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Baseball America's Daily Dish
Complete Daily Dish Archive

Compiled by Aaron Fitt, Kevin Goldstein and Matt Meyers
August 15, 2005

DURHAM, N.C.—After Paul Maholm was beaned by a line drive off the bat of White Sox first baseman Casey Rogowski last May while he was at high Class A Lynchburg—literally right between the eyes—few thought the Pirates lefthander would return to action for the remainder of the season.

But Maholm is quickly amassing a track record for defying the odds.

He returned to the mound in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in late July, not unlike the Six Million Dollar Man, with four steel plates that were used to reconstruct his face in the surgery that followed the freak accident.

There were problems in his aggressive attempt to come back. He finished the year at low Class A Hickory, going 0-2, 9.49 in just 12 innings and was shut down before the playoffs. The eighth overall pick in 2003 out of Mississippi State had double-vision in his left eye, and had surgery again last September to insert another plate to correct his vision.

Maholm isn’t seeing two of anything these days. He started out at Double-A Altoona, where he went 6-2, 3.20 in 82 innings and was named to the Futures Game.

But then his life took another turn: Two weeks before he was scheduled to fly to Detroit to play with the game’s best prospects, Maholm lost his mother Linda to cancer. He was not himself at Comerica--allowing Justin Huber’s two-run double after an infield single, a hit batsman, a sacrifice and a walk--and it took him several starts to right the ship.

But again, Maholm persevered. He was promoted to Triple-A in late July and was exceptional in his fourth start at Triple-A Indianapolis last week. Over six innings, Maholm allowed an unearned run on four hits, struck out four and walked two. In 24 innings for the Indians, he is 1-1, 3.00.

Maholm is much like another Pirates lefthander—Zach Duke. Neither have blow-away stuff, with an 88-92 mph fastball, slider, curveball and changeup. But they both throw all four pitches for strikes and have similar presence and poise on the mound.

We caught up with the rising lefthander to talk about his outing against the Bulls, his speedy recovery from surgery and what it takes to rebound from challenges both physical and emotional:

On facing Devil Rays uber-prospects B.J. Upton and Delmon Young: “It’s fun to go against guys you know that are going to be in the big leagues for a good while. Upton’s a great hitter, aggressive, going after the first pitch in the first two at-bats and got two hits. I faced Delmon last year and I knew him a little bit better and got him to ground into a double play. But it’s fun going against guys like that, and Munson—another first-rounder—it’s good to face lineups like that just to test yourself a little bit more.”

On returning to action so quickly after surgery: “It was more of me enjoying being around the field so much and missing that. My wife could tell you I’m a miserable person when I’m off because I watch baseball non-stop. I tried to go to games whenever I could, went to see (Mississippi State) a few times. So my motivation was whenever they cleared me, I was raring to go. I came back a lot sooner than I probably should have, and the numbers prove that. But I came back this year just trying to prove myself.”

On dealing with the loss of his mother: “Last year was tough, but this year was very, very hard with losing my mom. But you just have to keep going—she would have wanted me to keep going. That’s why I went to the Futures Game instead of taking it off because she was happy whenever I called her after a start. She would have wanted me to go. She gets to watch every game now, so I’m good to go.”

On the comparisons to Duke: “We started out in Lynchburg together. I started out 1-3 and his record was way better. It was fun, and we still mess with each other a lot. It was fun to get to watch him go through and do so well. It’s fun to see a guy like that kind of shoot through the system like that and have that success. If I get compared to him, I get compared to him. But I know I’m going to get my shot. I mean, if you’re going to compare me to anybody, he’s a pretty good guy to be compared to right now.”

-- CHRIS KLINE

DISH PIECES

• The longest game in the history of the New York-Penn League finally ended on Saturday, with Auburn scoring in the bottom of the 22nd inning to beat Batavia 6-5. The two teams played 20 innings on July 7 but finally had to suspend the game before picking it up Saturday. Auburn had a chance to win in the 21st but botched a squeeze play and took the game into the 22nd and a new league record. Catcher Josh Bell drove in the winning run with a single that scored Matt Cooksey with one out. The game produced its share of big stat lines, highlighted by Auburn shortstop Emmanuel Sena, who went 6-for-9 with two RBIs and two runs. The worst stat line went to third baseman Mike Costanzo, the Phillies' second-round pick in June, who went 0-for-9 with three strikeouts and committed an error.

