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Baseball America's Daily Dish
Complete Daily Dish Archive
Compiled by Kevin Goldstein and Matt Meyers
Two long-lost prospects made big news over the weekend, only for very different reasons.
As Baseball America’s Angels correspondent Bill Shaikin reported Friday, Kendry Morales finally arrived in the United States, after months of visa problems kept the Cuban defector from making his professional debut.
The 21-year-old switch-hitting Cuban signed a six-year major league contract in December that included a $3 million bonus and had a total value of up to $10 million with incentives. Morales played briefly in the Dominican Winter League, but he couldn't get a visa to come to the U.S., leaving him out of spring training and keeping him from having a chance of making the Angels’ big league roster.
Finally granted a visa in mid May, he made his American baseball debut Saturday night, and it couldn’t have gone much better. He hit a home run in his first at-bat—second pitch, first swing—and finished the night with three hits and three RBIs while playing for high Class A Rancho Cucamonga.
"It was a long process because my documents had to be signed by the Dominican president and we had to go through a lot of stages," Morales told the Los Angeles Times through an interpreter. "Basically the key was patience."
Patience was especially necessary because Morales has not played since prior to his defection in June 2004. The rust showed a bit in his second game when, batting third and playing first base, he went 0-for-3 with a walk and a run scored in a 7-1 defeat.
His timetable for moving up from the California League remains unknown. But at least the Angels are seeing some return on their significant investment.
The timetable for Josh Hamilton’s return to baseball—he last played in the Cal League back in 2002--also remains a mystery. In fact, the weekend brought another sign that Hamilton’s return to the diamond remains anything but inevitable.
Hamilton's hopes to be reinstated from a lengthy drug suspension this summer and rejoin the Devil Rays organization seem less likely after a weekend misdemeanor arrest in North Carolina and admission that he had been drinking alcohol at a party.
Hamilton, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1999 draft, has battled injuries as well as substance abuse during his time away from the field. His father-in-law, Michael Dean Chadwick, said the latest incident has been blown out of proportion and shouldn't be considered a sign Hamilton is headed for more trouble, however.
"I definitely don't think it should be, though I know how the world turns," Chadwick said. "I think anybody who will ask me what I think and take it to heart since I'm with him about every day will realize this was a pothole and not a major setback. It's just a damn shame is what it is."
Police in Cary, N.C., arrested Hamilton on a misdemeanor charge of damage to property after they say he shattered the windshield of a family friend's pickup truck and broke the rearview mirror. The arrest capped a series of odd events following a party being held in part to celebrate Hamilton's 24th birthday Saturday night.
Hamilton, who in March told the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times he had not used drugs or alcohol since September and was determined to get reinstated to play baseball, told police he had been drinking at the party and left after getting into an argument with his wife Katie.
On their way home, Hamilton punched the windshield of their car, then got out, walked along U.S. Highway 1 and ended up at a gas station, from where police got their first call. "Originally we got a call that he was harassing customers and was covered in blood," said Lt. Michael Williams of the Cary Police Department.
Hamilton left the gas station in a friend's Jeep, but police stopped them shortly afterward. Chadwick and a friend, Dana Eiseman, showed up at the scene and planned to take Hamilton to Chadwick's home. They rode in Eiseman's pickup and, according to Williams, "at some point Mr. Hamilton punched the windshield and ripped the mirror off."
Police had left and did not know about the vandalism when it occurred, Williams said, but they became involved again when Chadwick called police to his residence when Hamilton and his wife continued to argue. Hamilton was taken to the Wake County Jail and released on a promise to appear in court.
Chadwick said he and Hamilton were playing golf together the day after the incident and had discussed it. "It can't be that bad if I'm playing golf with him, can it?" said Chadwick, who runs a ministry and counsels on drug abuse.
Injuries and drug problems have disrupted Hamilton’s once-promising career. Once ranked the top prospect in the game by Baseball America, he hasn't played in a game since July 2002.
He was suspended 30 days in February 2004 for failing at least two drug tests, then on March 19, 2004, was given a one-year suspension for failing additional tests. The Times reported in January that the suspension had been extended through the 2005 season due to additional violations, but that Hamilton had shown enough progress that MLB officials told him if he continued to stay sober, there was a chance he would be reinstated sometime this summer.
Devil Rays general counsel/vice president John Higgins said the team was looking into the situation and had no comment.
• The first ever matchup between Bryan Bullington and B.J. Upton, the top two picks from the 2002 draft, was far from exciting. Bullington allowed eight earned runs in 3 2/3 innings and Upton did almost none of the damage. The Devil Rays shortstop saw only two pitches in two at-bats from the Pirates righthander, popping out on the first and hitting an RBI groundout on the second. Bullington is now 1-2, 8.04 at Triple-A Indianapolis with five strikeouts and four walks in 15 2/3 innings. He also has allowed five homers.
