Daily Dish: April 12

See also: Today’s Baseball America Prospect Report
See also: Tuesday’s Daily Dish

He may have gone 0-for-4 in Tuesday’s 6-3 win against Double-A Jacksonville, but Devil Rays first baseman Gabby Martinez is lighting up the Southern League at Montgomery.

Martinez, a 27th-round pick out of Puerto Rico in 2001, is 11-for-19 (.579) over his first six games and is currently leading the SL in batting.

Questions about the 6-foot-2, 190-pounder’s power have hounded his progress before, but he is tied with Reds first baseman Joey Votto for the league lead in homers with three.

“Power’s such a latent tool for young hitters to begin with,” Rays farm director Mich Lukevics said. “He’s always had that potential, it’s just that sometimes the frequency wasn’t there. But he’s started out like a house on fire and really is showing some pop to go along with the added consistency at the plate.”

Last season, Martinez hit eight homers in 288 at-bats at Montgomery, but hit just .233 and was sent down to high Class A Visalia. He wound up hitting .280/.336/.470 with four homers in 100 at-bats for the Oaks in his second trip through the California League.

Martinez first attracted attention in the Cal League in 2004, hitting .323/.371/.454 while adding 39 doubles but hitting just four homers. He worked hard during spring training to get back to Double-A.

“I think everybody in the organization has always thought a lot of him, but the consistency in his approach wasn’t there,” Lukevics said. “He showed it early on after he signed, but took a step backward last season. It looks like he’s showing where he belongs now.”

In addition to the power question marks, Martinez didn’t really have a natural position. Over the course of his four-year pro career, the 22-year-old lefthanded hitter spilt time in left field and moved his way around the diamond, playing first, third and even some second base. The Rays plan on keeping him at first base for the time being, but haven’t scrapped the idea of shifting him around some more.

“The one thing is he’s a good enough athlete to be versatile,” Lukevics said. “He played four positions even in the Cal League last year. We like him at first, but there’s no reason he couldn’t play multiple positions. Right now his bat is dictating his path, but the versatility certainly helps his profile.”



Greg Golson’s first venture into the South Atlantic League did not go well, and his second time through is going even worse thus far.

season, the Phillies center fielder hit .264/.322/.389 for low Class A
Lakewood, and after going 1-for-4 last night, he is now 2-for-23 on the
young season with a walk and six strikeouts.

There is concern within the organization that Golson’s approach, which does not involve a stride, is hindering his development.

“He’s got a lot of ability,” Phillies hitting coach Milt Thompson
told the Centre Daily Times during spring training. “But he’s basically
hitting without a stride. I don’t know how he’s going to do that [with
success] in the big leagues. That’s tough.”

Golson, a
first-rounder in 2004 out of John Connally High in Austin, missed six
weeks early last season with a high ankle sprain and another week in
July with a sprained knee. As a result, he only got 375 at-bats at
Lakewood and the club sent him back there to work on his overall
hitting approach.

“He’s got to work on getting loaded better,” assistant general manager Mike Arbuckle told the Times. “He wants to hit with an aluminum-bat approach.”

• Phillies top prospect Cole Hamels returned to the high Class A Florida State League to start this season despite going 2-0, 2.37 in 19 innings in the Double-A Eastern League last year. That’s not because the Phillies didn’t think he was ready for Double-A; rather, they preferred to keep him in warmer weather and expose him to shorter bus trips. But after just two starts, the rest of the FSL must be about ready to see Hamels move on to the next level.

The 22-year-old lefthander bested Reds top prospect Homer Bailey last night in Clearwater’s 4-2 win against Sarasota. Hamels overmatched Reds hitters, allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out nine in five scoreless innings.

“You could tell he’s pretty polished–he had excellent command of all three pitches,” Sarasota manager Donnie Scott said. “His velocity was good, his fastball had running, sinking action, and he showed a great changeup. That was just my first impression, so who knows, but he looked like (Steve) Carlton last night.”

Hamels was just as dominant in his first start against Dunedin last week, when he allowed just three hits and no walks while striking out seven over six scoreless innings.

