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Asheville’s McCormick Field has long been noted for its short porch in right field, just 300 feet away. Tourists first baseman Joe Koshansky can’t be faulted for taking advantage of it.
The former Virginia two-way star also has taken advantage of Hunter Pence’s slow July (just two home runs) to zoom past Pence and take the South Atlantic League lead in home runs. Koshansky now is leading the SAL in homers and RBIs during his .300-26-81 season, including a current tear of five homers in five games.
He belted three over the weekend, including a pair Sunday in a 14-7 win against Rome. Both homers came off lefthander Matt Harrison, who had allowed only one homer to a lefthanded hitter all season before Sunday.
But he was pitching to Koshansky at McCormick Field, and when that happens, all bets are off. The 6-foot-4, 225-pounder is batting .372-20-59 in 50 home games (188 at-bats) and just .219-6-22 on the road (169 at-bats). His overall totals, though, are good enough for him to tie for fifth in the minors in homers and to rank him sixth in RBIs.
Koshansky, 23, was drafted in the sixth round in 2004 as a senior, but it appears that he’s staying in Asheville all year, meaning he should be in the SAL home run hunt for the duration. Tourists manager Joe Mikulik told the Asheville Citizen-Times, “I also think Koshansky still has a few things to polish up, and being here the rest of the year could help him to be a better baseball player."
Asheville’s home-road splits as a team are about as extreme as it gets. At home, the Tourists hit .304 with a .382 on-base percentage, .518 slugging and 85 home runs in 50 games. Outfielder Matt Miller is almost matching Koshansky’s home dominance, as he’s hitting .371 with 19 homers at McCormick.
On the road, however, the Tourists don’t function as well (is that irony?). They’re hitting just .248/.314/.374; Miller, for example, has just three homers away from McCormick Field. Not surprisingly, Asheville’s pitchers don’t mind seeing McCormick in their collective rear-view mirror (5.97 ERA at home, 4.07 on the road).
Asheville’s hardly the only ballpark that produces extreme home-road splits. Here’s a quick sampling of some players whose stats have received a boost (or not, as noted).
• Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp is hitting .365-17-43 for high Class A Vero Beach with a 10-30 walk-strikeout ratio. On the road in Florida State League play, he’s hitting just .213-4-22 with four walks and 35 strikeouts. Vero Beach as a team has hit just 24 homers on the road and 63 at home (17 by Andy LaRoche before his promotion to Double-A).
• Royals outfielder Chris Lubanski, their 2003 first-round pick, has hit .325 with a .687 slugging percentage at home for high Class A High Desert, annually one of if not the best hitter’s parks in the minors. He’s just a .232 hitter on the road, slugging .379 with a 62-11 strikeout-walk ratio in 211 at-bats.
• When he was a California Leaguer, Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero still hit .307-11-39 on the road, more than respectable numbers. But at Lancaster, he hit an absurd .404-13-43 with a .718 slugging percentage.
• Class A Myrtle Beach is annually one of the tougher parks to hit in, and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia has survived it well, batting .307/.389/.451 at home with three homers in 153 at-bats. But on the road, hit power numbers spike--.304/.377/.541 with eight homers in 148 at-bats. He had a big weekend for the Pelicans, going 7-for-14 in three games against Winston-Salem. The Braves' first-round pick in 2003 capped off the weekend with a pair of home runs Sunday as the Pelicans rolled to a 9-4 win. Saltalamacchia is hitting .403-4-11 in July and .306-11-43 overall.
• Padres top prospect Josh Barfield is heating up at Triple-A Portland. The second baseman was 4-for-4 last night in the Beavers 12-0 shellacking of Fresno and is now batting .368 in 18 July games to go along with season totals of .296/.355/.400 in 355 at-bats. Joining Barfield at Triple-A is first baseman/outfielder Paul McAnulty, who went 5-for-12 with four runs scores in his first three games for Portland. The 2002 12th-round pick out of Long Beach State hit .279-10-42 in 297 at-bats for Double-A Mobile, and was 2-for-9 in his brief major league debut.
• Angels lefthander Joe Saunders threw a seven-inning one hitter in just his second Triple-A start, walking four and striking out seven in Salt Lake’s 4-0 win over Las Vegas on Saturday. A 2002 first-round pick out of Virginia Tech who missed all of 2003 with shoulder problems, Saunders began the year at Double-A Arkansas, where he went 7-4, 3.49 in 18 starts.
