Tag Archives: Bakersfield Blaze


f1b6a883-8f83-43b5-9b55-19a1f19c2f7cThe California League announced on Monday that the Bakersfield Blaze and the High Desert Mavericks will move to the Carolina League next season in a realignment of advanced-A leagues. The two cities will see their clubs cease operations and the California League will play with eight teams in 2017.

Bakersfield has been in the Cal League for 75 years while High Desert is finishing its 26th season in Adelanto.

The Blaze, famously, had problems with their aged stadium, Sam Lynn Ballpark, which has home plate facing the setting sun which necessitates later start times. The dugouts are way up the lines and it is lacking modern amenities that are now standard in weight training facilities and indoor batting cages.

imagesThe Mavericks got caught up in a nasty fight between the city and ownership. Both sides thought their counterpart to be unreasonable and litigation cast a cloud over the start of the 2016 season. As a result, High Desert was the logical choice to join the Blaze in downsizing the league and keeping with an even number of teams.

The Blaze have long had the lowest average attendance in the Cal League and High Desert has the second-lowest. This season the Blaze is averaging a mere 848 fans, despite the first-place club on the field in the second half. The Mavericks, first-half champions in the South division, are averaging 1,056. It’s a long way to next next lowest average attendance figure, Visalia’s 1,731. The rest of the league draws more than 2,000 per game on average.

It is sad to see a 75-year old club leave the league, but Bakersfield didn’t have a leg to stand on. Despite the first-rate staff that had the minor league experience down pat, the fans just didn’t come out. Attempts had been made to get a new facility but they fell through and the final years of Bakersfield baseball have seen sparse crowds in an outlier of a facility. That’s a tough way to go out. The fantastic staff deserved much better.

High Desert’s situation didn’t really have to happen, but the baseball played in the Mavs’ home stadium is unusually high-octane, even by Cal League standards. Again, it isn’t good to see a community and a league lose a franchise, but when the name of the game is player development, the wind-affected play in Adelanto has made it hard to evaluate both pitching and hitting.

The Cal League is clearly one of the most offense-heavy leagues in minor league baseball. Could they have continued to make it work out there? Of course. It’s unfortunate to have politics kill the whole deal. 1,000 people a night isn’t as large of an average crowd as most of the rest of the league, but it isn’t peanuts either. A lot of people spent a lot of summer nights watching the Mavs over the years. And then there are the employees.

It’s a sad, sad situation for a pretty stable league. But at the end of the day, you can see the logic in the realignment decision-making. The California League will continue to thrive. It will just do it without these two clubs, and that is sad for the people affected in these communities.




f1b6a883-8f83-43b5-9b55-19a1f19c2f7cFour members of the Bakersfield Blaze 2015 coaching staff will return for 2016, with a new pitching coach coming aboard. Field Manager Eddie Menchaca, Hitting Coach Max Venable will be back in their 2015 capacities, as will Athletic Trainer Geoff Swanson and Performance Specialist Andy Lyon.

New to the staff for 2016 is Pitching Coach Ethan Katz.

Read the full announcement from the Blaze HERE.

The Blaze had a rough first-half last season, finishing at the bottom of the North division at 26-44. But the second half saw a .500 mark at 35-35, winning seven of its last 10 games and ending on a five-game winning streak.




Bakersfield Blaze OF Austin Wilson

Bakersfield Blaze OF Austin Wilson

Austin Wilson had a rough first half at hiA Bakersfield this season but the 2013 2nd-round pick entered tonight’s game against Modesto swinging a hot bat. After playing 56 first-half games for the Blaze, the Seattle Mariners’ #16 prospect carried a batting line of .191/.291/.299 with just 5 HR and 19 RBI.

When the second half started on June 25th, the Stanford alum went 2-for-5, raising his batting average to .196, but there were more struggles ahead.

