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Baseball America's Daily Dish
Complete Daily Dish Archive
Compiled by Kevin Goldstein, Chris Kline and Matt Meyers
It all came together for Pirates righthander Ian Snell yesterday at Triple-A Indianapolis.
The pitcher formerly known as Ian Oquendo tossed a no-hitter against Norfolk as the Indians took a 4-0 win. It was the first no-hitter for an Indianapolis hurler since Tom Carroll accomplished the feat on May 24, 1974.
Called by some scouts a poor man’s Pedro Martinez, Snell added a slider to his repertoire last season, and along with his plus fastball, improving changeup and knockout 12-to-6 curveball, he kept Tides hitters at bay all afternoon at Victory Field. A 26th-round pick in 2000 out of high school in Delaware, he threw 101 pitches—72 for strikes—and his fastball averaged 95 mph, topping out at 97.
“He’s a unique individual,” Pirates roving pitching coordinator Gary Ruby said. “He’s one of those lower-round picks that was somewhat under the radar. But he has great stuff. He’s a guy who works hard and has really benefited from structure in our program. He’s a tremendous athlete and yesterday all that work paid off.
“Here’s a guy who never misses a workout, and always does everything we ask him to do. He was a three-pitch guy in the Carolina League two years ago and understood that he needed to add another pitch. Before he did that, he probably (profiled) best as a reliever. But he went out, added a pitch and keeps having success in the rotation.”
With the slider, Snell has a four-pitch mix, throws all of them for strikes and is fearless enough to throw any of his pitches in any count. Though his changeup was lagging behind the other offerings, he threw 20 yesterday and had good results.
“It’s coming along,” Ruby said of the changeup. “But the curveball is very good and the slider was unhittable yesterday. But when you throw as hard as he does, it makes everything else better.”
Snell’s line from yesterday: nine innings, no hits, one walk and nine strikeouts. On the season, he is 6-0, 3.48 with a 52-10 strikeout-walk ratio in 52 innings.
• The knock on Tigers righthander Joel Zumaya is his lack of command, and this year he hasn’t done too much to answer that, leading the Eastern League with 29 walks at Double-A Erie. But his command was the best it’s been all season yesterday in a 2-1 win at Reading. Zumaya walked four, two coming late in the game as he began to tire--though his fastball was still hitting 96 mph.
Zumaya allowed one run on five hits and struck out eight. His fastball consistently was 93-94 mph and topped out at 98, to go along with a slurvy breaking ball and a changeup in the 82-83 mph range.
“The command has always been somewhat of an issue, but he’s got high velocity, great secondary pitches as far as a breaking ball, and his mechanics have been much improved,” Tigers assistant general manager Al Avila said. “A lot of people thought he was going to be your prototypical closer because of the delivery and the command not totally being there yet, but it’s coming along and I still think he has an opportunity to be a successful starter. Again, we’re talking about a high school draft (from 2002) and those kids take a little bit longer anyway. He’s at the right level in Double-A where he should be able to get his pitches down before he moves up to the next level.”
• Congratulations to Jeff Allison for earning his first professional victory. The Marlins righthander looked the best he has in three starts this season as he struck out six over six innings while allowing only one run for low Class A Greensboro. What was more impressive was that it came against Hagerstown, one of the more potent lineups in the South Atlantic League. Allison did not play at all last year and went 0-2, 1.00 in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2003.
• Ranked the No. 3 prospect in a deep Angels system after a strong 2004 in the California League, shortstop Erick Aybar is struggling to repeat that success in Double-A. Aybar was 0-for-3 last night in Arkansas’ 8-5 loss to Tulsa, dropping his season numbers to .232/.293/.296. He is 3-for-31 in his last nine games. Aybar hit .330-14-65 last year for high Class A Rancho Cucamonga with 51 stolen bases.
There was good news at Arkansas, however, when righthander Ervin Santana was limited to just 34 pitches on Friday night for all the right reasons. The 21 year-old was called up to the big leagues for a spot start and is scheduled to make his major league debut Tuesday at Cleveland. After being limited to eight starts in 2004 with shoulder and elbow problems, Santana went 5-1, 2.31 in seven games for the Travelers, recording 32 strikeouts in 39 innings.
• The minor league home run leader is no longer Pirates prospect Brad Eldred, who has 14 between Double-A and Triple-A. It's shortstop Brandon Wood. A 2003 first-round pick by the Angels, he entered the season with 16 career home runs in 186 games, but he hit his 14th and 15th home runs of the year yesterday in Rancho Cucamonga’s 4-2 win over San Jose. Wood is batting .329/.369/.725 in 36 games and has 108 total bases.
• Speedy Phillies outfielder Michael Bourn sat out the last two games of the series against Erie with the flu, but he's expected to return to the lineup tonight against Binghamton. Bourn is hitting .266/.359/.353 in 124 at-bats, with 11 steals in 13 attempts.
• Lefthander Dan Meyer, who came to Oakland as part of the Tim Hudson trade with Atlanta in the offseason, has been shut down indefinitely. Meyer's velocity has been down all season, and he was 1-3, 6.62 at Triple-A Sacramento before being shut down last week. There is no timetable for his return.