• Indianapolis might have lost its two best arms to the big leagues in Duke and righthander Ian Snell, but along with Maholm, righthander Brian Bullington is also showing promise down the stretch. Bullington has been effective over his last four starts, and might be finally living up to his billing when Pittsburgh took him No. 1 overall in 2003. Last night, Bullington allowed a run on two hits and struck out four over seven innings in Indy’s 6-5 win against Norfolk. Since July 29, he is 3-0, 1.31 with 29 strikeouts in 28 innings.

• Cardinals righthander Anthony Reyes had one of the most dominating starts in the minors on Sunday. Fresh off earning his first big league win for the Cardinals last Tuesday, the 23-year-old allowed no runs on two hits over seven innings while striking out 15 for Triple-A Memphis. He got a no-decision, though, as Memphis pushed across a run in the eighth for a 1-0 win against Nashville. Reyes is 7-4, 3.22 with a 121-28 strikeout-walk ratio in 112 innings for Memphis.

• Double-A Birmingham knuckleballer Charlie Haeger dealt a shutout against Huntsville Saturday. Haeger, a 25th-round pick in 2001, scattered five hits and struck out three. Haeger has had little trouble commanding the knuckler this season, refuting theories about the effect of Southern humidity on the pitch. Before being called up to the Barons, Haeger went 8-2, 3.20 in 82 innings at high Class A Winston-Salem. Since joining the Barons on June 22, Haeger is 5-1, 2.93 in 58 innings.

• The Angels promoted catcher Jeff Mathis to the big leagues over the weekend. Mathis, a first-rounder in 2001, rebounded from an awful 2004 season offensively at Double-A Arkansas to bat .282-15-57 in 35 5 at-bats at Triple-A Salt Lake this season.

• The Phillies sent their former pitching coach, Johnny Podres, to work with struggling righthander Gavin Floyd at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and so far the results have been positive. In his last start, Floyd allowed just one run on four hits over seven innings. A scout who witnessed that performance said: "He was pretty close to where he was in spring training. He wasn't quite as good. But I'd seen him pitch badly three times before that, so we'd lowered our rating on him. After that outing, the one thing it showed me was that, as long as his arm is healthy, it's in there. And he looks healthy. We'd still love to get our hands on him. I'll tell you that. He'd be a real good guy to take a risk on."

• With a glut of solid middle-infield prospects in the Seattle system, the Mariners gave 2003 first-round pick Adam Jones his first career start in center field on Sunday. Jones, 20, did not have a ball hit to him and went 2-for-5 with a double in Double-A San Antonio’s 6-4 win over Tulsa. According to Missions manager Dave Brundage, the move may not be a permanent one.

“His first priority is shortstop, but he’s a very talented young man–very athletic,” Brundage said. “We’re maybe giving him an opportunity to get to the big leagues sooner. We’ve been working him out there for the last three weeks or so, and we’ll run him out there once or week to see what happens. It can’t hurt.” Jones is batting .319/.383/.460 in 163 at-bats since being promoted from high Class A Inland Empire.

• Far less heralded than fellow closers Craig Hansen and Joey Devine in the 2005 draft class, Will Startup is having a nice debut at low Class A Rome. The 21-year-old lefthander earned his second save of the season by throwing two scoreless innings in a victory against Greeneville. The fifth-round pick out of Georgia is now 1-1, 1.71 with 20 strikeouts and five walks in 26 innings. While he is closing now, his future is likely as a set-up man as Devine will probably remain ahead of him on the organization's closer depth chart.

• Righthander Jeff Gilmore is starting to look like an intriguing sleeper after being drafted out of Stanford in the 31st round this June. Despite giving up three home runs Sunday, Gilmore yielded just four runs over seven innings in short-season Everett's 6-5 win against Yakima. He improved to 4-0, 2.86 with 36 strikeouts and just four walks in 35 innings in the Northwest League.

