I do some writing at the best Minor League site on the planet, Tony Lastoria’s Indians Prospect Insider, where I currently write about the Kinston Indians. While I won’t publish all of my stuff from IPI here, I will on occasion. Here the latest:

While watching the fireworks blast over Lake Benson here in Carolina last night, I couldn’t help but think of the state of the Kinston Indians and their past week. Kinston rolled out a 4-2 record this week as their roster continued to transition into the second half.

Kinston’s offense has struggled to put runs on the board for most of the season, and with most of their offensive weapons moving up the system, things weren’t looking all that good for the second half. Then something funny happened. This week, Kinston found some power, and with continued brilliance from the pitching, there might be a playoff run from the K-Tribe yet. How brilliant is the pitching? While I think there’s been a transfer of power to the bullpen, the overall staff’s ERA is a mind-boggling 2.88, with a 1.26 WHIP. Yeah, not to shabby…

With fireworks and cookouts about to get started, let’s get driving…

Where We Stand in Week 13, with a clean slate:

Overall Record: 41-38 (4-2 this past week)
Second Half Record 5-4 (1/2 game back)

Week 13 Games:

27 vs. Potomac, W 6-4 (WP: T. Turek; LP: J. Estrada; SV: C. Burns)
28 vs. Potomac, W 6-5 (WP: T. McFarland; LP: M. Frias; SV: C. Burns)
29 vs. Potomac, Postponed: Rain
30 @ Myrtle Beach, L 1-2 (WP: A. Paulino; LP: J. Mahalic; SV: L. Avilan)

July (all times local unless noted)

1 @ Myrtle Beach, W 6-4 (WP: B. Grening; LP: R. Delgado; SV: C. Burns)
2 @ Myrtle Beach, L 2-4 (WP: J. Hoover; LP: J. Gardner; SV: B. Oberholtzer)
3 vs. Frederick, W 3-1 (WP: C. Jones; LP: J. Mariotti; SV: C. Burns)

This Week’s Transactions:

07/03/2010 3B Jeremie Tice assigned to Kinston Indians from Lake County Captains.
07/03/2010 1B Chris Kersten assigned to Lake County Captains from Kinston Indians.
07/03/2010 C Chun-Hsiu Chen assigned to Kinston Indians from Lake County Captains.
07/03/2010 OF Tim Palincsar assigned to Lake County Captains from Kinston Indians.
06/30/2010 RHP Marty Popham assigned to Kinston Indians from Akron Aeros.
06/29/2010 RHP Marty Popham assigned to Akron Aeros from Kinston Indians.
06/28/2010 RHP Rob Bryson placed on the 7-Day disabled list. Right Shoulder Strain
06/27/2010 SS Juan Diaz traded to Kinston Indians from Seattle Mariners.

Week 13 Offense:

Kinston finally started showing off some power this week, hitting seven home runs, and scoring 23 runs in six games. They did strike out a bit more, which comes with the territory, but if this team continues to score more runs with this pitching staff, the playoffs are a real possibility. It will be interesting to see this offense continue to develop, with the additions of Bo Greenwell and Juan Diaz. A lot rests on Abner Abreu, who took a step back this week, but to keep kicking this dead horse, if he continues to progress, Kinston could have solid power.

Lucas Montero continues to impress and prove his value to Kinston. He went 10 for 22, with five runs, a homer, two RBI, four walks, five K’s, and two stolen bases. Montero has found a home in center, but has more value than many, because he can play all three outfield positions. His .455 average this week will help his cause in moving up. He is at an advanced age at 25, but could move through the system quickly because of his versatility and speed. It is interesting to see his play improve now that he has a steady job in center.

Bo Greenwell has continued to play well since his call-up last week. In his first full week at Kinston, the left-fielder went 8 for 23, with a team-leading six RBI, two doubles, two RBI, two walks, four K’s and two stolen bases. It’s clear that the 22-year-old is beginning to figure out how to play at the highest levels. He started the year off like a house of fire in Lake County before leveling off. It will be interesting to see if he continues his tear through Carolina league, or if he drops off.