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ModestoLHP Harrison Musgrave got promoted from Modesto to AA New Britain on Thursday, per the Cal League webpage. Musgrave was last week’s Cal League Pitcher of the Week and leads the circuit with 10 wins, ranks fifth with 83 strikeouts and is tied for the second-lowest WHIP at 1.10. Joe Cortez of the Modesto Bee has a nice writeup on Musgrave’s promotion:



In a move involving some wheeling-and-dealing leading up to the MLB All-Star break, LHP J.A. Happ was optioned to the Bakersfield Blaze by the Seattle Mariners on Thursday. Happ had a rough outing for the Mariners on Wednesday, lasting only four innings against Detroit, and it was the latest in a string of starts that has seen Happ go 1-4 with his ERA rising to 4.14 after a pretty solid beginning to the season.

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BlazeRHP Dan Altavilla threw seven scoreless innings Thursday night, stiking out eight, as the Bakersfield Blaze earned a 3-2 win over the first-place Modesto Nuts by a score of 3-2 at John Thurman Field. 2B Tim Lopes singled in a pair of runs in the top of the third to give the Blaze a lead it would never relinquish.

Altavilla (3-6) is the Seattle Mariners’ #16 prospect per MLB.com (#19 by BaseballAmerica), and had his second strong, seven-inning outing in his last three starts. Lopes has gone 11-for-29 over his last seven games.

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Photo: MiLB.com

Photo: MiLB.com

RHP Dan Altavilla of the Bakersfield Blaze faced the High Desert Mavericks in Bakersfield last weekend and pitched well over 6 2/3 innings, but didn’t get a decision. Here are his numbers from the outing:

DAN ALTAVILLA – 6 2/3 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K

102 pitches: 31 Balls, 71 Strikes

1 1 9 1/9 (10)
2 2 8 3/17 (20)
3 11 12 14/29 (43)
4 6 11 20/40 (60)
5 4 11 24/51 (75)
6 1 8 25/59 (84)
7 6 12 31/71 (102)

Altavilla entered the season as the Seattle Mariners’ #19 prospect according to Baseball America, #18 by MLB.com. A fifth-round draft pick out of Div II Mercyhurst (Erie, PA) in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft, Altavilla pitched at short-season Everett of the Northwest League last season, starting 14 games and going 5-3 with a 4.36 ERA and 1.61 WHIP.

This season, Altavilla got off to a 1-4 mark after eight starts and in his last three outings prior to this day game against High Desert, he had gone 5 1/3 innings, 5 innings, and 5 2/3 innings, allowing three earned runs each time.

The game notes indicated that Altavilla has had trouble in the first and second innings so far this season, posting an ERA over 5.00, before settling in and pitching strong in innings 3-5. In this start, he reversed that trend, using just 20 pitches to record the first six outs, including three strikeouts, over two dominant innings. To start the third, however, Altavilla appeared to lose his release point as he started with two four-pitch walks and then went 3-0 to the third hitter of the inning. He came back to go F7, K, 4-3, stranding the two runners and re-establishing his dominance for the moment.

Leading off the next inning, High Desert’s Ryan Cordell drilled a triple and Altavilla then hit the next batter on the first pitch, so, a little shaky again. A single drove in a run before Altavilla set the next three batters down to end the threat.

The fifth and sixth innings were both 1-2-3 with two K’s and Altavilla got the first two hitters in the seventh to ground out harmlessly to second. But, before he could get the third out to match his longest outing of the season at seven full innings, High Desert’s Edwin Garcia took him deep to break the 1-1 tie. Just like that, Altavilla was lifted for a reliever and, after the stellar performance, was on the hook for the loss. (The game went extras, no decision for Altavilla).

The 5’ 11”, 200-lb righty threw fastballs and sliders to both sides of the plate and had success with both pitches. He also gave up solid contact with both pitches and had the bout of wildness to start the third. Overall, it was an impressive performance. The fastball topped out at 93 mph according to one scout and his breaking stuff was tough on the High Desert hitters. The Mavericks lead the league in batting average, SLG and OPS, as well as hits, HRs and total bases. They are second in the league OBP and runs scored. So Altavilla did well to hold them down.



First roadie of the year for me, believe it or not. Memorial Day weekend was my first chance to get out there and I made it to Bakersfield for a noon Cal League tilt between the Blaze and the High Desert Mavericks. The Blaze came into the game at the bottom of the North division but the Mavericks were closing in on the slumping Rancho Cucamonga Quakes and looking for their third straight win.

