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2006 Erie Seawolves Diary

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Larrison's a two pitch pitcher (assuming he hasn't changed much, and the stats would lead one to believe that)...I'd thought the pen was the place for him last year. Hopefully he gains a little velocity with the move to the pen. I wouldn't mind seeing them try to push him through waivers right now.

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Hopefully that Tony G injury means that Hollimon will finally be challenged. How big of a shot in the arm to the organization would a strong performance in Erie be?

I was interested to see Hollimon's splits. He's obviously a switch hitter, but he's been much better from the left side. If you throw out his stats as a right-handed hitter, he suddenly looks a fair amount better. Obviously you can't do that entirely, but as a backup or platoon player you can minimize his exposure to left-handed pitching. That makes him a little more interesting to me since I'd been viewing him as more of a utility candidate anyways.

(Kody Kirkland is another guy who has platoon value, although it's unfortunately on the wrong side of it. He absolutely demolishes lefties.)

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Both Connollys were drafted by their respective parent clubs as seniors at OHS. Mike earned Daily Star Player of the Year honors in 1999 and 2000, when Jon was the primary catcher for the Yellowjackets.

Is that for real? Jon was a lefthanded catcher in high school?

I'm also surprised to see that he's still only 22. Not to revisit old arguments here, but what mph range does his fastball normally sit in? I know he's not a prospect, I'm just curious.

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Is that for real? Jon was a lefthanded catcher in high school?

I'm also surprised to see that he's still only 22. Not to revisit old arguments here, but what mph range does his fastball normally sit in? I know he's not a prospect, I'm just curious.

If I remember correctly from 2003 (and if it hasn't changed), his fast ball was in the mid to high 80's. Not overpowering, but somehow he always seemed to get the batter out.

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'Wolves happy just to be there

From staff reports

Bumstead joins 3 teammates in Altoona

SeaWolves pitcher Nate Bumstead doesn't care if he wasn't originally selected to represent Erie in tonight's Eastern League All-Star Game at Altoona's Blair County Ballpark.

All-star games are all about fun, and Bumstead jumped at the chance to join Erie catcher Mike Rabelo, pitcher Brian Rogers and third baseman Kody Kirkland on the Southern Division All-Star team.

Bumstead's All-Star opportunity arose only after Erie lefty Bobby Jones, originally selected, had to pull out after he was placed on the disabled list last week because of a tired arm.

Next in line to take the spot was Erie right-hander Preston Larrison, who declined because he needed to return home to attend to personal business.

Enter Bumstead, who is 6-6 with a 3.78 ERA in 17 starts this season.

"This is not just a baseball game - it's got all the activities and events surrounding it, so it's like a vacation," Bumstead said. "It's one of those things you get excited for. You get to put on your jersey and represent your home team. It will be cool to get to play with a bunch of other guys and some other players from around the league."

Although he admits he hasn't had a great season, Bumstead is coming off one of his best outings. He threw seven shutout innings Saturday night, allowing four hits, in a 3-0 home win over Altoona.

"I'm excited to get the opportunity to play and show that I can play with the elite," Bumstead said. "If it's like the one last year I was at (the Florida State League All-Star Game), it's going to be a blast."

Rabelo might be playing his last game representing the SeaWolves this season. He was promoted to Triple-A Toledo after Monday's 7-1 loss to Altoona and will report to the Mud Hens on Thursday in Scranton.

"It's an honor to be there and I'm going to keep playing hard,"Rabelo said. "I'm going to play this All-Star Game like I do every game."

Rabelo is the only remaining player of the four SeaWolves originally selected to the game. He was supposed to be joined by shortstop Tony Giarratano, designated hitter Kurt Airoso and Jones, but all three had to drop out because of injuries.

Kirkland, who played in the 2005 Florida State League All-Star Game with Bumstead, is tied for the league lead in homers (17) and extra-base hits (40).

Rogers has been the team's steadiest reliever while handling a variety of roles. He is 3-2 with a 2.19 ERA and has limited opponents to a .197 average.

"I thought Rogers deserved to be on the original team, but it's tough choosing and, I guess, the fans have a lot to do with it," SeaWolves manager Duffy Dyer said. "He's come a long ways. He is pitching better now than he has most of the year. We're very confident he can do the job for us, and he's definitely one of the pitchers who has improved during the year."

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If I remember correctly from 2003 (and if it hasn't changed), his fast ball was in the mid to high 80's. Not overpowering, but somehow he always seemed to get the batter out.

For the few games he pitched in Lakeland his fast ball topped out between 85-87 mph. From watching him not reall a strike out pitchers, but he is a very effective pitcher

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If I remember correctly from 2003 (and if it hasn't changed), his fast ball was in the mid to high 80's. Not overpowering, but somehow he always seemed to get the batter out.

Thanks...who knows, maybe someday he'll be ready to be Mike Maroth (when Mike Maroth is ready to be Kenny Rogers). I checked, he'll be 23 in August. I would have bet he was 25, he's been around for so long.

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Bowie Baysox (40-49) at Erie SeaWolves (39-52)

Today, doubleheader, 6:05 p.m.

Tuesday, 7:05 p.m.

Wednesday, 12:05 p.m.

