A number of Oakland A's prospects got their 2005 campaigns off to a good start. We take a look at…
Transaction Log: Relievers Moving Up
Reliever Tim Harikkala's ticket back to the major leagues was punched on Tuesday when the A's put Kiko Calero on the 15-day disabled list. Harikkala was one of the final competitors for the last bullpen spot during spring training. The Florida native is a long-time minor leaguer, having toiled in the bush leagues for 11 seasons. In 2004, Harikkala spent his first full season in the big leagues and was relatively successful. He won six games for the Colorado Rockies and held batters to a .235 BAA despite pitching his home games at Coors Field.
Harikkala is not a strike out pitcher, but he does induce a lot of groundball outs. He was the most reliable reliever in what has been a leaky Sacramento bullpen this season. Harikkala began the season as the River Cats' set-up man, but he had recently been closing out games for Sacramento. He threw a bullpen-high 21.1 innings and allowed only 13 hits. His K/BB ratio was average (14/7), but he had a 1.27 ERA and three saves. Harikkala will likely fill a middle relief role for Oakland.
2) Jairo Garcia and Nick Mattioni: Recalled to Sacramento
Despite losing their best reliever, Sacramento may have actually improved their bullpen on Tuesday. Midland relievers Jairo Garcia and Nick Mattioni received promotions to Sacramento. Both were integral parts of a light's-out Midland bullpen this season.
The hard-throwing Garcia had two stints with Sacramento last season during his meteoric rise through the A's system. Garcia began the 2004 campaign in low-A Kane County and quickly moved through AA-Midland and AAA-Sacramento before being recalled to Oakland in August. Garcia struggled during his major league stint and was sent back to Sacramento to finish the season. After a rough spring training, Garcia was sent down to AA-Midland to work on his control and his composure on the mound.
Garcia responded well to being sent down to AA and earned his way back to Sacramento with a strong first month of the season. In 10 appearances, Garcia struck out 30 batters in only 16.2 innings of work. He walked nine, but many of those were in his first three appearances. Garcia allowed only one homerun, six hits and he saved six games while posting a microscopic 1.08 ERA.
Mattioni has been equally effective this season. The former Independent League star posted a 1.50 ERA in 18 innings for Midland. He struck out 22 and walked only three batters over that stretch. Mattioni spent his entire professional career in the New York Mets organization before being released at the end of the 2003 season. He signed on with Fargo-Moorhead of the Independent League and had a 0.73 ERA in 33 innings for Fargo-Moorhead. The A's signed him mid-season and sent him to Midland, where he posted a 2.93 ERA for the Rockhounds.
However, Mattioni struggled with his control during his stint with Midland in 2004. He walked 17 and struck out only 15 in 30.2 innings pitched. Mattioni returned to Midland a changed pitcher and his improved control in 2005 was one of the main reasons that he received his first promotion above AA on Tuesday.
3) Alex Santos: Recalled to AA-Midland
Another Independent League veteran received a promotion on Tuesday. Alex Santos, who spent 2004 split between Sioux Falls of the Northern League and Quebec of the Northeastern League, signed with the A's in the off-season as a minor league free agent. He was drafted out of the University of Miami by Tampa Bay in 2000 and he spent the next four seasons in their organization before being released last year. Santos was a successful closer for Quebec in 2004, saving 22 games and compiling a 1.06 ERA.
The Yonkers, NY native was dominating Class A hitters before his promotion to AA. He allowed only one earned run in 16 innings and struck out 20 while walking only two. He converted seven saves for the Ports. Santos has never pitched above AA in his career. He will likely fill Mattioni's middle relief role for the Rockhounds.
Note: Starter Drew Dickinson returned to Midland on Tuesday after a one week demotion to A-Stockton. Dickinson picked up the loss in Midladn's 6-1 defeat on Tuesday night.
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