By La Velle
DELANEY AND SLAMA: BACK…WITH A TWIST
Righthanders Rob Delaney and Anthony Slama shared closing duties at Class A Fort Myers last season – and it was quite a one-two punch.
Delaney was promoted to New Britain in June. Slama took over as closer at Fort Myers and finished 4-1 with a 1.01 ERA and 110 strikeouts in 71 innings. He also was named Twins minor league pitcher of the year.
The two have been reunited at New Britain – but it’s Slama who has opened the season as the Rock Cats’ closer while Delaney sets him up.
I don’t know if it is going to stay that way or they might go the other way the next time,’’ said Jim Rantz, the Twins director of minor leagues. “Both of them have done well. I think it’s the fact that Slama finished so strong last year that they are going to continue with him as that guy.’’
Slama on Wednesday earned his second save for New Britain and has pitched 6/23 scoreless innings so far. Delaney has a 1.69 ERA in seven games.
Both are similar pitchers who throw around 90 miles an hour, although Rantz said Slama throws a little harder than Delaney.
Both throw good sliders. Delaney is a battler and excellent competitor. Slama is working on changing speeds against left-handed hitters. Both could get promoted to Class AAA Rochester during the season – which makes a major league debut sometime this year a possibility.
WHERE IS AARON HICKS?
Beloit broke camp in Fort Myers, Fla, without outfielder Aaron Hicks, the 14th overall pick in last year’s draft who has the club buzzing about his five-tool ability.
The Twins did the same thing last year with 2007 first-rounder Ben Revere, who needed to work on arm strength and accuracy. Revere was sent to Beloit to replace an injured player, batted .379 with 10 triples and 44 steals and ended up the Twins minor league player of the year.
Hicks, who hit .318 with four homers and 27 RBI for the Gulf Coast League rookie team appears to be more polished than Revere, so what gives?
“He had to work on some things, some fundamentals and defensive things,’’ Rantz said. “Yes, he has a strong arm and can run but he’s getting regular at-bats and can work on fundamentals.’’
The Twins’ outfields at Beloit and Fort Myers have players the club needs to evaluate before they move Hicks in front of them. Angel Morales, Evan Bigley and Michael Harrington hit 15, 14 and nine home runs, respectively at short-season Elizabethton, Tenn. and need to play. Ozzie Lewis is back after missing a chunk of the season with a wrist injury.
Fort Myers’ outfield has top prospects Revere and Joe Benson, plus Christopher Parmelee splitting time in the outfield and first base. It appears that it will take promotions, demotions or injuries for Hicks to get to Beloit – or he might have to wait until June and start the year Elizabethton.
Revere, by the way, is batting .333 with a homer 10 RBI and five steals through 11 games at Fort Myers.
THE GOOD AND THE BAD
Jim Shellenback, the pitching coach at Elizabethton who filled in as bullpen coach while Rick Stelmaszek recovered from fatigue, confirmed that the organization is really high on righthander Carlos Gutierrez, the Twins’ other first-round pick last year.
And Gutierrez, who throws an excellent sinker, has given up just one earned run over his first 11 innings at Fort Myers.
Shellenback was asked about righthander Shooter Hunt, who was taken with the 31st pick of the draft – four picks after Gutierrez.
“He won’t throw it over,’’ Shellenback said.
Hunt’s struggles continued on Tuesday at Beloit, as he gave up five earned runs on three hits and six walks over 22/3 innings. Hunt is 0-1. 9.31 through three games. Of the 55 batters he’s faced, 28 have reached base.
“There is something to that,’’ Rantz said of Shellenback’s statement. “I don’t know if it’s insecurity but, eventually, he has to throw it over.’’
Australian outfielder Justin Huber has worked out his visa problems – he had to go to Toronto to get things straightened out – and will join Class AAA Rochester on Friday. “He’s got some sock and that’s what we need on that club,’’ Rantz said.
First baseman Henry Sanchez, who was drafted in 2005 and is 23 years old but is just getting to Fort Myers because of injuries, is now slowed by a left quadriceps strain at Fort Myers.
Righthander Loek Van Mil, who is at extended spring training working his way back from a sore elbow, has been slowed by a biceps strain.