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Farm Wrap: 4.12.06

Posted by Jason A. Churchill on April 13, 2006

It was a big time success on the mound for the quartet of left-handers that took the pill on Wednesday night, starting with the one-hit outing by Bobby Livingston (shown right with a four-seam grip) that actually earned him a loss.

Livingston allowed one hit – a solo home run to Bobby Kielty on a 2-0 changeup – and took the loss as Tacoma fell for the third night in a row to Sacramento.

Livingston wasn't at his best, but it sure fooled the River Cats, which is encouraging.

"He was good again," said Sacramento manager Tony DeFrancesco. "He had 14 strikeouts against us last year and really had it going again tonight. He had a good changeup and he's got a lot of confidence."

He had issues throwing strikes to an extent, though he walked just two batters. Of his 84 pitches, 47 were strikes and he missed up in the zone just once all night.

“All my pitches were working except that one bad pitch to Kielty,” said Livingston. “You can’t make a lot of mistakes to hitters like that.”

The change Kielty smacked was left up and it caught too much of the plate. Livingston was thinking ahead in the count after falling behind 2-0. The plan was to try and get a strike on the change and then go to the sinker, which had guys pounding the ball into the ground all night.

Inducing 11 ground ball outs to just three through the air is a promising piece of data for Livingston. He's never going to be a high strikeout type in the bigs, but if he can continue to develop his sinking fastball and get more ground balls, he'll have a chance to contribute for a long time.

At least three Sacramento hitters were impressed by that sinker. Outfielder Doug Clark and shortstop Mike Rouse were both in agreement of catcher Jeremy Brown's opinion.

"He had a really good sinker tonight, didn't he," suggested Brown. "He was tough tonight – again."

Down in San Antonio, Travis Blackley made his second start of the year, this one a home tilt at Wolff Municipal Stadium where Blackley has never lost.

Again, he wasn't sharp with his command but not a soul is getting good wood on his cut fastball, going back to his 4 2/3 innings versus the Mariners 10 days ago.

Blackley's pitch count was 90 today and it'll probably stay there for the first half of the season, but today he got to 82 in a hurry.

He walked four batters and fanned just two, but gave up just two hits – both singles – in four innings. Blackley left the game a scoreless tie.

His arsenal is not one that's likely to produce a lot of ground balls, so you'll see quite a few lopsided G/F numbers for him, and that's not abnormal, but tonight he posted a 2-7 ratio. He sawed off a half-dozen guys with cutters and his curve ball was spotty, but still effective.

He's due for an outing where hitters actually put good wood on the ball and load up a few crooked numbers on the scoreboard against him, but he's a tough customer, even though he's pitching 3-5 mph below his top velocity.

Midland's lineup is a good one, too, featuring a few of Oakland's top prospects, such as Kurt Suzuki, Danny Putnam, Kevin Mellilo and Brent Colamarino. All have solid futures at the plate and they combined to go 0-for-the night against Blackley.

He's still sitting 83-86, which is probably where he's going to be for awhile, but there are three extremely exciting things that came out of this game for him.

1. Another solid lineup did jack nothing against him. Not even one sharply struck ball and no extra-base hits.

2. He's pitching, not throwing. He isn't battling his urgency to get back to the big leagues by trying to do too much with each pitch. The fact that he's sitting in the mid 80s right now doesn't bother him at all. That's maturity.

3. He's as healthy right this moment as he was when he stepped on the mound to start the game tonight.

At Inland Empire, Julio Santiago threw the most impressive outing of the entire season for any farmhand. The southpaw went seven innings versus Lancaster, allowing just one run on five hits – four singles. The 20-year-old walked just one and struck out nine en route to his first win of the year. The 66ers pasted the JetHawks 10-1 behind a 16-hit attack.

Santiago fanned Diamondbacks uber-prospect Carlos Gonzalez twice on the night, both times with a high fastball. The house radar guns, which I believe to always either be 2 mph high or 2 mph low, on average, had Santiago at 85-88 mph.

Note – Jose de la Cruz tossed a scoreless eighth an posted a strikeout – his first as a member of the organization.

Santiago had mucho competition for that 'start of the year' award from 2005 fourth round pick Justin Thomas.

