Big Sticks and Bush League

Monday, June 13 2005 @ 09:10 AM EDT

Contributed by: Gerry

Lots of runs scored on a hot Sunday. The hitters are featured today, Gross, Cosby, Arnold, Cannon and Thigpen are featured. Plus bonus coverage, conversations with David Bush and Brandon League.

Syracuse 10 Richmond 6

Brandon League started for Syracuse looking to get a solid start under his belt. League gave up single runs in four of his five innings but there were some encouraging signs. The positive signs were that League only allowed one walk, and secondly League allowed only three extra base hits. It might not sound great, but it is somewhat positive for League. See below for bonus coverage of Brandon League. While League was allowing four runs the offense were delivering too, scoring in five of the first six inings before adding three insurance runs in the ninth. Justin Miller pitched a perfect eighth, and Matt Whiteside a perfect ninth. Jason Arnold gave up a run in his one inning. Gabe Gross had a big game, 3-5, two doubles, two runs and four RBI's. 2005 disappointments Anton French and Jason Alfaro had three and two hits respectively.

Game Story

New Hampshire 6 Erie 9

"Dancing" Zach Jackson made his third AA start. Dancing is my name for Zach's unusual delivery and it worked well yesterday, I do have video of his delivery and I will try to get it up somewhere today or tomorrow. Jackson is from Northern Pennsylvania and was expecting a big crowd of supporters, With that pressure his start was good, 5 IP; 8 H; 3 runs, 2 earned; one walk; 5 K's. After he left the wheels fell off, Brian Reed allowed a run on two hits and two walks and left the bases loaded for Jordan DeJong. Ex major leaguer Byron Gettis greeted DeJong with a grand slam making a loser of Brian Reed. This was the second straight game that the bullpen lost the game for the Fisher Cats. New Hampshire had thirteen hits, Rob Cosby had three hits, including a home run. Clint Johnston hit his second AA home run, after hitting his first on Saturday. Justin Singleton also homered.

Tampa 14 Dunedin 15

Tampa scored two touchdowns and lost. The scoring was like a football game, Tampa took a 6-0 lead in the third, Dunedin came back with a two point conversion to make it 8-6 after four. Tampa went back in front 10-8 in the sixth, but Dunedin came back to lead 14-10 after seven. Tampa scored one in the eighth and three in the ninth. None of the pitchers escaped unscathed, Kurt Isenberg gave up eight runs in 4.2 innings, including two home runs. New call-ups Eddie Cannon and Jordan Timm were touched for two and three runs respectively, and Brad Mumma allowed the tying runs on a three run home run with two out in the ninth. In the bottom of the ninth, with two out, Eric Arnold doubled and Chip Cannon drove him in.

Dunedin had 14 hits, Eric Arnold went 3-4 with a double and a home run, three runs scored and two RBI's. Chip Cannon, Jason Waugh and Brian Patrick had two hits each.

Dayton 2 Lansing 7

AJ Wideman started but only lasted three innings, giving up two runs on four hits and three walks. Wideman had to leave the game after he was hit by a come-backer. The bullpen was superb for Lansing Jordy Templet, Po-Hsuan Keng and Joey McLaughlin pitched six hitless, shutout innings. Those six innings gave the hitters their chance to shine. Curtis Thigpen hit a two run home run in the fifth to give Lansing a 3-2 lead and doubled home a couple more in the sixth. Jason Armstrong also doubled home a pair of runs in the sixth.

Thigpen, Armstrong, Hicks, Yuber Rodriguez and Ryan Klosterman all had two hits each.

Game Story

Your Three Star Selection

Third star - Curtis Thigpen, home run, four ribbies

Second Star - Eric Arnold, 3-4, double, home run

First Star - Gabe Gross, 3 hits, a couple of doubles

Standings Update

Syracuse record is 29-35. The Chiefs are fifth, ten and a half games back of Buffalo.

The Fisher Cats are 33-28, and are back in second place, a half game back of Portland.

Dunedin's record is 38-26 which puts them in second place, five games behind Lakeland.

The Lugnuts are 33-29, in third place, four and a half games behind South Bend

Bonus Coverage - David Bush and Brandon League

David Bush

David Bush has made two AAA starts and I spoke with him the day after his second start. I asked him how happy he was with his two starts. "They were pretty good, I gave up a few more hits and runs that I would like to in the first game but there were a lot of ground balls that found holes, last night I pitched the same way but they hit balls at people." When Bush was sent down common wisdom suggested he needed to pitch more and work on his curveball, I asked David if that's the message he received from John Gibbons. "No, he just told me I need to go down and get straightened out, I know what I need to work on". So what is David trying to do in AAA? "Really consistency, go six every time, pretty solid outings every time, one of the problems I had in Toronto was some of my starts were 2-3 innings and some were seven innings. That's tough on the bullpen and everyone else when you are not sure what you are going to get, 6 or 7, or 1 or 2. Other than that keep the ball down, throw strikes and work ahead." And what about that curveball? "I was having some trouble throwing the curve for strikes, there's not much more to it than that, a lot of times I wasn't putting myself in very good situations to use it, when you are working ahead consistently it's a lot easier to use it, you have room for error and you can get guys to chase. When you are working behind, like I was early this year, you have to make perfect pitches, and its a lot harder to throw it."

I asked Marty Pevey about his initial impression of Bush this year versus last. "Last year his fastball had more sink, it looks like it has flattened out a little bit and become straighter. Last night it was a little better. Bushie needs to be able to pound the bottom of the zone with his fastball."

When Bush was sent down he received no promises or expectations from the Jays, here's hoping David is back soon.

Brandon League

Diving in the deep end, right off the bat I asked Brandon about 2005. "When I first came down I needed to work on my slider, now it's a bit of everything, I'm getting my fastball up too." I asked Brandon about a quote I had seen that said he could throw his fastball down the middle and just let it move to the sides. "That was one start where it was really moving, but most of the time I have to be able to hit my spots with the slider, and prepare myself for the days when I don't have my best stuff." Moving to AAA has Brandon facing better hitters but that is not the only reason for his struggles. "Last year I never had to think about pitching, I was so mechanically sound, this year I am not really in-tune with myself or my mechanics." Brandon is also working hard on his slider. "I am looking for a consistent breaking ball, sometimes it breaks a little, sometimes a lot, or sometimes not at all."

I talked with members of the coaching staff, scouts and media about League, I watched his bullpen side work, and the picture I got was that League is not able to throw his slider with a consistent break, or to where he wants to. When his slider is missing his spots, League has to rely on the fastball and the hitters are seeing Brandon's fastball very well, even if it is 96 mph. Call it BillyKochitis. There is also a question of whether League's fastball is running in on the hitters as much as last year. The final issue is consistency, League can pitch well for several innings and then see his control, and/or his release spot, fall apart. League is still young for AAA, but to succeed he will need to find consistent mechanics. Dane Johnson, the Jays minor league pitching coordinator, has made several visits to Syracuse to help League work on his delivery.

So the recipe for Brandon is (1) find a consistent delivery and grip for his slider; (2) Learn to throw his slider for strikes; (3) keep the fastball down; then (4) start pitching, as opposed to throwing.