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Daily Dish Archive: August


August 29, 2003

Double-A New Haven catcher Guillermo Quiroz has missed seven games with a collapsed lung, and could miss the Eastern League playoffs.

Quiroz had been having trouble catching his breath, but after two trips to the doctor, the breathing difficulties were diagnosed as a chest cold. He continued to play, and hit, going 5-for-12 with a home run and two doubles in a four game stretch against Binghamton and New Britain. But after going 2-for-3 against the Rock Cats with a home run and a double, he was still having trouble catching his breath.

New Haven trainer Jeff Stay took Quiroz to another doctor. Stay insisted that the doctor take a chest X-ray, which discovered that Quiroz, hitting .282-20-79, had a partially collapsed lung. It was not known exactly when the lung collapsed, and Quiroz was taken to the hospital. While he's expected to make a full recovery, he's been forced to sit the past seven games. New Haven manager Marty Pevey said he expects to know more early next week about Quiroz' availability for the playoffs.

Quiroz is second in the EL with a career-high 20 home runs, and he was recently named the Eastern League's all-star catcher, beating out a talented group of EL catchers including Kelly Shoppach and Justin Huber.
--J.J. COOPER

DISH PIECES

Orioles lefty Erik Bedard, rated the system's No. 1 prospect heading into this season, took another step back in his return from Tommy John surgery. After logging 16 innings between the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and short-season Aberdeen, he was promoted to Class A Frederick, where he will start Sundays game against Winston-Salem. The 24-year-old has allowed 11 hits and three walks, while punching out 24 this season.

Despite coming off his worst outing of the season, Royals righthander Colt Griffin was promoted to high Class A Wilmington. He gave up five hits and six runs in 1 2/3 innings on Wednesday for low Class A Burlington, but will join Wilmington, who has secured a playoff spot in the Carolina League. Griffin, who made encouraging progress this season, went 9-11, 3.91 with 107 strikeouts in 150 innings. He walked 97, though, and allowed a .233 average against. Royals 2003 second-rounder Shane Costa is also headed to Wilmington after hitting .386-1-24 in the Rookie-level Arizona League.

The Angels have shut down Double-A righthander Mike Brunet with stiff arm. The 26-year-old missed all of the 2000-2001 seasons with an assortment of injuries, but bounced back last season as a reliever for Class A Rancho Cucamonga. Moving into the rotation to compile innings and build his arm strength, Brunet went 6-8, 4.69 with 133 hits allowed in 127 innings.


August 28, 2003

It looked like Jeremy Guthrie was on pace to be the first player from the 2002 draft to reach the majors when he started 6-2, 1.44 for Double-A Akron. Giants sixth-rounder Kevin Correia beat him to the big leagues, while Guthrie moved up to Triple-A and struggled to adjust.

After permitting a .196 average in Double-A, Guthrie gave up 37 hits over 20 innings in his first four starts in Buffalo. He followed with two straight wins, including a complete game three-hitter, before falling into a six-game losing streak.

Guthrie's velocity was still in the low- to mid-90s, but he got away from making quality secondary pitches. "One thing he did when he got in trouble was he went to his velocity instead of pitching out of it," Indians scouting director John Mirabelli said. "He learns pretty quick, though. He was 92-94, touching 95 (in his last two starts). His stuff is still pretty firm."

Guthrie is 4-9, 6.52 and seemingly took another step in the wrong direction last night. After reeling off four solid starts, Guthrie was touched up for 12 hits and seven runs against Scranton Wilkes-Barre.

DISH PIECES

The Indians promoted assistant farm director Ross Atkins to director of Latin American operations. He will oversee scouting and player development of the organization's two academies in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. "I feel like its the area I can make the biggest difference in," Atkins said. "I'll have my hands on a much smaller aspect of the organization, but one that adds a lot of value." Assistant director of pro scouting Mike Hazen will fill Atkins' previous role.

Angels low Class A prospect Rafael Rodriguez will be out for the rest of the year with a tired arm. The hard-throwing righthander went 5-1, 1.86 during July, but hasn't been as effective in August, going 2-2, 4.95 with 11 walks and eight strikeouts in 20 innings. Rodriguez finishes the year 10-11, 4.31 with 129 hits and 100 strikeouts in 144 innings.

Brewers low Class A righthander Dennis Sarfate is looking for his 10th straight victory tonight for Beloit. He's stayed under the prospect radar for most of the season despite his success. A ninth-rounder out of Chandler-Gilbert (Ariz.) JC in 2001, the 6-foot-4 22-year-old entered this season with 38 innings in two seasons. Last April, Sarfate was sidelined for most of the year after having elbow surgery. He's bounced back this season and has topped out at 98 mph while showing an improved changeup and power curveball. He's 12-2, 2.67 with 136 strikeouts and 62 walks in 135 innings.


August 27, 2003

GREENSBORO, N.C.--He earned a spot on the Phillies top 30 prospects list when he was known as Carlos Cabrera. He was coming off a 9-2, 3.59 effort for short-season Batavia and the Phillies staff was comparing him to a Carlos Silva-type power pitcher. Visa issues caused a delay to the start of his 2003 season, though, leaving his future in the organization in doubt.

Cabrera finally surfaced with low Class A Lakewood in June, equipped with a new name. Listed on the roster as Alfredo Cabrera, he's also been listed as Alfredo Simon. Most importantly, his date of birth went unchanged: February 19, 1983.

Cabrera's fastball velocity also was unaffected, and if anything improved. Last night, facing Greensboro, the imposing righthander, who is built along the lines of Jose Mesa, pumped 91-95 mph gas and limited the Bats to three hits and two runs over 6 1/3 innings. Cabrera features a four-pitch mix, including a splitter, changeup and slurvy curveball. He improved to 4-0, 3.86 with yesterday's victory over the slumping Bats, who dropped their 10th straight. He has a quick arm and throws on a downhill plane from a high three-quarters slot. While he showed a good feel for his straight changeup and was able to put hitters away with his 78 mph splitter, he alters his delivery and arm speed on his offspeed stuff. His curveball was inconsistent, but showed occasional hard three-quarters bite at 73 mph.

Cabrera fanned three and is averaging nearly one K per inning this season (61 in 65 innings). He still needs to refine his overall repertoire, but Cabrera has improved his status in the Phillies organization just months after it was questionable.

DISH PIECES

Josh Hamilton, who has missed all season addressing some personal issues, is working out near his hometown of Raleigh, N.C., with Triple-A Durham though he is not on the active roster. While the Devil Rays have not yet announced plans for his official return, the Arizona Fall League and winter ball are likely destinations. Hamilton left the team on a personal leave on May 13. Outfielder Jonny Gomes also joined Durham after hitting .249-17-56 for Double-A Orlando.

Another Devil Rays outfielder, Joey Gathright, received some bad news after dislocating his left shoulder while playing for Orlando. His status for the AFL is uncertain. He was hitting .376 in 85 at-bats since a promotion from high Class A Bakersfield, where he hit .324.

Cubs Double-A third baseman Brendan Harris will be out for the rest of the season after suffering two broken ribs as a result of being hit by a pitch on Aug. 10. Harris was hitting .280-5-52 with 34 doubles for West Tenn. "It really wasn't my decision," Harris told in the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun. "They said they were going to shut me down for the rest of these games to get ready for the Arizona Fall League."

Reds 2003 first-rounder Ryan Wagner needed just nine innings in the minors before reaching the majors. Now fourth-rounder Kenny Lewis, an outfielder drafted out of a Virginia high school, has been promoted to Double-A Chattanooga after hitting .242-0-14 with 66 strikeouts in 194 Rookie-level Gulf Coast League at-bats. He also swiped 37 bases in 45 attempts. "Being the fastest player in the organization, they probably wanted to use him off the bench," Reds scouting director Leland Maddox said. "It also will help him have the vision of what it takes to play in Double-A." Lewis was 1-for-9 with six strikeouts and a stolen base in two games since the promotion.

Marlins Gulf Coast League lefthander Jon Michael Nickerson, a 16th-round pick in June, is scheduled to start for low Class A Greensboro on Friday. He was 5-1, 1.87 in 53 innings including a seven-inning no-hitter last week. A classic projectable southpaw, Nickerson has been clocked at 86-90 mph with an above-average curveball. Marlins 2003 first-rounder Jeff Allison could get an opportunity with Double-A Carolina because of three doubleheaders during the final week of the season. Allison is 0-2, 1.00 with 11 strikeouts in nine innings.

