BELTRAN BEDAZZLES BRAVES
[September 20th] -- Beltran Perez? Who the heck is Beltran Perez? His just completed minor league season was so inconsequential that I didn't even notice that he was part of the September 1st cattle call. When I sat down to watch last night's game, I couldn't even identify who he was.
That isn't going to happen again.
Starting his first game in the major leagues, Perez went six strong innings, allowing just one hit while striking out three. His September ERA is now an incredibly low 0.77 (he had previously pitched 5 games in relief). I am trying very hard not to get excited about Beltran's performance -- I can't begin to count the number of September studs I've seen over the years only to find that they end up being spring training duds. That said, Beltran has shown that he has the talent to start in the major leagues; whether he'll be successful is an entirely different matter.
Beltran was signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks as a non-drafted free agent out of San Francisco de Macoris in the Dominican Republic in 1999. He was the typical Dominican signee -- tall (6'2") and rail thin (157 lbs) -- typical for an under-fed 17 year old. He spent his first two years playing for the Diamondbacks Arizona Fall League team, going 11-1 against some of the major league's top young talent. Perez spent 2001 and 2002 at Single-A South Bend and Lancaster, going 15-6, 2.64 during that span. He was seemingly on a fast-track to the majors, but got derailed at 'AA' El Paso the next season. Over parts of the next three years, Perez went 7-25 with an ERA near 5.00. Not exactly a promotional bell-ringing performance. The Diamondbacks, believing that Beltran's ceiling had been reached, traded him along with Dioner Navarro, Danny Muegge and William Juarez to the Los Angeles Dodgers for slugging outfielder Shawn Green.
The Dodgers tried to rebuild Beltran's confidence by starting him in Vero Beach, part of a low-A league. He pitched pretty well, and finished the season at 'AA' Jacksonville, combining to go 5-5, 3.22 between the two teams last year. In conversations with the Dodgers, however, Beltran was told he wasn't in the team's long-term plans, and he opted for minor league free agency. He signed with the Nationals last fall.
He pitched well enough for Harrisburg this year, but wasn't spectacular, going 8-6, 3.11 in 121 innings. I never read a story about him this year, never saw a highlight on the Harrisburg webpage. He was just, for lack of a better word, "there."
There was no indication in Perez' minor league career that would have suggested that he had the ability to pitch that well at the major league level. The guy just completed his fourth year at the Double-A level, for goodness sake. I mean, the guy's never seen the inside of a Triple-A stadium, let alone a major league facility. Can he be a major league starter? I have no idea. But he's still young (24) and can throw in the low 90's. He's got a quality breaking ball and has good location on his pitches. As thin as the pitching staff will be next spring, I guess he's got as good a chance to make the rotation as anyone else.
Regardless, that was one heckuva first impression.
NATS 9, BRAVES 2: Ryan Zimmerman broke out of his 2-25 slump, going 2-4 with a double and an RBI. Edgar Renteria robbed him of a single up the middle his first time up and he just missed extra bases on a long ball to left. Perhaps all he needed was a day off to rest and regroup. Zimmerman has, at best, been holding his own the last three weeks while fellow rookie Dan Uggla has been surging in the home run and RBI categories. Though I was certain that he was going to win the rookie-of-the-year award just a month ago, I'm beginning to think that's going to go to one of the stable of Marlins' rookies ..... Sure, Alfonso Soriano hit a double and drove in two runs, but man, has he looked awful the past week. He struck out his first three times up last night, looking as bad as a major league player could look at the plate, kinda of like the "old" Alfonso Soriano of the past few years ..... Nick Johnson hit a home run, tying him with Austin Kearns with 23 ..... Jose Vidro hit a home run too and is beginning to look like a major league hitter. Sadly, I don't think he'll ever be a major league second baseman or a major league runner ever again. The Nationals have to trade him this off-season, regardless of how much of that bloated contract the team will have to eat .... Brandon Harper continues to impress as the team's number two catcher. Though I'm sure that Bowden will bring in another slew of veteran catchers (like he did this year) next spring training, I'm perfectly comfortable with Harper on the roster come opening day.
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