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Baseball America's Daily Dish
Complete Daily Dish Archive
Compiled by Kevin Goldstein, Chris Kline and Matt Meyers
FREDERICK, Md.--With all the big power on the U.S. roster for this year's Futures Game, one of the most electric bats comes from someone you might not expect--a tall, skinny shortstop from high Class A Rancho Cucamonga.
Angels shortstop Brandon Wood started to blossom into a legitimate power threat last year in the Midwest League, but this season he's in full bloom.
Heading into the all-star break, Wood was hitting .306/.358/.661 in 304 at-bats. He was also tied with Dodgers' third baseman Andy LaRoche for the minor league lead with 26 homers.
We sat down with Wood before a TV interview at the Carolina-California League all-star game Tuesday to discuss his breakout year, heading to the Futures Game and his relationship with his middle infield partner, Howie Kendrick.
On going from a wiry strong infielder to one of the top power hitters in the minors: "Early in my high school years I was kind of a skinny guy--and I still am--and I always tried to get better with the glove. But my senior year I really started to work on my bat and was hitting some home runs. I only hit 11 last year. This year, I'm just taking advantage of pitches I can hit and not missing them as much as I was last year. I'm capitalizing on certain pitches and feel like I'm doing a much better job at that now."
On the high number of strikeouts in his career: "I'm striking out more than I would like, and my two-strike approach definitely could be better. I still try to get big a little bit with two strikes and try to drive the ball. I'm going to have a few more strikeouts and that might be just the way it goes, but I'm working at it to try to improve my strikeout-to-walk ratio. I'm going to need that in the future as I mature more as a hitter."
On looking at the next level in the Angels' system, where the middle infield tandem of Alberto Callaspo and Erick Aybar are having solid seasons as well: "Howie told me my first day in mini-camp after I signed that you can't ever look ahead of where you are. You have to worry about the team you're on and what you're doing to move through the system. My goal is to succeed at every level I'm at and let everything take care of itself."
On the last movie he saw: "Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Brad Pitt showed a little comedy and it's never bad to have to look at Angelina Jolie for two hours. She's the best visual effect ever."
On being named to the Futures Game: "My first reaction was what an honor it is. I'm obviously excited. Going there and representing our organization is going to be a blast. To be honest, I think Howie is the best hitter in the minor leagues and that opportunity should be there for him as well. I'd like to be going with him--you don't come across hitters like Howie too much. I think that's the only thing that could make it a little bit better."
There have been some changes on the U.S. roster for the Futures Game, as the Marlins called up catcher Josh Willingham to the big leagues and Pirates lefthander Zach Duke is slated to start Saturday at Milwaukee. Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta has been named to replace Willingham, and Pirates lefthander Paul Maholm with take Duke's roster spot. Iannetta, a fourth-round pick in 2004 out of North Carolina, was hitting .278/.396/.460 with six homers and 40 RBIs in 198 at-bats at high Class A Modesto this season. Maholm, a first-round pick in 2003 out of Mississippi State, is 4-2. 3.39 in 64 innings at Double-A Altoona this year. One other roster spot will have to be ironed out as Pirates righthander Ian Snell is now pitching out of the bullpen in Pittsburgh.
One more note from the Carolina-California League all-star game and then we'll let it go--at the pre-game luncheon, high Class A High Desert third baseman (now outfielder) Billy Butler approached Braves catcher Jared Saltalamacchia. After the two exchanged greetings, Saltalamacchia was thinking their roles should be reversed. "I played with him at the World Wood Bat a couple years ago. I'm like a year or two older and he kind of looked up to me for some reason. Now I'm like 'whatever.' An awful lot of people are looking up to him right now, and I mean, the guy just turned 19. It's unbelievable." Through the first half, Butler was hitting .367/.449/.686 with 18 bombs and 60 RBIs in 229 at-bats.
Good news, bad news for the Brewers. The club promoted outfielder Nelson Cruz to Triple-A Nashville, and reassigned outfielder Brad Nelson to Double-A Huntsville. Cruz, recently named to the Futures Game, was hitting .306-16-54 in 248 at-bats for the Stars this season. Nelson was the Brewers' top prospect in 2003 after leading the minors with 49 doubles and 116 RBIs as a 19-year-old, but appears to be falling down the organizational ladder. In 269 at-bats for the Sounds this season, the fourth-round pick in 2001 was hitting .253 with 70 strikeouts.
