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6.29.2006

I See A Foul Line and I Want to Paint It White 

All praise to Jon Miller, once again. As noted yesterday, he immediately told the radio audience during the Teixiera Hysteria Tuesday night that the poof kicked up by Teixeira's hit could not have been chalk.

Now the Chron's Henry Schulman has blown the lid off the whole thing. The foul lines at Mays Field are painted white, not chalked, and the paint doesn't just fly everywhere all loosey-goosey, at least not when Hank The Tank Schulman rubs himself all over it just hours after it's been applied.

Yes, the poof could have been grass with white paint, but it wouldn't prove fair or foul. Schulman found white-splattered grass blades on either side of the foul line, not just on the line itself.

Schulman's next assignment: Was Tom Hallion a polling place volunteer in Ohio during the 2004 election?

Watching TV before the Durty Nelly's pub quiz last night (¡Viva Sábado Gigante!) with El Comisario and others, I finally saw the play on a decent-sized screen. I still can't say for sure the ball was fair or foul, but I loved Teixeira's impression of George Brett's pine-tar conniption fit. I couldn't find a video clip or decent-sized photo, so this menu will have to do.

Kudos to Felipe Alou for his lineup construction last night. Ray Durham is mashing from the right side of the plate, and he was exactly the man needed to protect Barry. His salami was the blow of the game. Ahem.

Kudos also to Noah Lowry, who had the guh-narstiest stuff he's shown all year. I caught the last few innings on the telly, and I saw perfectly placed fastballs on the inside corner followed by perfectly placed changeups down and away. When pitchers can nail the inside corner with consistency, good things happen. It's also a good sign that Lowry has been mediocre at best since returning from the DL in mid-May, yet his ERA is under 4.00. Wait til he strings together more performances like last night, which he's entirely capable of doing.

With Schmidt, Lowry, and, yes, even Matt Morris pitching well in the second half, the pitching staff could go far in carrying the team. I'm not that worried about the bullpen, to be honest, especially if the starters keep going 6, 7, 8 innings per start. The priority is and remains getting a big right-handed bat without shipping out the jewels of the farm system. Not an easy task.

Speaking of young talent, we're just about at the half-way mark of the season. If you're a devotee of Steven Shelby's "Minor Lines" daily updates, you'll probably know how the littlest Giants are doing down to the last strikeout and sore elbow. But if you're wondering who the Giants could trade in the next month and who's a keeper, here's a quick roundup:

AAA - Fresno

Pitching: The best prospect could be Nick Pereira, a recent USF grad who vaulted from single-A San Jose to Fresno recently for fill-in duty but looks like he'll stay. Unfortunately, he looks good mainly because everyone else doesn't. Merkin Valdez, who nearly made the big squad in spring training, has been awful, losing his closer job to Jack Taschner. Taschner has righted himself since his early demotion from the big club, but he's not likely to ever be more than a big-league LOOGY. Like Valdez, Brian Wilson is young and throws hard, but he isn't a can't-miss, top-shelf prospect. All three of them could be in the Giants bullpen next year, but they're the type of pitchers you hope the GM trades while their value is still high.

Hitting: the most promising position player by far is Fred Lewis, a speedy outfielder who's showing decent power and a good batting eye (.387 OBP). Remember, this is the Pacific Coast League, so take the eight home runs with a huge caveat. (All you need to know is that Calvin Murray once hit 23 homers in the PCL.) Lewis turns 26 this winter: don't hold your breath that he'll ever be a big-league regular.

Same goes for Dan Ortmeier, who's really struggling in what should be a big offensive year for him. I'm worried Lewis and Ortmeier are going to follow meekly in the footsteps of Todd Linden, who complained this spring that the Giants weren't giving him a fair shot and should trade him. No doubt they would have traded him if there were any takers. And this is a guy who was arguably the best hitter in triple-A last year before his call-up.

AA - Connecticut

Pitching: The best pitcher is already in the big leagues: Jonathan Sanchez. Lefty Pat Misch, who looked like he was on a Lowry-like learning curve two years ago, got pummeled in Fresno last year and is back in double-A. He's doing quite well, but this may be where he tops out. A couple relievers on the staff show some promise -- Billy Sadler in particular, who throws BB's but can be wild -- but nothing to turn blue over.

Hitting: A disaster. The exciting group of Cal League hitters from last year have fizzled in the cold, damp Eastern League. The best of them, Eddie Martinez-Esteve, is out with yet another shoulder surgery. Gone for the year, I think. Nate Schierholtz is approaching NeifiLand. Travis Ishikawa has gotten fans abuzz with a couple nice call-ups to the bigs, but in double-A, where the pitching's not quite as good, he can't crack an .800 OPS.

A-Ball and Lower

Pitching: Pereira as noted is now in triple-A. Behind him, there are a few relievers worth watching, especially the closer Brian Anderson. The one kid on the 40-man roster, Jesus Reina, is allowing nearly two runners per inning with an ERA over six. He's only 22, so let's give him a few more years of slack (especially because he's a lefty). But it may be tough to justify a 40-man spot for him much longer.

Hitting: The most distressing development is that highly-touted Marcus Sanders, whose season last year in low-A put him on the prospect map, has hit a major wall in San Jose. A .302 OBP / .265 SLG in a hitter's league is a looooooooong way from the big leagues, folks. The best hitter at low-A Augusta by far is outfielder Michael Mooney, a College of San Mateo product who just turned 23. He's having a nice power/patience/speed year, but let's see how he does as he moves up. It's way early in rookie ball, but the Giants #2 pick behind Tim Lincecum, SS Emmanuel Burriss, is scuffling.

Lincecum is the real wild card. He won the Golden Spikes Award for best college player, but he hasn't signed a contract yet. The Giants no doubt will pay dearly. Some have said he could be a factor in the big-league bullpen this season, but be careful what you wish for. He's thrown a lot of innings already this year.

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