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A’s minor league recap: Gio Gonzalez is on a roll for RiverCats

Here’s a brief look at what happened down on the farm Wednesday for the A’s affiliates:

SACRAMENTO (Triple-A)

RiverCats 3, Salt Lake City (Angels) 1: Story l Boxscore

Gio Gonzalez had his second consecutive dominant showing for the RiverCats, who improved to a PCL-best 33-30. Gonzalez (2-1, 3.50) went six innings, allowing just two hits and one run. He walked just two and struck out five. In his last two starts, Gonzalez has gone a total of 13 innings and given up just four hits and one run.

Gonzalez, Dana Eveland, Sean Gallagher and James Simmons are shaping up to be a rather solid rotation for the Cats.

Daric Barton, still batting an uninspiring .223, broke a 1-all tie with a two-out, RBI single in the seventh inning. Barton then scored on a double by Eric Patterson.

Eric Munson, the Cats’ catcher and cleanup hitter, went 2-for-5 with an RBI.

MIDLAND (Double-A)

RockHounds 16, NW Arkansas (Royals) 8: Story l Boxscore

Matt Spencer’s grand slam keyed a seven-run first inning as the RockHounds pounded Northwest Arkansas. Tommy Everidge and Adrian Cardenas each drove in three runs for Midland, which also got three hits and three runs each from Josh Horton and Archie Gilbert.

Chris Carter drove in a pair of runs and now has 42 in 51 games. The first baseman also has an on-base percentage of .396 and an OPS of .886.

Jason Fernandez improved to 3-0 since arriving from Stockton. He scattered 11 hits and allowed two runs in five innings.

STOCKTON (High Single-A)

San Jose (Giants) 4, Ports 2: Story l Boxscore

Ben Hornbeck allowed three runs in the first two innings, including a pair on a two-run Nick Noonan single, and took the loss as Stockton fell in San Jose. Hornbeck, who has lost two straight starts after a 5-0 start, went 4 2/3 innings and struck out seven.

Christian Vitters (10th round, ’06), accounted for the Ports’ runs with a two-run home run in the fifth. Jemile Weeks (1st round, ’08) went 1-for-4 with a double in the ninth and is hitting .333 in seven games (11-for-33).

San Jose starter Garrett Broshuis, a 27-year-old who spent the past three seasons at Double-A Connecticut, went seven strong innings for the win, allowing both Stockton runs.

KANE COUNTY (Low Single-A)

Cougars 3, Clinton (Mariners) 1: Story l Boxscore

Kenny Smalley (24th round, ’08) shut down Clinton to improve to 5-1 and lower his ERA to 1.69. Smalley went six innings, allowing five hits and one run, walking one and striking out four.

Grant Desme smashed his ninth homer of the season to provide an insurance run in the ninth. Jeremy Barfield went 1-for-3 with a pair of RBI and is hitting .348, but saw his streak of five straight multi-hit games come to an end.

Chris Berroa (11th round, ’08) joined the Cougars from extended spring training. He went 0-for-4 in his season debut while batting leadoff and playing left field.

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Talking Vinny

No doubt, you’ve read or heard the big news by now. With Vin Mazzaro’s promotion in mind, here’s a recap of some of the points director of player personnel Billy Owens made about him when we talked a recently.

On Mazzaro’s progress: “He’s definitely taken a strong step forward in the past 18 months. He has an exceptional arm, and can top out at 96 or 97 mph, and his ball has natural sink. Last year, and really most of this year, he’s gotten to the point where he’s trusted his fastball and sinker a lot more, and he’s pitched more comfortably at 93 or 94 (mph).

On his offspeed stuff: “His soft game has gotten a lot better. His overall command has gotten a lot better. His ground ball-to-fly ball ratio was very strong last year, and the rest of his ratios have been where they need to be, and it has stayed that way. … ”

Personally. I’m a tad surprised that Mazzaro is coming up now. I would say it’s reminiscent of the day in June of 1999 when the A’s recalled Tim Hudson. But that A’s eam was going places, and this team clearly isn’t. It also starts his service time clicking early, and likely means that he’ll be eligible for arbitration one winter early.

I asked assistant general manager David Forst about that very thing last week. His response: “Unfortunately, we don’t live in a world that always allows you the luxury” of bringing up a player at the most idealistic time for a franchise. There may be other teams out there with the options to do that, but right now, we don’t have it.”

Incidentally, Melissa Lockard of scout.com has a very good piece discussing Mazzaro’s promotion.

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The Midland Mashers

Not so long ago, any numbers generated by somebody at Double-A Midland had to be taken with a skeptical eye. Adam Piatt, of all people, earned Minor League Player of the Year honors playing there.

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A’s minor league recap: Rivercats win in 16; Weeks homers again

Here’s a look at the A’s minor league leaders as well as a brief look at what happened down on the farm Friday for their affiliates:
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A’s minor league recap: Weeks hits his first HR

Here’s a brief look at what happened down on the farm Thursday for the A’s affiliates:

Second baseman Jemile Weeks, the A’s No. 1 draft pick last June, has quickly made his presence felt with the Stockton Ports. Weeks went 3-for-6 and hit a home run, and is now 4-for-12 overall in just two games.

