Daily Dish: Aug. 23

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See also: Today's Baseball America Prospect Report

Four months ago, Jeff Fiorentino was going through the toughest time in his pro career. The Double-A Bowie outfielder badly sprained his ankle just seven games into the season, and he never really got on track after missing two weeks.

When he returned, the Orioles' 2004 third-round pick out of Florida Atlantic wasn't completely healthy and wound up straining his left hamstring--twice--which only added to the frustration.

"It was awful because I couldn't do anything--I mean anything," Fiorentino said. "I never got hurt in high school, never got hurt in college and--knock wood--this is the first time I've had to go through anything like this in my life. It's very frustrating."

But rather than sitting back on his heels and going through the motions over the last two months of the regular season before reporting to the Arizona Fall League, Fiorentino has done everything he can to salvage his season. The 23-year-old batted .297 in July, and backed that performance up by raking at a .373 clip in August--upping his overall numbers to a respectable .262/.354/.392--respectable because he'd bottomed out with a .156 average in May, and hadn't hit above .231 since April 12.

And being completely healthy again has a lot to do with that.

"When I first came back and was playing at like 70 or 80 percent, I basically just had to suck it up and play through it," Fiorentino said. "Now that I feel good again, I'm just trying to do whatever I can to kind of redeem myself."

These days, the road to redemption includes a 10-game hitting streak in which Fiorentino is hitting .435 (17-for-39) with 14 runs scored. He's back at full speed playing center field--the ankle and hamstring injuries limited him to left for much of the season. He also stole his first base since June 11 this week.

"That was huge," Fiorentino said. "It's really been the combination of being completely healthy again and getting back to that comfort level. I've been working so hard just to pull through this season, and it's a good feeling to see it paying off in little ways."

Part of that has been the return of some power. Fiorentino's swing is all upper-half, generating plus bat speed and natural loft through his quick hands and strong wrists. He hit a career-high 22 homers last season at Frederick, and through this injury-marred season, Fiorentino has hit three of his 12 bombs during his current hit streak.

"I haven't changed much in my approach through all this," the 6-foot-1, 185-pound outfielder said. "I'm not a big guy by any means--for me, it's in the whip in my hips and the extension in my elbows to get a clear path to the ball. When I square it up right, it seems to go a long way."


Getting Serious

The Brewers Lorenzo Cain won MVP of the Rookie-level Arizona league in 2005 and entered 2006 as an intriguing outfield prospect with a lot of upside.

He's done nothing to dissuade those projections this year, as he has put together another impressive campaign in 2006 for low Class A West Virginia and has placed himself among the best prospects in the South Atlantic League and the Brewers organization.

With another hit last night, Cain, who leads the Sally League with 152 hits,  has already broken the Bobby Perna's club record for hits (150) set in 1992.

"It's great to see him accomplish that," Power hitting coach Mike Lum said. "He's worked hard. He's gaining confidence and more experience and you just never know where he's going to go. I think he's going to be a good one."

The 20-year-old Cain signed in 2005 as a draft-and-follow out of Tallahassee (Fla.) Community College after the Brewers made him a 17th-round pick in 2004. He only started playing baseball seriously four years ago and the Brewers planned to bring him along slowly because though he possesses five tools that are at least average, his approach at the plate was raw.

He has quieted his swing down this season and the results have been startling. The rightfielder is now hitting .313/.387/.432 to lead the league in batting. A plus runner, Cain has 30 stolen bases and has been caught 11 times.



Tim Lincecum and the pitching staff at high Class A San Jose continue to roll along. The "Little Giants" lead the California League with a 3.82 team ERA, the main reason they won the Northern Division in the first half and have moved into first in the second half. Lincecum keeps contributing, as the Giants' first-round pick in June struck out 10 last night in just 4 2/3 innings. His pitch count kept him from going the five innings for the victory, but San Jose held on for a 6-3 victory against Stockton. The victory made manager Lenn Sakata the winningest manager in San Jose franchise history (it was No. 386 for the former big league infielder). Lincecum has 28 strikeouts in 17 innings while walking just seven, posting a 3.18 ERA. He did give up his third Cal League homer last night, to Lloyd Turner.

• Myrtle Beach third baseman Van Pope continues to find his power stroke. He homered for the second straight game last night in the Pelicans' 11-10 win at Wilmington, giving him a team-high 14 for the season to go with 28 doubles. Six of his homers have come in August, and Pope now has 28 extra-base hits (20 doubles, eight homers) on the road in 210 at-bats away from spacious Coastal Federal Field (compared with 15 XBH at home). Overall Pope is hitting .265/.351/.437, impressive considering he hit just .217 over the season's first two months.

• One of the newest Mariners made a splashy Cal League debut, as Inland Empire righthander Andy Baldwin took a no-hitter into the seventh inning. Acquired from the Phillies in the Jamie Moyer trade over the weekend, Baldwin lost the no-no to Mike Stodolka and finished with seven shutout, one-hit innings for the victory in a 3-1 decision against High Desert. "He was very aggressive within the strike zone and used both sides of the plate," 66ers manager Gary Thurman told the San Bernardino Sun. "He kept the batters from leaning over the plate. Baldwin threw a lot of strikes, worked fast, and showed a lot of poise."

• Righthander Kyle Kendrick has quietly established himself as a prospect this season, throwing a complete-game shutout (seven innings) for high Class A Clearwater last night. Kendrick improved to 11-8, 3.31 overall with the five-hitter, walking none and striking out two. Kendrick, who turns 22 one Saturday, has not maintained his dominant strikeout-walk ratio since moving up from low Class A Lakewood (54-15 there, 70-36 with Clearwater), but he's made adjustments to help him finish strong, posting a 2.05 ERA in five August starts.

• The Marlins Chris Volstad continued his second-half surge last night as he threw six shutout innings to improve his record to 11-8, 3.12 on the season for low Class A Greensboro. Since July 1, the 19-year-old is 5-1, 1.66 with a 30-13 strikeout-walk ratio in 49 innings. Volstad has done an exception job of using his 6-foot-7 frame of pitching on a downhill plane and keeping the ball on the ground. In 147 innings this season he has a 2.28 groundball-flyball ratio.

• Elizabethton's Ray Smith won Appalachian League manager of the year honors for the second straight year. Smith, now a six-time winner of the award, won his 500th league game this season and his Twins are leading the Western Division by 7 1/2 games.

• Pulaski outfielder Travis Snider (.325/.412/.567 with 11 home runs in 194 at-bats) and Danville righthander Jamie Richmond (7-1, 1.25 with 51-4 strikeouts-walks in 65 innings) won Appalachian League player and pitcher of the year honors, which were announced yesterday.

• The Phillies called up Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre outfielder Michael Bourn when they placed Aaron Rowand on the disabled list. Second baseman Joe Thurston also got the call from Triple-A. Bourn, 23, hit .283/.368/.428 in 152 at-bats for the Red Barons with five doubles, seven triples and 15 steals in 16 tries. Thurston, 26, hit .282/.349/.436 in 479 at-bats.

• Indians righthander Adam Miller allowed three runs in 4 2/3 innings in a spot start for Triple-A Buffalo against Ottawa last night. It was his debut at the level. The 23-year-old righthander struck out four, walked three and gave up four hits. Miller is expected to return to Double-A Akron to finish the season.

Contributing: Matt Eddy, John Manuel.