Weekend Dish

KINSTON, N.C.–Orioles righthander Radhames Liz continued his domination of the high Class A Carolina League on Saturday night, allowing just one hit over six shutout innings in Frederick’™s 5-1 win against Kinston.

And oddly enough, even his mistakes were effective.

With his six strikeouts over those six masterful innings, the 22-year-old Dominican–who is pitching in his first full season–now has a 56-16 strikeout-walk ratio in just 38 innings of work. A couple of fastballs got away from Liz, plunking a pair of hitters, and his curveball was inconsistent because of a mechanical flaw, but none of that gave the Indians hitters any help.

While all those numbers are impressive, there is another intriguing fact about Liz. When he unleases his 95 mph fastball with an effortless delivery, his right shoulder makes what can best be described as a clicking sound.

“People say you can hear it when it’™s quiet enough, even from the stands,” Liz said. “But it’™s OK. It’™s always been that way and it’™s nothing to be worried about. I’™m fine. I just go out there and do my job when it’™s my turn.”

Indians hitters weren’™t happy with either the clicking sound or the fact it was Liz’™ turn on Saturday. After hitting leadoff hitter Argenis Reyes to start the game, Liz didn’™t allow another baserunner until there was one out in the fourth, when he plunked catcher Wyatt Toregas.

He didn’™t give up Kinston’™s only hit against him until there were two outs in the sixth, as Liz left an 0-2 fastball up in the zone and shortstop Brian Finegan roped a line drive into right field for a single.

But he came right back to whiff Tribe first-rounder Trevor Crowe swinging at a 93 mph fastball as the last hitter he faced in his seventh start this season.

Liz used primarily two pitches the entire game–a fastball and curve–though his curveball varied in speed and break down in the zone. His fastball topped out at 95 mph, sitting in the 92-94 range; and he maintained his velocity through the sixth.

In fact, Liz only threw three fastballs below 90 mph all night, and one of those was on the first pitch of the game–which sailed up and in, hitting Reyes on the shoulder.

“His fastball command and velocity were outstanding tonight,” Keys pitching coach Blaine Beatty said. “A couple got away from him, but he really hit his spots well for the most part all night.”

Liz’™s curveball might still be described as a work in progress, but as he changed speeds with it Saturday–due to a mechanical flaw in his delivery–it did nothing to keep hitters guessing. More or less, even his mistakes were good.

His curve looked completely different at times–sometimes it broke hard with good depth and looked more like a slurve and at other times it was a big, loopy 12-to-6 pitch that still had effectiveness.

But when Liz threw it correctly keeping his body out in front of his remarkably long arms, it’™s a harder, slurvy breaking ball with downward life and not the loopy curve that has the tendency to hang up in the zone.

“It just changes,” Beatty said. “The ones that were up were the ones that he just got a little bit behind, and the ones that were good and down were the ones he got out in front with. It’™s been an issue we’™ve been addressing to get him to stay down in the zone, especially from the stretch.

“He stayed pretty consistent with it tonight. He pitched tonight, he used his offspeed pitch when he was behind in the count and that’™s what you look for. It’™s the same pitch, he’™s just not getting out in front with it on the bad ones.”

Liz also throws two variations of a changeup, and can locate the pitch to both sides of the plate–though he’™s been using it sparingly so far this season and only threw four on Saturday.

Needless to say, Liz has a history of striking out hitters in bunches going back to last season at short-season Aberdeen, when he whiffed 15 in six innings, then posted double-digit strikeout numbers twice at low Class A Delmarva.

He already has two double-digit strikeout games this year–in his first start April 12 in a combined no-hitter against Salem, and then he put up 11 K’™s against Potomac two weeks later.

But he’™s not worried about strikeout numbers, let alone no-hitters or even flirting with them.

“I don’™t think about strikeouts at all,” Liz said. “If I get a lot of strikeouts, then I’™m throwing a lot more pitches. If they put it in play, then maybe I’™m not throwing so many. I never think about the no-hitter, if it happens, it happens. I just try to stay consistent. I’™m just there to do my job and that’™s to get hitters out.”

By far the best quote of the night on Liz’™s performance came from an American League scout, referring to Liz’™s extremely long arms–standing still, his fingers stretch just below the knees on his 6-foot-2 frame: “Man, having that kind of lever length makes for an easy 93-94 (mph) every time. Those are some of the longest arms, and longest fingers I’™ve ever seen.”

Don’™t You (Forget About Me)

he missed all of spring training with a broken right hand, then missed
more time with a sore intercostal muscle on the right side of his
ribcage, and the fact that he switched teams in the offseason,
Diamondbacks outfielder Chris Young has tended to get a little lost in
the shuffle so far this season.

Just don’™t think he’s out of the loop, regardless of playing catch up.

still here and I’™m doing fine now that I can finally get on the field
and play again,” Young said. “I’™ll tell you, it was a little
frustrating coming to a new team, already hurt and not being able to
perform. I had never been traded before, but you want to be able to get
out there and show your new teammates what you can do.

“All I
was doing was sitting in the clubhouse or sitting in the training room
or rehabbing to get strength back. You try to stay as close to game
shape as possible. That’™s about all you can do is be prepared as best
you can.”

