Drew Stubbs

Photo Credit: Anthony Mireles | Daily Texan Staff

A dreary, overcast afternoon couldn’t keep the Longhorn faithful away from UFCU Disch-Falk Field on Saturday as fans gathered for the annual Alumni Game, a part of Texas baseball’s fan appreciation day. The game featured former Texas alumni, now affiliated with Major League Baseball organizations, squaring off against the current Longhorn roster.

Ex-Longhorns in the Major Leagues in attendance included Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Corey Knebel and MLB free agent Drew Stubbs. Other alumni included players fresh off of Texas’ 2016-17 campaign.

“It’s an honor to go out there and be able to throw against guys like Drew Stubbs and Mark Payton and the other guys I’ve played with (at Texas),” junior pitcher Chase Shugart said. “It’s fun to see the tradition that the University has and the players it brings out and the major league players it has.”

The contest pitted the “Gray” squad versus the “Orange” squad, with the former made up of the Longhorn alumni. Alumni would play in the first three innings of the game, being subbed out for current Longhorn players the remaining four innings.

The ex-Longhorns were shutout during their time on the diamond, managing only four hits. With the score locked at zero in the bottom of the fourth, junior catcher DJ Petrinksy, playing for the Orange, broke the game open with a solo home run. Sophomore infielder Ryan Reynolds hit a two-run dinger in the seventh to put the exclamation point on a 3-0 shutout victory for the Orange.

A slew of six pitchers for the Orange dominated the Gray squad, walking just two batters and allowing no hits after the professional players were pulled. Shugart was given the win, throwing two clean innings with three strikeouts.

Head coach David Pierce was enthusiastic about the pitching performance, highlighting the underclassmen.

“I thought we really pitched well,” Pierce said. “We have some younger guys that need to be three or four-pitch guys. They’re not throwing the ball 92 or 95 (miles per hour), but they can pitch well and their best pitches really came out today.”

The most memorable moment for the Gray squad came in the top of the sixth, when former Texas pitcher Travis Duke made a surprise plate appearance adorned in jeans and cowboy boots. After striking out, Duke staged a confrontation with the home plate umpire, drawing laughs and cheers from the crowd.

“Travis Duke is hilarious,” Reynolds said. “I wish I got to play with him. He’s always up here and he’s just hilarious.”

While the contest lived up as a fun event for spectators, it also doubled as a chance for the Longhorns to get live game action and hone in as the regular season approaches.

Pierce said the batters’ hitting must improve as the team heads towards opening day. On Saturday, current Longhorns managed only five hits in seven innings.

“Hitting is such a work in progress and it’s such a confidence thing,” Pierce said. “We hit too many fly ball outs today. We’ve got a tough schedule and we’re going to play teams with some really good arms. We’re going to be facing the best pitchers in the country, so we still have work to do.”

The Longhorns now have less than two weeks to shore up their hitting and make any other preseason adjustments. The season opener against UL-Lafayette is slated for Feb. 16.

Senior center fielder Mark Payton, who holds the longest on-base streak in the country, has stamped himself as a Texas great. 

Photo Credit: Sam Ortega | Daily Texan Staff

For an average player, two hits over the course of a three-game series would equal a major slump. Fortunately for the Longhorns, senior center fielder Mark Payton is not just any average player.

Payton went a combined 2-for-13 with two walks during Texas’ three-game sweep of Baylor this weekend, struggling to find consistency at the plate. Although it was his worst three-game stretch of the season, the senior from Chicago drove in four runs, including a bases-clearing walk-off double Friday, his only hit in the 5-4 victory.

That hit, which came on a full count with two outs, extended his streak of reaching base safely to an NCAA-leading 70 games. Following an RBI single Saturday and two walks Sunday, the streak now sits at 72 and has people wondering whether he can make it to 100.

Payton has proven he is one of the best pure hitters to pass through this decorated program — up there with the likes of Jeff Ontiveros, Omar Quintanilla, Kevin Keyes and Drew Stubbs. Those players own a combined three national championships and a handful of other trips to the College World Series. Each played a pivotal role in reviving a Texas program that, prior to the Longhorns’ championship in 2002, had not been to the College World Series Championship since 1989.

