Daily Dish: July 27

Barton showing he loves all things in orbit





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

Wondering who Brian Barton is after his recent appearance in the Prospect Hot Sheet this week? Well, you and the Indians both, as Cleveland is surely doing a double take now that their 2004 undrafted free agent is the system's hottest hitter.

A high school draft pick by the Dodgers, Barton was intent on going to college, ending up at Loyola Marymount University. However, a poor freshman year with little playing time led to Barton's decision to transfer. His desire to pursue aerospace engineering led him to Miami with little fanfare, and he walked on to the Hurricanes baseball team. Most teams thought that Barton would be finishing his degree following a .371/.451/.550 redshirt junior season with Miami, but he signed with the Indians as an nondrafted free agent, and it looks like a coup.

Barton shined in his first year in their system, hitting .414 with low Class A Lake County in 133 at-bats, and then posting an .839 OPS in 64 games with high Class A Kinston in 2005.

Assigned back to Kinston this spring, Barton was promoted to Double-A Akron when Trevor Crowe went down with injury. At the time, he was hitting .308/.410/.515 at Kinston with 26 stolen bases in 29 attempts.

Formerly an intern with Boeing, Barton is clearly comfortable being an Aero as he has sent balls into flight early and often during his stint with Akron. With two hits on Wednesday the 24-year-old is now 13-for-26 in his first eight games, including four home runs with five stolen bases. While Barton has spent a career garnering little fanfare, there is equipment in the toolbox, as the center fielder possesses a unique power-speed combination.

If Barton continues on his current pace, he might even make himself a Hot Sheet regular.

---BRYAN SMITH

Little Guy, Big Heart

The Bakersfield Blaze is awfully glad to have diminutive lefthander Danny Ray Herrera back in the fold.

The 5-foot-7, 145-pound Herrera, who was a 45th-round pick out of New Mexico in June, was called up from the Rookie-level Arizona League to high Class A Bakersfield for what was supposed to be a two-day stint in early July. He pitched four shutout innings of relief over two games and then was sent back down to the AZL, but he made quite an impression on his Blaze teammates in that short cameo.

"We had him here for two days, we get him to pitch, and when he's gone, Ben Harrison--a leader on our team--comes up to me and says, 'We need that guy, we love him, his intensity on the mound,' " Bakersfield manager Carlos Subero said. "I've never had a player come up to me like that after another player only had two days on the ballclub."

Herrera was brought back to Bakersfield and was on the mound again four days later. He's now made six appearances for the Blaze, posting a 0.79 ERA and nine strikeouts over 11 innings. He picked up his first professional win with two scoreless innings of one-hit relief against Visalia on Wednesday.

Herrera has had little trouble adjusting to the hitter-friendly Cal League; he's used to the thin air of New Mexico, where about 75 percent more runs are scored than at the average NCAA park. For him, the Cal League probably qualifies as low altitude.

The 21-year-old does not throw hard (his fastball tops out at 86 mph) but fools hitters with his 65 mph screwball. But that's not the biggest reason for his success, according to Subero.

"You see him on the mound; you call him the little giant," Subero said. "This kid has a big heart, that's something you can't teach."

--AARON FITT

Culp-able For A Win

While not as heralded as college teammate Max Scherzer, Missouri product Nate Culp is off to a fine start to his pro career.

The lefthander made his low Class A debut for Fort Wayne last night and earned his first pro win, allowing an unearned run over six innings on five hits while striking out two and walking none, as the Wizards defeated Clinton 5-1.

"I was able to throw a lot of strikes and locate my fastball really well," Culp told The Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne. "I was real efficient, too, which helped me to go into the sixth inning.

"Ideally, I get ground balls in the first two or three pitches of the at-bat, that's when I'll be most effective. I won't strike out a lot of guys or walk a lot of guys. I'm going to let them hit it, and hopefully they hit it on the ground."

Culp's best pitch is a sinker that sits 86-89 mph, and the fact that he recorded 12 ground ball outs and just three fly ball outs last night is a sure sign it was working.

The 21-year-old emerged this spring as Missouri's top starter when Scherzer was battling shoulder tendinitis. Culp ended up winning 10 games (one short of the school record) before the Padres took him in the fourth round.

Culp also features a cutter/slider that sits 80-84 mph and mixes in a change and a curveball. None of his offerings grade out as above-average, but his feel for pitching does.

He began his pro career at short-season Eugene where he posted a 1.50 ERA in 18 innings.

---MATT MEYERS

QUICK HITS

• Short-season Salem-Keizer fans witnessed the promising debut of a top prospect Wednesday and bid farewell to a baseball mainstay. Giants righthander Tim Lincecum, the 10th overall pick out of Washington, made his pro debut with a scoreless inning for Salem-Keizer. Lincecum started and struck out three Vancouver batters, but because one of his victims reached on a wild pitch, he faced a fourth batter, who flied out.

"It's been a couple months since I've been out there," Lincecum told the Salem Statesman Journal. "It felt good. I was nervous. For the most part I was just trying to attack the zone. As a starter in college, you always want to keep going out there."

But just as exciting for the Volcanoes faithful, The Famous Chicken made his last-ever appearance at Volcanoes Stadium. The Chicken announced his retirement at the end of the season.

Delmon Young has caught fire for Triple-A Durham, showing a glimpse of the power that has been missing this season. In his last three games, he's 9-for-13, with five of the hits going for extra bases, including three home runs. The right fielder has upped his season line to .354/.372/.519, and has been successful in 18 of 21 stolen base attempts.

• The Tigers called up righthander Colby Lewis from Triple-A Toledo when they sent down outfielder Alexis Gomez. Lewis, who last played in the majors in 2004 and was once the Rangers top pitching prospect, has battled back from shoulder surgery to go 4-7, 3.86 for the Mud Hens with 90 strikeouts in 121 innings.

• The Indians grabbed their second Mariners prospect of the month when they acquired outfielder Shin-Soo Choo. Cleveland sent Ben Broussard and cash to Seattle for Choo, who ranked as the Mariners' No. 7 prospect entering the season, and a player to be named. Just a month ago, the Indians got shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (No. 6) from the Mariners for Eduardo Perez. Broussard and Perez began the season as platoon first basemen for the Indians, and now both are Mariners.

• The Athletics called up Hawaiian righthander Shane Komine--9-7, 3.89 with Triple-A Sacramento--who will start Sunday against the Blue Jays. His propensity for the strike out while at Nebraska, led BA's John Manuel to nickname him the Hawaiian Punchout. Komine has fanned 101 in 120 innings this season.

"I'm excited, nervous, anxious," Komine told the Honolulu Advertiser. "This is what you dream about. I'm finally getting a shot."

The Athletics also sent righthander Jason Windsor down to Sacramento when they recalled lefthander Randy Keisler. Windsor is to work on refining his breaking ball and speeding up his pace.

Contributing: Matt Eddy