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Thursday Pebble Report: Christian Friedrich Struggles, Joey Williamson Returns

How would you like to step out of retirement only to find the first batter you face is Mike Trout?
How would you like to step out of retirement only to find the first batter you face is Mike Trout?

Eye On:  OF Tim Wheeler, AA

To be honest, I have never been overly thrilled with Tim Wheeler (2009, 1st round) as a prospect and his poor 2010 in Modesto did not help.  Yet in 2011, he is arguably the Rockies' biggest breakout hitting prospect in early 2011.  He is now hitting .290/.375/.623 through 18 games with five stolen bases and a career-high walk rate.  What is most intriguing is the power binge the speedy center fielder has been on.  While he struck out in four of his six AB's last night, he also hit his sixth home run in his 76th plate appearance on the season.  He hit just twelve dingers in 592 PA last season.  The surge in power is certainly unsustainable, and the difference could be aided by home parks, but if he does add more power to his game, he will be a very intriguing prospect indeed.

AA Tulsa, L 2-7W 1-0 (9-7, 2nd, 0.5 GB)

Game 1:  Tyler Matzek isn't the only top prospect lefty that has struggled in 2011 for the Rockies.  After seeing his start delayed twice, #3 PuRP Christian Friedrich (2008, 1st round) finally threw last night, and it wasn't good.  Friedrich faced 22 batters, twelve of whom reached base (10 hits, two walks).  Mike Trout spanked two doubles off Friedrich, who was charged with seven runs in four innings.  For the season, he now has a 7.65 ERA and has been touched up for 7 ER in two of his last three starts.  The offense managed just three hits, but one was Tim Wheeler's home run.

Game 2:  After going 13-3 with a 3.36 ERA in Modesto in 2009, Joey Williamson (2007, 36th round) was ticketed for the Tulsa bullpen in 2010.  Just before spring training, he abruptly retired, opting for a job in the energy sector instead.  After a year away, Williamson decided to return, and the Rockies made sure he would have a spot in Tulsa.  Last night was his season debut.  So step out of retirement, and who is the first batter he sees?  Mike Trout.  The megaprospect tried to squeeze a bunt past the pitcher, but Williamson made the play.  The lack of rust carried over on the mound too. Williamson, who Jack Etkin says, "like Matt Daley, has some deception in his delivery but has slightly better stuff" threw four shutout innings, allowing just one hit.  The Drillers managed just two hits, both by Darin Holcomb (2007, 12th round), though neither led to the run.  Tulsa scored their run when Mike Daniel was hit by a pitch, moved to second on an error, stole third base and then, yes, stole home.

AAA Colorado Springs, Off Day (11-9, 3rd, 2.5 GB)

It was a travel day for the Sky Sox, as the shuttled yesterday from Colorado Springs to Tucson.  They will open a three game series against the Padres with John Maine on the hill tonight at 8:00 MDT.


High A Modesto,  L 0-2 - (7-13, 6th, 6.0 GB)

First baseman Kala Ka'ahuie (2011, MiLB FA) made his first of two errors on the night against San Jose's first batter, and Dan Houston (2008, 7th round) promptly allowed a home run to the next batter.  After that, there was no offense for either team.  Houston lowered his 2011 ERA to 1.85 by pitching six one-run innings, striking out six and walking none.  The bullpen held the Giants hitless, but the offense never turned it on.  Catcher Jose Gonzalez went 3-for-3, but #4 PuRP Nolan Arenado (2009, 2nd round) grounded into two double plays as part of his third consecutive hitless night.  The bad news is that means Arenado is hitless in his last 13 trips to the plate.  The good news is he hasn't struck out since April 17, an impressive string of 38 consecutive at-bats where he has put the ball in play.


Low-A Asheville, Postponed - (12-7, 1st)

The Tourists never stood a chance last night of getting on the field, as severe weather assaulted Rome, Georgia last night.  They will play a double header tonight to make up for the lost game, and the weather forecast expects 70 degrees and sun at game time.  #21 PuRP Joshua Slaats will try to rectify his own disaster, as the right hander has allowed 16 ER on 21 hits with just 5 K's in 10.1 IP with Asheville thus far.  Last season, he struck out 42 and allowed just 7 ER in 32. 1 IP with short season Tri City.