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Baseball America's Daily Dish
Complete Daily Dish Archive
Compiled by Kevin Goldstein and Chris Kline
A professional scout sizes up Mariners shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, a 23-year-old Cuban defector who signed in January to a $3.65 major league contract and made his pro debut with Double-A San Antonio. Betancourt is off to a .226-1-6 start for the Missions.
"If the bat plays enough for him to be a regular, he could be a star, because he's a stud defender. He has great actions and hands; he can really go get it and has plus range. He played a lot of second base when I saw him (as an amateur playing for Cuba), and he's a lot better now than he was then, even though he was good then. His arm looks like a plus arm. He makes the plays in the hole, and when he needs it, he shows it.
"He made a play with runners at first and third with two outs that showed his savvy. He went to the hole, gloved it, looked up and then got the force at second. He stood up and made sure he had his balance before he made a stupid play. With a lot of young shortstops, that ball is thrown into right field.
"He's an average runner, and it looks like he needs some time to determine how much he'll hit. But if he hits, he's an all-star because of his glove."
Farm director Benny Looper said the Mariners are willing to be patient with Betancourt's offense.
"He's a pretty exciting player," Looper said. "He's going to be more of a doubles-type hitter, he'll hit for some occasional power, but he's just learning the zone, getting good at-bats and getting good pitches to hit."
Rangers righthander Eric Hurley, the final first-round pick in the 2004 draft, allowed just one hit over six innings in low Class A Clinton's 10-0 whitewashing of Beloit. With the win, Hurley improved to 3-0, 1.06 in three starts, allowing just 10 hits and striking out 19 over 17 innings. Hurley, who saw his velocity drop to the low 90s last year due to a tired arm after touching 97 mph in high school, sat at 92-93 and hit 96 mph on multiple occasions while also flashing an improved slider and changeup. "It's very encouraging for us to see his velocity back to what it was in high school," said John Lombardo, the Rangers director of minor league operations. "He's still young and still has a lot to work on, but we are very encouraged with how far he's come with all of his pitches."
Fresh off a tremendous showing in big league camp where he nearly made the White Sox' rotation, Brandon McCarthy struggled for his second straight Triple-A start. Or maybe it's just that Toledo's figured him out. After he shut down Columbus in his Triple-A debut, McCarthy has allowed eight earned runs on 12 hits in 9 1/3 innings. He has walked four and struck out 11. He lasted 5 1/3 innings in a 6-4 loss last night, giving up five runs on seven hits. Mud Hens righthander Kenny Baugh was solid, allowing two runs on four hits over six innings.
After Double-A Portland visited the loss column for the first time Monday, the Sea Dogs rebounded with a 5-4 win against Binghamton--even though two of the hottest hitters in the minors had off nights. The middle-infield tandem of Dustin Pedroia and Hanley Ramirez went a combined 0-for-8, but first baseman Jeremy West went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and outfielder David Murphy drove in a pair of runs to lead the Sea Dogs past Mets righthander Yusmeiro Petit. Petit lasted just 3 2/3 innings, gave up five earned runs on four hits, struck out three and walked two. Portland lefthander Jon Lester outdueled Petit, allowing two hits over five innings and striking out six.
While the Sea Dogs have been rolling, Red Sox No. 2 prospect Brandon Moss remains cold at the plate. Moss went 0-for-4 for a second straight night and is now batting .175/.200/.300 with a homer and six RBIs in 40 at-bats. Moss, and eighth-rounder out of Loganville High in Monroe, Ga., burst on the scene last season in low Class A Augusta and played 23 games in high Class A before starting this season with the prospect-laden Sea Dogs.
Speaking of scuffling, Double-A Jacksonville first baseman James Loney is going through some tough times as well. Loney had another 0-for-4 night Tuesday in a 4-1 loss to Birmingham and is hitting .178/.229/.267 with a homer and six RBIs in 45 at-bats.
Double-A Norwich righthander Merkin Valdez had another solid outing, allowing a run on three hits over 5 2/3 innings, but the bullpen--particularly lefthander Erick Threets--couldn't hang on as Trenton defeated the Navigators, 11-7. Threets, who once hit 103 mph with his fastball in 2001, has logged just 89 innings heading into this season because of command and injury problems, and he missed all of 2004 due to shoulder surgery. Threets lasted just 2/3 of an inning against the Thunder, allowed four earned runs on three hits and walked one. Valdez left the game in the sixth after he had reached his pitch limit of 80. "With a prospect like that, you're not going deviate (from the pitch count)," Norwich manager Dave Machemer told the New London Day. "I didn't ask him how he felt because it was irrelevant."