Padres low Class A righthander Aaron Coonrod is thriving after a move to the bullpen. The 2002 fourth-rounder started the season in short-season Eugene and was 3-3, 5.69 as a starter before the shift to relief. He threw three scoreless innings out of the pen before moving up to Fort Wayne, where he's added four more scoreless innings. Coonrod, 23, has topped out at 98 mph while pitching at 93-94 with a hard, 84 mph slider.

Brewers low Class A lefthander Manny Parra will miss the rest of the year with a strained left pectoral muscle as a precautionary measure. He had logged 139 innings in his first full pro season, going 11-2, 2.73 with 117 strikeouts.

Giants 2003 second-rounder Nate Schierholtz was sidelined for short-season Salem-Keizer after getting hit by a pitch three times in the same game. The third one injured his hand, but Schierholtz returned to the lineup yesterday. He's hitting .306-3-29 in 124 at-bats.

Cardinals 2003 third-rounder Dennis Dove hasn't pitched since August 6, when he surrendered nine hits and six runs in 3 2/3, due to a pulled groin muscle. He's 1-3, 3.51 with 15 walks and 15 strikeouts in 26 innings for short-season New Jersey.

Contributing: Jim Callis, Will Kimmey.


August 26, 2003

Jeff Francoeur's statistics aren't as gaudy this year as they were when he hit .327-8-31 for Rookie-level Danville last season, but the Braves are just as happy with his work.

Francoeur was hitting .284-13-64 with 12 steals for Rome. His .447 slugging percentage was encouraging for the Braves. His .328 on-base percentage was less so.

"He's been making good adjustments hitting. He's using the middle of the field more and he hasn't struck out a lot," Braves farm director Dayton Moore said. "He's always been a good athlete. He's played more baseball this year than the last four years combined."

Until last year, Francoeur's work on the diamond was always over by June. While other future first-round picks were busy playing American Legion ball or showcase events, Francoeur was working on leading Parkview High in Atlanta to back-to-back state football titles. As a result, Francoeur, who turned down a scholarship to Clemson, is less advanced than many other 19-year-olds. But Moore sees a benefit in that. While many other players see the day-to-day grind of baseball as routine, Francoeur is a different breed.

"It's really refreshing with Jeff," Moore said. "Players all go to the camps and the showcases and they specialize very early. Jeff plays the sport with an innocence that many people had in the past."

--J.J. COOPER

DISH PIECES

Angels righthander Ervin Santana missed a couple of starts with a tender elbow, but returned to the mound on Sunday. He showed his arm was feeling just fine by topping out at 96 mph in a three-inning stint. He is 1-1, 4.38 with 20 strikeouts in 25 innings for Double-A Arkansas after posting a 10-2, 2.53 record in Class A Rancho Cucamonga.

Dodgers lefty phenom Greg Miller has been sidelined with a sore shoulder since punching out 13 in 6 2/3 innings last Monday for Double-A Jacksonville. Miller, who has been touching 95 mph regularly and recently added a slider to his repertoire, is 1-1, 1.01 with 40 strikeouts in 27 innings since a promotion from Class A Vero Beach.

Yankees Double-A catcher Dioner Navarro has been on the shelf for a week with an eye infection, but is expected to return to the lineup today. He is hitting .350-3-33 with 15 doubles in 197 at-bats for Trenton after batting .299-3-28 in high Class A Tampa.

The White Sox promoted second-roudner Ryan Sweeney from Rookie-level Bristol to Rookie-level Great Falls for the postseason stretch. The outfielder was hitting .313-2-5 in 67 at-bats for Bristol.

The Yankees promoted promising shortstop Hector Made from the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League to short-season Staten Island. He hit .236-5-18 with 20 walks and 19 strikeouts in the GCL and went 2-for-4 in his first New York-Penn League contest.

White Sox Class A righthander Kris Honel lasted just 2 2/3 innings last night for Winston-Salem thanks to a 50-pitch count limit, as the White Sox prepare him for the Carolina League playoffs. Honel, 10-6, 3.01 in 141 innings this season, will throw 50 pitches again on Friday and start Winston-Salem's playoff game next Wednesday.


August 25, 2003

Last year Ben Hendrickson established himself as one of the top up-and-coming pitchers in the minors when he posted a 2.55 ERA while pitching for Class A High Desert, normally a pitcher's nightmare. He finished the season going 4-2, 2.97 for Double-A Huntsville.

The 22-year-old righthander has been less consistent this season thanks to a nagging sore elbow that caused him to miss several starts. Though he has been limited by a short pitch count, Hendrickson has been taking the mound every five days again. His velocity has returned to the 88-91 mph range, and he topped out at 93 earlier this season.

On Sunday, Hendrickson didn't get much help from his defense, but lasted long enough to improve to 7-5, 3.61. He surrendered six hits, two walks and two unearned runs in five innings against Carolina. The first two hitters of the first inning reached on bunt singles, though both were fielded cleanly by Hendrickson and his throw would have been in time at first, but nobody was covering in either instance.

Both runners moved around the bases to score on ground balls and a pair of errors. While he went deep into the count on many Mudcats hitters, Hendrickson was in control for the next four innings mixing his moving two-seamers with a plus hammer curveball.

Hendrickson's tight power curveball has earned comparisons to the likes of Aaron Sele and Darryl Kile, righthanders without overpowering velocity who relied on breaking balls. Hendrickson uses a slower 76 mph deuce to get ahead early in the count and spins a hard 80-82 mph curve to put hitters away.

His a clean, low-effort arm action and hard bite on his curveball suggest projectable velocity.

DISH PIECES

Mariners righthander Rett Johnson, who was on track to make his major league debut this September, won't pitch the rest of this season after an MRI revealed inflammation in his right shoulder. After going 6-2, 3.04 with 74 hits allowed in 83 innings for Double-A San Antonio, Johnson was 5-2, 2.15 with 63 hits allowed in 71 innings in Triple-A Tacoma.

Rangers righthander Jovanny Cedeno was placed on the disabled list with a strained ribcage muscle. He threw 15 innings combined between 2001-2002 while he was battling elbow injuries related to Tommy John surgery. Cedeno, 23, had 20 strikeouts in 18 innings for low Class A Clinton.


August 22, 2003

Mike Hinckley has a 17-7, 2.25 record over the last two years while moving steadily up the Expos organizational ladder. The 20-year-old lefty cracked the Top 100 Prospects list and ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the system after going 6-2 with a New York-Penn League-best 1.37 ERA last season, and Hinckley has only improved his status with a strong full-season debut.

A projectable 6-foot-3 and 170 pounds with silky smooth mechanics and arm action, Hinckley's velocity has increased each year since 2001, when the Expos drafted him in the third round out of Moore (Okla.) High. He reaches 94 mph frequently and the development of his curveball has been especially pleasing to Montreal's player-development staff.

Hinckley started the season in low Class A Savannah, where he went 9-5, 3.64 with 11 strikeouts in 124 innings before a promotion took him to high Class A Brevard County.

Hinckley hasn't allowed a run in his first two starts, covering 12 innings, while posting a perfect 2-0, 0.00 mark. He hasn't issued a walk, either, while surrendering just four hits and punching out 12.

DISH PIECES

Angels 2003 seventh-rounder Reggie Willits will miss the remainder of the year after having an emergency appendectomy. He was hitting .302-4-27 with 13 steals and 37 walks in 167 at-bats for Rookie-level Provo.

Giants 2003 first-rounder Craig Whitaker made his pro debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League yesterday. He reportedly touched 96 mph in his 2/3 of an inning. Whitaker, a product of Lufkin (Texas) High, walked two and fanned one.

The Marlins have decided to shut down low Class A righthander Yorman Bazardo for the rest of the season. It marks the second time Bazardo has been sidelined with a sore arm, though the root of the injury has yet to be identified. Bazardo, who has been clocked up to 96 mph, is 7-8, 3.58 with 64 strikeouts in 113 innings. After spending all of last season in the bullpen at short-season Jamestown, his workload this year for Greensboro has nearly quadrupled.

