Welcome to Dirtbags Baseball blog! I was introduced to Long Beach State baseball in 2002 when my nephew, Neil Jamison, joined the team (and university) as a freshman. I started the blog in March of 2004, and generally discuss the team, current players and those that have moved on to professional baseball - as Neil has done in the San Diego Padres organization. Living in San Diego County, and with Neil moving to the next level, I won't be attending as many Dirtbags games. But, mostly from a distance, I'll remain a Dirtbags fan. I welcome tips on stories and information concerning the Dirtbags (current, past and future). I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Third baseman's big bat helps Brevard stay in first
BY SCOTT BROWN FLORIDA TODAY
VIERA - Adam Heether smiled as he talked about the stabilizing effect his new bride has had on him this season, how she makes sure he eats right by cooking regularly and even packs a lunch for him when the situation warrants it.
That, of course, begs the question of whether Heether can actually cook or if he is, well, a lot more handy at third base for the Brevard County Manatees than he is in the kitchen.
"I don't think he can (cook)," Heether's wife, Jennifer, said. "I wouldn't eat it if he did. He is good at barbecuing."
Fortunately for the Manatees, Heether has barbecued his share of pitchers this season.
He took a .314 batting average into Thursday's game -- ranking fifth in the Florida State League -- while also sporting a .396 on-base percentage (second in the FSL).
Heether's play has helped the Manatees roll to a 16-9 record and first place in the FSL's Eastern Division for the second half of the season.
"He plays the game hard and he's a very knowledgeable player," Manatees manager John Tamargo said, "plus he's got good talent."
Tamargo is impressed enough with Heether that he expects him to play in the big leagues one day.
Heather, the Manatees' cleanup hitter, has only five homers in 220 at-bats, but Tamargo is confident the power will eventually come simply because of the way the ball jumps off his bat.
Playing in what has long been considered a pitcher-friendly league, because of its spacious stadiums and heavy air, has in fact helped the 6-foot, 200-pound Heether's development at the plate.
Instead of trying to hit home runs, Heether concentrates on spraying line drives to all parts of the field.
"If I go up there and try to put the ball in the air, I'm not going to do much of anything," the 23-year-old California native said.
Heether's success can in part be attributed to the comfort level he has achieved.
An 11th-round draft choice of the Milwaukee Brewers in 2003, he starred at tradition-rich Long Beach State until leaving after his junior year.
But he struggled with the transition from aluminum to wood bats in his first professional season, as well as the grind of playing every day.
Playing for the Brewers' low Single-A team last season, Heather still grappled with the reality that he would fail much more often than he would succeed.
That caused him to think too much about the at-bats when he didn't get a hit. Now, Heether said, he quickly pinpoints what he did wrong after making an out, erases the at-bat from his mind and starts focusing on the next one.
"That's knowing I'm dealing with 500 at-bats and can't really judge myself by one day," Heether said.
He doesn't accept failure so much as he is philosophical about it in a game predicated on it.
But he burns to win -- his wife said if she beats him in the card game "Texas Rummy" he won't let her stop until he wins -- and also to succeed.
Consider the tattoo that covers the left side of his chest. It says, "All or nothing," and it is nothing if not a daily reminder to Heether.
"I've got one shot at this," he said of playing pro baseball, "so every day I try to get a little better."
Dirtbags reload with top arms Weathers and staff bring in prospects.
By Bob Keisser Staff writer
It's too early to say anything definitively, but the Dirtbags' recruiting class for 2006 looks like a worthy successor to the pitching-rich classes of the past that have sent Abe Alvarez, Jered Weaver, Cesar Ramos and Neil Jamison to the pros.
Coach Mike Weathers and recruiting coordinator Troy Buckley have landed eight well-regarded freshmen pitchers who will compete for innings with an already young group of returning contributors to last season's NCAA regional team.
"We lost six guys who pitched a lot of quality innings for us last season (Ramos, Marco Estrada, Cody Evans, Jamison, Brian Anderson and Steve Hammond)," Weathers said. "So there's going to be opportunities to pitch right away."
Those six Dirtbags combined for 374 1/3 of the team's 522 innings in 2005.
"It's a very good group of pitchers. Vance Worley, Scott Turmail and Shane Peterson have probably gotten the most recognition, but it's way too early to say who's going to fill what role. They all had success last season and will be in the mix."
The Dirtbags will return one starter, Jared Hughes (8-3, 2.83), as well as Donnie Hume and Matt Fitts, who impressed late last season in limited opportunities as true freshmen and are candidates for the rotation. Senior-to-be Brett Andrade is pitching well in summer play and is a candidate to replace Jamison as the closer.
The Dirtbags lost just one recruit to the amateur draft. Outfielder Andy Lopez of Elk Grove (Sacramento) signed with Tampa Bay as an eighth-round pick after the team agreed to give him a bonus comparable to a fourth-round pick. He hit .462 last season.
Among the recruited bats are shortstop Danny Espinosa, who helped Mater Dei to the CIF title, catcher Kip Masuda from Hawaii and two outfielders transferring in with Division I experience, Robert Perry (Santa Clara) and Teddy Pattock (Coastal Carolina).
A look at the 15 new faces, in alphabetical order:
* Kyle Bredenkamp, RHP, Fr., 6-5, 210, Millikan High: The local product went 6-4 with a 1.72 ERA for the Rams, striking out an average of a batter-plus per inning. He shrugged off an offer from Philadelphia (37th round) to stay home. Comparable to Hughes when he was a freshman, he is raw and still growing into his body.
* Danny Espinosa, SS, Fr., 6-0, 185, Mater Dei High: Espinosa is a baseball rat, Weathers said, who has logged a lot of innings already in his career and played on several U.S. National youth teams. He's very solid with the glove but his bat numbers in 2005 were modest, .288 and 20 RBI, to go with 18 steals.
* Hunter Hewitt, LHP, Fr., 6-0, 187, Kentucky/Trinity High: The Kentucky Wildcats thought they had the inside track on Hewitt, but he chose to come west to work with Buckley after spending a summer in the Dirtbags camp. He was 5-2 in 2005 and 7-0 with a 1.12 ERA and 94 strikeouts in 2004. Scouts like his velocity and say he'll get better as he gets stronger.
* Andre Lamontagne, RHP, Fr., 6-4, 180, Santa Maria Righetti High: Lamontagne didn't need to be schooled on Dirtbag philosophy. He became a fan of the program when his family came to visit relatives who lived here and the Dirtbags were on his short list of colleges. He went 9-0 last season to lead Righetti to a league title and postseason play. He wasn't on the scouting radar before 2005, so the Dirtbags may have nailed a sleeper.
* Russ Lowell, LHP, Fr., 6-0, 155, Encinitas La Costa Canyon High: Lowell was a first team all-league choice as a junior, going 6-0 with a 1.66 ERA. He suffered bad luck this season, going 4-6 with a 3.85 ERA and 44 walks and 78 strikeouts in 60 innings. But he beat San Diego kingpin Rancho Bernardo twice and lost a third game in extra innings.
* Kip Masuda, C, Fr., 5-10, 185, Hawaii/Mid-Pacific Institute: Masuda was named the state's position player of the year while leading his team with a .389 average, five home runs and 38 RBI after going on a regimented weight-lifting program in the offseason. He threw out 17 of 20 base stealers last season. Masuda also attended a Dirtbags camp and impressed the coaches there. He can also play first base.
* Bobby McMurray, OF-3B, Jr., 6-0, 195, Mesa City College: He will arrive coming off a torn rotator cuff suffered midway through last season. He actually played with the injury as a freshman and still hit .354 with 62 RBI. When healthy, he hits for average and power.
