Connecticut Team Report | May 22

Eugenio Velez returns to action after two months.

Six and a half weeks of the season have been played, and the Defenders have come away with zero winning weeks to date. What could possibly be done to make this currently assembled team play more competitively?

Team Record: 15-23 (3-4 on the week)

Standing: Sixth in the Northern Division

To start, the Defenders have a pitcher who is leading their team in strikeouts, with all but three of his innings coming out of the bullpen. This pitcher is Alex Hinshaw, and his new role could be starting pitcher. Hinshaw started in Saturday's game against New Britain, used up all of the 65 pitches he was allotted, going three innings, allowing one hit and striking out six. Hinshaw was used as a starter throughout and college, and most of last year in San Jose.

Whether or not manager Dave Machemer was using him as a starter to give Geno Espinelli a break after his seven-inning performance, or if he plans to replace the struggling Darren Sack with Hinshaw remains to be seen. Hinshaw has shown he can dominate Double-A hitters and his value may be best as a starting pitcher.

Sack, on the other hand, pitches well in spurts, and was originally a reliever in college. He has been tried as a starter in Augusta and Salem, but struggled during both seasons. It was not until being placed back in the ‘pen in San Jose that he posted a full-season ERA under 5.00 at the pro-level.

To stick with the rotation, Nick Pereira has struggled mightily since being hailed as the suitor to the thrown of ace of the Connecticut staff -- by this column, at least. He has lost his last two starts since Chris Begg's promotion to Fresno. He has pitched 11 2/3 innings, given up 10 runs, and has walked nine.

According the coach Machemer, Pereira has been aiming the ball, which has cost him much of his control, leading to the high walk totals. His stuff is still there because he's not giving up a lot of hits, but the walks are always coming back to haunt him. The pressure of being the go-to guy may be weighing on him a bit. With Broshuis now pitching well, and with Hinshaw possibly in the rotation, the staff will be a force to be reckoned with if Pereira can get his act together.

As always, the offense for this team could always use some help. Travis Ishikawa has kept his hot hitting up, going 9-for-29 this week at the plate, but he was the only consistent hitter for the Defenders last week.

One hole in the lineup this year for Defenders has been second base -- at least until Wald moved over. Joining the team this week was Eugenio Velez, last season's MiLB.com Class-A Offensive Player of the Year. Velez had 29 doubles, 20 triples, and 14 homeruns last year for Augusta, and should provide some much needed pop to a lineup that currently has only one player slugging over .400. He assumes the roster spot vacated by Brian Horwitz, who was recently promoted to Triple-A Fresno.

Player of the Week: Gino Espinelli

Junk Ball Gino has been amazing in the rotation ever since taking over Chris Begg's spot in the rotation. This week he pitched a season-high seven innings while giving up three hits, zero runs and striking out seven. He faced only four batters over the minimum. He uses a nasty change-up to keep hitters off balance, which is effective considering: out of the 21 outs recorded by Espinelli, only two made it to the outfield.

Stat of the Week: 11

This represents the number of points Eddy Martinez-Esteve's slugging percentage is below his on-base percentage. As of this week, his OBP sat at .325, while his slugging sits at .314. Eddy is a hitter who has slugged well over .500 wherever he has played, yet currently sports only one homerun and four extra base hits.

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