July 25, 2014

Velazquez getting most out of first pro baseball season

Former Los Banos and Merced College pitcher Derick Velazquez wasted no time getting started on his big-league dream.

Derick Velazquez didn’t waste much time negotiating.

The former Los Banos High School and Merced College ace was selected in the seventh round of the major-league draft by the Houston Astros on June 6. He made his professional debut 11 days later, pitching for the Tri-City ValleyCats in the Class-A short-season New York-Penn League.

The transition has been smooth for the right-hander. Velazquez has made nine relief appearances, going 0-1 with a 2.61 ERA and two saves. He has allowed three runs in 101/3 innings, striking out 11 and walking two.

The short season ends Sept. 1, giving Velazquez just over two months to get his feet wet in his first minor-league season.

With Curtis Partch (Cincinnati Reds) and Doug Fister (Washington Nationals) pitching in the big leagues, there are nine professional baseball players with local ties. Here’s a look at how the rest of the minor leaguers are doing:

Cody Martin, Triple-A Gwinnett – Martin seems to have the best chance of joining Fister and Partch in the major leagues this season.

The Atlanta Braves have fought admirably through a string of arm injuries to their starting pitchers. Still, Martin’s numbers have more than earned him a look come September when the big-league rosters expand. The former Dos Palos ace, meanwhile, just keeps plodding along. Martin is 3-3 in his last 10 outings with a 3.77 ERA. Overall, he’s 6-6 with a 3.37 ERA and 99 strikeouts in 115 innings.

Eddie Gamboa, Triple-A Norfolk – Gamboa looked destined to get his first taste of the show this season, but a 50-game suspension for a failed drug test is certainly a setback.

The former Merced High hurler’s suspension will end in early August, leaving him a little time to try to salvage 2014.

Bradin Hagens, Double-A Mobile – After a brilliant April and May, Hagens has hit a rough patch since June. The former Merced College right-hander has posted a 5.53 ERA with 27 walks to 27 strikeouts in his last 10 starts.

The impressive thing is that Hagens is finding a way to win. He’s 5-3 over the stretch, improving him to 8-5 on the season.

Dylan Floro, Double-A Birmingham – Floro responded to the first real adversity of his minor-league career, a 6.41 ERA in his first month of Double A, with a 1.95 ERA over the next two months.

The start of July hasn’t been as smooth, but the former Buhach Colony star still is showing why he was named the Rays’ 2013 Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Floro is 9-8 on the season with a 3.48 ERA and 88 strikeouts to 15 walks.

Ben Griset, Class-A Bowling Green – The former Gustine left-hander opened the season effectively out of the bullpen for Advanced-A Charlotte, but the Rays decided to take a look at Griset as a starter.

The transition back hasn’t been as smooth as he hoped. He’s 0-6 in nine starts with Bowling Green, posting a 4.73 ERA. His command has been good, however, striking out 33 while surrendering just seven walks.

Brett Mooneyham, Class-A Hagerstown – Mooneyham hasn’t fully righted the ship after a nightmarish start to 2014, but a demotion to Hagerstown seems to have been a step in the right direction.

The former Buhach Colony left-hander has made six appearances for the Suns, starting four games. He’s 2-0 with a 3.86 ERA but has walked 18 in 252/3 innings.

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