The recovery rate from Tommy John surgery has reached the point where it's often taken for granted. The news of the elbow replacement surgery is often viewed as a 12-to-15 month setback in development time, but little else.
The Diamondbacks' top prospect Jarrod Parker is offering a reminder that the road back from TJ isn't a breeze. As Ben Badler reported last week (for subscribers), Parker's velocity is already back to nearly what it was before he went under the knife. But his command and his slider are not nearly back to 100 percent yet.
The Mississippi Braves took advantage of that on Sunday. Parker allowed seven runs on seven hits and three walks in only 3 1/3 innings. Without the slider that is normally a strikeout pitch, Parker was held to one strikeout on Sunday. He gave up a three-run home run in the first and a two-run home run in the fourth that helped chase him.
Command and the secondary stuff are often the last things to return to normal after elbow surgery–it takes more time for the feel to come back than the velocity–so this isn't a long-term cause for concern. But that doesn't make it any more fun for Parker.
While Parker was having another start to forget, his Mobile teammate Paul Goldschmidt added to his amazing start. Goldschmidt slugged his sixth home run of the season, to jump back into a tie for the minor league lead. Goldschmidt hit a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth with two out, cutting the final margin of Mobile's loss to Mississippi to 14-10.
Goldschmidt's home run on Sunday came against righthander Brunino Proveda, but he's still even scarier to lefthanders. He only has seven plate appearances against lefties, but on those he's walked twice and homered three times for a 3.114 OPS.
"He stays back and in a strong position to hit," Mobile manager Turner Ward said. "He's using all fields–he's hit a home run to left field, center field, right-center field. When you have a guy who's that strong who can use the whole park, it makes the pitchers' job a little bit more difficult (and think), 'How do I pitch this guy?' He hasn't been missing the pitches he's been getting, and he's been putting them in play hard."
• Shoulder surgery is considered much scarier than Tommy John surgery, but Royals lefthander Noel Arguelles is having few problems in his first two starts in his comeback from a shoulder injury. After allowing only two hits (but striking out only one) in his pro debut last week, Arguelles pitched four more shutout innings in his second outing for high Class A Wilmington. This time he picked up five strikeouts while allowing two hits and walking one.
• Astros' No. 13 prospect Telvin Nash went 5-for-6 with three home runs and a double for low Class A Lexington on Sunday. It's as good a single-game performance as you're likely to see all year. But he was equalled by a teammate. Catcher Chris Wallace a 16th-round pick out of Houston last year, also homered three times and doubled. He also drove in nine runs, one off of the South Atlantic single-game record.
• Tanner Scheppers missed the first week of the season as he continued to recover from lower back pain. He was healthy enough to return to Triple-A Round Rock on Saturday, but the Rangers returned him to the disabled list after his start with the same injury. In his first start of the season, the Rangers' righthander allowed four hits, three runs and struck out three in two innings of work. Scheppers also had a little trouble controlling the running game–he allowed three stolen bases out of only four baserunners.
• Speaking of Rangers' pitching prospects, high Class A Myrtle Beach lefty Robbie Erlin's first start of the season wasn't awful (four innings, three runs, one walk, six strikeouts), but it was poor by Erlin's high standards. Friday night was much more along the lines of what Erlin expects. Adam Milligan's third-inning home run was the only run and only hit that Erlin allowed in six solid innings of work. He struck out seven while walking one.
• Erlin's outing spoiled the return to the field of Lynchburg manager Luis Salazar. Salazar was coming back from a serious head injury that occured when he was struck in the face by a foul ball line drive off the bat of Brian McCann during spring training. Minor league managers pull double duty as both manager and third base coach, and while Salazar is limited to the dugout for now, he hopes to be coaching third base again before long. While the Hillcats lost, it was a pretty good outing for Braves righthander Arodys Vizcaino (5 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 Ks).
• Weather is something that Northern clubs are always having to deal with in April, but there aren't many days like Saturday. The entire Eastern League schedule was postponed by inclement weather.
• Wily Mo Pena has been around long enough that it may seem shocking to realize he's only 29 years old. Obviously that's way too old to call him a prospect, but when Darnell McDonald can turn into a steady big leaguer as a 32-year-old, Pena may have a chance to go from a AAAA player to major league contributor again.
Pena's chances of putting up gaudy numbers have been helped a lot by his decision to sign with the Diamondbacks, who placed him in Triple-A Reno. Pena extended his season-opening hitting streak to nine games on Sunday with a 3-for-5 day against Colorado Springs. But he didn't homer, which ended his home run streak at three games.
Pena's home run on Saturday was his sixth of the season, putting him in the minor league lead. Two of them have come at Salt Lake, two at Colorado Springs and two at home in Reno.
• When the Yankees placed Phil Hughes on the disabled list, Bartolo Colon moved into the rotation, but Kevin Millwood is getting ready in Double-A to step in if Colon falters. It's hard to argue with that he did on Sunday. Millwood did walk four batters and was working in the mid-to-high 80s, but otherwise he was in complete command against Harrisburg. Millwood carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning–Tyler Moore broke it up with a single for Harrisburg's lone hit in a scheduled seven-inning game.
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