the Express

Taylor Teagarden ,middle, hit .333 in 2005, when he helped Texas win a national title. Now he’s trying to bring a title to Round Rock. (Photo Courtesy of Round Rock Express)

Editor's note: This article originally appeared in The Daily Texan on July 20, 2011. Former Longhorns catcher Taylor Teagarden, profiled here, helped Texas win a national championship in 2005 and will play in Saturday's Alumni Game.

Those who attend minor league baseball games are usually unfamiliar with the players they watch, but there is one name that piques fans’ interest when it’s called at the Dell Diamond.

“You get some UT fans out there in the stadium, and I get some extra cheers when my name gets called,” said Round Rock Express catcher Taylor Teagarden. “It’s pretty cool to see that people still remember me. It says a lot about UT fans in general, and how much the University impacts people.”

When J. Brent Cox finished off the Florida Gators in the 2005 College World Series, it was Teagarden that caught the championship-clinching strike three. Now, Teagarden is catching for the Express pitching staff. Following a three-week stint with the Texas Rangers, Teagarden is back in Round Rock, minutes from where he played college baseball. He’s helping the Express hang on to a division lead that currently stands at eight games.

“I’m having a blast here,” Teagarden said. “This is one of the best clubhouses I’ve ever been a part of. There’s a lot of talent, a lot of leadership and a lot of veteran guys here. We’re winning games. Hopefully we’ll keep this up and make a nice little playoff run.”

Teagarden hit .318 during his most recent trip to the big leagues, saving his best game for last when he went 3-for-5 with two doubles July 1 against Florida. Since being sent back to Triple A Round Rock on July 4, however, Teagarden has just four hits in 31 at-bats. On June 5, he boasted a .355 batting average with the Express. Teagarden is still hitting a respectable .281, but may need to recall some lessons he learned while in a Longhorn uniform to break out of his slump.

“[Playing at Texas] let me know that I’m a winner and I can survive any challenge,” Teagarden said. “Baseball’s a game of failure. I experienced that a little bit and figured out how to overcome it, how to work hard and improve myself. It taught me how to approach baseball and the game of life.”

Before Teagarden was called up June 12, the Express were a half game back in the PCL American South Division. When he was sent back to Round Rock, they were seven games ahead of Albuquerque. If the Express stay on top of their division through the end of the regular season, they’ll be in the playoffs and in pursuit of a championship.

Good thing they have Teagarden behind the plate. Thanks to his days at Texas, he knows a thing or two about winning championships.

Printed on 07/21/2011 as: Teagarden brings local flair to Round Rock clubhouse

The Round Rock Express’ season ended Monday as they closed their season with a loss to the Oklahoma City Redhawks, losing the series 0-1. They finished the season with a 69-75 record.

The season was filled with both highs and lows as the Express experienced numerous streaks, both winning and losing. Unfortunately for Round Rock, losing streaks did them in, as there were six occasions where the Express lost four or more games in a row, including seven in June. Their best winning streak came in August, where they won six straight games and had their best month of the season.

Headlining the Express were pitchers Martin Perez and Justin Grimm. Perez had mixed results as he capped his season at 7-6, starting in 21 of 22 games. He allowed a .258 batting average, giving up only 10 home runs. Perez got the call up to the Texas Rangers, where he went 1-1 for Texas.

Grimm fared better than Perez, going 11-6 with the Express, starting in 22 of 25 games. He also got called up to the Rangers, posting a 1-1 record.

Batting was center fielder Leonys Martin’s forte this season. He appeared in 55 games posting a .359 batting average with 83 hits and 12 homers. His slugging percentage was .610. This impressive average led to him being called up to the Rangers throughout the season. Martin struggled with the Rangers and this could mean more time with the Express next season.

First baseman Brad Nelson (85 R, 24 HR, 81 RBI) and center fielder Julio Borbon (.304 BA, 78 R, 10 HR) provided to be reliable for the Express, as both appeared in the majority of Round Rock’s games.

The season ended in disappointment for a team coming off an 87-57 season in 2011, their best record since they were conference champions in 2006. In fact, the 2011 season was the Express’ only winning season since 2006. The lone winning season since 2006 contrasts the Express’ early years, where they suffered only one losing season from 2000-2006.

