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Slowey helps Rochester even series09/13/2006 10:33 PM ET
By Kevin Czerwinski / MLB.com
ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- The shock waves caused by Francisco Liriano suffering yet another setback Wednesday afternoon were felt all the way to Rochester.
While the worry lines will run deep in Minnesota as a result of the young southpaw going down once again, the Twins' front office can seek solace in the fact that another of its top pitching prospects provided some good news later in the evening.
Kevin Slowey made his International League debut and, at least for a few hours, took away a bit of the sting brought on by the Liriano injury. The young right-hander turned in a brilliant effort at Frontier Field, shutting down Toledo's powerful lineup as the Red Wings evened the International League Finals at a game apiece with a 6-1 victory on Wednesday.
Slowey, Minnesota's second-round pick in 2005, overcame a shaky start and pitched 7 2/3 innings, allowing one run on five hits and a walk while striking out six. He needed 33 pitches to get through the first inning, which included 19 foul balls. Though he gave up a solo homer to Dustan Mohr in the third, he was never in serious trouble after the opening frame. The 22-year-old threw 105 pitches and retired 10 of the final 11 batters he faced.
"We know his numbers have been good all year long," said Jim Rantz, Minnesota's director of Minor League operations who was in attendance Wednesday evening. "The Major League thing [Liriano] hurt because we thought he'd be back on track and finish strong for us. This is the kind of thing, though, that he [Slowey] has done all year long and tonight he proved he could pitch a little bit to a veteran lineup."
Slowey began the season with Fort Myers in the Florida State League, where he went 4-2 with a 1.01 ERA in 14 starts. He then went 4-3 with a 3.19 ERA in nine starts at Double-A New Britain before joining Team USA, whom he helped reach the Beijing Olympics earlier this month during a qualifying tournament in Cuba. Slowey pitched in two games there, including the series finale against the host in Havana during which he allowed one run over five innings in front of 45,000 fans.
Despite his credentials, there were some eyebrows raised when Rochester manager Stan Cliburn eschewed veterans Dave Gassner and Pete Munro in favor of Slowey for Game 2. Those fears seemed to be valid as he struggled through the first, but were quickly put to rest.
"I was definitely nervous coming in," Slowey said. "To say I wasn't would be lying. But a couple of guys just came up to me and said it's the same as pitching in Double-A. Just make your pitches and you'll get guys out.
"[Toledo] is a good team. They take some good hacks. They're a good hitting team so [catcher Jose] Morales came over and we talked after the first inning. He said just bear down and make your pitches. He called a lot of two-seamers and sinkers and these guys hit the ball away. I left one ball up and it got deposited on the scoreboard."
While Slowey stole the show with his performance on the mound, the Red Wings had a few surprises of their own at the plate, using the long ball to knock around International League strikeout leader Chad Durbin. Rochester had connected for more homers than only three other league teams during the regular season and had hit just three through five playoff games.
But Andrew Torres led off the bottom of the first by sending Durbin's 0-2 offering over the wall in right. It was his second homer of the playoffs after hitting that many all season. After Mohr tied it up in the third, Garrett Jones sent a three-run, wind-aided opposite-field shot over the wall in left-center field to give the Red Wings a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
"That very at-bat he hit the three-run homer, I said if he [Durbin] leaves the ball up in the zone, he [Jones] is going to do some damage," Cliburn said. "And he did."
Durbin was second in the league with two complete games during the regular season and added another in his last outing against Charlotte during the opening round of the playoffs. But he lasted 4 1/3 innings on Wednesday, his shortest outing of the season. The five earned runs he allowed matched his season high from a July 15 loss at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
And, he was clearly overshadowed by Slowey.
"The kid is so cool, he has an air of confidence," Cliburn said. "I heard all the hype about him, but hype is just hype. That was some performance. He was untested at this level but he made a statement tonight."
And in the process, gave the Twins a bright spot on a day that may ultimately be remembered as very dark.
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This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.