“From what I’ve seen last night, he could be in Philly before you know it,” Scott said.

Hamels is the fifth high-profile starter the 1-5 Sarasota Reds have run up against. They began the season with four games against Fort Myers, who silenced Sarasota bats with a rotation of Matt Garza, Anthony Swarzak, Kevin Slowey and Kyle Aselton. Scott said he thinks all of those pitchers will be big leaguers, but he was more impressed with Hamels than any of them.

As for Scott’s own prized arm, Bailey was decent in the loss, allowing three earned runs on seven hits and no walks while striking out five in 5 2/3 innings.

“He threw the ball well,” Scott said. “He got a couple of pitches up, and they did a pretty good job of working them the other way. That basically was the ballgame.

“His velocity was good, he just basically needs to throw more strikes with his offspeed stuff, and that’s gonna come. His breaking ball was good, just wasn’t quite the same as he’s been in the past. It’s always tougher on hitters when guys throw strikes with everything.”

• Indians lefthander Rafael Perez struggled through his second straight start for Double-A Akron, allowing eight runs on eight hits over 5 2/3 in an 8-7 loss to Bowie. Over two outings, Perez is 0-2, 8.44 and has allowed 15 hits in 10 2/3 innings. And even though he has electric stuff with a mid-90s fastball and wipeout slider, his secondary numbers haven’t exactly been electrifying–with a 7-5 strikeout-walk ratio. “I think it’s a matter of him getting comfortable and building endurance a little more,” Akron manager Tim Bogar said. “He’s been strong over the first three, four innings and then tends to weaken as the game goes on. Last night we tried to get him in for one more inning and he tired very quickly. He needs more strength, needs to get more stretched out. I’m not worried at all–he’s got good stuff. If there’s one issue with him, it’s being mentally tough enough to recover when things start going badly.”

• The Triple-A pitching matchup of the night took place in Rhode Island, where prospects Abe Alvarez (Red Sox) and Boof Bonser (Twins) locked horns.

Alvarez went seven strong innings for Pawtucket to get his first win, walking two and not allowing a hit until the sixth. More surprising still, he recorded no strikeouts, induced no double plays and the majority of his outs (12-of-21) were of the flyball variety. He was around the strike zone, though, throwing 63 percent of his pitches for strikes.

“I had a lot of confidence coming into the season, and today I just kind of went after it,” Alvarez told the Providence Journal. “I had an aggressive nature attacking the mitt, and I was happy to do that.”

Bonser pitched well but ended up on the losing side of Pawtucket’s 2-0 shutout of Rochester. He gave up two runs in six innings, struck out five and walked two.

• Indians righthander Fausto Carmona is expected to start in place of the injured C.C. Sabathia Saturday in Detroit. It will mark Carmona’™s major league debut . . . Marlins lefty Scott Olsen bided his time at Triple-A Albuquerque until the big club needed a fifth starter. He gets the call Saturday against the Nationals . . . Hamels v. Bailey wasn’t the only–or even necessarily the best–pitching matchup last night in the FSL. In Jupiter, Marlins righthander Gaby Hernandez beat Dodgers lefty Scott Elbert in a 1-0 Jupiter victory, tossing 5 2/3 scoreless. Also in action last night (but not head to head): Garza and Mets righthander Mike Pelfrey. All four pitchers were sharp, as none allowed more than one earned run, and Garza fanned 10 in five frames . . . After missing all of 2005 thanks to a knee injury suffered in a home-plate collision during the 2004 Cal League playoffs, catcher John Suomi is off to a fine start in the Pirates system. Suomi, the Athletics’ 22nd-round pick in 2000 out of Caribou (B.C.) University-College, hit .295-12-99 for high Class A Modesto before getting hurt in 2004, and is batting .333 this year after hitting a pair of doubles for high A Lynchburg on Tuesday. Suomi needs to make the most of his playing time, because his role will be less certain when top prospect Neil Walker returns to action in May. “We really like what he’s done,” farm director Brian Graham said. “He’s come back well from the knee problem and really gives us some stability and more depth behind the plate.”

Contributing: Matt Eddy, Aaron Fitt, Matt Meyers.