August 22, 2011

Decidedly steady progress

Brock Huntzinger again fails to earn a decision for the Sea Dogs, but he's taking great strides to improve.

By Kevin Thomas
Staff Writer

PORTLAND - Portland Sea Dogs right-handed pitcher Brock Huntzinger has not won a game since July 6, and his ERA is 6.57.

click image to enlarge

Portland's Mark Wagner, left, congratulates Jeremy Hazelbaker, foreground, and Reynaldo Rodriguez after all three scored on Hazelbaker's home run in the fifth inning that gave Portland a brief 5-4 lead against the Binghamton Mets on Sunday at Hadlock Field.

Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

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Jeremy Hazelbaker, left, greets Reynaldo Rodriguez at the plate after Rodriguez hit a home run in the bottom of the fourth inning Sunday. Five home runs were recorded Sunday, three by the Sea Dogs, in a 7-6 loss, which capped a three-game series sweep by the Mets.

Jill Brady/Staff Photographer


WHO: Sea Dogs (Chris Balcom-Miller 3-6) vs, Harrisburg Senators (Tanner Roark 8-8)

WHEN: 7 p.m.

WHERE: Hadlock Field

TICKETS: About 2,000 available

But it is conceivable that some major league team might want Huntzinger next year.

Huntzinger struck out 11 in six innings Sunday but earned another non-decision in a 7-6 Sea Dogs loss to the Binghamton Mets, before 6,568 at Hadlock Field.

Mets catcher Jean Luc Blaquiere broke a 5-5 tie with a two-run homer in the eighth inning, off Portland reliever Kyle Fernandes (2-5).

The wind was blowing out at Hadlock, helping to account for the five home runs, three by the Sea Dogs (Reynaldo Rodriguez, Jeremy Hazelbaker and Jon Hee).

Hazelbaker's blast off the video board in right center field was a three-run shot, giving Portland a brief 5-4 lead in the fifth.

Huntzinger allowed a Dusty Ryan solo homer in the sixth. Huntzinger gave up five runs (four earned) on seven hits and one walk. But Huntzinger was rarely hit hard as he showed off a 92-94 mph fastball with life, along with a slider and change-up.

"We've seen a spike in his stuff," Portland pitching coach Bob Kipper said. "What made his fastball interesting is that it had late, explosive action. He got a lot of swings and misses.

"I see a young man who is really developing. He has turned the corner."

Huntzinger, 23, was a third-round draft pick in 2007. This offseason, Huntzinger will be eligible for the Rule V draft.

Unless he is on Boston's 40-man roster, another team can draft and keep Huntzinger if he remains on that team's major league roster all season.

A strikeout pitcher with a lively fastball and an improving slider and change-up might be attractive to a team trying to rebuild its bullpen.

Huntzinger came to Portland with a career 3.89 ERA in the lower levels. He is learning to ignore the numbers.

"I faired pretty well in the other leagues I played in," Huntzinger said. "I've had to remove myself from the statistics. I know I'm 10 times the pitcher that I was last year, with worse numbers.

"I'm just going out there and pitch, and try to open people's eyes every time I go out."

The Mets and Sea Dogs came into this series tied for last place in the Eastern League East Division. With the series sweep, Binghamton is now 56-71, while Portland dropped to 53-74.

NOTES: According to Harrisburg Senators officials, outfielder Bryce Harper is expected to travel with the team when its begins its road trip tonight in Portland, even though he is on the disabled list. Harper, the mega-hyped super prospect of the Washington Nationals, landed on the DL with a strained right hamstring, after injuring his leg while running the bases Thursday. ...

Ryan Kalish bobbleheads will be given to the first 1,000 fans through the gate tonight. ...

Hazelbaker stole his 30th base in 76 games for Portland. It was his 42nd overall this year. Hazelbaker led all Red Sox minor leaguers with 63 steals last year, in Class A Greenville. This season, Greenville outfielder Felix Sanchez has 50 steals. ...

The Sea Dogs used their entire Indiana contingent Sunday-- Hazelbaker (Selma), Huntzinger (Anderson) and reliever Jeremy Kehrt (Plainfield).

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at:

Twitter: ClearTheBases


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