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Daily Dish Archive: June

By Josh Boyd


June 30, 2003

The World Futures Game roster suffered a blow on Saturday when the Indians promoted catcher Victor Martinez. In a bind to find a first baseman to represent the international squad, Futures Game organizers selected Martinez, who had played 14 games at first but returned to the majors as Josh Bard's replacement behind the plate, and Rockies outfielder Rene Reyes, who spent half of last season at first base.

The options were limited, especially when Twins first baseman and Canada native Justin Morneau was promoted to Minnesota.

More importantly in the big picture, Martinez has made progress behind the plate. He still had only thrown out 14 percent of basestealers, the lowest rate of any starting catcher in the Triple-A International League. However, the Indians player development staff was pleased with the strides he made working with minor league catching instructor Chris Bando. "He's embraced the role of catching," Indians assistant farm director Ross Atkins said. "His release when he would take ball from his glove to hand to throw to second, it was like all the movement was down below his waist. Now it's a more natural catcher's movement straight up to his ear, not a swing across his stomach. He's more consistent."

But, while Bard's strength is his defense, make no qualms about it, the reason Martinez is in the big leagues is because of his deadly bat. Hitting .328-7-45 in 274 at-bats for Buffalo, Martinez was on a tear raising his average more than 100 points in a month.

"He has such good control of the barrel, such good bat control, even when he mishits the ball he's still hitting it 200 feet over the second baseman's head," Atkins added.

Another Cubs pitching prospect down and out

Double-A righthander Angel Guzman could be lost for the season due to shoulder surgery. He is scheduled to meet with Dr. James Andrews today in Birmingham. Guzman was 3-3, 2.81 with 87 strikeouts in 90 innings for West Tenn. Meanwhile righthander Jae Kuk Ryu was promoted from low Class A Lansing to West Tenn. The 20-year-old started the year in high Class A Daytona, where he posted an 0-1, 3.05 mark in four starts before being demoted as a disciplinary action for throwing a ball that killed an osprey. Ryu went 6-1, 1.75 with 59 hits in 72 innings for Lansing. Lefthander Andy Sisco was activated from the disabled list to take Ryu's place in Lansing and allowed three runs over two innings Sunday night in his first game since early May. Sisco suffered a broken hand when he reportedly punched a wall out of frustration.

DISH PIECES

Another Futures Gamer Danny Haren was promoted from Triple-A Memphis. The righthander started the year by going 6-0, 0.82 in Double-A Tennessee before earning a promotion to Memphis, where he was 2-1, 4.93. All told, Haren had fanned 84 and walked 14 in 101 innings. He gets the start tonight in St. Louis against the Giants.

The Orioles promoted righthander John Maine, who led the Sally league in ERA (1.53) and strikeouts (108) to Frederick in the Carolina League. He allowed four hits and three run over 4.1 innings in his High-A debut.

The Mets promotion of catcher Justin Huber from Class A St. Lucie, where he was hitting .284-9-36, to Double-A Binghamton won't affect the Futures Game roster.

The Reds promoted Stephen Smitherman from Double-A Chattanooga to Cincinnati, though he's only expected to spend a few days in the majors while Austin Kearns recovers from a minor quad injury and Jose Guillen and Sean Casey face suspensions. Smitherman, ranked the No. 13 prospect in the system prior to this season, is hitting .318-16-54 for Chattanooga.

Yankees Double-A righthander Yhency Brazoban was placed on the temporary inactive list to visit his ailing father in the Dominican Republic. Brazoban, who was recently promoted to Trenton, has 42 strikeouts in 38 innings between Class A Tampa and Double-A.

According to the San Antonio Express News, Mariners prospect Jose Lopez was arrested Friday for misrepresentation of his age when attempting to enter a club. Lopez is hitting .269-5-39 for Double-A San Antonio.

Cardinals catching prospect Yadier Molina was placed on the disabled list with a sprained ankle.


June 27, 2003

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif.--Two of the top pitching prospects in the minors highlighted the California League-Carolina League all-star game rosters, yet neither pitched. The Royals didn't allow prized righthander Zack Greinke to make the cross-country trip, instead allowing him three days to nurse his sore back, while Angels righthander Ervin Santana was just two days off of a seven-inning, one-hit start.

Still, the high Class A midsummer classic featured a promising slate of prospects. Santana's Rancho Cucamonga teammate Steven Shell got the start in front of the hometown crowd at The Epicenter. Shell, 20, was 6-5, 3.20 heading into the break. He suffered the loss, allowing four hits and two runs in his two innings of work. His fastball was clocked between 88-92.

White Sox lefty Ryan Wing earned the start for the Carolina League all-stars by posting a 1.67 ERA, second in the circuit to Greinke's 1.32. Wing, 21, picked up the victory for his two shutout innings to start the game. He displayed above-average command of three pitches, including a deceptive 86-90 mph fastball that he moves in and out, a tight breaking 73-76 mph curveball and plus changeup.

Josh Barfield, one of five all-stars (Greinke, Santana,Jeff Mathis and Andy Marte) headed for the Futures Game, showed one of the more impressive bats at the showcase. In his first at-bat, the son of former big leaguer Jesse Barfield stayed back and drove a Wing offering off the right field wall for a double.

