Panning For Middle-Rounds Gold
Ten years ago, Ben Zobrist took the New York-Penn League by storm. Managers raved about his all-around tool set and predicted he had the size, speed, defensive skills and hitting […]
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Coming into last night, Triple-A Durham's pitching staff only had one shutout all season.
And then along came Chris Seddon.
Seddon tossed six shutout innings, allowing just two hits, walked two and struck out three. Righthanders Jason Phillips and Lee Gardner finished off the final three innings to blank Charlotte, 5-0.
What makes all of this interesting is that Seddon easily had his best outing in the national spotlight. Aside from the sellout crowd of 10,837 in attendance, ESPN's "SportsCenter" was broadcasting from the Durham Bulls Athletic Park as part of the "50 Days in 50 States" tour.
"Well, let me say just one thing," Bulls manager Bill Evers told the Durham Herald-Sun. "We need ESPN here every night--a shutout and an errorless game.
"That's the secret weapon I guess."
Seddon, a fifth-round pick of the Devil Rays in 2001 out of Canyon High in Santa Clarita, Calif., went 6-1, 4.82 in 52 innings at Double-A Montgomery this season before being promoted at the end of May. He's had his struggles in his first two months with Durham, including a stretch of four straight losses in June, but was untouchable against the Tides Monday--pitching well beyond his current 3-7, 6.10 numbers.
Seddon had outstanding command of his 90-92 mph fastball, good late break on his slider and his changeup, according to one scout, was "better than it's ever been."
"You take the average fastball and command it to both sides of the plate the way he did and you're going to get outs," the scout said. "But really, it was the changeup that set him apart. It seems like (Seddon) always gets hit pretty good because his secondary stuff has always been just average. But if you take the fastball command he had and add that changeup to it and you've really got something."
"I felt pretty good out there tonight," Seddon said. "It's definitely fun out there when everything's working for you. I've been working a lot this week on my mechanics--staying tall and not trying to do too much."
The Bulls, who have made the playoffs in six of the last seven seasons, are way on the outside looking in right now--13 1/2 games back of Norfolk in the International League South Division.
But with B.J. Upton still at short, and Seddon, righthander Jason Hammel, second baseman Fernando Cortez and No. 1 prospect Delmon Young, Durham could make a run at the wild card down the stretch.
• Red Sox lefthander Jon Lester pitched the first nine-inning complete game of his pro career Monday, as Double-A Portland defeated New Britain, 4-2. Lester, a second-round pick in 2002 out of Bellarmine Prep in Puyallup, Wash., allowed two runs on nine hits, struck out six and walked three. "What a performance," Sea Dogs manager Todd Claus told the Portland Press Herald. "(Red Sox pitching coordinator) Al Nipper is in town and he said, 'Let this kid go out and battle.' " On the season, Lester is now 8-4, 2.47 with 131 strikeouts in 117 innings.
• Blue Jays righthander Casey Janssen threw six shutout innings, striking out eight in a 2-1 Double-A New Hampshire win against Trenton Monday. Janssen, a 2004 fourth-round pick out of UCLA, didn't figure in the decision of the Fisher Cats' first win since July 19.
• Indians lefthander Jeremy Sowers might have struggled in his first Double-A start in mid-June, but the adjustment period to the next level appears seamless since then. Sowers, the Tribe's first-round pick last year out of Vanderbilt, picked up his third win at Akron Monday night, allowing a run on eight hits and striking out seven. He is now 3-1, 2.20 with a 39-7 strikeout-walk ratio in 49 innings at Akron. "The best part about Jeremy Sowers, outside of his stuff, is his mound presence, composure and his ability to execute a gameplan," Akron manager Torey Lovullo said. "He knows how to set up hitters, sees holes in their game and exploits weaknesses very, very well. He asks brilliant questions and just has so much desire to learn what it's going to take for him to get better. He's been outstanding."
