Daily Dish: July 19

See also: Tuesday’s Daily Dish

Devil Rays shortstop Reid Brignac has been on a roll lately at high Class A Visalia. The 20-year-old contributed a walk-off homer in the Oaks’ 7-6 win against Modesto last week, and has three multi-hit games in his last four.

Overall, the second-round pick out of a Louisiana high school is hitting .319/.376/.550.

“I got off to the kind of first half I was hoping for and I really want to finish up strong,” Brignac said. “I haven’t done anything really drastic in terms of changing anything in my plan at the plate. I just really came into the season needing to see more pitches. I’ve really just stayed with the same approach I had last year.”

And that approach has obviously worked.

Brignac’s already eclipsed his home run total from last season (15) with 18 bombs, and is well on his way to setting a new career high for doubles. Brignac hit 29 last year when he batted .264/.319/.416 at low Class A Southwest Michigan, and he has 23 this season.

One of the major knocks on him has been his plate discipline, however. Brignac whiffed 131 times in 512 at-bats at Southwest Michigan, but he’s been slightly better this year in that department as well. In 351 at-bats this year, he’s carrying a 67-29 strikeout-walk ratio.

“It might not look that good on paper, but it’s a lot better from last year,” Brignac said. “My biggest goal this year was to cut down on those strikeouts and draw more walks and I think that’s the biggest reason why I’m getting better pitches to hit.

“I’m a lot more patient and not going up there hacking away like I was before. I’m just trying to stay within my zone and sticking to my plan and things have worked out pretty good.”

Defense is more of a work in progress. Brignac has committed 24 errors this season in 394 total chances (.939), which is only slightly better than Triple-A Durham’s B.J. Upton’s defensive numbers at short before the organization moved him to third base. In 398 total chances, Upton made 28 errors (.930). New Bulls shortstop Ben Zobrist is the best of the Rays organization trio in terms of his fielding percentage, not committing an error in the 16 chances he’s had since coming over from Houston in the Aubrey Huff deal. Zobrist also had a .958 fielding percentage (15 errors in 356 total chances) during his time at Double-A Corpus Christi this season, though he profiles better as a utility player.

But as long as the bat does the talking, the Rays are committed to Brignac at the premium position. His appearance in the California-Carolina League all-star game in fact tells much of the story–Brignac went 2-for-4 with an RBI and was named the Cal League player of the game despite two miscues in the field.

“I still have some things to work on, but I think I can stay at shortstop–I think I have the arm strength and the range to play there,” Brignac said. “Aside from getting better at recognizing pitches and getting into good hitter’s counts, I really felt like I needed to continue to prove myself offensively at this level as well. Every level is a new, different challenge and you have to prove yourself every day.

“It’s about having good work habits and really putting your best effort every day–if you want to get better, you have to do the work.”



• Today’s Quick Hits reads more like an injury report . . . Blue Jays outfielder Adam Lind has been out of the lineup for the last three games after sustaining a concussion when he made a diving catch and landed on his chin during a doubleheader against Double-A New Britain on July 15. Lind, who is hitting .312/.356/.541 with 18 homers and 70 RBIs in 340 at-bats at Double-A New Hampshire this season, is listed as day-to-day . . . Braves third baseman Yunel Escobar has no timetable for return after fracturing his right heel during Double-A Mississippi’s 8-4 win against Huntsville on Sunday. The 23-year-old Cuban defector was hitting .284/.371/.383 in 324 at-bats . . . Phillies righthander Scott Mitchinson has been out since June 13 with shoulder tendinitis. The 21-year-old Australian was 3-3, 2.76 with 57 strikeouts in 55 innings at low Class A Lakewood before he was shut down . . . Pirates righthander Clayton Hamilton has also been out since mid-June with a strained oblique. Hamilton, a 17th-round pick of the Padres in 2004, came over to Pittsburgh for infielder Bobby Hill in the offseason. The 24-year-old righthander is 3-4, 4.29 in 57 innings this season and is expected to return to the high Class A Lynchburg rotation next week . . . Wade Davis and Jacob McGee have given low Class A Southwest Michigan one of the most dominant pair of pitching prospects in the minors. With the addition of Matt Walker, that duo is becoming a trio. Walker struck out 10 over six innings last night and allowed just two runs to earn his third win. The 19-year-old righthander was in extended spring training until mid-June and is 3-2, 1.76 in 41 innings with a 36-17 strikeout-walk ratio . . . Travis Wood had been having a rough July, but he rebounded to have his best start of the month last night. The Dayton lefthander allowed three earned runs over seven innings while striking out seven to earn the win and improve his record to 7-2, 4.12 . . . Though his secondary stats put a damper on future projections, Kane County’s Jared Lansford keeps getting good results. The righthander got his ninth win of the season last night as he threw six shutout innings and allowed four hits with three walks and three strikeouts. He is now 9-5, 3.19 with a 39-37 strikeout-walk ratio in 85 innings. Most impressive is that he has allowed only one home run. However, he is not an extreme ground ball pitcher as he has a ground ball-fly ball ratio of 1.12 . . . Righthander Micah Owings rolled to 6-0 for Triple-A Tucson with a win July 18 against Portland, going five innings and allowing five hits and a run. The Sidewinders won 11-1. Owings, a Tulane product playing in the Pacific Coast League in his first full season, has a 3.92 ERA, despite a mediocre 22-20 strikeout-walk ratio. Owings, 23, told the Tucson Citizen: “I felt good. I did some things like a couple of walks and knocks (base hits) . . . I felt better than my other two starts. The last two (starts) I tried to tweak a little bit of my mechanics. I felt better.” . . . Giants righthander Adam Cowart continues to dominate the short-season Northwest League at Salem-Keizer. Cowart pitched seven innings of three-hit ball against Yakima on Wednesday, getting his fifth win of the season. He only gave up one run to the Bears, and struck out two. Cowart is 5-0, 0.53 overall. Cowart was the Giants’ 35th round draft pick from Kansas State this season . . . Rockies righthander Sandy Nin made his first of three rehab starts at Rookie-level Casper Tuesday. Nin went three innings and gave up two unearned runs on a pair of hits. Nin pitched just 32 innings at Triple-A Colorado Springs before going on the disabled list with an elbow injury . . . Royals shortstop Chris McConnell is coming out strong in the Rookie-level Pioneer League, after being reassigned from low Class A Burlington to Idaho Falls. McConnell is 4-for-8 in his first two games with the Chukars, with five RBIs and three runs scored.

Contributing: Matt Eddy, Matt Meyers, Kristin Pratt.