Kinston (Indians) outfielder Luke Scott, 25, defeated Rancho Cucamonga (Angels) outfielder Nick Gorneault in the pregame home run derby, and then Gorneault, 24, launched the game's lone home run off Winston-Salem lefty Ryan Meaux in the ninth. Scott's strong compact stroke produced towering blasts to left-center and dead center in the home run contest. He ranks second in the Carolina League with 13 home runs.

Lynchburg (Pirates) righthander Melqui Torres turned in the most dominant performance of the game, but at 26 he was also the elder statesman. Torres, who leads the Carolina League with 18 saves, struck out the side in the eighth with a 91-93 mph fastball and darting slider. Another Lynchburg righty Ian Oquendo, who at 21 qualifies as a prospect, logged two hitless innings. He generated 90-93 mph heat with life to go with a power 80-82 mph curveball.

Without Greinke in tow, the Carolina League still brought along a pair of top-notch prospects in Winston-Salem's Kris Honel, who has emerged as the White Sox top prospect, and Myrtle Beach (Braves) southpaw Macay McBride. Honel, 20, is fourth in the loop with a 2.61 ERA, two slots ahead of the 20-year-old McBride, who's at 2.88. Honel's fastball registered 86-89 mph out of a free and easy arm action. His knuckle curveball has 12-to-6 hammer action, and he flashed a decent changeup.

McBride, who like Honel was timed as high as 95 in high school, has found a comfort zone around 90-91 mph. The ball comes out of his hand easy and gets on hitters in a hurry from a compact delivery and quick arm. McBride's 82-84 mph slider is a devastating strikeout pitch, helping him compile 84 punchouts in 84 innings.

DISH PIECES

The Diamondbacks promoted catcher Chris Snyder to Double-A El Paso following the all-star game. Drafted in the second round out of Houston last year, Snyder was 0-for-2 with two strikeouts in the all-star game, but earned his promotion on the strength of a .314-10-53 performance for Lancaster. He went 2-for-5 in his Double-A debut.

Angels righthander Bobby Jenks was scheduled to throw a simulated game this week in Arizona. Jenks has been sidelined since May 2 with a stress reaction in his right elbow. He was 2-1, 3.52 with 27 strikeouts in 23 innings. The Angels promoted lefthander Joe Torres to Class A Rancho Cucamonga after his rehab stint in the Rookie-level Arizona League. Torres threw four hitless innings in his only rehab outing. He has been on the shelf since May 7 with a tight shoulder.

Daily short-season prospect watch: Yankees outfielder Anderson Amador signed for $800,000 during the offseason. His original contract with the Dodgers, which earned him a reported $40,000, was voided by the commissioner's office because his contract wasn't signed by a legal guardian. An outstanding athlete, the 18-year-old made his debut in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. Amador is 1-for-12 with five strikeouts so far.


June 26, 2003

As the minor league season reaches its midpoint, the first-half team of the year has to be the Double-A Carolina Mudcats. They won the Southern Leagues Eastern Division crown for the first half, and provided two excellent young players to their parent Florida Marlins in lefthander Dontrelle Willis and third baseman/outfielder Miguel Cabrera.

Willis has taken the league by storm, and an early lead in the NL rookie of the year race, with his 7-1, 2.38 record for a sub-.500 team since he was recalled in early June. Willis was 4-0, 1.79 at Carolina.

Cabrera, originally signed as a shortstop moved to third base and then pushed to the outfield because of Mike Lowells presence, popped a two-run walk-off homer in his major league debut. He hit .365-10-59 with a .429 on-base percentage and .609 slugging in his time with the Mudcats.

Thats plenty there, but the Mudcats offer much more. They lead the Southern League in batting, hits and runs scored as they proved theres more to their offense outside of Cabrera. Shortstop Josh Wilson has continued to emerge in all aspects of the game. Hes hitting .280-2-39 while anchoring the defense. First baseman Adrian Gonzalez hit .266-17-96 in Double-A in 2002, but struggled out of the gate in Triple-A Albuquerque and received a ticket to Carolina to straighten things out. His top-notch defense has never slipped, and Gonzalez starting hitting after a slow start for the Mudcats, pushing his average to .267.

Athletic outfield prospects Will Smith and Chip Ambres have added to the mix. A wrist injury has limited Smith to just 23 games, and while he hit .313, he was unable to show off the impressive power potential that allowed him to set the Arizona high school record for career home runs. Despite a .248 average, Ambres was still contributing. The former prep football star who turned down a scholarship to Texas A&M had a .378 on-base percentage as well as seven homers and 34 RBIs.

Catcher Josh Willingham homered in his first three games after being promoted from high Class A Jupiter to replace the injured Ryan Jorgensen, but lasted just five games before suffering an injury himself.

Lefthander Ryan Snare (5-2, 3.66) has stepped in as the teams ace since Willis' departure and should get his own chance in the majors by the end of the season. The crafty lefty controls his 88-92 mph fastball and sharp curve with equal skill. Carolina received a pitching boost this week with righthanders Denny Bautista and Trevor Hutchinson were summoned from Jupiter. Bautista, who went 8-4, 3.18 for Jupiter, tossed six scoreless innings in his Double-A debut, mixing his 92-94 mph heater with a curve and changeup. Hutchinson, the brother of Cowboys quarterback Chad Hutchinson, was signed a third-round draft pick in 2002 out of Cal. He posted a 9-2, 2.88 record at Jupiter and makes his first Double-A appearance Thursday night. Hell follow Marlins righthander Josh Beckett, who will throw 75 pitches in a rehab start. Becketts appearance just adds another feather in the Mudcats cap.

