K is latest addition to VanAllen's finesse alphabet

May 06, 2007|By BOB PARASILITI

Cory VanAllen didn't know it was really him on the mound.

It's tough to pinch yourself while wearing a baseball mitt, but was it Jake Peavy on the mound. Maybe Nolan Ryan or Steve Carlton.

The Hagerstown Suns left-handed starting pitcher almost asked, "Who am I and what did I do with Cory VanAllen?"

A little overboard, maybe, but VanAllen was at a loss in trying to explain how a finesse pitcher like him came up with 12 strikeouts in five innings, including the first eight Delmarva Shorebirds he faced, on April 28.

"I kept looking over at (Brett) McMillan on first base and just kept shrugging my shoulders," VanAllen said of his out of character performance. "I didn't know why it was happening. My velocity was up a bit and I was hitting my spots."


For the better part of his five-inning stint, VanAllen was virtually untouchable. He retired 80 percent of the 15 outs he pitched on strikes. He got called outs on Robert Andrews and Pedro Florimon and whiffed Chris Vinyard swinging in order in the first.

In the second, Brandon Snyder, Miguel Abreu and Stuart Musslewhite caused some air disturbance with empty swings to run the K-string to six.

Joey Howell and Mike Pierce missed their cuts to open third to set down the first eight without any contact. Daniel Figueroa, the No. 9 hitter, brought Suns' fielders back to life with a single to end the string before Andrews went down on strikes for the second time to end the inning.

"I'll take any outs, but they look better as strikeouts," said VanAllen, who was making his third start with the Suns. "The big thing was I was hitting my spots. I was talking to a buddy of mine from college and he said my fastball was breaking late. I don't know what it was or if it was the baseball gods helping me."

VanAllen's performance came on the heels of the outing by San Diego pitcher Jake Peavy, who struck out nine straight batters - one short of tying the major league record on April 25. He finished with 16 in a seven-inning no decision against Arizona.

"I remember watching that," VanAllen said. "He did it on a larger scale than I did, but it was cool. A lot of the guys said they had never seen anything like that. I felt bad because they were just standing out there in he field with nothing going on while I was doing it."

VanAllen got two more whiffs in the fourth before giving up two runs in the fifth and getting the final K in his final inning of work. He ended up with a no decision - the Suns got a three-run homer from Jhonatan Solano in the ninth to win - and used his pitch count up quicker because of the strikeouts.

But it's one for the memory books. Still, the 12 strikeouts were nice, but VanAllen would like be remembered for posting smaller numbers.

"I don't go out there all the time and put up 12s (strikeouts)," he said. "I'm more of a guy who gets ground balls. I'd rather be remembered for putting zeroes on the scoreboard."


The Suns continue to move players around to try to find the right mix.

This week, Hagerstown:

Received - infielder Marcos Cabral, pitcher Zach Baldwin.

Disabled - infielder Leonard Davis and pitcher Marco Estrada

Activated - pitcher Greg Bunn and Davis

Promoted - pitcher Gene Yost

Demoted - pitcher Matt Perks

Cabral joined the Suns on Monday to replace Davis. Davis shelved on April 25 with lower back stiffness. Davis was hitting .298 with two homers and 10 RBI before returning to action in a pinch hitting role on Thursday.

Cabral was promoted from extended spring training on April 27 and has played second and third base. He has played four games, hitting .231, including a home run in his home debut on Monday.

Davis was activated on Thursday when Estrada was sidelined with shoulder stiffness. Estrada, who was Hagerstown's opening day starter, went five shutout innings against West Virginia on Wednesday before the injury. He is 1-2 with a 4.70 ERA.

Perks was sent to extended spring on Wednesday after Tuesday's rough outing against West Virginia when he was touched for four runs (two earned) in two innings. He was 1-3 with a 6.38 ERA, allowing 14 walks in 19 innings. He earned one save.

Baldwin joined the Suns on Wednesday and was immediately brought into action, firing three scoreless innings to help preserve a 4-0 win over West Virginia. He was Washington's 31st selection in the 2006 draft..

Bunn was activated Wednesday after recovering from an ankle injury.

Yost was promoted to Potomac after going 1-1 with a 12.46 ERA in four appearances for the Suns. The 20th pick from the 2004 draft was promoted from extended from extended spring training to fill Bunn's spot on the roster.

Meanwhile, Justin Maxwell is in injury limbo, better known as day-to-day.

The outfielder suffered a gash on his left knee Wednesday during a collision with second baseman Mike Martinez on a short fly to right. He left the game and went to the hospital for six stitches.

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