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News and notes from the division’s affiliates:

Baltimore: Two pitching prospects who had poor springs on and off
the field are going in opposite directions at Triple-A Rochester. Jason
Johnson
is trying to reclaim is spot in the Birds’ rotation, allowing
just runs in his first three starts. With neither Jose Mercedes nor
Calvin Maduro pitching all that well, Johnson’s chance to get back
to Camden Yards looks good.

On the other hand, Matt Riley, a discipline problem in the spring,
has been pounded in two starts, putting up an ERA above 14.00. Between his
early performance and the perception that he’s immature, it’s not likely
that he’ll make it back to Baltimore until September, if then.

The team’s best prospect, catcher Jayson Werth, is off to a good
start at Double-A Bowie. He’s put up a .513 OBP on the young season. With
only organziational soldier Tommy Davis and journeyman Joe
DePastino
ahead of him at Rochester, it’s not likely that Werth will be
at Bowie for long.

Boston: By midseason, the Red Sox rotation behind Pedro
Martinez
will look younger and better. The Sox have two quality
pitchers at Triple-A Pawtucket who are ready to step in when Pete
Schourek
and Ramon Martinez have their bouts with injury and
ineffectiveness. Tomokazu Ohka and Sun-Woo Kim have combined
for four good starts so far, allowing a total of six runs in 24 innings.

For you trivia hounds, Ohka was finally charged with a minor-league
loss–he was 15-0 at Double- and Triple-A last year.

The Trenton Thunder’s Steve Lomasney, who may be behind only
Pawtucket second baseman David Eckstein among the organization’s
position player prospects, started the year in a 1-for-25 slump.

New York: As we’ve mentioned, the upper reaches of the Yankee system
are a bit shy of interesting position players. Don’t be fooled by the
torrid (.545/.793) start of Mike Coolbaugh. He’s organizational filler.

The team’s pitching prospects aren’t doing too well, either: Triple-A
Columbus has a team strikeout-to-walk ratio of 46-to-41. Ryan
Bradley
has been moderately effective in his new role as a reliever,
while Ed Yarnall isn’t exactly forcing the Yankees to recall him. He
continues to struggle with his command, with more walks than strikeouts and
three hit batters in 13 innings.

With Paul O’Neill possibly in his final season, there’s opportunity
for Jackson Melian to play his way into a job in 2001. He’s started
off hot at Double-A Norwich, although he’s not walking much. Melian is a
legitimate right fielder defensively, and is really the only internal
option if anything should happen to O’Neill this season.

Tampa Bay: At Triple-A Charlotte, Aubrey Huff has picked up
where he left off in 1999, hitting .370 with walks and power. Huff may be
the second-best third-base prospect in the game, behind only Sean
Burroughs
, and yet it’s possible he won’t get more than token playing
time for at least two years. That’s what remains on Vinny Castilla‘s
deal. Even setting aside cost, Huff is a better player than Castilla right
now.

Optimistic Devil Ray fans can cling to the early-season success of
ex-phenoms Bobby Seay and Matt White. Both pitchers opened
the season with two good starts for Double-A Orlando. With the injuries to
Wilson Alvarez and Juan Guzman as well as the lack of quality
prospects at Charlotte, it’s likely that at least one of these guys will be
pitching in the Trop this season. Keep an eye on their workloads: both
pitchers are injury risks.

Last year’s #1, Josh Hamilton, has started well at St. Petersburg.
He still isn’t demonstrating any patience, with just two walks in the
season’s first two weeks. It’s the only part of his game that’s missing.
With the D-Rays’ outfield logjam, the team can move him up slowly and give
him time to develop his approach.

Toronto: The SkyChief (Triple-A Syracuse) off to the hottest start
has already been rewarded with a trip to Toronto. John Bale allowed
just two hits in his first two starts, tossing 12 shutout innings. The
left-hander’s promotion was less a function of his performance and more of
some disastrous work by the Toronto relievers. He’s not ready, and will be
back with Syracuse soon enough.

Uber-prospect Vernon Wells is off to a slow start, posting an OPS
under 700. He’s not the only quality prospect here: the double-play
combination of second baseman Brent Abernathy and shortstop Cesar
Izturis
could start for Tampa Bay, and either player could end up in
Toronto if Homer Bush‘s leg injury proves serious. Izturis, in
particular, is a good glove man.

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