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Homestand preview: The circus is in town!


Come one, come all to Cashman Field for the Las Vegas 51s Extravaganza! Fun for the whole family! Freaks, geeks and amazing shows! Just sample these exciting examples!

Eight shows in all! This is the longest homestand for the 51s until mid-July, so there’s more opportunities to see the amazing and the singular, such as a Randy Ruiz stolen base!

blanksgiant.jpgThe Amazing Giant First-Sacker! Six-and-a-half-feet tall, almost 300 pounds heavy, Portland Beavers first baseman Kyle Blanks is a singular vision for baseball fans everywhere. You may never see a man big enough to be an NFL lineman (or at least a tight end) step into a batters box anywhere else. The bat looks like a toothpick in his hands! He could swallow Aaron Mathews whole if he so chose! Catch him while you can!

It’s a family affair! See top San Diego Padres propsect Will Venable smack baseballs all over the park as his father, former big leaguer Max Venable, sits in the dugout! Wonder in amazement as Tacoma Rainier Matt Tuiasosopo brings the football skills of his father and brother to the baseball diamond (if he can make it back from injury in time)! See the brothers of former big leaguers Tike Redman and Royce Hufman attempt to live up to their legacies!

Lefties, lefties and more lefties!
The show is never the same at Cashman Field, but it may seem like it with the 51s’ jaw-dropping all-lefthander rotation. Every night a different southpaw! Brad Mills, David Purcey, Brett Cecil, Fabio Castro and Brian Burres will all make appearances during this eight-night extravaganza!

Offensive explosions! The traveling portion of our show, Portland and Tacoma, bring in a combined 114 home runs in just 105 games. But their pitching staffs have given a combined 99 back to the competition. Horsehides will be galloping over the fences at Cashman, ladies and gentlemen!

The stars of tomorrow, performing today!
Travis Snider, Jeff Clement, Kyle Blanks, Will Venable, Brett Cecil, Michael Saunders and J.P. Arencibia will all be in attendance!

So if you can’t get to the ballpark, make sure to check for updates on!

Venerable Venable makes 51s pay

Sorry I didn’t get around to posting this last night, I was on the phone with the proud new parents of Samuel Kostyal Senior.  Here’s the picture and, once again, congratulations to Sean and Stephanie Senior, two of the finest people in the world and sure to be wonderful parents:

Now, back to the action:

Will Venable used all his highly-regarded tools to take apart the Las Vegas 51s on Tuesday night.
The San Diego Padres prospect hit two home runs and made a diving catch in centerfield to lead the Portland Beavers to an 8-4 victory at Cashman Field.
The 51s made it easy for the Beavers and their starter, former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Josh Banks, by failing to capitalize on early opportunities. In the third inning, when the score was still 2-1 for the Beavers thanks to Venable’s first-inning homer, Las Vegas loaded the bases with no outs and the meat of the order coming up. The 51s’ 3-4-5 hitters – Randy Ruiz, Brett Harper and J.P. Arencibia – then struck out in a row to end the threat.
After the Beavers put two runners in scoring position with no outs in the top of the fourth and managed to get them home for a 4-1 lead, Las Vegas had a chance to strike back when the first two batters reached base in the bottom of the inning. However, the 51s’ album got stuck in the wrong groove again and three straight batters lined out to center, with Venable making the standout defensive play of the game when he dived to catch a sinking liner for the first out.
With the score still 4-1 in the top of the sixth, Venable put the game out of reach with his second dinger, a three-run shot to right that was in no way wind-aided, as his opposite-field homer was earlier in the game.
The 51s closed to 7-4 in the bottom of the sixth inning, but could not get any closer.

NOTES: Former College of Southern Nevada star Sean Kazmar started for the Beavers at shortstop. He became the first CSN player to reach the major leagues when he was called up for a cup of coffee with the Padres last year. … 51s CF Buck Coats set a 51s season-high by getting a hit in his 13th consecutive game. SS Angel Sanchez extended his hitting streak to ten games as well. … Pitcher and author Dirk Hayhurst was called up to Toronto, though he was still on the roster temporarily for Tuesday’s game. … Will Venable’s father, former major leaguer Max Venable, is the Beavers’ hitting coach. … Kraft has introduced a Tuesday night promotion that offers any fan with the wrapper from a package of Kraft Singles cheese the opportunity to buy two tickets for the price of one. Visit for details.

