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A rough ending

Just when you thought all the pitching woes were reserved for the big club, a rough night at Triple-A Sacramento. The River Cats allowed three runs in the ninth in a 7-6 loss to Round Rock. J.R. Towles hit a three-run home run off Jerry Blevins. Not sure what Blevins’ deal is, but he’s gone from being very promising to very nauseating. His combined ERA this season between the A’s and Sacramento: 7.79.

BTW, Sean Gallagher got what he deserved after his pathetic outing.

The rest of the rundown:

TRIPLE-A SACRAMENTO

— Righty Vin Mazzaro earned pitcher of the week honors in the Pacific Coast League after allowing just a run in 13 2/3 innings. Question for the readers: Do you want to see Mazzaro called up.

— Lefty Dana Eveland still stinks.

Interesting promotion by the River Cats.

DOUBLE-A MIDLAND

— The Rockhounds’ pitching staff had just as brutal an outing Monday. Chad Tracy’s two-run double highlighted a three-run sixth after another Chris Carter RBI made it 6-2. that tied it after Midland reliever James Heuser walked a pair while loading the bases. In the 10th, Sam Demel allowed three straight hits without getting an out to cap a 7-6 loss.

— How did outfielder Matt Spencer adjust to his promotion from Single-A Stockton? On the third pitch of his debut, he smacked a two-run single in a 9-1 win over Frisco. Here are Spencer’s numbers since his promotion.

Travis Banwart is a guy to track. He was 4-1 with a 2.08 ERA in his first seven starts.

SINGLE-A STOCKTON

— Another tough loss for Craig Italiano, who has pitched better than his numbers. The Ports are showing signs of life.

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The weekend

Gonna start the weekend minor-league rundown with a bit of a detour. The discussion in the office this morning regarded just how bad this A’s team is — frankly, I think it’s their worst team since 1997 — and how much longer do you give them until you call off the dogs?

My thinking: Two more weeks. The late, great sportswriter Leonard Koppett told me one time that six weeks into the season, the hitters have caught up to the pitchers, and that’s usually when veterans if they get going will start to get going.” In other words, two more weeks of a lousy Jason Giambi doesn’t portend good things.

How does this tie into the minors? Well, time to see which prospect you’d like most to see called up for an extended call-up. Co-worker Ben Enos says Jeff Gray. Cubs fanatic Chase Bryson said Sean Doolittle (“Demote Buck,” he says). I say, “anybody but Vince Mazzaro (don’t start his service time).”

Who’s your pick?

Meantime, while you think about it, here are some candidates.

TRIPLE-A SACRAMENTO

1B SEAN DOOLITTLE: He’s been playing the outfield and is on the disabled list. But he hits left-handed and 10 of his 28 hits have been for extra bases.

RHP JEFF GRAY: His whip is under one. He brings heat. And I’m thinking if you give Brad Ziegler a chance to close in a lost season, why not this guy?

DOUBLE-A MIDLAND

1B CHRIS CARTER: We won’t see him this year — why start his service time? — but this kid is the buzz. He continues to drive in runs in bunches.

The usual rundown returns tomorrow.

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Mazzaro shines

I know the A’s 12-3 win over the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday was quite a sight for those starved to see the A’s bats. But the organization’s best news came up the freeway. Vin Mazzaro, who had yet to win this season, followed Santiago Casilla’s rehab start with eight one-hit innings for Triple-A Sacramento. That’s the kind of performance that has led some to speculate he might be the best of the three (Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill being the other two).

Interesting note on Aaron Cunningham in this morning’s Sacramento Bee game story.

The bad news: Tonight brings a Dana Eveland sighting.

Oh, one more thing on the River Cats. Brad Kilby walked four straight hitters to lose a game last week,something that should never happen on the professional level. But after reading this, I have no reason to question his committment to getting better.

DOUBLE-A MIDLAND

— Told you the other day that Matt Spencer was bucking for a promotion from Single-A Stockton, and sure enough, he was called up to replace Danny Putnam after Putnam was moved up to Sacramento. Spencer immediately did something positive.

SINGLE-A STOCKTON

— Mazzaro wasn’t the only A’s product doing some dealing last night. Carlos Hernandez was pretty darn good, too. By the way, interesting figure on the mound for San Bernardino in the same game.

SINGLE-A KANE COUNTY

— Huge night for the son of a former major leaguer.

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Weekend Wrap

A busy weekend down on the farm. Here’s a quick review while hoping (futily, probably) for the day that we similar promotions to the one taking place in Las Vegas today. A 10:30 a.m. start to accomodate local school children on field trips. Brilliant. Wouldn’t you just love to see major leaguers forced out of bed before 8 a.m. for a game just once in a season?

