The day after the major league All-Star break often comes with changes on major league rosters around the league. With OF Milton Bradley poised to come off of the disabled list for Oakland, the A’s entered Thursday knowing that there was at least one move in the offing. However, the moves didn’t just stop with Bradley’s return.
The A’s AAA affiliate, the Sacramento River Cats, welcomed a number of new players on Thursday, both from the major leagues and from AA. On the pitching front, the River Cats received a reinforcement from AA-Midland in the form of starting pitcher Brad Ziegler, who had starred with the Rockhounds thus far this season. The right-hander joins the River Cats with a 7-5 record and a 3.23 ERA in 114.1 innings. Ziegler, who has averaged better than six innings a start this season, was expected to replace the injured Juan Dominguez in the Sacramento starting rotation.
That scenario might have been altered slightly by the events of the A’s and River Cats’ games on Thursday. In Boston, A’s fifth starter Kirk Saarloos was used as a reliever in the 11th inning of Oakland’s 5-4 win against the Boston Red Sox. Saarloos only pitched two-thirds of an inning, but he threw a decent number of pitches and the A’s don’t have an off-day until next Thursday, causing speculation that he may be on his way out of the rotation.
Furthering that speculation was Jason Windsor, the A’s top pitching prospect, who was pulled inexplicably from his start after three innings versus the Salt Lake Bees on Thursday. Unless Windsor was felled by an as-of-yet unreported injury, it is possible that the young right-hander will be making his way to Oakland to pitch in Saarloos’ spot in the rotation.
Although the River Cats had to play a little short-handed on Thursday night with their ace only going three innings, they will be receiving some big league help on Friday, as the A’s announced after their game versus the Red Sox that first baseman Dan Johnson is being optioned to AAA to make room for the newly activated Bradley. Johnson, who was the PCL MVP in 2004, has struggled for much of the regular season with the A’s, save for three weeks in June. The A’s will likely be looking for Johnson to get on-track in Sacramento in a short stint, although he could be trade bait, as well.
The River Cats also welcomed back reliever Mike Mitchell, who had been with the team earlier this week, had returned to Stockton yesterday in time to earn his 18th save, and then was back up in Sacramento on Thursday in time to pitch an inning in the River Cats’ 6-3 win over Salt Lake.
The Midland Rockhounds also saw some major player movement on Thursday. Midland lost their ace to Sacramento for the third time this season when they bid adieu to Ziegler after having said good-bye to Windsor and Ben Fritz earlier in the season. They did gain two talented arms, however, as Stockton ace Michael Rogers and former Rockhounds ace Steven Bondurant were added to the active roster. Rogers was 8-5 for the Ports with a 4.85 ERA in 94.2 innings pitched. At one point, Rogers won six straight starts for the Ports before running into a rough patch in mid-June. He struck out 85 and walked 32 in those 94.2 innings. Rogers is a 2004 second round draft choice out of North Carolina State.
Bondurant joins former South Carolina college teammate Kevin Melillo on the Midland roster. The southpaw missed the first three months of the season recovering from off-season labrum surgery. Bondurant was expected to move from the starting rotation into the bullpen, where he could be a future lefty specialist at the big league level. He won a team-high 12 games as a starter for the Texas League champion Rockhounds in 2005. Bondurant had made two rehab appearances with the A’s Arizona Rookie League squad before joining Midland.UPDATE 7/14: Although Bondurant is appearing on the Midland roster on MiLB.com, he has not rejoined the team as of 7/14, according to Midland team sources.
The Stockton Ports welcomed right-hander Jeff Gray from the Kane County Cougars on Thursday night. Gray was a swingman for the Cougars this season, going 5-5 in 22 appearances for Kane County. He made 11 starts and 11 relief appearances and posted a 4.71 ERA in 78.1 innings. He struck out 62 and walked 19 during his time in the Midwest League.
Kane County also added a pitcher on Thursday, as 2006 draft pick Branden Dewing was promoted from A-Vancouver. Dewing appeared in the Cougars’ 7-5 win on Thursday night and allowed two runs in one inning of work. He had allowed only one run on five hits in 10 innings for the Canadians before his promotion. Dewing was selected in the 16th round of the 2006 draft out of San Jose State University and is a college teammate of current Cougars closer Brad Kilby, who earned his third save of the season on Thursday.
