Loman a big reason why Dash are headed to playoffs

Loman a big reason why Dash are headed to playoffs

Friday, Sept. 3, 2010
10:20 AM

By Kevin T. Czerwinski

Maybe its Seth Lomans size that intimidates opposing pitchers. Perhaps its his impressive stat line that has them worried. Or, it could just be the elbow pad and shin guard he wears at the plate that give opposing hurlers the feeling of carte blanche when it comes to pitching inside.

Whatever the reason, opposing pitchers do feel the need to come inside to Loman, who extended his own Carolina League record on Thursday when he was hit by a pitch for the 30th time this year. He broke Rusty Crocketts 21-year-old Carolina League record on Aug. 4 when he was hit for the 25th time. The record plunking comes in the wake of his 2009 season, during which he was hit 23 times while playing at Kannapolis and Winston-Salem.

While Lomans bat hes hitting .290 with 24 homers and 85 RBIs is a big reason why the Dash are heading into the playoffs as the Carolina Leagues hottest team, its his ability to lean into a pitch as much as anything else that has helped the teams offensive cause. The 24-year-old Loman, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs nearly 230 pounds, leads the league with 86 runs scored, is second with 255 total bases while posting a healthy .378 on-base percentage.

I might have to start wearing catchers gear if it keeps up at this rate, said Loman, who saw an eight-game hitting streak come to an end on Thursday. I definitely get hit a lot. I dont think I got hit a lot in college and Im not on the plate that much, a little less than the length of a bat away. People start throwing inside and I guess I dont move out of the way.

I dont have a real answer for it. I know a guy like Craig Biggio got hit a lot and its weird because he was one of those hard-nosed, get on base any way you can types. Im not that hard-nosed middle infield guy.

What Loman is, however, is a hitter, one that can produce. Hes been a pleasant surprise since the White Sox signed him out of the independent Golden League following the 2008 season. He was originally a 47th-round pick by the Angels in 2005 but he had philosophical differences with the club regarding hitting and the two sides parted ways despite the fact he hit .323 with nine homers and 34 RBIs in 45 Arizona League games in 2007.

It was never really a good fit with the Angels, Loman said. I never meshed with them and they tried to alter some things with my hitting. It was a constant battle with different philosophies on hitting. I guess thats why I was released. I dont know.

Here I can own my own approach. I dont want to talk bad about the Angels but with the Sox, the managers are your friends and they are rooting for you. They want you to succeed. You dont have to do it their way. They tell you its your career, you have to own. In other places, its more of a college mindset.

Part of the reason why Loman has been able to own his approach to the plate this year has been Sox hitting instructor Jeff Manto. The former utility man played parts of nine seasons in the big leagues and he was of immense help to Loman this year.

Manto encouraged Loman to stay back on the ball more, stay behind it and work off the back leg on off-speed pitches. The results have been impressive.

The hands-on stuff was different than I imagined but I got the whole concept of staying on the back foot to hit off-speed stuff, Loman said. The goal was to become more of an all-around hitter than a free swinger. He said a good hitter should hit any pitch in any count. Im glad Manto spoke those words of wisdom to me.

At first it was tough because I had a couple of different stances this year. I tried to find a common medium and recently it has been coming together a bit. He told me youre the big guy in the four-hole and you have to start hitting that off-speed pitch. I took that to heart.

Aside from Manto, Loman has been able to rely on manager Super Joe McEwing and his father, Doug Loman, who played parts of two seasons with the Brewers, for advice. The trio has helped make the soon-to-be free agent an accomplished hitter. While Loman will be free to sign with another club once this season ends, he says he wants to stay in Chicago and is already thinking about playing in Birmingham and beyond next season.

Id love to be back, he said. Playing with the Sox has been like a dream come true. I hope to be in Birmingham next year.

The Carolina League playoffs start on Wednesday with the Dash likely facing Kinston in the opening round. No doubt, Loman will get hit as well as picking up some hits on the road to a league title.

Kevin Czerwinski can be reached at ktczerwinski@gmail.com.

Bears get Jay Cutler back as QB competition with Brian Hoyer fades to black

Bears get Jay Cutler back as QB competition with Brian Hoyer fades to black

If there was any quarterback “controversy” swirling about the Bears – and one likely will be after this season – this one is safely resolved with Jay Cutler cleared by team medical staff to return from his injured thumb and begin practicing this week, all of this about the time that Brian Hoyer was undergoing surgery for his broken right arm suffered in the loss to the Green Bay Packers.

Whether Cutler would have been re-installed as the starter had Hoyer remained healthy, and throwing for 300 yards per game, is a moot point now. Indications were that Hoyer would not lose the job if he was playing well.

But now, “obviously Jay’s our starter,” said coach John Fox. “He was injured, not permitted to play medically. And now that he’s healed he’s back to being our starter.

“That’s really the facts and kind of what happened and where we’re at now. So I don’t know that there was a ‘competition’ to speak of. Just like there wasn’t a competition when Matt Barkley went in [at Green Bay]; he was our only quarterback left. So it’s good to have Jay back. We’re excited to have him back and hopefully he can remain healthy.”

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Team chemisty is difficult if not impossible to gauge from the outside. And whether teammates prefer Cutler or Hoyer personally is only marginally relevant anyway.

But Cutler was voted an offensive co-captain (along with Alshon Jeffery) and the offense ostensibly is more dangerous with Cutler and his deep-threat capability. Still, the Bears scored just 21 points in the combined seven quarters behind Cutler, while reaching 17-17-23-16 in whole games under Hoyer.

Cutler’s return is expected to have a ripple effect on the rest of the team.“We don’t really play into that much,” said center Cody Whitehair. “[Whoever’s] back there, we’re going to try and do our best to protect them and do our thing on the run.

“But you know, it is nice to have him back. He’s been a leader on the sideline even while he wasn’t playing and it’ll be nice to have him back out there.”

Badgers' leading tackler Jack Cichy out for rest of season


Badgers' leading tackler Jack Cichy out for rest of season

Wisconsin trails Nebraska by two in the loss column in the Big Ten West Division standings and has a huge showdown with the top-10 Huskers on Saturday night in Madison.

But the road to Indy just got a little tougher, the Badgers announcing Monday that leading tackler Jack Cichy will miss the remainder of the season with a torn pectoral muscle.

Cichy had 60 tackles on the campaign as part of a world-class Wisconsin defense that ranks fourth in the country in scoring (14.3 points allowed a game) and ninth in yardage (300.6 yards allowed a game). His seven tackles for loss rank second on the team, and his 1.5 sacks rank third. He also forced a pair of fumbles in his seven games.

The Badgers have been plagued by injuries in the linebacking corps this season. Cichy's season-ending injury is the second that unit has experienced this year, as Chris Orr was knocked out for the year following an injury in the season-opening win over LSU. T.J. Edwards has been working his way back to full strength after suffering a foot injury this summer. And Vince Biegel missed a couple games with injury but returned to the lineup this past weekend, registering one tackle in the win over Iowa.

The Badgers, ranked 11th in the most recent AP poll, play host to the No. 7 Huskers on Saturday night at Camp Randall Stadium.