Tag Archives: Tommy John surgery

Speedy, versatile South Bend Cubs ready to roll in 2017

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

South Bend is about to begin its third season as a Chicago Cubs affiliate.

Jimmy Gonzalez was the manager for the first two and he’s back for 2017.

The skipper has plenty of nice things to say about the community and the fans (the Cubs drew 350,803 during the 2016 Class-A Midwest League season and owner Andrew Berlin has set a goal of 400,000 for 2017).

“It’s a great town,” says Gonzalez. “There are things to do around here and good restaurants. It’s great to have a minor league affiliate called the Cubs and be so close to Chicago. The support is through the roof.”

Gonzalez leads the ’17 team (Notre Dame visits for a seven-inning exhibition at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 5 at Four Winds Field before plays two road games Thursday and Friday and the home opener at 7:05 p.m. Saturday, April 8) with a few returnees to South Bend and several who played for short-season Northwest League champion Eugene (Ore.).

The Emeralds, managed by former South Bend coach Jesus Feliciano, went 54-22 during the 2016 regular season.

While there was no pennant (that went to the Lansing Lugnuts), the ’16 campaign saw South Bend go 84-55 during the regular season, make the playoffs and Gonzalez earn MWL Manager of the Year honors.

“There’s a bunch of exciting guys,” says Gonzalez. “They’re coming off a great season last year in Eugene, guys that have won.”

Gonzalez surveys his ’17 South Bend roster and sees fleetness and versatility.

“Speed is going to be a huge factor with this club,” says Gonzalez. “Those speed guys create spark and excitement and a lot of good things happen.”

The swiftest of the Cubs are outfielders D.J. Wilson (21 stolen bases in 2016), Kevonte Mitchell (15) and Chris Pieters (20) and infielder Yeiler Peguero.

Wilson expects to be in center field.

“I have first-step quickness,” says Wilson. “My angles are pretty good.”

Wilson is glad to be back with a group of friends that he played plenty of winning baseball with last summer.

“We had great chemistry last year with the Emeralds and it’s only gotten stronger throughout the spring,” says Wilson, who also looks forward to playing in South Bend since it is closer to his hometown of Canton, Ohio, which should allow friends and family to see him play in 2017.

Mitchell says he could see time in right and left and, possibly, center.

“My base running and my speed (are strengths),” says Mitchell. “I also have a nice arm from the outfield.

“I bring energy to the team.”

All the way up the big league team, the ability to play multiple positions is valued in the Cubs organization. South Bend reflects this philosophy.

“I love having that as an option,” says Gonzalez. “It gives rest to a bunch of guys. (Versatility is) also great for their development.”

The manager says it is likely that Peguero will see time at second base and shortstop with Wladimir Galindo at third base and first base, Isaac Parades at shortstop and third base and Zack Short at shortstop, second base and third base.

Including time in instructional league and spring training, Vimael Machin has played all four infield positions and has been used at catcher.

“That’s a good thing about Vimael,” says Gonzalez. “He is willing and able to do a lot of things.”

Machin, Paredes, catcher Alberto Mineo and right-handed pitchers Jared Cheek and Dakota Mekkes appeared with South Bend in 2016.

“I consider those guys leaders,” says Gonzalez. “Yes, they probably didn’t want to come back here (but move up in the Cubs system). That’s just part of the game. You can mope about it or you can just go out there and play.”

Machin models that team-oriented attitude.

“I’ll do whatever (Gonzalez) tells me to do,” says Machin. “Even if we’re not playing, we’re helping and supporting each other. That’s what it’s all about.”

With the grind of a long season, baseball is a game where slumps and bad days are inevitable.

“It’s important that (the players) know that adversity is going to come,” says Gonzalez. “How are they going to handle it? Are they going to get down and just not perform moving forward and understand that’s going to happen.

“Whether you’re 5-for-5 or 0-for-5, that sixth at-bat is another at-bat. You can’t change what you just did. It’s written down. You always have that moment to do something.”

Because it translates in games, Gonzalez says the concept of staying in the moment was an emphasis of the Cubs mental skills program during spring training.

Flame-throwing right-hander Dylan Cease has embraced the mentality and does not dwell on the future.

“It’s the process over the result,” says Cease. “I just expect to stay in my process and do as good as a I can.

“I feel really good about my mechanics. It just comes down to executing … I’m just focused on being the best ballplayer I can be and getting better.”

South Bend pitching coach Brian Lawrence has watched Cease progress well since having Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery in June 2015, but there will be a learning curve in 2017.

“He’s never thrown meaningful pitches in April before,” says Lawrence. “He’s going to have to get through his first full season. He has to learn what he has. What he’s shown from last year through spring training is tremendous. He has command of all his pitches.”

Cease is part of a starting rotation that right-handers Duncan Robinson, Kyle Miller, Tyson Miller, Erling Moreno and Matt Swarmer and left-hander Manuel Rondon. Lawrence says there will be a few “piggyback” situations where one pitcher will start and another starter will take over. Left-handers Bryan Hudson and Jose Paulino may join the team from extended spring training in the coming weeks.

