Daily Dish: Aug. 11


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

The last time the Olympics were held in 2004, the United States’ baseball team didn’t qualify to play.

The
next time the Olympics are held–with baseball on the program for the
last time–USA Baseball, which assembles the coaching staff and players
for the team, wants to do everything it can to have one of the eight
teams in the field.

The same, apparently, cannot be said for the 30 major league organizations that control the players USA Baseball wants to use.

Officials
at both USA Baseball and Baseball Canada said they were struggling to
put together rosters with less than two weeks remaining before the
Olympic qualifying tournament was scheduled to begin in Cuba. The
event, which will qualify two of the eight teams for the 2008 Games in
Beijing, is scheduled to have 12 teams in two six-team pools, with host
Cuba playing Colombia Aug. 25 to kick off round-robin play. The
all-important medal round begins Sept. 1.

“We’re having some
difficulty,” USA Baseball CEO Paul Seiler said. “It’s a very hard time
of year to put together a club, because of (Sept. 1 major league)
callups and minor league playoffs.

“We use the success of the
(World Baseball Classic) in every attempt we make with players and
organizations, but we understand this is a difficult time. As far as I
understand, Puerto Rico, Canada, Venezuela, Panama–any nation trying
to rely on players (from Organized Baseball) is having the same
problem.”

Seiler said Team USA had 18 players confirmed for its
roster, a list that includes Angels shortstop Brandon Wood, Royals
outfielder Billy Butler and catcher Matt Tupman, Athletics catcher Kurt
Suzuki and Mariners first baseman Bryan LaHair. Seiler confirmed Wood, Butler and LaHair were on the team, but declined to release a final roster, saying the roster will be released next week.

Baseball Canada’s
director of national teams, Greg Hamilton, said his situation was more
dire. He had been refused permission to use players even in Rookie
ball, and had just 13 players confirmed for his roster. Baseball Canada also said it would release its roster next week and declined to divulge any names.

“It’s
very disappointing that the time of the event is what is is, and that
no one stepped in to adjust the time,” Hamilton said. “The
International Baseball Federation (IBAF) leadership did not have the foresight
to see that this would happen, and allowed the host nation to pick the
time of year for the tournament.

“The best time of year would
be in the fall, where the only conflict is with the Arizona Fall
League. It just is going to be unfortunate that this is the last
Olympic event, and right now it looks like who comes out of the
qualifier is just a matter of who limps in the best.”

Among
other players rumored to be playing, one source said several Mets minor leaguers
would be playing for Puerto Rico: pitchers Willie Collazo and Orlando
Roman and outfielder Jorge Padilla, among others.

Team USA and
Canada are in Pool B with Aruba, Brazil, Puerto Rico and Venezuela.
Both teams will train in the Orlando area for a short time before
leaving for Cuba, giving both until about a week before the event to
settle on a final roster.

Seiler, who works closely with Major
League Baseball’s Bob Watson, the general manager of USA Baseball’s
professional teams, to work with major league organizations and
facilitate having their players wear the Team USA uniform. Seiler said
USA Baseball was getting similar cooperation from clubs as it did for
the September 2005 World Cup, a relatively minor event that was treated
as such by big league organizations.

Last year’s World Cup team
had Mets outfielder Lastings Milledge and righthander Brian Bannister
as its top prospects, as well as current Devil Rays infielder Ben
Zobrist at shortstop, but the club’s pitching staff was poor by Team
USA standards. The club–managed by Davey Johnson, who again is
managing the American club for the Olympic qualifier–finished ninth in
the Netherlands and didn’t even reach the medal round.

Last
fall, USA Baseball put together a strong, prospect-laden roster to earn
a spot in this year’s qualifier. That team included
players such as Wood, fellow Angels Jered Weaver and Howie Kendrick,
and Braves catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia among others. That team
steamrolled its competition, going 5-0 while scoring 49 runs and giving
up just 13.

Seiler says Wood sidled up to him late in the event
and said, “Wouldn’t it be great to keep this group together and go to
Beijing?”

Both knew that was unrealistic, since much of that
team already is in the major leagues. Now Seiler’s just hoping Wood can
help lead his new teammates to one of the two top spots in Havana to
qualify the U.S. for one last shot at Olympic baseball gold.

