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Compiled by Kevin Goldstein, Chris Kline and Matt Meyers
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.--High Class A Winston-Salem has seen some impressive arms this season, and the Warthogs currently have the best rotation in the Carolina League with righthander Lance Broadway and lefthanders Gio Gonzalez and Ray Liotta.
Liotta and Gonzalez have both put up big numbers in the CL this season, and Broadway comes with the pedigree of being the White Sox' first-round pick in this year's draft.
Gonzalez, though, has the most helium of the three. And that assessment came from two scouts from American League clubs Thursday--after the 19-year-old lefty sent Kinston down in order after the first inning as he showed off an explosive 93 mph fastball, hammer curve and a late-diving changeup.
"If (Liotta and Broadway) are any better than this, then they'd have to be out of this world," said one scout.
Gonzalez, a first-rounder out of Monsignor Pace High in Miami in 2004, only got better from there, locating his fastball and curveball to both sides of the plate and then sporadically using his changeup for an overpowering mix during the Warthogs' 6-1 win.
"This is the best I've seen him," the scout said. "When I saw him earlier in the year he couldn't find the plate. But he's just on a different plane than everyone around him now. We're getting a clinic on what it's like to live in 0-2 city."
Gonzalez works quickly, and consistently got ahead of hitters until the sixth, when he seemed to tire slightly and lost some command. But any signs of wear were dismissed in the seventh, as he came back to hit 93 three more times in his final inning of work.
In all, Gonzalez allowed a run on four hits and struck out six, with his fastball sitting at 90-93 and topping out at 94 mph. He feasted on Kinston hitters by attacking the inner half of the plate, then freezing them by painting the black on the outside, or dropping in a changeup to get them swinging out in front.
While he doesn't have a powerful build at 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, Gonzalez still has big stuff late in the season, a positive sign for his durability. He just threw 65 innings in his pro debut last season but has made 23 starts this season, though he missed time with tightness in his lower back with Kannapolis and with tightness in his shoulder while with the Warthogs.
He started out the year at low Class A Kannapolis, where he went 5-3, 1.87 in 58 innings. Since being promoted to Winston-Salem, Gonzalez is 8-3, 3.56 in 73 innings.
And in those 131 innings overall, he's amassed a 163-47 strikeout-walk ratio.
"This kid is only 19 years old?" was the rhetorical question asked by Indians farm director John Farrell, who was on hand to see the Kinston club. "Unbelievable."
• It was a typical night for Triple-A Rochester righthander Boof Bonser, who always seems to last five or six innings before giving way to the bullpen. Bonser, a first-round pick of the Giants in 2000, has only gone into the seventh inning in four of his 28 starts, leading to questions about his conditioning and the durability of his 6-foot-4, 250-pound frame. Still, Bonser leads the International League in strikeouts with 168 in 160 innings. Thursday, he went five innings and allowed two runs on five hits, striking out seven in a 2-1 loss to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. "He just throws a lot of pitches, getting deep into counts and getting a lot of foul balls," Red Wings pitching coach Bobby Cuellar said. "It's more about getting ahead and staying ahead, which is coming along in his development. He just gets maxed out (on his pitch count) very early." On the season, Bonser is 11-9, 3.99.
• There was a flurry of major league callups yesterday, led by Twins lefthander Francisco Liriano and Indians outfielder Franklin Gutierrez. After putting up solid numbers at Double-A New Britain, Liriano went on to dominate the IL, going 9-2, 1.78 in 91 innings and is the reigning strikeout leader in the minors with 204 (Cubs' lefty Rich Hill is second with 194). Gutierrez started the year at Double-A Akron, where he struggled early but caught fire in July, hitting .292 in 113 at-bats. He was called up to Triple-A Buffalo in August, where he hit .254 in 67 at-bats. "He could be a valuable player coming off the bench for us," Farrell said.
• Add 5 1/3 more innings on the year for Orioles lefthander Garrett Olson. The supplemental round pick (48th overall) this year pitched 136 innings at Cal Poly, and continues to add to his workload. Since landing in the O's system, Olson has thrown another 54 innings, for a total of 190. But it didn't seem to bother him Thursday in high Class A Frederick's 13-3 loss to Lynchburg. Over those 5 1/3 innings, Olson allowed three runs on seven hits and struck out 10.