Thomas went seven innings versus Beloit, yielding just five hits and one earned run. The left-hander from Youngstown State fanned six and did not walk a batter.

Thomas' G/F ratio was 10-5 on the night, which is a nice bonus.

He sat 87-90 for most of the game and his change was dancing, according to stadium officials running the house gun. He'll reach 91-92 when the weather heats up and his arm gets stretched out and his change and curve ball are his most important offerings.

Thomas should probably have started the year at Inland Empire but he'll end up there anyways, so as long as he gets some innings under his belt, it doesn't make a huge difference whether it's in Wisconsin or the Cal League right now.

I'd be surprised if both Jason Snyder and Thomas aren't 66ers by year's end.

Thomas has a chance to move pretty quickly, too. He's a big guy at 6-foot-3 and about 220 pounds. He uses his body well and is very aggressive on the mound. If he refines his curve some and stays healthy, he may turn into Travis Blackley , circa 2004, with an extra few mphs.

Becoming consistent with all of his pitches and finding the right arm slot for them is what Thomas has in store for 2006.

What a night on the farm, eh?

Good news all around. Blackley is still looking good in his recovery, Thomas, Santiago and Livingston toss absolute gems, and the parent club pimped off a win at the Jake and have a great shot to take the series from Cleveland with Mr. Hernandez on the mound.

Expect Felix to be ticked off, by the way. He's always rebounded from mediocre starts and done very well.

In Tacoma last summer, he gave up four runs on five hits – three homers, including back-to-back jacks, and he walked three guys in his five+ innings against New Orleans.
Next time out he went seven shutout innings against Oaklahoma City, fanning nine and walking two. He gave up just three hits and induced 11 ground ball outs and no fly outs. Mike Curto's call of the game described an angry and focused Felix.

Cleveland has a great lineup – GREAT. There aren't any outs from 1 to 9. Sizmore, Hafner and Broussard are all lefties which means Felix's change will be crucial.

I like Felix for six strong, six K's, a couple walks and two runs to earn his first win of the year.

Noteworthy: The Rainiers have been shuffling the roster since day one of the season, adding and subtracting Cha Seung Baek and Aaron Looper to and from the Everett roster, which is just a paper move to make things fit. After the M's DFA'd Quiroz and recalled Rivera, they sent down RHP Jeff Harris, who will report on Thursday. RHP Francisco Cruceta will not start Thursday because his regularly scheduled start last Saturday was washed out due to rain, pushing him back a day. He pitched Sunday and will not start until the Rainiers head to Fresno on Friday. RHP Rich Dorman will start on Thursday instead.

Cruceta is eligible to be re-added to the Tacoma roster as of Wednesday since the Rainiers placed shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera on the 7-dal DL with a sprianed ankle and RHP Emiliano Fruto on the inactive list. Fruto is expecting the birth of his first child and will rejoin the club on the road over the weekend.

Speaking of Fruto… he will not be joining the starting rotation anytime soon – not as long as he's a member of the Mariners' organization. Baseball America suggested that the M's were thinking about the idea, but all of that went away last year when Fruto stepped up as the closer in Double-A San Antonio and his pitches coninuted to develop.

On Tuesday, Fruto was nasty in three superb innings of relief. He fanned five and his change was sickening. He sat in the low 90s and threw his offspeed stuff at will, without regard to the count.

The M's bullpen in 2007 will almost certainly include the 22-year-old Fruto, who has the arsenal to serve as a top setup man to Rafael Soriano.

– J

Photo Credits:

Bobby Livingston – Out of the Park Images 

Justin Thomas – Wisconsin Timber Rattlers

Travis Blackley – Stephanie Sanchez

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50 Responses to “Farm Wrap: 4.12.06”

  1. Knuckles said

    Jason: Are you going to post an analysis about the whole Quiroz/Rivera shuffle? It looks to me like they’ve basically given up on Rivera as a legitimate catching prospect, and are now focusing on Rob Johnson? However, given the current status of our catching (meaning Mojo JohJoh behind the plate now, and Clement in the pipeline), what sort of future does Johnson really have with the organization?

