Daily Dish: May 8

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

Coming into Sunday’s start at Kinston, Astros’ lefthander Troy Patton was consistently falling behind hitters over his first five outings, which led to his 0-3, 3.85 numbers over 21 innings.

That wasn’t Patton’s problem Sunday as he worked ahead early, but still wound up getting hit hard. The 20-year-old lefty allowed five runs on seven hits, struck out five and walked three over 5 1/3 innings in high Class A Salem’s 9-5 loss to Kinston.

“He started off throwing well, but he got out of his game plan pretty quickly,” a scout from an American League club said. “The life on his stuff was very good, but it really looked like he started to press a little bit when he got into trouble.”

And the trouble came in the very first inning, as Patton went right after Kinston leadoff hitter Argenis Reyes, getting him in an 0-2 hole after two 93 mph fastballs. But Reyes reached out on an 0-2 changeup and lifted it over third for a double. It happened again to the second hitter, shortstop Brian Finegan, after Patton fired another 93 mph fastball to get ahead 0-1. Finegan then singled to left, and bringing center fielder Trevor Crowe to the plate.

Patton walked Crowe on four pitches, then gave up a two-run single to Stephen Head that gave the K-Tribe a 2-0 lead.

But aside from falling out of his rhythm early, Patton still showed quality stuff. His fastball consistently ranged from 91-93 and topped out at 94 several times.

“He just didn’t deal with adversity very well,” the scout said. “The stuff is definitely there. He had good life on his fastball and I thought he used that hammer (curve) very well. He’d spotted it in and out of the zone at times. His changeup was just OK, but that might have had something to do with the conditions.”

While the game was played in a constant rain that fluctuated anywhere from persistent drizzle to all-out downpours, it didn’t seem to affect Indians lefthander Chuck Lofgren one bit.

Lofgren cruised through his outing, allowing just one hit over seven shutout innings. He whiffed nine and walked one.

No Salem hitter reached base until the fourth, when the 20-year-old lefthander allowed a two-out walk to infielder Neil Sellers. But Lofgren came right back with heat, striking out catcher Lou Santangelo on three pitches to end the inning.

Lofgren gave up his only hit in the fifth–a chopper to the right of the mound by Beau Torbert that Lofgren leaped to field, but the ball skipped off his glove for a single.

Lofgren was all over the place in terms of velocity, ranging anywhere from 84-91 mph. He located his curveball well to both sides of the plate and his changeup, which emerged last season at low Class A Lake County, is a viable weapon in his arsenal.

“He changed speeds very, very well,” the scout said. “In terms of delivery, there’s an awful lot of deception there, which makes his changeup even more dangerous. He starts slowly (into his wind) and then just explodes. He’s right on top of you before you know it.”

With Kinston’s win, Patton now falls to 0-4, 4.72 in 26 innings, while Lofgren is now 5-1, 1.67 in 32 innings.


Up And Coming In Hagerstown

While the New York Mets’ starting pitchers have been dropping like flies, their rotation at low Class Hagerstown got a huge influx of talent this weekend.

Righthanders Deolis Guerra and Bobby Parnell made their debuts for the Suns this weekend and while neither was spectacular, Hagerstown now boasts three of the Mets top pitching prospects when you add lefthander Jon Niese, who is 4-0, 3.42, into the mix.

Guerra, who turned 17 on April 17, signed for $700,000 last summer out of Venezuela and Saturday was his pro debut. He got a bit of a trial by fire as he was pitching at Lakewood, the biggest draw in the South Atlantic League, on a day when they allowed dogs into the ballpark as a promotion.

Guerra’s debut was delayed by some minor shoulder soreness during spring training. Because of his age and lack of experience, the organization was understandably cautious before allowing him to make his debut.

The 6-foot-5, 200-pounder lasted just two innings and took the loss as he allowed two earned runs on three hits and three walks while striking out two. His fastball touched 89 mph and he showed the ability to maintain his arm speed on his plus changeup. His curveball lack consistency however, and will be a point of focus throughout the season.