• Tigers shortstop Tony Giarratano has recovered from his slow start at Double-A Erie, fashioning a 14-game hitting streak to raise his average from .190 (where it sat on May 8) to .262. A 2003 third-round pick out of Tulane, Giarratano entered the season with a career .333 batting average in 143 games.
• Double-A Bowie has won five in a row and 11 of 13, much of it riding the bullpen heroics of new closer Chris Ray. The 23-year-old righthander, a 2003 third-round pick out of William and Mary, has not allowed a hit in his last four outings, and has yielded just eight on the season in 21 innings as part of a 1-2, 1.71 record with nine saves.
• Quickly transforming into a potential five-tool player is Cubs centerfielder Felix Pie, who smashed his ninth home run yesterday for Double-A West Tenn, establishing a new career-high in just 39 games. Just 20, Pie is batting .344/.397/.650 for the Diamond Jaxx and leads the Southern League with 27 extra-base hits.
• Lefthander J.P. Howell, one of the Royals’ 2004 first-round picks, made his Double-A debut yesterday, allowing three runs over 5 1/3 innings and getting credit for the victory in Wichita’s 9-3 win over Tulsa. The 22 year-old former Longhorn compiled a 1.98 ERA in eight starts for high Class A High Desert while pitching in one of the friendliest hitters’ parks in the minors.
• The Astros’ Double-A affiliate in Corpus Christi has lost seven straight and 17 of their last 21 games, despite a pitching staff that leads the league in ERA (3.41) by nearly half a point.
• Since having his season delayed by minor knee surgery, Devil Rays first baseman Wes Bankston has been on a roll at high Class A Visalia, batting .395-3-15 in 11 games, including a pair of home run and six RBIs in Saturday night’s 10-8 win over Rancho Cucamonga.
• The high Class A Vero Beach Dodgers scored 29 runs while taking two of three from Tampa over the weekend, as both third baseman Andy LaRoche and outfielder Matt Kemp went off. Each player homered in all three games, with LaRoche delivering one two-homer game, and Kemp outdoing him by hit a pair of longballs on both Saturday and Sunday. In the three-game span, the duo combined to go 15-for-27 with two doubles, nine home runs and 16 RBIs. Kemp is now batting .267/.298/.622 in 23 games with nine homers and 25 RBIs, while LaRoche is hitting .358/.398/.682 and is tied with the Mets’ Brett Harper for the Florida State League lead with 15 home runs.
• His batting average is still below the Mendoza line at .194, but Cardinals first baseman Mike Ferris is beginning to show the power that got him drafted in the second round last year out of Miami of Ohio. Ferris hit his eighth home run for low Class A Quad Cities yesterday, giving him five in his last eight games.
• Things have been bleak in Cincinnati this season, but some help might be on the way in the form of Edwin Encarnacion. The organization's No. 2 prospect is putting together a fine campaign in the IL as he is now hitting .304/.382/.541 at Louisville. The third baseman went 2-for-4 yesterday with his eighth homer of the season.
• It's unlikely Chris Snelling tries to get hurt, but he has a hard time avoiding injury. The Australian outfielder, who has never stayed healthy for a full season in six pro seasons, was hit on the right hand by a pitch on Saturday and removed from the game. X-rays are forthcoming. It ended an 11-game hitting streak for the Mariners' outfield prospect and threatens to seriously interfere with what has thus far been a remarkable season. The 23-year-old is hitting .404/.484/.635.
• Look out--if Sergio Santos maintains his pace, he might very well get above the Mendoza line. The Diamondbacks shortstop went 2-for-5 yesterday for Triple-A Tucson and is now 6-for-12 in his last three games with two homers and two doubles. The 21-year-old improved to .199/.281/.390.
• For those who don't believe that strikeouts and strikeout-walk ratio are not important indicators for young pitchers, then the Mets Jose Sanchez is the man for you. Sanchez is now 8-0, 2.39 at low Class A Hagerstown after throwing six shutout innings yesterday as the Suns defeated Lexington 4-0. In 49 innings the 21-year-old Venezuelan has struck out 32 and walked 13. Those figures are not particularly impressive, but the ERA and record certainly are.
• Marcus Sanders is running wild in the SAL. The Giants shortstop is hitting pretty well too. The 19-year-old was 2-for-5 with his fourth homer yesterday for Augusta and stole three bases. He now has 27 on the season and is hitting .292/.390/.421. At six feet tall and 160 pounds, there is room for growth in his wiry-strong frame and increased power seems likely.
• Tom Collaro snapped a seven-game homerless streak with four in his last four games at high Class A Winston-Salem. The 22-year-old White Sox outfielder hit two home runs Thursday and one apiece on Friday and Sunday, giving him 13 on the season to lead the Carolina League. Collaro, who entered the season with a .253 career batting average in three seasons in Rookie ball, is hitting .294 through 163 at-bats. He had been hitting .342 through 72 at-bats before cooling down somewhat.
Contributing: Aaron Fitt.