Payton stacks up with all of them. The first thing that stands out is his efficiency at the plate, where he has hit over .300 in all but his freshman season. Last season, he finished with a .393 average and .483 on-base percentage. Those are numbers that Ontiveros, Quintanilla, Keyes and Stubbs never attained while at Texas.

Payton’s biggest strength is his patience, which explains why he has only struck out nine times in 119 at-bats this season. Only Quintanilla, who currently plays shortstop for the New York Mets, had a lower strikeout percentage. This plate efficiency was formed out of necessity. Unlike these other players, whose teams were stacked with talented hitters, Payton has been the only proven hitter in his teams’ lineups. As a result, opposing teams have been far more selective in how they’ve pitched to him.

Despite a rough weekend, Payton is sitting at a .370 average and has reached base in nearly half his at-bats. With 25 RBI’s already in 2014, he is on pace to shatter his previous season-high of 29. 

If he can maintain this production and get some help from his teammates, he will have to chance to end his collegiate career the same way it started: with a trip to the College World Series.

Major League Baseball’s GM meetings take place next week in Orlando, Florida. On Dec. 9, the annual Winter Meetings will kick off in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. These next few weeks are some of the craziest in the baseball year. There is expected to be a flurry of free agent signings almost immediately. The landscape of the league figures to look quite different by Opening Day 2014. Here are three former Texas Longhorn players who are currently free agents.

JP Howell—Relief Pitcher
2013 team: Los Angeles Dodgers
Previous contract: One year $2.85 million guaranteed, with $1.75 million in potential incentives

Howell is coming off an excellent 2013 season in Los Angeles. The 30-year-old southpaw posted a 2.03 earned run average in 62 innings. In those innings, he surrendered just 42 hits and featured a solid 2.35 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He’s a lefty specialist, and there isn’t a team in the majors that couldn’t use one. He doesn’t have plus velocity—he generally hits about 87 to 90 mph on his fastball—but this can really sneak up on hitters because he does have a dazzling off-speed repertoire. He is looking for a multi-year deal, and I think he gets it for around 4 to 6 million dollars per year. It’s likely the Dodgers, with their limitless cash, will re-sign Howell.

Drew Stubbs—Centerfielder
2013 team: Cleveland Indians
Previous contract: One year $2.825 million, with $50,000 in potential incentives

Stubbs can be a decent asset to a contending team off the bench, but he won’t get paid much this offseason. In 2013, he hit .233 with 10 home runs and 45 runs batted in. So he’s got some pop and also has an ability to spray the ball to all fields to drive in runs. The glaring problem is his atrocious strikeout rate. In 430 at bats, he fanned 141 times—that’s a whopping 32.7 percent. He does take walks at a respectable rate of 10.2 percent.

If he wants a chance to start in center field, Cleveland is about as good a team as he can be on. Otherwise, he’ll be in the dugout most of the time. His career .310 on base percentage is just far too low to merit consistent time with any contender.

Brandon Belt—First Baseman
2013 team: San Francisco Giants
Previous contract: One year, $531,500

Belt is far and away the best former Longhorn player in the majors right now. For just over $500,000, the Giants got a tremendous bargain for Belt’s production last season. Last season, he finished with a .289 batting average in 509 at bats. He hit 17 home runs and drove in 67 RBI. His OBP was a solid .360, so he takes his fair share of walks as well. He was also effective defensively at first base.

He is a left-handed power bat, and many teams envy a hitter who brings that to the table. Now, if the Giants want him to stick around, it’s time for them to pay up—Belt more than deserves it. But he’s been given one-year deals for the last three seasons and may want to get out of San Francisco for a bit to test his interest on the market. With his 2013 numbers, he’s earned a more secure and lucrative contract, maybe in the neighborhood of two to three years, 5 to 7 million dollars per year. The Giants likely have the room to re-sign him if they choose to.

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

After the longest break from baseball he can remember, Jonathan Walsh is ready to start his second season in the minors. Where he ends up — whether it be San Bernardino, Calif., or Burlington, Iowa — depends on how he performs this month in minor league spring training.

