Daily Dish: Aug. 30

See also: Tuesday’s Daily Dish

The Rockies are giving their fans a pretty good glimpse of the future. Just a couple of days after calling up catcher Chris Iannetta, the Rockies promoted shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to the big leagues on Tuesday. The seventh overall pick in 2005 is expected to make his debut tonight against the Mets.

Tulowitzki is expected to be the Rockies starter at shortstop the remainder of the season, then head to the Arizona Fall League in what appears to be an audition of sorts for the full-time shortstop role in 2007.

The 21-year-old (who turns 22 on Oct. 10, which is also the Fall League’s Opening Day) batted leadoff the entire season at Double-A Tulsa–something he hadn’t done much of at Long Beach, and something he isn’t expected to do in the majors. The Rockies put him in that role in hopes to tone down his aggressiveness, take more pitches and work himself into deeper counts.

That approach paid off, as Tulowitzki batted .291/.370/.473 and carried a 71-46 strikeout-walk ratio in 423 at-bats.

“Early on in his pro career, he’d swing at anything,” Rockies assistant general manager Bill Geivett said. “But he’s really toned down his approach at the plate and learned how to work counts better. We’re obviously very pleased with his progress and we felt like if we could give him a short amount of time (in the majors), he could go into the Fall League knowing what adjustments he needed to make for that next level. We’ll see how he does up there and how that carries into the AFL, then go from there.”

Defensively, Tulowitzki has above-average range and arm strength–Texas League managers rated his arm as the best in the circuit in this year’s Best Tools survey–but he committed 25 errors in 477 total chances (.948) for the Drillers this year.

“He tended to lay back on some balls, tried to rely on his arm strength too much, but he’s grown in that area too,” Geivett said. “We have no issues with him defensively . . . or offensively for that matter.”


West Virginia Powers Year-End All-Stars

The South Atlantic League released its annual all-star team yesterday as voted on by the league’s managers, coaches and broadcasters. Augusta second baseman Eugenio Velez was named to the team as well as the league’s MVP. The 24-year-old Velez is hitting .310/.358/.554 for the GreenJackets, the team with the best record in the minors.

Other notable names on the list are righthander Carlos Carrasco and lefthander Matt Maloney of Lakewood, with Maloney also taking him most outstanding pitcher honors. Hickory’s Andrew McCutchen was named to the team while also being named the league’s most outstanding major league prospect.

West Virginia led the way with four players named to the team. The Power selections are righthander Will Inman, third baseman Mat Gamel, outfielder Lorenzo Cain and catcher Angel Salome.

It wasn’t just the Power players that received honors though as hitting coach Mike Lum was named coach of the year. Lum had spent the previous 16 seasons in the White Sox organization as their roving hitting instructor but was not retained after their World Series win.

“They probably just named the oldest,” the 60-year old Lum told the Charleston (W.V.) Daily Mail when informed of the award. “I’m very proud of the honor, and it really means a lot to me for the simple reason that I was with the White Sox for all those years, and the reason they didn’t hire me back was because they said I had lost my passion for teaching.”

West Virginia leads the SAL with a team batting average of .277. Asheville is second at .271.


Braves, Twins . . . Again

Some things in baseball unfold as if scripted. Of course the Braves will face the Twins for this year’s Rookie-level Appalachian League title. Both organizations have proven themselves as behemoths of player development, and their Appy affiliates are annually among the league’s best teams.

The Twins ties to Elizabethton date to 1974 and the club has not had a losing season since 1988. Manager Ray Smith is a six-time winner of the league’s manager of the year award, and his club defeated the Danville Braves two-games-to-one in last year’s championship series.

“It’s been a grind to make it this far, being in the same division with the (Kingsport) Mets, (Greeneville) Astros and (Johnson City) Cardinals” Smith said. “I don’t know how we match up with Danville at this point. They’re stacked. They’ve definitely got some good prospects.”

Danville took the season series between the two clubs, four games to two, and the club, which has been a Braves farm team since 1993, is looking for its first ever Appy League title.

“We’ve had our opportunities the past two years, but didn’t get it done,” Danville manager Paul Runge said. “Well, maybe the third time’s the charm.”