May I tell you about the 51s?

If April was a thunderstorm of poor play for the Las Vegas 51s, then May was only scattered downpours. With any luck, summer could bring scorching heat to the 51s’ playoff drive.
The 51s finished April with a 6-14 record, and are still in last place as June begins; however, most of that is because of two four-game losing streaks that bookended May. In between those two streaks, the team went 13-9 and showed amazing resiliency, coming from behind to win several times.
Most importantly, the talent level rose considerably in May, with Travis Snider, Fabio Castro and David Purcey coming aboard and incumbents such as J.P. Arencibia, Buck Coats and Brad Mills playing up to their potential.

51s Today unfortunately missed the end of the last homestand due to some travel plans that couldn’t be changed, and therefore was not in attendance for a pair of games that will certainly go down as the most exciting pair of back-to-back pressure performances by the 51s offense this season.
On May 23, Las Vegas went into the ninth inning trailing the Oklahoma City RedHawks 5-2. In walks imposing 6-4 sidearmer (and fellow blogger) Beau Vaughan from the Oklahoma City bullpen. Vaughan was obviously wondering who his next interview was going to be, because he gave up two singles and a walk to load the bases before getting yanked for hard-throwing righty Brian Gordon.
The hits kept coming however, as Kevin Howard and Coats sandwiched singles around a Randy Ruiz pinch-hit popout to make it 5-4. WIth one out and the bases still loaded, Howie Clark stepped in and ripped a double that scored two runs and gave the 51s a 6-5 walkoff win.
Apparently, that comeback wasn’t hard enough, though.
The next night, the 51s sleepwalked into the ninth inning behind 5-0 to OKC’s Tommy Hunter, a pitcher who had given up nine earned runs in his previous start. Hunter stayed out for the ninth in an attempt at the complete-game shutout, but an error by third baseman Esteban German started the avalanche. Hunter was gone after loading the bases while only getting one out, ceding the mound to former big-leaguer Elizardo Ramirez.
Ramirez faced a tough situation, bases loaded with only one out, but don’t forget that he had a five-run lead at this point. He could allow all his inherited runners to score and still be up 5-3, which is exactly what he did. In fact, after two singles and a Brett Harper pinch-hit double, he had allowed the lead to evaporate to just one run. After an intentional walk to Coats, Clark, the previous night’s hero, strode to the plate with the bases loaded and still just one out.
Clark drove a fly ball to the outfield for the second out of the inning, driving in the tying run and ensuring at least extra innings. With runners on first and second and two outs now, it seemed the RedHawks might finally end the inning. The only man to record an out in the night before’s rally, Randy Ruiz, was coming up.
But the 51s didn’t want to see extra innings on this night. Ruiz singled to left and pinch-runner Jonathan Diaz sprinted around third to score the winning run in an improbable comeback.
So, to recap: The 51s won two consecutive games by a 6-5 score with ninth-inning rallies. In these two games, the 51s scored two runs in the sixteen innings labeled 1 through 8 and 10 combined runs in the two ninth innings. The Redhawks pitching staff recorded a 1.13 ERA for the first eight innings of these two games and a 90.00 ERA in the ninth.
As’s Jayson Stark would say, you can’t make this stuff up.

J.P. Arencibia and Buck Coats: One month into the season, the 51s were struggling to get anybody on base at the top of the order and their top prospect, catcher Arencibia, had yet to hit a home run and was barely topping .200.
But their offensive woes seemed to disappear once Coats was plopped atop the lineup. He’s sparked the team from the leadoff spot and given manager Mike Basso’s team a chance to score some runs.
“It’s impressive how far he’s come … in learning what it takes to be a leadoff hitter,” Basso told 51s Today during the last homestand.
As for Arencibia, he found his sroke in May and hit eight home runs, which takes a lot of the pressure off of Ruiz and Harper to perform every night in order for the 51s to generate power.

Fabio Castro:
The slight, young Dominican prospect made his first start for the 51s on the last day of April, giving up three runs in 5 1/3 innings.
Once the calendar turned, he was ready to go.
Castro did not allow a run in his first three May starts and had a scoreless streak that topped 24 innings. Even though he spent almost a month in AA to start the season, Castro has the second-most wins as a starter on the club and begins June with a 2-1 record and a sparkling 2.30 ERA.
He could be the next pitcher to get the call when the Blue Jays need another starter, but in the meantime, Fabio Castro is the 51s’ new ace.

