Down on the Farm Report

Let's get this straight. Derek Thompson was not a Rule 5 draft choice of the Dodgers as has been written. What he's starting to look like, though, is the fine left-handed pitching prospect the Dodgers thought they were getting when they acquired his services in a roundabout fashion in December 2002.

Technically, Thompson was selected by the Cubs from the Indians in said draft, then traded to the Dodgers immediately in a pre-arranged deal. And he's actually on hand now because he was re-signed as a free agent. But however he's around, he's doing some strong pitching as he did again Wednesday night, hurling Jacksonville past Mobile (Padres) 4-1.

The 23-year-old Florida native never had an opportunity to demonstrate any prowess when he arrived for spring training in 2003, blowing out his arm at the outset. An operation, then a weary year of rehabilitation followed only to see him dropped from the 40-man roster at the end of the year. He eventually signed as a minor league free agent March 15, then began to work his way back.

Last night he was touched for four hits and just one unearned run in five innings to win his first decision, lowering his earned run average to a tidy 1.86 in the process. Nathan Ruhl and Yhency Brazoban kept the Baybears off the boards the rest of the way, Brazoban gaining his fourth save. Wilkin Ruan was the offensive leader with two hits and a pair of stolen bases for the Suns, who upped their mark to 15-5, keeping their three-game division lead.

Elsewhere, while Las Vegas had the night off, it was an evening of unpleasantries for two of the more highly regarded young Dodger pitching prospects. At Vero Beach, righthander Chad Billingsley started with a flourish, blowing away Jose Reyes, down from the Mets on a rehab assigment on three pitches. But before the inning was over, he not only gave up two runs but was struck on the ankle by a line drive.

He had to leave the game as a result and St. Lucie went on to a 6-0 triumph. Ironically, another major league rehab, Scott Erickson, who started for the Mets, also has to leave the game the next inning with a pulled muscle, but it didn't matter as his successors held the Dodgers completely in check, dropping them to 8-12 and Billingsley to 0-2.

Russell Martin was the only Dodger with two hits and those were only infield rollers he managed to beat out. Beau Dannemiller did give his finest performance of the season after relieving Billingsley , allowing just two hits and one unearned run in four innings

Columbus' Julio Pimentel entered the game at Asheville (Rockies) with a 3-0 record and an ERA below 1.00. However, he was crushed under the weight of two three-run innings to suffer his first defeat as the Tourists ended the Catfish win streak at five, leaving them at 11-8.

Before the carnage was done, Pimentel and three more who followed him to the mound had been bounced around for 15 hits, 10 walks and two hit batsmen. It shouldn't go unnoticed though that Xavier Paul had three more hits for the Fish pushing his consecutive game streak to 13, raising his average to .365. Luis Jimenez clouted his third homer in the loss.

Player Moves--- In a shuffling of pitchers at the lower levels, Vero loaned Mauricio Tequida to the Mexico City Reds, dropped Brett Wayne back to the extended camp and suspended Brandon Warriax. At the same time, Jarod Plummer and Mike Rodriguez were promoted from Columbus to Vero. Arturo Lopez and Phil Sobkow, who had been rehabbing minor injuries in the extended camp, were assigned to Columbus.

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