The San Francisco Giants have bad news and good news.
The bad news is that Tim Lincecum, the team’s ace, was scratched from his start on Tuesday with back spasms. It sounds like they’re being optimistic about the issue, which isn’t all that surprising, considering they’re pinning their hopes and dreams on his golden right arm for the next ten years or so.
The good news, though, is that Lincecum’s injury clears the way for the organization’s top prospect, Madison Bumgarner, to make his major league debut.
Only five weeks removed from his 20th birthday, Bumgarner is 27-5 with 256 strikeouts and a 1.65 ERA in 49 minor league games over the last two seasons. He made his debut tonight against the San Diego Padres, allowing two runs on five hits (including two homeruns) in 5 1/3 innings. He walked one and struck out four, threw 76 pitches, and was in line for the win until Brandon Medders gave up the tying run in the top of the seventh.
I saw Bumgarner pitch recently with the Connecticut Defenders, and while he found himself in several jams, his composure was impressive, especially for a kid who can’t even drink legally. The Giants have to be looking forward to this next month, when they can see what they have up close and personal.
The nice thing is that he doesn’t have the pressure of being number one on his shoulders; Lincecum is clearly the team’s best pitcher and Matt Cain is a solid number two, meaning Bumgarner can settle in as a mid-rotation starter while he adjusts to the majors (whenever he finds himself permanently in the rotation, that is).
(Picture: Greg’s Connecticut Defenders Blog)
Right now, as we speak, David Price, Baseball America’s second-ranked preseason prospect, is making his much awaited 2009 debut for the Tampa Bay Rays. He’s through three innings thus far, with three walks, two hits, and five strikeouts to his credit. The offense has given him some breathing room, touching up Fausto Carmona and Jensen Lewis for seven runs.
This game features three players on Baseball America’s Top 100: Price, Reid Brignac, and Matt LaPorta (not to mention Evan Longoria, who was on last year’s list). LaPorta is 0-1 with a strikeout, Brignac 1-2 with a run scored and two batted in. In fact, let’s just go ahead and make this a “Now Batting For…” post for ol’ Reid as well (I think this officially makes him the first prospect to be so honored twice – I gave him a much better welcome last year). He was called up on Friday to replace Scott Kazmir and could be around for awhile now that Akinori Iwamura is out for the season with a knee injury. He better be good – he’s on my fantasy team, and we could use the points.
Update: It’s now 10-0 in the top of the fourth. Price has thrown 77 pitches through his three innings, so it’s pretty much a race against the pitch count at this point to decide if he gets his first win of the year.
Update #2: The pitch count wins. Price struggles to start the fourth and is pulled when he hits the century mark. His final line: 3.1 innings, 2 runs, 4 hits, 5 walks, 6 strikeouts.
A few weeks ago, my wife’s uncle and I were talking about the Red Sox when he mentioned that Jonathan Papelbon might not stay with the team when he hits free agency. As a fan, the thought of Paps leaving is a little scary – say all you want about closers being a dime a dozen, the fact of the matter is that ninth inning worries have been few and far between for the last several seasons.
Upon hearing the news, however, I was strangely unconcerned, because I had recently heard news of the big flamethrowing righthander romping through the minor league system. Drafted in the first round in 2006 as a starter, moved to the bullpen in 2007, and then…
Forty-three strikeouts in 28 innings for Single A Greenville in 2008. A 1.99 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 49.2 innings following a promotion to Double A Portland later that year. Triple digits on the radar gun in 2009 spring training. A 1.13 ERA, six saves in eleven games, and 29 strikeouts in 16 innings for Triple A Pawtucket this season.
Yes, when Papelbon is gone, I will feel completely comfortable watching Daniel Bard step into the closer role. For right now, he’s hanging in the bullpen and waiting to make his major league debut, which ought to come any day now. And suddenly, I find myself longing for the days when Josh Bard was also in a Red Sox uniform, and lamenting that we may never see a Bard-Bard battery.
Oh, and he needs a nickname. I don’t know why. He just does.
Don’t ask me how it happened, but at some point last winter I heard that Toronto farmhand Brett Cecil was one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball. With that in mind, I took a flyer on the 22-year-old Maryland native in the annual Lozoball draft, figuring it was a keeper league and I could afford to wait a year or two for him to reach The Show.
It didn’t take quite as long as I expected.