• The Pacific Coast League announced Thursday that it had surpassed the seven million barrier for attendance this season. This is the first time that a single minor league has surpassed seven million fans. The league had set a new single season record on August 26 when it reached 6.8 million fans. Earlier this week, Oklahoma and Albuquerque announced new single season attendance records and Sacramento has drawn more than 10,400 fans per game, 740,000 overall.
• The Rookie-level Appalachian League championship series will need to go to a deciding game three after Danville destroyed Elizabethton 15-2. The Twins won the opener behind five strong innings from Ryan Mullins who fanned 13, but the second game of the series belonged to the Braves as league co-players of the year Eric Campbell and Max Ramirez combined for five RBIs and righthander Devin Anderson allowed two unearned runs over six innings. It is somewhat fitting that the Twins and the Braves, the organizations most noted for developing high school talent, would meet for the title of a league comprised mostly of high school draftees and foreign signees. Both organizations also are believed to be against the raft of changes to the lower minors that would eliminate Rookie ball.
• Rangers lefthander John Danks continues to struggle in Double-A. The 2003 first-round pick allowed eight runs on seven hits over 3 1/3 innings, dropping to 4-10, 5.49 in Frisco’s 9-4 Texas League loss on Thursday. In his last six starts for the RoughRiders, Danks is 1-4, 6.82, while allowing 43 hits in 30 1/3 innings.
• Working out of the bullpen at high Class A Lancaster after a heavy workload at Tulane, Diamondbacks third-round pick Micah Owings has been impressive so far as a pro. The 6-foot-5 righthander struck out two over a scoreless inning in Thursday's 14-2 win against Inland Empire and is 1-1, 2.75 in 19 2/3 innings with 27 strikeouts and just four walks. In his last five appearances, Owings has fired 5 2/3 shutout innings, allowing just two hits and punching out nine.
• Athletics catcher Kurt Suzuki is officially on a roll. The former Cal State Fullerton star and 2004 second-round pick was 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs in high Class A Stockton’s 10-0 win over Modesto, and is now 11-for-23 with four home runs and 10 RBIs over his last five games. On the season, the 21-year-old is batting .283/.386/.450 in 424 at-bats.
• Being limited to no more than three innings per outing hasn't prevented Red Sox’ supplemental first-round pick Clay Buchholz from dominating at times. The 21-year-old righty struck out eight of the ten batters he faced on Thursday, allowing just one hit in short-season Lowell's 8-1 win on Thursday. In 37 1/3 innings, Buchholz is 0-1, 2.89 with an impressive 39-9 strikeout-walk ratio.
• Mariners right fielder Michael Saunders homered off Vancouver's Jimmy Shull, one of the short-season Northwest League's best pitchers, and drilled an RBI double in the bottom of the eighth inning as Everett won 4-2. Saunders, 18, was an 11th-round pick out of high school in British Columbia last summer but wasn't able to play because of visa restrictions. He started slow in the college-heavy NWL, batting .221 before August. He's taken off since, hitting .341 with nine doubles and four homers. "He's playing with guys 22 and 23 years old right now," Everett manager Pedro Grifol said. "Imagine that kid four years from now up to par with the others age-wise. He's got above-average offensive potential and is at least average defensively. He's a gap guy now, but once in a while he'll get a hold of one and hit it along ways."
• Orem edged Ogden 1-0 in the second game of their crucial series in the Rookie-level Pioneer League. Owlz third baseman Dallas Morris drove home the game's lone run with a two-out double in the top of the ninth inning off righty Cory Wade. Wade went the distance, taking the loss despite six strikeouts, no walks and five hits in his first complete game since signing with the Dodgers as a 10th-round pick in 2004. Daniel Hawkins, Mike Pete and Kevin Lynch combined on a four hitter for Orem, which is tied with Ogden atop the Southern Division standings.
• With a team average of .311 and no fewer than 13 former or current members of the 2005 roster batting over .300, Helena has poured on the offense against Pioneer League competition this summer. Thursday, shortstop Ryan Crew, the Brewers' 40th-round pick this year from Texas-San Antonio, went 3-for-4 and is hitting .328 with 18 doubles in 192 at-bats.
Contributing: Will Kimmey, Alan Matthews.
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