SportsTicker Insider Report For Tuesday, November 4
By Jonathan E. Mailloux SportsTicker Staff Writer
BOSTON (Ticker) - After splitting time between three minor league levels and serving a 10-game stint in the majors, righthander Dewon Brazelton has become one of the most dominant pitchers in the Arizona Fall League.
A first-team All-American at Middle Tennessee State in 2001, Brazelton was taken third overall in the 2001 draft by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and coaches immediately made some changes to his game.
"They changed my whole windup and the approach to how I pitched," the 23-year-old Brazleton said. "I had to think too much because (the delivery) wasn't natural to me."
With this new approach, Brazelton had a solid first pro season in 2002, posting a 3.22 ERA over 27 starts between Class AA Orlando and Class AAA Durham before a late September call-up to the big club.
The 6-4, 210-pounder had a strong first month of his second pro season with Durham to earn a spot in the Devil Rays' rotation by May. Despite notching his first major league win against the Anaheim Angels on May 30, Brazelton struggled with his consistency, going 1-6 with a 6.89 ERA en route to a demotion to Bakersfield of the Class A California League.
"Obviously nobody likes getting sent down," Brazelton said. "I kinda resented it at first, but it ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me because I hooked up with (pitching coach) Marty DeMerritt, who's a great teacher."
In California, the power-pitching Brazelton got back to basics, changing his approach to pitching with his new-found mentor.
"We watched video tapes from my college days, from the last time I was really dominant," Brazelton said. "We tried to mimic those mechanics and get back that attitude, that dominant attitude."
Going back to the "drop-and-drive, arms-and-legs" delivery that he had used since childhood, Brazelton felt rejuvenated after his six-week stint in California and regained the confidence that was lost during his struggles with Tampa Bay.
"I was 10 times better because of Marty DeMerritt," Brazelton said of his 2-0 record and 2.53 ERA in a second stint in Class AA Orlando. "(Orlando pitching coach) Dick Bosman re-enforced what Marty DeMerritt had done ... and it may have saved my career."
Joining the Arizona Fall League's Mesa Solar Sox in late September to build on his improvement, Brazelton has had great success with his rediscovered delivery and three-pitch repertoire, which includes a mid-90s fastball, a solid changeup and a much improved slider.
Through seven appearances, Brazelton has gone 4-0, posted a 3.54 ERA and struck out 27 batters, second most in the circuit. The Devil Rays' top pitching prospect also notched a league-best, 14-inning scoreless streak from October 9-27 and held opposing hitters to a .205 average.
With natural ability, determination and continued development, Brazelton has an excellent chance of making Tampa's starting rotation out of spring training in 2004 and is a key component to the organization's efforts towards its first winning season.
Grand Canyon Rafters - Outfielder Todd Linden (Giants) drove in seven runs last week. A supplemental first-round pick in 2001, Linden had four hits against the Mesa Desert Dogs October 28 and recorded back-to-back, three-hit games to go with five RBI in a home-and-home series with the Mesa Solar Sox October 31-November 1. ... Outfielder Mike Vento (Yankees) posted a four-game hitting streak and produced his fifth and sixth multi-RBI games of the fall, including three RBI on October 28. ... Righthander Ramon Ramirez (Yankees) won his second straight start, tossing five one-hit innings in a 6-4 win over the Peoria Javelinas October 29. The 22-year-old has allowed one earned run over his last 10 innings, producing a 1.80 ERA this fall.
Mesa Solar Sox - Outfielder Jason Dubois (Cubs) homered in three straight games from October 30 to November 1. The 24-year-old Virginia native drove in seven runs during the week and was leading the league in home runs (eight) and RBI (25) through November 3. ... After hitting just six home runs in 98 games in Class AA ball this summer, shortstop Kelly Johnson (Braves) connected on his fifth homer of the fall, a grand slam against the Mesa Desert Dogs October 30. ... The first overall pick in 2003, outfielder Delmon Young struck his first professional home run and had three hits against the Peoria Saguaros October 28. ... Righthander Aaron Rakers (Orioles) earned his league-leading fifth win, tossing two scoreless innings against the Grand Canyon Rafters November 1.
Mesa Desert Dogs - Catcher J.R. House (Pirates) homered in three straight games and drove in 10 runs during a five-game RBI streak. The 23-year-old had collected 10 extra-base hits and 15 RBI through November 3. ... Outfielder Luke Scott (Indians) recorded a pair of three-hit games, including a two-homer effort against the Grand Canyon Rafters October 28, during the week. ... Shortstop Freddie Bynum (Athletics) doubled his fall RBI total with three RBI against the Scottsdale Scorpions October 31. The 2000 second-round pick notched three extra-base hits in the 12-5 victory. ... First baseman Dan Johnson (Athletics) hit safely in five consecutive games during the week, batting .611 (11-18) over that stretch. In 24 games this fall, the 2002 Texas League All-Star has produced a .378 average and 25 RBI. ... Righthander Kyle Evans (Indians) tossed five one-hit innings in a 4-3 win over the Mesa Solar Sox October 29. The Baylor product has allowed two hits over his last 10 innings and has posted a 1.80 ERA this fall.
Peoria Saguaros - Second baseman Jake Gautreau (Padres) led the league with a .538 batting average (7-13) during the week. The 14th overall pick in 2001 recorded multiple hits in all three games and knocked in six runs. ... Righthander Ben Hendrickson (Brewers) tossed five scoreless innings in a no-decision against the Scottsdale Scorpions October 29. The 22-year-old allowed three hits and struck out seven. ... Continuing to rehab after shoulder surgery earlier this year, righthander Nick Regilio (Rangers) allowed a run and fanned seven in five solid innings against the Peoria Javelinas October 31. The 25-year-old has sported a 2.95 ERA with 18 strikeouts this fall.
Peoria Javelinas - Righthander Zach McClellan (Royals) earned a pair of wins in relief last week to improve to 3-0 with a 1.83 ERA. The 24-year-old tossed 2 2/3 perfect innings against the Grand Canyon Rafters October 30 and threw a pair of one-hit innings against the Mesa Solar Sox November 3. ... First baseman Chad Santos recorded a pair of multi-hit games, including a four-hit, three-RBI effort on November 3. ... Outfielder David DeJesus (Royals) extended his hitting streak to league-best 11 games. The 23-year-old Rutgers product also hit a pair of two-run homers during the week, upping his average to .302 for the fall. ... Catcher Ryan Hankins (White Sox) has hit safely in seven consecutive games, including a three-hit performance on November 3 which raised his average to a team-leading .367.
Scottsdale Scorpions - Righthander Greg Powell (Astros) won his second consecutive start. The 25-year-old yielded an unearned run, scattered four hits and struck out five in six strong innings against the Peoria Saguaros October 30. This fall, Powell has struck out 16 and issued just one walk in 25 2/3 innings. ... Second baseman Scott Hairston (Diamondbacks) extended his hitting streak to 10 games by hitting a two-run homer against the Grand Canyon Rafters on November 3. ... Outfielder Dernell Stenson (Reds) has hit safely in nine of his last 11 games to increase his average to .387 (24-62).