Tag Archives: Greg Burke

Fort Fragments: Blanks, Venable, Ready, Latos, Peavy, Pierzynski

Padres’ youth movement hits Triple-A Portland hard: Several former Fort Wayne players; including Kyle Blanks, Will Venable, Mat Latos and Greg Burke have seen big league action this year. It’s also spelt a drain on talent for Triple-A Portland. With the likelihood of others (such as Triple-A All-Star Home Run Derby winner, Chad Huffman) trickling onto the Padres’ roster in the coming weeks, the chances of Portland improving upon their league worst win-loss record doesn’t look good.

Speaking of Kyle Blanks, he’s starting to earn more widespread attention:

Speaking of Will Venable, the former Wizards outfielder has been fortunate enough to play under close tutilage of his father, Max Venable, a former big leaguer who used to be the hitting coach in Fort Wayne. But apparently it was his mother’s advice that kept her son in baseball rather than the pursuit of hooop dreams. See Also: Venable Has Been a Quick Study.

Former Wizards skipper, Randy Ready has been promoted to the Padre’s hitting coach. Probably a move that also is intended to help keep him in the organization rather than jumping ship to be a big league manager when teams start interviewing to fill soon-to-be vacancies.

Mat Latos is also drawing a lot of acclaim since rising from Fort Wayne to the big leauges earlier this season. He netted his first MLB win in his second start. He allowed two runs over 5 2/3 innings in a 6-2 Padres’ win over the Washington Nationals. He went seven innings in his next start before allowing former Wizards, Michael Ekstrom and Burke to finish his win in a game that also saw a Blanks homer.

While it’s early to call Latos the next San Diego ace of the staff, it’s probably refreshing news following the trade of the former incumbant, Jake Peavy, to the White Sox. In fact, Friday night, Latos gave up seven runs and eight hits in four-plus innings, leading to a 9-2 loss to the Cardinals. The 21-year-old had won his last four starts and was the first Padres pitcher in history to win four of his first five career starts.

More Latos:

On another Jake Peavy note, the former Wizard and Padre has begun his rehab work with the White Sox. He struck out five in his first assignment.

TinCaps right hander, Simon Castro took the seventh Midwest League honor earlier in the month when he was selected as MWL Pitcher of the Week for the week ending Augst 2nd. At the time, he was leading the league in strikeouts with 125 and had just concluded two dominant startswhere he allowed just one run while struck out out 15 over ten innings.

Current White Sox catcher, A.J. Pierzynski hopes to remain in Chicago but realizes tha the might have to try the free agent waters if the up and coming (and cheaper) competition continue to press.

Off the DL: Nick Hundley, Torii Hunter

Taking a Look at the Padres Prospects (requires MadFriars subscription):

Speaking of MadFriars, FriarForecast recently caught up with John Conniff following his trip to Fort Wayne. He provides his take on the new erea of baseball in Fort Wayne

Wizards Where R They?

  • Paul McAnulty: After being released by Boston, McAnulty signed with the Colorado Rockies. He’s now playing with the Triple-A SkySox.
  • Jose Lobaton: The Tampa Bay Rays claimed the catcher off waivers from the Padres and assigned him to Double-A Montgomery.
  • Freddy Guzman: Now playing in Triple-A Norfolk with the Orioles organization.
  • Josh Barfield: After not getting claimed off waivers, Barfield was outrighted from Indian’s 40-Man Roster.

Finally, Paul DePodesta shares his thoughts on the current prospects in the Padres’ system. Many of them are former Wizards/TinCaps.

Greg Burke’s MLB Debut

Former Fort Wayne Wizard, Greg Burke, made his Major League debut yesterday. He’s the third of the season and the 79th overall. He pitched a scoreless inning of releif in a game that saw former Wizard, Nick Hundley win the game for the Padres with a sixteenth inning home run.

The game became tied in the eighth when Cincinnati Reds reliever, David Weathers wallked former Wizard, Drew Macias with the bases juice to plate the run.

With the Wizards in 2006, Burke appeared in 24 games where he compiled a 3.57 ERA with 87 strike out sin 121 innings pitched. He had an ERA above 5.00 over two combined stints with Lake Elsinore. But something must have clicked when he got into the closers role, where he drastically lowered that to 2.24 on the year.

