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Daily Dish Archive: April

April 30, 2003

Coming off two dominant starts, Red Sox righthander Manny Delcarmen left his last start for Class A Sarasota after 3 2/3 innings, and the early prognosis is not promising. Delcarmen was expected to see the Red Sox team doctor in Boston this week, but the 21-year-old prospect is expected to need Tommy John surgery to repair his damaged elbow ligament, according to sources.

Delcarmen had impressed the Red Sox and scouts by working hard to improve his changeup over the offseason. Pitching at 90-94 mph with his fastball and plus curveball, he was 1-1, 3.13 with 16 strikeouts in 23 innings and a .200 average against.

A second-rounder out of a Boston high school in 2000, he went 7-8, 4.10 with 136 strikeouts in 136 innings.

DISH PIECES

• Reds Class A lefthander Juan Frias, formerly known as Cleris Severino, threw eight shutout innings for Dayton yesterday. He allowed four hits, one walk and struck out nine while lowering his ERA to 0.87. The 21-year-old went 6-6, 4.43 for Dayton last year, allowing 81 hits in 63 innings. He pitches with an average fastball and a plus curveball. On the season, Frias has allowed 18 hits in 31 innings. He has 27 strikeouts and 10 walks.

• Reds top-rated prospect Chris Gruler had season-ending shoulder surgery yesterday.

Marlins No. 1 prospect Miguel Cabrera had two more hits yesterday to bump his average over .400 and is now 24-for-49 in his last 12 games for Double-A Carolina.

Royals outfield prospect Alan Moye, who dislocated his shoulder in spring training after he was acquired from the Reds, had his shoulder pop out again Tuesday just before he was ready to break with a full-season club.

• Marlins Double-A outfielder Will Smith was placed on the Double-A disabled list with a sore wrist, and first baseman Pat Magness, who was on the DL with a sore wrist, was activated.

• Expos righthander Chris Young has been on the DL with tendinitis since the start of the season and is slated to make his first start tonight for Class A Brevard County.

• Tigers righthander Kenny Baugh was clocked at 85-88 in his first appearance back with Class A Lakeland. Though he has finally been given a clean bill of health, his velocity is not quite where it was (90-95) when he was drafted in the first round two years ago.

• Royals top prospect Zack Greinke, who said he wasn't going to cut his hair until he surrendered another run, gave up one in six innings for Class A Wilmington Tuesday night. He improved to 4-0, 0.67 in punching out seven over six innings, and continues to generate praise for his poise and pitchability. "You look at him, and he's a young kid, but he handles himself like an older guy," Wilmington manager Billy Gardner Jr. told The (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal. "He had command of four pitches out there. These are also the toughest games to pitch because you tend to wane a little bit, but he didn't."

April 29, 2003

Padres Triple-A outfielder Jason Bay could be on the verge of a big league callup after a torrid start in Portland. The Pacific Coast League's player of the week--he hit .550 with three home runs last week-- swatted two more home runs last night.

Bay, 24, was traded twice last year. Originally drafted by the Expos in the 22nd round in 2000 out of Gonzaga, Bay was sent to the Mets last March with righthander Jim Serrano for journeyman Lou Collier, and then onto the Padres with lefthander Bobby Jones and righty Josh Reynolds for reliever Steve Reed and starter Jason Middlebrook.

A career .300 career hitter entering this season, Bay hit .309-4-12 in 81 at-bats for Double-A mobile after joining the Padres last summer. His current nine-game hit streak includes six home runs and he's tied for the PCL lead with nine bombs. He tops the circuit with 30 RBIs and is third in batting at .385.

Bay, who hit a career-high 17 home runs last season between three stops, was impressive this spring, hitting .300 with one home run in a brief look.

While he has played right field primarily in Portland, Bay can handle all three outfield spots. He stole 39 bases last year and has been successful on 84 percent of his career attempts.

With Mark Kotsay injured, the Padres have been using Rule 5 pick Shane Victorino, and might consider Bay as an option soon.

DISH PIECES

• The Red Sox promoted righthander Luis Mendoza to low Class A Augusta from extended spring training to provide some relief to a league-worst staff (5.61 ERA). Mendoza, 19, was signed out of Mexico in July 2000 and spent part of two seasons in the Rookie-level Venezuelan Summer League. He made his stateside debut last summer in the Gulf Coast League, where he went 3-4, 4.21 with 76 hits allowed in 58 innings. But Mendoza impressed Sox player development officials this spring by showing a feel for three pitches including a projectable fastball that ranges from 88-92 mph. He tossed four scoreless last night, surrendering one hit and one walk.

• Blue Jays Class A righty Vince Perkins gave up his first runs of the season last night, but still managed to improve to 2-0, 0.92. In six innings, he gave up two hits, three runs and four walks, while fanning five.

• Phillies top prospect Gavin Floyd bounced back from one of his worst starts (4 2/3 IP, 7 hits, 7 runs last Wednesday) to throw eight shutout innings for Clearwater on Monday. He gave up three hits and two walks, while punching out eight. Floyd is 2-3, 3.97 with 32 strikeouts in 34 innings.

• Brewers Double-A shortstop J.J. Hardy has not played the last three games for Huntsville due to a strained left hip flexor.

• The Tigers activated pitchers Kenny Baugh and Rob Henkel from the disabled list. Baugh, coming back from shoulder surgery, was assigned to Class A Lakeland, and Henkel, recovering from tendinitis, will start for Double-A Erie on Wednesday.

• Blue Jays prospect Gabe Gross, back in the Double-A New Haven lineup after missing a few days after fouling a ball off his foot, went 3-for-5 with his second home run. He is up to .353-2-13, a major improvement compared to last April's .141-0-4 start.

• A's prospect Marcus McBeth has yet to report to low Class A Kane County after he was demoted from high Class Modesto last week.

• The Marlins promoted hard-throwing Yorman Bazardo to low Class A Greensboro from extended spring training, and righthander Jeff Fulcchino to high Class A Jupiter.

• Red Sox Double-A on-base machine Kevin Youkilis reached base three times Monday, twice by hit by pitch and once on a walk, extending his streak of reaching base safely to 16 games. Youkilis, who has been hit by eight pitches this year, has drawn 13 walks and is getting on base at a .521 clip.

• The Marlins promoted righthander Jerrod Fuell, acquired from the Tigers with Mark Redman during the offseason, to Triple-A Albuquerque to take Justin Wayne's place. Fuell, tossed 11 2/3 scoreless with 14 strikeouts and one walk over 11 relief appearances in Class A Jupiter. In his first Triple-A appearance, he added three more shutout innings last night.

April 28, 2003

ZEBULON, N.C.--The road to Wrigley Field goes through the Cubs' Double-A affiliate in West Tenn. Righthander Angel Guzman is trying to follow Mark Prior, Juan Cruz and Carlos Zambrano, fellow righthanders who made quick work of the Southern League on their way to the big leagues.

Last year, Prior needed just six starts before earning a promotion to Triple-A Iowa, where he made three starts before spending the rest of the year in the Cubs rotation.

Two years ago, Cruz started the year in West Tenn going 9-6, 4.01 in 23 starts before making a promising eight-start audition in Chicago late in the year. Cruz, who regularly worked with explosive low- to mid-90s heat, struck out 137 in 121 Double-A innings in 2001 and also struggled with his command (60 walks).

Three seasons ago, Zambrano dominated the circuit going 3-1, 1.34 in nine starts before being elevated to Iowa, where he moved into the closer role and made his Cubs debut the following season.

Guzman, 21, established himself as the Cubs top pitching prospect last year when he split the season between low Class A Lansing (5-2, 1.89 in nine starts) and high Class A Daytona (6-2, 2.39 in 15 starts). Coming off an eye-opening spring where he was the "talk of the camp," according to Cubs farm director Oneri Fleita, Guzman is 0-1, 4.00 in his first five starts for West Tenn.

Armed with his 92-95 mph fastball, he endured his roughest start of the season on Saturday night against the Carolina Mudcats at Five County Stadium.

