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Captains Notebook: Rodriguez is slowly coming around

Captains Notebook: Rodriguez is slowly coming around
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The Lake County Captains picked up a pair of wins last week before the team was plagued by a four-game losing skid. The pitching staff struggled, despite the offense's attempts to produce more runs, except for a shutout May 13. Now posting an 11-28 overall record, the Captains sit in the bottom of the Midwest League standings, 12 games out of first place.

One Captain who has improved his offensive production is Nellie Rodriguez, who returns to Lake County this year after a slow start is 2013.

Last year, Rodriguez hit .194 with a .305 OBP, .256 slugging percentage, .561 OPS, 53 strikeouts and 26 walks through 47 games with the Captains. He was eventually reassigned to the short-season Mahoning Valley Scrappers, where he found success. Through 73 games with the Scrappers, Rodriguez hit .287 with a .366 OBP, .452 slugging percentage and .818 OPS. He hit nine home runs and recorded a 61:29 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Some lofty expectations touted Rodriguez for his power, which never came while he was in Lake County last year. Now, he’s hit five home runs during his 2014 bid with the Captains, tying him for second in team home runs with infielder Paul Hendrix. Catcher Eric Haase leads the squad with seven.

Rodriguez said his rough start last year taught him some valuable lessons, including how to keep a cool head.

“My struggles from last year helped me know that you struggle, but you’ve got to keep on staying positive and keep working hard,” he said.

The first baseman said he’s working on sticking to his approach at the plate as he hopes to improve every month and help the team win.

Rodriguez added that he feels good so far as he’s trying to avoid putting pressure on himself to perform.

“My timing is good, I’m thinking positive and just going through the process,” he said. “I’m just playing the game and having fun.”

Smooth Sailing

Eric Haase, C
4 G, 17 AB, .333 BA, .400 OBP, .813 SLG, 1.213 OPS, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, 5:2 K:BB

Eric Haase’s repeat stay in Lake County is serving him well, though he was expected to head to Carolina to start the year. So far, Haase has been streaky at the plate but a surge of power has been one of the most notable aspects of his season so far. Haase leads the team with seven home runs, ranking him second in the Midwest League behind Wisconsin Timber Rattlers’ catcher Clint Coulter.

Paul Hendrix, INF
6 G, 25 AB, .464 BA, .533 OBP, .889 SLG, 1.422 OPS, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 7 R, 6:3 K:BB

It doesn’t seem like Hendrix can do much more from an offensive standpoint and it doesn’t seem like Captains’ manager Mark Budzinski wants to keep him out of the lineup. Hendrix has shown he can hit for average, he can draw walks and he can hit for power. He’s hit four home runs through his last 10 games and leads the team by far with a .323 overall average.

Caleb Hamrick, RHP
1 G, 4 IP, 0.00 ERA, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3:1 K:BB

Hamrick had arguably his best outing of the year so far against the Fort Wayne TinCaps May 13. It was Hamricks’ second appearance in which he didn’t allow any runs. Though Hamrick hasn’t pitched well with runners on, it helped that just one walk and one hit were the only opportunities Hamrick allowed.

Walking the Plank

Dace Kime, RHP
1 G,1 GS, 5 IP, 10.80 ERA, 10 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 4:1 K:BB

Kime’s had a rough year so far and it seems that hitters aren’t baffled by his stuff. He yields just more than six hits per outing and May 12 was the first time he’s pitched at least five innings. Control doesn’t appear to be an issue with Kime, and he doesn’t walk guys in overwhelming amounts, but he also doesn’t appear to be fooling anyone.

Jordan Milbrath, RHP
1 G, 1 GS, 3.1 IP, 13.50 ERA, 5 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 1:1 K:BB

It was inevitable that Milbrath would have a bad outing and May 13 was that day. To be fair, it wasn’t completely catastrophic and it seems Milbrath’s pitches simply had too much of the strike zone. He didn’t record many strikeouts, but he also didn’t seem to be too erratic since he only walked one.

Luis DeJesus, RHP
1 G, 0.2 IP, 40.50 ERA, 2 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 HR, 2:1 K:BB

To be fair to DeJesus, his May 9 outing was his Captains’ 2014 debut. It wasn’t, however, anything new. DeJesus spent his 2013 season in Lake County and home runs were his Achilles’ heel. A mere 0.2 innings of work isn’t enough to fairly judge anyone, but the home run allowed is notable with DeJesus, considering he led the league in home runs allowed (24) last year.

Boarding Ship

Reliever Alexis Paredes was reassigned to the Captains’ roster May 9.

Leaving Port

No Captains were reassigned to other teams last week.

Taking On Water

Lefty reliever Kenny Mathews was placed on the 7-day disabled list May 9.

On the Horizon

The Captains remain on the road for a four-game series in Comstock Park, Mich. with the West Michigan Whitecaps. The team with have to get the bats going, as the Whitecaps boast one of the more formidable pitching squads in the league. The Captains return home for a brief three-game set May 19-21 with the Fort Wayne TinCaps.

Stephanie is a crime and general assignment reporter for The Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio. She’s an alumna of Cleveland State University with a degree in Journalism and Promotional Communication. You can follow her on Twitter @7thInningSteph.

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