Scouts from three major-league franchises were in attendance to watch Wingnuts right-hander Jon Link pitch Monday night, and the prevailing thought is that Link is ready to return to affiliated baseball.
The independent level is becoming less of a challenge for Link every time he starts. Monday, he pitched a complete game in the Wingnuts’ 8-2 win over Gary SouthShore at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
Link, who improved to 6-1 with a 1.74 ERA, arrived in Wichita this spring with a motivation to get back to the major leagues, where he pitched nine games for the Dodgers in 2010. He may share the belief that his return to affiliated ball is imminent, but he’s still approaching his time with the Wingnuts as a challenge.
“They scored some runs and got some hits,” Link said of his Monday outing. “There’s always something you can improve on.”
Link’s room for improvement is growing narrower by the start. His success probably comes from his tendency to focus on the negative aspects of each outing and his ability to scientifically break them down.
In front of a group that included Detroit Tigers scouting director David Chadd, a Wichita native, Link faced the minimum through four innings before allowing two hits in the fifth inning and two runs in the sixth.
A former reliever, Link called on a mentality that served him well when he pitched the day after a poor bullpen appearance, erasing the sixth inning from his memory and rediscovering his dominance.
Over the final three innings, Link retired nine of 10 hitters, allowing only a two-out single in the ninth, and didn’t throw more than 10 pitches in an inning. Of his final 32 pitches, 27 were strikes.
“We all knew (Chadd) was coming tonight to watch him,” Hooper said. “I hope it’s going to happen. He deserves to get back to affiliated ball. …We do our best to get guys out here to watch them and put them in the right situations. That only helps our cause to get guys signed.”
Link was one of three ex-big leaguers to play for the Wingnuts Monday, joining designated hitter John Rodriguez and newly reacquired outfielder Brent Clevlen, who was released by the Arizona Diamondbacks organization over the weekend.
In his first game with Wichita since playing 46 games here in 2011, Clevlen had two hits, including a long three-run home run in the Wingnuts’ five-run seventh.
With the addition of Clevlen, all of Wichita’s top seven hitters have played in either Triple-A or the majors, and Nos. 8 and 9 hitters David Amberson and Jared McDonald have each been named American Association Batter of the Week this season.
“This might be the best lineup I’ve ever been a part of,” said Rodriguez, who spent time batting behind Albert Pujols during parts of two years with the St. Louis Cardinals. “As you can see, RBIs are scattered everywhere. We’re doing the right things. We’re playing small ball, and when we need big hits we’re getting them.”
Rodriguez went 3 for 3 with a double, homer and a walk, and Clevlen’s three-run homer highlighted the Wingnuts’ fourth inning of at least five runs in their last five games.
The Wingnuts are getting production from every part of the order and in every situation; they scored runs Monday with zero, one and two outs.
If they keep hitting that way, it won’t matter who is pitching, and the potential loss of Link will be much easier to manage.
“He has a chance, if he keeps doing what he’s doing, he could be gone any day,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve been proud of him. I’ve had the pleasure of being his teammate and seeing what type of person he is and what type of player he is. He’s a gamer.”
Wichita 8, Gary 2
|Klein lf||3||1||1||0||Khoury ss||4||1||2||1|
|Massaro rf||4||0||0||0||Kahaulelio 2b||4||1||1||0|
|Guerrero dh||4||0||0||0||Rodriguez dh||3||2||3||3|
|Babineau c||3||0||1||0||Ziegler 1b||3||1||1||1|
|Pulfer 1b||4||0||1||2||Clevlen cf||4||1||2||3|
|Kolb 3b||4||0||1||0||Armstrong c||4||1||1||0|
|Martinez cf||4||0||0||0||Nieves 3b||4||0||1||0|
|Mitchell ss||3||0||0||0||Amberson rf||4||1||0||0|
|Tucker 2b||3||1||1||0||McDonald lf||4||0||0||1|
E— Wichita 1. DP— Gary 1, Wichita 1. LOB— Gary 5, Wichita 5. 2B— Rodriguez (12). HR — Rodriguez (6), Clevlen (1). SB — Amberson (6).
|Krout L||6 1/3||10||7||3||6|
Umpires—Home, Morgan; first, Durante; second, Hicks.
T— 2:22. A — 3,083.