Daily Dish: April 26


See also: Tuesday’s Daily Dish.
See also: Today’s Baseball America Prospect Report.

Don’t look now, but Jarrod Saltalamacchia is starting to heat up–especially from the right side of the plate.

The switch-hitting Braves catcher is a natural righthanded hitter, and he hit his first homer for Double-A Mississippi from the right side on Monday. He added a three-run double in Tuesday’s 9-6 win against Montgomery–also batting righthanded.

“It looked like he hit a 3-iron,” Mississippi manager Jeff Blauser told the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion Ledger of Saltalamacchia’s home run, which came against lefthander Mike Prochaska.

After starting the season 0-for-13, Saltalamacchia’s first hit of the season was a ninth-inning home run on April 10 against Huntsville. He started to slowly emerge from the slump four days later, and since then he’s hitting .368 (14-for-38) with seven extra-base hits and 12 of his 13 RBIs.

While he’s been hitting for more power from the left side, he’s now 6-for-16 batting righthanded.

“I really don’t think about it too much,” Saltalamacchia said. “It doesn’t matter to me if I’m batting lefthanded or righthanded, really. I just want to go up there, have a good approach and get my hacks in.”

Defensively, it has been a challenge for the 20-year-old catcher in his first season above Class A. Teams obviously want to challenge him, as they have attempted 26 steals against Saltalamacchia this season–tops in the Southern League. He has thrown out 35 percent of those basestealers and said he wants teams to keep running against him.

“For me, that’s a respect thing,” he said. “Teams have been trying to run and they’ve had some success. But I’ve had some (success) too, and you better believe I’m going to get better back there.

“I’ve been pretty happy with my defense so far, but throwing guys out is a big part of my job. I’m just going to continue working to be the best catcher I can be and become the type of catcher that teams kind of second guess themselves when they think about taking a bag.”

–CHRIS KLINE

Consistency Is Key

One of the more consistent performers in the low Class A South Atlantic League has been Charleston outfielder Jose Tabata. He has yet to have more than two consecutive hitless games and has at least two hits in eight of 18 games. Tuesday night he went 2-for-4 with his ninth double to raise his season line to .329/.342/.452.

More impressive, he won’t turn 18 until August.

The Yankees signed the Venezuelan last season and he tormented the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League by hitting .314/.382/.417. While his numbers are robust, he said it is an adjustment moving up to full-season ball.

“It’s difficult,” he told The Post and Courier of Charleston through the translation of teammate Edgar Soto. “The difference between pitchers is that you would get one who would pitch curveball, curveball, curveball and the next time see fastball, fastball, fastball. Here, you’ve got guys mixing it up.”

A glance at his strikeout-walk ratio indicates Tabata knows what he is talking about. He has struggled with pitch recognition and plate discipline, with one walk to go with 19 strikeouts in 73 at-bats. Last season he had 15 walks and 14 strikeouts in 156 at-bats. Nonetheless, his advanced hand-eye coordination and plus-plus bat speed have allowed him to thrive.

“At the worst case, you’d want to see about a two-to-one ratio of strikeouts to walks for a guy making the major leagues,” manager Bill Mosiello told the paper. “A lot of times he swings at pitches out of the zone that nobody hits. It’s good he still has some things to work on. It shouldn’t come too easy.”

McBeth Taking Off

California League hitters might be tempted to invoke Shakespeare when they see high Class A Stockton closer Marcus McBeth take the mound: “Something wicked this way comes.”

In eight appearances this year, McBeth has been nasty. The 25-year-old righthander has allowed one hit and two walks while striking out 14 in 8 1/3 scoreless innings. He picked up his seventh save with a perfect inning of work in Stockton’s 5-2 win against High Desert last night.

The numbers are impressive on their own, but McBeth’s story makes them even more so. The Athletics drafted him as an outfielder in the fourth round in 2001 out of South Carolina, where he also returned kicks for the football team. His four standout tools (including 80 arm strength on the 20-80 scouting scale) made him the A’s No. 7 prospect following the 2002 season.

But McBeth struggled to translate his talent into results, and by the end of 2004 he owned a .233 career average in 881 at-bats, all in Class A.

As Shakespeare’s MacBeth said, “Come what come may, time and the hour runs through the roughest day.”

Frustrated, McBeth begged the A’s to let him throw a bullpen session, where he showed off a 92-94 mph fastball. The organization decided to convert him to a pitcher, and he showed promise as a reliever last year, going 2-2, 3.33 in 32 innings between the Rookie-level Arizona League, low Class A Kane County and Stockton. He went to the Arizona Fall League as a fill-in, allowing just one earned run and one hit in four appearances for the Phoenix Desert Dogs.

McBeth complements his fastball with a good slider and profiles as a late-inning power reliever. The A’s could push him because of his age, and it looks like he might be ready for the challenge of Double-A.

Penn Makes Debut

Orioles righthander Hayden Penn made his first start of the season last night in Ottawa, throwing five shutout innings in his Triple-A debut. Penn, 21, was held back in extended spring training to build arm strength after a bout of shoulder soreness this spring.

The Orioles would have liked to unveil their top pitching prospect in a warmer climate–the temperature was 43 degrees at game time–so as a result, Penn was held to 77 pitches, 50 of which he threw for strikes.

“I thought he had a nice, loose arm,” Lynx manager Dave Trembley told the Ottawa Sun. “He pitched down in the strike zone with his fastball. Like I’ve said, he’s something to work with.”

QUICK HITS

No one thought Mets righthander Mike Pelfrey would be in the Florida State League for long, and he wasn’t. After going 2-1, 1.64 with a 26-2 K-BB ratio in 22 innings, he was promoted to Double-A Binghamton . . . J.R. House, trying to resurrect his baseball career in the Astros organization with Double-A Corpus Christi, saw his 18-game hitting streak come to an end last night when he went 0-for-2 in Frisco. The RoughRiders intentionally walked House twice and won the game 4-3 in 10 innings . . . The Blue Jays will call up a pitcher from Triple-A Syracuse–most likely righthander Casey Janssen–to take A.J. Burnett’s turn in the rotation Thursday against the Orioles. Janssen was pulled from his start Sunday after three strong innings . . . Maybe there was more to Wes Bankston’s 11 errors in 18 games in his first-ever experience at third base at Double-A Montgomery. Bankston, who left Monday’s game in the middle of a fourth-inning at-bat, went on the disabled list Tuesday with a strained oblique muscle. Bankston was hitting .333/.376/.408 in 69 at-bats. He is expected to miss two or three weeks . . . Cubs shortstop Dylan Johnston also hit the DL with an injured thumb. The Cubs fourth-rounder from 2005 was hitting .273/.385/.382 in 55 at-bats for low Class A Peoria . . . Diamondbacks utilityman Matt Morgan broke his jaw in a collision with shortstop Alberto Gonzalez in Double-A Tennessee’s game against Birmingham last week and is expected to miss the rest of the season. Morgan, an 18th-round pick in 2002, was hitting .364/.417/.455 in 22 at-bats.

Contributing: Matt Eddy, Aaron Fitt, Matt Meyers.

Minors | #2006 #Daily Dish

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