–JOHN MANUEL

Romo Cop

For the first time in their four-year history, the Rome Braves were the victims of a no-hitter as a trio of Augusta pitchers accomplished the feat in a 4-0 blanking.

Sergio Romo gets the bulk of the credit for the GreenJackets as the 5-foot-11 righthander allowed just one baserunner (a hit batsman in the first inning) in seven innings of work. The 28th-round pick in 2005 out of Mesa (Colo.) State also struck out five.

“They were lights out,” Rome manager Randy Ingle told the Rome News-Tribune. “I tip my hat to them, especially Romo. We’ve seen him before, and we knew he was good . . . but tonight, he was really something.”

Despite his dominance, Romo was removed after seven innings and David Quinowski and Osiris Matos followed Romo with no-hit innings of their own.

“(Romo) wanted to stay in there,” Augusta manager Roberto Kelly told the paper. “And who wouldn’t? He was throwing great. But we’re more concerned about his health than anything else. That’s our top priority.”

The win improved Romo’s record to 10-2, 2.49 with a 93-19 strikeout-walk ratio in 101 innings. The 23-year-old also shined in his debut in the short-season Northwest League as he went 7-1, 2.75 for Salem-Keizer in 2005.

“This is the first no-hitter I’ve been involved with since high school,” Romo told the paper. “I threw one as a sophomore, so it’s been a while. It’s an exciting feeling.”

–MATT MEYERS

QUICK HITS

Ricky Romero and Adam Miller squared off in the Eastern League, and the matchup of two first-round picks did not disappoint. Romero, the Blue Jays’ first-rounder in 2005 out of Cal State Fullerton, was solid as he allowed one earned run over six innings, but he was no match for Miller. The Indians righthander threw a complete game four-hit shutout in which he struck out 11 and walked one as Akron beat New Hampshire 2-0. The win improved Miller’s record to 13-5, 2.81 while Romero fell to 0-5, 6.31 in the EL.

• Rockies righthander Greg Reynolds, the No. 2 overall pick out of Stanford in June, collected his first professional win with five shutout innings for high Class A Modesto. Reynolds allowed just three hits and no walks while striking out three against Bakersfield to improve to 1-0, 2.61 with 20 strikeouts and eight walks in 31 innings this year. The Rockies are limiting Reynolds to 70 pitches or five innings this summer after he threw 128 innings this spring for the Cardinal. “I thought I was very efficient with my pitches and didn’t waste too many tonight,” Reynolds told the Modesto Bee. “That’s something I’d been wanting to work on. I’ve been walking too many people and throwing too many balls. Tonight I threw strikes and let the defense play. Throwing 49 pitches in five innings was a goal of mine.”

• Another first-round righthander out of the Pacific-10 Conference also pitched well Thursday. Giants righty Tim Lincecum, the 10th overall pick out of Washington, allowed only one hit over 3 2/3 scoreless innings in high Class A San Jose’s win against Inland Empire, striking out six and walking two. Like Reynods, Lincecum was on a strict pitch count but made the most of his time on the mound, improving his overall ERA to 1.74 in 10 innings between San Jose and short-season Salem-Keizer.

• The Mets’ Philip Humber made his second start this year at Double-A Binghamton, and it went a lot better then his first. The righthander allowed three earned runs on six hits over seven innings while fanning seven and walking one. In other Mets pitching prospect news, Mike Pelfrey was placed on the seven-day disabled list with a strained lat muscle.

Chris Cody did not get named an all-star in the short-season New York-Penn League, but his performance last night will make league officials regret omitting him. The Tigers’ eighth-round pick from Manhattan had 13 strikeouts in seven shutout innings for Oneonta. He allowed just three hits and walked none. The win improved his record to 4-1, 2.47 with a 48-8 strikeout-walk ratio in 51 innings. The 22-year-old lefthander features a mid-80s fastball to go with a plus-changeup and fringe-average curveball to go along with an advanced feel for pitching.

Contributing: Aaron Fitt, Matt Eddy.

Minors | #2006 #Daily Dish

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