The 22-year-old second baseman had been rehabbing at extended spring training while recovering from a torn hip flexor that ended his season last July 29 at Low-A Kane County. He was also battling other minor leg ailments this spring.

Fans in the Bay Area can get their first look at Weeks beginning Sunday in San Jose when the Ports begin a four-game series against the Little Giants. You wouldn’t get them to admit it, but the A’s probably envision Weeks spending much of his career in San Jose.

SACRAMENTO (Triple-A)

RiverCats 9, Iowa (Cubs) 1: Story l Boxscore

In finishing off Iowa, Sacramento closed its road trip winning seven of eight and has now won 14 of its last 17 overall.

Dana Eveland had his second straight solid start. The lefty allowed just one earned run in 6 2/3 innings, striking out nine. He still struggled with his control, walking four. Still, Eveland has permitted just one earned run in his last two starts, covering 12 2/3 innings, and has given up just five hits while striking out 12.

Loaded question, to be sure, but am I the only one who feels Eveland still has some value?

Aaron Cunningham is hitting .315 after going 3-for-5 with a homer and double.

Daric Barton, who hit his second HR on Wednesday, had two hits and a walk and is now hitting .215.

Danny Putnam hit a grand slam in the ninth for his RiverCats HR. He had seven for Double-A Midland before being promoted. The ex-Stanford star had three hits Thursday night.

The Cats added Henry Rodriguez to their bullpen. Rodriguez worked in three games for Stockton, allowing no runs in five innings and striking out 11.

MIDLAND (Double-A)

RockHounds 12, NW Arkansas (Royals) 8: Story l Boxscore

First baseman Chris Carter drove in three runs and now has 38 RBI, second to Tommy Everidge, who homered for the seventh time and now has 43 RBI. Carter, by the way, would just as soon play all of his games at Midland’s Citibank Ballpark — he’s hitting .384 at home and just .182 on the road.

Adrian Cardenas went 0-for-4 with an RBI. The second baseman came into the game hitting .403 after going 10-for-19 since being sent down from Sacramento.

Corey Brown went 2-for-4 and is hitting .345. In his last six games, the center fielder has gone 13-for-29 (.448).

Carlos Hernandez from Santa Clara picked up his second win in as many Double-A starts. He gave up three runs in six innings.

STOCKTON (High Single-A)

Bakersfield (Rangers) 6, Ports 5: Story l Boxscore

Jemile Weeks had three hits in his last four at-bats Thursday night, including an opposite-field homer while batting left-handed. The switch-hitting Weeks has batted second in both of his games.

Weeks’ home run followed a blast by Jermaine Mitchell, who now has two homers.

Todd Johnson went 2-for-3 with a homer and a pair of RBI.

The Ports had runners in scoring position in the eighth, ninth and 10th innings, but weren’t able to capitalize. Stockton lost on Timothy Smith’s RBI single in the bottom of the 11th.

KANE COUNTY (Low Single-A)

Cougars 5, Great Lakes (Dodgers) 4: Story l Boxscore

Jason Christian drew a bases-loaded walk in the top of the 10th inning that allowed the Cougars to improve to a season-high 11 games above .500 (29-18).

Shortstop Dusty Coleman, one of the more pleasant surprises for Oakland, hit his team-leading eighth homer, a three-run blast to provided a 4-3 lead in the seventh.

Jeremy Barfield, the 20-year-old son of ex-Blue Jays star Jesse Barfield and the brother of Indians infielder Josh, had three hits and is now hitting .295 in 27 games.

Grant Desme had a pair of hits. The 2006 A’s second-round pick is hitting .278.

Pitcher Kenny Smalley, a 24th-round draft pick last year, struck out a career-high nine batters. Smalley went five innings and was charged with two runs when reliever Mike Hart allowed a three-run homer.

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Weeks sighting and more

The A’s top pick in last year’s draft finally is on the stat sheet at Single-A Stockton. Jemile Weeks made his debut for the Ports in Stockton’s 10-5 over Bakersfield. It wasn’t a great night for the second baseman, as he collected just one hit in six at-bats. But his lone hit did drive in two runs to give the Ports a nice start to a seven-game road trip, their longest of the season.

More encouraging news out of Stockton. Tyson Ross, the Cal product who followed Weeks on the A’s draft list last season, retired the final 11 of the final 12 he faced. His overall line needs to be better, but he continues to work on being more effecient and getting his pitch-count up. The A’s are being careful with him.

Last for Stockton: A very good night for Frank Martinez. The shortstop doubled twice and had three RBI.

Elsewhere:

TRIPLE-A SACRAMENTO

— “Vin Mazzaro, white courtesy telephone. Vin Mazzaro, white courtesy telephone.” You half expect a public address announcement to go out, given how this kid is pitching lately. Mazzaro lowered his ERA to 2.38 in his third straight outstanding outing. By the way, talked with A’s assistant general manager Davd Forst this week, and Mazzaro would have to be called up right around the June 15-20 period to avoid becoming a Super2 guy and becoming eligible for arbitration an extra year earlier.

