Tuesday, April 13, 2010

SPORTS >> Travelers leave road, take to familiar turf

Leader sports editor

The Arkansas Travelers have gotten to know their roomy team bus during the first road trip of the Texas League season, but now they are back to where the real elbow room can be found.

After going 3-3 in a swing through Texas, the Travelers start their first homestand of the year against the Midland RockHounds at 7:10 p.m. Thursday at Dickey-Stephens Park.

Arkansas is affiliated with the American League West’s Los Angeles Angels.

Travelers left-hander Jayson Miller (0-1) will start Thursday’s game against Midland left-hander Carlos Hernandez (0-0).

Arkansas was swept at Midland then swept three games from the Frisco Rough Riders in a series that concluded with an 8-1 victory at Dr. Pepper Ballpark in Frisco, Texas, on Tuesday.

Catcher Brian Walker hit two home runs, designated hitter Jeremy Moore hit one and center fielder Clay Fuller, brother of former Travs outfielder Cody Fuller, hit a seventh-inning grand slam.

Arkansas starter Tim Kiely (1-1), who took the opening-night loss at Midland, pitched six strong innings Thursday. Kiely scattered five hits, gave up one earned run, walked one and struck out three. Blake Beavan (1-1) took the loss for Frisco.

“This year we have some speed at the top and bottom,” Travs manager Bobby Magallanes said. “And I think we’re going to be the type of team that’s going to do the little things.”

While the offense, especially the power hitters, came to life in the final game at Frisco, the fireworks might be muted somewhat in spacious Dickey-Stephens Park. Center field depth is 400 feet with a 360-foot gap in left-center field and a 375-foot gap in right-center.

A new home-run basket in left and left-center gives right-handed sluggers more of a fighting chance to hit the ball out, and a new yellow line atop the basket and the center-field wall should help eliminate disputed home runs.