An 84-minute rain delay shortened his outing to 2 2/3 innings, but after struggling through a four-hit attack in the second, he might not have survived much longer anyway. After overmatching Carolina with a 1-2-3 first inning, Guzman lost his fastball command. Despite continuing to touch mid-90s with his two- and four-seam fastballs, he allowed an infield single to Miguel Cabrera on a hanging curveball. After ringing up Matt Padgett with a nasty changeup, Josh Wilson hit a bloop double into the right-field corner, Chip Ambres hit a 93 mph fastball to the left-center field wall for a triple, and Ryan Jorgensen took one to the wall in right-center for another double. Following a Wilson Valdez bunt single in the third, the rains came.

Loose, easy and effortless with his delivery, Guzman throws three plus Major League pitches on a hard downhill plane to the plate. When his command escaped him, his fastball was hittable over the middle of the plate. Carolina hitters described his fastball as "sneaky."

While Guzman could end up on a staff with Prior, Zambrano, Cruz, Kerry Wood and Matt Clement by September, he'll need to be more consistent with his command. He's still on the fast-track to Wrigley, but he's on the Juan Cruz Line, not the Mark Prior Speed Rail.

DISH PIECES

• Pirates Class A first baseman Walter Young was placed on the disabled list at Lynchburg with a pulled groin muscle. He was off to a slow start at the plate, hitting .222-3-10 in 54 at-bats.

• Reds Double-A third baseman Edwin Encarnacion hit his first home run of the season in his 22nd game after hitting 17 last year with low Class A Dayton. The 20-year-old skipped high Class A for the move to Double-A. He is hitting .266-1-11 with five doubles this year.

• Cardinals No. 1 prospect Dan Haren improved to 4-0. 1.59 for Double-A Tennessee after tossing seven shutout frames against Orlando on Sunday. He allowed five hits and walked none, while fanning six. "My fastball was moving pretty good," Haren told the Knoxville News-Sentinel. "I wasn't spotting it that great, but it was really running in on righties and away from the lefties."

• Cardinals prospect John Gall joined Haren in Tennessee after struggling in his first taste of Triple-A. Gall hit .179-0-7 in 67 at-bats for Memphis.

• Angels 2002 eighth-rounder James Holcomb was assigned to low Class A Cedar Rapids after starting the year in extended spring training. The live-armed righty, drafted out of the University of Nevada, throws a projectable fastball up to 94 mph, usually working between 89-93 with "severe downhill plane," according to one scout. Holcomb went 2-1, 3.38 with 55 strikeouts in 53 innings for Rookie-level Provo in his pro debut last year.

• The Houston Texans selected Yankees third base prospect Drew Henson in the sixth round (192nd overall) of the NFL Draft over the weekend. Henson signed a six-year, $17 million deal with the Yankees in 2001, ending his football career at Michigan. Though Henson hasn't played football since 2000, some NFL scouts still viewed him as a top 10 talent. The Texans will hold his rights for one year, and he would be eligible for the draft again next year. "It's an honor and it's nice that an organization would still think that after being away for a couple of years that I could still help them," said Henson, who was hitting .171-3-6 with 20 strikeouts in 70 at-bats for Triple-A Columbus. "But right now, I haven't even looked at it as a career opportunity and being that I'm in the middle of a baseball season right now, this really isn't the time to address all of that."

April 25, 2003

With Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling bolstering the Diamondbacks rotation over the last few years, there haven't been many opportunities for young pitchers to break through. Of course, until recently, there haven't been young arms knocking on the door either.

All that is quickly changing. With Johnson and Schilling on the shelf, the Diamondbacks have summoned the likes of Oscar Villarreal, John Patterson, Brandon Webb and Andrew Good from the farm.

"One of the things we talked about this spring was that our farm system has reached the point where it was capable of sending players to make a contribution in the major leagues," Diamondbacks general manager Joe Garagiola Jr. said in the Arizona Republic.

Villarreal, who beat out Patterson for the fifth starter job in spring training, was shaky in his first major league start--chased after 3 1/3 against the Dodgers--but has found a temporary home in the bullpen. He is second in the league, and leads all rookies, with 12 appearances.

Heading into the season, lefthander Mike Gosling was regarded as one of those on the cusp of a callup, but the 2001 first-rounder is off to a dismal 0-3, 7.45 start for Triple-A Tucson. He has had signs of elbow problems in the past, and that is something the Diamondbacks will have to monitor.

Same for Patterson, one of the system's top prospects since being signed for $6.075 million as a loophole free agent in 1998. Two years removed from Tommy John surgery, Patterson pitched strong down the stretch last season but has struggled since spring training. In going 1-0, 3.16 in 26 innings (six appearances, four starts), Patterson had the life back on his powerful arsenal. His fastball was exploding at 95 mph and his curveball had its sharpness back for the first time since before his surgery. But he's surrendered 60 hits in 41 innings between spring training (21 IP), Triple-A (16) and Arizona (4).

Another member of the Tommy John surgery fraternity, Good, 23, has quietly moved up the organizational ladder since signing as an eighth-rounder in 1998. He went 13-6, 3.54 with 127 strikeouts and 26 walks in 178 innings at Double-A El Paso last year--two years after missing the entire 2000 season. Good, who works with an average fastball and plus command, took a loss in his first major league start Tuesday.

Webb, 23, rated fifth--one slot behind Patterson--on the Diamondbacks Top 10 prospects list. He was 10-6, 3.14 with 122 strikeouts in 152 innings in El Paso last year. He has a power sinker/slider repertoire

If the Diamondbacks are forced to continue to draw from the minors for pitching, righthander Edgar Gonzalez could be next. Another sinker/slider operator, the 20-year-old Gonzalez is 1-2, 4.03 in 29 innings at El Paso. However, he is coming off a heavy winter workload. He was impressive, but worked a Rodrigo Lopez-like 76 innings for Hermosillo in Mexico.

Lefthander Chris Capuano is 1-0, 3.00 in Tucson despite having Tommy John surgery less than a year ago.

DISH PIECES

• Twins Double-A outfielder B.J. Garbe was placed on the disabled list with a fractured wrist for New Britain. Garbe, .231-0-2, suffered the injury diving for a ball last Wednesday.

• The Tigers started 2002 first-rounder Scott Moore in extended spring training to continue working with him on his move from shortstop to third base. He made his full-season debut yesterday for low Class A West Michigan, going 1-for-3 with two errors. In 35 games at short for the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Tigers last season, he made 15 errors.

• Mets righthander David Mattox was placed on the DL for Double-A Binghamton with a strained left oblique. Mattox is 0-0, 1.80 in 10 innings this season.

April 24, 2003

Two former Padres Top 10 prospects were claimed on waivers Wednesday. The Brewers, the first team up in the National League waiver order, tabbed Padres Double-A reliever Mike Nicolas, and the Reds became the second team to claim Angels lefty Eric Cyr since spring training.

Both pitchers have troubled backgrounds. Before spring training, Nicolas, 23, was charged with inflicting corporal injury on his spouse, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. Cyr, 24, spent 30 days in jail prior to the 2001 season after he was arrested for having sex with a 15-year-old girl during his return flight from playing in Australia the previous winter. Nicolas, rated as the Padres No. 8 prospect after going 3-2, 2.91 with 121 strikeouts in 77 innings for Class A Lake Elsinore last year, was having command issues at Double-A Mobile where he was 0-1, 8.10 with seven walks and 11 strikeouts in seven innings. Nicolas works with an upper-90s fastball, at times approaching 100, with a plus slider.

Cyr, who started the spring with the Padres and was claimed by the Angels in March, was 1-2, 5.40 with 20 strikeouts in 22 innings for Double-A Arkansas. Cyr tossed seven hitless frames and fanned nine on Monday, his last start for Arkansas. Signed as a draft-and-follow pick in 1999 out of Seminole State (Okla.) Junior College, Cyr uses a low-90s fastball, good breaking ball and changeup. But he was hampered by injuries last year before and after making his major league debut. He ultimately had bone chips removed last season

DISH PIECES

• For the second consecutive season, ulcerative colitis, a disease that affects the bowel system, has put Padres Double-A second baseman Jake Gautreau on the disabled list. He was limited to 93 games for Class A Lake Elsinore last year, and was off to a .224-3-8 start at Mobile this year.

• The Cubs promoted righthander Chadd Blasko from low Class A Lansing to high Class A Daytona after going 0-1, 1.64 in his first two pro starts. Blasko didn't sign until last August after the Cubs selected him with the 36th overall pick in June.