And it could still improve prospect-wise. First baseman Jason Stokes led the minors in slugging percentage last season and was hitting .268-11-61 in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. His RBI total was the fifth-best in the minors. Righty Don Levinski, the key prospect the Marlins received when they shipped Cliff Floyd to the Expos last season, was off to a 3-5, 2.52 start at Jupiter as he used his sinking 89-93 mph fastball along with a solid curveball and change. And youd be remiss to leave out righthander Nic Ungs, a strike-throwing machine, who at 6-3, 1.74 led the FSL in ERA.

If Levinski makes it to Carolina before the end of the year, and theres a strong chance he will, the Mudcats will have seen 10 of the Marlins top 14 prospects pass through town during the 2003 season. Of the three top 10 prospects not counted here, righthanders Justin Wayne and Blaine Neal spent all of their time between the majors and Triple-A, while No. 5 prospect Jeremy Hermida, a high school outfielder selected 11th overall in 2002, has spent the year at low Class A Greensboro hitting .282-4-26 with eight steals. Even he might have a shot at Carolina in September. If the playoffs roll around and neither Jupiter nor Greensboro qualify, Hermida has an outside chance to get bumped up to Double-A to gain some extra at-bats in the postseason, though that option is unlikely for a 19-year-old.


June 20, 2003

When the Orioles player-development staff discusses promotions in their farm system they expect prospects to "play (or pitch) above the league."

So far, John Maine is head and shoulders above low Class A South Atlantic League hitters with a 7-3, 1.53 record for Delmarva. He has overmatched the competition, and is line for a midseason promotion.

Maine, drafted in the sixth round out of UNC-Charlotte last year, went 2-2, 1.45 in 43 innings between short-season Aberdeen and Delmarva in his debut season.

Maine's draft status was affected by a poor spring after showing a live arm as a sophomore, when he won the 2001 Conference USA pitcher of the year award.

The 22-year-old has topped out as high as 96 mph in the past, but works comfortably in the 90-93 mph range. But the Orioles have challenged Maine to develop his secondary offerings, and he has responded well. In his last start on Wednesday he fanned 10, reaching double-digits for the fourth time this year, he threw six of his eight changeups for strikes and he's using his curveball more effectively, according to Baltimore farm director Doc Rodgers.

"His numbers speak for themselves, but outside the numbers the thing we've talked to him about is developing three pitches even though he could dominate with just his fastball," Rodgers said.

"We want our guys to show they can pitch above the league," Rodgers said. "It's pretty clear that he is pitching above the league right now."

Maine, who has allowed one home run in 119 career innings, leads the South Atlantic League in ERA and is pacing the minors with 108 strikeouts.

DISH PIECES

Marlin top prospect Miguel Cabrera left his game with Double-A Carolina in the top of the fifth inning last night, as Florida has called up the Southern League leader in Slugging (.609) and RBIs (59). Cabrera is expected to be in uniform for this weekends series against the Devil Rays. Earlier this week, Carbrera was moved from third base to left field to expedite his ticket to the big leagues. I saw him play left field two games and he looked comfortable, Marlins director of player personnel Dan Jennings said. "He made about seven plays with ease. His bat has been outstanding in Double-A, so we are going to give him some time in the majors and see how it plays.

The nightmare continues for Ryan Anderson. The 6-foot-10 lefty dubbed Little Unit after being drafted in the first round of the 1997 draft will miss his third consecutive season after undergoing surgery for a torn labrum in his pitching shoulder. Anderson missed all of last year with the same procedure, and the 2001 season with rotator cuff surgery.

Another former first-round selection having trouble staying healthy is Pittsburghs Bobby Bradley. The eighth overall pick in the 1999 draft, Bradley underwent shoulder surgery earlier this month and is expected to miss the remainder of the season. Bradley was 3-1, 3.11 in eight starts for Lynchburg in the High-A Carolina league after missing the 2002 season recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Padres Class A second baseman Josh Barfield has been absent from the Lake Elsinore lineup for the past two days due to a sore wrist.

Adam Loewen reported to the Orioles spring training complex in Sarasota, Fla. yesterday after acquiring his visa documents in Canada. Loewen is expected to spend two weeks there building his pitch count before reporting to short-season Aberdeen. Loewen will join the rotation, though he'll be eased in with a strict pitch count limit.

Short-season prospect watch: Ogden catcher Russell Martin hasn't cracked a prospect list, but he should become more well known after moving from third base to catcher after his pro debut in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League last year. Martin was drafted in the 17th round out of Chipola (Fla.) JC, by way of Chelsea, Ontario. Martin hit .286-0-10 with 23 walks and 18 strikeouts in 126 at-bats last year. After watching Martin catch a bullpen session, Dodgers minor league instructor Clarence Johns recommended the conversion. Martin's pure athleticism serves him well behind the plate, and Dodgers scouting director Logan White said Martin receives like he's been catching his whole life. Martin, 20, also has 70 raw arm strength.

Twins lefthander Brad Thomas was scheduled to throw a rehab simulation game in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. Thomas made just two starts for Triple-A Rochester before straining an elbow ligament.

