Well, I'm in the Chicago area to visit a friend, and more importantly, watch the A's. I'm heading out to the game tonight at "the Cell", but I caught yesterday's Kane County -- Oakland's low class-A affiliate -- game in Geneva, Ill., a suburn of Chicago.
I wrote up some notes on the game over at the A's minor league site I run (with ConditionOakland) on MVN, but I'll post the portion dealing with RHP Scott Deal's well-pitched start. I spoke with Deal after the game, while he was icing down. It was obvious by his performance in the game, and his attitude afterwards, that he's regained the confidence that he had as a 19-year old in Vancouver last season.
20-year-old right-hander Scott Deal took the mound for the Cougars with an overall ERA of 5.40, but that’s not really telling the story. In his eight starts this season, he’s been either very good, or very... not so good. In his best four, he has an ERA of 1.89, while his worst four carry a 9.17 ERA. Sunday’s game was a good one, though. He set season-highs in innings pitched (7.0) and strikeouts (6), while allowing the fewest baserunners per inning of the year (0.71).
So why the great performance? I spoke with him after he left the game, and he had a couple of reasons why he pitched so well. "I had a week off, a couple extra days of rest. I really felt good." You can’t chalk it all up to extra rest, though. Deal was attacking hitters and generating strikeouts and weak grounders in every inning but the fifth, when he gave up two runs, one earned. He quickly regained command after he induced a double-play after an error by SS Mike Affronti. With only one walk issued, Deal has now only given out five free passes in his last four starts, after walking six in his first three games.
"I just came out throwing strikes, and then we scored early so it helped my confidence. We got a four-run spot in the sixth, which really built the confidence to keep going out there." said Deal.
And as for matching his longest outing to date — only the second time he’s pitched past the fifth inning? "Usually, earlier in the season, in the fourth and fifth inning, I’d struggle, and I wouldn’t say I quit, but I’d just get tired out there. Today, I just tried to push through it, and really focus, and I pushed through the sixth and seventh innings without giving up any runs. It really helped me to build some confidence there."
His performance on Sunday not only strengthened his self-confidence as a pitcher, it restored my confidence in him as a pitching prospect. He had a fine season in Vancouver last year, but the jump to full-season ball is an important measuring stick in a prospect’s future. I’d say we’re looking at the real Deal here.
The rest of my notes, including an update on Craig Italiano's skull fracture after taking a comebacker in the forehead on Monday, can be found here.
If anyone else is going to the game tonight, look for me and say hi. I'll be the guy taking pictures while wearing a dark green jacket and a backwards A's spring training hat in section 110, row 16.