The pitching matchup featured righty Dan Altavilla for the homestanding Blaze against lefty Luis Parra of the Mavs. Altavilla entered the season as the Mariners’ #19 organizational prospect, per Baseball America and #18 in MLB.com’s rankings.

Altavilla started strong, setting down the first six HD batters with three K’s. In the bottom of the first, Blaze 2B Tim Lopes put the home team ahead with a solo homer and it stayed 1-0 until the fourth inning.

Photo: Steve Cummings/CalLeagueHeat.com

HD Mavs’ Ryan Cordell. Photo: Steve Cumming/CalLeagueHeat.com

That’s when the Texas Rangers’ #11/12 prospect Ryan Cordell led off with a triple and came home on a Royce Bolinger single to tie the score. After the quick first two innings, Altavilla wobbled a bit, walking the first two hitters in the third before stranding both runners, then allowing the fourth-inning triple to Cordell followed by an HBP and the single to Bolinger. But he was able to limit the damage and the low-scoring game continued into the seventh.

Altavilla was tossing a gem, having surrendered just the one run on two hits with two walks and six strikeouts and he came out strong for the seventh frame. The first two batters both grounded out to second base and, nearing 100 pitches, Altavilla faced 2B Edwin Garcia. A long, eight-pitch at bat ended with Garcia breaking the tie with a homer, 2-1 Mavs. It was the last batter for Altavilla.

It looked like the Blaze evened the score in the bottom of the seventh when LF Burt Reynolds singled, stole second and then came around, two outs later, on a Martin Peguero single to center. Cordell launched a perfect throw to the plate and Reynolds appeared to get in just ahead of C Alex Burg’s tag, but homeplate umpire Adrian Gonzalez signaled the third out to end the inning.

The Blaze got the job done the next inning on an Ian Miller double, a sacrifice bunt and a sacrifice fly to tie it at 2. After nine it was still tied, so to extras they went.

The Mavericks played small-ball in the top of the 10th, scoring on a single, a wild pitch and two sacrifices. The Blaze answered in the bottom of the inning with C Carlton Tanabe’s first  homer of the season.

But High Desert scored again in the top of the 11th with a two-out rally and they kept the home team off the board in the bottom of the frame to seal the win.

The victory for the Mavericks, combined with another Rancho Cucamonga loss in San Jose, pulled High Desert to within a game of first place.

The low-scoring pitcher’s duel was great to watch, with more tension inning-to-inning than most Cal League games. Every AB was crucial from the very beginning and both sides had run-ins with the umpiring crew. HD pitching coach Steve Mintz was tossed in the first inning after arguing that homeplate umpire Gonzalez’ strike zone to the first two hitters looked to be quite large. And Lopes was ejected after a called third strike in the bottom of the 10th.

The announced crowd of 452 didn’t look to be that big and I have to think a town the size of Bakersfield should do better for a Sunday day game, even if it is a holiday weekend. Sam Lynn Ballpark is famously outdated, yeah, yeah, I know. But this is good baseball at the advanced A-level, not rookie ball, short-season, etc. The staff at Sam Lynn is perfect in the hospitality department and on this warm, sunny day, it was nice to see the shaded picnic table area down the left field line. All of the other seats are in direct sunlight and for a day game, that can be rough.

Photo: Steve Cummings/CalLeagueHeat.com

Photo: Steve Cummings/CalLeagueHeat.com

I love Sam Lynn Ballpark, though I know it’s tough on the business of the team. The sight lines are unique, to say the least with the dugouts way up the lines. The clubs send several batters to the on-deck circle and if you sit nearby, in the seats that are below field-level, you can get some great insight as they converse about the pitching they’re facing.

All that makes for a great day at the yard. Last time I made it to Bako was 4th of July last year. The place was packed. The locals are clearly aware of the team and baseball goes way, way back in this very park. The average attendance this year, per the Cal League webpage, is 839 per game. That makes the Blaze the only team in the league drawing less than 1,300. There are 3,500 permanent seats, per Wikipedia. That’s not good enough for a community of almost 350,000.

But I’ll be back, you can be sure of that.