Related BBIFW Greg Burke Posts:

More on Greg Burke’s Callup

As mentioned yesterday, padres RHP Greg Burke got called up to San Diego from triple-A Portland. When he appears in a game, it will mark his Major League Debut. Padres exec Paul DePodesta also adds:

Greg Burke will be making his Major League debut, and it’s a good story. A non-drafted free agent, Greg began his career in 2006 splitting time between the rotation and the bullpen with both of our A-Ball teams. Once again an A-ball swing man in 2007, Greg posted a 5.23 ERA. Then came 2008. Greg made the move to the AA pen, and everything clicked. He notched 23 saves for AA San Antonio on his way to a 2.24 ERA in 84 innings of work. He hasn’t missed a beat in AAA this year with seven saves and a 2.25 ERA across 16 innings.

Fort Fragments (Wizards): Latos, Rincon, Geer, Hefner

The Padres started trimming spots in Spring Training camp today by optioning two players to Double-A San Antonio and sending five to their Minor League camp. Former Wizards Ernesto Frieri and Wilton Lopez were sent to Double-A San Antonio. Right-handed pitchers Mat Latos, Gabe DeHoyos, Will Inman, Oneli Perez and left-hander Nick Schmidt to their Minor League camp. Latos, DeHoyos and Schmidt are former Wizards. Sounds like Latos is slated to start the year at Lake Elsinore.

Jaun Rincon is having a good start to the Spring camp with the Tigers as a non-roster invitee:

“I thought he threw the ball extremely well with some late movement,” Leyland said. “Threw a couple four-seamers in. Threw some high fastballs that had some late tail to them, actually ran like a cutter.

Josh Geer is vying for one of two open rotation spots:

“It feels really good to know that there are two spots open for the starting rotation,” Geer said. “It gives everyone a good chance of making the team. I feel real confident that I can be one of those guys.”

Cesar Ramos also wants one of those spots. Today was not a good day for either of them.

Hot-Prospects has the dish on laster year’s standout Wizards pitcher, Jeremy Hefner:

The Oral Roberts alum increased his stock significantly with an excellent showing at Low-A Fort Wayne last season going 10-5 with a 3.33 ERA and 43 BB/150 K in 145 IP.  Hefner controls his three pitches quite well, an 89-91 MPH fastball, a sweeping slider, and a heavy changeup that he uses effectively against . . .

Lake Elsinore recently interviewed Peter Ciofrone.

Greg Burke has a good chance to make the Padres’ roster sometime this year, if not breaking camp with the Big League squad:

despite being 26, Burke is considered one of the Padres’ top advanced arms in their system, especially after a breakout season with Double-A San Antonio in 2008 as well as a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League.

Former Wizards Likely to Debut in 2009 – Part II

This is the second in a three part series on former Fort Wayne Wizards that I think will debut in Major league Baseball during the 20009 season. In part one, I presented the “sure things” who I think will break camp with their parent clubs or get called up relatively early. Today, I present the “warning track” players who are knocking on the door. All it will take is some good play early in the season and an opportunity at the big league level:

Jon Link (White Sox)

The San Diego Padres drafted pitcher Jon Link in the 26th round of the 2005 draft. Link was traded to the White Sox for Rob Mackowiak in 2007. The 24 year-old spent last season at Double-A Birmingham, where he compiled a 3.02 ERA, struck out 66 batters and collected 35 saves. With the Wizards in 2006, Link appeared in 53 games with a 4.91 EAR while striking out 57 over 62.1 innings pitched to go with a 5-5 record. Link will undoubtedly be assigned to Triple-A to start the season, but I suspect he is being groomed as the closer of the future. While he’s a more sure bet for 2010, he’s knocking on the door and we may get to see him a bit this year.

For more on Link, see also:

Peter Ciofrone (Padres)

Peter Ciofrone started 2008 at AA and ended at Triple-A. During that stint in Portland, he impressed. He was named Pacific Coast League Batter of the Week for May 19-25. During that span, he batted .429 (12-for-28) with four homers, three doubles, 10 RBIs, 10 runs scored and a .964 slugging percentage in seven games.

With Fort Wayne in 2005, he hit .301 with 20 doubles, two triples, five home runs and 59 runs batted in over 104 games. He also drew 50 walks and compiled a .391 OBP.

