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Star-Bulletin Sports

Thursday, November 9, 2000

M I N O R _ L E A G U E _ B A S E B A L L

Minor league
pitchers made
major strides

Spurgeon, Williams
lead the pack of isle hurlers
succeeding as pros

Murakami's condition improves slightly

By Al Chase

Jay Spurgeon's rapid ascent during the season from Class A ball to the Baltimore Orioles for the final six weeks was a first for a player with Hawaii ties.

It was a storybook year for Spurgeon, who will enjoy the off-season relaxing and fishing.

The former Rainbow right-hander was a combined 14-4 with 140 strikeouts in 168 2/3 innings.

There were other pitching highlights, led by the season Jerome Williams had for San Jose in the Class A California League.

The Waipahu High School graduate was 7-6, but his first full pro campaign was much better than the record indicates.

"His progress has been very stunning. He has poise beyond his years," said Jack Hyatt, San Francisco Giants director of player development.

"Jerome pitched in a league where there are 24- and 25-year olds you don't trick that much. Control is his key. He knows walks will kill him.

"He dominated a lot of games. His strikeouts (115) to innings pitched (125 2/3) is excellent. Having a 2.94 ERA in that league is amazing. He may be on a quicker trip to the major leagues than originally expected. You can't fluster him. Everything he does is done naturally."

Paul Ah Yat (Hawaii) experienced his first losing season after joining last-place Nashville of the Triple A Pacific Coast League in June. He started and relieved after recovering from a broken left thumb suffered in spring training.

"I did OK. I was always being mentioned as getting a shot (with the Pittsburgh Pirates), but it never happened," Ah Yat said. "But things change and there are new possibilities every year."

The left-hander was 3-9 and is very interested in what happens now that the Pirates have a new manager.

Dusty Bergman (Hawaii) lowered his earned-run average two points the second half of the season, but you wouldn't know it from his 4-15 record with Cedar Rapids of the Class A Midwest League.

"If anyone had bad luck, Dusty was the guy. He threw one-hitters, shutouts and still ended up losing," said Tony Reagins of the Anaheim Angels development office.

Thomas Ford (Hawaii-Hilo) was a middle reliever for Baltimore's Bluefield, W. Va., team in the Appalachian League.

The left-hander fanned 41 in 36 2/3 innings, winning his only decision.

Mark Johnson's (Hawaii) season was mixed, beginning with the Detroit Tigers and finishing with Toledo in the Triple A International League, where he was 2-11.

He is pitching winter ball in the Dominican League for Escogido.

"It was exciting to be in the big leagues to start the season, but I'm still learning," Johnson said. "I'd get my ERA down, then give up a ton of runs. I'm working on my command (of pitches) here."

Kahi Kaanoi (Kamehameha) found a big difference in the caliber of players at the pro level.

"They are much more disciplined. They work really hard, really strive to be good and they are smarter," said Kaanoi.

"I did a lot better than I expected. In Florida, I had really good control and didn't bean anyone. I struggled a bit at Charleston (S.C.). I think I was trying too hard ... to impress."

He was scheduled for instructional league, but is resting this off-season after experiencing a little late-season tendinitis in his shoulder.

Jeff Martin (Kailua) began the season in the Class AA Eastern League with Altoona, Pa., but was sent down to Lynchburg, Va. in the Class A Carolina League.

The right-handed middle reliever was a combined 2-4 with a 4.62 ERA.

Left-hander Mike McCutcheon (Molokai) traveled the other way.

After posting a 2-6 record in 12 games as a starter with South Bend in the Class A Midwest League, the Arizona Diamondbacks promoted him to El Paso in the Class AA Texas League where he was 4-1 as a reliever.

Corey Miller (Hawaii) struck out 59 in 55 innings in set-up relief for Visalia (California League). The right-hander also picked up seven saves.

Miller also was a part of the only no-hitter in California League playoff history when Visalia won the North Division title with an 8-3 victory over Modesto, Sept. 12.

Miller combined with starter Scott Chaisson on the no-no by finishing with three perfect innings.

Ian Perio (Castle, University of San Francisco) found his niche as a middle reliever for Lowell, Mass. (NY-Penn League). The Boston Red Sox's left-hander fashioned a 5-2 record with a 3.78 ERA.

Rich Snider, who already has his off-season workout schedule, wasn't getting much work on the 15-man staff at Vancouver, B.C., in the Northwest League.

Sent to the Arizona League, he walked just two in 29 innings and posted a 2.48 ERA.

