If there's anything more fun than a minor-league no-hitter, I'd like to know what it is. The fans (usually an intimate crowd that figures out early what's going on) are totally into it, the players (most of whom are very young and have never experienced one before) are crazy-intense, and the celebration afterwards is amazing. Sincere congratulations from the Batter's Box crew to Robert Ray and Adrian Martin of Auburn, whose outstanding performance was the signal highlight of a 4-2 night on the farm.
Buffalo 4 Syracuse 1
Gabe Gross, speedster? Gross went 0-for-4 with a strikeout last night, driving in the only run for the Skychiefs on a groundout. His line continues to be a solid .297/.383/.443, but he also stole his 14th base in 16 attempts, his highest stolen base total since he was a junior at Auburn (the university, not the NY-Penn League). So: Gross hits for average, has great on-base numbers, plays an excellent outfield and runs very well on the bases. Someone out there is going to find that an attractive combination, and is going to have the patience to let Grossís power develop in the big leagues, which it should do in about two years. That team pretty clearly wonít be the Blue Jays, but if everything breaks really well, dealing Gross will help bring in a key part of next yearís contending ballclub. Iíve said it before and Iíll say it again Ė he will be a productive and complete ballplayer for whichever team he ends up with.
- Ted Lilly: 3 2/3 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K: pretty strong rehab start
- John-Ford Griffin: 0/3, BB: .248 BA
Portland 4 New Hampshire 3
Iíve been giving him a pretty hard time this year, but I have to admit that Miguel Negron is on another hot streak lately, compounded last night with a double, single and RBI in 5 trips. Negronís now batting .259/.306/.390, which isnít that impressive but still represents a step up from previous levels of production. All that said, Negron also celebrated his 23rd birthday this week, and even after several years of professional ball and pro coaching, heís still sporting a 23/90 BB/K rate and has been caught 11 times in 34 steal attempts. Today, he looks a lot more like Maikel Jova than Alex Rios, and Iím just not confident heíll ever make a move from the former to the latter. New Hampshire suffered a tough loss to their divisional rivals last night: Jesse Carlson started the bottom of the ninth of a tie game with a walk and HBP before being yanked; Ryan Houston replaced him and allowed an intentional walk and an infield single to lose the game.
- Josh Banks: 6 1/3 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K: 3.73 (Two walks? Thatís twice what he gave up in his previous 7 starts combined. He's out of control!)
- Chip Cannon: 1/2, 2 BB, RBI: .230 BA (I was kidding about Banks being out of control, by the way)
- Curtis Thigpen : 2/4, 2B, R, K: .254 BA (It's hard to communicate humour in these reports.)
- Rob Cosby: 0/4, K: .316 (We're the Aristrocrats!)
Dunedin 7 Fort Myers 1
The organizationís second-best left-handed pitching prospect named Romero doesnít want to surrender the surname battle to Ricky just yet. Another sterling performance from Davis Romero last night, as he fired 6 innings of 1-run ball, scattering 4 hits and 3 walks and striking out 8. Davisís line now looks like this: 8-6, 3.56, 33 G, 17 GS, 118 IP, 126 H, 34 BB, 134 K. A couple of caveats: I donít have start-relief splits for him, so I donít know how much better heís pitched out of the pen, which has always been his strong point. And second, though heís allowed 59 runs, only 47 have been earned, meaning his ERA is a little misleading. Romero is small and heís young (wonít be 23 till next March), and while heís not in the Jaysí A-tier of pitching prospects, heís on top of the B-tier.
- David Smith: 2/5, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 2 R, K: .299 BA
- Carlo Cota: 2/5, HR, RBI, 2 R, 2 K: .317
- Adam Lind: 1/5, K: .312
Lansing 3 Southwest Michigan 1
High-school pitchers generally take a long time to work out the kinks, which is one of the reasons the Jays donít draft very many. One guy they did draft under JP Ricciardi, Russell Savickas, doesnít have the most impressive line in the world (6-6, 5.31, 17 GS, 78 IP, 99 H, 33 BB, 60 K), but he is showing flashes of domination, such as last nightís performance: 7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 9 K. It might be a while before Jays fans see Savickas at higher levels, but outings like this one demonstrate that the talent is undeniably there.