-- Also Contributing: KEVIN GOLDSTEIN


June 19, 2003

Royals phenom Zack Greinke missed his scheduled start on Sunday due to back spasms. He will miss his next start as well as the trip to Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. for the Class A California-Carolina League all-star game, according to a report in the Wilmington (Del.) News Journal. Greinke is 9-1, with a league-best 1.32 ERA for Wilmington. Wilmington shortstop Andres Blanco also missed yesterday's game with a wrist injury.

DISH PIECES

Brewers surging prospect Tom Wilhelmsen reportedly hit 97 mph in the Midwest League all-star game. The low Class A Beloit righthander is 5-4, 2.29 with 56 strikeouts in 79 innings. He has allowed 64 hits and 24 walks.

Mets righthander Bob Keppel made his first appearance since May 6 last night. Keppel, who was shut down for a month with a forearm injury, returned to action last night for short-season Brooklyn and tossed five perfect innings with six strikeouts The Mets ninth-rated prospect was 3-1, 1.67 in 25 innings at Double-A Binghamton.

Daily short-season prospect watch: Boise righthander Billy Petrick, rated the Cubs No, 17 prospect after going 2-1, 1.71 in the Rookie-level Arizona League last year, fanned six over six innings while allowing four hits, two runs and a walk for the win. Petrick, 19, was drafted in the third round out of an Illinois high school last year. The 6-foot-6, 220-pounder typically sits in the 88-92 mph range with heavy sink on his fastball, but has reached as high as 95.

Sean Burnett threw a nine-inning complete game two hitter for Double-A Altoona last night, prompting manager Dale Sveum to call it "one of the best professional outings I've ever been a part of." In the 89-pitch effort, Burnett filled the strike zone at an alarming 75-80 percent efficiency rate. He surrendered two hits and no walks, while fanning three. Burnett improved to 7-3, 2.04 with 51 strikeouts in 84 innings. He's walked 17 and permitted 72 hits.

Mariners lefty Ryan Anderson will have his third shoulder surgery, causing him to miss a third straight season.


June 18, 2003

When the Twins drafted Joe Mauer with the first overall pick in the 2001 draft, they already had a catching prospect among their Top 10 prospects. Rob Bowen immediately took a back seat to the incoming phenom, but the Twins organization hasn't lost faith in Bowen.

Not even when he hit .184 in high Class A Fort Myers, while Mauer was busy raking to the tune of .302 a level lower in Class A Quad City.

Player-development officials weren't sure what to make of Bowen's yearlong slump, though they detected his bat was a tick slower than it was in 2001 when he slugged 18 bombs as a 20-year-old in Quad City.

Bowen, now 22, went to the Arizona Fall League following last season and showed signs of turning it around by hitting .300 in 60 at-bats.

"The fact that he went to the Arizona Fall League helped a little," Twins farm director Jim Rantz said. "I think playing with an older group of players, he rose to the occasion."

Bowen, drafted in the second round out of an Indiana high school in 1999, moved up to Double-A New Britain to start the 2003 season, despite his 2002 struggles, and met the challenge.

"He got more aggressive," Rantz said. "Our staff talked to him about being more aggressive, and he proceeded to take off and build confidence."

With Mauer's presence pushing him from the lower levels, Bowen was promoted to Triple-A Rochester this week, a testament to an unlikely turnaround, when Mauer was brought up to New Britain.

Bowen hit .306-1-16 and showed improvement with his plate discipline by drawing 13 walks against 24 strikeouts. Bowen will share time with Triple-A receiver Brandon Marsters, who is known for his defensive prowess.

Defensively, Bowen rates a notch below Mauer and Marsters, which still gives him above-average grades. Bowen, who threw out 37 percent of potential basestealers in the Eastern League, might have the strongest arm of the bunch to go with fundamentally sound catch-and-throw skills.

Mauer is clearly the future of the franchise behind the plate, but there is room for Bowen, who profiles as a No. 2 catcher and a secondary run producer in the lower half of a lineup.

DISH PIECES

Indians 2003 first-rounder Michael Aubrey is scheduled to debut for low Class A Lake County tonight. The former Tulane first baseman signed this week for a $2.01 million bonus. He hit .420-18-79 in winning the 2003 Conference USA player of the year.

Expos 2002 first-rounder Clint Everts was roughed up in his pro debut yesterday. Pitching for short-season Vermont, the righthander allowed seven hits, six runs and three walks in 4 1/3 innings. He struck out five.

Two first base prospects who started this season in the Midwest League found themselves in Rookie ball as the second half of the season got into gear this week. Reds prospect Joey Votto, drafted as a catcher and moved to first base, swatted a home run in his first game for Billings. The 2002 second-rounder hit .231-1-20 in 195 at-bats for low Class A Dayton. Twins prospect Dusty Gomon, hampered by an offseason wrist injury, hit .153-2-18 in 150 at-bats for Quad City. Back in Elizabethton, where he batted .302-14-41 last summer, the 20-year-old collected two hits in his first game.

Red Sox 2003 first-rounder David Murphy played center field and went 2-for-3 with a double, stolen base and a walk in his pro debut at short-season Lowell.


June 17, 2003

With Mike Lowell trade rumors continuing to circulate in the majors, the Marlins made a telling move at the minor league level last night shifting top prospect Miguel Cabrera from third base to left field at Double-A Carolina.

