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Wilson, Pigs look to turn things around

Last season, Weston Wilson could do no wrong.

He hit an IronPigs record 31 home runs and joined the 30/30 club by swiping 32 bases. It was a season where every swing he took seemed to send the ball either over the fence or onto a safe piece of the Coca-Cola Park turf. He also made it to the majors and launched his first MLB home run in his first MLB at-bat with the Phillies, growing his legend even more.

This season is something different.

Nothing seems to be falling in. He hits the ball hard, it’s right at somebody. He hits a little slow roller; someone will be there to make a big play and throw him out at first. The end result is that he is batting just .184 with the IronPigs with just two home runs.

Such is the story when you spend your life hitting a round ball with a round piece of wood. Usually these things even out, but perhaps the baseball gods are making Wilson pay for the good fortune he had last season.

Enter Kody Clemens.

While he has always been a decent player, Clemens was primarily thought of as being the son of Roger Clemens. The elder Clemens earned the nickname The Rocket, while Kody was given the name “The Missile.”

Like Wilson, Clemens had a strong season in 2023, hitting 18 home runs with Lehigh Valley and earning time in Philadelphia where he hit .230 and added four more home runs in 49 games. He currently stands at three home runs in 23 games with the Pigs and has equaled the power output with the Phillies in just 11 games, including hitting a game-tying home run against the Nationals on Saturday and then a go-ahead two-run double on Sunday.

Clemens is in the majors thanks to an injury to shortstop Trea Turner and is getting both pinch-hitting opportunities and a few starts against right-handers at second base. In those occasions, Bryson Stott shifts over to play shortstop, the position he played in the minors.

Overall, Clemens is still just a .204 hitter in 117 major league games, but he is starting to show his promise. The Phillies had picked him up from the Detroit Tigers in the deal that brought reliever Gregory Soto to Philadelphia and sent three former IronPigs, infielder Nick Maton, outfielder Matt Vierling, and catcher Donny Sands to Motor City. It’s a trade that the Phillies have definitely won even with Soto struggling to find his command at times out of the bullpen.

Last season, Maton hit just .173 for the Tigers and is now playing at Triple-A Norfolk for the Baltimore Orioles. Sands played three games in the majors with the Phillies in 2022 and has not been back since. He became a minor league free agent and is now playing at Triple-A Sacramento in the Giants organization after just recently signing there. Vierling has been the only piece of the puzzle who has given the Tigers any useable part out of the trade as he hit .261 with 10 home runs last season as an everyday outfielder and is batting .261 again this season with three home runs in 42 games.

Had Wilson been anywhere near his numbers from last season he would have made the Phillies decision on who to bring to the Phillies a little tougher. For now though, the 29-year old is still trying to figure out what he has to do to get some hits to fall in. The good news is that Wilson has hits in five of his last seven games and after batting just .154 in April, he has at least climbed to .222 in May. For now though, it’s Clemens getting his time in Philadelphia and hoping to find a way to stick with the big league club when Turner returns from the IL.

THE STRUGGLE IS REAL… Lehigh Valley snapped its seven-game losing streak with a win against Syracuse in the penultimate game of their six-game series at Coca-Cola Park. From there, the Pigs rolled into Norfolk and won the first three games of the series, including a doubleheader sweep before losing the final three games of the series. The end result is a 16-26 record that has the IronPigs mired in last place in the International League East standings, a full 12 games behind the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, the Yankees Triple-A affiliate. This week, Lehigh Valley is home to host Syracuse.

Press photo by Cheryl Pursell Kody Clemens, shown here with the IronPigs, has been a solid add to the Phillies roster with Trea Turner injured.