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Baseball America's Daily Dish
Complete Daily Dish Archive
Compiled by Aaron Fitt, Kevin Goldstein and Alan Matthews
DURHAM, N.C.--The Triple-A tangle between Durham and Richmond Wednesday night--featuring Braves third baseman Andy Marte and righthander Anthony Lerew mixing it up with the Devil Rays' dynamic duo of Delmon Young and B.J. Upton--offered matchups not often found in a regular season minor league game.
And while Young and Upton had two hits apiece and Marte hit a ball as hard as any all season, it was Lerew's performance that garnered the lion's share of praise.
"We were very encouraged," said Dayton Moore, Atlanta's farm director who was one of a handful of Braves officials in attendance. "The explosiveness of his fastball was there, and his slider continues to improve and it's on the verge of being a dominating pitch.
"What we were perhaps most encouraged by, however, was the way he competed. He had an extra gear. Every time he fell into a bind . . . he picked it up a notch and elevated his level of performance. And his pitch quality got even better."
Lerew, an 11th-round pick out of Northern High in Dillsburg, Pa., in 2001, earned his first Triple-A victory in his fifth start for Richmond, dealing seven solid innings with four hits, an earned run, two walks and six strikeouts in the Braves' 7-4 victory.
The ease of Lerew's delivery makes the 97 mph fastballs he unleashed even more impressive. He showed good feel and command of his fastball, which sat at 93-94 with good late life, and made few mistakes with his slider and changeup, which continue to improve but are not yet consistently plus offerings.
Durham jumped on him for a run in the first inning when Upton singled sharply to right field and advanced to second base when the ball was misplayed, and later scored. With one on and no outs, Lerew got Young, also recently promoted from Double-A, to ground into a double play. Young would later triple and Upton started a pair of nifty double plays with quick exchanges at shortstop, making for an eventful evening.
"The competition you face develops the player as much as anything," Moore said. "Upton and Young, they're the best his peer group has to offer and those are the types of matchups you look for."
Many of Atlanta's prospects this season have gotten a taste of the game's best competition--in the big leagues. Lerew's outing came on the heels of Kyle Davies' first Triple-A start after he spent two months in the majors. Davies, who was sent down when Mike Hampton and Tim Hudson were activated from the disabled list, allowed an earned run with seven strikeouts Tuesday night against Durham in Richmond.
Marte, Roman Colon, Ryan Langerhans, Kelly Johnson, Brian McCann and Blaine Boyer were among other players the Braves called on this season to keep their playoff hopes alive while veterans nursed injuries.
"Our scouting and player development people do a tremendous job and we're all on the same page," Moore said. "It's about supporting our major league club . . . They've graduated so to speak, but the challenges never go away.
"The work we're doing today is affecting our major league club in 2010 and 2011, and we can't get caught up in the success of our major league team is having today, because we have to be consumed with making the decisions that will affect our major league team five and six years in the future."
Colon joined Davies and Marte back in Richmond after playing in Atlanta earlier this season. Richmond was two games below .500 a month into the season when its best players began burning a trail to the big leagues. Now that Atlanta's roster has stabilized, Richmond--which lost 14 out of 20 games during one stretch and 11 in a row earlier this month--has won four in a row for the first time this season.
• Pirates first baseman Brad Eldred continues to hit home runs in bunches. The mammoth slugger smacked a pair of home runs and drove in five in Triple-A Indianapolis’ 14-11 win over Syracuse last night. It was Eldred’s second consecutive two-home run game, and the 2002 sixth-round pick now has 10 home runs in his last ten games. Eldred is batting .276-15-47 in 192 at-bats for the Indians, and his 28 total home runs are good for second in the minor leagues.
• Also on a home run binge in the International League is Red Sox catcher Kelly Shoppach. The 2001 second-round pick out of Baylor hit a game-tying grand slam in the eighth inning last night, though it didn’t hold up as Triple-A Pawtucket dropped a 6-5 decision to Louisville. Shoppach, who has four home runs and 11 RBIs in his last three games, is batting .275-21-59 in 251 at-bats.
• For three consecutive years, Giants outfielder Todd Linden has flopped in brief big league opportunities, including a .172-2-7 mark in 17 games this year. The 2001 first-round pick is having a career-best season at Triple-A Fresno, however. Linden was 3-for-4 with a pair of RBIs in Wednesday night’s 16-8 win over Salt Like, and is batting .431-4-13 in 14 games since being sent down, giving his .345/.457/.705 numbers in 275 at-bats.
• Another Giants outfielder, Fred Lewis, had a breakout season in the California League in 2004, but hit just .226 in the first three months of 2005 at Double-A Norwich. July has been a different story, as the 2002 second-round pick has hit .412 in 20 games to go along with 15 walks and a .518 on-base percentage, raising his season numbers to .262/.353/.378 in 347 at-bats.
