See also: Yesterday’s Daily Dish
One of the premiere pitching matchups across the minors took place at Double-A Reading on Wednesday, as Phillies lefthander Gio Gonzalez went up against Yankees righthander Philip Hughes.
Gonzalez wound up on the winning side, as the Phillies downed Trenton 5-1, but Hughes was solid, allowing just two hits over five shutout innings and striking out eight.
“You can see why the Yankees didn’t want to part with him in any kind of trade,” Reading pitching coach Tom Filer said. “I saw him when he first got here (to Double-A) and he was just OK. But he was on a different level last night.”
Hughes, the Yankees’ first-rounder in 2004, hasn’t lost since June 8–and has racked up 71 strikeouts in 51 innings since that outing. Since being promoted to the Eastern League, Hughes is now 6-3, 2.67 with a 106-28 strikeout ratio over 91 innings.
“He’s on a hot streak right now and you could see it,” Filer said. “He’s got that easy, repeatable delivery and the ball just jumps out of his hand. He was 94 (mph) without even trying and sat at 93-94 all night. He was never in any kind of trouble.”
On the flip side, Gonzalez got into trouble a couple of times, but was able to hit another gear and work out of situations with runners in scoring position. That’s an important and good sign for the 20-year-old lefthander, who has often struggled with keeping his emotions in check at times this season. A supplemental first-rounder in 2004, Gonzalez threw six shutout innings on four hits and three walks while fanning eight.
It was Gonzalez’s first win since June 25 (he went 0-3, 8.88 in July), and his command has been all over the place in between, reaching its nadir in a seven-walk performance against Connecticut two weeks ago. Overall, Gonzalez is now 5-10, 4.43 with a 133-63 strikeout-walk ratio in 120 innings.
“He was as good as he’s been in quite a while,” Filer said. “He had good life to his fastball and his curveball was well above-average. But the biggest thing was I really liked the way he competed. It was great to see him shut the door when he needed to.
“He can still be animated out there a little bit, but he’s toning that down.”
While Gonzalez showed two above-average pitches Wednesday, he’s still working on gaining confidence in his changeup. He threw it more against Trenton than he had over his last three starts, but it was ineffective.
“His changeup wasn’t very good,” Filer said. “It was too firm and he left it up in the zone. He was trying to take something off it and he dropped his arm slot. He did a lot of things wrong while trying to work through it to make it better. He just didn’t have a feel.
“But these kinds of games are really something to watch when you get two guys like this going at it. And of course, I was glad to see my guy come out on top. It was great to see him work through things, and that can only give him more confidence to finish the season strong.”
A Classic Asheville Slugfest
Asheville has always played as one of the better hitter’s parks in the low Class A South Atlantic League, and McCormick Field played to its reputation last night as the Tourists nipped Delmarva 14-13.
Asheville starter Chaz Roe put his team in a hole early as he was removed with no outs in the third with his team already trailing 7-2 and a man on third.
“Last night was an indication of him trying to do too much,” Asheville manager Joe Mikulik said of Roe, a supplemental first-rounder in 2005. “He was flying open and trying to overthrow. He has a good arm and a good breaking ball; he is going to be a very good pitcher.
“At this level there is going to be a lot of failure. It is tough for a high school kid to come in, and the competition is a lot better and there is failure for the first time in your career. The question is, how you deal with it. I have no worries at all about Chaz.”
On the season, the 19-year-old righthander is now 3-4, 4.46 in 71 innings with a 56-33 strikeout-walk ratio.
Down 9-2 in the fourth, Asheville responded with five runs in the bottom of the frame that included a home run to left from shortstop Chris Nelson, a first-round pick in 2004. Nelson further fueled the comeback in the eighth when he doubled to right-center field to score Eric Young, as the Tourists scored four runs in the inning to turn a 13-10 deficit into a 14-13 lead.
“For me, the RBI double to right center was a better hit then the homer to left,” Mikulik said. “I love when he hits the ball to right center. He tries to do so much, and gets himself in trouble. He will hit a ball hard, and next at-bat try and hit it harder . . . When he allows himself to see the ball, he is going to be a dangerous hitter.”
After a 2-for-5 night Nelson is now hitting .266/.328/.438 with nine homers in 354 at-bats. He is tied for first in the league with 32 doubles.
• Roe wasn’t the only Rockies pitching prospect to suffer a rough outing last night. Triple-A Colorado Springs righthander Ubaldo Jimenez also gave up eight runs. Jimenez, though, had the foresight to oppose Round Rock lefthander Wandy Rodriguez, who was worse. Rodriguez gave up nine runs, allowing Jimenez to secure his second win for the Sky Sox, despite giving up those eight runs on nine hits, three of them home runs. The 22-year-old Dominican dominated the Double-A Texas League, but has struggled since his promotion to Triple-A, going 2-1, 6.02 with 33-24 strikeouts-walks in 40 innings.
• The Rockies’ other top arms fared much better. Pitching for Double-A Tulsa, righthander Juan Morillo, 22, struck out nine over 6 2/3 innings to pick up his eighth win. He allowed two runs on seven hits. Meanwhile, Franklin Morales was similarly dominant at high Class A Modesto. The 20-year-old lefthander went seven innings, gave up two runs on five hits and struck out eight to earn his seventh win.
• With two key members of their rotation ailing, the Twins face a tough decision regarding a callup of highly-regarded pitching prospect Matt Garza from Triple-A Rochester. Lefthander Francisco Liriano (elbow soreness) missed his turn in the rotation, and righthander Brad Radke (shoulder soreness) might be forced to do the same. The Twins, though, don’t want to interrupt Garza’s development.
• Following a 6-1 win over Lancaster on Wednesday, the Devil Rays promoted Reid Brignac and Evan Longoria to Double-A. Brignac hit .326/.382/.557 with 21 home runs in 411 at-bats with Visalia, while Longoria was .327/.402/.618 with eight homers in his 28-game trial at high Class A. “I’m excited, but a little sad too,” Brignac told the Visalia Times-Delta. “I wish the team best of luck. I’ve been playing with these guys all year, but I know some of the guys in Double A.”
• Another fast-flying 2006 draftee is Zech Zinicola, the Nationals’ sixth round pick from Arizona State. Relieving for high Class A Potomac, Zinicola earned his third win in just seven games at the level on Wednesday. The righthander offers a low 90s fastball that touches 95, but must show improved consistency with his offspeed pitches (slider, changeup) before he moves forward. In his last four appearances, Zinicola has allowed just three hits in 6 and 2/3 innings, striking out eight.
• Reds righthander Rafael Gonzalez had the most effective start of the season for low Class A Dayton. The 20-year-old allowed one hit in five shutout innings to earn his first win of the season for the Dragons. Command and fitness have always been a problem for Gonzalez, who might have the best stuff in the system behind Homer Bailey. His late arrival at spring training and the time it took for him to get ready for full-season ball delayed his stint with Dayton, so he needs to make up for lost time. The New York City native has a lively fastball that sits in the low-to-mid 90s and an above-average change. The victory improved his record to 1-2, 7.47 in 16 innings.