* Teddy Pattock, OF, So., 6-1, 180, Chandler-Gilbert (Az.) City College: The left-handed hitter began his career at Coastal Carolina (a No. 1 seed in the 2005 NCAA tournament), then left for junior college, where he was a second-team all-league choice with a .319 average, .418 on-base percentage and 21 steals. He's currently playing on the same Alaska summer team with Dirtbags Brandon Godfrey, Fitts and Andrade.
* Robert Perry, OF, Jr., 5-9, 175, Santa Clara: A former Little League teammate of Troy Tulowitzki, Perry in 2004 became the first freshman to start at Santa Clara in 22 years. He hit .305 with eight homers in 2004 and was hitting .324 with four homers when he suffered a finger injury that sidelined him at mid-season. The Dirtbags recruited him out of high school with Tulowitzki, but he chose to stay close to home.
* Shane Peterson, LHP/1B, Fr., 6-1, 195, Temecula Chaparral High: He'll probably pitch in college, but he's good enough with the bat (.414, seven home runs) to warrant being used like 2004 standout Jason Vargas. He was a second-team all-CIF choice and won five games with 90 Ks. He's already played as a member of a USA National youth team.
* Edgar Sedano, IF, So., 5-11, 175, Roosevelt High, East L.A. College: Sedano was an all-city choice and teammate of Fullerton ace Ricky Romero while at Roosevelt. He's performed well in two seasons at East L.A., being named all-Southern California while hitting .405 with 40 runs scored, six home runs and 19 RBI.
* Bryan Shaw, RHP, Fr., 6-0, 190, Livermore High: In 28 innings of an injury-shortened season, Shaw allowed just 14 hits and one earned run (0.25 ERA) while striking out 29.
* Scott Turmail, RHP, Fr., 6-4, 190, Missouri/Hazelwood Central High: He won virtually every award in his region other than a state title. After going 8-1 with a 1.41 ERA in 2004, he was 7-1/1.63 in 2005. His most incredible stat: He struck out 53 and walked only three. He also hit .357, but his future is on the hill. The Dirtbags coaches made a rare trip to the Midwest to scout Turmail based on his sincere interest in the program and were rewarded.
* Allen Wood, OF, Lakewood High/Golden West College: The stepson of long-time Long Beach director of Parks, Recreation and Marine Phil Hester hit .366 in 2004 and .326 with 28 RBI as a second-team all-league choice in 2005.
* Vance Worley, RHP, Fr., 6-3, 210, Sacramento McClatchy High: Worley was projected as a high pro draft pick, but he suffered an elbow strain late in the season that cost him velocity and led pro teams to bail. He wound up being drafted by Philadelphia in the 20th round and chose to attend Long Beach State instead, something he says he might have done regardless. Worley hit the low 90s on the speed gun before the injury and struck out 102 in 51 1/3 innings this season while posting a 4-3 record and 1.79 ERA. In 2004, he was 6-1 with a 1.71 ERA.
DIRTBAG NOTES: Original Dirtbag Don Barbara has been named the top assistant at Sacramento State, which joins the Western Athletic Conference next season. His contract as an assistant coach for the Dirtbags was not renewed. ...Three pitchers who didn't appear in a game in 2005 have left the program. Left-hander Brendon Villalobos, who was 1-2 in 10 appearances in 2004, is transferring to Chaffey College, and sophomore Romeo Newman (one appearance in 2004) and freshman pitcher Ryan Shopshire are also transferring to JCs in search of playing time. ... Outfielder Zach Barger, who hit .222 with two RBI in 15 games last season, also plans to transfer to a JC near his home in San Diego. ... Brandon Decker, an infielder-outfielder from El Cajon Granite Hills High who hit .360 with five home runs and 14 stolen bases, also joined the team as a walk-on.
On the Eugene Emeralds 2-1 win on a run scored in the bottom of the 9th, MadFriars.com has this (no link, paid area):
Neil Jamison went one inning and got the win. He has gone ten straight outings without allowing an earned run and sports a 0.60 ERA on the year. In 13 appearances, Jamison has had the challenge of working with a runner on in all but two. The righty hasn't allowed a single hit with runners in scoring positions, notching 18 straight outs in such situations. While lefties are batting .269, righties have been limited to a slim .194 average against.
...The basis for the A's superlative pitching has been the exceptional play of starters Jared Hughes, Andrew Miller, and Robert Woodard, set-up man Brooks Brown and closer Derrick Lutz, each of whom has put up all-star quality stats and simultaneously increased their status as a major league prospect.
Hughes, a six-foot-seven righty, got off to a rocky start during his first outing in Bourne, hitting the first two batters he faced before walking the third. But the Long Beach State ace benefited from a double play and never looked back, allowing just one run and striking out five over six innings to notch the first of his now five wins.
The Cape League's player of the week June 26, Hughes trumped his performance in Bourne with a dazzling one in Falmouth the following week, flirting with a no-hitter as he struck out 12 Commodores in a complete game two-hit effort.
The Laguna Beach, Calif., native has been just as sharp in his other starts, recording seven strikeouts in six innings against Hyannis, posting seven K's in as many innings against Y-D, and allowing just one run against Wareham on Monday.
Matching power with accuracy, Hughes has fooled opposing batters with his fastball/change-up/slider combination, throwing each pitch with major league caliber movement and velocity, according to his coaches. His highlights have come in spades, but Hughes says his performance against the Braves is the one that truly stands out.
"I was particularly proud of the game against Bourne, just because I was able to come back and keep our team in the game,' said Hughes, relying as much on his brain as his brawn by constantly charting pitches and making scout reports.
"I may not be the best guy in the world to decide how a batter swings and where I should pitch him, but I figure I have to learn sooner or later," said Hughes. "Some guys can get by just on talent, but if I want to be the best pitcher I can be, I have to have a game plan."
That student-of-the-game approach has paid dividends, as Hughes is tied for the league lead in wins (5), ranks second in the league with a 0.77 ERA, and leads the A's with 37 strikeouts (in 30 innings).
"I knew if I came out and threw strikes and threw low in the zone with the stuff I had, I could be productive and a good pitcher in this league," said Hughes. "My whole mentality is to take one pitch at a time, because the next pitch is always the one that matters, never the one before."...
Matt Fitts threw seven innings of no-hit ball, Quinn Stewart had a monster night at the plate and the Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks played like the best team in the Alaska Baseball League on Wednesday night in a convincing 11-0 victory over Athletes in Action...
Fitts piled up 10 K's through seven innings, yielding no runs, no hits and three walks en route to the win.
The freshman right-hander from Long Beach State retired 12 consecutive Fire batters at one point and sat down the last five in a row that he faced.
Panners manager Ed Cheff said it was a tough call to relieve Fitts after the seventh.
"The way it is in our league, you have to protect these young kids a bit," he said. "Fitts has been a closer for us; he's not used to a role where he can throw 120 pitches in a game. We knew a pitch count of 110 was right around the most he'd throw.
"A win is a win whether they get one hit or no hits," Cheff added. "That's the way you've got to look at it."...
Last night's performance drops Matt's ERA from 4.05 to 3.35. He's now fanned 43 (1.07 per inning) while walking just 10.
Jered Weaver, the Angels' top draft pick from 2004, gets his feet wet at Rancho Cucamonga and rounds into form after a sitting out a full year
By David Lassen July 20, 2005
RANCHO CUCAMONGA -- In an empty ballpark, with his next start two days away, Jered Weaver is perfecting his craft.
