Sunday, May 8, 2005

Simply Simonitsch

While not quite as impressive as Jacob Tata's complete game shut out for the Lakeland Tigers earlier in the Week, Errol Simonitsch spun a very good game Thursday against the Tampa Bay Yankees.

The 23-year-old from Glendale, California allowed eight hits, but only one run -- a solo shot homer -- through seven innings while striking out six. Nor did he issue a free pass, something he's been very stingy with through six games, allowing only five.

At 6'4" and 225, Simonitsch presents a big powerful figure on the mound, a bit of an illusion, as the southpaw is not a power pitcher.

Simonitsch's fast ball tops out at 89 miles per hour, but he has a good change up and an excellent curveball. He locates his pitches well, and he moves them around quite a bit, baffling hitters who are never quite sure what to expect next.

A sixth round draft pick for the Twins in 2003, Simonitsch played NCAA for the Gonzaga University Bulldogs and received honorable mention as a Louisville Slugger All-American in his freshman year. He played short-season Elizabethton the year of his draft and pitched a full season in Low A with the Quad City Swing last season.

Simonitch, who grew up a Dodger's fan and who is a bit of a car conoisoure (he drives a '69 Chevy El Camino) relaxes before the game with a good book. He says it helps him focus.

The Twins have Simonitch pegged as a fourth or fifth starter if he continues his steady improvement through the minors. While he's never going to be a power pitcher, he is a big strong prospect that throws a lot of strikes, has a great mound presence and puts in effective performances.

Certainly someone for farm watchers to keep an eye on through out this season.

Walk wise, Simonitsch is not the only stingy player on the team. Nick Blackburn, who sports a 3-1, 2.90 ERA record as only given up three in 31 innings. Blackburn has been hot, but struggled early on Tuesday, giving up four earned runs on 9 hits during the second inning. The Miracle bounced back though with a stellar 7 run rally in the ninth in a game that saw everyone except first baseman Omar Burgos get at least one hit.

Education Day

Once again, I've gotten through a homestand without a chance of seeing Glen Perkins pitch. Perkins made his first home start on Wednesday, but the game was at 10:30 in the morning, a field trip day for the children of Lee and Collier Counties.

It was also the first game that Perkins went five innings after recovering from a bruised wrist earlier this season. He allowed one run on three hits, walked two and struck out five.

(On a side note, he did seem to find our harassment of the outfield umpire Thursday evening rather amusing.)

The education day question however was how does a pitcher, facing two batters in the sixth, give up two runs, both earned on one walk and no hits?

The Miracle put Peter Tautor on the mound for the start of the sixth. The struggling Australian walked one and hit the second batter before he was pulled from the mound. Josh Gray, who was not fully warmed up, came into the game and allowed the hits that drove in the runs.

Tautor's continued presence in the line up was been a bit of a bafflement. Josh Hill was demoted down to Beloit after struggling a bit early on, but his 6.71 era at the time of his demotion is nothing compared to Tautor's, who was not really impressive during spring training either. However, Beloit wanted a potential starter and Hill fit that roll, actually getting a start last night for the Snappers who defeated the Fort Wayne Wizards, 13-3.

Hill allowed two runs on six hits, walking three and fanning five. Kevin Culpepper received credit for the win, however.

And yes, while I understand it's really hard to evaluate a prospect on 3.2 innings pitched through five games, the point remains that if Tautor wasn't struggling so badly, he'd have had more time on the mound. I did check, but there is no report of injury to the Melbourne resident, although his performance does remind me of prospect we had several years ago who was struggling badly while coming off a shoulder injury.

Talk of the Town

Tim Lahey
Tim Lehey - just another righty or the Twins' secret weapon?

When Tim Lahey reported to minor league spring training, it was as catcher. Drafted in the 20th round in 2004 out of Princeton (yes! Princeton) University, the Ivy Leaguer spent short season with Elizabethton where he had seven runs on seventeen hits in 26 games, including 3 yarders.

By the time Extended Spring Training started, the 6'4", 248 pound 23-year-old had hung up the mask. Two weeks later, he stepped out on the mound for his first professional game as a pitcher -- and promptly hit 93 MPH on the radar gun.