Radio: WFNN-AM/1330

Tuesday's game will be televised on Image Sports

Pitching matchups

Today: Erie LH Bobby Jones (2-3, 4.26) vs. Bowie RH Brian Finch (3-9, 3.38)in first game, Erie RH Eulogio De La Cruz (2-5, 3.68) vs. Bowie RH Beau Hale (1-2, 1.93)in second game

Tuesday: Erie LH Jon Connolly (1-1, 4.36) vs. Bowie RH James Johnson(8-4, 4.30)

Wednesday: Erie RH Nate Bumstead (6-6, 3.70) vs. TBA

Bowie notes:

Tonight's Buck Night at Jerry Uht Park was scheduled to be a single game, but when Erie last visited Bowie for a three-game series June 24-26, the final two games were postponed by rain. One of those games will be made up in Erie tonight in the doubleheader. ... The Baysox broke a four-game losing streak with Sunday's 4-0 win at Binghamton. ... Bowie ranks sixth in the league in team pitching with a 3.50 ERA and eighth in the league in hitting with a .247 average. ... Right-hander Brian Finch is 12th in the league with a 3.38 ERA. ... Four Bowie players selected to the Southern Division All-Star team represented the Baysox well in Wednesday's Eastern League All-Star Game at Altoona. Outfielder Cory Keylor went 1-for-3 with a walk, one RBI and two runs scored, helping the Southern Division to a 5-3 win. Outfielder Noah Hall had an RBI single in his lone at-bat, while right-hander James Johnson hurled a scoreless eighth inning and right-handed closer Marino Salas a scoreless ninth inning. ... Keylor's .292 average ranks 10th in the league.

Erie notes:

The SeaWolves have struggled this season against Bowie, losing eight of 11 games. Bowie swept a four-game series from the SeaWolves at Jerry Uht Park from April 8-11 in its lone visit to Erie this season. ... Left-hander Bobby Jones will make his first start in nearly two weeks. He has been on the disabled list due to a tired arm. ... Right-handed reliever Eulogio De La Cruz will make a spot start in the second game of tonight's doubleheader. De La Cruz has appeared in 30 games this season, including four previous spot starts. ... Closer John Ennis leads the club with 11 saves.

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Briefs

# SeaWolves third baseman Kody Kirkland suffered a sprained right ankle in Sunday's loss at Altoona and will be sidelined indefinitely until the club determines whether he might need to go on the disabled list.[NOT on the DL, yet]

Kirkland, the team's leader in homers (17) and RBIs (44) suffered the injury in the second inning of Sunday's game. He was on third base with one out when Erie catcherDanilo Sanchez hit a hard grounder to Altoona's third baseman.

Kirkland initially broke for home, stopped and safely made it back to third, but rolled his ankle when he contacted the bag.

Kirkland had his ankle X-rayed on Monday at Saint Vincent Health Center.

"As of now, it's a sprain and we hope it's not worse," SeaWolves manager Duffy Dyer said. "He'll be out at least a few days and we have not put him on the disabled list yet."

# The SeaWolves on Monday placed right-handed reliever Chris Homer on the disabled list and recalled infielder Nick McIntyre from Single-A Lakeland.

Homer (1-3, 7.57) is sidelined with a right shoulder problem.

McIntyre made his Double-A debut on Monday, starting at third base in the opening game of a doubleheader against Bowie.

McIntyre hit .272 with six homers and 29 RBIs in 76 games with Lakeland.

# The SeaWolves placed center fielder Nook Logan on the disabled list [again?] on Sunday. Logan has been sidelined for nearly two weeks with a quadriceps injury. Logan last played on July 7.

- Ron Leonardi

--------------------------------------------------------

Not turning out to be a fun/good season for the Nookster. Regardless of your feeling whether he should be in the majors, he's certainly hit his share of rough spots this season healthwise.

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Giarratano to undergo season-ending surgery

By Ron Leonardi

ron.leonardi@timesnews.com

Every day for the past three weeks, SeaWolves shortstop Tony Giarratano has tried to maintain a positive approach regarding his baseball future.

Injuries have slowed his development since the Detroit Tigers selected him in the third round of the June 2003 draft.

Now, the 23-year-old New Jersey native is facing ACL reconstruction surgery on his right knee and likens the past few weeks he's spent on the disabled list to "taking a kid away from something he loves."

One of the most difficult challenges of Giarratano's four-year professional career will begin on Monday, when he undergoes surgery in Vail, Colo.

Dr. Richard Steadman, a renowned ACL specialist, will perform the surgery.

"He's strictly a knee guy and one of the top guys in the country," Giarratano said. "He did (Olypic skier) Bode Miller's knee, Kobe Bryant and bunch of big league baseball guys, too."

Giarratano suffered his knee injury July 3 while attempting to steal second base against the Reading Phillies and was put on the disabled list July 4.

Giarratano flew to Vail last week and met with Steadman for a second opinion.

"It was a decision I made along with the Tigers, trainers and the higher authorities in the Tigers' organization," Giarratano said. "I definitely feel comfortable with this guy. He's one of the top guys, if not the best, knee guy."

Swelling in Giarratano's knee has diminished to a point where he can have surgery. He will fly to Vail on Sunday.

"I'm really competitive when I go out there and I take a lot of pride and passion when I play because this is what I do and I love to do it," Giarratano said. "After it happened, I knew I was done for the season. I had a good idea I was. I knew I messed something up. It's been tough to stay positive, but you have to stay positive. You know that you have the right people taking care of you and they have the best interests for you to get you back on the field at 100 percent and play the way you played before."

Giarratano, in his second season with the SeaWolves, was hitting .283 with no homers and 19 RBIs in 67 games this season when he injured his knee.

His knee injury occurred just five days after he came off a two-week stay on the disabled list because of a right wrist injury.

At the time Giarratano injured his wrist in June, he had begun to find his stroke at the plate. He had hit safely in his last nine games and raised his batting averge to .267 from .236 during that stretch.

When he came off the disabled list on June 29, Giarratano proceeded to have four multi-hit games in the five games he played in before his July 3 injury.

Baseball America rated him the Tigers' eighth-best minor league prospect before the season.