Kyle Bellows had a nice week, going 7 for 21, with four runs, two homers, four RBI, three walks, two K’s and two stolen bases. Bellows had a five-game hitting streak that was broken last night. He continues to show improvement at the plate, and has all the tools that can the Indians are looking for. There still is a belief in the system that the 6’3″, 210-pounder can develop plus power, while hitting for average. He has a cannon for an arm, and continues to improve his plate discipline. Bellows isn’t consistent yet, but he’s at the right stage of his career to begin figuring it all out.

Abner Abreu did hit another homer this week, but also went 5 for 21 for a .238 average. His inconsistency this year has been mind-numbing. Juan Diaz, the shortstop acquired in the Russell Branyan trade, didn’t have a hit in 15 at-bats. This kid does have tools, and I’m not surprised he struggled out of the gate. Everyone can’t be Carlos Santana. There are scouts that see a ton of upside in this kid, so it will be interesting to see what happens to him as the season develops. It’s unfortunate for Ron Rivas, who seemed to finally be picking up his offense enough to overlook his defense. Diaz did play a nice shortstop, not making an error.

Week 13 Bullpen:

The bullpen slowly but surely has become the strength of the pitching staff. Maybe not so slowly. They went 3-0 this week, with four saves and two holds. In 25 2/3 innings, the bullpen only gave up 17 hits and six earned runs. They walked 13 batters, and struck out 38. Yeah, it was that good. It’s funny how a rock solid closer can line up the rest of the staff. Rob Bryson was out this week with a strained shoulder, which should tell you just how good this pen is, since Bryson is one of the better relievers on the K-Tribe roster.

Chris Jones may just be the best reliever in the Carolina League. In two games, Jones went 1-0, giving up a hit and a walk, while striking out eight batters. Overall, Jones is 2-1, with a 0.81 ERA in 15 appearances.

Brian Grening made a resurgence this week in a relief appearance of a struggling T.J. House. He went four strong innings, giving up only one hit, while striking out four in getting the win. Grening has struggled over the past month, so it’s good to see the righty get back on track. Now, if we can just see some consistency.

Travis Turek continued his transformation into one of the better relief pitchers on this team. In two appearances, Turek went 1-0 with a hold. In five innings, he gave up four hits, an earned run, walked five, and struck out three. The run that Turek gave up last Sunday was his first since June first, and hes seen his overall ERA drop to below three, at 2.96. If he continues at this right, he just might find himself in Akron.

Matt Langwell has become the invisible man. He just comes out and does his job. In two appearances, he went four innings, gave up three hits and and earned run, while walking three and striking out five. Langwell has a 1.75 ERA for the season, and has been the stabilizing force in this bullpen all year long. Let’s hope it pays off with a promotion at some point.

I do want to mention Dave Roberts. Yes, he did ride his weekly roller coaster, with both good and bad appearances. His good appearance was just very, very good. He went three innings on Saturday night, giving up only one hit and two walks, while striking out a season high seven batters. Perhaps Roberts can use this appearance to right the ship a bit.

No, I haven’t forgotten about Cory Burns. Alls he did is make four appearances during the week, and saved all four games. He went 4 1/3, giving up three hits, an earned run, a walk, while striking out nine batters. Burns is leading the Carolina League with 15 saves. He has 27 saves combined while at Lake County.

Imagine how good this pen becomes when Bryson returns. Of course, it’s likely that someone will get bumped up…or down.

Week 13 Starters:

The K-Tribe starters continued their walk through the Carolina League park. Overall, the starting staff had a 3.08 ERA in 26 innings pitched. They gave up 30 hits and nine earned runs. They walked 16 batters and struck out 21. They did go 1-2, but they continued with a pristine 3.08 ERA.

T.J. McFarland went 1-0 this week. He went six innings, giving up three hits, two earned runs and three walks, while striking out one. Overall, that brings McFarland to 8-2 (leading the league with eight wins) with a 1.94 ERA (also leading the league). In 78 2/3 innings pitched, he’s struck out only 52, while only walking an impressive 18. This is exactly what the Indians needed to see in McFarland, who has proven to be one of the best pitchers here at Kinston.