• After hovering around the Mendoza Line for most of April, Casey Kotchman is reminding people why he is an elite prospect. After going 2-for-4 yesterday, the Angels first baseman is now 12-for-19 in his last five games for Triple-A Salt Lake. He is batting .277/.383/.346, so he still has not shown power this year.
• The Rangers acquired lefthander Matt Riley this spring from the Orioles in hopes he could finally live up to his potential. He started the season with Texas and gave up 14 earned runs in 12 2/3 innings, so the Rangers sent him down. He cleared waivers and in his first appearance at Triple-A Oklahoma yesterday, he was impressive with three scoreless innings and five strikeouts.
• Red Sox knuckleballer Charlie Zink, who was bombed for 12 earned runs in 3 1/3 innings over two appearances at Triple-A Pawtucket, was sent back to Double-A Portland. Zink had been promoted because Pawtucket was short a pitcher after showing signs of progress at Portland, going 2-1, 6.65 with a 15-8 strikeout-walk ratio in 23 innings. Farm director Ben Cherington said the righthander looks much better than he did in his disastrous 2004 season, when he went 1-8, 5.79 in 93 innings at Portland and 0-2, 5.65 in 14 innings at high Class A Sarasota.
“He still needs to find the consistency with his delivery, work on finding the same arm slot,” Cherington said. “His performance at Portland, despite the high ERA, was actually a lot better than last year—the strikeouts and walks were better, and he was getting a lot of swings and misses. We do think he’s back in the right direction, he’s just got to keep working hard. It gets overlooked with knuckleball pitchers that conditioning and delivery are very important. It’s so important to have an efficient delivery, and you can’t do that unless you’re in good shape. He’s still working on that.”
• Braves lefthander Chuck James was impressive in his first start for Double-A Mississippi, allowing a run on two hits and striking out eight in 4 2/3 innings in a 6-5 win at Mobile. James got little run support at high Class A Myrtle Beach this season but still earned a promotion, going 3-3, 1.08 with 59 strikeouts and eight walks in 42 innings.
• Nationals third baseman Kory Casto has been slumping at the plate, but his defense has drawn attention. A third-rounder in 2003 out of Portland, Casto is hitting .234/.308/.433 with seven homers and 23 RBIs in 141 at-bats at high Class A Potomac. But Casto, whose conversion from outfield to third base was rocky last year, has just two errors in 36 games for the P-Nats this season. “He’s tailed off a little bit at the plate lately,” farm director Adam Wogan said. “But he’s really playing very well defensively. He’s making all the plays and showing good arm strength on his throws. His footwork still needs some work, but he’s shown improvement with his hands and is showing good range there.”
• Dodgers first baseman James Loney went on a tear over the weekend, going 8-for-16 at Double-A Jacksonville. But consistency still eludes the first-round pick from 2002. Loney is hitting .239/.307/.403 with five homers and 19 RBIs in 134 at-bats.
• Indians third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff continues his strong season at high Class A Kinston,going 8-for-13 with three homers, three doubles and 11 RBIs over the weekend. He's hitting .338/.441/.705 with eight home runs and 38 RBIs in 129 at-bats overall.
• Oakland promoted minor league strikeout leader Dallas Braden to Double-A Midland. A 24th-round pick last year out of Texas Tech, Braden went 6-0, 2.68 in seven starts for high Class A Stockton, striking out 64 in 44 innings, including double-digit efforts in his last four games. “He has been outstanding,” Athletics farm director Keith Lieppman said. “He’s only throwing four or five screwballs a game--his change, fastball location and slider are the elements creating his success. He is pounding the zone with strikes.”
• Rangers outfielder Vince Sinisi, who has played just 77 games since getting a $2.07 million bonus as a second-round pick in 2003, has been activated at high Class A Bakersfield and is expected to be in the lineup tonight. Sinisi broke his arm last June in a collision with shortstop Joaquin Arias, and has dealt with an infection and other complications delaying his return. He hit .310-7-40 in 63 games last year in the Cal League.
• The Justin Verlander express continues to roll through the Florida State League. The Tigers righthander allowed one run on four hits over eight innings, striking out 12 in Lakeland’s 3-1 win over Daytona on Saturday. The No. 2 overall pick last June, Verlander is 5-1, 1.43 with 55 strikeouts in 44 innings. “If he continues to pitch as well as he has and continues to work on his command the way that he’s been showing, I would say there is a possibility he could move up to Erie before the season is over,” Avila said.
• It was a rough start to the 2005 season for Oakland outfield prospect Javier Herrera. He was suspended for the first two weeks of the season after testing positive for performance-enhancing substances, and then hit .186 in his first 15 games at low Class A Kane County. Dropped to eighth in the lineup last week, his bat has come alive, as the 20-year-old Venezuelan has gone 9-for-17 with six RBIs in his last four games, raising his numbers to .263/.345/.474 in 19 games.
• A draft-and-follow who received a $1.05 million bonus last year, Royals righthander Luis Cota has looked like a bargain at low Class A Burlington. The 19-year-old struck out 10 over six shutout innings and gave up just two hits in a 2-0 win over Lansing on Friday, lowering his ERA to 1.89 over seven starts.
Contributing: Aaron Fitt, Alan Matthews.