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Around the Minors: Pinch Hitter Edition

July 8, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; USA players including Manny Machado (middle) celebrate after winning the 2012 All Star Futures Game at Kauffman Stadium.
July 8, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; USA players including Manny Machado (middle) celebrate after winning the 2012 All Star Futures Game at Kauffman Stadium.

With dfa and j.q. out of commission for the time being I figured I'd get off the bench and take some hacks at putting this together. It'll be a magical mystery tour, so step right this way....

Norfolk had a busy week. Lots of comings and goings; the bus depot sure is getting it's fair share of traffic. Harbor Park welcomed the following players to it's clubhouse this past week: Tommy Hunter, Brian Matusz, and Jake Arrieta. Of course, new faces on the roster means bidding adieu to some old faces, and the following ascended to the big bird nest in Baltimore: Xavier Avery, Miguel Gonzalez, Chris Tillman, Joe Mahoney, and #Team Steve member Steve Tolleson. In addition to all of this roster shuffling, Steve Johnson was summoned to the big league club and later demoted right back to Norfolk, and Dontrelle Willis called it a career and retired. Best wishes to him. Other assorted notes: Jason Berken and Miguel Socolovich were named to the AAA All Star Squad. Congrats, Gents!

So, how did our boys perform this past week? Pretty well (5-2, 47-45 on the season). Having a bunch of AAAA pitchers can lead to such results. Tommy Hunter did what he does, to wit, giving up 5 ER in 5 IP via 7 H (2 of which cleared the fences), 3 BBs, and 6 Ks. He still su....well, you know the rest. Brian Matusz had an experience that was the antithesis of The Hunted One, hurling a CG Shutout. He only allowed 5 base runners via 4 H and 1 BB. Encouraging? Yup. Am I getting my hopes up for him? Nope. Jake has not yet pitched for Norfolk. The other member of 'The Cavalry' currently residing in Norfolk is Zach Britton, who continues to recover from shoulder wonkiness earlier this year. He hasn't looked great, but he is showing signs of progress. 14 IP this week, allowing 11 H, 6 BBs, 5 ER, while K-ing 10 and maintaining a 1.77 GO:AO. His last outing was a bit of a mixed bag. Pitching against Charlotte, Zach Attack threw 103 pitches (66 for strikes) over 8 IP with a 14:6 GO:FO, but allowed 4 ER (3 in the 5th), threw a pick off attempt away, and uncorked a wild pitch. But with his performance progressing incrementally with each outing it's not inconceivable that he could be called upon to man the 5th slot in the O's rotation the next time they have the need. The last Pitcher to update is bullpener (and AAA All Star) Miguel Socolovich. 4.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 6:1 K:BB. Pretty neat. Pretty good. As is his 30:3 K:BB over the course of the season, and his 1.54 ERA over 23.1 IP. He's a fly ball pitcher, as evidenced by his .77 GO:AO, but he compensates with some nice swing and miss stuff. Nice to have him stashed away in case the O's bullpen needs reinforcements at some point.

As for the Norfolk hitters, well, perhaps the O's should consider promoting them en masse. 39 runs over 7 games (5.57 avg/game) is a much better showing than what the 'big leaguers' are doing at the moment. As mentioned previously, X-Man Xavier Avery teleported his way up to the O's again. His former OF running mates L.J. Hoes and Lew Ford continued to mash in hopes of earning their own bus tickets to Baltimore. Lil Jerome has a 19 game hit streak steaming along. Last week he went 12-29, w/ 4 2bs, 1 HR, 1 SB, and a 3:5 BB:K. His current slash line in Norfolk is a pretty .319/.372/.459. Not bad for the youngest player in his league. On the other end of the age spectrum personal fave Lew Ford kept up the good fight for a promotion going 8-28 on the week, w/ 1 2b, 3 HRs, and 2 BBs to 3 Ks. Who knows if his .341/.404/.570 is sustainable (let alone translatable to the majors), but he has undeniably been Norfolk's best all around hitter during his time there.

Let's head across the Bay to Bowie, shall we? They have lost 7 of 9 during July. The good news? They get to regroup during the AA All Star Game break. Some comings and goings of note for the Baysox this week: Nick Markakis began his (hopefully brief) rehab stint on Saturday (more on that later). Chris Tillman was optioned to Bowie after his masterful start against the Mariners in order to keep him throwing on schedule. He will almost certainly be promoted back to the O's after the M.L. All Star Break. And old friend Billy Rowell was assigned to Bowie from Aberdeen according to the transaction sheets. No idea what that's about at the moment. I can't imagine the organization would have him in Bowie if he was trying to morph into a pitcher. Congrats are in order to the All Star selections: Zach Clark, Pedro Viola, Buck Britton, Robbie Widlansky, and Jon Schoop. (Why they no respec' Manny???)

As for the player's performance, let's start w/ the hitters. Nick Markakis began his rehab stint by going gangbusters on Saturday. 2-3, w/ 2 HRs, 1 BB, and an OF assist. Over three games he's gone 3-10, w/ 1 2b, 2 HRs, and 2 BBs. Let me be the first to say, 'Welcome back to Baltimore, Nikos!'. Also rehabing in Bowie is Taylor Teagarden. Over three games he went 2-7, w/ 1 2b and a 3:3 BB:K. However, he left Sunday's game after his first at bat with a bruised hand and is considered day-to-day. Should the hand issue by minor he could make his debut w/ Baltimore after the All Star break. Now for the young bucks. Manny Machado is getting comfortable with the level of talent in AA. All I can suggest to opposing pitchers is 'Deal with it'. During the MLB Futures Game Manny gave a taste of his varied talents, lacing an RBI 2b into LF and making two fantastic catches on shallow pop ups into the outfield, turning a double play on the first of those. In Bowie he has been equally great. Although the seasonal numbers aren't eye-popping, they are certainly trending in an upwards direction. 5 multi hit games over his last 10 leading to 12 hits in 38 at bats. 5 of those hits went for extra bases (2 2bs, 1 3b, 2 HRs), and twice as many BBs (6) as Ks (3). All that adds up to a .988 OPS over that span. Yeah...not bad. Manny's infield mate, Jonathon Schoop has also been slowly but surely turning his season around as he adjusts to much older and more advanced talent in the Eastern League. Sporting a .286/.362/.500 line over his last 10, with 3 2bs and 1 HR isn't too shabby. Of concern however is his strikeout rate, now sitting at 22%, compared to his BB rate (6.5%).

