Midland Notebook: Bailey In The Bullpen

Bailey has pitched well in the bullpen.

After struggling for much of the season in the Double-A Midland starting rotation, right-hander Andrew Bailey has spent the past three weeks in the bullpen. The change appears to have agreed with the hard-throwing NY native, who has yet to allow an earned run out of the bullpen. He has combined with Andrew Carignan to give the Rockhounds' a shut-down end to their bullpen. We have notes on Midland…

Coming into the 2008 season, Andrew Bailey was one of the Oakland A's top starting pitching prospects. In 2007, he led all A's minor leaguers with 150 strike-outs in only 125 innings and he compiled a 3.46 ERA between three levels (Low-A, High-A and one outing in Triple-A). He was sent to Double-A Midland at the start of the 2008 season, where he was expected to be one of the Rockhounds' top starters.

Bailey struggled at times with his command in 2007, however, walking 54 batters. Those command issues caught up to the hard-throwing right-hander this season at Double-A. In 71.1 innings as a starter for Midland, Bailey struck-out 69 batters and allowed 69 hits – both solid numbers – but he walked 45 and gave-up 12 longballs. Despite having good stuff for much of the season, Bailey's ERA suffered because of his command issues, jumping to 6.18.

Oakland A's Minor League Pitching Coordinator Gil Patterson felt that Bailey's power arsenal would work best in the bullpen, where he could concentrate on throwing his best pitch (a power cut fastball) and worry less about controlling his more inconsistent secondary pitches. The change seems to have worked wonders for Bailey, who has allowed only one unearned run in 10 innings as a reliever.

"I just recommended [moving him to the bullpen] to David [Forst] and Keith [Lieppman] and luckily they approved it. They asked me why and I explained the reasons why. He throws a cut fastball a little bit like there is a pitcher with the Yankees – Mariano [Rivera]," Patterson said.

"Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that he is going to be Mariano Rivera, but he is on the same page with Mariano. He can throw a 92-94 mile per hour fastball that can cut."

Since becoming a reliever, Bailey has over-powered Texas League hitters, striking out 13 in 10 innings and inducing a lot of groundballs.
"The main thing is to get him throwing an inning or two and have him throw an occasional breaking ball for a strike," Patterson said.

With Bailey in the bullpen now, Midland suddenly has one of the top hard-throwing late-inning tandems in the Texas League. Closer Andrew Carignan is second in the Texas League with 15 saves, and he has 19 overall this season (his first four came with High-A Stockton back in April). Like Bailey, Carignan has struggled with command issues of his own at times this season, although he has mostly been able to pitch around them. In 33.1 innings for Midland this season, Carignan has struck-out 42 and he has allowed only 23 hits. However, he has walked 26.

Carignan has improved in that area recently, however. After walking 16 in 11 innings in May and six in 10 innings in June, Carignan has walked only three in 10.1 innings (with 18 strike-outs) in July. According to Patterson, Carignan was having difficulty spotting his high-90s fastball earlier in the season.

"He is making progress with the fastball. The biggest thing that we did is that we took away the slider and gave him a curveball. That seemed to have helped him quite a bit. It's worked for him so far," Patterson said.

Webb Still Growing

At only 22, Ryan Webb is one of the elder statesmen in a very young Midland Rockhounds rotation that includes 20-year-olds Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson and 21-year-olds James Simmons and Vince Mazzaro. Of course, Webb is still younger than most starters at the Double-A level and he has experienced some growing pains this season. The right-hander has had an up-and-down season in the Midland rotation. In 17 appearances (16 starts), he has a 5-5 record and a 5.23 ERA. He has struck-out 70 and walked 29 in 86 innings.

Webb has been held back at times this season with a blister on his throwing hand which has prevented him from going deep into some games. According to Patterson, command has been the biggest issue for the 6'6'' Florida native. The idea of moving Webb to the bullpen has crossed Patterson's mind, but, for now, he would like to see Webb continue to grow as a starter.

"Ryan is another guy and sometimes you see him and you say, ‘put this guy in the bullpen for two innings throwing 93 to 96 with another cutter and a slider,'" Patterson said.

"He hasn't been able to command the ball as consistently as he'd like. He has also had to throw the ball with the blister the way that it is, it definitely has affected him. Sometimes the numbers do tell you a lot, but they can be a little deceiving," Patterson said.

Webb has alternated his good months with his bad months thus far this season. In April, he went 1-1 with a 3.91 ERA and in June he went 2-1 with a 3.43 ERA and 20 strike-outs in 21 innings. May (6.11 ERA) and July (9.26 ERA) have been different stories, however. Despite the ups-and-downs, Patterson has been encouraged by what he has seen from Webb this year and believes that there are better things ahead for Webb as he continues to learn to pitch at an advanced level.

"Overall, most of us are happy with the way that Ryan has thrown the ball this year. I think it has been more of a plus than a negative," Patterson said.

Other News And Notes

-- Outfielder Aaron Cunningham has been a hot hitter for Midland lately. Over the past 10 games, he is batting .350 with two homers and nine RBIs. On the season, Cunningham has a .301 average with nine homeruns, 36 RBIs and an 856 OPS in 70 games. He missed the first few weeks of the season with a broken wrist he sustained during spring training.

-- Despite having 106 strike-outs in only 84 games, catcher Anthony Recker is putting together a productive offensive season for the Rockhounds. He is batting .282 with seven homers, 51 RBIs and a 796 OPS in 84 games this season.

-- Javier Herrera's overall numbers are still not where he'd like them to be, but the outfielder has been playing better for Midland of late. After hitting only .227 with a 579 OPS in June, Herrera has hit .250 with a 724 OPS thus far in July. Herrera missed all of April and May and part of June with hamstring problems.

-- Sean Doolittle has hit well since being promoted to Double-A Midland from High-A Stockton. In 11 games since the promotion, he is hitting .311 with six RBIs and four doubles. Doolittle has seen time at first, DH and right-field, as Midland tries to find ways to keep both Doolittle and regular first baseman Tom Everidge in the line-up. Everidge has a team-leading 17 homeruns and 76 RBIs this season.

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