Is this a sign that the Express are headed for the bottom of the league, or can they buck their trend? Heading into next season, it will be important for Round Rock to maintain its key players. Martin’s presence in more than 55 games next season will be needed, but he may be found in MLB next season after potential offseason improvement.

The same can be said of the two pitchers, but their youth could allow them some more time to develop. If Perez and Grimm return for a good amount of games, they will provide reliability on the mound. Only time will tell if the Express can recover from a disappointing season.

Texan may be first openly gay US attorney nominee

A University law professor might be nominated as the first openly gay U.S. attorney for Texas.

Adjunct professor Robert Pitman is currently a U.S. magistrate judge for the Western District of Texas which spans from Austin to El Paso. Pitman is also a graduate of the School of Law.

Three other nominations for the other Texas districts are expected to be announced soon by White House officials. The White House notified Texas Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn about the selections, according to the San Antonio Express-News.

Both senators recommended Pitman for the position. They will have to approve the selections if Pitman is officially nominated.

He has taught a signature freshman Plan II course and worked with professor Michael Stoff, director of the Plan II Honors program.

“He has clearly brought real world knowledge of the law to his classroom and an empathetic sensibility to his students,” Stoff said. “I think helping to shape young minds, helping them to explore subjects with depth and sensibility can only help him as a U.S. attorney.”

Interim U.S. attorneys who were not presidentially appointed have been serving in the positions for the past two years.

Various bumps have slowed down the selection process in recent years including disagreement between Democrats and Republicans about which candidates to choose.

“The administration has disregarded its previous agreement and our hope for more change in the Texas justice system after decades of total Republican domination,” Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, told the Express-News in an article Monday.

Pitman declined to comment on his potential appointment.

An Express player sneaks a peek of the opposing pitcher as he throws a pitch towards home plate.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

Dealing with major shake-ups to its starting rotation, the Round Rock Express (39-51) lost its last three consecutive series. Round Rock will have to wait until after the All-Star break to pursue its first series win of the month.

Even though the team didn’t win the series, pitcher Ben Snyder’s five shutout innings in his second spot start of the season helped end Round Rock’s five-game losing skid. Snyder earned his second win of the season, allowing four hits while walking two batters in Round Rock’s victory over Albuquerque.

As defending American South division champions, the Express has had to adjust to the Texas Rangers’ sudden need for minor league pitchers. After going the first month of the season without making a move, the Rangers have needed to make numerous call-ups due to injuries.

Nearly half of the Express pitching rotation from the start of the season has been called up to the major leagues. Round Rock’s top two starting pitchers are no longer with the club, as Neil Ramirez was sent down in the farm system and Martin Perez is currently in the Rangers rotation. Michael Kirkman, Tanner Scheppers and Yoshinori Tateyama are also currently on the Rangers’ active roster.

The Dell Diamond has also served as a warm-up stage for a couple of major league regulars over the past month. Roy Oswalt, the newest Ranger, and fan favorite Derek Holland made a few starts for the Express on their way back to the big leagues.

Left-hander Chad Bell has been the beneficiary of one of Round Rock’s rotation spots left open by all of the injuries and call-ups. Starting the year in single-A, Bell was eager to join the Express and grateful to be one step closer to the major leagues.

“It’s been a crazy year so far. I’ve been throwing really well and working hard. It goes to show you never know when you’ll get your opportunity,” Bell said.

So far, Bell has made the most of his opportunity by winning two of his first three triple-A starts. He has only allowed five earned runs in 17 innings pitched and has 12 strikeouts.

As the Rangers’ major league roster gets healthy again, the Express will have the opportunity to stabilize its roster coming out of the All-Star break. Currently in last place of the American South division and 12 games behind the leader, the Express will need a strong second half push in order to defend its division championship.

Round Rock second baseman Yangervis Solarte turns a double play while Albuquerque’s Jerry Sands (50) tries to break it up.

