Oakland A's MLN: On The Move

There has been a flurry of roster movement this week in the Oakland A's minor league system. We detail those moves, as well as the latest draft signings and other notes on all of the A's minor league affiliates.

Sacramento River Cats

It has been a busy week of transactions for the River Cats. On Wednesday, the A's sent former top prospect and Opening Day starting first-baseman Daric Barton to Triple-A. Barton has had a disappointing 2011 season after putting together a standout 2010 campaign with the A's. Barton spent parts of the 2006, 2007 and 2009 seasons in Sacramento.

Current top prospect Chris Carter was promoted to the big leagues on Thursday when the A's placed outfielder Josh Willingham on the disabled list. Carter has had only one plate appearance since being promoted to the big leagues and he could return to Sacramento when Willingham is activated from the DL. If Carter does return to Sacramento, manager Darren Bush will have to figure out a way for Barton and Carter to share time at first base.

To make room for Barton on the Sacramento roster, the A's sent outfielder/first-baseman Shane Peterson back to Double-A Midland, where he began the season. Peterson hit .293/.377/.479 in 46 games with Sacramento.

The River Cats also saw shifts in their bullpen. Left-hander Jerry Blevins was placed on the disabled list. He last appeared in a game for the River Cats on June 16. In 16.1 innings, Blevins has a 6.00 ERA, but he has a 20:5 K:BB ratio and is holding left-handed batters to a .179 average.

Taking Blevins' spot in the Sacramento bullpen is right-hander Neil Wagner, who was a standout performer for Midland. He had 3.38 ERA and 53 strike-outs against 13 walks in 37.1 innings for the Rockhounds this season. Wagner's fastball was clocked at 99 MPH at a recent home game for Midland.

Other News and Notes

- Rich Harden has made two rehab starts for the River Cats this week. In 7.2 innings, Harden allowed three earned runs (two scored after he left the game on Saturday) and he struck-out 12 while walking three. Harden threw 72 pitches in his second rehab appearance.

- Wagner made his Sacramento debut in the River Cats' 8-3 win over Reno on Saturday night. He struck-out three and allowed only a bloop single in 1.1 innings pitched.

- Michael Taylor hit his eighth homerun of the season in only his 136th at-bat. He hit six in 464 at-bats all of last season. Taylor is batting .292 with an 864 OPS this year.

Midland Rockhounds

In addition to welcoming back Shane Peterson and saying good-bye to Neil Wagner, the Rockhounds also added reliever Brett Hunter to the roster.

Hunter has been one of the better comeback stories within the A's system thus far this season. The right-hander was signed to an over-slot, seven-figure signing bonus after being selected in the seventh round of the 2008 draft out of Pepperdine. Coming out of college, there were questions about Hunter's health after some arm problems during his junior year, but he was also regarded as one of the better arms in the 2008 draft class.

From 2008 through 2010, Hunter struggled with arm soreness and with mechanical issues with his throwing motion that caused him to have little feel for the strike-zone. In 2009 and 2010, he struck-out 108 batters in 84.2 innings, but he walked an alarming 88. Hunter also saw his ERA sit at 6.50.

After working with A's minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson and A's pitching rehab coordinator Garvin Alston on remaking his mechanics and strengthening his pitching arm, Hunter has been on his game in 2011. He tossed three scoreless innings with one walk and four strike-outs in a brief stint with the Sacramento River Cats earlier this season. However, he has spent the majority of his season with the High-A Stockton Ports. In 20 innings for the Ports, Hunter had a 1.35 ERA and 17 strike-outs against six walks and 12 hits allowed.

Other News and Notes

- Shortstop Grant Green was named as the A's representative to the MLB Futures Game, which will be played on the Sunday before the MLB All Star Game in Phoenix in early July. This is the second year in a row for Green to be named to the Futures Game. The A's 2009 first-round pick has been red-hot for the ‘Hounds of late. In his last 10 games, he is batting .359 with a 1009 OPS.

- Since being sent to Midland from Sacramento in mid-May, Adam Heether has been tearing through the Texas League. In 39 games, he has nine homers and a 949 OPS.

- Matt Sulentic's bat has come alive this month. In 19 games in June, Sulentic is batting .361 with an 885 OPS. He is batting .285 on the season.

- Gary Daley, Jr. flirted with a no-hitter in his most recent start. The right-hander allowed only one hit and three walks in eight innings on June 22. Wagner finished off the one-hitter with a perfect ninth.

Stockton Ports

With the exception of saying good-bye to Brett Hunter and hosting A's starter Brandon McCarthy for a rehab start, the Stockton Ports saw no other roster changes this week. Right now, they don't need any help. With a 9-7 win over the San Jose Giants on Saturday night, the Ports moved their winning streak to 11 games.

After finishing the first half of the season 38-32 and 12.5 games out of first place, the Ports are 3-0 to start the second half. Most impressively, the Ports have jump-started the second half with three wins against the Giants, who went 11-1 against the Ports during the first half of the season.

The California League playoffs allows for six teams to make the post-season, three from each division. The first-half champion plays the winner of a best-of-three game series between the second-half champion and the wild card team. At 41-32 on the season, the Ports currently hold a 4.5 game lead for the wild card, as well as a 1.5 game lead for the second-half crown.