    What is Blackley’s top velocity with his fastball? I saw his first outing as an M two years ago, and don’t recall the radar gun showing anything higher than 87-88. Of course, he was injured at the time, but nobody knew it.

  2. eknpdx said

    While we all have our thoughts on Livingston, mine tend to be high, what does the club think about him. As that’s more important to his future. Isn’t he 1st on the starting pitcher depth chart from the farm for the big club?

  3. Willmore said

    I would think that Johnson will platoon with Clement at Catcher when Johjima’s contract runs out. With Clement also getting some DH time when Johnson catches.

  4. I’ve been meaning to ask, especially since you’d be one of the few people who’d know — I know the MLB teams have a 40-man roster limit, with 25-men on the active club. How does that work in the minors?

  5. Any hope for the game today? It’s raining down here in Oly pretty good, and I don’t believe it’s supposed to stop…

  6. Re: catchers

    The club knows Rivera is a backup, so RJ is getting all the time in Tacoma.

    When Clement is ready, he catches, and it doesn’t matter if Johjima is still around or not.

    There will be no platoon situation.

    If Clement simply can’t play the position, then they DH and 1B him and use Johjima then Rob Johnson behind the plate.

    re: Rosters

    The minor league clubs have roster limits, too, which is why you see all the shuffling of guys to Everett and such. You can have as many guys as ya need on the DL and inactive lists, however.

    Re: Blackley

    Right now he’s sitting 83-86 with his fastball, which is fine. Ultimately, he wants to be 87-90 but that may not happen until next year. At his best he was 87-88, touching 89.

    Re: today

    Seems like there is hope for today’s game. It’s been sprinkling here some, but they covered the field after last night’s game and as long as it doesn’t downpour for hours, they’ll try and get this one in.

  7. So who runs the Rainiers’ web site anyway… It’d be nice to have, like, an indicator of the likelihood whether or not the game will actually be played.

    What’s your guess, Jason? 70-80%?

    Oh to have a retractable roof on Cheney. Okay, or not. I happen to like Cheney just as it is. A lot.

  8. marc w said

    JAC,

    I’ll be at the game tonight, so either pop down to RB 3, row 1, or I’ll see if I can see you in the press box.

    Hey, any word on the M’s plans for Sean Green? He’s been off a bit with his control – he’s overthrown a few pitches, leading to two hit batsmen and some walks. But that GB/FB ratio, combined with a few Ks, means he’s legitimately valuable out of the bullpen. Do they have an ETA for him, or is it just a matter of working out the existing kinks and seeing what’s needed in Seattle?

    Totally agreed on Jones defense, btw. That error was unfortunate, but the play he made in right center was legitimately amazing. That was simply a great jump – Jamal Strong makes that play, but there’s no way Jeremy Reed (while he was in Tacoma) makes it.

  9. Hey Paul…

    I’m at the park now, and while it’s raining pretty good, it’s not expected to keep raining, so they are going to wait it out. That’s as of 4pm on the dot.

    Re: Green

    He’s one of a few guys that could get a cup of java this season at some point. Gotta love a guy with extreme ground ball tendencies who throws 90+.

    Re: Jones

    Ya know why Reed makes that play and Strong doesn’t?

    Reed gets a better jump than Strong, and it’s not close. He also takes better routes to balls. Jones made that play because of his pure speed and athleticism.

  10. Rain Update — we’re still here… waiting it out.

  11. Game called due to rain.

  12. marc w. said

    Reed, in the majors, has gotten great jumps and takes good routes. In Cheney, Reed looked lost. I have no idea why, but he’s not the only guy I’ve seen look pretty clueless out there….don’t know if it’s wind, lighting, or what.
    What was the line about Reed’s route running in Tacoma? He looked like he was being chased by a swarm of bees?
    It’s fairly amazing the way he’s put it together in the majors – he’s been an average to plus defender out there from day one.
    Jones’s jump on that play really impressed me. He needed speed/athleticism to track it down (it was slicing a bit away from him I think), but his first step had him on a straight line to where he made the catch. It didn’t look like there was one step off of that line. Really amazing for a newby.
    What’s Green’s max velocity?

