Gutierrez's hits someday may grow into HRs
ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Watching Ricky Gutierrez single a pitcher to distraction wouldn't make most observers liken his style to that of a slugger.
But when Rochester Red Wings manager Jerry Narron watches Gutierrez, the Triple-A International League's second-leading hitter going into the weekend, he conjures up images of big-league power hitters.
"There have been a lot of guys in the minor leagues who never hit a lot of home runs," Narron said. "They got to the big leagues, and their game progressed. Don Mattingly was an opposite-field hitter in the minor leagues. Wally Joyner never hit a lot of home runs in the minor leagues."
Gutierrez didn't hit a homer last season, and he has six in his minor-league career. The right-handed batter has three doubles and a triple this season.
Gutierrez's lack of power now doesn't stop Narron from speculating on the future.
"Ricky right now is an other-way kind of guy," he said. "Maybe, in a couple of years, he'll hit the ball with more power. Eventually, he'll start turning on balls."
Player and manager attribute Gutierrez's .360 average, 107 points higher than his career average, to physical maturity.
Gutierrez, 21, came to spring training a littler taller and about 10 pounds heavier. Narron has seen Gutierrez grow since he played on Narron's 1989 Frederick team one year out of high school.
"An 18-year-old is not going to have the bat speed a 21-year-old will have," Narron said.
Or the confidence at the plate.
"I used to get frustrated when I had one bad at-bat," Gutierrez said. "I used to let it carry. Now, I'm so confident at the plate if I don't get a hit my first at-bat, I know I'll get a hit before the day's over."
Gutierrez has gone hitless in four of the Red Wings' first 22 games, but has made up for those lapses with eight multiple-hit games.
* MISCELLANEOUS: Reliever Daryl Moore has not allowed a hit in 3 1/3 innings since joining the team from Hagerstown. The left-hander made his debut with the bases loaded and one out in extra innings of a tie game Sunday, and got two pop-ups. . . . Right-hander Todd Stephan had gone four appearances totaling nine innings without giving up a run. . . . Right-hander Pat Leinen recorded his first professional save in Thursday's 7-0 victory over Toledo, after recording his first victory in relief last Sunday in Game 1 of a doubleheader against Richmond. . . . Richie Lewis pitched back-to-back, complete-game victories, allowing one run and nine hits and striking out 18 over those starts. . . . Richmond's Pete Smith pitched a perfect game against the Red Wings on Sunday in the second game of a doubleheader. The right-hander dispatched them on 80 pitches, striking out 12 in the seven-inning game. . . . 3B Tommy Shields went 50 at-bats before drawing a walk. He had struck out nine times in that span,
and is batting .309 for the season. HAGERSTOWN -- The Hagerstown Suns have undergone their longest losing streak in three years, and the pitching staff has been the major culprit.
They dropped to seventh in the eight-team Double-A Eastern League with a seven-game slide.
After 26 games, the team ERA was 4.17, and Suns pitchers had averaged more than four walks, issuing 111, high in the league.
The one notable exception was starter Kip Yaughn. Despite some tough luck, including a 1-0 loss after he pitched a two-hitter for seven innings, Yaughn had a 2-2 record, a 2.34 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 38 1/3 innings.
He had walked only 11 batters in six starts, and opponents were hitting .209 against him.
* MISCELLANEOUS: Damon Buford suffered the team's first ejection of the season at New Britain on Thursday for arguing balls and strikes. Buford was the league leader with 14 stolen bases, including a successful last nine straight. . . . Of Mel Wearing's first 15 RBI, nine came with two out. He was batting .333 with runners in scoring position. . . . The Suns' catchers were doing a good job of throwing out potential base stealers. They nailed 23 of the first 40 (58 percent), with Cesar Devares getting 14 of 24 and Ed Horowitz seven of 12. The last nine had been nabbed in succession. . . . Rodney Lofton is the only Sun to play every inning of the first 26 games. He had reached via a hit or walk in 24 of them and had a .337 batting average, fifth in the league. . . . Jeff Bumgarner was the first Suns relief pitcher in Double-A play to win three games in April.
FREDERICK -- Beware of the left-handers. That's the message being delivered to the Single-A Carolina League by the Frederick Keys.
Terry Farrar and Matt Anderson, both starters, and the newest pitcher on the roster, reliever John Polasek, 6 feet 5, are fueling a surge by the Keys, who lead the Northern Division of the league.
Farrar was named the league Pitcher of the Week for a performance that included two complete games, one a 2-0 shutout over the Salem Buccaneers, and no earned runs in the 18 innings. He has finished three times in six starts.
Anderson also has a shutout against Salem, a 2.25 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 32 innings while walking only eight. Polasek, released by the Montreal Expos organization, earned a victory in his second Keys appearance and already has struck out six in three innings.
As a result, the Keys won seven of 10 , rallying from a four-run, eighth-inning deficit to beat the Prince William Cannons in the final game of the streak.
* MISCELLANEOUS: Right-hander Allen Plaster isn't doing badly either. He had 27 strikeouts in his first 29 2/3 innings and a 2.73 ERA. . . . Reliever Jim Dedrick, another right-hander, also contributed to the staff's strikeout total, with 23 in 23 2/3 innings. Foes were hitting .143 against him. . . . 1B Doug McConathy came out of extended spring training to join the Keys and hit .400 in his first four games with four RBI. . . . The middle of the order is thriving. Stanton Cameron and Paul Carey both collected six homers in the first 27 games and combined for 37 RBI. Carey homered Thursday to win a diamond ring for a fan in a promotion by a local radio station. . . . Attendance perked up during the first weekend in May, which featured perfect weather. The Keys had 8,219 fans May 2, their largest crowd ever during May and 17,631 for the three-game weekend series against Peninsula.