Daily Dish: July 20

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

Over the last six weeks, Mets fans have gotten a good look at Lastings Milledge and Mike Pelfrey, who are clearly the organization’™s top two prospects and have performed admirably at the big league level. The organization’s next best four prospects are still in Class A, but their performances over the last two days certainly have been impressive, and show signs that there is life beyond Milledge and Pelfrey.

Lefthander Jon Niese led that group, throwing a complete game shutout Wednesday for low Class A Hagerstown as the Suns thrashed Lexington 9-0.

“He was outstanding last night,” Suns pitching coach Shawn Barton said. “The use of his changeup was a big key for me. It is a pitch that has been lacking in terms of using it. Our goal was to mix it in and he established all three pitches early with command.

“He doesn’™t use the change enough. We were forcing him to throw it last night and it was a great lesson as far as the value of that pitch.”

The lefthander needed only 102 pitches to get through nine innings as he struck out nine and walked two while allowing three hits. Barton noted that it was the first time all season Niese had all three of his pitches working in sync.

“He recorded seven outs on his change and seven strikeouts on his curve,” Barton said. “The curveball had very good break, seven strikeouts on the curve and four of them were looking. When you get four guys looking on the curve like that, you know it is pretty sharp.”

As it has all year, Niese’™s fastball was averaging 89 mph and touching 91. The performance improved his record to 9-6, 3.51 with 106 strikeouts and 50 walks in 97 innings.

Niese got all the support he would need from outfielder Fernando Martinez, who was playing his first game for the Suns since June 10 because of a sprained knee. The 17-year-old went 3-for-4 with his third home run and three RBIs.

Just under 800 miles away, Philip Humber was showing no ill effects as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. The third overall pick in the 2004 draft out of Rice threw five shutout innings for high Class A St. Lucie while allowing four hits and walking none.

Scouts have been giving strong reports on Humber, who has had his fastball sitting 90-94 mph while showing his trademark hammer curve and the occasional power change.

In 26 innings in the Florida State League, the righthander is now 2-1, 3.12 with a 25-5 strikeout-walk ratio.

Their outstanding nights came a day after righthander Deolis Guerra, another 17-year-old, had his best outing of the year for the Suns and lowered his ERA to 2.82 in 54 innings.

Guerra took a no-hitter into the fifth inning and allowed two earned runs over seven innings with eight strikeouts and three walks. Like Niese, it was the first time he had all three of this pitches working together.

“He had his curve going well, and he’d not had the curve going for him all season,” Barton said. “He threw 14 of 19 for strikes. It is a pitch he has been lacking confidence in, but he established it early and was able to throw it behind in the count.

“His change is his best pitch because he gets so many swings and misses on it with deception and great arm speed.”

Due to the changeup, Guerra is more effective against lefthanded hitters (.216 average) than righthanded hitters (.241).


Potent Patton

Troy Patton just keeps on rolling through the Carolina League during the second half. The Astros lefthander won his sixth consecutive start for high Class A Salem on Wednesday, allowing one unearned run on one hit while striking out eight and walking two against Potomac.

“Patton was pitching a fastball most of the time with a curveball and changeup,” Potomac first baseman Luke Montz told the Potomac News. “The lefty keeps you off-balance. He took it to us. It wasn’™t just his first-pitch fastball. He had some defense behind him. We got the one hit, but otherwise it was dead the whole day.”

With the win, Patton finally evened his record at 7-7 after starting out the season 1-7. During his six-start winning streak, he has walked just seven while striking out 31 in 37 innings, posting a 1.22 ERA. He is 4-0, 0.72 in July, helping him lower his season ERA to 2.93. Patton also leads the Carolina League with 102 strikeouts and has just 37 walks in 101 innings.