• The Angels promoted Double-A reliever Derrick Turnbow to the majors, to take Francisco Rodriguez' place, while he is on bereavement leave in Venezuela. Turnbow, who consistently fires his fastball at 96-98 mph with a darting slider, has yet to allow a run in 14 innings, while fanning 19, walking five and allowing just four hits.

• The Royals will promote righthander Kyle Snyder to Kansas City on Friday so he can take the rotation spot of Jeremy Affeldt, who hit the DL with a blister. Snyder, the Royals top pick (seventh overall) in 1999 out of North Carolina, was 3-0, 2.74 in 23 innings for Triple-A Omaha this season.

• Daytona Cubs pitcher Jae-kuk Ryu could face animal cruelty charge after several witnesses said that Ryu intentionally beaned an osprey with a ball during batting practice before a Cubs-St. Lucie Mets game. "The bird's eye was gushing blood," St. Lucie trainer Chad Efron told the Daytona Beach News-Journal. "He laughed when he missed. Then he acted like he was sorry when the bird was laying there." The osprey fell to the ground, but survived the beaning. It was being treated for an eye injury.

April 23, 2003

The Pirates burgeoning system could sport a Prospect Hot Sheet of their own. Last night, No. 1 prospect John VanBenschoten tied a career-high with 10 strikeouts in 5 2/3 for Class A Lynchburg. Two nights ago, righthander Bryan Bullington, the first overall pick last June, dropped his ERA to 1.25 with 7 2/3 solid innings for low Class A Hickory. Double-A lefthander Sean Burnett is 2-1, 2.14 for Altoona, picking up where he left off last year when he went 13-4, 1.80 for Lynchburg.

Hickory outfielder Jorge Cortes is rising from relative obscurity, leading the South Atlantic League in hitting at a .435 clip. Signed out of Colombia in 1997, the 5-foot-8, 170-pound Cortes spent three years in short-season Williamsport--where he hit .328-1-35 with 44 walks and 20 strikeouts last year. He collected his ninth multi-hit game of the year Tuesday.

Lynchburg third baseman Jose Bautista--a Prospect Hot Sheet visitor already this year--leads the Carolina League with an 1.160 OPS, this coming after a promising performance in the Dominican last winter.

Lynchburg catcher Ryan Doumit is enjoying an injury-free season for a change and it's reflected in his hot .316-4-19 start. Righthander Bobby Bradley has been encouraging (1-0, 1.38) in his comeback from two injury-filled campaigns.

Lefthander Zack Duke (1-0, 2.57 in Hickory) and righty Leo Nunez (1-0, 3.00) have been good in their first taste of full-season ball, while Double-A outfielder Chris Duffy just continues to rake (.311 with a .394 OBP) and do all the things expected of a leadoff hitter.

DISH PIECES

• Rangers Triple-A righthander Travis Hughes left his Sunday start after 2/3 of an inning after a line drive struck his forearm. According to team officials, he might miss a start, but isn't expected to go on the disabled list. One of the Rangers most impressive power arms this spring, Hughes is 1-0, 3.86 in 16 innings for Oklahoma.

• Indians low Class A righthander Jake Dittler made his first start of the year Tuesday for Lake County after opening the season on the DL with a strained oblique muscle. Dittler, 20, went five innings, allowing five hits, three runs and no walks while striking out four. Another Tribe righty, Travis Foley, also returned to the mound on Sunday for the first time since spring training. The 20-year-old was out with a sore triceps muscle. He went five innings, picking up the victory, giving up just three hits, two runs and two walks while recording seven strikeouts.

• With nine hits and 10 RBIs in his last four games for Double-A Huntsville, Brewers prospect Corey Hart is officially on fire. The 21-year-old is spending his first full season at third base, where he's committed seven errors in 16 games. After a slow start at the plate, Hart has raised his numbers to .289-2-20 with a 3-for-5 performance last night.

• Rockies Double-A righthander Chin-Hui Tsao picked up his third win of the season last night, going six strong innings for Tulsa. The Rockies top prospect was pitching in the mid-90s and hit 97 mph, according to BA contributor Michael Point. Tsao is 3-1, 1.59 with 24 strikeouts and three walks in 22 innings.

April 22, 2003

Prospect Hot Sheet addendum: Cubs Double-A outfielder Jason Dubois launched his first three home runs of the season last night for West Tenn. A Rule 5 pick by the Blue Jays, Dubois hit .167 in 18 spring at-bats.

The 23-year-old earned praise during spring training for his work ethic, but the Blue Jays had three Rule 5 draftees vying for one roster spot and opted for righthanded reliever Aquilino Lopez over Dubois and White Sox righthander Gary Majewski.

Dubois, drafted by the Cubs in the 14th round out of Virginia Commonwealth in 2000, hit .321-20-85 for Class A Daytona last season. He showed a solid understanding of the strike zone--drawing 57 walks in 99 games for a .422 on-base percentage--and 25 doubles to go with his long ball prowess, good for a .562 slugging, the best in the Florida State League.

In spring training, perhaps he was overanxious trying to make a quick impression, but his patience escaped him, as he walked just once against seven strikeouts.

With 21 hits in his first 45 at-bats at West Tenn, the Cubs were thrilled to have him back in the system. He has produced a 1.381 OPS with seven doubles and 10 walks in his first 45 at-bats.

DISH PIECES

• Blue Jays Double-A righthander Jason Arnold has been traded twice since the Yankees drafted him in the second round in 2001. Last night, he got a chance to pay back the Yankees for dealing him. "I circled this game right in the beginning," Arnold told the New Haven Register. "I had a good experience with the Yankees, but I still wanted to try a lot harder tonight." Arnold, 1-1, 0.52 for New Haven, allowed one hit over six shutout innings against the Yankees' Trenton affiliate. New Haven outfielder John-Ford Griffin, who has followed the same path as Arnold--drafted by the Yankees in 2001, traded to Oakland as part of a three-way deal with the A's and Tigers last summer and onto the Blue Jays last winter--went 3-for-4 with six RBIs and his third home run of the season. Griffin is hitting .260.

• Cubs righthander Bobby Brownlie, drafted in the first round last year, made his pro debut for Class A Daytona last night. Brownlie worked his pitch count and got his velocity into the low-90s at the Cubs minor league complex in Mesa, Ariz., before joining a full-season club. He gave up two hits over five innings, while allowing one run and one walk. He struck out four and suffered the hard-luck loss.

• Indians Double-A third base prospect Corey Smith, who ranked as the system's top prospect heading into 2002, has made some encouraging strides at the plate early on this season. Coming off a season in which he hit .255-13-67 with 141 strikeouts and 59 walks for Class A Kinston, Smith has drawn 12 walks in 17 games. He has fanned 12 times in 59 at-bats and has four bombs.

• Red Sox No. 1 prospect Hanley Ramirez went 3-for-4 last night to raise his average to .294 for Class A Augusta.

April 21, 2003

When Tommy John blew out his elbow pitching for the Dodgers in July 1974, Dr. Frank Jobe performed a ligament-replacement operation on an athlete for the first time. He gave John a 1 in 100 chance of ever pitching in the big leagues again. John returned to the mound in 19 months after the surgery and now he is more famous for the surgical success story that bears his name than the 288 wins he compiled in his 26-year career.

The prognosis for recovery is much greater now, and with all the advancements in rehabilitation techniques, players are coming back from the surgery quicker than ever. Jobe still recommends a 12-18 month period for recovery, and warns against rushing back.

On Saturday, Yankees lefthander Brandon Claussen, who had Tommy John surgery at last June, started for Class A Tampa about 10 months after his operation. The 23-year-old prospect, who led the minors in strikeouts in 2001 and was 2-8, 3.28 in 85 innings last year, fanned seven in 5 2/3 innings against Sarasota. He allowed four hits, two runs and one walk.

Claussen's fastball sat at 89 mph and topped out at 93, which is very close to the same velocity he displayed before surgery. His slider was rated as the best breaking ball in the system heading into the last two years. It's not quite back to where it was, but Yankees player development officials are encouraged by the feel he showing for it.

DISH PIECES

• Reds righthander Chris Gruler, 19, was demoted from low Class A Dayton to extended spring training after his disastrous start to the season. He was sent to Cincinnati over the weekend to have his shoulder examined by Reds doctors before heading to Florida. Gruler's 2002 debut season was cut short last fall in instructional league due to a sore shoulder.

