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Daily Dish Archive: May
May 30, 2003

After a short delay at the outset of his career, Cole Hamels is going full-steam ahead. In his first four starts for low Class A Lakewood, the 19-year-old lefthander was 1-0, 1.31 with 32 strikeouts in 20.2 innings.

While many scouts considered him the best high school pitcher in the 2002 draft, half of them eliminated him before draft day because of serious concerns over his health history. Hamels broke the humerus in his left arm as a sophomore at Rancho Bernardo High in San Diego, and didn't pitch again until his senior season. Despite overpowering the competition and showing off 90-94 mph velocity to go with one of the best changeups in the draft and the makings of a plus curveball, questions still lingered as the draft approached.

The Phillies selected him with the 17th overall pick, but didn't sign him to a $2 million bonus until the end of August.

He entered the Phillies fall instructional league after a long layoff without the same stuff he showed in the spring, leaving the organization's brass slightly disappointed.

"I thought in instructional league the disappointment was because he was nave," Phillies assistant GM/scouting and player development head Mike Arbuckle said. "He didn't understand what game shape was at the professional level.

"He was ready this spring, but he had lost some development time last year."

Hamels wasn't quite ready to break camp with a full-season club despite an impressive spring training. Arbuckle said Hamels was held back in April to work on the secondary phases of his game, including holding runners and fielding his position.

By the time the Phillies player development staff decided to promote Hamels, he was dominating in extended spring training.

He fanned 13 of the 17 batters he faced in his final outing, topping out at 94 mph.

He carried that success over to his regular season debut for Lakewood and allowed just one hit with eight strikeouts in five innings.

Hamels has maintained his 90-94 mph velocity, while continuing to baffle hitters with his changeup, curveball and control.

Best of all, he's three years removed from his once potentially career-threatening injury without a setback.


  • Padres second base prospect Jake Gautreau tweaked his elbow Sunday night and has not started a game since. It's not a serious injury, but it just bothers him at times when he throws or swings. He has been taking BP and serving as a pinch hitter and is primed to return to the Double-A Mobile lineup tonight. Gautreau, who also missed time earlier this season with ulcerative colitis, was hitting .244-4-15 in 131 at-bats.

    May 29, 2003

    There might be a few scouting directors out there wondering how righthander Tom Wilhelmsen lasted until the seventh round last year. He's a 6-foot-6, 190-pounder out of the heavily scouted Tucson area. He had plenty of attention pitching in showcases including the Area Code Games, Perfect Game and Team One events.

    If exposure wasn't the problem, how did the Brewers get so lucky to pop a top-five round talent in the seventh?

    Wilhelmsen was pitching with an 85-89 mph fastball and unrefined breaking ball in the fall of 2001. His velocity didn't spike to its current 90-94 mph range until last spring, but as a raw and wiry pitcher, his radar gun readings fluctuated. He pitched the final game of his high school career with strep throat, which caused his velocity to dip into the mid-80s and very well may have scared some teams away.

    On Wednesday, Wilhelmsen tossed the first complete game of his pro career, improving to 5-2, 1.73 for low Class A Beloit. He allowed just five hits, a walk and one unearned run while fanning five over nine innings.

    He topped out at 94 mph, hit 93 in the ninth inning, and used an economical 96 pitches. His curveball is much improved with good depth to compliment the plus arm-side movement on his fastball.

    Wilhelmsen, 19, punched out a career-high 10 in his first pro victory April 20 against Fort Wayne. Opponents have managed a .224 average against (50 hits in 62 innings), with 20 walks and 47 strikeouts.


    • Blue Jays low Class A righthander Brandon League was clocked between 94-98 mph last night while striking out 11 in 8 1/3 innings of work. He improved his record to 2-3, 2.08 for Charleston. League has 52 strikeouts in 60 innings this year.

    • Phillies righthander Robinson Tejeda had his spring training wiped out by visa problems in the Dominican Republic. He had something of a breakthrough two years ago in low Class A Lakewood, where he's scheduled to report now that his papers have been cleared. Tejeda, 21, went 4-8. 3.97 last year for high Class A Clearwater before his season was cut short by a shoulder injury.

    • Yankees Double-A outfielder Jason Grove returned from the disabled list (shoulder strain) with a two home run effort last night for Trenton.

    • Mets Double-A outfielder Ron Acuna is listed as day-to-day with a sore back. He is hitting .295-1-18 with nine steals for Binghamton. "Ronnie needs to get his batteries re-charged," Stearns said after the Mets rapped out 12 hits without him in a 10-1 victory over New Haven. "He hasn't been playing like the Ron Acuna of April. He needs a break right now, and if he needs a few days off, we'll give it to him."

    • Two of last year's top draft prospects made their first starts following promotions last night. For Pirates righthander Bryan Bullington, the first overall pick last June, it was an auspicious one--seven shutout frames for his first win in high Class A Lynchburg. But for Indians righty Jeremy Guthrie, the 22nd overall pick last year, it wasn't so good. He was touched up for eight hits and six runs in 1 2/3 innings for Triple-A Buffalo, the shortest outing of his career. Guthrie went 6-2, 1.44 for Double-A Akron. Bullington was 5-1, 1.39 at low Class A Hickory.

    • Yankees shortstop Erick Almonte landed on the DL with an injured right knee after his first game back in Triple-A Columbus. He hit .272-1-11 for the Yankees while filling in for Derek Jeter.

    • Cole Hamels (1-0, 0.00) faces Merkin Valdez (3-2, 2.50) tonight in South Atlantic League action. The two have combined for 86 strikeouts in 66 innings. Hamels has been clocked as high as 94 in his three starts for Lakewood, while Valdez has topped out at 98 for Hagerstown.

      May 28, 2003

      This isn't the first time David Kelton has moved off third base, but the Cubs think it will be the last.

      At his request, Kelton, hitting .297-4-24 for Triple-A Iowa, shifted from his natural position, third base, to left field. The Cubs planned a similar move in 2001 after Kelton made 15 errors in 54 games at third base for Double-A West Tenn, but he suffered a wrist injury ending his season at that point. He returned to play left field in the Arizona Fall League, with mixed reviews. Last season, the 23-year-old shifted to first base for all but six games during his second year at West Tenn.

      Kelton has been hampered by arm injuries since before the Cubs drafted him in the second round in 1998. A shoulder injury during his senior season may have prevented him from going in the first round. Discomfort in his right arm has led to inconsistent throws and a lack of confidence for Kelton at the hot corner.

      "To his credit, he's tried," Cubs farm director Oneri Fleita said. "He came to us and said "Mentally and physically, I don't think I can do it anymore. He's still be able to focus on both sides. That is a thing people can't miss. When one side isn't gong well, it's easy to let it affect the other."

      Kelton has impressed the big league staff the last two springs, and the organization had long hoped he was the answer at third base. He hit .318 with one home run in 22 at-bats this spring.

      "The premise has always revolved around his bat," Fleita said. "We've got to salvage that bat.

      "You don't teach those type of swings," Fleita said of Kelton's pure stroke. "This year he's made a lot of progress with his strike zone recognition and cutting down his strikeouts."


      • Brewers Double-A righthander Ben Hendrickson was placed on the disabled list at Huntsville with a strained right elbow. Rated the Brewers No. 4 prospect after splitting last year between Class A High Desert and Huntsville, Hendrickson has made just four starts this season. He allowed 17 hits in 13 innings.

      • In more bad news for the Brewers, righthander Ben Diggins was placed on the DL with a partially torn elbow ligament. In eight starts for Huntsville, the 23-year-old was 3-2, 2.36 with 32 strikeouts in 46 innings. He is scheduled to report to the club's extended spring training facility in Maryvale, Ariz.

      • Yankees Double-A outfielder Jason Grove was shelved with a strained right shoulder. He was hitting .303-1-11 in 99 at-bats for Trenton. He has been unable to stay healthy each season since the Yankees drafted him in the third round out of Washington State. A broken hamate bone in his right wrist may have cost him the opportunity to go in the top two rounds in 2000, and he missed that summer after breaking a bone in his foot in a Yankees minicamp. Grove managed to get 451 at-bats in 2001, but he hurt his wrist on a checked swing in April 2002.

      May 27, 2003

      Matt Thornton ranked as the Mariners No. 10 prospect after going 14-7, 2.52 with 192 strikeouts in 157 innings for Class A San Bernardino. A 6-foot-6 lefthander with a lively 90-92 mph fastball and sharp slider, he seemed as though he was on the fast track.

