Minor League Player Notebook - August 23, 2004

<b>This is a free preview of premium content.</b><br> In this week's edition of <i>Minor League Player Notebook</i>, Brian Durack discusses the impact of the A's season on the AAA pitching staff, the future of John McCurdy, and the progress of Dallas Braden.

Sacramento – Oakland has had to dip into the farm system's pitching pool much more this year than in the past. Mike Wood, the ace of the staff, left as part of the package to get Octavio Dotel. Kirk Saarloos, Justin Lehr and Jairo Garcia all came up to plug holes that injures created. The River Cats have had to cobble together a pitching staff, but are now starting to get some guys back. In fact, when playoff-time comes around, the River Cats may have their strongest bullpen of the year. It's a good thing, too, because a weakened starting rotation has caused the bullpen to see more action lately.

Saarloos may not make it back to the River Cats before the end of the year. He needs surgery to remove a bone spur in his elbow. He would be a very welcome addition to the starting rotation, but they can't count on him to be back before the playoffs. Still, they have already gotten back Jairo Garcia and will get Justin Lehr back in a few days when Chad Bradford finishes his rehab.

Chris Mabeus came up from Midland earlier in the season and has done very well. In fact, he has solidified his status as a legitimate prospect. In 42 2/3 AAA innings, he has allowed just 16 runs, stuck out 47 and walked 11. Texas borrowed him in last year's Rule 5 draft, but gave up him back. If Oakland doesn't put him on the 40-man roster this off-season, they won't be as lucky.

The situation hasn't been rosy for everyone. The return of these relievers has resulted in two other relievers to be sent back down: Marcus Gwyn and Shawn Kohn. Gwyn had done well in Midland (2.67 ERA in 57 1/3 innings), but has struggled in Sacramento (6.35 ERA in 17 innings). Shawn Kohn has been called up to Sacramento 3 times this year, and has been sent down 3 times. Kohn has an unreal 52:3 K:BB ratio in Modesto, but a human 37:7 ratio in Sacramento. It is still good, but he has seen his ERA go from 2.91 in Modesto to 4.85 in Sacramento. Barring another injury, he will spend the rest of 2004 mowing down hitters in the Cal League.

Modesto – John McCurdy has gotten off to a rough start since landing in Modesto from Midland. In his first 6 games he has hit just .208/.269/.333. He has already struck out in 7 of his first 24 at-bats. If McCurdy cannot adjust to California pitching very quickly, his career may be in serious jeopardy.

He has been the biggest disappointment in the 2002 draft up to this point. Besides Brian Stavisky (who is mashing in Modesto), McCurdy is the only 2002 pick below the 8th round who isn't in AA or higher yet. Next year McCurdy will be a 24 year-old first round draft pick who can't hit in AA. With Crosby locked into shortstop, and Quintanilla/Morrissey ahead of him at second base, McCurdy may soon find that he is no longer in Oakland's depth chart.

Kane County – I know that I just mentioned Dallas Braden last week, but it is worth mentioning his performance this week. The 2004 draft pick was recently called up from Vancouver to fill a hole in the pitching staff.

Earlier in the week he pitched 3 innings of a rain shortened game and struck out 5. On Sunday he struck out 10 over 5 innings while allowing just 1 run on 6 base runners. His last win was huge for the Cougars. They had dropped 4 in a row and didn't want to follow the streak into the playoffs. Braden has now struck out an impressive 23 batters in his 13 innings at Kane County.

Brian Durack is the owner and writer of A's Y'all, a blog on the A's minor league system. The blog can be found at http://as-yall.blogspot.com. Brian can be reached at brian_durack@hotmail.com.

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