Daily Dish: July 18

See also: Monday’s Daily Dish

Entering 2006, the Yankees’ farm system seemed to be improving, with plenty of high-ceiling players in the pipeline. The problem was, the premium talent in the organization was concentrated at lower levels. No one with star-level talent was succeeding above Class A.

Philip Hughes has made that last sentence ring false, though, and did it again last night for Double-A Trenton. He won his fourth straight decision with his sixth straight successful start, striking out nine in five shutout innings. Trenton beat Binghamton 7-0 as two relievers helped the Thunder combine on a seven-hitter.

Hughes gave up three of the hits in his five innings, as the Yankees attempt to limit his workload. He had not started since July 3, pitching only his one inning at the Futures Game in Pittsburgh since then. Since being the Yankees’ first-round pick (23rd overall) in 2004, Hughes has landed on the disabled list three times with three minor injuries, such as a stubbed toe and shoulder tendinitis. His 102 innings pitched this season has surpassed his career total as a pro entering the season, so the Yankees have decided he will not exceed five innings in any start the rest of the season.

That can’t be good for the Thunder, two games out in the Eastern League’s North Division. Even though he began the season at high Class A Tampa, Hughes is Trenton’s unquestioned ace at 6-3, 2.57 in 77 innings. His ERA ranks third in the league, and overall he’s 8-6, 2.36 with 115 strikeouts and just 26 walks in 107 innings. While that total doesn’t include the three runs Hughes gave up in Pittsburgh, one pro scout who was there thought Hughes’ performance at the Futures Game was good for Hughes and the Yankees.

“He showed his tools,” the scout said, “and at the same time, he showed he needs some work. That way, the media in New York won’t go crazy with hype trying to say he’s ready for New York now.”

At the Futures Game, Hughes said pitching a full season without going on the DL–pitching through the aches and pains that come about as a result of the grind of a minor league season–was a modest goal he had set in spring training.

“It was tough for me, especially last year, to watch my teammates when I couldn’t pitch,” he said. “I worked really hard in the offseason to make sure that I would be prepared to pitch the full season and to stay strong enough to pitch more than the 90 or so innings I threw last year.

“This year my arm feels great, and I’m actually feeling stronger now than I did at the beginning of the year.”

With Hughes thriving and outfielder Jose Tabata emerging at low Class A
Charleston as an elite prospect, the Yankees system has two legitimate
future stars for the first time since the late 1990s, when Nick Johnson and Alfonso Soriano (now the two best hitters on the Washington Nationals) were new York’s top farmhands. Hughes also is beginning to look like a success story for the Yankees’ player-development staff, because he’s a different pitcher this year than he was in 2005.

For his first full season, the Yankees asked Hughes to shelve his slider–his out pitch during his career at Foothill High in Santa Ana, Calif.–to work on his other secondary pitches. Now he says he has as much confidence in his curveball and changeup as he does his slider and low 90s fastball, which reached 94-96 mph in his one-inning Futures Game stint.

“In high school, I was fastball-slider; now I can throw four pitches for strikes,” he said. “The curveball and change have really come along. I have worked a lot with Nardi Contreras (the Yankees’ roving pitching instructor) on those pitches, and I think the benefits have been enormous for me.”

And for the Yankees’ farm system.


Patton, Paulino On The Rise

In the high Class A Salem rotation, lefthander Troy Patton and righthander Felipe Paulino have made huge strides in the second half of the season. Patton has yet to lose since the break, and Paulino tossed six shutout innings in the Avalanche’s 7-0 win against Potomac.

The 22-year-old Venezuelan allowed just two hits, struck out seven and did not issue a walk. In April, Paulino battled with his mechanics and had a tendency to leave his fastball up, leading to 1-2, 6.23 numbers and five home runs allowed in 17 innings. Since then, he’s gone 4-3, 3.23 over 64 innings.

“When you watch him throw, he is very stiff and mechanical in some of his actions and he can get out of whack fairly easily,” Salem pitching coach Stan Boroski said. “He has the tendency to kind of fly open–his front shoulder, his front hip, his front leg all kind of fly open and that causes the arm to drag. When that happens, he can’t get his hand out front where he needs to in order to get the ball down in the zone.

