Weekend Dish


See also: Friday’s Daily Dish


Royals righthander Billy Buckner felt like he had to be perfect at high
Class A High Desert–arguably one of the best hitter’™s parks in the
minors. But he always looked at pitching in such an environment as a
plus to his development down the line.

“You
have to keep the ball down, especially when you consider out here any
fly ball can go out at any time and that usually leads to big innings,
so you’™ve really got to bear down when you’™ve got runners on base,”
Buckner said before his appearance in the California/Carolina League
all-star game a week ago. “You’re just looking at a lot of
two-seamers–just trying to get a lot of sink on everything to keep it
down. I think throwing so many two-seamers has kind of prepared me for
whatever’™s next.”

Buckner found out what was next on his return
flight after the all-star game, as he was re-routed from the West Coast
to Texas, where he made his Double-A debut at Wichita.

The
Royals’ second-round pick in 2004 out of South Carolina wasn’t exactly
sharp, allowing four runs on eight hits and striking out four over 5
1/3 innings of work in the Wranglers’ 6-4 win against Springfield. But
one positive Buckner came away with was something that eluded him
during his time in the California League–walks.

Over 90 innings at High Desert, Buckner put up solid numbers for the Mavericks, going 7-1, 3.90; but walked 47 during that span.

He
also struck out 85, and chalks up the high walk total to learning how
to attack hitters with his three-pitch mix of fastball, breaking ball,
changeup.

“The numbers are a little higher than I would like,
but that’s just part of the learning process for me–learning a new
level,” Buckner said. “It’s part of learning how to throw which pitches
in certain counts, it’s a matter of trusting those pitches and it’s a
matter of knowing how to attack.”

Buckner’s best pitch is his
breaking ball–a knuckle-curveball his father taught him in high
school–and it’s developed into a plus 12-to-6 downer. His fastball
sits in the low 90s, but at times he’s hittable because he’s still
working on locating it consistently. The Royals made a concerted effort
to get Buckner to pitch more off his two-seamer, instead of setting up
hitters backwards by establishing his breaking ball early in counts.

And that in itself has been a work in progress.

“It’s
worked well so far,” Buckner said. “I’ve just been working on locating
my fastball more in and out, and it’s worked pretty good for me this
season. That’s what I’m trying to stick with this whole year, pretty
much, just to get used to it.

“My breaking ball has been very
good. The only thing is I’™m trying to throw it for strikes earlier now
and then I’™ll bury it later in the count, and I’™ve been trying to stop
spiking it into the ground as much as I have in the past. I’™ve just
been trying to throw it for more strikes.”

As his game plan in
terms of attacking hitters has changed this season, so has the urgency
of developing his third option–which is also admittedly, still only a
third option at this point and will have to get better, especially as
he learns a whole new level.

“My changeup is definitely my third
pitch,” Buckner said. “My grip on it feels fine–I’m just working on
arm speed and location, basically. I feel like it’s got good movement
on it, but I just have to locate it in and out, up and down. I’ve felt
like I’ve just been leaving it in the middle of the plate too often,
but it’s a matter of getting a feel for it.”

–CHRIS KLINE

QUICK HITS

• The biggest promotion this weekend was Angels righthander–and Futures Gamer–Nick Adenhart
getting called up to high Class A Rancho Cucamonga over the weekend.
The 14th-round pick in 2004 out of Williamsport (Md.) High, went 10-2,
1.95 with a 99-26 strikeout-walk ratio with 84 hits allowed in 106
innings at low Class A Cedar Rapids this season . . . It didn’t take
long for Devil Rays outfielder Delmon Young to
get back in the groove at the plate after missing 50 games for throwing
his bat at an umpire. Young went 7-for-8 over the weekend, hitting his
first home run of the season and driving in eight runs in two wins for
Triple-A Durham over Norfolk. Since he returned June 19, Young has
batted .441 (19-for-43), drove in 15 runs and stolen three bags . . . Another of the IL’s top young talents, Mets outfielder Lastings Milledge struck a go-ahead double and a stole a base for Norfolk in his first game back at Triple-A after spending all of June in the majors. Milledge summed up his New York experience thusly: “There were times when I got impatient when
I was up with the Mets,” Milledge told The Virginian-Pilot. “I’m only 21 and there’s a lot
to learn. It’s very important if I want to be a leadoff hitter for me
to get deeper into counts and make pitchers throw more pitches. I had
33 walks when I was here at the beginning of the season, but I was
overly aggressive while I was with New York.”

