Arizona Fall League Notebook: Oct. 24

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.–Phillies general manager Pat Gillick, assistant GM Mike Arbuckle and special assistant to the GM Don Welke were among the front office contingent on hand in Scottsdale on Monday to observe righthander Gavin Floyd’s start against the Scorpions.

Floyd, who spent the majority of the season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre where he went 7-4, 4.23 in 115 innings, has been a disappointment over the last two seasons–ever since he put up 1-2, 10.04 numbers in 26 innings at Citizen’™s Bank Park in 2005.

Arbuckle recently gave Floyd an ultimatum of sorts, saying everything was in his hands to be successful in a one-on-one meeting before Floyd reported to Arizona. Arbuckle continued that stance after the fourth overall pick in 2001 tossed three hitless innings against Scottsdale–this after he allowed seven runs on five hits, including two homers, in his last start against Phoenix.

“It’s time for him now to take it to the next level,” Arbuckle said. “We’ve done everything we can do as an organization to help him do it. I thought today’s outing was solid–not spectacular, but solid.

“I saw some good curveballs. His fastball had consistent velocity, but there were more up in the zone than I would have liked to see. The changeup was good–so the stuff was pretty solid. Again, this isn’t something I’m going to do cartwheels over, but it wasn’t a negative either.”

Floyd’s curveball–a true 12-to-6 breaker from shoulders to shoetops–certainly was impressive, but more against righthanders than lefties on Monday. His fastball velocity ranged anywhere from 90-93 mph, with good arm speed and location on his change. Still, the 23-year-old remains somewhat of an enigma. The stuff is there, but questions about his mental makeup and confidence certainly persist. Overall this fall, Floyd is 0-1, 9.82 for the Peoria Saguaros in just seven innings.

“There are times he gets around a lot on his curveball,” Arbuckle said. “It’s kind of a consistency issue in all aspects with him. It starts with the mental side and transfers over to the physical stuff. It’s his time now and he needs to make that next step.”

ON THE HAPP TIP: The Phillies brass was also on hand to get a look at lefthander J.A. Happ, and the 24-year-old didn’t disappoint, following Floyd in Peoria’™s 5-3 win on Monday with another three shutout innings.

The 2004 third-rounder out of Northwestern allowed one hit, struck out two and walked two. Happ has a good feel for pitching and intelligence that makes his solid average repertoire play up a grade.

Monday, Happ’s fastball rarely touched 90 mph, yet he kept hitters off balance with good depth and break to his slider and outstanding arm action on his changeup–which is the primary reason he headed to Arizona.

“There’s nothing that jumps out at you stuff-wise,” Arbuckle said. “But he locates, he changes speeds and he’s a strike-thrower. He has a knack for making a pitch when he needs to and getting that groundball out.”

RULE 5 GUYS: Two Rule 5 eligible players to keep an eye on this fall are Angels catcher Bobby Wilson and Red Sox infielder Chad Spann. Wilson, a 48th-round draft-and-follow in 2002 out of St. Petersburg (Fla.) Community College, is off to a fast start for Scottsdale. The 23-year-old is hitting .333/.414/.583 for the Scorpions, following up a regular season in which he batted .286/.350/.428 in 374 at-bats at Double-A Arkansas. “The thing a lot of people don’t consider is this kid can play third, he can play first,” a scout with an American League club said, dropping in a Jim Leyritz comparison along the way. From Wilson’s perspective, he knows the impact having a solid fall season could have on his career–even if he walks the company line. “That’s something that’s not really in my hands, so to me the 40-man, the Rule 5 . . . that’s all nice and dandy, but I can only control what I can control,” Wilson said. Meanwhile, the oft-injured Spann is fully healthy and raking for the Peoria Javelinas. Through 30 at-bats, the fifth-round pick in 2002 is hitting .367 (11-for-30) with five extra-base hits. “He could easily be a guy who goes in the Rule 5 or forces a deal,” a scout with a National League club said. “If he’s healthy, you like the bat, you like what he can do for you at either corner infield spot. He’s a value.”

