Sunday Pebble Report: Matzek rebounds, but Nuts offense still chopped.

Colorado Springs: L 9-8

Greg Reynolds got roughed around a bit for the first time this season by Tucson, giving up eight runs (five earned) in five innings. The Sky Sox rallied to eventually tie the game at eight in the top of the seventh, thanks to former Rockies Randy Flores and Samuel Deduno (Deduno walked four in a third of an inning) being just wild enough to allow two runs in, but a missed chance to do even more damage and take a lead would allow the Padres to score the eventual winning run in the bottom half of the inning. There were two hit nights from Eric Young, Charlie Blackmon, Chris Nelson and Josh Fields, with Nelson and Fields both homering. Ian Stewart, Young, Matt Macri and Fields also had two walk nights as there were base-runners aplenty. 21 all told, which makes the eight runs a bit of a letdown. This was the Sky Sox' third straight loss to Tucson after coming into town riding a six game win streak.

Last night's game was a homecoming of sorts for the Rockies farmhands, not to mention Padres players Deduno, Flores and Everth Cabrera, as they played it at the former Rockies Spring Training home, Hi Corbett Field, rather than the typical Kino Stadium (formerly Tucson Electric Park) site of most Padres home games. 

Tulsa: W 3-2

Although Tulsa and Springfield, Missouri, are in the non-Texan part of the Texas League, the adjective "Texas League" certainly applied to the end of last night's contest. In the top of the ninth, Bronson Sardinha hit a game tying double and wound up scoring what would be the winning run on a throwing error. In the ninth, the Drillers almost gave it back when Darin Holcomb misplayed a pop-up, but the Cardinals Tyler Henley got caught trying to stretch the error to second, despite turning on the burners only after the ball was dropped. Adam Jorgensen would give up two more hits in the inning, but still earn the save thanks to the base-running blunder.

Josh Sullivan pitched well, he needed it after heading into the contest with an ERA of 8.49, allowing one run on just three hits and two walks in six innings. He didn't K very many (two) but had a 12/1 GO/AO rate.

Wilin Rosario is ranked as the second best ever Tulsa Drillers catcher by TulsaWorld scribe Barry Lewis, with Pudge Rodriguez taking the current number one spot. For what it's worth, Chris Iannetta ranks seventh, despite having what was likely the best Tulsa season (well half of one, he wasn't there long) of anybody on the list. Everybody Hates Chris isn't a television show about him, but maybe it could be.

Juan Nicasio takes the mound for the Drillers against the Cardinals today with the four game series split at one apiece so far.

Modesto: L 3-6

Tyler Matzek pitched what may have been his best start of the season on Saturday, lasting five innings and striking out seven, walking two and giving up three hits. One hit was a double and one a two run home run, but unlike other starts this year, it wasn't a case of everybody teeing off on him, nor was it a case of him completely missing the plate to avoid everybody teeing off on him. No, overall, this was a fairly solid outing for his age and the venue, and very much needed after a couple of disasters this year.

Those four starts prior to last night, 10.1 innings worth, are going to represent a small fraction of his 2011 when all is said and done, if he moves forward from here, his prospect status will remain relatively high. If he backslides, he'll be a bit more iffy a proposition. 

A couple of days ago, the Modesto Bee outlined the Nuts offensive woes, pointing out that Modesto was the only California League team to not crack the 100 run barrier for the season. That woeful fact still holds true, as the Nuts, at 91 runs scored, are currently 21 runs behind second worst Lake Elsinore. This has been a terrible offense this season, which leaves us wondering how long before some players get called up from Asheville. While with young prospects like Nolan Arenado, you expect an adjustment period to a new, more advanced league, the more experienced players, those 23 and older in particular, should be performing better. So far so good for Mike Zuanich and to some extent Dallas Tarleton, but other than those two, there's been a disturbing lack of production from the more veteran Nuts hitters.

Asheville: L 8-9

All is not bleak at our single A affiliates as far as offense is concerned, as poorly as the Nuts have hit, the Tourists have been on the opposite side of the spectrum. Asheville Citizen-Times' Keith Jarrett points out among other offensive Tourists (these puns never get old,) that the third time seems to be the charm for Helder Velazquez. The former middle infielder turned first baseman is slugging like he was meant for the position. This is his third stint in the SAL, so don't get too excited yet, but Velazquez is just a little old for the league rather than a lot old like Bryce Massanari is, like Jared Clark was in 2010, and as such is a bit more intriguing to project forward. Velazquez had a pair of doubles last night, and three RBI. Cristhian Adames and Massanari also knocked a pair of hits each in the losing effort.

Edwar Cabrera racked up 12 more strikeouts while pitching seven innings for the Tourists. He's become a K generating machine there, striking out 35% of the batters he faces, while walking less than 2%. That 44/2 K/BB rate is Cliff Lee good (full disclosure: Cabrera also has 4 HBP's.) Not saying that's what Cabrera will be, but just that he's the Cliff Lee of the SAL right now. The way to get to him is swing away, and even that's only partially effective, as he gave up six hits, but just one for extra bases. It was a much more dominant start than the four runs allowed (two earned) would indicate. 

As I said was the case a few years ago when Cabrera was being similarly dominant despite being older than his peers in the DSL, this historically high level of performance added to the quality of his stuff pushes him into a category of legitimate prospect despite the age. If he continues like this, he'd be going on a very unique path, so it's difficult to project him until he's pushed to higher levels, but he's probably still the third best starting LHP in the system behind Matzek and Christian Friedrich. That said, he's clearly not far behind with this level of command, and could pass them if current trends continue to hold. 

***

"I really want the fans, N.C. State alumni and most of all my teammates to know if I had been given an equal opportunity to compete for the starting job, I would not have asked for my release. I'm a competitor"

Russell Wilson still harbors NFL dreams, even after getting the cold shoulder from his alma mater, N.C. State, after the Wolfpack dropped his scholarship according to the Charlotte Observer. Wilson's bat is heating up for the Tourists of late, with a .320 average and .500 OBP in his last ten games. He has no current power and was still striking out just under 30% of the time in that span, but seems to be moving the right direction. There's a bit more of a glimmer that he can become an MLB player eventually. 

Having both Wilson and Kyle Parker play baseball together in the college football crazy south is giving the Tourists a lot more media exposure this season, and with Asheville currently in Greenville, South Carolina, home of the Drive and a 37 minute drive from Clemson, Parker's getting a chance to shine for an adopted hometown crowd this weekend. Parker went one for four in last night's loss. 

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