Daily Dish: June 9

See also: Yesterday’s Daily Dish

Mets righthander Mike Pelfrey was impressive in Thursday night’s showdown against Phillies lefthander Gio Gonzalez.

Pelfrey allowed just two hits over seven shutout innings, striking out seven and walking one in Double-A Binghamton’s 5-1 win at Reading. Gonzalez, on the other hand, scuffled.

The Phillies’ 20-year-old lefty allowed five earned runs on four hits–including two home runs by second baseman Tim Batista (one of which was a grand slam in the fourth). Uncharacteristically, Gonzalez walked six and struck out five.

It was his second straight loss, and the Phils’ No. 2 prospect has allowed 10 earned runs over his last 11 innings.

“He was emotional, really letting his emotions getting the better of him,” an American League scout said. “And it had a negative effect on his stuff. His curveball wasn’t something he could rely on and he was trying to blow the fastball by guys.

“He didn’t show a lot of maturity when things weren’t going his way.”

In contrast, Pelfrey was brilliant. Since being called up from high Class A St. Lucie in late April, the Mets’ first-rounder last year out of Wichita State has battled command issues at times, but over his last three starts, the 22-year-old righthander has turned it up a notch. Over a 19-inning span, Pelfrey is 1-0, 1.42 with a 22-4 strikeout-walk ratio. His win against the R-Phils was his first in Double-A.

“He sat at 93-95 (mph) consistently throughout, and touched 97 a few times,” the scout said. “He had real good command of the fastball, and moved it around to make it more effective. He was up, down and in, out–his fastball was unhittable–with a lot of late, downward movement.

“The secondary stuff was just OK. His curveball is a hard, slurvy breaking ball that he just wasn’t commanding well. The changeup was a non-factor that needs work, more in his grip than his arm speed. It looks fine (mechanically), but it doesn’t have much depth to it at all.”


Midwest Melee

Tempers flared in Fort Wayne last night as the Wizards brawled with West Michigan in some heated low Class A Midwest League action.

Fort Wayne starter Stevie Delabar was wild all night and hit West Michigan’s Rafael Mendez in the fourth inning while already trailing 4-0, the second batter he’d hit on the night. On his next pitch, he buzzed Pedro Cotto, close enough that Cotto thought it hit him. While Cotto moved towards first, the two started jawing, a fight ensued and both benches cleared.

“Stevie didn’t have great command tonight. I don’t think he was going and trying to hit anybody intentionally,” Wizards manager Randy Ready told the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Journal-Gazette. “The ball was around (Cotto’s) head, but I know Stevie, he doesn’t operate like that.

“(Cotto) took some strides toward him, said whatever he said and that triggered everything off. Whatever he said to Stevie, I’m not sure. Whatever Stevie said back, then he took the initiative and went after Stevie. Next thing you know, those things happen fast. We try to keep the peace the best we can.”

Five players were ejected, four for Fort Wayne and one for West Michigan. Delebar, designated hitter Kyle Blanks and pitchers Fabian Jimenez and Alfredo Fernandez were tossed for the Wizards while Cotto, who the umpires ruled was not hit, got the boot for the Whitecaps in a game they went on to win 10-3.

The brawl overshadowed a fantastic night for West Michigan’s Michael Hernandez. The leftfielder, who signed as a nondrafted free agent out of Oklahoma State this past offseason, hit for the cycle, and scoring four runs while driving in two.


Yet Another Power Arm

Humberto Sanchez’ stay in Triple-A Toledo promised to be a short one. However, after Thursday, the big righthander might want to make plans for a return visit.

With the Mud Hens rotation a man short, the Tigers chose to challenge Sanchez, sending him to Triple-A for one start. He had certainly earned the promotion, allowing just two earned runs in his previous four Double-A starts, while striking out 32.

Sanchez’ success continued on Thursday, as the righthander allowed just one run over 5 2/3 innings. His five strikeouts brought his season total to 91, just one behind Double-A Reading righthander Scott Mathieson for the minor league lead. Still, Sanchez insists he was far from perfect.

“I didn’t have my fastball located,” Sanchez told the Toledo Blade, “but the other three were working pretty well.”

Following in the footsteps of Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya, Sanchez is thriving on a power arsenal in the Tigers upper levels. Sanchez throws his fastball in the mid 90s with a lot of life, leading to eight groundouts (against three flyouts) on Thursday. However, Sanchez’s breakout in 2006 could be attributed to improved breaking stuff. “I’ve developed a slider now, which has helped me,” Sanchez told the paper.

While Sanchez is still likely to return to Double-A Erie for his next start, it won’t be without leaving an impression. “He pounded the zone with four-seamers and two-seamers,” Mud Hens catcher Brian Peterson told the newspaper. “He threw his offspeed pitches down when he needed to. He pitched unbelievable.”



• Double-A Montgomery infielder Wes Bankston returned to the lineup Thursday after missing all of May with a strained oblique. Bankston showed no ill-effects from the injury, blasting his second home run of the season off Double-A Carolina righthander Anibal Sanchez. Sanchez fell to 2-6, 3.82 in 70 innings after taking the loss in the Biscuits’ 7-1 win Thursday . . . More Marlins in the news, as the club promoted righthander Jose Garcia to Carolina. Garcia went 6-2, 1.87 with 69 strikeouts in 77 innings at high Class A Jupiter. The 21-year-old righthander will make his Double-A debut on Saturday against the Biscuits . . . Mariners outfielder Wladimir Balentien has been out since June 2 after leaving last Monday’s game with a groin pull. The 21-year-old outfielder is hitting .258/.344/.495 with 10 homers and 35 RBIs this season . . . The race to 10 wins in the minors continued last night, as both Triple-A Sacramento righthander Jason Windsor and High-A Kinston lefthander Chuck Lofgren, the minors only two nine-game winners, were scheduled to pitch. However, Lofgren’s game was cancelled after four innings, and Windsor failed to capitalize, allowing eight earned runs over 5 1/3 innings in a no decision . . . Triple-A Tacoma scored 18 runs on Thursday, led by shortstop Adam Jones’ three doubles. The Mariners top prospect is heating up after a slow start, collecting 13 hits in his last eight games, including six doubles and three home runs . . . Mark Rogers can’t get a break. The 2004 first-round pick has won just three games in his career, including last week’s season-first W in the Florida State League. The Brevard County righthander deserved a better fate last night as well as he put together his second straight strong start for the Manatees, striking out 10 and walking two in seven innings. He gave up just two hits and one unearned run in his matchup with Gaby Hernandez, who struck out eight in six scoreless frames. Jupiter won 4-2 by scoring three in the eighth as the Manatees got just two hits. With 19 whiffs in his last two starts (13 2/3 innings), Rogers’ 12.81 strikeouts per nine innings was leading the minor leagues.

Contributing: John Manuel.