Minor League Roundup

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

Though there are many baseball leagues yet to open the season at the minor league and independent level, there has been no shortage of news that has come out of the leagues that have been playing for a few weeks.

Reaching A Milestone

The Delmarva Shorebirds of the South Atlantic League has reason to celebrate the 2010 season already. The Single A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles won their 1,000th franchise victory on April 19th, defeating the Hagerstown Suns of the Washington Nationals organization 3-2.

The Shorebirds have a lot of major league experience that helped them reach their milestone in 2010 in former big leaguers Mike Devereaux and Troy Mattes. Devereaux begins his first season as a coach in the minor leagues. The Casper, Wyoming native played in 12 big league seasons for the Baltimore Orioles (1989-94, 96), Los Angeles Dodgers (1987-88, 98), Chicago White Sox (1995), Atlanta Braves (1995) and Texas Rangers (1997). He played in 1,086 career games. His finest big league season came in 1992 with the Orioles when he finished seventh in the MVP voted. He batted .276 with 24 homers and 107 RBIs. Devereaux was named the Orioles MVP that season. An interesting fact about Devereaux is that he hit the first homer by an Orioles player inside Camden Yards on April 8, 1992 against the Indians. Devereaux stared at Arizona State where he teamed with Oddibe McDowell and Barry Bonds to lead the Sun Devils to a runner-up finish in the 1984 College World Series.

New Shorebirds pitching coach Troy Mattes has seen his baseball career come full circle. As a 20-year old in 1996, Troy Mattes suited up for the Shorebirds during their inaugural season as an affiliate of the Montreal Expos. He finished 10-9 with a 2.87 ERA in 27 starts. He formed an outstanding 1-2 punch with future major leaguer Javier Vazquez. The 34-year played in one big league season for the Expos in 2001. In eight starts, he finished 3-3 with a 6.00 ERA. Mattes was the pitching coach for the Bluefield Orioles during each of the last three seasons.

As the Shorebirds head towards another 1,000 victories, there’s no doubt there is a major league presence behind their drive.

Going The Distance

So far in 2010, April 28th and 29th should be remembered as the days pitchers ruled the ballfield. The starting pitcher for the Triple A Norfolk Tides, Chris Tillman, kicked off the dominating performances on Wednesday, April 28th when he threw a no hitter against the Gwinnett Braves. The 22 year old right hander, originally acquired by Baltimore Orioles organization in the 2008 trade that sent Erik Bedard to the Seattle Mariners, allowed just one walk in his second solid start in a week. Tillman made 12 starts for the Orioles in 2009 and, despite the 2-5 record with a 5.40 ERA, showed an ability to match up against offensive powers such as the Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. It’s a safe bet that major league hitters have not seen the last of Chris Tillman, especially after such a dominating game against the Gwinnett Braves.

The New York Mets may not have to look very far if they suddenly seek quality pitching to shore up their starting rotation. The answer may be playing for their Triple A affiliate. Buffalo Bisons starter R.A. Dickey has come a long way from his days as a member of the 1996 U.S. Olympic Baseball team that won a bronze medal at the Atlanta summer games. Drafted by the Texas Rangers in 1996, he reached the major leagues by 2001, and managed to stay at the top level of baseball by the 2003 season. Since 2006, he has changed uniforms several times and most recently joined the Mets organization with a minor league deal and a spring training invitation. After opening the season with a loss by allowing 6 runs in 4.2 innings of work, the veteran knuckleballer has dominated the International League to the tune of a 3-1 record with a 2.33 earned run average. Last night was a special night for Dickey and the Bisons. After allowing a lead off single, R.A. Dickey used just 90 pitches to retire 27 straight Durham Bulls in a 4-0 victory.

On the same day, 1,300 miles away, a pitcher with just 4 professional games under his belt was doing his best to make April 29th, 2010 a day to remember for minor league pitching. Kyle Gibson, of the Minnesota Twins’ Single A Fort Myers Miracle of the Florida State League, pulled off his own miracle when he threw a 1 hitter against the Jupiter Hammerheads. The 22 year old first round pick now has a 1.76 earned run average on the season, and has rebounded from a rough first professional start by allowing just 3 runs in 27 innings since then. As the season progresses, you may find more coverage of this young right hander on Baseball Digest.com before long.

Who Let The Dogs Out

A little something on the lighter side.

During the opening week of their season, the Northwest Arkansas Naturals held a pet adoption promotion which included having some animals brought onto the field. The Double A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals had an incident on the field that had absolutely nothing to do with the action of the game. Instead, the focus was on a loose pup who made a mad dash onto the field and for going number two!

After a one week hiatus, the Minor League Spotlight returns on its regular Monday schedule with the long overdue preview of the oldest and longest running minor league baseball club, the Rochester Red Wings of the International League.

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