• Talented but oft-injured lefthander Cole Hamels will be examined in Philadelphia today after complaining of a sore back following Tuesday’s start for Double-A Reading. Rangers righthander Edison Volquez left a game with a strained oblique last night, after giving up five hits and three runs in 3 2/3 innings as Double-A Frisco lost 7-4 to San Antonio. Initial reports have the 22-year-old Dominican missing a minimum of two weeks.
• It wouldn’t be a Daily Dish this season without an update on Angels shortstop Brandon Wood. The minor league home run leader had another great game last night, going 4-for-5 with a double, two home runs and four RBIs in high Class A Rancho Cucamonga’s 7-6 loss to Bakersfield. Wood, who now has 33 home runs, is batting .438-7-26 in his last 16 games.
• After four rehab appearances in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League--where he struck out 14 over 12 innings--Dodgers lefthander Greg Miller returned to the high Class A Florida State League. Miller, who missed all of 2004 with shoulder problems, struggled with his control, walking four of the nine batters he faced, allowing one hit and striking out two in Vero Beach’s 4-3 win over St. Lucie.
• Orioles supplemental first-round pick Garret Olson is shining in his pro debut at short-season Aberdeen. The Cal Poly standout allowed one hit over three innings in Wednesday’s 14-10 loss to Vermont, and has a 1.38 ERA in six games, allowing just six hits and striking out 17 in 13 innings.
• After dominating the South Atlantic League, White Sox lefthander Gio Gonzalez has established him as a consistent starter in the high Class A Carolina League. Gonzalez improved to 3-0, 4.38 at Winston-Salem by holding Lynchburg to three runs on five hits while striking out eight in six innings. While Gonzalez is holding righthanded hitters to a .183 average, lefthanders are hitting .333 against him. He held lefties to a .147 clip while pitching at Kannapolis before his promotion.
• When Kory Casto hits home runs, he does so in bunches. The Nationals third baseman went more than a month without going deep but caught fire in July, hitting .460-8-21 in 63 at-bats. He hit his fourth homer in three games in high Class A Potomac's 8-3 win against Salem last night. He also has eight RBIs during that three-game span, and his 2-for-4 performance last night boosted his average to the .300 mark for the first time since April 26.
• Orioles lefthander David Haehnel, who was nearly unhittable in racking up 16 saves in the Sally League earlier this season, registered his first save in the Carolina League last night. Haehnel worked two innings and sat down all six batters he faced, striking out three, to improve to 0-1, 3.86 in nine innings at high Class A Frederick. Keys starter J.J. Johnson picked up his ninth win, allowing just a solo homer by Mike Butia in six strong innings.
• Joe Koshansky continues to prove why he is regarded as one of the top hitting prospects in the South Atlantic League. The Rockies first baseman drove in all three Asheville runs last night in a 3-2 win against Charleston. First he put Asheville on the board with a solo home run (his 22nd of the season, putting him two behind Astros outfielder Hunter Pence for the league lead) in the fourth inning. Then the lefthanded-hitting slugger doubled to left field in the eighth, knocking in two runs to put Asheville ahead for good. The 23-year-old Koshansky, a sixth-round pick last year out of Virginia, had been scuffling a bit in July, hitting .227-4-9 in 66 at-bats.
• Marlins righthander Jeff Allison picked up his second win of the season in his longest outing of the year. The 2003 first-round pick, who missed all of 2004 while battling substance abuse, allowed just two earned runs on four hits in 6 2/3 innings in low Class A Greensboro's 6-5 win against Rome. "Tip your hat to their pitcher, Allison," Rome manager Rocket Wheeler told the Rome News-Tribune. "He pitched a heck of a ballgame." Allison is 2-3, 4.19 in 39 innings on the season.
• Rookie-level Billings won its sixth straight game behind five shutout innings from righthander Rafael Gonzalez, the Reds’ fourth-round pick in 2004 from George Washington High in the Bronx. Gonzalez allowed just four hits against Idaho Falls in an 11-0 victory and improved to 3-0, 1.85 in 24 innings.
• Dodgers first baseman David Sutherland picked up two hits in Rookie-level Ogden’s 14-10 loss to Helena. Sutherland, 20, ranks second in the Pioneer League in hits (73) and on-base percentage (.511) and third in batting (.420).
• Lefty Mark Romanczuk struck out seven in four innings, allowing a walk and a run off five hits at Rookie-level Missoula Wednesday night.
• In the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, the Marlins and Dodgers went 14 innings before the Marlins finally pulled it out it not-so-dramatic fashion. After Marlins prospect Cody Allen’s home run in the top of fourth knotted the game 3-3, the score was unchanged until the floodgates opened in the top of the 14th as Eduardo Quintana and Wilfredo Diaz allowed five runs to give the Marlins an 8-3 victory.
• Outfielder Greg Cain was recovering from a 3-for-25 start to his professional career. The Mets’ sixth-round pick in June collected three hits Wednesday in the GCL and has six hits, including his first pro homer, in his last 13 at-bats.
Contributing: Josh Cooper.