The Cardinals moved righthander Joe Kelly to the rotation last year, but it was supposed to just be temporary. The way Kelly's pitched lately, though, it might be time to start getting comfortable.
Kelly, a third round pick from UC Riverside in 2009, has been almost untouchable lately for high Class A Palm Beach. The 22-year-old carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning last night against Dunedin, the second straight start he's held an opponent hitless for seven innings after he did it last week against Brevard County. That no-hit bid was broken up by a one-out single in the eighth. Kelly got one out closer Tuesday, but Dunedin's Kevin Ahrens spoiled the proceedings with a two-out single up the middle. Kelly was promptly removed from the game once the no-hitter was broken up.
Kelly has had bouts with wildness, and he issued five walks on Tuesday. He allowed Dunedin to score a run without benefit of a hit in the sixth inning thanks to a hit batter followed by three walks. Nevertheless, Kelly has allowed just two hits in his last 15 innings of work, and his sinking fastball has helped him induce 24 groundball outs in those two starts. He also struck out a season-high nine on Tuesday. For the season, he's improved to 3-2, 2.67 in 54 innings.
AROUND THE MINORS
• It's been a streaky first couple months for Marlins 2010 first-round pick Christian Yelich. He hit just .189/.318/.216 through his first 10 games for low Class A Greensboro, then he turned into one of the South Atlantic League's hottest hitters, batting .391/.468/.623 in 69 at-bats from April 18 to May 10, the third highest average in the league over that span. The middle of May brought another cold spell. Yelich's average peaked at .321 at the end his hot streak but has since sunk back down to .261/.351/.394 in 165 at-bats.
Yelich, 19, has made some headway the last couple days though. He went 2-for-4 with two doubles on Memorial Day, his first multi-hit game since May 10, and then went 3-for-4 with his fourth home run of the year on Tuesday. Yelich's turnaround may have something to do with the Grasshoppers coming home from a road trip. Although Yelich has a mature approach for his age—22 walks in 45 games—which should play anywhere, he's been far more comfortable hitting at home than on the road. Greensboro's park is a noted bandbox, but his four homers have been divided equally, two at home and two away. However, his OPS at home (1.026) is double what it is on the road (.500), and his average is 200 points higher (.368 vs. .169).
• Mariners righthander Taijuan Walker, a supplemental first-round pick last year, gave up seven earned runs in 6 1/3 innings over his first two starts after being called up from extended spring training in early May, but he's been almost untouchable since. In four starts since then, Walker has permitted just three earned over 23 2/3 innings. Walker, the low Class A Midwest League's youngest pitcher at age 18—he doesn't turn 19 until August—had the best outing of his very young career yesterday for Clinton, tossing 7 2/3 shutout innings at Fort Wayne. He struck out six and allowed just three hits and one walk. Walker was denied the victory when his bullpen couldn't hold a 3-0 lead, but he did lower his ERA to 3.00 in 30 innings. For a pitcher so short on age and pitching experience—Walker was also a star basketball player in high school—the righthander's start is very impressive.
• We know the power is in there for Jesus Montero, but once again it's taken a little time to show through. The 21-year-old Yankees catching prospect hit just three home runs through the end of May with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last year, though he still ended up with 21 for the season. He was on an identical pace before hitting his fourth of the season yesterday. Unlike last season, when Montero hit just .229 through the end of May, he's been solid at the bat despite a lack of power, hitting .309/.344/.438 in 178 at-bats so far this year. He's also got an 11-game hitting streak going. He went 2-for-5 with the homer and a triple, his first of the season and sixth of his career, against Indianapolis yesterday.
• Speed is supposed to be Bryce Harper's weakest tool, though we use the term weakest loosely here—it's still at least average. Going 2-for-3 with a double made for a fairly routine day the plate for Harper yesterday for low Class A Hagerstown, but he decided to put on a show on the bases as well. Harper had been just 7-for-11 stealing bases before yesterday, but he swiped three against Kannapolis for the first multi-stolen base game of his career, including one sequence in which he stole second and then third base in the same inning. After cooling off a bit in mid- to late May, Harper hits in five of his last six games to bring his line for the year back up to .331/.418/.591 in 181 at-bats.
• Sticking with the Nationals system, Brad Peacock keeps rolling. The righthander limited New Hampshire to one run on two hits over seven innings for Double-A Harrisburg on Tuesday. He walked three and struck out seven, moving him into a tie, for now, with Matt Moore for second most in the minors with 82. Even more impressively, Peacock has given up all of 36 hits in 62 innings this year, good for an Eastern League best .166 opponents' average. Peacock's record stands at 7-1, 2.03, and he's allowed two runs or less in nine of 10 outings.
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