As one BBIFW commenter suggested, Ciofrone should have been a September call-up last season. I’m not sure where he’ll start the year, though I suspect it will be Triple-A. He’ll get a shot this year as long as he stays healthy and continues to put on a show. Just don’t know when.

Says Geoff at Ducksnorts:

The 24-year-old Ciofrone has decent on-base skills and some pop (although probably not as much as he’s showing this year), and can play multiple positions. The latter skill may eventually get him to the big leagues. Ciofrone exhibits no appreciable platoon splits and has improved his numbers as the season has progressed, which is always a good sign. He’s not a future star, or even a future regular, but he could have a career.

For more on Ciofrone, see also:

Kyle Blanks (Padres)

For Blanks, it is probably not a matter of “if” but “when”. The dude can flat out hit and was one of my favorites to watch at the Castle while he was there. He will start the year at Triple-A Portland after spending all of 2008 in Double-A.

With Fort Wayne in 2006, Blanks appeared in 86 games. He hit .292 with 10 home runs and 52 runs batted in while drawing 36 bases on balls. His production really took off in 2007 and continued to develop in 2008.

If he didn’t have Adrian Gonzalez blocking him cheaply at first base in San Diego, I’d say they would bring him up mid-season. But barring an out-of-the-ordinary trade or injury, that won’t happen. Probably a September call-up.

For more on Blanks, see also:

Greg Burke (Padres)

When it became apparent that Trevor Hoffman was not returning to San Diego, I boldly predicted that Greg Burk would take on the closer’s role. I’m probably a year or two ahead of things, but I still think he’ll get there.

He’s been used mostly as a middle relief guy except for last season, when he saved 23 games for Double-A San Antonio. With the Wizards in 2006, Burke appeared in 24 games where he compiled a 3.57 ERA with 87 strike out sin 121 innings pitched. He had an ERA above 5.00 over two combined stints with Lake Elsinore. But something must have clicked when he got into the closers role, where he drastically lowered that to 2.24 on the year.

“I felt this was do-or-die coming into last season,” Burke said. “I needed to show someone something, I needed to shock people to make the Double-A team and open eyes.”

I see him coming up sometime during the 2009 campaign to soak up some innings for injured middle relief Friars.

For more on Burke, see also:

Cesar Ramos (Padres)

In seven games with Fort Wayne in 2005, Cesar Ramos put together a 3-2 record with a 4.19 ERA and 32 strike outs. He progressed in each area during stops stop of Lake Elsinore and Double-A San Antonio over the next two years. Last year didn’t go so well. He posted a 9-11 record with a 5.15 ERA over 149.2 innings pitched at Triple-A Portland. To make the show, he’s going to have to come back big in 2009. He may get a spot start near the tail end of the season like Dirk Hayhurst did before getting the heave-ho out of the organization.

Brett Dowdy (Padres)

Brett Dowdy will be entering his seventh minor league season; having played in Fort Wayne in 2005. He’s hardly a prospect, but he’s progressed through the system, splitting time between Double-A and Triple-A each of the last two season. He’s got a career .269 batting average with 23 home runs and 168 runs batted in over more than 1,700 at-bats. 2009 is a make or break year for Dowdy. He’s probably a dark horse of this bunch, but you never know.

In part three, I’ll present the “outside shot” and more “dark horse” candidates.

Who’s the Next Hoffman?

Most Padres fans have accepted the reality that the next phase of the San Diego Padres will not only be a dark one, but it will not include future Hall of Famer, Trevor Hoffman. Padres Ace and former Wizard, Jake Peavy will also likely be gone.

Can we say REBUILDING?

Obviously, the Padres troubled future will provide some opportunities for up-and-coming former Wizards. Look to see several take the MLB field in 2009. And look for it early. There will be many open positions, and I suspect all of them (except maybe first base) are up for grabs in an “open tryout” of sorts.

But the one we can say with about 99% certainty that will be available is the closer’s spot. Let’s look at the in-house auditions:

Padres MLB Roster: Hoffman collected 30 saves. No other pitcher collected even one. Heath Bell and Cla Meredeth had 6 and 7 chances respectively, but failed to convert. Apparently there is not anyone on the current roster is ready to step into the role.