The Travis Snider show: The Blue Jays’ top prospect wasn’t happy about being sent down from the big leagues to get some at-bats in AAA and get his stroke back. He has played eight games so far for Las Vegas and is only 8-for-31 with one extra-base hit, a double. But now that he’s gotten his feet wet, he could be primed for a huge month.
Basso has been hitting Snider fifth, behind Ruiz and Harper, which is the same spot in the batting order that Arencibia used to get back on track in May. If the top of the order — Coats, Clark, Ruiz and Harper — can continue to get on base and produce, Snider will have a chance to put up big numbers.

Brad Mills’ first win: Mills must have Social Distortion on repeat in his iPod: “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all” is his motto right now.
In ten starts so far this season, Mills has given up more than three runs only once, and that came in his last start May 27 against New Orleans. Before that start, he had a sub-4.00 ERA but was still 0-5, and now he’s 0-6 despite a 4.21 ERA, which is low for a pitcher who starts half his games at Cashman Field.
In his four May starts leading up to being blown out by New Orleans, Mills had gone at least six innings every time and given up three runs or less, which is considered a quality start in the majors. If he continues to pitch like that, he will finally be rewarded with a W this month.

Some home runs, maybe?
Las Vegas has been scoring its run the old-fashioned way this year, and by old-fashioned, I mean “Ty Cobb era.” Very few home runs (only 38 in 51 games) means that they have to manufacture runs by getting the top of the order on, moving them over and then getting clutch RBI singles and doubles to drive them home.
But those clutch hits haven’t always arrived, and runners have been stranded in scoring position far too often for the offense to be successful. The only way to make up for these lapses in situational hitting is by knocking a few pitches out of the park at other times, which the 51s haven’t been doing.
But the 51s will play 20 games this month against Portland, Tacoma and Colorado Springs, three of the top six teams in the Pacific Coast League in home runs allowed. That stretch starts this week, when temperatures should be in the 80s and 90s and the wind will be blowing at Cashman Field for eight games against Portland and Tacoma, who are sitting at the bottom of the PCL’s Pacific North division.

If the 51s are going to make a run at a playoff spot this season, they have to make up a lot of ground this month. They only have 16 games at home during the month and the longest homestand
, an eight-game run, begins tonight. So get out to Cashman Field while it still matters.

Basso discusses injuries, new players

51s Today was able to sit down with Las Vegas manager Mike Basso after the game Friday night for some updates on the recent injuries and player movement on the club.

INJURIES: The 51s have placed three players on the disabled list in the last two weeks: Wade Miller has an abdominal pull and Basso does not know when he will return to the club; Scott Campbell is in Florida rehabbing a groin injury for an indeterminate time; and Russ Adams needs about two and a half more weeks to completely heal his broken hand.

NEW PLAYERS: Top prospect Travis Snider hasn’t joined the 51s yet and Basso did not know exactly when he would. He has 72 hours to report from when he was notified, which was Thursday night, so it’s possible he will not play until the next series, a four-game tilt against New Orleans that starts Monday.
When the struggling slugger does arrive, Basso said he will definitely be in the lineup every day.
“He got sent down because he wasn’t getting enough at-bats, he was struggling a little in the big leagues, so he’s here to get his work. … he’ll be in the middle of the order somewhere.”
As for the 51s’ returning pitchers, Brett Cecil arrived Friday and got some work in the bullpen during the first inning. Robert Ray, however, was sent to Florida for a possible checkup, but he “should be here soon,” Basso said.
When Ray does arrive, Basso confirmed that Brian Burres will be the odd man out and the rotation will consist of David Purcey, Brad Mills, Fabio Castro, Cecil and Ray.

