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Minor League Report...May 7, 2011

The four full-season teams had one of their best weeks since I began doing this report. At ten games over .500 (18-8), all four clubs had winning weeks led by Ft. Myers (6-1) and New Britain (5-2). The Twins changed how they do business this past winter, stocking up on veteran minor league free agents at Rochester so they could keep prospects where they should be. It is only the first week of May, but it appears to be working.

Player movement was again active this week with the callup list from Rochester reaching ten. The Twins placed Jim Thome and Jason Repko on the disabled list, replacing them with Trevor Plouffe and Ben Revere. Steve Holm was optioned to Rochester with the Twins purchasing the contract of Rene Rivera, who filled the last open spot on the 40-man roster. Late last night, Kevin Slowey returned from his rehab assignment with Dusty Hughes optioned to Rochester.

Ray Chang and Steve Singleton moved up to Rochester to replace Plouffe and Revere. Daniel Osterbrock moved up to New Britain to take the spot of David Bromberg, who had surgery on his broken arm and is expected to be out at least four more weeks. Catcher/outfielder Chris Herrmann also was promoted to New Britain.

Ryan Mullins, who had been pitching for Ft. Myers on a rehab assignment, went back on the disabled list with shoulder tendonitis. The Miracle activated two pitchers from their disabled list, Tom Stuifbergen and Brad Tippett. Catcher Josmil Pinto was promoted to Ft. Myers from Beloit. In other moves, the Snappers placed Oswaldo Arcia on the disabled list last Sunday with Nate Roberts joining the team out of EST. Arcia, who says he will be back in seven days, was also in the Twins Cities this week to have his elbow examined.

Last week's Player of the Week was Oswaldo Arcia, who collected sixty-two percent of the votes. This weeks review follows the jump.

Rochester Red Wings (AAA) (3-2, 12-14, fourth place, -4.5 games behind Scranton/WB)

The Red Wings are the only team in the organization without a winning record, yet they are playing much better than last year. With five of their scheduled opening day starters currently up with the Twins, Manager Tom Nieto is doing an excellent job of piecing together a lineup that has been competitive. When Rochester Baseball Observer Sloane Martin wrote about the Twins infield problems on April 30, she included a link to Jesse's story about Alexi Casilla.

The Red Wings began their week with a three day trip to Syracuse where they dropped two of three. Jeff Manship was solid on Saturday, allowing only two runs with five strikeouts in his first start since returning from the Twins. Carlos Gutierrez pitched two innings of relief with no hits and three strikeouts. Unfortunately, the Wings managed only three hits as they lost, 3-0. Kyle Gibson made another quality start on Sunday. He picked up his first win (1-1), pitching six innings with three runs and six strikeouts in the Wings 9-6 win. Scott Diamond had another strong start Monday, pitching five shutout innings in a game the Wings would lose, 3-2. After missing much of spring training, Anthony Slama is returning to form as he pitched two no-hit innings with two strikeouts.

Following an off day and a rainout, the Wings returned home to face the Gwinnett Braves who have the best pitching staff in the League with a 2.73 staff ERA. Tuesday's starter, Anthony Swarzak, was going against the Braves fourth best prospect, Mike Minor, who entered the game with a 1.75 ERA. Swarzak wouldn't get the win, however, pitched 5.1 innings with only two runs and six strikeouts. Kyle Waldrop pitched 1.2 innings of no hit relief with Anthony Slama picking up the win with a shutout ninth inning with a pair of strikeouts. Eric Hacker was solid last night as the Wings won game two, 7-5, as he pitched 4.1 innings while allowing only one run. Anthony Slama picked up his second win in two days, allowing two unearned runs in the top of the ninth.

Kyle Gibson is settling in nicely as he awaits his call from the Twins, starting five games with a 1-1 record, 3.46 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, twenty-seven strikeouts and only four walks in 26.0 innings. Scott Diamond has pitched 25.2 innings in five starts with a 1-1 record, 2.81 ERA, twenty strikeouts and twelve walks. Chuck James has to be considered when the Twins need another reliever. James has appeared in ten games (15.1 innings) with a 2.93 ERA, twenty strikeouts and five walks.

Toby Gardenhire had a big game in Sunday's 9-6 win at Syracuse when he was 2-4 with a double and three runs batted in. He took responsibility for Monday's 3-2 loss when he misplayed a good throw from the pitcher that would have started a game ending double play. He came up big again on Thursday with two sacrifice bunts and a solo home run in the Wings big win over Gwinett. Ray Chang was 2-4 with a walk and RBI in his first game following his callup on Thursday. While with New Britain, Chang hit .270/.320/.404 with a league best 22 runs batted in. With Tosoni, Revere and Plouffe all up with the Twins, Brian Dinkelman is the Red Wings leading hitter at .277/.370/.319.

Steve Singleton joined the Wings on Thursday. He picked up a hit and walk in four plate appearances in his first game. After picking up an early hit last night, he hit a solo home run in the eighth inning to give the Wings a 4-3 lead. After Gwinnett scored two in the top of the ninth, he would get another chance in the bottom of the ninth. With two runners on base, Singleton again came through with a walk-off three run home run to give the Red Wings a 7-5 win and a winning week. Although he has only been with the Wings for two games, Singleton's heroics last night earned him my Player of the Week nomination.

