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04-24-2008, 01:42 AM
Dragons pitchers showing big-league potential early
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Thursday, April 24, 2008

You can get a head start spotting the top minor league prospects when they come with credentials.

For instance, it didn't take any special insight to figure Homer Bailey was a prospect when he arrived to play for the Dragons in 2005. After all, he was a No. 1 draft choice from the season before, given a $2.3 million signing bonus. Even the kids sitting in the Dragons Lair could figure this guy for a high ceiling.

A year later, Johnny Cueto pitched for the Dragons. Cueto, as a Dominican, was not eligible for the draft and signed with the Reds for $3,500 in 2004. That kind of money goes to low draft choices with miracle chances to make the major leagues.

Some do, of course. Cueto pitched a year with the Dominican Summer League Reds and a year with the Gulf Coast League Reds before joining the Dragons and posting an 8-1 record with a 2.59 ERA.

About halfway through that run, he began to be noticed.

So, who do we have on this year's Dragons who might not stand out by signing bonus or high draft status?

Well, you could pretty much stick a pin anywhere on the pitching staff and hit a high achiever, at least so far. Three were drafted in the first 10 rounds Scott Carroll (third round, 2007), Philippe Valiquette (seventh, '04) and Terrell Young (10th, '04) but look at some of the production underneath.

Two Dominicans on the roster Luis Montano and Enerio Del Rosario signed with the Reds the way Cueto did, as undrafted free agents.

Montano signed in 2003, just before his 18th birthday, and has pitched mostly rookie-level ball with a short stop here two years ago and five games at high A Sarasota last season.

Now 23, he was projected to be a reliever with the Dragons. Instead, an injury pressed Montano into a spot start and then a rotation position. He's 3-0 with a 1.61 ERA, and in his last start, Tuesday, April 22, allowed his only hit with two outs in the seventh inning.

Del Rosario signed as a free agent in 2005 and played two years with the DSL Reds. Last season at Billings, Mont., he was 5-4 with a 3.97 ERA as a starter, striking out 40 and walking 30 in 701/3 innings.

It was decided to try him as a relief pitcher this season.

"It doesn't matter," Del Rosario said. "I just want to pitch."

In 13 innings over seven appearances, Del Rosario is 1-1 with a 1.38 ERA and four saves. He's also going back into the rotation to see if he can carry his outstanding relief work into a starting role.

Are Montano and Del Rosario the real thing, or are they just enjoying a terrific start to the season? We have little to go by on paper. But on the mound, the early results are flattering.