Daily Dish: July 14

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

Phillies lefthander J.A. Happ came away with his second straight win Thursday night, as Double-A Reading pounded Harrisburg, 11-3.

It was just the third Double-A start for Happ, who was often overlooked in the Florida State League among such arms as Twins righthanders Kevin Slowey and Matt Garza, Brewers righthanders Yovani Gallardo and Mark Rogers, Reds righthander Homer Bailey, Cubs righthander Sean Gallagher and Dodgers lefty Scott Elbert. And even though Happ finished his time in the FSL with a 3-7 record, he carried a 2.81 ERA to go along with a 77-19 strikeout-walk ratio in 80 innings and held opponents to a .216 average.

It’s been more of the same story for the 2004 third-round pick out of Northwestern with the R-Phils, who struck out 10 Thursday in just 5 2/3 innings against the Senators to improve to 2-1, 3.86 with a 24-9 strikeout-walk ratio in 16 innings.

"He’s just got such good deception, and that’s what he really used to his advantage last night," Reading pitching coach Tom Filer said. "You look at it and he was 87-88 (mph) with his fastball, but struck out 10--he was smart and his stuff was pretty sharp too."

Happ’s changeup has been graded out as a plus pitch in the past, but Filer said that pitch needed more work, as well as honing his slurvy breaking ball to improve his overall repertoire.

"His changeup can be a plus pitch at times, but he didn’t really use many offspeed pitches (Thursday)," Filer said. "It was just him locating his fastball, changing speeds on it and keeping hitters off balance.

"His slider is a lot more of just a slurve right now, and we’re trying to get him to tighten it up. He also throws a curveball, but that’s another thing we’re working on to get more consistency out of it."

Happ was promoted to Reading to fill the void after the Phillies traded lefthander Daniel Haigwood to the Rangers for lefty Fabio Castro. And Filer sees some similarities between his new lefthander and his old one.

"Haigwood had a pretty quick fastball, nice, short arm action," Filer said. "Their velocity is about the same. I just think Happ’s deception is a little bit better, and he changes speeds a little better on his fastball. Haigwood’s curveball was more true at this stage, but as Happ makes adjustments to this level and beyond, he has the potential to have a curveball and a changeup that are solid average to above."


Max Contributor

A sore shoulder has meant a lot of time at designated hitter for Braves catcher Max Ramirez. While he has maintained that he doesn’t particularly care for DH, it hasn’t prevented him from contributing.

Playing in his first game in a week last night because of the shoulder, Ramirez slugged a two-run homer in the fifth innings that gave low Class A Rome all the cushion they needed to defeat Charleston 3-1.

"It felt very good to be back in the lineup," Ramirez told the Rome News-Tribune. "It drives me crazy to have to sit out, so I was just glad to be able to play, even if all I could do was DH."

The 21-year-old is suffering from a sprained rotator cuff and if was feared that it might necessitate a DL stint. Rehab; however, has prevented that to this point for the 2005 Rookie-level Appalachian League MVP.

While he may not like being DH, he might want to take a look at his splits. In 134 at-bats as a DH he is hitting .328 with six homers, 24 walks and 40 strikeouts. In 120 at-bats as a catcher, he is hitting .225 with three homers 25 walks and 30 strikeouts.


Reynolds Vs. Longoria

It would be premature to call Thursday’s showdown between Greg Reynolds and Evan Longoria a referendum on June’s draft, but it was certainly an intriguing matchup.

Reynolds, the No. 2 overall pick by the Rockies, made his second pro start for high Class A Modesto after throwing 5 innings of two-hit, two-run ball in his California League debut Saturday. This time the Stanford product found it tougher going, as Visalia roughed him up for five runs on five hits in the second inning, capped off by a two-run homer by Longoria, the No. 3 overall pick by the Devil Rays out of Long Beach State.

"I was definitely looking forward to facing him. I haven’t seen him before. We never faced in college," Longoria told the Visalia Times-Delta. "He really didn’t seem to overpower anyone (Thursday). But this is probably just one of those (difficult) starts, seeing that that he had a good start (Saturday)."

Reynolds did strike out six in three innings of work, but Longoria was the bigger story. The 20-year-old third baseman also added a double to continue his tear in the Cal League, where he is batting .345/.439/.750 through 48 at-bats. He has registered multiple hits in five of his last seven games, during which he has swatted five homers.

"I can’t really put any finger on one thing. So far everything’s going really well," Longoria told the paper. "Nothing seems to be difficult at this point, but I know baseball has a way getting back at you. Hopefully I can continue the way I’ve been playing."

And oh by the way, Oaks shortstop Reid Brignac managed to outdo his red-hot mate on the left side of the infield. He also hit a double and a homer, but Brignac’s 18th long ball of the year was a tie-breaking walk-off shot to lead off the ninth inning and give Visalia a 7-6 win.

"I was just looking for a good pitch to hit," Brignac told the Times-Delta. "I got on top of one, and I just wanted to put a quick swing on it."



• Cleveland’s John Drennen continued his hot hitting for low Class A Lake County as he went 4-for-4 last night in a 7 -1 loss to Greensboro. Though the rest of his team was stifled by Chris Volstad, the 19-year-old Drennen raised his average in July to .422. On the season, he is hitting .332/.419/.491 . . . Both Cameron Maybin and Justin Upton went 1-for-1 with three walks last night in the low Class A Midwest League. Maybin one-upped Upton though, as his one hit for West Michigan was a homer (his fourth) while Upton’s hit for South Bend was a double . . . Padres catcher George Kottaras homered and doubled in his first game with Triple-A Portland, a 12-4 rout of Tacoma. The 23-year-old backstop, who ranked as the club’s top position player entering the season, had hit .276/.394/.451 for Double-A Mobile in 257 at-bats . . . There’s a first time for everything. The Devil Rays' B.J. Upton played his first minor league game at third base July 13, while the recently-acquired Ben Zobrist manned shortstop. Upton had played 13 games at third--and one in left field--during his two-month audition with the Devil Rays in 2004. Neither player recorded an error, and Upton was 1-for-4 with two runs scored.

Contributing: Matt Eddy.