      That was until he was derailed last June. He was 1-5, 3.63 with 52 hits allowed in 62 innings for Double-A San Antonio at the time he blew out his elbow and had to have season-ending Tommy John surgery.

      Thornton, 26, built up his arm strength and pitch counts in extended spring training before returning to the mound two weeks ago in the California League. He struck out 14 in his nine innings of work for Inland Empire, which was enough to earn a promotion to San Antonio.

      Last Friday, Thornton tossed six, one-hit innings and allowed two runs, both unearned, restricted only by an 85-pitch limit. He walked four and fanned five. It was his most encouraging performance on the comeback trail.

      His velocity has recovered to past form, as he was pitching at 90-92 mph, according to Mariners farm director Benny Looper.

      "He's not consistent yet; his slider and changeup aren't back to where they were before the surgery," Looper said. "With any surgery, it takes a while to get a feel back."


      • Another Mariners southpaw on the comeback from arm troubles, Ryan Anderson, took the mound in extended spring training for the first time with his new sidearm release point.

      • Indians lefthander Cliff Lee is scheduled to make a rehab start for Class A Kinston on Thursday, according to Chris Kline of the Kinston Free-Press. Lee, the Tribe's No. 3 prospect heading into the season, has been out since spring training with a pulled side muscle.

      • Mets righthander Kevin Deaton earned a promotion to high Class A St. Lucie after posting a 3-1, 1.53 record in low Class A Capital City. Deaton, 21, works with a low-90s sinking fastball. He was undrafted out of Merritt Island (Fla.) HS in 2000. He went 7-1, 3.07 with 93 strikeouts and 18 walks in 82 innings for short-season Brooklyn last year.

      May 26, 2003

      Promotions aren't easy to come by in the Pirates farm system. Lefthander Sean Burnett went 3-0, 1.00 in 27 innings for Class A Lynchburg last April. No promotion. He posted an 8-1, 1.43 record over the next two months, including 28 2/3 scoreless frames in June. But he stayed put.

      Under farm director Brian Graham, the Pirates player development philosophy is to let their prospects progress one level at a time.

      Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and the Pirates broke from their blueprint Friday by promoting No. 1 prospect John VanBenschoten from Lynchburg to Double-A Altoona. They followed with news of No. 3 prospect Bryan Bullington's promotion from low Class A Hickory to Lynchburg on Saturday.

      The 23-year-old VanBenschoten was 6-0, 2.22 in 49 innings and nine starts for Lynchburg. Opponents have managed a .196 average against him. VanBenschoten has 49 strikeouts and 18 walks.

      His 11-4, 2.80 performance for low Class A Hickory last season was probably worthy of a promotion too. But that was VanBenschoten's first season as a full-time pitcher. In addition to a plus fastball, he has continued to demonstrate a tremendous feel for pitching, despite his background as five-tooled, power-hitting outfielder in college.

      Last year's No. 1 overall draft pick, Bullington was 4-1, 1.60 with 43 strikeouts in 39 innings for Hickory.


      In 1995, Tony Mounce went 16-8, 2.43 for low Class A Quad City, establishing his prospect status. The following season he was an impressive 9-9, 2.25 in high Class A Kissimmee, but once he reached Double-A the 6-foot-2, 170-pound lefthander couldn't achieve the same success. He wasn't able to carve up hitters with his fringy velocity and good breaking ball anymore. His average against numbers soared from .205 and .236 in 1995 and '96 to .292 in both 1997 and '98. After Mounce, now 28, was released by the Astros and signed by the Rangers before the 2000 season. He missed the 2001 season recovering from shoulder surgery and split time between four levels in the Rangers system last year. For Double-A Frisco this year, Mounce is experiencing something of a rebirth. He leads the Texas League with a seven wins and 1.22 ERA. More impressive, he is showing major league quality stuff, with a fastball reaching 92 mph and a plus 12-to-6 curveball, slider and changeup. Lefthanders are hitting just .171 against him.

      A's righthander Steve Obenchain made his first start since April 16. The 21-year-old suffered a concussion when he was hit in the head while shagging balls during pregame. He lasted just 2 2/3 innings on Thursday, and is 1-2, 5.60 in 17 innings for high Class A Modesto.

      The Brewers placed righthander Khalid Ballouli on the DL at low Class A Beloit with a sore shoulder. He was 1-2, 6.00 with 15 strikeouts in 15 innings.

      Rangers Class A second baseman Jason Bourgeois was lifted from his Thursday game after being hit in the hand. The team didn't think it was more than a deep bone bruise, and he returned to action Sunday. Bourgeois is hitting .324-3-17 with 23 walks in 136 at-bats. He has earned comparisons to Junior Spivey this year in Stockton.

      Three outfield prospects--Joe Borchard, Jason Bay and Juan Rivera-- were promoted from Triple-A to the big leagues last week. Borchard, the White Sox No. 1 prospect, was struggling in his second go-round in Charlotte. He'll replace the injured Willie Harris in center field. Borchard was hitting .224-3-20 with five walks and 29 strikeouts in 134 at-bats. He hit .222-2-5 in 36 at-bats for the White Sox last September. Bay was hitting .300-10-32 for Portland. He was acquired from the Mets last summer in a deal for Jason Middlebrook. Rivera, spending his part of a third season in Columbus, was hitting .327-2-17. He appeared to win a starting outfield job last season when he started all four postseason games against the Angels, but the signing of Hideki Matsui blocked his path. Rivera will play left field, moving Matsui to replace the injured Bernie Williams in center.

      May 21, 2003

      KINSTON, N.C.--All you have to do is watch batting practice to see how tough Class A Kinston infielder Rodney Choy Foo really is.

      "No, we're facing a righty tonight, Foo," said Indians roving hitting instructor Derek Shelton as Choy Foo slipped off his protective shin guard and couldn't quite get it snapped on his right leg as he dug in from the left side of the dish before a game in early May.

      "You don't need that thing," Shelton said. "You're a tough S.O.B."

      As hard-nosed as Choy Foo is, the Hawaiian native wasn't supposed to be an everyday player this season. That was until Kinston shortstop Ivan Ochoa went down in an exhibition game with a hamstring injury.

      That same day Choy Foo, who had a few teeth pulled earlier and wasn't supposed to play, was forced into action. He proceeded to go 3-for-4 with a triple.

      "I know he wasn't supposed to play," said K-Tribe manager Torey Lovullo. "But we needed him, and it didn't faze him a bit. That's the kind of player Rodney Choy Foo is--you could pull out all his teeth, punch him in the face 10 times and still run him out there."

      Choy Foo is arguably the MVP of this Kinston team thus far into the 2003 campaign. The 21-year old prospect can play anywhere in the infield and has been hitting so well, he gives Lovullo another option at DH.

      "Rodney has done it all for us and we're only in the first leg of this marathon," said Lovullo. "He's squeezed a heck of a lot of accomplishments into a short amount of time. But he's dialed in. We used him in this same capacity last season and it really worked out for us. He is a surprise to everybody but (K-Tribe hitting coach) Lou Frazier and myself."

      Choy Foo is fifth in the Carolina League in hitting (.333) leads the team in doubles (11) and amassed a 20-game hit streak (that was snapped on May 2).

      Still, Choy Foo is as quiet and humble as it gets. Although that's not the impression you might get upon your first glance. The infielder has the names of his parents, Rodney and Carrie, tattooed on either forearm. He also has his last name etched across his back in black script, as if his torso was a jersey.

      "I didn't even think about the affect the tattoos would have when I got them," said Choy Foo. "But since I've had the opportunity to play baseball, they've drawn a lot of attention. Most guys have them where people can't see them. That wasn't a consideration when I got them. They are to honor my family."

      Extremely soft-spoken on the field and in the clubhouse, Choy Foo has the ultimate work ethic.

      "Rodney Choy Foo is a warrior," said Lovullo. "He'll fight in every at-bat and on every play. He's just that type of player that will sacrifice everything to help the team win. You know you get the most out of him every night."

      He might not be the typical laid-back Hawaiian, but Choy Foo insists that off the field he is nothing like his game day demeanor. "I just miss my home like a lot of guys," said Choy Foo. "Sometimes I take that feeling and take it out on the field to make it a positive. My family is so far away that they hardly ever get to see me play."