For 15 minutes, the pitcher from Simi Valley throws off the bullpen mound at the Epicenter, the home of the California League's Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. To a casual observer, the throwing motion of the 6-foot-7 right-hander seems fluid, almost effortless, as he mixes pitches and locations, but the two men watching Weaver are anything but casual observers.
Erik Bennett, the Quakes' pitching coach, and Mike Butcher, the roving pitching instructor for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, watch carefully as Weaver works. This is Day 3 in the five-day work cycle of a starting pitcher, and for a pitcher like Weaver, this is the day to learn.
"Today's the day we do the mechanical work," says Bennett. "If there's any adjustments or stuff we need to work on, today's the day we do it."
For the coaches, it's a vital part in the development of a pitcher who represents a $4 million investment by the Angels, one who some observers believe could climb from his current spot in Class-A ball to the majors this season.
It's a gradual process, all the more so, because Weaver didn't join the team until mid-June, nearly a year after the Angels drafted him in the first round. The long layoff during contract negotiations means Weaver is still at a point akin to the late stages of spring training.
"The first week, we just watch him," says Bennett. "Then we do a little bit at a time. Nothing major, because he's pretty solid as far as mechanics go. We've just been doing some little stuff to help him keep his elbow up so he stays on top of the ball."
This is an atypical day because of the presence of Butcher, who roves the Angel farm system working with pitchers at all levels. While he saw Weaver throw shortly after the pitcher signed, this visit is Butcher's first chance to work with the pitcher since he made his minor-league debut, and will include his first look at Weaver in a game. "I wanted to see him more when he was at full strength than when he was a guy working his way back into shape," he says.
As Weaver works -- in all, he throws about 40 pitches -- the two coaches move frequently to get different perspectives on the pitcher's delivery, occasionally asking a question or making a brief suggestion.
"Be more aggressive with your hips on this next one," Butcher suggests at one point. Weaver nods, throws a slider to the inside corner of the plate, and nods again with approval.
Weaver finishes the workout by throwing a series of pitchouts, then stands on the bullpen mound for a long time, talking with Butcher, as Bennett moves off to work with other Rancho Cucamonga players.
"He's a good kid, man," Bennett says later, sitting in the Rancho Cucamonga dugout as the Quakes take batting practice. "Today he threw a nice bullpen. Has a great feel for the fastball, has good command. His breaking ball's nice and tight. He's going to be a lot of fun to work with."
An unconventional tall pitcher
It's a baseball truism taller pitchers take longer to develop, longer to perfect their delivery, but the smoothness of the 22-year-old belies the notion.
"There's a lot of moving parts, obviously, but he has very good coordination," says Butcher. "... He's very fluid. It takes guys a long time to get to where they can repeat their deliveries, and he does a pretty good job of it already. So as far as that goes, he's ahead of the curve."
Agrees Rancho Cucamonga manager Ty Boykin: "There's no herky-jerky kinks, there's no overthrowing. He knows what he's trying to do out there, and he knows how to pitch. He's got a very good sense of how to pitch. You see a lot of guys that come into pro ball, especially pitchers, and they get to a point where they just want to throw it. And he hasn't shown that."
Butcher has already seen signs Weaver is a quick study when it comes to the kind of details the coach wants to address. The first time he saw Weaver, he noted the pitcher stepped toward first base in his delivery, and suggested it would be better if he stepped back over the pitching rubber.
" We want weight transfer back," says Butcher, "so he can get into his balance and his direction. ... I said I want to see you pitch first, before you make these adjustments. And he liked it so much that he's doing it now, and he's comfortable with it already."
Weaver later confirms the positive difference the change has made.
"Going straight back is causing me to stay through the target instead of pulling off all the time, which is great advice," he says. "It's helped out a lot."
The progress Weaver has made -- both from such coaching tips and as he scrapes off the rust and rebuilds his arm strength after his long layoff -- is evident two nights later, as he faces Lancaster in his sixth start for Rancho Cucamonga.
He went just two innings in his pro debut, and followed with a couple of rough outings that left him with an ERA approaching 10.00. But in the Saturday night game, he records his third straight win, striking out 11 in six innings.
"I'm working on getting ahead of hitters," Weaver says. "It worked out good today, and I really wasn't trying to strike out too many. I was trying to get outs within the first three pitches ... but (the strikeouts) just come up. I felt good."
Working under a 95-pitch limit, he throws 88 pitches, 62 for strikes, and shows his ability to adjust to an umpire's strike zone. Early in the game, plate umpire Jesse Redwine establishes a willingness to call a strike on pitches away from left-handed batters, and Weaver takes advantage. Seven of his strikeouts are against the six left-handers in the Lancaster order.
"That was a thing coming into tonight's game," Weaver says. "I knew there were going to be a lot of lefties, so I was going to have to use my sinker a lot, and I had great control with it. Got quick with it a couple of times, but I as able to make an adjustment to make the repetition and keep it down and way, and it worked out great."
Thinking back to the bullpen session two days earlier, Weaver sees another reason to judge the night a success.
"I was working on more of a quick set out of the stretch, which came along really good," he says. "I was like 1.3 to 1.4" -- his time in seconds delivering the ball to the plate -- "and I was 1.6 to 1.7 before. We've been really working on that in drills and bullpens, and I'm starting to really feel a lot more comfortable with it, when I got out of the stretch."
Pitching at 90 percent strength
Overall, Weaver judges he's back to about 90 percent of where he was during his final season at Long Beach, when he was 15-1 with a 1.62 ERA. "I'm still hitting a wall in the sixth," he says. "I could have gone back out there in the seventh, but I would have been a little fatigued. It would have been nice to get over that hump. ... It's about getting to the eighth or ninth, but with the way our bullpen's throwing, I'm happy to go six."
At 90 percent, Weaver is pretty darned good. In his last three games, he's struck out 26 and walked just two in 16 2/3 innings, while allowing eight hits and four earned runs -- a performance that makes it plain why the Angels are so high on him.
"He's heady, he comes from a baseball background, and he's a good kid," says Butcher. "We obviously like what we see, and he's fun to work with. He's wanting to learn. He's like a sponge right now."
And regardless what timetable the organization might have in mind, Boykin notes Weaver appears to be ahead of schedule.
"This is like his spring training, building everything up," says the manager. " You don't expect to see the high strikeouts like you're seeing right now. But it just tells you his mind frame is that he wants to get going. He talked about that from Day 1.
"We've just got to make sure he doesn't get ahead of himself, but he's not. He's making good strides, he's doing good things, his ball's got a lot of movement, he's mixing his pitches well, all locations, up, down, in, out. He's got a pretty good repertoire of pitches and locations. And it's a confidence builder for him, because he wants to show everybody he can pitch. And the way he's going right now, he's proving his point."
Troy Tulowitzki clobbered a three-run home run, his second of the season, in his first game played since July 4th. He would later add an RBI double the next inning to complete a three-hit night.
I've seen no explanation why former Dirtbag Troy Tulowitzki (Modesto Nuts, Advanced A California League) hadn't played in 2 weeks. Before last night he was batting .208, with a .324 SLG% and .270 OB%, with 34 at bats. Yesterday he was 3 for 3, 4 RBI, and 7 8 total bases. Now he's .270/.514/.357 with 37 at bats. Not a bad nights work!
After missing more than two weeks with a strained quad muscle, Rockies 2005 first-round pick Troy Tulowitzki returned to the high Class A Modesto lineup in a big way Tuesday night. The seventh overall pick out of Long Beach State went 3-for-3 with a pair of doubles, a home run and four RBIs in the Nuts' 12-9 win over Stockton, raising his season averages to .270/.357/.514 in 37 at-bats.
