Archive for July 31, 2013


Kokomo native Joe Thatcher was traded from the Padres to the Diamondbacks. (Courtesy of MLB)

Kokomo native Joe Thatcher was traded from the Padres to the Diamondbacks. (Courtesy of MLB)

PHOENIX – On July 31, the Arizona Diamondbacks acquired left-handed pitcher and Kokomo native Joe Thatcher, right-handed pitcher Matt Stites and a competitive balance pick from San Diego in exchange for right-handed pitcher Ian Kennedy, according to D-backs’ Executive Vice President and General Manager Kevin Towers. The Padres’ competitive balance pick is the first selection of Competitive Balance Round B between the second and third rounds in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft.

Thatcher, 31, was 3-1 with a 2.10 ERA (7 ER in 30.0 IP) and 11 holds in 50 relief appearances with Padres this season. He has limited left-handed hitters to a .215 average (14-for-70), and not allowed a run in 46 of his 50 outings.

Thatcher has gone 8-11 with 1 save, a 3.18 ERA (70 ER in 198.1 IP) and 210 strikeouts in 287 appearances over seven seasons with San Diego (2007-13). Since 2009, he ranks third in the Majors allowing just 16.3-percent of inherited runners to score (34-for-208), trailing only Javier Lopez (14.1) and Clay Rapada (15.8). He is second in Major League Baseball games played by a Howard County native to the 379 by Tom Underwood.

“Very bittersweet; I loved the Padres and had seven good years here – but I am excited to go to my second team,” Thatcher told The Mighty 1090 Sportsradio in San Diego. “I don’t know where my career would have gone if I had not crossed paths with Bud Black and Daren Balsley, they helped me so much. But going to pitch for Kevin Towers in Arizona, well, he has always believed in me.”

Thatcher fills the need the D-backs have for a left-handed specialist. Thatcher went undrafted after pitching at Indiana State University, and he pitched in the independent Frontier League in 2004 and ’05 before the Brewers signed him in ’05. Towers acquired Thatcher in 2007, when he was GM of the Padres, trading reliever Scott Linebrink to the Brewers for Thatcher and a pair of Minor League prospects.

Stites, 23, went 2-2 with 14 saves, a 2.08 ERA (12 ER in 52.0 IP) and 51 strikeouts in 46 relief appearances with Double-A San Antonio in 2013. Stites, who held right-handers to a .165 average (19-for-115) with the Missions, was placed on the Minor League disabled list on July 26 with appendicitis and underwent surgery that day.

Over three Minor League seasons in the Padres’ organization (2011-13), Stites has gone 8-2 with 32 saves, a 1.53 ERA (23 ER in 135.1 IP) and 150 strikeouts in 114 games, including a 0.74 ERA (4 ER in 48.2 IP) in 42 games with Single-A Fort Wayne in 2012. Stites also appeared in the Arizona Fall League last year, going 1-0 with 2 saves and a 3.21 ERA (5 ER in 14.0 IP) in 12 outings with Peoria.

Kennedy, 28, was 3-8 with a 5.23 ERA (72 ER in 124.0 IP) in 21 starts with Arizona this season. In four seasons with the D-backs, he went 48-34 with a 3.82 ERA (318 ER in 748.1 IP) in 119 starts. Kennedy tied for the NL lead with 21 wins in 2011 and finished fourth in the NL Cy Young Award voting.

Adcock, 25, combined to go 5-5 with a 7.35 ERA (73 ER in 89.1 IP) in 18 games (16 starts) with Triple-A Reno and Triple-A Omaha (Royals). He was claimed by Arizona off waivers from Kansas City on June 13.

The D-backs 40-man roster is at 38.

(Courtesy of the Arizona Diamondbacks)


Ryan Newman Burnout



INDIANAPOLIS – In racing, what happens in qualifying does not always translate to what happens in the race. But at the famed oval of bricks, pole-sitter Ryan Newman led early and late to capture his first Brickyard 400. Newman shared the front row with four-time winner Jimmie Johnson, who finished right where he started the race – second. It was a rare 1-2 finish for the front row starters.

“Just stay green, that was the biggest thing,” said Newman, referring to his thoughts during the final laps. “It’s a dream come true. I knew we had a good car. Starting on the pole and winning the race; just an awesome week for us. I can’t wait to push my lips on those bricks.”

