When Houston’s minor-league teams left the spring-training complex in Kissimmee, Fla., for their regular-season homes in early April, a number of players were left behind at an extended spring-training camp.
Some were working their way back from injuries, while others awaited assignment to either full-season clubs as roster spots opened or to short-season clubs that begin play in June.
And for some, a spot on the Astros’ extended spring roster extends to the Quad-Cities, where 11 roster moves during the first six weeks of the season have involved reassigning a pitcher to the extended spring roster and activating a pitcher from that roster to the Midwest League club.
“We sort of roll with the flow,’’ said pitcher Mitchell Lambson, who was transferred to the extended spring roster Sunday. “The organization has a plan for each of us and we just sort of go with it. It works.’’
As with the other moves, the transaction involving Lambson did not involve him physically leaving the Quad-Cities for a return to Florida. It was simply a paper move which gives manager Omar Lopez 25 active players to work with on any given day.
Lopez said the rotating moves are a byproduct of the tandem starting system the River Bandits are utilizing this season and the large number of doubleheaders created by an extraordinary number of April postponements.
“We saw it last weekend with back-to-back doubleheaders and going 11 innings in one of those games. It really handcuffs you as far as pitching goes,’’ Lopez said. “With eight pitchers in the piggyback rotation, we have just four relievers.’’
By transferring one of the pitchers from the rotation to the extended spring-training roster, and then transferring him back before his next scheduled appearance, Quad-Cities is able to keep an additional reliever available while maintaining its active roster at the league maximum of 25.
The practice has become increasingly commonplace as more organizations adopt tandem rotations within the structure of their minor-league systems.
“It’s a way to play with the roster a bit and give a team an extra pitcher to work with in any given game,’’ Lopez said. “That is the main idea behind it.’’
NEW NAME, SAME PLACE: Beginning with Friday’s home game against Clinton, Peoria’s Midwest League Stadium will be known as Dozer Park.
The name is a reference to Peoria-based Caterpillar, which purchased naming rights to the facility earlier this month as part of a financial deal designed to help the Chiefs organization deal with debt issues relating to construction of the facility more than a decade ago.
“I love the new name,’’ Peoria team president Rocky Vonachen said. “It’s a natural. Caterpillar got its start building bulldozers and while their product line has expanded, its roots run back to building bulldozers and its roots run back to Peoria.’’
While the facility has a new name, new signage is not expected to be fully in place until sometime next month as part of the $2 million, 10-year deal.
REHABBING RED: When Houston Astros pitcher Josh Fields suited up for the River Bandits on a rehab assignment, he wasn’t the only big leaguer taking the field during the past week for a Midwest League team.
Cincinnati Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto has made two rehab starts for Dayton over the past week, earning the win with a five-inning, three-hit start Tuesday in the Dragons’ 6-2 game against West Michigan as he works his way back from an oblique strain.
Cueto found himself in familiar territory at Fifth Third Field. He pitched for Dayton in 2006, going 8-1 with a 2.59 ERA.
ANOTHER NO-NO: Only six weeks of competition are in the books, but the third no-hitter of the season was thrown Saturday by Midwest League pitchers.
It was a combined effort, with Fort Wayne pitchers Max Fried, Matthew Shephard, Leonel Campos and Ramm Madrid combining to beat Great Lakes in a game the TinCaps won 1-0 in the bottom of the ninth in walk-off fashion on a bases-loaded walk.
Fried, a first-round pick of the Padres in 2012, worked the first 5 2/3 of just the second no-hitter in the Fort Wayne franchise’s 20-year history.
BASEBALL MATH: A pair of Midwest League games played over the weekend involved some eye-opening numbers.
On Saturday, of the six runs scored in a game between Burlington and Wisconsin, only one was scored on a hit.
The others crossed the plate on a sacrifice fly, a passed ball, an error, a wild pitch and when a runner scored from third on a throw to first after a strikeout.
The next day, Cedar Rapids and Beloit combined for 39 runs and 37 hits as the Kernels won a 23-16 game. Every non-pitcher who participated in the game scored at least one run and had at least one hit in a game which saw the ERA of pitchers take a significant hit. All but one of the runs scored in the slugfest were earned.
WEEKLY HONORS: Former Quad-Cities infielder Mark Hamilton is among weekly award winners in minor-league baseball.
A .254 hitter in 2006 for the Swing of the Quad-Cities, Hamilton was named the International League batter of the week after hitting .400 for Red Sox-affiliated Pawtucket.
In the Midwest League, a .444 week at the plate resulted in batter of the week honors for Cedar Rapids’ Adam Brett Walker, while a 10-strikeout performance in a win over Lake County resulted in Bowling Green’s Taylor Guerreri being named the pitcher of the week.
Quad-Cities River Bandits
Today: at Wisconsin, noon
Friday: vs. Beloit, 7 p.m. (BP Petropalooza with tickets sold at the average price of a gallon of gas in the Quad-Cities plus 10 cents, postgame fireworks)
Saturday: vs. Beloit, 7 p.m. (Clarion River Bandits pillowcase giveaway)
Sunday: vs. Beloit, 2 p.m. (Those Funny Little People appearance, Halloween in May, Davenport Little League Day, Flat Screen Family Sunday, Bark in the Park)
Monday: vs. Beloit, 11 a.m. (Book Buddies Day)(
Wednesday: vs. Wisconsin, 7 p.m. (McGivern’s Mega Jewelry giveaway, Pay Your Bill Wednesday, Coal Valley Community Night)
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Today: vs. Beloit, 6:30 p.m. (Thirsty Thursday beverage discounts)
Friday: at Peoria, 6:30 p.m.
Saturday: at Peoria, 6:30 p.m.
Sunday: at Peoria, 2 p.m.
Monday: at Peoria, 11 a.m.
Wednesday: vs. Burlington, 6:30 p.m. (McDonald’s/Mediacom LumberKings baseball card strip giveaway No. 1, Morrison PTO Night, Washington Middle School/Jefferson Elementary Night)
BY THE NUMBERS
.366: Clinton’s Jabari Henry continues to climb the Midwest League hitting charts. His .366 average ranks second in the league to South Bend’s Ryan Court, who is hitting at a .396 clip for the Silver Hawks.
275: Quad-Cities pitchers lead the Western Division with 275 strikeouts through the midpoint of the season. The Bandits staff has walked only 92 batters this season, a number that ranks as the second-lowest in the Midwest League.
COMING TO THE QC
Dakota Bacus: The Moline native is 3-1 with a 3.30 ERA for Beloit. A ninth-round pick of the Athletics in last June’s draft from Indiana State, Bacus has struck out 30 batters and walked six in a relief role for the Snappers.
Renato Nunez: Ranked as the eighth-best prospect in the Athletics farm system by Baseball America, the Beloit third baseman leads the Midwest League with nine home runs this season. Nunez is batting .291 for the Snappers.
Two former River Bandits are among the top-five hitters in the majors over the past week.
Minnesota teammates Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are both swinging hot bats for the Twins. Mauer, a 2002 River Bandit, has hit .556 over his last seven games while Morneau, a first baseman for Quad-Cities in 2001, has hit .481 over the same stretch.