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Monday Pebble Report: Day of the underappreciated pitcher

The system had a trio of strong starts from pitchers on the periphery on Sunday. In two of the cases, the question will be whether the pitchers are prospects at all, in the third, he's still a prospect, but it's a matter of where we should set our expectations.

Colorado Springs (7-3): Sun W 3-1, Sat W 9-4

Alan Johnson had a miserable Texas League experience in 2008, but so far in 2009 he seems ready to put that behind him.  Johnson threw only 81 pitches over six and a third innings, allowing five hits and a walk and one run. In two games, one at Security Service Field and one at Cashman Stadium in Las Vegas, two brutal yards for pitchers, he has allowed just one run and eight baserunners over 12 1/3 innings.

We've seen pitchers have two fantastic starts in Colorado Springs only to trail off severely before, so there will certainly need to be another half dozen or so more PCL starts from him before we should really start taking a closer look, but he's showing why he has this rotation slot over plenty of stiff competition. Matt Murton had a pair of hits and a walk (batting .410 thus far) and Mike McCoy hit his first homerun of the season in the narrow victory.

In Saturday's 9-4 win, Carlos Gonzalez, Eric Young Jr. and Christian Colonel each had three hits and Brandon Hynick was even a bit more effective than Johnson with seven shutout innings, allowing just two hits while striking out three.

Tulsa (6-4): Sun W 2-1, Sat W 6-5

The Drillers won their third straight contest on Sunday thanks to Chaz Roe and solid bullpen work. Roe pitched five innings, allowing a single and two walks while striking out four. Anthony Jackson doubled to lead off the first for the Drillers, who sacrificed him over to third and plated him on a Darin Holcomb groundout. No further scoring took place until the bottom of the eighth when Daniel Carte led off with a triple and eventually scored on a Rex Rundgren single. The San Antonio Missions scored once in the ninth and looked as though they might pull out a rally after three straight groundball singles off of Andrew Johnston with none out, but he retired them with a GIDP and a strikeout for the save. 

On Saturday, Esmil Rogers pitched somewhat effectively over five innings, allowing two runs on six hits, but after the bullpen allowed the Missions to take a five to three lead heading into the bottom of the ninth, the Drillers required the offense to come through with the second of two doubles on the day by Holcomb, a single by Carte to score him and a walk-off two run home run by Daniel Mayora to rally past the Missions in the end.

Modesto (7-4): Sun W 10-2, Sat L 0-5

The Nuts finally put the L back into Visalia on Sunday, giving the Oaks Rawhide their first defeat of the year. I dislike all things snake, including their farm teams, so I'm hoping that this will be far from the last misery for Visalia. Michael Mitchell had a three run homer and Charlie Blackmon doubled, walked twice, stole two bases and had two RBI in the win. Jay Cox had three hits and scored twice as well. Brandon Durden pitched six innings, allowing just two runs.

As for Saturday's loss, I didn't really recognize anything particularly noteworthy.

Asheville (3-7): Sun postponed, Sat L 0-4

Jordan Pacheco went four for four on Saturday and Christian Friedrich pitched very well despite taking the loss, striking out nine in five innings and allowing two runs, one off a home run and the other unearned on a throwing error by Pacheco.