Minor League Notebook

With just over a week of minor league games in the book, we're already starting to see some trends. For instance, Reading is getting production from both their pitching and offense, while Lehigh Valley is still struggling in both areas.

Lehigh Valley IronPigs (4-6, 6.5 GB)

It didn't take Jeremy Slayden long to make an impact on his new team. After being activated from the DL on Thursday, Slayden started by going just 1-for-5 (.200) in his first two games, but has picked up the pace considerably since then. On Sunday, he ripped two doubles, one of which was the highlight of a four-run IronPigs uprising in the eight inning that helped Lehigh Valley to a 6-2 road win against Pawtucket.

Through four games, Slayden is now hitting .385 (5-for-13) with a home runs, two doubles and three RBI in four games.

Slayden's emergence makes things tough in an already full outfield configuration at Lehigh Valley. The 'Pigs outfield possibilities consist of Slayden, John Mayberry Jr., Rich Thompson and Jason Ellison. Plus, Mike Cervenak can also play in the outfield, although he's also been used at first and third with the crowded outfield.

Manager Dave Huppert is just shuttling guys in and out, with Slayden and Thompson (14-for-43, .326) having the hottest bats so far this season. Thompson has been hitting the ball hard from day one, even making some impressive outs. To start the year, a lot of the balls that Thompson hit just weren't falling in and he was hitting .211 (4-for-19) through the first four games of the season. Then, suddenly, he started finding holes and gaps and has gone 10-for-24 (.417) and has a five-game hitting streak heading into Monday afternoon's game in Pawtucket.

On the mound, Carlos Carrasco went 35 1/3 innings at home without allowing an earned run until that was stopped by Syracuse on Thursday. While Carrasco has pitched well in each of his first two starts, he has two no-decisions to show for his 1.50 ERA that he has established. Carrasco is slated to pitch again Tuesday, in Syracuse, for his first start on the road this season. Kyle Kendrick (1-0, 1.64) makes his third start of the year Monday afternoon in Pawtucket after also pitching well in each of his first two starts. In his opening game, Kendrick was victimized by an error that led to two unearned runs and caused him to go just four innings. He was very much in command of Syracuse in his last start, going seven innings and allowing just two earned runs. Justin Lehr (2-0, 1.59) has also been a pleasant addition to the starting rotation after signing with the Phillies as a minor league free agent out of the Reds organization last December.

Newly re-signed pitcher Steve Green made an emergency start Saturday against Pawtucket. Green started in place of Rodrigo Lopez (0-1, 5.40), who wound up on the DL Sunday with an elbow strain. Green, who pitched in the World Baseball Classic for Canada before heading to camp with the Red Sox, was signed as a free agent last Wednesday. The Red Sox released him on April 2nd and he was waiting at home for a call when the IronPigs needed help on the mound when John Ennis came up with a sore elbow that will require Tommy John surgery.

The Phillies filled Lopez' roster spot with pitcher Tyler Walker, who they had signed earlier this month and was pitching in extended camp, preparing for just such an opening. Walker pitched in 65 games for the Giants last season, going 5-8 with a 4.56 ERA.

Reading Phillies (6-3, 1.5 GB)

Of the starters at Reading, two pitchers who jumped over Clearwater are both pitching very well for the R-Phils. Vance Worley (1-0, 2.53) and Mike Stutes (2-0, 2.45) both seem to be handling the jump from having spent part of last season in Lakewood to the Double-A level. Tyson Brummett (0-1, 3.60) and Joe Savery (0-1, 3.60) have also had success thus far.

The bullpen has also been impressive. Antonio Bastardo (1-0, 1.50) is just learning the ropes of pitching in relief, but he's adapting very well. He's able to mix his good, hard fastball with a quality slider and get hitters out with groundballs. Sergio Escalona (0-0, 3.18 - 3 saves) is handling the closer's role well and could be in line for a promotion if the Lehigh Valley bullpen doesn't start to turn things around.

Matt German (0-0, 0.00) has thrown 7 1/3 shutout innings and Josh Shortslef (2-1, 1.80) leads Reading with six appearances.

Offensively, Reading is also clicking. With a team batting average of .282 on the season, the R-Phils offense has put up 37 runs through their first nine games of the season.

Kevin Mahar was pounding the ball in camp and still is, hitting .385 (10-for-26). Kevin Nelson is hitting .556 (5-for-9) and Mike Spidale is hitting .500 (5-for-10) as part-time players. Michael Taylor is hitting just .250 (7-for-28), but leads Reading with six RBI on the year.

Clearwater Threshers (6-4, 0 GB)

Clearwater was the scene of Mike Zagurski's return to the mound after Tommy John surgery. Zagurski - a left-handed reliever - started for Clearwater, throwing a shutout inning. Zagurski had Tommy John surgery in April of last year and his outing for Clearwater was his first since the surgery. He had good velocity and his mechanics seemed to be good as he attempts to regain a spot in the Phillies bullpen that he had a short hold on during the 2007 season.

Remember the name Yohan Flande (2-0, 0.00). The Threshers left-hander has now gone 12 innings without allowing an earned run. Flande was the 52nd best prospect in the organization, on our Philly Baseball News ranking of the top 100 Phillies prospects and we cited a drop in his strikeout rate. This season, he's struck out nine in his 12 innings of work for Clearwater and has walked just three, which is very good news. He's the type of pitcher who needs strikeouts to be successful, because hitters can sometimes get good wood on him. Reliever Michael Schwimer (0-0, 0.00) has the third longest streak without allowing an earned run at 6 1/3 innings.

So, if Flande has the longest streak and Schwimer is third, who's second? Kyle Drabek. Drabek, in his first full season since having Tommy John surgery, has a streak of eight scoreless innings to his credit, including seven shutout innings in his last start. Drabek is second in the Florida State League in strikeouts with 16.

Arlon Quiroz showed a home run streak in camp, but hasn't hit one yet in the regular season. That's not to say that he isn't hitting; Quiroz is hitting .409 (9-for-22) in the early going. Fidel Hernandez is hitting .361 (13-for-36) through the first ten games of the season.

Lakewood BlueClaws (6-5, 1.5 GB)

Travis D'Arnaud is hitting just .220 (9-for-41), but he leads the team with nine RBI, good enough for third in the South Atlantic League. Travis Mattair is taking plate discipline to a whole new level so far this season. In 51 plate appearances, Mattair has drawn 16 walks, which when you combine that with his .303 average, you get a sensational .540 on-base percentage. Of course, when you're hitting .500 (9-for-18) like Jesus Villegas is and you throw in five walks, you get an astounding .609 on-base percentage.

If it's speed you want, Anthony Gose leads the SAL and the Phillies organization with nine swipes through the first 11 games. It's scary when you consider that Gose is hitting just .234 (11-for-47) and has just a .280 OBP, thanks primarily to his ten strikeouts this season. If he ever gets his plate discipline down, Gose is going to steal a bunch of bases, but he'll need to get himself on base more often than he is.

Lakewood's pitching has been a little spotty at times, with the team holding a 4.36 ERA on the season.



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