Notable Players Available In The Rule 5 Draft
The Rule 5 draft is fascinating because of its timing and its format. Positioned right in the middle of the baseball offseason, it gives everyone a chance to scour rosters […]
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FREDERICK. Md.--No hometown player meant as much in the California/Carolina League all-star game since Kinston’s Billy Munoz hit a homer to give the CL the walk-off win in 2000.
That all changed Tuesday night in Frederick, but without the theatrics of five years ago in Kinston.
First, Frederick outfielder Nick Markakis won the home run-hitting contest--narrowly defeating High Desert’s Billy Butler, 5-4--and then hit two more homers for real in an 8-0 blasting of the Californians.
Markakis, the Orioles’ first-round pick in 2003 out of Young Harris (Ga.) Junior College, went 3-for-5 with three RBIs, and a better script could not have been written for Keys’ fans.
“It’s great to do this at home in front of our fans,” Markakis said. “With all the great hitters--great players--here, it’s definitely something I never expected. Let’s hope this translates into a great run in the second half.”
Markakis hit his first bomb off Bakersfield righthander Chris Cordiero in the second inning, then laced an opposite-field single off San Jose righthander Jesse Floyd in the third. He finished up the night blasting his second home run of the night on a 1-0, 92 mph fastball against Visalia righthander Jean Machi.
On paper, the California League certainly held a clear advantage with its prospect-laden lineup, which included Rancho Cucamonga’s middle infield tandem of Howie Kendrick and Brandon Wood; Butler, Giants outfielder Eddy Martinez-Esteve and Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero.
But that offense managed only one hit through the first four innings--a single to left by Wood in the fourth off Myrtle Beach lefthander Brady Endl--and finished with just four.
The Carolina League, on the other hand, pounded out 17 hits.
“We really had it going on,” said Potomac third baseman Kory Casto, who collected two hits--including a seventh-inning blast off High Desert lefthander John Gragg. “This has been an awesome experience, but the reality of the situation is, it’s time to go back to work now.”
• The two standout pitchers from the Carolina League were easily Wilmington righthander Anibal Sanchez and Potomac righthander Armando Galarraga. Sanchez, who got the start for the CL, was working at 93-94 mph with his fastball and threw several dirty changeups in the 80-82 range. After getting Kendrick to fly out softly to right field, Sanchez sawed off Wood, who hit a comebacker to the mound, then got Butler swinging on a 1-2 change. “He’s not going to be around here much longer,” an American League scout said. “I saw less than 15 pitches and that’s all I needed to see. Great command of the fastball in and out, up and down and one of the better changeups I’ve seen. He overmatched guys--and the three guys he faced were some pretty tough outs.” Galarraga was just as impressive. The 23-year-old Venezuelan struck out Modesto right fielder Joe Gaetti on an 86 mph slider, then got Stockton outfielder Danny Putnam swinging and missing on a 92 mph fastball high out of the zone. “I like him,” the scout said. “He has a good plan for attacking hitters. This is a game where you generally see pitchers go right after guys--if they don’t, it says something about the makeup. He went right after guys with no fear. He’s got a nice, easy arm action, very smooth, very fluid--just effortless.”
• More notes from the all-star game: During the luncheon before the game--actually before the rains came and cancelled batting practice and infield for both clubs--players were introduced before the chicken stuffed with spinach was served. And the only player who had fun with it was Modesto righthander Ubaldo Jimenez, who stood up, gave a little wave, and held his hand as if he were about to pop off a slider. “I was just kidding around,” Jimenez said. “This is supposed to be fun, but I don’t know--some guys are too serious (about it).” On the mound, Jimenez was all business, however. His fastball touched 97 twice with good command and location, and he complemented it with a hard 86 mph slider. Jimenez, who got the start for the Californians, struck out two--Lynchburg center fielder Bobby Kingsbury and Frederick DH Mario Delgado.
• At the luncheon, Hall of Fame righthander Jim Palmer was the keynote speaker. And in addition to telling various stories about his career in the big leagues, Palmer was also dispensing words of encouragement to the all-stars about how much time it take to develop. “All of you guys have been in Baseball America at one time or another,” Palmer said. “Well, when I was in the minor leagues, their report on me would have read, ‘Has a good 93-94 mile-per-hour fastball and the makings of a slider--but he has no idea where any of it is going.’ That’s what Baseball America would have said about me in 1964.”
• The Diamondbacks Carlos Quentin had been slumping a bit during the month of June by hitting only .244, but he busted out of that funk in a big way last night. The Tucson outfielder went 5-for-6 with two homers and six RBIs as the Sidewinder's demolished Las Vegas 21-1. Sergio Santos had some fun as well as he went 4-for-6 with his 11th home run.
• Righthander Justin Orenduff, a 2004 supplemental round pick (33rd overall, out of Virginia Commonwealth) by the Dodgers, struggled last week in his first Southern League appearance with Jacksonville, giving up seven runs in 3 1/3 innings. But he turned it around last night, striking out 10 in five innings and getting his first Double-A win in the Suns’ 13-8 win over Huntsville last night. Orenduff left with an 8-3 and was ensured of the win when Joel Guzman hit his 12th home run of the season, a two-run shot, in the seventh. Guzman was 4-for-5 on the night with four RBIs.
• For most of the season, Brian Bannister has been pretty unhittable at Double-A Binghamton, last night was not one of the those nights. The Mets righthander could not get out of the fifth inning as New Britain touched him for six earned runs over 4 1/3. The Southern California product allowed eight hits, three walks and fanned only one.
• Lexington has been one of the stronger teams in the SAL this season, but their depth took a major hit as the organization promoted four its players to Salem of the high Class A Carolina League. Troy Patton, Ben Zobrist, Johnny Ash and Jeff Wigdahl all got the call and will join Salem after the Carolina League all-star break. Lexington outfielder Hunter Pence, on the disabled list since June 12 with a strained quadriceps, has developed an infection in his knee and won't return until the end of the week, at the earliest. Since he was leading the minors in homers when he went down, it isn't hard to imagine that he might not be far behind in promotion.
• Double-A Arkansas lost 7-6 last night to San Antonio, but don’t blame first baseman Kendry Morales. After going homeless in his first 12 Texas League games, the Cuban import smacked three home runs and drove in five. By going 4-for-5, Morales lifted his batting average from .156 to .220.
• After hitting just .216 in April, Mets outfielder Lastings Milledge has been one of the more productive players in the Florida State League, batting .351 in his last 40 games with 37 runs scored, increasing his season averages to .304/.390/.430 in 207 at-bats. His problems on the basepaths continue however, as the 2003 first-round pick has been successful on only 15 of 27 stolen base attempts.
• Also recovering from a slow start is Twins 2004 first-round pick Trevor Plouffe, who got off to one of the worst start in the minors, hitting just .099 (7-for-71) in April. Plouffe has taken the long road to get his average back over the Mendoza line, batting .271 in June with home runs in three of his last five games to bring his season totals up to .202-7-29 in 252 at-bats.
• The best line of the night by a pitcher might have been turned in by lefthander Beau Jones, the Braves’ 2005 second-round pick. He turned in three shutout innings in his pro debut in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, striking out eight in the process for a game score of 63. For comparison’s sake, the game score for Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeouts, one-hit shutout of the Astros in 1998--the highest game score in history--was 105.