See also: Thursday’s Daily Dish
See also: Today’s Baseball America Prospect Report
His name was buried in a Midwest League box score, but he was there. After missing the first half of the season to a broken left ankle, Matt Bush is finally back and trying to prevent himself from being labeled as the worst No. 1 overall pick ever.
“(I want to) raise my average up, shut people up a little,” Bush told the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazzette. “I’m tired of people talking so much crap about how I haven’t done this or I haven’t done that or so what.”
Bush’s first game was unspectacular as he went 0-for-2 with a walk while batting eighth for low Class A Fort Wayne in their 3-2 victory over Cedar Rapids.
The Padres’ selection of Bush in 2004 was controversial from the start. Jeff Niemann, Stephen Drew and Jered Weaver were considered the top talents, but San Diego did not think they were worth the bonus they would command as the top overall choice. As a compromise, they decided to take Bush who was from the San Diego area and was also considered an elite talent.
His pro career began poorly as Bush was suspended before he ever took the field for his role in a fight outside an Arizona nightclub. The shortstop went on to hit .192/.296/.253 in 99 at-bats between the Rookie-level Arizona League and short-season Northwest League.
Things did not improve in his first full season in 2005 as he hit .221/.282/.272 in 453 at-bats for Fort Wayne. It just got worse for the 20-year-old in spring training when he broke his ankle, forcing him to miss half a season.
“There’s no reason he shouldn’t come here and make progress,” Bill Bryk, the Padres’ minor-league field coordinator, told the paper. “We’re not going to put pressure on him. It’s going to take a week or so before he feels comfortable.”
“We feel he needs to improve over what he did last year, in all areas. Spring training, he went about his business the right way before the injury. It wouldn’t surprise me if he’s a little rusty.”
Bush has always been an exceptional defender with a plus-plus arm, but he has never gotten it going at the plate.
“He could always do that (fielding),” Bryk added. “That’s a gift he has. I expect him to be solid from the start. Hitting takes longer.”
If the hitting never comes, there is always the option of trying Bush out on the mound as he touched the mid-90s as pitcher in high school; however, that is not something that is expected in the near future.
In Bush’s defense, he is not the only first-rounder from the 2004 draft still in low Class A. Chris Nelson and Greg Golson are in their second trip through the SAL while the Twins Kyle Waldrop is just starting to put it together for Beloit in the MWL.
Road Not So Rocky Anymore
Braves righthander Luis Atilano appears to be settling in at high Class A Myrtle Beach. Atilano, the Braves’ first-round pick in 2003 out of a Puerto Rico high school, threw a complete-game four-hitter against Salem on Thursday, allowing just one run to improve to 3-6, 5.16 on the season. Atilano took advantage of an aggressive Salem lineup, retiring the side in order in four innings and throwing fewer than 10 pitches in three of them. He struck out just two batters and walked just one, allowing him to keep his pitch count down.
“I thought they were going to take me out, but they let me stay in,” Atilano told the Roaknoke (Va.) Times. “The key was throwing few pitches per inning, I made them hit the ball early.”
It was the third straight quality start for the 21-year-old, who has thrown five quality starts in his last six outings since a rocky patch in mid-May when he was roughed up for 21 earned runs over three outings (12 2/3 innings.) He has just 34 strikeouts in 82 innings on the season, but he has shown improved command of his low-90s fastball of late.
“I was throwing fastballs to good spots and they were missing,” Atilano told the paper.
– AARON FITT
• The Rangers called up lefthander John Danks and outfielder Anthony Webster to Triple-A Oklahoma yesterday. Danks went 5-4, 4.15 with an 82-22 strikeout-walk ratio in 69 innings at Double-A Frisco. The Rangers’ first-rounder in 2003 will make his debut Saturday against New Orleans. Webster, a 15th-round pick in 2001, was hitting .310/.364/.463 in 216 at-bats for the RoughRiders . . . Double-A Midland catcher Kurt Suzuki went 3-for-5 with a double and a home run and drove in eight as the Rock Hounds defeated Tulsa, 15-10. A defense-first catcher, Suzuki’s bat has been the story this season, hitting .301/.406/.449 through 236 at-bats . . . Reds righthander Homer Bailey sat in the low-to-mid 90s, and maintained velocity deep into his debut at Double-A Chattanooga–whiffing the final batter he faced in the sixth with 98 mph heat. Bailey, the Reds’ first-rounder in 2004, tossed six shutout innings, allowed five hits and struck out seven . . . Triple-A Nashville one-hit Round Rock on Thursday, led by six no-hit innings from Ben Hendrickson. The righthander threw just 90 pitches before he was removed to begin the seventh, before reliever Mitch Stetter allowed the first and only hit of the game that inning. The outing lowered Hendrickson’s season ERA to 2.00 at the level, though he’s made only ten starts thanks to an early season sojourn to Milwaukee. In all but three of his outings on the season, Hendrickson has allowed two earned runs or less . . . With another good pitching prospect on the mound, Rookie-level Orem won their opening series over Ogden. Two days after 2005 first rounder Trevor Bell won his season debut, the Owlz won 16-2 in a game started by recent top draft-and-follow signee Sean O’Sullivan. The big righthander didn’t allow a run in four innings of work, allowing just two hits while striking out six. “O’Sullivan set the tone for the game,” Orem manager Tom Kotchman told the Daily Herald. “He was very efficient.” The draft-and-follow was on a 50-pitch limit, but did not struggle in any of the four innings in which he pitched . . . The Rookie-level Arizona League opened yesterday, with one first rounder taking the field. The Angels first round pick, Hank Conger, started the game at DH, collecting three hits in five at-bats. The prep catcher fell a home run short of the cycle, collecting his first double and triple as a pro.
Contributing: Chris Kline, Bryan Smith.