Southern League Notebook

News & notes for the week of Monday, July 16

Adam Heether hit .500 (28-for-56) in 16 games after getting new contact lenses. (Jerry Hale/MiLB.com)

July 23, 2007 5:41 AM

Birmingham Barons (Chicago White Sox)
THE WEEK THAT WAS: The Barons (11-19) went 2-3 at home against Chattanooga, with LHP Gio Gonzalez (7-5) and two relievers combining on a 4-0 win in the series finale. Gonzalez struck out nine in six innings to increase his Southern League-leading total to 131.

WHO'S HOT, WHO'S NOT: LHP Ryan Wing struck out nine over six shutout innings in a no-decision, allowing three hits. That lowered his ERA to 3.15. . . . OF Ricardo Nanita was 0-for-13 over a five-game stretch before breaking out with a three-hit game.

WORK IN PROGRESS: LHP Wes Whisler, a second-round draft pick in 2004 out of UCLA, has struggled mightily in his first full season in Double-A. He has lost five straight and has a SL-leading 11 losses against just four victories. Whisler, 24, was 10-7 with a 2.97 ERA last year at Winston-Salem in the Carolina League before a late-season promotion to the Barons. He has a 5.85 ERA and opponents are hitting .318 against him.

PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK: RHP Jack Egbert, who has a 1.18 ERA in his last six starts, beat Chattanooga, 6-1, with six strong innings. He hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in a game since May 15. Egbert, 24, could be even better than his 10-7 record. He is just 3-3 in his past six starts despite his stinginess. The former Rutgers standout has a 2.58 ERA and 118 strikeouts to 31 walks in 122 innings.

Carolina Mudcats (Florida Marlins)
THE WEEK THAT WAS: The Mudcats (15-15) had their winning streak end at four games, but took three of five against Montgomery at home to move into a tie for second place in the North Division second-half standings.

WHO'S HOT, WHO'S NOT: RHP Chris Mobley is 6-0 with a 2.57 ERA and six saves in 20 relief appearances. . . . LHP Chris Sedden is 1-3 with a 5.18 in six starts for the Mudcats.

PLAYER TO WATCH: SS Rex Rundgren had three consecutive two-hit games as he finally started to get on track at the plate. He hit .174 in April and spent most of May on the disabled list, his average slipping even lower. But his average is up to .234. Rundgren, 26, is the son of 1970s rocker Todd Rundgren. He was an 11th-round draft choice in 2001.

PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK: RHP Gaby Hernandez allowed just three hits in six innings against Montgomery, improving to 2-0 with a 1.98 ERA since pitching in the SL All-Star Game. He is 6-8 with a 3.38 ERA overall. Hernandez, 21, was 0-4 in May, but is 4-2 since. In his 20 starts, opponents are hitting just .226. He has struck out 88 and walked 42 in 112 innings.

Chattanooga Lookouts (Cincinnati Reds)
THE WEEK THAT WAS: Breaking a six-game losing streak, the Lookouts (15-15) won three of five at Birmingham.

WHO'S HOT, WHO'S NOT: C Craig Tatum had a four-RBI game during a week in which he was 7-for-19 with four doubles and six RBIs. . . . 3B-OF Michael Griffin was 2-for-26 since being promoted from Sarasota of the Florida State League.

PLAYER TO WATCH: His curve ball is back on track and so is RHP Carlos Fisher. He snapped a four-game losing streak with a 5-0 victory at Birmingham, allowing one hit in seven innings. Fisher, 24, was 2-1 with a 1.26 ERA in his first seven starts after being promoted from Sarasota, but 0-4 with a 9.76 ERA in the next five. He is now 3-5 with a 3.64 ERA and 66 strikeouts to 24 walks in 71 2/3 innings.

PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK: RHP Sam Lecure (5-2) won for the first time since May 5, striking out nine over seven innings in a 9-2 victory at Birmingham. He allowed five hits and a walk while tying his career high for strikeouts. Lecure, 23, has been 0-2 in five starts since spending five weeks on the disabled list. He moved his ERA down to 4.27 in the victory and has 60 strikeouts to 31 walks in 65 1/3 innings.

Huntsville Stars (Milwaukee Brewers)
THE WEEK THAT WAS: The Stars (19-11) took charge in the North Division second-half race, stretching their winning streak to 12 with a five-game sweep at home against Tennessee. Huntsville edged the Smokies by one game in the first half.

WHO'S HOT, WHO'S NOT: LHP Steve Hammond is 3-1 with a 1.16 ERA since June 10 and has gone nearly two months since giving up more than one run in a game. . . . OF Brendan Katin ran his strikeout total to 121 -- the most in the SL.

SEEING HIS BELIEVING: Now that he can see better, there has been no stopping 3B Adam Heether. He hit .500 (28-for-56) in 16 games after getting new contact lenses. "At night, I wasn't seeing as clearly," Heether, 25, told the Huntsville Times. "Now, it's just really clear. . . . I was always checking my eyes at the plate. It's really easier to hit the ball when you can see the ball." Heether, who hit .132 in April, had his average up to .300 thanks to a .430 mark in July. He had six homers and 36 RBIs.