• Devil Rays Double-A outfielder Jonny Gomes' fourth home run this year for Orlando was the 50th of his young career. The 22-year-old, drafted in the 18th round out of Santa Rosa (Calif.) CC in 2001, didn't receive a big league invite this spring after hitting 30 bombs for Class A Bakersfield, but he did enough to impress manager Lou Piniella in his brief look. "If he had been in camp for awhile, and swung the bat the way he has the last couple of days, who knows what could have happened? He drives the ball. He swings the bat. He's aggressive," Piniella said. Gomes homered in his first spring at-bat. "Hey," Piniella said. "We keep saying we're looking for right-handed power." Gomes is hitting .255-5-11 with a 1.002 OPS in 55 at-bats. His older brother Joey, an eighth-rounder in 2002, is hitting .327-2-6 for Bakersfield. Both were signed by Tampa scout Hank King.

• Expos righthander Josh Karp made his first start of the year on Saturday after a case of strep throat had him sidelined since the end of spring training. He threw four scoreless for Double-A Harrisburg, allowing two hits and a walk while punching out four.

• Brewers top prospect Brad Nelson was officially placed on the disabled list on Friday after a sore wrist kept him out of action for a week. He is out indefinitely.

• Marlins Class A outfielder Chris Resop is expected back in the Greensboro lineup this week after separating his shoulder on a swing five games into the season.

• Indians Class A Lake County outfielder Jason Cooper left the game on Saturday after fouling a ball of his foot. Cooper was off to a .316-4-19 start.

• Mets Class A righthander Matt Peterson has been sidelined at St. Lucie with right biceps tendinits.

April 18, 2003

Reds righthander Chris Gruler suffered his third straight dismal start of the year for low Class A Dayton. The third overall pick out of a Northern California high school, Gruler went 0-1, 3.89 in 11 starts between Rookie-level Billings and Dayton last year. The 19-year-old had his season shut down during instructional league last fall because of shoulder discomfort. After an offseason of strengthening his shoulder, Gruler had a rough spring and his velocity was down from his usual low- to mid-90s. He fell to 0-2, 27.00 after lasting just 2/3 of an inning yesterday, and has walked 12 in 5 2/3. He issued two walks, hit two batters and uncorked two wild pitches.

DISH PIECES

• Cubs righthander Bobby Brownlie will make his pro debut on Monday for high Class A Daytona, after stretching out his pitch count in extended spring training.

• In yesterday's featured prospect matchup, Marlins Class A Jupiter righthander Trevor Hutchinson gave up a single to Fort Myers leadoff man James Tomlin and proceeded to hold the Miracle hitless for the next seven innings. Hutchinson improved to 2-0, 0.00 and extended his scoreless innings streak to start his career to 15. Twins righthander Colby Miller took the loss for Fort Myers, dropping to 1-1, 2.40. He went five, allowing six hits, four runs (two earned), a walk and three strikeouts.

• Today's top prospect matchup features Pirates righthander Leo Nunez against Expos lefthander Josh Girdley in the low Class A South Atlantic League. Nunez, who has an electric fastball in the low-90s, has worked four innings in each of his first two appearances, compiling a 1-0, 2.25 record with nine strikeouts in eight innings for Hickory. Girdley was limited to just 53 innings over the last two seasons due to injuries. He has been pitching more aggressively with his fastball, which has been clocked between 88-90, this year and has gone 1-0, 1.00 in two starts for Savannah.

• After an impressive stint in big league camp, Mets first base prospect Craig Brazell is struggling for Double-A Binghamton. He is off to a .154-0-2 start with 13 strikeouts in 39 at-bats. "Right now, that's not me out there," Brazell told the Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin. "When I'm at my best, I'm driving the ball the other way. For me, hitting a home run is a mistake. I'm a gap-to-gap hitter. I have to drive in runs. I just need to go back to basics."

• Brewers top prospect Brad Nelson has missed the last five games for Class A High Desert with a sore wrist. There's no timetable for his return.

• A couple of hard-throwers in Ignacio Puello and Manny Delcarmen showcased their plus fastballs in the South Atlantic League last night. Puello, the Expos No. 28 prospect, was pumping 92-95 mph heat with a sharp 84 mph slider for Savannah. He allowed just two hits over six innings. Delcarmen, ranked as the Red Sox No. 6 prospect, tossed 8 1/3 innings for Augusta, permitting five hits, one run and two walks, while fanning five. He reached 94 mph in his previous start when he punched out 11.

• Phillies Double-A shortstop Anderson Machado injured his ankle rounding second base on Wednesday and is expected to miss several games.

• Reds righthander Chris Booker was promoted from extended spring training to Dayton, where he will take the place of injured righty Don Gemmell (right elbow strain). Booker, who has drawn comparisons to Lee Smith for his power arsenal out of the bullpen, missed all of last season with to a torn labrum. His fastball has topped out at 99 mph in the past.

• Giants outfielder Freddie Lewis could be ready to join a Giants full-season club--likely high Class A San Jose--by next week after suffering a broken hamate bone earlier in the spring. Lewis, rated the system's No. 7 prospect, hit .322-1-23 in 239 at-bats last year for short-season Salem-Keizer.

• Dodgers low Class A righthander "Jumbo" Jose Diaz was placed on the DL with a shoulder injury. The hard-throwing Diaz--capable of hitting 97 mph--saw his velocity dip into the 80s in his first three starts. He was 0-1, 5.56 with 15 hits in 11 innings.

• Astros prospect Charlton Jimerson was placed on the DL with a broken right hand for Class A Salem. Righthander Rory Shortell was also shelved with a right elbow injury.

• Royals Double-A righthander Danny Tamayo was placed on the disabled list with a right foot strain, and wasn't expected to miss a start.

• Devil Rays prospect Wes Bankston has been absent from the low Class A Charleston lineup since April 6 to tend to family concerns. He is expected to return to action this weekend.

• Braves Triple-A catcher Johnny Estrada, leading the International League in hitting (.432), and RBIs (16), left yesterday's game with a groin pull. He is day-to-day.

• Devil Rays low Class A shortstop B.J. Upton's first pro home run came off South Georgia first baseman Chris Testa on Sunday.

April 17, 2003

Trevor Hutchinson was drafted by the Marlins in the third round last June, but the Cal senior didn't sign until after instructional league. The Mets drafted the Scott Boras client in the 20th round following his junior campaign, though he was considered a top-three round talent, but Hutchinson opted to return for his senior year. He gave up 106 hits in 117 innings for Cal last season.

Hutchinson has yet to allow a run in his first eight pro innings for Class A Jupiter. He has been working with a heavy 89-92 mph fastball and good slider.

Colby Miller, 21, was drafted in the third round in 2000 out of an Oklahoma high school, where he was also a standout prep quarterback. He is off to a 1-0, 1.80 start in 10 innings for Fort Myers. Miller operates with a command of a solid four-pitch mix featuring an average fastball that has been clocked as high as 94 in the past, a slow breaking curveball, 75 mph slider and good changeup. The 6-foot-2 righthander went 10-11, 3.78 with a .249 average against in low Class A Quad City last season.

DISH PIECES

• Indians Double-A pitcher Marcos Mendoza was suspended on Tuesday after he was arrested for fleeing from an officer and driving under the influence of alcohol, according to The Beacon Journal.

• Dodgers lefthander Hong-Chih Kuo had Tommy John surgery following spring training. It is the second time he's had the procedure since signing with the Dodgers for $1.25 million out of Taiwan in 1999.

• Three games into his return from offseason wrist surgery, Marlins prospect Adrian Gonzalez is showing no ill effects. He collected three hits last night, including a triple, and is 6-for-14 thus far.

Dennis Tankersley takes the mound tonight for Triple-A Portland in his first start since not recording an out in a start for the Padres last week. He gave up three hits, four walks and seven runs against the Giants.

• In his third game of rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, Mets righthander Tyler Yates struggled for Class A St. Lucie. He surrendered two hits, three runs and four walks in 1/3 of an inning.

• Brewers lefty Luis Martinez extended his scoreless innings streak to 17 by tossing six shutout frames for Double-A Huntsville last night. The 6-foot-6, 200-pounder, who spent all of last year in Huntsville, improved to 2-0, 0.00 and has fanned 25 while allowing just five hits and eight walks. Martinez, 23, went 8-8, 5.20 with 106 strikeouts, 65 walks and 114 hits allowed in 109 innings last season.