Alright ladies and gentleman, start your engines, it's list time. Finally I have my midseason top 75 all ready for viewing, and we will go through the players during the next two days. Please notice the list does not include any players drafted in the 2005 draft, or those currently playing in short-season ball. I promise to rank them this winter, but it's too early this time around.
For each player I have provided their statistics, as well as their age. The numbers I used, and the way I presented them, are pretty similar to past styles (hitters: AVG/OBP/SLG, W/K, SB in AB; pitchers: ERA H/IP K/BB HR). Today we begin the countdown with numbers 75-31, so please enjoy and check back tomorrow.
Bryan lists 2 former Dirtbags, and 1st on the countdown list is Jason Vargas:
Really on a tour of America this year, Vargas is currently on his fourth level of the season in Miami. He has seen success at each stop, and his first start against the Diamondbacks went fine. Four walks is way too much for five innings, and they look to be the result of falling behind in the count, in which Vargas does not pitch very effectively. A lot of people would kill for the southpaw trio of Willis, Olsen and Vargas in one rotation.
It's a small thing, but Bryan must have missed that 2 of 4 walks issued in Jason's 1st start with the Marlins were of the intentional variety. Next comes Jered Weaver:
Really coming on strong after a rough start. His pitchability is off the charts, second maybe only to Yusmeiro Petit on this list. But, his G/F that Rich listed is concerning, as is the stuff that scouts have long and outspokenly doubted. Look for him to prove the scouts wrong, settling nicely into a number two/three role in the Majors.
I've kept you fairly up to date on Evan Longoria and Jared Hughes' performance in the Cape Cod Baseball League...both because of their league leading status on the Cape, and the ease of obtaining current stats. For some Dirtbags playing summer ball, I can't find any current stats (Sean Boatright, Jordan Struble, and Andrew Liebel). I can't even find where Jose Hernandez is playing! For the others, here's how they are doing (not including any games yesterday):
Chuck Sindlinger, with the Danville Dans in the Central Illinois Collegiate League is batting .353 (7th best in the league) over 24 games and 85 at bats. He's walked 20 times (#6 in the league), while striking out 18, posting a .486 on base percentage. Chuck is slugging at .541 (#7 in league), with 3 HR (#7 in league), 1 triple and 5 doubles. He's also posted 22 RBI (#3 in the league). He's scored the 2nd most runs in the league (24).
Brandon Godfrey, Matt Fitts and Brett Andrade are all with the Alaska Goldpanners in Fairbanks. Brandon is batting .244 (10 hits in 41 at bats, appearing in 13 of 36 games), with a .289 on base percentage (drawing 2 walks), and slugging at .390 (3 triples). Matt has started 6 games (with no relief appearances), and pitched 33.1 innings. He's 3-2, with a 4.05 ERA, and has struck out 33 with walking 10. Opponents are batting .250 against him. Brett has also been impressive in 8 relief appearances, going 18.1 innings. He stands at 0-0, with a 1.47 ERA, and 4 saves. He's struck out 14 while walking 5, and opponents are batting .250.
Donnie Hume is with the Solano Thunderbirds in the California Coastal League. The only information available is box scores, and these do not appear in standard, or even consistent, format. From the box scores, Donnie has appeared in 5 games, starting 3, and pitched 24 innings. He's 4-0, and has allowed only 2 runs, though it's not recorded whether they were earned. If they were, his ERA is 0.75. Donnie has struck out 17, while walking 11. I estimate his opponents' batting average at .138 (1 box score doesn't indicate how many at bats to attribute between pitchers). All in all, he appears to be having an excellent summer.
Update: Reader Kurt advises that Jose Hernandez, Sean Boatright, Jordan Struble and former Dirtbag Cole Jacobsen are helping out with the Dirtbags Summer Baseball Camps, so they may not be playing much summer ball.
Former Dirtbags In The Northern League All-Star Game
Monday former Dirtbag, now Gary Southshore Railcat, Curt Lee was added to the North team in the Northern League All-Star Game. The game, hosted by Gary, also featured two other former Dirtbags - Justin Hall of the St. Paul Saints, and Kirk Pierce of the Sioux Falls Canaries.
DOUBLE TRIP: [Buffalo] Bisons' slugger Jeff Liefer doubled again last night as part of a 2-4 performance. Liefer has now doubled in four of the five games this road trip, taking over the team lead with 26 two-baggers (tied 4th in the IL). His two hits last night also raised his average to .319, 5th in the International League.
6. Jered Weaver, rhp, Angels (High Class A Rancho Cucamonga)
After not pitching for over a year, it was understandable that Weaver would be a little rusty at first, but with 39 strikeouts and five walks in 26 innings, the 2004 first-round pick is looking like he might be worth the wait. Scouts worried about his ability to get lefties out, and so far, that concern remains as lefties are batting .286 off him, as compared to .192 for righties.
Jared Hughes picked up his 5th win for the Chatham A's in the Cape Cod League last night, to go 5-0 with a 0.77 ERA over 35.0 innings. In the game he went 7.0 innings, allowing 1 run on 6 hits, striking out 6 while walking 1. Jared now leads the league in wins, and is 2nd in ERA.
Jason Vargas made his 1st start for the Florida Marlins last night, leaving the game after 5.0 innings in a 3-3 tie. He got no decision. Jason, who batted .354 with a .531 slugging percentage for the Dirtbags in 2004, hit a double to the fence in his 1st Major League at bat. Going 1 for 3, and scoring a run, he's now batting .333 with a .666 slugging percentage. Other National League pitchers are not going to be able to take him lightly.
Oh, yeah, he also pitched pretty darned well. In his 5.0 IP, he gave up 4 hits, 3 runs (2 earned), and struck out 3. He allowed 4 walks, but 2 were intentional. Jason's ERA stands at 3.00.
...Vargas weaved in and out of trouble in his five innings. The lefty gave up four hits and four walks, but only gave up two earned runs when Craig Counsell lined a two-out triple past the outstretched glove of right fielder Jeff Conine.
"I just try to go out there and get outs and throw strikes and get ahead of hitters," Vargas said. "I got behind on a few hitters and that cost me a few runs and all I can do is learn from that."
Vargas proved he is also capable with the bat, nailing a double off the right-field fence in his first career at-bat. He came around to score Florida's first run on an RBI single by Luis Castillo.
"I was very impressed with the kid," McKeon said. "He did a good job pitching and he got some tough breaks -- he should've certainly left with the lead but he didn't. And we found out he's a pretty good hitter."
There's a few Dirtbags fans who could have told Jack McKeon as much!
Neil Jamison finally has an ERA. After cruising through the college season at Long Beach State without giving up an earned run ---- 29 2/3 innings over 27 games ---- the former Ramona High star has an 0.69 ERA ---- one run in 13 innings at short-season Single-A Eugene. Jamison was a sixth-round pick of the Padres in June.
It doesn't get any better than this for Chatham's Evan Longoria (Long Beach State), who has been named the Coca-Cola Player of the Week for the second time this season. In 30 at-bats this week, Longoria smashed three home runs, two doubles, one triple and had 11 RBI for the second place A's. Over the seven-game period, Longoria scored six runs and compiled an amazing .400 batting average, .833 slugging percentage and a .424 on-base-percentage. With the All-Star game only two weeks away, it's a safe bet Longoria will earn serious consideration from team managers.
Hat tip to reader Barbara for emailing me the heads up on Evan's award.
Neil Jamison hasn't been as good as his stint with Long Beach Statewhere he did not surrender an earned run but the beginning to his career in the Padres' system has been close. He pitched two innings of scoreless ball, his fifth straight outing without allowing a run. The righty has given up one earned run over 12 innings while striking out 14 over ten appearances. He has given up runs in two outings but just the one earned run. He has yet to surrender a hit with runners in scoring position.
