Patrick Johnson has gotten most of the attention during the offseason because of being grabbed early by a major league organization after his brilliant 15-1 season at Sioux City when he was selected as the top starting pitcher on the postseason all-star team. Now Explorers teammate Rob Wort, an 11-game winner as a reliever (11-3, 1.79), has made a strong statement in his initial major league exhibition game.
The box score shows Wort hurled 1.1 hitless innings with two strikeouts for his new Boston teammates in the Red Sox’ 5-1 Grapefruit League win over Philadelphia Sunday although that is only part of the story. The 27-year-old right-hander needed only one pitch to get a ground out with runners on third and second to end the eighth inning. And he needed only seven pitches–all strikes–to set the Phillies down in order in the eighth, striking out seasoned major leaguers Darin Ruf and J. P. Arencibia on three pitches apiece with another ground out in between.
Wort has been a strikeout machine throughout his professional career, which included 2009-13 in the Washington farm system and a brief stint with Arizona two years ago. He fanned 150 American Association hitters in only 102 innings–13.2 every nine innings–during 65 relief appearances for Sioux City the last two seasons. He only gave up 59 hits over that span.
He is currently listed on the Class A Salem roster in Boston’s farm system.
Meanwhile, Johnson, who was signed by Pittsburgh then picked up by Miami in the minor league Rule 5 draft a few days later, has been brought over from the Marlins’ minor league camp to pitch in three Grapefruit League games, a sure sign of intrigue. He has worked only briefly each time, allowing one hit and two walks in 1.1 scoreless innings. Johnson, also 27, limited opponents to 94 hits in 134 innings while striking out 132 the last two seasons at Sioux City. He could start the season as high as Triple-A New Orleans.
Sinnery Moves to White Sox Chain
Former Lincoln right-hander Brandon Sinnery, who started his pro career in the Independent ranks, is wearing a new uniform after being traded from Arizona to the Chicago White Sox where he is on the Double-A Birmingham roster. He won nine of 16 decisions for Class A, AA Diamondbacks teams last season.
This will be a tense week for many baseball players as all teams set their rosters. Among the former American Association players who have been released in recent days are Gary outfielder Anthony Cheky by Arizona, Kaohi Downing (Lincoln, Sioux Falls, Winnipeg) by the Los Angeles Dodgers, southpaw Jarret Leverett (Wichita) by San Francisco and catcher Zach Wright (Fargo) by Washington. Downing is a former infielder attempting to convert to pitching.
Grateful for Time in American Association
American Association grads can be found in most every major league organization these days, and if they are not playing they may have used the experience to transition to coaching.
Shawn McGill is a perfect example. He considers his time catching in Lincoln (’08, ’09, half of ’10) to have played “a huge role” in his career, which now has the 32-year-old coaching third base and working with catchers at Double-A Bowie, Md., in the Baltimore organization. “I got to play a lot (in Lincoln, including a championship under Marty Scott), and it got me back to affiliated baseball. I don’t think I would have been able to play as long as I did (without it).” Seven surgeries, six of them related to baseball, helped end his playing career, he said during a chat at the Orioles’ minor league complex in Sarasota, Fla.
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 own blog, www.IndyBaseballChatter.com.