      --Chris Kline
      Kinston Free Press


      • It's time for the Orioles to promote low Class A righthander John Maine. The 22-year-old improved to 5-1, 1.32 by spinning six two-hit innings. He didn't allow a walk and struck out 11. Maine hadn't permitted a run to score in his previous three starts. He has registered 62 strikeouts in 48 innings, while walking 11 and holding the league to a .147 average.

      • Dodgers Double-A Jacksonville righthander Edwin Jackson carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning of a seven-inning game against Mobile last night. After allowing an infield single to Rich Gomez, a fourth-inning error ruling was changed to a hit. Jackson, who has been regularly clocked between 93-97 mph this season, was lifted after 6 2/3 scoreless innings, giving up two hits and three walks. He fanned eight in lowering his ERA to 2.28. Opponents have managed a .190 average against him this year. Jacksonville will finally get righthander Alfredo Gonzalez back in their rotation. The 23-year-old was removed with a strained right pectoral muscle after 2/3 in his first start of the season and hasn't pitched since.

      • Reds Double-A outfielder Stephen Smitherman was removed from the game after he was hit by a pitch on his left elbow Tuesday night, but is expected to return to action tonight.

      May 20, 2003

      For the second time in four days and third time this season, Yankees low Class A outfielder Rudy Gullien hit a home run to take the Old Navy jackpot in Battle Creek. The promotion offers a $25 clothing gift card to any player who hits a homer in the designated inning, and increases by $25 each game the prize goes unclaimed. So far, Guillen is the only Yankee to win the jackpot, and has collected $625 in store credit. He's also in the lead to win the monthly contest for most home runs, which will earn him another $100 gift card.

      "I'm getting seriously jealous. He needs to buy me a shirt," Battle Creek outfielder Eric Verbryke told the Battle Creek Enquirer. "He can hit as many home runs as he wants, but I just want some Old Navy money."

      "Maybe if they follow me (to the store), I can do it," Gullien said, "but I'm not gonna buy for them because I don't know their size."

      Old Navy money or not, Guillen has been red hot this season, hitting .278-5-28 in 151 at-bats. He's also swiped seven bases to further demonstrate his five-tool potential.

      If he keeps it up, Guillen might earn more from Old Navy than he got from the Yankees a signing bonus. The 19-year-old signed for a little more than $100,000 out of the Dominican Republic in July 2000. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound athlete led the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League with 11 homers in 2001 and then rated as the top prospect in the Gulf Coast League last season after hitting .306-3-35 in 219 at-bats.


      • Orioles low Class A righthander John Maine, the reigning South Atlantic League pitcher of the week, made a case for his second straight award Monday night. Maine tied a season-high with 11 strikeouts over six innings. He allowed just two hits, one of which was a home run to Larry Broadway for Savannah's only run of the game. Maine improved to 5-1, 1.32 overall with a league-leading 64 strikeouts in 48 innings while allowing just 23 hits. His ERA ranks third in the Sally League.

      "I'm just trying to throw strikes when I'm on the mound, because I want them to hit it," Maine told the Savannah Morning News. "I was strong today and felt like I could have easily gone a little more. My arm was a little tender and I still need to work on a couple of things. I guess the reason I'm so effective is that I try to hide the ball for as long as possible."

      • Blue Jays righthander Vince Perkins tossed six shutout innings Monday to win his high Class A debut for Dunedin. Perkins' fastball was 93-97 mph and his slider crossed the plate at 89. He allowed just four hits and fanned three batters. He was 3-1, 1.83 with 19 hits and 60 K's in 40 innings for low Class A Charleston (W.Va.) before the promotion.

      • Tigers righthander Joel Zumaya returns to the mound tonight for low Class A West Michigan. He left a May 10 start after just two innings with a pulled oblique muscle and missed his next outing. Overall, Zumaya is 2-1, 2.12 with 59 strikeouts and 13 walks in 34 innings.

      • Tigers lefthander Rob Henkel left his start for Double-A Erie Monday night with a strained lower back muscle and could miss up to three weeks, manager Kevin Bradshaw said. The Tigers promoted righthander Kenny Baugh, their first-round pick in 2001, to Erie to take his place. Baugh was 3-0, 3.86 in 21 innings at Class A Lakeland.

      • The Orioles put Triple-A outfielder Darnell McDonald on the disabled list with right shoulder tendonitis. Farm director Doc Rodgers said lefthander Chris Smith, who had shoulder surgery in the spring, was throwing pain-free in extended spring training but did not give a timetable for the 2001 first-round pick's return. "He had a setback in spring training, so we're going to take it slowly but surely," Rogers said.

      • Twins first base prospect Dusty Gomon was activated from the DL yesterday and went 1-for-3 with two RBIs in his first game for low Class A Quad City since May 5. He's hitting just .152-1-13 in 105 at-bats.

      • Athletics righthander Shane Komine allowed three runs on three hits over six innings in his Double-A debut Monday for Midland. He struck out five and walked six as he got the no-decision. The 5-foot-10 Komine was 6-0, 1.82 in 54 innings for low Class A Kane County.

      • Royals outfield prospect David DeJesus headed to Double-A Wichita to make his 2003 debut. He began the season on the DL with a shoulder injury he suffered in spring training. He hit .288-6-56 between Class A Wilmington and Wichita last season to earn Kansas City's minor league player of the year award.

      May 19, 2003

      On the heels of a nine-inning, complete game shutout, Angels high Class A righthander Steven Shell won his second straight start to improve to 4-2, 2.26.

      The 20-year-old, drafted in the third round out of El Reno (Okla.) HS in 2001, went 11-4, 3.72 with 86 strikeouts and 26 walks in 121 innings for low Class A Cedar Rapids last year. This season in Rancho Cucamonga, Shell has walked just six against 42 strikeouts and allowed a .195 average.

      His stuff hasn't changed but his approach has improved.

      "He is just now learning how to put guys away," one AL scout said. "He just pounds strikes, is more efficient and the numbers dictate it."

      Shell throws 88-93 and is bumping 94, and scouts expect is velocity to creep into the mid-90s on a consistent basis for a number of reasons. In Shell's complete game shutout last week, he reached his peak velocity (94 mph) on his 100th pitch. He also throws a spike curveball and average changeup.

      "He is big and physical, with a very clean, quality arm action with all kinds of things that make it easy to project a pitcher," the scout said. "Everything is there, he's just going to tighten it up with maturity and strength, he's a big athletic horse and he's durable."


      • Pirates lefty Zach Duke saw his ERA rise from 1.74 to 2.31 after not recording an out Friday night for low Class A Hickory. Duke faced six hitters, walking Greensboro leadoff man Robert Andino on four pitches, and allowed five to score. Duke, 20, was throwing 88-91 mph with good arm speed, a three-quarters biting 70-73 mph curveball, but his command wasn't sharp. He has walked 17 in 39 innings this year, but opponents have managed a .201 average against.

      • Red Sox top prospect Hanley Ramirez returned to the low Class A Augusta lineup after a 10-day demotion to extended spring training. He went 0-for-4 in his first game back and is hitting .245-2-14.

      • The Marlins demoted hard-throwing righthander Ronald Belisario from low Class A Greenboro to extended spring training for violating the organization's curfew. The 20-year-old is 4-1, 3.43. He is expected to spend 10 days in extended.

      May 16, 2003

      The strange career of Royals outfield prospect Roscoe Crosby has taken another turn. Less than two months after leaving Clemson and saying he was dropping his football career to concentrate on baseball, Crosby decided to leave baseball to return to college. He left Royals extended spring training camp about a week ago.

      "Roscoe has decided to leave baseball to pursue academics at Clemson," Royals assistant general manager and farm director Muzzy Jackson said. "He has enrolled in summer school to concentrate on his grades."

      Crosby won't completely give up on his baseball career, said his baseball representative, Brian Peters.

      "Roscoe still plans on returning to baseball," Peters said. "If that will occur before he's required to report (to the Royals) next year, I don't know that answer."

      Crosby received an academic hardship waiver to return to Clemson, where he will be academically ineligible to play football this fall because he has not completed enough course hours, according to Clemson sports information director Tim Bourret.

      Crosby decided in March to leave Clemson to pursue his baseball career, leaving classes in mid-semester. The waiver will allow Crosby to avoid receiving failing grades for the classes in which he was previously enrolled. At the time, his mother, Freda, said that playing football and baseball while maintaining his academic schedule had become too arduous.

