Pitchers of the Month: July

When the dust settled over the hot month of July – when pitchers are beginning to feel the sting of a long season – the choice was clear – right? Not exactly. John Conniff picked through some refuse this month and found quite a few gems.

Portland Beavers
Tim Stauffer
2-1, 3.77 ERA

When the pitching staff has a combined 7-22 record with an average 6.99 ERA, there really are not that many candidates for pitcher of the month. Tim Stauffer had a good month, his K/BB ratio was good 24/6 but he also caught a good amount of the plate with 31 hits in 28.2 innings, but kept his home runs down to four.

"We backed off on his throwing and his arm felt better," Portland pitching coach Gary Lance said. "Repeat the delivery and hit the mitt. Stay aggressive and he has done a good job."

He's shown improvement but a bad spot start in Houston where he gave up seven runs in 3.2 innings didn't help his cause for a spot in San Diego.

Prospect Watch: Despite a 1-4 record RHP Jack Cassel wasn't that bad with a 3.64 ERA and a 38/10 K/BB ratio. The problem was he allowed 51 hits in 42 innings, five of them dingers.

I know its Portland…. and I'm really trying.

Disappointments: Relief pitcher Scott Cassidy, after looking like a candidate for the Padres' bullpen the past few months, had a tough time with a 1-1 record and 14.63 ERA with two blown saves.

San Antonio Missions
Josh Geer
4-0, 2.70 ERA

Last month we listed Josh Geer in our Disappointments section, the month before he was pitcher of the month, and this month he takes the honor again. The difference again was about six inches, although this time the pitches were down in the zone. While his K/BB ratio isn't that outstanding, 14/3, only allowing three walks in 30 innings is. Additionally ,this was the first month that Geer allowed less hits than innings pitched, 25/30 as batters hit only .223 against him.

"Mainly it's just keeping guys off balance," said Geer. "It's just making sure that you're trying to throw something that they aren't looking for and if you have a third pitch it's even better. Also, it's all about keeping the ball down."

Usually when you read about Geer, and I've written it too, the phrase "back-of-the rotation" starter comes out, and with Geer's stuff that I'll stand by that statement. But someone that can become a back of the rotation starter in the major leagues is very valuable. Just ask the Padres, David Wells, and the $7 million they paid him to occupy that role this year.

Oh, and when he was called up to replace Stauffer for a spot start in Portland he won that outing too.

Prospect Watch: LHP Cesar Ramos went 3-0 with a 3.82 ERA. Again the peripheral numbers are not going to blow anyone away 22/10 K/BB and allowing 29 hits in 30.2 innings, but three wins in five starts against no losses is the biggest statistic. Overall his numbers aren't bad, 10-7 with a 3.68 ERA. LHP Wade LeBlanc went 3-2 with a 4.81 ERA. His peripheral numbers were good: 24 strikeouts in 24.1 innings against only 10 walks, but he caught a little too much of the plate allowing 24 hits. RHP Manny Ayala, the other pitcher promoted with LeBlanc from Lake Elsinore, had a rougher time going 1-3 with a 5.28 ERA, but did have a few promising starts.

Disappointments: RHP Mike Ekstrom continues to struggle going 2-3 with a 6.48 ERA. Ekstrom gave up 45 hits in 28 innings and only went into the 6th inning once in six starts.

Lake Elsinore Storm
Matt Buschmann
4-1, 2.65 ERA

A very good month by Buschmann, and his peripheral numbers were even better. He struck out 36 batters in 37 innings against only seven walks. He allowed 36 hits, but only 13 crossed the plate. The Missions are set on their staff, so Buschmann should be in Lake Elsinore for the rest of the year.

"The pitching coach and I talk about going through the lineup the first time trying to go fastball heavy," said Buschmann. "Just getting in a rhythm and used to throwing it. When you get that down then you can go to your secondary stuff."

Prospect Watch: With Ayala, LeBlanc and relief pitcher Jon Link included in the Scot Makowiak trade, there really aren't that many pitching prospects left. RHP Richie Daigle had a nice month going 2-1 with a 2.51 ERA and only gave up 10 runs in 28.2 innings, the lowest for any of the starters on the staff.

Disappointments: A brutal month for starter RHP Greg Burke with a 1-1 record but an 11.95 ERA including a 3-inning, 7-run, 9-hit outing in Bakersfield. Burke gave up 39 hits in 20 innings and only had a K/BB ratio of 12/8 as batters teed off at a .390 rate.