Young was dealt to Arizona last year in the Javier
Vazquez deal, and broke his hand during a training drill in Florida
where he was working out just before spring training. He was doing
exercise drills jumping on and off a wooden box when he hit the back of
his hand on the box, breaking the third metacarpal bone.

after missing spring training, Young worked hard to rehab the injury
and finally feels confident and comfortable these days at Triple-A

“I’™m 100 percent now,” Young said. “And as for the hand,
it feels totally normal again. If it didn’™t, I wouldn’™t be back just
yet. So far, the PCL isn’™t much different than where I played last year
(Double-A Birmingham). It’™s still just baseball to me. I still have to
go out and compete every day.”

Through his first 48 at-bats,
Young is hitting .250/.345/.417 with a homer and 10 RBIs. The
16th-round pick in 2001 just wants to stay healthy from here on out to
prove to his new team that he belongs.

“My first game back from
the ribcage injury, I was a little tentative,” Young said. “But there’™s
nothing with the hand at all. I think I got some confidence back over
the weekend. I just feel real comfortable here. I know the area from
spending four seasons with the White Sox in the same spring training
complex in Tucson, so now it’™s just a matter of going out and getting
it going.”

Tough Luck, Chuck

While Liz was dominating Kinston hitters, Indians lefthander Chuck Lofgren was battling inconsistency with his changeup, along with some shoddy defense behind him in the Keys’™ win.

Lofgren allowed four runs–two earned–on six hits, walked three and struck out three over five innings to fall to 5-2, 1.93 in 37 innings on the season.

“I thought he threw the ball really well,” Indians special assistant of baseball operations Tim Belcher said. “He was a victim of some messed up plays and we didn’™t play real well behind him. And that’™s OK too, because part of development is watching guys to see how they pitch through those types of situations–how they react emotionally and whether or not they can get through it and maintain their poise.

“His changeup wasn’™t as good tonight as it’™s been. Last time out he was pretty much fastball-changeup and he had success. (Saturday), it was more fastball-breaking ball. But ideally, we want to get to the point where he can command all three of them in the strike zone. He has at times in the past and he will show flashes of it–we’™re just looking for that consistency from outing to outing.”

In his delivery, the 20-year-old lefty starts out a little slowly over the rubber, then speeds up his motion midway through, which creates much of his deception–particularly against righthanded hitters.

“He’™s more slow in his body turn over the rubber, but he’™s got a quick hand out of the glove up to the throwing position and he’™s got a lot of energy out front,” Belcher said. “A guy that’™s borderline high three-quarters from the left size with some size like him and has that energy out front, makes you think a little bit about guys like Chuck Finley and bigger type lefties that come at you with a downhill angle. They’™re not the little feel to pitch, soft-tossing lefties. There’™s a lot to like in Chuck Lofgren.”


• Brewers righthander Carlos Villanueva tossed a complete game one-hitter in Double-A Huntsville’™s 4-0 win against Tennessee on Saturday. Villanueva, who was traded by the Giants to Milwaukee in 2004, allowed just one hit–a single by Tennessee catcher Miguel Montero in the first inning–then retired 24 consecutive Smokies before issuing a two-out walk to second baseman Danny Richar in the ninth to snap the streak. In an understatement, Tennessee manager Bill Plummer told the Knoxville News Sentinel, “He kind of overmatched us.” On the season, the 22-year-old Dominican is 4-2, 3.23 and leads the Southern League with 47 strikeouts . . . We always like to mention double-digit strikeout performances in the weekend edition of dish–and there were a bunch of them this weekend. So without further ado, props go out to Double-A West Tenn righthander Carlos Marmol (11 strikeouts, Saturday), Double-A New Britain lefthander Glen Perkins (10 strikeouts, Saturday), Triple-A Norfolk righthander Evan MacLane (12 strikeouts, Saturday), high Class A Salem lefthander Troy Patton (10 strikeouts, Friday), Double-A Frisco righthander Thomas Diamond (11 strikeouts, Saturday), Double-A Tennessee righthander Micah Owings (11 strikeouts, Friday), and Double-A Reading lefthander Daniel Haigwood (10 strikeouts, Friday) . . . One of the best pitching matchups over the weekend pitted Triple-A Buffalo lefthander Jeremy Sowers against Ottawa righthander Hayden Penn. Sowers wound up on the winning end, scattering five hits over seven innings in Buffalo’™s 3-1 win Saturday. Penn allowed two earned runs on five hits, walked four and struck out five over 6 1/3 innings . . . We usually wait until today’™s Prospect Hot Sheet to unveil who’™s hot and who’™s not, but here’™s a sneak preview in the not-so hot department: Rangers righthander Armando Galarraga is struggling at Double-A Frisco to the tune of a 6.16 ERA. Now while that might not sound all too bad this early in the season, Galarraga, who came over to Texas in the Brad Wilkerson deal, has allowed 48 hits in 30 innings. He lost three outings in a row to start the year, got a no-decision in his fourth start, and after Saturday’™s loss, has put together another three-game losing streak.