Extended Spring Training Update
OaklandClubhouse.com caught-up with Oakland A's Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman on Monday to get an update on a few players who are currently at extended spring training.
According to Lieppman, Jeremy Barfield, Jemile Weeks and Jerome Williams are making progress on their rehabs and should be on the roster of a full-season affiliate in a week to 10 days, assuming no set-backs. Right-handers Mike Mitchell and Mike Madsen are continuing their rehabs from arm surgeries. Neither is pitching in games as of yet. Madsen, according to Lieppman, is further along in his rehab than Mitchell, but it is too early to tell when either would be ready to pitch.
Right-hander Fautino De Los Santos is getting closer to being able to arrive in Phoenix for extended spring. The A's pitching prospect had been held back in the Dominican Republic while his visa was being approved by the US Immigration Office. The visa has now been approved, and he is waiting on one more certification to make the trip to the US, according to Lieppman. He has been working out at the A's baseball academy in the Dominican Republic. De Los Santos is coming off of Tommy John surgery and the A's are hopeful that he will be ready to pitch in regular season games by early June. Prospect Michael Ynoa's arrival date to extended spring training is still up-in-the-air, however.
Lieppman also noted that outfielder Rashun Dixon has been showing good power in extended spring training games, but he is "still swinging through some pitches." Dixon, 18, hit eight homers in 179 at-bats for the A's Rookie League team last year, but he also struck-out 68 times. He was a two-sport star in high school and is looking to add polish to his impressive skill-set. Shortstop Nino Leyja, another 18-year-old 2008 draft pick who shined for the A's Rookie League team last season, got off to a slow start at extended, according to Lieppman, but he has played better lately. The A's extended spring training coaching staff has been struggling to get enough at-bats for their outfielders, including 2008 draft picks Chris Berroa and Tyreace House. That problem should be alleviated somewhat when Barfield is ready to leave Phoenix.
On the pitching-side, Lieppman noted that right-hander Mathieu LeBlanc-Poirier, a 2008 draft pick out of a Canadian college, has been the top pitcher in camp thus far. Lieppman also noted that right-handers Hector Garcia and Ronny Morla have shown strong arms, but have been very inconsistent.
River Cats Notes
The Sacramento River Cats could be getting healthier in the next few weeks. Outfielder Aaron Cunningham is making progress recovering from a separated shoulder he sustained during the season's first week. He is throwing and could start swinging the bat soon. If all goes well, he could be back in two to three weeks.
Left-hander Brad Kilby is also nearing his return to Sacramento. Kilby has been on the DL since the start of the year. He is scheduled to throw some side sessions and simulated games in Stockton while the River Cats travel to Colorado Springs later this week. If all goes well with those sessions, Kilby could be back next week. The A's front office will have some difficult decisions to make about the River Cats' pitching staff when Kilby returns. Left-hander Bobby Cramer was sent down to High-A Stockton over the weekend, but the River Cats will have to make room for Kilby by sending down another pitcher, more than likely. Room will have to be made for Jerome Williams when he is ready to pitch, as well.
Catcher Curtis Thigpen isn't close to getting back on the field. Thigpen has been sidelined since Opening Day with a back issue. Sacramento currently has Anthony Recker and Eric Munson as their two catchers.
Right-hander Ryan Webb has been moved from the rotation into the bullpen, where he has already made four relief appearances. The A's feel that Webb, who can struggle with his command on his breaking pitches, will have more success in a bullpen situation where he doesn't have to throw his complete compliment of pitches. He is 2-0, but has a 10.38 ERA in four relief outings. Webb is one of the hardest throwers on the River Cats' staff.
Right-hander Sean Gallagher made his Sacramento debut on Saturday night. Gallagher, who had been in the A's bullpen until late last week, threw three scoreless and hitless innings in his first start of the season. He walked one and struck-out four. Also joining Gallagher on the Sacramento roster this week was Alexander Valdez, who was promoted from High-A Stockton to take the place of Jack Hannahan on the River Cats' roster. Valdez appeared in Sunday's game as a pinch-runner.
As a team, the River Cats are batting only .225, but their 73 walks are good for fourth in the league. Eric Patterson is leading the way in that category with 12. He is hitting .333 with two homers and eight stolen bases and he has a 1019 OPS in 17 games for Sacramento this season. He has been splitting his time defensively between left and second base. Sean Doolittle is second on the team with 11 walks and is second on the team with 10 RBIs in 18 games. He has an 824 OPS. Daric Barton has only three hits in 58 at-bats, but he has walked nine times and has driven-in 11.