Marlins power-hitting prospect Josh Willingham returned from his latest trip to the disabled list last night and went 1-for-3 with a walk while playing first base for Double-A Carolina. Knee problems will prevent him from catching again until the Arizona Fall League.


August 21, 2003

Braves righthander Adam Wainwright entered the year as the organization's top prospect, and has done nothing to detract from that status this year by going 8-7, 3.61 with 115 strikeouts in 135 innings.

His name came up plenty at the trade deadline as the Braves looked to add a veteran starter, but they wouldn't part with the prized righty they drafted 29th overall in 2000 out of Glynn Academy in Brunswick, Ga.

"We're very pleased with where he's at," Braves farm director Dayton Moore said. "His changeup has gotten better and his breaking ball shows more consistent command. His fastball velocity has been steady (at 91-93 mph)."

Wainwright started the year 5-2, 2.59 but hit a bit of a wall in mid-June, as he allowed 21 earned runs in 22 1/3 innings (five starts) and watched his ERA balloon to 4.01. He's settled down since, averaging nearly seven innings a start over his next seven outings, and allowing more than two runs just once.

"His last several starts have been very good," Moore said. "He's been more consistent with all his pitches. The big thing with Adam is to get him more power and strength in his body, once he does that he'll be more consistent."

Moore wants Wainwright to bulk up his 6-foot-6, 190-pound frame to enhance his strength and durability over the long haul. This offseason, Wainwright will begin his first intensive strength training and conditioning program since being drafted. He'll focus more on sculpting his body that refining his repertoire.

"His body type is such that he could put on 15 to 20 pounds and I think he'll be able to do that," Moore said. "He's still young at 21, and he hasn't even put on his man strength yet. When you draft young high school players, a lot of them haven't had a lot of experience weight training. But you take first things first and work on their pitching. Then later you can add in the strength program.

"He'll start a special program this winter and it should take his development to another altitude."

--WILL KIMMEY

DISH PIECES

The Mariners promoted short-season phenom Felix Hernandez from Everett to low Class A Wisconsin. The flamethrowing righthander was 7-2, 2.29 with 73 strikeouts in 55 innings.

Blue Jays righthander Brandon League reportedly topped out at 102 mph in his outing on Tuesday for Class A Dunedin. He's 4-3, 3.51 with 32 strikeouts with 52 innings since a promotion from low Class A Charleston.

Marlins Double-A shortstop Josh Wilson suffered a broken bone in his right wrist after getting hit by a pitch. He was hitting .253-3-58 with 30 doubles, but was mired in a long slump at the time of the injury. Wilson, 22, hit .176 after July 1. He went into July hitting .289.

The Orioles shut down 2003 second-rounder Brian Finch with a strained right elbow, after 28 innings for short-season Aberdeen. Finch was 1-3, 1.93 with 29 strikeouts in 28 innings.


August 20, 2003

Conor Jackson has done nothing but produce for short-season Yakima. He leads the Northwest League with 30 doubles and 53 RBIs in 55 games. He also ranks in the top five of five other categories, including average (.321), on-base percentage (.412) and slugging percentage (.560).

Those numbers certainly please Diamondbacks scouting director Mike Rizzo, who drafted Jackson 19th overall in June after he hit .388-10-44 as a junior at California this spring.

"We thought the world of him with his approach to hitting and plate discipline," Rizzo said. "He had some early strikeouts out there (nine in his first nine games, 28 against 26 walks since), but most of those strikeouts were when he was caught looking. Some of those pitches were just off the plate, and Conor probably has a better knowledge of the strike zone than some of the young umpires out there."

Jackson's five home runs is the only number on his stat line that isn't gaudy. Rizzo said some of those 30 doubles will start hopping over fences soon, and he expects Jackson to top 30 homers annually once he establishes himself as a major leaguer. Last week, Jackson hit homers in back-to-back games off Kaz Sasaki, who was in Everett rehabbing just before returning to the Mariners.

Jackson has also made a position switch as a pro, moving to the outfield after serving as a first and third baseman in college. The transition has been a smooth one for the athletic Jackson--"He's taken to the outfield like a duck to water," Rizzo said--but he's actually spent most of his time as a DH because of some shoulder tendinitis when he first reported to the club. But his long-term outlook is still excellent.

"He can be a solid corner outfielder and hit in the middle of the lineup with a high average and a bunch of homers," Rizzo said. "And you just can't walk away from those on-base and slugging percentages."

--WILL KIMMEY

DISH PIECES

Yankees 2003 first-rounder Eric Duncan collected two hits in his short-season New York-Penn League debut. The third baseman hit .278-2-28 with 12 doubles in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League before the recent promotion. Duncan is 3-for-8 in two games with the Staten Island.

Expos righthander Josh Karp was scratched from his start for Double-A Harrisburg with a tired arm. The 23-year-old lost seven starts in a row and was knocked out after 4 1/3 in his last start, dropping to 3-9, 5.30 on the season. Karp was considered a potential candidate to help the Expos this season after going 11-6, 3.07 between Class A Brevard County and Harrisburg last year. He's allowed 118 hits and 44 walks in 109 innings.

The Angels promoted righthander Abel Moreno to low Class A Cedar Rapids after going 10-0, 2.38 for Rookie-level Provo.

Reds righthander Justin Gillman, 0-3, 3.96 in 36 innings for low Class A Dayton, was placed on the disabled list with a pulled groin muscle. He's a little more than a year removed from Tommy John surgery.


August 19, 2003

Brandon Watson's 19-game hit streak was snapped for Double-A Harrisburg last night, but he raised his average from .296 to .318 during his hit parade.

Watson, 21, was rated the 13th best prospect in the Expos system heading into the season. A former high school second baseman, he is regarded as one of the top athletes in the organization. He brought a .298 career average into the year, despite coming off his worst season at the plate.

Watson, drafted in the ninth round in 1999 out of a high school in Los Angeles, raised his profile by hitting .327-2-38 with 33 steals for low Class A Clinton in 2001 before tailing off to .267-0-24 with 22 swipes last year at high Class A Brevard County.

Watson started this year much like he finished last season and was hitting .269 through the first three months.

A lefthanded hitter, Watson doesn't pack much sock in his bat offers plus tools with his top-of-the-line speed, defensive range and arm strength. The 6-foot-1 and 170-pounder needs to refine his basestealing techniques. He's been caught 17 times in 34 attempts, by far the worst ratio of his career. He's been successful on just 63 percent of his 163 career steal attempts.

DISH PIECES

Just weeks after acquiring Brandon Claussen from the Yankees for Aaron Boone, the Reds have announced plans to sideline the lefthander for the rest of the season. Claussen made three starts for Triple-A Louisville after the deal, but watched his velocity dip into the mid-80s. There is no reported injury, but Claussen is just about 14 months removed from the Tommy John surgery that cost him most of last season. He pitched 106 innings between Class A Tampa, Triple-A Columbus and Louisville. He was up to 92 mph during his comeback, sitting in the 89-91 mph range before the trade.

Follow up injury report: Padres Double-A lefty Rusty Tucker, 23, had Tommy John surgery last week after feeling a pop in his elbow warming up in the bullpen.

Mariners lefthander Matt Thornton has been shut down for the rest of the year with two herniated discs in his neck. After being limited to just 62 innings in 2002 before having Tommy John surgery, the 26-year-old logged 34 innings between Double-A San Antonio and Triple-A Tacoma this year.

Angels righthander Steven Shell was placed on the disabled list for the second time this season with tendinitis. He won't pitch again this year.

Indians righthander Kyle Denney, who made three starts for Triple-A Buffalo in July, earned his second promotion of the season from Double-A Akron to Buffalo. Denney went 7-3, 2.42 with 87 strikeouts in 104 innings for Akron, but posted a 1-0, 6.39 mark in his abbreviated stint for Buffalo. He works with command of a polished four-pitch mix. He walked 24 in Akron, then issued six free passes in 13 innings for Buffalo.

