Daily Dish: May 3

Sean Tracey helps Charlotte to hot start





See also: Tuesday's Daily Dish
See also: Today's Baseball America Prospect Report

Triple-A Charlotte become the first team in the minors to reach 20 wins on Tuesday night, with a 4-0 shutout of Buffalo.

That win was the Knights' eighth consecutive win--all on the road--and ninth out of their last 10. Against Buffalo yesterday, Charlotte turned to righthander Sean Tracey, who went seven strong innings, allowing just one hit and whiffing six.

But as is his M.O., Tracey described himself as little more than a cog in the Charlotte machine.

"The energy, the way it's all 25 guys working to get this done is a direct result of what (Knights) manager Razor Shines does for us," Tracey said. "He keeps us loose, he goes out and stands up for us when the situation calls for it and he's just a great guy that everyone here loves to play for. He sets the tone for what we've accomplished this early.

"As for my outing last night, first of all, to do what we did in Buffalo is impressive, just because it was such a tough series. The Indians have always had tough teams going back to when I was in A ball. They were putting good swings on balls and the wind was blowing in a little. There were definitely balls hit that would have gone out in Charlotte, but it just seemed like everything found a glove. The guys behind me were outstanding."

Tuesday marked just Tracey's second start this season. The White Sox experimented by bringing him in out of the bullpen for the majority of April, where he went 1-0, 4.70 in eight innings.

"They wanted me to get a look out of the pen just to see how I'd do in a different situation," Tracey, who hasn't seen the bullpen since 2003 in low Class A Kannapolis, said. "They wanted me to get some experience there for maybe later in the year (in the big leagues). But none of us are worried or concerned with (the possibility of getting called up) at all--right now, we're all focusing on Charlotte."

Tracey caught everyone attenton in 2004 with his mid-90s fastball. He took a step back last year, as he saw his velocity drop to the low 90s, although he showed improved command on his way to a league-leading 14 wins in a 14-7, 4.07 for Double-A Birmingham. He said his velocity still isn't where he'd like it to be at this point, but his fastball still sits in the low 90s. While he's made strides with his secondary pitches--particularly his slider--one thing continues to haunt Tracey: walks.

He walked 69 in 148 innings at high Class A Winston Salem in 2004, and handed out 76 in 164 innings at Birmingham last year. So far this season, Tracey has a 25-21 strikeout-walk ratio in 24 innings.

"It's certainly not my objective to walk people," the eighth-round pick in 2002 out of UC Irvine said. "Sometimes I get too much movement--too much side-to-side. Sometimes I might fall out of rhythm a little bit. It's something I need to work on."

Between starts, Tracey works on firing up his teammates from the bench. He is the quintessential teammate in so many ways, putting whatever team he is on ahead of himself. He was even that way in the Arizona Fall League this past year when he played for the Peoria Saguaros--a team that went 8-23.

"We had a lot of talent on that team though, so there were a lot of guys to root for, to get fired up about," Tracey said. "(White Sox lefthander) Corwin Malone and I would be on the bench keeping everybody up. Maybe it's because we both played football in high school or something."

Which is something else he doesn't want to discuss.

"I have to turn the page on that," Tracey said. "When you play with a guy like (third baseman) Josh Fields who passed for more yards than Eli Manning in the Cotton Bowl, you kind of just keep your high school football 'glory' days to yourself."

--CHRIS KLINE

Wearing It

If the Charlotte Knights are the bright spot of the White Sox system, there is no debate about the dregs of the system. It's 26 games into their season, and things could not be much worse for low Class A Kannapolis.

After a 3-2 loss to Savannah in 12 innings last night, the Inimidators bounced back to get a 6-2 win against the Sand Gnats in the early game today. Kannapolis is now 4-22 overall and have by far the worst record in the minors. No other team across the minors has fewer than seven wins.

The loss to Savannah Tuesday was Kannapolis' seventh straight, and it marked the second seven-game losing streak for the White Sox affiliate on the young season. After being swept by Charleston in a four-game series to open the season, they won their first game against Asheville before losing seven straight.

There are a number of stats that one could point out to illustrate their futility. They have been outscored 158-89, but what is most alarming is that of those 158 runs, 54 of them are unearned. Position players alone have committed 50 errors in those 26 games.

--MATT MEYERS

He's No Leo Daigle

High Class A Winston-Salem first baseman Chris Kelly is off to a rousing start in the Carolina League, leading the circuit in average, home runs and RBIs.

