Daily Dish: May 15

With a strong early showing at
Triple-A Rochester, Twins outfielder Jason Kubel has answered questions
about his long recovery from a torn-up left knee. Few doubted he’d
regain his hitting stroke, but many wondered how his knee would hold up
to the demands of running the bases and playing defense.

“He’s
running pretty well,” Rochester manager Stan Cliburn said, “moving in
and out well, going to his left and right on balls. He’ll play five or
six games a week in the outfield and I’ll give him one game at DH to
kind of rest his knee. The knee doesn’t bother him: It’s just a
precaution.”

And even after not appearing in a game in a 2005
spent rehabbing the knee, Kubel still ranked as the Twins No. 2
prospect entering this season. A strong spring showing encouraged the
Twins to break camp with Kubel in the everyday lineup, but he was
demoted after a .188/.278/.188 start.

Things didn’t immediately
improve with Rochester, either, as he had just four extra-base hits in
his first 16 games. A recent hot streak–including his current
10-for-23 stretch–has propelled Kubel to a .289/.336/.485 line.

“The
ball makes a different sound when it comes off his bat,” Cliburn said.
“The kind you hear in major league parks. Basically, he has great bat
speed.

“He knows he doesn’t have anything to prove at his level,
and that sometimes to take a step forward, you’ve got to take a step
back.”

Cliburn noticed something else about the lefty-hitting
Kubel the first time he managed him in New Britain in ’04: He’s locked
in against lefties.

“He succeeds against lefties because he
doesn’t miss the first-pitch fastball,” Cliburn said. “Lots of times
with lefties, they’ll foul off that first fastball and the pitcher will
get ahead of them. Not Jason, he’ll put that ball in play.”

Kubel
tore the ACL and damaged the meniscus in his knee in an outfield
collision in the 2004 Arizona Fall League, fresh off his breakout
season that established him as an elite prospect. That season he
demolished the Eastern and International leagues en route to a major
league callup and a spot on the Twins’ postseason roster.

–MATT EDDY

Straightening Things Out

Rockies
righthander Ubaldo Jimenez was battling consistency issues early this
season, as the command of both his fastball and curveball showed
flashes of brilliance but not nearly enough consistency.

Take
his April 20 start for example: Jimenez allowed just two hits, struck
out 11 and walked two over six innings against Arkansas. In his next
outing, the 22-year-old righthander walked six and struck out six in 4
2/3 against Springfield.

It’s been much the same story this
month as well. Jimenez, who is still trying to regain strength and
prove he’s durable after sustaining a stress fracture in his throwing
shoulder late in the 2004 season, walked four and struck out three in
five innings against Midland last week. But he came back with a
vengeance Sunday, whiffing 10 over six innings against the Travelers.

Part
of the sketchiness in his command has been because a crack in the nail
of his middle finger during his May 2 start. That problem has been
resolved, but there’s still plenty of work to do.

“We really
have a lot of work going on with him,” assistant GM Bill Geivett said.
“The time when he was out, I think came back a little rusty in terms of
where he was at with his delivery and he came back slowly.

“So
just in terms of delivery and the path of his arm–he’s getting his arm
way behind the rest of his body at times right now. So we’ve been doing
a lot of work in shortening his arm path and he’s taken to it well.”

On the season, Jimenez is now 3-2, 4.26 with 40 strikeouts in 32 innings.

–CHRIS KLINE

Lansford Tosses Gem

No-hitters are rare, and two in the same weekend in the same league is obviously a lot rarer.

But
that is what happened in the low Class Midwest League this weekend as
Dayton’s Johnny Cueto and Kane County’s Jared Lansford both
accomplished the feat, though neither went nine innings.

Cueto’s
no-hitter was a five-inning affair as rain put a halt to a 6-0 victory
over Wisconsin on Saturday night against Wisconsin. The righthander
struck out eight while walking only two and improved his record to 3-1,
3.55.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s five innings or nine innings or
seven innings,” Dragons manager Billy Gardner Jr. told the Dayton Daily
News. “It’s still an accomplishment. The weather was awful, but he was
dominating from the first pitch to the last.”

Signed by the Reds
in March of 2004 out of the Dominican Repbulic, Cueto made his debut in
the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2005 and the 20-year-old went
2-2, 5.02. After a strong performance in spring training, the Reds were
excited to see what Cueto could do in his first full season and Cueto
has responded. He features a lively fastball that sits in the 92-94 mph
range with a developing changeup.

The Dayton staff also features
prospects Travis Wood, Philippe Valiquette and Zach Ward, but Cueto has
performed better then all of them this season. He has the lowest ERA of
the quartet and leads the team with 45 strikeouts in 33 innings to go
with just six walks.

Lansford’s no-hitter was a little more
impressive as the Athletics righthander went seven innings in a 4-0
victory against Beloit in the first game of a Sunday doubleheader.

The
son of former Oakland third baseman Carney Lansford allowed six
baserunners as he walked five and hit one batter, but did not allow a
hit and fanned two.

After missing the first month of the season
with an inflamed rotator cuff, Lansford flirted with a no-hitter in his
debut on May 1 as he carried one into the sixth inning. This time, he
finished the job working mostly off his low 90s fastball and changeup
while mixing in some curveballs.

“When you are getting outs throwing just fastballs and changeups, there
is no reason to throw anything else,” Lansford said. “I like to keep
the curveball in my back pocket in case the change is not working as
well.”

A second-round pick last June
out of St. Francis High in Santa Clara, Calif., Lansford improved his
record to 2-1, 1.59. In 17 innings this season, he has allowed just
seven hits.

–MATT MEYERS

QUICK HITS

• Blue Jays righthander Dustin McGowan
will make his first start of the season tonight for Triple-A Syracuse.
McGowan had made all 12 of his appearances this season as a reliever,
seven at Triple-A and five for Toronto. He had gone 1-1, 5.11 and
struck out 17 and walked three in 12 1/3 relief innings for Syracuse .
. . White Sox third baseman Josh Fields
continued his assault on IL pitching, connecting for two home runs
Sunday against Louisville. He has a home run in four straight games and
is hitting .357-8-23 for the season. For the week, Fields hit an
astounding .519/.606/1.185 with a league-best 14 hits (eight for extra
bases) . . . Marlins righthander Yusmeiro Petit,
21,made his major league debut in relief yesterday, striking out the
first two batters he faced. “I worked a long time for this. I worked
hard,” Petit told the Miami Herald. “So I’m very happy.” Petit was
recalled when righthander Sergio Mitre went on the disabled list . . . High Class A Kinston outfielder Brian Barton
went 2-for-5 on Sunday, extending his hitting streak to 22 games.
Barton, who signed as a nondrafted free agent in 2004 out of Miami, is
hitting .347/.443/.642 in 95 at-bats overall this season … Astros
lefthander Brian Bogusevic is
on the disabled list with an inflammed elbow and is expected to miss
one more start. He’s 0-2, 10.66 in five starts for low Class A
Lexington.

Minors | #2006 #Daily Dish

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