Will The Rakuten Eagles Post Masahiro Tanaka?
With the new pending Japanese posting system putting a $20 million cap on posting fees, the question around baseball is whether the Rakuten Eagles will still post their ace, 25-year-old [...]
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Compiled by Kevin Goldstein, Chris Kline and Matt Meyers
When the Braves sent righthander Adam Wainwright to St. Louis in the J.D. Drew deal two years ago, some thought it was because of questions about his mental toughness and his ability to get hitters out at the higher levels.
He fell apart for Team USA in the Arizona Fall League in 2003, giving up 15 hits in seven innings and compiling a 14.58 ERA, and failed to make the team for the Olympic qualifying tournament. After heading to the Cardinals over the winter, Wainwright tried hard to make a good impression with his new club in spring training. He battled through an elbow strain and posted a 5.37 ERA in 64 innings in his first season in Triple-A--the highest ERA of his pro career.
The numbers from last season look like they'll be an aberration, however. Now fully healthy, the 2000 first-round pick out of Glynn Academy in St. Simon's Island, Ga., leads the Pacific Coast League with 80 innings and is 4-3, 3.19 for Triple-A Memphis.
We caught up with Wainwright while he was driving with his wife Jenny to nearby Jackson, Tenn., to catch up with former teammates now playing for Double-A Mississippi at West Tenn.
On growing up in Georgia and getting drafted by the Braves: "The only way I can put it is that it was a dream come true. Growing up in Georgia, there were only two things ever on the TV: the "Dukes of Hazzard" and the Braves on TBS. I'd eat dinner with one hand and both eyes on the TV set every night at 7:30."
On why he was spending his off day driving to Jackson: "Well, the hardest thing about being traded was leaving a lot of my friends I'd made when I was with the Braves. I miss all those guys. When you're in that situation, you go through so many hardships together that you grow together, and the friendships you establish in this game last a lifetime. We're going to see Blaine Boyer, Jeff Francoeur and Richard Lewis. We were hoping to see Brian McCann (who got called up to Atlanta), but how about that? That is awesome. Jeff'll probably be up next week or something."
On what happened during Team USA's dry run in the AFL in 2003: "The first thing that comes to my mind is disappointment. Being selected was pretty special, but I just didn't pitch well and I was really let down by that. There are two things we play for: a gold medal and a World Series ring. I didn't pitch the way I wanted to and I have no one to blame but myself."
On how marriage has changed him: "Well, I don't want this to be a love story in Baseball America. (Jenny laughs in background). It's really something that's giving me balance. If you have a bad night on the field, it's good to leave those outings at the ballpark and that is something I had trouble doing early in my career. The great thing about us is we were together before I was a baseball player. She thought I was a football player. She's not with me for all the wrong reasons. I'm really lucky, because she likes me pretty good."
• Tigers righthander Kyle Sleeth will miss the rest of the season after having Tommy John surgery today in Detroit. Sleeth, a first-rounder in 2003 out of Wake Forest, has not pitched this season. He reached Double-A Erie last season in his first year as a pro, going 4-4, 6.30 with 57 strikeouts in 80 innings.
• The PCL has a reputation as a hitter's league, and pitching prospects always learn about it firsthand. Righthander Matt Cain looked like he was on the fast track to San Francisco, but he has hit bumps in Fresno. Cain faced off against Ervin Santana last night and lasted only an inning, allowing four runs on three hits, including two homers, as Salt Lake pounded Fresno, 15-5. Santana was better, allowing four runs over seven innings, fanning eight and walking none. After a cup of coffee with the Angels, Santana is 1-0, 4.19 in three PCL starts, while Cain is 3-2, 4.04 with a 73-38 strikeout-walk ratio in 62 innings.
Diamondbacks lefthander Bill Murphy has struggled even more, though he was better last night. He went six innings last night for Tucson against Portland and surrendered only three runs, though he fanned only one and walked three. For the season he has 24 strikeouts and 22 walks in 36 innings and is 1-3, 6.50. In his last three starts, he has struck out four in 15 innings.
• While 23 is old for the South Atlantic League, you still have to give some credit to Greenville's John Otness, who went 1-for-3 with a home run and a walk last night and is now hitting .371/.435/.518. The Red Sox signed Otness as a nondrafted free agent out of Washington last June, and he is putting together an excellent year in his first taste of full season baseball.
