The Clippers have battled through an up-and-down season in 2007. They started slow in early spring, caused mostly by hardship weather and a new group of athletes. As summer approached, the team began gained confidence and put quality wins together. Now, with just 25 games left, the Clippers are focused on developing their young prospects instead of making a final push to the playoffs.
Columbus enters Friday night’s game with Norfolk with a 53-65 record, 15 games behind Toledo in the International League West. The Clippers face their toughest test of the season, as they host only seven home games in their last 25 games. The ball club hopes to finish strong and gain confidence heading into the off-season. Although their record doesn’t show much, the Clippers have dressed some of the finest young prospects in the Minor Leagues. We take a look back on the success of the 2007 season.
The biggest advantage of a Triple-A team is preparing the prospects for the major league level. The Clippers have played a major role in helping the Washington Nationals, most notably on the mound. The Nationals currently have ten pitchers that were at some point with the Clippers this season. Both John Lannan and Joel Hanrahan were recently called up after great success at the Triple-A level. Hanrahan improved to 2-0 after a strong appearance in San Francisco on Thursday. Lannan has been solid in his three starts, allowing just eight runs and one home run in 17 innings. While in Columbus, Lannan proved to be the ace of the staff, going 3-1 with a 1.75 ERA in six starts.
The biggest challenge for the Clippers has been dealing with many injuries and transactions. Every week, manager John Stearns is putting together a new lineup and changing the pitching rotation. Most of the current roster for the Clippers has either spent time up with Washington or on the disabled list. With the lineup changing rapidly, as it has to Columbus, it makes it very difficult to contend for the playoffs.
Milestones: There were many bright spots throughout the course of the season. Here are just a few of them:
At one point, pitcher Winston Abreu struck out 21 batters over a 9.0-inning stretch. He has also had a 9.0-inning stretch where he did not allow a hit. In 29 appearances this season, Abreu is 3-0 with an impressive 0.83 ERA.
Center Fielder Brandon Watson broke the team and International League record with a 43-game hitting streak on June 17. His single in the 6th inning of that ballgame extended his hitting streak to 43 games, breaking the previous International League record of 42 games set by Rochester’s Jack Lelivelt in 1912. Watson also suited up for the IL All-Star game. He spent a week with Washington, batting .278 in five games. He is currently hitting .325 with 17 stolen bases.
Chris Booker has been dominant and a reliable closer. In 48 1/3 innings pitched, the 6’3” right-hander has a 1-5 record with a 3.54 ERA. He also has 25 saves.
The Clippers have been successful on the base paths. Four Clippers have at least 10 stolen bases this season. Bernie Castro (19), Brandon Watson (17), current Minnesota Twin Darnell McDonald, who had 14 steals during his time with Columbus this year, and Brent Abernathy (10) have all shown patience and speed.
Jonathan Albaladejo won in his Clippers debut with 2.0 hitless innings. He became the fourth Columbus player to win in his Clippers debut this season, following Billy Traber (April 8 at Indianapolis), Anastacio Martinez (May 8 at Buffalo) and John Lannan (June 22 vs. Ottawa).
Keep an Eye Out: The key factor to watch for in the remaining four weeks of the season is how the Clippers will close out their rough season. The Clippers’ active roster features a mixture of veterans and young prospects hoping to make a big impact. Not only are the players looking to please their fans, but they are also looking to improve individually to get notice from the Nationals’ front office.