The Braves lost the championship series to Greeneville two-games-to-one in 2004, the year Astros outfielder Mitch Einertson tied the league record with 24 home runs. He connected for two more in that year’s postseason.

Danville heads to Thursday’s showdown as the league leader in runs scored and as the second-best pitching staff as measured by ERA. The offensive attack revolves around a sextet of hitters: shortstop Chase Fontaine (.296/.411/.412); outfielders Larry Williams (.338/.389/.440), Willie Cabrera (.308/.344/.462) and Concepcion Rodriguez (.275/.338/.406) and Jon-Mark Owings (.284/.343/.519); and catcher Phillip Britton (.296/.321/.471).

The Braves pitching staff is fronted by righthanders Jamie Richmond (7-1, 1.21) and Tommy Hanson (4-1, 2.09) and lefthander Carlos Sencion (0-4, 2.56). Righthander Kris Medlen (1-0, 0.41) was 10-for-10 in saves.

The Elizabethton offense ranks fourth in the league and is bolstered by mid-round college picks from this year’s draft, players like third basemen Garrett Olson (.314/.396/.384) and Danny Valencia (.311/.365/.497); second baseman Brian Dinkleman (.306/.347/.433); and shortstop Steve Singleton (.341/.361/.543).



• The Rangers shut down righthander Eric Hurley for the remainder of the season with a strained rib cage muscle. Hurley, a 2004 first-round pick, went a combined 8-7, 3.53 with a 137-43 strikeout-walk ratio in 137 innings split between high Class A Bakersfield and Double-A Frisco this season.

• It was a night for franchise records in the low Class A Midwest League. Southwest Michigan lefthander Jake McGee returned from the disabled list to strike out six in four and set the franchise record for strikeouts in a season with 163. The previous record of 158 was set by Robb Welch in 1997 and tied last week by righthander Wade Davis, who is also McGee’s roommate. It will come down to the wire as to whether McGee or Davis will hold the record at season’s end. The duo ranks first and second in the MWL in strikeouts.

In Quad Cities, Kane County third baseman Jeff Baisley hit a three-run home run in Game Two of a doubleheader to give him 107 RBIs for the season. Baisley’s total of 107 leads the league by an enormous margin. Fort Wayne outfielder Will Venable is second in the league with 84 RBIs. The home run was Baisley’s 22nd, which trails only Jordan Renz of Cedar Rapids who has 23, for the league lead.

• It has been a season to forget for low Class A Kannapolis, and things are not getting better. With a record of 39-91, the Intimidators have the worst record in the minors and yesterday they were thrashed by Asheville by a score of 21-2. Kannapolis starter Jose Zazueta was tagged for 11 earned runs in three innings of work as the Tourists took turns pounding Intimidator pitching. Center fielder Dexter Carter led the charge by going 3-for-6 with a double, a triple and five RBIs. Right fielder Daniel Carte went 3-for-5 with three RBIs of his own and Chris Nelson was 3-for-5 with two RBIs and his 38th double of the season.

• The ‘Yikes!’ line of the day belongs to Double-A Arkansas righthander Jesse Smith. Smith, a sixth-round pick in 2003 out of Illinois Valley Community College, allowed eight earned runs on nine hits–including six home runs–over six innings in Tulsa’s 10-6 win against the Travelers. Right fielder Christian Colonel went deep twice, and shortstop Jeff Dragicevich, third baseman Ian Stewart, catcher Alvin Colina all homered. And of course designated hitter Seth Smith finished off the power display in a classic Smith vs. Smith showdown. At least the Angels righthander took away one positive from this start, he didn’t issue a walk and whiffed five. On the season, the 26-year-old is now 7-13, 5.25 and has given up 23 homers in 154 innings.

Adam Witter, an undrafted senior sign out of East Carolina, became the first Salem-Keizer player to hit for the cycle when he completed the feat on Tuesday. Cowart drove in seven runs as part for of Salem-Keizer’s big night. Witter’s big night helped Adam Cowart improve to 10-0. Cowart lowered his ERA to 0.80 with five scoreless innings of work.