Sacramento Notes: Barton Busts Out

The 2007 season has been mostly a struggle for Sacramento first baseman Daric Barton, but he appears to be pulling out of his season-long slump. We take a look at Barton's recent success, Nick Blasi's impressive Triple-A stats and more inside...

Barton Heating Up

After missing much of last season with an elbow injury and struggling in April, it wouldn't have been surprising if Daric Barton found himself pressing at the plate. However, the A's prospect has continued to approach each at-bat with his patented patience and that approach appears to finally be paying off for the first baseman.

Barton batted only .221 in April and was stuck in the .230s as late as 10 days ago. However, over the past 10 games, Barton has raised his average to .250 by going 11-35. He has walked six times during that stretch and has not struck out.

Despite his struggles with his batting average, Barton has still maintained a strong walk-to-strikeout ratio. In 49 games, Barton has walked 30 times (good for second on the team to Kevin Melillo's 33) and has struck out 27 times. In May, Barton has walked 20 times against only 12 strike outs.

Barton's biggest struggle this season has been against left-handed pitching. Southpaws have limited Barton to a .242 average and a 667 OPS. Against right-handers, Barton is hitting .254 with an 801 OPS. Barton has hit surprisingly well when he has been behind in the count, hitting .325 in 40 such at-bats. His slugging percentage when behind in the count is nearly 100 points higher than when he is ahead in the count.

Blasi Surprises In Sacramento

On May 6, Nick Blasi joined the Sacramento River Cats as an emergency injury replacement. Thanks to subsequent injuries to other Sacramento outfielders, Blasi has remained on the roster since that time. He has taken advantage of the opportunity at Triple-A, and has planted himself in the top-third of the Sacramento batting order. With Danny Putnam being diagnosed with a broken hand, Blasi figures to stay on the Sacramento roster for awhile longer.

After batting only .239 in 28 games for the Stockton Ports to start the season, Blasi has been red-hot at Sacramento. He is hitting .375 in 22 games for the River Cats. Blasi has 30 hits in 80 at-bats, including five doubles and two triples. He is batting .400 (14-35) over the past 10 games.

The only flaw in Blasi's game at Triple-A thus far has been his plate patience, which has been poor in Sacramento. The Wichita State alum has 26 strike outs against three walks for the River Cats. In Stockton, Blasi had 11 walks against 37 strikeouts in 109 at-bats.

Blasi has been one of the River Cats' top producers with runners in scoring position. He is 11-22 in such situations for Sacramento with three extra-base hits.

Knox Earns First Triple-A Win

Despite being solid for Sacramento since his promotion from Double-A in late April, Brad Knox had been stuck on zero wins until Monday. The right-hander finally broke into the win column for the River Cats with a strong performance against the Colorado Springs Sky Sox. Knox allowed two runs in 7.2 innings in the River Cats' 7-2 victory.

The Monday start was Knox's second start that lasted into the eighth inning since joining Sacramento. He also had a solid 5.2 inning "relief" appearance on May 22 after A's starter Esteban Loazia started the game for Sacramento as part of a rehab assignment. Knox allowed only three hits in that 5.2 inning effort and likely would have thrown more innings had he started the game.

Between Double-A Midland (where he made four starts) and Triple-A Sacramento, Knox is averaging better than 6 innings per outing. He has a 2.61 ERA in 62 total innings this season and a 2.89 ERA in 37.1 innings for the River Cats. This is Knox's first exposure to Triple-A after spending all of last season and the first part of this season in Midland.

Knox has been effecient with his pitch count all season. He has only 30 strikeouts in 62 innings, but he has walked only 21 and has relied on his defense to get out of innings quickly. He has maintained a strong groundball-to-flyball ratio and has passed the 100 pitch mark only once since joining Sacramento despite generally lasting deep into games.

Sacramento Roster Report

The River Cats have continued to shuttle players back and forth to Oakland. This week, Sacramento lost top starter Colby Lewis and reliever Erasmo Ramirez to the big club.

This comes on the heels of losing top relievers Connor Robertson and Ron Flores the week before. Robertson won't be returning to Sacramento any time soon. He broke his right thumb in a game in Chicago this past week and will be out for at least four weeks. Flores has yet to allow a run in 4.1 innings of work with the A's since his recall. He has three strikeouts and no walks. Sacramento figures to get back either Flores or Ramirez this week when Justin Duchscherer is activated off of the disabled list.

The River Cats have had the services of A's centerfielder Mark Kotsay since May 21 as part of his rehab assignment from back surgery. Kotsay is batting .233 with a double in 30 at-bats for the River Cats. He is eligible to be activated off of the disabled list late this week. A's outfielder Chris Snelling is also expected to start a rehab assignment in Sacramento soon.

Kotsay's return to Oakland could signal the return to Sacramento of top River Cats' slugger Hiram Bocachica. Bocachica has only one hit in 17 at-bats for the A's since his recall, although the one hit was a big one: a two-run homer. He hasn't started a game since Friday night.

A's right-hander Esteban Loaiza has been shut-down after making two rehab starts for the River Cats. He will undergo surgery for his sore right knee. Loaiza allowed five runs in 6.2 innings for Sacramento.

Right relievers Brad Ziegler and Alec Zumwalt have joined the River Cats as reinforcements. Ziegler took the loss in his Sacramento debut on Sunday, allowing two runs and four hits in 2.2 innings. He had a 4-0 record and a 1.17 ERA in 23 relief innings for Midland before his promotion. Zumwalt has made two appearances since being acquired from the Milwaukee organization last week. He has allowed only two hits and no runs in 2.1 innings and has struck out three.

Catcher Jeremy Brown was removed from the River Cats' roster earlier this week when he was designated for assignment. He cleared waivers quickly and was back on the River Cats' roster by this weekend. He went 3-9 with two RBI during the River Cats' weekend series versus Colorado Springs. David Castillo was placed back on the seven-day disabled list to make room for Brown.

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