New Britain Rock Cats (AA) (5-2, 15-11, third place, -1.5 games behind New Hampshire and Reading)

After jumping out to an early lead, the Cats struggled the past few weeks. It is great seeing them turn it around this week to get back into the hunt in the Eastern Division.

Their week began with back-to-back wins over Harrisburg. Liam Hendriks pitched 7.1 innings with one run and nine strikeouts in Saturday's 5-2 win. A solo home run in the eighth inning ended Hendriks streak of twelve scoreless innings. Cole DeVries, the organization's Pitcher of the Month, pitched to one batter to pick up his fourth save. Santos Arias made a spot start on Sunday, lasting only 2.2 innings with seven hits and six runs (only three were earned). Tyler Robertson picked up his second win with two innings of relief as the Cats came back for an 8-7, ten inning win. Deolis Guerra couldn't get them the sweep, however, allowing seven hits and five runs (three earned) in 5.0 innings of a 6-2 loss on Monday. Connecticut native Michael Tarsi pitched two innings of no-hit relief.

The Cats returned home Tuesday for a three game series with Richmond. They won the opener, 4-2, behind Bobby Lanigan who pitched seven innings with two runs and six strikeouts. Cole DeVries picked up his fifth save, pitching two no hit innings. Following Wednesday's rainout, the Cats played two on Thursday. Steve Hirschfeld was excellent in the opener, allowing only one run in six innings. Cole DeVries pitched the seventh picking up his sixth save. Liam Hendriks was nearly as good in the second game, pitching six innings with four hits, two runs and eight strikeouts. In his longest outing of the season, Tyler Robertson pitched two shutout innings before giving up three runs in the tenth inning as the Cats lost 7-4.

The Cats moved on to Portland last night, where Daniel Osterbrock made his first AA start. Osterbrock lasted only 3.1 innings while allowing seven runs and eight hits. Like Rochester, the Cats would score five runs in the ninth inning for a 10-7 win. Cole DeVries pitched a scoreless bottom of the ninth to pick up his seventh save, fourth this week.

Cole DeVries was the Twins Pitcher of the Month for April, with a 0.00 ERA in seven games with four saves and twenty-one strikeouts. In 14.2 innings, DeVries allowed only three hits and one walk. In three outings this month (4.0 shutout innings), DeVries allowed one hit and two walks as his WHIP jumped up to 0.37. Liam Hendriks is 2-1 with a 3.33 ERA and 0.85 WHIP in six starts (27.0 innings) with only five walks. His twenty-eight strikeouts are eighth most in the league. Steve Hirschfeld has a 2-0 record with an excellent 1.93 ERA in five starts (28.0 innings).

Steve Singleton moved on to AAA with a .284 average and eleven doubles which was tied with teammate Yangervis Solarte, one behind the league leader. Solarte is the Cat's top hitter at .376/.394/.574 which is also second best in the Eastern League. What is most interesting is that in 101 at bats, Solarte has struck out only eight times while taking three walks. Deibinson Romero, who had two multi-hit games, is hitting for a .273 average in his last ten games.

The Cats leading hitter, Yangervis Solarte, was 13-27 (.481 average) with three doubles this week, yet, Evan Bigley was even better. Bigley was 13-29 (.448 average) with five doubles, three triples, six runs scored and five runs batted in. Bigley, who has always been one of his teams better hitters since being drafted in 2008, is hitting .315/.340/.461 in 89 at bats.

Ft. Myers Miracle (Hi-A) (6-1, 18-11, second place, -1.0 game behind St. Lucie)

As St. Lucie surged to a big early season lead, most assumed the Miracle's chances of winning the first half were slim. Yet, following two excellent weeks they find themselves only one game behind. With the best record in the organization, the Miracle is getting it done without many top prospects (only one of Twinkie Town's Top 20, Aaron Hicks, is on the Miracle's active roster). They are also earning a reputation as the 'comeback kids' as their record is 11-5 in games their opponent has scored first.

The Miracle's tough loss to Charlotte, 5-4, last Saturday would be their only loss of the week. Edgar Ibarra pitched seven strong innings, allowing only one run. Bruce Pugh gave up four runs while getting only one out for a blown save and the loss. The Miracle began their winning streak Sunday, 5-3, even though starter Brad Stillings would last only 2.1 innings while giving up three runs. Andrew Albers pitched 4.2 innings of shutout relief to pick up the win while Jhon Garcia pitched two innings of no-hit relief to pick up his first save. Keven Slowey started Monday's game, pitching 5.2 shutout innings with two hits, three strikeouts and no walks. Dakota Watts pitched three innings of relief, allowing two hits and a run to get his first win, 4-3, in ten innings.

