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
CSNChicago.com

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.

Who is Victor Caratini? Breaking down the Cubs' new catcher

Who is Victor Caratini? Breaking down the Cubs' new catcher

Miguel Montero is out and Victor Caratini is in.

The Cubs made a shakeup at catcher Wednesday and will have to forge the last half of the 2017 season without the presence of veteran Montero, who has 1,149 MLB games under his belt and was hitting .286 with an .805 OPS this year.

But Montero talked his way out of town and Caratini is the immediate choice for a replacement behind starting backstop Willson Contreras.

[Where it all went wrong with Miguel Montero and the Cubs]

Caratini is a 23-year-old switch-hitter whom the Cubs acquired from the Atlanta Braves in 2014 as part of the Emilio Bonifacio/James Russell deadline deal. The Braves initially selected Caratini in the second round of the 2013 MLB Draft out of Miami-Dade College.

The Puerto Rican native has mostly played catcher (297 games) in his minor-league career, but has also seen time at first base (76 games) and third base (57 games). 

Caratini got his first taste of big-league spring training action this season, impressing with a .379 average and 1.175 OPS in 16 games (29 at-bats).

He is enjoying the best offensive season of his career in Triple-A Iowa, hitting .343 with a .384 on-base percentage and .923 OPS.

Caratini has already set a career high with eight home runs while clubbing 20 doubles and driving in 54 runs in 68 games. He also has only 40 strikeouts in 245 at-bats.

The Cubs named Caratini the organization's minor league player of the month in May after he drove in 17 runs in 24 games while hitting .366 with a .573 slugging percentage.

Caratini also should help the Cubs running game — an area where Montero was 0-for-31 in throwing out baserunners. Caratini has nabbed 28 percent of would-be basestealers in Iowa, a mark that is directly even with the MLB average.

Contreras is throwing out 34 percent of would-be basestealers in 2017.

Caratini figures to be the short-term answer for the Cubs at catcher given the organzation doesn't have many other options. Kyle Schwarber has not been a viable option behind the plate after recovering from major knee surgery that sapped almost his entire 2016 season. Taylor Davis — a 27-year-old catcher/infielder — is currently on the disabled list and has yet to make his MLB debut.

Where it all went wrong for Cubs and Miguel Montero

Where it all went wrong for Cubs and Miguel Montero

WASHINGTON – The Cubs swiftly reacted to Miguel Montero’s jaw-dropping criticism of Jake Arrieta, dumping the veteran catcher the day after the Washington Nationals ran wild with seven stolen bases and exposed some of the issues within the visiting clubhouse.

You could read the writing on the wall Wednesday morning when Anthony Rizzo’s comments on his weekly WMVP-AM 1000 appearance went viral. An All-Star first baseman who is tight with management and picky about when he decides to speak up called out Montero as a “selfish player.”

In designating Montero for assignment – a source confirmed catcher Victor Caratini will also be promoted from Triple-A Iowa – the Cubs will have to eat roughly half of his $14 million salary in the final year of his contract. 

Montero’s biggest sin is that he no longer produces like the two-time All-Star he had been with the Arizona Diamondbacks, where he developed a reputation for blunt honesty and a willingness to mentor young players. The Cubs wanted that edge when they traded for Montero at the 2014 winter meetings, part of a dramatic makeover that included signing ace pitcher Jon Lester to a $155 million megadeal.

Montero’s goofy “#WeAreGood” hashtag on Twitter became a symbol for a rising franchise and a loose team that didn’t care about the weight of history. 

But where Montero could be the spokesman in Arizona and wear the target on his back, a backup catcher can’t torch a Cy Young Award winner and the team’s running-game strategy when he is 0-for-31 and Contreras is throwing guys out 34 percent of the time.     

Montero welcomed Contreras and Kyle Schwarber to the big leagues, generously trying to help with their learning curve, even as they kept taking his playing time. Montero didn’t exactly have the same reaction to David Ross becoming a media darling and a crossover celebrity.

[RELATED: Miguel Montero sends classy goodbye to Cubs players and fans]

Montero already put himself in jeopardy in the immediate World Series aftermath, ripping manager Joe Maddon in a radio interview on the same day as the championship parade and Grant Park rally.  

Montero couldn’t help himself, even after delivering a pinch-hit grand slam against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series, and driving in what turned out to be the winning run in the 10th inning against the Cleveland Indians in a World Series Game 7.

Montero wouldn’t bite his tongue late Tuesday night after a sloppy, frustrating 6-1 loss at Nationals Park. With a 39-38 record, several key players on the disabled list and a clubhouse far more complex than Maddon’s Woodstock visions, the Cubs are in crisis mode.   

“It really sucks because the stolen bases go on me,” Montero said. “When you really look at it, the pitcher doesn’t give me any time. It’s just like: ‘Yeah, OK, Miggy can’t throw nobody out.’ Yeah, but my pitchers don’t hold anybody on. It’s tough, because it doesn’t matter how much work I put in.

“If I don’t get a chance to throw, that’s the reason why they were running left and right today, because they know he was slow to the plate. Simple as that. It’s a shame that it’s my fault because I didn’t throw anybody out.”