Tough start dooms Chukars

Eric Skoglund

The Idaho Falls Chukars won games by the book Thursday and Friday, using solid pitching, sound defense and timely hitting to earn 6-2 and 9-0 wins over the Grand Junction Rockies.

The Chukars will want to tear up the book from Saturday’s game against the Rockies, a 6-3 defeat in front of 2,247 fans at Melaleuca Field that featured a tough outing from starter Eric Skoglund, some shoddy defense and seven runners left on base.

Skoglund, a 6-foot-7 left-hander who was Kansas City’s third-round pick in this year’s draft, couldn’t recover after allowing a home run to Renaldo Jenkins with one out in the second inning. Skoglund, who is on a strict pitch count after throwing 110 innings at the University of Central Florida this spring, got an even quicker hook than expected Saturday after following the home run with a four-pitch walk, an RBI double to the left field wall and an RBI single to right.

“It’s his second outing in professional baseball,” Idaho Falls manager Omar Ramirez said. “The first time he pitched good against the same team (two shutout innings, two hits). The second time he struggled. Hopefully, he does a better job the next time out.”

Skoglund was relieved by fellow college draftee Eric Stout, who got the final two outs in the second before giving up two runs on three hits in the third. Both are trying to transition from life on campus to the daily grind of professional baseball.

And it’s not always easy.

“It’s a process. It’s a progression,” Ramirez said. “They understand that.”

One guy in the third year of that process is first baseman/outfielder Alexis Rivera. The Puerto Rico native hit .269 with four home runs for the Chukars last summer, and is back for another season in Idaho Falls. He’s struggled to start 2014, hitting just .222 following Saturday’s 1-for-4 performance. His one hit Saturday was a home run to right field in the sixth, a sign he could be ready to break out.

“Sometimes they try to do too much when they’re back in the same league,” Ramirez said. “That’s our job to tell him not to worry about it. Go out there and start thinking about line drives, start driving the ball gap to gap, and that’s the only thing you need to do. We don’t tell these guys they have to hit home runs to get out of here. Just get a pitch and hit it hard somewhere.”

The Rockies and Chukars wrap up their four-game series at Melaleuca Field at 4 p.m. today. The Chukars then begin a quick three-game road trip at Ogden before returning home Thursday to start a four-game set against the Raptors.

CHUKARS CHATTER: Kansas City Royals first-round pick Brandon Finnegan, drafted 17th overall earlier this month, signed for a bonus worth $2,200,600, the full amount for his draft slot, the Kansas City Star reported Saturday … Finnegan, a 5-foot-11 left-handed pitcher from TCU, will begin his professional career in Single-A Wilmington sometime next month. … The Rockies have stolen 41 bases in 59 attempts heading into Saturday’s game. They have five players with four or more steals, the most from one team with that many steals in the minor leagues.