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Baseball America's Daily Dish
Complete Daily Dish Archive
Compiled by Kevin Goldstein and Chris Kline
A rainout Saturday could not disrupt Matt Moses' rhythm.
The Twins' third baseman continued his assault on Florida State League pitching Sunday, going 3-for-4 a home run, boosting his season stats to .415/.475/.755 with three homers and 18 RBIs in 53 at-bats.
Over his last five games at Fort Myers, Moses has gone 12-for-18 with six runs scored, six RBIs and six extra-base hits. Moses, a first-round pick out of Mills Godwin High in Richmond, Va., in 2003, appears to have fully recovered from the bulged disc in his back that limited him to 29 games last year, and he is impressing the Miracle coaching staff.
"He has some real life off of that bat," manager Riccardo Ingram said. "The ball jumps off the bat to all fields. He's a lefthanded hitter, has real good hand-eye coordination, and if it's a hittable pitch in the zone, he puts the barrel on the ball, and that's not something you can teach. That's a positive for him. His mechanics are sound enough, but it goes back to hand-eye coordination, and he has that natural ability. He's a very strong kid too, his strength surprised me."
Everyone knew B.J. Upton's bat would come around. The Triple-A Durham shortstop raised his average 129 points over the last 10 games, and boasted a streak in which he doubled in seven consecutive games. His defense remains an enigma, however. When Upton saw his doubles streak end in an 0-for-3 performance Sunday against Norfolk, he also committed his 12th error in 18 games. "Most of them aren't what you'd call aggressive errors at all," an NL scout said. "While he has the arm strength to compensate for bad reactions and poor footwork he has now, those things have to fundamentally be there." Upton is hitting .329/.383/.452 with six RBIs in 73 at-bats.
From one Devil Ray shortstop to another. Double-A Montgomery's Fernando Cortez is going off in the Southern League and has been solid defensively as well while splitting time between shortstop and second base. Cortez, a ninth-round pick in 2001 out of Grossmont (Calif.) Community College, has committed three errors in 14 games for the Biscuits and is leading the club in hitting. Through 50 at-bats, Cortez is batting .500/.576/.620 with 11 RBIs.
Triple-A Charlotte (3-14) has struggled early this season, but center fielder Brian Anderson certainly has been a highlight for the Knights. Anderson, a first-rounder in 2003 out of Arizona, fell a single short of the cycle Sunday and drove in three in Charlotte's 7-2 win against Richmond. Anderson is hitting .316/.400/.632 with three homers and 10 RBIs in 57 at-bats overall.
Double-A West Tenn outfielder Matt Murton's hitting streak came to an end Sunday at 15 games as he went 0-for-3 against Huntsville--his first hitless game of the season. Murton, a first-round pick of the Red Sox in 2003 out of Georgia Tech, came over to the Cubs in the Nomar Garicaparra four-team deal. The 23-year-old is hitting .469/.541/.719 with three homers and 16 RBIs in 64 at-bats.
Double-A Carolina righthander Yorman Bazardo took a no-hitter into the eighth inning Saturday before allowing two runs. Bazardo, who hasn't put up the big strikeout numbers this season with nine in 19 innings, seems to be making all the other adjustments to Double-A hitters. In three starts, the 20-year-old from Venezuela is 3-0, 2.84; opponents are hitting .214 against him.
It took Jonathan Broxton four starts, but he got his first Double-A win Sunday at Jacksonville. Broxton, the Dodgers' second-round pick out of Burke County High in Waynesboro, Ga., went six shutout innings against Chattanooga, allowed four hits and struck out four. The 20-year-old righthander is 1-1. 3.86 in 21 innings overall.
Could this be a sign of things to come for Padres third baseman Corey Smith? Or just another hot start followed by his long history of inconsistency? Smith, a first-round pick of the Indians in 2001 out of Piscataway (N.J.) High, always seems to get out of the gate strong, but then flounders with prolonged droughts at the plate with errors mounting as the offense struggles through June and July. Traded for Padres' first rounder in 2001, Jake Gautreau, Smith is hitting .324/.377/.507 with two homers and six RBIs in 71 at-bats overall. He's committed four errors in 17 games.
Braves' lefthander Chuck James continues to roll through the Carolina League, though he hasn't gotten much run support. James, a 20th-round pick in 2002 out of Chattahoochee Valley (Ala.) Community College, is 1-2, 1.59 in 23 innings. He tossed six shutout innings Saturday against Kinston with 11 strikeouts. Relying on fastball location and a plus curveball, James threw 106 pitches, including 89 fastballs. "He was effectively wild," Indians third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff told the Kinston Free Press. "He worked in and out really well, and high and low."