  13. Reed had a lot of trouble in AA and AAA Charlotte, too. We can all thank Mike Goff and Dan Rohn for helping Reed with his footwork and positioning.

    He’s very good out there now.

  14. Knuckles said

    Sigh. Dan Rohn…

  15. He’s around, Knuckles. Don’t be surprised if you see his name on the back of a uniform again soon.

  16. Knuckles said

    Just so long as it’s on the back of a Mariners uniform, Jason.

  17. Am I the only one who gives Rohn the nickname “Barney Rubble”? I hope his behind-the-scenes OJT is helping him. I’d loooove to see Barney Rubble managing the Mariners. He certainly would do no worse than Hargrove.

    Yeah, I’ll give you that managing a PCL team is different than managing a MLB team. Still, with very much the same players (and Rohn arguably had less talent than Hargrove, who had Ichiro, Moyer, Ibanez, Sexson and, well, Beltre), look at where the two managers took their respective teams.

  18. How much longer do you think the replacement umps will be in there? I’ve only been to one game so far, so I can’t really say much, but how are they doing compared to the regular umps? If there’s one thing I’ve learned while attending games at Cheney, it’s that the PCL umps are very, very inconsistent in their strike zones. I was actually somewhat impressed with the ump on Opening Night. I didn’t find myself yelling my customary anti-umpire blather towards them.

    Also, Beene gives an update on Atchison, who reported some pain on Wednesday. I’m nowhere near an expert on proper delivery, pitching mechanics, etc., but even I can see that his delivery is just uuuuuuugly and looks rather painful. Fruto’s looks painful, too…

  19. Atch is awaiting further tests, but the good news is that it’s not his elbow.

    Re: Umps

    Doesn’t look like anytime soon…

    The fill-ins haven’t been that bad, except for balls and strikes.

  20. Knuckles said

    Paul: Rohn impresses the hell out of me. How he managed to win with the teams that he was saddled with over the last few years continues to blow my mind. I mean, come on, Masao freakin’ Kida as a closer? Ramon Santiago batting leadoff? He’s the Anne Sullivan of the Mariner organization…

  21. Re: Green’s Velo

    He’s typically 89-91 with that sinking fastball.

    He’s tossed a few at 86-87 early on here, but the weather is cold and because of a few rainouts now, the arms aren’t loose. After this weekend, all of them will be fine.

  22. Willmore said

    Fruto’s release looks late.

    By the way, I am now sold on Lincecum as a legit 1st rounded. A guy from Baseball America was on the radio today and said that his mechanics might look unorthodox, but they were developed by the kid’s father, who works at Boeing. The dad, in his fifties, can throw in the 80s with this technique.

    Whatever it is, Lincecum has pitched an awful lot of innings without getting injured.

    The BA guy also said that he could be in the bullpen by the end of the year. And with an arsenal of a fastball, slider and curve, I can see him battling Soriano for the closer role next year.

    What do you say, is our pick worth it ?

    I would take a chance on him.

  23. I don’t buy Lincecum as a top 10 pick, personally, and neither do many clubs.

    But I would certainly go after him in the latter half of the round.

    If he’s available in round 2, the M’s SHOULD snag him. I just doubt they will – if he’s there.

    We’ll see. It’ early.

    Re: mechanics

    Whatever team drafts him will make serious adjustment’s to his mechanics. His Boeing father doesn’t know physiology…

  24. Willmore said

    If it ain’t broke ….

  25. ShipHimToDetroit said

    …Ship Him To Detroit.

  26. It is broke… there isn’t a doctor, pitching coach, manager, or scouting director alive that doesn’t see a fix in his future.

  27. Willmore said

    Heh, alright.

  28. dnc said

    Jason – changed your mind on taking Lincecum in the second round, eh?

    I completely agree – we SHOULD snag him in round 2 if he’s available. Although I think he’ll be gone by pick 20, so I doubt it will matter.

    Anyone with two pitches like that at 21 years old needs to be given time to develop a changeup. Moving him to the bullpen might yield immediate results, but would be a waste of a potential #2 starter.

    Draft him, sign him, and send him to Inland Empire.