• The good news for Indians fans: X-rays on Double-A Akron center fielder Trevor Crowe’™s left ankle came back negative, but the bad news is the 2005 first-rounder is likely lost for the remainder of the season. Crowe injured the ankle as he slid into second base during the 10th inning of the Aeros’™ 2-1 win against Altoona on Tuesday. The 14th-overall pick last year out of Arizona had been running wild since being promoted to Akron on July 7, with nine steals in seven games. For now, the plan is to wait for the swelling in the ankle to go down and then have an MRI, but Crowe goes on the disabled list effective today. Indians farm director John Farrell said the hope is that Crowe is healthy enough to play every day in the Arizona Fall League this October . . . The Diamondbacks promoted outfielder Carlos Quentin to the big leagues from Triple-A Tucson today. Quentin, a first-rounder out of Stanford in 2003, was hitting .289/.424/.487 in 318 at-bats this season for the Sidewinders . . . Brad Lincoln made his low Class A debut last night for Hickory, and it was a night to forget. The fourth overall pick by the Pirates out of Houston did not make it out of the fifth inning,as he allowed seven runs on eight hits while walking five and striking out two as the Crawdads fell to Lakewood 9-6. It was the first professional loss for the righthander, who had made two appearances in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League where he did not allow an earned run in eight innings . . . In the midst of our praise for Devil Rays pitching prospects, let’s not overlook righty Andy Sonnanstine, who is too good for the Southern League right now. Sonnanstine has won seven straight decisions, allowing seven runs over 58 innings in that span with 38 strikeouts, seven walks and just 28 hits allowed. Last night, he threw a complete-game two-hitter (his third CG shutout in his last seven starts) in a 7-0 victory against West Tenn. Overall, Sonnanstine is 10-6, 2.79 with an impressive 108-24 strikeout-walk ratio in 135 innings . . . The Diamondbacks have assigned Matt Torra, a supplemental first-rounder in 2005 out of Massachusetts, to low Class A South Bend. The righthander has been out all year while recovering from surgery to repair a slight labrum tear. He will not be pitching in games right away, but the Diamondbacks want him to finish his rehab while part of a team atmosphere . . . Diamondbacks outfielder Chris Rahl hit his California League-leading 34th double (the fourth-most in the minors) as part of his three-hit day for high Class A Lancaster. Rahl, a fifth-round pick out of William & Mary in 2005, is on fire in July, batting .375 in 72 at-bats. He has five multi-hit games in his last seven . . . Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta has been about as hot as a hitter can be since his promotion to Triple-A Colorado Springs. He’™s hit in 12 straight games, and 16 of 18 since joining the Sky Sox, good for a .446/.563/.679 line. “He’™s squaring a lot of balls up,” farm director Marc Gustafson told the Rocky Mountain News. “He’™s not popping them up. He’™s not breaking bats. He’™s jumped right into Triple-A and handled that level well so far. Who knows what would have happened if he didn’™t break the wrist last year. But he’™s recovered, and he’™s where he needs to be right now, putting a little pressure on the front office and definitely from a positive standpoint.” . . . Royals lefthander Brent Fisher had a brilliant game Wednesday in the Rookie-level Arizona League.  He threw six no-hit innings, gave up one unearned run and struck out 11, but took the loss. Fisher was picked in the seventh round of the 2005 draft by the Royals out of Tolleson Union High in Goodyear, Ariz. Last season with the AZL Royals, Fisher went 5-2 with a 3.04 ERA in 50.1 innings . . . The Boise Hawks and the Everett Aqua Sox combined for 32 hits in their contest last night in the short-season Northwest League. The Aqua Sox pulled out a 14-10 win against the Hawks, on the solid performances of outfielder Greg Halman (3-for-4, two HR, three RBIs and four runs scored), and third baseman Leury Bonilla (2-for-5, two HRs, three RBIs).  Boise starter Jose Pina, who gave up seven earned runs in three innings,  was ejected for hitting Halman after Halman’™s two longballs in his first two at-bats. Hawks DH Josh Lansford had quite a game, going 5-for-6 with two RBIs and two runs scored with four singles and a double. Left fielder Tyler Colvin also had three hits and three RBIs, including a double and a triple . . . The Red Sox promoted first baseman Aaron Bates, a third-round pick out of North Carolina State, from short-season Lowell to low Class A Greenville. Bates hit .360/.436/.530 in 100 at-bats with the Spinners.

Contributing: Matt Eddy, Chris Kline, John Manuel, Kristin Pratt.