Daily Dish: July 26

Once promising righthanders White and Griffin call it quits

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

Within the span of just a few days, two of the most notorious failed pitching prospects of the last decade retired. Last week it was the Devil Rays' Matt White, and yesterday it was the Royals' Colt Griffin.

White is most famous for receiving the largest bonus ever given to an amateur. After the Giants made him the seventh overall pick in 1996, White became one of the infamous "loophole free agents" when it was discovered that a draftee could become a free agent if not tendered a formal contract offer within 15 days of being drafted. (The rule has since been amended, naturally.)

The group included big leaguers John Patterson and Travis Lee, but White's $10.2 million bonus was the biggest of them all.

Signed out of Waynesboro Area (Pa.) High by the Devil Rays, White appeared on the fast track when he was named the top pitching prospect in the low Class South Atlantic League in 1997, when he went 4-3, 3.82 in 12 starts. His best year came in 2000, when he went a combined 10-8, 3.54 between Double-A Orlando and Triple-A Durham.

While pitching in a pre-tournament game for the United States in Australia before the 2000 Olympics, White felt a pain in his shoulder and pitched just 149 innings since then while enduring three shoulder surgeries and a knee surgery along the way. He has not pitched competitively since 2003 when he went 0-4, 7.47 for Double-A Orlando.

The 27-year-old had been rehabbing with Double-A Montgomery this season when he decided to give it up.

Like White, Griffin is another cautionary tale but of a different variety. In 2001 he became the first documented high schooler to reach 100 mph while pitching for Marshall (Texas) High. On the strength of his velocity, he shot up draft boards and was signed for $2.4 million by the Royals as the ninth overall pick that June.

Griffin never figured out how to harness his tremendous arm strength, though, and in 373 minor league innings he walked 278 batters while hitting 44. He also threw 82 wild pitches and posted a career 4.79 ERA.

"It's one of those stories not unfamiliar in baseball where you have a guy with a great arm who can't get out of the minors because of command problems," Royals farm director Shaun McGinn told the Kansas City Star. "It's hard to advance if it's taking you two or three pitches to throw a strike to each batter."

The Royals tried to convert the 23-year-old into a reliever, but he began suffering pain in his shoulder last summer. He had surgery this offseason and when his fastball was sitting in the mid-80s this spring, it was clear that the end was nigh.


McCulloch Shutting Them Down

The knock on Kyle McCulloch during his college career was his lack of dominance. While noted for his feel for pitching at Texas, McCulloch was rarely overpowering and considered a safe choice by the White Sox at No. 29 overall, as the kind of pitcher who profiles best in the middle of a rotation.

In the Rookie-level Pioneer League, the righthander is trying to change his profile. The former Longhorn didn't allow a run over five innings yesterday, walking none and striking out 10 in the process. It was McCulloch's second straight start with no runs allowed--he threw six shutout innings last Thursday.

"He mixed his pitches nicely," Great Falls pitching coach Curt Hasler told the Great Falls Tribune. "He's got a plus changeup and a plus breaking ball, along with pretty good command of a fastball. Whenever you put those things together, it usually spells success."

All of the four hits McCulloch allowed came in the first two innings. He retired the last 10 batters he faced, six via the strikeout. In five innings, McCulloch threw just 79 pitches.

"Early on my tempo was a little off and I was getting behind. I kind of had to battle that throughout the game," he said. "But once I got it, man, I felt real good. Felt like I was getting ahead and putting them away with all four of my pitches."

McCulloch's first professional win was earned by throwing strikes, a trait he was lauded for in college.

"He's good. He commanded all of his pitches real well," Missoula first baseman Shea McFeely told the Tribune. "He was able to locate where he wanted and have us chase pitches that were out of the (strike) zone."

His recent string of good starts come off a pair of forgettable outings in which McCulloch allowed 14 runs, 11 unearned, over two starts. The first rounder has not blamed his defense however, instead finding other ways to explain his lackluster outings.