Lefthander Nate Robertston was sharp for 8 1/3 innings in his Tigers debut last night. He left behind a 9-7, 3.14 record in Triple-A Toledo, and forced the Tigers hand by going 3-0, 1.35 in three August starts. Robertson, 25, had four good pitches working against the Rangers in Comerica Park. He is aggressive with his 89-92 mph fastball, working both sides of the plate effectively, while his two-seamer features plus sink. He worked his changeup away from righthanders, and ran his hard slurve in on them. Robertson made one mistake, leaving a fastball out over the plate to Shane Spencer, but the Rangers were off balance for most of his 110 pitches.


August 15, 2003

Signed out of the Dominican Republic at age 16, Brewers lefthander Luis Martinez has emerged from relative obscurity this year to become one of the systems top arms.

Martinez, 23, brought a 21-42, 5.97 career record into the season as he started out repeating Double-A Huntsville. He went 8-5, 2.58 with 116 strikeouts in 115 innings to earn a promotion to Indianapolis, where he put up 26 1/3 straight scoreless innings while fanning 28. At 6-foot-6, Martinez isnt a fireballer, sitting in the 89-90 mph range while working his curveball in and out and using his outstanding changeup up and down in the zone. Brewers officials say he has matured and learned how to pitch, and was helped by the prospect-laden environment at Hunstville.

He obviously got off to a great start, Brewers farm director Reid Nichols said. He was the pitcher of the month for our organization and was considered for a major league callup. We didnt bring him to Milwaukee, but we figured if he was a candidate for that, we could try him at Triple-A and see how he did. Hes been great.

DISH PIECES

Padres Double-A Rusty Tucker, 23, has been shut down for the rest of the season after he felt a pop in his elbow warming up. The hard-throwing lefty was a likely September callup. He was 2-6, 3.74 with 28 saves in Mobile. Tucker had 63 strikeouts in 53 innings, but had walked 31 and allowed 49 hits.

Reds lefty Ty Howington is slated to return to the mound tonight for Double-A Chattanooga after a short stint on the DL with a blister on his foot. He lost his first Double-A start of the season after recovering from early-season struggles in Class A Potomac, where he was 7-7, 3.59 with 86 strikeouts and 103 hits in 99 innings.

Righthander Scott Proctor, acquired by the Yankees from the Dodgers in the Robin Ventura trade, reportedly hit 100 mph twice on Wednesday. Proctor, 26, has seen his career take off after a move to the bullpen this year. He topped out at 99 several times for the Dodgers, and went 1-2, 1.00 in 27 innings for Double-A Jacksonville and 4-2, 3.66 in Triple-A Las Vegas before being dealt. Proctor is 1-0, 3.50 with 13 strikeouts in eight innings.

Cubs 2003 first-rounder (sixth overall) Ryan Harvey was cleared by trainers and is expected to make his pro debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League after Cubs doctors cleared him earlier this week. Harvey blew out his right knee last fall and missed most of the spring recovering.

Angels lefty Joe Torres received some good news after his latest doctor's visit. An MRI revealed there was no tear in the 20-year-old's ligament, just a sprain. He's going to continue to rehab in Mesa, Ariz. for the remainder of the year.

The Pirates are in the process of converting outfielder Jeremy Harts to a pitcher at Class A Lynchburg. Harts, 23, shows an 80 arm from right field, arm strength that has translated into 96-99 mph gas in the bullpen. The righthander entered this year with a .251 career average and was hitting .221 in his second year in Lynchburg. He batted .210 at that level in 2001, then took a step back and hit .323 in low Class A Hickory last year.

Contributing: Will Kimmey, Jim Callis, Chris Kline.


August 14, 2003

The best move former Brewers general manager Dean Taylor made during his tenure was hiring scouting director Jack Zduriencik. He's helped turn a system Baseball America ranked as the worst in baseball for two years (2000-2001) into one loaded with impact potential.

Zduriencik's first draft for Milwaukee in 2000 netted multi-tooled center fielder Dave Krynzel with the 11th overall pick. Krynzel has enjoyed a steady climb up the ladder, conjuring Steve Finley comparisons along the way to Double-A Huntsville. Without a second-round pick due to signing free agent Jose Hernandez, the Brewers landed a top power prospect in 11th-rounder Corey Hart and they turned 12th-rounder Matt Yeatman into starting pitcher Matt Kinney and catcher Javier Valentin in a deal with the Twins last summer.

Zduriencik's 2001 draft haul will be hard to top though. In the first four rounds, he and his scouting staff were able to plug in three of the system's most promising prospects in righthander Mike Jones (who was diagnosed with a grade one elbow strain by Brewers doctors yesterday), shortstop J.J. Hardy and Brad Nelson, who has recently moved from first base to left field.

They also tabbed Manny Parra in the 26th round, signing him for first-round money as a draft-and-follow the next year. Parra was recently shelved with shoulder stiffness, but has been one of the top pitchers in the low Class A Midwest League.

Last year, Milwaukee's selection of Prince Fielder surprised some because the Brewers already seemed to be set on the corners with Richie Sexson, Nelson and Hart. But while Fielder is limited to first base, Sexson could be traded by the time these prospects reach Miller Park, Nelson has shifted to left field and Hart is in his second season at third base. None of this profiles as a very encouraging picture on defense, but the possibility of Fielder, Nelson and Hart in a lineup would bring back memories of Harvey's Wallbangers of the early 1980s.

The overall returns from the 2002 draft will take year's to evaluate, seventh-rounder Tom Wilhelmsen has been proven to be a pleasant surprise. He was regarded as a top three- to five-round pick when his velocity dipped last spring in high school. Though he's on the DL now, he's throwing again in Arizona and one scout in the Midwest League called Wilhelmsen's stuff better than Jones'.

With a top prospect list consisting of Hardy, Fielder, Jones, Parra, Hart, Nelson, Luis Martinez (currently bothered by forearm stiffness), Ben Hendrickson and 2003 draftees Rickie Weeks, Anthony Gwynn and Lou Palmisano, Zduriencik is responsible for nine of them.

And he's well on his way to accomplishing Dean Taylor's number one objective when he was hired.

DISH PIECES

Dodgers Rookie-ball lefty Mike Megrew returned to the mound last night in Ogden after skipping one start with an undisclosed injury. He improved to 5-1, 3.11 by tossing seven strong innings. He gave up five hits, two runs and a walk. He fanned five and now has 77 strikeouts in 55 innings. Megrew tops out at 91 and works between 88-89.

Scouts are split on the upside of Rangers righthander Erik Thompson, but after going 5-2, 2.81 for low Class A Clinton, he's posted the same ERA in high Class A Stockton. Standing 5-foot-10, he might not always get a fair shot as a prospect, but he's regularly touching 94 mph, pitching between 89-91, and getting results. He's allowed just 123 baserunners (108 hits and 15 walks) in 122 innings between the two stops. He has a good arm action, delivery and obvious command of his three pitches. Thompson's breaking stuff is not considered average yet, though his slider has the potential to be an out pitch. He issued four walks in 57 innings last year after signing as a 12th rounder out of Pensacola (Fla.) JC.

Blue Jays Class A righthander D.J. Hanson was clocked at 92-96 mph with a power curveball on Tuesday when he rang up 14 in seven innings. The 23-year-old is 8-10, 2.98 and has allowed 98 hits in 118 innings.


August 13, 2003

He isn't in the big leagues like fellow 2003 first-round reliever Ryan Wagner, but Expos top pick Chad Cordero has his career off to a nice start in Class A Brevard County.

There has been talk of a potential move to the rotation for Cordero, but he's taken over the closer's role for now. In 13 appearances, the Cal State Fullerton product has notched four saves while allowing nine hits and eight walks in 17 innings.

Cordero, who went 5-1, 1.58 with 68 strikeouts in 57 innings this spring, has been clocked at 90-94 mph with a power slider for Brevard County. Montreal's selection surprised many in the industry, but the Expos focus was to get a college player who could move quickly through the system.

"We made a conscious effort to take a guy who was close," national crosschecker Paul Tinnell said.

"He's a flexible guy," scouting director Dana Brown added. "He could start, set up or close and not many pitchers can do that. We loved the fact that he has a power fastball and slider. He's a college guy who wasn't overused because he was out of the pen."

Cordero hasn't given up a hit in his last three innings, while punching out five.

DISH PIECES

A follow up to yesterday's news on Brewers 2003 third-rounder Lou Palmisano: he broke his ankle and will likely miss the rest of the season.

