Wade, Pratt Handle The Pressure

Pitch counts being what they are for minor leaguers (around 80 for those at the lower levels these days), it behooves a team to have reliable men who can take over and work the middle innings. Inland Empire is fortunate in that it has two of particular note- righthanders Cory Wade and Jordan Pratt.

Wade racked up his fifth victory without a loss Wednesday, a total that leads the organization. So far, he's been as splendid as the record would indicate for he's worked 21.2 innings in which he's struck out 27 while holding batters to a .173 mark. It doesn't get any better than that.

He was a 10th round draft choice out of Kentucky Wesleyan in 2004. In college he'd been a position player for the most part, getting serious about pitching only as a senior. That drew the notice of Dodger scout Marty Lamb who felt he had arm enough to do it fulltime.

He's been used as a starter and in relief in his career. Last year he was 6-5, 4.96 at Columbus to earn a mid-season promotion to Vero Beach where he wasn't all that much- 2-4, 8.24, all as a starter. But all the time he was learning for he's one of the more cerebral pitchers in the system and he's been utilizing high 80's heater and a good curve to advantage.

As for Pratt, is this the same guy who lost all nine decisions for Ogden with a 7.69 ERA in his rookie year (2003)? The Jordie Pratt who came back to Ogden the next season to finally win two games, only to lose six and see his ERA bulge to 9.50?

Not really.

That guy they were thinking of releasing until wiser heads prevailed pointing out that he had good stuff and they'd better be patient.

No, he's not the same pitcher now for, like Wade, he's an intelligent person whose lessons might have come painfully but who learned them. They pulled him for the rotation to give him these middle inning assignments and he took to them well.

Last year he was the top winner at Columbus with eight victories. So far with the 66ers, he's been getting better all the time. Right now, he's 2-1 with a 1.59 ERA. He's worked 22.2 innings, notching 25 strikeouts while batters manage only a .222 mark.

They'll both celebrate birthdays this month. Wade will be 24 on the 28th while Pratt, who was a fifth-round pick out of an Oregon high school, will be 22. Wade is 6-2, 170 while Pratt has bulked up to 6-3, 195. His fast ball has been clocked at 96 at times.

The middle man role may not be as noticeable as a starter or a closer but through the season the good ones often carry a team. Right now, the 66ers feel very good when either Wade or Pratt enter a game.

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