“This is going to be a fun team to play with,” says Tyson Miller. “I’ve just got to execute pitches. I want to throw the most innings I can with the least amount of pitches.

“I just need to get better with my pitching I.Q. and knowing how to set up hitters.”

Lawrence says starters will be limited to 80 pitches to start the season.

The bullpen features 6-foot-7 righty Dakota Mekkes and 5-8 lefty Wyatt Short and several other arms who will get work.

“We won’t go back-to-back (days) for quite awhile (with relievers),” says Lawrence. “We do have a lot of guys who can pitch at the end of the game. We have a lot of options.”

NDSBCUBS2017

Just 25, Carlton is already making his mark on Indiana prep baseball scene

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

One of the younger minds on the Indiana high school baseball coaching block is enjoying success early in his career.

Royce Carlton, who turned 25 in January, has racked up 48 victories in his first three seasons as a head coach.

As a University of Indianapolis junior, Carlton was hired as an assistant at his high school alma mater — Morristown. The next spring (2014), the Yellow Jackets went 19-7 with Carlton in charge a season after going 12-13. The ’14 Morristown team hit .378 with Quality At-Bat percentage of 61, a .458 on-base percentage and 3.15 earned run average).

After graduating UIndy, Carlton got a job and a fresh start on the western side of the state. At Attica, he is head baseball coach, head boys tennis coach, strength and conditioning coordinator and teaches health and physical education. He was also coaching basketball when he first arrived at the Fountain County school.

“It’s been a very enjoyable experience so far,” says Carlton. “It’s a very tight-knit community and there’s a lot of support.”

On the diamond, Carlton took a team that was around .500 the year before he arrived to 14-10 in 2015 (.351/45/.446/3.56) and 15-8 in 2016 (.312/45/.407.2.25). Opponents hit .207 against Red Ramblers pitching last spring.

Drawing from his many influences and conducting plenty of research, Carlton is making Attica better on the diamond. Attica will be out to earn its eighth overall sectional title and first since 2010.

The foundation of what Royce does comes from his parents — Roger and Elaine Carlton. Roger stole 72 bases in a season for Morristown in the late ’70s and base stealing has been a major component for Royce’s teams (Morristown swiped 98 in 2014 while Attica pilfered 95 in 2015 and 67 in 2016, all with a success rate of over 85 percent).

The enthusiastic coach is always talking with people in the baseball community and applying that knowledge to his program. He will take this from a college coach and that from Major League Baseball manager.

Some of what Carlton knows about base running comes from Mike Roberts, professional and college coach and the father of former American League stolen base champion Brian Roberts (who took 50 for the Baltimore Orioles in 2007 and 285 for his MLB career).

To be successful on the paths, Carlton says his players must be “aggressively technical.”

“You have to commit at the right time,” says Carlton. “You have no time for a second thought.”

Grandfather Paul Goble, a highly-respected track and cross country coach at Morristown, and great uncle Charlie Nugent (who hit .299 with five home runs and 28 runs batted in as a first-team all-Indiana Collegiate Conference first baseman at Ball State in 1965) have also shaped Royce.

Royce played for Tim Hancock at Morristown and credits head coach Gary Vaught and assistant Al Ready for teaching him a lot of baseball in his two seasons as an Indianapolis Greyhound.

He is thankful to the athletic directors who hired him — Craig Moore at Morristown and Fred Unsicker at Attica. Moore continues to be a professional mentor to the young Carlton.

Carlton saw that Oscar Jimenez (a former Kansas City Royals prospect, Little League World Series star and native of Panama living in the Lafayette) did not have a job in baseball and added him a coaching staff which also includes Rod Crist at the varsity level with Nick Burris and Chris Ferguson running Attica’s two junior varsity teams.

With 34 players, Carlton said he has to the biggest numbers in the Wabash River Conference (a league of Class 1A and 2A schools).

“That’s unheard of for a school our size,” says Carlton. With two JV teams, players will be moved around as needed. The head coach is not yet sure about the quality of pitching in his freshmen class.

A few ways that he helps his pitchers — really all players — is by the use of the DriveLine Baseball training methods as well as the Motus sleeve, a device which includes a ulnar collateral ligament workload monitor which is touted by the company as “the first tool aimed specifically at combating UCL tears that lead to Tommy John Surgery.”

“The kids see all the technology and see how changing an arm slot reduces arm stress on the elbow,” says Carlton.

Pitchers throw from their natural arm slot and if Carlton sees any issues with the data he gathers, he might change their motion a little bit.

Ramblers senior ace right-hander Eli Merriman was converted from overhand to a sidearm delivery and found to have less stress that way.

“It’s not one size fits all,” says Carlton. “You’ve got to adapt to each kid. Not every kid can throw sidearm.

“In the past, coaches wanted each pitcher to be a cookie cutter (and all throw with the same delivery). It’s not that way anymore.”