. . . Triple-A Indianapolis had a new center fielder Sunday, but he bore a striking resemblance to their old one. Chris Duffy, who had not reported to the club despite being optioned by the Pirates May 14, took seven weeks away from baseball to address personal issues and to rekindle his passion for the game. “If I wasn’t 100 percent sure I want to do this again, I wouldn’t be back here,” Duffy told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Duffy got a hit and stole a base in his return . . . A
quick rundown of the best pitching performances of the weekend include
Triple-A Toledo righthander Jordan Tata–who
allowed just five hits over seven shutout innings and whiffed 11 in the
Mud Hens’ 7-0 win against Indianapolis; Triple-A Round Rock righthander
Jason Hirsh picked up his ninth
win of the season with six shutout innings and eight strikeouts in an
8-2 win against Nashville; Triple-A Tacoma righthander Francisco Cruceta allowed three runs on four hits in the Rainiers 8-3 win against Fresno, but whiffed 11 and walked two; Athletics righthander Shane Komine also struck out 11 over seven innings in Triple-A Sacramento’s 4-2 win against Salt Lake; Double-A New Britain righthander Matt Garza struck out seven over eight innings in the Rock Cats’ 6-0 shutout of Connecticut; Double-A Binghamton righthander Mike Pelfrey
allowed a run on two hits, struck out 11 and walked three over seven
innings of work in the B-Mets’ 6-4 win against New Hampshire; and
Brewers righthander Yovani Gallardo has
been just as brilliant in Double-A as he was in the Florida State
League, tossing seven shutout innings and whiffing 10 in his second
start in the Southern League . . . Two debuts that didn’t go so well
were Rockies’ righthander Ubaldo Jimenez’s first taste of Triple-A and Phillies lefty J.A. Happ’s
Double-A debut at Reading. Jimenez allowed six earned runs–the most
he’d allowed since Opening Day at Double-A Tulsa–on nine hits over 5
1/3 innings of Triple-A Colorado Springs’ 7-3 loss to Portland. It was
Jimenez’s first loss since May 7. Happ, a third-round pick out of
Northwestern in 2004, allowed five runs on seven hits, but struck out
eight over 4 2/3 innings in Reading’s 5-3 loss to Erie . . . Low Class
A Asheville ran wild over the weekend against Hickory, stealing seven
bags–including the minor league-leading 56th and 57th by second
baseman Eric Young . . . Rockies catcher Chris Ianetta
has held his own since being called up to Triple-A Colorado Springs
last week. Through his first 18 at-bats, the fourth-round pick out of
North Carolina in 2004 has eight hits (.333), and hit his first homer
at that level on Friday. Ianetta batted .321/.418/.622 with 11 homers
in 156 at-bats at Double-A Tulsa this season . . . Another recent
callup, Devil Rays’ third baseman Evan Longoria,
has been even more impressive–mainly because he was just drafted less
than a month ago. A first-rounder out of Long Beach State, Longoria
started his pro career at short-season Hudson Valley but was quickly
promoted to high Class A Visalia after hitting .424/.487/.879 with four
homers in just 33 at-bats. Longoria made his debut with the Oaks over
the weekend, going 3-for-9 with a pair of doubles in his first two
games . . . Blue Jays outfielder and 14th overall pick Travis Snider belted his first pro home run Sunday. The blast came in the 10th inning of a Pulaski win against Kingsport. Snider collected two other hits in the game . . . And finally, sticking with 2006 draft picks, Cubs’
fifth-rounder Jeff Samardzija made
his second start on Saturday at short-season Boise–and it was markedly
better than his first outing. Samardzija struck out five over three
shutout innings, allowing just one hit and walking one.

Contributing: Matt Eddy.

Minors | #2006 #Daily Dish

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