TRIPLE-A SACRAMENTO

The River Cats entered Monday’s morning meeting having lost the first three of four-game series at Las Vegas and had dropped six straight to teams in Nevada (Reno won three in a row earlier in the week). Among the lowlights:

James Simmons surrendered six runs in 3 2/3 innings in a loss Sunday. At this point, the A’s would be smart just to leave Simmons in the minors all season. Why use up a year of service time for a team that doesn’t appear headed anywhere. And given that Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill look like they’ve arrived prematurely, no need to rush Simmons. Besides, the righty has had his issues.

— Reliever Brad Kilby walked four straight hitters in the 10th inning Saturday, resulting in an 8-7 Sacramento loss. Not to sound like my late grandfather, but in my opinion that shouldn’t happen at any level of professional sports. Gio Gonzalez wasn’t much better in that one, either.

— Joel Galarraga had three RBI and helped stake Sacramento to a 9-0 lead on Friday, but the River Cats still couldn’t win. The starting pitcher who allowed a good portion of the lead to get away? Dana Eveland. Frankly, I would just as soon not see him in an A’s uniform again. Who’s with me?

Anyway, the common theme, here, obviously, is that help for the A’s sorry starting pitching isn’t 90 minutes up Interstate 80.

DOUBLE-A MIDLAND

— A very forgettable weekend as well. The Rockhounds lost three times to Corpus Christi by a combined score of 23-6.

— First baseman Chris Carter increased his RBI total to 28, tops on the team and second in the Texas League. First baseman Tommy Everidge collected RBI No. 26. Both have got to be en route to a promotion at some point this season.

SINGLE-A STOCKTON

— The Ports (9-22) extended their winning streak to a season-high three before losing the finale of a three-game series to Rancho Cucamonga. Cal product Tyson Ross, the A’s second pick last season, allowed two runs and three hits in only two innings and walked the first three he faced. He has not an auspicious beginning to his professional career.

— Outfielder Matthew Spencer is bucking for a promotion. Spencer homered in victories Friday and Saturday and has gone deep 10 times. The rest of his numbers are pretty good, too.

Yusef Carter is hitting .333 in his first exposure to High-A and had the game-winning single Saturday.

LOW-A KANE COUNTY

— First baseman Steve Kleen is hitting .303 and his 33 hits trail only Dusty Coleman’s 34 on the Cougars. Both Kleen and Coleman are in the top 10.

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The Farm Report

A quick post today before heading out to catch the big club at the Coliseum later this afternoon:

TRIPLE-A SACRAMENTO

— The River Cats used Adrian Cardenas at second base in a 5-3 win over Reno last night, and Cardenas made the defensive play of the night, going behind second base to start a 4-6-3 double play. Keep an eye out to see if he also sees time at shortstop. The A’s are going to need somebody at that spot down the road.

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Show me Doolittle

Here’s one of the issues with blogs. I’ve put out a couple of calls to Keith Lieppman, the A’s director of player development over the past couple of weeks, hoping to discuss some of the team’s prospects. I haven’t heard back, which frankly doesn’t surprise me, because you mention the word “blog” in a message, and there’s the immediate concern of credibility. I had a decent relationship with Lieppman over the years but it’s probably been half a decade since I talked to him with any sort of regularity. I do expect to hear from him at some point.

Anyway, I’ll keep trying.  In the meantime, feed us what you’ve seen of Sean Doolittle. His stats at Triple-A Sacramento have caught my eye (and maybe because I’ve been used to watching such terrible offense at the big-league level for so long). Twenty-two hits, nine of them for extra-bases (including four home runs) and a team-high 14 RBI. Not bad. Hard to imagine Doolittle seeing the light of day with the big club this season, though, because he plays right field, and the A’s aren’t lacking for outfielders. But he’s only 22, 6-foot-3, 190 pounds and trending upward. He started last year at Stockton. Keep an eye on him.

Other news from the River Cats and the A’s other affiliates:

TRIPLE-A SACRAMENTO

— Fading prospect Daric Barton has only 12 hits, but 10 of them have driven in runs. He’s tied with Doolittle for the team’s RBI lead.

— Ryan Webb earned his team-high fourth win in the team’s 7-4 win over Triple-A Colorado Springs in the opener of a scheduled doubleheader.

— Adrian Cardenas was 1-for-7 in his first two games after being promoted from Double-A.