SLOW, SLOWER, SLOWEST: LHP Lindsay Gulin's fastball barely hits 80 mph, but the 30-year-old veteran is 9-3 and has won five consecutive decisions. He allowed three hits over seven scoreless innings in his last start, striking out six and walking one. "Not overpowering," Stars manager Don Money told the Huntsville Times in describing Gulin. "Slow curve, slow changeup, slow everything." Gulin, who didn't join Huntsville until May, has a 3.35 ERA in 13 starts.

MOVING UP: The Stars, who earlier had starters Manny Parra and Mark DiFelice promoted, lost closer Marino Salas to Triple-A Nashville. Salas, 26, was second in the SL with 17 saves and pitched in the All-Star Game. He had a 1.42 ERA, being scored on in just four of his 37 relief appearances.

Jacksonville Suns (Los Angeles Dodgers)
THE WEEK THAT WAS: The Suns (21-9) grabbed a one-game lead over Montgomery in the South Division second-half race by taking three of five at first-half champ Mississippi.

WHO'S HOT, WHO'S NOT: RHP James McDonald allowed just five baserunners over 11 innings in his first two starts for the Suns, winning both. . . . RHP Justin Orenduff (6-3) won for the fifth time in six starts. . . . RHP Joey Norrito lost for the first time after six victories.

PLAYER TO WATCH: With Chin-Lung Hu's promotion to Triple-A Las Vegas, Juan Gonzalez moved from second base to shortstop with the Suns. His hitting remained the same, however, red-hot in July. After batting .207 in April and .261 in May, Gonzalez hit .344 in June and was at .405 for July for a season .301 average. Gonzalez, 25, was previously in the Detroit and Seattle organizations.

MOVING UP: RHP Jonathan Meloan, who led the SL with 19 saves, was promoted to Triple-A Las Vegas. He was 5-2 and had a 2.18 ERA. Meloan, 23, allowed opponents just a .155 average and had 70 strikeouts to 18 walks in 45 1/3 innings over 35 appearances. He was a fifth-round draft choice out of the University of Arizona in 2005.

Mississippi Braves (Atlanta Braves)
THE WEEK THAT WAS: The Braves, first-half champions in the South Division, lost three of five at home against Jacksonville to fall to 12-18.

WHO'S HOT, WHO'S NOT: RHP Jose Ascanio picked up his sixth save by striking out the side in the ninth inning in his first game back after a brief stint in Atlanta. . . . LHP Matt Harrison fell to 5-6 with his fifth consecutive loss.

MOVING UP: OF Brandon Jones, leading the SL with 74 RBIs, was promoted to Triple-A Richmond. He had great numbers with Mississippi, batting .293 with 15 homers. He had also stolen 12 bases. Jones, 23, was hitting .393 in July with six doubles, two triples, four homers and 20 RBIs in 14 games. He is having a breakout season after suffering a broken hand in 2005 and needed shoulder surgery last year.

PLAYER TO WATCH: OF Carl Loadenthal won the Carolina League batting championship last season and may be able to make a run at the SL title this year now that Tennessee's Josh Kroeger and Jacksonville's Chin-Lung Hu have been promoted to Triple-A. By hitting .429 in July, Loadenthal raised his average to .320. He also had 33 stolen bases. Loadenthal, 25, hit .323 last year with Myrtle Beach in the Carolina League.

Mobile BayBears (Arizona Diamondbacks)
THE WEEK THAT WAS: The BayBears (11-19) were swept in a five-game home series against West Tenn, running their losing streak to seven games. They had lost 14 of 17 games.

WHO'S HOT, WHO'S NOT: OF Carlos Gonzalez was 7-for-22 with three doubles and three RBIs during the week. . . . OF Justin Upton and C Wilkin Castillo were hit by the same foul ball in the dugout and each sat out the next game.

GROWING PAINS: RHP Max Scherzer was 2-0 with a 0.53 ERA in three starts in the California League after finally signing with Arizona, but has struggled in Double-A. The 11th-overall draft pick in 2006 fell to 1-3 with Mobile and has allowed 15 runs on 21 hits over 20 innings in his past four games. He yielded six runs on five hits and five walks in five innings against West Tenn as his ERA jumped to 5.23. "Scherzer had trouble controlling the zone, and in Double-A ball, when you have a hard time controlling the zone, they're going to hit it," BayBears manager Brett Butler told the Mobile Press-Register.

PLAYER TO WATCH: 2B Emilio Bonifacio had consecutive three-hit games to run his hitting streak to 17 games before it ended. He had five multi-hit games over a seven-game stretch, raising his July average to .378. Bonifacio, 22, also had 10 stolen bases in July. He stole 61 bases last season while hitting .321 in the California League and has been caught just six times in 40 attempts this year. Also a slick fielder, he was hitting .283 overall.

