AA Dish: Masterson Sinks New Britain

As we did last year, we’ll look around the minors every weekday with BAPR Plus, a supplement to the Baseball America Prospect Report, which is available by e-mail every weekday.

On the first day of the minor league season, Justin Masterson and Jake McGee gave opposing offenses fits, Matt LaPorta continued his offensive showcase with a grand slam, Cameron Maybin treated his new organization to a home run, and Frisco showed why its prospect-laden lineup is going to be a force this year in the Texas League.

Eastern League

Justin Masterson’s sinker is apparently so good at inducing grounders that by the middle of the game the umpires were questioning the quality of the dirt. All right, so the two aren’t really related, but the Red Sox righthander struck out three and didn’t surrender in a walk in four scoreless innings, using one of the best sinkers in the minors to induce seven groundouts and one flyout in Portland’s 3-0 victory over New Britain (Twins). New Britain shortstop Trevor Plouffe went 1-for-5 with a strikeout and turned two double plays.

Indians lefty Chuck Lofgren couldn’t find his command as he walked five batters in 3 1/3 innings as the Akron-Harrisburg (Nationals) game was suspended due to rain in a 5-5 tie in the 10th. Lofgren finished with one strikeout, seven hits and two runs, including a solo homer to outfielder Justin Maxwell (1-for-3 with a walk), who made up for getting picked off first base by Lofgren in the first inning. Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond was hitting ninth in the lineup, but he came through for a 2-for-5 performance, although his three outs all came via the strikeout. For Akron, Trevor Crowe played left field and hit leadoff, going 1-for-4 with a triple, a walk, a stolen base and two strikeouts, while first baseman Michael Aubrey went 1-for-4 with a three-run homer. DH Matt Whitney, who spent most of the spring in Nats camp as a Rule 5 draft pick, went 2-for-3 with a double and a walk, and third baseman Wes Hodges went 1-for-4 but he also had two throwing errors.

Mets lefthander Jon Niese looked strong in Binghamton’s 2-0 victory over Trenton (Yankees), tossing five scoreless innings with just one hit, one walk and five strikeouts. Righthander Eddie Kunz, a supplemental first round pick last year pitching in his first regular season game above short-season ball, closed out the game with two strikeouts and a walk in the ninth. First baseman Mike Carp’s solo home run in the second gave the Mets all the offense they needed, and center fielder Fernando Martinez went 1-for-4 with a strikeout out of the leadoff slot. Yankees lefty Chase Wright pitched well in his six innings of work, allowing two runs on three hits with four strikeouts and no walks. Yankees center fielder Austin Jackson went 0-for-4 out of the two-hole, while right fielder Jose Tabata went 1-for-4 with a stolen base and two strikeouts in the third spot.

Phillies shortstop Jason Donald made a splash in spring training with a two-homer game against the Blue Jays, and he continued to rake in Reading’s 8-3 victory over Altoona (Pirates) by going 2-for-5 with a double. Donald wasn’t without his faults in the game though, committing a throwing error and getting thrown out at second by Altoona center fielder James Boone. Phillies center fielder Greg Golson, hitting third in the order, went 1-for-5 with a strikeout. On the mound for Reading, righty Andrew Carpenter allowed eight hits and only struck out two in five innings of work, but he didn’t walk anyone and only allowed two runs. Pirates right fielder Brad Corley went 2-for-3 with a double and a triple.

Giants second baseman Travis Denker went 1-for-3 with a double in Connecticut’s 3-2 win at home against New Hampshire (Blue Jays). Defenders righty Sergio Romo, who shined in the California League last year, struck out the side in the ninth for the save.

The Eerie-Bowie (Tigers-Orioles) game was postponed due to rain.

Southern League

Rays lefty Jake McGee showed Chattanooga (Reds) why he’s one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. The lefty went six innings with seven strikeouts, no walks and one run allowed in Montgomery’s 4-1 loss. Coming out of the bullpen, Rays righthander Eduardo Morlan had three strikeouts and no walks 1 2/3 scoreless innings, while Reds righty Josh Roenicke picked up the save with a scoreless ninth inning. Rays catcher John Jaso went 1-for-4 with a strikeout and allowed two stolen bases (both to third baseman Michael Griffin, who went 2-for-4 with a double).