"I was maybe pressing a little bit there, but then after you get in the swing of things it's just baseball," McCulloch told the newspaper. "You just have to try to get the job done."


Going, Going, Gone For C-Go

Diamondbacks outfielder Carlos Gonzalez has cooled off a bit in July after tearing up the high Class A California League at a .424 clip in June, but his home run numbers have actually increased. The 20-year-old slugged two homers in Lancaster's 10-7 win against Inland Empire on Tuesday, giving him 17 long balls on the season and seven in July after he hit just two in June. But Gonzalez is hitting just .270 this month with two doubles (down from 12 last month) while striking out 22 times (up from 12 in June).

Still, he has impressed Cal League managers, even drawing comparisons to another Venezuelan outfielder: Bob Abreu. His confident approach also evokes a couple of other big leaguers.

"Gonzalez reminds me of Hank Blalock and Ian Kinsler. The thing that stands out to me about all three is they think they can hit anybody," said Bakersfield manager Carlos Subero, who coached Blalock and Kinsler as they came up through the Rangers system. "Gonzalez, he has better tools than those two. He loves fielding, loves throwing the ball, likes runners trying to take the extra base so he can show off his arm.

"I think Carlos Gonzalez might be one of the best outfielders coming out of Venezuela. He can have a long career if he stays healthy."



• American League Central batters might soon have more to worry about than just Johan Santana and Francisco Liriano when facing the Twins. Righthander Matt Garza, drafted 25th overall just last year, made his finest start for Triple-A Rochester, going the distance in 1-0 a win against Charlotte, the team with the best record in the IL. The three-hit shutout required 126 pitches and Garza struck out eight Knights and walked two. Garza, 22, knows he’s being considered as a possible callup, and Twins manager Ron Gardenhire mentioned him as such earlier this week. "The Twins will tell me when I’m ready," Garza told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. "I have total faith in them. I know they won’t let me hang around here for five years."

• Double-A New Britain righthander Kevin Slowey had his worst outing as a professional on Tuesday, losing to Trenton righthander Tyler Clippard for his third loss at the level. Slowey allowed four earned runs on nine hits and two homers in 5 1/3 innings. One of the home runs was to first baseman Eric Duncan, his fourth in his last three games, and has a .631 slugging percentage in July. Clippard allowed one run over eight innings to improve his record to 7-10, 3.86. He's on an extended hot streak: Since beating New Hampshire on June 19, Clippard has posted a 1.52 ERA with 57 strikeouts and just 31 hits allowed in 53 1/3 innings. He's allowed only one home run in that span, winning five of  his eight starts.

• The Astros promoted Troy Patton to Double-A Corpus Christi after the southpaw won his final six starts with high Class A Salem. Patton lost his debut with Hooks though, as he allowed only one earned run over 5 2/3 innings. Patton struggled with control, walking three, but his six strikeouts showed a sign of things to come. "I was very impressed," manager Dave Clark told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. "I thought he showed good poise out there, good rhythm and good tempo."

• For the second time this year, low Class A West Michigan's Michael Hernandez hit for the cycle. The DH was 4-for-5 with five RBIs in the Whitecaps' 10-0 win over Peoria and is hitting .302/.344/.491 with eight homers in 212 at-bats. The Oklahoma State product also hit for the cycle on June 8 against Fort Wayne . . . Dayton outfielder Jay Bruce sat out last night's 14-inning victory with a strained quad. He is day-to-day and expects to play tonight . . . Hitting your first professional home run is always a special thing, but hitting a grand slam as your first pro longball is even more special. Cubs shortstop Matt Matulia, a 24th-round draft pick from the Citadel, helped to power short-season Boise to a 9-4 win against Spokane with his first career grand slam. He went 1-for-3 with two runs scored last night, breaking a 4-4 tie in the seventh with his big hit.

Contributing: Kristin Pratt