• Low Class A Hagerstown outfielder Ambiorix Concepcion, the No. 1 prospect in the short-season New York-Penn League last season, is finally showing signs of life. The Mets prospect is hitting .368 in June and has raised his season stats to .230/.269/.396. For the season, he has eight walks and 60 strikeouts.
• For whatever reason, the Devil Rays aren't ready to give outfielder Jonny Gomes a legitimate shot in the big leagues, which became crystal clear after the club promoted outfielder Reggie Taylor from Triple-A Durham yesterday. In 201 at-bats, Taylor was hitting .284-7-31. Gomes, on the other hand, was ranked fourth in the IL in hitting at a .340-14-45 clip in 144 at-bats. Gomes, BA's Winter League Player of the Year, was called up briefly in April and hit .304-2-5 in 23 at-bats, but has spent the rest of his days in Durham scratching his head. "I steal bases, I hit for a high average, I hit home runs, I play all three outfield positions, I DH," Gomes told the St. Petersburg Times. "Every time they send me down, they don't tell me anything to work on. I'm down here confused by the silence. I don't think I have anything to prove down here. The only thing I have to prove is being consistent in the big leagues. And it's hard to do that from here."
• Dodgers top prospect Joel Guzman was back in the lineup yesterday after missing three games with soreness in his left shoulder. He went 1-for-4 for Double-A Jacksonville in a 4-0 loss to Carolina. On the season, Guzman is hitting .291/.370/.549 with 11 homers in 206 at-bats. His long-term ability to stay at shortstop remains a question, and he has committed 13 errors this season.
• It was a hit parade for the top of the high Class A Frederick lineup last night in a 13-3 win against Salem. Second baseman Nate Spears and outfielders Jeff Fiorentino and Nick Markakis combined to go 6-for-15 with five RBIs and seven runs. They combined for five doubles, and Fiorentino hit his sixth homer of the season.
• Keep an eye on high Class A Potomac center fielder Frank Diaz. The 21-year-old went 2-for-5 last night with a double and a homer and is putting up the best numbers since he was signed out of Venezuela in 2000. "He's been hot basically for the last month," Nationals farm director Adam Wogan said. "He's actually performed under the radar for most of his career, and he's definitely under the radar in the Carolina League. He's had solid years for us throughout, but he turned it on in winter ball this past year and has carried that performance over to this season." Diaz is batting .308/.335/.440 with a pair of homers and 18 RBIs in 234 at-bats.
• Two players on the Carolina League all-star team, which was announced this morning, were suspended this season for violating baseball's policy against performance-enhancing drugs: Orioles first baseman Mario Delgado and White Sox shortstop Robert Valido. Delgado has been near the top of the league in batting for most of the season at Frederick, while Valido is hitting .293/.346/.402 in 174 at-bats at Winston-Salem. Both were suspended 15 games as first-time offenders.
• While two of the Rangers' top pitching prospects, lefty John Danks and righthander Edison Volquez, have already graduated from high Class A Bakersfield to Double-A Frisco, another could be joining them soon. Righthander Thomas Diamond struck out a career-high 14 over seven shutout innings, allowing just two hits in the Blaze’s 5-0 win over Lancaster last night. On the season, the 2004 first-round pick is 6-0, 2.30 in 12 starts with 83 strikeouts in 67 innings while limiting opposing batters to a .205 average.
• Royals outfielder Chris Lubanski may be starting to get out of a season-long slump. He smacked a pair of home runs and drove in five in high Class A High Desert’s 7-6 win over Rancho Cucamonga last night. With 11 home runs on the season, Lubanski has already established a new career high, and by going 9-for-18 with 10 RBIs in his last four games he raised his numbers to .232/.276/.450 in 220 at-bats.
• A 13th-round pick in last year’s draft, Devil Rays righthander Andy Sonnanstine opened eyes in his pro debut with a 5-1, 0.78 mark between short-season and low Class A ball last summer. He continues to impress at low Class A Southwest Michigan this year, allowing one run on six hits over eight innings in last night’s 4-1 win over West Michigan. His record now stands at 5-3, 2.54, with a 71-7 strikeout-walk ratio in 78 innings.