After going 6-3, 2.80 in Double-A Portland, Red Sox prospect Jorge de la Rosa, 22, took the loss in his first Triple-A start last night. The live-armed lefty lasted five innings, giving up five hits, two runs and three walks for Pawtucket. This has been de la Rosa's most consistent season since having his contract purchased from Monterrey in the Mexican League before the 2001 season. He registered 102 strikeouts in 100 Double-A innings this year.

Rangers 2003 second-rounder Vince Sinisi is scheduled to report to high Class A Stockton to make his pro debut after signing for a $2.07 million bonus on Monday. Sinisi, who played first base exclusively at Rice, will move to left field in Stockton. He hit .330-10-59 as a draft-eligible sophomore this spring, after earning second-team All-America honors as a redshirt freshman last year.

Diamondbacks low Class A righthander Adriano Rosario threw just one inning last night due to a rain delay. "He sat quite awhile and we didn't want to take a chance on getting him hurt," South Bend manager Von Hayes told the South Bend Tribune. "He's too valuable a property to risk anything." Rosario, who threw only 18 pitches last night, is 8-5, 2.93 with 27 walks and 102 strikeouts in 141 innings.

Giants lefthander Francisco Liriano made his first appearance since April 5. The hard thrower left his first start of the year for high Class A San Jose after 2/3 of an inning with shoulder pain. It was later diagnosed as a left lat strain. Liriano pitched one inning, walked one and fanned two yesterday in the Rookie-level Arizona League.

Another top prospect who had a short night was Yankees high Class A lefty Sean Henn. Coming off a six-inning shutout performance, Henn lasted just 1 2/3 innings and 34 pitches. He hit the strike zone with just 16 of them, though his velocity was still 89-93.

Sources indicate the Braves will send Triple-A righthander Matt Belisle to the Reds as the player to be named in yesterday's deal for Kent Mercker. Belisle, a second round pick out of high school in 1998, ranked as the Braves No. 4 prospect before the 2001 season, which he ended up missing after having surgery to repair a bulging disc in his back. He started the season 6-8, 3.52 with 94 strikeouts and 42 walks in 125 innings for Double-A Greenville before being promoted to Richmond, where he's 1-1, 2.25 with 10 K's and no walks through 17 innings.


August 12, 2003

Bobby Jenks has had more than his share of ups and downs in his young career. He reached Double-A in 2001 and was touching 100 mph at 20-years-old, despite rising from obscurity a year and half earlier as the Angels fifth-round pick.

He followed that by leading the Arizona Fall League in strikeouts and started the 2002 campaign in Double-A. After a shaky start, Jenks violated team rules and was shipped back to the Angels extended spring training camp for a month. He spent the rest of the season in Class A Rancho Cucamonga before bouncing back with another AFL-leading strikeout effort.

Jenks reported to camp out of shape and battled some elbow tenderness this spring. He landed on the disabled list with a stress reaction in his right elbow after five starts, though he was still topping out at 99 mph. ESPN The Magazine poured salt in his wounds by publishing an article that didn't paint Jenks or his family in a very good light, though he was expecting a positive portrayal.

It may have served as a motivating force, however. Since returning from the DL, Jenks kicked off the most consistent regular season string of performances in his four professional seasons.

Jenks is 4-0, 1.86 in seven starts since his return early in July, and Arkansas has won each of those starts. He hasn't allowed an earned run in his last 17 2/3 innings, covering three starts.

His fastball still threatens 100 mph every five days, but he's finding the strike zone with it more frequently these days. He has compiled 50 strikeouts in his last 39 innings, while cutting his walks down. After averaging 6.4 walks per nine innings before 2003, Jenks has trimmed that number down to 4.4 since his comeback in July.

He's still far from a polished product, but if he can keep his focus on the field, he's inching closer and closer to realizing his potential as a frontline starter or dominant closer. And there's a good chance Jenks will be rewarded with a September callup.

DISH PIECES

Upon reporting to Detroit where he'll make his major league debut against Jeremy Bonderman tonight, Rangers rookie righthander Jose Dominguez announced he prefers to be called by his given name Juan, and he is actually 23 years old, rather than 21. This shouldn't affect his prospect status at all, and didn't come as a surprise to the Rangers or Baseball America. Both parties have known about the age change since the dissemination of Major League Baseball's age and name change information . The one concern some scouts do have is his lack of an average breaking ball, though.

Also making his major league debut tonight is White Sox lefthander Neal Cotts, up from Double-A Birmingham. The starter for the U.S. Team in the 2003 Futures Game, Cotts works with a deceptive 86-91 mph fastball, good changeup and breaking ball. He has limited hitters to a .170 average against while fanning 131 in 106 innings.

When A's first-round pick Brad Sullivan reported to the A's, officials immediately decided to place him on a rest-and-repair program to get him back into shape while resting his arm after a heavy workload in the spring for the University of Houston. Sullivan threw one hitless inning of relief in his pro debut for low Class A Kane County Friday night. His sinking fastball was clocked at 87-89, though the righthander wasn't happy with his curveball/slider combo. He walked one. The A's plan on sending him to instructional league this fall.

Marlins low Class A lefty Scott Olsen continues to deal in the South Atlantic League for Greensboro. "When he figures all this out, he's going to be on a serious fast track," Greensboro pitching coach Scott Mitchell. He's less advanced than fellow lefties from the 2002 draft class Cole Hamels, Scott Kazmir and Greg Miller in terms of maturity and pitchability, but his plus fastball and slider project just as well. He already touches 94 mph. He is 5-7, 3.11 with 100 strikeouts in 104 innings.

Angels prospect Dallas McPherson swatted two-run jacks in each of his first three trips to the plate last night for Double-A Arkansas. He added a two-run single in his fourth trip to the plate before finishing with a career-high eight RBIs. They were his first home runs since a recent promotion to Double-A. He raised his average to .308 on the season and has 24 doubles to go with 21 bombs between Class A Rancho Cucamonga and Arkansas.

The Rangers promoted lefthander John Danks from the Rookie-level Arizona League to short-season Spokane after going 1-0, 0.69 in 13 innings. The 2003 first-rounder allowed just six hits while ringing up 22.

Brewers 2003 fourth-rounder Charlie Fermaint dislocated his shoulder after getting off to a hot start in the Arizona League. The Puerto Rican was hitting .367-1-7 with six steals and a .552 slugging percentage in 67 at-bats.

Dodgers righthander Joel Hanrahan made his Triple-A debut for Las Vegas last night. He settled down after giving up three runs in the first and lasted six innings. He left behind a 10-4, 2.34 mark in Double-A Jacksonville where he registered 130 strikeouts in 133 innings.

Lou Palmisano, Milwaukee's third-rounder this season, has earned the nickname "Captain Lou" for his leadership abilities behind the dish. He's also shown above-average receiving skills to go with a solid average arm. Palmisano is hitting .391-6-43 in 174 at-bats for Rookie-level Helena. Unfortunately, the rest of the season is in jeopardy for Palmisano, who broke his ankle last night and is currently awaiting an doctor's review.

Contributing: Casey Tefertiller, Josh Flickinger.


August 11, 2003

Dodgers lefty Greg Miller should have just finished his senior year of high school. He's younger than the Dodgers 2003 second-round pick Chuck Tiffany, yet Miller is already in Double-A Jacksonville. Of the 14 college players drafted ahead of him, only Khalil Greene and Jeremy Guthrie have played at a higher level than Miller. Russ Adams, Royce Ring and Joe Blanton are in Double-A, too. But Guthrie is 5 years and seven months older than Miller.

Miller may become the poster boy for why it's OK to draft high school pitchers in this myopic Moneyball era, but for now he's got to be known as one of the best pitching prospects in the minors.

Miller, who doesn't turn 19 until November, started the year in high Class A Vero Beach. He was just 2-2, 4.63 in April, but wasn't overmatched and got better each month before dominating by the time of his promotion at the end of July.

Miller left an 11-4, 2.53 mark behind in Vero and is 1-0, 0.00 in his first two starts in Jacksonville, including a 14-strikeout performance Friday.