Giarratano's 2005 season with Erie ended in August when he broke the hamate bone in his right hand. His 2004 season at Single-A Lakeland ended in early August due to a left shoulder injury, which required surgery.

"The injuries have slowed my development a little bit as far as playing more games and getting at-bats," Giarratano said. "For the limited time I've been out there, I've done a pretty good job as far as how much time I've missed. I've been down this road before and I know I can come back from a major injury and that definitely gives me confidence going into the procedure."

Giarratano said he plans to remain in Vail following Monday's surgery and complete his lengthy rehabilitation process at the Steadman-Hawkins Clinic.

"There are a couple different procedures that need to be addressed," he said. "It all depends on what avenue they go, what type of method they're going to do, and that's what I'm going to find out Sunday when I go there."

Giarratano said it's likely he could remain in Vail through the end of the year.

RON LEONARDI can be reached at 870-1680 or by e-mail.

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Erie SeaWolves (43-55) at Akron Aeros (60-40)

Today, 7:05 p.m.

Tuesday, doubleheader, 6:05 p.m.

Wednesday, 7:05 p.m.

Pitching matchups:

Today: Erie LH Jon Connolly (1-2, 5.40) vs. Akron RH Nick Pesco(3-4, 5.87)

Tuesday: Erie RH Nate Bumstead (7-6, 3.52) vs. Akron RH Sean Smith(8-3, 3.19) in first game; Erie RH Mark Woodyard (1-0, 2.45) in second game vs. Akron pitcher TBA

Wednesday: Erie RH Virgil Vasquez 4-9, 3.98) vs. Akron LH Aaron Laffey(3-2, 4.07)

Erie notes: By defeating New Britain 4-1 on Sunday at Jerry Uht Park, the SeaWolves won back-to-back home games for the first time since sweeping a four-game series from Reading May 18-21. ... Utility infielder Chris Maples rejoined Erie on Sunday after a 13-game stint with Triple-A Toledo. He started at third base and went 0-for-1 with a sacrifice fly and a run scored. ... To make room on the roster for Maples, Erie second baseman Juan Francia, mired in a season-long slump, was assigned to Single-A Lakeland on Sunday. Francia was hitting .163 (31-for-190) in 56 games this season with Erie. ... The SeaWolves are 5-9 against the first-place Aeros this season. ... Erie's game at Akron on May 15 was postponed by rain and rescheduled as part of Tuesday's doubleheader. ... Erie lost two of three games to the Aeros at Jerry Uht Park from July 4-6 in the last series between the teams.

Akron notes: Third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff leads the Aeros with a .398 average (92-for-231) and a team-leading 15 homers in 63 games. Kouzmanoff hit a homer in four consecutive games last week and was 6-for-12 in that stretch. ... Akron has a league-best 30-22 road record and is one of only three teams in the league with a winning road record, including Portland (28-22) and Erie (24-23). ... Center fielder Trevor Crowe sprained his left ankle while sliding into second base on Tuesday and was placed on the disabled list. Crowe, the Cleveland Indians' 2005 first-round pick (14th overall) had been a spark for the Aeros in the seven games he played in following his promotion from Single-A Kinston. With Akron, Crowe was 11-for-29 with three doubles, four walks, six runs scored, two RBIs, nine steals and had at least one hit in every game. ... Crowe's spot on the roster was filled by outfielder Brian Barton, who was promoted from Kinston on Thursday. With Kinston, Barton was hitting .308 (91-for-295) with 16 doubles and a team-leading 13 homers and 57 RBIs.

- Ron Leonardi

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Relieved pitcher

Larrison hopes move to bullpen could start his ascent to majors

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Seawolves pitcher Preston Larrison pitches to an Aeros' batter early in the game. (Rob Engelhardt / Erie Times-News)

By Ron Leonardi

ron.leonardi@timesnews.com

Most starters might view a move to the bullpen as a career demotion.

Not Preston Larrison.

The SeaWolves right-hander and sixth-year pro believes his new role as a relief pitcher has enhanced his stock as a prospect and will be his ticket to making the big leagues some day.

"This is more like a promotion because this is where I want to be," Larrison said. "This is what I wanted to do from the start of the season. I was coming out of spring training thinking that's what they're going to do with me."

The Tigers concurred and gave the 6-foot 4-inch, 235-pound sinkerballer the green light to the bullpen right before the club began its two-day Eastern League All-Star break two weeks ago.

Since making the move to the bullpen, Larrison has made five appearances and is 0-1 with one run allowed in four-plus innings.

Aside from two relief outings with short-season Oneonta in 2001 and two more with Single-A Lakeland in 2002, Larrison had been a starter exclusively since the Tigers selected him in the second round of the June 2001 draft.

Larrison has spent parts of the past four seasons with the SeaWolves.

He was 4-8 with a 3.90 ERA in 15 starts this season before the move.

Larrison spent the second half of the 2005 season with the SeaWolves working his way back from right elbow surgery.

"The organization wanted me to be a starter to start the season because they wanted me to get more innings to get more experience out of me and to gain my arm strength back," Larrison said. "I've put up some pretty good numbers but have a losing record."

Larrison has proved he can be dominant through a lineup the first time, but once hitters start seeing him a second or third time, he believes he lacks a quality third pitch to keep hitters off-balance.

"Stuff-wise, I know I've got bullpen stuff," Larrison said. "I have above-bullpen stuff. It's going to take a little time to get used to mentally. It's definitely a different mentality. To get the phone call and to hear them say, "Get hot," is different than knowing when you're going to pitch. It's like an adrenaline rush right away instead of knowing I'm going to pitch every fifth day."