“He works very hard on it. The guy does towel drills every day over and over and over. He’s getting that straightened out and he’s a lot better now than he was in the beginning of the year.”


SAL Showdown

This season the rotation at low Class A Greensboro featured four pitchers who were drafted in the first round in 2005. Last night they added another first-rounder, this one from the class of 2006.

Brett Sinkbeil, the 19th overall pick this June, made his low Class A debut after dominating the short-season New York-Penn League in five starts. The Missouri State product was matched up against Lakewood’s Matt Maloney, and didn’t have enough to defeat the man who leads the South Atlantic League in ERA.

“(Sinkbeil) showed a plus fastball, a plus slider and a really good changeup,” Greensboro manager Brandon Hyde told the Greensboro News and Record. “He did a great job in his first start with everyone watching.”

The righthander got a rude awakening as he gave up a home run to Greg Golson, the first hitter he faced. Sinkbeil settled down, however, and allowed just one more run (a homer to Jeremy Slayden in the fourth) over six innings. He fanned three and walked none while scattering eight hits.

“He’s got a good solid, sound delivery,” Greesnboro pitching coach Steve Foster told the paper. “It’s a slower delivery, but all pieces are functional, as he goes to the plate and he finishes strong.”

Maloney lowered his league-leading ERA to 1.57 while winning his 11th game, which also tops the circuit. The lefthander, a third-rounder in 2005 out of Mississippi, allowed two runs (one earned) on five hits over seven innings while striking out six and walking one.

“He’s a good lefty who throws to both sides of the plate,” Hyde told the paper. “He’s got a good breaking ball and changeup. We saw him twice now, and he’s shut us down both times.”



• The Rockies called up righthanded reliever Manuel Corpas to the big leagues on Monday. Corpas, who was signed out of the Panama in 1999, started the tear at Double-A Tulsa, where he went 2-1, 0.98; picked up 19 saves and allowed just four earned runs on 22 hits in 37 innings. Corpas was 0-0, 1.04 in nine innings at Triple-A Colorado Springs . . . In other Rockies news, the club also called up first baseman Ryan Shealy and third baseman/shortstop Jason Smith from Colorado Springs on Monday. Shealy was hitting .284/.351/.568 with 15 homers in 222 at-bats; while Smith–a 23rd-round pick of the Cubs in 1996–was batting .290/.366/.486 in 107 at-bats . . . Low Class A West Michigan lost 10-4 to Beloit, but you can’t blame Michael Hollimon. The Whitecaps shortstop hit three home runs to raise his season total to 12. He’s hitting .285/.391/.503 on the season in 312 at-bats . . . Twins righthander Kyle Waldrop made his debut at high Class A Fort Myers on Monday in the Miracle’s 6-4 win against Dunedin. Waldrop, a first-rounder in 2004, allowed three earned runs on seven hits over seven innings of work. He went 6-3, 3.85 in 110 innings at low Class A Beloit this season . . . Marlins first baseman Jason Stokes, 24, launched a walk-off two-run homer–his second two-run shot of the game–to complete Triple-A Albuquerque’s come-from-behind win against New Orleans. The Isotopes scored three times in the ninth. Stokes is hitting .264/.350/.447 on the season with seven home runs . . . Red Sox outfielder David Murphy, 24, upped his season average to .300 with a 2-for-3 night against Toledo. Murphy has been sharing center field duties at Triple-A Pawtucket with Adam Stern, and is hitting .300/.380/.533. With 18 doubles and six home runs, he’s showing the power the Red Sox had envisioned when they made him a first-round selection in 2003. Murphy had not slugged higher than .430 (Portland, 2003) in any previous stop . . . Rangers righthander Armando Galarraga made his first rehab start in the Rookie-level Arizona League on Monday. Galarraga faced just three hitters, walking one and striking out one. Galarraga had been on the disabled list with elbow soreness since May 24. With Double-A Frisco, Galarraga went 1-6, 5.49 in 41 innings . . . Cubs fifth-rounder this year Jeff Samardzija pitched his last game with short-season Boise on Monday and picked up his first career win. Samardzija went five innings, allowed three hits, walked two and whiffed four. He was called up to low Class A Peoria, where he will finish out his pro debut before Notre Dame’s football practices begin in August.

Contributing: Matt Eddy, Kristin Pratt.