• Rangers catcher Taylor Teagarden, a third-round pick in June out of Texas, is recovering from his 0-for-14 start to his pro career at short-season Spokane. Teagarden went 2-for-3 with a homer Sunday and is now 7-for-13 with three homers over his last five games. He has raised his average from .050 to .242 during that span.

• Whether Brandon Snyder's future is at third base or at catcher is still unclear, but the kid can hit. The Orioles' first-rounder in June went 3-for-5 yesterday with two homers to raise his season total to eight, as he helped Bluefield defeat Pulaski 9-4. The 18-year-old is hitting .302/.422/.594 in the Rookie-level Appalachian League. He also has 24 walks and just 24 strikeouts.

• In his second year in the Rookie-level Pioneer League, White Sox outfielder Daron Roberts might be making progress at the plate. The 12th-round pick in 2004 out of UC San Bernardino went 4-for-6 with a pair of solo home runs in Great Falls' 7-6 loss Ogden. Roberts hit just three homers in 139 at-bats last year at Great Falls, but he has doubled that total in 168 at-bats this season. He is batting .274, up 22 points from his debut season.

• Angels second baseball Howie Kendrick has shown no sign of slowing down since a promotion to Double-A Arkansas. Currently riding a 13-game hitting streak in which he is batting .426 (23-for-54), Kenrick is batting .349-3-22 in 26 games for the Travelers.

• Named the best relief prospect in the California League in BA's Best Tools survey, Rockies righthander Jim Miller has also established himself as one of the top relievers in the Texas League since an early August promotion. In six appearances for Double-A Tulsa, the 2004 eighth-round pick has picked up a win and two saves while firing five and a third shutout innings, allowing just two hits and three walks while striking out seven.

• Athletics catcher Jeremy Brown had a career-best day on Saturday, blasting three home runs in Double-A Midland's 17-3 thrashing of Springfield. Best known as the much-debated pick from the "Moneyball" draft, the 25-year-old Brown is batting .264/.360/.475 in 337 at-bats.

• The Cardinals promoted 2004 first-round pick Tyler Green to high Class A Palm Beach over the weekend, and the former Georgia Tech star made an immediate impact in the Florida State League, going 5-for-13 with a home run and four runs scored.

• The highest pick from the 2005 draft who is signed and playing, Seattle catcher Jeff Clement, selected third overall, has struggled in his pro debut. Clement blasted his first professional home run on Friday for Low Class A Wisconsin, but is hitting just .211/.362/.289 in 36 at-bats for the Timber Rattlers.

• Because he was 23 when drafted, Cardinals seventh-rounder Nick Stavinoha is expected to move quickly, and he’s hit the ground running at low Class A Quad Cities. Stavinoha hit a pair of home runs and drove in three in the Swing’s 8-3 loss to Peoria on Friday and is batting .357/.411/.532 in 171 at-bats.

• In his 10th professional appearance, Padres supplemental first-round pick Cesar Ramos pitched a seven-inning complete game, allowing two runs on seven hits while striking out six in low Class A Fort Wayne's 9-2 win over South Bend on Sunday afternoon.

• Marlins outfielder Greg Burns hit his first professional home run on Sunday as short-season Jamestown dropped a 5-3 decision to Mahoning Valley. A 2004 third-round pick who has been compared to Kenny Lofton, Burns is batting .266-1-10 with 14 stolen bases for the Jammers, but has recorded 70 strikeouts in 192 at-bats.

• Signed to a $500,000 bonus last year, Red Sox outfield Luis Soto is beginning to show signs of life after batting just .212-0-10 in 23 games for low Class A Greenville. Now playing for short-season Lowell, the 19-year-old Dominican launched a pair of home runs on Saturday and drove in five in a 12-7 loss to Oneonta. Soto, who has 10 RBIs in his last three games for the Spinners, is batting .314/.387/.463 in 188 at-bats since the demotion.

 
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