warming up to his role as a reliever. Hagadone has had two straight appearances of two shutout innings. He's struck out three, has given up just one hit and no walks. So far, so good with Hagadone as a full time reliever.

The Aeros got two shutout innings from Eric Berger on Sunday as he made his debut as a full-time reliever as well. The man with the magnificent mustache struck out a pair and gave up just one hit.

Against Binghamton on Saturday, CC Lee struggled in his 2011 debut. He took the loss and ended up giving up four runs, just two earned, off three hits and a pair of walks. Characteristically though, he struck out three B-Mets.

Swinging Sticks

As expected, the Aeros are being led by their group of outfielders in the early going, specifically, Jordan Henry and Tim Fedroff. Henry and Fedroff are a combined 13-34 thus far. Henry has hit safely in all 5 games the Aeros have played, knocking in a team high three runs.

Additionally, Donnie Webb hit the first home run of the season. Webb, Henry, Fedroff, and Johnnie Drennen will likely form a rotation that includes the designated hitter role. With Grady Sizemore on a rehab assignment, the Aeros have worked around getting all in the lineup.

Chun Chen has been another other bright spot in the early going. Chen has gone 5-17 through the first five games with three RBI. Chen was second in the system in batting average last year at .315.

Juan Diaz hit a towering triple to center against Binghamton on Thursday in the opener. The ball hit along the side of the jetted out portion of right field and bounced away from the fielder. Had manager Chris Tremie tested it, Diaz might have been able to pull off an inside the park home run, however Diaz was held to a triple. Diaz has struggled at the plate, but his three hits have all gone for extra bases.

Additional Notes

Opening Day was as cold as you can get without it being below freezing. It wasn't wind so much it was just a fine chill. It didn't seem to have a noticeable impact on the game, unless of course you count the fact that it ended 1-0.

Kyle Bellows should see more time at third base soon. Bellows was transferred to Mahoning Valley so the Aeros could have an extra bullpen arm with Yohan Pino and while he's been activated in recent days, he's currently making way for Jason Donald on his rehab assignment.

Juan Diaz and Matt McBride are the only players to have started all five games at the same position.

Rehabbing Stars

The Aeros have gotten a boost from Grady Sizemore and Joe Smith over the past week. Sizemore has contributed a few hits and shares the team lead for RBI with three. Joe Smith struck out a pair in his first two innings apiece.

Jason Donald has joined the club in the past few days. He's been playing third base and has gone 1-7 with three strikeouts.

Under Maintenance

RHP Connor Graham has yet to make his 2011 debut. He suffered an injury during warmups for the exhibition contest on last Wednesday in Columbus. To replace him in the pen, the Aeros received right-hander Yohan Pino from the Clippers. No word on when he'll make his first appearance of 2011.

Transaction Report
April 7:  OF Grady Sizemore and RHP Joe Smith received on Rehab Assignment
IF Kyle Bellows transferred to Mahoning Valley
RHP Yohan Pino received from Columbus
April 10: IF Jason Donald received on Rehab Assignment
IF Dan DeGeorge transferred to Mahoning Valley
IF Kyle Bellows received from Mahoning Valley

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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