July 3rd articles, notes, previous day recaps(Watson
Look out, Bailey still perfect
Chattanooga starter's ERA still at 0.00 after Jacksonville shutout
By Christopher Heine / Special to MLB.com
Homer Bailey remained perfect at the Double-A level, combining with two relievers on a three-hitter as Chattanooga blanked visiting Jacksonville, 4-0, on Sunday.
Bailey (3-0) struck out nine, allowed two hits and issued two walks over five innings, keeping his ERA at 0.00 after three starts for the Lookouts (8-5). Since being promoted from Class A Advanced Sarasota in late June, the 6-foot-4 right-hander has fanned 22 batters over 17 scoreless frames.
In the second inning, Bailey gave up a one-out single to Jimmy Rohan and committed a throwing error on a dribbler hit by Gabriel Gutierrez, putting runners on second and third. The native of La Grange, Texas, the Cincinnati Reds' top prospect, defused his most serious threat of the day by fanning Jacksonville starting pitcher Adam Thomas and inducing Adam Greenberg to fly out.
Chattanooga reliever Carlos Alvarado struck out two while pitching perfect sixth and seventh frames and Jon Coutlangus blanked the Suns (6-7) for the final two innings.
Miguel Perez and Chris Dickerson smacked RBI doubles during the Lookouts' four-run second inning, while Joey Votto drove in two with a line-drive single.
Thomas (2-5) surrendered four runs on seven hits over five innings, striking out two and issuing five walks. Wesley Wright fanned six batters while holding Chattanooga scoreless for the final three frames.
Christopher Heine is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
Hard-throwing righty stretches scoreless streak to 17
By David Paschall Staff Writer
Seventeen and counting.
Chattanooga Lookouts starter Homer Bailey added five more scoreless innings to his imposing Double-A tally Sunday afternoon at BellSouth Park, leading the hosts to a 4-0 victory over Jacksonville. The top prospect of the Cincinnati Reds struck out nine Suns and now has 22 strikeouts in three games since arriving from the high Single-A Florida State League.
"Not a chance," Bailey said when asked if he could have imagined such a start. "Right now I’m feeling pretty good, and the team is playing great behind me. It surprises me, but getting three wins with the team we have behind me doesn’t surprise me at all."
Chattanooga improved to 9-5 in the Southern League’s second half and 53-31 overall, matching the win total of last season’s 53-83 fiasco. When told of the feat, Lookouts manager Jayhawk Owens said, "Yeah. Thanks a lot."
The Lookouts also have won six of nine meetings against the Suns. Jacksonville is 6-8 in the half and 54-30 overall. The Suns have endured three-game losing streaks only three times this season, and the Lookouts have been responsible for two of them.
Suns manager John Shoemaker said Bailey was to blame for the latest loss.
"We had heard a lot of reports about him but had not seen him," Shoemaker said. "We had trouble putting the ball in play. When you’re out there throwing a majority of your pitches as fastballs and your opposition is not able to get good swings and put the ball in play against you, it’s a credit to yourself."
The first 500 fans to Bell-South received "Homer hankies," and dozens were used by fans to wipe off dripping faces. Sunday’s sun-scorched crowd of 1,997 was the second smallest this season.
Heat is rarely a factor for Bailey, who grew up on an egg farm in La Grange, Texas.
"A couple of weeks ago, when I talked to my family, they said it was still 102 or 103 degrees," Bailey said. "I’m still wearing jeans and long sleeves when I leave here. I really thrive off the heat. It helps me get loose."
The first inning was the toughest for Bailey, who walked two and threw two wild pitches. He still struck out the side.
Bailey had a throwing error in the second inning to put runners on second and third with one out, but he retired 11 of the final 13 he faced, six by strikeout.
Asked how rare it is to arrive in Double-A and throw 17 scoreless innings, Owens said, "About as rare as seeing a guy come up here and put 97 (mph) in the strike zone when he wants."
Bailey will try to take his streak past 20 on Friday when the Lookouts visit West Tenn.
"I think it’s a good deal for him to have some early success here," Owens said. "We want to make his off-speed more crisp. I don’t think there is any more developing his fastball. He seems to be able to locate it on both sides of the plate and keeps it down, and it’s been consistent now for three starts."
When Bailey took the mound in the top of the third, he was working with a four-run cushion after the Lookouts sent eight to the plate in the bottom of the second. Miguel Perez and Chris Dickerson had RBI doubles to give Chattanooga a 2-0 lead, and Joey Votto’s single to center scored Bailey and Dickerson to double the advantage.
"This is a good team we’re playing against, and you just try to get what you can get," Votto said. "I didn’t think Homer had his best stuff today, but he threw well enough with what he had and kept us in the game."