• Angels first baseman Casey Kotchman had the first two-homer game of his career for Class A Rancho Cucamonga last night. Kotchman, 20, is hitting .317-3-10 in 41 at-bats.

• Blue Jays righthander Santo Valdez made his fourth straight appearance out of the pen without allowing a hit. The 21-year-old righthander has permitted just one hit in nine innings this year for Class A Dunedin.

April 16, 2003

GREENSBORO, N.C.--There's little doubt that if Scott Olsen went to high school in California, Texas or Florida, he wouldn't have been around when the Marlins picked in the sixth round last June. But Olsen attended Crystal Lake South High, in a little scouted area in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago.

After topping out at 91 mph in high school, Olsen touched 94 last night en route to earning his first professional victory. Standing at a wiry 6-foot-4 and 170 pounds, the southpaw throws effortlessly with a long and loose arm. He is now direct to the plate, after throwing six inches across his body in high school, and throws on a downhill plane. He worked consistently at 90-91 with his fastball, which ranged from 88-94.

Olsen gave up four hits (three in a troublesome fourth) and two runs (both in the fourth), walked three and fanned three. After allowing just two baserunners through the first three innings (a second-inning double by Kannapolis third baseman Edgar Varela on a first-pitch changeup) and a third-inning walk, Olsen walked the leadoff man in the fourth inning on four pitches. He proceeded to retire the next two hitters before allowing three consecutive singles followed by a walk.

Just 19, Olsen is in the process of making several adjustments to his delivery and repertoire, so he is going to go through innings like the fourth last night. He struggled to maintain a consistent release point that inning, and he tends to cut himself off and overrotate when his mechanics are out of sync. He was able to go to a good curveball with downward break when he was in trouble. To his credit, Olsen righted himself in the fifth, setting down the side in order.

Kannapolis starter Sean Tracey, drafted in the eighth round out of UC Irvine last year, dropped to 0-3, 13.50 after a dreadful 3 1/3 innings. The 22-year-old righthander allowed five hits, five runs and three walks as his command eluded him and he uncorked six wild pitches. A full-effort pitcher, Tracey pumped his fastball between 91-93 mph and mixed in a couple of sliders. Fastball command was the problem though as Tracey, who uses a drop-and-drive delivery with a short, quick arm from a low three-quarters slot, completely lost his release point and struggled to adjust.

Marlins 2002 first-rounder Jeremy Hermida, who is batting .194-0-2, exercised tremendous patience in drawing four walks in five plate appearances. He has eight walks on the season against four strikeouts in 31 at-bats. Second-rounder Robert Andino displayed some pop and bat speed, though his best tools--a plus arm, above-average range and the ability to make plays on the move with good hands and footwork--can be found in the middle of the diamond.

DISH PIECES

• Royals righty Kyle Snyder continued his encouraging comeback with seven strong innings for Triple-A Omaha last night. After compiling 100 innings in four seasons since being drafted with the seventh overall pick in 1999, Snyder's seven-inning stint was the longest of his career. Snyder was in the running for a rotation spot this spring, and should be the first pitcher promoted if the Royals staff suffers an injury or setback.

"He was one of the most talked about players in camp," Royals general manager Allard Baird said. "He had a good chance of making the big league club. His stuff is there, his makeup is there and his age is there--he just needs more actual time on the mound in the minors."

• After righthander Elizardo Ramirez went 7-1, 1.10 with two walks in 73 innings in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League last year, the Phillies challenged the 20-year-old Dominican with an aggressive move past two levels into the high Class A Florida State League. He improved to 2-1 last night and didn't issue a walk in 6 1/3 innings. In 18 innings over three starts, Ramirez has already equaled last season's walk total, but has more than held his own by limiting opponents to a .235 average. Ramirez commands a low-90s fastball, curveball and changeup.

• Royals righthander Danny Tamayo was scratched from his start last night for Double-A Wichita and placed on the disabled list.

• Reds outfielder Stephen Smitherman emerged as a sleeper prospect last year by hitting .313-19-99 for Class A Stockton, but his age (24) and his plate discipline (39 walks, 126 strikeouts) detracted from his prospect status. Smitherman, drafted in the 23rd round in 2000 out of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock and signed by Jimmy Gonzales, has made a point of working the count this season in Double-A Chattanooga. He drew a walk in his fifth straight game last night and through his first 33 at-bats, Smitherman has 11 walks against nine strikeouts, good for a .455 on-base percentage.

• Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder continued his rampage in the low Class A Midwest League hitting his fifth home run in nine games for Beloit.

• Expos second base prospect Greg Thissen is rehabbing a slightly separated shoulder in extended spring.

April 15, 2003

There are so many intriguing Triple-A pitching duels today, we decided to preview more than one.

In the Pacific Coast League, A's No. 5 prospect Mike Wood (1-0, 2.45) goes for Sacramento against Angels No. 10 prospect Chris Bootcheck (0-1, 8.25) at Salt Lake. Wood is not overpowering, but the A's moved him to Triple-A to start the year because he shows an advanced feel for pitching and commanding his stuff. Bootcheck competed for the fifth starter job in Anaheim this season and impressed general manager Bill Stoneman and manager Mike Scioscia. His velocity was good, in the 89-91 mph range, and he displayed good command. In 17 spring innings, he allowed 19 hits and five walks. After a solid first start, he permitted 10 hits and 10 runs in his last start for Salt Lake, but if he rebounds he could contribute for the Angels this season in a similar fashion to John Lackey's 2002 rookie effort.

Cardinals righthander Jimmy Journell (0-1, 3.75), rated the No. 2 prospect in the system, starts for Memphis against Pirates righty Ryan Vogelsong, No. 13 in the organization, for Nashville. Vogelsong is third in the minors with 20 strikeouts. Vogelsong is almost two years removed from Tommy John surgery now, and should be one of the first arms to help the Pirates from the farm system this season.

In the International League, Indians lefty Brian Tallet (1-0, 5.06), rated ninth, takes the ball for Buffalo against Syracuse and righthander Vinny Chulk (0-1, 6.75), No. 10 for the Blue Jays. Tallet nearly pitched his way onto the Indians Opening Day staff in spring training, but was beat out by lefty Billy Traber for a spot in the bullpen. Tallet gave up 10 hits in eight innings this spring, after going 1-0, 1.50 in two starts for the Tribe last September.

Marlins lefty Scott Olsen takes the mound for low Class A Greensboro against White Sox righthander Sean Tracey. Look for a first-hand scouting report on both starters, plus Marlins prospect Jeremy Hermida, in the Daily Dish tomorrow.

DISH PIECES

• Yesterday's featured prospect matchup: Gotta love it when one of the prospects rises to the challenge. South Bend lefthander Jared Doyle carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning, and completed the seven-inning affair by allowing just one hit. "My fastball curve and cutter were working," Doyle said in the South Bend Tribune. "I only threw the changeup twice." The Diamondbacks third-rounder last year needed 86 pitches, 57 he threw for strikes. Lansing starter Justin Jones fell to 0-1, 6.75 by allowing five hits and three runs in four innings.

• Giants fast-rising prospect Merkin Valdez punched out eight in six innings yesterday to extend his minor league lead in that category. Valdez has 28 strikeotus in 17 innings for low Class A Hagerstown. Known as Manuel Mateo in the Braves system last year, he ranked as the No. 3 prospect in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.

• Braves low Class A righthander Kyle Davies is second in the minors behind Valdez with 21 strikeouts. The 19-year-old fanned 11 in five innings last night for Rome. He's allowed just three hits in 14 innings. Davies, who was rated as the best 14- and 15-year-old player in the country during BA's Baseball for The Ages features those years, is coming off a disappointing season (5-3, 3.50, 69 innings, 73 hits) for Rookie-level Danville last year. However, Davies is still a prospect who demonstrates good command and feel on the mound with a touch of power to his stuff.