      Crosby reported to spring training with the Royals and was playing in their extended spring camp this year. He was set to make his professional debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League when it opened play on June 23. Crosby didn't leave camp because he was frustrated with a poor performance, Jackson said.

      "He was doing well, making progress in our conditioning program and getting his arm strength back," Jackson said. "He was about a week or two away from playing in (extended spring training) games. We were encouraged."

      Drafted in the second round out of Union (S.C.) High in 2001, Crosby signed for a $1.75 million bonus but has not had a professional at-bat for the Royals.

      Jackson said Crosby, who received $1 million of his bonus up front, would receive his 2003 payment of $250,000 on June 1 because he reported to camp, but would not collect the remaining two payments of the same amount if he does not return to baseball.

      "Obviously we are disappointed he chose not to play," Jackson said. "He definitely had the talent to play baseball. We're disappointed he left during the season and didn't stay through the summer. Hopefully he hasn't given up on baseball. Maybe he can get his academics straightened out and come back and play."

      Crosby has endured a difficult year. He had Tommy John surgery last June and missed the 2002 baseball and football seasons. After the surgery, four of Crosby's friends were injured in a wreck while driving his car to visit him in Baseball City, Fla. Three died. One of Crosby's friends from Clemson also passed away this spring when he was in Arizona.

      "It was important for Roscoe to go back home to deal with these past issues that have caused some trauma in his life and to address his academics since Clemson has given him the opportunity to clean up his grades," Peters said. "Right now, the best thing for Roscoe is to concentrate on helping himself."

      Crosby reported to short-season Spokane in 2001 and took batting practice with the team, but left shortly thereafter to begin his freshman year at Clemson, where he caught 27 passes for four touchdowns as a wide receiver.

      Rated as the best athlete in the 2001 draft, Crosby slipped to the second round because of concerns about his signability and desire to play football. He drew comparisons to Ken Griffey Jr. and ranked as the organization's No. 5 prospect heading into the 2002 season, but fell to 20th prior to this season largely because he had yet to step on the field.

      --Will Kimmey


      • Indians low Class A righthander Fausto Carmona continues to deal for Lake County. He improved to 6-1, 1.11 with his eight-inning effort last night against South Georgia. Carmona, 19, issued his first walk in four starts in the longest outing of his career. He has been regularly clocked between 90-95 mph with above-average sinking life. Despite his overpowering arsenal, Carmona hasn't run up gaudy strikeout totals but has induced a ton of groundballs (nearly a 2:1 ratio). He has a classic projectable frame with a loose, quick arm allowing him to generate deceptive, explosive velocity. He spins a hard 78-79 curveball with two-plane biting action, a potential knockout pitch as he refines his consistency and delivery. He shows a feel for his change, which is still below average. Opponents have managed a .197 clip against him in 49 innings, and just a .211 on-base mark.

      • Red Sox Class A third baseman Chad Spann has been out of the Augusta lineup since May 10 with a minor quad strain, but he is expected to be back this weekend, according to farm director Ben Cherington. Spann, 19, is hitting .333-2-19 with two home runs in 111 at-bats. Yesterday, Triple-A hitting leader Freddy Sanchez left the game after one at-bat due to a sprained right groin.

      • White Sox righthander Jason Stumm was reinstated from his latest trip to the DL. The 22-year-old will join the Double-A Birmingham bullpen. Drafted 15th overall in 1999, Stumm has been sidetracked by injury after injury. First it was Tommy John surgery in 2000, then shoulder surgery before the 2002 season. He returned to log 40 innings for low Class A Kannapolis last year, but had a minor procedure done on his shoulder following the season. Stumm, 22, has still shown the ability to run his fastball into the mid-90s.

      The Angels placed Joe Torres on the disabled list at Class A Rancho Cucamonga with shoulder soreness. The 20-year-old is 3-2, 4.68 with 41 hits allowed in 33 innings. His velocity has been down in the mid-80s after living in the low-90s in high school and during his first pro season. Torres has walked 18 and fanned 17. Casey Kotchman returned from a hamstring injury that kept him out for a couple weeks. He is hitting .326-4-13 in 95 at-bats.

      • The Mariners claimed outfielder Cristian Guerrero, cousin of Vladimir, off waivers from the Brewers. He hit .197-0-7 for Double-A Huntsville and .333 in 12 at-bats for high Class A High Desert after a demotion.

      • Expos righthander Clint Everts has been dominant in extended spring training, and he's only just starting to bust out his 80 breaking ball. He is still scheduled to make his pro debut for short-season Vermont when the New York-Penn League starts up in June.

      May 15, 2003

      Coming off a seven inning, 11-strikeout performance for Double-A Tennessee on Monday, Cardinals righthander Dan Haren earned a promotion to Triple-A. He leaves behind a Southern League best 6-0, 0.82 mark.

      Hitters have managed a .181 average (and just a .201 on-base percentage) against him. Haren led the minors with 194 innings pitched last year, and is fifth with 55 innings this season. Last year, he needed just 14 starts in low Class A Peoria before the Cardinals decided he was overmatching the league and moved him to high Class A. All told, he went 10-9, 2.73 with 171 strikeouts and just 31 walks allowed.

      He's again been precise in commanding his polished four-pitch arsenal this season. Haren walked six against 49 strikeouts in Tennessee.

      He mixes his two- and four-seam fastballs between 88-92 mph and tops out at 93-94. He generates plus movement, with heavy, boring action making his offerings tough to lift. He throws an above-average slider, a pitch he's added to his repertoire since the Cardinals drafted him in the second round out of Pepperdine in 2001, a splitter and changeup.

      Haren has established a warrior, workhorse-type mentality for himself since his days at Pepperdine, where he doubled as a power-hitting DH (he has one home run in 14 at-bats this year). At 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, Haren appears capable of shouldering the heavy workload the Cardinals have burdened him with.


      The Angels finally found room for a pair of promising young hurlers--lefthander Micah Posey and righty Ronnie Ray--in low Class A Cedar Rapids. Posey, a draft-and-follow signee last summer, was recovering from a sore shoulder in extended spring training. Ray, drafted in the 14th round last June, has also been impressive in extended, showcasing an 84-87 mph biting slider. Posey gets the starting nod tonight.

      The Reds demoted third baseman Edwin Encarnacion from Double-A Chattanooga to high Class A Potomac. After hitting .282-17-73 in low Class A Dayton last year, the 20-year-old struggled with a jump to Double-A this season. He was hitting .220-1-14 in 109 at-bats.

      • Twins No. 1 prospect Joe Mauer, who has been in somewhat of a power drought this season, ripped three doubles yesterday for Class A Fort Myers. He has five two-baggers on the season, accounting for all of his extra-base hits. Given his sweet stroke, athleticism and size, there is little doubt Mauer will start driving the ball more consistently, and quickly raising his .359 slugging percentage.

      • A follow up to yesterday's dish: Chad Chop drew his first walk since April 14 on Monday.

      May 14, 2003

      Since the earliest days of the franchise, the Yankees have focused on acquiring and developing an abundance of lefthanders, including Whitey Ford, Ron Guidry and Andy Pettitte.

      Lately, though, they've been having trouble keeping their most promising southpaws on track, thanks to injuries.

      Brandon Claussen looked like the most likely prospect to join that legacy until Tommy John surgery created a bump in the road. He might still develop into a Pettitte-type workhorse, but after returning to the mound for Class A Tampa he's back on the disabled list with a shoulder strain. Yankees officials don't believe it is too serious, preferring to err on the side of caution. Claussen, who had Tommy John surgery last June, was 1-0, 2.12 with 20 strikeouts and three walks in 17 innings. His velocity had climbed back into the low-90s, though the hard snap hadn't fully returned on his plus slider.

      Two years ago the Yankees signed Sean Henn to a draft-and-follow record $1.7 million bonus. But Henn's progress was also interrupted by Tommy John surgery after just 42 innings at short-season Staten Island in 2001. Clocked as high as 99 mph in college, Henn has been registering 92-94 mph readings since his return at Tampa this season, according to Yankees farm director Rob Thompson.

      "His fastball was exploding, he kept it down and threw strikes," Thompson said of Henn's first regular season appearance since 2001. "His delivery was really good, with little effort. It was real exciting to watch."