Palm Beach came to town on Tuesday for a three game sweep. Matt Schuld got his first win, 9-6, pitching 5.0 innings with six hits and four runs. Tom Stuifbergen pitched two shoutout innings in his first outing since coming off the disabled list. Bruce Pugh was back in form, getting two outs for his fifth save. Kane Holbrooks finally got a win on Wednesday, 6-2, with another quality start as he allowed only two unearned runs. Blake Martin earned his first save, the three inning variety with no hits. Edgar Ibarra returned on Thursday, allowing five runs in four innings. Jhon Garcia pirched two no-hit innnings with four strikeouts. Dakota Watts didn't allow a run as he picked up his second win.

Andrew Albers got the start last night against Jupiter in a game the Miracle would win, 4-3, in the tenth inning. Albers pitched four innings while allowing three runs. Bruce Pugh pitched three shutout innings with four strikeouts to even his record at 2-2.

Kane Holbrooks continues to lead the staff with a 2.02 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in six starts, 35.2 innings. Jhon Garcia has been very effective out of the bullpen. He has appeared in ten games with a 3.86 ERA, although five of his seven earned runs were allowed in two rough outings. Dakota Watts continues to be an effective closer, with a team best five saves, 2.84 ERA and eleven strikeouts in 12.2 innings.

Chris Herrmann was hitting .310/.404/.425 in 87 at bats when he moved up a level to New Britain earlier this week. Anderson Hidalgo (.338 average), Danny Rams (.318) and Brian Dozier (.298) are all hitting near or over .300. Nate Hanson leads the club with four home runs and seventeen runs batted in. Dozier is tied for the team lead with five doubles with Rams, Herrmann and Nick Romero. Dozier also leads the Miracle with three triples, seven stolen bases and twenty three runs scored which is only two behind the league leader.

The hottest player this week was James Beresford, who was 9-25 (.360 average) including three multi-hit games. Beresford, who is hitting .415 average in his last ten games, surged to the team lead at .347/.374/.366. Beresford had a big game Thursday when he got three hits and was part of the Miracles' 6-5 win to keep their streak alive after being down 5-0.

Beloit Snappers (4-3, 16-10, third place, -3.5 games behind Burlington)

Led by their excellent starting staff, the Snappers have battled to stay within striking distance of Burlington and Cedar Rapids. With one of the top hitters in the league, Oswaldo Arcia, on the disabled list the starting staff will need to pitch even better if they are to catch the teams ahead of them.

Andrei Lobanov struggled in the Snappers 13-8 loss to Peoria last Saturday. Lobanov allowed six runs (five earned) in 4.2 innings. The Snappers battled back before Martire Garcia allowed five runs (four earned) in one inning to pick up the loss.

They would go on the road to Clinton where they won a slugfest in ten innings on Sunday, 10-8. Manuel Soliman had an unusual short start, lasting only 2.2 innings with seven hits and five runs. Clint Dempster pitched two innings with two runs to get the win while Matt Hauser got two outs for his third save. B.J. Hermsen, who is one of the team's best starters, allowed seven runs (six earned) in Monday's 13-6 loss. Logan Darnell got the series winner on Tuesday with a quality start, allowing three runs with five strikeouts. Matt Hauser pitched another no-hit inning for his fourth save in the Snappers 6-3 win.

Wisconsin came to Beloit on Wednesday with Adrian Salcedo on the mound for the Snappers 4-1 win. Clint Dempster was again excellent, pitching two shutout innings with five strikeouts. Andrei Lobanov allowed only two runs in 4.1 innings in Thursday's 10-5 win. Blayne Weller picked up his third win (3-0) while allowing one run in 1.2 innings. Last night the Snappers lost a heartbreaker. Manuel Soliman was excellent, striking out seven in five innings with two earned runs. Clint Dempster would be charged with the loss when he allowed an unearned run in 0.1 inning.

Matt Hauser has an excellent 0.82 ERA in ten appearances (11.0 innings) with a team best four saves. Blayne Weller hadn't allowed a run in nine games until his last outing Thursday. Weller has a 3-0 record, 0.55 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in 16.1 innings. Ryan O'Rourke has also been solid in relief, appearing in nine games with a 2.13 ERA. Logan Darnell, who looks like he will be the first starter who will get a promotion to the Miracle, has a 3.14 ERA and 0.77 WHIP in 28.2 innings.

Daniel Ortiz continues to hit better than anyone in the Midwest League, leading the league with a .378 average and .722 slugging percentage. He is also amongst league leaders with nineteen runs scored, twenty runs batted in, eleven doubles and six home runs. Kyle Knudson (.324 average in only 37 at bats), Nate Roberts (.316 in 19 at bats) and Jamaal Hawkins (.302 in 43 at bats) are three newcomers who are hitting very well. Hawkins also leads the Snappers with six stolen bases in six attempts.

My pre-season selection for Pitcher of the Year, Adrian Salcedo, is off to a great start. Wednesday's start was his best outing of the year as he pitched seven innings with five hits, one run, eight strikeouts and no walks. Salcedo, who has a 2-1 record, 2.43 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 27 strikeouts and 6 walks in 29.2 innings, is my selection from Beloit for this week's Player of the Week voting.