Wednesday Dish: Little Giants

Third baseman Conor Gillaspie broke out of a 2-for-19 slump by going 4-for-5 with a pair of doubles and four RBIs. Of course, it just so happens that Gillaspie’s San Jose Giants were visiting Lancaster’s Clear Channel Stadium, the home of still 25 mph winds and one of the most extreme hitter’s environments in baseball.

Gillaspie, the Giants’ 2008 supplemental first round pick from Wichita State, made headlines last year when he negotiated a big league callup as part of his deal with the Giants. Sure enough, Gillaspie became the first ’08 draftee to reach the majors and singled off Diamondbacks righthander Dan Haren for this first big league hit. Gillaspie went on to go 1-for-5 in eight big league appearances.

Back in the minors in the high Class A California League to start 2009, Gillaspie has gotten off to a little bit of a scuffling start. Before Tuesday’s outburst, his line had sunk to .239/.370/.328 through 67 at-bats. His four hits Tuesday raised his average nearly 40 points to .278/.402/.389. While he hasn’t hit for much power yet, with only five doubles and one home run to his credit, Gillaspie’s pitch recognition skills have still been on display as he’s already drawn 15 walks in 19 games.

Gillaspie was far from the only Giant to tee off on JetHawks pitching. Left fielder Thomas Neal hit for the cycle, becoming the third player in team history to do so. His at-bats came in all forms as well. Neal homered on the first pitch of the second inning and later finished the cycle ninth inning after an at-bat in which he fouled off five 0-2 pitches before drilling a ball into left center field for a double. Neal raised his line to .364/.468/.652.

In all, the Giants pounded out 24 hits en route to a 17-7 win. The only San Jose player who might not have enjoyed the night was lefthander Madison Bumgarner. The Giants’ top prospect gave up more runs last night (six) than he had in his first three starts combined (one), although only two of the runs he permitted were earned.

Harden Blanks Bandits

Low Class A South Bend righthander Trevor Harden tossed a seven-inning complete game shutout in the first game of a doubleheader against Quad Cities. The 21-year-old 2008 14th rounder from New Mexico JC has allowed only six runs in four starts covering 24 innings. Harden is a high-adrenaline pitcher who may be best suited for the back of the bullpen, but his potential for a three-pitch mix that includes a sinking low-90s fastball as well as his positive early returns from his time in South Bend’s rotation may indicate he could have a future as a starter. Harden has held opponents to a .227 average and piled up a 19-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio, so he may not be long for the Midwest League in any case.

Montero Slugs Away

High Class A Tampa catcher Jesus Montero hit two home runs, giving the Yankees all the offense they would need in a 3-1 win at Lakeland. Montero went 2-for-4 on the night and has four multi-hit games in his last six outings, raising his line to .371/.412/.614 through 70 at-bats. But while Montero’s hitting ablity has never been a question mark, and even the pitching-oriented Florida State League hasn’t slowed him down, the same can’t be said of his defense. However, Montero hasn’t committed any errors nor has he given up any passed balls through nine games behind the plate, although he’s only thrown out five of 23 base stealers.