Baseball America's Daily Dish
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Compiled by Josh Cooper, Aaron Fitt and Chris Kline
Monday night in Jacksonville, the Dodgers got a double dose of excellent news with a pair of performances straight out of 2003.
Righthander Edwin Jackson threw his best game of the season, tossing eight shutout innings, striking out eight and walking one. While that line was surprising after the season Jackson had put together up to that point--he was sent down from Triple-A Las Vegas after struggling with 3-7, 8.62 numbers in 55 innings--it wasn't a shocker.
The intriguing line was underneath Jackson in the box score: Miller—1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO.
Lefthander Greg Miller returned to Double-A this week for the first time in two years. The first-round pick in 2002 out of Esperanza High in Yorba Linda, Calif., last took the mound at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville in 2003, where he went 1-1, 1.01 with 40 strikeouts in just 27 innings. That capped a season in which Miller rose dramatically, both through the Dodgers system and through the ranks of the minor league’s top prospects.
But injuries stalled that rise, as Miller had shoulder surgery to remove the bursa sac last March. Doctors discovered a bone spur in January, and Miller went under the knife again.
He spent the first two months of the season in extended spring training, long-tossing and trying to build up strength. Miller eventually joined the Dodgers' Rookie-level Gulf Coast League club, where he went 0-0, 2.25 with 14 strikeouts in 12 innings.
He then went up to high Class A Vero Beach, going 1-0, 0.93 in 10 innings before getting the call to Jacksonville.
The fact that Miller pitched in relief was simply so that GM Paul DePodesta would have the chance to see him while he was in town.
"I wanted him to start Sunday, but Paul was coming in, so we pushed him back," farm director Terry Collins said. "I wanted Paul to see him, and we were going to get him in (Monday's game) for two innings, but Jackson was pitching so darn well--it was the best time I've seen him in two years. So we got Greg to come in to close it."
Miller's velocity is all the way back to where it had been in 2003. His fastball sat consistently in the 92-94 mph range, touching 95 several times. He's also shown good command of his offspeed stuff.
"His command of the fastball is fine, and both his breaking balls have good depth and bite," Collins said. "He didn't throw his changeup at all. I don't think he has the command he'd like on it just yet, but that's understandable. But for him to be in Double-A right now is certainly encouraging. We just need to get him more innings."
As encouraging as Miller's performance has been since his return, don't expect the Dodgers to rush anything. The plan is to get Miller into the rotation later this week, and from there, possibly get him on a roster in the Arizona Fall League in October.
"We're not going to overdo it, because obviously health is the number one focus," Collins said. "But he's gaining better command and strength with every outing."
• The last thing we do here in the Daily Dish is talk about big leaguers, but it's hard to look past what three Mariners' rookies did to the Twins last night. And no one did more than 19-year-old righthander Felix Hernandez, who picked up his first major league win and instilled hope for Seattle fans everywhere. Hernandez tossed eight shutout innings, scattered five hits, and struck out six. He threw 94 pitches, 71 for strikes.
Hernandez's first pitch was a 97 mph fastball, and he as still touching 97-98 into the eighth. His hammer curveball was in the 84-85 mph range, and he dropped in 12 changeups at 82 mph.
"I don't think we're talking about poise," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "He has a 97 mile-an-hour fastball and the curveball from hell. You can look past the poise. He had pretty good stuff."
Shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt and center fielder Jeremy Reed also played a hand in the Mariners' 1-0 victory. In the seventh, Reed doubled to right-center, and Betancourt followed with a triple to give Seattle all the offense it needed.
• Low Class A West Virginia pitching coach John Curtis was hit in the back of the head with line drive off the bat of shortstop Alcides Escobar during batting practice Saturday in Greensboro. Curtis was hitting fungoes to the Power outfielders, standing behind the screen in shallow center field. According to the (Greensboro) News & Record, he wandered off a short distance from the screen when the ball--loaded with topspin--dove and struck the former big league lefthanded pitcher. "I knew I was taking a chance (moving away from the screen)," Curtis told the newspaper. "I was facing the outfield and never saw it. It felt like a mortar shell hitting my head." Curtis, 57, remains in the hospital with a brain bruise, which has caused numbness in his left arm and a loss of motor functions in his left hand. "I feel like I lost my best friend," Curtis said. He is likely to be discharged today and was uncertain if he would return to his home in Long Beach, Calif., or fly to Milwaukee to be examined by team doctors.
