Daily Dish: July 10

See also: Weekend Dish
See also: Today’s Baseball America Prospect Report

Rival National League Central righthanders Brandon Backe and Ben Sheets
squared off Sunday, though the game didn’t take place in Houston or

Instead, Round Rock fans were treated to rehab starts by both pitchers
as they tuned up against Triple-A hitters in the Pacific Coast League in
preparation for the major league stretch drive, where both pitchers could be factors.

Entering the All-Star break, the Cardinals led Sheets’ Brewers by five-and-a-half games and Backe’s Astros by six.

Sheets, recovering from shoulder tendinitis, gave up three runs on
three hits and three walks in three innings in his first action since
May 2. He hit 94 mph on the stadium radar gun.

“I felt good, a lot better than I thought I would,” Sheets told
Brewers.com. “I just needed to get some innings in. Confidence in my
fastball is the biggest key, and my location was off a little bit. I
was rushing through my delivery, but overall I felt about 99.5 percent.
Once I get my fastball located, I’ll be good to go.”

It was Backe, though, who proved to be the star of the game. In
addition to picking up the win while giving up two runs over 5 2/3
innings, Backe was also the game’s hitting star. A converted position
player who owns a .246 average in the major leagues, Backe clubbed two
doubles (the first off Sheets), drove in two and scored a run in the
Express’ 4-3 victory against Nashville.

“It was fun,” Backe told the Austin American-Statesman. “I enjoy
hitting. I take it very serious when I am up there. But the most
important thing is how I perform on the mound.”

Backe is recovering from a strained right elbow and has been on the
disabled list since April 14. He’s scheduled to make one more rehab
start before rejoining the Astros.


Flores Flourishing

Mets catcher Jesus Flores has been playing well enough to impress his
manager. That means a little more when said manager is Hall of Fame
catcher Gary Carter.

Flores helped guide high Class A St. Lucie to the first-half title in
the Florida State League’s East Division, providing the pop in the
middle of the lineup while playing solid defense behind the plate. He
collected two more hits in the first game of a doubleheader against
Jupiter on Sunday, including his 25th double of the season, tying him
for second in the league. Flores, a 21-year-old Venezuelan, also leads
St. Lucie with 12 home runs, 49 RBIs and a .486 slugging percentage.

“I think he’s a major league prospect, definitely,” Carter told the
Palm Beach Post. “I think he’s still young and I think he’s still raw,
but he’s come a long way.”

Flores has certainly made a lot of progress since last year, when a
broken thumb caused him to miss the first month of the season and he
never got on track at low Class A Hagerstown, batting .216/.250/.339 in
319 at-bats.

He started this season in similar fashion, hitting .197 in April before
St. Lucie hitting coach Nelson Silviero asked Flores to try lowering
his hands in his batting stance. Flores became more comfortable at the
plate after the adjustment and stopped chasing as many breaking balls
out of the strike zone.

Carter told the Post that Flores was “key to our success” and labeled
him one of the best defensive catchers in the FSL as well. That’s high
praise from someone who knows what it takes to be a top catcher.


Lindsay Coming On

Shane Lindsay is again showing why he was named the top prospect in the Northwest League last season.

The Australian had another stellar performance Sunday and picked up his
second win of the season. He struck out 12 in five scoreless innings of
relief in Tri-City’s 2-0 victory against Spokane,

“My curveball felt good,” Lindsay told the Tri-City Herald. “My
fastball felt like it was coming good toward the end. That’s the best
I’ve felt probably all year.”

This is the second time this season Lindsay’s stuck out 12 batters as
he also did it on June 24. Lindsay, rehabbing a shoulder injury in the
short-season NWL, has 39 strikeouts (and 13 walks) in 25 innings and
promotion could be in his near future.

Lindsay’s dominant performance came on the heels of an impressive start from lefthander Keith Weiser.

Weiser, a third-round pick of out Miami (Ohio), started the game and
allowed two hits over four innings while fanning three and walking none.

“Today I was in my comfort zone,” Weiser told the Tri-City Herald. “I
felt good out there. I’m not the kind of guy that’s going to strike out
10 guys. I have to work ahead and get guys off balance.”

This was Weiser’s second outing as a pro and it went far better then
his debut. He opened his pro career on July 4 and allowed four earned
runs without getting out of the third inning.



• Triple-A Tucson outfielder Chris Young closed the Sidewinders final game before the all-star break in style by launching a walk-off grand slam (his 14th home run of
the year) Sunday in a 9-7 win against Las Vegas’¦Justin Upton had the
first multi-homer game of his young career as he went 2-for-5 with his
sixth and seventh homers of the year for low Class A South Bend. The
18-year-old is hitting .271/.344/.415 in 258 at-bats’¦The short-season
New York Penn League has provided little challenge for the Cardinals’
Adam Ottavino. The first-rounder from Northeastern threw six one-hit
innings of shutout ball to earn his second win of the season. Thus far,
the righthander is yet to allow an earned run through 20 innings of his
pro career’¦Weeks removed from leading the Oregon State Beavers to the
College World Series, Bill Rowe and Cole Gillespie are in the same
lineup again. The Beavers’ top two hitters are now both part of the
Helena Brewers in the Rookie-level Pioneer League; Gillespie was a
third-round pick, while Rowe signed as a nondrafted free agent.. Both
players collected their first professional hits this weekend, Rowe
doing so with a home run. Fresh off collegiate glory, Rowe and
Gillespie have raised the bar of expectations. “I expect good things
from both of them,” Helena manager Ed Sedar told the Helena Independent
Record. “They are coming back from what is a thrill of a lifetime for
them.”‘¦Giants third-rounder Clayton Tanner made his pro debut with two
scoreless innings for short-season Salem-Keizer in the Volcanoes’ 9-0
victory against Vancouver. Tanner, a lefthander out of De La Salle High
in Concord, Calif, had committed to Pepperdine but decided to sign with
the Giants.