Daily Dish: June 29
See also: Wednesday's Daily Dish
See also: Today's Baseball America Prospect Report
It was only a matter of time before Nationals third baseman Kory Casto moved from the hot corner to another defensive spot. And while that was widely speculated that the Nats would move the 24-year-old to the right side of the diamond to second base with Ryan Zimmerman entrenched at third in Washington, Casto played the outfield Wednesday for the first time since 2003.
Originally drafted as an outfielder in the third round out of Portland, Casto played the outfield during his pro debut at short-season Vermont. But after he batted just .239/.322/.355 in 259 at-bats, he was moved to third in 2004 and made 35 errors in 112 games.
He made tremendous strides defensively at high Class A Potomac, but with Zimmerman entering the system, his days at third were numbered. That's when the Nationals considered the move to second, but with Alfonso Soriano likely to be dealt at the July 31 trade deadline, and the fact that Casto played the outfield before, the move to left field makes more sense.
"It wasn't something that was a shock because there has been talk of me changing positions and there has been a chance someday somebody could want you to play there," Casto told the Fredericksburg (Va.) Free Lance-Star. "You just want to enhance your value, put up good numbers and see what happens.
"It's a little more of a comfortable change. Moving back to the outfield, I have been out there before so I know what it's like. It's not going to be as big of an adjustment."
The biggest reason for the switch now is Casto's bat. Even as he worked so diligently on his defense at third base in Potomac last season, his offense certainly didn't suffer--he hit .290/.394/.510 with 22 homers and 90 RBIs in 500 at-bats. It was more of the same story this year, as Casto was batting .299/.419/.536 with 13 bombs in 261 at-bats.
"Kory's asset is his bat and he's having another tremendous year and he's getting pretty close to the major leagues," Nationals assistant GM and senior director of player development Bob Boone told the paper. "If there were a trade or something happened in the next 30 days, or by the 31st [of July], he would be a viable option if you want to put him in left field."
Douglass, Diamond Each Toss Gems
Two of the best pitching performances in the minors came in the Double-A Texas League on Wednesday, with Corpus Christi righthander Chance Douglass and Frisco righthander Thomas Diamond putting on the shows.
Douglass, a 12th-round pick in 2002, tossed a nine-inning complete game in the Hooks' 8-0 win against Springfield. The 22-year-old righthander scattered five hits, struck out 10 and did not issue a walk.
Only two runners reached scoring position against Douglass, who threw 109 pitches and completing only his second game in 83 career starts as a pro.
"I just had a lot of movement (on my pitches)," Douglass told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. "I was able to get ground balls and pop-ups and keep myself out of (trouble). For the most part, I feel real comfortable here. I've learned how to use the ballpark to my advantage and the home crowd really helps."
As for Diamond, the Rangers' first-rounder in 2004 allowed a run on six hits, struck out 12 and walked two in Frisco's 4-1 win against Tulsa. Six of the four hits he allowed were for extra bases, however, as the Drillers' Joe Gaetti, Alvin Colina, Christian Colonel and Ian Stewart all hit doubles against him.
It was a great sign for Diamond, who hasn't posted a quality start since June 12 when he allowed a pair of runs in five innings in a no-decision against Midland. Diamond also had dropped his last two starts--allowing eight earned runs and walking eight over that nine-inning span--and hadn't won since June 1.
Jimenez Flirts With No-Hitter
A reliever for much of the previous two seasons, the ninth is normally lefthander Cesar Jimenez' domain. On Wednesday, however, it was his downfall.
Now a starter for Triple-A Tacoma, Jimenez had the best outing of his career yesterday, but a leadoff double that fell on the left field line to start the ninth ended his no-hit bid. Jimenez had retired the previous 14 batters, and when he went out for the ninth, he saw the no-hitter in the distance.
"I was thinking about it," Jimenez told the Tacoma News Tribune through an interpreter. "But these are things that just go with the game. I was just trying to mix all my pitches and spot the fastball real well."
Jimenez succeeded in that regard, successfully keeping the ball down to record 14 ground ball outs. But most importantly, he walked just two batters, which had previously been the Achilles heel to his season.
"He pitched with his fastball," Tacoma manager Dave Brundage told the newspaper. "He pitched off his fastball with his change-up, and threw some breaking balls. All the way around, he was in command the whole time."
While the Rainiers won the game 7-0, Jimenez didn't receive run support until a triple by Asdrubal Cabrera in the seventh inning. When Jimenez went out the next half inning, he knew a change in approach was in order.
"I knew our hitters were trying their best," Jimenez said. "But (once the Rainiers took a 1-0 lead) I knew I needed to be even more aggressive in order to get the win."
Aggressiveness has been the key to Jimenez' season, starting again for the first time since the Midwest League in 2003. After struggles in the season's first two months, Jimenez entered June at 1-5, 6.64. Then, Jimenez hit his stride.
In five June starts, the small southpaw has allowed just one earned run in 30 innings. He's allowed just 14 hits, and control (15 walks) has remained the only flaw. However, to impress Mariner brass, Jimenez will need to show the kind of endurance he did on Wednesday for a full season; what he failed to do as a starter in 2003.
"He came a few inches from throwing a no-hitter," Brundage said. "He lost a no-hitter, but at the same time, I am proud of the way he pitched."
• With all the rain the Northeast received over the last few days, flooding has affected several operations in the minors--most notably Double-A Binghamton (who postponed today's doubleheader against Reading) and Double-A Harrisburg (whose Commerce Bank Park was flooded and the Senators and Bowie Baysox will play Friday and Saturday in Bowie. Low Class A Hagerstown's Municipal Stadium was under three feet of water yesterday, but the Suns will play tonight at home against Delmarva . . . Two callups worth noting, as the Rockies promoted righthanders Ubaldo Jimenez and Manny Corpas to Triple-A Colorado Springs on Wednesday. Jimenez went 9-2, 2.45 with 86 strikeouts in 73 innings at Double-A Tulsa, reeling off wins in his final six starts. Corpas was 2-1, 0.98 with 35 strikeouts in 37 innings for the Drillers, notching 19 saves. After allowing just four earned runs over that span, Corpas was touched up in his Triple-A debut Wednesday, allowing a solo homer by Salt Lake first baseman Ryan Budde . . . Once short-season Everett returns from its road trip tomorrow, four new Mariners draft picks will join the team. Righthander Ricky Orta, a fourth-rounder out of Miami; infielder Chris Minaker, a 10th-rounder from Stanford; righthander Andrew Fiorenza, a 15th-round pick from Clemson; and righthander Bryan Ball, a 27th-rounder out of Florida will start their professional careers . . . Short-season Salem-Keizer first baseman William Thompson extended his hitting streak to 10 games, going 4-for-5 in Wednesday's 8-4 victory against Boise. Thompson, a seventh-round pick of the Giants in 2004, hit a two-out RBI in the game and brought up his batting average to .526 . . . The Diamondbacks got their first look at their fourth-round draft pick, Bryant Thompson, Wednesday night in his debut for short-season Yakima against Everett. Thompson, a righthander who was selected from the Pensacola (Fla.) JC, threw just one inning and faced four batters. He gave up a walk and no hits. Thompson had two pins inserted into his right elbow during his amateur career, but topped out at 96 mph this spring.
Contributing: Kristin Pratt.