Scratch Wes Hodges off the list of potential September callups to the big leagues. The 23-year-old third baseman is headed to Arizona.
Hodges is one of seven Indians Minor Leaguers who will join the roster of the Arizona Fall League’s Surprise Rafters. Class A Lake County pitching coach Ruben Niebla will be a coach for the Rafters, whose season starts Oct. 7.
Here’s a look at what Hodges and the other six players have done this season for their respective Minor League clubs.
Hodges – AA Akron Aeros – 3B – Recently named to the 2008 Eastern League All-Star team, Hodges had a breakout season with the Aeros. After 127
games, he is batting .285 with 25 doubles, three triples,
91 RBIs and 16 home runs. In July, Hodges — along with the recently acquired Matt LaPorta — represented the Indians in the 2008 Futures Game.
Beau Mills – A Kinston Indians – 1B – The Tribe’s 2007 No. 1 Draft selection leads the Carolina League in RBIs with 90 and has slammed 21 homers — also good for the league’s best — along with 34 doubles. He is batting .293 and his 58 extra-base hits ranks second in the CL and his 141 hits ranks third.
Josh Rodriguez – AA Akron Aeros – SS – The 23-year-old is batting .248 with 70 runs, 21 doubles, 10 triples — good for second in the Eastern League — seven home runs and 49 RBIs.
Chuck Lofgren – AA Akron Aeros – LHP – The 22-year-old lefty has bounced between the ‘pen and starting rotation in a full season at Double-A. He is 2-5 with a 5.25 ERA in 26 appearances (14 starts). He has struck out 71 while walking 47 batters.
Tony Sipp – AA Akron Aeros – LHP – The 25-year-old has gone 0-3 with a 4.58 ERA out of the bullpen in limited action this season. Sipp, who underwent Tommy John surgery last season, has thrown just 17 2/3 innings since returning to action.
Erik Stiller – AA Akron Aeros – RHP – The 24-year-old is 6-5 with a 4.36 ERA in 32 appearances, all out of the bullpen. In 53 2/3 innings, Stiller has struck out 52 while walking 21 and has a 1.25 WHIP.
Neil Wagner – AA Akron Aeros – RHP – The 24-year-old spent most of his 2008 season with the K-Tribe, but was recently promoted to Double-A. He is 0-1 with 5.06ERA in five appearances for Akron. With Kinston, Wagner went 3-6 with a 4.50 ERA, 81 strikeouts and 21 walks.
Carlos Santana didn’t even need a full season in the California League to earn its highest honor, as he was named the Cal League’s MVP on Monday.
Before the Indians acquired him in a deal that sent Casey Blake to the Dodgers, Santana batted .323 with 34 doubles, four
triples, 14 home runs and collected 96 RBIs for the Inland Empire 66ers. The
22-year-old switch-hitter hit
.411 with runners in scoring position and .500 with the bases loaded. He
reached base safely in 91 of his 99 games and had more walks (69) than strikeouts
Santana still leads the league in on-base percentage (.431)
and is in the top five in slugging percentage (.563) and runs scored (88). He could still win the league’s batting title as well because Lancaster’s Daniel Nava, who currently leads the league with a .337 batting average, is
on the disabled list and would not qualify if the season ended today.
Since he arrived at Class A Kinston, Santana has not let up, batting .333 with four homers and 14 RBIs in 24 games.
– Andrew Gribble
Bryan Bullington came into the big leagues with overblown expectations. Now, with the Triple- A Bisons, there are none.
It’s safe to say, the former Pirates No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 amateur draft is OK with that.
“Obviously, there’s expectations in that situation, as anybody who is in that situation will tell you,” Bullington said. “There’s certain expectations you have to live up to.
“It was kind of a weird experience for me in Pittsburgh.”
It has been reported that the Pirates chose Bullington over the likes
of Prince Fielder, BJ Upton, Scott Kazmir and Nick Swisher because they
believed he would be easier to sign. And, though it was also reported
that Bullington projected to be, at best, a No. 3 starter when he made
it to the Majors, he hasn’t even lived up to that.
Bullington, who pitched at Ball State for two years, breezed through the early levels of the Minors before landing in Triple-A Indianapolis for the 2005 season. After going 9-5 with a 3.38 ERA in 18 starts, Bullington was dealt the worst news of his professional career: He had a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder.
Bullington had to go back to the basics and learn how to throw a baseball again.
“When you start your throwing program,” he said, “you can’t throw the ball 40 feet.”
Bullington eventually regained, what Bisons manager Torey Lovullo describes as a “big-league slider,” and made his return to the Pirates in 2007. He didn’t regain his old form, however, as he compiled an 11-9 record in 2007 and a 4-6 mark with a 5.52 ERA this season before the Pirates designated him for assignment early in July.
The Indians didn’t have much to lose when they picked up Bullington off waivers. With players such as Jeff Weaver, Morgan Ensberg and John Halama trying to rejuvenate their careers with the Bisons, the 27-year-old right-hander seemed like an easy fit on Lovullo’s helter skelter roster.