Burres, offense dominate in 51s victory

The forgotten man of the 51s’ pitching staff reappeared for a victory Friday night.
Brian Burres, who will soon be squeezed out of Las Vegas’ regular starting rotation through a host of player movement, threw six scoreless innings in a 10-1 rout of the Oklahoma City RedHawks at Cashman Field.
“He had a good cutter tonight and did a good job of keeping them off-balance,” manager Mike Basso said.
Offensively, a six-run eighth inning helped the 51s set season highs with 19 hits and seven doubles while scoring double-digit runs without the benefit of a single homer.
The top of the order set the tone as the first three 51s batters – Buck Coats, Howie Clark and Randy Ruiz – reached base in 10 of their 15 plate appearances, scoring seven runs and driving in three. No. 5 hitter Brett Harper took advantage of the runners on in front of him, collecting four RBI in a 3-for-5 night.
With the win, Las Vegas broke a two-game losing streak and evened the series at 1-1, while Oklahoma City’s three-game winning streak was snapped.

The 51s roster keeps on rotating

In with the old, out with the new for the Las Vegas 51s.
Casey Janssen, Friday night’s projected starter, will skip the AAA step on his rehab assignment and report directly to the Toronto Blue Jays before making a start with the 51s. Ricky Romero will join him after only one start for Las Vegas and, as reported earlier by 51s Today, Joe Inglett will join them. Janssen will start against Atlanta on Saturday and Romero will take the hill Tuesday against Baltimore.
Meanwhile, former 51s are heading back down the pipeline from our northern neighbor. Brett Cecil and Robert Ray, who left Las Vegas for the Blue Jays’ rotation three weeks ago, will replace Romero and Janssen on Cashman Field’s mound.
Cecil threw eight impressive shutout innings against the A’s in Oakland on May 10th and finished his four-start stint 2-1 with a 4.38 ERA. Those returns mask some troubling statistics, however: seven home runs in just 24 2/3 innings, including Big Papi’s first of the year; 28 hits, averaging out to more than one an inning; and three hit batsmen in four starts. He is 0-3 with an 8.31 ERA in four starts with the 51s this season.
Ray also survived his baptism-by-fire in the bigs, going 1-2 with a 4.44 ERA in four starts totaling 24 1/3 innings. He didn’t give up as many hits or home runs as Cecil, but struck out only 13 batters compared with Cecil’s 18. Though Ray has spent considerable time on Las Vegas’ roster this season, he has only one start, in which he pitched 4 1/3 innings and did not factor in the decision.
So the Blue Jays unexpectedly tossed two of their better prospects at the end of their big-league rotation for a three-week stint and were rewarded well for it. Now, both pitchers are back at AAA, where they most likely need the rest of the season to develop before being permanent starters for Toronto.
The 51s’ rotation now, with Wade Miller on the disabled list, lines up like this, in no particular order: Brad Mills, Fabio Castro, Cecil, Ray and David Purcey. That is a very strong rotation for a AAA club and, as long as it stays together, could help the 51s climb in the Pacific Coast League standings. But be warned: A link in the earlier story is an interview in which the Blue Jays Assistant GM talks glowingly of Castro, so he may be on a plane headed north soon.

* This post first appeared with no headline, little formatting, several grammatical errors and an incomplete preview of Friday night’s game at the bottom. This was due to Internet connectivity issues and some spilled coffee at Starbucks. 51s Today ensures readers that their trusty correspondent knows how to spell “innings” and does not want them reading sloppy copy.

Blue Jays’ top prospect headed for Las Vegas

Travis Snider, the Blue Jays’ No. 1 Prospect according to Baseball America, was optioned to the 51s on Thursday night to fill a hole in their roster, giving Las Vegas a new star player as the team makes a push for respectability.

snider_travis.jpgSnider, left, started off hot but cooled down considerably lately, as’s Jordan Bastian describes in this article:

“During Spring Training, Snider hit .381 with four home runs and 10 RBIs
in 22 games, claiming a spot on the Opening Day roster in the process.
His success carried over into April, too. In his first 14 games, Snider
hit .310 with a .383 on-base percentage, a .643 slugging percentage,
three home runs, five doubles and 10 RBIs.

In the 17 games since that stretch, Snider hit just .185 (10-for-54)
with a .214 on-base percentage and a .204 slugging percentage. Over
that period, he had no home runs, just one double and two RBIs. Snider
hasn’t homered since launching two against the Twins on April 13, and
he had just one RBI in his past 11 games.”