SeaWolves manager Duffy Dyer said Larrison will be used primarily in middle relief, and might be extended to as many as three innings per outing.

"I have to learn to not be too pumped but not be too down," Larrison said. "Being ready when to go in. Now I can go all out from the beginning instead of pacing myself through six innings."

With several doubleheaders looming, the club does not plan to use him as a spot starter because the organization wants him to become accustomed to the bullpen.

"Even last year, when he was coming back from surgery, the organization thought that when he got to the big leagues, he'd probably be more of a middle or long man, or maybe even a set-up man," Dyer said. "It's pretty hard coming off an injury to have a guy pitch out the bullpen, even if you think he's going to be a reliever down the road, because you don't know how he's going to respond. It's easier to monitor them as a starter because you can count their pitches; plus he's getting four days off in between."

Detroit's young, talented pitching staff and the organization's pool of minor league prospects like Humberto Sanchez and Jordan Tata also factored into Larrison's bullpen move.

"With that situation, I'm not going to be able to get up there and help the team," Larrison said. "Seeing what we have in the bullpen in the big leagues, which is good, don't get me wrong, but they could use some help. That's the role I can help Detroit with. If not, that's the role I can help some other team with."

Larrison said he told the SeaWolves' coaching staff he would prefer to be used in situations when the game still is on the line.

"I think they'll be able to accommodate me on that," Larrison said. "I hope I go to the bullpen and do my thing like I know I'm going to do and get a call-up in September. I'm out of options, so I'm hoping I go up to Detroit and prove I can pitch out of the bullpen up there and hopefully, I'll be with Detroit next year or another team in the big leagues. I think this is a move that everyone is happy with."

RON LEONARDI can be reached at 870-1680 or by e-mail.

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Erie SeaWolves at Bowie Baysox

Erie SeaWolves (43-59) at Bowie Baysox (47-53)

Today, 7:05 p.m.

Friday, doubleheader, 5:35 p.m.

Saturday, 7:05 p.m.

Sunday, 6:05 p.m.

Pitching matchups:

# Today: Erie RH Eulogio De La Cruz (2-5, 3.76) vs. Bowie RH Brian Finch(4-9, 3.22)

# Friday: Erie LH Bobby Jones (3-4, 4.07) vs. Bowie LH Garrett Olson (3-2, 3.55) in first game; Erie pitcher TBA vs. Bowie RH Beau Hale (2-2, 2.02) in second game

# Saturday: Erie LH Jon Connolly (1-2, 6.60) vs. Bowie RH James Johnson (9-5, 4.13)

# Sunday: Erie RH Nate Bumstead (7-7, 3.64) vs. Bowie pitcher TBA

Erie notes: The SeaWolves are 5-10 against the Baysox this season. Erie and Bowie split a four-game series at Jerry Uht Park last week. ... Erie right-handed reliever Preston Larrison was promoted to the Toledo Mud Hens after Tuesday's doubleheader at Akron. Larrison (4-9, 3.83) joined the Triple-A Mud Hens on Wednesday. A starter throughout his six-year professional career, Larrison was moved to the bullpen two weeks ago and had made five relief appearances with Erie. He pitched four-plus innings, allowing one run, and was 0-1 as a reliever, taking the loss on Monday in a 9-8 setback at Akron. ... Reliever Chris Homer was activated from the team's disabled list on Wednesday. The right-hander was put on the disabled list on July 17 with a shoulder problem. ... Right-handed starter Jair Jurrjens was placed on the disabled list on Tuesday, retroactive to Friday. Jurrjens was involved in a minor car accident on Friday and has complained of stiffness and soreness in his neck. The SeaWolves are contemplating activating Jurrjens for a start on Friday. ... Center fielder Nook Logan, sidelined by a quadriceps injury for nearly three weeks, was activated from the disabled list on Tuesday. He went 1-for-5 in a doubleheader loss to Akron on Tuesday. ... Designated hitter Kurt Airoso'shomer against Akron on Tuesday in the nightcap of a doubleheader was his first since coming off the disabled list on July 4 because of a shoulder injury.

Bowie notes: Bowie's 1-0 win over Connecticut on Wednesday was its fifth straight win. ... Right-handed closer Marino Salas, who leads the club with 16 saves, is on the disabled list with a sprained ankle. Salas earned the save for the Southern Division in the July 12 Eastern League All-Star Game. ... Infielder and former SeaWolve Rayner Bautista, a right-handed hitter, is batting .341 against left-handers and .193 against right-handers. ... Outfielder Cory Keylor was named to the Eastern League All-Star Game after beginning the season as the team's fourth outfielder. ... Outfielder Noah Hall has been hit by a pitch 13 times this season. ... First baseman Leo Daigle, who played with the SeaWolves in 2003, leads the Baysox with 13 homers and 49 RBIs.

- Ron Leonardi

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Roots in Erie

Detroit Tigers' Justin Verlander pitches to the Cleveland Indians. The Tigers defeated the Indians 4-1 at Jacob's Field in Cleveland, Ohio, on Wednesday, July 26, 2006. (Lindsay Semple/Akron Beacon Journal/MCT)ZoomBuy this Photo

From staff reports

Just one season ago, SeaWolves fans at Jerry Uht Park were watching Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya dominate Eastern League hitters with blazing fastballs that occasionally hit 100 mph.

Just two years ago, Curtis Granderson dazzled SeaWolves fans with a flashy all-around game of speed, power and defense.

Now, Verlander, Zumaya and Granderson are making regular contributions while helping the Tigers to a major league-best 68-33 record and an 8½-game lead in the American League's Central Division.

Verlander is the silky smooth starting pitcher. With a fastball in the upper 90s, a nasty breaking ball and a deceiving changeup, he has baffled big league hitters on his way to a 13-4 record and a 2.69 earned-run average.

