By JASON HABERMEYER
The Salt Lake Buzz were looking for their third consecutive victory Wednesday night, but instead were rained out following more than an hour delay at Franklin Covey Field.
The Buzz were scheduled to play the series finale with the Las Vegas Stars, but the game was suspended after only a half inning of play. The Stars went ahead, 1-0, on a home run to left by third baseman Juan Melo off Salt Lake starter Rob Radlosky. The game will be resumed when the Buzz travel to Las Vegas August 9-12.
Salt Lake will now play six games in just four days this weekend against Tucson to make-up games called to rain earlier this season. Buzz manager Phil Roof said the rainout Wednesday was a blessing in disguise.
“Sure it helps us out and it’s a big break for us,” Roof said. “We have six games coming up in four days and this (the rainout) helps our pitching out.”
The weekend series will feature two seven-inning doubleheaders on Friday and Saturday to finish the first half of the season. The team will then be off until July 15 when it travels to Fresno to play the first-place Grizzlies. Roof said the series with Tucson is crucial as it heads into the All-Star break.
“This is our biggest series of the year and I think our players and the ballclub is up to the challenge,” he said. “We need to move ahead and play well and gain some ground before the break. Last year we did that and I think we’re up to it this year.”
Salt Lake will send left-hander Kevin Ohme (1-2, 5.06 ERA) to the hill Thursday and will be opposed by Tucson righty David Tuttle (1-2, 5.77). The Buzz, who trail Fresno by only two and a half games in the Pacific Coast League, have a chance to position themselves in first before the weekend is over. Roof said pitching will be the key.
“Our team is playing much better than they did six or seven weeks ago,” he said. “We’re pitching well and playing pretty good ball…if we can get a decent effort out of our starters, we’ll be O.K.”
In other Buzz news, left-handed pitcher Mark Redman was named Pitcher of the Month in the month of June for the Minnesota Twins Minor League Organization and outfielder Brian Buchanan was named Player of the Month. Buchanan hit .377 in 18 games with five home runs and 18 runs batted in. After a relatively slow start for one of the organization’s top prospects, Buchanan is now hitting .292 with eight home runs and 46 RBI’s.
Redman went 6-0 with a 2.39 ERA, striking out 35 in 37 innings. During the games he pitched, the Buzz outscored their opponents, 57-16. Redman credited his teammates for the success.
“My team helped me to get this award — I got good run support and good defense and I just tried to keep the ball over the plate and keep it in the strike zone,” Redman said. “It’s a great honor to receive this for the entire organization.”
Redman nearly won his seventh consecutive game July 4 but lost to Las Vegas, 2-1. Redman set a Buzz franchise record in the game with 12 strikeouts but it was not enough and the streak was snapped. Nonetheless, Redman said that he doesn’t want to change the way he has pitched.
“I gave a winning performance last time out but unfortunately things didn’t work out that way,” he said. “In June I got lucky with all those wins and we turned things around — I’m just going to continue pitching the way I have been.”
Roof said the biggest reason for Redman’s impressive month was the command of his fastball instead of relying on the changeup to get batters out. He said that there is no reason that Redman, who is in his fourth year with the Buzz, won’t be called up by Minnesota soon.
“If he stays on a roll, he can be up there even before September,” Roof said. “He needs a little more work with his breaking ball but he’s picked up his velocity and he’s become so much better on not falling behind the hitters.”