Since he arrived in Buffalo, Bullington has been shaky, but showed signs of hope in his last start Thursday against his former team. He tossed seven innings without giving up an earned run in a no-decision. He starts Monday against Lehigh Valley.
“Maybe he lost a little confidence and placed too much pressure on himself,” Lovullo said. I just know that him coming over here was probably a breath of fresh air with a new set of eyes and a new set of expectations.
Scotty too hotty
Akron’s Scott Lewis was named Bank of America Pitcher of the Week for the week ending Aug. 10. He went 1-0 with a no-decision in two starts, allowing just one run and five hits over 13 1/3 innings. He struck out 15 batters and walked just two.
Look for him to be in Lovullo’s rotation, wherever that rotation may be located, at the beginning of next season.
General manager Mark Shapiro was pretty giddy about acquiring catching prospect Carlos Santana in the deal that sent Casey Blake to the Dodgers. The early returns have likely taken that giddiness to a whole new level.
Santana, who came to the Tribe leading all Minor Leaguers in RBIs, is batting .398 (21-for-53) with six RBIs, six extra-base hits (two homers) and 18 runs in just 13 games with the K-Tribe (Kinston Indians).
Look for him to stay there the remainder of the season and become the everyday catcher with the Aeros next season.
– Andrew Gribble
Anthony Reyes, acquired from the Cardinals on July 26 (the same day the Indians shipped Casey Blake to the Dodgers), tossed eight innings and allowed just one run in the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons’ 2-1 win on Sunday. Reyes, who feuded with Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan before his departure, has posted a 2.77 ERA over his first two starts, adding eight strikeouts and four walks.
With Matt Ginter struggling in his fill-in role as Aaron Laffey looks to work out some kinks with the Bisons, Reyes could be on a fast track back to the big leagues. A former Baseball America Top 100 prospect in both 2005 and 2006, Reyes won Game 1 of the 2006 World Series. Thereafter, he struggled to maintain consistency, something the Indians and general manager Mark Shapiro will return with his change of scenery.
Speaking of Laffey, the lefty gets the start tonight against Indianapolis.
The gem of the Blake deal, Carlos Santana has continued his big year at Class A Kinston. He has hit safely in his past six games, batting .400 (10-for-25) with eight runs, a double, triple and a homer to go along with four RBIs.
As the Crowe flies
Trevor Crowe, recently promoted from Double-A Akron to Buffalo, is batting .286 (12-for-42) with 10 runs, a triple, four home runs and seven RBIs in his first nine
games with the Bisons.
Meloan, who was dealt to the Indians with Class A Advanced Inland Empire catcher Carlos Santana, will join former University of Arizona teammates Jordan Brown and Trevor Crowe — who was promoted on July 25 from Double-A Akron — in Buffalo.
The Cleveland farmhands were college teammates for three years, helping put the Wildcats back on the map by keying Arizona’s 2004 run to the College World Series and providing the backbone of a club that ranked in the top 10 of the nation much of their junior year of 2005. All there players were top-five-round picks in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft.
Meloan has said he’s still “best friends” with many of his former teammates and has even shared a place in Oro Valley, Ariz., just north of Tucson, Ariz., with Brown and Padres catcher Nick Hundley, another former classmate, while working out at their old school in the offseason.
Meloan, a strikeout pitcher who Baseball America ranked as the Dodgers’ No. 8 prospect at the beginning of the season, has gone 5-10 with a 4.97 ERA this year as a starter. Last season he was much more effective as a reliever, the role the Indians have in store for him, going 7-2 with a 2.03 ERA and 20 saves while splitting time between Double-A Jacksonville and Triple-A Las Vegas.
That earned him a cup of coffee with the Dodgers in September in which he struggled, giving up runs in four of five appearances while compiling an 11.05 ERA by yielding nine runs on eight hits in 7 1/3 innings.
He has not sniffed the Majors this year although Clayton Kershaw, Cory Wade and Ramon Troncoso have all made their Major League debuts, and even journeymen pitchers Brian Falkenborg and Jason Johnson have gotten calls.
“John Meloan in some ways with the advancement of Wade and Troncoso and with [Double-A pitcher and former first-round pick] Scotty Elbert healthy and throwing well, he’s been bypassed by a couple guys who are up here right now,” said Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti.
The more important player to the deal is likely Santana, who led all Minor Leaguers with 96 RBIs at the time of the deal. He also was hitting .323 with 14 homers, 34 doubles and 10 more walks than strikeouts.
Organizational depth at the position, particularly 25-year-old All-Star catcher Russell Martin at the Major League level, made him expendable.
“Santana’s a very good hitter,” Colletti said. “Whether he stays at catcher, that’s Cleveland’s call. [Double-A catcher] Lucas May is a step ahead of him. With Russell here I thought we had just a touch of depth there where we could do that, and in our mind there might be a position change down the road for [Santana].”
— Michael Schwartz