Austin Adams pitched two games, and will be utilized with a hand-cuff throughout the season (perhaps Marty Popham, who was briefly called up to Akron and made a fantastic start, before getting called back down). In his two appearances, Adams went 7 2/3, giving up six hits and two earned runs, while walking three and striking out 11. Adams was selected in the fifth round last year, and is certainly on Mark Shapiro’s radar. He was converted to a pitcher during his final year in college, and is still learning the trade, which is why Cleveland is bringing him along slowly. He has big-league heat, averaging out in the mid-90’s, and can touch the upper 90’s. I firmly believe that the Indians have this power arm earmarked for the bullpen. The ONLY reason why they are starting him is to build up consistency and arm strength. It will be interesting to watch him develop.

Joey Mahalic with 5 2/3, giving up eight hits with two earned runs, while walking four and striking out two in his loss. Joe Gardner went six innings, giving up seven hits, three earned runs and three walks, while striking out six batters in his loss. TJ House only went an inning, giving up two hits, three runs, an earned run, while walking three and striking out one. He only lasted an inning, which seems to be because of his struggles, and not because of an injury. If I hear anything more, I’ll make sure to get it out to you.

Week 13 Awards:

Offensive player of the week: Lucas Montero
Relief pitcher of the week: Cory Burns
Staring pitcher of the week: T.J. McFarland

Player of the week: Lucas Montero

Here comes week 14:

4 vs. Frederick, 6:00 PM
5 vs. Frederick, 7:00 PM
7 vs. Salem, 7:00 PM
8 vs. Salem, 7:00 PM
9 vs. Salem, 7:00 PM
10 @ Frederick, 6:00 PM

A Quick Note: Manny Acta reported last week that Jason Knapp is on the mend, and soon to return. As soon as I can get any information on when Knapp will be back, where he’ll be, and what he’ll be doing, I’ll get that up and posted. Also, congrats to Michael Brantley, for getting his much deserved call-up.

The Rearviewmirror: Sorry to move away from baseball for a moment, but am I the only one glad that all this egotistical garbage with LeBron James is over? It’s kind of funny, when you think about it. These guys get together four years ago, and plan to all sign three-year deals. Now, here we are, and we don’t think they haven’t planned this all out? While I can’t prognosticate how this is all going to end, there really is a big part of me that thinks they have pre-destined to converge in Miami.

Why? Was it predetermined all those years ago? No, but I don’t doubt that they didn’t come up with a pact that said they’d all play together at whoever wins a title. What are they doing now? Perhaps they are trying to find a way that they can all play in Chicago at peak money, or perhaps they are all going to end up at home.

Either way, I’m glad the idiotic tours are done. I mean, listening to the programs these teams put up. The Knicks with the Sopranos, and the Cavs with some dumb video. It’s all ridiculous, the hoops these teams are jumping through. Perhaps the Clippers had it right. Show up, let them know how much you want them, and leave. This isn’t my NBA, that’s for sure.

Will LeBron stay? You know, after all the years I’ve put into this team, I don’t think I care. I remember listening to Tate and the Cavs during the Miracle at Richfield, with my dad when I was a wee little one. I remember the shot, but more importantly, all those good Cavs teams in the late 80’s.

Can the Cavs win without James, you bet they can. A friend of mine asked me the other day, what I would do, as a NE Ohio native, if I were as gifted as LeBron, playing for the Cavs. I said to him, “Well, I’m from Ohio, grew up watching the Indians, the Cavs, the Browns and the Buckeyes. The Cavs have offered me more money than anyone else can. We’ve been the the precipice of a title before. My owner has deep pockets, and a willingness to spend. In other words, every scenario that no other Cleveland team or player HAS EVER HAD, and I can stay in my own hometown. I told my friend it was a no-brainer, not only would I have said yes on July 1, but I would have been saying yes all year long.

‘Bron is a card-carrying member of the bandwagon club. He’s a Yankees fan, because he grew up watching them win titles. He’s a Dallas Cowboy’s fan, because he grew up watching them win titles. He’s a Chicago Bulls fan, because he grew up watching the Bulls win titles. Now I want LeBron to stay, and I hope he does, but this fairweather characteristic really makes me wonder. How many friends, who grew up right here in the area, are card carrying Bulls, Cowboys and Yankees fans?

I’m not saying LeBron doesn’t love the area, love his hometown, and love the Cavs…but at his core is a kid who follows the winners. Who can make him a winner the earliest? I don’t know, but I can’t wait until the DECISION is in the rearviewmirror.

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