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.
Bobby Livingston – Out of the Park Images
Justin Thomas – Wisconsin Timber Rattlers
Travis Blackley – Stephanie Sanchez