“If I follow the [projected] path, I’ll end up at Burlington (Midwest League, a-ball),” Walsh said last week via telephone. “But if I show up and play well then maybe I can start in the Cal League, which is high-a.”

“What’s most important is not where I start but where I finish. My goal is to end up at high-a.”

It’s a slow climb from rookie ball to the major leagues, but Walsh — who played three years at Texas before being drafted by the Los Angeles Angels in the 11th round of the 2012 MLB Draft — got off to a good start last summer, hitting .300 in 230 at-bats with the Orem Owlz, with 45 RBIs, nine homers and a dead-even walk-to-strikeout ratio.

After Walsh’s season ended Sept. 6, he went to instructional league until Oct. 10, where he met most of the Angels’s prospects and was versed on the “Angel way.” Until the Texas Alumni Game on Feb. 2, Walsh hadn’t seen a competitive pitch. He went 1-for-4 with a run scored in the No. 18 jersey the Angels sent him, size XXX-L.

“It’s been pretty nice — I won’t lie,” Walsh said of his vacation from the game. “But I’m ready to get back to baseball.”

Here’s a look at the situations other notable former Longhorns find themselves in this spring:

Brandon Belt, 1B, San Francisco Giants

Now that he's established himself as a regular with the World Series champion Giants, Belt no longer has to look over his shoulder, dreading his next optioning to Triple-A. Instead, Belt will look forward. He does have much to improve on. He's a career .259 hitter and thus far has been unable to get enough lift on the ball (groundballs on 50.7 percent of his BAP). Given better job security at first base, Belt will likely better resemble the player who hit .343 in the minors. 

Huston Street, RP, San Diego Padres

An All-Star last season, Street re-upped with the Padres for two more years at $14 million after trade talks linking him to the Mets fell through. Given the tepid state of the closing pitcher these days — only two players to make the top-10 saves list in 2012 also appeared on the 2011 list — that might be too much to pay, but Street has been a consistent commodity since 2005. Last season he recorded a 1.85 ERA and saved 23 games in 24 opportunities. As San Diego gets better, more opportunities will come.

Drew Stubbs, RF, Cleveland Indians

A trade sent Stubbs from Cincinnati to Cleveland, which now boasts one of the best outfields in baseball. But where does Stubbs fit in? For now, he's probably the fourth outfielder. Cleveland signed Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher in the offseason and holdover Michael Brantley hit .288 in 2012. New manager Terry Francona has in the past done a good job of rotating outfielders for freshness and playing time, and Stubbs will also be helped by Swisher's ability to slide to first base or the designated hitter spot. Perhaps fewer plate appearances will lend to better discipline for Stubbs. He's finished sixth, first and fifth in strikeouts among National League players the past three seasons. 

Chance Ruffin, RP, Seattle Mariners

Relief pitchers who walk nine in 18 innings of work, or who record a 1.5 WHIP, do not hang around in the majors. It's a short sample size, though, and the bet is Ruffin, a former first-round pick of the Tigers, clamps down.

Taylor Jungmann, SP, Milwaukee Brewers

It'll probably be another year until big No. 26 — last seen wearing a lineman's number at the Alumni Game — gets called up to the majors. Jungmann went 11-6 in 26 starts in advanced-a ball, but his 3.53 ERA and 1.34 WHIP weren't indicative of his abilities. As a junior at Texas in 2011, Jungmann's WHIP (walks+hits per inning) was .83. 

Hoby Milner, P, Philadelphia Phillies

The elastic-armed Milner had quite the showing in his first season in the minors. He started 13 of 14 games — and compiled a 2.50 ERA — but projects as a reliever in the future.

Brandon Loy, SS, Detroit Tigers

Perhaps the best shortstop to ever set foot on the 40 Acres, Loy's coming ascension will surely be because of his glove work. He hit a paltry .240 with Class-A West Michigan, but he was also a late-bloomer — at the plate at least — with the Longhorns.

