Sacramento River Cats centerfielder Charles Thomas has joined La Guaira of the Venezuelan Winter League this week, after a group of Chicago White Sox prospects left the team in protest over the firing of La Guaira's manager, Razor Shines. Shines was the White Sox AAA manager last season and he will act as the Chicago third base coach next year. In total, the White Sox had seven players on La Guaira, and all seven players have now left the team either due to injury or illness or due to protest over Shines' firing.
Thomas joins major leaguer Randall Simon as a reinforcement to replace the White Sox players. Thomas arrived this weekend and had a pinch-hitting appearance on Saturday. He struck out in that at-bat.
Thomas earned the Sacramento River Cats' Defensive Player of the Year award in 2005 and 2006. He had a red-hot final month of the 2006 season, hitting eight homeruns in the month. In total, Thomas finished the year with a .274 batting average and nine homeruns.
Thomas was acquired from the Atlanta Braves as part of the Tim Hudson trade before the 2005 season. He began the year as the A's starting left-fielder, but after struggling at the plate out of the gate, he was sent to the bench and eventually demoted to AAA. Thomas spent the entire 2006 season in AAA. He has an outside chance of making the A's roster in 2007 if Oakland doesn't re-sign Jay Payton or bring in a free agent to replace Payton.
Thomas last played winter ball in 2004/2005 when he played in the Dominican Winter League.
A's AFL Pitchers Continue To Shine
The Oakland A's pitching staff has been well-represented down in the desert this fall. A's relievers have been solid for the Phoenix Desert Dogs this AFL season, especially lately. On Saturday, Mike Mitchell and Marcus McBeth each tossed scoreless innings in the Desert Dogs' 6-0 win over the Peoria Javelinas.
Mitchell had a perfect one-two-three inning to lower his ERA to 2.35. Mitchell has made nine appearances for Phoenix, allowing two runs on eight hits in 7.2 innings. He has walked only one batter and has struck out seven. Mitchell also had a scoreless inning in the Rising Stars Showcase. He has shown improved control in the AFL after walking 11 batters in 20 innings in a late-season stint with the AA-Midland Rockhounds.
McBeth has been simply outstanding this fall. Minus one poor outing when he allowed three runs in one inning, McBeth has been unscored upon in all of his other outings (including a perfect inning in the Rising Stars Showcase). He had a scoreless inning on Saturday, allowing one hit and striking out a batter. McBeth has 10 strikeouts and only one walk in AFL regular season action, and he has held opposing AFL batters to a .172 batting average and has allowed only six base-runners in eight innings. During the regular season, McBeth held opposing batters to a .198 batting average.
Jared Burton threw two scoreless innings on Thursday, continuing his recent success for Phoenix. After allowing four runs in his first 2.2 innings of work, Burton has thrown 4.2 scoreless innings. He has struck out three batters in each of his last two outings and he has seven strikeouts against only one walk in 7.1 AFL innings. He also has one save for Phoenix. Burton spent the entire 2006 season with AA-Midland, where he had a 4.14 ERA in 74 innings. He was a late addition to the Phoenix roster after A's left-handed pitching prospect Dallas Braden had to withdraw due to injury.
Connor Robertson has struggled throughout most of the AFL season, but he did have a positive outing on Wednesday, as he struck out the side in one inning of work. Robertson has allowed nine earned runs in 6.2 innings of work, including four homeruns. One bright spot has been Robertson's strikeout total. He has 10 K's in 6.2 innings. Robertson has pitched well against left-handed batters (.182 batting average against), but has struggled against right-handers (.476 batting average against). During the regular season, Robertson held opposing batters to a .246 average.