Baseball America's Daily Dish
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Compiled by Kevin Goldstein, Chris Kline and Matt Meyers
A year ago at this time, Twins outfielder Jason Kubel was on the fast track to the majors, making his big league debut in September and getting his first taste of the postseason.
Kubel put up monster numbers at Double-A New Britain and became a more complete player once he reached Triple-A Rochester, hitting 16 of his 22 homers and swiping 16 bags with the Red Wings.
After the Twins bowed out to the Yankees in the American League Division Series, Kubel was a late addition to the Arizona Fall League to build on his 2004 success. He was in line to compete for a big league outfield spot this season, until his fall league stint got dramatically cut short.
The organization's player of the year was in his first game for the Grand Canyon Rafters--getting just one at-bat--when he collided with Tigers second baseman Ryan Rayburn on a shallow fly ball to right field. Kubel sustained serious damage to his left knee and tore the anterior cruciate ligament.
While Rayburn has gone on to Triple-A Toledo this season, Kubel has been rehabbing the injury at the Twins' spring training complex in Fort Meyers, Fla., all season. While he's making progress, the club is taking a cautious path and will not send him back to the AFL in October.
Instead, he will remain in Florida, and farm director Jim Rantz said he hopes Kubel will be seeing action in instructional league this fall.
"He's resumed a full slate of baseball activity," Rantz said. "It was a tough rehab, simply because there was so much damage in the knee, but he's made tremendous strides to get back to where he needs to be."
He's not quite all the way there yet. Kubel has been taking regular batting practice, but he still has limited mobility. The 12th-round pick in 2000 is back running again, but cannot make the sharp cuts needed to run bases or to get solid jumps in the outfield. Rantz said being able to make those cuts is the last step in the rehab process, but emphasized the Twins will not rush that process.
"He's on his own timetable," he said. "Missing a year like he has is one of the most difficult things for a player to go through, but to his credit he's worked extremely hard to battle through it. You never know how a player is going to rebound mentally from injuries, but with Jason there's never been any doubt of where his desire is. It's to be back on the field."
Fortunate scheduling will allow Triple-A New Orleans and Double-A Mobile to play out their schedules this weekend on the road, but the season has ended early for the Double-A Mississippi Braves (and in turn the Carolina Mudcats). The Braves haven't played since Sunday, and the team announced Wednesday night that it was canceling its four-game series with Carolina that was scheduled to begin Friday. The M-Braves, who play in the Jackson suburb of Pearl, fled the path of Hurricane Katrina and have been staying at a hotel in Atlanta since Monday. Hundreds of thousands of Mississippi residents, including many in the Jackson area, remained without power Thursday. "The decision to cancel the remaining games may be one of the toughest ones we've had to make. There are so many factors that went into this decision such as park damage, power outages, team safety, travel and housing, and gas and supply shortages," general manager Steve DeSalvo said. "We've come to the conclusion that it's just the right thing to do. This area of the country, and perhaps the entire country, is feeling the devastating affects of this terrible disaster. Everyone needs to focus on their personal safety and that of their loved ones." Mississippi was not in contention for a Southern League playoff spot and finishes its season with an overall record of 64-68. Carolina will complete a suspended game followed by a regularly scheduled game in Jacksonville today to complete its regular season, but the Mudcats will be in the playoffs when they begin next week.
High Class A Winston-Salem shortstop Robert Valido led the Warthogs to a 7-6 win against Kinston Wednesday afternoon. Valido, who was voted Most Exciting Player in the Carolina League in BA's Best Tools survey, went 3-for-5 with a homer and two RBIs. "He can do it all," Kinston manager Luis Rivera said. "He's the player you want at the plate with the game on the line; he's the player you want the ball hit to late in the game. He does everything on the field the right way. There might be better hitters in this league and there might be better fielders, but for me, Valido is the guy. He is a true baseball player." On the season, Valido is hitting .288/.322/.420 in 486 at-bats.
Class A Greensboro has one of the South Atlantic League's top middle-of-the-order combos in left fielder J.T. Restko and first baseman Brad McCann, and the duo powered the Grasshoppers to an 11-6 victory against visiting Hickory. Greensboro trailed 5-0 early on as the Crawdads rocked 2005 first-round pick Jacob Marceaux for five runs (including two homers and two doubles) in the second, but Restko rallied the 'Hoppers with a two-run homer and a game-tying single off former Southern closer Jason Quarles. Retsko's game-tying hit off Quarles, who was topping out at 94 mph, came on a 1-2 curveball, but Restko grounded it up the middle to plate the tying run. McCann followed with a two-run homer off Quarles on a 3-2 pitch for an 8-6 lead, and Restko singled home two more runs in the eighth. Restko, a 6-foot-5, 190-pounder who was a 10th-round pick in 2003, had a season-high five RBIs on the night and is batting .311/.414/.486 with 13 homers and 61 RBIs in 383 at-bats overall. McCann's homer was his 28th, good for third in the league, and his 106 RBIs rank second.