Tonight’s 6:15 series finale is scheduled to pit Chattanooga’s Travis Chick (4-5, 4.75) against Jacksonville’s Alvis Ojeda (5-2, 2.44). The Lookouts will be wearing red, white and blue uniforms, and fireworks are scheduled to follow the game.
With a crowd of just under 2,000 looking on at BellSouth Park on Homer Hanky Day it was fitting that the main-man, Homer Bailey (3-0), pitched another gem for the Lookouts. His third Double-A start was as good as his previous two. Pitching on a hot and humid afternoon, the 20-year-old Texan gave up two hits over five innings, walking two while striking out nine batters. Bailey has yet to give up an earned run. His fastball was clocked consistently in the low-to-mid 90s.
Bruce takes one for the team
Dragons outfielder drives in go-ahead run when hit by pitch in 4-3 win over Cedar Rapids.
Dayton Daily News
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Jay Bruce drove in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning when he was hit by a pitch Sunday and the Dayton Dragons hung on for a 4-3 Midwest League victory over Cedar Rapids.
Trailing 3-2, the Dragons scored two unearned runs in the eighth without a hit to split a four-game series.
Bobby Mosby walked to lead off the inning and an error put runners at first and second with nobody out. After a one-out grounder was misplayed to load the bases, Adam Rosales walked to force in pinch runner Josh Holden with the tying run.
Bruce was then plunked by closer Ryan Aldridge and Justin Mallett worked two innings for his sixth save.
The Dragons open a four-game series at Kane County tonight with Zach Ward (6-0, 2.50 ERA) on the mound.
Sean Watson makes his first pro start tonight. I like the move of converting him to a starter. Also, interesting news of Rafael Gonzalez.
Cruz powers Sox over Mustangs
By Gazette News Services
GREAT FALLS -- Lee Cruz hit a walk-off three-run home run in the bottom of the 10th to power the Great Falls White Sox to a 7-6 win over the Billings Mustangs Sunday afternoon in the Pioneer League.
Cruz hit the homer off Terrell Young (0-1), who entered the game in the bottom of the 10th with a chance to earn his fourth save after Logan Parker's two-run double had lifted the Mustangs to a 6-4 lead in the top half of the inning. But Young, who hadn't allowed a run in his three previous outings, walked John Shelby and then allowed a double to Michael Grace. Cruz then sent an offering from Young over the right-field fence for the game-winner, moving Great Falls into a first-place tie with the Mustangs atop the Northern Division standings.
Chris Heisey hit his first homer of the season for the Mustangs, while Justin Turner collected three hits. Parker, Jason Louwsma and Danny Dorn added two hits apiece as the Mustangs outhit Great Falls 12-8, but stranded 13 runners on base.
Billings finished its seven-game road trip with a 4-3 mark and returns home to Cobb Field to begin a three-game series with the Missoula Osprey. Sean Watson makes his first start of the season for the Mustangs. Watson, the No. 2 draft pick of the Cincinnati Reds, has thrown 72/3 perfect innings in relief in two games. He's also struck out nine batters. Dan Fournier (0-0) is scheduled to pitch for the Osprey.
In other player news, pitcher Rafael Gonzalez was sent to the Reds' complex in Florida for health reasons. After he's cleared to play again, Gonzalez will likely have a couple rehab starts before being re-assigned. It's unsure if he'll return to Billings. Gonzalez was 1-1 with a 2.40 ERA for the Mustangs.
Mustang Report: Tordi hopes position switch is his big ticket
By MIKE SCHERTING
Of The Gazette Staff
Most catchers, it seems, are made catchers by default, and for good reason. There aren't many players eager to wear the "tools of ignorance," as the catcher's gear is called.
It's just that Justin Tordi became a catcher a little later in the day than most.
When Tordi started behind the plate in the Billings Mustangs' Pioneer League opener June 20, it marked his first game ever as a receiver.
"It was a lot of fun," Tordi said after the game. "I think my dad was more nervous than I was. My parents are both here, they came out for the (first) week. I was just so excited to get this going." Scout Joe Siers tried to sign Tordi as a catcher out of high school when Siers was with the Toronto Blue Jays. Tordi instead decided to go to the University of Florida, where he played shortstop until the Cincinnati Reds drafted him in the 41st round last summer. Tordi left Florida tied for the school mark for career double plays (with David Eckstein) and second behind Eckstein in assists.
As luck would have it, Siers is now with the Reds, and this time he was successful in getting Tordi to change his mind and change his position.
"He still had something in the back of his mind, and told me 'You can make it to the big leagues as a catcher, you're a catcher,' " said Tordi, who didn't play at all last season.
Tordi has the tools to be a good catcher: Quick hands, a strong arm and quick feet. But his quick feet don't necessarily translate into the overall speed required to play shortstop at the big-league level.
