See also: Yesterday’s Daily Dish
Because of the storms that have soaked the Northeast, the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox could be forgiven if they wondered if they would ever get back on the field.
The Red Sox had been rained out Friday night, and Saturday night, and Sunday night, which made Monday’s doubleheader against Buffalo a welcome double-dose of baseball.
“It felt great to get out there,” Pawtucket catcher Ken Huckaby told the Providence Journal. “Baseball players, by nature, love rainouts. But three in a row, you start to get the itch to start playing again. It actually wasn’t cold even though it looked like it was. It’s the adage: ‘Come to the ballpark ready to play, no matter what.’ You need to mentally prepare yourself to play.”
The Sox swept Buffalo, winning the opener 3-2 and the nightcap 4-0. Most significantly, Craig Hansen started the second game, allowing five hits and no walks while striking out four in four innings of work. Hansen threw 54 pitches, including 35 strikes, in his longest outing of the season, featuring a fastball that hit 94 mph.
The Red Sox have said Hansen is starting simply to give him regular work and to give him enough innings so that he works on developing his entire arsenal of pitches. At the same time, it could allow him to help the big league club as a starter, if a need arises.
“It’s a good way to go with a guy like this,” Pawtucket manager Ron Johnson told the Providence Journal. “He’s being viewed as a pitcher (by the organization), and those decisions of what a guy becomes down the road, fortunately, is not my decision. Our job is to make sure he develops these pitches, mound presence, composure and game awareness. He’s getting professionalized in every aspect of the game, so you can create a lot of pitchability for the Red Sox when, and if, he gets the opportunity to go up there.”
– J.J. COOPER
Garza Gets Promoted
When the season started, the high Class A Florida State League was filled with top pitching prospects, but as the weather has warmed the pitching has thinned.
The Mets promoted Mike Pelfrey and Alay Soler to Double-A Binghamton. The Phillies sent Cole Hamels to Triple-A Scranton for a brief stopover before he made it to the majors, and the Yankees’ Philip Hughes was sent to Trenton as soon as the Northeast weather got a little balmier.
The FSL saw another ace head out on Monday, when the Twins promoted Matt Garza to Double-A New Britain. The club decided to swap Garza with Justin Jones, who was demoted to Fort Meyers to try to improve his control.
Garza was third in the FSL in ERA at the time of his promotion, going 5-1, 1.42 for Fort Myers with 53 strikeouts and 11 walks in 44 innings. He also led the league in wins and was second in strikeouts.
“When a pitcher gets hot like that, it forces your hand,” Rock Cats manager Riccardo Ingram told the New Britain Herald. “Garza has pitched his way up here and Jones has been inconsistent in his outings.”
While Garza is coming up, Jones is headed down. His overall numbers don’t look that bad (2-2, 3.25 in 28 innings), but he has struggled with his command all season, walking 15 batters and uncorking six wild pitches. And after going 2-1, 2.61 in April, he was 0-1, 5.14 in two May starts.
Fort Myers still has an ace, however. Kevin Slowey has been just as good this season, going 2-1, 1.31.
– J.J. COOPER
Good News Comes In Bunches
The Mariners are getting a flurry of good news from high Class A Inland Empire, starting with the play of second baseman Yung Chi Chen.
The 22-year-old second baseman from Taiwan may have lost his 18-game hitting streak Sunday against Stockton, but he bounced right back with a three-hit game against Lake Elsinore last night and is now hitting .351-2-23 with 14 stolen bases in 16 attempts.
The 66ers snapped another streak on Sunday that they weren’t sad to see come to an end. Ronnie Prettyman’s fourth-inning home run ended a 14-game homerless stretch for Inland Empire, which nevertheless went 8-6 during that power outage. Center fielder Jermel Womack turned it into a streak of two straight games with a solo shot in last night’s loss to the Storm.
But the better news for Inland Empire is that the team is getting healthy. Shortstop Matt Tuiasosopo, the Mariners’ No. 5 prospect entering the year, returns today from an elbow injury he suffered at home on an off day a week ago.
Righthander Mark Lowe, who had a 0.77 ERA and 38-6 strikeout-walk ratio in just 23 innings out of the bullpen, is also nearing a return, according to the San Bernardino County (Calif.) Sun. Lowe has been sidelined since May 1 but could return as soon as this weekend, after throwing two more bullpen sessions.
And righthander Aaron Jensen threw a pain-free fastball and controlled his breaking ball during a bullpen yesterday, and his return from the disabled list has been moved up to Thursday, the Sun reported. It was a big improvement from his previous two erratic bullpen sessions. Shoulder pain sidelined him after he threw five shutout innings in his season debut on April 11.
“All the rust was just dripping off,” Inland Empire pitching coach Scott Budner told the paper. “He was pretty freaked out before. He thought he was going to come back and pitch just like he did before (the injury).”
Yesterday was supposed to be the day when the Lakewood BlueClaws got to play on a big league field. Unfortunately, weather did not permit.
The low Class A affiliate of the Phillies had a game scheduled at Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park against Delmarva, but because of the travel distance and an uncertain weather forecast, the game was called off.
The BlueClaws had sold about 4,000 seats to the game in Philadelphia and will offer an exchange for tickets for a game at their home park. A ticket that cost $14 at Citizens Bank will be worth two tickets at FirstEnergy Park, while a $20 ticket will be worth three tickets.
– MATT MEYERS
• It was a heck of a day for Padres center fielder Ben Johnson. After being demoted to Triple-A Portland from San Diego, he caught a morning flight, arrived in Portland around 12:30 p.m., headed to the ballpark, found himself in the starting lineup and hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth to beat Round Rock, 6-4 . . . Nick Ungs pitched the first complete-game shutout in the Pacific Coast League this season, with Albuquerque beating Tacoma, 1-0, behind his four-hitter . . . The Tigers’ Cameron Maybin has been sidelined for the past week with a sore right index finger. He has not been placed on the disabled list though and is hitting .310/409/.510 for low Class A West Michigan . . . The Mets’ Fernando Martinez has gone on the disabled list with a strained left thumb ligament. The 17-year-old was off to a fantastic start for low Class A Hagerstown and is hitting .322/.391/.492. He is expected to be back in a week . . . Jon Mark Owings has been placed on the DL at low Class A Rome with a leg sprain. The Braves outfielder is hitting .167/.200/.333 in 24 at-bats this season . . . It wasn’t a game-winning home run, but Wichita’s Alex Gordon provided the heroics for the Wranglers on Monday night with a bases-loaded walk against Springfield closer Mark Worrell with two outs in the ninth for a 7-6 win . . . Cedar Rapids’ Jordan Renz tied a Midwest League record with 10 RBIs Monday night in an 18-14 loss to Clinton. Renz went 4-for-5 with four runs scored. He hit a pair of two-run home runs, drove in two with a double and hit a grand slam.