• One of the biggest stories during spring training was Houston outfielder Luke Scott, who made the team when camp broke, but was sent back to the minors after batting .154-0-1 in 39 at-bats. Scott has been on a power surge of late for Triple-A Round Rock, battering eight home runs in his last 10 games, giving him 20 on the season and raising his averages to .252/.327/.567 in 270 at-bats.
• Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta made his Double-A debut on Sunday, going 2-for-4 with an RBI in Tulsa’s 4-2 Texas League loss to Wichita. A 2004 fourth-round pick out of North Carolina, Iannetta hit .276-11-58 in 261 at-bats for high Class A Modesto while also showcasing plus defensive skills.
• Rangers shortstop Joaquin Arias has been one of the hottest hitters in the Texas League of late, batting .340 since June 1st, including a 14-for-28 run in a recent seven-game hitting streak. Acquired from the Yankees in the 2004 Alex Rodriguez trade, Arias is batting .306/.332/.415 in 359 at-bats for Frisco.
• Yankees righthander Tyler Clippard delivered his third consecutive scoreless start Saturday, firing seven shutout innings while allowing one hit and striking out eight in high Class A Tampa’s 1-0 loss to first-place Lakeland. A 2003 ninth-round pick out of a Tampa-area high school, the 20-year-old is 8-7, 3.13 in 19 starts for the Yankees, with an impressive 126/29 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 112 innings.
• Also quietly having an impressive year in the Florida State League is Brewers righty Carlos Villanueva. The 21-year-old Dominican struck out 10 over seven innings Friday night, allowing just one run on four hits in high Class A Brevard County’s 2-1 win over Daytona, upping his record to 6-1, 2.00 in 17 starts for the Manatees, with 109 strikeouts in 94 innings.
• Boston first-round pick Jacoby Ellsbury left Saturday night’s game in the New York-Penn League in the first inning with a sore hamstring. The 22nd overall pick is batting .278/.422/.417 in 36 at-bats for short-season Lowell with 10 runs and nine stolen bases in 10 games.
• A pair of 2005 first-round picks made their professional debuts over the weekend in the New York-Penn League. Sixth overall pick Ricky Romero (Blue Jays) pitched two shutout innings for Auburn on Friday night, allowing two hits and a walk while striking out two, while 24th overall pick Brian Bogusevic (Astros) pitched one perfect inning on Saturday for Tri-City, striking out one.
• Blue Jays catcher Guillermo Quiroz went 2-for-4 with a home run Sunday in his first Triple-A game of the year. The 23-year-old catcher entered the season as Toronto's No. 3 prospect, but missed the first half of the season following a shoulder injury and his second collapsed lung in three seasons. He got back on the field July 12 in the high Class A Florida State League, batting .237-2-6 with two walks and eight strikeouts in 11 games.
"I've been sitting down for too long," Quiroz told the (Syracuse) Post-Standard. "It's a little frustrating, but I'm here now and we'll see what happens."
Meanwhile, Syracuse teammate and International League RBIs leader John-Ford Griffin had his ribs x-rayed after soreness persisted following an outfield collision with Anton French last week. The results came back negative, and Griffin struck out in a pinch-hitting opportunity.
• Mets lefthander Evan MacLane just keeps mowing down hitters. He threw a five-hit complete-game shutout Sunday against Bowie in his Double-A debut. He struck out seven batters and walked two in a 2-0 Binghamton win. MacLane, 22 and a 25th-round pick from Feather River (Calif.) Community College in 2003, was 8-5, 3.20 with a 92-15 strikeout-walk ratio in 112 innings at high Class A St. Lucie.
• Nationals first-round pick Ryan Zimmerman has discovered consistency at the end of his first month at Double-A Harrisburg. Zimmerman, a third baseman from Virginia, rapped out three hits Friday night and cracked a home run Sunday. He has built a six-game hitting streak and has tallied at least one hit in nine of his past 10 games to raise his average from .211 to .266. Three of Zimmerman's four home runs also have come in that stretch. With the Nationals’ recent struggles, particularly on the left side of the infield, can Zimmerman be far from RFK?