Zumaya is the overpowering reliever. He challenges hitters with a nasty fastball, and they have a hard time catching up to his heater. He has struck out 62 in 502/3 innings on his way to a sparkling 2.31 ERA.

Granderson is the dashing center fielder. He has started many Tigers rallies from his leadoff spot in the batting order, hitting .284 with 63 runs scored.

Other former SeaWolves are making contributions, too. Omar Infante has been a productive utility infielder, while Wil Ledezma and Fernando Rodney have been solid out of the bullpen.

All of these former 'Wolves will try to help the Tigers move closer to a division title, beginning tonight, when Detroit opens a key three-game series against the red-hot, second-place Minnesota Twins.

Last changed: July 28. 2006 6:07AM

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Erie SeaWolves (49-64) at New Britain Rock Cats (48-63)

Today-Thursday, 7:05 p.m.

# Pitching matchups:

Today: Erie RH Eulogio De La Cruz (4-5, 3.43) vs. TBA

Wednesday: Erie RH Jair Jurrjens (4-3, 3.77) vs. TBA

Thursday: Erie LH Jon Connolly (1-3, 7.39) vs. TBA

SeaWolves notes: The SeaWolves had Monday off after completing a six-game homestand with a 6-4 win over New Hampshire on Sunday at Jerry Uht Park. ... Erie hit four homers in Sunday's win, giving it a league-leading 103. ... Erie is 26-30 on the road. ... The SeaWolves defeated New Britain twice in a three-game series at Jerry Uht Park from July 20-23. The series was scheduled to be four games, but the July 22 game was postponed because of rain and will be made up as part of a doubleheader on Aug. 16 during a four-game series at Uht Park. ... Right-hander Eulogio De La Cruz will remain in the starting rotation indefinitely until left-hander Bobby Jones returns from the disabled list.

Rock Cats notes: This series matches the league's two last-place teams. New Britain is 12½ games behind Northern Division leader Trenton, while the SeaWolves are 21½ games behind the first-place Akron Aeros in the Southern Division. ... The Rock Cats have lost six of their past 10 games.

====================================================

Any chance if De La Cruz continues to show well as a starter that they may change his direction to that of a starter?

I know that this is a temp thing and that he most likely will be shifted back to the bullpen (due to his repetoire), but it is an intriguing thought.

If nothing else, it extends him and shows that he could be an effective setup man

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I posted these comments/questions in today's box scores/articles thread, but as this is a "deeply buried" forum, I present them here as well:

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'Wolves fall in extra innings

By Ron Leonardi

ron.leonardi@timesnews.com

When you're last in your division, possess the league's worst record and have no shot at playing .500 ball, late-season goals become limited.

For the SeaWolves, three weeks remain in a regular season that likely will produce a second straight last-place finish in the Southern Division.

On Tuesday, the SeaWolves showcased one of their finest pitching and defensive performances of the season. What they got in return was a 2-1, 16-inning loss to the New Britain Rock Cats before a Buck Night crowd of 4,318 at Jerry Uht Park.

A lack of offense cost the SeaWolves (50-70), contributing to their eighth loss in 11 games. Erie hitters struck out a season-high 19 times and were limited to seven hits.

"We're making no adjustments," SeaWolves manager Duffy Dyer said. "We have no two-strike approach. You can't tell when a hitter has a two-strike approach. Nobody shortens up their swing, nobody chokes up, they hit like they have no strikes on them all the time."

Tuesday's game, which lasted 4 hours, 51 minutes, was the longest of the season in innings, surpassing Erie's 5-3 win at Bowie in 15 innings on April 25. That game lasted 4:55.

New Britain second baseman Matt Tolbert's two-run double in the top off the 16th broke the scoreless tie.

With runners on second and third and one out, the 'Wolves elected to pitch to Tolbert, whose groundball down the first-base line hit the bag and rolled down the line into foul territory.

"I've seen a lot of improvement with the kids, and some kids have advanced, but I did think the last two years we would be much better than we are," Dyer said. "I'm disappointed in myself as far as getting guys better and winning ballgames because that's my job and, obviously, I haven't done that very well."

Last season, the SeaWolves -beset by injuries and promotions - went from pennant contender to cellar dweller by losing 28 of their last 35 games and finishing 63-79.

This season, a young SeaWolves team with numerous Double-A rookies never got untracked. Erie has occupied last place most of the season and struggled to find consistency in nearly every phase of the game.

"Obviously, it takes some wind out of your sails when you're 23 games out of first and you know you've had a disappointing year as far as the team goes," Dyer said.

His goals for the remainder of the season are simple.

"I just want the kids to show some improvement and not just pack it in because we're out of the pennant race and they think the games mean nothing,"Dyer said. "Everybody is still playing hard and that's all I can ask of them right now."

"We're not in the pennant race, but everybody is still competitive," SeaWolves utility player Chris Maples said. "As long as you play had, nobody can fault you."

Three weeks ago, Dyer was hopeful that his team, which had been playing well on the road all season, could mount a strong finish and attain a .500 record.

But the club's past two road trips, resulting in a 3-12 record, effectively dashed those hopes.

RON LEONARDI can be reached at 870-1680 or by e-mail.

"We didn't reach those goals, so now we have to see some improvement," Dyer said. I want to finish up strong. I hope at the end we can say we played good at the end and we saw a lot of improvement. That's what the staff is looking for."

And the players?

"Once you have no chance to make the playoffs, you go out to just try and ruin everybody else," SeaWolves utility player Chris Maples said. "The chances of us making the playoffs are like us winning the lottery. We need to go out there every day and play hard because you never know who's watching or what's going to happen."