- Eric Nielsen: 3/4, 2 R, K: .266
- Aaron Mathews : 1/3, BB, K: .286
- Charlie Anderson: 1/4, 2B, 2 RBI, K: .250
Auburn 5 Batavia 0
Iíll let the good folks at Minor-League Baseball.com take this one:
Robert Ray is sure he had the hard part.
After pitching five innings, Ray watched from the bullpen as Adrian Martin finished off the Auburn Doubledays' first no-hitter in seven years, a 5-0 blanking of the Batavia Muckdogs.
"It was definitely worse watching it than doing it," said Ray, the Blue Jays' seventh-round pick in the 2005 draft. "Every out in the ninth inning, I was grabbing the fence, gritting my teeth. I was definitely feeling some anxiety."
As it turns out, Martin didn't need any spectacular defensive plays to complete the first no-hitter of the season in the New York-Penn League. The 20-year-old right-hander set down the final 11 batters, six on groundouts, for his third save.
"That's pretty much my specialty," said Martin, a 19th-round pick in 2003. "If I get strikeouts, great, but if I can get the guy in less than three pitches, that's fine. I dropped my arm angle this year to get some sink and it's definitely been working."
The only runner against Martin during his four-inning stint came on a throwing error in the sixth. Ray, a 21-year-old Texas A&M product, walked two and struck out two before reaching his pitch count.
"I really didn't realize I hadn't given up a hit until they said, 'You're done,'" Ray said. "Then I started thinking, 'I don't think I'd given up a hit.'"
Ray headed for an exercise bike, re-emerging with one out in the eighth. Martin, meanwhile, knew exactly what he was getting into when he came out of the bullpen.
"I was just kind of getting ready, knowing his pitch count might be approaching. I knew I was jumping into a situation, but you still want to go out there and do your job," he explained. "I had a lead to hold and now you've got a little bit of added pressure."
Martin retired Clay Harris on a ground ball to third baseman Chris Gutierrez to end the game, then was mobbed by teammates at Falcon Park. Later, both Martin and Ray received shaving cream pies to the face.
"I had my head down and just, wham, everything goes white," Ray said. "It's a cool deal."
- Robert Ray: 5 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 2 K: 2.56 ERA
- Adrian Martin: 4 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K: 2.88
- Ryan Patterson: 3/3, 3B, BB, 2 R, 2 RBI: .333.
- Sean Shoffitt: 1/2, 2B, BB, 2 R: .253
- Joey Metropoulous: 2/4, RBI, K: .291
Pulaski 10 Kingsport 3
It was a bit of a surprise that the Blue Jays sent Jacob Butler, their 8th-round draft pick from the University of Nevada in this past Juneís draft, to Pulaski to begin his pro career (though Auburn is pretty stacked with hitting talent as well). Butler, a collegian, could be expected to be dominant in Rookie League ball, and thatís whatís happened: 196 AB, .291/.384/.582, 16 2B, 13 HR, 48 RBI, 30 BB, 60 K. His power and on-base numbers are very impressive, but he has struck out a lot -- continuing a trend from his college days, where he posted OPS over 1000 each of his last 3 seasons but did swing and miss a fair bit. That may be why the Jays broke him in slowly at Pulaski. Aside from the K's, Butler is doing everything he needs to do right now, and the Jays would probably benefit by starting him at Lansing next year.
- Shane Benson: 5 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K: 5.52 ERA
- Graig Badger: 4/4, 2 2B, 3B, BB, 4 R: .281 BA
- Jesus Gonzalez: 3/5, HR, 4 RBI, R, K: .271
Your Three-Star Selection: Some deserving players, like Davis Romero, Russell Savickas, Shane Benson and Ryan Patterson, canít make the cut tonight.
3. Graig Badger: Triple, 2 doubles, a single and a walk, reaching base 5 times and scoring 4.
2. David Smith, Dunedin: Two home runs and 5 RBIs in the D-Jaysí big win.
1. Robert Ray and Adrian Martin, Auburn: Nine innings pitched, no hits. Take a bow, guys.