Snider joins the Blue Jays’ No. 2 prospect J.P. Arencibia in Las Vegas and should hit with him and sluggers Randy Ruiz and Brett Harper in the middle of the order, giving the team a threatening offense. He was playing leftfield with the big club, which means defensive standout Aaron Mathews is likely headed to the bench. Toronto Blue Jays beat writer Richard Griffin, from the Toronto Star, says to expect Snider to stick around until late June.

The move puts the 51s back at a full roster; they played last night with only 24 active players due to a variety of moves. The roster has changed a great deal since 51s Today took its birthday break, so here’s a breakdown:

On the pitching staff, Ricky Romero, who started the season hot in the majors and is rehabbing from an injury, joins Bill Murphy on assignment from the big club and Casey Janssen has been promoted from AA. They replace Wade Miller (DL) and a trio of pitchers demoted to AA New Hampshire: Adrian Martin, Davis Romero and Sean Stidfole

On the offensive side, Scott Campbell and Russ Adams are on the DL, replaced by AA infielder Jonathan Diaz and 3B Kevin Howard, who was acquired in a trade with the Padres.

Toronto needs a player to replace Snider, and word in the locker room last night was that it will be INF Joe Inglett, who was just activated from the disabled list for Thursday night’s game. That could mean more changes to the roster coming soon.

Update: Check this blog post for a link to an interview with the Blue Jays assistant GM, who talks about the Snider move, Fabio Castro’s hot streak and Casey Janssen, tonight’s 51s starter.

Top prospect Feliz shuts down 51s

Neftali Feliz was nifty Thursday night against Las Vegas, but it was the 51s’ defense that lost them the game.
The Texas Rangers’ top prospect used searing heat to dominate Las Vegas for six innings and his Oklahoma RedHawks scored four runs in a mistake-marred ninth to take an 8-5 victory at Cashman Field.
For five innings, fireballing Feliz and 51s starter Fabio Castro – who entered with a 21-inning shutout streak – kept the score low, a 1-0 duel highlighted by contrasting styles.
Feliz was throwing almost all fastballs, with the following consecutive velocities in an at-bat against Jason Lane in the second: 97, 99, 98, 98, 98, 98 and 98. The result was a walk, but it was Feliz’s only base on balls of the night.
“He did a very good job, he’s got a great arm and a nice delivery,” 51s manager Mike Basso said of the righthanded starter who pitches with a very fluid motion.
Castro, meanwhile, attacked the outside corner with 91-MPH fastballs and changeups and curves in the mid-70s to low-80s, using control to increase his scoreless streak to 24 1/3 innings before giving up a solo home run to RedHawks catcher Max Ramirez in the fourth.
“I threw the changeup to [Ramirez], but I got it too high and he took it the other way,” he said. But it was one of the few out-of-place pitches Castro threw until the sixth, when he admitted that he “lost his control” as a pair of leadoff walks and a single loaded the bases with no outs.
Castro stayed on the mound to strike out Brandon Boggs, and was replaced by Dirk Hayhurst, who induced a sure double-play grounder from Jose Vallejo. But 2B Joe Inglett, fresh off the disabled list and admittedly rusty, threw the ball wide of first, allowing two runs to score on the 51s’ 51st error in just forty games.
In the bottom of the sixth, Feliz got into trouble as well, allowing three singles to make the score 3-1 and put the tying runs on for 51s slugger J.P. Arencibia. The top two prospects on each team battled, with Arencibia putting good wood on fastballs clocked at 96 and 99 before Feliz locked him up with an 81-MPH curveball over the plate for strike three. His final line: 6 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 1 BB, 4 Ks.
The RedHawks’ lead didn’t last, however, as the 51s pulled through against the bullpen and eventually tied the game at 4 in the bottom of the eighth. Their defense then handed the lead right back.
In the top of the ninth, 3B Kevin Howard couldn’t handle a groundball for the 51s’ second error, putting leadoff hitter Joaquin Arias on. After Esteban German faked a bunt attempt and bounced a single by Howard into left field, Nate Gold laid down a bunt that Bill Murphy (0-1) fielded and threw to third, but Arias beat the throw. Instead of taking the easy out at first, Murphy loaded the bases with no outs and a sacrifice fly, single and groundout led to an 8-4 RedHawks lead they would not relinquish.