Two weeks ago, the SeaWolves concluded a nine-game road trip with a 2-7 record. On Sunday, they finished a six-game road trip with a 1-5 record.

Erie lost two of three at New Britain, the lowlight coming in the second game of the series when the SeaWolves blew an 8-0 lead and lost 9-8. The trip concluded with Erie getting swept in a three-game series at Connecticut.

"It's been a combination of pitching, hitting, the defense hasn't been very good and I've really been disappointed in our baserunning the last couple of weeks," Dyer said. "We've made a lot more fundamental mistakes the last two or three weeks, moreso than we were in the middle of the year. That's disappointing and I think that comes down to concentration and being in the game mentally. Physically, we're working hard but mentally we have not been in some of the games."

Dyer hopes that will change during the last three weeks of the regular season.

"I think a lot of these kids who are here this year and have had disappointing individual seasons probably will be back next year and I'm sure they'll do much better."

RON LEONARDI can be reached at 870-1680 or by e-mail.

===================================================

OK. Dyer is frustrated, needless to say! What is the cause?

Is it the "rookie AA" experience?

Is it the level of comparable talent of the Erie players to that of the rest of the league (i.e. Our AA talent is not as good)?

Is it that the players we have just are not able to make adjustments the way some players are?

Is it the coaching?

Is it all of the above?

I don't know. Any thoughts?

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EL series preview

Connecticut Defenders (59-65) at Erie SeaWolves (52-71)

Today-Saturday, 7:05 p.m.

Sunday, 1:05 p.m.

# Pitching matchups:

Today: Erie RH Virgil Vasquez (5-11, 4.35) vs. Connecticut RH Garrett Broshuis (6-9, 4.93)

Saturday: Erie RH Eulogio De La Cruz (4-6, 3.53) vs. Connecticut LH Geno Espineli (7-5, 3.74)

Sunday:Erie RH Jair Jurrjens (4-3, 3.76) vs. Connecticut RH James Garcia (3-7, 4.21)

# Defenders notes: Connecticut swept a three-game series from Erie last week in Norwich, Conn., winning 5-4, 7-3 and 5-1. ... Shortstop Jake Wald had a five-RBI game, including a grand slam, and right-hander Garrett Broshuis pitched six shutout innings in the 7-3 win. ... Lefty Geno Espinelli gave up one run over seven innings in the 5-1 win. ... In Wednesday's 4-1 home win over Altoona, Connecticut right-hander Chris Begg tied a 10-year-old franchise record with 17 ground-ball outs in a complete game. ... The Defenders completed a 5-2 homestand Wednesday. ... Connecticut is fourth in the Northern Division.

# SeaWolves notes: Erie ranked 11th in the league in hitting with a .236 team average before Thursday's home game against New Britain. The SeaWolves were 11th with a 4.11 team ERA. ... Right-hander Virgil Vasquez is 2-6 with a 3.94 ERA at Jerry Uht Park. He is 3-5 with a 5.05 ERA on the road. Vasquez is fourth in the league in innings pitched (1402/3)... Left-hander Ian Ostlund leads the club and the league in appearances with 48. ... Erie is tied for the league lead in complete games with six. ... The SeaWolves have nine shutout victories this season.

- from staff reports

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SeaWolves briefs

# Former SeaWolves third baseman Kody Kirkland went 2-for-4 with a run scored in his Triple-A debut with the Toledo Mud Hens on Wednesday. Toledo defeated Durham 2-1 at Fifth Third Field.

Kirkland, who was leading the SeaWolves in homers (19) and strikeouts (141), was promoted to the Mud Hens earlier Wednesday. He collected two doubles and struck out twice in Toledo's home win Wednesday.

# The SeaWolves will wear replica Negro League uniforms today at 7:05 p.m. against the Connecticut Defenders as part of the club's annual Negro League Appreciation Day festivities.

The SeaWolves will dress in Erie Pontiacs uniforms. The first 2,000 fans will receive a commemorative Sam Jethroe lithograph by Erie sports artist Kevin-John Jobczynski.

Jethroe, an Erieite who died in 2001 at age 83, was the 1950 National League rookie of the year with the Boston Braves. The Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City has accepted Jobczynski's original art for its new research and education center, which is scheduled to open in 2007.

# New Britain Rock Cats right-hander Kevin Slowey (4-3, 3.19), a graduate of Upper Saint Clair High School in Pittsburgh, has been selected to the U.S. National Team that will compete in the 12-team Olympic qualifying tournament Aug. 25-Sept. 5 in Havana, Cuba. The top two finishers qualify to the 2008 Summer Olympics.

The U.S. roster is composed of non-25-man players from major league organizations.

Four current Eastern League players are on the roster, including Trenton right-hander J. Brent Cox, Binghamton right-hander Henry Owens and Reading right-hander Zach Segovia.

- from staff reports

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Erie SeaWolves (55-71) at Trenton Thunder (70-56)

Today-Wednesday, 7:05 p.m.

