Oakland A's MLN: Ziegler Earns First AA Win

The road to AA has been a long one for Brad Ziegler. Ziegler is one of the most decorated pitchers in Southwest Missouri State history, but his professional career has not been without challenges. He was drafted in the 20th round of the 2003 draft by the Phillies, but he was cut in spring training of 2004 and had to go the Independent League route to work his way back into the minor leagues.

After a scary injury ended his 2004 season, Brad Ziegler has pitched well in 2005 and has finally arrived in AA. On Wednesday night, he celebrated that arrival with his first AA win.

Ziegler was signed by the Oakland A's as a minor league free agent mid-season last year. He had been pitching for the Schaumberg Flyers of the Independent League after being cut by the Phillies in spring training. After signing with Oakland, Ziegler was assigned to A-Modesto. He pitched extremely well for the Little A's, posting a 9-2 record with a 3.90 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 92 innings. However, Ziegler's fine season would come to a sudden end during the California League playoffs when he was struck in the head by a line-drive.

Ziegler recovered from that injury and was sent back to the California League to pitch for the A's new Cal League affiliate, Stockton. Although he has allowed a few more hits and runs in 2005 then he did in 2004, Ziegler has, once again, been the ace of the A's Cal League affiliate. In 24 starts for the Ports this season, Ziegler won a team-high nine games and he struck out 144 in only 141 innings while walking only 20.

When AA-Midland was hit hard by injuries to their pitching staff, the Rockhounds turned to Ziegler to help them replace the production of injured team aces Dallas Braden and Jason Windsor. Ziegler made his long-awaited AA debut at age 25 on August 17. He allowed four runs in six innings in his first game, striking out five and walking two. He earned a no decision. Ziegler was better on Wednesday night, allowing only one run on five hits in five innings. The thin right-hander struck out three and walked one, as Midland beat San Antonio by a score of 3-1.

Ziegler was supported by a strong offensive game from Kevin Melillo and a solid effort from the stalwart Midland bullpen. Second baseman Melillo added a run scored, two doubles and two RBIs to pace the Rockhounds' offense. The South Carolina alum is hitting .337 for the Rockhounds and has 23 RBI in 24 games for Midland. Melillo also swiped his sixth base since joining the Rockhounds in early August. Melillo could be a candidate to appear as one of the A's Arizona League representatives after a monster season that has seen him hit .318 with 21 HR, 82 RBI and 18 stolen bases.

Melillo's efforts were more than enough, as Ziegler and the Midland bullpen combined to hold San Antonio to one run. The Midland bullpen was perfect. Marcus Gwyn, Shawn Kohn and Alex Santos combined to throw four flawless innings. Kohn worked two perfect innings and lowered his ERA to 3.05. He struck out three and now has 89 strike outs in 79.2 innings. Santos earned his 18th save of the season with one inning of work.

The Rockhounds have been the best team in the Texas League this season. They won the first-half division title and currently have a three-game lead in the second-half division race over San Antonio. They are 8-2 over their past 10 games.

Other Notes:

-- Luke Appert had a huge game in Stockton's 7-1 win over San Jose. Appert went 3-3 with four runs scored and a homerun. The homerun was Appert's 11th of the season. Eddie Cornejo also chipped in with three hits and two runs scored Cornejo has been one of the Ports' hottest hitters lately, as he has raised his average to an even .300 from the mid-.200s. Chris Dunwell earned his eighth win of the season by working 6.1 strong innings. Dunwell struck out eight and walked two while allowing one run. Brad Sullivan was effective in relief, working 1.2 scoreless innings. He allowed only one hit and walked none. Stockton leads San Jose by three games in the North Division race. San Jose was the first-half winner.

-- Andre Piper-Jordan is putting on quite a display of speed for the A's Arizona Rookie League team. Piper-Jordan was a three-sport star in college and was recruited to Eastern Washington as a wide receiver. That wide-out speed has been evident on the base-paths. The swift lead-off hitter stole his 19th base in his 47th game on Tuesday in the Arizona A's 3-2 win over the Royals' Rookie team. The A's Rookie team is in first place in the second-half division race.

-- While the River Cats were busy losing to the Fresno Grizzlies 5-0 in Fresno, Raley Field was busy hosting the Fifth Annual California Legislative All-Star Game. The charity softball game is similar to the Congressional softball game held in Washington, D.C. every year. This year's Legislative tilt went to the Republican team in a landslide, 19-6. The Elephants jumped out early on the Donkeys, scoring 11 runs in the first inning. The Dems used four pitchers in that fateful first inning. Assemblyman Todd Spitzer (R) was named the game's Most Valuable Player after going 2-2 with two RBI. The game raised more than $46,000 towards the River Cats Independence Field project. That amount was a record for the game.

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