Other News and Notes

- Michael Gilmartin was the Ports' lone representative on the Cal League All-Star team in the Cal League-Carolina League All-Star game that took place this week. Gilmartin went hitless in two at-bats. He is six-for-13 since the start of the second half and is batting .290 with an 814 OPS on the season.

- McCarthy allowed three hits and one unearned run in four innings in a rehab start for Stockton this week. He is scheduled to pitch again for Sacramento on Monday.

- Not surprisingly, there are a number of Ports on hot streaks right now. A's 2010 first-round pick Michael Choice has a .342 average and four homers in his last 10 games. Catcher Ryan Ortiz is batting .333 with two homers in his last 10 games. On the pitching front, Daniel Straily hasn't allowed a run in his last two starts with 17 strike-outs and only two walks in 10.1 innings pitched.

Burlington Bees

The Bees had two related roster moves this week. Promising right-hander Matt Thomson was placed on the disabled list. He was replaced by right-hander Drew Tyson, who began the season with Burlington, but had been sent to extended spring training and then to short-season Vermont before returning to Burlington.

Thomson had made only two appearances for the Bees since being sent to Burlington from extended spring training. In his last appearance, he allowed three runs on six hits and two walks in two innings pitched. Thomson had a 1.94 ERA and a 71:10 K:BB ratio in 51 innings last season, but was diagnosed with a slight tear in his labrum at the end of the season and rehabbed the injury for the first two months of the season at extended spring training.

Tyson had thrown three scoreless innings for Vermont before being sent back up to Burlington. On the season, he has a 3.16 ERA in 25.2 relief innings.

Other News and Notes

- Burlington won the first-half division title and are guaranteed a playoff berth. They have opened the second half of the season with a 1-1 record. The Bees have the best overall record in the Midwest League this season at 46-26.

- After injuring his knee in a collision during the second game of the season and missing nearly six weeks, A.J. Kirby-Jones struggled to regain his batting stroke initially. However, he has hit .353 with five homers and a 1075 OPS in June. His OPS is up to 786 for the season.

- Nino Leyja doesn't have an official homerun this season, but he did hit a homer in the Midwest League All-Star game. He won the Top Star Award for the game. Blake Hassebrock earned the win with a scoreless inning of relief.

Vermont Lake Monsters

With the exception of losing Drew Tyson to the Burlington Bees, the Lake Monsters haven't had a roster change since Opening Day. That figures to change as the A's sign more of their 2011 draft picks.

Through seven games, the Lake Monsters are 5-2 and they hold a half-game lead in the Stedler division. Outfielder Jordan Tripp is off to a fast start. He is currently third in the league in OPS with a 1087 OPS. He has five extra-base hits, including a homerun. Tripp was the A's seventh-round pick last season out of Golden West junior college.

Other News and Notes

- The Lake Monsters are 5-2 despite the fact that their team ERA is currently last in the league with a 5.23 mark.

- SS Zhi Fang Pan has five RBIs in six games thus far this season.

- C Diomedes Lopez has two hits in 14 at-bats, but both hits are homeruns. He is tied for the league lead in homeruns.

Arizona Rookie League A's

On Friday, the A's signed Fresno State outfielder and 2011 10th round selection Dusty Robinson. Robinson was considered a good value in the 10th round after a strong career at Fresno State. He has above-average power. Robinson may get a few at-bats with the AZL A's before being sent out to short-season Vermont.

Robinson hit 16 homeruns for the Bulldogs this season.

The A's also signed University of Dayton catcher Danny Welch to a contract. Welch was an undrafted minor league free agent and he has been assigned to the AZL A's. In two seasons with Dayton, Welch hit .281 with nine homers in 97 games played.

Welch began his collegiate career at Central Arizona Community College and hails from British Columbia. A's starter Rich Harden also attended Central Arizona after being born and raised in British Columbia.

Other News and Notes

- A's 2007 first-round pick James Simmons is on the comeback trail after shoulder surgery wiped out his 2010 season and has kept him in rehab for the first half of 2011. Simmons has made two starts for the AZL A's as part of his rehab and he has allowed no runs in five innings. Simmons has allowed only one hit and he hasn't walked a batter. He has struck-out five.

- The AZL A's have begun the season 1-4.

- Venezuelan prospect Wilfredo Solano has hit safely in his first four games in the US and is batting .353.

Other News and Notes from Around the Organization

- Highly touted Venezuelan prospect Renato Nunez is batting .284 in his first 22 professional games in the Dominican Summer League. Nunez was signed to a seven-figure bonus last season on July 2nd. The 17-year-old is batting .309 in June.

- Vicmal De La Cruz, another highly touted international signing last season, has a .427 OBP in his first 19 games for the DSL A's. De La Cruz has 15 walks in those 19 games.

- A's rookie Jemile Weeks had three more hits on Saturday to raise his average to .328 for Oakland. He has an 877 OPS and has swiped six bases and has scored 12 runs in 17 games.

- A's top pick in the 2011 draft Sonny Gray saw his collegiate season – and possibly his collegiate career – end on Thursday, as Vanderbilt fell to Florida and was eliminated from the College World Series.

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