Gallagher Leaves Positive Impression

Following a promotion from Class High-A Daytona, Sean Gallagher made his Double-A debut for West Tennessee last Friday night against the Huntsville Stars in north Alabama. An announced crowd of 6,766 was on hand, but one of the spectators not counted for at the box office was Cubs Scouting Director Tim Wilken.

At age 19, Gallagher won organizational Pitcher of the Year honors in 2005 after winning 14 of 26 starts and posting a 2.71 ERA in 146 innings for Class-A Peoria. On Friday, he threw five innings and gave up two runs on five hits to go with four walks and five strikeouts in a winning decision against the Stars in his first game above A-ball.

Tim Wilken, who was named the Cubs Director of Amateur and Professional Scouting in December of last year, recently made the trip up from his home in the Dunedin, Fla., area to take in the first of many minor league games this season. He started in Huntsville, where Gallagher and his new team played a five-game series.

Wilken liked what he saw from the right-hander.

"What I got to see out of Sean was a kid with a very good fastball and a very coordinated delivery," said Wilken, who spent 25 years with the Toronto Blue Jays as an area scout, manager, crosschecker, and scouting director before a two-year stint with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays prior to joining the Cubs.

While his line on Friday didn't make for his best outing of the year, Gallagher did win his fifth decision and remains undefeated this season in 14 starts. His 2.38 ERA is currently tied with Iowa's Rich Hill for the fifth best mark of any starter in the Cub farm system.

Gallagher was named to the MWL all-star team a season ago and garnered his second all-star invitation this year in the Florida State League. While pitching for Daytona, he was 4-0 with a 2.30 ERA in 78 1/3 innings for the Cubs' Advanced A affiliate before his promotion to West Tenn. Gallagher had 80 strikeouts to 21 walks. He was taken in the 12th round of the 2004 draft out of high school.

"He's got very good arm speed and very good control of his body," Wilken said. "I saw a kid with a lot of moxie, and a kid with a good changeup and curveball."

So good a curveball, in fact, that it was ranked by opposing managers as the best in the Midwest League for 2005. Gallagher's fastball, meanwhile, regularly sits between 88-91 mph.

"He changes the eyesight level of hitters pretty good," Wilken noted. "A lot of pitchers are what I call ‘east-to-west' pitchers. They really don't change the hitters' eye level at all. With Sean, that's not the case. He works up and down pretty good, and as he goes up the [organizational] ladder, he's going to get more strikeouts with that curveball."

With almost 30 years in the scouting business, the 52-year-old Wilken has learned a thing or two about the profession, such as whenever a player like Gallagher reminds him of someone he's seen in the past.

"We had a pitcher in Toronto – and although I'm not comparing them – that worked north to south and that was Pat Hentgen," Wilken said. "He was very successful for a while. A lot of the movement Sean possesses reminds me a good deal of Pat, so there's some similar stuff between the two of them."

Hentgen won the American League's 1996 Cy Young Award with 20 wins and a 3.22 ERA. He was drafted in 1986 by Toronto and retired in mid-2004.

As for Gallagher, Wilken said he was also impressed by the young pitcher's competitiveness.

"The thing that I liked best about Sean was that even though he did not have his best control and command the other night, he was fired up," Wilken said. "When his back was against the wall, he made the pitches he had to make and got out of some situations where a lot of young kids like Sean may struggle.

"It's tough to teach competitiveness, but Sean's got a little bit of a head start in that regard."

Wilken's recent trip to Huntsville is the first of many he plans to make this season at the minor league level. He's scheduled to catch the Triple-A Iowa Cubs in their current nine-game home stand, and he has scheduled future trips to Peoria, Boise and Daytona, plus a stop in the Cape Cod League to get a jumpstart on some of the 2007 draft's prospects. Check back later in the week for our exclusive interview with Tim Wilken.

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