The Salt Lake Bees roll into Albuquerque for a four-game series Thursday night in a bit of a funk. The Bees (7-12) are the only team in the Pacific South Division below the Isotopes (9-11).
Hitting has not been the problem, but the pitching has been a bit of a headache for the Los Angeles Angels’ top affiliate. The Bees have a team 4.52 ERA, allowing 209 hits and 59 walks in 182.1 innings.
Right-hander Drew Rucinski (0-0, 5.40 ERA) will make his fourth start of the young season Thursday, hoping to record a decision for the first time. He was the Angels’ preseason No. 18 prospect according to Baseball America.
Friday will see Angels No. 1 prospect Andrew Heaney (3-0, 4.42) take the mound for Salt Lake. Heaney was with the New Orleans Zephyrs last year before he was traded by the Marlins to the Dodgers during the offseason, only to be flipped to the Angels just hours later.
A lefty, Heaney has a fastball that sits in the low 90s, with a plus slider and a plus changeup as well. He has 18 strikeouts and just five walks in 18.1 innings so far.
Another former Zephyr/Marlin, right-hander Alex Sanabia (0-3, 6.10), will start Saturday. Well-traveled lefty Adam Wilk (1-0, 0.52), back from a brief stint with the Angels, gets the nod in Sunday’s matinee finale.
The bullpen has just two saves as a group, with one to lefty Edgar Ibarra (0-1, 2.89) and the other to right-hander Ryan Mattheus (0-2, 3.72). Right-hander Jeremy McBryde (0-0, 2.53) has pitched well in a team-high 10 appearances.
Salt Lake’s catchers came into the season with a reputation for being good defenders but questionable hitters. So far, however, both Jett Bandy (.345/.355/.483, HR, 6 RBI) and Carlos Perez (.373/.413/.593, 2 HR, 10 RBI) have been tearing the cover off the ball.
Three-quarters of the infield have not hit well so far. First baseman Marc Krauss (.186/.314/.356, HR, 4 RBI), second baseman Alex Yarbrough (.213/.247/.293, 7 RBI), the Angels’ No. 8 prospect, and former Rockies shortstop Josh Rutledge (.267/.286/.349, 11 RBI) are scuffling.
The only infielder off to a good start at the plate is third baseman Kyle Kubitza (.333/.383/.540, HR, 8 RBI). The preseason No. 10 prospect for the Atlanta Braves, he was picked up a trade by the Angels.
As for the outfield, it has gotten crowded with the recent additions of Efren Navarro (sent down from Anaheim) and Gary Brown, who was claimed off waivers from the St. Louis Cardinals. So far Navarro (.414/.433/.621, HR, 4 RBI), who can also play first base as well as both corner spots, has hit better than Brown (.158/.190/.211, RBI), a former San Francisco Giants center field prospect.
Center fielder Daniel Robertson (.221/.282/.299, HR, 6 RBI), a former Texas Ranger, has struggled offensively so far. Right fielder Alfredo Marte (.295/.338/.410, HR, 7 RBI), a former Arizona Diamondback, has swung the bat better.
Game times for the series at 6:35 p.m. Thursday, 7:05 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1:35 p.m. Sunday. It will be the first meeting of the season for the two teams.