Friday, June 04, 2010

SPORTS>>Travelers hit, but will miss departed slugger

Leader sports editor

There were fireworks outside and inside Dickey-Stephens Park during the Arkansas Travelers’ recent home-stand in North Little Rock.

The Travelers used a variety of start times to work around the Memorial Day weekend and Riverfest crowds, suffered a one-sided beating and pulled out a couple of close victories while losing one of their most productive offensive players.

Texas League home runs leader Paul McAnulty, the Travs’ designated hitter who had 14 homers, was promoted to Class AAA Salt Lake in the wake of an injury to Kendry Morales, first baseman of the parent Los Angeles Angels.

Morales broke his left leg jumping onto home plate after hitting a game-winning grand slam in the Angels’ 5-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners last Saturday. Robb Quinlan was called up from Salt Lake to replace Morales and McAnulty was promoted Sunday to replace Quinlan.

The Angels promoted Roberto Lopez from Class A Rancho Cucamonga to replace McAnulty, and in his first Class AA game, Lopez hit a home run, as did second baseman Ryan Mount, to lift Arkansas to a 2-1 victory over Corpus Christi on Sunday.

Arkansas followed that by squeaking out a 4-3, Memorial Day victory when catcher and former Arkansas Razorback Brian Walker hit a ninth-inning single to score Ivan Contreras with the game-winning run. The ballpark stayed open after the game, which started at 2 p.m., to allow fans to watch the fireworks that concluded Riverfest on the banks of the Arkansas River.

The series-ending victories helped ease the sting of a 16-4 loss to San Antonio on Friday, when the Missions hit four home runs and Arkansas pitchers walked 14 in a game that began at 6 p.m.

Corpus Christi arrived for a 4 p.m. game on Saturday and beat Arkansas 6-1 on an afternoon that included an eighth-inning rain delay of close to a half hour. The precipitation soaked the field before the grounds crew could get the tarp on, and after the rain stopped and the tarp was removed it was decided the field was too wet to continue and the game was shortened.

McAnulty, who spent parts of four seasons with the National League’s San Diego Padres, hit .331 and had 27 RBI with Arkansas. He split time last year between Class AAA Pawtucket, in the Boston Red Sox organization, and Class AAA Colorado Springs, with the Colorado Rockies.

Lopez made his debut and helped the Travs to their one-run victory in the 5:30 p.m. game Sunday and Walker followed with his Monday heroics to send the Travelers off to San Antonio and Corpus Christi on an up note.

Bad weather and the good pitching followed the Travelers on the road. At San Antonio on Wednesday night, Missions pitcher Cory Luebke held the Travelers to one hit in his first start as San Antonio won a rain-shortened game, 1-0.