• A referendum on a new ballpark at Double-A Arkansas passed Tuesday. The new park will face the Arkansas River and downtown Little Rock and will open for the beginning of the 2007 season. Ray Winder Field, the Travelers' home since 1932, will host its final year of pro ball next season.
• Third baseman Travis Hanson's power surge at Double-A Springfield continued last night against Frisco, as Hanson went 2-for-4 with a three-run homer against Rangers top prospect Thomas Diamond. Hanson, the Cardinals' ninth-round pick in 2002, entered the season with 15 career home runs in 1,023 at-bats, but his blast Tuesday was his 19th of the season in 448 at-bats. Meanwhile, the pitching showdown between Diamond and Cardinals No. 4 prospect Chris Lambert turned out to be a dud. Both righthanders were removed in the fifth inning, and each surrendered six earned runs in the contest, though neither factored in the decision. Lambert, a first-rounder in 2004 out of Boston College, is 2-4, 5.13 since joining Springfield on June 1. Diamond, also a first-rounder a year ago out of New Orleans, is 4-2, 4.87 since moving up to Double-A on June 27.
• Billy Butler update: the Royals' top prospect went 2-for-4 with a pair of runs in his third game at Double-A Wichita. He is 6-for-12 since being promoted from high Class A High Desert.
• Padres catcher Colt Morton put up his second two-homer performance in just his seventh game in the high Class A California League. The N.C. State product went 2-for-3 with three RBIs to improve his line at Lake Elsinore to .370-.414-.963 with 5 homers and 9 RBIs in 27 at-bats. Morton has 15 home runs and 66 RBIs in 249 at-bats between low Class A Fort Wayne and Lake Elsinore.
• Lancaster second baseman Danny Richar followed up his five-RBI game Monday with a 3-for-5 performance in Lancaster's 13-6 win against Lake Elsinore last night. All the 22-year-old Dominican needed was a home run to hit for the cycle.
• Mariners outfielder Wladimir Balentien homered for the second straight game in high A Inland Empire's 8-2 win against High Desert. Balentien is off to a stellar .429-5-14 start to August, and he now has 21 home runs on the season. Inland Empire first baseman Bryan Lahair also hit his 21st homer of the season in that game, to go along with five RBIs (vaulting him past Brandon Wood for the Cal League RBI lead with 97).
• Blue Jays lefthander Kurt Isenberg allowed just three hits and a walk in six shutout innings in high Class A Dunedin's 5-0 win against Sarasota. Isenberg, a fourth-rounder in 2003 out of James Madison, has given up just two runs in his last 19 innings over three starts, and he is 9-8, 3.76 on the season.
• Cuban defector Yosvany Almario-Cabrera, the Yankees’ 18th-round pick in 2004 out of Miami-Dade CC South, went 4-for-4 with his first home run since being promoted to high Class A Tampa on June 21. The 25-year-old (some reports say he’s older than that) has shown an ability to hit for average in his brief pro career: He hit .346 in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League a year ago, then hit .316 in the low Class A South Atlantic League to start this season, and is hitting .327 in 156 at-bats in the Florida State League. He also has six home runs between the two levels this year.
• Short-season Salem-Keizer entered its six game series with Vancouver last Sunday only one back of the Canadians in the Northwest League's Western Division. That was before the Canadians took two from the Volcanoes in the first three games. Last night, Vancouver starter Trey Shields, along with relievers, Stephen Bryant and Bradley Davis kept Salem-Keizer's powerful trio of William Thompson, Michael Mooney, and Pablo Sandoval at bay, allowing six hits and one run in a 6-1 victory.
• Andrew Johnston pitched a scoreless ninth yesterday against Rookie-level Orem to pick up his league leading 12th save for Casper. Johnston, the Rockies’ 2005 ninth-round pick, features a sinker that hits as high at 94 mph and has been working wonders for the righthander this year. So far, Johnston has given up two earned runs in 21 innings pitched.
• On the surface, one could say that Rookie-level Bristol slugged their way to a 17-1 victory over Johnson City, but slugged to could be deemed an overstatement. The Sox recorded a total of six errors, which led to seven un-earned runs. Second baseman Jose Martinez and shortstop Brandon Garner both had two while lefthander Josh Schwartz and righthander Steward Chacin had one apiece.Contributing: Will Lingo.
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