 

Current San Francisco Giant and former Longhorn Brandon Belt waits for his pitch in the annual Alumni Game between current and former Longhorns. Belt and the Exes tied with Texas.   

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

The Longhorns rang in the 2013 season with a 5-5 tie in the annual Alumni Game on Saturday.

A number of former Texas stars such as Brandon Belt and Drew Stubbs attended the game, which went right down to the wire. Entering the bottom of the ninth trailing 5-4, the current Longhorns were able to tie the game on a pair of throwing errors to start the inning. The game eventually ended in a tie after the 2013 squad failed to score again, but nevertheless the players believed that it was a fun event for the fans and those involved.

“Every year for us coming back it’s a lot of fun just to be around some guys we haven’t seen in a while and kind of mix it up with the current team,” Cleveland Indians outfielder Stubbs said. “Getting back in the field and getting in the flow of the game for the first time in a couple of months is nice. I try to use it to prepare for spring training a little bit.”

The Exes scored the game’s first run in the top of the second inning on a Kevin Keyes sacrifice fly that drove home current San Francisco Giant Belt. They opened up their lead to 5-0 by putting up four runs in the top of the third, with the big hit being a two-run double off of the right field wall by Kyle Russell.

The 2013 Longhorns answered with three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to get within two. Weston Hall and Madison Carter each contributed RBI singles in the frame, while Mark Payton added a sacrifice fly. Texas added a fourth run in the bottom of the sixth inning after Ben Johnson tripled and scored on a fielder’s choice before knotting the game at 5-5 three innings later.

Texas will begin its regular season Feb. 15, when they host Sacramento State at 6:30 p.m.

Published on February 4, 2013 as "Longhorns fight back to tie Exes in annual Alumni Game". 

Belt, Stubbs, Jungmann, and Teagarden to play Alumni Game

Brandon Belt, Drew Stubbs, Taylor Jungmann and Taylor Teagarden will be among the former Longhorns playing in Saturday's Alumni Game.

Belt hit .257 with 56 RBIs as the starting first baseman for the World Series champion San Francisco Giants last season.  Stubbs, who was the starting center fielder on the Longhorns' 2005 national title squad, hit 14 home runs and stole 30 bases for the Cincinnati Reds last year. Teagarden, Texas' starting catcher on the 2005 championship team, backed up Matt Weiters for the Baltimore Orioles last season. Jungmann, the Brewers' first-round pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, is considered one of Milwaukee's top pitching prospects.

Cincinnati Reds' Drew Stubbs stands at home plate after striking out to end the eighth inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Friday, Aug. 24, 2012, in Cincinnati.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Longhorn legends like Drew Stubbs, J.P. Howell, Huston Street and Omar Quintanilla have all played for Texas within the last decade and are now enjoying successful careers in the big leagues. Hard work over the years has given these former Longhorns their well-deserved spots in the major leagues. Distributed all over the states, each individual has encountered his fair share of struggle and success in a more competitive and fast-paced atmosphere.

Stubbs, an outfielder for the Cincinnati Reds, has shown promise since entering the major leagues in 2009. One of baseball's best defensive outfielders, he experienced success early on, winning All-American honors three different times while at UT. The former Longhorn found early success in the major leagues and has recently struggled, but his explosive speed and good work ethic make him a player that people are excited about.

After leading the Longhorns to the College World Series in 2004, J.P. Howell was drafted by the Kansas City Royals. Following a short stint with the Tampa Bay Rays, a reported "weakness" in his shoulder forced Howell to undergo surgery and miss the entire 2010 season. The healthy and newly confident player remains tough in the public eye and his personal career.

"If I'm not working hard, that's when I have a problem personally, because I pit more pressure on myself than the fans," Howell told reporters at spring training this year. "I expect way more out of me than probably the fans expect. So I have to pretty much shut off the positive and negative."

As for Omar Quintanilla, who helped the Longhorns win a national title in 2002, he's found himself all over the country spanning from the Lone Star State with the Rangers to Oakland, the team that originally drafted him. Quintanilla was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for cash considerations in July and has already hit three home runs and racked up 12 RBIs.