      Henn, still limited by a 90-pitch count, is 1-1, 3.86 with eight strikeouts in 14 innings. He's allowed 15 hits and six walks.

      Double-A lefty Charlie Manning, who broke through last year by ringing up 146 strikeouts in 163 innings, was off to a dismal start for Double-A Trenton before heading to the DL with a triceps strain. Manning has struggled to an 0-1, 7.66 record with 32 hits in 28 innings. He's sitting at 88 mph, slightly off from his 89-92 a year ago.

      Manning's teammate Andy Beal has been more consistent this year, though he's been plagued by a troubling illness that has sapped some of his strength and stamina. Beal, 2-0, 3.94 with 31 strikeouts in 32 innings, has been pitching with an 85-89 mph fastball, good 78 mph curveball and changeup. He has a Jamie Moyer style about him, with an effortless delivery and clean arm stroke.

      "He really understands bat speed," Thompson said before Beal's start on Saturday at Trenton. "He locates to both sides of the plate, he really knows how to pitch. He's a little ahead of everybody in terms of that.'

      Mark Phillips has been off to a slow start at Tampa since being acquired from the Padres as part of the Bubba Trammell-Rondell White swap. Phillips is traditionally a slow starter, which bothered the Padres player-development staff. The Yankees planned on sending him to Trenton, but Phillips' mechanics have been a mess, causing his velocity to slip below his usual low-90s.


      Mariners lefty Ryan Anderson could be headed for the bullpen, and a drastic change with his delivery, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Still at the Mariners spring training complex in Peoria, Ariz., he has been unable to pitch without pain. The Mariners plan on dropping his arm slot down to sidearm to reduce the stress on his shoulder, with thoughts of making him a situational reliever--not exactly befitting of Randy Johnson comparisons. "It would be a major loss for us, because he has unlimited potential," Mariners vice president for scouting and player development Roger Jongewaard told the P-I. "We want to get Ryan Anderson healthy and see what he can do. He's a very valuable piece of property, and we want him healthy." Anderson had shoulder surgery before the 2001 and 2002 seasons.

      The Indians promoted Japanese import Kazuhito Tadano from Class A Kinston to Double-A Akron. The righty went 2-1, 1.89 with 28 strikeouts and three walks in 19 innings. He allowed just 13 hits.

      • Expos righthander Darrell Rasner was placed on the DL at low Class A Savannah with a lower back strain. He was 1-3, 4.75 with 30 hits allowed in 30 innings.

      • Rasner's teammate Chad Chop, a 2002 sixth-rounder out of Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, Calif., has been on fire. A big physical athlete at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, Chop impressed Expos scouting director Dana Brown with his lefthanded power potential last spring. After an unspectacular .250-1-5 April performance, Chop has hit in 16 of his last 17 games to raise his average to .305. He has three home runs in 128 at-bats, and has fanned 22 times. He hasn't drawn a walk since April 19.

      • Padres Class A righthander Javier Martinez was shelved with inflammation in his right shoulder. He is expected to be out until early June, according to the North County Times. Martinez, the Padres 11th-rated prospect entering the year, is 1-1, 3.66 with 28 strikeouts in 32 innings for Lake Elsinore. He has allowed 29 hits and 12 walks. Fellow Lake Elsinore prospect Freddy Guzman, formerly known as Pedro de los Santos, has been out of the lineup for the last four games due to a sore shoulder, suffered diving for a ball in the outfield.

      • Tigers Class A righthander Joel Zumaya was removed from his last start with a pulled right oblique muscle and will miss his next start, according to Detroit farm director Steve Boros. "As to how much longer he'll be out, we're not sure yet."

      May 12, 2003

      TRENTON, N.J.--All the hoopla in the Eastern League this week surrounded Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter rehabbing in Trenton. His presence produced record-setting crowds, extra security guards, a personal bodyguard and droves of screaming fans. However, it's New Haven outfielder Alexis Rios who continues to take the league by storm.

      The minors' top hitter with a .424 average through Sunday's action, Rios, 22, has impressed the Blue Jays player development staff with his development at the plate.

      He overcame nagging finger, thumb and wrist injuries to finish fourth in the Class A Florida State League with a .305 average last season. But the variety of hand-related injuries sapped most of his power, and the 6-foot-6, 202-pounder connected for just three home runs (a career-high to that point) and a .408 slugging percentage.

      Though the cash-strapped Blue Jays were forced to overdraft him out of a Puerto Rican high school with the 19th overall pick in 1999, it looks like they made the right call on which player to overdraft as it came down to Ball State outfielder Larry Bigbie, Mississippi State righthander Matt Ginter and UNLV outfielder Ryan Ludwick. While those three have reached the major leagues, the consensus among scouts is that Rios has the highest ceiling.

      Despite his lack of power production--six home runs in 1,450 at-bats before this season--Rios' approach at the plate has prompted scouts to project more pop. If his Eastern League-best .694 slugging percentage 22 games into this season is any indication, they were right on. He has already eclipsed his previous single-season longball best with four jacks (he had a fifth robbed by Trenton right fielder Mike Vento on Sunday), and player development officials believe it's due to his newfound approach in the batter's box.

      "There's no question, he's matured as a hitter," New Haven hitting coach Ken Joyce said. "His approach is exactly what the organization is looking for. He is getting deeper into counts and seeing more pitches."

      Rios could be classified as a free swinger, never walking more than 25 times in a season. But when he swings, he usually doesn't miss. Rare for a tall and wiry hitter, Rios fanned just once every eight at-bats over the last two seasons.

      The Blue Jays don't want to take any of his natural aggressiveness away, but they are emphasizing plate discipline, which should get him into better hitter's counts. Changing an aggressive young hitter's approach isn't always that simple, and doesn't often lead to immediate results. Rios, however, has let his innate instincts for the game, and his tremendous hand-eye coordination take over and has 12 walks and a league-leading .511 on-base percentage.

      "They want me to take the most pitches you can take in an at-bat," Rios said before Sunday's game. "It's helped me a lot. Years before I've swung at the first pitch a lot and got myself out.

      "I'm just trying to stay back at the plate and let the ball get deeper to try to hit the other way."

      Joyce said Rios has also improved his plate coverage, a result of staying back and waiting for the pitch to travel a little deeper than he had in the past.

      "The thing about Lexi is that he can stay back and let balls get as deep as anyone," said Joyce, who praised Rios' work ethic. "And he generates some good bat speed.

      "He has proved (plate discipline) is something you can work on."


      • The Phillies were disappointed with lefthander Cole Hamels when he showed up last fall in instructional league out of shape, lacking the fastball and curveball combination that had led them to pick him with their first-rounder last June. They sent a message to him by starting him in extended spring training after he again didn't show up in tip-top pitching form this spring. Hamels responded by striking out 13 of the 17 hitters he faced last Thursday, in what turned out to be his last extended spring training game. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Hamels, who was topping out at 94 mph and sitting at 92, will debut for low Class A Lakewood this week.

      • The Blue Jays have promoted righthander Jason Arnold to Triple-A Syracuse after posting a 3-1, 1.53 mark for New Haven. He allowed just 18 hits in 35 innings. He struck out 33 and walked 11. Arnold is slated to start tonight against Durham.

      • Cubs Class A lefthander Andy Sisco is expected to miss 4-6 weeks for Lansing after breaking his left hand punching a wall out of frustration. Sisco didn't have much to be frustrated about, as he was overpowering the Midwest League with a 2-2, 1.78 record with 16 hits allowed in 30 innings.

      • Meanwhile, the Cubs recalled righthander Todd Wellemeyer from Triple-A Iowa. He had recently been elevated from Double-A West Tenn, and has compiled a 2-2, 4.45 mark between the two levels. He recorded 48 strikeouts in 34 innings, allowing 28 hits and 16 walks.

      • Angels righthander Bobby Jenks was placed on the DL with a stress reaction in his elbow after a trip to visit team doctor Lewis Yocum last week. He was topping out at 99 mph just two weeks ago, and as high as 95 in his final start before reporting the soreness. Jenks, who experienced some elbow soreness this spring, is 2-1, 3.52 on the season for Arkansas.

      May 9, 2003

      For the second time in seven months, Red Sox top prospect Hanley Ramirez has been disciplined for his behavior.

      Hitting .255-2-14 for low Class A Augusta, Ramirez was demoted to short-season Lowell at the club's extended spring training complex in Fort Myers, Fla.

