Under The Radar #4- Two Pitching Possibilitie

Each year there are those players who slip under the radar. Unnoticed at the beginning, they perform well enough to gain attention. Today, we'll continue our look at some of them by examining a couple of pitchers, Zach Hammes and Jon Meloan.

Hammes was a second-round draft pick in 2002, taken after James Loney and Greg Miller and before Jonathan Broxton. The others have risen to prominence but for Zach, it's been years of not much happening. As a result while they were in the big leagues or getting ready for them, he was still down in Class A.

The problem has always been command. Zach's big (6-6, 225) and has the pitches to match his size. But putting them where they'd do the most good has always been a sometimes thing. He's tried variations of grips and motions in his quest for success and has been moved from starting to relief while doing so.

This year, he he began to throw with the required consistency- at least, a great deal more often than he had before. Not all the time but often enough to be encouraged. He had some bad outings where he'd have his usual problem of getting behind in the counts, then aiming pitches which were ripped. But more and more he began to get his stuff over in the right spots .

His ERA at Vero Beach wasn't all that special- 4.32 - because when you work in relief, you can spend a season trying to lower it after a rough session. But his six wins topped the team and more often than not he had to come in after the starter was blown away so his job was the keep his team within range. That he did frequently.

Now, he's in Hawaii, trying a new role- closer. (He did have one save at Vero but usually was seen in the middle innings). He's off to good start there and has appeared in three of their first six games as a result.

There was a time when some of the brass wanted to release him. Now, they like what they see. He's 22 so is still young enough to be considered. And he's moving toward that status.

Meloan was a fifth round choice in 2005 out of the University of Arizona who looked good (but didn't win a game) in his debut at Ogden. It had been thought he could make the jump to the starting rotation at Vero this year but muscular problems in his arm sidelined him. He was left behind in the extended camp so was in obscurity for most of the spring.

Finally, he was well enough to pitching so was sent to Columbus but limited to relief roles. Even then, his soreness returned so was shut down for a span. He finally got back into action and promptly began throwing the ball by batters with regularity, so much so, that he began a rapid climb through the system.

He was 1-1, 1.54 at Columbus, then 1-0, 2.50 at Vero and finally 1-0, 1.69 at Jacksonville. Overall, that's a 3-1, 1.90 record with -get this- 91 strikeouts in 52 innings with only 16 walks.

He throws high octane gas- 97 mph, to be precise. He's been so proficient at coming in and ending matters in affirmative style that they think they may have another Broxton here. That means starting has been shelved, at least for awhile.

Meloan was selected to replace Scott Elbert in the Arizona Fall League when Scott suffered the tender arm problem. There, he'll work under Kenny Howell and may get a chance to see how he closes games. If he does well enough, he could be a non-roster invitee to spring training with the big club.

He, too, is 22, and almost as big as Hammes at 6-3, 225. He's a battler who doesn't back down in any situation. He's come a long way in a very short time and with Hammes, gives L.A. a couple of more relief possibilties down the road.

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