The Athletics saw early this year that Michael Choice's swing needed toning down. Choice had always been able to hit for power, but his strikeouts were a concern as he whiffed 66 times in 195 at-bats through the end of May. Since then, Choice has steadily cut down on the Ks while his power has remained just as potent.
Choice had a career-night Tuesday for high Class A Stockton, going 5-for-6 with a home run, two doubles, a stolen base and five RBIs. Choice has now homered in four consecutive games and five times in his last seven, upping his season's total to 21, the second highest figure in the California League. Granted, the last two of those homers have come in High Desert, one of the minors' renowned launching pads, but Choice's power is no fluke.
Choice raised his average 11 points in one night, as it now stands at .267/.367/.540 in 311 at-bats. He's been willing to take his walks when pitchers won't come after him as well, having drawn 44 free passes in 76 games.
Choice's recent hot streak has helped Stockton reel off a stretch of 20 wins in 21 games, dating back to June 12. The Ports pounded High Desert 17-4 last night, but blowouts have been the exception rather than the rule during their streak, as 14 of the 20 wins have come by one or two runs.
AROUND THE MINORS
• One other note from the Stockton-High Desert game was that the Ports' starting pitcher was righthander James Simmons, Oakland's 2007 first-round pick who's back on the mound after a long recovery from shoulder problems. Simmons, 24, was making his second appearance with Stockton and fourth of the season after he missed the entire 2010 season and the first-half of 2011. Prior to making his 2011 debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League on June 21, Simmons hadn't pitched in a game since making six appearances in the Arizona Fall League in 2009. Simmons tossed 3 1/3 scoreless innings for Stockton on June 30, but High Desert got to him last night for four runs on eight hits in 2 2/3.
• High Class A San Jose (Giants) teammates Tommy Joseph and Gary Brown each had big nights. Joseph homered twice, giving him nine for the year, and had four RBIs in going 2-for-3 with a walk. Joseph's .246/.289/.403 line in 305 at-bats isn't overwhelming, but on the other hand, he's a 19-year-old catcher, the third youngest player in the Cal League. He's also riding an eight-game hitting streak and is coming off a solid June in which he hit .297/.340/.484 in 91 at-bats.
Meanwhile, Brown had to be one of the happiest hitters to see June end. The 22-year-old center fielder was hitting .369/.437/.530 at the end of May before putting up a .202/.266/.313 line in June. July has looked considerably more promising for Brown. He went 2-for-4 with his seventh home run and a double last night and has strung together three straight multi-hit games, raising his line for the year to .323/.389/.484 in 337 at-bats.
• It took Padres center fielder Blake Tekotte a little time to find his rhythm again after a brief big league callup in late May. The 24-year-old was hitting .291/.410/.486 for Double-A San Antonio at the time he was summoned to San Diego. But after going 3-for-19 in 10 big league games, Tekotte came back to the Missions and went 6-for-27 in his first eight games back.
The speedy Tekotte has gotten back on track since, batting .328/.438/.672 after June 17. Tekotte packs some punch in his 5-foot-11, 175 pound frame as well, as he homered twice last night, giving him 12 for the year, as part of a 4-for-5 effort against Tulsa. He mixed in his 24th stolen base of the season also. His line for the season climbed to .292/.420/.530 in 236 Double-A at-bats.
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