• Harrisburg teammate Larry Broadway, a first baseman who entered the year at Triple-A as the organization's No. 2 prospect before being sidetracked by a knee injury, also homered Sunday and has put together a mini-streak of his own. Broadway has collected seven hits and two homers in his last four games. He's batting .257-2-3 in 10 games since returning from a rehab assignment in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.
• Red Sox center fielder David Murphy continued his torrid July with a three hits, three RBIs and a homer Sunday against Double-A New Hampshire. Murphy had hit .240 with five homers on the year before batting .388-3-18 this month. Murphy also added his eighth steal of the year for Portland, which won 5-3 on a 10th-inning home run by Brandon Moss.
The SeaDogs comeback thwarted a solid start by Fisher Cats righthander Josh Banks, who punched out eight hitters without a walk in 7 1/3 innings while yielding three earned runs. That improved Banks’ strikeout-walk ratio to a stunning 101-8 on the year; he ranks fifth in the Eastern League in strikeouts. He also allowed Murphy's homer, the equally stunning 16th longball he's served up; that's tied for the third-most in the EL.
• Speaking of players having torrid months of July, high Class A Potomac third baseman Kory Casto went deep Friday and again in the first game of a doubleheader Sunday, giving him six home runs in the span of a week. The Nationals' No. 9 prospect entered the month with nine homers, but since then Casto has blasted 10 more while hitting .449 with 24 RBIs in 78 at-bats.
• Adam Loewen seems to be righting himself at high Class A Frederick, winning his third straight start with six shutout innings against Salem. The Orioles' first-round pick (fourth overall) in the 2002 draft, who battled major control problems for much of the season's first half, struck out seven, walked three and allowed three hits Sunday. Since getting hammered for 24 earned runs over three consecutive starts in June, Loewen has now given up only one earned run over his last four starts, spanning 24 innings.
• Braves lefthander Chuck James turned in a standard Chuck James performance against Mobile, walking none and allowing just three hits over six shutout innings in Double-A Mississippi's 11-0 win. James, who improved to 7-1, 2.44 with 88 strikeouts in 74 Double-A innings, has not issued a walk in his last three starts and has issued just one in 25 innings during July.
• Marlins top prospect Jeremy Hermida ended a 13-game homerless drought at Double-A Carolina with a second-inning grand slam in the Mudcats' 11-1 win against Jacksonville on Sunday. Though he hadn't gone deep in a while, Hermida has still been productive at the plate, and he ran his hitting streak to 10 games Sunday. But since he racked up eight home runs in April, Hermida has hit just seven since in 225 at-bats.
• Two first-round picks hooked up Sunday in a Rookie-level Gulf Coast League game that breezed by in 2:05. Chris Volstad, the Marlins’ first pick this June, struck out seven with an earned run in seven innings to edge the Nationals and righthander Clint Everts, the fifth-overall selection in 2002. Volstad ranks fourth in the league with a 2.00 ERA and owns a 26-4 strikeout-walk ratio in 27 innings while Everts is 0-1, 3.38 seven starts spanning 16 innings as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.
• The Mets’ lefthanded-hitting middle infielder, Emmanuel Garcia, was making a name for himself in the GCL. He collected three hits Sunday in the leadoff spot to raise his average to .350, second in the league. He also ranked among the league leaders in on-base percentage at .421. Garcia, 19, was signed as a free agent out of Montreal in September 2004.
• The Rookie-level Orem franchise played its first Sunday home game in five years yesterday and fans watched a memorable affair as the Owlz outlasted Helena 5-4 on Dallas Morris’ 13th-inning home run. After playing on the campus of Brigham Young the past four years, where Sunday games are prohibited, Orem moved into its own park this season and was scheduled to play three additional Sunday home games. Helena shortstop Ryan Crew, Milwaukee’s 40th-round pick out of Texas-San Antonio this year, went 5-for-7 and is batting .388 (26-for-67) with eight doubles and 12 RBIs. Helena stranded 17 runners in the loss.
• Giants outfielder Ben Copeland, the organization’s first draft pick (a fourth-rounder) this June, hit his first pro home run Sunday in the Rookie-level Arizona League. It helped the Giants to an 11-1 win against the Brewers, improving them to a league-best 20-7 record. An all-Big East choice out of Pittsburgh, Copeland went 2-for-5 to improve to .275 in 40 at-bats.