Following a two-week spring break, the Ramblers are scheduled to open the 2017 season Tuesday, April 4 by visiting the Cornjerkers of Hoopeston (Ill.).

I am very excited to see how all of our players contribute to having a successful season and a deep tournament run,” says Carlton. “I am looking forward to having our best season yet lead by not only my strong senior class but also our freshman, sophomores, and juniors.

“I want us to be “uncomfortable” this season. We know we have the pieces but we need to stay on a continued path of growth each pitch of every game and not get comfortable with success.”

ROYCECARLTON

Royce Carlton is entering his third season at Attica in 2017. He has led the Red Ramblers to 29 victories in his first two seasons. He turned 25 in January.

Former big leaguer Stults explains importance of mental game to campers

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

To pitch at high levels — college or pro — the space between the ears becomes even more important than the arm.

That’s one of the big lessons Eric Stults absorbed in his 14 seasons of professional baseball (2002-2015).

“It’s the mental part of the game,” Stults said after leading a pitching camp for youngsters Saturday, Feb. 25 at Eastlake Chargers Baseball/Softball Academy inside Eastlake Athletic Club in Goshen. “A lot of guys can physically throw a baseball and throw it hard and well. But what separates the guys who excel or do so at the next level is their ability to mentally make adjustments and stay focused.

“It’s somebody I probably didn’t learn until college. More than physically, I needed to be mentally sharp. (After learning that,) I was practicing that as much as I was throwing the baseball.

“The earlier some of these players can get that, it’s only going to help them along the way.”

Stults played at Argos High School and Bethel College before being  drafted in 2002. The left-hander’s pro baseball odyssey took him through experiences with five different Major League Baseball clubs (Los Angeles Dodgers, Colorado Rockies, Chicago White Sox, San Diego Padres and Atlanta Braves) as well as several minor league teams and in Japan (Hiroshima Toyo Carp).

While working toward the big leagues (he made his debut in 2006), Stults was introduced to the importance of the mental side.

“I got in a rut and was searching for something,” Stults said. “Someone said, ‘have you ever thought of the mental side of the game?’ I said, ’Not really. I just go out there and throw the baseball and hope for the best.’”

Stults started his Indiana Chargers camp remarks by focusing on enjoyment of the game.

“This is a game,” Stults said to 45 pitchers of varying ages and their parents. “We want to have fun.”

Then comes learning how to pitch — not just throw.

Even the hardest throwers can’t rely on velocity alone.

Stults, who resides in Middlebury, enjoyed longevity in the game not from gas but his ability to focus on the game within the game — pitcher vs. hitter. He was able to change speeds and the eye levels of hitters by moving the ball around.

After a Tommy John surgery early in his career — before he really knew the importance of arm care — he stayed relatively healthy.

While campers went from station to station for Crossover Symmetry Band work for rotator cuff and scapular strengthening, throwing and recovery drills with the help of ECBSA’s Joel Mishler, Justin Barber and George Hofsommer, Stults also took time to tell them about concepts like routine.

Stults, who worked with many coaches and sports psychologists throughout his diamond days, said his routine changed throughout his career, but having one helped with the mental side of the game.

One pre-pitch routine that he had was taking a deep breath and letting it go along with all of the tension.

“It can be that simple,” Stults said. “I also had a key word — FOCUS. It let me focus on the catcher’s glove and take the distractions out of my head. That allows you to get back into a good mind frame.”

Learning the mental side also helped Stults to keep from dwelling on the negative things and focus on his next pitch or next outing.

“The mindset is you’ve got to forget about it,” Stults said. “It’s easier said than done. But that comes through practice and mental part of the game. Let’s move forward.”

In discussing mechanics, Stults noted that not everyone delivers the ball in the same way or has the same arm slot.

“As an individual, you have to figure out what works for you,” Stults said. “When I talk about different grips and throwing different pitches, it’s trial and error.

“You have to be willing to try new things and be coachable.”

Stults encouraged players to learn how to “self-coach” and diagnose their own problems and find solutions.

He emphasized always having a purpose even when playing catch (throw to a target) and developing tempo and rhythm while using nice loose grip on the baseball.

As Stults, 37, looks back on his lengthy career, it’s the relationships that stand out.

“What was gratifying was the people I met,” Stults said. “You can sit there and talk about victories and this and that. But it’s the people I met along the way. It’s that clubhouse camaraderie I was able to have in baseball.”

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Former big leaguer Eric Stults demonstrates a grip during a camp at Eastlake Chargers Baseball/Softball Academy inside Eastlake Athletic Club in Goshen. (Photo By John Sadowey)

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Eric Stults throws at a camp at Eastlake Chargers Baseball/Softball Academy in Goshen. He was helped by ECBSA’s Justin Barber (from left on right side of photo), George Hofsommer and Joel Mishler. (Photo By John Sadowey)

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A pitching camp by former big leaguer and Middlebury resident Eric Stults brought out several youngsters to Eastlake Chargers Baseball/Softball Academy in Goshen. (Photo By John Sadowey)