Saturday, April 8, 2006

Starting off Slowey

Kevin SloweySaturday night was not a good night to watch baseball. It was the Miracle season opener and as always they double sold the stadium so that there would be a good crowd. General Admission tickets were given out free at Publix supermarkets and you could upgrade to box seats for $2.00. I should know better than to go to opening night.

However, as they always do on opening night, they’ve got a stud pitcher on the mound which I cannot turn down the chance to see. This was no different. So I put up with the crowds, the kids, and the non-baseball people milling around in the aisles trying to sort of out which of them should be sitting in seats they all had tickets for because I just had to see Kevin Slowey pitch.

What little I saw of the pitching, I watched from the walkway behind the handicapped seating. At least everyone there was sitting down. And it was well…stunning. Magnificent. It left me wanting to see more. Slowey pitched a perfect game through five innings.

What I found interesting about this is that Slowey does not seem to consider himself the sort of guy that’s going to throw a perfect game. He puts his balls down in the zone and he tries the get the batters to hit. He then relies on his defense to get the outs for him. Yet he struck out his first batter…and half of the other fourteen he faced. Does that sound like a guy that relies on his defense?

Slowey likens himself to the Twins' Brad Radke. Or perhaps, more accurately he tries to be like Radke, a guy that relies on his positioning to get the outs. This is similar to what the Miracle fans saw with Nick Blackburn last season.

Blackburn, by the way, did not look so good in his first outing of the new season with the Rock Cats, giving up five earned runs on 8 hits in 4.1 innings. Still when I watched Blackburn over spring training, an outing in which he allowed two hits, but struck out three in two innings worth of work, how much he looks like Radke when he’s throwing.

And Radke, not so strangely enough, is one of my favorite MLB pitchers. So perhaps it’s not surprising that I’m drawn to both Blackburn and Slowey.

(In Blackies’ defense, I simply cannot imagine trying to pitch in near freezing weather. I still remember what it was like, bundled up in old Cleveland Municipal Stadium trying to watch a game when it was that cold with the wind blowing in off the lake.)

The main thing note with Slowey is the deception in his delivery. The coaches have all praised him, stating he’s been getting better as he goes along, but Slowey pretty much opened up his professional career by striking out 7-of-8 to pick up his first save last June in Elizabethton. Being a college pitcher, the Betsy Twins were using him out of the bullpen to start to give his arm a rest. He finally started his first game in Beloit later on in the season, and it’s been all starts since then.

If he can continue this kind of performance, he won’t be long in High-A ball, although certainly, it will be interesting to see if he can continue to dominate with the tougher game schedule of pro ball in his first full year of it.

Both Matt Garza and Kevin Slowey are facing that same challenge. Despite their age, they are youngsters in terms of experience. Yet we’ve seen quite a few college pitchers move fast through the Twins system in recent years including Scott Baker and Jesse Crain. Slowey and perhaps Garza could be the next two, although Glenn Perkins might see his chance in the majors by next season.

Right now the starting pitching rotation in Fort Myers is phenomenal. In six weeks though, it will be gone. However, the next homestand is only a couple of days away and you can be sure I’ll be there, drinking down the nectar of the Twins’ minor league pitchers with my eyes.

Notes: 3B David Winfree had bone chips removed for his elbow and will be regulated to DH for the next month. C Javi Sanchez has been catching in the bullpen and could be activated off the DL by the end of the next homestand (April 13-19). Jose Mijares has had shoulder problems but is expected back with the next week to ten days. Mijares, a 2002 free agent signing out of Venezuela who first came to the States in 2004, is on the Twins 40-man roster and is projected to move quickly through the system as well. Righty Jay Rainville had season ending surgery earlier this week and will sit out the season. The injury prompted the Twins to move lefty J.T. Thomas down from New Britain to start in Fort Myers. Kyle Waldrop was not considered ready for the jump to High A, but will likely make it to Fort Myers midway through the year.

Questions, Questions: Where is Brent Krause? Unless he’s on the DL with Beloit – and the Snappers are not listing their disabled players, he’s been released. While he was on the Fort Myers “break camp” roster, he did not make it to the first workout on Wednesday. Miracle broadcaster Sean Aronson assures me he is NOT with the High A team right now.