— Another promising pitching prospect did his thing in the second game of a doubleheader. Nice to see that James Simmons is gaining some consistency.

DOUBLE-A MIDLAND

— Highlight of the night was Graham Godfrey. Dynamite stuff while fanning 11 in  a 9-4 win over Northwest Arkansas. Godfrey has 28 strikeouts in 33 2/3 innings during May.

— Adrian Cardenas, who recently was sent back to down from Triple-A Sacramento, continues to smoke Double-A pitching. He’ll get another opportunity in Triple-A at some point.

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A’s minor league recap: Mazzaro looks ready for big leagues

Here’s a brief look at what happened down on the farm Friday for the A’s affiliates:

The arbitration clock appears to be the only thing standing between Vin Mazzaro and a spot in the A’s rotation. After Mazzaro’s dominating effort Friday night, what other reason could there be for not promoting the 22-year-old right-hander?

Mazzaro flirted with a no-hitter against Omaha and it figures to be just a matter of a bad start or two by a current A’s starter before he’s in Oakland.

Meanwhile, Adrian Cardenas’ difficult time in Triple-A have come to an end as the A’s top middle infielder prospect was sent back to Double-A Midland. However, Cardenas was in the middle of another huge night offensively for the RockHounds on Friday.

SACRAMENTO (Triple-A)

RiverCats 3, Omaha (Royals) 1: Story l Boxscore

Vin Mazzaro fired eight innings of one-hit, shutout ball against Omaha to lower his ERA to 2.66. Mazzaro, who got no decision in the Cats’ 12-inning win, walked just one and struck out six. Over his last three starts, the A’s third-round pick from ’05 has gone 21 innings and given up just five hits and one earned run _ for an ERA of 0.43.

Eric Patterson had an RBI triple and Danny Putnam followed with an RBI single in Sacramento’s two-run 12th inning. Gregorio Petit had snapped a 0-0 tie with a run-scoring hit in the top of the 11th, but the struggling Jerry Blevins gave up the tying run in the bottom of the inning.

Cliff Pennington was 3-for-3 with a walk and is hitting .283.

MIDLAND (Double-A)

RockHounds 24, Corpus Christi (Astros) 6: Story l Boxscore

Midland abused Corpus Christi pitching while amassing 24 runs on 28 hits, including four apiece by four different players. Here’s the RockHounds’ honor roll from last night:

Adrian Cardenas: After hitting .177 in Sacramento, he resumed his torrid Texas League hitting by going 4-for-5 with 3 RBI. Cardenas is hitting .398 with 22 RBI in 20 Double-A games.

Corey Brown: Went 4-for-5 with six RBI and five runs, and came within a single of the cycle. He’s hitting .326 with five HRs and 22 RBI with an OPS of 1.044 in 95 at-bats.

Archie Gilbert: Ex-James Logan High star went 4-for-7 as his OBP stays over .400.

Matt Spencer: Went 4-for-5 with four RBI.

Matt Sulentic: Had two hits and 3 RBI and the 21-year-old outfielder is hitting .444 over his last eight games, boosting his average to .306.

Josh Donaldson: Went 3-for-3 with two RBI and is hitting a season-high .273.

Chris Carter: Had 2 doubles, 3 RBI and is hitting .268 with four homers, 32 RBI.

Tommy Everidge: Had three RBI and is now second in league with 37 RBI.

In injury news, 20-year-old reliever Arnold Leon is on the disabled list with a strained right elbow.

STOCKTON (High Single-A)

Ports 4, Visalia (Diamondbacks) 1: Story l Boxscore

Things are looking up in Stockton, as witnessed by a thoroughly dominating show by Ben Hornbeck. The 21-year-old lefty, making his Stockton debut, struck out a career-high 12 in six innings and allowed just one hit and one walk.

Hornbeck (32nd round, ’08) has probably been the best pitcher in the minors this year, having gone 4-0 with a 1.24 ERA at Kane County before last week’s promotion to the Ports. On Friday, Hornbeck struck out the side in two consecutive innings and finished by striking out eight of his last nine batters.

Larry Cobb drove in two runs, including one on a solo homer, to spark the Ports’ offense. Justin Friend of Tracy picked up his first save, as regular Ports closer Jon Hunton was promoted to Double-A.

Hard-throwing Henry Rodriguez recently was activated after recovering from offseason hernia surgery. Rodriguez, whose fastball has been clocked at 100 mph, has pitched in two games for Stockton, throwing three scoreless innings with seven strikeouts.

More excitement should be on the way shortly as second baseman Jemile Weeks, last year’s No. 1 pick, figures to arrive from extended spring training in Arizona in a matter of days.

KANE COUNTY (Low Single-A)

Cougars 6, Wisconsin (Brewers) 3: Story l Boxscore

Pedro Figueroa, a smallish (6-foot-1, 164 pounds) left-hander, threw seven strong innings as the Cougars (25-16) stretched their Western Division lead to 2 1/2 games. Figueroa (4-1, 5.40 ERA) gave up six hits, three runs, one walk and struck out five.

Franklin Hernandez had three RBI.

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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.