By Bob Wirz
Oh, those pitchers.
Recent American Association hurlers continue to make major marks in the major leagues or in major league farm systems. Among recent notable feats:
After a struggling start to the season, No. 2 Seattle starter James Paxton (pictured), who began his pro career at Grand Prairie in 2010, has had a 20-inning scoreless streak and three consecutive wins, in part thanks to a tip from Mariners ace Felix Hernandez.
Paxton has always had a changeup, but it wasn’t at the same level of his mid-90s fastball or his knockout curveball for a time. Then, he received a few words of advice from Hernandez, whose changeup is considered one of the best pitches in all of baseball, and the former Kentucky hurler has really started focusing in on how to use the pitch.
“My first year when I came up (in September, 2013) I asked him (Hernandez) about it,” the lefty told YahooSports. “He said I was throwing it too far back in my delivery and that I needed to throw it a little more out front. That helped me a lot. It took me awhile but I kept on working on it and it’s starting to come around now.”
Right-hander Chaz Roe, the great nephew of Hall of Fame second baseman Bill Mazeroski, became the 11th American Association pitcher to wear a major league uniform this season when Baltimore brought the 28-year-old up from Norfolk, VA, where had gone 3-1 with two saves and a 2.19 ERA in 17 appearances.
“That was special,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said, after two scoreless innings from Roe without allowing a hit or a walk (two strikeouts). “We really liked him in the spring. He was a guy we took on every trip and he was another good addition to our depth. I’m happy for him because it’s been a long road back for him, too.” After earlier stints in Triple-A, Roe spent all of ’12 with Laredo (3-2, 1.47, 69 strikeouts in 55 innings) before time in the Arizona, Miami and New York Yankees systems including 25 major league relief appearances scattered over the last two seasons.
Still advancing through the minor leagues, Tim Adleman (El Paso and Lincoln, 2012) and Aaron Wilkerson (Grand Prairie, 2013-14) both are putting up impressive numbers. The 6-foot-5 Adleman improved to 2-3 with a 1.41 ERA for Cincinnati’s Double-A franchise in Pensacola, FL after throwing seven scoreless innings. He has given up only one earned run in his last 25 innings. “Everybody around me did a great job tonight,” wire service reports quoted Adleman. “Three (runs) is enough. That’s the job as a starter to go out there and whether you’re given one or three or nine just keeping the other team off the board.”
Wilkerson, who started his professional career in Independent Baseball and only turned 26 on Monday, was nearly unhittable in his third start for the Salem (VA) Red Sox of the Carolina League since being promoted from Low-A Greenville, SC . He surrendered just two hits over a season-high six innings and struck out a seven, improving to 2-0, 0.47.
Previously the chief spokesman for Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth, Bob Wirz has been writing extensively about Independent Baseball since 2003. He is a frequent contributor to this site as well as writing his blog, www.IndyBaseballChatter.com.