As the Dodgers head into their series with the San Diego Padres, it’s nearly time to close the door on April, and to see where we stand as an organization.
Traveling as often as I do, I don’t get the chance to see a lot of Dodgers home games in person. But this week, I’m in town to see the Inland Empire 66ers take on San Diego’s California League affiliate, the Lake Elsinore Storm. Since the series doesn’t start until tomorrow, that gives me a chance to steal out to Dodger Stadium for tonight’s game with San Diego.
Unfortunately, it means I’ll miss a chance to see Alberto Bastardo pitch, but I’ll be happy to see James McDonald on the mound, which helps make up for it.
The Albuqurque Isotopes are 9-10, in first place in the PCL American South Division.
The Chattanooga Lookouts are 6-14, in last place in the Southern League North Division.
The Inland Empire 66ers are 8-12, in 3rd place (of five) in the California League South Division.
The Great Lakes Loons are 10-9, in 3rd place (of six) in the Midwest League Eastern Division.
And the best news of all is that our Los Angeles Dodgers are 14-8. First place in the NL West, second place in the National League, third place in all of baseball. The young rotation has performed well – dominantly at times – and the offense is firing on all cylinders.
More good news has Jeff Weaver being recalled today from Albuquerque. He will probably pitch in the back end of the rotation, moving James McDonald to the bullpen.
Even more good news focuses on Isotopes starter Eric Milton.
From 1998-2003, the lefty was a very good starter for the Minnesota Twins. He never had a dominating fastball – topping out around 91 mph – but had a very good curveball and a changeup that he used just often enough to keep hitters off-balance.
He was an All-Star in 2001, and in 2003 he put together a .941 WHIP in an injury-shortened 17 innings before going to Philadelphia, and then to Cincinnati. In his final year with the Reds, his fastball had fallen to just 86.4 miles per hour, and he threw his changeup a career-high 21.9% of the time.
He continued to struggle with injuries, and in 2008, he was out of baseball entirely. This year, he joined up with the Dodgers, and was assigned to Albuquerque, where he is pitching very well. Well enough, in fact, that he was named this week’s PCL Pitcher of the Week.
Milton tossed six shutout innings, allowing just two hits and a walk in
a victory at Iowa on April 21 before pitching another six shutout
frames in yesterday’s win at New Orleans. In his most recent outing,
the left-hander had a no-hitter through 5.1 frames before finishing his
six-innings of work by allowing just two hits and two walks while
fanning two. Over the two outings, opposing hitters are batting just
.103 (4-for-39) against Milton.
His fastball velocity is back in the 88 mph range, and he’s placing it extremely well. Whether it’s Milton himself, pitching coach Jim Slaton, or even his relationship with catcher A.J. Ellis, I don’t know. I haven’t gotten a chance to watch Milton pitch yet this year (next week, possibly), but his charts look very good.
If he can stay healthy, and continue to pitch this well, he can make a serious impact at the Major League level this season.