Photo Credit: Andrew Torrey | Daily Texan Staff

 

Roy Oswalt pitched two scoreless innings in Round Rock’s 3-2 win over the Albuquerque Isotopes in front of a sold-out Dell Diamond crowd Saturday evening. He worked around three hits and a walk in his first step towards joining the Texas Rangers.

“I was pretty much where I thought I would be at,” Oswalt said. “I was hoping to go a little bit longer, but I was able to go to the bullpen and threw about 30 more pitches.” Oswalt threw 34 pitches over his two innings and about half of them came with runners on base.

The Isotopes jumped on Oswalt’s pitches before he settled in as the first three batters reached base to start the game.

“When you get guys on base you have to throw more quality strikes and it makes you focus a little bit more,” Oswalt said. His pitch count for his next start is set at 50 and the plan is for that number to increase by about 20 in each start. The Rangers are hoping to have Oswalt fit and ready for the majors by the end of June.

Oswalt says Texas reminds him of his hometown in Mississippi and his experience with the Houston Astros is one of the reasons he decided to join the Rangers over other contending clubs. This is Oswalt’s second go-around with the Express, as he was a part of the team when it used to be affiliated with the Houston Astros.

“The difference is 12 years ago I was a lot younger and I knew I had one shot to make it,” Oswalt said.

He established a relationship with Nolan Ryan while he was a member of the Express during his initial rise to the majors. “I followed Nolan Ryan growing up and he gave me a chance to start my career in the big leagues,” Oswalt said. “I could have gone to two or three other places that offered more money, but it wasn’t about that.”

Oswalt signed a one-year $5 million deal this past week. He was 9-10 with a 3.69 ERA with the Philadelphia Phillies, while battling back issues for the majority of the 2011 season. 

The Express won consecutive road games against the Nashville Sounds Sunday and Monday for the first time since April, and split a four-game series against the Sounds. It took Round Rock extra innings to fight off the Sounds a day after Express bats exploded to set franchise records in hits and runs scored in a 19-3 win.

Luis Hernandez ended a 117-at-bat homerless period to ignite a three-run 10th inning rally to help the Express (23-30) defeat the Sounds 8-5 in Monday’s series finale. Mike Bianucci added a couple of insurance runs with a one-out line drive double to left field. Bianucci has been a solid hitter this year, leading the team with 35 RBIs and 10 homeruns.

Tanner Scheppers pitched a perfect bottom of the 10th to earn his eighth save. Aaron Heilman was credited with his first win of the season (1-0) after recording the final two outs of the ninth inning. Derek Hankins worked two scoreless innings in a spot start, allowing one hit with one strikeout. Ben Snyder pitched the next two innings and surrendered four runs on five hits in a shaky outing.

Mark Hamburger contributed two scoreless innings and was followed by Johan Yan, who allowed the game-tying run in the eighth. John Gaub tossed two-thirds of a scoreless inning before giving way to Heilman.

Matt Kata led off the game with his fifth homer of the year and the first of three solo-shots for the Express on the day. Kata added a ground-rule double in the seventh as he went 3-5 holding down the lead-off spot.

Former Rangers call-up Julio Borbon was given the day off after extending his hitting streak to 15 games with a lead-off single in Sunday’s 19-3 victory. The defending American South division champion, the Express, currently sit in last place and seven games behind first place, held by the Albuquerque Isotopes (30-23). At 13-15 for the month of May, the Express are hoping to build off this recent road success and finish the month with a winning record.

Round Rock wraps up their eight-game road trip with a four-game series at AutoZone Park against the Memphis Redbirds. The Express return home on Saturday for a four-game set against the Albuquerque Isotopes. 

The two-time defending American League Champions Texas Rangers continue to prove that they are a premier franchise. They hold the best record in this early baseball season and their farm system ranks amongst the top in the majors.

It’s no surprise that their AAA affiliate Round Rock Express features a roster with players that could probably suit up for numerous other Major League teams.

“It’s a good situation that the Rangers are in and I’m sure many organizations would like to be in it ... it says a lot about the job the scouting has done ... staying on top of talent here and overseas,” said Express outfielder Julio Borbon.