Cameron Maybin made a nice impression on his new organization with a homer in his first official game with the Marlins, helping Carolina to a 3-1 victory at Mobile (Diamondbacks). Maybin finished the game 1-for-4 with two strikeouts. Righthander Burke Badenhop, who came to the Marlins with Maybin in the blockbuster deal tha sent Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Tigers, allowed one run (unearned) in 6 1/3 innings with no walks, three strikeouts and six hits. Second baseman Chris Coghlan also went 1-for-4 with a double, a strikeout and an error for Carolina. Diamondbacks righty Brooks Brown, a 2007 supplemental first-rounder, struck out six in five innings, but he also walked three and allowed three runs.

Dodgers righthander James McDonald got off to a rough start, allowing three runs (two earned) in three innings, but Jacksonville’s bullpen tossed six scoreless innings to beat West Tenn (Mariners) 6-3. McDonald struck out two and didn’t allow a walk, but he surrendered six hits, including a home run to catcher Adam Moore (2-for-3). Righthander Brandon Morrow, the 2006 first-round pick who spent all of last year in the major leagues, tossed a 1-2-3 scoreless ninth inning for West Tenn with two stikeouts.

Matt LaPorta continued his mashing from last season, as the seventh overall pick in the 2007 draft went 2-for-4 with a grand slam to power Huntsville (Brewers) to an 8-2 victory over Mississippi (Braves). Third baseman Mat Gamel went 2-for-3 with a walk and shortstop Alcides Escobar went 1-for-5 with a strikeout for Huntsville. Brewers lefty Steve Hammond is old for Double-A as a 25-year-old, but his six scoreless innings with nine strikeouts, no walks and two hits were noteworthy. Braves center fielder Jordan Schafer, the organization’s No. 1 prospect, went 0-for-4 out of the three-hole in his Double-A debut, but he did steal third base.

White Sox righthander Lucas Harrell missed the 2007 season due to elbow problems, but he bounced back strong yesterday with five shutout innings in Birmingham’s 3-0 victory at Tennessee (Cubs), which mustered only one hit the entire game. Harrell allowed just one hit (to center fielder Tyler Colvin), one walk and had four strikeouts.

Texas League

Frisco (Rangers) is rich with prospects in its lineup, and the offense showed signs of things to come on Opening Day in a 6-3 victory at Springfield. First baseman Chris Davis led the way by going 3-for-5 with a double, while catcher Taylor Teagarden went 2-for-5 with two strikeouts and shortstop Elvis Andrus went 2-for-5 with a strikeout and a caught stealing. On the mound, Rangers lefthander Matt Harrison had six strikeouts and no walks as he allowed one run in 5 2/3 innings. For Springfield, righthander P.J. Walters showed good control (no walks) and had five strikeouts in five innings, but he also allowed eight hits and three runs (two earned). Bryan Anderson, the Cardinals’ top catching prospect, went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.

Tulsa (Rockies) and Corpus Christi (Astros) needed 11 innings yesterday before Corpus Christi emerged with an 8-7 win at home. For Corpus Christi, center fielder Eli Iorg went with a double and a walk, and right fielder Mitch Einertson went 1-for-5 with a double and a walk. Rockies right fielder Daniel Carte, who turns 24 next month, blasted a pair of home runs in his 3-for-5 performance. Shortstop Chris Nelson hit third for Tulsa and went 2-for-5, but he struggled in the field with a throwing error and a fielding error. Teammate Dexter Fowler went 1-for-5 with two strikeouts and an assist from center field at second base. Righthander Casey Weathers, the No. 8 overall pick in last year’s draft, tossed a scoreless inning in the eighth and had one strikeout.

In its first season, Northwest Arkansas (Royals) won 6-4 at San Antonio (Padres) behind a nice effort from righthander Carlos Rosa. Rosa allowed three runs (two earned) in four innings with five strikeouts and no walks. Padres first baseman Kyle Blanks went 1-for-3 with a walk.

Athletics shortstop Cliff Pennington hit leadoff and went 1-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout in Midland’s 3-2 victory at Arkansas, which finished after eight innings due to rain.