"They wanted you to get people out with three pitches or less," Snider said. "The emphasis was on throwing strikes and getting ground balls."

Hawkeye Wayne (Iolani, Columbia) struggled to control his 90-plus mph fastball, but Seattle sent him on a tour of the Far East following the season.

Justin Wayne (Punahou, Stanford), after a short stint in the Florida State League, went to instructional league, then to Stanford to finish course work for graduation.

Tyler Yates (Kauai High, UH-Hilo) was the first man out of the bullpen at Modesto (California League) and at Midland in the Texas League.

"Moving up was a huge step in my career and hopefully it will pay off in a couple of years," Yates said.

The 6-4 right-hander likes his role because it's like being an every day pitcher.

"You're going to get hit. It's when you get hit that makes a difference," he said.

The Houston Astros were real pleased with first-year Damon Yee's (Punahou, Vanderbilt) progress.

"We look at basic things like hits allowed to innings pitched and strikeouts to walks. Damon only walked 20 in 71 innings and that keeps him in a position to win. He's a very hard worker and very bright. We had a good experience with him."

"I felt I adjusted quickly. You can be a lot more aggressive with the fastball against wood bats," Yee said. "It's a different mindset in pro ball. You have to develop or you're not successful."

Kyle Kawabata (Kailua, Washington State), Kaipo Spenser (St. Anthony, Arizona State) and Matt Wheeler (Hawaii) pitched in independent leagues.

"I didn't have what they were looking for," said Spenser, who was released by the Cleveland Indians after spring training.

"Whether I play again is up in the air. I know I can't play forever so I'm just staying in shape."

Fletcher Lee (Kaiser, Lewis-Clark State), after being released by San Francisco's California farm team at Bakersfield, also went the independent route with two Western League teams.


Pitcher Team LeagueCl IPHBBSO W-L ERA
Paul Ah YatNashville Pacific CoastAAA110 2/311036603- 94.07
Dusty BergmanCedar RapidsMidwestA163 2/3174601084-153.90
Dusty BergmanLake ElsinoreCaliforniaA 43130- 12.25
Thomas Ford BluefieldAppalachianR 36 2/32715411- 03.93
Mark JohnsonDetroitAmericanML 242516110- 17.50
Mark JohnsonToledoInternat’nlAAA10014226482-116.57
Kahi KaanoiRoyalsGulf CoastR 16132200- 10.56
Kahi KaanoiCharlstn,.WVSo. AtlanticA 21231190- 14.29
Kyle KawabataEvansvilleFrontierInd 17 2/3155121- 01.53
Fletcher LeeBakersfieldCaliforniaA 14 2/3199130- 13.07
Fletcher LeeYumaWesternInd 12176110- 06.00
Fletcher LeeFeather RiverWesternInd 9 2/394101- 03.72
Jeff Martin AltoonaEasternAA 21 1/32815160- 24.64
Jeff Martin LynchburgCarolinaA 433620332- 24.60
Mike McCutcheonSouth Bend MidwestA 57 2/36220372- 63.90
Mike McCutcheonEl Paso TexasAA 40 2/34013324- 13.98
Corey MillerVisaliaCaliforniaA 555625596- 43.44
Ian Perio LowellNY-PennA 33 1/33311315- 23.78
Rich SniderVancouverNorthwestA 9 1/311271- 03.86
Rich SniderAthleticsArizonaR 29302302- 22.48
Kaipo SpenserValleyWesternInd 686635544- 54.37
Jay SpurgeonFrederick CarolinaA 91 2/37531928- 24.12
Jay SpurgeonBowie EasternAA 39327273- 11.62
Jay SpurgeonRochester InternationalAAA 13 2/359102- 00.66
Jay SpurgeonBaltimore AmericanML 242615111- 16.00
Hawkeye WayneEverettNorthwestA 21 1/32929220- 212.66
Justin WayneJupiterFlorida StateAA 26 1/32611240- 35.81
Matt Wheeler EvansvilleFrontierInd 15 2/321882- 05.74
Matt Wheeler JohnstownFrontierInd 6 1/38531- 05.69
Matt Wheeler Dubois CountyFrontierInd 21 2/3329221- 16.65
Jerome WilliamsSan JoseCaliforniaA125 2/389481157- 62.94
Tyler YatesModestoCaliforniaA 56 2/35023614- 22.86
Tyler YatesMidlandTexasAA 26 1/32815241- 16.15
Damon YeeAuburnNY-PennA 71 2/36920565- 54.40

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