A native of Worcaster, Massachusetts, Lahey has only pitched relief innings for the GCL Twins, but look for him to be getting a lot more time in if he continues to dominate.

And dominate he did on Saturday during a 10-9 rally win over the GCL Red Sox. Lahey took to the hill for the ninth, and struck out two of the three batters he faced. The first two pitches to the first batter were fast balls, with the third pitch being a deceptive slider that slipped beautifully past the bat. And yes, those fast balls were hitting 93 on the radar gun.

It was the type of performance that made you sit back afterwards and say nice, VERY NICE. Lahey may well be back in short season Elizabethton for the 2004 season, but don't expect to him stay there long if he continues to live up to his early billing.

Injury Report

Tim & Matt
Tim Henkenjohann & Matt Fox

The ranks of the wounded are starting to thin out a bit. First round draft pick Matt Fox has started throwing extended spring training games again. German prospect Tim Henkenjohann made his debute for the Miracle, allowing two hits, issuing one walk and striking out 2 in two innings worth of work.

Denard Span who spent a week on the disabled list with a hamstring injury was actived again and played for the Miracle Saturday night against West Palm Beach. Billy Mauer was activated from the DL and sent to Beloit and Fergus Falls native Justin Arneson made a rehab start with the GCL Twins.

Continuing to nurse injuries however is Justin Jones, the lefty prospect the Twins received in the Doug Mientkiewicz trade, who has been suffering with tendinitis through extended spring training. He says he is still three weeks away from resuming pitching activities.

The Aussie Connection

The Twins recently signed a 17-year-old infielding prospect in Matt Lawman, who is considered to be promising short-stop, as well as one of the best hitters to come out of Australian baseball in a while.

The Victorian prospect however will not report to the GCL Twins this season but will instead go to the MBLAAP Baseball Academy. He will report for Minor League Spring Training in 2006.

Signed by Howie Norsetter, Lawman received a lucrative signing bonus as well as opting into the Twins college scholarship plan.

One 17-year-old who has reported to the Twins however is catching prospect Allan de San Miguel, and he has been opening eyes early on.

De San Miguel turned down another season at the MBLAAP Academy, and a rather lucrative job in his father's business to report to the Twins camp this season.

He did offer some insight into "The Wizard of Aus" though. "Howie will sign anyone," he laughed. "He'd sign every ballplayer in Australia if he could. He'll throw ten-thousand dollars at them in the hopes they'll sign cheap."

Rock Cats Report

Rock Cats' outfielder Selwyn Langaingne currently ranks 10th in Eastern League batting with a .310 average, and seven RBIs.

Hitting, especially clutch hitting has plagued the Cats, whose are currently ranked eighth overall in Eastern League batting.

Pitching wise, the Cats rank 5th over, and Rock Cat starter Colby Miller is third in the league with 0.82 ERA. He is 2-0 on the season and has struck out 24. Lefty ace Francisco Liriano is tied for league second, with 43 strike outs.

One stat that the Cats do not like to see belongs to Levale Speigner, who is tied for first in the league with Home Runs Allowed, giving up five so far on the season.

The Cats made several roster moves this week, adding Rick Bell to shore up the infield at 3rd base.

Bell is the son of ex-big leaguer Buddy Bell, The 26-year-old was released by the Chicago Cubs Tuesday after going 5-for-25 (.200) with two RBIs at Triple-A Iowa. He arrived in town during batting practice Thursday, but has yet to play for the Cats, who were rained out on Saturday.

Meanwhile, struggling outfielder Matt Scanlon was released. An 8th round draft pick of the Twins in 1999, Scanlon has worn a Rock Cats jersey through parts of the last four seasons.

Jake Mauer, the older brother of Twins Catcher Joe Mauer was placed on the DL with an elbow injury. New Britain catcher Jose Morales was placed on the DL as well, while veteran catcher Gabby Torres came off the DL to replace him behind the plate.

Finally the Cats shipped relief pitcher Ricky Barrett to Rochester and received lefty reliever Jan Granado from the Miracle. Granado was one of the players drafted in the minor league portion of the Rule V draft this last winter.

The Cats were 3-3 on the last week finishing their series at New Hampshire with a split as well as splitting with the Portland Sea Dogs.

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