Biloxi Shuckers

Shuckers look to get past road woes, return to MGM Park Friday

JOHN FITZHUGH/SUN HERALD 
 Biloxi Shuckers catcher Jacob Nottingham comes around third to score in the first inning of their opening game of the season at MGM Park in Biloxi on Thursday April 7, 2016.
JOHN FITZHUGH/SUN HERALD Biloxi Shuckers catcher Jacob Nottingham comes around third to score in the first inning of their opening game of the season at MGM Park in Biloxi on Thursday April 7, 2016. SUN HERALD

The Shuckers have struggled on the road recently and that has not been helped by the absence of star center fielder Brett Phillips.

Phillips has missed the last week with a left hamstring strain and he's likely out for the next 6-9 days, according to Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Biloxi, which is on a 13-game road trip, has dropped its last three road series and has one more short road stint before returning home. The Shuckers play at Mobile at 6:35 p.m. on Wednesday to start a three-game series, which includes a 5:05 p.m. doubleheader on Thursday at Hank Aaron Stadium.

The Shuckers finally return to MGM Park for an eight-game home stand starting at 7:10 p.m. Friday against the BayBears.

Healthy Phillips needed

Phillips is still working to cut back on strikeouts at the plate, but he's a difference maker when he's in the lineup. He leads the team with six homers and 26 RBIs while batting .254 with a .340 on base percentage.

Phillips may not quite have the numbers needed for a leadoff man, but he's shown that he can be produce further down in the batting order. His health may determine whether the Shuckers can clinch a first-half South title and a spot in the playoffs.

While Phillips has the best power numbers for Biloxi, Garrett Cooper continues to be the team's best bat. The 6-foot-6 Cooper leads the team with a .302 batting average in 116 at-bats. He ranks second on the team in RBIs with 20 and second in the Southern League in doubles with 14.

The Auburn product isn't a big home run hitter, but you don't have to be when you're batting .300. He's also flexible in the field, able to play both corner positions on the infield and has seen plenty of time in right field this year.

On the mound, left-handed ace Josh Hader continues to roll right along in the Southern League.

Hader seems to get better with each outing and has a scoreless-inning streak of 14 1/3.

He's only 1-1 due to a lack of run support and some relatively short outings, but he leads the Southern League with an ERA of 0.79 in 45 2/3 innings. He has struck out 59 batters compared to 16 walks.

Some speculate that Hader could eventually land in the bullpen at the major league level, but he's proven hard to handle as a starter.

Orf thrives

Nate Orf, who became a fan favorite in Biloxi, is now taking full advantage of his chance at Triple-A Colorado Springs. The former Baylor standout is batting .313 with four doubles, two triples and seven RBIs in 19 games at Triple-A after batting .268 in the same amount of games to start the season at Biloxi.

Orf may be undersized at 5-foot-9, 180 pounds, but he's always going to be a valuable piece of a team thanks to his versatility in the field.

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