Daily Dish: Aug. 18




See also: Thursday's Daily Dish


Tyler's Clippard's tale of two seasons reached a climax on Thursday night.

The Yankees righthander threw the first no-hitter in Trenton Thunder history against Harrisburg, striking out nine while walking four.

The Thunder didn't give Clippard many anxious moments in their 9-0 loss. According to the Harrisburg Patriot-News, the only real threat to the no-hitter was Kory Casto's liner in the ninth, which center fielder Brent Gardner snagged on the run near the warning track.

It was just the latest in what has been a string of outstanding starts for Clippard, and quite a turnaround to his season. In his first taste of Double-A, Clippard seemed overmatched at times during the first couple of months of the season. He was 2-9, 5.69 in mid-June.

"Early in the season he'd miss high with his fastball a lot. (Pitching coach) Dave (Eiland) and him have worked on his mechanics to throw his fastball more on a downward plane," Trenton manager Billy Masse said. "He was getting in a lot of 2-0 and 3-1 counts early in the season. With an 88-89 mph fastball, 2-0 and 3-1 fastballs don't cut it."

Clippard now keeps the fastball down. And his newfound confidence to use his offspeed pitches in fastball counts has turned his year around.

"The big key with him is basically these last two months he's been able to throw any pitch at any count for strikes," Masse said. "His breaking ball and his changeup, he's been able to throw for strikes at any count, which has made his fastball that much better."

Clippard has gone 8-1, 1.77 with 99 strikeouts in 82 innings since mid-July. His stuff hasn't really changed over the past two months. He still sits at anywhere from 86-91 mph with his fastball, and he still features an above-average changeup, and a major league curveball, although his command may make the pitch play up a little bit.

"His curveball is a 50 (on the 20-to-80 scouting scale)," Masse said. "He knows how to locate it. When you can throw it for strikes and locate it out of the zone, all of a sudden that becomes a 60 curveball. The only other guy on our staff who can do that is Philip Hughes. The ability to throw it over the plate when he needs to and with more depth out of the zone (when he needs to) makes it an above-average pitch."

When Clippard is on, his biggest strength is his ability to keep hitters guessing. Masse said there have been times this year when he has no idea what Clippard is going to throw next.

"Sometimes he'll throw three fastballs by a guy, and the next time he'll throw three breaking balls down the middle because the guys waiting on a fastball," Masse said.

--J.J. COOPER

Perfect Timing

KINSTON, N.C.--High Class A Salem righthander Felipe Paulino put together one of his best starts of the season in the midst of a playoff race as the Avalanche knocked off Kinston 4-1 at Grainger Stadium on Thursday.

With the win, Salem expanded its second-half lead over the Indians to three games. Kinston won the first half, so the two teams will likely meet in the first round of the Carolina League playoffs when the regular season comes to a close.

Paulino was brilliant, only allowing a pair of hits and striking out seven over seven shutout innings. The 22-year-old Venezuelan native mixed all his pitches well, and his fastball sat in the 93-95 mph range, topping out at 96 several times.

"The thing that impressed me most was his breaking ball--it had much more life than when I'd seen him before," a scout from a National League club said. "But he used all three of his pitches pretty good--right now, I just can't get over how much his breaking ball has improved. Everybody knows he's got a plus fastball, but tonight his breaking ball was plus-plus."

It's tough to call Paulino's breaking ball a true curveball--with its late-diving action in the mid-80s, it tends to look more like a slider. But his slurvy breaker was the main reason for his success on Thursday.

It's been an up and down season for the 6-foot-2 righthander, who has 7-7, 4.53 numbers overall. But over his last two starts, Paulino has allowed just a pair of runs in 13 innings, though the walks continue to plague him. In those two starts, Paulino whiffed nine and handed out six walks.

"He throws so hard, it's very easy for him to come undone out of that package," the scout said. "Mechanically, his balance was good (Thursday) and he was coming at you downhill. But he's very high maintenance within his delivery and if the slightest thing is off, he flies open and the command goes away. That's why you see so many walks, and why he's hit hard at times--he winds up leaving balls up in the zone and hitters either lay off or take advantage.

"But he was concentrated in this particular outing--you just worry about the consistency and the fringe-average changeup. But if he can stay consistent in his mechanics, we're talking about somebody who could dominate the later innings down the road."

--CHRIS KLINE

QUICK HITS

Braves outfielder Brandon Jones will miss the rest of the season after having shoulder surgery. Jones, who's last game was on Aug. 13, was hitting .264/.328/.445 between high Class A Myrtle Beach and Double-A Mississippi.

• Say this for Dodgers lefthander Scott Elbert: he's consistent. The Double-A Jacksonville ace walks too many hitters, strikes guys out and is hard to hit. That was all on display again last night as Elbert walked seven and struck out nine in six innings while allowing only one hit. Righthander Brian Akin followed up with three no-hit innings and five strikeouts as the Suns blanked Birmingham 3-0. Elbert improved to 5-3, 2.91 at Double-A and 10-8, 2.56 overall this season with the outing, despite consistently high walk totals. For the year, Elbert has walked 74 (10th in the minor leagues) while striking out 161 (second in the minors) in 130 innings. He's also allowed just 82 hits (12 of them home runs), and his .183 average against ranks fourth in the minors. Jacksonville improved to 79-44, just percentage points behind low Class A West Michigan (Tigers) for the minors' best record. Manager John Shoemaker picked up win No. 1,001 in the minor leagues as a manager.

• Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond ran his hitting streak to 12 games at high Class A Potomac, going 2-for-5 with a double to raise his Carolina League batting average to .250 for the first time in two months. The 20-year-old Desmond, a third-round pick out of a Florida high school in 2004, is batting .292 in August.

• Another 20-year-old shortstop in high Class A--the Angels' Hainley Statia--went 2-for-5 in his second game since being promoted from low Class A Cedar Rapids to Rancho Cucamonga. The Curacao native, a ninth-rounder in 2004 out of a Florida high school, hit .297/.379/.384 in 417 at-bats for the Kernels. He moved up to replace Sean Rodriguez, who went to Double-A Arkansas when Brandon Wood left to join Team USA for the Olympic qualifying tournament.

Contributing: Matt Eddy, Aaron Fitt, John Manuel.