Minor League Pitching Notes

With the MLB Draft this week, Bill Shanks takes a look at how some of the arms that might make up the pitching staffs in Danville and in the Gulf Coast League are doing, along with some notes on the guys on rehab assignments at Disney's Wide World of Sports.

* Buddy Hernandez is coming along rehabbing the stiffness in his forearm. He has yet to be turned over to the coaches yet (meaning he's still with the therapist), so he's still at least two weeks away from being ready to return to the Richmond bullpen.

* David Watkins has one of the best arms in the system, but he's been burdened by elbow and shoulder trouble over the past several years. He had a setback in Spring Training, but bounced back to get his fastball up to 92. He is now under control of the coaches, and they hope he'll be able to be shipped out to a team (probably Myrtle Beach) in a couple of weeks.

* Jerry Oates was signed late in spring training. He's been with the Twins and Indians' organizations. The Braves have totally revamped his delivery, and the coaches are thrilled with his progress. Oates came to the Braves as a sidearmer, but is now a three-quarters pitcher. Oates throws 94 and has a good feel for pitching. The Braves aren't going to rush him at all. They think they've found a pitcher with a solid arm. He might head to Myrtle Beach as a reliever in a couple of weeks.

* Contrary to Internet reports, right-hander Jose Ascanio is not out for the season with his back injury. He's throwing the ball on the side now and the trainers are working slowly with him to prevent further injury. He's continuing to build up the strength in his back.

* Manny Acosta, recovering from Tommy John surgery, is throwing the ball well. He should be ready to head to Rome sometime this month.

* Steve Russell and Jo Jo Reyes had Tommy John surgery almost back-to-back last summer. Now they are on the road to recovery and doing well. Russell is coming along fine and is throwing the ball very well. Coaches really rave about his great arm. He's found a consistency with his release point now and may be a couple of weeks from being shipped out to Rome.

* Reyes had a little bit of a setback a few weeks ago. He had hit 95 and then had a setback. He was ready to be sent out, but it'll take a couple more weeks to see how he'll do. He's straightened out some things mechanically so there's less stress on his arm. He'll probably be at Rome in a few weeks.

* Rodny Jimenez just came down a few weeks ago. He had a little shoulder strain, but he's already doing better and could be ready soon.

* Sergio Valenzuela, another Tommy John surgery boy, is really progressing nicely in camp. He may have the best and easiest delivery in Extended Spring Training. Valenzuela is a hard worker, and now it's time to see if his loose arm is ready for work. He'll probably be in the Danville rotation.

* Eduardo Rosario – He hasn't been injured, but coaches are pleased with his progress and he's expected in the Danville rotation.

* Right-hander Jairo Cuevas will probably be a starter in Danville. Cuevas started nine games in the GCL last season.

* Asher Demme is throwing the ball better after struggling for a couple of years. Demme has a good chance to be a starter in Danville.

* Jose Santiago, a big tall reliever, is working on his delivery after coming back from elbow trouble. He'll probably be in the Danville bullpen.

* Lefty Adam Stanley is also coming off Tommy John surgery. He has had several setbacks with his scar tissue, but he's coming along fine now. It may be the middle of July before he's ready to head out to a team.

* Jared Shaffer and Tyler Wilson were two late signees last summer. The Braves have been working with both on their mechanics, and both will probably start the season in the Gulf Coast League.

* Raul Gonzalez, a converted shortstop who is still only 19 years old, is coming back from elbow trouble and is doing very well. The slender, 6'2" righty has a great arm, and coaches are now excited that he is bouncing back nicely from his injury.

* Right-hander Jeff Katz, a 9th rounder last year, is a converted football player really learning how to pitch. He'll probably remain in Orlando and pitch in the GCL this year.

* Gonzalo Lopez is just starting his Tommy John rehabilitation. He won't be back until mid-summer of 2006.

* Lefty Danny Collins and right-hander Jeff Long were recently released.

* Paul Bacot is still not back from his personal troubles. No word on when (or if) he'll return.

- Please remember that many of these pitchers are going to have to wait until a spot opens up on the minor league rosters to leave Orlando.

Bill Shanks has a new book out on baseball scouting and player development. "Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team" is out on the bookshelves now. Bill can be reached at thebravesshow@email.com

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