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Baseball America's Daily Dish
Complete Daily Dish Archive
Compiled by Kevin Goldstein, Chris Kline and Matt Meyers
FREDERICK, Md.--Even though he hasn't yet tasted Double-A, Red Sox righthander Anibal Sanchez has been dominant all season at high Class A Wilmington and a promotion to Portland seems imminent.
Sanchez, who started the California-Carolina League all-star game for the Carolinians and was recently selected to the Futures Game, is 6-1, 2.40 with 89 strikeouts in 75 innings at the break this year. The 21-year-old Venezuelan features a mid-90s fastball with good movement that he commands to both sides of the plate exceptionally well. He complements the fastball with one of the best curveballs in the organization and a changeup that has become a plus pitch, one he'll throw in any count.
If there's one word that describes Sanchez this year, it is fearless. He oozes confidence even though he went straight from the short-season New York-Penn League to high Class A this season, overmatching hitters on a consistent basis in the Carolina League.
We caught up with Sanchez before he made his all-star appearance, as he sat in front of his locker grouped with two other Venezuelans--the Potomac battery of righthander Armando Galarraga and catcher Salomon Manriquez--both of which are also having breakout years in the Nationals system.
On having success in an eight-team league, and what kind of adjustments he's had to make: "It's a challenge. Hitters know what you throw, so you have to mix it up sometimes. But facing a lot of the same hitters is good. You get to pick out some tendencies and figure out what they can do with certain pitches or in certain counts. I make adjustments from at-bat to at-bat, from pitch to pitch. I've been working on my control a lot this year and just trying to hit my spots in different situations. This league is a good league and you're forced to adjust by facing the same guys all the time.
On his changeup: "I've been working on my changeup a lot, working to get more control, more command of what it's doing out of my hand. It's been my best pitch on some nights, and right now I'm using it any time. I use it whether I'm behind or ahead in the count. I learned how important of a pitch it is because my fastball is like 94, 95 and then I throw a changeup that's like 80, 82. It's very difficult for the hitters to know what's coming because I use the same arm slot with the same rotation for my ball. I think the hitters don't have a chance to know if I'm throwing a fastball, curveball or changeup."
On Wilmington mascot Mr. Celery, who only makes brief appearances after the Blue Rocks score runs: "It's a little crazy. I wasn't sure what he was at first, but it's always nice to see him because it means we usually have a lead. Fans in Venezuela get really excited in the stands, but there is no Mr. Celery. The people there are really loud with noisemakers and signs. They yell the whole game. It's that way in all Latin countries. But no, no Mr. Celery. If they did, it might be a man dressed as a plantain."
On being named to the Futures Game: "That was the best surprise for me in my career. I never thought I'd make the World team. It's an honor to represent my country. I'm not thinking about the hitters I'm going to face. I'm just going to do my job and go right after them."
• J.P. Howell was one thing, and now this: Tigers righthander Justin Verlander will start Monday at Cleveland. Howell, who rocketed through the Royals system this season straight to Kansas City from high Class A High Desert, at least pitched professionally last year. Verlander made his pro debut at high Class A Lakeland this season, going 9-2, 1.67 with 104 strikeouts in 86 innings. After he was promoted to Double-A Erie, the first-round pick last year out of Old Dominion was 1-0 with an 18-3 strikeout-walk ratio in 14 innings and had yet to allow a run. The 22-year-old is scheduled to start the second game of a day-night doubleheader against the Tribe, and is expected to be returned to Erie afterwards--but that remains to be seen.
"You never know what can happen," Verlander told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "They told me [yesterday] that they had a sixth spot [in the rotation] open and I was the guy. I'm pretty stoked about it. Obviously, there will be some nerves involved, but I've pitched in some nerve-wracking situations before." Verlander starts tonight in Erie against Reading and will only pitch one inning before joining the big league club at home during a three-game series against the Yankees.