The worst pitching line of the night hung on Double-A Mississippi righthander Blaine Boyer, who faced the red-hot Montgomery lineup. Boyer allowed nine earned runs on 12 hits, struck out four and walked two . . . in four innings. Boyer, the Braves' third-round pick in 2000 out of Walton High in Marietta, Ga., spent much of the spring in Atlanta's big league camp. "I faced the New York Yankees down there (in spring training)," Boyer told The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss. "And these guys hit me harder than the New York Yankees did." Biscuits shortstop Fernando Cortez and outfielders Delmon Young and Elijah Dukes went a combined 10-for-14 with five RBIs in Montgomery's 13-3 win.
While the early consensus among scouts is that the talent level is down in the high Class A Carolina League this season, one bright spot has been Kinston righthander Nick Pesco. Pesco, who works a heavy, boring fastball in the 90-94 mph range, also has the best changeup in the Indians' system. He allowed one hit over seven shutout innings, walked one and struck out seven in the Indians' 4-0 win against Wilmington. Pesco, a 2002 draft-and-follow pick out of Cosumnes River (Calif.) Junior College who signed in 2003, only made three starts in high Class A last season, but likes the challenge of a small, eight-team league. "I like seeing the same hitters on a regular basis so I can see what kind of adjustments they make to me," Pesco said. "That way, I really know what I need to work on in game situations. I can figure out when I'm giving away little tendencies or maybe something I don't see that I need to see." Pesco is 3-0, 1.00 with three walks and 13 strikeouts in 18 innings overall in April.
If we named an "All-Blocked" team today, Ryan Shealy might be battling Ryan Howard for the first-base slot. While Todd Helton might be keeping him from Denver, Shealy keeps raking in Triple-A Colorado Springs. After going 3-for-5 with a homer last night, Shealy is now hitting .326/.333/.628, relatively in line with the .318/.411/.584 he put up at Tulsa in the Double-A Texas League last season.
Felix Hernandez and Dan Meyer faced off last night in what was on paper a delightful matchup. Neither disappointed. Meyer allowed only one run in five innings while striking out four but walked an alarming five batters. He has been erratic thus far this season with an ERA of 7.62. Hernandez surrendered three earned runs over six innings while whiffing eight and walking four while taking the loss. His record might be 1-2, but his ERA for the season is 1.59. Let the Felix watch in Seattle begin.
Lefthander Dave Haehnel is perfect thus far for Delmarva. The Orioles eighth-round pick out of Illinois-Chicago in 2004 is six-for-six in save chances this season and has yet to allow a run while striking out nine. A reliever for two years in college, he moved back to the rotation as a junior before the Orioles sent him back to the bullpen last season at Aberdeen of the short-season New York-Penn League. There he had 16 saves, an ERA of 1.24 and 58 strikeouts in 36 innings.
Drafted by the Red Sox in the third-round last June, Andrew Dobies is dealing at low Class A Greenville. The lefthander out of the Virginia carried a no-hitter into the fifth in winning a second straight start. He ended up going six innings with no runs while fanning seven and lowering his ERA to 1.69.
Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick went 3-for-4 with a triple in high Class A Rancho Cucamonga's 4-3 win over Lake Elsinore. For Kendrick, it was his fifth three-hit outing in his last nine games, and over that span he is a remarkable 23-for-45. Keeping up with the Joneses (or Kendricks in this case) was Cubs second baseman Eric Patterson, who was 2-for-4 in low Class A Peoria's 6-5 win over Cedar Rapids. It was the seventh straight multi-hit game for Patterson, who is a just as remarkable 18-for-26 over that span.
The Dodgers placed righty Justin Orenduff on the high Class A Vero Beach disabled list with biceps tendinitis, though he is expected to miss just one start. The 2004 supplemental first-round pick out of Virginia Commonwealth was 0-0, 3.72 in his first two starts, striking out 13 in 9 2/3 innings.
Cardinals catcher Brandon Yarbrough, a 2003 fifth-round pick who hit .326 in the Appy League last year, broke out of a 1-for-21 slump by hitting for the cycle in low Class A Quad Cities' 14-10 win over Kane County, thanks to some help from his teammates. Still needing a single after four at-bats, The Swing scored two runs in the eighth and one in the ninth to force extra innings and give the 20-year-old another shot, which he took advantage of by knocking a base hit as part of a four-run 11th inning.
Contributing: Alan Matthews, Matt Meyers.