Down on the Dodgers Farm July 1

When a team is pounding out 24 hits to pour 18 runs across the plate, it sounds ludicrous in the extreme to say that the pitching was the most encouraging sign. Yet, in a very real way, that was exactly the case for Columbus Thursday because the Jonathan Figueroa who seemingly disappeared some time ago re-emerged.

Figueroa is the lefthander from Venezuela who came on the scene in 2002 and simply dazzled, only to arrive last spring out of shape to incur a bout of tendinitis. Only for brief moments since then has he resembled the early version of himself. Last night, though his fast ball may never have quite the sizzle it had before, he had a sharp curve, mixed his pitches well and was in command for five innings in which he gave up only five hits and one run. Through that stretch his control, which has often deserted him earlier, was nigh perfect as he walked only one while striking out seven to even his record at 1-1.

Meanwhile the batters were eagerly banging away. Boy, were they. Jereme Milons (8), Xavier Paul (7),Chin-Feng Hu (6) Tony Abreau (4) and Matt Kemp (6) all hit for the distance; Luis Jimenez raked four hits, Mike Nixon, Paul and Milons each had three as the Catfish came back from the All-Star break rested and primed. The Fish are 5-2 for the half, tied with Charleston, S.C. for first in the SAL South.

Elsewhere the pitching was generally quite good, too, though in a couple of cases, it was in vain.

Las Vegas 8, Fresno 4--John Barnes wasted no time contributing after a long rehab because of a wrist injury as he ripped a three-run shot in his first at-bat. Jason Repko (3) and Antonio Perez (12) also homered. Repko collected three hits and Brian Myrow stroked two doubles to back Mark Johnson (3-6), who put forth his best effort in quite awhile, going six innings in which he held the Grizzlies to two runs (one earned). Vegas is 14 out in the PCL South.

Greenville 2, Carolina 1--T. J. Nall (4-4) pitched the first complete game of his career as he, too, gave up only two runs, one earned, over eight. The Suns, though, could come up with only a single run in the ninth to fall to 3-6 for the half, 4 1/2 behind. Shane Victorino and James Loney each had two singles .

Brevard County 2, Vero Beach 1--Another case of an outstanding pitching effort going for naught as Chad Billingsley held Brevard to just one hit through seven only to see the game get away in the ninth when Jumbo Diaz (1-2) failed to close for the first time as both Manatee runs counted then.. Billingsley struck out nine while walking three in his stint.

Alex Requena and Reggie Abercrombie both had a pair of hits for Vero, now 7-3 and in a three-way deadlock with Daytona and Palm Beach for first in the Florida State East.

Ogden 7, Casper 2--Jose Obispo, who had been treated roughly in his first two starts, was sharp this time and David Parker was even better. Obispo (1-1) held the Rockies to two hits and both runs (in this instance, neither earned) while Parker didn't allow even a hit in four innings for his first save.

Dan Batz lined three hits to raise his average to .417 while Luke May, Cory Dunlap and Brandon Carter all were good for two with May sending his first out of the yard. The 8-4 Raptors hold a three game advantage in the Pioneer South.

GCL Dodgers 4, Expos 2--A triple by Sambu Ndungidi triggered a three-run surge in the ninth that brought the Dodgers to 7-3 to maintain their two-game edge in the East Division. Rocky Rivera collected three hits. Here, too, strong pitching was evident with Miguel Ramirez checking the Expos on just four hits over six. Kale Garrison (2-0) was the winner in relief with Howard Zuleta coming on for the final two outs and his first save.

Player Moves--Jason Giambi was also activated at Las Vegas along with Barnes but didn't see action. To make room, infielder Eric Riggs was sent to Jacksonville.