That makes 1 earned run for 2005! Today, MadFriars.com is out with their periodic Padres Prospect Power Rankings, which they bill as "[a] taste of the 30 hottest prospects in the Padres organization." Previously unranked, they've now got Neil at #27 with these comments (no link, paid area):
The closer for Long Beach State has proven to be an effective reliever with the Ems. He has six straight scoreless appearances and has whiffed six over his last four innings, including striking out the side in one game. His ERA is a miniscule 0.69 with one earned run over 11 appearances on the year.
PHILADELPHIA - Jack McKeon invited the new face into his office expecting a question.
"I thought he was a writer from Philadelphia," McKeon said.
When the kid extended his hand and introduced himself as Jason Vargas, McKeon's newest pitcher, the manager acted like he'd known all along.
McKeon can be forgiven if he had no idea who Vargas was - most of his players didn't, either. Vargas has been in the organization a year, never been to major-league camp in spring training and started the season in Greensboro, N.C., the organization's low Class A affiliate.
"When we drafted him a year ago they really thought he could be a quick mover in the system because of his mental makeup and his ability to compete and he's done nothing to disappoint us," General Manager Larry Beinfest said. "He's been outstanding."
Vargas, 22, was at a mall Wednesday in Raleigh, N.C., when he got the call that he would be making the jump from Class AA to the majors to replace Al Leiter on the roster. This capped a whirlwind 3 1/2 months in which the left-hander climbed from Greensboro to Class A Jupiter to Carolina, making a combined 17 starts.
"It's been a wild year," Vargas said. "I never would have expected this."
Vargas made his major-league debut Thursday, pitching one inning and allowing his first hit and walk, and posting his first strikeout. He will start Monday at Arizona.
"To get out there for the first time and get a chance to pitch in front of a lot of people, it was a great experience," Vargas said. "I'll never forget it."
Vargas has added a third pitch, a slider, since the Marlins drafted him in the second round last year out of Long Beach State. He primarily threw a fastball and changeup in college.
The pitch has allowed him to become more of a strikeout pitcher, with 118 in 108 innings this season. He had 58 in 60 1/3 innings at Jamestown and Greensboro last season.
With that, Vargas excused himself and started making his way around the clubhouse. After all, there were new teammates to meet.
John Bowker's outstanding career at Long Beach State led to his selection by the San Francisco Giants in the 3rd round of the 2004 MLB draft (the 100th selection overall). John grew up a Giants fan in Sacramento, so it would be tough to have a better day than he did on June 7, 2004 (capping off the thrill of winning the Palo Alto Regional against Stanford the day before).
John saw limited action in the Giants system last year. He began in Arizona in Rookie ball, where he hit .512, .580 OB%, and .860 SLG% in 10 games. Not much of a challenge! They moved him up to Salem-Keizer in the Class A Short Season Northwest League. In 37 games (127 ABs), he batted .323 with a .390 on base percentage, and .520 slugging.
John has spent the entire 2005 season with the San Jose Giants in the Advanced A California League. The first couple of months he struggled mightily, but beginning in June and especially July he's come on strong. Here's his monthly and overall stats (through yesterday):
If your browser doesn't support frames, or you have them turned off, you can view the stats here.
Over San Jose's last 10 games (John's last 8), he's 11 for 27 (.407), and over his last 3, 5 for 11 (.455). John's discipline at the plate has matched his improving batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage:
AB/strikeouts April 3.70 May 3.33 June 5.46 July 5.43
After so much success, it has to have been frustrating for John to struggle. But it looks like persistence is paying off as John's batting average, and hitting for power, are on the rise.
JUPITER - It seems only a month ago that pitcher Jason Vargas was refining his craft for the Jupiter Hammerheads. That's because it was.
Vargas' rapid ascension through the Marlins' minor-league system reached its apex Thursday when Florida designated veteran Al Leiter for assignment and recalled the former Hammerhead from Class AA Carolina.
The Marlins will be the fourth team the 22-year-old left-hander has pitched for this season when he makes his major-league debut Monday at Arizona.
"He showed me that he's an above-average, mature player who has the ability to control his emotions and execute pitches," Jupiter manager Tim Cossins said. "You can't rattle him. He's the same whether he's throwing a perfect game or getting hammered."
The latter didn't happen much during Vargas' seven-week stint in the Florida State League. After winning four of five decisions with low-Class A Greensboro, Vargas, drafted in the second round of last year's amateur draft, went 2-3 with a 3.42 ERA for the Hammerheads before his June 22 promotion to Carolina. In nine starts for Jupiter, he struck out 60 batters and walked just 14 in 55 1/3 innings.
"If he makes quality pitches, he should get outs," Jupiter pitching coach Reid Cornelius said. "If he gets too excited and things get to him, which I don't think they will, he could leave some pitches up. But he's a real cool customer with a good head on his shoulders."
...When he does debut, he will be the 25th former 49er to play in the Majors, and the fourth former player to be called up this season, joining Paul McAnulty (Padres), Chad Bentz (Marlins) and Abe Alvarez (Red Sox). McAnulty made his debut last month, while Bentz and Alvarez each played last season. Triple-A All-Star Jeff Liefer, a six-year Major League veteran, is also on the cusp of returning to the Show with the Indians...
Brian Anderson leads the Northwest League in saves at 5. Neil Jamison is 2nd in the Northwest League in appearances at 9. Chris Demaria is 4th in the California League in appearances at 36, and 5th in saves at 12. Jeff Liefer is 4th in the International League in slugging at .572, and 9th in batting average at .316.
In the AAA All-Star Game at Sacramento, Jeff Liefer hit a two-run homer for the International League in his 1 at bat. Abe Alvarez, also playing for the International League against the Pacific Coast League, got roughed up a bit, allowing 3 hits and 2 runs in his 1.0 inning of work. [Box Score] [Play-by-Play] [MiLB.com Story].
...The Marlins open their second half on Thursday with the first of four games against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.
On Thursday, the Marlins are expected to call up left-handed pitcher Jason Vargas from Double-A Carolina. A second-round pick out of Long Beach State in 2004, Vargas has moved quickly through the system as a starter. He began the season at low Class A Greensboro, where he was 4-1 with an 0.80 ERA while striking out 33 batters in 33 2/3 innings.
Vargas moved up to Class A Jupiter in early May, where he was 2-3 with a 3.42 ERA, striking out 60 in 55 1/3 innings. And on June 22, he began pitching for Double-A Carolina, where he was 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA, striking out 25 in 19 innings....
The Marlins are also expected to designate 39 year old Al Leiter for assignment (giving them 10 days to trade or release him). Jason may take his turn in the rotation, and make his Major League debut on Monday with a start against Arizona in Phoenix.
Update: It's official, Jason Vargas has been called up by the Florida Marlins.
Jared Hughes picked up win #4 yesterday for the Chatham A's in the Cape Cod League. Jared went 7.0, allowing 4 hits and no runs. He struck out 7, and walked 5. He's now 4-0 with a 0.64 ERA. He now leads the league in wins and complete games (1), and is 2nd in ERA. His Chatham (and Long Beach State) teammate Evan Longoria was 2 for 5 in the game, raising his league 4th best batting average to .329.
Update (sort of): I've just corrected this post, changing the misspelling of Jared's first name from "Jered". Thanks to reader Rich for gently e-mailing me for the 2nd time in as many weeks that I had done so. I think I'm going to have to call for a moritorium on new Long Beach State Dirtbags named Jered, Jared, Jarod, Jarrod, Jarred, Jerrod, Jerod, Jerad, Jarid, Jarad, Jerred, Jarrid, Jarrad, Jaryd, Jerrad, Jarryd, Jerrid, Jahred, or Gerrod.
