Perhaps it was too much rest. Triple-A Durham righthander Jeremy Hellickson, who had pitched just two innings in the Futures Game since July 5, tied a career high with five walks in an 8-3 loss to Columbus in a matchup of the two best teams in the International League.
Hellickson had his turn pushed back around the all-star break and struck out six but wasn't his usual sharp self. He walked the bass loaded in the fourth inning and lasted just 3 1/3 innings. His velocity was fine but he never quite got a feel for the strike zone with his fastball, which peaked at 94 mph, or his plus changeup. Nick Weglarz hit a solo homer off Hellickson in the second and wound up 2-for-3 with two walks, a double and the homer. Reliever Zach Putnam, a fifth-round pick in 2008 out of Michigan, made his Triple-A debut and threw two scoreless innings, striking out three. His fastball sat in the 92-94 mph range, complemented by a slider and split-finger fastball.
• Columbus, the Indians' top farm club, features a lot of the personnel that made Double-A Akron our Team of the Year in 2009, including manager Mike Sarbaugh. The 43-year-old skipper has won league titles in the Eastern (’09), Carolina (’06) and New York-Penn (’04) leagues.
The Clippers sport the IL's best record, largely because they lead the league in runs scored. Can they keep up the pace after losing the likes of Carlos Santana, Michael Brantley, Matt LaPorta and Jason Donald to big league callups? The recent play from the likes of players like Weglarz, Jared Goedert (.316, 16 HR in 152 Triple-A at-bats), Cord Phelps (.390 with the Clippers in 105 at-bats) and Josh Rodriguez suggests that they just might be able to do so.
• Gwinnett first baseman Freddie Freeman connected for his 12th home run of the season as part of a 2-for-4 night. He's batting .291/.352/.489 through 313 at-bats as a 20-year-old in Triple-A.
• Mariners first-base prospect Rich Poythress homered twice yesterday for high Class A High Desert and drove in seven runs, but the Mavericks still lost 17-11 to visiting Inland Empire. Such is life in High Desert, where Mavericks pitchers allow an average of 5.7 runs per game. The 22-year-old Poythress, a second-round pick from Georgia last year, leads the California League with 80 RBIs and has hit 18 home runs, placing him in a three-way tie for fourth.
• As the season stretches in to late July, it can be illustrative to see which prospects continue to hit for power in the second half. Your extra-base hits leaders in Triple-A for the month of July include Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia, who leads the way with 13 (.900 slugging), Indians third baseman Jared Goedert with 11 (.683), Mariners center fielder Greg Halman with 11 (.719) and a little farther down the list in sixth place: Red Sox first baseman Lars Anderson, who is batting .357/.439/.571 with eight doubles and two triples in 56 at-bats this month.
At the Double-A level, Mets center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis leads the way with 17 extra-base hits—that's 12 doubles and five homers, good for a .775 slugging—and Twins center fielder Joe Benson is fourth with 13 (.652).
• The Rangers have moved righthander Tanner Scheppers back to the bullpen. The 2009 supplemental first-round pick made six starts for Triple-A Oklahoma City and was knocked around a bit, giving up 34 hits in 24.2 innings for a .330 opponents average and 5.84 ERA. He allowed 20 hits in his last two starts, covering just nine innings, and hadn't lasted five innings yet. However, his upper-90s fastball helped him strike out 27 in 19 relief innings at the same level, after starting the season with 19 strikeouts and no walks in 11 relief innings for Double-A Frisco.
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