Cabrera, who is second in the Southern League in hitting with a .365 average, is widely regarded as Lowell's heir apparent at third base. Given Lowell's offensive production, he's tied for second in the majors with 21 home runs, and the Marlins lack of production from left field, they are considering all options before dealing off the 29-year-old Lowell.

"It was an organizational decision to look and see if there are some different variables in place to get (Cabrera's) bat to the big leagues," said Marlins VP player personnel Dan Jennings, who is scheduled to evaluate Cabrera this week as Carolina opens the second half in West Tenn. "If he can handle (playing left field), it will give him some versatility and expedite his timetable to the major leagues."

Cabrera has been taking flyballs in left field during batting practice for the last couple weeks.

"After day one, it went well," Jennings said.

The Marlins aren't ready to trade Lowell just yet, and Cabrera's left field trial will continue while team officials make a determination on their top prospect's ability to adjust to the outfield.

"At this point, we're going to let it run its course in left field and see how he looks," Jennings said. "We are going to see if we could use him in the major leagues."

Cabrera moved from shortstop to third base last spring.

DISH PIECES

On the subject of position changes, the Rangers moved breakout prospect Ramon Nivar (formerly Ramon Martinez) from second base to center field in Double-A Frisco last night. Nivar, 23, leads the Texas League in hitting with a .356 average and 94 hits. The Rangers originally signed the switch-hitter out of the Dominican Republic in 1998 as a shortstop. He has shifted between short and second the last two seasons, primarily focusing on the keystone position. Nivar After committing just eight errors last season in Class A Charlotte, where he hit .305-3-41, he's made 11 already this year. Center field was previously occupied by another fast-rising Rangers prospect Laynce Nix, who shifted to right field to accommodate Nivar. Frisco might not be able to hold Nix, hitting .301-11-50, and Nivar for much longer.

Jeremy Reed was one of four White Sox farmhands promoted from high Class A Winston-Salem to Double-A Birmingham today. Reed, 22, was drafted in the third round out of Long Beach State last June. He was hitting .333-4-52 with a .431 on-base percentage for Winston-Salem. Reed made his debut with low Class A Kannapolis last season, hitting .319-4-32. Lefthander Byeong An, third baseman Ryan Hankins and righthander Brandon O'Neal were also elevated.

The Indians plan on promoting righthander Dan Denham from low Class A Lake County, the same level he spent the entire 2002 season at, to high Class A Kinston. The Indians were looking for 20-year-old, drafted in the first round out of a California high school in 2001, to improve his secondary offerings and command in his second go-round of the South Atlantic League. Denham, who posted a 9-8, 4.76 record with 65 walks and 109 strikeouts in 125 innings last year, was 5-2, 3.08 with 22 walks and 63 strikeouts in 73 innings this season.

The Yankees promoted 19-year-old catcher Dioner Navarro from high Class A Tampa to Double-A Trenton following his Florida State League all-star game appearance on Saturday. Navarro was 10th in the circuit in hitting with a .299 average. His 16 doubles already mark a career high.


June 16, 2003

It's promotion time in the minors, and several top prospects are one step closer to the big leagues.

The Blue Jays elevated two of their top power arms in Dustin McGowan and Brandon League. In past years, the righthanders had remained at one level for the entire season.

McGowan, 21, was rated the organization's No. 1 prospect heading into this spring after posting an 11-10, 4.19 record while punching out 163 in 148 innings last year at low Class A Charleston. McGowan, Toronto's first-round pick in 2000, was 5-6, 2.85 with 66 strikeouts in 76 innings for high Class A Dunedin in 14 starts this year.

McGowan has been clocked as high as 98 mph this season, and scouts have been equally impressed with his improved delivery and command.

With League stepping in to fill McGowan's shoes, though, Dunedin won't lose any velocity as League has topped out at 99 mph this season. He went 2-3, 1.91 for Charleston. His fastball sits in the 94-96 mph range with explosive late movement and he flashes an above-average power slider timed at 87-88. League throws from a low three-quarters slot that occasionally borders on sidearm, which testifies to his pure arm strength.

Ranked the No. 6 prospect in the Blue Jays organization, the 20-year-old League needs to improve his changeup to be more effective against lefthanders, who are hitting .264 against him, a typical problem for pitchers who throw from that slot. It also makes it tougher for him to repeat his breaking ball.

League also has to develop a true put-away pitch as his fastball and slider are too often around the plate with two strikes. Because of the sink and run on his fastball, he induces groundballs by the truckload and has only surrendered one home run. He rang up 61 strikeouts and walked 18 in 75 innings this season.

Another hard-throwing righthander Vince Perkins preceded League on the Charleston-Dunedin shuttle earlier this season. He is 2-2, 1.52, with 17 walks and 18 strikeouts in 23 innings since his promotion after going 3-1, 1.83 with 60 strikeouts in 44 innings for Charleston. Righty David Bush, 7-3, 2.81, will join McGowan in Double-A.

DISH PIECES

Twins No. 1 prospect Joe Mauer recovered from a poor start in high Class A Fort Myers to earn a promo to Double-A New Britain. Fort Myers righthander J.D. Durbin will follow Mauer to Double-A. Mauer hit .335-1-44 with 24 walks against 24 strikeouts in 233 at-bats, while Durbin went 9-2, 3.09 with 73 hits and 22 walks allowed in a league-high 87 innings. He struck out 69.