• The Red Sox have converted righthander Charlie Zink into a full-blown knuckleballer. After a short stint in extended spring training, Zink made his first appearance for Class A Sarasota last night. In 3 2/3 innings he allowed three hits, two walks and a run while striking out four. The 23-year-old was signed as a free agent in April 2002 after pitching for Yuma in the independent Western League in 2001. "He started dabbling with a knuckleball that he had thrown in college," Boston's minor league pitching coordinator Goose Gregson said in the Hartford Courant. "It was an interesting enough pitch (that) we told him to start using some in games. We liked it enough that we sat down with him in spring training and said, 'Hey, let's make the conversion.' He was excited about doing it."

• Red Sox prospect Antron Seiber, who was AWOL in the middle of last season, has been placed on the suspended list for undisclosed reasons. He was hitting .268 for Sarasota.

April 14, 2003

Today's top prospect matchup focuses on two lefties in the low Class A Midwest League.

Both Justin Jones (Cubs, second round) and Jared Doyle (Diamondbacks, third round) were selected in the 2002 draft and debuted last year. Jones ranked 12th on a deep Cubs top 30 after going 4-1, 1.80 in 55 innings between the Rookie-level Arizona League and short-season Boise, while Doyle posted a 4-4, 2.87 mark in 63 innings for short-season Yakima.

Both came from the state of Virginia as Jones, 18, was drafted out of Kellam High School and Doyle, 22, from James Madison in Harrisonburg.

Stuff-wise, the two southpaws are similar as well. Jones' fastball works between 90-93 mph and Doyle's topped out at 95, but sits in the low 90s. Jones' offspeed offerings--curveball and changeup--are a work in progress, while Doyle's best pitch might be his changeup.

Jones is making his first start of the season. Doyle lost his first start, giving up two runs and four hits in five innings. He walked four and fanned three.

DISH PIECES

• Rockies prospect Ryan Shealy won't be able to follow up his .368-19-70 2002 pro debut just yet. The Class A Visalia first baseman has been on the disabled list since April 8 with a sore knee, but an MRI revealed a slight cartilage tear.

• Three Twins righthanders began the season on the DL with right shoulder injuries: Adam Johnson, Sandy Tejada and Matt Vorwald. Johnson tried to rush back after offseason hernia surgery and injured his shoulder, but he should return to the mound for Triple-A Rochester within two weeks. Tejada pitched in an extended spring training game at the end of last week and is also about two weeks away from joining Class A Quad City. Vorwald's injury sounds the most serious of the trio. He experienced pain in his rotator cuff throughout the winter and is expected back until the end of May if there aren't any further setbacks.

• Indians Class A reliever Kazuhito Tadano, signed out of a Japanese college during the offseason, has been baffling hitters in his first two outings. In his pro debut, the 22-year-old righthander fanned seven in 2 1/3, and he's rung up 10 in 5 2/3 after two appearances for Kinston. Not overpowering, "He throws the kitchen up there," Indians assistant farm director Ross Atkins said. "He just has an unbelievable feel to spin the ball, it's uncanny."

• Reds Double-A righthander Bobby Basham finally got his season underway. After having his first scheduled start rained out twice, he missed on his third attempt because of the stomach flu. Basham went five, gave up two runs, two walks (he averaged less than one per nine innings last season in Class A Dayton) and struck out three in the no decision.

• The Mets are exercising extreme caution with their top prospect Scott Kazmir. His first start at low Class A Capital City ended after two innings, and Sunday the lefthander lasted just 1 2/3 after walking four straight in the second inning. He has nine strikeouts in 3 2/3.

• Cubs righthander Chadd Blasko hurled six scoreless innings in his pro debut for Class A Lansing over the weekend. Drafted last June out of Purdue in the supplemental first round, Blasko gave up just two hits, walked three and fanned three. "I had pretty good command out there," Blasko told the South Bend Tribune. "I felt really good with all four pitches." His fastball topped out at 94 mph.

• After facing just two hitters--and striking out both of them--in the Lansing opener before it was suspended due to rain last week, Cubs prospect Andy Sisco tossed five one-hit innings on Saturday.

• Weekend's Featured Prospect Matchup Recap: Mobile (Padres) shortstop Khalil Greene vs. Greenville (Braves) shortstop Kelly Johnson. Greenville took the series two games to one with a one-run victory yesterday. Neither shortstop played a major role in any of the games. Greene went 3-for-10 with a double and Johnson had one hit in 10 at-bats.

April 11, 2003

Yankees Class A second baseman Robinson Cano collected two more hits last night to raise his average to .471 and extend his hitting streak to eight games. He started to blossom last year. He headed into spring training in 2002 unknown to most outside the organization after hitting .230-3-34 in 200 Rookie-level Gulf Coast League at-bats.

But the thump in his bat caught the attention of the Yankees' player-development staff, and they were predicting big things for him in low Class A Greensboro. He got off to a .276-14-66 start before he was sent to short-season Staten Island last year, a move the Yankees said was made to push Staten Island to its second championship in three years.

The Yankees moved Cano up to high Class A Tampa this year. He responded by going 5-for-5 on Opening Day. "He's really got great hitting skills," vice president of player development Mark Newman said. "He's getting stronger physically each year, and his power is starting to become more evident. We think he's got a chance to be an excellent hitter with power."

Cano needs to sharpen his strike-zone judgment--he drew 33 walks against 83 strikeouts last year--but his raw power could produce 20 home runs in the pitcher-dominated Florida State League, with 30-plus not out of the question in the future. Cano has a strong work ethic and has made promising strides at the plate.

"He maintains his front side longer and does a better job of controlling the outside of the strike zone," Newman said.

DISH PIECES

• After seven straight days of rainouts, Beloit first baseman Prince Fielder (Brewers) homered in three straight games.

• Speaking of hot: red-hot Chad Tracy is at it again. After going 3-for-5 last night, the Triple-A Tucson (Diamondbacks) third baseman raised his average to .500 through 36 at-bats. He has struck out once and has six multi-hit games in eight contests. Tracy knows about red-hot starts, too. He was hitting .532 through 32 at-bats for Double-A El Paso last year. He kept his average over .400 until the second week of June, before finishing at .344.

• Expos Double-A righthander Josh Karp went on the disabled list for Harrisburg with strep throat. Righty Claudio Vargas (0-0, 2.79 with 12 strikeouts in 10 innings) was demoted from Triple-A Edmonton to temporarily take his spot in the rotation. Karp hasn't pitched since spring training.

• Giants Double-A lefty Noah Lowry was limited by a pitch count last night and was removed after 2 2/3 innings. He fanned four and allowed three hits.

• This weekend's prospect matchups to watch: In the Double-A Southern League, Greenville (Braves) and Mobile (Padres) will not only offer some intriguing pitching prospects--including Cory Stewart, Rusty Tucker, Mike Nicolas, Adam Wainwright, Bubba Nelson and Brett Evert--but also a matchup of two of the top shortstop prospects in the upper levels. Mobile's Khalil Greene, drafted with the 13th overall pick after winning BA's College Player of the Year award at Clemson, is hitting .280 in his first 25 at-bats for Mobile. Greenville's Kelly Johnson has something to prove after hitting .255-12-49 with 105 strikeouts in 482 at-bats for Class A Myrtle Beach last year. He is off to a solid .400 start in just 15 at-bats this season.

• Yesterday's featured prospect matchup recap: Altoona's Sean Burnett (Pirates) fired 5 2/3 shutout innings to lead the Pirates Double-A club to a 4-1 victory over Reading in their home opener. Righthander Taylor Buchholz took the loss in his season debut, throwing four innings. Burnett allowed two hits and improved to 1-1, 0.84 in two starts.

• Charleston shortstop B.J. Upton (Devil Rays) was removed from last night's game as a precaution after a play at the plate. He isn't expected to miss any time.

April 10, 2003

Cardinals low Class A third baseman Travis Hanson is blossoming into a noteworthy prospect after an impressive spring training. The 22-year-old, drafted in the ninth round out of the University of Portland last year, collected his third three-hit game of the season yesterday and ripped his fifth and sixth doubles. Hanson hit .294-4-40 for short-season New Jersey last year and ranked as the Cardinals No. 14 prospect heading into this season. He's batting .433-2-14 in 30 at-bats for Peoria.

"When you find a kid that's got a solid foundation and just a natural swing like he's got, he's going to have success," Peoria manager Joe Cunningham told the Peoria Journal Star. "His approach at the plate is outstanding. He never tries to do too much, always stays within himself."