Fort Wayne Wizards
Drew Miller
2-3, 4.60 ERA

The initial numbers aren't that impressive, but Miller struck out 31 batters in 29.1 innings with only three walks. Miller who was listed in the Madfriars #19 prospect at the beginning of the year, had his best month yet. He needs to catch a little less of the plate with 27 hits, but Miller has as good a fastball as anyone in the organization and his results this month are encouraging.

"Just put the fastball in there, put a little two-seam in there and say, ‘Here it is. Hit it,'" Miller explained. "If you can, good for you. If you can't, well - you're out."

Prospect Watch: LHP middle reliever Allen Harrington had a good month with 20 strikeouts in 13.2 innings pitched with a 1.32 ERA. The Padres selected the Lamar graduate in the 13th-round and in July he only gave up four walks and nine hits while holding Midwest League batters to a .173 average.

Disappointments: Every month this year we've unfortunately included RHP Aaron Breit in this category and July was no exception. The Wizards have removed him from the starting rotation this month after two starts, but he still ended up 0-3 with an 8.45 ERA. Breit actually walked more batters than he struck out, 18 to 12, but he had his best month limiting opposing batters at the plate, "holding" them to a .300 average.

Breit has the talent to be a much better pitcher than he's shown, but with a month left of the season it's time to start showing it.

Eugene Emeralds
Cory Luebke
3-0, 1.52 ERA

Luebke was one of the Padres five first-round supplemental draft picks in the 2007 draft. The former Ohio State Buckeye ate up the Northwest League before being promoted to Fort Wayne, striking out 24 batters in 23.2 innings against only two walks and 18 hits, of which only six crossed the plate. Luebke is known for his ability to place his fastball, which generally sits in the high-80s and can touch 90 MPH and a good slider.

"I feel better than I have all season," Luebke said. "I am not used to that. My stuff is a little better each time I am out because you are not going 120 pitches."

Prospect Watch: There are quite a few good pitchers with the Ems this year. RHP Jeremy Hefner went 1-1 with a 2.55 ERA, striking out 29 in 24.2 innings against only six walks, as batters hit .213 against him. RHP Jeremy McBryde, the other big draft-and-follow signing after Mat Latos, led the team in strikeouts with 30 in 24 innings against nine walks as batters hit .219 against him. LHP Matt Teague was drafted in the 8th-round out of Carson-Newman College and has produced at Eugene with a 1-0 record and 3.80 ERA. Teague struck out 22 against only two walks and did well in his one spot start in Portland, going five innings and only allowing one hit against five strikeouts.

Finally RHP Mat Latos, who had as much publicity as any draft pick, put up some good numbers with a 27/6 K/BB ratio but caught a little too much of the plate which resulted in batters hitting .295 against him and an 0-3 record. His location is off a little and the breaking pitches aren't quite as sharp as they need to be, but he's still 19, 6-foot-6 and throws consistently in the mid-90s. The important thing was to get him in the organization and the Instructional League in the fall and the Padres accomplished this.

Disappointments: RHP John Hussey should be performing better than he has with two years of professional baseball under his belt, but he's struggled with his control allowing 15 walks in 20.2 innings against 16 strikeouts and a 5.32 ERA.

Arizona Rookie League Padres
Tyler Mead
2-0, 1.20 ERA

Mead, a 17th-round selection from the 2006 draft out of Skyview High School in Vancouver Washington, is a holdover from last year's championship AZL Padres squad. This month, the 19-year-old had the best command of any pitchers on the staff with a 22/8 K/BB ratio and only allowed 19 hits in 30 innings, as batters only managed a .183 average against him.

"It is a lot mental," Mead said of his success this year. "You have to be confident going up there."

Prospect Watch: RHP Simon Castro has one of the better arms in the Padres system with a fastball that consistently sits in the 93 to 96 MPH range. The problem is he doesn't always know where it's going. This month he led the team in strikeouts with 23, but also walked 14 batters in 23.1 innings. Despite his wildness the 20-year-old, 6-foot-5 Castro is a pitcher to watch. LHP Geoff Vandel is on his third tour of the Arizona League which will hopefully be his last. Vandel went 3-1 in the dessert with a 3.46 ERA and 20 strikeouts against six walks. Finally, RHP Matt Bush created some excitement in limited outings with the AZL Padres with eight strikeouts in four innings. Bush ended up with 16 strikeouts in 7.1 innings before being promoted to Fort Wayne.

Disappointments: Although RHP Jose Martinez went 3-0, he had an 8.10 ERA with batters hitting .422 against him. Pitcher of the Month: Josh Geer

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