He was the third starter on his high school team as a junior, and was throwing 84-86 mph last January when Dodgers area scout Scott Groot first saw him. Miller reached 92 mph before the draft, and is now topping out at 95 in every start. Despite pitching in the Southern California talent hotbed of Orange County, Miller was not a high-profile guy until a month before the draft. Groot made scouting director Logan White aware of Miller as a potential top-round pick immediately, though.

"I didn't even see any of his reports or anything, but I knew from Scott's conviction about Miller that this was a special guy," White said.

Miller has added a slider and changeup to complete his fastball-curveball arsenal. He pitches at 92-93 mph with his fastball, his power curve at 77-80 (up from 75-78 last spring), a hard 84-88 mph slider and a plus changeup.

DISH PIECES

Brewers 2003 first-rounder Rickie Weeks went 2-for-4 with four RBIs and a stolen base and in his pro debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League last night. Weeks reported in good shape and is headed to low Class A Beloit tomorrow. In the game against the AZL Rangers, Weeks' first two at-bats, both strikeouts, were against the Rangers' first draft choice John Danks. Weeks was unaware until a postgame interview that the first pitcher he faced was a fellow first-rounder. He was impressed with Danks, saying, "He threw me some good pitches and I struck out."

Angels righthanders Abel Moreno and Carlos Morban have been dealing for Rookie-level Provo. While Moreno has reeled off nine straight victories to start his season, Morban's most impressive numbers show up on the radar guns. After a brief stint in low Class A Cedar Rapids earlier this season, Morban has 19 strikeouts in 15 innings topping out at 96 mph. He is conjuring comparisons to power closers Antonio Alfonseca and Armando Benitez already, though the Angels haven't ruled out a potential shift to the rotation in the long run. Morban also works with a power downer curveball, and the 6-foot-6, 190-pounder throws on a tough downhill plane. Moreno is less projectable at 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, but he is 88-92 with a "Bugs Bunny changeup," according to Angels scouting director Donny Rowland.

The Rangers placed their 2003 third-rounder John Hudgins on the disabled list with a tired arm. Hudgins logged 167 innings between Stanford and his lone two-inning outing at Class-A Clinton. He is going for more tests on his arm this week, though the injury is not believed to be related to any structural damage in his elbow or shoulder.

Rangers righty Jose Dominguez will make his major league debut against Jeremy Bonderman on Tuesday. Dominguez has topped out at 94 mph and averaged 92 with his fastball, but the 21-year-old's go-to pitch is a 70 changeup (on the 20-80 scouting scale).

Contributing: Bill Mitchell.


August 8, 2003

David Bush established himself as one of the most valuable players in the country as a senior closer at Wake Forest in 2002. After turning down an offer from the Devil Rays as a fourth-round pick in 2001, he emerged as a potential first-round pick on the strength of a solid showing in the Cape Cod League.

He lasted until the second round after a scare with blood clots in his leg. Plus he projected as a two-pitch reliever, and the Blue Jays grabbed him with the intention of developing him as a closer.

Bush notched 10 saves at short-season Auburn after signing last summer and was dominant out of the pen. In 36 innings between Auburn and Class A Dunedin, he struck out 48 and allowed just 23 hits. Bush expected to continue his career as a closer, the only role he's known since converting to the mound from catcher in high school.

"I don't think anybody knew he was going to be a starter," Blue Jays assistant general manager Chris Buckley said. "It was J.P. (Ricciardi)'s idea to make him a starter this spring."

Bush, who touched 96 on the Cape and pitched at 93-94 as Wake's closer, sits in the 89-92 range as a starter, but his command and secondary stuff have improved. His power slider has always been a go-to pitch, and it's still a weapon for him, but he's added a changeup, too. He's pumping the strike zone with three pitches, hitting the zone with 70 percent of his changeups.

"He just throws strikes," Buckley said. "He's a real good competitor. He's a smart pitcher. It's like 'Hey hit it.' You like to watch that, because so many young hitters try to show off their arm strength. I don't know anyone knew he was going to do as good as he is."

After going 7-3, 2.81 for Dunedin, posting a 75-9 strikeout-walk ratio, he was promoted to Double-A New Haven, where he's 6-1, 2.15 with 51 strikeouts in 59 innings.

DISH PIECES

Blue Jays prospect Eric Stephenson made a surprising announcement two weeks ago when he retired to pursue a career as a fireman. Toronto officials were pleased with the 20-year-old lefthander's development this season in low Class A Charleston. He was 4-4, 4.38 in 62 innings. He was clocked at 89-93 mph and showed a solid breaking ball. Stephenson, a 15th-rounder out of Triton High in Erwin, N.C. in 2000, had 47 strikeouts while walking 36.

In an peculiar move, the Braves bumped righthander Bubba Nelson from Double-A Greenville up to Triple-A Richmond. The transaction is particularly interesting because Nelson was moved to the bullpen despite his success as a starter. He was 8-10, 3.18 in 119 innings. Atlanta might be taking a look at Nelson in the pen to prepare for the role in the big leagues before the end of this season. He has command of a four-pitch repertoire.

Yankees rookie righthander Jose Contreras was slated to throw in a Rookie-level Gulf Coast League game yesterday, but it was rained out so he pitched in a simulated game at the Yankees Tampa complex. He has been on the disabled list with a shoulder injury since May.

The Expos promoted righthander Shawn Hill to Double-A Harrisburg after posting a 9-4, 2.62 record in Class A Brevard County. The 20-year-old, who was on the Futures Game roster but didn't pitch, allowed 118 hits in 124 innings. He walked 26 and fanned 63.


August 7, 2003

The Orioles haven't had much luck keeping their pitching prospects healthy over the last few years. Erik Bedard and Matt Riley had Tommy John surgery. Chris Smith tore his labrum, and Richard Stahl and Beau Hale also have had shoulder operations. With that in mind, the organization will limit the innings of lefthanders Adam Loewen and Rommie Lewis over the final weeks of the season.

"You know the history of pitchers in our organization," farm director Doc Rodgers said. "And an ounce of prevention . . ."

So Loewen, the 6-foot-6 athlete the Orioles selected fourth overall in 2002 and signed to a major league contract worth $4.02 million just before this year's draft, has been shut down. The 19-year-old started pitching at Chipola (Fla.) Junior College in January, going 6-1, 2.47 and logging 53 innings. After signing, Loewen reported to short-season Aberdeen and went 0-2, 2.70 with 25 strikeouts and nine walks in 23 innings.

"We wanted him to get a taste of pro ball this year," Rodgers said. "It's been a long year for him, starting earlier than he ever has and pitching longer into the season than he ever has. And rather than tire him out and risk injury on his young arm, we're going into preventative mode with respect to the heavy workload."

Loewen's final start came on Saturday, when he worked 3 2/3 innings, allowing three hits, three walks and two runs while striking out four. He was transferred off the Aberdeen roster to Rookie-level Bluefield, but that's only a paper move to open a roster slot with the IronBirds. Loewen will stay in Aberdeen and begin work on his offseason conditioning and nutritional programs with the team's trainer.

Lewis isn't being shut down, instead moving from the rotation to the bullpen, where he spent much of his time last year in his pro debut. He is 4-9, 3.27 with a 68-56 strikeout-walk ratio in 105 innings at high Class A Frederick. The move will limit Lewis to about seven innings a week, keeping him from exceeding the 150-inning limit the organization set for its young pitchers this season.

Lefty Ryan Hannaman, acquired from the Giants in the Sidney Ponson deal, will take Lewis' spot in the rotation.

Bedard, yet another Orioles lefthander, made his return from September Tommy John surgery by tossing two innings in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League on Monday. He allowed one hit and struck out three. Rodgers said Bedard is set to make one or two more GCL starts, move to Aberdeen for two more, and head to a full-season club to finish the year. The Orioles will decide on his offseason program after that.

Bedard pitched in the same 90-93 mph range as before the surgery and utilized his entire arsenal, including his snapping curveball.

"We wouldn't send his shoulder out there without all his weapons," Rodgers said. "His rehab has been like clockwork. He looks tremendous and is coming right along. We don't want to get too excited about that (one start), but there have been no setbacks to this point."

