July 15, 2012
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – Can a Major League ticket come sooner than a September call-up for Dan Straily?
Good question, because so far in Class AAA, the former Marshall right-hander has had all of the answers on the mound. He’s still pitching like he was earlier this season in the Class AA Texas League, before his promotion a month ago.
Meanwhile, Thundering Herd junior right-hander Aaron Blair continues to make crabcakes out of Cape Cod League hitters.
Friday the 13th was anything but unlucky for those two Marshall men.
Let’s take Straily first, making his first appearance after the Class AAA All-Star break.
In his fifth start for Oakland’s Pacific Coast League farm club at Sacramento, Straily lost … but allowed only one hit – an Eric Thames first-pitch homer in the fifth – and struck out 13 in seven innings in a 1-0 setback to Las Vegas.
In the five Triple A outings, Straily – a 24th-round draft pick from Coach Jeff Waggoner’s Herd program by the Athletics in 2009 – is 3-2 with a 1.09 ERA. He has 46 strikeouts in 33 innings, allowing 15 hits and 11 walks.
In the Friday night loss to Vegas, he threw 104 pitches with his fastball, slider and change, 70 for strikes. In his fourth minor league season climbing the Oakland ladder, Straily has 523 strikeouts in 486 innings. He already has a pro baseball-leading 154 whiffs this season in 118 2/3 innings (19 starts), matching his strikeout total in 160 2/3 innings last season at Stockton of the high Class A California League.
Straily told MiLB.com reporter Sam Dykstra after his latest dominating performance that he went back to a two-seam grip similar to the one he used during his days at Marshall and has continued to introduce his improved changeup to hitters. Gil Patterson, the A’s minor league pitching coordinator, has refined Straily’s stuff and motion, too.
"It's really been a product of developing my pitches," Straily told MiLB.com. “I didn't do anything too much, just worked with the A's to try to hone everything. It's crazy that I've already hit last season's (strikeout) mark and there's still nine more starts to go or so.
“(The two-seamer) started cutting a lot all of a sudden last year. It was just almost impossible to throw. The batter was missing it, the catcher was missing it; everybody was missing it. Patterson, he just kind of tweaked it and it's really starting to come straight down to armside more instead of moving around."
His next scheduled start is Wednesday, at Tacoma.
As for Blair, he’s destined for a spot – maybe even a start – in the Cape Cod League All-Star Game on July 28. On Friday night, the 6-foot-5 right-hander had his worst outing of the wooden-bat league’s season for Yarmouth-Dennis, but still got the win in a 7-5 decision over Bourne.
Blair, who is now 5-0, went six innings, allowing three hits and three runs (all earned), fanning six with one walk (93 pitches, 58 strikes). His ERA rose to 1.19.
He leads the Cape league in wins and ERA and ranks third in strikeouts, with 35 (in 30 1/3 innings). Blair has allowed only 20 hits and nine walks. Opposing hitters are batting .189.
And they were not the only Herd-related arms who continued to ring up the strikeouts Friday night. In a 7-4 short-season Northwest League win for Vancouver over Boise, former Herd right-handers Ian Kadish and Arik Sikula worked in relief.
Kadish got his fifth “hold” of the NWL season. He’s 1-1 with a 1.76 ERA and has 26 strikeouts in 15 innings. Sikula has fanned 14 in 14 innings and is 0-0 with a 3.77 ERA.
These Herd guys are armed and dangerous, it seems.