Sunday, May 29, 2011

A change for the better

Last night, the Lugnuts eked out a 3-2 win over Bowling Green thanks to a home run from Marcus Knecht, two RBIs from Carlos Perez, four shutout innings from John Anderson, and an edge-of-your-seat save by Steve Turnbull.

But let's ignore all of those other guys and talk about the man who allowed Bowling Green's first run... and also picked up his first win of the season.

Misaul Diaz started the Lugnuts' first game in 2011, April 10th at West Michigan, and was battered about for five runs on five hits, two walks and two hit batsman in 2 2/3 innings.  In his next start, he gave up six runs on five hits and four walks and didn't complete the 5th.  Three straight starts allowing a home run followed, overlapping with three straight losses.

In a completely justifiable decision, Diaz was sent to the bullpen.  He has since made four relief appearances, accumulating 11 2/3 innings -- and he has already struck out 16 men, the same number of strikeouts he piled up in 24 innings as a starter.

Take it further:  He has only four walks as a reliever, compared to 17 walks as a starter.  He has a 2.31 ERA as a reliever, compared to 6.38 as a starter.  If you'd like to talk specifics, last night his change-up was utterly unhittable.  Bowling Green has now faced Misaul twice, with only three hits, one run (on a strikeout/wild pitch) and 11 K's to show for it in six innings.

The best thing about Diaz's breakthrough performance:  It joins a host of other sterling relief improvements by these Lugnuts.  I'm still wondering about Dayton Marze's consistency, but there seems to me to be no doubt about the Midwest League mastery shown by Marcus Walden, Danny Barnes, or Steve Turnbull.  Scott Gracey has already earned his call-up to Dunedin.  If the Jays need any other candidates for promotions, it's a crowded field.

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