Strike-throwing machine shut down for surgery

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No, not this strike-throwing machine.

Twins right-hander Kevin Slowey is scheduled for season-ending surgery to remove bone chips from his wrist, which is bad news because a) he’s a good pitcher, b) Minnesota is short on rotation depth, and c) he’s an awful lot of fun to watch.

Drafted out of tiny Winthrop University in 2005, Slowey drew lots of
skepticism as a prospect because his high-80s fastball and lack of
secondary offerings didn’t match the insane numbers that he posted in
the minors.

He never blew anyone away, yet managed a 1.94 ERA and 361 strikeouts
versus just 52 walks in 367 innings as a minor leaguer, including a
1.95 ERA and 116/20 K/BB ratio in 139 innings at Triple-A. While the
Bob Gibson-like ERAs haven’t quite transferred to the majors, Slowey is
26-15 with a 4.39 ERA over 318 innings in the big leagues and has
continued to post ridiculously good strikeout-to-walk ratios.

In fact, with 245 strikeouts and just 50 walks in 318 frames Slowey has the best strikeout-to-walk ratio and the best walk rate of the past 75 years among pitchers with 300-plus innings through the age of 25. Thanks to the miracle of Baseball-Reference.com, here’s a look at the all-time leaders in both categories through age 25.

                     BB/9                             K/BB
KEVIN SLOWEY 1.42 KEVIN SLOWEY 4.90
Atlee Hammaker 1.68 Roy Oswalt 4.00
Bret Saberhagen 1.75 James Shields 3.89
Andy Sonnanstine 1.75 Cole Hamels 3.72
Scott McGregor 1.76 Jose Lima 3.68
Jose Lima 1.78 Huston Street 3.63
Lary Sorensen 1.80 Ben Sheets 3.55
Jim Merritt 1.88 Roger Clemens 3.54
Fritz Peterson 1.88 Andy Sonnanstine 3.51
Paul Dean 1.88 Jim Merritt 3.42

Not only does Slowey sit atop both lists, he blows away the
competition by being 15 percent better than second place Atlee Hammaker
in walk rate and 23 percent better than second place Roy Oswalt in
strikeout-to-walk ratio. Not bad for a guy who averages
just 89.6 miles per hour with his fastball and throws the pitch
two-thirds of the time. Velocity and stuff are nice, but being smart
and throwing strikes helps too.

Joey Votto thinks he can win the Home Run Derby, but hasn’t been invited yet

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Despite having hit at least 20 home runs in eight of his 11 seasons in the majors, Reds first baseman Joey Votto has never participated in a Home Run Derby. Currently, he’s tied for the National League lead in home runs with 20, and he hasn’t been invited to this year’s festivities at Marlins Park.

In the event he is invited, Votto said he thinks he can win it, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto likened himself to Ichiro Suzuki, a player known more for his contact abilities and mastery of the strike zone than power. “Just think of me as the Canadian Ichiro — Japan has theirs and Canada has theirs,” Votto said. “I could pull homers into the seats at will.”

Along with the 20 homers, Votto is currently hitting .306/.419/.601 with 53 RBI, and 52 runs scored in 313 plate appearances.

Teammate Scott Schebler also has 20 home runs at the moment and Adam Duvall, who made it to the semifinals of the Derby last year, has 16. Neither of them have been approached about participating in the Derby, either. Per Rosecrans, in the event each was invited, Duvall said he would consider participating if he wasn’t an All-Star and Schebler would participate regardless. Votto said he would only participate if he made the All-Star team.

There was apparently some miscommunication between Pete Mackanin and Pat Neshek

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The Phillies won their first game since last Thursday, beating the Cardinals 5-1 on Thursday afternoon. Starter Aaron Nola pitched into the eighth inning, but left with one out. Pat Neshek took the mound with a runner on first base and induced an inning-ending double play on a 3-1 count to Tommy Pham.

Given that Neshek only threw five pitches and the Phillies were staked to a four-run lead, it wouldn’t have seemed unreasonable if the sidewinding right-hander came back out to finish the ninth inning as well. But Luis Garcia had that honor, tossing a scoreless final frame to nail down the win in a non-save situation.

After the game, manager Pete Mackanin said he asked Neshek to go back out for the ninth, but Neshek didn’t want to, per Stephen Gross of the Morning Call. Neshek told the media that Mackanin never asked him. There was also a miscommunication on Wednesday. The combination of Joaquin Benoit, Hector Neris, and Edubray Ramos combined to allow four runs in 2 1/3 innings, helping the Phillies lose 7-6. Neshek never appeared. According to Mackanin, Neshek told him that he wasn’t available to pitch. Neshek said he was told he’d have the day off.

The disconnect between Mackanin and Neshek could speak to a larger divide between the manager and his failing team. The Phillies have underwhelmed across the board due to players like Odubel Herrera (whose head was down and did not see Juan Samuel’s stop sign last night in what became a base running blunder), Maikel Franco, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Aaron Nola (today’s start notwithstanding), and Hector Neris not living up to expectations. The Phillies signed Mackanin to a contract extension last month, but the team has completely fallen apart since then and the latest communications issues certainly don’t reflect well on him. Neither does last night’s travesty of a game.

As for Neshek, he said that going to the Phillies was “the best thing that happened to me in a few years” but also realized, given the state of the team, that it remains very likely he winds up in a new uniform by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. After Thursday’s performance, Neshek is carrying a 0.63 ERA with a 25/4 K/BB ratio in 28 2/3 innings. He very well could be the Phillies’ lone representative at the All-Star Game in Miami next month. That is, if he’s still wearing their uniform. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Nationals have shown interest in Neshek.