Now, the AA pitching. Bobby Bundy has been struggling, to put it mildly. He's failed to make it through 5 IP in his last four outings and seven of his last ten, including a 2/3 of an inning outing on July 3 where he gave up 10 ER. Ouch. Hopefully he can shake off this current funk and get back on a more successful track. Bundy the Elder is really the only starter of note currently in Bowie, but there are two relievers with some amount of promise: Clay Schrader and Mike Belfiore. Clay has scuffled a bit since his promotion from Fredrick, allowing 5 H and 6 BBs over 5IP while only K-ing 2. Mr. Belfiore made two appearances this past week. Going 2 IP each time he had vastly different results. On July 3 he allowed 3 ERs via 3 H and 2 BBs. On July 7 he allowed only 1 H and 1 BB, while K-ing 2 without yielding a run.

If you've made it this must be really bored. Let me attempt to wrap this up before I get into a word count that would make Dostoevsky blush. The Keys went 4-3 last week, and their overall record stands at 36-52. But, the name of the game in the minors is about prospect development not wins and losses, so let's have a look as to who has done what. But first, a transaction note: Brandon Erbe was placed on the D.L. due to a reoccurance of shoulder issues. He had labrum surgery back in 2010 and his results so far this year appeared as if he may have bested the dreaded Fabrum Bear. Best wishes on your recovery, Brandon.

Dylan Bundy is great. Joining Manny Machado at the MLB Futures Game, Dylan earned the Win after pitching a scoreless 4th inning. He wasn't as sharp as he has shown he could be, allowing 3 hits and uncorking two pitches that hit the dirt in the opposite batter's box. But two of the hits came off of hanging curveballs, neither of which was struck particularly hard. He also pitched on July 4 and was not sharp then either, allowing 3 ER over 4 IP via 6 H and 3 BBs. He struck out 4. Whatevs. He's still the best prospect in all of baseball. Other Keys of note: Ty Kelly is a 23 year old who was drafted out of U.C. Davis in the 13th round of the '09 draft. This is his first year playing at Fredrick. He currently ranks 2nd in the Carolina League in both AVG (.339) and OBP (.449). His .480 SLG ranks 7th in the league. He also sports a current 18 game hitting streak, having hit safely in every game since the league 2nd half began. During the streak he has 7 multi hit games and 4 multi BB games. Promotion in order? Aaron Baker was named the league's Player of the Week for the second time in 3 weeks thanks to his 4 HRs. He leads the league in HRs (19), RBIs (66), ranks 15th in OBP, 2nd in SLG, and 6th in OPS. He's already 24, and on his second tour of Frederick, but there's some power in that bat. Probably due for a promotion to Bowie as well. John Ruettiger has acquitted himself quite nicely in A+ ball. He put up a 12-27 last week, with 2 2bs and 4 BBs. His current slash line over 42 games in Frederick is: .282/.374/.329. No power, but not certainly not useless.

Back across the Bay to duck's neck o' shore, where the Delmarva Shorebirds stand 33-53 after a 3-4 week. Me and j.q.'s fave Brendan Webb is another player long overdue for promotion. The 22 year old, 30th round selection in '09 must have a great degree of 'want'. While his .255 BA isn't particularly impressive, his tied for 2nd in the league .430 OBP is. 69 BBs in 300 PA is pretty good too. And a .494 SLG (15th in league) powered by 10 HRs, 17 2bs, 4 3bs add to the luster. Oh, and he's 16/19 on SB attempts. Promote this man! Nick Delmonico returned from his D.L. stint and, like Nick Markakis, hit a HR in his first game back. Unfortunately, that would be his only hit last week, as he went 1-8. But he did add a BB and a SB. With continued strong performance he may find himself on some Top 100 lists next year. He'll need to work on hitting lefties though: .592 OPS vs. .811 against righties. Glynn Davis continues to run. He stole 4 more bases, bringing his season total up to 25. Like Bobby Bundy, something is really wrong with Parker Bridwell. After 3 straight decent/good performances to end June he has stunk up the joint in July. 9.2IP, 17 ER, 18 H, 4 HRs. The bright side? 6 Ks to only 2 BBs. Eduardo Rodriguez deserves mention. The 19 y/o pitched 11 innings, gave up 6 ER via 12 H and 2 BBs while K'ing 7. Nice international signing by the O's so far.

Let me wrap this up in Aberdeen. The Ironbirds sit 9-12 after a 4-3 week. 1Bman Christian Walker made his pro debut on Fri, but went 0-5, w/ 1 K. Hitless in 9 ABs last week, he would get his first pro hit on Sunday. Congrats to him! Torsten Boss is hitting like his surname suggests. Always nice to see a player with a .300/.400/.500 line. Boss' is .308/.416/.523 currently. No pitching of note just yet in Aberdeen, but a few players I'm keeping my eye on.