Roger Brown's On Baseball: Nolan's home-field advantage
WHAT'S the best part of playing minor league baseball in Manchester? For New Hampshire Fisher Cats shortstop Kevin Nolan it's the home cooking.
Nolan grew up in Nashua and reclaimed his bedroom in his parents' Nashua home shortly after he was assigned to begin the season in Double-A. He still gets to eat the dinners prepared by his mother, Brenda.
"I usually have leftovers though, because I get home so late," Nolan said. "The room still looks the same. Same posters on the wall. My parents haven't changed a thing since I left.
"It's nice because sometimes at the beginning of the year we're searching for a place to live for the season. Trying to find apartments and stuff like that. This year I go home and go to my own room. It's been less stressful. But I'm on my own for laundry and all that stuff."
Nolan, 25, entered Thursday's game against Bowie hitting .261 in 95 games. He ranked fourth on the team in home runs (eight) and third in RBIs (46). He collected three hits and had the game-winning RBI in Wednesday's 2-1 triumph over Bowie.
Nolan was a four-year starter at shortstop for Nashua High School (and then Nashua South), where he was also on the varsity basketball team. He played college baseball at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C.
He said another benefit of playing in his home state is that it allows his friends and family see him play.
"My parents and my sister have come to all the home games," he said.
This season is Nolan's second as a starting shortstop. He was used in a utility role during his first three professional seasons.
He's hit fifth in the batting order for most of the season, but batted third Thursday.
"I'm just glad to be playing shortstop in Double-A," Nolan said. "There's been some ups and downs. It's a long season, but August has been good so far. I've been swinging it pretty good, finding the holes. I've learned a lot in my first year in Double-A. It's been a good year.
"I'm very fortunate to have this opportunity close to home."
STARTING OVER: Kyle Drabek, the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year in 2010, made his second rehabilitation start with the Fisher Cats on Thursday night. He held Richmond to one hit — a solo home run — in four innings in his first start.
Thursday's game was Drabek's 10th overall start since he had Tommy John surgery for the second time. He was 14-9 with a 2.94 ERA in 27 starts with the Fisher Cats in 2010 before he made his major-league debut on Sept. 15 of that season.
Toronto obtained Drabek from Philadelphia as part of the trade for Roy Halladay in 2009. The Phillies selected him in the first round (18th overall) of the 2006 draft.
Drabek has an 8-15 record and a 5.34 ERA with 110 strikeouts in 167 innings during parts of three seasons with Toronto.
EXTRA EFFORT: Third baseman Andy Burns was hitting .222 in 40 games with the Fisher Cats entering Thursday's contest, but 21 of his 37 hits have been for extra bases. Burns had 14 doubles, two triples and five home runs.
Burns became the first New Hampshire player to hit two home runs in the same inning when he went deep twice against Binghamton on July 7.