Assuming he gets a September callup, Carlos Quentin ended his minor league season in style. The Diamondbacks outfielder was 3-for-5 with a double and his 87th RBI of the season. Quentin has been playing center field almost every day since early July and should land there in the big leagues as the Diamondbacks are currently playing Shawn Green in center. On the season, the 23-year-old is hitting .308/.428/.534 with 21 homers for Triple-A Tucson.
It's hard not to root for Shane Komine. A college hero who some regard as the person most responsible for the renaissance of Nebraska baseball, the 5-foot-8 Athletics righthander had his best start since returning from Tommy John surgery, firing seven shutout innings in Double-A Midland's 10-0 win over Frisco.
Rangers outfielder Anthony Webster continues to roll in the California League. Webster recorded his seventh consecutive multi-hit game last night for high Class A Bakersfield, going 2-for-4 with a triple, his 10th home run and two runs scored in the Blaze's 4-3 loss to Visalia on Wednesday. In those seven games, Webster is 21-for-35 (.600) with four doubles and two home runs.
Another California League player mentioned in yesterday's Daily Dish makes an encore appearance, as Royals outfielder Chris Lubanski had a career night in high Class A High Desert's 10-2 win over Lake Elsinore. Lubanski went 4-for-4 with a double, two home runs and seven RBIs, and is now batting .302-27-112 on the season.
Devil Rays righthander Wade Davis allowed an unearned run on four hits, striking out nine on Wednesday in short-season Hudson Valley's 5-2 win over New Jersey. A 2004 third-round pick out of Lake Wales (Fla.) High, Davis is 7-3, 2.81 in 14 games for the Renegades, with 93 strikeouts in 80 innings.
Athletics righthander Mike Madsen held short-season Everett to one hit over seven scoreless innings, striking out 10 batters and allowing one walk. The Vancouver ace, a 21st-round pick out of Ohio State, improved to 6-1, 1.68 and leads the Northwest League in ERA. Madsen has a 62-12 strikeout-walk ratio in 75 innings and has held opponents to two runs or fewer in all but one start (he yielded three in that one). His ability to use any of his pitches in any count and his knack for pitching help make up for a lack of overwhelming stuff and reminds manager Juan Navarette of Tim Hudson. "He has the same slim body (6 feet, 155 pounds) and is emotionless on the mound," Navarette said. "It's a good comparison. He commands all three of his pitches--slider, (88-91 mph) fastball and change--and is our most consistent pitcher."
The Dodgers and Angels vie for supremacy in Southern California, and their Rookie-level affiliates are battling for a second-half division title in the Pioneer League. Ogden first baseman David Sutherland slammed a three-run home run in the Raptors' 5-3 win over Orem Wednesday. The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for the Owlz and gave Ogden a one-game lead over Orem in the Southern Division with a week remaining in the regular season. Sutherland, who signed with the Dodgers out of Australia in 2002 at the age of 17, ranks third in the league in average at .350. On the eve of his 21st birthday, Dominican lefty Marlon Arias recorded nine strikeouts in five innings to pick up his fourth victory. Arias struck out nine Owlz in his first start of the season in June.
Billings drew first blood in its pivotal series with Missoula. The two teams are tied for the final playoff spot in the Northern Division thanks in part to an RBI double by Billings outfielder Jay Bruce, who is batting .279-2-7 in 43 at-bats since being promoted from the Rookie-level Arizona League last week. Another toolsy outfielder, Kenny Lewis drove in a pair of runs with two hits and a stolen base for the Reds.
Righthander Andrew Johnston picked up his 15th save with two shutout innings in Casper's 5-4 win over Idaho Falls Wednesday. The Rockies selected Johnston in the ninth round this year from Missouri and the 21-year-old did not allow an earned run in his first 17 2/3 professional innings.
Brewers outfielder Lorenzo Cain was named the Rookie-level Arizona League MVP, even though the Brewers entry was just 11-17 in both halves of play. Cain ranked second in the league in batting, tied for fifth in home runs and third in RBIs during a .356-5-37 season. He went 1-for-4 in his debut yesterday in the Pioneer League with Helena. The 2004 17th-round pick signed this year as a draft-and-follow.
In other AZL news, the Rangers promoted outfielder Truan Mehl, their 30th-round pick this season out of Maryland, to Double-A Frisco to finish the season. Mehl hit .320 with 27 stolen bases in the AZL and hit safely in 25 straight games before a 0-for-4 game Friday. He struck out in his Frisco debut Wednesday.
Contributing: Will Kimmey, John Manuel, Alan Matthews.
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