The A’s will likely be making more moves in the upcoming days, as injured relievers Jay Witasick and Joe Kennedy are making progress with their rehabilitations and a trade or two could be on the horizon. The news is not so good for A’s starter Rich Harden, however, who is seeking a second opinion on his injured right elbow from famed ligament replacement surgeon Dr. Lewis Yocum.
Thursday’s Minor League Action
-- If ailing A’s 3B Eric Chavez needs to hit the disabled list, then Hiram Bocachica is making sure that his numbers are impressive enough to be considered for a call-up in Chavez’s place. Bocachica had another monster game on Thursday night, going 2-3 with two walks and two homeruns, including a walk-off, three-run homerun that came with two-outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. Bocachica has now hit 12 homeruns in a third of the season with Sacramento and is hitting .339. The River Cats won the game 6-3. Doug Clark also chipped in two hits for the River Cats and Mark Watson won his first game since being traded from the Chicago Cubs organization.
-- Kurt Suzuki (7) and Lloyd Turner (6) both homered in Midland’s 9-3 trouncing of Zack Greinke and the Wichita Wranglers. The Rockhounds hit Greinke hard for the second time this season. Mark Kiger had four hits, including a double, and Travis Buck and Kevin Melillo each went 2-4. Suzuki, Turner and Melillo combined to drive-in all nine runs. Ray Aguilar got the win for Midland and is now 8-5 with a 3.99 ERA for the Rockhounds. He went 7.2 innings, allowing three runs on eight hits.
-- The Stockton Ports dropped a close game, as High Desert came out on top in 10 innings by a score of 3-2. Scot Drucker was stuck with the loss despite allowing only one run in 3.1 innings of relief work. Nick Blasi hit his third homer of the season and John McCurdy added his eight of the year to account for the Ports’ scoring. Trent Peterson was strong in relief, working 2.2 scoreless innings.
-- Jared Lansford turned in a solid outing and the Cougars held on despite a late charge from Burlington to beat the Bees by a score of 7-5. Lansford worked seven shut-out innings, allowing only three hits and three walks. He struck out two. The win was his eighth of the season and he lowered his ERA to 3.43. It was the second straight strong start for Lansford, who struggled badly in the month of June after a solid May. Isaac Omura had four hits and three RBIs. The surprising second baseman is hitting .315 for Kane County this season with 24 RBI in 49 games. Steve Kleen hit his fourth homer of the season and Toddric Johnson also had a big game, breaking a week-long slump. The left-fielder went 3-4 with two runs scored. Jose Pineda also added two hits for the victorious Cougars, who had to hold on to beat the Bees after watching a 7-0 lead dwindle to 7-5 in the ninth inning. Brad Kilby came on with the bases-loaded in the ninth after John Herrera walked them full to start the inning. He allowed three of those runners to score, but eventually recorded the final three outs to save the game.
-- Vancouver dropped a tight contest on the road in Boise on Thursday night by a score of 7-5. The game was knotted at five in the bottom of the eighth inning when Chicago Cubs top pick Tyler Colvin hit a decisive two-run homer off of Derrick Gordon to seal the Canadians’ fate. A’s third round pick Matt Sulentic went 3-4 hitting out of the third spot in the batting order. He is now hitting .351 on the season for the C’s. He was also picked off third base in the game. SS Samuel Hernandez added two hits to raise his average to .297.
-- The A’s Rookie League squad was undaunted by their task of facing rehabbing major league starter Tomo Ohka on Thursday, as they blanked the Brewers’ affiliate by a score of 6-0. The Rookie A’s collected seven hits and four runs (two earned) off of Ohka. Pascual Manzueta threw five shut-out innings to earn his first win for the Arizona A’s. 2B Marcos Luis went 4-5 and raised his average to .345 and 1B Carlos Morales went 3-4 with two doubles to raise his average to .301. Lorenzo Macias drove in his team-leading 15th run.