HE SAID IT: "It's really frustrating. When things go well, things go your way, and when it doesn't, it goes bad," Butler to the Mobile Press-Register on the BayBears' struggles.

Montgomery Biscuits (Tampa Bay Devil Rays)
THE WEEK THAT WAS: The Biscuits (20-10) lost three of five at Carolina to fall a game behind Jacksonville in the South Division second-half standings.

WHO'S HOT, WHO'S NOT: RHP Chris Mason (12-5) matched his season high with eight strikeouts in six innings while improving to 6-1 with a 2.26 ERA in 10 road starts. . . . OF Fernando Perez was 12-for-28 during the week, raising his average to .295. . . . LHP Mike Prochaska (5-7) was promoted to Triple-A Durham.

PLAYER TO WATCH: 3B Evan Longoria hit his first homer since playing in the All-Star Futures Game, breaking an eight-game drought. It was his 19th, tying him for the SL lead. The homer at Carolina was his 10th on the road, but he was hitting .355 at home compared to .241 away from Montgomery. Longoria, 21, was batting .295 overall and had 66 RBIs. He was the third overall draft pick last year out of Long Beach State.

PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK: RHP Wade Davis improved to 4-0 since joining Montgomery from Vero Beach of the Florida State League, allowing one earned run on three hits over five innings against Carolina. He struck out seven and walked three. Davis, 21, had a 2.23 ERA in six starts, striking out 35 and walking 12 in 36 2/3 innings. He was 3-0 with a 1.84 ERA in 13 games at Vero Beach before being promoted. Davis was a third-round draft choice of Tampa Bay in 2004.

Tennessee Smokies (Chicago Cubs)
THE WEEK THAT WAS: Playing shorthanded at times because of numerous roster moves, the Smokies (13-17) were 3-12 on the road in the second half after being swept in a five-game series at Huntsville by the streaking Stars.

WHO'S HOT, WHO'S NOT: 3B-1B Matt Craig was 9-for-23 during the week, raising his average to .322. . . . RHP Mark Holliman fell to 7-8 after a 6-1 start. His only win since was a seven-inning no-hitter in June.

ON TO THE SHOW: With 1B Derrek Lee beginning a five-game suspension, the Chicago Cubs called up Jake Fox, who was hitting .284 with 18 homers -- tied for the SL lead at the time -- and 60 RBIs in 91 games. It was an early birthday present for Fox, who turned 25 the next day. Fox, a converted catcher who can play first base, third base or the outfielder, is especially effective against left-handed pitchers. The right-handed hitter was batting .318 against lefties. Fox was a third-round draft choice in 2003 after playing for the Michigan Wolverines.

MORE COMINGS AND GOINGS: OF Chris Walker, who hit .312 in April before going to Triple-A Iowa, rejoined the Smokies, as did LHP Geoffrey Jones. The team's closer to start the season, Jones was 2-1 with a 0.36 ERA and six saves in 23 games. Walker replaced OF Jorge Cortes, who went up to the Pacific Coast League along with RHP Kevin Hart. Cortes was hitting .280, while Hart was 7-5. Tennessee also lost LHP Jerry Blevins, who went to Oakland in the Jason Kendall trade. Blevins had a 1.52 ERA and three saves. The Smokies added SS Robinson Chirinos, 2B Nate Spears and C Alan Rick, all from Class A Advanced Daytona.

INJURY UPDATE: 2B Gary Cates is expected to be sidelined for a month because of his broken finger. He was hitting .253 with 14 stolen bases.

West Tenn Diamond Jaxx (Seattle Mariners)
THE WEEK THAT WAS: The Diamond Jaxx (13-17) won five games at Mobile for their first series sweep of the season.

WHO'S HOT, WHO'S NOT: RHP Joe Woerman, who had given up 14 earned runs over 7 2/3 innings in his previous three starts, pitched six scoreless innings while improving to 5-5 and lowering his ERA to 4.00. . . . RHP Andrew Baldwin (2-9) snapped his losing streak at five games.

PLAYER TO WATCH: OF Charlton Jimerson hit two homers, tying for the SL lead with 19, and drove in four runs in a victory at Mobile. He'd had a 14-game hitting streak snapped in the previous game, although he drew two walks. He had two hits, including a homer, and drove in two runs in an earlier game. Jimerson, 27, is on a roll in his attempt to get back to the Major Leagues. He is hitting .284, with 58 RBIs and 29 stolen bases.

PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK: OF Michael Wilson finally had a game to remember rather than forget in a season that has brought mostly misery. He had three hits, including a homer, and drove in four runs during a victory at Mobile. Wilson, 24, had just four hits in his previous 53 at-bats with the Diamond Jaxx and missed about two months during two stints on the disabled list. He was headed to the Oklahoma Sooners to play linebacker until Seattle made him a second-round draft choice in 2001.

Guy Curtright is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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