Express players like Borbon have had their time in the Majors before and are waiting on their next opportunity. “It’s something to look forward to ... but you come out here and play with a lot of major leaguers and its fun going out there knowing that you belong [in the Majors.] It’s just a matter of time,” Borbon said. He says he realizes how stacked the Rangers are at the outfield position, but will continue to play hard and work on his swing until his next call-up comes.

Having made his Major League debut last September for the Rangers, Mark Hamburger is also waiting on his next chance in the Majors.

“The fact that the Rangers are so stacked in the Majors and in the minor leagues makes the competition harder but also makes it fun to be around,” Hamburger said. “It’s great playing with guys who make you push yourself even harder.”

In any given night the Express could send out a pitching rotation filled with arms with prior Major League experience. That was the case on Tuesday when Michael Kirkman, Mark Hamburger and Yoshinori Tateyama combined for a 6-3 victory over the New Orleans Zephyrs.

“It’s incredible to be around guys who’ve been playing for a while. By playing alongside Tateyama and Kirkman, we can bounce ideas off of each other and learn a lot,” Hamburger said.

“There are a lot of guys here that know what they’re doing when they take that mound and we take pride in that,” said Tuesday’s starter Michael Kirkman. He’s had stints with the Rangers for the past few seasons but has learned to embrace suiting up for the Express. “Anytime you get sent down its tough, but if you go out there and work hard it gives you something to build off, and it’s a step in the right direction,” Kirkman.

Kirkman received the ultimate call from the bullpen during the 2010 World Series, as he was given the opportunity to pitch in one of the games in San Francisco.

“I was beside myself. It was almost like I didn’t even know where I was, but I had to get on that mound and pitch against those quality hitters ... it was unbelievable,” Kirkman said.

With the way the Rangers are playing and roster space expanding in the playoffs, a few Express players may be able to live a Kirkman-type experience this fall.

Runs were at a premium for most of the night on Monday at the Dell Diamond for both the Express and Zephyrs.

Round Rock eventually surrendered to the second best pitching staff in the Pacific Coast League, falling 5-3.

Express starter Zach Jackson turned in his second consecutive quality start against New Orleans, the first coming in last Tuesday’s 7-1 victory in New Orleans. On Monday, he was less fortunate with the run support as Zephyrs starter Tom Koehler threw a strong six innings while fanning a season-high 10 batters.

The Express offense got off to a quick start in the first inning, collecting one run on three hits, but also set the table for wasting opportunities. The Express added another run in the second off of a Dusty Brown solo home run, but Koehler would not allow the offense to reawake until the eighth inning when it was too late.

Zach Jackson threw a season high six-and-two-thirds innings while striking out five batters of his own.

“I was getting ahead and I was locating the fastball, locating it away. Just trying to keep them off balance,” said Jackson. “Just a bummer [that] the results ended up the way they did, but that’s the game of baseball.”

The Zephyrs found the scoreboard for the first time in the third inning when center fielder Kevin Mattison singled home Chase Lamdin, cutting the Express lead to 2-1.

Jackson cruised from there before finally running into trouble in the Zephyr half of the seventh. With one on and one out, designated hitter Lamdin blasted a first pitch fastball over the left field fence, giving the Zephyrs a lead they would
not relinquish.

“I dropped the ball for one pitch in that seventh inning, left the fastball over the plate and he crushed it,” said Jackson, who retired one more batter after the homer before turning it over to the bullpen, officially bringing his night to a close.

The Zephyrs tacked on two more runs in the top of the eighth, stretching their lead to 5-1. The Express clawed back for another run in their half of the eighth when Matt Kata scored on a Joey Butler fielder’s choice, their first since the second inning.

However, the Express went quietly into the night when Zephyrs closer Sandy Rosario entered the game in the bottom of the ninth, facing four batters and striking out two.

The loss drops the Express to 10-15 on the season, and they sit six games behind the division-leading Oklahoma City Redhawks.

The series continues Tuesday in Round Rock where the Express will send left-hander Michael Kirkman to the mound in hopes of snapping their current three-game skid.