DISH PIECES

Brewers Double-A righthander Mike Jones will go to Milwaukee today to have his elbow examined. A strained right elbow kept him out of action from June 28-Aug. 1, when he threw 39 pitches over three innings on a 40-pitch limit. He said he felt fine after the start, and attributed the tired feeling in his arm to fatigue from not having pitched in a month.

After signing on Tuesday, No. 2 overall pick Rickie Weeks reports to the Brewers' Rookie-level Arizona League affiliate today to begin working out. He's expected to join Prince Fielder, the organization's first-round pick last year, at low Class A Beloit on Aug. 12 to get ready for a game between Beloit and Wisconsin at Miller Park on Aug. 14. It marks the first time the Brewers have hosted a minor league game in their new stadium.

"Hopefully, this will be the start of a tradition," farm director Reid Nichols said. "It will be great to draw from the entire Milwaukee community and get them excited about our young players."


August 6, 2003

The Royals' 2001 first-round selection of Colt Griffin, a raw righthander who was the only high school pitcher documented to have thrown 100 mph, was considered controversial at the time. The Royals drafted the Marshall, Texas, native 10th overall and signed him for $2.4 million. Then Griffin struggled during his first two pro seasons, going 6-8, 5.81 with 94 walks and 69 strikeouts over 98 innings. He had difficulties maintaining a consistent delivery and developing a feel for his changeup.

When the 6-foot-4 Griffin began the 2003 season 0-4, 5.25 at low Class Burlington, detractors again came out in droves. But since May 1, Griffin quietly has compiled very solid numbers, going 7-6, 3.34 with 76 strikeouts and 62 walks in 108 innings. He's held batters to a .228 average over that span, as he has gained more control of his fastball by dialing it down to the 94-95 range while topping out at 97. His slider has also come around, giving him another plus pitch at 86-88 with a sharp bite.

"I think from an mental and emotional standpoint, he's come a long way," Royals scouting director Deric Ladnier said. "He's under control with his delivery and focused on what he has to do. His stuff is unhittable at times, with his fastball, slider and showing flashes of an above-average change at times."

Griffin's still working to find the delicate balance between stuff and control, and sometimes ends up with weird, yet dominating linescores like the one he posted Monday night. Griffin allowed just four hits over five innings of work against Peoria, but he walked seven batters and had just two strikeouts. Nonetheless, the Royals have been pleased with his slow but steady progress and expect him to continue to hone his control as he moves up the ladder.

"He shows you everything you want to see," Ladnier said. "He gets better with each start. The guy has never had a sore arm or missed a start and has never had an ounce of problems. He's still has the makings of a No. 1 starter."

DISH PIECES

Griffin's Burlington teammate Jonah Bayliss, a seventh-round pick out of Trinity (Conn.) College in 2002, continues to emerge as a prospect. The righthander made a bold statement last night, tossing a no-hitter with nine strikeouts as he pushed 95 on the radar gun. He also works with a changeup, slider and curveball. Bayliss' 7-10 record is deceiving as his other numbers--3.38 ERA and a 115-62 strikeout-walk ratio in 120 innings--are more impressive.

Marlins Double-A righthander Trevor Hutchinson hit the disabled list for the second time as he continues to recover from a bee sting suffered in mid-July. Hutchinson was placed on the DL retroactive to Aug. 3. Hutchinson didn't pitch from July 11 until July 31, when he returned to allow five runs--three earned--over three innings against Greenville.

The Orioles recalled outfield prospect Jack Cust for the third time this year after Melvin Mora went on the DL. Cust, hitting .285-9-58 for Triple-A Rochester, has yet to get an at-bat for the O's.

The Reds promoted recently acquired reliever Joe Valentine from Triple-A. Valentine came to Cincinnati from Oakland along with Aaron Harang and Jeff Bruksch in the Jose Guillen trade. Valentine will serve as an extra bullpen arm until Harang is promoted to make a start on Satruday. The Reds also promoted Brandon Larson, who was hitting .323-20-74 at Triple-A Louisville, for his third major league stint of the season. Another new Red, lefthander Brandon Claussen, allowed three runs over 6 1/3 innings last night in his debut for Triple-A Lousiville.


August 5, 2003

Mike Fontenot wasn't a prototypical first-rounder when the Orioles drafted him 19th overall in 2001. Not only was he the only second baseman by trade selected in the first round (Chris Burke moved to second after a season at short, and Jake Gautreau moved there from third), but second basemen aren't frequently drafted in the first round.

Fontenot was the first second baseman drafted in the top 30 picks since UCLA's Chase Utley in 1999, and just the second since LSU's Todd Walker in 1994. The Orioles could have taken a more conventional pick along the lines of Long Beach State shortstop Bobby Crosby (A's, 25th overall) or high school phenom Jeremy Bonderman (A's, 26th overall). Add to the mix that Fontenot is undersized at 5-foot-8, and you had a lot of scouts questioning this move. But a year after the 23-year-old hit .264-8-53 in Class A Frederick, he has turned many skeptics into believers at Double-A Bowie.

Fontenot entered pro ball with a reputation as a muscle-bound slugger who benefited from aluminum bats and LSU's gorilla ball style of play in 2001."There were some concerns because he was a strong guy and lifted a lot of balls," said one scouting director, who considered drafting Fontenot before the 19th pick. "The concern was because his game should be a little smaller than he played. I thought he might be able to hit for power and average and be disruptive. He can run, and he's a gamer. He can be a table setter."Coming off a 2002 campaign that produced just a .333 on-base percentage and a .363 slugging percentage, Fontenot was neither showing his pop or creating the opportunity to be a pest with his speed on the bases.

Fontenot has turned things around this year, making improvements at the plate since getting contacts a few months back. He was hitting .311-9-50 and had boosted his on-base to .383 and slugging to .463. He has been more of a table-setter type by reaching base safely in 43 straight games this season, while cutting down his strikeouts (117 in 481 at-bats last year; 72 in 354 this season).

DISH PIECES

Brewers righthander Ben Diggins had Tommy John surgery and will be out for at least 12 months. He sat out most of the season with an elbow strain before it was determined that he should have the reconstructive elbow surgery. Diggins, who was acquired from the Dodgers last summer with lefty Shane Nance for Tyler Houston, was 3-2, 2.36 in 46 innings for Double-A Huntsville.

Tigers Double-A lefty Rob Henkel will return to the mound on Wednesday after skipping a couple starts for precautionary reasons after he experienced some mild soreness in his left shoulder.

The Giants are taking it slow with supplemental first-rounder Craig Whitaker. The righthander has been throwing bullpens at the Giants spring training complex in Scottsdale, Ariz., to prepare for his impending debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League.

The Reds shut down Bobby Basham after one start in Class A Potomac. His velocity has fluctuated this season, though no structural damage has been discovered in his arm. He was clocked at 83-91 mph in his last start, and he hasn't been able to show the same sharpness to his breaking stuff. Basham will be re-evaluated.

Reds righthander Dustin Moseley has been solid since a promotion to Triple-A Louisville, going 1-2, 2.00 in four starts. In 27 innings, he's allowed 27 hits and six walks. He has struck out 14, after ringing up 73 in 113 Double-A innings. Moseley was passed over on the way to the big leagues by Josh Hall mostly because Moseley doesn't have to be on the Reds 40-man roster until the offseason. Moseley has been consistently 88-92 mph with a plus curveball and above-average command.

Dodgers righty Alfredo Gonzalez has been shelved for the second time this season with shoulder trouble. After soaring through three levels of the system last year, Gonzalez added 40 more innings in the Dominican Winter League to his already career-high workload and moved into the rotation this spring. Surgery hasn't been ruled out.

Yankees Double-A reliever Yhency Brazoban has a shoulder strain and will spend three weeks on the disabled list for Trenton. The Yankees will know more when they get the MRI result tomorrow.

Marlins righthander Denny Bautista returns to the mound tonight for Double-A Carolina after missing 13 days with a mild oblique strain.

The Cardinals made some moves with their first two picks from the 2000 draft. Double-A lefthander Chris Narveson (second round) hit the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis. He could miss as many as two starts. First-rounder Shaun Boyd moved up to Double-A Tennessee from Class A Palm Beach, where he was hitting .257-5-35 with 28 steals.

The Dallas Morning News reported Rangers Double-A righthander C.J. Wilson has a bone spur in his left elbow that dates back to his days at Loyola Marymount, and he has been sent home. He might have to follow teammate Ben Kozlowski in having Tommy John surgery.


