Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Young Pitchers Struggle during Second Half

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Young Pitchers Struggle during Second Half

Article excerpt

Byline: JEFF ELLIOTT, The Times-Union

During the offseason before the start of the 2004 campaign, pitching prospects for the Jacksonville Suns appeared promising.

Greg Miller and Brian Pilkington each had recorded several strong starts for the Suns during the final month of the 2003 season after their promotion from Class-A Vero Beach. They were tabbed as 1-2 in the Suns' starting rotation for this year's club.

They would be needed, as most of last year's starters and relievers were expected to move on to Triple-A or to the major leagues. Sure enough. No less than nine pitchers who performed for the Suns last year are either on a major league roster (Edwin Jackson, Jason Frasor, Scott Proctor, Lino Urdaneta) or are currently pitching at Triple-A Las Vegas, including Joel Hanrahan, Tommy Farmer, Heath Totten, Nate Ruhl and Augustin Montero.

That's why it's not surprising that this year's group of inexperienced Suns hurlers has struggled, allowing an average of 6.4 runs and 10.2 hits per game since the start of the second half of the Southern League season. The team ERA for the season is approaching 4.00 after finishing first and third in the league the past two seasons, with 3.10 and 3.50 ERAs, respectively.

Miller and Pilkington had been expected to continue the Dodgers' tradition of strong minor league pitching. But neither player has thrown a pitch this year. Both had surgery in March, but it wasn't deemed major. It was simply to "clean up" an arm or shoulder so that both would be ready to go by the midseason break at the latest.

"We thought we would have them both up here pitching for the Suns by now," said Terry Collins, the Dodgers' minor league field coordinator who was in town evaluating the Suns last weekend. "We didn't find any damage with either of them, it's just that the recovery process is taking longer than we anticipated. …

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