Pitching matchups:

Today: Erie LH Jon Connolly (3-3, 5.77 ERA) vs. Trenton RH Matt Childers (2-2, 2.04)

Tuesday: Erie RH Nate Bumstead (7-11, 4.33) vs. Trenton RH Jason Jones (4-2, 4.08)

Wednesday: Erie RH Virgil Vasquez (6-11, 4.21) vs. Trenton RH Tyler Clippard (10-10, 3.56)

Erie notes: With two weeks remaining in the regular season, the SeaWolves and Thunder meet for the first time this season. Trenton will visit Erie for a four-game series Aug. 28-31. ... The SeaWolves begin their final road trip of the season today. After concluding their three-game series at Trenton on Wednesday, Erie plays five games at Binghamton, including a doubleheader Friday. Erie returns home Aug. 28 for the start of a season-ending eight-game homestand, which runs through Sept. 4. ... After playing miserably at home for most of the season, the SeaWolves have done an about-face, winning 11 of their past 14 at Uht Park. Erie has a 28-36 home record. ... The SeaWolves are 15-18 against Northern Division teams. Erie has 12 games remaining against Northern Division opponents. ... The SeaWolves are 10-9 in August. ... Lefty Jon Connolly is coming off a seven-inning complete-game victory over New Britain on Wednesday in the opener of a doubleheader. Connolly limited the Rock Cats to two hits in a 5-0 victory. ... Right-hander Virgil Vasquez threw his first complete game of the season Friday in a 3-2 victory over Connecticut. ... Right-hander Nate Bumstead has lost his past five decisions.

Trenton notes: After beginning the season 0-10 and 1-13, Trenton overtook Portland for first place in the Northern Division in early August and has held the top spot. ... Right-hander Tyler Clippard pitched a no-hitter against Harrisburg on Thursday in his most recent outing, a 9-0 victory. Clippard struck out nine, threw 116 pitches and notched his seventh straight win. It was the first no-hitter in Trenton's 13-year history. Clippard has won seven straight. ... New York Yankees right-hander Carl Pavano made a rehabilitation start with Trenton on Sunday against Portland. Pavano, who signed a four-year, $40 million contract in December 2004, made two earlier rehab starts with the Thunder on May 12 and 17. He underwent surgery in late May to remove bone chips from his elbow. Pavano is the fifth New York Yankee to make a rehab start with the Thunder this season. That list includes outfielder Gary Sheffield, right-hander Shawn Chacon, right-hander Octavio Dotel and infielder Robinson Cano.

- Ron Leonardi

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SeaWolves Notebook

# SeaWolves reliever Preston Larrison was promoted to Triple-A Toledo on Tuesday, the second time this season the right-hander has earned a call-up with the Mud Hens.

Larrison (4-10, 3.92) has appeared in 26 games with Erie this season, including 15 starts. Larrison, in his sixth season of professional ball, was moved to the bullpen in July, a request he had made to the Tigers since spring training.

Larrison spent nearly a week with Toledo in late July and went 1-0 in two relief appearances, throwing 41/3 innings without allowing an earned run.

# Former SeaWolves outfielder Curtis Granderson graces the cover of Baseball America's current issue, which features a two-page cover spread on the Detroit Tigers. Granderson, Detroit's starting center fielder, is pictured swinging a bat under a headline that reads, "Eye of the Tigers."

# Right-hander Kyle Sleeth, the Detroit Tigers' No. 1 draft pick in 2003, dropped to 1-4 with Single-A Lakeland after Monday's 7-1 loss to Dunedin.

Sleeth, who pitched for the SeaWolves in 2004, is attempting a comeback after undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery in June 2005 .

Sleeth, the third overall selection in the 2003 draft, couldn't make it out of the first inning Monday. He allowed four runs on four hits and saw his ERA rise to 11.37 from 9.82.

Sleeth was 4-4 with a 6.30 ERA in 13 starts with the SeaWolves in 2004.

- Ron Leonardi

Last changed: August 23. 2006 3:58AM

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Erie SeaWolves at Binghamton Mets

Erie SeaWolves (56-73) at Binghamton Mets (64-64)

Today, 7 p.m.

Friday, doubleheader, 5:30 p.m.

Saturday, 7 p.m.

Sunday, 1:30 p.m.

Pitching matchups:

Today: Erie RH Eulogio De La Cruz (5-6, 3.28) vs. Binghamton RH Matt DeSalvo (3-3, 6.97)

Friday: Erie RH Jair Jurrjens (4-3, 3.34) vs. Binghamton RH Philip Humber (0-2, 4.76) in first game; Erie pitcher TBA vs. Binghamton RH Michael Devaney (3-1, 3.29) in second game.

Saturday: Erie LH Jon Connolly (3-3, 5.63) vs. Binghamton RH Miguel Pinango (8-7, 4.26)

Sunday: Erie RH Nate Bumstead (7-12, 4.35) vs. Binghamton pitcher TBA

Erie notes: The SeaWolves begin their final road series of the regular season tonight. ... Erie and Binghamton have split their previous six games this season. Their two previous series came in April. ... Right-hander Eulogio De La Cruz threw seven scoreless innings in his last outing, a 7-0 home victory over Connecticut on Saturday. ... Right-hander Jair Jurrjens has thrown seven shutout innings in each of his past two starts, but had no-decisions in each outing. ... Friday's doubleheader resulted from an April 22 rainout when the SeaWolves visited Binghamton for a scheduled four-game series. ... Erie won two of three games at Binghamton from April 20-23 and lost two of three to the Mets at Jerry Uht Park from April 28-30.

Binghamton notes: The Mets enter tonight's series opener in third place in the Northern Division. ... Binghamton's starter tonight, right-hander Kevin Mulvey, will make his Eastern League debut. Mulvey was the New York Mets' first pick in the Major League First-Year Player Draft two months ago. He was selected 62nd overall in the second round by the Mets, who did not have a first-round pick. Mulvey, 21, a native of Parlin, N.J., threw two scoreless innings Saturday for the Gulf Coast Rookie League Mets. He pitched at Villanova the past three seasons. ... First baseman Michel Abreu was leading the league Wednesday with a .332 batting average in 103 games. ... The Mets have one of the league's best relievers and prospects in right-hander Henry Owens, who is tied for third in the league with 20 saves despite missing a month of the season with an arm problem. Owens has been placed on the club's temporary inactive list so he can compete for the U.S. national team in the 12-team Olympic qualifying tournament, which begins Friday and runs through Sept. 4 in Havana, Cuba. Owens is one of four current Eastern League players on the U.S. roster, which is composed of non-25-man players from major league organizations. ... Binghamton right-hander Ivan Maldonado and left-hander William Collazo are also participating in the Olympic qualifying tournament for Puerto Rico. The top two North American and South American teams qualify for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China.

