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Independent League Notebook

By J.J. Cooper
June 1, 2004

Harrington Saga Continues

He's no longer as much a draft footnote as an indy league prospect, but just as the June draft nears, righthander Matt Harrington is showing signs of getting things together.

Harrington was the seventh pick in the 2000 draft, but did not sign with the Rockies. He's been drafted each of the past four seasons, including being picked in the 24th round by the Reds last season.

"This is such a tough story," Cats director of player development Barry Moss said. "It's everybody's fault--anyone who's been involved at some point. But the best thing for him is to get going for someone. He shouldn't be with us any longer than he has to."

In his third stint with the Fort Worth Cats (Central), Harrington put together his best two pro performances in his first two starts of the season, going 1-0, 0.77 including a complete-game seven-inning three-hitter. He had 11 strikeouts in 12 innings.

"He's getting polished up pretty good," Moss said. "He's pitching more effectively because he's got real good command of everything now. He can throw his breaking pitch in the strike zone."

Harrington is showing improved command, but not as much of the flame-throwing style that he showed in high school, when he consistently would top 95 mph on the gun.

"Now he's developed into a pretty good pitcher. He uses his breaking pitch and change effectively. But his velocity is there if he wants it. His consistent range is right at 90. If he needs to hop up every now and then, he'll get up to 93-94."

The Reds retain Harrington's rights until a week before the upcoming draft. They have scouted his first two starts, and the Cats have moved him from the bullpen to the rotation so he can be showcased for scouts on a regular schedule.

"We're happy to help develop him, but he needs to be on his way in an organization," Moss said.

Quick Thinking

The Central League's Alexandria Aces may have folded, but their name lives on.

When Allentown Ambassadors owner Peter Karoly announced in early May that the Ambassadors were declaring bankruptcy and folding, the Northeast League was suddenly left with the need for a traveling team to fill out the schedule.

And as an added hurdle, the bankruptcy proceedings meant that none of the Ambassadors' assets--equipment, uniforms, even the players signed by the Ambassadors--could be used by the Northeast League.

Which is why having a stash of Aces' uniforms lying around the Central and Northeast League's offices came in quite handy. Despite the newly named Aces' late start in signing players, the Northeast League intends to make the team as competitive as possible. While the Atlantic League and the now-defunct Southeastern League used traveling teams as developmental teams, where players can be signed by other teams in the league, the Aces will be built to win.

While the players on the Ambassadors' roster were originally stuck to the now-defunct team, a court ruling in mid-May freed the Ambassadors to sell contracts and waive players. The Ambassadors best player--Vic Davilla--was quickly sold to North Shore.

You Can't Have Too Many Runs

Amarillo is proving to be heaven for hitters. The bad news for the Dillas is that it's all too often proving to be more hospitable for opposing hitters.

Over the first two weeks of the Central League season, there were few lineups impressive than Amarillo's. And there was nothing less impressive than the Dillas' pitching staff, which is why they were 3-9 despite a team batting average over .300.

In the Dillas first 12 games, they gave up 15 or more runs five times. They had four pitchers with ERAs above 10.00, and another with a 9.95 ERA. The Dillas' 8.73 team ERA was almost four times worse than ERA leader Edinburg (2.23).

But the Dillas' pitching and strong hitting did help provide a wildly entertaining set of back-to-back games for the team's fans.

One night, Shreveport scored eight runs in the top of the third to open up a 9-0 lead, and still trailed before the inning was over, thanks to a 13-run bottom of the third for Amarillo. Amarillo ended up holding on for a 26-24 win in a game that featured 45 hits, eight stolen bases, six home runs and an ultra-rare set of back-to-back-to-back triples.

"We scored 13 runs with nobody out (in the third). We could have scored more runs, but I think the guys were tired from running around the bases. I'm still kind of spinning from it," Amarillo manager Murray Wilson said.

The next night, Shreveport got its revenge with a 15-13 victory. Two days, tons of hits, and too many trips to the pitcher's mound.

"I've been in baseball 43 years and I'm never seen two days like that with that many runs. We made seven errors, but we also gave up 13 earned runs (in the 26-24 win)," Wilson said.

INDEPENDENT'S DAY

Before the season began, the Northern League already sold its first player to affiliated ball, as the Brewers purchased third baseman Troy Farnsworth from Sioux Falls. Farnsworth, 27, hit .221-2-6 in 68 at-bats for Sioux Falls last season, as he was limited by a broken hand. A 32nd-round pick of the Cardinals in 1999, Farnsworth was named the Carolina League MVP in 2000.

Frontier League all-star Justin Dowdy has returned to Rockford after being released by the Mariners. The righthander was 2-1, 1.88 for Rockford last season before being signed by Seattle. He went 2-3, 5.92 for low Class A Wisconsin with the Mariners.

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