Signed as a Free Agent in 2007 out of the Mexican League, Salas, the 6-foot-2, 200 pound right-hander has five saves in his last five appearances for Springfield, and is currently fourth in the league in strikeouts with 51, extremely unusual for a reliever.
Salas has worked just 30.1 innings, averaging about 1.7 strikeouts per inning, but even more impressive, in his last 10 appearances, he's pitched 12 innings, giving up only one run on three hits and a walk, while earning five saves with a 0.75 ERA during this 10-game span.
His success this season must come as a surprise to some. Last season, Salas appeared in 16 games for the Palm Beach Cardinals, including four starts, finishing with a 2-3 record and a 5.26 ERA, nothing to write home about or to suggest, that we could expect this type of season from Salas.
In 2006 Salas went 8-2 with a 3.02 ERA for Saltilla before going 3-0 with a 1.93 ERA in 26 appearances for Mazatlan in the winter leagues. The Cardinals purchased the contract of Salas from Saltilla in April of 2007.
But this season, Salas has been near perfect. As comedian Billy Crystal would say, "Fernando, you look marvellous, absolutely marvellous."
One person not surprised, I would assume is Cardinals' vice-president for scouting and player development, Jeff Luhnow. Luhnow had confidence early on in Salas, evident by purchasing his contract for a reported $200,000, a sum that seemed awful steep at the time, but that is paying huge dividends now.
In an earlier Birdhouse interview, Jeff Luhnow gave us this scouting report on Salas, ""He features three pitches. A fastball that has average velocity and late life (meaning the movement happens as the ball approaches the plate - which is the ideal time). He has what our scouts call a "power" curveball. It's 78 to 82 and can be 12 to 6 at times, but he varies the angles. It is his out pitch right now and our scout who saw him called it "dirty". He has a change up which he rarely throws but has potential as a usable third pitch. He has some deception. He is a polished strike thrower who can get guys out at the high levels of the minor leagues and beyond."
I wonder how marvellous, Salas will look in a Memphis Redbird uniform, because it's just a matter of time, before the Cardinals will be almost forced to move him up, if he continues to dominate at the Double-A level.
EDITOR'S NOTE: In an admin move, now that relievers will continue to receive their own recognition, Jason Motte has been named the MiLB Reliever of the Month for April, with the award being added to his player page, back dated to May 1, 2008.
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