Garner Cleveland: Sports

Nowhere to go but up for Carolina Mudcats

The Carolina Mudcats began the second half of the Carolina League season with nowhere to go but up. The Mudcats, despite fielding a squad full of solid prospects, won just 22 out of 70 games in the first half of the season.

But for most of the Carolina roster, the situation feels familiar. Last year, many Mudcats were on a Lake County squad in Low-A ball that made the playoffs thanks to a great second half.

“We’ve just got to keep grinding out and trust that things will go our way,” said Mudcats manager David Wallace, whose Lake County club finished the first half seven games under .500 last season and ended up in the semifinals of the league playoffs. “We’re going to continue to play the game hard and smart and the wins will be there in the second half, I believe.

“The chemistry on this team is unlike any I’ve had before. It’s a special group of guys. Last year we just kept believing we were doing the right thing and playing the right way, and the adjustments these guys were trying to make played out in the second half. We’re looking for the same this year.”

Indians’ top prospect Francisco Lindor was one of those players who helped Lake County make the playoffs.

“Last year we made a big turnaround. We became more of a team,” Lindor said. “We were all pulling for each other and picking each other up. We’re not stressing. I know we’re going to turn it around.”

First baseman Jerrud Sabourin, a Carolina League All-Star, says the first half was a case of missed opportunities.

“The talent is definitely there,” he said. “We’ve been unlucky and lost a lot of one-run games. But I think it’s going to turn around in the second half.”

Potomac and Myrtle Beach won the first-half championships. Since it finished 26 games under .500 in the first half, Carolina’s only realistic chance of making the playoffs is winning the second-half title. If the other bid goes to a wild card with Myrtle Beach taking both half championships, Carolina would need to make up 16 games on the Winston-Salem Dash in the second half.

Carolina rules: The Carolina League All-Stars rolled to a 12-2 win over the California League in the two leagues’ All-Star Game Tuesday night in California. And the four Mudcats in the lineup all contributed.

Lindor went 1-for-2 with a two-run double, while Naquin was 2-for-5 with two runs scored. Sabourin had a hit, scored and drove in a run.

On the mound, Anderson worked an inning giving up a run.

Frederick brings talent: The Baltimore Orioles-fed Frederick Keys come to Five County Stadium to start the Mudcats’ second-half home slate for a four-game set beginning Monday.

The Keys feature two of Baltimore’s top five prospects in lefty pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez and infielder Nick Delmonico. Rodriguez was 6-3 entering the second half with a 2.99 ERA. He’s third in the Carolina League in innings pitched.

Delmonico, the O’s No. 4 prospect, has 11 home runs and 25 RBIs on the season.

D. Clay Best contributed to this story.