Dragons' Stewart shows good stuff

By Marc Katz

Staff Writer

Sunday, June 22, 2008

DAYTON — Zach Stewart was sitting in a meeting of players expecting to go to Billings, Mont., to start their professional careers.

They had just gone through a series of workouts at the Reds' Sarasota, Fla., complex when Mack Jenkins, the organization's minor-league pitching coordinator, called Stewart aside and told the third-round draft pick from Texas Tech he was going to Dayton.

Stewart pitched two perfect innings in relief for the Dragons on Friday night, coaxing five ground outs among his six outs. His velocity reached 96 mph, and catcher Jason Bour said Stewart was as good as any pitcher he's caught this season.

"I didn't try to change my approach," said Stewart, who in college had to pitch against hitters who wielded aluminum bats. "I was just trying to feel it out and see how much better the batters were."

Although he grew up in Wichita Falls, Texas, Stewart said he knew about the Reds. He played against Blake Szymanski, younger brother of B.J. Szymanski, who was drafted by the Reds and played here in 2005 and 2006. He also followed the career of Homer Bailey, yet another Texan drafted by the Reds who played in Dayton.

"I followed the Reds because of those guys," Stewart said.

Thompson quick study

Plenty of Dragons played with right-hander Daryl Thompson, who in five games with the Dragons last season went 5-0 with an 0.96 ERA. At least one helped him along his journey to the majors Saturday, when Thompson pitched five scoreless innings against the Yankees.

"I told him to throw a high, up-and-in fastball," Dragons pitching coach Doug Bair said. "That's the only thing I'll take credit for. Whether he remembers that or not, or uses it, I don't know. But I think I saw a couple of them today, and he got the guys out."

It was an out

Preston Mattingly of Great Lakes, son of former Yankees great Don Mattingly, walked onto the field for his team's afternoon workout and yelled over to the Dragons' Justin Reed, who made a diving catch near the line in right field Friday to rob him of extra bases.

"You know that was a triple, right?" Mattingly said.

"No, that was an out," Reed said. "I've got to eat, too."

Cabrera gets chance

Even when he was being used as a part-time utility player during the first half of the season, Angel Cabrera was thinking team.

"I can't think about being an extra guy," said Cabrera, who is being given a chance to play every day at second base. He has started the last nine games, the last five at second. "I've always got to stay positive. I'm just happy to be playing."

In the two games before Saturday's contest, Cabrera was 4-for-10 and played a solid second base.