Portland (AAA): The team leader in saves on the Triple-A level was former Wizar, Jared Wells, with 20. But he’s now in the Seattle organization (for the moment anyway). After Wells was traded, Edwin Moreno took over the closer’s spot. He collect 18 to go with the 8 he had in Double-A; making for 26 on the season. John Madden, who led the Wizards with 20 saves in 2006, pitched in releif for Portland in 2008, but had no saves.

San Antonio (AA): On the Double-A level, we find one of the most likely choices for the closer’s gig in former Wizard, Greg Burke. The Duke University grad went undrafted and signed with the Padres following a tryout camp 2006. In jus this third year as a pro in 2008, Burke collected 23 saves and a 2.24 ERA. He struck out 92 hitters and walked just 17 in 84 1/3 innings. The second highest save total on the team was Moreno’s 8 (see above). With the Wizards in 2006, Burke pitched middle relief and had no saves. Double-A to MLB is somewhat of a stretch, but Burke was invited to the Arizona Fall League and is starting to draw attention.

Lake Elsinore (High A) and Fort Wayne (Low-A): At Lake Elsinore, R.J. Rodriguez and Wilton Lopez each had a dozen saves to lead the team. Lopez had the edge in ERA, 2.64 to Rodriguez’s 4.92. And while Rodriquez might appear to have the advantage in strikeouts, with 79 to Lopez’s 26, Lopez pitched in a third of the innings that Rodriguez did (30.2 vs. 99). With the Wizards in 2007, Lopez had no saves, while Rodriguez paced the team with 18.

In Fort Wayne, the closer’s role of 2008  belonged to Jackson Quesada, who collected 27 saves, a 2.12 ERA and 79 strikeouts to 19 walks in 63 innings pitched. While he looks promizing, he is less experienced. I’ve seen more than one exciting closer come through Fort Wayne who didn’t pan out in the Majors. Matt Varner collected 34 saves in 2005. Anthony Kozol had 21 in 2002, Mike Bumstead had 17 in 2001. Perhaps the most promising I ever saw was J.J. Trujillo, who set a then Midwest League record with 42 in 1999.

To my knowledge, none of those pitchers are in any of the MLB farm systems. Leo Rosales and Dale Thayer led the Wizards with 26 in 2004 and 25 in 2003 respectively. Rosales made his MLB debut with Arizon in 2008 and Thayer is on the verge after having been a Triple-A All-Star in the Tampa Bay system in 2008. Hwoever, neither are on a track to be a closer (Thayer is probably the more likely of the two).

All that said, it’s not unheard of for a Single-A pitcher to go to the big leagues the following year. Former Wizard, Joakim Soria did so. But something tells me, the Padres aren’t going to try it. Yet, speaking of Soria, maybe it’s possible for the Padres to make their own Rule-5 Draft steal like the Royals did when they snagged Soria.

Right now, my gut is telling me we’ll see Greg Burke get the first crack at taking hte mound in the ninth inning when the 2009 season kicks off.

Anyone want to agree or tell me why I’m wrong?

Padres to Slash Payroll? What it Means for Former Wizards.

With the news that the Padres will release second baseman Tadahito Iguchi and pitcher Brett Tomko to make room for Wade LeBlanc and Matt Antonelli, anyone can see that the Padres are already making plans for next year. This is the latest in a series of moves that have involved bringing minor league talent to the Padres, and many of them have included former Wizards.

I gotta think there will be many more moves in the remaining days of the 2008 season that could spell opportunities for other former Wizards, which should also make for an interesting Spring Training as the prevailing speculation is that the Padres will continue to slash payroll.

As part of a pitch to get Brian Giles to accept a trade to the Red Sox this past week, a Padres executive painted a stark fiscal picture for 2009, saying club owner John Moores might shrink the payroll to $40 million. [SignonSanDiego -August 9, 2008]

GM Kevin Towers denies this claim, but then again, he also hasn’t seen the budget for 2009 yet. Yet, the Padres already field one of the lowest salaried teams in Major League Baseball.

The Padres don’t have any large contracts on the books for ’09; Giles would be their most expensive player at $9MM unless they choose his $3MM buyout.  After that it’s Jake Peavy at $8MM, Khalil Greene at $6.5MM, Chris Young at $4.5MM, and Adrian Gonzalez at $3MM.  By my count they have six arbitration-eligible players, including Josh Bard, Heath Bell, Scott Hairston, and Jody Gerut [MLBTradeRumors.com].