Astros prospect Derrick Grigsby was on the other side of the elevator, though. He went 2-2, 4.79 for low Class A Lexington, allowing 40 hits in 35 innings before being demoted to extended spring training on Friday. Most likely, Grigsby will join the short-season Tri-City staff. He was bothered by shoulder tightness earlier this season.

Reds 2003 first-rounder Ryan Wagner joined Double-A Chattanooga after officially signing his $1.4 million deal in Cincinnati last Friday and will make his pro debut this week. Armed with a power sinker/slider, Wagner established a new Division I record by recording 16.9 K/9 IP for Houston.


June 13, 2003

The Dodgers promoted 18-year-old Joel Guzman to high Class A Vero Beach on Thursday, despite his youth and a .235 average in low Class A South Georgia.

Guzman, who went 2-for-2 with two walks in his first game at Vero Beach, signed a Dominican record $2.25 million bonus in July 2001. A phenomenal athlete with a 6-foot-5, 220-pound frame, Guzman has outstanding raw power and he moves around the middle of the diamond with pure shortstop actions despite his size.

Plate discipline has been a challenge for him in his second season. After drawing 23 walks between two Rookie-levels last year, Guzman drew nine walks against 62 strikeouts in 217 at-bats for South Georgia this season.

Guzman has shown improvement in staying back on offspeed pitches, but they are still his nemesis. Following a hot start (.281-4-15) in April, he has tailed off (.203-4-14) since. Incidentally, Guzman hit .324 on the road in the South Atlantic League, just .157 at home.

His 19 errors in the field also show his youth and inexperience.

The Dodgers player development staff obviously believes in challenging their best prospects--2002 draftees James Loney and Greg Miller bypassed low Class A and Edwin Jackson skipped high Class A--but Guzman's best chance to reach his ceiling would be on the slow track through the minors. Until he develops better pitch recognition and makes more consistent contact, Guzman should be allowed to experience success before he moves.

DISH PIECES

Marlins top prospect Miguel Cabrera had a well-deserved day off on Thursday for Double-A Carolina, a day after the Mudcats clinched a playoff berth. He is second in the Southern League with a .367 average, and first in RBIs (58), hits (91), doubles (28) and slugging percentage (.618).

With catcher Cabrera's teammate Ryan Jorgensen already on the shelf with spondylolysis--a lower back injury--the Marlins promoted Josh Willingham from Class A Jupiter. After going 8-for-16 with three home runs in his first five games, Willingham might soon join Jorgensen on the sideline after suffering a knee injury. Both backstops had doctor visits scheduled for Friday morning.

The Expos promoted righthander Chris Young from Class A Brevard County to Double-A Harrisburg, while moving Double-A righthander Seung Song up a rung to Triple-A Edmonton. Young, 24, was 5-2, 1.62 with just 26 hits and five walks allowed in 50 innings. He struck out 39. Young has been clocked between 88-93 this season, up from last season. Song's record matched Young's, as he was 5-2, 2.35 with 55 hits through 73 innings.

Cubs Double-A lefty Felix Sanchez landed on the DL with a shoulder injury.

Tampa Bay will look at Double-A pitchers Doug Waechter and Jon Switzer in the second half, according to a report on mlb.com. Waechter is 5-3, 4.13 with 45 strikeouts in 76 innings for Orlando, while Switzer is 4-6, 4.38 with 64 strikeouts in 72 innings.

Pirates Double-A shortstop prospect Jose Castillo went on the DL with a sprained right ankle. He is hitting .277-2-26 with a .391 slugging percentage and .342 on-base percentage for Altoona.


June 12, 2003

Chattanooga outfielder Stephen Smitherman experienced a scary moment in Tuesday night's game against Carolina. During a seventh-inning at-bat, Smitherman dropped to his left knee in mid-pitch in an apparent diabetic episode. Ten minutes later, he stood up, declined help getting off the field and walked to the Lookouts clubhouse under his own power. Smitherman showed no lingering effects from the episode and started in left field Wednesday.

Smitherman, a 23rd-round pick out of Arkansas-Little Rock in 2000, is hitting .333-14-43 through 216 at-bats and giving chase to the Double-A Southern League's triple crown. He ranked third in batting average and home runs, while taking fourth in RBIs. Carolina third baseman Miguel Cabrera was also in the hunt, posting .374-9-56 numbers as he was first in RBIs and second in batting. The nine homers tie his career-high set last year at Class A Jupiter.

--WILL KIMMEY

DISH PIECES

Astros prospect Tony Pluta had Tommy John surgery and will miss the remainder of the season. The hard-throwing righthander made just three starts for Class A Salem. He went 0-1, 5.84. Coming off a disappointing 2002 campaign, Pluta fell from the system's Top 10 prospects list after debuting at No. 6 following his 2001 campaign. Pluta was 11-13, 5.92 with 155 hits allowed in 143 innings last season at low Class A Michigan.

Phillies low Class A lefty Cole Hamels is scheduled to pitch in the Hall of Fame game in Cooperstown on Monday. He is 2-0, 0.83 with 54 strikeouts in 33 innings for low Class A Lakewood.