BIG JACKS: Diamondbacks righthander Steven Jackson has been scuffling for the Scorpions this fall. In two outings, Jackson is 0-1, 12.60 over just five innings of work. That’s after going 8-11, 2.65 in 150 innings as a workhorse on the staff at Double-A Tennessee, where consistency every fifth day was something the Smokies came to expect out of 2004 10th-round pick. “He’s still consistent day-in, day-out,” said Dan Carlson, who was Jackson’s pitching coach in Double-A and is again in the AFL. “He never really beats himself. He’s had a little trouble here just with falling behind in counts just because he’s not a sharp as he normally would be, but I expect him to finish up strong after those two starts.” Jackson throws four pitches for strikes, and his splitter has emerged as a plus offering. He still needs work facing lefthanders, who ripped him at a .293 clip in Double-A. “He’s made strides with his changeup, which helps him out a whole lot against lefties,” Carlson said. “He’s athletic, he holds runners, and he’s got good action with his sinker–there’s a lot of things in there that a lot of major league clubs want.”

SLEEPER OF THE DAY: This might come as somewhat of a surprise, but White Sox righthander Dewon Day earns our first Sleeper of the Day award in the AFL. Day, a 26th-round pick of the Blue Jays in 2002 who was then taken by Chicago in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft last year, has been opening eyes of scouts early in the Fall League. The 26-year-old righthander was a two-way player in college at Jackson State and later Southern, where he played with Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks. He’s focused only on pitching as a pro, and he’s starting to put his arm strength to good use.

Day shows good late life on his 90-96 mph sinking fastball, and is commanding his 83-86 mph slider with plus tilt and depth. In six innings for Scottsdale, Day is 0-0, 4.26 with nine strikeouts. “He’ll hit 88 (mph) with the slider at times and he’™s letting it all hang out,” a scout from an American League club said. “He gave up three runs in his last start, but that was pitch selection more than pure stuff. The stuff is there, he’s repeating well–which is the biggest thing for him–and locating with his fastball which makes his slider look that much better.” Day went 1-4, 3.40 with a 63-21 strikeout-walk ratio in 48 innings at high Class A Winston-Salem during the regular season.


• There has been an Elijah Dukes sighting in Phoenix. The Devil Rays outfielder joined the Desert Dogs over the weekend but has yet to make his AFL debut. Dukes, who hasn’™t played since July 26 after being suspended by the organization, is only expected to be in Arizona for a short time before heading to winter ball in the Dominican Republic . . . The Mets pulled righthander Philip Humber from the Fall League after making only one start for Mesa. The club chose to shut down the 2004 first-rounder to control his innings as he comes back from Tommy John surgery. He was replaced on the Solar Sox roster by lefthander Blake McGinley . . . The Indians pulled righthander Jake Dittler from the Fall League, adding 2005 eighth-rounder Ryan Edell to the Peoria Javelinas roster . . . Also in Indians moves, Brian Barton was taken off the Javelinas roster after Trevor Crowe took the club’™s sole AFL outfield spot, and Kevin Kouzmanoff took the infield spot from injured first baseman Michael Aubrey. One of the first duties for new Tribe farm director Ross Atkins will be to find Barton a spot in winter ball, likely in Venezuela or Puerto Rico . . . The Phillies pulled righthander Joe Bisenius from the Saguaros roster after the 12th-round pick in 2004 pulled an abdominal muscle warming up before his first outing, in which he allowed six earned runs on six hits in just 1/3 of an inning. Bisenius is expected to miss 2-to-4 weeks before going to Venezuela for the remainder of the winter season . . . Scottsdale teammates Ryan Braun (Brewers) and Mark Reynolds (Diamondbacks) are the most formidable middle of any lineup in the AFL so far this season. Both are tied for the league lead in homers (4) and Braun leads the circuit with 15 RBIs . . . Giants righthander Billy Sadler, who took home AFL pitcher of the week honors this past week, was consistently in the 93-94 mph range with his fastball, and his hard-biting slider was impressive in his one inning of work Monday. Sadler, a sixth-rounder in 2003 out of LSU, has three saves and an 11-2 strikeout-walk ratio in six scoreless innings . . . Finally, the AFL went through its most offensive season in 2005 when Scottsdale Stadium, which was being renovated, wasn’t a factor . The stadium is the most playable in the league at 360-feet down the left field line and 430-feet in center field. So far this season, just five balls have left the yard in Scottsdale–and Braun has two of those.