Photo: Burlington Bees pitcher Hector Yan has thrown 89 1/3 innings this season, almost 60 more than last season. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)
By John Bohnenkamp
Jack Howell had his first-of-the-month meeting with his team on Thursday.
The message the Burlington Bees manager had for his team was simple — finish strong.
“This will be about taking care of yourself and finishing strong,” Howell said. “Sometimes a season can be make-or-break in the last month, maybe the last week or 10 days, when you figure something out. Or you let your guard down, and end on a bad note. Be very careful to finish strong, and stay with the process, and go from there.”
Twenty-eight games remain in the season, and the Bees are starting to show some end-of-the-season blues. They’re on a seven-game losing streak, their longest of the season, and sit at 54-58 overall, their worst record of the season.
Howell said he didn’t want to call August, “the dog days,” but he knows it’s been a long season for his team, especially for players who have a.) been here since Opening Day and b.) are playing their first season in a full-season minor league.
A look at the numbers show that:
• Infielder Justin Jones played 48 games last season, and is at 71 this season.
• Infielder Kevin Maitan has played in 99 games in 2019, compared to 63 last season and 42 in 2017.
• Outfielder Nonie Williams has played in 93 games this season, compared to 40 last season, 43 in 2017 and 38 in 2017.
• Outfielder Francisco Del Valle is at 95 games, 30 more than last season.
• Outfielder Jordyn Adams, the Los Angeles Angels’ first-round pick in the 2018 MLB draft, has played in 90 games this season. He played 29 last season. Adams is currently on the injured list.
• Catcher Harrison Wenson is in his second season with the Bees, but has played in three more games this season — 64 as opposed to 61 in 2018.
The numbers difference is just as large among pitchers.
• Luis Alvarado has pitched 79 ⅔ innings this season, compared to 22 last season.
• Cole Duensing, currently on the injured list, has thrown 81 innings this season, compared to 52 ⅓ in 2018.
• Robinson Pina has pitched 90 ⅓ innings this season, as opposed to 44 last season.
• Kyle Tyler has pitched 92 ⅓ innings this season after throwing 24 ⅔ last season.
• Hector Yan has thrown 89 ⅓ innings this season, compared to 29 ⅔ last season.
Because of the long season, the pre-game routine is different heading into the final month.
Howell said work ramped up after the early cold part of the season. Batting practice time on the field would also include infielders taking a long session of ground balls.
Now, Howell said, there isn’t as much work. For example, in Tuesday’s game at Quad Cities, the Bees hit in the batting cage on the field, but did little infield work. On Wednesday, there was no cage hitting, but more infield work.
“When you’re in the second half, and there’s heat and humidity, and as much as these guys have been swinging the bat, you alternate,” Howell said. “A lot of the work with ground balls is select work, guys working on their set-ups or making back-hand plays, things like that.”
Howell understands the exhaustion — the Bees are currently nearing the end of a stretch of 15 road games with only five home games, and there is an upcoming 10-game road trip.
“If you haven’t played a hundred games in a season, with all of the buses and the commutes,” he said. “But other teams are doing the same thing. We just have to finish strong.”
THE MONTH THAT WAS
A look at the Bees’ month of July.
Batting average: .236
Opponents’ batting average: .222
Notes: Infielder Adrian Rondon batted .368 in nine games. … Outfielder Francisco Del Valle batted .301 with an .846 OPS in 27 games. … Parker Joe Robinson went 3-0. … Pitcher Kyle Tyler was 2-1 with an 0.96 ERA. … Hector Yan was 2-1 with a 3.04 ERA. … Reliever Ed Del Rosario went 2-0.
THE WEEK THAT WAS
Batting average: .210
Opponents’ batting average: .269
Opponents’ ERA: 2.29
Notes: Infielder Livan Soto batted .391 and has a 6-game hitting streak. … Outfielder Ryan Vega hit .318.
THE WEEK AHEAD
• At Cedar Rapids (6:35 p.m. Monday and Tuesday) — The Bees close a four-game series, and the season series, against the Kernels, who have won 12 of the 16 games between the two teams.
• Wisconsin (6:30 p.m. Wednesday-Friday) — It’s the last appearance of the season for the Timber Rattlers at Community Field. The two teams have split the first eight games.
• Kane County (6:30 p.m. Saturday and Monday, 2 p.m. Sunday) — It’s also the last appearance of the season for the Cougars at Community Field. The Cougars have a 7-6 lead in the season series.