- Ron Leonardi

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HOLDING TO A MAJOR-LEAGUE DREAM

August 23, 2006 | SeaWolves News

*Courtesy of the Philadelphia Inquirer

Holding to a major-league dream

"I'll get there," Jackson Melian says of a 10-year quest.

By Jim Salisbury

Inquirer Columnist

Any story about Jackson Melian has to start with the first name.

It was a gift from his father.

Vincent Melian was such a dedicated fan of the New York Yankees that when his son was born in January 1980 in Barcelona, Venezuela, he named the boy Jackson in honor of Reggie Jackson.

So you can imagine how proud Vincent was 16 years later, on July 3, 1996, when he stood in Yankee Stadium, wearing a Yankees cap and a luminous smile, as his talented son signed with the club for $1.6 million. At the time, it was the largest signing bonus that the Yankees had ever paid to an amateur player.

When the signing became official, 16-year-old Jackson Melian pulled a pinstriped Yankees jersey over his muscular frame, donned the team's famous navy blue cap and walked in wide-eyed wonderment onto the fabled diamond. His father recorded it all on the family's video camera. Before leaving the field, Vincent Melian reached down and grabbed a handful of Yankee Stadium dirt and placed it in a small, clear baggie.

"We were all happy that day," Jackson Melian, now 26, said Monday. "It was incredible."

Melian was sitting in the visiting dugout at Trenton's Waterfront Park, getting ready to take batting practice before a minor-league game. Ten years have passed since the day he signed with the Yankees. His professional baseball journey can be summed up succinctly: Six different organizations. No trips to the major leagues. His life's journey cannot be so easily condensed.

"What this kid's been through - whew - I can't imagine," said Pete Incaviglia, the former Phillie who is now Melian's hitting coach with the Erie SeaWolves, a double-A club of the Detroit Tigers.

The accident happened Aug. 28, 1998. Vincent Melian, 49, and his wife Jasmine, 43, had traveled to the States to watch their son play for the Yankees' single-A club in Greensboro, N.C.

The Melians, along with an older son, Jonathan, were driving several miles ahead of the team bus on a trip from Columbia, S.C., to Hickory, N.C. By the time they saw the stalled truck in the high-speed lane on I-77 near Charlotte, it was too late. Vincent and Jasmine Melian were killed instantly. Jonathan survived.

Jackson Melian, then 18, was sleeping on the team bus when it encountered traffic and commotion from the accident. At the front of the bus, members of the team's traveling party recognized the Melians' mangled rented SUV. Within a few moments, Jackson was in a police car, headed to be with his brother at a hospital, their lives forever changed.

Jonathan Melian is 30 now, an attorney who is beginning to represent young baseball players in Venezuela.

Jackson is still reaching for the elusive major leagues, a place he seemed predestined for when his father named him after one of the sport's all-time greats and the most storied team in the world signed him for big bucks before the first whisker had sprung from his handsome face.

But where Jackson was once impatient and in a hurry to reach the majors, he now has perspective.

How could he not?

"It made me grow up," he said of the loss of his parents.

"When I first signed, people thought I'd get there early, and I wanted to show them I could do it. I felt frustrated.

"Now, I don't get frustrated. When the time comes, I'll get there. I'm still young - not like I was when I was 16, but I'm only 26. I have to keep playing hard. The time will come."

Melian has never thought of quitting, even though he has battled injuries the last few years. Last year, he signed with the Tigers, but was limited to just a handful of games due to a visa problem.

Still a physical specimen at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, and the owner of a strong outfield arm and power bat, he has played well for Erie this season. He entered last night's game at Trenton, hitting .280 with 14 homers and 59 RBIs in 90 games.

Incaviglia knows about the tragedy that Melian endured, but has never spoken with him about it.

"I don't see how it couldn't have affected him as a player," Incaviglia said. "It would affect anyone. But I still think he can make it. I know he's opened eyes in this organization, as a player and a person.

"If anyone deserves to make it, it's this kid - for a lot of reasons."

Melian spoke no English 10 years ago, but speaks it well now. He says he was uncomfortable talking about the tragedy until about two years ago. He talks about it more freely now, framing it with happy memories of the past and the promise of more in the future.

"I try to live my life and enjoy my family," he said. "I know my parents are watching. What they shared with me, I try to share with my children."

He and Jenny, his wife of nearly four years, have two daughters, little Jenny, 4 months, and 3-year-old Jasmine, named for his mother.

Melian's favorite memory of his parents?

"All of them," he said.

He smiled.

"One time my father told me to swing at high pitches because I always hit them out," he said with a laugh. "Sometimes when I take a high pitch, I think of that."

He recalled other special memories of his father, like that day in Yankee Stadium 10 years ago. Neither of them spoke English, but happiness is a universal language.

And through it all, Jackson Melian still speaks it.

"I love playing baseball," he said. "Playing in the major leagues was my parents' dream, but it was also my dream. I still want to make it for me, for them, for my family, for everybody."

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Not surprisingly, no Erie players were named to the EL all-star team that was announced today.

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Hey Redshark, thanks for the Melian article. I didn't know all that stuff about him...I knew that he was once a hyped-up prospect, but not the part about his parents.

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