BlazeBakersfield first had pro baseball in 1941 with a Class C team and has had a long list of major league affiliations since 1946. This is the club’s first year of a second affiliation with the Seattle Mariners, the first one taking place in 1982-83. Since then, Bakersfield has been the home of the Dodgers, Giants, Rays, Rangers and, most recently, the Reds.

The Cincinnati ballclub was in town from 2011-2014, but left after last season for Daytona of the Florida State League. Enter the Mariners, who had been in High Desert most recently. So the players who call Sam Lynn Ballpark home are now property of Seattle.


First Half – 45-25, 1st
Second Half – 33-37, 4th

The first-half title for the then-Reds affiliate was rewarded with an automatic berth in the Cal League semifinals. The Blaze lost to the Visalia Rawhide 3 games to 1.


Majors Seattle Mariners American
AAA Tacoma Rainiers PCL
AA Jackson Generals Southern
High A Bakersfield Blaze California
Low A Clinton Lumberkings Midwest
Short Season Everett Aquasox Northwest

There are three Rookie level clubs as well.

Org Prospect Rankings: (Baseball America/MLB.com)

RHP Trey Cochrane-Gill (20/20)
RHP Edwin Diaz (6/7)
RHP Jochi Ogando (28/-)
LHP Ryan Yarbrough (9/11)
C Tyler Marlette (14/9)
LF Tyler O’Neill (11/12)
CF Aaron Barbosa (27/-)
RF Austin Wilson (5/6)

Some highlights early on from the list above:

  • Cochrane-Gill entered the weekend having pitched in 10 games (19 2/3 IP) and a stellar BB/K ratio of 3/18. His record stands at 2-1 with a WHIP of 0.56 and a 1.37 ERA.
  • Diaz sits at 2-0 with a 0.77 WHIP and 1.45 ERA after six starts. Over 31 IP, he has walked just eight while striking out 34.
  • Marlette is currently slumping (5-for-38 over his last 10 games) but he came out of the gate swinging a lethal bat. His hitting line stands at .256/.330/415 with 4 homers and 13 RBI.
  • O’Neill leads the team in RBI (14) and is tied with Marlette for the team lead in homers (4).
  • Yarbrough has made six starts and yielded just four walks over 31 2/3 IP while striking out 19

Elsewhere on the roster, RHP Brett Ash has pitched 17 innings over eight appearances and has a 0.94 WHIP with a BB/K ratio of 4/11…..OF Ian Miller leads the Cal League with 13 SB’s.



OF Billy Hamilton (’12) – Second full season with the Reds, starting outfielder
RHP Robert Stephenson (’13) – Reds’ (1/1) prospect, currently at AA Pensacola
RHP Michael Lorenzen (’13) – Ranked (4/4) prospect for the Reds. Currently with the major league club, has made two starts, got his first win Tuesday against the Pirates.
OF Jesse Winker (’14) – (3/2) prospect for Reds, currently at AA Pensacola
RHP Ben Lively (’14) – Phillies (6/7) prospect, included in Marlon Byrd trade. Pitching at AA Reading.


For team news, results, etc:


For prospects:

MINORLEAGUEBALL.COM -Top 20 Prospects for 2015

And for Reds players:


Sam Lynn Ballpark:



Bakersfield took two of three games in Visalia over the weekend to slow down the runaway Rawhide and shrink their lead in the North to five games. In the South, Rancho Cucamonga took two of three from Inland Empire and now hold a two game lead. The first-place clubs face each other this week, highlighting a schedule of four-game series from Monday through Thursday:

LAKE ELSINORE (11-13) at SAN JOSE (8-16)

INLAND EMPIRE (12-12) at HIGH DESERT (11-13)

BAKERSFIELD (13-11) at MODESTO (11-13)


LANCASTER (11-13) at STOCKTON (11-13)


Finally, a day off for some of the teams. On today’s schedule:

MODESTO (7-11) at HIGH DESERT (8-10)


These will be three-game series in both cases, with the off day Thursday for the four teams involved.

After yesterday’s games, the Visalia Rawhide at 14-4 hold a four-game lead over Bakersfield in the North and Lancaster and Rancho Cucamonga are tied at 10-8, both one game ahead of Inland Empire in the South.