"I was like, 'All right, let's do this,' " Tordi said about switching positions. "The goal is to make it to the big leagues, and if that's the way I'm going to make it there, why not do it?"
"I'm having a lot of fun with it," he added. "It's been a lot of hard work, but it's paying off, the long days, doing all the drills and starting from square one. I had no idea how to catch, nothing. Coaches Donnie Scott and Joe Breeden have been working with me the past eight, nine months and it's really helped. I thank them so much."
Heisey hot as July
Chris Heisey, a 17th-round pick from Messiah College (Pa.), comes back to town as the Pioneer League's leading hitter.
Heisey is batting .XXX, thanks in large part to his spectacular numbers on the just completed road trip: During the seven games in Great Falls, Heisey went 11-for-20 and hit his first professional homer on Sunday.
Change for the better
In the previous two seasons, Mustangs hitters have played under the edict from Cincinnati that they must take a strike before they could swing at a pitch. With new ownership taking hold in Cincinnati, the Mustangs' parent club, those mandates no longer hold. And on the surface, not being in a no-balls-one-strike hole every at-bat seems to make a difference.
The Mustangs ranked last in the league in hitting last season and had the second-highest strikeout totals. This year, after 13 games, the Mustangs are first in hitting and have the lowest strikeout totals.
And games move much quicker. Last season, during the first 13 games, the average Mustang game lasted three hours and three minutes. So far this year, games are averaging two hours, 34 minutes.
That's quite a difference. Of course, it's impossible whether to tell if it's all because Cincinnati ditched its take-a-strike philosophy or if it's because of the talent level of this year's group of hitters. It's probably a little of both, but I'm guessing the former has as much or more to do with it as the latter.
Ponies 1st baseman proves tough out
By MIKE SCHERTING
Of The Gazette Staff
Maybe it's something about the number 12.
Taken in the 12th round of the draft last season, shortstop Adam Rosales quickly established himself as one of the top players on the 2005 Billings Mustangs and wound up being promoted to Single-A Dayton in the Midwest League by the season's midpoint.
This year's 12th-round pick, Logan Parker, has gotten off to an impressive start of his own. Though hot streaks and slumps are always magnified at the start of the season, it's easy to see that Parker is ready to open some eyes.
Some have already been opened. "If he was a second- or third-round pick, it wouldn't have surprised me," Mustangs manager Rick Burleson said. "I think he's that good. But the fact that we got him as late as the 12th round is a good bargain."
Parker collected two hits in the season-opener, and the next night he had three hits, including his first home run. The first baseman delivered two hits in each of the next two games before getting another hit in the fifth game of the season. Parker finally took his first 0-fer last Sunday, six games into the season.
By that time his average was at .526.
"Obviously, I didn't expect it," Parker said of his start. "It means a lot to me to get off to a hot start. The confidence is a major part in baseball. When you're confident you start playing better."
Parker, who stands 6-foot-3 and weights 220 pounds, has always hit well. He batted .425 with 15 home runs and 84 RBIs in 51 games as a sophomore at New Mexico Junior College, and after transferring to the University of Cincinnati, he hit .313 with 11 homers and 53 RBIs his junior year. This spring he finished .344-11-69 in 58 games.
One of the keys to Parker's early-season success has been his patience at the plate. Parker "doesn't panic with two strikes," Burleson said, and the numbers back that up: Through his first XX games, Parker has struck out just XX times, compared to XX walks. His batting eye has helped him obtain a .551 on-base percentage, second in the Pioneer League to only teammate Chris Heisey, who leads the league in hitting, as well.
The patience wasn't always there, though. As recently as his junior season at Cincinnati, Parker walked just 16 times and struck out 31. But Bearcats' associated head coach Brad Meador helped Parker make a minor adjustment to his stance before his senior season, and Parker swears it's had a major impact.
"My junior year I was crouched down so far, it kind of took some of my power away gap-to-gap," Parker said. "This year I stood back up, just got my timing down, concentrated on getting my (front) foot down early so I could recognize which pitch was coming.
"It's helped me out a lot with patience. You see the ball. It used to be I was out on my front foot so much and it didn't matter what the pitch was, I couldn't lay off because I was already committed. But now that I'm (standing) back and my foot's down and everything's back, I can see the pitch and see if it's going to go in the dirt. Just one little minor thing helped me a ton."
Parker, who graduated from Permian High School in Odessa, Texas (made famous by Friday Night Lights) has slowed down some. A hamstring injury limited his playing time on the Mustangs' recent road trip. After missing two games, he returned to the starting lineup on Sunday, and he's still batting .XXX as the Ponies open a three-game homestand against the Missoula Osprey tonight.
Parker also grades out as an above-average defensive first baseman.
"I'm really excited about his potential," Burleson said. "It's all right there for him to take and run with it."