Minor League Roundup: Inland Empire 66ers

Advanced-A Inland Empire of San Bernardino had a nice week of their own and are beginning to look a bit like the low level version of the San Antonio Missions.

A 4-2 week has the 66ers vying for a playoff spot in the California League and they are doing it with excellence in every aspect of the game. The starting pitching has settled in nicely and the offense has been consistent of late.

The runs came by way of one of the classic offensive baseball philosophies…

Get ‘em on, get ‘em over, get ‘em in.

The offense struggled some again but the starting pitching has managed to mask that, carrying them to win after win. The small-ball offense (see; the 1988 LA Dodgers) is being led by OF Dustin Delucchi, 3B Hunter Brown and C/DH John Castellano.

Delucchi had one of his worst weeks at the plate but did get on base enough to give the middle of the order someone to drive in. The-25 year-old Arizona State product finished the week with a four-game hit-streak.

Brown, 23, struggled as well with only five hits in 22 at bats but did have four RBI, three doubles and three runs scored.

Castellano, 26, had a solid week at the plate, going 6-15 (.400) with two homeruns, seven RBI, four runs scored, and three multi-hit games.

Star prospect OF Shin-Soo Choo made his return Saturday and went 2-5. Don't look for Choo to be promoted anytime soon, even though his performance warrants such consideration. M's farm director Benny Looper recently stated that Choo is on the right pace for his age and is one player they will not risk rushing.

Minor League administrator Greg Hunter was recently quoted as saying of Choo, "We like him at Inland, he fits well there. It's the right level for him. We expect Shin-Soo to make the jump to Double-A in the next year or so."

The pitching did the job this week for the 66ers and were the main reason for the team's successful 4-2 showing. The offense was shutout for 19-straight innings, spanning all of two games and an inning of a third game. Led by southpaws Glen Bott and Ryan Ketchner, Inland held opposing batters to a .229 average with 45 strikeouts.

Bott is quietly becoming a nice surprise in the organization whether he is in the bullpen or in the starting rotation. The 21-year-old went 14 innings during the week, allowing just eight hits and one earned run. To go with that, he struck out nine and walked three. Bott lowered his ERA to 3.11 for the year and now has 105 strikeouts and 27 walks in 104 innings of work.

Ketchner, like Bott, is moving right along under the radar screen and continues to impress with every pitch he throws. The 21-year-old left-hander went 6.2 scoreless innings this week, giving up four hits and a walk while striking out 10. Ketchner is now 11-4 with a 3.31 ERA. He has 118 strikeouts and an amazingly low walk total of 22 in 111 innings.

A third left-hander, Troy Cate, 22, sports a 105/29 strikeout-to-walk ratio and combines with Ketchner and Bott to form the league's best trio of starters. Add in closer Mike Steele (2.56 ERA, 16 saves) and left-hander Ryan Rowland-Smith, 20, (3.46ERA) and the pitching staff is in good hands.

The 66ers should make a nice push in the postseason come September.

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