Today is traditionally one of the quietest days in sports, but there is still a place to see prospects.
The International League will square off against the Pacific Coast League in the 18th Triple-A all-star game at Raley Field in Sacramento, Calif., tonight. The game will be broadcast on ESPN 2 beginning at 10 p.m. eastern.
While the game doesn't normally boast a bevy of prospects, tonight's matchup features some potential impact players that will be coming to a big league ballpark near you in the near future--including five prospects (and one manager) who participated in Sunday's Futures Game in Detroit.
Here are the players to keep an eye on tonight:
International League All-Star Prospects
ABE ALVAREZ LHP, Pawtucket (Red Sox) Age: 22. Drafted: Second round, 2003, Long Beach State The Red Sox believed Alvarez' exceptional feel for pitching would allow him to move quickly, and he made his big league debut in an emergency start against the Orioles just 13 months after they drafted him. A childhood infection left him legally blind in his left eye, and he wears his cap askew to shield his right eye from too much light. Alvarez' command and his changeup--his main weapons--are the best in the organization. Though his fastball won't wow you at 85-88 mph, he gets outs with precision. His curveball is also a solid-average pitch. Righthanders have a history of doing well against Alvarez, and he's done more to pitch them inside this season and keep them honest. He projects as a No. 3-5 starter in the big leagues. This season, Alvarez is 7-4, 4.67 in 94 innings for the Paw Sox....
...John Bowker, hitting .239 on the season for the San Jose Giants in the Advanced A California League, seems to be hitting his stride. Over the team's last 10 games he's batting .308, with 8 hits in 26 ABs (including a homerun) and 3 RBI. He's also scored 5 runs.
...Edgar Varela is hitting .379 over the last 10 games for the Lancaster JetHawks in the California League. Going 11 for 29, he's hit 1 homer, scored 5 runs and has 3 RBI.
...Jered Weaver, after 3 rusty appearances for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes of the California League, has a 2.53 ERA, and is 2-0, over his last 2 starts. He pitched 10.2 innings over those 2 starts, yielding 3 ER (5 total), striking out 15 while walking 1.
...Adam Heether, with the Brevard County Manatees of the Advanced A Florida State League is hitting .333 over the last 10 games (12 for 36), and .364 over the team's last 5 (8 for 22, including 2 HRs). He's got 7 RBI in the last 10 games.
...Kevin Randel is hitting .344 (11 for 32) over the last 10 games, with a homer, 6 RBI and 7 runs scored, for the Jupiter Hammerheads in the Florida State League.
...Bryan Kennedy, over the New Britain Rock Cat's (AA Eastern League) last 10 is hitting .500 (11 for 22), and .600 over the last 5 (6 for 10). He has 8 RBI over the last 10 games.
...Tim Hutting is swinging well for the Norwich Navigators in the Eastern League. Over the Navigators last 10, he's batting .455 (5 for 11), and scored 5 runs.
...A. J. LaBarbera, also with the Navigators, is hitting .324 over the last 10 games (12 for 37), and .357 over the last 5 (5 for 14). He's also got 5 RBI over the last 5 games.
...Chris Jones, batting .255 on the season, has gotten hot. Over the Williamsport Crosscutter's (Class A Short Season New York-Penn League) last 5 games he's batting .385 (5 for 13) with 3 RBI.
...Neil Jamison, with the Eugene Emeralds in the Class A Short Season Northwest League, has not allowed an earned run in his last 6 appearances. Over his last 3 appearances, over 3.2 innings, he's recorded a save, allowed 1 hit, struck out 7 and walked 1. He leads the Emeralds in ERA at 0.90, with 9 appearances and 10.0 IP.
...Brian Anderson has been lights out for the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes in the Northwest League since day 1. He has 6 appearances (7.2 innings) and figured in the victory in 5 of them (1 win and 4 saves). He has not allowed an earned run, and struck out 13 without walking a batter.
Evan Longoria hasn't let up playing for the Chatham A's in the Cape Cod League. After 71 at bats in 18 games, his .324 batting average is 2nd best in the league. He's also 1st in homeruns at 4, and tied for 3rd in RBI at 14. He tops that off with a .535 slugging percentage, good for 3rd best in the league. Here's his stats:
AVG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS SLG OBP E .324 18 71 8 23 3 0 4 14 3 12 4 3 .535 .351 5
Cape Cod is the elite of the elite summer wood bat leagues. Outstanding performance on the Cape bodes well for Evan's professional draft prospects as he enters his junior year at Long Beach State. 2005 saw a record 169 former Cape Cod players drafted, including Neil Jamison in the 6th round (Chatham A's, 2003) and Cody Evans in the 10th round (Contuit in 2004). Jered Weaver, who also played for the Chatham A's in 2003, was selected in the 1st round last year, and signed in May, 2005. There are also 1,004 former Cape Cod Leaguers who played professional baseball in 2004, including 7 former Dirtbags:
Player Cape Drft Drft Year Year Rnd Caleb Balbueno 1998 1998 26 Brad Davis 2002 2004 5 Dan Eisentrager 2000 2002 30 Bryan Kennedy 1999 2001 24 Jeff Liefer 1995 1995 1 Termel Sledge 1997 1998 8 Jeremy Ward 1998 1999 2
Gene Stephenson Returns to Wichita State Shocker Coach Declines Head Coach Position at Oklahoma
Citing unresolvable scholarship issues at the University of Oklahoma, Gene Stephenson will return to Wichita State University as head baseball coach and has declined the head coaching position at the University of Oklahoma.
"We are very appreciative for the opportunity to coach at the University of Oklahoma," Stephenson said. "However, some scholarship issues have arisen that are unresolvable to our satisfaction.
"We have worked over the years at Wichita State in order to use our scholarships and to plan for the use of our future scholarships.
"As we assessed the Oklahoma baseball scholarship situation, we would be too limited in our ability to take the program in the direction that we think it should go.
"OU has always been our dream job, and it is most unfortunate for all of us that this could not work. We dearly love the University of Oklahoma, and are very thankful to have been given the opportunity.
"Unfortunately, the scholarship issues have forced us to reconsider, and have made a decision to stay at Wichita State University."
Stephenson completed his 28th season as head coach at Wichita State in 2005 after leading the Shockers to their 23rd NCAA Tournament appearance. The 51 wins in 2005 marked the 18th time Stephenson led the team to 50 or more wins in a season.
Here's a statement from the Oklahoma AD from their website. Maybe it's just me, but this whole thing seems weird. It was hard to understand to begin with why Stephenson, at 60 years of age, and after 28 years as WSU, would want to leave for the Oklahoma job. The salary was apparently going to be about the same, but the presumption was that he'd have much greater resources at OU.
It's tough to know if legislative ideas hang around longer, and take longer to move through the process, in Congress or the NCAA. But as I wrote about here and here, the proposal to adopt a March 1 (or the Friday before March 1) uniform start date for Division I baseball has been creeping its way through the NCAA monolith. As Boyd Nation posts here, another shoe dropped...with a loud bang, despite the apparent attempt to avoid being notice by releasing the information on July 4. In addition to moving the season start date to the last Friday in February, the Competition Cabinet has also recommended that the season be shortened from 56 to 52 games. Here's the NCAA release:
Cabinet approves baseball proposal, seeks cut in games July 4th, 2005
Action supports Baseball Issues Committee recommendation to standardize start date
By Greg Johnson The NCAA News
SAN ANTONIO -- The Division I Championships/Competition Cabinet supported competitive-equity recommendations proposed by the Division I Baseball Issues Committee, but also voted during its June 21-22 meeting to sponsor an amendment that would reduce the maximum number of contests in the sport by four games.