Cecil made his major league debut on Tuesday, pitching six innings for the first-place Blue Jays against the Cleveland Indians. He allowed two runs (one earned) on six hits while striking out six. Only one of the hits was for extra bases (a Jhonny Peralta double, the next-to-last hitter he faced) and he didn’t walk a batter (although he did hit Matt LaPorta once and Kelly Shoppach twice). Perhaps most impressively, he retired the leadoff man in each of his first four innings, three of them on strikeouts.
The 6’3″, 220 lb. lefty was a supplemental pick by the Blue Jays in the first round of the 2007 draft. After making his professional debut with short-season Auburn later that year, he took the fast track through the Toronto system in 2008, seeing action at Dunedin, New Hampshire, and Syracuse. Regrettably, I did not see him pitch for the Fisher Cats, where he was 6-2 with a 2.55 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 18 games. While he was an a member of the North All-Star team, if memory serves, he did not appear in the game because he had just been promoted to Syracuse.
Cecil started 2009 in AAA before being promoted last weekend.
One of my favorite things is when a young player comes up and acts like he belongs in the major leagues. Cecil fits the bill. Speaking about the batters he hit, he said,
“I made a couple guys mad today, but it’s part of the game…It’s definitely a good thing to establish the inside part of the plate. You’ve got to keep them uncomfortable in there.”
On the heels of Saturday’s wild 16-11 win over the Yankees, the Red Sox made a roster move before Sunday’s game, optioning infielder Gil Velazquez to Pawtucket and calling up righthander Michael Bowden. Bowden made his first appearance of the season (and the second of his career) in relief of fellow youngster Justin Masterson, holding a 4-1 lead with two innings of perfect relief.
All season, the Los Angeles Dodgers organization has handled Clayton Kershaw, Baseball America’s 7th ranked prospect, with kid gloves, limiting the 20-year-old third-year pro to 43.1 innings in nine starts in order to keep him available for as long as possible. Presumably, that meant keeping him in the minor leagues, at AA Jacksonville, until the Dodgers needed his golden left arm in their rotation.
Okay. The Dodgers need his golden left arm in their rotation.
Los Angeles put the call in for Kershaw on Saturday, lining him up to make his major league debut on Sunday against the St. Louis Cardinals at Dodger Stadium. He will become the youngest player in the major leagues this season and the first ever born in 1988. I feel so old.
Kershaw pitched well for Jacksonville in 2008, going 0-3 with a 2.28 ERA and 47 strikeouts in the aforementioned 43.1 innings. He has thrown only eleven innings since May 7. Esteban Loaiza was DFA and Yhency Brazoban was sent to AAA Las Vegas to make room for Kershaw on the 40 and 25-man rosters, respectively.
Previous “Now Batting”: Evan Longoria (Rays); Jed Lowrie (Red Sox), Jeff Clement/Wladimir Balentien (Mariners)
Previous “Now Pitching”: Justin Masterson (Red Sox); Jeff Niemann (Rays); Luke Hochevar (Royals); Max Scherzer (Diamondbacks); Nick Adenhart (Angels)
The time is coming, minor league baseball fans, when prospects will clamor – yes, CLAMOR! – to be included on Extra P’s Z-Meter. In the past two weeks alone, Evan Longoria and Luke Hochevar earned call-ups to the major league team (and Longoria was immediately rewarded with a big new contract. See, the Z-Meter can, in fact, bring you the Coin (pronounced “Kwan”, possibly spelled “quoin”. Somebody get Rod Tidwell on the line!)).
When Extra P added Hochevar, he also added Diamondbacks pitching prospect Max Scherzer and labeled him, “a story worth investigating.” Well, he’s gonna be investigating him all the way up Phoenix, because Scherzer and his filthy stuff (4 games, 23 innings, 38 strikeouts, 3 walks) were called up by the Diamondbacks today. Seriously, his K-BB ratio was just shade under 13-1. That is not a misprint, unless Baseball-Reference is lying to me. (He was about 2.5-1 last year, his first as a professional, which seems slightly more realistic.)
According to Bugs & Cranks, which alerted me to this story, the 23-year-old Scherzer will pitch out of the bullpen for the first place Diamondbacks. For that reason, it’s hard to say when he might make his major league debut; if I were a betting man, I’d say he has a good chance of pitching against the Astros, who are in town through Wednesday.
Previous “Now Batting”: Evan Longoria (Rays); Jed Lowrie (Red Sox)
Previous “Now Pitching”: Justin Masterson (Red Sox); Luke Hochevar (Royals)