Location, location, location. The Mariners have had their share of command and control lefthanders through the years–from the ageless Jamie Moyer to farmhands Travis Blackley and Craig Anderson.
Bobby Livingston is cut from the same cloth–relying on exquisite command of a mid-80s fastball–and after a promotion Monday from Triple-A Tacoma to Seattle, he gets his chance to prove himself at the highest level.
"It's tough at any level to throw a lot of balls and be successful," Livingston told the Tacoma New Tribune. "They've preached all year to get ahead of guys with strike one and then work your way from there. I guess what they are looking for, and what I've always been able to do, is throw strikes. Hopefully that will carry over to here and I'm not going to try and do anything that I've never been able to do."
Livingston's initial big league assignment will be in the bullpen, a role he said he's comfortable with, despite the fact he's made all but two of his minor league appearances as a starter. He replaces righthander Clint Nageotte on the big league roster.
Observers note that Livingston's fastball has touched 90-91 mph early this season, after sitting in the mid-80s last season. He gets good sink on the pitch, and he'll cut it when facing righthanders, to whom he allowed batting averages of.249 (at Double-A) and .264 (at Triple-A) last season. He also commands a curve and changeup.
Livingston, 23, ranked as the Mariners No. 18 prospect entering 2006, and he's gotten off to a fast start with Tacoma, going 1-1, 2.12, with 12 strikeouts and 2 walks in 17 innings. Scouts have questioned whether Livingston's stuff would play at the major league level, but he sports a 3.18 career ERA in the minors, and he led the Texas League in ERA (2.86) last season.
At Least We Know When This Clemens Will Return . . .
Though deemed to be somewhat of a nepotism pick when the Astros drafted him, Koby Clemens quieted doubters in his pro debut by hitting .294/.387/.469 in 143 at-bats between Rookie-level Greeneville and short-season Tri-City. Unfortunately, his chance to further disprove his critics has been delayed.
The son of Roger Clemens went on the disabled list yesterday with a dislocated left pinky. The Astros' third baseman hurt the finger on Sunday while diving back to first base on a pickoff throw.
"He's going to be out four to six weeks," manager Jack Lind told the Lexington Herald-Leader. "They think the tendons are going to heal on their own, so I don't think they're going to do surgery."
Because of the nature of the injury, it will be several weeks before Clemens is able to swing a bat. As a result, he could end up back in extended spring training or in short-season ball depending on when he is back in game shape.
Prior to the injury, his full-season debut was off to a rough start before the injury. In 43 at-bats for low Class A Lexington Clemens was hitting .186/.327/.302.
The 19-year-old had committed to follow his father's footsteps at Texas before the Astros' drafted him in the eighth round last June and signed him for $380,000, the equivalent of late third-round money.
The Day Of The Catcher
Potomac Nationals third baseman Brandon Powell hit two home runs and a triple in the Carolina League yesterday, yet that was about the fourth-most-interesting performance of the day in high Class A. Down in the Florida State League, Tampa's Matt Carson outdid Powell by hitting three homers and a triple in an 8-6 win against Sarasota.
But the real headliners were Kinston's Wyatt Toregas and Dunedin's John Schneider. Both are catchers who hit walk-off grand slams on the same day in the same level of the minors.
Toregas, 23, broke a 1-1 tie by hitting the first pitch from Lynchburg reliever Ramon Linares out of the park. Schneider, 26, came up in slightly different circumstances–with two outs and his team trailing 4-1 to Fort Myers. He hit a 2-0 pitch over the left-center-field wall to give Dunedin a 5-4 win.
It was the first homer of the year for both players, who entered the game with strikingly similar career power numbers. Toregas, the Indians' 24th-round pick out of Virginia Tech in 2004, had 12 career home runs in 650 at-bats. Schneider, the Blue Jays' 13th-rounder out of Delaware in 2002, had 13 career home runs in 635 at-bats. Yesterday was just Schneider's second start of the year.
After Shaky Start, Talbot Cruises
One of the more interesting pitching matchups in the Texas League Monday was in Corpus Christi as Hooks righthander Mitch Talbot faced Frisco righty Nick Masset.
Talbot, a second-round pick of the Astros in 2002, fell behind early after his first three pitches resulted in a single, and error and a triple and the RoughRiders had a 2-0 lead before Talbot even recorded an out.
But he settled down after that, retiring 10 consecutive hitters into the fifth inning and finished with eight strikeouts to earn his first win of the year in the Hooks' 8-5 victory.
"Early on we tried to establish the fastball, and they came out swinging, so we had to make adjustments to start coming a little soft early in the count," Hooks catcher Kevin Davidson told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.
"Once we did that, we got into the situation we wanted to be in. Mitch's changeup is so good that they could know it's coming and they still wouldn't be able to hit it pretty hard. His changeup was nasty like it always is, and his slider was hard and cutting late. We just kept them off-balance."
Masset entered the game with a Texas League-best 0.47 ERA and had held the Hooks to one run in seven innings on April 13 in Corpus Christi. But Frisco committed two throwing errors early and Masset wound up lasting only five innings, giving up five runs.
"I think he got a little flustered with the errors behind him," Hooks manager Dave Clark told the paper. "He didn't seem like he was the same guy he was (in Corpus Christi). He's got good stuff, but we just got to him a little bit and were able to take advantage of it."
• Angels righthander Rafael Rodriguez received a quick promotion to Double-A after going 3-0, 0.53 with a 20-2 strikeout-walk ratio in 17 innings at high Class A Rancho Cucamonga. Rodriguez made his inauspicious debut Monday for Arkansas, allowing four runs on six hits–including homers by Wichita's Alex Gordon, Matt Tupman and Billy Butler . . . Indians lefthander C.C. Sabathia will make a rehab start for Buffalo Thursday at home against Syracuse. He's rehabbing a strained right oblique . . . Pirates slugging first baseman Brad Eldred was placed in the Triple-A Indianapolis disabled list with a dislocated left thumb that will require surgery . . . Giants righthander Jeremy Accardo was recalled from Triple-A Fresno.