If the proposal succeeds in the 2005-06 legislative cycle, the last Friday in February would become the first permissible playing date in Division I baseball, and the Men's College World Series would move back a week during years in which the season is fewer than 13 weeks. The CWS would still be completed before July 1 in those years.
The cabinet's proposed amendment would reduce the maximum number of contests in the playing season from 56 games to 52.
Originally, the Baseball Issues Committee had recommended that the first permissible date of competition be March 1 -- or the Friday before March 1 if that date fell on a Saturday, Sunday, Monday or Tuesday -- and that the CWS would extend to July 1 or beyond in 2010-13. The Division I Board of Directors, however, voiced concerns about extending the season into the month of July, and in fact asked the committee to consider a reduction in the playing season.
After approving the new recommendations by the Baseball Issues Committee, the cabinet voted to withdraw the original proposal it preliminarily agreed to sponsor in September 2004.
The Baseball Issues Committee pondered the idea of reducing the playing season during its deliberations, but did not include a recommendation in its latest proposal, preferring to wait until a study of the new Academic Progress Rate on the sport is completed.
That research could be concluded sometime this month.
A uniform date for the start of competition is seen as a compromise designed to lessen the gap in home games played by institutions in the North and in the Sun Belt. Research by the Baseball Issues Committee indicates that home teams win approximately 60 percent of the time, and there is a great disparity between the regions in locations where early-season games are played.
David Housel, director of athletics at Auburn University and a member of both the Championships/Competition Cabinet and the Baseball Issues Committee told cabinet members that a uniform start date is in the best interest of the sport.
"This is the best compromise possible at this particular time," said Housel, who did not vote to reduce games. "It is absolutely not what the Northern and Eastern schools want, and it is absolutely not what the Sun Belt schools want. No one on this cabinet and no one in the NCAA can underestimate the hard line taken by both the Northern and Eastern schools and the Sun Belt schools. We hear a lot about the hard line from the North and the East, but the feelings are just as strong to not do anything from the Sun Belt schools.
"This is, as we've said all along the way, a compromise. It really pleases nobody, but it's a compromise reached by representatives of the North, the East, the West and the South as the best for baseball at this particular time. It is a work in progress, and I remind you of that again."
In years (2008, 2009 and 2014) when the CWS would move back a week, a champion is scheduled to be crowned before July 1.
However, in those years, institutions and conferences that elect to compete up until the day before championship selections may incur additional costs due to student-athletes remaining on campus during vacation periods. According to a survey by the Baseball Issues Committee, the costs average $6,000 per week when school is not in session.
...definitely "shocking news" as Baseball America describes it. Perennial Dirtbags opponent Wichita State is losing it's coach, Gene Stephenson, after 28 years. Stephenson will take over the Oklahoma program, and will take his assistants with him...leaving a void at WSU.
...has been added to the roster of the South team in the AA Southern League All-Star Game. The game is scheduled for Wednesday in Mobile, Alabama. The stadium was apparently not damaged by Hurricane Dennis, and the game will go on.
Jason Giambi homered for the third game in a row and 20-year-old Melky Cabrera singled in his major league debut as Mike Mussina and the New York Yankees beat the visiting Cleveland Indians 7-2 Thursday night for their fifth consecutive victory...
Giambi, who added an RBI single, has hit four of his nine home runs, two doubles and a single in his last 10 at-bats.
Jason is batting .274, with a .423 on base percentage, and is slugging at .452. He's improved remarkable over the last 2 months. On May 8, his batting average was .202, on base percentage .398, and slugging percentage .338. His career numbers are .296 BA, .411 OB% and .536 slugging.
Kenny Maiques played his freshman year (2004) at Long Beach State. For 2004-2005 he transferred to Rio Hondo Community College, and had committed to play for the Univ. of South Carolina next year. Selected 30th in the 37th round (1,130 overall) of the 2005 Major League Draft by St. Louis, Kenny has signed with the Cardinals.
Here's the scouting report Baseball America had on him (no link, paid area):
Young and undersized on a Long Beach State staff that included Jered Weaver, Jason Vargas and Cesar Ramos - all first - and second-round talents - Maiques pitched sparingly as a freshman in 2004, with an 8.18 ERA in 12 appearances. After showcasing a 95 mph fastball in the Alaska League last summer, he planned to return to the Dirtbags but at the last minute elected to enroll at Rio Hondo Junior College. His timing couldn't have been better. He has been the most dominant junior college pitcher in the country, and now he's eligible to be drafted. He pitched seven-inning perfect games three weeks apart, fanning 17 and 14 in those games, and went a stretch of 49 innings without giving up an earned run. He led California juco pitchers with a 0.66 ERA and 133 strikeouts in 82 innings, while walking just 16. Maiques has two above-average pitches: a 91-94 mph fastball that touches 96 and a power slider. He also has been working on a curve, but hasn't used it much as he relies on his slider almost exclusively as his breaking pitch. The big knock on Maiques is his size. Though he's strong and in excellent shape, his frame probably will keep him out of the first two rounds.
There's no indication yet where Kenny will be assigned, though it is likely that he will be sent to either the Johnson City Cardinals in the Rookie level Appalachian League, or the New Jersey Cardinals in the Class A Short Season New York-Penn League.
The St. Louis Cardinals today announced the signings of 37th-round draft pick Kenneth Maiques ... to [a] minor league [contract].
Maiques is a right-handed pitcher who pitched at Rio Hondo Community College in Whittier, CA, and was recently named the 2005 Southern California Pitcher of the Year by the California Community College Baseball Coaches Association. He just turned 20 years of age on June 25 and will begin his professional career rehabbing at Johnson City (A) as he works his way back from "Tommy John" surgery.
Swing Kings: Chatham's Evan Longoria and Josh Morris Have Become The Centerpiece Of The A's Prolific Offense
by Eric Adler
CHATHAM - Ask any Cape Cod Baseball League batter and they'll tell you from the moment they arrive, step foot on the field, and take their first hacks in the batter's box, they struggle.
They all experience the rigors of life in the wooden bat fraternity. They all fall victim to the superlative pitching, and they all cope with having their names affixed to a paltry batting average.
In the pitcher-friendly Cape League, enduring strikeouts - and multiple strikeouts at that - is less a glaring imperfection than rite of passage, and finishing the summer over the Mendoza line is symbolic of a respectable season.
Chatham A's sluggers Evan Longoria [left in photo] and Josh Morris know this to be true, which makes it nearly impossible, then, to explain the duo's incendiary play from day one.
Three-and-a-half weeks into their Cape League careers, Chatham's formidable two-man team has played like ripened veterans, skipping over the customary grace period most Cape League rookies require.
Longoria, hitting .321 - fifth best of all CCBL batters - is vying for the vaunted batting title, and sports the third best slugging percentage (.547) on the peninsula, and Morris has also proven his proclivity for extra base hits, with a .525 slugging percentage.
But the pair's potent bat attack has paid off where it matters most, as Longoria and Morris' sterling play has been a major reason why Chatham (hitting .256 as a team) features a dynamic offense, second only to the Orleans Cardinals, who are hitting .265 as a unit.
A native of Downey, Calif., Longoria leads Chatham with 17 hits and nine RBIs, while Morris, who hails from Cartersville, Ga., is on his teammate's tail with 12 hits and eight RBIs. With three round-trippers each, they've already matched the A's home run total from a season ago.