• Sowers' twin brother, Joshua--a righthander--hasn't been nearly as impressive in his pro debut in the New York-Penn League. A 10th-round pick of the Blue Jays out of Yale, Sowers allowed a run on three hits in just an inning of relief last night in short-season Auburn's 9-3 loss to Staten Island. On the season, Sowers is now 0-0, 7.58 in 19 innings.
• Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis was spectacular in his debut at Double-A Bowie Monday night. The 2003 first-rounder went 3-for-5 with a homer and four RBIs as the BaySox pounded Norwich, 12-5. The O's No. 1 prospect batted .300/.379/.480 with 25 doubles in 350 at-bats at high Class A Frederick before being promoted.
• Dodgers righthander Chad Billingsley might be one of the best arms in the Southern League, but don't tell Mobile that. Monday night, the Bay Bears ripped Billingsley for six runs on nine hits in just four innings. On the season, Billingsley is 8-5, 4.40 with 123 strikeouts in 106 innings at Double-A Jacksonville.
• Stephen Drew update--after just 38 games as a pro, the Diamondbacks have promoted the 2004 first-round pick to Double-A Tennessee. Drew was unstoppable in his seven-week California League stint with Lancaster, batting .398/.486/.738 in 149 at-bats with 10 home runs and more walks (26) than strikeouts (25).
• Staying on the California League promotion tip, the Padres have moved catcher George Kottaras up to Double-A Mobile. The 22-year-old catcher hit .300/.388/.466 in 337 at-bats for Lake Elsinore.
• Giants closer Armando Benitez made his first rehab appearance last night, working a scoreless sixth inning in high Class A San Jose's 7-6 win over Bakersfield on Monday. Benitez, who suffered a hamstring tear in late April, sat in the low 90s and threw 14 pitches.
• Cubs outfielder Ryan Harvey's hot streak, including a home run and three RBIs last night, now has the 2003 first-round pick now leading the Midwest League with 19 home runs, but Twins infielder David Winfree is not giving up the RBI lead without a fight. A 2003 13th-round pick out of a Virginia Beach high school, the 19-year-old went 3-for-5 with his 13th home run and three RBIs, extending his league-leading total to 84 to go with season totals of .291/.326/.462 in 426 at-bats. Winfree’s big day came in support of 2005 second-round pick Kevin Slowey, who picked up his first Midwest League win by allowing one run on three hits over five innings in Beloit’s 9-3 win over Clinton.
• National League Rookie of the Year candidate Willy Taveras might not be the only contributor the Astros got from the Indians in exchange for Jeriome Robertson last year. The other outfielder acquired in that deal, 27-year-old Luke Scott, is making some noise in the Pacific Coast League. Scott, a ninth-round pick in 2001 out of Oklahoma State, went 4-for-5 with three home runs and a double in Round Rock's 12-1 pounding of Salt Lake. Scott has gone deep 13 times in his last 26 games and 23 times on the season, raising his overall numbers at Round Rock to .262/.332/.576. Scott broke camp with the big league club, but was sent to Round Rock after hitting just .154 in 39 at-bats.
• Mercurial righthander Juan Dominguez, trying to work his way back into the Rangers' good graces after a series of off-field issues, had a rough day on the field Monday in Triple-A Oklahoma's 11-10 loss to Las Vegas. Dominguez gave up seven runs--five earned--on 10 hits and a pair of home runs in 3 2/3 innings. He has lasted five innings just once in his four PCL starts since July 19, going 1-1, 6.46 during that period.
• Braves shortstop Yunel Escobar has shown dazzling defensive skills and some solid hitting tools at low Class A Rome, and the Cuban defector has a bit of pop in his bat, as well. Escobar, who has hit safely in 25 of his first 29 games in the South Atlantic League, hit his third home run of the season in Rome's 4-1 win against Savannah. Escobar is now hitting .325/.366/.492 at Rome. Outfielder Brandon Jones, a 24th-round pick in the 2003 draft, also homered for Rome, his sixth in his last 11 games. Jones is 19-for-41 during that stretch, boosting his season line to .336/.456/.642 with eight home runs and 25 RBIs in 137 at-bats at Rome.