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Mudcats Notebook: Merritt is topping the league leaderboard

Mudcats Notebook: Merritt is topping the league leaderboard
May 21, 2014
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The normal comforts of home were not had by the Carolina Mudcats this past week as they struggled to just a 1-4 record before traveling to Wilmington for the start of a three game set and dropped the first game.  A week after much of the pitching staff struggled, they turned it around, but the offense went on a slump, scoring just 13 runs on the week.

With the difficult week, Carolina fell to 20-21 on the season, just the second time the team has been below .500 this season. This week, the Mudcats conclude their series against Wilmington before returning to Zebulon for a four game set against the Carolina League leading Myrtle Beach Pelicans and the Wilmington Blue Rocks.

Player Spotlight: Ryan Merritt

Strong left handed pitching is a commodity at any level of baseball, and the Carolina Mudcats have one of the season’s best in starting pitcher Ryan Merritt.

Merritt has posted a 5-1 record through eight starts, is tied for the Carolina League lead in wins and leads the league outright with a 1.65 ERA.

With statistics like these, the McKinney, Texas native has shown he has the capability to be the ace of a staff, which is something he says he thinks about before every start.  One thing all aces try to do is stay away from the big innings and pitch their hardest, something Merritt says he tries to do every time out on the mound.

“I just go out and pitch my hardest,” Merritt said.  “I mean, go out there and, even when runners get on base, if I pitch my hardest, I know I can go out there and minimize the damage and stay away from the big innings.”

The 16th round selection in the 2011 MLB Draft has shown vast improvements with Carolina since his arrival late in 2013.  His five wins this season are just one win away from tying his season output from last season, split between Lake County and Carolina, and his ERA is down nearly two full runs.

Through eight starts, Merritt is setting an incredible pace for his season as he has allowed only nine earned runs all year with eight coming in his last four starts.

None of his starts have lasted for less than five innings, and he has twice gone seven innings, one of which was a complete game during a double header which is one of just three complete games thrown in the Carolina League this season.

In 49.0 innings pitched, Merritt is allowing an average of just less than one base runner an inning by walk or hit, having allowed just 37 hits and walking just nine batters.  This makes his WHIP just 0.939, down from 1.266 last season.

While Merritt cannot pinpoint one particular facet of his game that is markedly better, he says that confidence has a lot to do with his early season success.

“I think you want to go out to the mound thinking you are the best,” Merritt said.  “You want to go out there every time with confidence in yourself.  You don’t want to go out there thinking you aren’t the best pitcher.”

Merritt realizes he has adjustments to make, mostly becoming more consistent with all of his pitches, especially his secondary stuff.

“I’m just trying to learn how to be consistent with all my pitches,” Merritt said.  “My change-up will sometimes be there, and other times not be there.  When I have a bullpen, I need to work on things like that, and work with the pitching coach.”

If he makes adjustments like these and continues on the pace he has set for himself early on in the year, there is no trouble believing Merritt could ride his left arm to lots of success this season and beyond.

Player of the Week

Todd Hankins (2B): 6-16, 1 HR, 2 2B, 2 R, 4 RBI, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 SB

While Hankins did go hitless in two games this week, he provided the big hit when called upon, including a two-run double during Sunday’s victory over the Red Sox.  Hankins’ biggest value came in the field, as he made a couple of incredible plays at second base.  For his efforts with Carolina this week, Hankins was promoted to Triple-A Columbus on Tuesday for the second time this season.

Swimming Pretty

Shawn Morimando (LHP): 1 GS, 1-0, 6 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 4 K

Much of Carolina’s pitching staff had strong weeks, but in his lone start of the week, Morimando showed why he was called upon to start the season opener.  After struggling in his three previous starts, lasting no longer than five innings and allowing at least three runs in each outing, Morimando clearly started to turn things around in picking up his fifth victory of the season.