Huston Street, always a crowd favorite, has agreed to terms on a two-year contract extension with the Padres with a club option for the 2015 season. Although the Padres have struggled as a team, Street had an excellent season despite missing a month due to a shoulder injury. He was a perfect 13-for-13 in converting save opportunities in the first half of the season and compiled a 1.13 ERA, earning him his first career MLB All-Star Game selection.

Cincinnati RedsÂ’ Drew Stubbs (6) is tagged out while trying to steal second base in the first inning of a baseball game Friday in Milwaukee.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

As the first half of the 2011 MLB season comes to a close, it’s time to look at how the former Longhorns in the MLB have done.

Huston Street, CP, Colorado Rockies — Only Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel has more saves than Street, who has converted 26 of 28 save opportunities this year. Street has cashed in on his last 12 chances to pick up a save, not blowing a save since May 20. He’s enjoying the best season of his career and is likely to break his career high record of 37 saves he set in 2006 with Oakland. Street’s career has been an up-and-down one, and although he’s not an All-Star this year, he has established himself as one of the game’s premier closers.

Drew Stubbs, CF, Cincinnati Reds — In his third season with the Reds, Stubbs has displayed his ability to be a five-tool player, in addition to becoming one of the league’s best center fielders. However, he has shown a propensity toward striking out. On average this season, Stubbs has struck out once every three at-bats and leads the majors with 122 strikeouts. It’s what he does with those other two at-bats that keeps him in the lineup, as he’s banged out 11 home runs and stolen 23 bases while hitting .252.

Sam LeCure, SP/RP, Cincinnati Reds — Stubbs’ teammate in Cincinnati, LeCure has been an outstanding option out of the Reds’ bullpen. He’s made the most of his 19 appearances and 43 innings, posting a 2.72 ERA and a team-leading 0.98 WHIP while even turning in a quality start (six innings pitched, one earned run) April 12 against San Diego.

J.P. Howell, RP, Tampa Bay Rays — Howell had great years in 2008 and 2009, providing solid efforts out of the Tampa Bay bullpen as the Rays advanced to their first World Series in ’08. However, shoulder surgery sidelined Howell for the entire 2010 season, and he has been shaky in his 2011 return, currently possessing a 8.56 ERA.

James Russell, SP/RP, Chicago Cubs — Russell’s 4.60 ERA may not be impressive, but he has shown steady improvement this season. Each month, Russell’s ERA has dropped — from 8.31 in April to 4.58 in May, to 1.64 in June to a spotless 0.00 so far in July. While a couple of Cubs starters were injured, Russell made five spot starts but picked up just one win.

Taylor Teagarden, C, Texas Rangers — Teagarden has only 26 at-bats this season, but has recorded hits in seven of them, good for a .269 batting average. He’s on pace to get only 46 at-bats this season, which would be a career low. Teagarden has spent most of this year in AAA Round Rock, where he’s batting .309 with nine home runs.

Brandon Belt, 1B, San Francisco Giants — A fifth-round pick, Belt became the first member of the Giants’ 2009 draft class to be called up to the big leagues. Belt was San Francisco’s starting first baseman for most of the first month of the season, hitting .211, but hasn’t had a major league plate appearance since May 31. Still, he has shown enough promise to stay on the Giants’ radar and will likely see playing time at the big league level sometime soon. 

Printed on 7/11/2011 as: Stubbs, Street among former Horns making mark on MLB teams

The 2011 Major League Baseball season is just over a month old, and five former Longhorns are contributing to big league clubs. We take a look around the league to check in with former Texas players.  

Drew Stubbs, CF, Cincinnati


The third-year man has continued his rise to the top in 2011, building on last year’s coming-out party with the Reds and a trip to the playoffs. Stubbs is hitting a career-high .259 and is second on the team in home runs (5) and runs scored (22). Stubbs has provided more than just production at the plate and has flashed his speed with a team-high 10 stolen bases in 30 games. The Texarkana native has been solid defensively in center field for Dusty Baker’s club and will need to keep up his improving play if the Reds hope to win the National League Central once again.