DISH PIECES

• Blue Jays outfield prospect Alexis Rios began the year on the disabled list with a pulled quad, and after spending an extra week in extended spring, he should be joining John-Ford Griffin and Gabe Gross in a prospect-laden Double-A New Haven outfield before long. Rios hit .305-3-61 with 14 steals in Class A Dunedin last year.

• The Brewers low Class A Beloit affiliate finally got their season started yesterday after seven straight postponements because of weather. Lefthander Manny Parra, who was invited by the Brewers to work out in Miller Park during the layoff, tossed five innings of three-hit ball, allowing one run and one walk while striking out four. Prince Fielder homered in his season debut.

•The A's promoted righthander Rich Harden to Triple-A Sacramento on the heels of 13 consecutive perfect innings for Double-A Midland. A day after Harden turned in his second straight perfect outing (seven innings), Midland lefthander John Rheinecker hurled 6 2/3 of hitless ball at San Antonio. He topped out at 89 and showed an above-average curveball with a cutter and plus changeup.

• Indians righthander Jeremy Guthrie left his start for Double-A Akron after 1 1/3 innings with a stiff neck. Guthrie pitched at 91-93 mph in his first start, which was 12 degrees with the wind chill factor. Indians low Class A Lake County righthander Dan Denham went just one inning last night, too. But, it was due to a rain delay.

• Dodgers prospect Joel Guzman has made some encouraging strides this spring. The 18-year-old is hitting .400 with four strikeouts in his first 25 full-season at-bats. Guzman has made tremendous progress in adjusting to breaking stuff. The Dodgers brass rewarded him with a one-day promotion to big league camp this spring. Just a year ago he was bailing out of the box on any pitch with a wrinkle. Now he stays back, and tends to lay off them. He can punish fastballs to all fields.

• Today'ss featured prospect matchup: In the Double-A Eastern League, Reading (Phillies) righthander Taylor Buchholz faces Altoona (Pirates) southpaw Sean Burnett. Buchholz will be making his first start of the year since the weather as been wreaking havoc on the Eastern League schedule. Burnett, rated as the Pirates No. 2 prospect after going 13-4, 1.80 for Class A Lynchburg last year, lost in his first start this season though he was solid in giving up one run over five innings.

• Yesterday's featured prospect matchup recap: Tampa's Ryan Bicondoa (Yankees) and Dunedin's Chad Pleiness (Blue Jays) nearly duplicated each others performance in the Class A Florida State League. Both tossed six, three-hit innings while giving up one run. Bicondoa issued two walks and fanned four. Pleiness rang up six without allowing a walk. Dunedin went on to win 4-3. Scott Olsen vs. John Maine was rained out.

April 9, 2003

The Astros' Double-A Round Rock lineup is really not pathetic. Second baseman Chris Burke and shortstop Tommy Whiteman are two of the organization's Top 10 prospects, center fielder Gavin Wright ranks 14th and third baseman Jason Alfaro hit .314-16-74 last year in Round Rock.

But Athletics top prospect Rich Harden has concocted the perfect spell to prevent them from reaching first base. After spinning six perfect innings on Opening Day at Round Rock's Dell Diamond, Harden was back for more last night.

To prove his first start wasn't a fluke, Harden was perfect for seven more innings last night-- again at Dell Diamond. His magic potion is really quite simple--mix two- and four-seam fastballs that reach 96 mph and with hard sliders, diving splitters and a deceptive changeup from an effortless delivery.

He was hitting 98 mph on the stadium's scoreboard gun, according to BA contributor Michael Point, but just 96 mph on scouts' guns.

Limited only by a 90-pitch count, Harden recorded his 21st straight out with the help of a diving catch in right-center by Midland center fielder Steve Stanley. Scouts at the game said they couldn't recall a batter getting good swings off Harden, let alone hitting the ball hard.

Harden has registered 19 strikeouts in his 13 flawless innings.

Oh, by the way, Midland won 4-1. Righthander Chad Qualls has drawn the unlucky assignment of opposing Harden in each of his first two starts. He hasn't pitched all that poorly in compiling his 0-2, 3.00 record.

In a cruel twist of fate, Round Rock will face Harden again in his third start, this time in Midland.

DISH PIECES

• Trying to hold off Rich Harden for the top spot on the Prospect Hot Sheet won't be easy, but this week's No. 1 Franklin Gutierrez hit his minor league-leading sixth bomb of the season for Class A Vero Beach.

• Blue Jays top prospect Dustin McGowan suffered the loss yesterday, going five strong innings and allowing two runs. His record dropped to 1-1, 1.80 after tossing seven one-hit innings in his Opening Day start when he was 93-97 mph with his fastball.

• Yesterday's featured prospect matchup recap: San Jose's Ryan Hannaman (Giants) gave up one hit over five innings while striking out 11. Visalia's Jeff Francis (Rockies) struggled in his second start, allowing five hits and six runs (five earned) in five innings. Sam Jose went on to win 6-3.

Corwin Malone (White Sox) and Todd Wellemeyer (Cubs) matched up in the Double-A Southern League. Neither would earn a decision, though, as they both left after allowing one run. Malone, who is in his second year at Birmingham, allowed six hits over five innings, walked five and fanned two. "Overall, I could have done a lot better," Malone told The Birmingham News. "I got myself into a lot of jams. I threw a lot of pitches, and I was out of the game early. But in a way, I'm encouraged." He threw 103 pitches before being lifted for Jake Meyer. West Tenn righty Wellemeyer scattered seven hits over six innings and punched out eight. West Tenn needed extra innings to pull off the 2-1 victory. Birmingham sends lefty Neal Cotts, acquired from the A's in the Keith Foulke-Billy Koch swap, to the mound to face West Tenn righthander Angel Guzman tonight.

• Today's featured prospect matchup: Tampa (Yankees) righthander Ryan Bicondoa vs. Dunedin (Blue Jays) righthander Chad Pleiness in the Class A Florida State League. Delmarva (Orioles) righty John Maine faces Greensboro (Marlins) southpaw Scott Olsen. Weather permitting, look for a first-hand recap of that game in the Scouting Department tomorrow.

April 8, 2003

Today's top matchup features a pair of lefthanders--Jeff Francis and Ryan Hannaman--looking to recover from rough Opening Day starts.

Francis, 22, was touched up for 10 hits and five runs in four innings of work against Modesto on Thursday. The Rockies drafted Francis with the ninth overall pick out of the University of British Columbia last June. He was impressive in his pro debut after signing quickly for $1.85 million. Between short-season Tri-City and low Class A Asheville, Francis went 0-0, 1.17 with 39 strikeouts and eight walks in 31 innings. The 6-foot-5, 200-pounder usually works with a fastball that reaches the low-90s, a good breaking ball and plus changeup.

Hannaman, 21, lasted three innings after giving up two runs in the first against Stockton last Thursday. He surrendered five hits and two walks, but also fanned six. Like Francis, Hannaman was ranked as his organization's No. 9 prospect heading into 2003. Hannaman, drafted in the fourth round out of Murphy High in Mobile, Ala., in 2000, registered 145 strikeouts in 132 innings for low Class A Hagerstown before a late-season promotion allowed him one start in San Jose. At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, Hannaman fires an 89-93 mph fastball with a plus slider at times. His low three-quarters arm slot causes his slider to flatten out sometimes and he needs a more effective weapon against fellow lefthanders who batted .310 against him last year.

Also worth watching in the Double-A Southern League: Birmingham's Corwin Malone (White Sox) faces West Tenn's Todd Wellemeyer (Cubs).

DISH PIECES

• Dodgers righthander Andrew Brown left his Monday start for Double-A Jacksonville after one inning when he felt a tweak in his elbow. Brown was acquired from the Braves as a throw-in to the Gary Sheffield trade last spring, and his stock has skyrocketed since. He was 92-96 mph this spring with a good curveball, slider and changeup mix. Brown is three years removed from the Tommy John surgery that cost him the 2000 season.

This news came on the heels of another Dodgers prospect injury, as Alfredo Gonzalez left his Double-A start after one inning with a right pectoral strain.

• Padres first base prospect Tagg Bozied was placed on the disabled list for Triple-A Portland with a sprained right ankle suffered Friday against Sacramento.