DOUBLE-A MIDLAND

—Danny Putnam, a former Stanford star who’s destined to be remembered (or not) as one of the A’s more all-time minor leaguers, had three more hits Sunday in a 6-5 win over San Antonio. Check out Putnam’s numbers. Again, he’s an outfielder. And he’s going to be 27 at the end of the year. If he makes it, look for it to be elsewhere.

SINGLE-A STOCKTON

— Matt Spencer has an 11-game hitting streak, one bright spot for a Ports team that fell to 6-18 by losing 5-3 to Bakersfield on Sunday. Spencer has had a nice start, and yep, he’s an outfielder.

BTW, here’s a date you might want to circle on your calendar.

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Monday’s minor-league rundown

News from the farm:

TRIPLE-A SACRAMENTO

One pleasant thing to report: Vin Mazzaro, the talented 21-year-old pitching prospect, has an 0.75 ERA in his past two starts. Something not-so-pleasant: Daric Barton, who is fast turning into Kelvin Moore and other memorable busts, is in a 3-for-27 (.111) slump.

DOUBLE-A MIDLAND

Tommy Everidge, last year’s Texas League RBI champ, drove in two runs to give the Rockhounds a quick lead, shortstop Adrian Cardenas erased a deficit with a two-run double, and pitcher Arnold Leon struck out Mark Ori to end an uprising in the ninth in a 7-4 win against Corpus Christi.

SINGLE-A STOCKTON

The Ports (4-14) will take their first two-game winning streak of the season into a three-game series against Visalia. One interesting item: Shane Keough, son of Matt, is hitting .209 in 17 games.

SINGLE-A KANE COUNTY

The Cougars hit three more homers Monday, pushing their Midwest League-leading total to 16, as Petey Paramore (solo), Grant Desme (two-run) and David Thomas (two-run) all went deep in a 10-6 win over Beloit. Kane County rallied from 5-1 down to win their sixth straight home game and capture its fifth straight series to start the season, a team record.

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The “Swingin’” A’s

Just watched Melky Cabrera hit his walk-off homer to beat the A’s 9-7 in 14 innings and cap a 1-4 road trip, and one of our co-workers muttered disgustedly about how the A’s have only four homers as a team trough the season’s first 14 games. Which incidentally leads to our favorite phrase — “on pace for” — and in this case, the A’s are on pace to hit 46 home runs (maybe they should give their old buddy Jose Canseco a call).

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On the farm

Today, we’re going to start something new on this blog.  We’ll be filing periodic minor-league updates that go beyond the daily updates that the minor-league teams provide. I’ve got calls out to Keith Lieppman and Billy Owens, both of whom are in the know regarding the A’s best prospects. No return calls yet, but as soon as I get some, I’ll update.

In the meantime, through the minor-league season’s first 10 days here’s what stands out.

TRIPLE-A SACRAMENTO

— Vince Mazzaro, who lasted just eight total innings in his first two starts, went six while allowing a run on Monday and lowered his ERA to 1.93. Mazzaro, as everyone probably knows, is likely to be the first one tapped if the A’s need another starter.

— James Simmons, another highly rated prospect, had his best start of the year Tuesday in a 4-2 win at Portland. His overall stats so far aren’t overly impressive, but it’s early.

Daric Barton has been awful. And now he may be out a while. He didn’t play last night after being hit by a pitch on Monday. What’s happened to this guy? Remember when he was touted as a potential Albert Pujols?

DOUBLE-A MIDLAND

— The Rockhounds have lost two straight after closing their first 10-game stretch at 7-3.

— SS Adrian Cardenas, whom the A’s acquired from Philadelphia last season in the Joe Blanton deal, was hitting .360 through Tuesday and had hit safely in all but two games. He also was tied for the Texas League lead in hits.

— Chris Carter, whose 39 home runs at Single-A Stockton last season led the A’s organization, has gone deep only once so far, but his 14 RBI were tied for the league lead. I saw this guy last year. He’s a beast.

SINGLE-A STOCKTON

— Bad start for Cal product Tyson Ross, who struggled with arm issues last seaon. Ross lost his first two starts, and his 1.67 WHIP (baserunners per inning) is a red flag. Then again, the team behind him isn’t very good. The Ports are 1-12.

LOW-A KANE COUNTY

— First baseman Steve Kleen is hitting .385 out of the gate and also has eight RBI, contributing mightily to the Cougars’ 7-3 start.

— Kleen isn’t the only one tatooing the ball. SS Dusty Coleman (.342), and outfielder David Thomas (.317) all have been key contributors to Kane County’s .275 average as a team.