Newman and Johnson’s Chevrolet’s dominated the field of 43, leading 118 of the 160 laps (Newman led 45, Johnson 73). With the win, Newman is the third driver to capture the Brickyard from the pole, joining Johnson (2008) and Kevin Harvick (2003). The win was his first of the season and 17th in his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career.

“We still have a championship to go after,” said Newman, who beat Johnson to the Yard of Bricks by 2.6 seconds. “We still got the Chase to chase.”

Tony Stewart, car owner of Newman’s ride, took home a fourth place finish giving Stewart-Hass Racing a huge day. Newman and Stewart (2005 and 2007) are the only Hoosier natives to win the Brickyard 400. Stewart is from Columbus.

“I am really happy for him. I can’t wait to give him a hug and congratulate him,” said Stewart. “This has been a great week for us. And for Ryan, this is just a huge win. For us (as Hoosiers), this is where we want to win. It was just him and the 48; that was clear to see. I just kept watching the Jumbotrons coming off (turn) four to see where he was at.”

Johnson, who leads the Sprint Cup Series by 75 points over 20th place finisher Clint Bowyer, admittedly was not pleased with his runners-up finish.

“There’s definitely disappointment there,” said the five-time NASCAR champion. “But that’s racing – it happens. I‘ve given away a few out there this year, too. Ryan was fast all day long. I can’t take anything away from him. He was plenty fast.”

Kasey Kahne finished third and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top five. Dale Earnhardt Jr. took home a sixth place finish, followed by Jeff Gordon, Joey Logano, Juan Pablo Montoya and Kyle Busch.

“We kept falling back too far,” said Kahne. “It takes a while to get back to the front. Congrats to Ryan, he had a big weekend.”

Newman’s previous best finish in Indianapolis was a fourth place in 2002 and he had just two Top 10 finishes in 13 Brickyard starts.

“We needed that,” said Newman. Indeed he did.

For more on the Brickyard 400, see the July 30 edition of the Sports Journal.


Eli Grimes Signing


KOKOMO, Ind. – Eli Grimes will have the opportunity to do something that most high school baseball players dream of – playing at the collegiate level. The recently graduated Kokomo Wildkat shortstop joins five of his teammates who have received the invitation to play college baseball – for Grimes, the choice is Goshen College, which plays at the NAIA level.

“They came down and looked at us and wanted to see me on campus,” said Grimes, who spent a weekend with the Maple Leafs program during a visit. “I made a visit and fell in love with the campus and the program. I see a lot of potential. They need middle infielders and I think I will get a shot.”

Goshen assistant coach Alex Childers is excited to bring a Wildkat into the fold. He said Grimes is the type of player who will fit right into the Maple Leafs mantra of hard work.

“We have a bunch of guys who are committed to turning this program around,” said Childers, referencing the new winning philosophy that second year head coach Eric Screeton is instilling at Goshen. “We have guys that want to form an identity at Goshen. That is why I am excited about Eli. I think he fits that and is an extremely hard working infielder. He is not afraid to get his hands dirty.”

Childers said bringing a former Kokomo player into the Goshen system should have a positive trickle-down effect on the rest of the team.

“Historically, Kokomo is a grind-it-out type of team – and Eli will bring that to us,” said Childers. “Plus, Kokomo plays in a historically good conference and plays good competition; Eli will know how to compete.”

Kokomo head coach Tim Weeks said he is confident Grimes will be able to play at the NAIA level with Goshen.

“This is a great testament to him that he is someone that other kids can look up to who are coming up in the program,” said Weeks. “He works hard. This is not something that came easy to him, but hard work has paid off. I know it is a cliché, but in his case, it has. When he was a sophomore, he weighed a buck-20 (120 pounds), but he worked to get stronger and make himself someone you have to have in the field. I think his better days are ahead of him.”

Weeks said that if Grimes wants to succeed, he will need to continue to develop as a player.

“It won’t be handed to him on a platter, he will have to work,” said Weeks. “Yes, it is the NAIA level of baseball, but they are very good players and most of them were one of the top two players on their high school team.”

Grimes joins Parker Sanburn (University of Arkansas), Preston Emmons (Goshen College), Cody Shipley (Franklin College), Jacob McMain (Franklin College) and Chase Hatfield (Ancilla College) from the 2013 Wildkat baseball team who will play college baseball this fall.