Printed on Tuesday, May 1, 2012 as: Express six games back in division after losing series opener

On Monday night, the Round Rock Express out-clubbed the New Orleans Zephyrs for the second night in a row, en route to an 8-1 win.

Round Rock followed up Sunday’s 10-0 victory with another offensive outburst, and the win guarantees at least a split with the Zephyrs in the current four-game series.

The Express did their scoring in bunches Monday, putting up a three-spot in the fourth inning, scoring one more in the fifth, and finishing it off with three more runs in the sixth. Eight of the nine Round Rock starters registered a hit in the seven-run victory.

Joey Butler singled to lead off the top of the fourth inning, and Luis Martinez followed that with a walk. With two runners on base and nobody out, second basemen Greg Miclat smacked a double into the gap in left field, putting the first run of the night on the scoreboard. Express third basemen Matt Kata followed it up with a single, plating two more runs.

The Express continued tacking on runs in the following innings, and the eight runs the offense produced was more than enough for starter Greg Reynolds, who lowered his ERA to an even 3.00 and picked up his first win of the season.

Reynolds worked a masterful seven innings before running into trouble in the eighth when he allowed a solo home run to Zephyr’s designated hitter Sergio Pedroza. Pedroza’s dinger was the first run allowed from the Express pitching staff since Saturday, snapping a 16.2 scoreless inning streak.

Round Rock has outscored the American Southern Division-leading Zephyrs 18-1 over the last two games, and they have inched to within 4.5 games back in the standings.

The series wraps up early Tuesday afternoon in New Orleans, where Express starter Zach Johnson will be in charge of wrapping up the series win against Zephyr starter Tom Koehler.

The Round Rock Express bounced back from yet another one-run loss with a 4-2 win in their series opener against the Omaha Storm Chasers.

The Express were finally able to scratch a win against the Storm Chasers this season after being swept in last week’s four game series at Werner Park in Papillion, Neb.

Neil Ramirez pitched his best game of this early season and earned his first win, holding the Omaha Storm Chasers to just four hits in six scoreless innings.

Tommy Mendonca gave Ramirez early run support by finding a hole in the right side of the infield and scoring Matt Kata for the first run of the game in the second inning. Kata led-off the inning with a walk and quickly stole second base to place himself in scoring position.

After giving up a hard-hit single to Clint Robinson to start the fourth frame, Ramirez responded by retiring the next three batters to hold onto a 1-0 lead. The Express offense jumped on Omaha starter Nathan Adcock in the inning to scratch across a couple more runs.

“It feels great man,” said Ramirez (1-1), whose fastball was clocking in around the low 90s in the game. “It was good to kind of get a little revenge.”

Just like the second inning, Matt Kata sparked a rally with a lead-off double down the right field line. Joey Butler then sent a single between first and second base that resulted with runners at the corners for the Express. Yangervis Solarte drove in Kata on a weak fly ball to left-center field that should have probably been caught.

Mendonca was hit by a pitch to load the bases with the Express up 2-0 and still without an out in the inning. Adcock was able to limit the damage after a coach’s mound visit with a double play, keeping the Storm Chasers within three runs after four innings.

Aaron Heilman pitched his fourth hold of the season, allowing just one unearned run in two relief innings.

With their lead trimmed to 3-1, the Express received an insurance run on a solo home run by Butler to the deepest part of the ballpark in left-center field.

Tanner Scheppers fought of an Omaha rally to earn his third save, stranding a man at first after having given up a run.
Ramirez struck out four Storm Chasers in route to lowering his ERA from 5.00 to 3.00. It comes as a welcome change for a pitcher who struggled to elevate his game last season.

“Last year, I kind of ran into some shoulder trouble at the end of the year, and I think it was a combination of things: doing too much, getting out of sync with mechanics a bit,” Ramirez said. “This year, I’m still trying to work hard but at the same time work smarter.”

The four-game series continues Wednesday as the Express will send right-hander Greg Reynolds to the mound with a 5.25 ERA and also in search of his first solid start.

The 5-8 Express are now 3-2 at home having split their opening series with the Iowa Cubs.

Published on Wednesday, April, 18, 2012 as: Express beat Omaha with bats, break string of seven consecutive single-run games.