August 4, 2003

Last June the Pirates held the first overall pick in the draft and were forced to wrestle with the decision between selecting a 17-year-old high school prospect or a 21-year-old college righthander. Scouting director Ed Creech was believed to be in favor of drafting Virginia prep phenom B.J. Upton, while general manager Dave Littlefield pushed for Ball State righthander Bryan Bullington.

The Pirates made the polished collegian the No. 1 pick while Upton, widely regarded as the top talent on the board, went to the Devil Rays with the very next pick. A year later it's still difficult to determine who will ultimately prove to be the better choice.

In the 1990s the Pirates franchise has seen premium picks fail to live up to their expectations (see Chad Hermansen, Bobby Bradley, Andy Prater, Jose Nicolas, Mark Farris, Garrett Long). Littlefield, in his second year as GM, didn't want to take the risk of drafting another high school kid. He wanted a pitcher who could get to Pittsburgh in a hurry and help stabilize a struggling organization.

But now, a year later, Upton is a step ahead of Bullington after a recent promotion to Double-A Orlando. Bullington and Upton started the year on equal ground in the low Class A South Atlantic League, but Bullington earned a quick upgrade to high Class A Lynchburg while Upton was making headlines for his lofty error total at shortstop for Charelston, S.C.

If Bullington was on the fast track, he has at least been temporarily derailed en route to Pittsburgh, if not Double-A Altoona. Some scouts have even gone as far to turn in "NP" (nonprospect) reports on the 2002 All-American. It's hard to imagine Bullington is not a prospect already (and he is a prospect), even if his top end velocity this season is about seven mph off his peak 96 mph gas from last spring at Ball State.

While Upton has committed a SAL-high 42 errors this year, he's received nothing but raving reports about his all-around potential. After a slow start at the plate, he jump-started his bat, hitting over .400 in July leading to last weekend's promotion to Double-A. The Devil Rays might have expedited his progress to get him a spot in the Arizona Fall League, which limits organizations from sending too many players below the Double-A level. But Tampa Bay GM Chuck Lamar has even suggested a possible September callup for Upton. That's a possibility Bullington can only hope for by the end of 2004, at this point.

Would the Pirates do things differently if they could do it over again? Only if Littlefield left the decision up to Creech. It's a long road, though, and Bullington could conceivably start hitting the mid-90s again in his next start and regain the crispness on his slider. Some scouts say the Bullington taking the mound for Lynchburg these days is more like the Bullington who was a solid prospect at Ball State for two and a half years before emerging as a potential top 10 pick as a junior.

DISH PIECES

Plenty of top prospects made their major league debuts over the weekend. Royals lefthander Jimmy Gobble debuted in style after moving up from Triple-A, tossing six shutout innings against the Devil Rays on Sunday, allowing six hits while fanning three to earn his first major league victory. Reds righthander Josh Hall made the jump from Double-A Chattanooga for a Saturday start against the Giants. He allowed two earned runs on four hits over five innings, including a massive home run to Barry Bonds. Hall was sent back to Double-A after the game, in which he left with the lead but ended up with a no decision. Rockies third base prospect Garrett Atkins got the call from Triple-A, and went 1-for-6 with two RBIs in his debut Sunday against the Pirates. Two Devil Rays also made their first major league appearances this weekend, jumping straight from Double-A. Chad Gaudin allowed a run over 2 1/3 innings Friday, while lefty Jon Switzer gave up three runs in 2 2/3 Saturday. Mariners righthander Aaron Looper also saw his first major league action Saturday, working a perfect inning.

Brewers top pitching prospect Mike Jones took the mound Friday for the first time since June 28 after missing time with a strained right elbow. He threw 39 pitches over three innings, allowing two hits. "I felt good," Jones told the Huntsville Times. "I was a little tired, but that's nothing that wasn't expected. A couple of pitches felt pretty good and on others, I was a little more fatigued and it took more effort."

Angels 2001 top pick Casey Kotchman returned to the high Class A Rancho Cucamonga lineup over the weekend. He played his first game for the Quakes since hitting the disabled list with a strained hamstring in late May. Kotchman hit .333 with two homers in a seven-game rehab stint in the Rookie-level Arizona League before returning to the Quakes.


August 1, 2003

Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi continued to shakeup his front office and staff this week starting by firing six scouts on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Ricciardi promoted scouting director Chris Buckley to assistant GM and shifted assistant GM Tony Lacava to director of player personnel. Ricciardi shocked the industry by naming 27-year-old Jon Lalonde as Buckley's successor in the scouting director role.

Lalonde, a Canadian native, began his front office career on the business side, working in corporate partnerships for the organization in November 1999 before moving into his most recent role as scouting coordinator, an administrative role, in January 2001. A graduate of Lauerntian University in Sudbury, Ontario, Lalonde will not fill the scouting director's role in the traditional sense of the position.

"It's very exciting," Lalonde said. "It's a bit humbling, though. J.P. and (Blue Jays vice president of baseball operations) Tim McCleary put their faith in me."

His responsibilities will include the day-to-day administration duties of the scouting department and corresponding with his staff and the formal communication with the commissioner's office. Lalonde, who doesn't have scouting experience outside of evaluating players in spring training, will work out of the Blue Jays offices in Toronto.

"I think with the scouting director position you can make it any way you want to go about it," Ricciardi said. "What's to say a guy has to scout 25 years to be a scouting director?"

Lalonde already will have a smaller staff to operate with after veteran scouts Wayne Morgan, Bill Byckowski, Mark Snipp, Jeff Taylor and John Ceprini were let go.

The reaction in the scouting community has caught many by surprise.

"It's a slap in the face to all those (scouts) who have worked so hard over the years," one scouting director said about appointing someone to the scouting director's job without any scouting experience.

"Those guys are never going to understand because those are the same guys who dont understand Moneyball," said Ricciardi, who many believe is still in the process of setting up his staff to mirror his friend and mentor Billy Beane's Oakland hierarchy. "I compare Jon a lot to (A's scouting director) Erik Kubota. They both grew up in the front office and have seen a lot of baseball. One drawback a lot of amateur scouts have is they dont see a lot of major leagues games. Jon has seen a lot of that, and he's been around myself, Tim McCleary and Keith Law and he knows what we're looking for and can carry the philosophy through."

Even Kubota had previous scouting experience before inheriting his current role, which means LaLonde is the only scouting director who has never scouted a territory. He did graduate from the Major League Scouting Bureau' scout development program in 2001.

Buckley, who took the torch from former scouting director Tim Wilken and has conducted three straight productive drafts to keep the Jays in the upper echelon of farm systems, will continue to serve the Jays in senior scouting role. Buckley still figures to be a major resource for Ricciardi in the draft, but he will also crossover into professional scouting, including major leagues, similar to the role he filled for former GM Gord Ash.

DISH PIECES

Devil Rays righthander Chad Gaudin is expected to make his major league debut this weekend. Drafted out of a Louisiana high school in the 34th round in 2001 by scout Benny Latino, Gaudin is not overpowering, but he caught the organization's attention by throwing a seven-inning perfect game in his first Double-A start recently. He went 5-3, 2.13 in Class A Bakersfield before earning the promotion. Just 5-foot-11, the 20-year-old deals with an average 86-90 mph fastball with movement, a plus slider and fringe average changeup. He throws strikes and moves the ball around, but it's the late-breaking slider that deserves lots of credit for his success.

"He's up to 90-91 when he needs it," one scout said. "But he's mostly 86-88 and he knew enough to throw his fastball in hard. But the real pitch for him is his slider, which bites like crazy at the end. It comes more across the plate than down. It starts on the inside part of the plate to righties and breaks off the plate."

Angels 2002 first-rounder Joe Saunders made a successful return to the mound on Wednesday, throwing 88-90 mph during a simulated game in Mesa, Ariz. Most importantly Saunders, who has been sidelined since spring training with a shoulder injury, was throwing pain free. He's ahead of schedule for a 2003 return, and could end up making up for lost time in the Arizona Fall League. Anaheim promoted prospects Jeff Mathis and Dallas McPherson from Class A Rancho Cucamonga to Double-A Arkansas.

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