Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Tempus fugit -- Time flies -- Long time between blogs.

Most of my time is spent following the very resilient New Britain Rock Cats, who at this writing have moved to within a game of the lead in the Eastern League's Northern Division.

The Rock Cats have used a potent lineup to crash their way toward the top. Rob Delaney, who today was deservingly promoted to Triple-A Rochester, and Anthony Slama have consistently turned in exceptional work out of the bullpen.

We knew the starters weren't going to light up the velocity meters but they have persevered.

Cole DeVries went undrafted after his career at the University of Minnesota but has made his way methodically through the Minnesota Twins system. As I watch him pitch and talk with him afterward, I quickly comprehend that DeVries is an intelligent young man who absorbs his lessons extremely well. He doesn't blow hitters away, and while his record hovers around .500, he always keeps the Cats in a game. Most managers will tell you that's all they can expect.

Matt Fox emerged as the top starter in May. Fox, a right-hander, was a first-round sandwich pick for the Twins in 2004 but major shoulder surgery cost him a season and some of his velocity.

The surgically reconstructed shoulder is fine but leaves him wondering if he will ever get back the velocity he once had. My first reaction was, probably not, but who knows? In the meantime, Fox battles. Over his last four starts, he's 4-0 with an 0.74 ERA. He's become the stopper.

Jay Rainville and Ryan Mullins have both struggled with their command. Since neither is overpowering, their margin for error is small. They succeed when they keep their pitches down in the strike zone and attack the hitters.

Jeff Manship, projected as the number one starter, has shown glimpses lately of the pitcher he was at high-A Fort Myers last year. The walks have diminished and the ERA has dropped a whole run over his last two outings.

On the offensive side, there is no question that Danny Valencia is going to be a very fine major league third baseman. He fields his position well and profiles well offensively with power that makes the ball jump off his bat. He's been hindered by nagging injuries that keep him out for a few games. Every time he comes back, he punishes pitchers. He is among the best players in the EL and will likely move to Triple-A before long.

Catching prospect Wilson Ramos missed three weeks when he broke the tip of his middle finger on his left hand. We're all looking forward to seeing Ramos play for an extended period of time over the next few months so we can get a better idea just how good he is and how good he can be.

Brandon Roberts is an effective leadoff hitter and a decent center fielder. His talents are very important to the offense because he's one of the few Rock Cats who can slap base hits around and use his wheels to set the table for the sluggers and change the course of close ballgames with his wheels.

Rene Tosoni and Whit Robbins have made tremendous strides in adjusting to EL ball. They both hit with power and Robbins is truly establishing himself as a big-league prospect by spraying base hits in between booming homers. Both have played well defensively, too.

In Yancarlos Ortiz, the Rock Cats have a shortstop with plus range and a strong arm. He'll occasionally mess up a routine play but gives the Cats strength up the middle and a solid double-play tandem with second baseman Brian Dinkelman.

All in all, the team has competed well and is well worth the price of admission at New Britain Stadium, but I probably don't have to tell you that. With all the folks who are streaming through the gates at the Emerald, you must have been among them by now. If not, whaddya waitin' for.

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