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Minor League Report

So a few housekeeping items first, starting with your lineups, added at 4:05 p.m.

Colorado:
Taveras -- 8
Matsui -- 4
Holliday -- 7
Helton -- 3
Atkins -- 5
Spilborghs -- 9 (Hawpe being punished for last night?)
Tulowitzki -- 6
Iannetta -- 2
Cook -- 1

Washington:
Lopez -- 6
Belliard -- 4
Zimmerman -- 5
Young -- 3
Church -- 7
Kearns -- 9
Schneider -- 2
Langerhans -- 8
Traber -- 1

As I've written about before, I always have trouble getting the Nationals' community service stuff in the paper, which is a shame. Those inches in the $.35 edition are valuable, and it seems as if a strained groin or tender elbow always wins out over a hospital appearance, etc.

But there's one this weekend that is relying on you folks to be successful, a Toys for Tots drive. Here, direct from Nats p.r./community relations, are the details:

WHAT: Washington Nationals Christmas in July Toy Drive
The Washington Nationals and the U.S. Marine Corps will partner to collect new, unwrapped toys to benefit the Toys for Tots Foundation. All fans who make a donation will receive a Nationals promotional item, while supplies last.

WHO: Washington Nationals "First Ladies" - Nationals Players' wives and girlfriends and U.S. Marines will be on-hand to assist with toy collection.

WHEN: Friday - Sunday, July 20 - 22, 2007
The Washington Nationals series against the Colorado Rockies (Friday at 7:05pm, Saturday at 3:55pm and Sunday at 1:35pm). Collection will begin when gates open (5:30pm on Friday, 2:25pm on Saturday, 12:00pm on Sunday) through the bottom of the 4th inning.


WHERE: Collection Bins will be located outside Main Gate, Gate A and Gate F

Help out if you can. I know a lot of people would bring stuff if they were aware, so spread the word.

So my thanks to D'Angelo Jimenez for coming up with an interesting way to end the game last night. And for Jimenez, getting a single in any situation these days is interesting enough. Thought his boasting to Manny Acta about being a stud was amusing.

The notebook this morning dealt with what it probably will when I'm at the park for the next two weeks - trade stuff. This was with Chad Cordero. I find this situation among the most intriguing, because Cordero really is a guy who could be an important part of the future, and the Nationals have no desire to give him away. But if a contender gets desperate for bullpen help, they could offer the right price.

Over the winter, I was told that the Nationals wanted OF Lastings Milledge AND another prospect from the Mets for Cordero. It seems unlikely that that price will be met. And as an N.L. exec I talked to this week said in the notebook, the Nationals should sell the guy as a closer, but other teams might be thinking of him as a setup man, and therefore a price could be hard to agree upon.

Podcast makes mention of mortgage rates. Is anybody listening anyway?

Two other small items: Billy Traber will start tonight in place of Jason Simontacchi, who has some tendinitis in his elbow. They think it'll just be one start for Simontacchi - who has 13 starts and 13 decisions (6-7). Among pitchers with at least 10 starts this year, only Boston's Tim Wakefield has a decision in every start he's made.

Traber's career splits: 7-11 with a 6.28 ERA and .309 opponents' average in 26 major league starts; 5-1 with a 3.51 ERA and .264 opponents' average in 45 relief appearances. Good luck tonight.

Also: As mentioned yesterday, the Nationals signed RHP Hector Carrasco to a minor league deal. Good move, it seems. Carrasco was designated for assignment by the Angels last week after going 2-1 with a 6.57 ERA. He had signed a two-year, $9-million deal with them after the '05 season with Washington, in which he was nothing short of spectacular (5-4, 2.04 ERA). Crazy dude, that Carrasco. Got in a single-car wreck during spring training, then had his car break down on I-395 South headed to Virginia - right on the bridge - in the first week of the season.

The larger meaning of the Carrasco signing, though, is that pieces of the bullpen (Cordero, Rauch) could be dealt before the deadline. It would give the Nationals a no-risk pitcher with major league experience and familiarity with pitching coach Randy St. Claire should they need to call someone up because others are traded away.

Which brings me to the point of today's posting: A minor league report - of sorts. I let this stuff get away too often, so hopefully I can offer you something now.

First off, Garrett Mock - the well-built right-hander received in the Livan Hernandez trade along with Matt Chico - has been a bit inconsistent since coming back from knee and arm problems. Last night, he gave up four runs in five innings against Altoona, raising his ERA to 7.62 for the Senators. Some in the organization originally thought Mock could be called up late in the year. He was supposed to be better than Chico upon arrival. That prospect appears dim right now.

Better news: OF Chris Marrero, the top pick from the 2006 draft, is hitting .417 over his last 10 games, including a 3-for-4 effort last night, for Class A Potomac. Since being promoted from low-A Hagerstown last month, he's hitting .321 with four homers and 18 RBI in 28 games for the P-Nats. Throw in a .408 OBP and .514 slugging percentage, and the transition is going smoothly.

OF Justin Maxwell, though, has struggled with Potomac. He was originally promoted all the way to Class AA Harrisburg, but he strained his rib cage while sneezing. "He hasn't been the same," GM Jim Bowden said. He went 0 for 5 last night to drop his average to .208. Mike Daniel, the other outfielder promoted from Hagerstown earlier in the year, went 3 for 5 last night to raise his Potomac average to .331.

Some of the most exciting work in the minors, though, is occurring in Burlington, Vt., where the short-season Class A Vermont Lake Monsters appear to be stocked with the Nationals' best pitching prospects.

Glenn Gibson, taken in the 2006 draft out of high school on Long Island, is 3-0 with a 1.00 ERA in five starts covering 27 innings. That would be impressive enough, and we could move on. But what stands out is Gibson's strikeout/walk ratio: 31 Ks, 2 BB. You read that right. 2 BB in 27 innings. That stat, more than any, shows in the minors that a guy is truly dominating.

You want more? Take Adrian Alaniz, a right-hander out of the University of Texas taken in the eighth round of this year's draft. He has made six appearances - three starts and three as a reliever. He was good as a reliever, allowing one run in 8-2/3 with 11 strikeouts and four walks. As a starter: 3-0, 0.00 ERA, eight hits in 17 innings, 20 Ks and NO WALKS. His total numbers: 4-0, 0.35 ERA, 31 Ks, 4 walks. Yikes. Last night against Auburn (where Manny Acta first managed), he went six innings, gave up two hits, struck out eight and walked no one.

By those standards, the stats for 2006 first-round pick Colton Willems look pedestrian. Yet Willems is 2-0 with a 1.82 ERA in five starts covering 24-2/3 innings. He has struggled more with his control, walking 12 and striking out 10. Jordan Zimmermann, the right-hander taken out of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point this year, is 0-1 with a 2.87 ERA in five appearances, three of them starts. He has 25 Ks and eight walks in 15-2/3 innings.

Perhaps some of that scouting the Nationals have boasted about is paying off. Clearly, the organization now has more promising young arms than it did a year ago. It suffers, however, from a dearth of hitting prospects (beyond, really, Marrero). I believe that would be a target for the trade deadline.

Enjoy the rest of the day, and the weekend. I'll check in periodically, I imagine.

By Barry Svrluga  |  July 20, 2007; 12:25 PM ET
 
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