There is also speculation that John Moores’ divorce is a factor that may adversely impact the team.

California is a community property state, which means Becky Moores — the soon-to-be-ex-Mrs.-John — is in play and there already are indications that player payroll will be cut significantly in 2009 (it’s just over $70 million this year). That’s why the Padres already have worked hard to trade Giles and pitcher Greg Maddux this season, positioning themselves for an early start on the payroll-shedding process [CBSSports.com].

Sean Kazmar with the WizardsSo what does this mean for former Wizards who are trying to crack a big league roster? Certainly, the Padres are trying to add by subtracting. There’s the possibility that the Padres may try to move Khalil Greene and his $6.5MM salary, shich might provide a spot for Sean Kazmar, who made his debut just a couple weeks ago. But the rookie is now learning how to play outfield (a la Chase Headley) during this season’s Arizona Fall League. The move could merely be an attempt to get him more at-bats, or it could mean there is nowhere to play Kazmar in the infield.

Kazmar will join the Peoria Saguaros in the AFL with pitchers Greg Burke, Cesar Carillo, Mike Ekstrom, Wilton Lopez, first baseman Kyle Blanks and outfielders Mike Baxter and Chad Huffman. All of them except for Carillo are former Wizards. If Blanks keeps playing the way he has lately, San Diego may have to move him or Adrian Gonzalez or find a place elsewhere on the diamond for one of the two.

Like Kazmar, Brian Joynt, who played third this season with the Wizards before his promotion to Lake Elsinore will see time in the outfield.

Colt Morton with the WizardsBaxter will also get time at an unfamiliar position. The outfielder hit .270 with seven home runs and 47 RBIs at Double-A San Antonio and will get some looks at catcher. This season has seen three different former Wizards serve the backstop role. Luke Carlin and Nick Hundley have seen the most time between the three, which might suggest Colt Morton could be moved to another team during the offseason. the starting catcher, Josh Bard may not be around for 2009 either if the Friars think Carlin and Hundley can do the job.

Longtime closer, Trevor Hoffman has had some troubles while attempting to nail down games this year. There is divided opinion about whether it is time for a change or not. The Portland pitcher who produced the most saves this year, Jared Wells, is now in the Seattle organization (traded earlier this season). That may bring about an opportunity for Greg Burke, who will see action in the AFL and has collected 23 saves at Double-A San Antonio. Lake Elsinore doesn’t have anyone who is ready to fill that void. And while Jackson Quezada collected 27 saves on minimal opportunities in Fort Wayne, that is probably too big of a jump from Low-A to the MLB (but then again, it worked out well for the Royals and Joakim Soria).

Jackson QuezadaAll this should make for an interesting winter and 2009 Spring Training. There should be some names that are familiar to Fort Wayne fans on the San Diego Roster come opening day. The best part is that we have the whole month of September to see some of these great former Wizards make the most of their opportunities. Chase Headley, Will Venable, Wade LeBlanc, Sean Kazmar, Josh Geer, Dirk Hayhurst, Matt Antonelli, Nick Hundley have joined Jake Peavy on the parent club roster and maybe some others will soon follow.

When you factor in the former Wizards who are with other organizations, there have been nine former Wizards to debut at the MLB level. This ranks second only to 2002, which saw 11 prospects (including Jake Peavy and Oliver Perez) hit the big leagues. With about a month to go, I am sure we’ll see at least 3-4 more.

I’m predicting we’ll see Dale Thayer (P-Rays), Brett Dowdy (SS-Padres), David Freese (3B-Cardinals) this season.

It wouldn’t be too surprising to also see Jon Link who had 35 saves with the White Sox’s Double-A Birmingham Barons and was named the Southern League’s Top Reliever of 2009. He was one of 15 players, and the only reliever, named to the league’s post-season All-Star team and was the lone Baron selected. He was one save shy of the league saves record. But given the Sox’s playoff race, he’s probably a 2009 debut.

Anyone else have thoughts on the Padres prospective 2009 squad and/or which prospects we’ll see make their MLB debuts this season (whether they are in the Padres’ system any longer or not)?