Huston Street, RP, Colorado


The National League leader in saves with 10, Street has been a huge part of the Rockies’ (17-10) success throughout the first month of the season. The right hander has been nearly unhittable, with 17 strikeouts in just 16.1 innings of work. He’s also been perfect in save situations and already has half as many saves as he did a year ago. Despite pitching in a hitter-friendly park in Coors Field, Street has been strong at home with a miniscule 1.29 ERA. Street, in his third year as a Rockies, appears to have returned to the form he showed in 2009 when Colorado won the NL Wild Card.

Taylor Teagarden, C, Texas


Teagarden has seen limited time behind the plate for the Rangers, appearing in two games in relief of starting catcher Yorvit Torrealba. Teagarden is getting a chance to play for his hometown team but the fourth-year player has found it tough to see time on the field. The 27-year-old has been a back up since his MLB debut but he’s proven a reliable option for the Rangers. Torrealba is batting .277, so look for Teagarden’s opportunities to continue to be limited.

Sam LeCure, SP, Cincinnati


LeCure has been a decent fifth starter for the Reds in 2011. Cincinnati has won two of the right hander’s four starts, but LeCure’s record is 0-1. The 26-year-old has not gone longer than six innings but has given some relief to the Reds’ bullpen. LeCure gave up four home runs in an April 19 start against Arizona, after which he said, “Every ball hit in the air I was scared about.” Cincinnati will need continued production at the bottom of the rotation from LeCure if they hope to return to the postseason.

James Russell, RP, Chicago Cubs


Russell has started four games for the Cubs and made four appearances out of the bullpen this season. Russell’s 1-4 record hasn’t helped the Cubs (14-16) move out of the NL Central cellar, but the left hander is still learning how to pitch in the majors. Russell made his first start on April 12 against Houston but surrendered seven runs in 1.2 innings. The Cubs figure to struggle this season, and Russell will earn valuable experience as a fifth-year starter. If Russell can learn from veteran pitchers Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and Carlos Zambrano, he could develop into a solid starter for Chicago.

MLB

The Cincinnati Reds are division champions for the first time in 15 years, far exceeding expectations in a Cinderella season that saw a young core of players make a name for themselves in the big leagues — including former Texas baseball star Drew Stubbs, who left Austin in 2006.

Stubbs exploded onto the major league radar this year in his first full season in the big show. He played 150 games in center field and hit 22 homers, drove in 77 runs and stole 30 bases for the National League Central champs.

The former Big 12 co-player of the year will look to extend Cincinnati’s improbable season as the Reds take on the Philadelphia Phillies in the first round of the MLB playoffs. While the Reds are strangers to post-season success and the team lost the series opener 4-0 on Wednesday, Stubbs knows what it’s like to take the field on the big stage.

“Playing at the university — it being one of the grandest scales in college baseball — helped me transition to pro ball because when you start playing in front of the bigger crowds some guys get mesmerized,” Stubbs said. “But my experiences in Omaha [for the College World Series] and in the postseason at Texas prepared me for this.”

Cincinnati traded for 17-year MLB veteran Jim Edmonds in August to school Stubbs on the nuances of playing center field in the pros.

“He’s a guy that I followed growing up and I appreciate the way he plays the game,” Stubbs said. “He’s been a great mentor for me.”

But Edmonds isn’t the only figure in Stubbs’ baseball career who has had a lasting impact on the way he plays the game.

“Playing for [head] coach [Augie] Garrido at Texas taught me a lot about the mental side of the game,” Stubbs said. “The thing I took away the most was how to mentally stay in the game and prepare.”

It’s that mental toughness that has kept Stubbs going this season. Reds general manager Walt Jocketty told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the rookie was in danger of an early season demotion.

“It was fun seeing a guy like Drew Stubbs emerge to have a good year,” Jocketty said. “Early on, we had people screaming at us to send him back to Triple-A.”

Stubbs has found a home in center field for the Reds but still has a soft spot for Austin — his home for offseason workouts.

“I like Cincinnati just fine but it’s not Texas, it’s not home,” Stubbs said. “I hope we can ride out this playoff streak as long as possible but I’m also looking forward to getting back to Austin.”