Minor League Notebook: April 6th

AA has long been where offensive prospects go to bust, but a certain top prospect said 'Nuts' to that, and homered in his first at bat at the new level. Meanwhile, the San Jose Giants take the Visalia Nuts to extras, and they pinch-ran a CATCHER in extras? Are they nuts? And the Dodgers think they have a Better-Than-Matt-Cain pitcher in Chad Billingsley, but one Fresno Grizzly isn't impressed and nutted a ball that was last seen Leaving Las Vegas. It's Just Another (Opening!) Day in the Minors!

Fresno Grizzlies (AAA): Las Vegas 5, Fresno 2

OF Fred Lewis opened his AAA career the right way, drawing a walk against Los Angeles Dodgers uber-prospect Chad Billingsley to open the season, and hitting a 2 run home run off him in the 5th, but SP Brad Hennessey's error-fueled meltdown left the Grizzlies with a lost. Hennessey gave up only 1 earned run, but also six unearned. Most of the damage came in the 5th, when SS Tomas De La Rosa wasn't able to handle a ball with 2 runners on and no outs. Hennessey got 2 outs before any runs scored, but could not get the third, and let 5 runs cross the plate before giving way to RP Pedro Liriano. De La Rosa also had the error in the 3rd, leading to one unearned run.

Hennessey, who might be called up if Giants pitcher Noah Lowry has to go on the DL, gave up 7 hits and 1 walk, getting 3 strikeouts. The other likely starter who could be called up, Kevin Correia, is currently scheduled to start Sunday's game against Las Vegas. OF Dan Ortmeier played center, while Lewis debuted in left for the Grizzlies. There were reports that Lewis played better in left in Norwich, and this seems to confirm that. Much-maligned RP Erick Threets pitched 2 innings in relief, giving up a hit and a walk but nothing else, though he also didn't get any strikeouts. Todd Linden, who has been publically upset about returning to AAA, argued with the home plate umpire after a called third strike in the 8th inning and was ejected. The usual Minor League umpires are on strike, and the minor leagues are using replacement umpires across the country. Hot 2B prospect Kevin Frandsen returned to AAA with an 0 for 3 day, but did have a sacrifice bunt in the first after Lewis' walk.

Connecticut Defenders - Connecticut 5, Portland 1

RF Nate Schierholtz didn't waste anytime getting started on his season. With CF Clay Timpner on first, he homered in his first AA at bat to give the Defenders an early 2-0 lead. Schierholtz finished the day 2 for 5 with a double and the home run, but also with 2 strikeouts. SP Chris Begg, returning to Norwich after putting up a 2.30 ERA in 2004 and a 3.07 ERA in 2005 there, pitched a sterling 7 innings, allowing 1 run on 2 hits and a walk. Begg also struck out 5.

Eddy Martinez-Esteve played left field despite playing in a park with a DH, and went 1 for 4 with a double, and 2 RBI (1 coming off of a sacrifice fly). 1B Travis Ishikawa went 2 for 4, and C Justin Knoedler went 2 for 4 with a double and an RBI. RP Geno Espineli, who had a solid year in San Jose, pitched a scoreless 9th with 1 hit and 2 strikeouts.

San Jose Giants - San Jose 6, Visalia 5 (11)

The Giants pinch-ran a catcher, Guillermo Rodriguez, in the 11th inning after 3B Simon Klink walked, and the move paid off. Rodriguez advanced on DH Michael Wagner's sacrifice bunt, then went to third on Todd Jennings' single, and scored on a wild pitch to win the game. Ben Cox, who was acquired from the Washington Nationals in the Deivi Cruz trade, got the win after pitching 3 innings of relief, giving up 1 hit and 1 walk while striking out 2.

RF Brian Horwitz, who has the 2004 Northwest League batting title, the 2005 South Atlantic League batting title and the 2005 California League Championship Series Most Valuable Player trophies all in his case after going undrafted in 2003, got a head start on a third straight batting title. He went 4 for 5 with a double, a run scored, and 2 RBI. SS Marcus Sanders, who won the 2005 SAL stolen base title, went 1 for 4 with a double, a walk and a stolen base. Jesus Reina went 5 inings in the start and walked 4 in addition to 3 hits allowed, and gave up 2 runs. Thomas King, whom the Giants signed out of the independent leagues, came into the 7th inning with 1 out and 2 runners on, but gave up three singles with 2 out to blow the save. Sanders' double in the bottom half of the 7th tied the game back up and allowed it to go to extra innings.

Augusta GreenJackets - Augusta 8, Charleston 3

SP Joe Martinez had problems, giving up 3 runs on 4 hits and 2 walks in 3.2 innings, despite striking out 6, but RP Sergio Romo came in and settled the game down. Romo, who was the winningest pitcher in Salem-Keizer in 2005 with a 7 and 1 record in 14 starts, got 4 strikeouts in 3 scoreless innings, giving up 2 hits and a walk. RP David Quinowski was also impressive, getting 3 strikeouts in 1.1 innings, with just one baserunner allowed through a HBP.

The offense was spread throughout the lineup, with 6 players collecting the 7 RBI. 2B Anthony Contreras was the only one who got 2, with a hit and a groundout on a 1 for 4 day. Speedy DH Antoan Richardson went 2 for 4 with a double, a walk, 2 strikeouts and a stolen base. Top 2005 draft pick Ben Copeland played left field and went 0 for 4 with a walk and a strikeout.



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