Daily Dish: June 16


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

Coming into this season, Andy Marte ranked as one of the top 20
prospects in the minors. But after being shipped from Atlanta to Boston
to Cleveland during the offseason, the 22-year-old third baseman
certainly hasn’t performed the way the Indians hoped when they acquired
him in the Coco Crisp deal.

Though he has come on somewhat recently, Marte was brutal in May, when
he batted .225 and hit his first homer of the season after enduring a
power outage that went all the way back to last August. His plate
discipline also plummeted along with his
overall numbers last month, as he compiled a 33-4 strikeout-walk ratio.

The problems go back to at least last season when Marte was at Triple-A Richmond
and quite possibly to the year before while he was at Double-A
Greenville. He started getting into bad habits with his swing,
collapsing his back side, resulting in a huge uppercut. That
mechanical flaw is still evident now, even if Marte has shown signs of
life by hitting .302 with five homers so far in June.

“We’re starting to get some reports on him that the swing plane has
changed over the last year,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “What I
remember when I managed against him three years ago, he was a pretty
special creature. He’s got great makeup, he’s agile as a third baseman,
he’s got good arm strength and he hits and he hits for power. There’s a
lot of tools there, but he’s had some fundamental breakdowns in his
game and we are fine-tuning those, getting him into our system and
showing him what we expect from a major league player.”

Lovullo was in the opposing dugout while Marte was in the high Class A
Carolina League in 2003, so he is more than a little familiar with the
Dominican native’s abilities. Lovullo, who was managing at Kinston
while Marte was in Myrtle Beach, proclaimed that season that the third
baseman had “all the potential in the world to be an all-star caliber
player for 10 years in the big leagues.”

Part of Marte’s struggles are within his swing path, and part of it is
the way he’s being pitched in the International League, where pitchers
are showing him a ton of fastballs away.

“He’s living out of the bucket up there,” an American League scout said
after Marte went 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts in the first game of
a doubleheader Thursday against Durham. “He’s opening way up and
just dropping that back shoulder. He’s pulling off everything.”

Although Marte rebounded in the nightcap against the Bulls, going
2-for-3 with his seventh home run of the season, he still has a lot
of obvious work to do to get Marte back on track. Overall, he’s
hitting .263/.330/.415 in 236 at-bats.

“I think it’s been a trying two months for him, because he’s in a new
system and probably was concerned with doing too much and make an
impression,” Lovullo said. “As a result, he started to expand his game
rather than staying with the strengths and functioning inside those
limits, he got outside his box a little bit. That’s when you started to
see his swing plane change and we’re just trying to get him back to the
nuts and bolts of what made Andy Marte special.”

–CHRIS KLINE

Sowers And Bay Have Quite A Day

Thanks to a doubleheader, Durham and Buffalo played 14 innings of
baseball on Wednesday. The Bisons stymied the Bulls in their home park,
limiting them to just three hits across the two games. Lefthander
Jeremy Sowers pitched a seven-inning complete game in the first contest,
allowing no runs on two hits.

His fastball sat in the 86-88 mph range, hitting 89 a couple times,
but–as usual–it was his command and control that left an impression
on the Bulls. “Man, hitting against him is just frustrating as hell,”
Bulls right fielder Elijah Dukes said. “Eighty-six-88? With all that offspeed
stuff he throws up there, it looks 10 miles faster. And everything
moves.” Sowers threw just 76 pitches–49 for strikes–and improved his
overall numbers to 8-1, 1.27 in 92 innings this season.

In game two, righthander Ronald “Bear” Bay made his Triple-A debut a memorable
one, allowing just one hit over five innings before the bullpen closed
things out.

“You’ve got to give both of those guys credit,” Bulls first baseman
Kevin Witt told the Durham Herald-Sun. “They both threw the ball really
well tonight, and they went out there and stuck it up our
you-know-what.”

—BRYAN SMITH AND CHRIS KLINE

QUICK HITS

Micah Owings knows how to make an entrance. In
the righthander’s first start at Triple-A Tucson, he had his best
outing of the season. The 2005 third-round pick out of Tulane allowed
no hits over six innings, leaving the game after throwing 96 pitches, and
got the win over Portland. While the Sidewinders bullpen allowed a hit
in the seventh, Owings left quite an impression for his first start. “I
feel blessed,” Owings told the Oregonian after the game. “The
organization has been really good to me. I’ve just got keep taking it
one day at a time.”. . . A disappointing year for the Braves’ Jake Stevens
got a lot worse as he was demoted from high Class A Myrtle Beach to low
Class A Rome. The lefthander was 1-6, 6.41 in 60 innings with 33
strikeouts and 30 walks. A third-round pick in 2003 out of Cape Coral
(Fla.) High, Stevens broke out at Rome in 2004 when he went 9-5, 2.27.
His demotion may also be an indication of an imminent promotion for
lefthander Jo-Jo Reyes . . . One night after Mitch Boggs almost tasted
perfection for Palm Beach, the Cardinals went 17 innings with Jupiter
in a Florida State League showdown. J.T. Restko, the man who broke up
Boggs’ bid for a perfection game in the ninth inning, went 0-for-7.
Some might call that bad karma. We at Daily Dish just call it a bad
game. Palm Beach scored three in the 17th inning to earn a 4-1 win . . . Mark
Rogers
might be turning a corner. The Brewers righthander and 2004 first-round pick fanned 10
over seven innings and allowed no runs for high Class A Brevard County
last night. Of the other 11 outs recorded, eight were on ground balls.
He still walked four hitters as he improved his ERA to 4.73 with his fourth quality start in his last five outings. He has a 2.50 ERA in his last six starts, covering 36 innings, while striking out 47 . . . Thanks to a two-run triple from
Mark Ori in the top of the 10th inning, Lexington is headed to the
playoffs. The Legends defeated Lake County 4-2, and their win coupled
with a Delmarva loss clinched them the first-half title in the low
Class A South Atlantic League Northern Division.

Contributing: Matt Eddy and Matt Meyers.

Minors | #2006 #Daily Dish

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