James Roberts (3B): 7-20, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 2 R, 2 K

Just looking at his statistics it might seem strange for Roberts’ name to be here, but Roberts had a notable week for other reasons.  In Friday’s double header, Roberts was the only Mudcats player to record more than one hit, in recording three of the team’s six hits on the day.  On Sunday, Roberts was hit by a pitch on his hand in his first at-bat, and though he was clearly in pain, he stayed in the game and recorded a hit and scored a run.  Roberts’ week just goes to show statistics aren’t everything.

Elvis Araujo (LHP): 2 GP, 3.1 IP, 1 SV, 2 H, 1 BB, 3 K

Araujo has had a few difficult outings as he attempts to adjust to his new role as a reliever.  Since giving up three runs in a third of an inning on May 11, Araujo has yet to surrender a run.  On Sunday, Araujo entered the game in the eighth inning and picked up a two-inning save, his second of the season.

On the Hook

 Jerrud Sabourin (1B): 0-19, 1 R, 1 BB, 3 K

Since being sent back to Carolina from Double-A Akron, Sabourin had been on a role offensively.  That is, until this past week when he hit a brick wall and went 0-for-the week.  On the bright side, the one time Sabourin reached base he scored a run, though it was in a loss.

Michael Peoples (RHP): 1 GS, 0-1, 4.0 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K

After two consecutive strong starts, Peoples regressed a bit this week in dropping his first decision in three starts.  Peoples lasted just four plus innings and left with the bases loaded.  The only reason Peoples didn’t surrender more runs this week was because of the performance of right hander Jacob Lee, who got out of the bases loaded jam without surrendering a run.

Yhoxian Medina (INF): 3-22, 1 RBI, 0 BB, 5 K

You don’t have to look past Medina’s statistics to see how his week went.  Medina only collected a hit in three games this week and had multiple two strikeout games.

Luigi Rodriguez (OF): 1-16, 1 BB, 7 K

Much like Medina, Rodriguez’ statistics sum up his week.  Rodriguez did not collect a hit until Tuesday, the first time he reached base all week.  Rodriguez, who has a tendency to strikeout a lot, had a horrible game in game two of Friday’s double header, in which he went 0-3 with three strikeouts.

Fish Swimming Around

There were several moves involving Mudcats players this week.  Flame thrower Carlos Melo was transferred to Mahoning Valley in an attempt to help him harness his control while keeping his velocity.  In a corresponding move, right hander Clayton Cook was promoted to Carolina, where he was the opening day starter in 2012.  For the second time in 2014, Hankins was promoted to Triple-AAA Columbus on Tuesday.

Fish on the Line

While there was a lot of activity on the Mudcats disabled list, there still stands five players on it.  This week, catcherAlex Monsalve was placed on the disabled list with a back injury, but was also removed on the first possible day.  Outfielder LeVon Washington was also removed from the disabled list this week, where he was placed with an oblique injury.  Washington was quoted as saying he feels “100 percent healthy and ready to play.”  Star shortstopErik Gonzalez was placed on the disabled with a left middle finger strain.  There is no word on when infielder Yandy Diaz and Joe Sever will be able to return from injuries sustained on Opening night, nor pitcher Dylan Baker, who is suffering from a fractured ankle.

Zachary is a senior at NC State where he is majoring in communication-media, with minors in journalism and theatre.  You can follow him on Twitter @RealZachFrancis.

User Comments

May 22, 2014 - 7:02 AM EDT
Happy to see some arms having some success at Carolina. Also happy to see Clayton Cook coming back after a long time away. Should provide more starting depth on a staff that is not real talented in terms of projection. Karsay has done a fine job of getting his pitchers to throw some strikes and it would be nice to see him work with a better grade of talent. There are a few others who need time in MV IMO.
May 21, 2014 - 12:02 PM EDT
Really excited to see Merritt and Morimando pitching well at this point in the season at Carolina. The Indians need some pitching depth and legit prospects to add into the fold and both are more than establishing themselves as ML starting pitching prospects. Also, while I would hate to see anyone go, they also provide the Indians some good trade currency should they look to add a bat or two in the next two months.

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