Speaking of the Indians, Class A Kinston might have high-profile No. 1 pick Jeremy Sowers in the rotation, but so far it's been righthander Nick Pesco stealing the limelight. Pesco, whose low-90s fastball command was slightly off in the closing weeks of spring training, has been the best pitcher in the Carolina League over the season's first month. He is 3-0, 1.80 with 21 strikeouts and just three walks in 25 innings. In addition to the fastball, Pesco boasts the best changeup in the system, a curveball and a developing slider is in the 80-82 mph range. "The fastball command is definitely there," Kinston pitching coach Steve Lyons said. "And the changeup is his pitch. It's just getting him to be more consistent in repeating his delivery and working on the slider. He's been great in every start." While all eyes might be on Pesco and Sowers in that rotation, keep an eye on lefthander Rafael Perez. Perez runs his fastball up to the mid-90s and is 2-0 this season. He has yet to allow a run, given up just eight hits and struck out 14 in 18 innings this season.
While Double-A Corpus Christi has dropped four of its last five games, it's hard to find blame in the performance of their top two starting pitchers, righthanders Fernando Nieve and Jason Hirsh. Nieve was a tough-luck loser on Friday night, giving up just two hits over seven innings in a 2-1 loss to Frisco. In four starts, Nieve has yet to allow more than three hits, compiling an ERA of 1.50 while giving up only nine hits overall in 24 innings with a league-leading 28 strikeouts. Hirsh improved to 3-0, 1.40 with seven strong innings in Saturday's 6-1 win, limiting the Roughriders to three hits and one run. A 6-foot-8 righty who was a second-round pick in 2003, Hirsh has allowed 13 hits in 25 2/3 innings.
High Class A San Jose started the year 2-7 but has reeled off seven straight wins, outscoring opponents 55-20. Outfielder Nate Schierholtz has upped his average to .352 with an 11-game hitting streak, first baseman Travis Ishikawa has raised his batting average nearly 100 points to .275 over the past week, and righthander Garret Broshuis, who was ripped for 12 runs over 8 1/3 inning in his first two starts of the year, has rebounded to win his next two starts, tying a career-high with eight strikeouts in last night's 8-4 win against Modesto.
Angels shortstop Brandon Wood, who moved into the first round of the 2003 draft based on his ability to hit for power, is beginning to show that power as a pro, homering in his third straight game for high Class A Rancho Cucamonga on Sunday to assume the California League lead with eight. Wood, batting .314-8-16 overall, hit .251-11-64 last season in 125 games for low Class A Cedar Rapids.
Cardinals shortstop Brendan Ryan went 2-for-4 with a double in high Class A Palm Beach's 7-6 loss Saturday to St. Lucie, but it was the five errors that truly made it a night to forget for last season's Midwest League batting champ. Four of Ryans errors came in the third and fourth innings, where the Mets scored all of their runs, six of them unearned.
High Class A Vero Beach third baseman Andy LaRoche homered for the fifth time in eight games Saturday night and is now hitting .329-5-14 overall, ranking second in the Florida State League in both hits (24) and total bases (46). A 2003 39th-round pick who received a $1 million bonus, LaRoche hit 23 home runs last season while splitting time between the Dodgers two Class A affiliates.
Twins 2004 first-round pick Glen Perkins made his season debut Friday night for high Class A Ft. Myers, pitching three shutout innings in the Miracle's 2-1 loss to Lakeland. The lefthander from Minnesota had his season delayed by a sore left wrist.
Strange stat of the day: Tigers righthander Jair Jurrjens gave up his first run of the year Friday in the low Class A West Michigan's 4-3 win over Lansing and is 2-0, 0.50 overall in three starts, allowing just eight hits in 17 innings. Now here is where it gets weird. While righthanded batters are just 2-for-25 (.080) against the 19-year-old from Curacao, Jurrjens has yet to strike out a batter from that side. On the opposite side of the plate, lefties have managed only a .147 average (5-for-34), but have struck out 11 times.
Sent back to Triple-A after looking overmatched in Texas this April, Adrian Gonzalez is trying his best to get back to Arlington The first overall pick in 2000 was 3-for-4 yesterday with three home runs and five RBIs. He is now 4-for-16 at Oklahoma. All four hits are homers.
Jeff Mathis continues his impressive offensive performance at Salt Lake City. The Angels catcher went 2-for-5 yesterday and is now hitting .375/.453/.761 on the season. While the Molina brothers block his path to Angels Stadium, he could probably out-hit them in the majors if given the chance. He can look to Triple-A teammate Casey Kotchman for advice on how to deal with this dilemma.
Some thought the Astros reached for Hunter Pence when they took him in the second round last June, however, the former Southland Conference batting champ was impressive in his pro debut at Tri-City of the short-season New York-Penn League last year and is continuing to do it in the low Class A South Atlantic League. After going 2-for-3 yesterday with a triple and a homer, Pence is now hitting .380/.466/.760 with five home runs.
Who is the best lefthander in the SAL, Gio Gonzalez or Jason Vargas? Kannapolis Gonzalez struck out 10 in six innings Saturday while allowing one run to lower his ERA to 1.23. Vargas threw seven shutout innings while fanning 11 on the same day. Gonzalez now has 38 strikeouts in 22 innings while allowing just 11 hits and walking six. Vargas has 27 punchouts in 25 2/3 innings with seven walks and 14 hits allowed while sporting an ERA of 1.05. Let the debate begin.
Contributing: Matthew Meyers.