Daily Dish: April 17

Rosario dominates Indianapolis with plus stuff

See also: Friday's Daily Dish.
See also: Today's Baseball America Prospect Report.

Righthander Francisco Rosario served as both a starter and a reliever in his eight years as a Blue Jays farmhand, and after a season spent primarily in the Triple-A Syracuse bullpen, he's embracing the challenge of starting again.

Rosario, 25, turned in his most dominating Triple-A start Sunday, giving up one run on four hits in five innings of work. He struck out 10 Indianapolis batters, tying his personal best. In fact, Rosario relied on defense for just four outs--three on the ground, one in the air.

"He commanded his fastball really well," Syracuse manager Mike Basso said. "He pitched down in the zone all game and was able to maintain his velocity the whole way."

Rosario has always shown excellent arm strength--pitching at 93 mph in relief, and touching 96--but finding a consistent breaking pitch had posed problems. His slider was sharp Sunday, Basso said, because Rosario was able to consistently repeat his delivery.

The Dominican-born Rosario zoomed to No. 4 on the Blue Jays prospects list after a breakout 2002 season split between Low and High Class A. His success carried over to the Arizona Fall League before he tore a ligament in his elbow that required Tommy John surgery that October.

He missed the better part of the '03 and '04 seasons and was aggressively promoted to Triple-A last year, where he pitched well considering the circumstances. Some observers thought Rosario pitched like he might have lingering concerns about his surgically-repaired elbow. He missed a month with shoulder tendonitis, and was shifted to the bullpen upon his return from the disabled list.

"He looked like his bullets were back," a scout with a National League club said. "He was repeating (his delivery) well, had good command of three pitches and the tilt to his slider was probably the biggest thing. He's a guy where you've seen flashes of it from time to time, but he really put it together consistently for five pretty good innings."



• It took awhile, but Michael Hollimon is starting to fulfill his promise.

After going 0-for-1 yesterday with two walks and a stolen base, Hollimon has now reached base safely in every game this season for low Class A West Michigan. On the year, the shortstop is hitting .375/.500/.531 and leading the Midwest League in on-base percentage.

Considered a potential first-round pick in 2001, Hollimon's high bonus demands scared most teams off, and he headed to Texas, where he roomed with Huston Street as a freshman.

His roommate ended up becoming the much bigger star, as Hollimon had a mediocre three seasons in Austin before transferring to Oral Roberts for his senior year. A 16th-round pick by the Tigers last season, the shortstop was one of the best all-around player in the New York-Penn League in his debut last season (.277/.389/.559) and is continuing to thrive in his first full season of pro ball.

The switch-hitter will turn 24 in June, so he is certainly old for his league. However, with his pedigree, he simply might be a late bloomer who is finally beginning to emerge.

• Of course, West Michigan made bigger news over the weekend for their ill-fated "Money Drop" promotion, when two children were injured just after Saturday’s 3-0 Whitecaps victory against Southwest Michigan.

The Associated Press reported two 7-year-olds were hurt during a scramble as a number of children dashed to retrieve the approximately $1,000 that had been dropped from a helicopter hovering over the playing surface of Fifth Third Field.

The AP reported that in the scramble, Tino Rodriquez of Grant, Mich., was trampled and taken to a hospital, while a 7-year-old girl got a bloody lip after being pushed onto the ground.

"In the past, the organization has done very similar promotions without incident," the Whitecaps’ official statement said. "The Whitecaps organization regrets that on Saturday, two of the children suffered minor injuries during the promotion. In the team's 12-year history, the organization has a solid safety record.

"The Whitecaps will review what we learned from the Money Drop and look forward to continuing to create new and innovative promotions for the fans of West Michigan."

• The Nationals knew they would have a talented pitching staff at high Class A Potomac, so they wanted to make sure nothing hindered the development of their top arms. With righthanders Collin Balester and Clint Everts and lefthander Mike Hinckley--the organization's top three pitching prospects--all starting the year at Potomac, the Nationals decided to move respected pitching coach Charlie Corbell from Triple-A New Orleans to Potomac.

"Those pitchers are all at Potomac, and one reason is because we have such great confidence in Charlie Corbell," Nationals farm director Andy Dunn said. "We moved him out of Triple-A--I said, 'We need you at Potomac. We've got some kids there who will be pretty special to the franchise.' "

Washington also hired former Pirates pitching coach Spin Williams as a pitching advisor to player development and scouting, and he has spent much of his time working with the Potomac staff. Then the Nationals assigned veteran minor league hitters like 24-year-old first baseman Steve Mortimer, 25-year-old outfielder Ender Chavez and 25-year-old third baseman Brandon Powell (acquired from the Royals in the minor league Rule 5 draft) to Potomac to make sure the young pitchers get plenty of run support.

The final piece to the puzzle was getting top catching prospect Devin Ivany back behind the plate after he tweaked his groin near the end of spring training. Ivany and power-hitting catcher Luke Montz have shared the catching duties thus far, but Ivany's return to health has allowed the Nationals to move Montz, who struggles defensively behind the plate, to first base the last two games. Montz still figures to get some time catching, but having Ivany calling most games should help the staff.

All those factors, combined with his 3-9, 4.93 performance last year at Potomac, caused Hinckley to return to the Carolina League. He took a tough-luck loss when a thunderstorm caused his first outing to be postponed after he allowed a leadoff double to start the game, then allowed six runs--four earned--over 4 2/3 innings in his next start. The line wasn't great, but Dunn was encouraged by his stuff in that April 10 outing.

"He looked good--his innings were good, command was pretty good, breaking ball was sharp," Dunn said.

The results were better but still not great yesterday against Myrtle Beach, when Hinckley allowed two earned runs on five hits and three walks over four innings.

• Double-A Corpus Christi set a season-high in both hits (15) and runs (10), but needless to say that wasn't exactly music to manager Dave Clark's ears in the Hooks' 20-10 loss to Midland on Sunday.

In the opener of a 10-day road trip, Corpus Christi pitching allowed those 20 runs on 26 hits, as the Rock Hounds put up two runs or more in five innings. Righthander Josh Miller, who was signed out of the independent Atlantic League last season, was roughed up the most, allowing six runs on 11 hits over just four innings.

"The worst game for this team?" Clark told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. "It's probably the worst game to ever (expletive) be played with what we went through. It was (expletive). It was everything. In all phases of the (expletive) game, we didn't do (expletive). We showed up - that's all we did.

"We got our (butts) kicked. That's the only way I can explain it--we got our (butts) kicked."

Leading the hit parade for Midland were right fielder Jason Perry--who hit for the cycle--and second baseman Kevin Melillo, who went 6-for-7 with a pair of doubles.

• Bad news for Cubs fans, as first baseman Brian Dopirak fractured the metatarsal bone in left foot while rounding second base on Opening Day. Dopirak, who opened eyes of the Chicago brass by hitting .355 (11-for-31) with a pair of homers in big league camp this spring, is expected to miss 6-to-8 weeks . . . Reds lefthander Philippe Valiquette went on the 15-day disabled list with an oblique strain. The 19-year-old Canadian was off to a fast start at low Class A Dayton, going 1-0, 1.13 over eight innings.

Contributing: Aaron Fitt, Chris Kline, Matt Meyers.