Daily Dish: Aug. 9

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

Matt Garza’s rocket ride through the minors has reached its final destination. With Francisco Liriano on the disabled list with elbow inflammation, the Twins have called up Garza in his place.

Garza will make his major league debut at home against the Blue Jays on Friday.

Not bad for a guy who started the year at high Class A Fort Myers.

In fact, farm director Jim Rantz can only remember one other player who started out in Fort Myers and made it to the big leagues in one season–slugger David Ortiz–who accomplished it in 1997.

And that’s saying something, considering Rantz has been a mainstay in Minnesota’s organization since 1965, serving as farm director since 1986.

“I’ll take that one step further,” Rantz said. “Garza’s the only pitcher we’ve had to make the Florida State League all-star team, get called up to Double-A and pitch in that all-star game, then head to Triple-A since Scott Baker did it two years ago.”

But Baker spent the remainder of the 2004 season at Triple-A Rochester, where Garza made just five starts before getting the call.

Garza, a first-rounder out of Fresno State in 2005, has a full complement of pitches, including a 90-94 mph fastball that touches 96, a hard slider at 82-84 mph, a 72-78 mph curve and a changeup that has grown by leaps and bounds this season.

“He has a good mix and the thing about him is he uses all his pitches effectively,” Rantz said. “He’s got good life on his fastball–it darts around all over the place–and his two breaking balls are plus pitches. He had to make a few adjustments as he moved up, but it’s really been a special year for him.”

The most impressive aspect of Garza’s season is that with each promotion, the 22-year-old righthander maintained his success. At Fort Myers, he went 5-1, 1.42 with 53 strikeouts in 44 innings; then put up 6-2, 2.51 numbers in 57 innings at Double-A New Britain and allowed just 20 hits in 34 innings in the International League, going 3-1, 1.85.

“You really see the consistency in the numbers, but beyond that he’s become a much better pitcher in ways the numbers don’t show and he’s done it at every stop,” Rantz said. “He does all the things you look for–he holds runners, he fields his position well and we’re going ahead and plugging him into a contender. But we have a lot of confidence in putting him in under the gun.”


Cruising Carrasco

Carlos Carrasco has come of age in 2006, and never was this more evident than last night.

The Phillies righthander took a perfect game into the eighth inning last night for low Class A Lakewood, and though he unraveled in the eighth, his performance indicated that he has put himself among the top pitching prospects in the pitching-rich South Atlantic League.

The 19-year-old Venezuelan retired the first 22 hitters he faced and fanned 11 in 7 1/3 innings of work. The perfect game ended with one out in the eighth when he walked Asheville DH Philip Cuadrado. Carrasco lost the no-hitter a batter later when he surrendered a single to first baseman Michael Paulk. Outfielder Jason Van Kooten followed that with a double to chase Carrasco from the game.

“I felt good in eighth inning. I wasn’t tired or anything,” Carrasco told the Hendersonville Times-News. “I was pitching really, really well. The walk was tough and then I tried to keep the ball down to the next two guys but they got hits. I give credit to the Asheville hitters.”

Though he was charged with three runs (two earned) and Asheville won 3-1, it did little to diminish what Carrasco did.

“Carrasco was just incredible,” Asheville manager Joe Mikulik told the paper. “The stuff he was throwing would have gotten hitters out on just about any level.”

Carrasco signed for $300,000 out of a tryout camp in 2003 but had been a disappointment until this season. In 131 pro innings he had a 6.32 ERA with 21 home runs allowed. After last night, he is now 8-6, 2.30 with a 134-52 strikeout-walk ratio in 133 innings. He ranks third in the Sally League in ERA and second in strikeouts.



John Van Benschoten, the Pirates first-round pick out of Kent State in 2001, made his first appearance of the season yesterday in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. The 6-foot-4 righthander, who missed 2005 due to surgeries on both shoulders, did not allow a hit in his first five innings of work, as the only baserunner the Red Sox could muster came on an error in the fourth inning. The 26-year-old came undone in the sixth, however, as he walked the first two hitters of the inning. He retired the next two, but then surrendered a home run to Jason Place, the Red Sox’ first-round pick this year from Wren High in Piedmont, S.C. The final line on Van Benschoten was three earned runs on one hit (the homer), to go with four strikeouts and two walks in six innings of work.

• Triple-A Round Rock righthander Jason Hirsh, one of the minor league’s steadiest pitchers this season, was called up by the Astros and will start Saturday against the Padres. Hirsh has won 12 consecutive decisions–with his last loss coming April 27–and is 13-2, 2.10 in 23 starts on the season.

• A pair of 2006 draftees–both relief pitchers–are now in Double-A as the Nationals promoted sixth-rounder Zechry Zinicola to Harrisburg, while Mets righthander Joe Smith wrapped up his third scoreless appearance on Tuesday at Binghamton. Zinicola went to short-season Vermont after signing, allowing six hits over nine innings before being promoted to high Class A Potomac. The righthander ended his stay with the P-Nats with 3-0, 1.89 numbers in 14 innings. Following a similar path, Smith began his professional career at short-season Brooklyn, going 0-1, 0.45 with a 28-3 in 20 innings. At Binghamton, Smith has allowed just one hit over three innings.

Contributing: Matt Eddy.