Fall/Winter League Update: 10/31

There are two words in the world that can act as a sort of kryptonite for all kinds of baseball fans. Those two words? Rain delay. Such was life in the fall and winter leagues this week, with Arizona losing one game and the Lara Cardenales missing two. Thus, the abridged week left us with less baseball than we may have liked, but there were still some performances that were worth noting.

Arizona Fall League
Javelinas manager Mike Goff temporarily shook up the role of right-hander Brett Evert from short to long relief on Tuesday. Whether this was just to compensate for a poor start by Expos (or Senators) prospect Seung Song or whether it took into account Evert's history as a starter, the move immediately paid dividends.

For five innings, the 24-year-old handcuffed the Scottsdale offense, save for one mistake to Brewers prospect Rickie Weeks that was hammered out of the park. That pitch aside, Evert seemed to have excellent control of his low-90s heater, 12-6 curve, and change-up. There were only two other runners to reach base, one via a walk and one that was hit.

He also struck out three batters along the way, including one of the league's top hitters in Astros prospect Tommy Whiteman, who has only whiffed just six times in four weeks of play.

For his efforts, Evert locked up his first win in Arizona and knocked his ERA down to 12.00, less than half of what it was last week.

The 24-year-old's next appearance on Saturday wasn't nearly as good, throwing two frames of work and allowing a couple of runs after three hits and two walks.

Whether Evert would benefit more from longer stints out of the bullpen or not remains to be seen, but if they can find something that works well for him, one of the teams more glaring weaknesses will be improved dramatically.

Due to unsafe field conditions, there were only five games played in the Arizona this week and, as a result, only one start by righty Jon Huber, which left him with a 5.68 ERA rather mixed results. Usually when a pitcher is staying in the middle of the strike zone with their pitches, you'd want them to spread out a bit and try to work the edges.

Unfortunately, when they aren't used to pitching like that, the result is more like picking at corners. This is just what happened with Huber, as he fell behind in the count often enough to walk four hitters.

The rest of the numbers were much in line with everything else Huber has done, three each of hits and strikeouts over three and two-thirds innings. For his own part, the 23-year-old minimized the damage to one earned run, but some shoddy defensive plays behind him in the second inning led to three unearned runs, skewing the overall totals a bit.

Huber should get a chance to start twice next week, barring more weather related incidents. He has also been working closely with pitching coach Gary Lance, who coached him on two levels back when he was in the Padres system. With some practice and a little luck, the results should be displayed soon.

The shortened week of play also led to some other consequences for the pitching schedule. Southpaw Jared Thomas didn't get his chance to jump back into the fray after struggling last week, and only pitched one inning in this time around.

That inning came on the 29th against Mesa when he walked two and struck out two. Not bad, but with the Javelinas leading the Solar Sox 9-2 at the time, it wasn't as if his performance had much impact.

Batters are still reaching base against him roughly a third of the time and his ERA is still up at .720, but the 24-year-old will just have to wait until next week to turn those numbers around.

As for the hitters, Greg Dobbs has found himself in the midst of a six game hitting streak, splitting time between third and DH. Over the course of this stretch, the 27-year-old has been batting .346/.370/.385; not too many multiple-hit games, but he has made the most of his appearances regardless.

Dobbs has scored five runs in this span, bringing his Arizona total up to 14, tied for second on the team and one behind San Diego outfielder Ben Johnson. While the runs have been impressive, he also had two run single on the 29th to give the Javelinas a 4-0 lead. That single would be the deciding play of the game when all was said and done.

The other two hitters, like Thomas, had their playing time cut short due to rain. Michael Morse played only three games at short this week, thought he managed five hits between them. On Tuesday, he was one of five Javelinas to notch two hits in a 7-4 win over the Scorpions. These games have bumped his season average up to .333/.368/.389.

Shin-Soo Choo only saw plate appearances in Monday night's game, finding himself absent from the starting lineup for the rest of the week, but his performance was one of the best in the eventual 9-8 victory. In one of two official at-bats, the 22-year-old hit a three-run bomb that tied the game at 4-4. Choo also walked and was hit by a pitch in his other two appearances, scoring on one of them. That stray pitch that plunked him is likely the reason he missed the rest of the week.

Venezuelan Winter League
Justin Leone has made his debut with the Lara Cardenales after having his season cut short by a broken left hand. Now fully healed, the 27-year-old has taken over starting duties at third.

Due to a couple of rainouts, Leone has only played in three games so far, but he's certainly been making his mark. In his debut against the Aguilas on the 26th, he scored a run and drove in another with a single and two walks, leading the Cards to an eventual 15-9 victory.

The next day against Pastora, Leone made an error in the field, but added a RBI double and two more walks in a 4-2 victory. For his next trick against the Tigres the following day, he hit a home run and scored two runs in an 8-4 win.

Three games is an undeniably small sample to be looking at, but when a guy starts a season off batting .300/.500/.700, there isn't much to complain about.

By contrast, right-hander Rick Guttormson has had a bit more time to adjust to the league. Pity that the poor league that has yet to adjust to him. Taking over as co-closer and the toughest pitcher out of the bullpen, the 27-year-old has picked up a win and a save in five appearances so far.

Guttormson only made one appearance this week on the 26th against Zulia, but that inning and a third said all there has been to say about his season: no hits, two strikeouts. Batters have yet to work a walk off of him, and trying to swing has proven more difficult, as they're only hitting .188 against him and have struck out half the time.

Armed with a fastball in the low 90s and an unusually nasty slider, Guttormson signed on with the M's out of the independent leagues in late 2002. He took his game to the Texas League this year and notched 25 saves as the closer for the San Antonio Missions, and next year he'll be on track to come out of Tacoma's ‘pen to start the season. Charlie Kerfeld may have left the Mariners scouting department, but his legacy lives on.

Notes: The Dominican Leagues are under way but due to inclement weather they haven't played a full schedule to this point. Look for more coverage in the coming weeks.

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