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Man-Ram to begin minor league stint
It’s a good thing that I had some extra storage space and access to a ridiculous amount of green and white felt. If I consume more coffee and work through the night for the next two weeks, my custom-built wigs will be ready for Manny Ramirez’s return to Major League Baseball.
The former slugger in Cleveland and Boston (he also wore Tampa Bay and Chicago White Sox uniforms) will begin a 10-game minor-league stint with the Sacramento River Cats on Saturday. Ramirez is then expected to join the A’s on May 30, the first day of eligibility following his lengthy suspension. He hit two home runs this spring in 18 at-bats.
Now, let’s peer into the future. It’s time to scan the minor leagues for the next big thing. I’ll get things started with two recent call-ups in the AL East.
Newly-installed Yankees closer David Robertson was placed on the disabled list because of an oblique strain, thereby shifting Rafael Soriano into the closer role. The Yankees recalled 6-foot-5, 26-year-old righty Cody Eppley from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to eat innings in middle relief. Eppley has bounced between Triple-A and New York this season and made five appearances for the Yankees in two stints. He allowed three earned runs in 5 2/3 innings pitched. On a side note, we may reach triple digits in the closer column before this season ends.
Reliever Josh Lueke received a return call to Tampa when Jeff Niemann was placed on the disabled list because of a fractured right fibula. The Rays have used their bullpen heavily of late, and the loss of Niemann from the rotation necessitated a move to bolster the beleaguered relief corps. Lueke owned a bloated 8.10 ERA (1.95 WHIP) at the time of his recall. He allowed seven earned runs in two appearances spanning 2 1/3 innings earlier this season. Lueke’s return may be short-lived, as the Rays will likely call up another hurler to take Niemann’s slot in the rotation.
* Alex Cobb is the top option to get the call to replace Niemann. Cobb owns a 4.14 ERA with 44 strikeouts in 41 1/3 innings pitched in eight minor league starts.
Following a rough introduction to Triple-A Memphis (Cardinals), top pitching prospect Shelby Miller has settled in nicely. Miller pitched six shutout innings in his Tuesday start against the Colorado Springs Sky Sox with three hits, two walks and five strikeouts. The 21-year-old righty has pitched to a 2.78 ERA with 38 strikeouts in his past 32 1/3 innings pitched (six starts).
Milwaukee prospect Tyler Thornburg, a 23-year-old righty, has been dominant for Double-A Huntsville in his eight starts. Thornburg owns a fantastic 1.91 ERA with 51 strikeouts against 14 walks in 47 innings pitched. He’s allowed only 31 hits in his eight starts.
Oakland pitching prospect Brad Peacock experienced a rough outing in his last trip to the mound against the Omaha Storm Chasers (Triple-A affiliate for Kansas City). Peacock allowed four earned runs on five hits and a walk while striking out five batters in six innings. The 24-year-old righty has allowed 11 of his 16 earned runs in two starts. He’s struck out 37 batters in 39 1/3 innings.
Shortstop Everth Cabrera has rediscovered his stroke for Triple-A Tucson with a .333 batting average (48-for-144) and 15 stolen bases. There was a report from San Diego that the Padres were considering an outright release of Jason Bartlett (he of the .133 batting average), a move that would result in Cabrera’s recall. However, Cabrera is in pretrial discussions surrounding a mid-March domestic violence charge. We’ll keep an eye on this case.
Adam Eaton continues to tear up Pacific Coast League pitching following his promotion from Double-A Mobile. In 27 PCL games for Reno, Eaton has batted .391 (45-for-115) with 10 doubles, one home run, 11 RBI and nine stolen bases. The 23-year-old prospect has to wait his turn in a crowded Arizona outfield, but he’s one to watch for the second half.
Former fantasy ninja Travis Snider anxiously awaits his return to the Toronto lineup. He electrified the crowd and bolstered fantasy lineups with 20 home runs and 14 home runs in 82 games during the 2010 season. He then flopped miserably in 2011 and found himself back in the minor leagues. Snider has rediscovered his stroke this spring, producing 10 doubles, five home runs and a .333 batting average in 93 at-bats. He’s recovered from a wrist injury that sidelined him for a spell earlier this spring.
Speed kills. The Pirates have a big-time speed merchant waiting in the wings. Jeff Kobernus offers little pop in the power department at this point, producing seven doubles, a triple, zero home runs and seven RBI in his 155 at-bats. The 23-year-old second baseman’s calling card is his eye-popping total of 24 stolen bases in 37 Double-A games. Kobernus stole 53 bases in 124 minor league games last season.
Ryan Verdugo of Triple-A Omaha has pitched to a 3.22 ERA in eight starts this spring. He’s fanned 38 batters in his 44 2/3 innings pitched, though his high walk rate (4.4 per nine IP) and propensity to keep the ball up (six home runs) are troubling.
I would be remiss if I failed to bang the drum for the promotion of slugger Anthony Rizzo by the Cubs. Rizzo is absolutely obliterating Triple-A pitching for Iowa, producing a robust .359 batting average (51-for-142) with eight doubles, 13 home runs and 37 RBI. Forget about finding Alfonso Soriano a lighter bat. Find a way to get Rizzo’s bat to Wrigley!
Finally, we don’t spend a ton of time reviewing the exploits of players in Class-A ball. However, it would be short-sighted and downright silly to ignore the utter domination of the South Atlantic League by Orioles prospect Dylan Bundy. The hard-throwing 19-year-old right-hander has yet to allow an earned run in 25 innings pitched. Bundy has struck out 36 batters against four hits and two walks. The cries for Bundy’s quick ascent to the big leagues have been muted because of the Orioles’ early success.
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