Daily Dish: July 28

See also: Yesterday’s Daily Dish

Apparently, someone forgot to tell Scott Elbert that the jump from high Class A to Double-A is the hardest in the minors.

After earning a promotion to Jacksonville three weeks ago, Elbert had the best outing of his season on Thursday night.

In seven scoreless innings, the hard-throwing lefthander allowed just
two hits and three walks in a 2-0 win over the Montgomery Biscuits. His
13 strikeouts tied a season-high.

“We just got overmatched by him,” Montgomery manager Charlie Montoyo
told the Montgomery Advertiser. “He’s got a good arm and a good future
ahead of him.”

Before his big future becomes reality, however, the Dodgers knew Elbert
would have to take his bumps and bruises. In his previous start, Elbert
had one of his worst outings of the season–a five-inning, five run
performance that ended in his first Double-A loss. Bouncing back in the
way Elbert did impressed the Jacksonville coaching staff.

“His velocity tonight was better than in his last start and was more
consistent,” Jacksonville manager John Shoemaker told the newspaper.
“He really threw the ball great.”

Elbert’s success on Thursday was keyed by deception, as he mixed his
pitches well. The southpaw has excellent stuff, including a low 90s
fastball that touches 94, a breaking ball that is developing
consistency while mixing in a change. More important than the velocity
on Thursday was the way Elbert used his arsenal.

“For the first five innings, he relied on his fastball, the last two on
his off-speed stuff,” catcher A.J. Ellis said. “He gave a totally
different look the last time through the order.”

Elbert’s big outing was enough to get the better side of a pitching
duel. Montgomery’s Jim Magrane picked up the loss despite allowing
just one earned run in seven innings.

It was Elbert’s third big start in four chances since joining
Jacksonville–all three times he allowed two or fewer hits. For the
season, the southpaw has given up just 69 hits in 107 innings, striking
out 129.

“He’s learning every time he gets out there and he’s getting better,” catcher A.J. Ellis told the newspaper.

It’s hard to imagine Elbert being much better than he was on Thursday.


Baez Struggles With Offspeed

After emerging as a prospect last season in the short-season New
York-Penn League, 2006 has been a major disappointment for the
Phillies’ Welinson Baez. Things have picked up a little bit over the
last couple of days though as Baez had his second three-hit game of the
season Wednesday and added an RBI double and a walk last night.

“I am learning a little bit every day,” Baez told the Asbury
ParkPress. “I have been working on staying back when I am at the
plate.’ Learning to hit the offspeed pitch and the curveball has been
hard, I am trying to learn not to swing at it.”

Command of the strike zone has been a huge problem for the 22-year-old
who is now hitting .219/.284/.328 with 119 strikeouts and 25 walks in
311 at-bats. The Dominican was rated as the Phillies No. 7 prospect
entering the season after hitting .324/.408/.524 for short-season
Batavia last year.



• Padres third baseman Matt Antonelli
returned to the lineup for short-season Eugene after missing seven days
with a hand contusion. The 17th overall pick from Wake Forest went
0-for-2, but scored four times, by virtue of reaching on an error and
three walks.

• Astros righthander Jason Hirsh
won his PCL-leading twelfth game yesterday for Triple-A Round Rock, and
has won his last 11 decisions. Just as impressive, the 24-year-old
hurler set a Round Rock record with a streak of 46 2/3 innings without
allowing an earned run. Fresno first baseman Lance Niekro,
who was optioned by the Giants earlier this month, broke Hirsh’s steak
with an RBI single in the sixth inning of Round Rock’s 6-1 win last
night. The Athletics’ Kirk Saarloos set the old mark in 2002 with 27 scoreless innings.

On his win streak, Hirsh told the Austin America-Statesman: “I just
have to keep rolling. You can’t win unless you score runs, so I think
it is a testament to our offense.” Hirsh, the starter for the U.S. Team
at this year’s Futures Game, is 12-2, 2.03 with 111 strikeouts and 49
walks in 128 innings.

Nelson Cruz’ hot hitting was not enough to keep him in the Brewers
organization. The Triple-A Nashville outfielder was part of the Carlos Lee-for-Kevin Mench and Francisco Cordero
blockbuster consummated late Thursday with the Rangers. Cruz hit his
20th home run in his final game for Nashville, which moved him within
four of Portland’s Jon Knott
for the PCL lead. Cruz, 26, was hitting .323 in July, with hits in all
but five games. For the season, Cruz is hitting .302/.378/.528 with 17
stolen bases.

• Don’t look now, but Jarrod Saltalamacchia
is heating up in Double-A Mississippi. With two home runs on Thursday,
it gives the catcher five in his last nine games. In the ten games he’s
played in this month, Salty’s hitting .323 with just four strikeouts
and 11 walks.

•Dodgers righthander Jon Meloan,
who dominated the low Class A South Atlantic league as a reliever, is
having little trouble with the transition to a starting role at high
Class A Vero Beach. Meloan, a fifth-round pick out of Arizona in 2005,
posted a 1.54 ERA and 41-7 strikeout-walk ratio in 23 relief innings at
low A Columbus. He made his second start (and third appearance) for
Vero Beach on Thursday against Fort Myers, allowing two runs on five
hits and no walks over 5 2/3 innings, while striking out a career-high
12. His electric fastball has reportedly been clocked as high as 98 mph
for Vero Beach.

• Low Class A Lexington put on a hit parade last night in Savannah as
they crushed the Sand Gnats 13-2. Their 20-hit onslaught was led by
the top of their lineup. Josh Flores, the leadoff hitter, went 4-for-6 with his sixth home run of the
season and raised his line to .264/.318/.366. J.R. Towles, the No. 2 hitter, went 4-for-5 with
his ninth homer of the season and is now hitting .326/.395/.549.

• West Virginia righthander Will Inman
continues to dominate. He threw five more scoreless innings last night
and earned his seventh win of the season. He has now not allowed a run
in six of his last seven outings and is 7-1, 1.23 with a 79-15
strikeout-walk ratio in 66 innings.

Contributing: Matt Eddy