While the San Francisco Giants wondered what they could do with Jason Ellison, a reserve outfielder with tools but no place to play and no minor league options remaining, the Seattle Mariners had a quandary about a left-handed starting pitching prospect with lots of upside, but little major league success.
Both players could justify staying on a roster, although through enigmatic potential and past minor league accomplishments. Ellison's time with the Giants ran out as the Mariners, likewise, gave up on Travis Blackley.
Blackley came to the Giants looking for the success that made him the Texas League Player of the Year in 2003, and saw him chosen as a Pacific Coast League All-Star later in that season. High strikeout numbers and low walk totals, with a good earned run average in most of his minor league seasons, suggest the left-hander can contribute to a team that really needs dependable pitching.
However, he blew up when getting called up to Seattle in 2004, going 1-3 with a 10.04 ERA. Since tearing his labrum and missing the entire 2005 season, he lost velocity. The Mariners organization swapped their chore for one of San Francisco's, and it was off to Fresno for Blackley.
The first month of the Triple-A season is a microcosm of Blackley's minor league career. In five starts so far he has started five games with a 1-1 record and a 4.74 ERA. His standard good strikeouts-to-walks ratio is there: 20 punch outs to nine walks. Wins and losses are not as much of a factor this season, as is the case in most of his seasons, aside from his 2001 debut with Everett in the Northwest League and his outstanding 2003 campaign in San Antonio.
The breakdown of each of his starts shows his uneven nature. He alternates good outings with poor outings. He went only two innings in his second start of the year to allow three runs and was not in line for the decision in that game. His other poor start of 2007 was the game he lost on April 27 against Tucson, where he gave up five runs in 5 2/3 innings.
He did not get a decision in his first three starts of the year, setting his record even at 1-1 in his last two starts. Everything looked better for him in the starts where he pitched well. He has 17 strikeouts and one victory in the good starts, and then three strikeouts and a loss in the bad starts.
Blackley is Fresno's only left-handed starter with Erick Threets out of the rotation. Tim Lincecum is on another planet compared to Matt Kinney and Matt Palmer, two other righties who are throwing well. Threets has not pitched since April 18. The Grizzlies next game on Monday evening falls on their fifth starter spot. Now is not the time for Blackley's up-and-down streak to continue.
Player of the week
It's the Tim Lincecum Show in Fresno this week. Last year's top draft pick started two games and won both: 12 1/3 innings pitched, one run allowed, three hits, six walks, and 18 strikeouts, including Sunday's masterpiece performance, when he struck out 14 Colorado Springs hitters. He also hit a little bit in his April 23 start. He had two hits and two runs scored in the 7-1 win.
By the numbers
Lincecum broke the Fresno record for strikeouts in a game with 14 on Sunday. He accomplished the feat in six innings pitched and retired 66 percent of batters faced on strikeouts. Former Grizzly Aaron Fultz held the previous single game strikeout record with 13.
Chris has been a Giants fan since her days in utero. She loves baseball and writes about whatever she can get her hands on…even the Athletics. She's a Bay Area gal through and through. This is her 24th season of fandom. Love/hate mail can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, where the love mail gets top priority and the hate mail gets used for kindling.
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