      While the front office decided to keep the nature of Ramirez' actions internal, one official said "It was harmless, but not very professional."

      "We are sending him back to extended, which is not a performance-related decision," said Red Sox farm director Ben Cherington, who explained the demotion to Ramirez on Thursday. "It was a violation of the organization's policy. We made this decision as a group, as an organization, and decided it was in the best interest of Hanley and the best interest of the players in the organization.

      "He understands why he's there. He's in Fort Myers this morning. He understands why he's there and what he needs to do to get out of there."

      After garnering top prospect recognition in both the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and the short-season New York-Penn League last year, Ramirez was sent home from instructional league in October for cursing at a team trainer.

      This spring the Red Sox player development staff reported promising progress in Ramirez' newfound approach and attitude after spending the offseason at the team's Dominican academy.

      "I think that is still holding true," Cherington said of Ramirez' maturation. "We're dealing with a 19-year-old kid who has been given a lot of attention--that's difficult to deal with sometimes.

      "All I can say is that for a young man, maturity and professional development in general don't progress at a steady, consistent rate. Sometimes it's in a straight line, other times there is a dip. It is the goal of the organization to get that line back to where we all expect it to be, and we expect him to be a really good player. The goals Hanley has for himself and we have as an organization are certainly still attainable."

      Cherington did not have a timetable for Ramirez' return to a full-season club.


      • In more positive news for the Red Sox, Triple-A infielder Freddy Sanchez and Class A lefty Jon Lester were named the organization's minor league players of the month. A career .319 hitter, the 25-year-old Sanchez is second in the International League with a .386 average, but he's also been impressing the Sox by showing improvement in other areas of his game. "He plays with so much energy," Boston assistant general manager Josh Byrnes said. "He's got us really excited. He plays hard, he plays very smart, and some of the things we've tried to instill, like plate discipline, he's been great with." Sanchez, who drew 51 walks between Double-A Trenton and Pawtucket last season, has walked 16 times against 17 strikeouts this year. He is a perfect four of four on basestealing attempts. "He's maybe one of our better baserunners," Byrnes added. "He doesn't have a great run tool, but he's still one of the best baserunners."

      Lester, 19, was drafted in the second round out of a Washington high school last year, and signed his $1 million bonus in time to get one inning of work in for the Red Sox GCL team. Following an impressive showing in the Red Sox pre-spring mini-camp and spring training, Lester went 1-1, 1.85 in April, but has struggled in May (0-1, 18.56 in two starts). "Our people are very happy with his delivery, it's very solid," Byrnes said. "He has three solid pitches as a teenager, he competes well, and he has a mean streak out there on the mound."

      • Marlins prospect Dontrelle Willis is not the only rookie southpaw making his major league debut this weekend. The Padres will promote 25-year-old Roger Deago to start on Saturday. Signed out of Panama last October, Deago debuted at Double-A Mobile this season and is 3-1, 3.51 in 33 innings. He has allowed 29 hits and 12 walks, while striking out 32. Generously listed at 5-foot-10, 180 pounds, Deago works with a below-average 85-86 mph fastball, plus curveball, average changeup and good command. Lefties have hit .297 against him, righties just .220.

      Vince Perkins (Blue Jays) and John Maine (Orioles) locked up for an outstanding prospect duel in the low Class A South Atlantic League last night. Both righthanders pitched one-hit shutouts--Maine going 7 1/3, Perkins lasted six. Maine rang up 11 and walked one, picking up his fourth victory of the season. He lowered his ERA to 1.43, sixth in the league. Perkins got a no decision for his effort, but lowered his ERA to 1.09, second in the league behind Pirates prospect Bryan Bullington.

      • Mets phenom Jose Reyes has been out of the Triple-A Norfolk lineup with a strained right hamstring since Tuesday. He is hitting .257 with four doubles, four triples and 19 steals.

      • Angels Class A righthander Kevin Jepsen improved to 6-1, 1.63 with seven one-hit innings for Cedar Rapids yesterday. A second-rounder out of a Nevada high school last year, Jepsen has been clocked between 88-96 this season.

      May 8, 2003

      Braves righthander Kyle Davies has been in the spotlight since he was 14-years-old.

      In 1998, he was rated the best 14-year-old in the country in BA's annual Baseball For The Ages package. He earned the same title as a 15-year-old when he was clocked at 93 mph and hit .444-10-110 for a high-profile junior team in Marietta, Ga.

      Davies committed to Georgia Tech out of high school, but signed with the Braves after being drafted in the fourth round in 2001.

      He went 5-2, 2.03 in his pro debut that summer, striking out 60 against nine walks in 62 innings between the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and low Class A Macon.

      Last year, Davies faltered a little, not showing the same sharpness or life to his stuff. He got a brief look (two appearances) in Macon, but spent the majority of the year in Rookie-level Danville, where he went 5-3, 3.50 in 14 starts. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound righty struck out 62 and allowed 73 hits and 23 walks in 69 innings. He also disappeared from the Braves top 30 prospects list.

      "I think what happened, coming out of high school, he carried a heavy workload and might have gone through a dead arm period," Braves director of player personnel Dayton Moore said. "We weren't seeing the stuff we were seeing heading into his senior year of high school."

      This season is a different story, though. Davies, 19, is holding opposing hitters to a minor league-low .102 average. He improved to 3-0, 1.30 with five shutout innings for Class A Rome last night, and has allowed nine hits in 28 innings. He has 41 strikeouts and 17 walks allowed.

      "His stuff has picked up a full grade," Moore said. Davies was clocked between 89-93 and pitched at 90-91 last night. "He's very aggressive with his fastball to both sides of the plate. He has an above-average changeup and above-average curveball and he's not afraid to use all of his pitches anytime in a count."


      • Rockies Triple-A lefty Cory Vance improved to 5-1, 3.13 for Colorado Springs. He tossed seven five-hit innings, allowing one run and no walks, while fanning five. Vance works with a plus breaking pitch, average change and average velocity with improving command of all three. He induces groundballs by the truckload--posting a better than 2-to-1 groundball-to-flyball ratio. Lefties are hitting at a .212 clip against him, and the 23-year-old has 27 strikeouts in 37 innings.

      • Twins first baseman Justin Morneau hit his fourth home run since a promotion to Triple-A Rochester. He now has 10 home runs in 106 at-bats, and a 1.000 slugging percentage in 27 Triple-A at-bats. He turns 22 in one week.

      Lew Ford has been out for Rochester since May 2 with a sore shoulder. The 26-year-old center fielder was in the midst of a hot streak--raising his average from .244 to .321 during a week's span. He is listed as day-to-day.

      • Pirates first baseman Walter Young returned to the Class A Lynchburg lineup for the first time sine April 22 due to a hamstring pull. He is hitting just .214-3-11.

      • Angels righthander Richard Thompson notched his second save of the season for Class A Cedar Rapids last night. In 1 1/3 perfect innings, he struck out all four batters he faced. The 18-year-old Australian's curveball has been described as a "14-to-6" breaker by scouts. He also works with an average fastball. He has 28 strikeouts and eight walks in 19 innings, and has limited hitters to a .123 average.

      • Marlins Double-A first baseman Pat Magness, who has played in one game since coming off the disabled list, will head to Jupiter, Fla., today to have an MRI performed on his ailing right wrist.

      May 7, 2003

      At 17-years-old, Diamondbacks righthander Adriano Rosario was the youngest player on an Opening Day roster this season. Signed to a $400,000 deal out of the Dominican Republic last June by Diamondbacks Latin American scouting coordinator Junior Noboa, Rosario made his debut in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League and then pitched for Rookie-level Missoula last year.

      Though he was just 1-2, 6.30 in 20 innings for Missoula, the Diamondbacks didn't hesitate to hasten his development with a full-season assignment out of spring training. "He had a great spring training, and we decided to let him start in South Bend," Diamondbacks farm director Tommy Jones said. "Despite the very cold Aprils the league contends with every year, Rosario has not been bothered by weather, or inexperience. He pitches with amazing poise and likes to compete. It truly is hard to imagine that he has been pitching for less than one year."

      Rosario showed up at a tryout camp with aspirations to play shortstop.

      "Junior Noboa loved his arm, but the bat was going to be a project," Jones said. "Junior convinced him to get on the mound, and he had surprising mechanics for a guy who has never pitched before."

