Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Great Expectations from Goose

I was questioning the wisdom of going to watch a game on Saturday, especially with what was amounting to a super-head cold and voice that was kind of squeaky and sort of came and went.

But I figured, what the heck, the sun would do me good, grabbed a half gallon of orange juice and headed out to the ballpark.

I've had little luck catching the minors players as two weeks ago they moved the game up until 10:00 to allow for travel time to the Trop and last weekend the Reds forgot to show up.

I was told Friday night that the Rookies had won 10-1 over the Pirates, so I was hyped to get to see them on Saturday.

The Orioles showed up with a double bus load. I quickly figured out we had Rookie Blue on one field and Rookie Red on the other. Even under the influence of cold medication, I'm quick on the uptake like that. Then I wondered what game I wanted to watch.

Eventually, I saw Joe "Goose" Gault, who is one of my favorite players, and I croaked "Blue" and "Red" pointing the respective fields.

"Oh, I'm closing for team Red," he says.

"I knew someone would come along and eventually tell me where to go," I rasped as I joined him on the walk to Field Two.

"They have me closing mostly now," he says. "I kind of like it."

Goose "kind of likes" everything the Twins give him to do, even if it's collecting foul balls, something I've seen him doing a lot of during extended spring training.

I watched him pitch quite a bit last season in the Gulf Coast League and probably know more about him than any other player down in the minor leagues. But this is not why I like him.

I like him because I've watching him pitch some very good games.

Consider the "Fried Chicken" start last Fourth of July:

"Joe Gault started on the mound for the Twins and issued three straight strike outs to close out his first inning. His counter part on the Reds, Frankie Keller, returned the favor, but used damage control to take out the three first Twins batters. Gault would allow a double to Carlos Sanchez in the second, but was other wise up and down. Keller struck out Dante Blancarte. Christopher Brown would hit a single, but Jilmar Arriata would hit into a double play to end second for the Twins.

"Goose was cooked by the middle of the fifth but had a solid outing allowing only one earned run on four hits while striking out eight."

There were more. His 5.18 ERA was not really indicative of his performance, but of a few bad outings that even Rick Knapp could not explain.

"Sometimes, you're mechanically good," Knapp said, "and they still hit you."

Knapp, by the way, considers him a legitimate prospect.

Gault was drafted in the 24th round of the 2003 draft out of Canyon High School. His high school coach was only one of two coaches that Gault has had problems with in baseball. The other was a little league coach, but after his mom took him back -- kicking and screaming -- the next season, he fell in love with baseball all over again.

Canyon was difficult though as they wanted him to throw twice a week, potentially endangering his arm. He refused, and so when the scouts came around, they had a hard time getting a look at him. He'd be held out from pitching just for spite.

But it would come back to haunt the coach eventually. With crosscheckers present, Gault was allowed to put in a bull pen performance. But suddenly Canyon found themselves without a relief pitcher. Gualt was all warmed up.

He threw 93-miles-per hour that performance.

While his parents considered colleges, the Twins came a knocking at the door. And the majors only knock once.

Gault joined the Gulf Coast League Twins and has been there for the last two season. He is expected to be moved to the Elizabethton team. His slow down?

"Gulf Coast League Syndrome." We know it happens, we just don't know why. Pitchers generally lose 5 MPH off their pitches, be it the heavy air or the exhaustion related to playing under a 90+ degree sun with 100% humidity in the middle of summer.

So Knapp's challenge to Gault has been to get his speed back up, and that is what Goose has been diligently working on.

Now, don't let all of this fool you. With a 6'5" lanky frame, Gualt is well in a position where he can be throwing some mid-to-high 90 MPH heaters once he fills out. He just need to grow into his power. He reminds me of Travis Bowyer quite a bit in that respect.

And yes, there will be a period in which his control will fall off as he adjusts to the increase in speed.

So don't count on him rising fast and furious through the minors. But look for him to make a big splash a couple or three years down the road when everything suddenly comes together for him.
And it will. If there is one thing Goose is not afraid of, it's hard work.

"I kind of like it," he says.

Saturday at the Park

The Twins lost 4-1, but the game wasn't a total waste. For one thing we had a father and son pair show up. For them, it was an unexpected delight. They'd stopped to purchase Miracle tickets for the Saturday night's game and the 7-year-old noticed the baseball players on the back field and wanted to go check it out.

They never realized that was all back there. The kid started out by running down foul balls. The first one he brought back and gave to a player and they gave him a drink of Gatorade in return. Before you know it he was trading foul balls for Gatorade and when he wasn't chasing balls, the players were teach him drills. They took a real shine to him. Had him in the dugout, tried to let him swing a "real" bat, and loaned him gloves.

It was fun to watch them and it showed a side to players I rarely see. But perhaps he was one of their own. "He's been baseball crazy since the day he was born," the boy's father said. "If he's not outside playing baseball, he's inside playing baseball on the Play Station 2." And for seven, the boy was very well versed in the game and actually knew what he was watching.

