Nationals Cuban Pitching Prospect Struggled in Fast A Carolina League Outing

By Rodger M. Wood

Nationals $6 million signee and top Cuban pitching prospect, Yunesky Maya got off to a good start pitching three shutout innings in his Fast A – Carolina League debut at Potomac Sunday afternoon, but bothered by a blister on his throwing thumb, struggled with control issues in the 4th, walking the leadoff hitter and allowing tough Winston Salem batters to tee off on him for a 5-1 lead.

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After the game, Maya explained the blister prevented him from throwing a change-up with any confidence and gripping his splitter the way he liked. In the 5th inning, Dash 1B Seth Loman launched an 87 mph fast ball, which was up to that point in the 90 -92 range, over the right field fence.

Except for 7 innings of 1-earned run ball in two starts at Rookie GCL, the 29-year old right hander had not pitched since defecting to the Dominican Republic over a year ago.

His work at GCL and Potomac is like a rehab tour intended at getting rid of the rust in his delivery. The seasoned veteran of international baseball is no novice to high pressure baseball. In the 2008-2009 Cuban National Season, Maya finished with a 13-4 record and seven complete games, and finished second among league leaders with a 2.22 ERA and 119 strikeouts finishing second to Reds prospect, Arodis Chapman’s league leading 130 strikeouts. During 6 Cuban National Series Seasons, Maya was 48-29 W-L, with a 2.51 ERA

Glad he got the work in against these aggressive young hitters, Maya anticipates his next start will be at Triple A Syracuse next week.

The Nationals plan on him being their 3rd starter in September.

I took the supporting photographs during the game at Potomac Sunday afternoon.

Rodger’s Pick: Kipp Schutz, Aberdeen Iron Birds

By Rodger M. Wood

What A Difference A Year Makes!

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Hitting #2 in a strong 300 hitter loaded Aberdeen batting order, 22-year old left fielder Kipp Schutz is feasting off NY/PA League pitching with a 344 BA, 3 HR, and 27 RBI in 154 AB in 41 games played.

The Baltimore Orioles have thought highly of this youngster since Day One, drafting him twice, 30th after high school in 2006 and 19th in 2009 after his torrid junior 392 BA, 5 HR, 34 RBI season at Big 10 Indiana University, where he also played varsity basketball as a walk on his junior year.

After signing in June, 2009 he was immediately assigned to Rookie A Bluefield where he struggled at the plate in July but hit over 340 in August to finish his 40-game season of Appalachian League ball with a misleading 252 BA, 1 HR, and 15 RBI.

Schutz explained his slow start. “I was injured most of July and hit about 202 for the month, but improved the month of August hitting about 350 and raising my batting average 50 points to 252.”

While fully recovered from his injuries and eligible to advance to full season Low A Delmarva out of spring training this past April, the Orioles held him back in extended spring training.

The young outfielder thinks that decision and his hard work last winter were the reasons for his hitting improvement at Aberdeen this season.

“Bluefield was a struggle. During the off season I worked out with Dodgers coach and Yankee great, Don Mattingly and his son, Preston, then was held back in extended spring training, which was a blessing because I could work on my hitting, and all those other little things you can’t during the regular season.”

Iron Birds hitting coach, Leo Gomez thinks Schutz’ hard work in extended spring paid back
big dividends.

“He goes to the plate now more focused, confident, organized, relaxed, and looking for his pitch. He is a 100% consistent, has a good 2-strike approach, and is the kind of hitter you want up there in a tight situation. He doesn’t swing at everything and waits for a pitch he can drive.”

The youngster is not resting on his laurels.

“I’m working on everything at Aberdeen. In the right situations, I want to be able to lay a bunt down, hit to the opposite field, advance the runners, and get a better jump on fly balls.”

Coach Gomez thinks he also needs to work more on his defense .

“When a hitter hits like he does, you don’t want to say too much to him, just look for your pitch to hit. He will be line drive hitter like Joe Orsulak, but he needs to work on his throws, hitting the cutoff man, throwing to the right base, and becoming stronger. If he learns to do these things well, he has a good chance to advance.”

In the bottom of the 11th inning of a 5-5 tie against the Tri City Valley Cats in late July, the young hitter remembered his coach’s advice. He took a couple pitches, made the opposing right hander throw a strike and drilled a walk off grand slam homerun over the right field fence to win the game 9-5.

Oh, what difference a year makes!

SALLY League All Star Game Festivities A Class Act!

By Rodger M. Wood

I feel like a fire cracker on the 5th of July reporting about a South Atlantic All Star Game on July 22nd that took place over a month ago at Greenville, S.C. but I want to display the game photos and give the young all stars credit for participation in a great game..

SALLY League and Greenville Drive management did a great job hosting game festivities at magnificent Fluor Field, which with a Green Monster in left field, is an almost exact replica of the Drive’s parent team Boston Red Sox’s Fenway Park.

The Washington Nationals Hagerstown Suns tied for the largest team representation with six, manager Matt LeCroy, RHP Dan Rosenbaum, RHP Trevor Holder, who was called up to Fast A Potomac before getting a chance to participate, 3B Stephen Souza, OF Destin Hood, and C Sandy Leon.

Boston minor leaguers, RHP Dennis Neumann, OF Ronald Bermudez, and C Dan Butler, an undrafted Arizona University backup catcher quickly emerging from an unsung Cape Cod League past to Red Sox prospect status, represented the host Greenville Drive.

Baltimore Orioles Low A – Delmarva Shorebirds was represented by RHP Jesse Beal, from nearby
Fairfax Station, VA, SS Garabez Rosa, and OF Brian Conley.

Atlanta 2006 #1 Draft RHP Cory Rasmer and LHP Chris Masters represented the Braves
Low A – Rome.

The game was a nail biter after the 5th inning, when both North and South scored a couple runs for a
5-5 tie, which lasted the remainder of the game until called at the end of 10 innings.

Wesr Virginia Power (Pirates) OF David Rubenstein hit a double and single in 2 AB, Greensboro C Kyle Skipworth hit a HR in the first inning to put the North ahead 1-0, and Lakewood SS (Phillies) Jonathan Villars hit a solo HR in the 3rd.

All the displayed photos were taken during the festivities before the game.