      Rosario has touched 97 mph and pitches between 91-94. He's 2-1, 2.80 with 25 strikeouts in 35 innings.

      For the most part, the youngest player at every level this season is a genuine prospect, some even fit into the phenom category. In the low Class A South Atlantic League, Dodgers shortstop Joel Guzman, born Nov. 24, 1984, has shown improvement at the plate in his first full-season experience. Signed as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican for a record $2.25 million bonus, Guzman's tools drew comparisons to Alex Rodriguez at the same age. Guzman has turned out to be much more raw, as A-Rod was on the brink of the majors as a 19-year-old. Guzman is hitting .270-4-16 in 100 at-bats for South Georgia.

      The Dodgers also put the youngest player in the high Class A Florida State League. Lefthander Greg Miller, drafted in the supplemental first round last year out of a Southern California high school, has been clocked as high as 94 this season. The 18-year-old (born Nov. 3, 1984) is 2-0, 4.38 with 22 strikeouts in 23 innings.

      With just 13 at-bats above Rookie-ball entering the season, Royals shortstop Andres Blanco, born April 4, 1984, is the youngest in the Carolina League. The 5-foot-10, 150-pounder is slick in the field, and has a quick, line-drive stroke that encourages contact and opposite-field hits. He is hitting .356-0-4 in 45 at-bats for Wilmington.

      In the California League, Diamondbacks second baseman Danny Richar, formerly known as Joandry Berroa, is just 19 years old. Richar, an average runner with above-average defensive skills, hit .231-1-17 in 251 at-bats for Lancaster under his old name a year ago, and was off to a .289-1-7 start this season.

      In the Double-A Southern League, another one of the Dodgers' Top 10 prospects, Edwin Jackson--born Sept. 9, 1983--is the youngest in the circuit. Jackson, who has only been pitching full time for one season, skipped the FSL and is more than holding his own. With the help of his 92-96 mph fastball, Jackson is 1-2, 2.67 with 29 strikeouts and eight walks in 34 innings.

      Mariners shortstop/second baseman Jose Lopez, born Nov. 24 1983, is the Texas League's youngest. As the Cal League's youngest last season, Lopez established himself as one of the Mariners top prospects by hitting .324-8-60 with 31 steals. He was on his way to duplicating those numbers for San Antonio this year, hitting .320-3-16 with seven bags.

      In the Eastern League, Harrisburg reliever Gustavo Mata, a Venezuelan born on May 20, 1983, is making rapid progress up the organizational ladder. Mata is 1-0, 2.92 with 13 hits allowed in 12 innings.

      Premium prospects Adrian Gonzalez--just 21-years-old in the Pacific Coast League--and Jose Reyes--the only teenager in Triple-A at 19--are the youngest in the two Triple-A leagues. Gonzalez, who had offseason wrist surgery, is hitting .235-0-11 in 81 at-bats for Albuquerque, while Reyes, the best prospect in the minors, is hitting .257-0-8 with 19 steals for Norfolk.

      Tigers righthander Jeremy Bonderman, 20, is the youngest player in the American League and has gone 2-4, 5.91 with 26 strikeouts, nine walks and 38 hits allowed in 32 innings. Reds outfielder Wily Mo Pena, 21, rates as the NL's youngest. He's hitting .156-1-1 with five hits, seven K's and no walks in 32 at-bats.


      • After going 2-2, 3.50 in six starts for Double-A El Paso, Diamondbacks righthander Edgar Gonzalez was promoted to Triple-A Tucson for last night's start. The sinkerballer picked up a win in his first Triple-A start, allowing five hits in seven innings, walking one and striking out five.

      • Cardinals low Class A righthander Blake Hawksworth returned to the mound after recovering from a tired arm. He improved to 4-0, 1.24 for Peoria by hurling five shutout innings. He didn't issue a walk and struck out six to bring his season total to 33 in 29 innings.

      • Twins Double-A relievers Ronnie Corona and Beau Kemp were demoted to Class A Fort Myers after getting in a fight with each other following a recent game. Righthanders Jesse Crain and Brian Wolfe were the benefactors of their organization-mates' lapse in judgment. Crain, drafted in the second round out of Houston last year, was 2-1, 2.84 with 25 strikeouts in 19 innings. He had allowed just 10 hits and five walks. Wolfe, who spent last year in Fort Myers, was 2-1, 2.53 in 46 innings this season.

      • The Devil Rays promoted second baseman Antonio Perez to Triple-A Durham on Tuesday. Perez, obtained in the deal that sent Randy Winn to the Mariners and allowed Lou Piniella to manage the Rays, hit .269-2-9 with three steals in 67 at-bats for Double-A Orlando. He went 1-for-4 with a double, walk and RBI in his Triple-A debut.

      May 5, 2003

      WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.--Zack Greinke was making it look too easy. He was one of just three high school picks from the 2002 draft to open his first full season in high Class A. (The other two were Dodgers' first-rounders James Loney and Greg Miller)

      Greinke wasn't supposed to succeed in Puerto Rico over the winter either. But the 19-year-old, drafted with the sixth pick out of Apopka High in Orlando last June, was the talk of winter ball--posting a 2.45 ERA in 25 innings for Mayaguez.

      His first five starts for high Class A Wilmington were a breeze, leading people to wonder how long it would take the Royals to consider a Jeremy Bonderman-like promotion. Greinke was 4-0, 0.69 in his first 27 innings. He had allowed two earned runs and three walks.

      The 6-foot-2, 190-pound righthander, who has earned comparisons to the likes of Greg Maddux, Bret Saberhagen, Orel Hershiser and David Cone for his polish and pitchability, faced his first adversity of the season Sunday against Winston-Salem.

      Restricted by an 85-pitch limit, Greinke struggled through three innings before being lifted for a reliever. His command and control, which had been precise, wandered at times leading to deep counts and a season-high two walks.

      Greinke adds and subtracts with his fastball velocity. He throws a two-seam fastball between 84-88 mph with above-average arm-side movement, and gets 90-92 on his four-seamer without effort. He is effective at keeping the ball down in the zone and likes to move the ball in and out, though he was getting too much of the plate with it Sunday.

      Equipped with a compact delivery and quick arm, he also showed plus potential with his tight-spinning 77-84 mph slider, and a good changeup with late sink and fade. He also mixes in a slow curveball--a 67-71 mph breaker--as his fourth pitch, but it was not foiling any hitters Sunday.

      Now 4-0, 1.20 with 29 strikeouts and five walks in 30 innings, Greinke has the stuff and innate feel for pitching to be one of the best in the minors this season and a chance to follow the Madduxes, Saberhagens, Hershisers and Cones to the big leagues if the Royals continue to handle him cautiously along the way.


      • White Sox Class A righthander Wyatt Allen took the mound against Greinke on Sunday in Winston-Salem. A supplemental first-rounder in 2001 out of Tennessee, Allen spent all but one start in Winston-Salem last year, but after posting an 8-9, 4.45 record, he was re-assigned to the same level this year. Allen has been clocked as high as 97 in the past, but his velocity sat at average (89-91) yesterday. His command, which led to 86 walks in 167 innings last season, was shaky because his arm slot tends to be inconsistent, ranging from a low three-quarters release to a true three-quarters, where he needs to be. This affects his breaking ball too, as he gets around his slider causing it to flatten out. He throws a good spike curveball and an occasional plus changeup. Allen walked five and fanned seven in six innings before the bullpen lost 3-2 game in the ninth.

      • The Astros have temporarily moved 2002 first-rounder Derrick Grigsby to the bullpen in low Class A Lexington because of shoulder tightness. He has started his first full season 1-1, 3.07 with 13 strikeouts in 15 innings.

      • Tigers righthander Preston Larrison was placed on the disabled list for Double-A Erie with a blister on his right finger. Rated the Tigers No. 2 prospect, Larrison is 1-3, 4.68 through five starts. He has allowed 11 walks and 24 hits in 25 innings, while fanning 11.

      • Braves low Class A righthander Jose Capellan, who had Tommy John surgery in 2001, was placed on the DL over the weekend with a right elbow strain. He left his start on Thursday after two hitless innings. He is 0-2, 3.79 with 13 strikeouts in 19 innings.

      • Dodgers righthander Franquelis Osoria landed on the DL at Class A Vero Beach with a right elbow strain. He is 2-1, 3.71. Armed with one of the best sinkers in the minors, Osoria has posted a groundball/flyball ratio of nearly 2-to-1.

