See also: Today's Baseball America Prospect Report
See also: Monday's Daily Dish
Yankees righthander Darrell Rasner did all he could to impress his new employers Monday, striking out 11 in seven innings and giving up one run while making his first Triple-A start.
Rasner, claimed off waivers from the Nationals in January, threw 61 of his 86 pitches for strikes, relying on command of an 88-92 mph fastball. He consistently got ahead of batters, enabling him to go to his solid-average curveball and change.
"I felt good. It's nice to start the season that way," Rasner told the Columbus Dispatch. "I tried to keep them off balance."
Because Rasner, 25, was able to consistently spot his pitches on the corners, some observers believe he may have benefited from a wider-than-normal strike zone by the replacement umpire. Charlotte manager Razor Shines was ejected from the game in the sixth inning.
Minor League Baseball'™s regular umpires are on strike, and the names of replacement umpires are not being released to the public.
And Darrell wasn'™t even the only Rasner trying to impress a new employer. Cousin Jacob, a 2005 seventh-round pick by the Rangers, tossed five innings for low Class A Clinton in his full-season debut Sunday, allowing three unearned runs on six hits while striking out three. Rasner got the loss, however, in the LumberKings'™ 4-2 loss to Burlington.
Both cousins committed to the University of Nevada, but unlike Darrell, Jacob opted to sign out of high school. He went 1-5, 8.37 last summer in the Rookie-level Arizona League.
• Pirates outfielder Adam Boeve, 25, is off to a hot start, with five straight multi-hit games at Double-A Altoona. Boeve (which rhymes with '˜groovy'™), a 12th-round pick in 2003 out of Northern Iowa, is hitting .550/.550/.750 with a homer and five RBIs in 20 at-bats on the young season. "He got to spend five games in big league camp this spring and I really think that helped his confidence," Pirates farm director Brian Graham said. "That carried over to the start of this season. But one other thing that really helps is having veteran hitters around him (in Altoona). He'™s working on pitch recognition and controlling the strike zone and having veteran guys in the lineup around him will only help his development as a hitter."
• Indians lefthander Chuck Lofgren earned his first high Class A win Monday in Kinston. Lofgren, a fourth-rounder in 2004, allowed just two hits over five shutout innings and struck out eight in the K-Tribe'™s 4-1 win against Wilmington. Lofgren, who hails from famed high school baseball powerhouse Serra (Calif.) High, set the tone early by striking out the side in the first'"a side that consisted of Jacoby Ellsbury, Jeff Corsaletti and Jed Lowrie. "The first two innings I was using my fastball over the outside part of the plate, but then I started to establish it over the inner half," Lofgren said. "So I was pretty happy about that. I was able to use my changeup and curveball to keep guys off-balance. They have some hitters in that lineup. Growing up, I used to watch Jed Lowrie when he was at Stanford, so to have the ability to face him was awesome. Striking him out was even better."
• Kyle Blanks is the biggest thing in the Midwest League–literally. If he keeps hitting like he is, he will be the biggest thing figuratively as well.
The 6-foot-6, 290-pounder was 3-for-4 last night with two doubles for Fort Wayne, and on the season the Padres prospect is 6-for-16 with five extra-base hits. He also has only one strikeout, a promising sign for a player who fanned 49 times in 164 at-bats in the Rookie-level Arizona League in 2005.
The 19-year-old signed as a draft-and-follow after the Padres took him in the 42nd round out of Yavapai (Ariz.) JC. Despite his size, Blanks is graceful around the bag at first as he was named national juco defensive player of the year.
Blanks is not the only promising first baseman at Fort Wayne. The low Class A club also features Daryl Jones, a 6-foot-3, 200-pounder who was nabbed in the fourth round out of Westchester High in Los Angeles in 2004. Having hit just four home runs in 404 pro at-bats entering this season, the 19-year-old already has shown newfound power with two this season while going 8-for-14 with a double.
Fort Wayne manager Randy Ready has said that the pair will rotate, with one playing first and the other at DH, and that is exactly how it has worked through four games.
"We both can swing, and we both can field, so in my opinion, it'™s a good combo," Blanks told The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette.
His partner in crime shares Blanks' optimism.
"It'™s going to work out great," Jones told The Gazette. "It'™s a long season. It'™ll give us both time to rest, and it'™ll help us play better. It'™ll take pressure off him and take pressure off me, and hopefully the whole season will be good like today."
• Orioles lefthander Dave Haehnel has established himself as a prospect through his solid work in the bullpen over his first two professional seasons, but the 23-year-old made his first career start last night in the high Class A Carolina League. The 6-foot-4, 185-pound Haehnel compiled 16 saves in his 2004 pro debut at short-season Aberdeen then amassed 16 more at low Class A Delmarva before a midseason promotion to high A Frederick, where he worked mostly in a setup role. He used his deceptive delivery and sinking 88-91 mph fastball to rack up 132 career strikeouts in 106 innings entering this year, and his professional ERA was a stingy 1.96.
The Orioles moved him to the rotation so he could get more innings to develop his secondary pitches–a slider and changeup. In his first start since his junior year at Illinois-Chicago–where he worked as a starter and posted the Horizon League's third-best ERA before the Orioles drafted him in the eighth round–Haehnel looked solid in Frederick's 9-6 win against Salem. He allowed three runs–only one earned–in 4 1/3 innings before his pitch count dictated the end of his night.
"He pitched really well. We had to take him out because he had thrown 85 pitches," Frederick manager Bien Figueroa told the Frederick News-Post. "He showed me he can start."
Haehnel's future, however, still figures to be in the bullpen.
• Cubs top prospect Felix Pie, 21, continued his torrid hitting Monday with a grand slam in the second inning and the game-winning hit in the eleventh. He'™s hitting an otherworldly .476/.500/.857 on the season, with a home run, two triples and three steals. The center fielder, 21, faces his biggest challenge of the young season today when his Iowa Cubs face a rehabbing Ben Sheets.
• With Devil Rays lefthander Mark Hendrickson landing on the DL, Tampa Bay called up righthander Jason Hammel. Hammel, who made one start at Triple-A Durham this season'"where he shut out Norfolk with seven strikeouts over five innings'"will make his major league debut tonight against the Orioles . . . Pirates catcher Neil Walker will be in extended spring training a bit longer than his original timetable. Walker had wrist surgery at the end of the Arizona Fall League and will not join high Class A Lynchburg until later this month or, more likely, early May . . . Indians outfielder Mike Butia, who voluntarily retired during spring training, decided to rejoin the club and will likely remain in extended until camp breaks. Butia, a fifth-round pick out of James Madison in 2004, received a $210,000 bonus when he signed. The 23-year-old batted just .198/.264/.275 in 131 at-bats at Kinston last season after being promoted from low Class A Lake County.
Contributing: Aaron Fitt, Chris Kline and Matt Meyers.