Mudcats Notebook: Peoples finding consistency as a starter
It was a rough week for the Mudcats as the team went just 1-4, but saw a six-game losing streak come to an end.
Carolina was swept in back-to-back series by the Wilmington Blue Rocks, though one game was canceled by rain, and the Potomac Nationals. The streak came to an end on Tuesday as the team defeated the Salem Red Sox in the opener of a three-game set.
With the losing streak, the team is now tied with first-half division winner Myrtle Beach for the division lead, just one-half game ahead of Winston Salem.
The team will complete their final series of the year against Salem before coming back home to face the Potomac Nationals, hoping to reverse their fate from this week.
Player Spotlight: Michael Peoples
In the minor leagues, young players spend a lot of time figuring out what type of player they are going to become. For pitchers, this means working as a starter or as a bullpen arm.
After spending the majority of his first two seasons as a bullpen arm, Mudcats right hander Michael Peoples has been given the chance to be a regular starter this season.
After a rough start to the season, he has started to find a groove as the hot North Carolina summer rolls on.
Through the All-Star break in June, Peoples was just 3-7 in 13 games (11 starts) with a 5.24 ERA. Since the start of the second half, he has been on a roll, going a combined 4-0 in seven games (six starts) with just a 3.31 ERA.
His plan to find success was simple: get back to basics.
“Consistency with mechanics, delivery, being more consistent with every pitch, throwing pitches for strikes,” Peoples said. “Just competing and try to win every day.”
As Peoples was struggling to make the transition from full-time reliever to starter, D.J. Brown was doing the same thing.
“We were both bullpen guys coming up, starting our pro careers,” he explained. “We both needed a piggyback situation, so me and him were the two that were doing it, so we would alternate between starting and relieving.”
As the two pitchers were going through their piggyback system, they were both still treated as starters with the same daily routine and schedule.
“I was still getting bullpens in between, technically on a five-day rotation, which is unlike most relievers, so I still had my bullpen sessions to work on stuff and Karsay’s been good about working with me on that kind of thing,” Peoples said.
Through the system and now as a full-time starter, Peoples said he is just focusing on competing at the highest level he can and pitching to the best of his ability.
“Really, it’s just been a main focus on getting ahead in counts, staying aggressive, and staying consistent with mechanics and just getting out there and letting it work,” Peoples noted.
If his recent hot stretch continues, the next change he will need to adjust to will be a higher level of baseball.
Player of the Week
Yhoxian Medina (SS): 11-24, 5 R, 4 RBI, 2 BB, 1 K, 2 SB
Medina has been playing spectacularly since Erik Gonzalez was promoted to Double-A, truly earning the right to play everyday. This week, he collected two or more hits in four of five games and scored a run in all but one game as well. He is also becoming better defensively, something that he struggled with while Gonzalez made his first appearance with Akron earlier this season.
Jeremy Lucas (C):11-24, 3 R, 2 2B, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 1 BB, 3 K
Riding an eight-game hitting streak, Lucas is clearly feeling great at the plate. Currently, he has collected multiple hits in four consecutive games. Lucas has been one of the Mudcats offensive leaders all year, and he now holds the season lead in homers, RBIs, and runs scored.
Jacob Lee (RHP): 3 G, 6.0 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 5 K
In his first season as a reliever, Lee has found a spot he is working well in. This week, he pitched more than one inning in all three appearances, and allowed just three base runners over the course of the week. Even though it takes a different mindset to come out of the bullpen, Lee is clearly thinking the right way.
Adam Plutko (RHP): 1 GS, 1-0, 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R (0 ER), 0 BB, 4 K
Coming off arguably the worst start of his short professional career, Plutko pitched a gem for the Mudcats on Tuesday, allowing just one unearned run. The Tuesday before, he couldn’t get out of the first inning, but this week, he looked like a different pitcher, going seven strong in picking up his sixth overall win of the season.
On the Hook
Ryan Merritt (LHP): 1 GS, 5.0 IP, 7 H, 7 ER, 1 BB, 5 K
It feels wrong putting Merritt’s name on this list with the masterful season he has compiled, but his recent stretch of starts warrants it. Friday was easily his worst start of the season, as he allowed seven runs in just five innings of work. Merritt was not his normal self from the beginning, allowing four runs in the opening frame. Since a dominant first half with a 1.66 ERA, Merritt has a 3.99 ERA since the All-Star break and has allowed at least one home run in five of his seven starts since the break. Friday, he allowed two for the second consecutive game.
Cole Sulser (RHP): 1 GS, 4.1 IP, 8 H, 6 R (5 ER), 3 K 0 BB
As of late, Sulser had turned a corner, going into the sixth inning in four consecutive starts and allowing three or fewer runs in each game. This weeks’ start did not follow that formula, as he fell apart in the fifth inning and allowed six runs, the most in a start since allowing 10 on June 19.
Todd Hankins (OF): 4-25, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 0 BB, 7 K, 1 SB
Hankins had been rolling, batting over .300 in May and June, but July has looked more like his dismal April, and this week took the cake. Any week you have nearly twice as many strikeouts as hits, something clearly isn’t clicking at the plate. He has made a good transition to playing center field for the Mudcats, so he is probably paying more attention to his new defensive position and hoping the offense will come back around.
Fish on the Line
No Mudcats players were added to the disabled list this week. There are no players currently on the disabled list.
Fish Swimming Around
No transactions made by the Indians affected any Mudcats players this week.
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.