      • Devil Rays outfielder Wes Bankston, who hit 18 jacks in the Rookie-level Appalachian League last year, drew his first walk of the season on Friday. The 19-year-old is hitting .250-3-12 with 15 strikeouts in 56 at-bats for low Class A Charleston.

      • Angels Class A first baseman Casey Kotchman hasn't played since Thursday when he strained his hamstring running the bases.

      • The White Sox put lefty Corwin Malone on the DL with a sore shoulder after his dismal start last Thursday. Malone surrendered nine hits and eight runs in 1 2/3, dropping to 2-2, 7.16 on the season.

      • Rockies prospect Jeff Baker finally made his pro debut over the weekend, going 4-for-7 in two games for low Class A Asheville. A fourth-rounder out of Clemson last June, he didn't sign until September, preventing him from playing last season, and had wrist surgery this spring further delaying his debut.

      May 2, 2003

      Though the Giants moved flamethrowing lefty Erick Threets up to Double-A Norwich after just 28 innings in Class A San Jose last year, he hasn't yet solved his control problems.

      Threets unleashed 16 straight balls before finding the strike zone in last night's relief appearance. The 6-foot-5, 240-pound, 21-year-old, who has been consistently clocked at 100 mph or better, left the game after walking five without recording an out. All five runners came in to score, inflating his ERA to 15.75.

      Threets has issued 16 walks and allowed eight hits in eight innings, while striking out 11. He walked 28 in 28 innings last year.

      Threets was troubled by a sore arm during the 2002 season after opening the season on the disabled list with shoulder bursitis. Plus, his delivery has gone through an extreme makeover. The key for him is to stay on top of his pitches, but he has trouble repeating his delivery. The Giants moved his arm slot up from a low three-quarters release after signing him out of Modesto (Calif.) Junior College as a seventh rounder in 2000. Some scouts feel his thick frame is too stiff to make the necessary adjustments and repeat his delivery. Others believe it's just a matter of time before he becomes more consistent and learns to harness his 100-mph heat.

      Last year the Giants used kid gloves with him because of his arm problems (which go back to his juco days), allowing him to throw just one inning every few days. It seems like the only way Threets has a chance to be more consistent is to pitch him more regularly, and his 0-1, 6.67 performance last year might not have deserved a promotion to Double-A.


      • More from the wild side: Mariners Double-A lefty Travis Blackley, who is known for his command, lasted just 1 2/3 after handing out seven free passes. He didn't allow a hit and struck out three. After permitting 44 walks in 121 innings last year at Class A San Bernardino, Blackley has walked 22 in 26 innings for San Antonio this year. He is 2-1, 3.42 with 23 strikeouts and 18 hits allowed.

      Class A Capital City lefty Scott Kazmir faced Charleston shortstop B.J. Upton last night in a matchup of top prospects from the 2002 draft. Kazmir, who topped out at 94 last night and has been up to 96 in his first five starts, was restricted by a 70-pitch limit. He fanned four in four innings, gave up four hits and one run. Upton, drafted with the second overall pick--13 before Kazmir--last June, struck out looking in his first trip to the plate and worked Kazmir's only walk in his second plate appearance. Kazmir and Upton are quite familiar with each other, too. They played on the same Junior National Team in the summer of 2001. Upton hit .462-1-6 in 26 at-bats, while Kazmir went 1-2 (including a tough loss at the hands of top-seeded Cuba), 3.95 with 31 strikeouts in 14 innings as Team USA went 9-2. They also played against each other in showcase events, including the 2001 Area Code Games, where the two were rated the top two prospects.

      • Yankees Double-A lefty Andy Beal left last night's game after one inning and 13 pitches, but his arm is just fine. "He's been sick for a couple of weeks," manager Stump Merrill said in the Trenton Times. "He has lost a bunch of weight. He lost some more tonight. He was (vomiting) between innings tonight. Sure, it's a sigh of relief. You would rather have him in your rotation. He will be all right. He's just really sick."

      • Norwich righty Jeff Clark, who led the Giants organization in innings (176), ERA (2.66) and wins (14) last year between San Jose and Double-A, is out for at least one start and maybe more with a possible stress fracture in his foot.

      • Padres second baseman Jake Gautreau returned to the lineup for Double-A Mobile less than two weeks after landing on the disabled list with a recurring bout with ulcerative colitis. He went 1-for-4 and is hitting .226 on the season.

      • Another hot Blue Jays righthander Brandon League, drafted in the first round out of a high school in Hawaii, tossed six innings last night, allowing seven hits and four walks for low Class A Charleston. His fastball, which has been clocked as high as 99 mph this season, was hitting 96 last night. He fanned four and has rung up 25 in 34 innings this year.

      May 1, 2003

      Righthander Joel Zumaya attracted some early-round draft interest last year, but fell to the Tigers in the 11th round. Despite pitching in the talent hotbed of the San Diego area, Zumaya wasn't well known by area scouts as he came on late.

      Drafted as a 17-year-old, Zumaya is one of the youngest players in the low Class A Midwest League this season at age 18. After striking out 10 in five innings last night, he paces the circuit with 42 K's in 25 innings.

      Zumaya, who was rated the No. 15 prospect in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League last season, has watched his velocity steadily climb from the upper-80s during his senior year at Bonita Vista (Calif.) High.

      "He has surprised a lot of people," Tigers farm director Steve Boros said. "His velocity suddenly jumped to 96-97 and he touched 98 once."

      One of the knocks on him in high school was his low three-quarters arm slot and his arm action. Zumaya worked to get stronger with fellow San Diego native Barry Zito during the offseason, and worked on his delivery this spring with Tigers player development instructors.

      "His delivery is getting better. He's getting his arm up on top," Boros said. "He tended to drop down to a low three-quarters, almost sidearm."

      Scouts were also concerned about Zumaya's secondary pitches, because of his arm slot. His curve is still erratic, but improved and projects as a good pitch, and his changeup has deception to it.

      Zumaya has limited Midwest League hitters to a .159 average after holding opponents to a .163 average in his pro debut last summer.

      "He's getting bigger and stronger, too," Boros said of the 6-foot-3, 210-pounder. "He might end up throwing even harder."


      • When New Britain Rock Cats first baseman Justin Morneau received his traveling papers to join Triple-A Rochester April 29, he asked manager Stan Cliburn where the Red Wings were playing in the days ahead. Cliburn scanned the schedule and told the slugger from New Westminster, B.C., that he would join the team in Buffalo before it heads to Charlotte. Cliburn, a Mississippi born-and-bred baseball philosopher, had one last bit of parting advice. "When you get down to Carolina, make sure you know the language," Cliburn quipped. "Don't be speakin' any of that Canadian." Morneau hit .329-6-13 in 79 at-bats for Double-A New Britain.

      • Twins No. 1 prospect Joe Mauer has been sidelined on a day-to-day basis by a slight groin pull and was expected to re-join the Class A Fort Myers lineup this week.

      • A's top prospect Rich Harden was placed on the seven-day DL with a sprained ankle.

      • Brewers Double-A righthander Ben Hendrickson has been sidelined with an inflamed elbow. He was 1-1, 6.00 in his first two starts.

      • Yankees Class A lefty Sean Henn makes his first trip to the mound tonight since having Tommy John surgery in August 2001.

      • Angels Class A third baseman Dallas McPherson played his first game of the season last night for Rancho Cucamonga. He was sidelined this spring with a back injury.

      • After arriving at the Tigers Lakeland spring training complex late due to visa problems, righthander Roberto Novoa made his season debut last night for Class A Lakeland. The hard-thrower, acquired last winter from the Pirates, took the loss, giving up seven hits, three runs and three walks in six innings. He fanned five.

      • Mets Double-A first baseman Craig Brazell has rebounded from a miserable start. Heading into Binghamton's April 14 game, Brazell was hitting .115 (3-for-26) with one walk and nine strikeouts. He went 1-for-4 in that game sparking a 12-game hit streak. After going hitless on April 29, he collected four more hits in a doubleheader yesterday to lift his average to a season-high .294. Since April 14, Brazell has drawn three walks, and fanned seven times in 59 at-bats.

      • A's outfielder Marcus McBeth was scheduled to join Class A Kane County for today's game, according to Bill Mitchell.

      Contributing: Ken Lipshez.

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