The Rockhounds took two-of-three over the weekend and are 10-6 and two games in front of Corpus Christi for the division lead. The Rockhounds' offense has been solid all season. Corey Wimberly is making a strong case to be promoted to Triple-A. The utilityman is batting .354 with an 894 OPS and eight stolen bases in 15 games. Infielder Adrian Cardenas also continues to impress. He is batting .333 with a 931 OPS in 15 games. He has eight doubles, one triple and one homerun.
Outfielder Matt Sulentic has made an immediate impact since joining the Rockhounds last week. In four games, he has five hits in 15 at-bats, including a homer. First-baseman Chris Carter has only one homerun in his first 16 games, but he has seven doubles and 18 RBIs. He is batting .284 on the season. Archie Gilbert and Yung-Chi Chen are also providing a spark to the Midland offense. Gilbert is batting .316 with a .422 OBP and he has scored nine times in 14 games. Chen is batting .327 with a .403 OBP and he has 12 runs scored in 14 games.
Infielder Tom Everidge got off to a slow start this season, but he is riding a seven-game hitting streak and is nine-for-his-last-19. The reigning Texas League RBI champ has 10 on the season. Outfielder Danny Putnam also got off to a slow start. He is only batting .250 in 16 games, but he leads the team with five homeruns and 17 runs scored. He has driven-in 13.
On the mound, Travis Banwart is leading the way with a 1.84 ERA in three starts. Graham Godfrey had his first strong start of the season on Sunday, tossing six scoreless innings. He allowed only three hits and a walk and he struck-out six. Godfrey has 15 strike-outs in 17.2 innings this season.
Relievers Sam Demel and Angel Garcia are off to strong starts to the season. Demel has a 1.35 ERA and three saves in 6.2 innings. He has struck-out eight and walked only two. Garcia has two wins in five appearances and has allowed only one run in 10 innings. He has struck-out 10 and walked five. Lefty James Heuser is also contributing out of the Midland bullpen with a 2.35 ERA and 11 strike-outs in 7.2 innings, as is Michael Benacka, who has a 1.74 ERA and a save in 10.1 innings.
The Stockton Ports have their first official winning streak of the season, as the Ports took the Saturday and Sunday games from Bakersfield to move to 4-14 on the season. Right-hander Craig Italiano had an outstanding outing to earn his first win of the season on Sunday. In six innings, he allowed two runs on six hits. He struck-out six and walked two. Carlos Hernandez also earned his first win of the season this weekend. On Saturday, he allowed two runs on four hits in 5.2 innings in Stockton's 13-2 rout of the Blaze. Hernandez struck-out six. He has a 3.74 ERA and 18 strike-outs in 21.2 innings this season. He has yet to allow more than three earned runs in any outing.
Reliever Derrick Gordon has continued to dominate out of the Stockton bullpen. He has yet to allow an earned run in 13.1 innings and he earned his first save of the season on Saturday with three innings of scoreless pitching. He has given up only six hits and no walks, while striking out 16. Lefties are batting .095 against the southpaw, while righties are managing a .160 average. Jonathan Hunton has also been outstanding for Stockton in the early going. The 6'9'' right-hander has a win and two saves and a 17:3 K:BB ratio in 10.2 innings. He has allowed only two runs.
Starter Scott Mitchinson leads all Stockton starters with a 2.30 ERA in three outings. He has allowed four runs in 15.2 innings and has a 14:6 K:BB ratio.
The bats busted out a little for Stockton over the weekend, as they scored 19 runs in two games. Raul Padron has homered twice in five games since returning to Stockton from Sacramento. Matt Spencer leads the team with four homeruns. Matt Smith, Jermaine Mitchell, Toddric Johnson, Mike Affronti and Larry Cobb each have one. Only Padron and Spencer have OPSs above 800 for Stockton.
Kane County Notes
Through Sunday, the Kane County Cougars were sitting at 12-4 and held a three-game lead in their division. The Cougars offense has been impressive in the early going. Two players (Steve Kleen and Dusty Coleman) sport OPSs above 1000, while David Thomas and Jason Christian both have OPSs above 800. Thomas and Christian lead the team with three homers a piece, while Kleen, Coleman and Grant Desme each have two.
On the mound, Shawn Haviland, Ben Hornbeck and Pedro Figueroa have led the way. All three are 2-0. Haviland has a 2.65 ERA and a 19:2 K:BB ratio in 17 innings, while the hard-throwing Figueroa has a 2.40 ERA and an identical 19:2 K:BB ratio in 15 innings. Hornbeck has allowed only one earned run in 13.2 innings and he has struck-out 18 while walking only three.
Anthony Capra has also been impressive for Kane County, posting a 3.21 ERA in three starts and striking out 20 in 14 innings.
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