As for the father, well, it's always fun sharing my passion with a newbie. Danny Vais' family joined us in the stands and there was actually a good turn out on both fields.

on the game side of things, Jeff Schoenbachler took the start allowing (by my count) one run on seven hits, while fanning three. He issued no walks. I'm reasonable sure that the run would be unearned though as the players advanced on a throwing error by the 2nd baseman during the inning.

Vais pitched a scoreless inning in the sixth, while Jose Castillo allowed a run in the seventh. The problem was the eighth inning, a performance by a player I only know as "Willey". And yes, I walked over to the office and looked for a new roster but there were none available.

Eddie Ovalle had the RBI in the first and Jilmar Arratia hit for a double in the seventh. That was probably our best chance to score again, but Arratia was taken out at third as Joe Arabella reached on a fielders choice, Larry Jones struck out and Rodalfo Palacios flew out to end the inning.

Jones turned in an excellent performance in the field however, with four put outs in the first three innings. He tried for a fifth, running full tilt into the fence which caused a moment of concern for players and spectators alike. But Jones played football and was quick to get up, dust himself off and throw the ball back in.

This is the second week I've seen a very good effort out of Jones. Two weeks ago when I was watching he turned in a phenomenal performance on the basepaths. I don't think this defense or his baserunning are holding him back, only his batting. He was 1-for-3 with two strike outs Saturday.

Odannys Valdez was 2-for-3 in the game, and was walked once. Patrick Ortiz has the lone run for Fort Myers.

I'm sure they would have played harder if I could have yelled louder, but as it was my voice was sparse and coming in patches.

We also saw some very good pitching out of the O's kids, so I won't hold the game too much against the boys. I know they were trying their best.

Another Crawford in the System

Australian righty Nathan Crawford as reported to camp. Nathan is the younger brother of Miracle reliever Tristan Crawford.

I've not had the pleasure of seeing him pitch yet.

Crawford, who is 6'5" and 18 years old appealed to the Twins for both his height and the smooth action he has with his arm. He has however had some medical problems in the past, including bone chips in his right elbow and bicep tendonitis. The Twins believe he has recovered fully from both, but they will certainly be keeping an eye on his health.

He is expected to spend the summer with the Gulf Coast League Twins, so I will have a bit more to say once I've seen him throw.

Fox back in Action

1st Rounder Matt Fox is back to throwing duties although I've not caught him yet either. Perhaps this is a good thing. He's been off for nine months and while he said his arm felt fine, the rest of him did not.

It will take a bit for him to work back into shape after the layoff, but he did say it was nice to throw without pain for once. And that yes, he said it was really nice to get back out on the mound.

In other news, Beloit pitcher Billy Mauer retired this week following another flair up of tendonitis. "He's going to move on." said minor league director Jim Rantz in a recent article in the Star Tribune. Fellow Snapper Angel Gracia is expected to miss two weeks with an impingement in his right shoulder.

In AA Rochester, Jake Mauer has been activated off the DL, as has pitcher Kevin Cameron. Southpaw Jan Granado was added to the disabled list.

The Twins released infielder Jesus Merchan, placed pitcher Peter Tautor on the disabled list and reassigned him to extended spring training, and activated outfielder Justin Arneson (not to be confused with FSL broadcaster of the year Sean Aronson).

More Miracle news coming soon, including word on the 2005 Miracle card sets. Three first rounders! How can you resist?!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Strike Out for Troops

I appologize for my lack of posts, but I'm getting over Strep throat -- I'm down to the nasty summer cold stuff now, and have been sleeping rather a lot.

This article showed up in the Herald today and reminded me that I forgot to include in my article on Errol Simonitsch:

Barry Zito providing for troops

It seems Zito is not the only one with a generous soul.

Miracle pitcher Errol Simonitsch has pleged $10 per strike out to SFT this season. He and Zito share an agent.

If you don't think that sounds like a lot, consider this: Simonitsch had 9 strikeouts Sunday for a total of $90. Yet he only makes around $250 a week and needs to provide not only his food and personal expenses, but his housing from that amount as well.

Drafted in the Sixth round of the 2003 draft, Simonitsch joined the team with a modest $140,000 signing bonus. He's not rich by any means. Yet when he heard about this deal well...

"It was just something I had to do." he says.

Simonitsch is not the only Miracle member contributing. Catcher Kyle Phillips, taken in the 19th round of the 2002 draft, has pledged $10 per hit.

"I'm not donating too much though, as I'm not getting any hits," he says. It's a stituation he hopes to change.

Phillips donation was only $50 last week, a total of $200 to date.

Simonitsch's $470 though is outstanding for a minor league player.

Miracle pitcher gives $10 per strike to troops

Strikeouts for Troops was at William Hammond Stadium Sunday to watch Simonitsch pitch and accept donations.

You can pledge per pitch if you want, or just make a one time donation. To get involved, visit their website at which unfortunatly, seems to largely ignore the minor league contribution to this effort.

If you're "pitching" in with a donation, please also take a moment to "pitch" in and write to and ask her to include minor league content on their website.

Hang tight, I should have some updates coming shortly including a feature on a little known minor league prospect.

While, your waiting, also check out GCL Twins for an interview with minor league pitching prospect Eduardo Morlan which was included in a recent edition of At the Yard magazine.