Warthogs' first baseman Leo Daigle won the CL Triple Crown last season, batting .341/.414/.637 with 29 home runs and 112 RBIs. The knock on Daigle, who turned 26 last September, was he was about three years too old for the league.

Kelly turned 24 in February, and by all accounts, is a much more legitimate prospect--and is more on par with the average age in the CL.

In 95 at-bats, Kelly--a 2003 sixth-rounder out of Pepperdine--is hitting .337/.371/.611 with six homers and 23 RBIs. We caught up with a scout from a National League organization to break down what he saw in the White Sox first baseman.

"He's one of those guys who's got plus power as a righthanded hitter," the scout said. "The thing with him is, is he going to be a .250-.260 hitter and hit you 25 to 30 home runs or is he going to be a .300 hitter and hit you 10 or 15? You just don't know.

"He swings really hard early in the count and becomes a nice contact hitter late in the count. He's an everyday player down the line for most clubs and then for a top division club, I see him as a bat off the bench that can either play first or one of the corner outfield positions. But he's definitely a guy who could do some things."

--CHRIS KLINE

QUICK HITS

• The drama surrounding the Devil Rays will not end. The day after top prospect Delmon Young was suspended indefinitely for throwing his bat at an umpire, outfielder Elijah Dukes was sent home to Tampa last week from Triple-A Durham after getting into several shouting matches with a teammate and coach, according to the Tampa Tribune. Perhaps trying to show some leadership, Dukes blew up at an unnamed Bulls pitcher when the pitcher left the dugout for the clubhouse after being taken out of the game. But after he got on the pitcher, he got into it with hitting coach Richie Hebner, and the Rays had enough. According to some reports, Tampa Bay has suspended him for a week. The Devil Rays did not return comment . . . It seems like Phillies lefthander Cole Hamels can't be stopped. After a stellar debut in which he struck out 14 in seven innings, Hamels upped the ante yesterday in Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre's 5-0 win against Richmond. Hamels tossed a nine-inning complete game shutout, allowed just two hits, struck out 12 and walked one . . . High Class A Wilmington shortstop Jed Lowrie sustained a high ankle sprain Monday night going after a ground ball in the hole against Potomac. The swelling had gone down by Tuesday morning, and Lowrie is expected to miss only a few games for the Blue Rocks. Lowrie was hitting .227/.310/.307 in 88 at-bats . . . Lowrie's teammate Jacoby Ellsbury has been out since April 26 with a quadriceps injury, and is still listed as day-to-day. Ellsbury started working out with trainers on Tuesday, however, but will need to complete a running progression program before he is cleared for full baseball activity . . . Devil Rays lefthander Chuck Tiffany is ailing at Double-A Montgomery. Tiffany, who was acquired from the Dodgers along with righthander Edwin Jackson in the Danys Baez deal, has had some shoulder soreness and while he hasn't gone on the disabled list, the club is being cautious with the 21-year-old lefty. Tiffany hasn't gone more than 4 2/3 innings in any of his four starts this year, and the club skipped his turn in the rotation after an April 19 loss to Huntsville. He lasted just 3 2/3 innings in that start, and allowed five runs on seven hits--two of them home runs. In his next start 10 days later, the results were worse. The second-round pick in 2003 allowed seven earned runs on eight hits and walked six over 3 1/3 innings. Overall, Tiffany is 0-2, 6.89 with a 12-14 strikeout-walk ratio in 16 innings . . . He isn't hurt, though you'd have to question what happened to Double-A Harrisburg righthander Shawn Hill on Tuesday. Hill, a sixth-round pick in 2000, lasted just 2/3 of an inning and allowed five runs on six hits. "He just had a bad outing," Nationals assistant scouting director Brian Parker said. Apparently that's all it was--before Tuesday, Hill was  2-1, 1.24 in 29 innings. His ERA shot up to 3.34 . . . The Dodgers called up two of their brightest prospects from Triple-A Las Vegas to try to shake up a struggling team. Righthander Jonathan Broxton, who replaced the demoted Lance Carter, has given up one hit and hasn't allowed a run in two appearances. Outfielder Andre Ethier debuted last night with a 1-for-4 appearance. Ethier was hitting .349/.447/.500 in 86 at-bats for the 51s . . . The Reds called up outfielder Chris Denorfia, who was hitting .333/.402/.513 for Louisville, to replace Cody Ross.