Wichita Wingnuts

Jon Link pitches five solid innings in return for Wingnuts

The Wingnuts' Brent Dean (16) gets congratulated by teammate Leo Vargas after scoring in the 2nd inning at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium Wednesday. The Wingnuts won 3-1. (Aug. 12, 2015)
The Wingnuts' Brent Dean (16) gets congratulated by teammate Leo Vargas after scoring in the 2nd inning at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium Wednesday. The Wingnuts won 3-1. (Aug. 12, 2015) The Wichita Eagle

If Jon Link’s high school yearbook was plastered in “Don’t ever change” messages from his classmates, Link has taken the advice to heart. His most discernible professional trait is his stubbornness.

The Wingnuts right-handed pitcher was activated on Wednesday after missing 17 days with a right forearm strain. That’s the kind of relatively minor injury that can turn serious and is often guarded cautiously by those who are inflicted, but Link isn’t one for safeguards.

Link shook off his discomfort – sometimes wiggling his arm, other times just ignoring the bite – and pitched five maximum-effort innings in the first-place Wingnuts’ 3-1 win over Grand Prairie at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.

Link’s strong finish – he struck out the final two batters he faced – buoyed the rest of Wichita’s staff. Relievers Alex Boshers, Daniel Bennett and Paul Smyth were perfect for four combined innings and Grand Prairie batters had one hit in their final 25 plate appearances.

“Same thing – go as hard as I can,” Link said. “If it’s going to go, it’s going to go and there’s nothing I can do about it. But it’s not an elbow, it’s a forearm, so it’s (a question of) can I deal with the tightness and get extension on my pitches. That was the big thing for me.”

Forty percent of Link’s outing was a struggle. He threw 25 pitches in the third inning and 21 in the fourth, elevating his pitch count until it reached 79 and manager Kevin Hooper removed the former Los Angeles Dodger.

For all the labor, Link allowed one run in those two innings, as Grand Prairie scored its only run on a pair of doubles against Link in the second. A two-out walk put a pair of AirHogs on base in the fourth, but Link escaped.

Link, who began the season as a Triple-A reliever, has pitched 37 2/3 innings this season, a light workload that has allowed him to mostly preserve his body. The 31-year-old, who pitched 139 innings in 2014, improved to 5-0 with Wednesday’s win.

“I’m usually at 100-plus innings right now, at least the past two seasons,” Link said. “Only being at 30-ish right now, I feel very fresh. The rest of my body feels great, it’s just the little nagging things. It started in spring training and has carried on. But I felt good coming in – the first three innings felt real good, and I got a big ‘W’ tonight.”

It took until the end of his outing for Link to set the tone, but the Wingnuts’ relievers ran with it. Boshers, Bennett and Smyth, a former Kansas Jayhawks right-hander making his Wichita debut, combined for 46 pitches and three strikeouts over the final four innings.

Boshers, who made his 17th appearance, has quickly become one of the most valuable Wingnuts relievers. His two innings served as the bridge to Bennett and Smyth in the late innings, and in 31 1/3 innings Boshers has proved adept with any duty, with a 1.71 ERA.

“We can use him in any role, pretty much,” Hooper said. “He can spot-start when need be and he’s going to go out and give you five strong innings, typically. A good guy to have down there where we can utilize him in a lot of different roles.”

The Wingnuts never played from behind – T.J. Mittelstaedt’s first-inning home run gave them an early lead, which Wichita regained on Taylor Smart’s RBI double in the second and added to in the seventh on David Espinosa’s run-scoring single.

None of the final 18 Grand Prairie batters reached base as the Wingnuts put into practice Hooper’s season-long urging that every run scored is precious when it aids a pitching staff with the American Association’s fourth-best ERA.

G. Prairie

Wichita

ab

r

h

bi

ab

r

h

bi

McGruder 2b

4

0

0

0

Ray cf

4

1

2

0

Richardson rf

4

0

0

0

Espinosa rf

4

0

1

1

Hoo-Hslm 3b

4

0

0

0

Mittelstdt 3b

4

1

1

1

Cabrera lf

4

1

1

0

LaRoche dh

4

0

0

0

Chavez dh

3

0

1

0

Padgett 1b

2

0

0

0

Diaz 1b

3

0

0

0

Kain lf

4

0

2

0

Pair c

2

0

1

1

Dean c

4

1

1

0

Hart cf

3

0

0

0

Smart ss

4

0

1

1

Castano ss

3

0

0

0

Vargas 2b

3

0

0

0

Totals

30

1

3

1

Totals

33

3

8

3

Grand Prairie

010

000

000

1

Wichita

110

000

10x

3

E— Hart. LOB— Grand Prairie 4, Wichita 8. 2B— Cabrera, Pair, Ray, Kain, Smart. 3B — Dean. HR — Mittelstaedt (10). SB — Dean.

Grand Prairie

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

Whitmore L,2-7

6 2/3

7

3

2

2

4

Rucker

1/3

0

0

0

0

0

Norris

1

1

0

0

0

1

Wichita

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

Link W,5-0

5

3

1

1

2

7

Boshers

2

0

0

0

0

1

Bennett

1

0

0

0

0

2

Smyth S,1

1

0

0

0

0

0

PB — Pair.

T— 2:21. A— 2,358.

Grand Prairie at Wingnuts

When: 7:05 p.m. Thursday

Where: Lawrence-Dumont Stadium

Records: Grand Prairie 26-50, Wingnuts 44-32

Pitchers: Grand Prairie, RH Brett Wallach (2-6, 3.88 ERA); Wingnuts, RH Scott Richmond (3-1, 1.97)

Radio: KWME, 92.7-FM

Related stories from Wichita Eagle

  Comments