• Dodgers lefthander Greg Miller made his first start in two years in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League last night, allowing three runs on three hits in just two innings of work. The first-round pick in 2002 hasn't pitched since 2003, when he established himself as one of the top lefthanders in the minors. He went 11-4, 2.49 with 111 strikeouts at high Class A Vero Beach, then racked up 40 more strikeouts in just 27 innings at Double-A Jacksonville before two shoulder surgeries shut him down.
• Getting back to Nats catcher Salomon Manriquez, the 22-year-old is flying way under the radar at high Class A Potomac this year. Manriquez was always a solid receiver since signing with the Expos in 1999, but never showed much bat until this season. In 239 at-bats, Manriquez is hitting .310/.349/.510 with eight homers and 39 RBIs.
• Braves righthander Anthony Lerew has been impressive in two starts at Triple-A Richmond. Last night, Lerew allowed just one run on two hits in seven innings in a 5-3 loss to Columbus. The 11th-round pick in 2001 out of Northern High in Wellsville, Pa., threw 93 pitches, mixing in his changeup and slider. "I thought Lerew was outstanding," Braves manager Pat Kelly told the Times-Dispatch. "He's a power guy but he threw some good off speed pitches tonight." Clippers outfielder Melky Cabrera, who was playing just his third game in Triple-A, ruined Lerew's quality outing, however, belting an eighth-inning grand slam off lefthander Macay McBride.
• Chuck James picked up his eighth win in 17 starts this season, and is now 5-0, 2.40 in 49 innings at Double-A Mississippi. James, a 20th-round pick in 2002, went six innings and allowed an unearned run in a 5-1 win against Mobile yesterday. Scott Thorman, a first-round pick in 2000, hit his 14th homer of the season, a solo shot, in the sixth.
• Delmon Young’s three-run shot (a Southern League leading 19th) in the fifth inning wasn’t enough last night as Double-A Birmingham defeated Montgomery, 9-5, on the strength of a five-run third inning. The big inning featured a two run shot by Chris Young, his 17th, and a two-run double by Antoin Gray.
• David Aardsma, acquired by the Cubs in the LaTroy Hawkins deal earlier this year, has moved back to the bullpen after working almost exclusively as a starter this year in an effort to master his slider. "It had good motion and had the right movement, it was just down--which if you have a problem, I would much rather have that problem than have it up," Aardsma said. "But at least I wasn't giving them anything to hit. I'm really trying to find my slider, I don't care if I give up eight runs, as long as I have that good slider because that's what's gonna get me back up (to the majors)." The righthander from Rice got his second save for Double-A West Tenn by pitching a perfect ninth in a 9-6 win over Huntsville.
• Lefthander Francisco Liriano, acquired by the Twins in the A.J. Pierzynski deal, got his first Triple-A decision last night, going seven innings and notching eight strikeouts in a 14-4 win over Louisville. Liriano now has a 23-6 strikeout-walk ratio in 19 innings for Rochester this year after recording 92 strikeouts in 76 innings for Double-A New Britain to start the season.
• We don't like to tell GMs how to do their jobs, but if the Cubs are looking for bullpen help, they may have a solution in one of their own. Jermaine Van Buren threw a scoreless inning last night to earn his 11th save for Triple-A Iowa. The 25-year-old righthander has a 1.71 ERA in 32 innings with 38 strikeouts and 13 walks. The opposition is hitting only .192 against the former Rockies farmhand, once ranked the No. 2 prospect in that organization.
• While negotiations with 2005 No. 1 overall pick Justin Upton move slowly, Diamondbacks shortstop Stephen Drew, the club’s No. 1 pick in 2004, returned to action in the California League last night after missing over two weeks with a hamstring strain. Drew went 2-for-5 with a home run and three RBIs in high Class A Lancaster’s 10-7 loss to High Desert, and is now batting .375-3-11 in eight games.
• Things are starting to come around for Chris Nelson in the South Atlantic League. The low Class A Asheville shortstop had been slow to recover from hamstring problems, but 10 hits in his last 19 at-bats with his first homer in his last five games. The Rockies 2004 first-round pick has seen his average rise from .139 to .220 during that time.
• Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick keeps on rolling in the California League, going 4-for-5 with three doubles and a triple in high Class A Rancho Cucamonga’s 15-13 slugfest win over Lake Elsinore. Kendrick is batting .372-9-35 in 218 at-bats for the Quakes, with 11 games of three or more hits in 49 contests. Things didn’t go so well for 2004 first-round pick Jered Weaver in the contest, as the 2004 College Player of the Year gave up seven runs on eight hits over four innings, raising his ERA to 9.64 in three starts with opposing batters hitting a lofty .381 against the righthander.
•Brewers righthander Ty Taubenheim struck out a career-high 12 batters last night over seven shutout innings, allowing just three hits as low Class A Brevard County blanked St. Lucie 4-0 in the Florida State League. Taubenheim, a 19th-round pick in the 2003 draft who was converted to a starter this year, is 10-2, 2.61 in 15 starts, allowing just 79 hits over 100 innings.
• The top matchup in the New York-Penn League featured a pair of third-round picks making their pro debut, and both were impressive. Marlins lefthander Matt Goyen, who starred in the Cape Cod League last summer out of Georgia College, allowed one run on two hits over 4 2/3 innings, striking out eight. Meanwhile, Phillies third-round pick Matt Maloney, a lefthander out of Mississippi, fired three shutout innings, striking out four in Jamestown’s 2-1 win over Batavia.
• John Matulia is adjusting to pro ball seamlessly. The Devil Rays’ 10th-rounder out of Eustis (Fla.) High has gotten a hit in nine of his first 10 professional games and has three in each of the last two games. The 18-year-old is hitting .364/.391/.568 at Rookie-level Princeton and is 7-for-9 in stolen base attempts.
• The early returns are positive for the Padres and first baseman Kyle Blanks, who hit his fifth home run in eight Rookie-level Arizona League games in a 3-2 win against the Giants. Blanks signed this year out of Yavapai (Ariz.) Junior College as a 42nd-round draft-and-follow in 2004. "He has a simple swing and unbelievable power," scouting director Bill Gayton said of Blanks prior to the draft. "And he's a plus runner with a lot of carry on his arm."
• Three Tommy John survivors squared off in the AZL as the Mariners beat the Angels 8-3. The Mariners' first two pitchers, Steve Uhlmansiek (Wichita State) and Brett Bannister (Southern California), both had the procedure in college. Uhlmansiek started and pitched a shutout inning, while Bannister (whose older brother Brian was named an Eastern League all-star Thursday and pitches in the Mets system) gave up three unearned runs in two innings. The loser for the Angles was righty Bobby Cassevah, whose elbow surgery kept him from pitching as a senior at Pace (Fla.) High and last year after he signed with the Angels for $175,000 as a 34th-round pick. Cassevah gave up six runs and nine hits in 3 2/3 innings to fall to 0-2, 10.57 in his second pro game.
• Brandon Allen, a fifth-round pick by the White Sox in 2004 from Montgomery (Texas) High, was 3-for-3 with two doubles and a triple Thursday in Great Falls' 19-1 win against Missoula in the Rookie-level Pioneer League. Allen, who posted modest .205-3-23 numbers in 185 at-bats in the Rookie-level Appalachian League after signing last summer, has hit safely in seven of his nine starts this year with Great Falls. He is hitting .448-2-8 in 29 at-bats.
• Giants right fielder Mike Mooney apparently couldn't wait to get out of extended spring. The 2003 Northern California junior college player of the year started off 9-for-14 in his first three games and had his seventh multi-hit game (out of 10 games played this season) last night, going 4-for-5 with his second homer in Salem-Keizer’s 5-4 win against visiting Yakima.
• Happy Fourth of July weekend, everyone; Daily Dish will return on Tuesday, July 5.
Contributing: Dan Friedell, John Manuel, Alan Matthews.