  29. I have never thought otherwise. But I know the M’s don’t agree – most teams don’t, but a few I know like him enough to snag him at 20-30…

    And there is no way he doesn’t get his mechanics tinkered with. One team has already tried to tell me, “nah, we’d probably just let him pitch.”

    But that’s BS. They’ll say things in April and May that won’t take place in June and July.

    BTW, one source tells me the M’s draft board currently looks like this.

    1. Andrew Miller, LHP – UNC
    2. Max Scherzer, RHP – Missouri
    3. Evan Longoria, 3B – Long Beach State
    4. Daniel Bard, RHP – UNC
    5. Ian Kennedy, RHP – USC
    6. Jordan Walden, RHP – Mansfield, TX HS
    7. Joba Chamberlain, RHP – Nebraska
    8. Kyle Drabek, RHP – The Woodlands, TX HS
    9. Brett Anderson, LHP – Stillwater, OK HS
    10. Drew Stubbs, OF – Texas

    About 15-20… Tim Lincecum, RHP – UW

    Other names they like, though probably not at No. 5…

    Dellin Betances, RHP
    Matt LaPorta, 1B
    Chris Marrero, 3B
    Dallas Buck, RHP
    Brandon Morrow, RHP
    Brand Lincoln, RHP
    Matt Latis, RHP
    Cody Johnson, OF
    Chris Tillman, RHP

  30. J said

    What was your take on Longoria again?

  31. Eva’s not bad. I personally like Hatcher better.

    😉

  32. I like Longoria, but he’s not worth the fifth pick.

    But then again, neither is anyone in the draft after Andrew Miller and perhaps Scherzer.

    I know the M’s want to be in a position to get the right arm, and if Miller or Scherzer are there, they will be the choice, but if neither are available, It’s my opinion that they should take Longoria.

    He’d be a nice offensive addition to the system.

    I just don’t see the value in taking Bard, Kennedy or Walden at No. 5.

    At least right now. It’s early.

  33. And why would take Teri Hatcher over Eva?

    It’s not even close. Hatcher is a worn down piece of work. She was okay in her hayday.

    Neither match up very well with Scarlett Johanssen or Kate Beckinsale.

  34. dnc said

    Two words. Rachel McAdams.

  35. One word; overrated.

    She has no unique style, no mystery.

    I’ll pass.

  36. Willmore said

    Maria Sharapova.

    Gotta represent for mother Russia.

  37. Much better than the talentless Anna Kournikova.

  38. dnc said

    Beckinsale over McAdams?

    Heh.

    I am down with the Sharapova call, but then, I could *settle* for Anna as well.

    I’m surprised no one’s brought up Alba yet.

  39. Alba looks like she is 17, that’s why.

  40. Willmore said

    Oh, Alba needs no mention, she’s smoking hot and everyone knows it.

  41. Goose said

    “Alba looks like she is 17, that’s why.”

    Well if she were 17 that would be fine, I’m only 19.

  42. But when yer older than, say, 22 or 23, a 17-year-old has no business in your dirty little mind.

  43. dnc said

    Alba doesn’t look any older than Johannsen does. Both are gorgeous. And my 25 year old mind see anything wrong with noticing that.

  44. Goose said

    True, and I think by law(at least here in Washington) if you were 20, then 17 is out of the question, because I believe that there is a 2 year rule….not sure though.

  45. dnc said

    Just looked it up – Alba’s five months younger than I am.

    Works for me.

  46. But dawg, she LOOKS 17. That’s enough for me to pass.

    I don’t find 17-year-old’s attractive.

  47. Yer blind if you think Scarlett looks as young as Alba.

    Alba looks like a teenager.

    I think dawg, you are letting the wrong head do your thinking for you.

    Admit it, you have been in love with the Olsen twins for years.

  48. dnc said

    I think the Olsen twins are nasty. Ditto Lindsay Lohan.

    Sorry. I work with teenagers – trust me, they don’t do it for me.

    And none of them look like Jessica Alba.

  49. Goose said

    When I was 16, I thought the Olsen twins were extremely hot.

    Now..ewww somebody feed them some sandwiches or something.Yikes.

  50. But Jessica Alba STILL looks like a teenager.

    Good luck with that, dawg.

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