That these two effulgent stars have been so successful torching ace after ace each night, and doing it by trading metal for maple and aluminum for ash no less, doesn't faze them.
In fact, the only thing Longoria and Morris have grappled with this summer is pinpointing a concrete reason why they've had so little trouble adjusting, while many of their peers berate themselves and bemoan their substandard play. The key, they say, is nothing other than a healthy dose of poise and pragmatism.
"I think anybody up here is capable of doing what we've been doing. I think we're just getting some breaks that other's haven't," said Longoria. "Baseball is a game of failure. You've got to realize you're going to get beat. That's why you go from pitch to pitch, from at-bat to at-bat. You've got to take it all in stride."
Longoria, who hit .320 with 30 RBIs for Long Beach State, has yet to cool off from his scorching spring. He's had five multiple hit games, an eight-game hitting streak, and further demonstrated his mettle with a three-run home run that proved the difference in a 5-1 win over Bourne. And he followed that up with a 4-for-4 performance in a win over Hyannis the next day....
Here on the Cape, just like at school, Longoria and Morris are receiving the proper instruction necessary to reach baseball's upper echelon, and those who know them best say they've got the tools to reach the majors.
"Evan has got a high level of passion and a real desire to succeed," said Chatham A's hitting coach Pat McGee. "He's a baseball player in the true sense. It doesn't matter where you play him, what the weather is like, or who you're playing against. He wants to be hear everyday....
...Morris has been an errorless first baseman, while Longoria has proven of great value as a utility infielder, alternating at second, short stop and third base.
Chatham Field Manager John Schiffner is most pleased with their daily diligence. "They've come here to play. They've come here to get better. And those two things are on the top of their list everyday," said Schiffner, noting gaudy stats don't always guarantee major league stardom....
"Guys playing in high school want to play in college," said Longoria. "Then they want to play in a Division One program. From there it's playing in a good summer ball league, and from there it's making it to the minor leagues, and so on and so fourth."
Stepping stone the Cape League may be, but it's been an enjoyable one, thanks largely to fans who trade jeers for cheers.
"The fact that people base their vacations around this league shocks me," said Longoria. "These people love you, and they love you no matter if you strike out or hit a home run. That's an awesome atmosphere to play in."
Former Dirtbag Steve Hammondhas been promoted from the Helena Brewers in the Rookie level Pioneer League to the West Virginia Power in the Class A South Atlantic League. Steve was 1-0 with a 1.06 ERA over 17.0 innings at Helena, appearing in 4 games (2 starts). He struck out 23 without issuing a walk. [Stats]
Update: As Steve leaves Helena, he leads the Pioneer League in strikeouts (23), is 2nd in innings pitched (17.0) and 3rd in ERA at 1.06. The Milwaukee Brewers have 2 Rookie level teams, and no Class A Short Season team, so Steve will be making the jump to a league populated mostly with players with at least a year of pro ball experience. But his domination of the Pioneer League suggests he should be able to successfully make the jump.
PawSox Notebook: Alvarez gets unexpected treat: A trip home with I.L. All-Stars
BY CAROLYN THORNTON Journal Sports Writer
PAWTUCKET -- Abe Alvarez received some good news before he took the mound for Pawtucket last night when manager Ron Johnson informed him that he had been added to the International League roster for the Triple-A All-Star Game.
The PawSox lefty joins teammate Chip Ambres, who already had been selected as a starter for the game, to be held a week from today at Raley Field in Sacramento.
"It's good that I was recognized as being a good pitcher in Triple A," said Alvarez, a California native. "I don't have the greatest numbers, but people thought I deserved to be on the team, which is great. Maybe it will be a good thing going into the break, and knowing that I was capable of being on the All-Star team and just go from there and have a great second half."
"Mike Tamburro, team president, said the league called and that they would like to add him to the team," said Johnson. "And I think it's a well-deserved honor."
Jeff Liefer Named To AAA All-Star International League Roster
Former Dirtbag Jeff Liefer has been added to the roster for the International League team that will play the Pacific Coast League in the Triple A All-Star game. Here's the Buffalo Bison story:
Bisons' Jeff Liefer Added to International League All-Star Team Liefer leads the Bisons with a .326 average
The International League announced today that Buffalo Bisons infielder/outfielder Jeff Liefer has been added to their 2005 All-Star team. Liefer will replace Herd teammate Fernando Cabrera, who will miss the 18th annual Triple-A All-Star Game after being called up by the Cleveland Indians earlier today.
The Triple-A All-Star Game will be held on July 13 at Raley Field in Sacramento, California. All-Stars from the International League will face the best players of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. The game will be broadcasted on television on ESPN 2 at 10:00 p.m. EST and on the radio on WECK AM 1230 and WSPQ AM 1330...
Liefer has had an outstanding first half for the Bisons. He is currently sixth in the International League with a .326 (88-270) batting average. He is also second in slugging percentage (.596), tied for third in home runs (17) and extra-base hits (39), fifth in doubles (22), seventh in hits (88) and tied for 11th in runs scored (51). In his last 45 games, the slugger has averaged .415 (68-164).
Former Dirtbag Jered Weaver, getting into form after a year off the mound and 3 prior subpar performances for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, is starting to look like the Jered of old. Here's how the San Bernardino County Sun tells it:
Weaver sets down Blaze
By Landon Negri, Correspondent
RANCHO CUCAMONGA - Jered Weaver found his game, and the Rancho Cucamonga fans finally found out what the fuss is all about.
The prized Angels prospect showed the first true glimpses at his immense talent Tuesday night, earning his first professional victory with five innings of two-hit ball in the Quakes' 7-6 victory over the Bakersfield Blaze in front of 2,009 fans at The Epicenter.
While Weaver dazzled the home fans, the Quakes' bats pounded on the Blaze for a 13-5 advantage in hits. Even more impressive was what the Quakes' Brandon Wood did at the plate, as he reached base five times with four walks and a triple.
But this night clearly belonged to Weaver. In his fourth professional start, the Angels' 2004 first-round draft pick (12th overall) dominated Bakersfield, striking out seven while allowing no earned runs.
Weaver faced 19 hitters, firing 51 strikes versus 25 balls. He finished by retiring 10 of his final 11 batters, and his five innings marked his deepest outing thus far this season.
Most importantly, Weaver seems to be settling in. Between his final start with Long Beach State in the 2004 super regionals and his first appearing with the Quakes on June 20 - after the Angels signed him with a $4 million bonus May 30 - he went more than a year without pitching competitively.
The rust had showed in his previous two [actually, 3] starts, as Weaver yielded 11 runs. But he lowered his ERA from 9.64 to 6.27 on Tuesday night, and his only hiccup had little to do with his own pitching.
Taking a 3-0 lead into the second inning, the right-hander was hurt by consecutive one-out fielding errors, including Quakes catcher Bobby Wilson's drop of a popup by Blaze first baseman Josh Kreuzer. Blaze catcher Craig Hurba scored Kreuzer on a groundout, and Abigail Sandoval followed with an RBI double off the wall.
But Weaver countered by striking out Craig Ringe for the inning's third out. After their first three batters scored, the Quakes held a lead throughout...
Update: Jered also gets a mention in Baseball America's Daily Dish today.
Abe Alvarez, after a 1 day stint with the Boston Red Sox, has been optioned back to the AAA Pawtucket Red Sox. Here's a nice story on his return to Boston in the Boston Globe. Reader Rhonda says it reminds her of the line from the Tommy Roe song Dizzy: "Dizzy, I'm so dizzy my head is spinning. Like a whirlpool it never ends."