Twins prospect Michael Cuddyer has been sidelined by a pulled hamstring at Triple-A Rochester. After starting the season as the Twins right fielder, Cuddyer moved to second base in the minors. He hit .233-2-5 in 73 at-bats before being demoted. Given the Twins upper-level depth, Cuddyer could be on the trading block. His versatility and power potential make him an intriguing target.

The Yankees placed Class A shortstop Ferdin Tejeda on the DL with a pulled quad muscle. This marks the second time this season the 20-year-old prospect has been sidelined with a nagging leg injury. Tejeda is hitting .295-0-19 with six walks and 33 strikeouts for Tampa.

Keep an eye on Twins righthander Adam Harben, who was promoted from extended spring training to low Class A Quad City yesterday. He was one of the more impressive pitchers in camp this spring, but Twins player-development officials were looking for the 6-foot-5, 210-pound Harben to hone the command of his lively low- to mid-90s fastball. He attracted little attention as a prospect by going 4-1, 3.20 in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League last summer after signing as a 15th rounder out of Central Arkansas.


June 11, 2003

DURHAM, N.C.--Targeting a bat to fill in for the injured Bernie Williams and Nick Johnson or a reliever to bolster the pen, the Yankees brass including George Steinbrenner held meetings Tuesday to discuss strategy, according to the New York Daily News.

One thing that seems apparent as a result of those meetings is that lefty Brandon Claussen won't be dealt. And if he continues to deal the way he did Tuesday night, he might be in the Bronx before long. The 24-year-old Claussen pitched one of his best games since returning from the Tommy John surgery that knocked him out of action last summer.

Claussen, limited only by a pitch count, threw 92 pitches over 8 1/3 innings for Triple-A Columbus, with the blemishes on an otherwise flawless outing came in the seventh inning. He cruised through six innings, facing the minimum of 18 batters, until Durham second baseman Antonio Perez launched a 2-2 89-mph fastball out to left-center field to break up the shutout. One out later, third baseman Chris Truby jumped on an inside fastball for the inning's second solo shot.

Claussen carved up Durham with an 86-90 mph moving fastball, down from his usual 89-93 range and didn't issue a walk. He was able to locate his fastball especially well on the outside corner to righthanders. His slider is a put-away pitch, and he can throw it for first-pitch strikes to get ahead in the count. It has the break of a power curve at 76-78 mph with late depth, and he'll bury it in the dirt to get hitters chasing. Claussen didn't mix in his 80 mph sinking changeup until the second time through the order. He allowed five hits, two hits and two runs, while fanning five.

Since joining Columbus after a four-game rehab stint in Class A Tampa (2-0, 1.64), Claussen is 0-0, 1.37 with 14 hits and four walks allowed and 17 strikeouts in 26 innings.

DISH PIECES

The Rangers promoted righthander Jose Dominguez from Class A Stockton to Double-A Frisco. He's been up to 93 mph while flashing a plus-plus changeup. Dominguez, 20, was 4-0, 2.84 with 72 strikeouts in 63 innings.

A's Double-A outfielder Nick Swisher is 3-for-10 since being promoted to Midland last weekend. He hit .296-10-43 in 189 at-bats for Modesto.

The Yankees promoted Yhency Brazoban to Double-A Trenton after posting a 0-1, 2.28 record and 33 strikeouts in 28 innings. This is his first full season as a pitcher, and he's consistently been clocked in the mid- to high-90s.


June 10, 2003

Less than 24 hours after the Twins promoted No. 2 prospect Justin Morneau to Minnesota, the Mets summoned top prospect Jose Reyes to join the club in Texas as they start an interleague series against the Rangers.

Reyes will replace shortstop Rey Sanchez, who was placed on the disabled list retroactive to June 6 with a strained left thumb, on the Mets active roster.

"We expect Jose's stay with the major league club to be of short term duration," Mets general manager Steve Phillips said. "With Rey going on the disabled list, we thought this would be the perfect opportunity for Jose to get his first big league experience. We expect Jose to go back to Norfolk when Rey returns."

Reyes was hitting .269-0-13 in 160 at-bats for Triple-A Norfolk and led the International League with 26 stolen bases in 31 attempts despite missing three weeks in May with a strained hamstring. Mired in a 2-for-20 slump, Reyes struggled against lefthanders at Norfolk, hitting just .171 in 35 at-bats and registering eight of his 25 strikeouts from the right side. Though Reyes is a natural righthanded hitter and has more power from that side, he's experienced much more success from the left side, where he was hitting .296 and makes better contact.

Reyes, who turns 20 on Wednesday, will become the youngest player in the major leagues, usurping the title from 20-year-old Tigers righthander Jeremy Bonderman. Reyes hit .288-8-62 with 58 steals last season between Class A St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton.

Morneau heads to the majors from Triple-A Rochester after the Twins placed shortstop Chris Gomez on the DL. Earlier in the season when the Twins were in need of an insurance plan for the dinged-up Doug Mientkiewicz, they opted for Triple-A first baseman Todd Sears, who now becomes the everyday first baseman in Rochester. Sears hit .278 in 54 at-bats during his stint for the Twins, and just .259 in Triple-A.

The Twins weren't sure how long Morneau was going to stay in Minnesota, as they will have to be creative about getting him consistent playing time with Mientkiewicz, Bobby Kielty and Dustan Mohr all vying for at-bats between first base and DH.

