Daily Dish: July 17

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

The thermometer at Durham Bulls Athletic Park showed 101 degrees after the seventh inning, and it was then that fans began to think they might witness a performance worthy of the temperatures.

Righthander Jason Hammel, who had entered the season as the Devil Rays’™ No. 3 prospect, had not allowed a hit through seven innings, and had gotten ahead of the Columbus hitters all day with a fastball that consistently hit 92 mph. Hammel’™s mid-70s curveball was especially sharp, with the Clippers taking mighty cuts at it all day, but seldom connecting. He also mixed in several changeups, which notably produced a few slow dribblers on the infield.

“We’™ve been working our tails off on that curveball,” Durham pitching coach Joe Coleman told the Durham Herald-Sun. “He was getting to the point where he wasn’™t trusting it. We put him into a different arm slot away from his head so he could finish it. And his fastball fell right into the same (arm) slot. That’™s his slot.”

With one out in the eighth, though, the pressure seemed to weigh on the 23-year-old Hammel and his Durham teammates. Left fielder Elijah Dukes got turned around and ultimately dropped a fly ball off the bat of Bronson Sardinha. Hammel then plunked the next batter, Danny Garcia, which prompted a mound visit from manager John Tamargo, who decided to stick with the righthander.

Dukes redeemed himself later in the inning when he made a fine running catch and doubled Garcia off first base with an alert, accurate throw to end the inning.

Hammel retired Kevin Thompson to lead off the ninth, but he plunked Russ Johnson. With a chance for a game-ending double play still intact, Hammel was able to induce the groundball he needed–which was a feat considering most of his fastballs were sailing high of catcher Kevin Cash’™s targets at that point.

The ball was struck hard enough for first baseman Wes Bankston to turn the 3-6-3, but he missed it, and the ball traveled unobstructed into right field, where Delmon Young overran it. Runners were at first and third as a result of the two errors.

That was it for Hammel after 8 1/3 innings and 125 pitches. Tamargo emerged from the dugout–to heavy booing–and immediately motioned for righthander Juan Salas, the Bulls’™ ace reliever.  

“He came out and told me I had 125,” Hammel told the paper, “and I said I knew I had 25 more and could get two more outs.”

Salas got the final two outs without allowing a hit–but not before a wild pitch plated Johnson–to preserve the Bulls 4-1 victory. It was the first Durham no-hitter since Tommy Harrison and Earl Nelson combined for one on April 30, 1995, when the Bulls were in the Carolina League.

A scout who had also seen Hammel in Double-A couldn’™t remember seeing the righthander dominate to such an extent since he was in the Southern League, where he went 8-2, 2.66 for Montgomery.

“He throws a good fastball, a good curveball and a decent-average changeup. I like him,” the scout said. “Off the top of my head, he reminds me of a Ryan Madson or a Brandon McCarthy–a tall, skinny drink of water–but I see Hammel as a starter.”


Heating Up

Is Ryan Harvey finally emerging from his season-long doldrums?

After hitting .173 with five homers through the first two months of the season, the Cubs right fielder hit .257 in June and is batting .327 in July. He went off in high Class A Daytona’™s doubleheader against Palm Beach on Sunday, driving in seven runs on a three-run double and a grand slam in the first game and adding two more hits (including a solo homer) in the nightcap. Both of his hits in the first game, including his first career grand slam, came in a 12-run first inning.

“Very seldom do you get two at-bats in one inning with the bases loaded,” Daytona manager Buddy Bailey told the Daytona Beach News-Journal. “He took advantage of both of them.”

Harvey now has an eight-game hitting streak, during which he has lifted his season average from .202 to .223. Though the No. 6 overall pick in the 2003 draft has racked up 87 strikeouts and just 15 walks in 318 at-bats, he has continued to show the impressive raw power that made him the Cubs’™ No. 3 prospect following the 2003 and 2004 seasons (he dropped to No. 7 on the list following last season). Harvey has 12 homers and 57 RBIs on the year, with five of his long balls coming in 49 July at-bats.

“I’™m just trying to keep my head in the game and keep swinging the bat,” Harvey told the paper. “That’™s pretty much all you can do when you’™re down in a slump.”


Offensive Firepower

Both Quad Cities and Wisconsin brought their bats to the park last night as they combined for 23 runs in Wisconsin’s 16-7 victory.

Quad Cities opened the game with four runs in the top of the first, but surrendered 10 between the second and fifth to let the game get away from them. The Swing still got some promising performances from their prospects though as Shane Robinson, their fifth-rounder in this year’s draft from Florida State, went 4-for-5 with a double and is now hitting .354/.389/.434 in 99 at-bats.

More impressive was the performance from shortstop Tyler Greene who continued his hot hitting since his demotion from the high Class A Florida State League. The 2005 first-rounder went 2-for-5 with two homers and is now hitting .328/.385/.810 with eight homers in 58 at-bats for the Swing.

The offensive star for Wisconsin was second baseman Luis Valbuena who has really come on over the last six weeks. The Venezuelan was 3-for-5 with his third home run and four RBIs and also stole two bases. The 20-year-old is hitting .329 since June 1 and .284/.367/.401 on the season with 42 walks and 41 strikeouts.



• BA correspondent Marc Topkin reports Devil Rays lefthander Chuck Tiffany, who came over along with righthander Edwin Jackson in the Danys Baez deal, had season-ending rotator cuff surgery and will not pitch again until spring training next season. Tiffany, a second-round pick of the Dodgers in 2003, went 0-2, 6.89 in just 16 innings at Double-A Montgomery . . . Brewers righthander Will Inman threw five more scoreless innings for low Class A West Virginia and has thrown 21 straight scoreless innings since returning from the disabled list on June 24. On the season, he is 5-1, 1.13 in 56 innings . . . Ulrich Snijders, a catcher with the Brewers’™ Rookie-level Arizona League club, went 5-for-5 Sunday with a triple and a home run in the 12-7 victory against the Cubs. Snijders drove in four runs and scored three in the effort. He brought up his batting average from .280 to .400.  He’™s 12-for-30 this season.  He was a 45th-round draft pick in 2005 . . . In their 23-11 shellacking of Richmond July 16, Triple-A Syracuse established new club records for runs and hits (25). They tied the club mark with six home runs, of which second baseman Ryan Roberts hit two.

Contributing: Chris Kline, Kristin Pratt.