“He had some problems getting the ball down in the zone and walks eventually caught up with him,” pitching coach Shawn Barton said. “We got him out of there with minimum damage done as far as numbers go. We just introduced him to the league and pro ball and we got him out and we will run him back out there in five days and do it all over again.”

Parnell led the short-season New York-Penn League in ERA in his debut last summer, but had his full season debut delayed by a strained oblique suffered just before the start of spring training. Yesterday the 21-year-old allowed two unearned runs in three innings while fanning three and walking two and took a no-decision as Hagerstown fell to Lakewood 3-2.

“We had to take him out of the game a little earlier then we wanted to because he had a 33-pitch inning,” Barton said. “There was kind of a costly error behind him which kept the inning alive. He kind of lost focus a little bit and walked a few guys.

“Our Mets policy is that we don’t want kids throwing over 30-pitch innings and he was at 33 so we didn’t want to run him back out there, especially coming off of an injury.”

Parnell threw a total of 64 pitches and had his fastball was clocked as high as 92 mph and he showed strong feel for his changeup.


Wood Rehabs

It wasn’t in the big leagues, but Cubs fans have to be excited to see Kerry Wood dominating, even if it was against Midwest League hitters.

The righthander made a rehab start yesterday against Lansing and was simply dazzling, as he fanned 12 over five innings while allowing only one hit and one walk.

“I feel great,” Wood told the Peoria Journal-Star. “I feel like the work that I’ve put in through this rehab is showing for me. I feel good when I’m out there. I didn’t get winded.”

The 28-year-old’s fastball touched 97 mph for Peoria and his first 10 outs were all by strikeout.

“I thought I made pretty good pitches today,” Wood told the paper. “I was impressed most with the location–the fastball the first few innings, then the breaking stuff the third, fourth and fifth innings. You try to go out and make pitches, regardless of what level you’re at.”

Wearing his typical No. 34 (a jersey he borrowed from reliever Ed Campusano), Wood looked sharp, a week after making his first rehab start in extended spring training. He will make one more rehab start, most likely for Triple-A Iowa, before rejoining the Cubs.

The start came eight years and one day after his legendary 20-strikeout performance against the Houston Astros.


End Of The Speed Bumps?

Every season a player muscles himself onto the prospect map only to hit a speed bump in his follow-up effort, usually when faced with the higher caliber of arms in the high minors. Naturally, the prospect’s status takes a hit.

For Yankees center fielder Melky Cabrera that momentum halt came last season, when he was thoroughly unimpressive at three levels. Most memorably, he hit .211/.211/.211 and looked lost in the field during his emergency callup to New York last June.

Cabrera, 22, has atoned for his poor showing by ripping International League pitching over the season’s first five weeks. Add it up, and he’s at .376/.423/.564, with IL-leading totals for hits (11), home runs (3) and RBIs (8) over the past week. And now with Yankees right fielder Gary Sheffield headed to the DL, Cabrera might be in line for a promotion.

Cabrera had bounded up the Yankees prospect list after a strong 2004 season with the bat. As a 20-year-old in his first full season, Cabrera spent most of the year at high Class A Tampa, where he hit .288 with enough power and discipline to hint at better things.



• Phillies lefthander Cole Hamels rolls on: He’s got 36 strikeouts and one walk in his three Triple-A starts. Opponents are hitting .130 . . . Triple-A Oklahoma has lost nine straight games, which includes two starts from Rangers’ No. 1 prospect Edinson Volquez . . .  Red Sox lefthander Abe Alvarez is the IL’s winningest pitcher after Sunday’s win over Rochester. Alvarez now stands at 5-0, 2.18 in 41 innings. Alvarez is proving himself against lefties, to whom he’s allowed just five hits in 30 at-bats (.167). Righties are hitting just .205, but have been able to get the ball in the air more frequently, with 49 flyouts compared with 34 groundouts. Alvarez, 23, has surrendered all four of his home runs to righthanded batters . . . Michael Schlact, who left his last start early after taking a come-backer off of his ankle, threw off of a mound Friday in front of Rangers pitching coordinator Rick Adair. The 20-year-old righthander is 0-1, 4.56 in 24 innings at high Class A Bakersfield.

Contributing: Aaron Fitt.