"(Morneau) may be back," Rochester manager Phil Roof told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. "He's only 22. He's a great athlete who needs to know the game more. But he's going to have some great teachers up there."

Morneau has been rated as the organization's No. 2 prospect, behind Joe Mauer in each of the last two years. The 22-year-old becomes the ninth high school player from the 1999 draft to reach the majors. He was second in the minors with 19 home runs, hitting six in Double-A New Britain before his promotion to Rochester. His previous career high in homers was 16, set last season at New Britain.

DISH PIECES

Lefty Andy Van Hekken will make his first start since being demoted from Triple-A Toledo to Double-A Erie. He was 3-6, 6.41 with 75 hits allowed in 60 innings. While he's never been a hard-thrower, his velocity had tailed off to the 79-83 mph range. Last year, Van Hekken was 1-2, 2.31, including a complete game shutout in his major league debut, for the Tigers last September.

Joining yesterday's growing list of injured lefties, White Sox Double-A prospect Neal Cotts was placed on the seven-day disabled list with a sore shoulder. Cotts, who was acquired from the A's as part of the Billy Koch deal last year, is 7-2, 2.11 for Birmingham this season. He throws 85-89 with a plus curveball, but his changeup is his out pitch.

Rangers Double-A outfielder Laynce Nix has been out of the lineup for two days because of a manager's decision, according to a report by Jamey Newberg. Nix is hitting .315-11-47 with 16 doubles for Frisco.

Tigers low Class A lefty Jon Connolly continued carving up the Midwest League The 20-year-old, drafted in the 28th round out of Oneonta (N.Y.) High in 2001, tossed a complete-game shutout, improving to 11-0 last night while lowering his ERA to a minor league-best 0.84. Connolly relies on location and movement more than the velocity on his 88 mph fastball, good changeup and developing curveball.

Red Sox No. 1 prospect Hanley Ramirez played his first game since last Thursday's beanbrawl war between Augusta and Asheville. Ramirez ended up in the hospital, but went 3-for-5 last night to raise his average to .281. Augusta's Mike Goss, Juan Cedeno and Jose Soto started serving suspensions for their roles in the donnybrook.

Blue Jays low Class A outfielder Miguel Negron has been sidelined with a strained hamstring. He was hitting .317-1-11 with one walk and 15 strikeouts for Charleston.

Contributing: J.J. Cooper, Will Kimmey.


June 9, 2003

It's been a forgettable 2003 for many of the minors' top lefthanded pitching prospects. In spring training, a pair of 2002 first-rounders in the Angels' Joe Saunders (sho ulder) and Cubs' Luke Hagerty (Tommy John surgery) went down for the season, the Indians' Cliff Lee pulled a side muscle effectively pulling him out of the running for a rotation spot and the Dodgers' Hong-Chih Kuo needed to have his second Tommy John surgery.

Since then, Angels southpaw Joe Torres has been sidelined with a shoulder injury, Giants' Francisco Liriano hasn't pitched since April 5, Dodgers' Jonathan Figueroa hasn't been the same since returning from an offseason shoulder injury and Cubs' Andy Sisco broke his left hand punching a wall.

Now Ben Kozlowski and Danny Borrell are the latest to join the infirmary ward of young lefties.

Kozlowski, 22, was troubled by a dip in velocity since spring training as he proceeded to give up 71 hits in 55 innings at Double-A Frisco. He was considered a leading candidate to join the Rangers rotation this year after making his major league debut last year.

He struck out 120 and walked 50 in 135 innings between Class A and Double-A last year, but had fanned just 29 against 27 walks this season.

While fellow Yankees lefties Brandon Claussen and Sean Henn have made impressive returns from injuries Borrell, 24, will be sidelined for the rest of the season with a torn labrum.

Borrell, had experienced a dead arm in spring training, but recovered to post a 4-2, 2.93 in 55 innings for Triple-A Columbus before the injury. He surrendered 55 hits and 22 walks, while punching out 30.

DISH PIECES

• The Padres will promote Double-A shortstop Khalil Greene to Triple-A Portland to replace Donaldo Mendez, who was called up to fill in for the injured Ramon Vazquez. After a slow start (.222 in April) Greene has boosted his average to .275 with hits in 18 of his last 21 games. Greene joins Indians righthander Jeremy Guthrie as the only 2002 draft products in Triple-A at this point.

• The Orioles have lost outfielder Val Majewski for at least two month due to a stress fracture in his right femur.   A 3rd round pick out of Rutgers in 2002, Majewski was hitting .303 with seven home runs and a Sally League leading 48 RBIs for Delmarva.

• A's Triple-A righthander Mike Wood is slated to make his first start tonight since April 16. The 23-year-old was shelved with a sore elbow. He was 2-0, 1.69 in his first three starts for Sacramento.

• Reds third base prospect Mark Schramek is just 2-for-17 since being promoted from low Class A Dayton to Double-A Chattanooga. He hit .296-3-37 with 19 walks and 58 strikeouts in 206 at-bats at Dayton.

• Cubs Double-A lefty Felix Sanchez made a spot start for West Tenn on Sunday throwing four one-hit innings, but will return to the b ullpen this week. Sanchez, 0-0, 4.30 with 23 strikeouts and 17 walks in 23 innings, has been reg ularly clocked between 90-93 mph this season.

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