• Tigers lefty Rob Henkel is scheduled to throw 40 pitches today in extended spring training as he recovers from biceps tendinitis. He has four outings scheduled to work his way up to 90 pitches before joining Double-A Erie. Tigers righthander Kenny Baugh threw 75 pitches in an extended game on Monday and is still working his way back from shoulder surgery.

• Yesterday's prospect matchup recap: El Paso's Beltran Perez tossed seven scoreless while San Antonio's Clint Nageotte hurled six shutout frames. Perez, who started last year in Double-A before finishing in Class A Lancaster, surrendered four hits and carved up the lineup with an 88-92 mph fastball. Neither starter walked a batter. Nageotte, last year's minor league strikeout king, started the new season off with six punchouts. He overmatched El Paso with a tailing 91-94 mph fastball and plus slider that was up to 88 mph.

• Indians infirmary report: Infielders Chris de la Cruz (mild concussion) and Ivan Ochoa (hamstring) have been sidelined temporarily.

• Braves top prospect Adam Wainwright lasted just two innings on Sunday when he met his 75-pitch count limit after laboring through six outs. The righthander threw 46 in the first inning.

• Mets No. 1 prospect Scott Kazmir had more success than Wainwright, but only lasted two innings due to an early season pitch count as well. Kazmir fanned five in two innings.

• Giants righthander Matt Cain was clocked at 88-93 with command of a good slider and changeup for low Class A Hagerstown on Sunday when he struck out 10 in five innings.

April 7, 2003

ZEBULON, N.C.--The Chattanooga Lookouts (Reds) avoided a four-game sweep by knocking off the Carolina Mudcats (Marlins) on Sunday. Even seven one-hit innings from righthander Dustin Moseley on Saturday wasn't enough as the bullpen surrendered five runs in the eighth and ninth.

Randy Messenger and Ryan Mottl squared off Sunday, both exiting the game in a scoreless tie. Messenger left the game after four innings because of early season pitch-count limitations. He recorded the first five outs with strikeouts, but he labored with his command in the first inning when he walked two and often found himself deep in the count.

The 21-year-old Messenger, who went 11-8, 4.37 for Class A Jupiter last year uses a diverse repertoire consisting of a 90-92 mph fastball that touched 93, an average curveball with downward break, a changeup, a short slider and a hard splitter.

Mottl, 25, lasted five, but also found himself working deep in the count. He fanned five and walked three. He relies on movement and a good sinking changeup to keep hitters of balance. His sat between 87-90 and throws with a bit of a funky, short arm action.

Marlins No. 1 prospect Miguel Cabrera struggled at the plate after starting the year 5-for-13 with two home runs. He went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts. Cabrera showed outstanding actions and lateral movement at third with plus arm strength.

His counterpart, Lookouts third baseman and fellow top prospect Edwin Encarnacion, didn't start (after starting the season 1-for-11) but delivered a pinch-hit RBI double in the eighth against hard-throwing reliever Mike Flannery.

DISH PIECES

• Mariners prospect Greg Dobbs tore his Achilles tendon running the bases for Double-A San Antonio on Friday and is expected to miss the season. Dobbs, 24, broke into the Mariners Top 10 after hitting .296-15-63 between Class A Wisconsin and Double-A San Antonio.

• Giants lefty Francisco Liriano was roughed up on Saturday, lasting 2/3 of an inning and giving up five hits and four runs. He reported pain in the back of his shoulder, the same problem that cut his 2002 campaign short.

• Blue Jays righthander Vince Perkins tossed 5 1/3 hitless innings and struck out 12 on Saturday for low Class A Charleston. In Perkins' final spring outing, he struck out seven straight and was throwing 94-96 mph heat with an 89 mph plus-plus slider.

• Royals fast-rising prospect Andres Blanco was carried off the field on Friday after he collided with Myrtle Beach first baseman Scott Thorman. The Class A Wilmington shortstop hyper-extended his left knee, according to the Delaware News Journal.

• Angels Class A third baseman Dallas McPherson opened the season on the disabled list with a bulging disc in his back. He's at least two weeks from returning to the lineup.

• Rockies righthander Ryan Kibler had shoulder surgery and will miss the entire season.

• Tigers prospect Scott Moore opened the season in extended spring training and is moving to third base.

• Dodgers Double-A outfielder Reggie Abercrombie is still out with a hamstring injury.

• Lefthander Matt Coenen makes his first regular season start as Brave tonight as low Class A Myrtle Beach faces Wilmington (Royals). Coenen was picked up from the Tigers in exchange for Rule 5 righthander Chris Spurling two weeks ago.

• Devil Rays shortstop B.J. Upton has drawn at least two walks in each of his first four pro games. He has nine free passes--good for a .632 OBP--against three strikeouts in nine at-bats.

• Angels righthander Matt Hensley left his Friday start after three innings due to tightness in his hip.

• The Mariners plan on flip-flopping prospects Jose Lopez and Luis Ugueto between second base and shortstop at Double-A San Antonio.

• Friday's featured prospect matchup recap: Colt Griffin went six strong innings, allowing just two hits and two unearned runs, while walking three and striking out five but suffered the loss to Peoria's Blake Hawksworth. Hawksworth matched Griffin's six innings of two-hit ball, but he didn't allow a run or a walk and punched out six.

• Today's top prospect matchup: El Paso (Diamondbacks) Beltran Perez vs. San Antonio (Mariners) Clint Nageotte.

April 4, 2003

DURHAM, N.C.--Norfolk righthander Aaron Heilman carried a 6-8 career record into last night's Opening Day start against Durham, but he established himself as one of the system's untouchable prospects last season by reaching Triple-A a year after the Mets signed him as the 18th overall pick in 2001.

The Mets, who have turned down several trade offers involving the 24-year-old, project Heilman as a frontline starter. On the heels of an unimpressive spring, in which he was competing for the fifth spot in the rotation, he took the ball for six shutout innings last night. He allowed five hits and two walks while fanning five.

A 6-foot-5, 220-pound workhorse, Heilman goes after hitters with a three-pitch arsenal consisting of a heavy 89-91 mph fastball, slider and splitter. His slider has improved from his days at Notre Dame, where he went 15-0, 1.74 as a senior.

He has a sound delivery, with an upside-down arm action (where he holds the ball below his elbow rather than above it in his delivery), which often spells trouble for repeating breaking balls. Based on his performance last night, Heilman has learned to repeat his slider, and he showed confidence in it by throwing it in any count. He sweeps the 82 mph breaking ball away from righties and he occasionally snapped off a hard biter.

He reserves his splitter for punchout situations, and it shows good diving action at the plate.

The key to Heilman's success, however, is the plus-plus movement on his fastball, and his command. He gets heavy sink and run from a three-quarters slot (actually, it's about a tick below three-quarters). He spots it to either side of the plate.

Some scouts are concerned that with his arm action and release point he's not taking advantage of his height, but Heilman compensates by keeping the ball down and inducing groundballs by the bundle.

DISH PIECES

Reds righthander Luke Hudson joined Ricardo Aramboles in the doctor's office to have a torn labrum repaired. Both will miss the season. Chris Gruler, however, has shown no ill effects from the shoulder injury that hassled him last fall, and gets the nod tonight for Dayton.

• More news from the DL: Padres second baseman Bernie Castro opens up on the disabled list for Triple-A Portland with a right ankle sprain. Yankees second baseman Andy Phillips is on the DL with an undisclosed injury for Triple-A Columbus. Red Sox righthander Billy Simon will have his season debut delayed by a neck strain suffered two weeks ago in spring training. The Blue Jays feared they had lost outfielder Jayson Werth for the season when he initially injured his wrist, however there was no ligament damage. Werth make a rehab appearance for Class A Dunedin last night and should return to Triple-A Syracuse soon. Mets top catching prospect Justin Huber strained a pectoral muscle two weeks ago and won't join the Class A St. Lucie lineup until the end of April.

• The Blue Jays are moving righthander David Bush and lefty Justin Maureau, both products of their 2002 draft class, into the rotation at Class A Dunedin.

• Phillies 2002 draft picks Cole Hamels (first round), Kiel Fisher (third) and Jake Blalock (fifth) opened the season in extended spring training.

• Today's top prospect matchup: Burlington righthander Colt Griffin (Royals) vs. Peoria righthander Blake Hawksworth (Cardinals).

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