Pittsburgh Pirates: Minor League Notebook

Pittsburgh Pirates: Minor League Notebook

<b>NASHVILLE</b><br> <b>JOHNNY BE GOOD</b> His overall numbers don't show it, but Nashville Sounds pitcher John VanBenschoten (3-7, 4.06 ERA) is finally starting to come into his own at the Triple-A level. After losing his first six decisions this season, the Pirates top pick in the 2001 draft is 3-1 with a 2.91 ERA in his last seven starts. He has allowed only 14 earned runs in 43.1 innings, struck out 36 and walked only 11.

  • BURNED OUT HOUSE Another Pirates top prospect, catcher J.R. House, has hit a wall as the Triple-A All-Star break looms. Before Sunday's game House was stuck in a 2-for-22 slump and is hitting only .204 since coming off the disabled list for a knee sprain. House is being outplayed by backup Keith McDonald - a career minor-league backstop who is 11-for-28 (.393) in his last 10 games and earlier this season had a team-high 12-game hitting streak.
  • MAHOMES SWEET HOME The Pittsburgh Pirates signed free agent pitcher Pat Mahomes to a minor league deal and he will report to Nashville after the All-Star break. Mahomes, who earlier this season played for both Edmonton and Albuquerque, returns to a team where he went 8-4 with a 2.67 ERA in 64 innings. He was also 0-1 with a 4.84 ERA in one start and eight relief appearances with the Pirates in 2003.
  • ALL A-JAR Kevin Jarvis, who signed with the Pirates Friday and was immediately assigned to Nashville, made his first start with the club Saturday against Omaha. He received a no-decision for his five innings of work and allowed only one earned run on three hits while striking out four and walking one. In 10 games this season with Colorado and Seattle, the 34-year-old right-hander was 1-0 with a bloated 10.80 ERA. If the Pirates recall him, it will be his eighth different team since breaking in with Cincinnati in 1994.

  • QUICK CORTING Jorge Cortes has not played a game for Altoona, but he and manager Tony Beasley will certainly have quite a bit of time to get acquainted before he does. Cortes, originally signed as a non-drafted free agent, was recalled from Double-A Lynchburg Thursday, instead joined Beasley and right-hander Bryan Bullington in the Futures Game Sunday as part of the All-Star festivities in Houston. The 23-year-old outfielder who was named the Most Valuable Player in the South Atlantic League last season, batted .292 with five homers and 36 RBI in 70 games for Lynchburg this season. In the Futures Game, he was 0-for-2 with a walk and a run scored.
  • ON THE MOUND Bullington worked one inning on the mound in the U.S. Futures' 4-3 win, and struck out one. Before the Futures Game Bullington, the top pick in the 2002 draft, was 6-5 with a 3.89 ERA in 17 starts for the Curve.

  • RETURN TRIP To make room for Cortes on the Altoona roster infielder Ray Navarette was demoted to Lynchburg. In 50 games for the Curve, Navarette hit only .238 with two homers and 17 RBI. In nine games with Lynchburg this season, including an earlier assignment, Navarette is batting .184 for the Hillcats with one homer and three RBI. In 2002, when he was a Carolina League all-star, Navarette batted .318 for the Hillcats, but struggled in Altoona last season batting only .256.
  • ON THE DONWNSIDE Lynchburg finished second to Potomac, 2.5 games out of first in the first half of the season, but so far in the second half the team has struggled. Heading into Sunday's game against Frederick, the Hillcats were 7-10 after the midway points and had lost four of their last five.

  • NO NO-NO Pitcher Leo Nunez flirted with a no-hitter Sunday when he tossed seven without allowing a hit in a 6-1 win over Hagerstown. The right-hander struck out a career-high 10 in the victory while improving to 5-2 with a 3.04 ERA on the season. Jason Columbus, the designated hitter for Hagerstown, broke up the no-hit bid with a leadoff homer in the eighth as Nunez finished with a three-hitter.
  • ADAM FIRST Hillcats outfielder Adam Boeve homered Sunday for his third in two days to tie Asheville's Ian Stewart for the South Atlantic League lead. The Crawdads scored 35 runs in the first three games of the four-game series against Hagerstown.

  • EXTRA BASES In their first 19 games, the Crosscutters have combined to hit 14 homers. … Infielder Christian Herrera continues to flirt with .300. He's batting .298 with one RBI in 17 games played. … In four appearances, three starts, pitcher Matt Guillory is 3-0 with a 1.99 ERA.

  • NO WALK IN THE PARK Neil Walker may have had a hit in his first professional game, but the 2004 first round draft pick has not had many since. In 14 games, Walker is batting only .212 with four doubles and five RBI. The Pine-Richland High School graduate is 11-for-52 and has hit into two double plays and committed an error defensively at catcher.
  • MAKING THEIR PITCH Joseph Salas was the 712th player taken in this year's draft, but the left-hander from the University of New Mexico is looking for rapid advancement. Salas is 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA and three saves in seven games with the Pirates. Joel Ortega also appears as though he's ready for a move to Williamsport. After a 4-1 season last year, Ortega is 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA in two starts this season.

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