RedHawks OF Julio Borbon bunted for a single to lead off the game to extend his hit streak to ten, a team-high for the season. He finished the game 3-for-5 with a run scored. … Arencibia threw out Borbon trying to steal second in the fifth, the fourth baserunner he has thrown out in 40 attempts against him this year. Arencibia and Borbon were teammates at the University of Tennessee … Redhawks reliever Brian Gordon got the win, his third of the season.

A stellar pitching matchup at Cashman Field

A 51s pitcher working on a Hershiserian shutout streak. An intimidating opposing pitcher who can hit triple-digits on the radar gun. Plus dollar beers.
It’s a good night to head out to Cashman Field.
feliz_neftali.jpgThe Oklahoma City RedHawks will arrive in Las Vegas today with “Nifty” Neftali Feliz, left, at the forefront. Feliz, one of the major pieces in the trade that sent Mark Teixera from the Texas Rangers to the Atlanta Braves in 2007, is being hyped like a future Dwight Gooden: he began the year as Baseball America’s No. 10 overall prospect and No. 5 pitching prospect in the minor leagues and the top young player in the Rangers’ No. 1-ranked system.
Meanwhile, the 51s will counter with Fabio “The Fabulous One” Castro, below left, a soft-tossing sensation who has not allowed a run in his last three outings. In those three starts, he has thrown 21 innings, allowing castro_fabio.jpgonly eight hits and five walks while striking out eight. The youngster relies on an upper-80s to low-90s fastball, tough changeup and excellent command to control a game. He needs to work on his curveball and keep his command consistent to develop further, so pay attention to those aspects of his game and notice how well he keeps hitters off-balance by moving the ball in and out and up and down.
Feliz’s game is more about pure power than guile and command. He’s been clocked as high as 101 and can regularly throw in the upper 90s, but he has walked 17 opponents in just 24 2/3 innings. His second-best pitch is up for debate, but Rangers general manager Jon Daniels recently said his curveball will be his No. 2 pitch and that the team is happy with it. While keeping an eye on how he’s mixing in his secondary stuff, just marvel at how hard this young man throws the ball, you don’t get to see it very often …
The 51s dropped three of four in their most recent series, at Nashville, and went 4-4 on their just-ended road trip. They had their best series of the year when last they played at home, scoring 38 runs and winning three of four against the Sacramento River Cats, who lead their division. They are 9-6 since starting the season 6-18 and are tied with Reno for last place in the PCL Pacific South, seven games behind Sacramento.
Oklahoma City, despite having a lot of talent, is three games below .500 at 17-20 overall, but are still in second place in the PCL American South, 1.5 games behind the new L.A. Dodgers AAA affiliate, Albuquerque.
Here are some other players to watch tonight, in between trips for more dollar beers, of course …

LAS VEGAS 51s (17-24, fourth place in Pacific South)
J.P. Arencibia, C: The top prospect in the Blue Jays minor-league system has finally been showing why at the plate the last couple weeks. After struggling at the plate the first month of the season, with no homers and a batting average hovering around .200, J.P. has been just playin’ lately, hitting .395 with five homers in his last ten games, including two dingers against Nashville on Monday.

Aaron Mathews, OF:  One of the few offensive players to play well in the Nashville series, Mathews comes in on a 5-for-15 clip, including four runs scored in the last three games.

Randy Ruiz, 1B/DH: The big slugger broke his 11-game homerless streak in the 51s’ last game of the road trip, Tuesday against Nashville.

OKLAHOMA CITY REDHAWKS (17-20, second place in American South)
Max Ramirez, C: While most of the talent for Oklahoma City is on the mound, this young catcher could be a future star. The Rangers’ No. 10 overall prospect is stuck in a crowded catching pipeline, with two other young backstops — Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden — ahead of him, but he hit .347/.439/.628 in the minors last year and is constantly mentioned in trade rumors that would have him starting in the majors.

Julio Borbon, OF: Just ahead of Ramirez on Baseball America’s stacked prospect list for Texas is this young speedster who had 56 stolen bases last year and eight so far this year. J.P. Arencibia’s former college teammate at the University of Tennessee, Borbon has a nine-game hitting streak.

Estaban German, INF: The longtime minor leaguer, 31, is hitting .311 so far this season. The Rangers traded him to the Kansas City Royals in 2005 for the pitcher he will face tonight, Fabio Castro.


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