Blue Jays' righthander Dustin McGowan continues to impress in his return from Tommy John surgery last year. McGowan, a supplemental first-round pick in 2000, made the next step last night, allowing just an earned run on five hits in 5 2/3 innings in his Double-A redux at New Hampshire last night. His fastball was consistently in the 91-92 range with good command. In five outings at high Class A Dunedin this season prior to his promotion, McGowan went 0-1, 4.29 with a 20-5 strikeout-walk ratio in 21 innings.
Rochester righthander Travis Bowyer, whose fastball tops out at 98 mph, easily dispatched Indianapolis in the ninth yesterday to earn his 17th save of the year in a 4-1 win over the Indians. Bowyer will represent the Twins in the Futures Game along with teammate Francisco Liriano, who was recently promoted to Triple-A after notching three double-digit strikeout games for New Britain of the Eastern League.
Rangers outfielder Vince Sinisi continues to swing a hot bat. The 2003 second-round pick out of Rice went 3-for-4 in last night's 5-1 loss to Double-A Tulsa and is now 8-for-17 (.471) in four games for Frisco after batting .363-6-22 in 135 at-bats for high Class A Bakersfield.
Cubs righthander Grant Johnson, a 2004 second-round pick out of Notre Dame who was the club's top selection in last year, picked up his first pro win last night, firing six shutout innings. He allowed just one hit and struck out six in low Class A Peoria's 3-0 win over Cedar Rapids. Johnson, who signed too late to make his debut last year and saw his 2005 debut delayed by a hamstring injury, is 1-1, 3.27 in four starts for the Chiefs. He's allowed 15 hits in 22 innings.
Off to a strong start in the short-season New York-Penn League is Tigers outfielder Clete Thomas. A sixth-round pick out of Auburn, Thomas hit his first pro home run last night in Oneonta's 9-4 win over Vermont last night, and is batting .379-1-3 in 29 at-bats with eight runs scored in eight games.
Professional baseball has been pretty kind to righthander Kevin Slowey thus far, but he was a bit unlucky last night. The Twins second-round pick out of Winthrop this year got the blown save for Rookie-level Elizabethton as he allowed the game-winning hit in a 9-8 loss to Johnson City. However, the run belonged to Dutch lefthander Alexander Smit, who he relieved, and Slowey threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings while striking out two. On the season, Slowey has given up one run in 7 2/3 innings while fanning 15 and walking none.
Eric Beatties second pro outing didnt go so well. The Tigers' second-round pick in 2004 out of Division II Tampa walked four and struck out two, giving up a run in the GCL Tigers' 9-1 loss to the Yankees. Beattie, the 2003 Cape Cod League pitcher of the year, struggled mightily with his command in instructional league last year and has four wild pitches and five walks in his first two pro innings.
Braves second baseman Brandon Monk, an Auburn recruit that the Tigers really wanted to keep, connected on his first professional home run Wednesday in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. A seventh-round pick this year from LaGrange (Ga.) High, Monk was 5-for-16 with a pair of doubles, two walks and a strikeout in his first taste of pro ball. Righthander Kyle Cofield, an eight-round pick this year from Southside High of Gadsden, Ala., picked up his first save with three shutout, hitless innings. Both players were signed by area scout Al Goetz.
Tigers shortstop Audy Ciriaco, 18, has hit safely in each of the five games he's played with the GCL Tigers. Ciriaco is 10-for-22 with a triple, two home runs and six RBIs.
The Marlins stocked up on high-ceiling pitchers with their first five picks in this year's draft, including first-rounder Chris Volstad, a righthander out of Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) High. Volstad made his second appearance in the GCL Wednesday, allowing four runs--one earned--on five hits in four innings.
Dodgers outfielder Sergio Pedroza made his professional debut Wednesday in the Rookie-level Pioneer League. A third-round selection out of Cal State Fullerton this year, Pedroza went 2-for-2 with a walk and a stolen base.
Contributing: Dan Friedell, John Manuel, Alan Matthews.